Category Archives: Creative
Recently I featured a terrific post written by my tour partner Dan Sniffin about his ideas with regard to photo celibacy which Cole Thompson tries to live by. Dan’s article was written before we spent the week with Cole and the group. The tour started with a wonderful lecture by Cole titled “Why B&W.” In it he spoke not only about B&W but also more about his ideas on photo celibacy. But what happened after the talk was quite powerful. I asked the group to respond to Cole’s ideas specifically about celibacy. What did they think? It was one of the most stimulating discussions I’ve been part of. Some agreed, others challenged Cole with good honest questions. Some spoke about the need for a basic understanding of technique. We spoke about technique versus vision. We spoke about the value of others opinions. We spoke about rules and guidelines and much more. It was a stimulating hour of discussion! I’m not sure we resolved anything but we carried the spirit of the discussion with us throughout the week. In fact, I am still pondering on the matter and would like to continue the discussion here.
I am reading a book suggested by Chuck Kimmerle titled “Why People Photograph” by Robert Adams. These quotes resonated in lieu of our discussion.
“I really didn’t have much to teach. I didn’t even believe in it. I felt so strongly that everybody had to find their own way. And nobody can teach you your own way…. in terms of art, the only real answer that I know of is to do it. If you don’t’ do it you don’t know what might happen” Harry Callahan,1991
With regard to the blog image from the Alabama Hills. Yes, the recent tour was focused on B&W and my folder of images is 99% B&W, however, that did not stop me from processing this one in color! Why color versus B&W? I wish I had a good answer, sometimes color just makes more sense and I run with my gut feeling. In the dunes, I can’t imagine anything but B&W yet I’ve seen some wonderful images that are color. So color or B&W becomes a creative choice, there is no right or wrong.
The other day Tony Sweet emailed a picture of his Mom. He made the image with his iPhone while taking his iMom to the eye doctor or iDoc as he calls her.
Tony made a blog post about his thoughts on his image here.
These are my thoughts. Great photography creates an emotional response. This is a classic photograph that underscores the idea that it is not about the camera but rather about connection. Connection to subject, be it a person or a sand dune for that matter. This image is full of connection. Full of joy, silliness and fun. And that is clearly felt by the photographer and now by me, the viewer. Thus, Tony has created a very successful image, no matter the camera, because of the connection. I love this picture and can’t stop looking at it. Tony emailed me this morning and simply said, “I’m still giggling”. Me too!
To further cement my thoughts. Our special guest instructor for the Eastern Sierra tour last week was the amazing Cole Thompson. One of his most successful images is “The Angel Gabriel” Cole has given me permission to use it and his words below. Yes, the image is special but read the story and tell me that connection was not part of its success.
The Angel Gabriel – Newport Beach, CA – 2006
- This is the Angel Gabriel. I met him on the Newport Beach pier as he was eating French Fries out of a trash can.
- He was homeless and hungry. I asked him if he would help me with a photograph and in return, I would buy him lunch.
- The pier was very crowded and I wanted to take a 30 second exposure so that everyone would disappear except Gabriel.
- We tried a few shots and then Gabriel wanted to hold his bible. The image worked and the only
- people you can see besides Gabriel are those “ghosts” who lingered long enough for the camera.
- Gabriel and I then went into a restaurant to share a meal; he ordered steak with mushrooms and onions. When it came,
- he ate it with his hands. I discovered he was Romanian and so am I, so we talked about Romania. He was simple,
- kind and a pleasure to talk with. I asked Gabriel how I might contact him, in case I sold some of the photographs and
- wanted to share the money with him. He said I should give the money to someone who could really use it; that he had
- everything that he needed.
- Then the Angel Gabriel walked away, content and carrying his only two possessions: a Bible and a bed roll.
Now, with the idea of connection clearly in mind, pay attention to how you feel and respond to the images below.
This is a favorite image of Nancy Rotenberg. My regular blog readers will know who she is and what she meant to me. Now that you know who she is, does it affect your reaction?
The more you connect with your subject, the more those who view your image will too.
If you’re finding value in this site, might I ask that you share with your social communities? Thank you!
If you missed my last post, my wife and I just got back from a wonderful vacation to Disney. This image was captured hand-held at ISO 3200. The ever changing color and lights on the castle are really quite beautiful. A “straight” image didn’t do it for me, so I decided to play with Totally Rad Dirty Pictures and FlyPaper Textures. If you are interested in how Dirty Pictures works, take a look at my video tutorial here. You might also look at this tutorial as it adds more helpful information. Clicking on the highlighted links will take you to the webpages for Totally Rad and Flypaper. Discounts are available if you wish to purchase either. Just go to my discounts page and use the associated code.
Here is the eveloution of this creation. Below is the original capture.
Next I converted the image to B&W
Then I inverted the B&W image to create this.
Then I used Totally Rad Dirty Pictures with a FlyPaper Texture to create this.
Nancy Rotenberg’s book, “Photography and The Creative Life”, is one of my most cherished books, a book I refer to often. It is full of inspiration and passion, Nancy’s passion. It is not a book about technique, f/stops or shutter speeds. In fact, she does not even caption her magnificent images. She would rather you decide what they mean to you. Nancy was my mentor, friend and advisor. She alone is responsible for pushing me kicking and screaming into leading photography workshops. And while cancer took Nancy much too early, her spirit remains and is ever present in my walk with photography and the creative life.
With the holiday season upon us, might I suggest you pick up a copy of this book and read it. Don’t read it once, read it twice and then read it again. For those who have heard my Dream, Believe, Create lecture, you will quickly understand where much of my inspiration comes from.
I’m interested to hear what you have to say about the idea of “Photography and The Creative LIfe”. What do you do to tap into your creative side? What can you share that will help others live a more creative life?
Let me start. I believe we all have F.U.D., fears, uncertainties and doubts. We carry these around with us as we try to be creative. Most times they are like big bricks in our camera bags weighing us down. For me, I did not believe I had a creative bone in my body. Heck, I couldn’t even draw a stick figure. How on earth could I be a creative photographer? As such, I had to look through everyone else’s viewfinder to know what a good image looked like. I would try to find a good subject, but I never felt like mine was as good as Dan’s or Bill’s or Ferrell’s or Tony’s….. My breakthrough came in 2004, when I went to South Africa for a workshop with Freeman Patterson. I went with my friend Ferrell McCollough and learned just before the trip that Nancy was going to be a participant as well! Can you imagine my excitement?! As Ferrell and I were exiting the plane in South Africa, he said. “John I have challenge for you.” What would that be, I asked? “On this trip, you will not be allowed to look through anyone else’s viewfinder. I want you to come home believing you are a good photographer and can see worthy images all on your own.” I’m not going to lie, this scared me to death. A trip of a lifetime to South Africa with my hero Freeman Patterson and Nancy happens to be on this trip too and I can’t look through her viewfinder to make sure I’m going to get images like hers?!?! I took Ferrell up on his challenge. It was hard, however, I came home with images that forever changed the course of my journey with photography. Images that were mine! Images that I created. But more importantly, I realized I was creative. I could do this without looking through anyone else’s viewfinder!
The blog image was created on this trip. It is a montage or “slide sandwich” as we called them in the film days. One image is of the dancing girl on the rocks in the tiny town of Nourivier. The other is a multiple exposure of the wonderful flowers in Freeman’s beloved fields This creation captures the essence of my journey to South Africa. I went to be with Freeman to learn about the creative techniques he is so well known for. Things like slide sandwiches and multiple exposures. I ended up falling in love with and being taught a valuable lesson by the people in South Africa, especially those from Nourivier. It was in Nouriver that I learned to “dance” as Nancy would say. It seemed natural that I should combine the two images to create a third. Every time I see this image, I smile. It hangs in my office as a constant reminder of this trip and more importantly, as a reminder that I am creative.
Nancy’a book is hard to find, however, her daughter Marci has some left. You can contact Marci at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A girl in Nouriver South Africa
Fuji X-Pro1 – 14mm Fuji lens
Another from our wonderful morning in Cape May. The sky was simply amazing.
A big thank you to all those who support the webinars I do for Topaz. Yesterday we had another full house, thanks! The recorded version is available to watch on YouTube NOW! I will have a link on my TUTORIALS page as well where you’ll always be able to find it for later viewing.
The other day Stephan made a great suggestion. He suggested I do a texture treatment similar to the one I did on the inverted tree image on the multiple exposure version. Great idea! See below.
While in New Hampshire, my tour partner Dan was drawn to this particular scene. At first, I thought it would make a strong b&w but then I thought it might be even better with texture. To make this happen, I used the INVERSE command to make the base image a negative of the original (see below) and then I used my favorite tools for texture work, Totally Rad’s Dirty Pictures along with FlyPaper Textures. For a discount on either of these please go to my discount page by clicking here.
Inverted image CMD I in Photoshop
Original b&w image
Back in Trinidad. I was setting up this scene when I saw the beautiful taxi and quickly grabbed the shot. I didn’t see the motorcycle behind him with the exhaust pouring out the tailpipe. I think that adds so much to this scene. I used my Topaz Lomo style processing in Topaz Adjust 5 which I feel fit this scene very well.
Below is my first Cinemagraph! I know its dark and corny, but I just wanted to do one! Pretty easy to do really, just follow Mark’s short video tutorial that I posted along with the post yesterday. I can see these being really fun to do!
The terrace that Hemingway writes about in “The Old Man and the Sea” is the La Terazza Bar in Cojimar, about 20 minutes from downtown Havanna. Cojimar is a very interesting, small fishing village. This particular home is near the end of the main street. The gentleman was kind enough to let us take his picture while sitting in the colorful entryway of his home.
I have a couple of things I want to share today.
1. Be sure to head over to Tony Sweets blog today to see his stunning floral photography with his new D800E.
2. Mark S. Johnson’s post today is about how to create a cinemagraph. What is a cinemagraph? Take a look at these on the Ann Street Studio Blog. I’m going to give one a try today and will share the results in a future blog post. Looks like great fun!
I photographed this car last year. I loved the Lafayette sign above it. I’m pretty sure the car has not moved since last year. It was very dirty and seemed to be in the very spot I found it previously. I was not going to photograph it again and then, like I spoke about in a previous post, I thought, what can I do differently. I moved across the street and this time and included the woman. Last year, when photographing cars, I was all about clean scenes without people. This is something I’m prone to do. My comfort zone is clean images without people. Add to this, my negative self talk which has been, I’m not a “people photographer.” As such, I’ve never been comfortable photographing people. I envy those who are. We had a few on this trip who I’ve learned from. While this is not really a “people picture” adding the human form is new for me and I’m very happy with it. I think it adds to the image.
How about you? Do you stay in your comfort zone? Is it hard to try new things? What did you do to beat that demon?
Can you tell I’m having fun revisiting my San Miguel trip in 2006? Sometimes its not necessary to include the actual subject. In the case of the lead image, I excluded it and photographed just the shadow. I like the simple graphic created by the color and shadow. In the image below, I included both the lamp and shadow. And much like the recent discussion about what to include and not include, I decided to include just a bit of the door and feature the lamp and shadow.