Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Art of the Composite

If given the choice between taking a photo on location over making a composite I'd say I prefer the former over the latter, but taking photos on location, especially if they are elaborate, takes a lot of time, money and manpower. There are many variables that can go wrong or not go according to plan and if you are shooting for yourself on a shoestring budget, can't afford those highboys, a water truck and a permit to shut down a street, you need to start looking at making composites.

I never took composites very seriously. I naively thought every professional photograph I had ever seen, unless it looked unbelievable had to have been taken in one shot or maybe a couple but the subject and the background had to all be there because it looked so darned believable. Man was I wrong. A great majority of the photos used in commercial advertising and editorial today is comprised of numerous shots, sometimes taken in various locations, brought together through skill and the magic of photoshop.

I want to start taking the Smoke series out of the studio and onto the streets, landscapes and other interiors. Although I'm sure I can achieve the photos easily with a few assistants, it's cold out now and I'm impatient so I started making some composites using existing studio shots with some photos I took walking around NoLita after the rain one evening last week.

I think the most successful composites are those that start with a concrete idea before execution but I don't think these are half bad. I definitely chose the exterior shots with care, making sure there was no traffic or pedestrians and paying attention to the light, focus and depth of field. In the future I plan to carry a tripod so I can work at a lower ISO and play with the focus and depth of field more.

I would love to hear some feedback on these images.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Annie, Annie, Annie....

Maybe it's very embarrassing blunders such as this that's forcing Annie Liebovitz to pawn her negatives. There is something oddly comforting in learning even those seemingly at the top of the game are struggling these days, however, I don't find it comforting that nobody noticed Sam Mendez was wearing a wool jacket on his left side only before this picture was taken.

Over at today there is a brief snippet from a post on Brazen Careerist about how to build a career as an artist. I prefer this snippet over the one he chose:

3. Real artists will make art no matter what.
You do not need a studio, or a desk, or peace and quiet. Really. Because making art comes from a place that you cannot stop. People who need to make art make art no matter what.


Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Umm, this is awkward, but would you mind...

Over at my second favorite photography blog,, sorry, Amy Stein's blog is still my favorite, there is an infuriating post about how Getty is bullying photographers into paying back an accounting oversight after they took over Mediavast. This is very similar to Microsoft's latest ploy of asking laid off employees to repay overpaid severance packages. I can't tell which is worse, asking photographers to pay back royalties that they would have earned outright had Getty not bought out Mediavast or employees, unexpectedly laid off and facing one of the worse employment markets in decades, being asked to repay a multi-bilion dollar corporation. Why can't either one of these companies suck it up, they made the blunder, are they that hard up? Getty either really needs to hire better proof readers or they really need to squeeze that extra 10% out of their contributors.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Free Slide Show Contest at Palm Springs Photo Festival

I can't make it out to the Palm Springs Photo Festival this year but I still have a chance of getting some exposure from 2,693 miles away and it's free! I even checked around for any fine print to see if they will own my images or soul but I couldn't find any language of the sort. It's pretty simple send them a slideshow, less than three minutes with music and they will choose four finalists a night to present on a large screen at The Palm Springs Art Museum. If you can't make a slide show, just send them a folder of images and some music and they will make one for you, you can even FTP the files to them! Each night a winner will be chosen from the four presented and a Grand Prize winner will be chosen and win a CANON Professional Pixma Printer among other goodies. Check out the contest details here.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Zach Arias - Transform

I thought I was the only person that had these thoughts.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Revamping my website part 2 - Photoshelter reads my mind

Today I was pleasantly surprised by an email from Photoshelter listing many of the new features of the site including a very informative survey of art buyers about what they like and don't like in portfolio websites. This is the kind of information I need and it confirmed a lot of what I had already thought and shed some light on other things I have not given much thought to or even considered at all. Now, this survey leans a little towards the side of stock photography, whether it be rights-managed or royalty-free, but there is still a heckuva lot of information here regardless of what your audience is and if you want photo editors looking at your work you don't want to turn them off, right?

I might as well mention here that the survey in the end is a sales pitch to try Photoshelter's new custom portfolio hosting. That being said, they are allowing non-members to get a copy of the 22-page survey in exchange for your email address by going here.

I must admit I am seriously considering the Photoshelter portfolio route, although I'm a very competent web designer and developer I don't want to spend all of my time designing, building and maintaining a portfolio site especially if I start taking some of wht's in this survey seriously. Now that I'v discovered the export to photoshelter plug-in for Lightroom I'm feeling more inclined to upgrade my account but $300 a year is a big step up from what I pend on my site currently.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Revamping my website, improving my marketing and making the most of what I have

Lately I have been thinking I need to revamp my website, Although I am very happy with it and worked hard to design and write the code, I feel it's not telling the whole story.

I pretty much have a rotating gallery of recent work or work I am most proud of and little else aside from a bio and basic contact information. Most friends that look at my site say it's great but one pointed out a flaw a few months ago, she said there's nothing but naked ladies and one black man, which was an exaggeration since many of the ladies were fully clothed. But that did point out a big problem, although I do a lot of nude work I don't want to be pigeon holed into just that, I love doing portraiture and beauty, I'm also starting to get into still life, travel and landscape photography and my dream would be fashion editorial but I'm not conveying that.

I'm also not displaying bodies of work as a whole. I like to work in series, it's my way of pretending I'm a real artist, and I should be displaying the work as a whole, not disjointed, scattered among other photos. Albert Watson scrambles up the work on his site, which I find irritating, don't get me started on the awful navigation but I like to see the photographs from a series paired together, not strewn about.

The big impetus to the revamping was a portrait session last week. I have spent the past year exploring figure studies and other subjects and have shot very little portraiture. I would like to change that and having a site that screams "I shoot nudes!" isn't going to help.

Anyway, I'm going to start the process of reworking my site, I want to keep the general design the same and break the work down into subjects and series. I also want to make better use of some of the online services I use such as Photoshelter and Flickr.

My first step will be looking at, again, photographer sites I think are successful and take notes on what I like/don't like with each site. In all honesty I modeled my site like Matthew Rolston's but what works for Mr. Rolston may not work for me and I bet he's not banking on or getting any business from his site, I mean, right? I'll have to investigate this....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

The camera of my dreams

Recently a Pentax Digital 645 Camera has been recurring in my dreams, always a different scenario but the same camera. Now, I know Pentax had announced a digital 645 a few years back and it looked like it might have been a reality when the prototype was displayed at Photonika in 2007 but was dismayed to learn the project was scrapped last year. A few things about my drems are odd; I haven't thought of the Pentax 645 Digital since I read the little blurb of it's demise over six months ago and I really never spent any time looking into the specifications of the camera other than it was a 645 Digital using a 31mp Kodak sensor and would ship with a 55mm lens. The camera in my dreams isn't quite that camera, it was more like a classic Pentax 645 manual focus with a digital back but it was one whole unit, the camera had a very classic feel to it. However ti did have a feature I thought was incredible, the sensor could be upgraded later. Ihave since learned this was a rumored feature.

I don't know what this dream means. Do I desire this imaginary Pentax 645D? Do I desire a digital medium format? Well, yes I do. However, I don't find what camera makers such as Hasselblad and Mamiya are making desirable. I want a digital medium format that feels and performs like my beloved Mamiya 645 Pro, it's simple, it has manual focus, it's modular and I can use it with or without a grip. I hate auto focus and I hate manually focussing with auto focus lenses even more since there is no prism. What's going on?

Maybe it's my Mamiya getting back at me, seeping into my subconcious. I took her out and put rolls of Portra 160 in the two backs and two spare magazines in preperation for a shoot but I never picked her up. I did feel bad and yearned to shoot with her so I decided not to leave her in the studio locked away for weeks at a time and brought her home. I still haven't shot anything. She was probably jealous that I took the FujiFilm S5 pro with me this weekend and not her. Why did you take me out of the studio just to leave me behind on a long weekend? I need to get back home and show her some love, maybe I'll finally take some photos on the east river or those night photos I keep saying I'll do.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Breaking in

Last year around this time I first had the idea to create a blog so I could document my successes and failures as I tried to make the career in photography I want. I decided my portfolio was not where I wanted it to be and put the idea on the shelf until now. Now as I have a portfolio of work I feel very proud of I will start to take some serious steps to get my foot in the door. I will write about every little detail both good and bad as I try to make my dreams come true. My first step is to design and print a postcard and mail them to the growing list of galleries, art directors and photo editors I hope will appreciate my images.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

At least I'm not looking at porn.

Why is it that when I should be doing something constructive like actual work or getting some sleep I obsessively read A Photo Editor's blog? Am I gaining anything by it or just procrastinating? At least I'm not looking at porn.

Oh, and here's a photo. Enjoy.

It was never my intention to be different...

When I started creating these images I had stopped looking at what other people were doing and just started doing (OK, I can't help but reference my idols but I stopped looking at what was trendy). The first photo was almost an accident, I was trying to go for a mixture between my Shrouded Figure photo that sold at Take Home a Nude and Albert Watson's photo Leslie Weiner, Yohji Yamamoto, London 1989. Problem was the fabric was too light so I cut it and started playing with it. As we were shooting the makeup artist remarked that it looked like smoke, I think I grumbled in agreement but still wasn't sure if I had anything worth keeping.

Later when i got home I started to look through the photos and the smoke look started to become more and more apparent. I quickly set up a black piece of foam core, two Nikon Speedlights, an incense burner and using what I remembered from an article on how to shoot smoke I had read in some amateur photo magazine while killing time at a Barnes and Noble I began to shoot whisps of smoke. Once I had shot nearly a hundred images I went about the task of constructing the first image. I had no idea what to expect but as I started to layer the first images of smoke over the original photos of the model I knew I was onto somehting very cool.

Since that first shoot I have been exploring the use of different fabrics, lighting and setups to see where I can push and pull this idea. My next challenge is to take them outside.

Light painting with Jeff K

Back in December I tried some light painting for the first time with a young model named Jeff. I am very pleased with the results and look forward to more light painting experiments. I recently read on Strobist about using the iPhone as a small soft box and some photographers using cell phones for light paining. For my light painting experiment I used the small mag lite I always carry in my camera bag.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

The upward energy

This past Sunday I took part in a really cool happening at the MoMa. Hundreds of people gathered in the Atrium where Pipilotti Rist's Pour Your Body Out was installed to take a yoga class. It was really amazing to be in a chair pose and see all these hands in the air while the mesmerizing video was playing on the walls. At times I really wish I had brought a camera with me or at the very least kept my iPhone with me during the class but I'm really happy not to have distracted myself from being in the moment.

The class was led by Elena Brower from Virayoga and she spoke before the class of the upward energy of the city. I could really relate to what she was saying and I feel that upward energy is represented by the smoke and fabrics in my new series. As the weather begins to warm up I hope to take the series outside—I just need to figure out how to suspend the fabric. Maybe I can harness that upward energy.