Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Wide-Angle Macro: The Nuts & Bolts.

Many of you may remember several posts that I wrote this past summer on Wide-Angle Macro Photography. Well, for those interested in really learning the nuts and bolts of this technique, I would highly recommend that you follow this series of articles by my friend Paul Harcourt Davies. Paul –a master of wide-angle macro– will be going through how to create these amazing images in great depth. Do check it out if you want to learn more.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

On Charting My Course

I am driven by goals. Some people like goals and others find them detestable. I need goals because they give me a focal point in the sea of 'what ifs' and 'wouldn't it be cools' that cross my mind throughout the span of a year. I also appreciate the fact that at the end of another 365 days I can look back and actually feel like I've accomplished something worthwhile –if I actually have, of course. I have a tendency to forget about the good things that I've achieved and all too often will focus only on the things that need work if I am not careful. That isn't always a bad thing in terms of learning how to grow as a photographer but we all need little positive reinforcement from time-to-time.

One peculiar thing that I've noticed over the past few years is that the number of items on my list of goals has begun to shrink, while the ambition level of each seems to be rising. I have found this to be a very natural progression as my maturity as a photographer grows and my focus becomes more and more fine-tuned. In actuality, each one of my goals has a lot of moving parts and pieces – they just happen to share a common umbrella. For example, in 2010 I am focusing on four main projects. If things go as I hope, the outcome of some of these will include components such as books, exhibitions, and articles. In the past, I might have just listed these products individually. Now, I've begun to look at a body of work and consider all of the different ways that the imagery can be interlaced to support a common message; not exactly brain-surgery but it takes me a while to catch on sometimes!

I recently flipped through Andrew Zuckerman's book Wisdom. There is quote in the book from Ben Stein, in which he basically states (paraphrase) that one should "Focus on the best thing that you can do in a given year and your career will take care of itself." Right now, I am not quite at that level of trust but maybe one day I'll arrive. Although I'm not quite so young anymore, at 33 I am still dumb enough to be joyfully ambitious in the face of great odds. That is a piece of my youth that I hope I shall never lose!

For those seeking some instant inspiration and goal-setting advice for the approaching New Year, I came across this free downloadable e-Book from Seth Godin today. It is packed with thoughts from people way wiser than me.

Friday, December 11, 2009

HDR Portraits

If you had a chance to read my previous post, then you'll no doubt recognize the subject of this photo as Capt. Jim Yergin who was featured in my shoot with The Nature Conservancy earlier this week. As soon as I had the pleasure of meeting Jim, I just knew that he would make a great subject for a duo-tone portrait. This afternoon, I happened to come across an article in the November issue of Black & White Photography Magazine on HDR Portraits. The image above is an HDR composite of three different exposures of the same photo (one 2 over, one 2 under and one properly exposed) , which were then merged in Photomatix. I then converted the image into a duo-tone in Photoshop. This technique is a very effective way to create gritty portraits if that is the sort of thing you're into. In fact, I could have pushed the contrast of this image even further if I so desired. Although I'm not a big fan of a lot of the HDR work that is currently in vogue, I really love this technique and will probably find a lot of use for it.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Happy as an Oyster

Yesterday started with a very early 4:00 am wake up call in Charleston, South Carolina. Joy Brown –Marine ecologist and oyster specialist extraordinaire– would soon be arriving to pick me up at my hotel, which was on the way to the landing in nearby McClellanville. Although bedraggled and barely functional at that hour, I was really glad to be going out to the coastal marshes to once again document the progress of The Nature Conservancy's oyster habitat restoration project. We were blessed with good weather and the great company of U.S. House of Representatives Member Anne Peterson-Hutto and local fisherman Capt. Jim Yergin who were both very tolerant of my request for "Just one more photo, time I really mean!"

Here are some highlights of the morning. For background on this story, visit this earlier post.
A beautiful sunrise over the marshes as Capt. Jim guides us to the installation site.
First light revealed the new oysters that had colonized the oyster castles.
The oysters quickly colonized the man-made structures.
Local fisherman like Jim Yergin need healthy marine ecosystems to keep fish populations strong.
U.S. House of Representatives Member Anne Peterson-Hutto joined us on our trip to learn more about how the project works.
Joy demonstrates how the project is mapped via GPS for Representative Peterson-Hutto.
Joy Brown, proud defender of Oysters everywhere!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

e-Books and the Future of Print

I love books and it isn't just about the contents for me; I relish in the smell of the paper, the sound of a crisp page turning, and the revisiting of well-thumbed illustrations – often with undying wonder. Books bring me comfort and my night stand is always covered in various titles that I peck at over a period of months.

For the past several years I, along with my close friend Dale Cochran, have been experimenting with interactive pdfs. I give Dale credit for initially revealing the possibilities to me and together we've spent a good deal of time sharing ideas on how to make them work. The potential to create 'living brochures' is something that really intrigues me and I am surprised that this exciting possibility has yet to be fully grasped and accepted by more business and advertisers. There are also huge opportunities for educational publications –particularly in the realm of children's literature– where sound and motion can be blended into a book effectively to enhance a reader's experience. Imagine a book on the Amazon rainforest in which a page is turned only to ignite the lush sounds of a waterfall punctuated by the harsh cries of a macaw. The technology has been around for several years but only just now seems to be gaining some traction. Children are already so used to learning on-screen that I suspect they will have no issue with embracing this type of learning experience.

In spite of my enthusiasm for all of this, I still have had my doubts about the possibility of successfully selling electronic copies of highly artistic photography books. After spending several hours on the computer most days, the last thing that I want to do is be tethered to a machine for a while longer to read a book. Anyone else feel this way? Well, my doubts were put to rest after witnessing the successful sale of William Neill's "Landscapes of the Spirit" e-Book. In brief correspondence with Bill, I naively expressed my lack of faith (as I mention above) but I'm happy to report that I was proven very wrong. His beautiful e-Edition sold briskly and he has now added others to his on-line store.

When developing an e-Book, there are a couple of different approaches to take and both have their ups and downs. The first type, which until recently had been the sole source of my focus, is the interactive PDF. These documents can feature streaming video, sound and motion. They are easily developed in Adobe InDesign CS3 & 4 (in conjunction with Acrobat Pro) and look fantastic on screen. Another advantage is that the layout of these documents stays just as designed on screen and there aren't any issues with image shift or text re-wrapping. At the moment, this is definitely the best approach for artistic photography books and graphic-heavy pieces.

The second approach involves designing Digital Editions for e-Readers such as Amazon's highly popular Kindle or Barnes and Nobles' Nook. What these e-Books lack in design appeal, they regain in terms of flexibility and ease of use on various devices. In my opinion, I believe that this is the way to go for instructional books where information, and not graphics, lead the way. These can also easily be designed and exported from InDesign CS4 (and CS3).

Today I find myself in the developmental phase of two projects in which e-Books and digital editions will be highly featured. After spending several years toying with the technology and following the development of these next generation books, I'm very excited to have an opportunity to actually put my knowledge to good use and for good causes (more to come on these later). Although I don't expect printed books to ever really go away, as digital reading devices become more and more prevalent I feel certain that the old way of distributing written materials will diminish to some degree. The next few years will certainly be interesting for designers, photographers and publishers in particular.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Give Green Gifts from The Nature Conservancy

Midori Matsuyama, who is the on-line outreach director for The Nature Conservancy, sent a nice note today and asked if would mind sharing some of the organization's Green Holiday Gift Ideas with you all. TNC does a lot of good and with each purchase, you'd be supporting their vast conservation efforts around the world.

Here are few ideas if you get stuck looking for that perfect gift:
  1. Adopt an Acre in the US or abroad
  2. Plant Trees in the Atlantic Forest. Each tree costs just $1.00!
  3. Adopt A Coral Reef
  4. Help Save the Northern Jaguar
  5. Give the Gift of Clean Water
Think of this way, you'll be doing a good thing AND avoiding a trip to the mall. What could be better?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Bits & Pieces

In lieu of a long rambling post, here are few items of note.
  • I made my first foray into the world of international life-style publications this month in the new issue of Sublime Magazine. This issue features, among other interesting things, a selection of six winning images from the 2009 CIWEM Environmental Photographer of the Year Competition. I was lucky to be one of the chosen few winners who were represented. Thanks Laura!
  • Just discovered the work of 17 year old Jaco Ottevanger today. He has some really beautiful, creative images on his website. It is so exciting to see the next generation coming in swinging!
  • Really interesting post on how to create 360 panoramic photos here and several great examples here and here. With the addition of narration, these really can be powerful photographic tools, which can be used for conservation awareness.
  • Check out Niall Benvie's take on the “Vivaldi-isation" of Nature Photography