Sunday, February 17, 2008


Still with me? I could tell you all about the past few months, but why waste time on that? There are too many important things to do. And that leads me into the current topic: Passion. We should approach most of the things we do—certainly the ones that matter to us the most—with passion. If not, we tend to become the "cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat" that Theodore Roosevelt warned us about during an address he gave at the Sorbonne, Paris, France in 1910, titled, Citizenship in a Republic. As an aside, if you're dissatisfied with the condition of the country you live in at the moment (for me, the USA), Roosevelt's address puts in stark relief what we could and should be. Teddy was nothing, if not passionate.

Back to the point at hand. As I've mentioned previously, I've been working for some time—a few years now—to become a photographer. For the past year or so, I've seen it as a desirable substitute for my humdrum, workaday job and that it would provide me with the satisfaction that's been missing from my life. As it turns out, I had the cart before the horse. The real cause of my malaise was a lack of passion. I won't go into detail about what has changed regarding my job or my life other than to say that I'm thinking in more positive ways now, and my job has become a true joy. It's amazing how attitude can create opportunities, practically, out of thin air.

As for my photography, I've discovered that making money is not the proper goal of my efforts. At least it shouldn't be my primary goal for now. I've been in competition with a number of my peers, each of us having regular jobs but supplementing our income from photography. We compete for recognition within our photo society, and we compete for time and clients in our shared studio. I've spoken before about the inevitable comparisons, and monetary success is one of the measures that's unavoidable. But, just as with a "regular" job, money only goes so far in providing satisfaction or indicating success.

I read some time back that I should develop a vision for my photography. That sounded very much like the advice I've ignored all my life about setting goals. If you know where you're going to be or what you'll be doing in five years, or even one year, "You're a better man than I am, Gunga Din!." My problem, if you choose to think of it that way, is that there's very little that I don't enjoy photographing. Developing a vision, to me, sounded like narrowing my interests in some way. However, more reading and a couple of seminars helped me put vision and goal setting into better perspective. I don't HAVE to specialize. However, I can't do everything equally well. So, I began thinking that I should follow what I'm naturally drawn to and concentrate on it long enough to begin to develop that elusive "body of work" that just might outlast me. — Developing Your Vision

As most photographers sooner or later realize, what's important about any photograph is the light — It's About Light. So I began thinking in terms of dramatic light, and three areas of interest emerged.

1. Studio
As a rank neophyte in studio work, I began taking people in and working with lights. What struck me first was the ability to shape light in dramatic ways that you can rarely achieve with ambient light. My friend, Zakir, hired me for an outside shoot he needed, and I managed to drag him into the studio the same day. Lots of casual and light-hearted photographs developed, quite naturally matching his personality. Then I set him up for this shot. It portrays him in an uncharacteristically somber mood. He was very pleased with it, as was I (despite the unfortunate choice of background I used).

Then I began to think about a still life. I should probably scan an early attempt at still lifes I did back in the '70s. Suffice to say that direct sunlight doesn't flatter a still life any more than it flatters a person's face. This photo was one of the first where I previsualized the final image. It took a great deal of time to find and purchase everything I needed.

2. Architecture
A building went up about two years ago across the street from where I work — Bentonville Plaza. It's not an architectural marvel, but it has a good deal of glass and some very interesting textures in the brick and masonry. I first photographed it in 2006. Just for fun and in response to a similar shot a friend made of the same building, I walked up to the front door, tilted straight up and made a wide angle shot. You don't need to see that one.

Then I started noticing how various light conditions affected this building. It became more interesting to me, and I started looking for opportunities to catch it when more favorable light prevailed.

Following are two views in the Fall and two on the same Winter day with a setting sun.

3. Stage Lighting
Some of the most dramatic lighting anywhere can be found on stage. I mentioned in a previous post how I came to purchase a Canon 70-200 f2.8L lens. I had borrowed one to photograph some concerts and speakers, and I decided that I just had to have one of my own. Below are a number of shots of speakers who've come to my area recently. I'll let you be the judge of how well this lens performs. If you don't recognize someone in a picture, mouse over it to view his or her name.

My vision for photography is still evolving, and it will probably continue to evolve. But what I know at this point is that I will stop simply "snapping" pictures of things that I don't truly care about. I will seek to combine the most dramatic or suitable lighting that will bring out the character and, I hope, significance of my subjects in the most favorable way. In life, I will follow the advice I heard Zig Ziglar speak so many years ago: "If you help enough other people get what they want, you will eventually get what you want." For me, as I'm sure for you, that boils down to satisfaction in all my endeavors.

Old friends may have my original photography website bookmarked. I've made no modifications to that site for quite a long time. But I've been using my smugmug site extensively. I invite you to visit it at I update it frequently with new work. Speaking of my smugmug site, if you see any photos in this blog that you'd be interested in owning, just click on the image, and you'll be taken to my site, where you can make a purchase (not all photos are linked, due to lack of model releases). Photographers have a variety of similar sites available to them. I've only tried smugmug, but I highly recommend it for its ease of use, power and flexibility.