Tag Archives: Cole Thompson

Death Valley with Cole Thompson – Gear for Sale

I am just back from co-leading two workshops in Death Valley and The Alabama Hills with the great Cole Thompson. We had two tremendous groups with lots of opportunities to create images that made our hearts sing! To be with Cole was a rare treat as he does not typically shoot with others let alone help on a workshop!  

Below are a few of my favorites so far.  Many more to process, so stay tuned for part 2!

On another subject, I am helping a friend sell some lightly used Nikon and Olympus gear.  See the list below.

One last thing, I have room if you’d like to join me in the Smokies this spring!  Mid April is the perfect time and it is a great way to wipe away the winter blues!  And, I just had a late cancellation for my Charleston SC workshop in a couple of weeks leaving a spot available.

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List of Gear for sale.

Nikon  PRICE
D700 with Grip & RRS L Plate 800
D700 with Grip 800
D800 with Grip & RRS L Bracket 1499
85mm 1.4D 700
16-35 f4 800
18-200 3.5-5.6 mssing hood. 450
24-70 2.8 1300
SB-900 Flash 200
Tamron 180 Macro 550
Lensababy Composer Pro 200
Olympus
OM-D E-M1 700
Pen Lite E-PL5 with 14-42 EZ 300
Lumix 35-100 HD 2.8 Polwer OIS 700
Lumix 7-14 f/4 Vario 600
Lumix 100-300 4-5.6 400
Olympus 40-150 2.8 1000
Olympus 1.4x Teleconverter 250
Olympus 14-42 3.5-5.6 EZ 200
Olympus 14-42 3.5-5,6IIR 200
Olympus 12 2.0 Silver 500
Lumix 45mm 2.8 Leica 550
Lensabay Velvet 56mm for Olympus 400
Really Right Stuff Tripod TVC 24l with BH-40 Ball Head 950
Metabones adaptor for Nikon F to Olympus 4/3 335
Tiffin 72mm Polorizer 25
Nikon 77mm Polorizer 50
Hoya 77mm Polorizer 25
Tiffin 77mm Polorizer 25
Hoodman Loupe 25
Tiffin 58mm Vari ND 50
Singh Ray ND 3G SS Galen Rowel 50
Singh Ray ND 2G-SS Galen Rowel 50
Singh Ray ND 2G-HS Galen Rowel 50
Singh Ray ND 3G-HS Galen Rowell 50
Posted in B&W, Cole Thompson, Death Valley, Workshop Also tagged , , , |

More Thoughts on Art and Competition

 

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The positive response to my previous post tells me people are interested in the topic of art, photography and competition. I’d like to add a few more thoughts.

First, for anyone who might think otherwise, make no mistake, I believe camera clubs offer great value, especially to beginning to intermediate photographers. My friend Chuck Robinson feels the same way. This is what he had to say about his club experience. “I joined our camera club when I first got started into photography.  I wanted to meet people with similar interests and learn more about photography.  I ended up befriending some great people who are awesome photographers and I did learn a great deal through these friendships.  I enjoyed the competitions at first because I thought it was a way for me to gauge the growth of my photography compared to others that have been shooting way longer than I.  I felt that it also pushed me to become better.  As a novice photographer at the time, I felt that it was beneficial to my growth”  I agree with Chuck, his feelings mirror many others I’ve spoken to about their club experience.

Chuck goes on to say, “Nine years later my feelings have changed. Today, my personal view is much different. A little over a year ago, I was becoming frustrated in my photography.  Although I did very well in the competitions, I felt that the comments from the judges from month to month were all over the map. Now I can take constructive criticism, in fact, I look forward to it.  But some of the comments were just ridiculous. More importantly, I felt like I was creating images just to win competitions and I was becoming very frustrated and lost sight of why I wanted to create images in the first place. I was losing my desire in photography. I was chasing what I thought someone else would think was a winner.  I had to stop and regroup and distance myself from the club. I feel so much  better now that I’ve done that”  This too, is common feedback and emphasizes my concern with competition. 

I am currently traveling with my tour partner Dan Sniffin. We have been conversing about the value of camera clubs and the feedback to my last post. We even called Cole Thompson as someone shared with him a Facebook link with some of my comments regarding this subject. We all arrived at the same conclusion. Getting people to think about what and why they are creating images is important and healthy.

Second, In no way am I advocating that everyone who owns a camera or is part of a camera club should ascribe to my way of thinking. There are some who enjoy competing, winning points, pins, ribbons and plaques. If this is what brings you joy, who am I to say otherwise? For instance, I have a friend Gunther Riehle who is one of the highest ranking PSA nature photographers in the world. His work is stunning, yet follows a different vision and the guidelines of PSA. I am simply suggesting that following your heart or your vision could bring a different level of joy or satisfaction. Or as my friend Dewitt Jones says, another right answer. Let me share a two stories that might illustrate what I’m trying to say.

I was on the first day of a fall weekend photography workshop. The colors were astounding, the conditions could not have been better. A participant came up to me and said, “I am going to go home.” I asked if I had said something that offended her, had I done something wrong?  She said, “No, its just I am not finding what I came for.” She then shared that she had a competition at her camera club and her expectation was to find a particular image that she could win with. Rather than find another right answer, a different and maybe better answer, she went home. Isn’t that sad?

Contrast that experience to this story. Dan (tour partner) and I were scouting for our spring Smoky Mountain Tour last year. When we arrived, he said to me, “John, don’t worry if I don’t shoot much. I’ve been to the Smokies a number of times, I’ve got all the images I need. I’m going to just relax. I have no expectations for this trip. I’ll just shoot when something moves me.”  Normally Dan would go on a trip and have a “shot list.”  Not this time, he was going to be open to what moved him, spoke to him and inspired him. Guess what? He produced the best work he has ever produced from the Smokies. His success was so good, he did the same thing in the Palouse a couple of months later with the same results.

These stories capture the essence of what I was hoping to express in this and my previous post. I am simply suggesting an alternative approach.  A more contemplative approach, where you are open to whatever turns your head and will create based on what makes your heart sing.

Posted in Cole Thompson, Inspiration Also tagged , , |

More on Photo Celibacy

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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

“Can photography be taught?  If this mean the history and techniques of the medium, I think it can….. If, however, teaching photography means bringing students to find their own individual photographic visions, I think it is impossible. We would be pretending to offer the students, in Wililam Stafford’s phrase, “a wilderness with a map.”  We can give beginners directions about how to use a compass, we can tell them stories about our exploration of different but possibly analogous geographies, and we can bless them with our caring, but we cannot know the unknown and thus make sure a path to real discovery.” Robert Adams
 
“Even now I don’t like to discuss work that isn’t finished, because until it is revised over the span of a year or several years there are crucial parts that are present only in my minds eye, pieces intended but not yet realized……  “Art is made by the alone for the alone.”” Robert Adams with inserted quote by Luis Barragan.
 
“I knew I didn’t want to study at length contemporaries’ pictures, fearing that their work might come close to mine and blur my vision.”  Robert Adams
What do you think?  Are vision and technique connected?  Can you achieve your vision without some guidelines about good composition?  Can vision be taught?  Does looking at others work influence yours?  

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.  

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Posted in Chuck Kimmerle, Cole Thompson, Color, Creative, Inspiration Also tagged , , , |

The Power of the “S” Curve

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The “S” curve in nature is a very powerful graphic element.  I was thrilled to find this one in the dunes.

During our recent tour with Cole Thompson, he was kind enough to show us some of his post processing techniques.  Learning how he uses the Dodge and Burn tool was an eye opener for me.  I used these tools and new ideas to lighten and darken key areas in this image.  The key when using these tools is to work on all three tonal ranges, shadow, mid-tone and highlights. There is a drop down dialogue box that shows all three on the tool properties bar at the top.  Before, I would use just one and that approach does not work nearly as well. It is also important to use a brush at just 2 or 3% opacity. Even though you don’t feel like you’re doing much when lightening a dark area when working on the highlights, trust me, there are pixels that are indeed being affected.  The same holds true when darkening a light area. There are shadow and mid-tone pixels there.

Posted in Abstract, B&W, Cole Thompson, Death Valley, Essence Also tagged , , , , |

Connecting

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.  

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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.

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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. 

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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!

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Posted in Cole Thompson, Creative, Inspiration, Nancy Rotenberg Also tagged , , , |

Internet connections – YouTube Video

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Recently, I received an email from Victor Alcantara in Germany.  He happened upon my website and was drawn to my images wanting to use them in a slideshow for a recorded piano performance he would share on YouTube.  He had put together a rough draft using the small jpeg’s from my site and wanted permission to use them.  (How refreshing that he would ask!)  I offered larger files in exchange for a copy of his and his partners CD which is excellent.   I wanted to share the final version of the YouTube video. I think you’ll find it relaxing and well done, and you’ll recognize most of the images too! 

The blog image is another made in the Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley.  I’ll have more to say about the tour with Cole Thompson as I post more images over the next few weeks.  For now, suffice it to say, I’ve not been this motivated or inspired in awhile.  Cole was just tremendous!

Posted in Uncategorized Also tagged , , , , , , |

Mesquite Dunes #2

We are wrapping up another great tour with a tremendous group.  Here is another B&W image from the dunes.  I could shoot the dunes for a week straight, I’m addicted.

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Posted in Death Valley Also tagged , , |

Death Valley with Cole Thompson

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Today we started our tour with special guest Cole Thompson.  It has been a joy to spend time with Cole whose work I have admired for quite some time.  Cole gave a presentation today that was tremendous and very inspiring!

Our tour is focused on B&W photography, so I thought I’d post an image created during our scouting trip last week. This one pays homage to another favorite B&W photographer, Chuck Kimmerle.

Posted in Abstract, B&W, Chuck Kimmerle, Cole Thompson, Death Valley Also tagged , , , , , , , , |

Vision & Technique

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Southside Johnny getting lost in it
Fuji X-E2 – 35mm at f 1/4, ISO3200

In his most recent blog post, Cole Thompson suggested how something is better accomplished by personal vision than technical expertise. This reminded me of a friend, who, when asked if her image was captured with digital or film, would reply, “do you like it?” Inevitably, the person would answer, “I love it.” She would then say, “great!” and never answer the question at all. Essentially she was saying: Does it matter? 

I think there is a difference.  My friend’s point was valid, film or digital?  Who cares? I agree. However, with Cole’s point, I agree in part.  Vision is indeed important and we should relentlessly pursue ours. But I feel the more we understand technique, be it in-camera or in post processing, the better equipped we are to be able to achieve our vision.  

Let me illustrate, if I did not understand the techniques needed for image overlay and texture work, I would never have been able to achieve my vision for the Disney picture I created a few posts back. 

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For me, vision and technique are intertwined.  In fact, I would suggest we need to understand technique so well that we are freed from its constraints and liberated to pursue our vision. Otherwise, we might be frustrated in not being able to fulfill our vision.  Another illustration. You see an image like the one below but don’t know how you might create something similar.  Frustration sets in and you move on to something else.  

However, if someone shares the technique, you now have the knowledge and can use it to achieve your vision.  The trick is: How do you take this new knowledge and create a vision of your own?

This is where your vision becomes so important.  Your objective is to take this knowledge and create something new.  Something like the Disney creation above. 

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When I’m asked, how did you do that?  I’m prone to share. I understand where Cole is coming from.  He is serious about encouraging folks to chase their vision without influence from others, and I am on board with that. However, I think people are at different places along the creative path.  Without a clear understanding of technique, I think it might be harder for some to achieve their vision.

“Develop an infallible technique, then put yourself at the mercy of inspiration.”   Zen maxim

“One is not really a photographer until preoccupation with learning has been outgrown and the camera in his hands is an extension of himself.  There is where creativity begins.” 

Carl Mydans (1907-2004) American photojournalist

“I see no reason for recording the obvious.” Edward Weston, photographer 

Your thoughts?

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Fuji X-E2 – 35mm f/1.4, ISO 2000

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Posted in Cole Thompson, Inspiration Also tagged , , , |

Announcing a special workshop with Cole Thompson

 

My tour partner Dan Sniffin and I are very excited to announce a new workshop with special guest Cole Thompson.  As Cole is an extraordinary B&W photographer, we will be focusing on making B&W images, but of course color photographers are welcome too!   We will spend time in three primary locations during the week.  The Alabama Hills in Lone Pine CA, The Trona Pinnacles in Ridgecrest CA and the Mesquite Flat dunes in Death Valley.  The workshop will run from February 3rd to the 8th of 2014.  We are accepting deposits now,  details can be found on the Tours page of this blog.  As with our recent special workshop with Chuck Kimmerle, I’m sure this one will fill up quickly if not instantly.  So, if you have an interest act fast.  

Posted in Cole Thompson, Workshop Also tagged , , , |