Friday, March 20, 2009

What you see is what you get

Which one of your paintings do you consider to be the best?

The one I'm working on now.

What is the message behind all this imagery?

What you see is what you get.

-Mati Klarwein from

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Smoke fantasia

I am working on a photo essay inspired by my smoke series. I have been patiently seeking out night scenes around my house in upstate NY and these are the first two compositions. Although I am very happy with the mood of the first scene I was underexposed by a stop, I may try and shoot it again this week after the rain on Thursday.
I envision these as the first and last shots in the story, I already have the figures ready for the third scene but I haven't decided on a scene yet. I'm about to head out and finish off a roll of Porta 160 so I can develop it tomorrow before I head back upstate.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Terry Richardson’s Shoot With Natasa Vojnovic

Purple #11 from Purple Magazine on Vimeo.

Watching this makes me think twice (again!) about selling my Contax G2 kit. What's that flash he's using?

I used to hate, hate, hate Terry's work but now I really appreciate what he does. I can't think of any other photographer whose work I can identify right away. People easily dismiss his point and shoot style and talk as if anybody could take his photos but take Terry out of the equation and you wouldn't have his photographs. He brings something out of his subjects that no other photographer can.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

I suck at photoshop

While working on my latest composite I was curious to see if there were any new techniques for creating believable drop shadows, especially when there are cross shadows and complex angles. Nope, there isn't, in fact I'm going to let all you newbs in on a secret, PS hasn't changed much since version 5.5, sure, they added a few cool new filters and adjustment tools but the majority of features that any seasoned photochopper uses has been there for ten years or more. So, next time Adobe comes out with a shiny new version go buy yourself a new lens instead.

During my search I came across the seamingly popular You Suck at Photoshop series by Donnie Hoyle on You Tube. At first I was like, is this dude drunk casting with photoshop, what's with all the attitude and self pity but after going back to the early episodes (i started at the next to last episode) I realized this is his schtick. Personally i could have done well without the side story but aside from that these are some good tutorials on basic photoshop techniques.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Upstate in Saugerties, NY there is an amazing piece of sculpture named Opus 40, a former quarry turned into an immense construction of finely fitted stone created over 37 years by Harvey Fite. It is truly unlike anything else in the world and I highly reccomend visiting. The huge monlith in the center brings to mind thoughts of ancient pagan ceremonies but this is a contemporary work.

About two years ago I visited opus 40 for the first time and I shot about two rolls of film. As I was walking around I kept thinking it would be a great location for a photoshoot, they allow weddings on the site and there is lodging available as well so I can't imagine they would be adverse for a small fee. I could probably do some discreet shooting with one model using natural light and fill flash but I'd really love to play up that pagan feel with a real spectacle.

So until I can find the time to do either I will be content with this photoshop composition.

Lesons learned so far from shooting long exposures at night

For these photos I'm shooting Kodak Portra 160NC.

A two minute exposure at F16 on well lit city street is about perfect but you should double or triple that time or lower the aperture one or two stops when shooting on a sparsely lit small town/country road, even with a bright moon.

Lesson learned? Bracket. Even if it's freezing and you're under dressed for the weather and maybe a little scared some dude will come barreling out their house with a shotgun asking what the hell you are doing standing in front of their house with a camera at 1 in the morning, you should bracket that shot because you never know if you may see it again.

I'll post some samples after I scan them this weekend.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

The excitement of film

Nothing excites me more than developing a roll of film, whether it's a roll of black and white I'm developing in my bathroom or a roll of chrome developed at Duggal. It's like Christmas morning! I'm going to pick up the roll of mostly night shots I made last week, I have no idea if any of them were exposed properly but that's part of the thrill. If at least one photo out of the 15 frames worked it's a success in my book.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I am Matthew McMullen Smith, I am a ______ Photographer

In going through the process of putting together a more robust portfolio site I have been putting my work through a battery of reviews, categorizing and whittling them down to the best photos. It's no easy task.

One of the biggest hurdles for any photographer is defining what they do. I am trying to define what I do and keep the commas and slashes to a minimum. I decided it would be a good exercise to look at the photographers I admire and look at the type of work I'd like to do.

Although there are many photographers that excel in various subjects most photographers define their craft within a few relatable categories. Albert Watson is a great example, he is a portrait photographer but he can also shoot fashion, documentary style and conceptual work with ease. One the other hand Nigel Parry is a portrait photographer, period, he shoots editorial, advertising and personal work but it is all portraiture. Another photographer I admire is Phil Toledano. I have no idea how to categorize him, he's primarily a conceptual photographer that works within themes or projects much like I do but he has shot fashion and editorial work. I like how he splits his work into two piles on his site, projects and commissions, this works for him and regardless of which set you look at you understand that he is not photographing places, things or people but ideas.

So where does this leave me? I have a few projects or series, Smoke, Sweat, Bicycles and a few others that are too incomplete to consider now, I have a strong collection of portraits, some beauty, various nudes, some travel and street photography. Apart from a small handful everyting is personal. Everybody I show my work to says I should do fashion, which is great, I love fashion, it inspires me more than any other work but I haven't shot any real fashion work. In the end the portfolio needs to reflect the type of work I want to do. I need to define what I do by eliminating what I don't do, I'm not a photojournlist, I'm not a documentary photographer, I don't shoot sports, weddings, children's portraits, engagement photos (vomit!), pet portraits or landscapes. I want to shoot conceptual, portraits, fashion, still life and fine art nudes, take out still life and i think I have a description except the still life part, I have some but not enough to show in a serious way.

I am Matthew McMullen Smith, I am a conceptual, portrait, fashion and fine art nude Photographer.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Hey, Hot Shot! PDN's 30 photographers to watch in 2009

This week PDN revealed the 30 photographers to watch in 2009. I am happy they stopped calling it 30 under 30 since there are so many emerging and new photographers over 30. Check out the gallery on the PDN site but go to A Photo Editor for a much more useful breakdown of the talent by state/country and speciality.

A few photographers whose work I really like are: Julian Faulhaber, Alejandro Chaskielberg, and Lucas Foglia, check them out.

I'm excited because Jen Bekman's Hey, Hot Shot! 2009 contest has begun. I learnt of this contest after the submission date last year and have been patiently waiting for it to return. If you want to get some exposure or be part of 20x20 you must enter this contest.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Smoke series slideshow for the Palm Springs Photo Festival

I finally finished my slideshow for the free Palm Springs Photo Festival Slideshow Contest last night, I am so proud of the results I decided to share it with everyone.

I was going to get into a boring and verbose explaination of how I came to create the final show but I decided to simplify and cut to the chase. I used Boinx Software's FotoMagico, I must say I was a little skeptical considering the combination of company and product name but must say this app rocks! FotoMagico provided me with the exact tools I was looking for with an easy to use but robust user interface. If you want to create killer slideshows with panning and zooming and lots of other neat transitions check this software out. It's built for Mac with Aperture and Lightroom plug-ins for the Pro version, what more can you ask for?

Music: Elvis by Alpha, from the amazing Stargazing CD.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Two takes on the same photo

I really can't decide which version I like better.

Meanwhile, the entry deadline for the Palm Springs Slide show contest has been extended, which is great because I haven't finished mine yet.

Words of encouragement for the day:

Realign your focus
Trust in yourself to handle the challenges that come along
Become resourceful
Bring something unique to the table and look for ways to grow
Network, network, network

courtesy of An Art Producer's blog.