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Come in! There are a few adventures I’ve written about, but most of the content offers classes in photography and mentoring for photographers, including photo theory, which, although a vital part in our profession, is largely an overlooked subject in all published media that profits from and feeds our gadget minded mindset today.

Photography Notes 2017 (read to the end)

February 09 2018 - Blog, Studio Press


Talking about Sunsets:

Another sunset shot! When people learn that I have been a professional photographer for a long time, they become determined to have me look at pictures they’ve taken. Understandable, today’s nearly fool proof, virtually free to operate cameras make most everyone an enthusiastic shutterbug. I do ask, how many beautiful sunset shots do I have to be shown?I’ve never been a fan of sunset shots. I call them cheap shots. Don’t misunderstand I think sunsets are special to watch. It’s hard not to call any one of them beautiful, but this is one of the reasons they don’t make special photographs. When viewed what does it show? Always beautiful sky lighting of pastel colors of yellow, orange, lavender, and more above the horizon line, and nearly always non-describable silhouettes below it, making them in my opinion pretty, but uninteresting.

Why so many sunsets and so few sunrises? After all, sunrises represent the birth of a new day; doesn’t that carry with it more inspirational beauty than the end of an old day? A new sunrise blesses another day of living. Well, a good reason we photograph a thousand times more sunsets than sunrises is their convenience; we’re up, out of bed to witness them.

A Different Time Zone:

I love photography. Recently, I was reminded of how selfish I am about my shooting time. I decided to take a trip with a friend, who also enjoys taking pictures. Before taking the trip, he asked my advice as a professional, on a new camera he wanted buy and take with him. That was the first red flag. Having a new camera means getting past a learning curve. There are only so many sunny daylight hours every day needed for great shots, and if you’re learning a new camera a great deal of time gets lost getting up to speed.  My blood was boiling as he had to check and analyze every photo he took, and tell me about this or that function seemingly not working correctly. My professional experience has taught me to quickly analyze a scene, so I quickly determine if there’s an interesting photo to be taken, if conditions are right, and what is the best approach to capture my vision. An eye less secure, especially wielding a new camera needed precious time and patience from me that I was unable or unwilling to give.

What tried my patience even further occurred when we entered a new time zone, and he declared that he would not accept it, stating adamantly he would continue following the time zone we had left. Of course, this is crazy. All the hotels, restaurants, the sunrises and sunsets were not going to be on his time. He might want to think he was rising at 7am, but in the new zone it was really 8am and a precious hour would be lost. Again, there are only so many sunny daylight hours in any one day to devote to getting great photographs.

My friend was in a different time zone in all aspects, and I was too selfish about my photographic time to indulge his delusion. The moral of the story is to be careful with your photographic travel plans. If you want to share the experience you’ll have to be unselfish and consider the joy of a shared experience. At the same time, you’ll have to accept an almost certain inability to optimize your photographic time.  Great photography is really a solitary focused endeavor, and having anyone tag along, friend or spouse, has to have that selfless understanding.

The Brass Ring Lighting Question:

I sent out this photo (below) of the “Brass Ring” to two photographers I mentor and asked about the technique I used to add motion to the narrative. The replies I received made me realize teaching a conventional lighting class at the studio is not in the cards.


The first reply I received questioned why I would bother creating the motion effect photographically, and went on to even question the value of the effect. With his response was this attachment (right) showing the Brass Ring photograph altered by blurring computer software. Using this method, the photograph is streaked with blurring throughout. If it is meant to show motion then everything, including the structural beam in the background and the stationary ring holder is in motion. Far more important is the mental process behind the premise that a computer software enhancement is equal to, as effective, even better than a straight photographic lighting effect. This mental process expresses to me that there is no interest in learning photographic lighting. Questioning the particular use of this effect in this case or opting for a computer software enhancement, because it may be easier to apply is no substitute for experimenting with a new lighting technique.

The second reply, stating this motion effect was created by applying a technique a flash on the 2nd curtain, or at the end of the exposure cycle when the shutter curtain is closing. After that correct statement, there was no other expression of interest to explore further, even though I mentioned it is an interesting for making portraits (with the right considerations).

Things that could have been explored further are 1] how do you control the intensity of the motion effect, and 2] how can this be applied to other photographs, especially in making portrait that are different and potentially more dynamic and interesting.   All I would suggest at this stage is for avid photography students, fully interested in lighting, to look into this technique as part of a larger photographic regimen.

The Digital Edge- Debate over Photo Sharpness:

A friend and like-minded photo enthusiast always pays top dollar to own the best glass (quality sharp lenses). We have often discuss the sharpness of photographs. I seems when a photograph crosses his desk, he will zoom in significantly the check sharpness in every part and corner, to a point I think can be considered an excessive examination. This is my opinion. If I zoom in on his beautiful photograph of an Egret,

I will eventually come to find the upper feathers going soft. Even if this photograph was significantly enlarged would it degrade its quality? Not from my point of view. The use of inductive reasoning on this issue, to conclude with a general premise can lead to false conclusions.  Photographs, upon close inspection, not tack sharp throughout, should not automatically be considered disposable.  The first and primary aspect of viewing a photograph is its overall crop, size, and the distance from which it is intended to be viewed. If a photograph is to be enlarged to 30X40 feet, it is not intended that the viewer enjoy it from an 8-foot distance, unless for excessive examination. Of course, this discussion is in general. The position by this photographer (of the Egret) that photographs have to be tack sharp on close inspection is a valid argument, but not sound, because with the many views on a photograph, even considerations of sharpness has its nuances.

Among nuances outside of within the photograph itself there are anatomical considerations, specifically in this case is the physiology of human sight. Our foveal vision, the small area at the center of our vision, is optimized for fine details, acuity, sharpness in defining ‘what’ we see. Our broader peripheral vision, designed to provide information on ‘where’ we see it, gives us coarser details, less sharp and blurrier.

How does this play into to this discussion? The Egret photographer zooms in on a photograph significantly to check sharpness, then what happens? If we zoom in on the Egret’s right top wing very close what will we be doing? The answer is, more of that area now in very close ‘zoomed in’ view will be entering our peripheral area of blurry vision. How much affect does this have on making the area viewed, significantly close up, look blurry is uncertain, difficult to measure and potentially subjective. I’m only presenting the indisputable facts on how our vision performs. With this information we can deduct that the larger peripheral space of the small area that is the result of significant enlargement will be viewed as somewhat blurry only due to physiology of human sight.

Concluding on the subject of sharpness let me present insights from treatises from Leonardo da Vince on human vision and how we see. Walter Isaacson writes in his book on Leonardo “Depicting veils came naturally to Leonardo. He had a fingertip feel for the elusive nature of reality and the uncertainties of perception. Understanding that light hits multiple points on the retina, he wrote that humans perceive reality as lacking razor-sharp edges and lines; instead, we see everything with a sfumato-like softness of the edges. This is true not only of the misty landscape stretching out to infinity; it applies even to the outlines of (Mona) Lisa’s fingers that seem so close we think we can touch them. We see everything, Leonardo knew, through a veil.”

When film and digital were still competing, I was often asked if there was a difference in quality between film and digital. This question deserves greater detail and exploration, but at this time I will provide the quick answer; film exhibits that sfumato effect.

A brief promo for “Photography as Art.”

What can an “artistic” photographer such as Peter Lik say about photography through details of his exceptional photograph of the Grand Canyon? Not much…  “I looked into photographing the Grand Canyon to learn the best times and views. I booked a ticket to spend some time. Weather is one major consideration. I pre-visualized how I might want to showcase the canyon by exploring existing views that are there for the taking, and on the right morning I attached my camera to a tripod, put on a wide-angle lens, set my desired basic settings, then pressed the shutter many times.” In the end, he takes a fine, beautiful photograph like many more taken by other terrific photographers (that simply do not have the marketing backing for exposure to financial rewards and celebrity).

“Photography as Art” the documentary will take you beyond fine recording of existing views there for the taking, and explores the in-depth all aspects of creating and making fine art photographs, to include planning, logistics, pre-visualization, staging, optics, lighting, cameras, and a full array of photographic techniques as part of a process that concludes when pressing the shutter, in keeping with the essence of the photographic medium.

I am seeking your help in producing this documentary.

Thank you for your attention, James Schot