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Thoughts on Architecture

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Profile-Picture-Small2With exceptions, today’s construction methods and materials don’t demand the respect for “craftsmanship” like old architecture. Hopefully civic leaders and historic preservation organizations will be effective in saving salvageable structures from the wrecking ball.

In a sense, photographers can “preserve” all buildings. Hopefully, we can do more than document beautiful historic structures when we present them with some flair and emotion.

This section of the Tower Life Building in San Antonio, Texas has intricate designs, gargoyles, reflections, and leafless tree branches that seem to be beckoning the faces above.

Brian DeWolf
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Wallace Weeks Photography

A Travel Photographer

The objective of the images that Wallace Weeks creates is to ignite emotions. Creating images that spark a sense of serenity, curiosity, marvel or desire are special to Wallace because he feels it first. Wallace says “If that was not enough, experiencing different cultures of the world while creating my images makes what I do very special to me.”

From the culture of creativity that is Paris, to the culture of community that is Luang Prabang, and the culture of diversity that is Chicago, the photography of Wallace Weeks expresses what is important to the people in a location. The subject of each destination is best described as cultural anthropology.

Wallace’s travels began before his ability to remember was developed and the love of photography began only a handful of years later. Wallace has studied and practiced photography since the age of 12 and first got into the business more than 40 years ago. His early experience in the business was derived primarily from event and studio photography. Given the lifelong travel activity, it should be no wonder that the business has migrated to be specialized in travel photography. However specialized it may sound travel photography includes portraiture, architectural, food, sports, landscape, and sports photography.

Today, Wallace’s Orlando, Florida based business produces images for the assignments of advertisers who want to make people go to a place. It may be a small café, city, county, or a cruise to many places. Images are also produced for the assignments of magazines, books, and electronic media that publish travel related content. And, Wallace produces stock photography for several stock agencies, has a direct licensing system, and produces art for decor markets. His images are used worldwide.

Sharing his passion with others who are interested in traveling with a camera is another part of his business. For this, Wallace Weeks Photography produces workshops and programs to help others get more and better pictures from their travels, publishes educational content, and in 2012 will begin to operate international photo tours.

If you would like to view Wallace’s photography or learn about his events you may visit his website at www.wallaceweeks.com.

Tel: 321.730.6857

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Interview with travel and documentary photographer Jeremy Horner

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Nomadic by nature, and as a qualified geologist, Jeremy wandered into the Himalaya in 1987, teaching himself photography.His work from the Nepali Himalaya was immediately published in Hong Kong to high acclaim, thus sparking a romantic career over the past 25 years, travelling to over 90 countries.. view map

His unique images, a harmonious fusion of light and colour, are in constant demand by leading international publications such as Life, National Geographic, GEO, Newsweek, The Telegraph and The Sunday Times. Jeremy is a veteran of over 20 assignments for UNICEF, on all continents, from Nicaragua to North Korea. He spent six years exploring Latin America and published four books: Living Incas, The Life of Colombia and Fiestas – Celebrations and Rituals of Colombia as well as a book of aerial photographs of Colombia. He has produced books on Brunei and Saudi Arabia by royal commission and participated in prestigious international projects of the world’s leading photographers. Jeremy also wrote his most recent book, Island Dreams Mediterranean, published by Thames and Hudson. His corporate clients include BP, Bloomberg, Orient-Express and the UAE government.

Jeremy’s experience as an assignment photographer around the world is invaluable. Even with limited budgets and with severe time constraints he is uncompromising in the pursuit of superlative images. He continues to work on subjects he is passionate about, such as the Himalaya and living Buddhism.

Jeremy Horner’s archive of over 50,000 edited images can be sampled here at Photoshelter. He also has image collections with Corbis and Getty and has been a member of Panos Pictures since 1995. When not on assignment he divides his time between England and Bangkok.

Jeremy Horner
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RAW file reluctance.

Hot Water Beach
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alanhough-0030Recently I have been talking to professional photographers on the merits of using Lightroom and RAW files to their full potential.
I was, and still am, bemused by the response.
I was researching the prospect of providing an outsourcing service to photographers to process their RAW files in Lightroom. Either on site at their studio, on location or post production, in turn creating a better workflow and service.
As in the days of labs processing film why not consider outsourcing RAW file processing?

To my surprise I found from the photographers, that I spoke to, all shot in JPEG and were reluctant to shoot in RAW even with their hi-spec cameras.
One photographer showed me an early morning skyline city shot of where I live, Auckland. It was a jpeg.
The image was acceptable but it would have had more grunt given the processing options.
Shooting it RAW would have given him endless processing possibilities. Bring out detail, contrast, black and white, crop etc etc.

The reasons for shooting JPEG seemed to fit into the photographers type of photography and obviously works for them and their clients.
I guess that getting the job done to a level that is acceptable to complete the project in these cases was all that mattered.
However using Lightroom to its full potential as a develop / cataloging system was secondary.

However that still does not alter that workflow, efficient use of digital technology, protection of original files and maximum image quality were under achieved.
I’m not sure whether it is a skill level, lack of confidence or they are put off by the so called time involved in processing and getting the best from their images.
Presets in Lightroom can speed up processing time as we all tend to shoot and understand our cameras in our individual way.
I have created several Presets that suit my camera and can have a RAW image processed with one mouse click.
eg. A single location / studio will normally have a consistent environment. So once an image is processed, exposure, colour correction, lens correction etc has been established then a Preset can be created and applied to all remaining images. Minor tweaks can then be easily acheived.

Non of the photographers seemed to think that file size was not an issue. File size was always raised not realising that a RAW image can be processed several ways while in turn you are only changing Data and not pixels or creating extra image files and storage space.
Camera cards and hardrives with large capacity are common place and becoming less expensive per GB. If you are using a camera with high specs and dual processor computers, why not take full advantage of the technology?
They all used various applications to process their images but the workflow was not what I would call efficient.
Going backwards and forwards between Lightroom and opening a JPEG in Photoshop or DxO to do something else seemed awkward to say the least.
Apart from the risk of JPEG compression creeping in if you are not careful.

The simple non-destructive process works like this.
1. Download the RAW files from your camera to safe storage so you have the originals.
2. In Lightroom import the RAW files. I usually select all of them as any redundant images can be removed from the Catalog later. As you import, Copy to another folder that suits your filing system and convert to DNG.
3. Process and non-destructive edit the DNG files with embedded Metadata in the file.
4. Output to JPEG, TIFF, PSD.
5. At any stage go back to the DNG to make changes

With the DNG file any conversions to Black and White, Presets, Split toning or whatever can be achieved on a Virtual Copy / Snapshot without doubling up on files or moving out into Photoshop. Changes can be made at will with no destruction of the original.
In other words there is a turning back not a regretable point of no return.
Alan Hough
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F8 and Be There

An elephant handler gets goosed by an elephant on display in Dallas, Texas.
The story behind the photo.
Kevinv-BW-small1Years ago, as a brand new photojournalist who had graduated from the University of Texas, I was lucky and blessed to land a job at the Dallas Times Herald. At the time, DTH was considered one of the top major newspapers in the nation. DTH was in the midst of a roll in winning Pulitzer Prizes–all in photography! The photographic staff was chock-full of incredible talent who all had “the eye of the tiger”. Being the first photographer to ever be hired there directly out of college is an honor I cherish to this day, especially given the talent I was thrown in with and mentored by. In many ways, I look back and consider my time at the Dallas TImes Herald Newspaper worthy of receiving a doctorate in photography (if there were such a thing). That’s how much I learned from my photo editor and fellow photojournalists. As in any decent organization, the low man on the totem pole has to earn his way up, so me being the “new guy”, I was handed the chicken crap assignments and expected to bring back gourmet chicken soup. One thing I learned from shooting these kinds of assignments was “F8 AND BE THERE!” Which I learned translates to “WHEN YOU’RE LUCKY, BE READY!” These were wonderful days. I think all photojournalists would agree that the photojournalism age peaked between 1980 and 1985. Those were the days when newspaper editors valued photographers the most, and ironically, also when they enjoyed their largest profit margins in history.

One Saturday morning, amongst other lame assignments, there was one to go photograph the elephants being unloaded in downtown Dallas for the circus that was arriving in town. Unlike the oldtimer who would have simply run over, grabbed a quick shot and run back to the newspaper office, I was still low man on the totem pole, so I was trying to prove myself. I was quickly learning I was only as good as my last shot. As I drove over to where the elephants would be staged, I agonized over how in the world I would be able to photograph this subject in a unique and different way from the way so many others had already photographed elephants. Upon arrival, I immediately began looking for something unique, but was disappointed to find nothing that would pull on the heartstrings such as a kid in a wheelchair or an elderly gent watching the elephants. I tried every angle from jumping on tables to laying on the ground to get the shot. Then I noticed that the elephant handler was not a toothless old guy, but an attractive woman. So I thought, let me see if I can find a way to play off this beautiful blonde doing her job as an elephant handler. So I followed her up and down, photographing her with a tight telephoto lens, getting lots of great, cutesy type shots. Then I changed my lens to a 50. Since I had been shooting with a telephoto previously, I’d only been seeing from the waist or chest up. What can I say, I’m a guy! When I switched to the 50 mil lens, and could see her full body, I noticed something I’d been missing when shooting tighter with the 85mm…that as she walked by every elephant, each one threw out his trunk and goosed her in the rear-end as though trying to grab a peanut. So I dropped in behind her and photographed this beautiful blonde elephant handler being goosed by these “overly fresh” elephants. To this day, I’ve wondered what caused the elephants to goose her–did she sit on some chewing gum or something? This truly turned out to be a classic (and funny) lesson for me in “F8 AND BE THERE”.

Ultimately, the end result was the photo won numerous awards, the pat on the back from my photo editor and peers and it opened the door to receiving a dream assignment — spending a week on an aircraft carrier with fighter pilots. To this day, this image has been published all over the world and earned thousands of dollars in royalty fees.

Kevin Vandivier
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Cookie Universe

I’ve always enjoyed shooting food in the studio and was excited when Moo Ventures hired me to shoot an image to promote their line of cookies. The art director gave me one sentence and told me to run with. “best cookies in the universe. So, after selecting an image my tax dollars paid for of a galaxy, I shot the cookie in studio and then blended the two in Photoshop. Everyone was happy…which makes me happy:)

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Photoshoppers, photographers, philosophy & psychology


portraitPhotoshoppers, photographers, philosophy & psychology
On the 11th of February 2012 “The daily Petapixel” quoted from an article by Ben Long on CreativePro where he states that “all photos are manipulated” (see complete petapixel article below).

“Photography author Ben Long has a thought-provoking article over at CreativePro in which he argues that “all photos are manipulated” and that “there is no such thing as absolute truth in photography”: All images are Photoshopped. Or Lightroomed, or iPhoto’d, or dodged, burned, re-touched, cross-processed, developed with more or less agitation in the tank, at warmer or cooler temperatures, and so on and so forth. This has been true since the beginning of photography. Understanding the representational nature of photography will help you take better pictures because you’ll better understand how to exploit the strengths and weaknesses of the medium. But perhaps more importantly, it’s important to understand that all images are manipulated. Still photos are the dominant communication medium used for everything from entertainment to artistic expression, journalism to sales. Becoming a more informed, understanding viewer will make it easier to understand when and whether there’s any “truth” in the images put before you.” (PetaPixel 11th Feb. 2012)

When reading Ben Long’s whole article on http://www.creativepro.com/article/all-photos-are-manipulated it looks like some terminology got mixed up creating confusion, at least for myself.
Ben Long quotes people asking him, if his photographs were photoshopped, meaning as much as manipulated and the person who asks that wants to know, if the image is true. He answers that yes, all photos are edited and manipulated. I think here language leads to confusion.
In the first place, if manipulating images is equal to photoshopping images not all photographs are manipulated, because not all photos are photoshopped. If manipulating images is equal to images are always carrying the photographers personal connection to what he/she sees, yes in this case all photographs are manipulated.

Also the word “truth” is a sensitive one. The word “truth” is a philosophical term. There is nothing like an absolute truth, there is only relative truth, an always-changing truth. Remember the times when people thought that the earth is a disk. One day they found out that the sailor wouldn’t fall of the disk by sailing to the west. He eventually arrived back where he started and it was proved that the world is a globe. There are every day new examples of how “more truth” is seen and understood in any part of life. So the word truth in connection with the question, if an image was manipulated/photoshpped/edited doesn’t really fit. The word “genuine” might be the better choice. Isn’t that what the people want to know when they ask about photographs? Is this photo genuine? not tempered with? just as it was taken?
For what reason does this question annoy photographers? Because none of their photos is genuine anymore?

All are photoshopped? Don’t get annoyed, see it as an opportunity to rethink things in photography.

I agree that most of the published photos are photoshopped nowadays. They look pretty much all the same as if one day one photo won a completion and now everybody thinks that this must be the standard and then they try to copy this kind of “standard” in order to receive recognition and awards. But where does that lead photography to when all photographers like lemmings follow that route to the cliff? Well, they will fall off the photography edge and become photoshoppers. Isn’t it about time to distinguish these two crafts of art? There are photographers and there are photoshoppers and both are accepted art forms. Wouldn’t that be more clear and genuine for the artists and the public? The photographers are the one with the genuine photographs and the photoshoppers are the one with the edited/photoshopped artwork, maybe called “artEdimage”.
Look at the winning photo of the World Press Photo 2012. The winning image was once a photo before it became a photoshop artwork, inspired by old master paintings. Isn’t it confusing that this artwork is called a “photo”?
To make it easier for all of us, the artists, the public and the juries, lets start seeing photography as photography and photoshop as its own art form. Lets talk about photographers and photoshoppers and lets be conscious that a lot of philosophy and psychology is touched by art and lets not confuse it.
(attached image is a photograph, taken by a photographer)


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Shooting Wildflowers

Kevinv-BW-smallSoon wildflower season will be here and thanks to the wet fall the wildflowers in Central Texas are expected to really really nice! I’m looking forward to getting out and trying some new techniques that have been rolling around in my noodle. The one thing about wildflowers is everybody loves to shoot them…the same old way! Selling wildflower photos has gotten harder harder with all the competition out there willing to in some cases give them away for free. In response, I’ve noticed a few photographers have gotten really creative in the approaches which has inspired me to do the same. I think people are looking for fresh looks at fresh flowers. Really, even HDR has gotten way over used. Recently I was talking with one of my clients who is an art director at one of the national photography magazines and he was telling me he is done using heavily photoshopped and altered landscape photos. As he said, “They just are not real, a pack of photographic lies”. A little harsh, but somewhat true. Being creative is good and using manipulative techniques is fine, as long as you do not pass it off as real. Real being if one were to have been with you at the time, they would have seen what you captured in front of the lens themselves.

So, what can you do to stand out? Light is your paint. Use light in creative ways. I play with it all…flashlights, neon lights, strobes, moon light, foil, mirrors, etc. There is no real formula other than pushing the envelope, trying new things and failing a lot in between successes. I’ll be leading a couple of wildflower expeditions in March so if your interested in learning some really cool techniques, check it out. The lodging and meals are included and we are staying at the Canyon of the Eagles Resort on Lake Buchanan in Texas, which is very cool in and of itself! Here is a link to SHOOTING TEXAS WILDFLOWERS ( http://www.texasphotoworkshops.com/node/216 )

Kevin Vandivier

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Real Pro Shooters

Kevinv-BW-smallFor years and in college I was taught the definition of a “pro photographer” was when one starts to get paid for shooting photos. Perhaps in some ways this could be considered true. However, when a photographer claims to be a “Pro”, that photographer is communicating that he can be trusted to shoot the same quality work he presents in his portfolio or website!!! The photographer that can do this 99% of the time is a true “PRO PHOTOGRAPHER” and is qualified to claim so.

The problem is this, I and many true pro photographers I know through the years and especially these days are having to come behind these “wanna be pros” and clean up their messes. It damages the reputation of our industry and people begin to think “well hell, I can just do this myself if this is what pro work is”!

Personally, I would like to see the photography industry adopt the same system plumbers use. If you are serious about becoming a professional photographer, but have not established you skill set consistently, then you need to call your self an Apprentice Photographer. Once you have establishes your skill set to be able to consistently deliver the same work quality in your portfolio and on your website and say have done so successfully for multiple clients over year or two’s time, then you should call yourself a “Pro Photographer”. Before that day, do yourself and the industry a favor and let your clients know you are still establishing your skill set as a photographer.

Just my two cents worth. Let me know what you think!

Kevin Vandivier