Thursday, May 21, 2009

Say It Ain't So...

According to an article in Photo District News, micropayment stock imagery site Fotolia is offering images for nothing. That's right, free for first time customers, up to 10 images per day.

Daryl Benson, a photographer who commented on PDN's site, wrote, "I think it's time to consider becoming a customer. Either that or start offering customers money to download images... that could work..."

Ya think? What this means for photographers who license stock images remains to be seen. It's time to educate amateur and semi-pros in good marketing principles, me thinks.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Where Are the Heros? — John

My grandfather’s name was John. He was a six-foot-something giant of a man quiet and unassuming, a second-generation immigrant who fiercely protected his family. Nothing was more important to him than that.

John had been blind in one eye from the age of 13 when a splinter flew from a piece of wood he was chopping. He never drove a car because of that splinter, but instead walked everywhere he had to go or asked one of my parents for a ride until the day he died. I vividly remember walking to the bakery on Sunday mornings after church as a boy to bring home a Jewish rye for lunch. Those were the kinds of things he did with his grandchildren.

John was a janitor at the local public grade school. Today janitors are looked down upon, as if that task is below us. I mean, who really wants to be a janitor and empty the trash, clean the bathrooms, scrape gum from under desks, and paint the hallways? John never saw it that way though. The children in that school respected him as much as they respected the principal. The students, behind his back, affectionately called him “Sneakers,” because he always wore them and they could never hear him coming when they were getting into mischief. One of the graduates of the school told that to us at his funeral as he relived those days. He said that John was tough, but he was also fair, and would give any kid a break when he or she needed one.

It didn’t occur to me until years later that John’s blood and sweat was in that school. That is why, when I was four, I remember the look of sadness on his face the day he walked me a block from our home to watch the school being demolished. He took pride in having been a part of an institution that gave so many kids a head start in life.

John never really said much. That day, he said nothing. We just stood there together, my small hand in his, and after a time, he finally said, “Well, Davey, let’s go home.”

I would like to say that the time he worked at the school was more simple than now, but I think there is more to it than that. People actually had respect for each other then. John and his friends respected their nation, and God help any who stood or spoke against her. His blindness never allowed him to serve in the armed forces, but that did not in any way squelch his national pride. They also took pride in their work, and they understood that they were expected to put in a full day for their wage. They looked-up to the janitor in the same way that they looked up to the judge, because both performed a needed function in society (that, too, has changed).

Oh, John knew his neighbors back then, too. When someone new moved into the neighborhood—a rare event, because most people didn’t move around much back then—he, his wife, Mary, and the other neighbors walked to the house and brought a bread or a pie to welcome the new family. When a neighbor was in trouble, everyone helped out in any way they could, because—well—it was just the right thing to do.

Most of his neighbors had very humble beginnings. They typically were first or second generation immigrants, and so to own their own homes was looked upon as a great privilege and not a right. They bought them by working and sacrificing until they had the money. They took pride in their homes—even the ones they rented—and you could find them on their hands-and-knees, washing their sidewalks on Saturday mornings. Do that today and your neighbors would wonder who you were and what was wrong with you.

Faith in God was a given. Everyone went to worship on a Sunday. The various ethnic communities that sprung up always had their church building in the middle of them. They spoke about their faith because it was important to them. Today, we hide it from our neighbors and coworkers and acquaintances to avoid being ridiculed as foolish, and if that’s “progress” then you can keep it. But back to John.

John was an excellent carpenter. Were it not for him and his patience, I would not be a woodworker today. He built my first piece of furniture with me—a cabinet for his shop tools. It was a nice piece of furniture that you could use outside the shop. It lives in my living room to this day because he explicitly instructed me that—on the day he died—I was to go immediately to his shop and take the cabinet home. I did just, because as kids—even 19 year old ones—you did what Grandpa told you to do.

The other reason the construction of that cabinet sticks in my mind is because I remember him hammering his thumb so hard that it nearly made me cry. All I heard from him was a sharp intake of air. He looked at his split thumbnail and said, “Be right back. I’d better get a Band-Aid from Grandma.” That was John. As much as he didn’t talk much, he didn’t complain much either. I tried to remember that when I ran my thumb through my table saw after 33 years in the shop with no accidents.

The week before he died, John wasn’t feeling particularly well, but he never spoke of it. My Mother noticed and told him that she was going to take him to his doctor. All he said was, “My father died in his bed, and I’m going to die in mine.”

Mary, his wife, fell asleep in the living room a few days later. When she awoke around 3:30 a.m., she noticed John’s light still on and went to check on him. He was right where he said he would be. In his bed. The coroner’s report said that his heart had given out.

I would like to be able to tell you that his death had a great impact on my family, but it didn’t. We Christians don’t view death as an end. No—the impact his life had on us was far greater. He truly was our hero because he understood what it meant to be a man—and unlike many today, he wasn’t afraid to be one.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Where Are the Heros?

Times are difficult everywhere. The government announced that the economy fell another six points in the previous month. Businesses are shutting down. A friend of mine, also a commercial photographer, told me that he lost a very lucrative client who decided to hire someone else to maintain his website — and the client wants to pay only $10 per hour for it. Guess what? He found someone willing to do it. It’s like Elton said: And the times, they are a-changin’

So photography isn’t what it used to be. We all know that. We can either sit around and complain about it, or we can dig in and weather the storm and make it to calmer waters. But just how do we do that?

That is what I’ve been thinking about on and off all day. It has been a year of many changes for me both personally and professionally, and the year is far from over. Just where do we go for inspiration, for endurance, for the fortitude to make it through the crises life dishes out?

In my experience, we have become nation of whiners that has its collective hand out — and photography hasn’t fared much better. I will risk the ire of my colleagues to go so far as to say that we have become a profession of whiners as well. We complain that others undercut our bids. We complain that the mega-stock houses have sold out and jumped on the royalty-free bandwagon. We complain that clients want everything for nothing. All of this is true to a large extent, but guess what? Complaining won’t fix it.

Where are the heroes of the past? Where are the entrepreneurs with the mettle to do what it takes to work it out? Today, we seem to think the heroes are the people who offer us a bail-out at our children's and grandchildren’s expense. Have we forgotten about our parents and grandparents, the immigrants who came to this country with little more than what they wore on their backs? Have we forgotten about the war years when our country pulled together and each individual sacrificed and did what needed to be done? We pulled together for three weeks following 9/11, but we didn't have the fortitude to see things through and so we wanted to quit. Do we even have any national pride left?

I believe that some of us do. So here is my challenge to you: Over the coming days, I will write about the people who inspire me. Many of them are friends and family — ordinary, regular, run-of-the-mill folks who stepped up and did great things not on a national level, but on a personal level that helped and inspired those whom they touched and so are a very real part of our national history. I also want to hear from you. Tell us your stories. Tell us who inspires you. Is it a relative or friend? Is it a national figure? A captain of industry? A colleague? Perhaps someone you don’t even know or who is no longer with us. Tell us your stories. Inspire us.

Where are the heroes? Well, they are all around us. We need only to open our eyes and look.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

And the Worst Advice Award Goes to...

SmartMoney, an online magazine that purports to save their readers money by giving them tips on how to avoid spending too much, devoted a section of an article to class photos. Their sage advice against spending more than parents wish? “Worried you won’t have a spare to send to Grandma? Consider scanning your copy or email a cute digital shot you took yourself.”

Yeah. Send one you took yourself. Don’t violate a photographer’s copyright, however, by scanning the image. To do so is to endanger the photographer's livlihood. I dare say that most people would not walk into a store and just take what they wanted without paying for it, but I wonder how many parents are taking this advice to heart and scanning with abandon?

And the worst part? The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and Professional Photographers of America (PPA) have deluged SmartMoney with emails. While SmartMoney has made the article more difficult to find, they have also refused to retract the advice. That, in most states, is called “conspiracy.”

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Digital Asset Management

I never could have imagined that converting my RAW images to DNG (digital negative) and recataloging them could be so time consuming, but when you have literally thousands of them, it takes a very long time.

After thoroughly investigating and testing the .dng format, I have decided to go that way. If you you are thinking about doing this, please read Peter Krogh's The DAM Book: Digital Asset Management for Photographers It is a wealth of information, and raises issues that you may not have thoroughly thought through.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Okay, So I’ve Been Remiss...

That’s right. I haven’t blogged in months. That’s because I’ve been very busy over the course of the Summer, but plan to do better. And no, I haven’t forgotten that I promised Part III of the Assateague articles.

The truth is, I’m writing a book, and that has been more time consuming than I remember. I have written and edited books and parts of books before, but it’s been several years, and writing is like childbirth—eventually you forget the pain and want to do it again...

I wrote the Arriflex camera section in the American Cinematographer’s Manual, 8th Edition, and I did the technical writing and editing for The Arri 35 Book as well as numerous camera instruction manuals.

My current book will be an e-book published through Lulu. I promise to keep you updated as the project progresses. Well, I’m off to prepare some images for copyright.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Photographic Opportunities on Assateague Island, Virginia (Part II)

The southern end of the island is very picturesque, with dunes and an abandoned Coast Guard station located there. This once served as a rescue station due to the severe storms the coast experiences, with ready boats always prepared to go on moments notice. The great number of shipwrecks along the Maryland and Virginia coasts serves a reminder of the sea’s fury, especially in winter. Even a presidential yacht sank there in the late 1800s. While this station is now closed, the Coast Guard still operates off of Chincoteague Island doing much of what they did years ago.

The Tom’s Cove side and south tip of the island is normally closed from March through September each year because of the birds that nest there, and sometimes access even to the Coast Guard station is restricted, so it is best to call ahead at (757) 336-6577. Access to the station is by foot, horse, or four wheel drive vehicle (a seasonal permit to drive on the beach is $70).

Three months ago, the buildings were boarded up (they had most recently served as a training base for lifeguards). Their future remains uncertain as the National Park Service, the agency responsible for them, attempts to construct a plan to maintain them. (If you shoot there, be sure to obey the No Trespassing signs on the wharf.)

There are some very picturesque views from the dunes along the access road to the Coast Guard station, and Tom’s Cove (where the building that housed the Ready Boats were based is located) is a serene body of water mostly shielded from the ocean by the island’s hook.

The lookout tower now contains instrumentation for NASA’s facility at Wallops Island (across the channel to the Southwest). Wallops often launches satellites for NOAH and other government agencies.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Photographic Opportunities on Assateague Island, Virginia (Part I)

I promised in my last blog to tell you the locations of some of the good shooting locations around the islands, so here is Part 1 of the story on Assateague.

(To access Assateague, take Route 13 and turn East onto 175 to Chincoteague. Turn left (North) at the traffic light, then right onto Maddox Blvd. After the traffic circle on the far side of the island, you will cross the channel between the islands, and enter the Refuge. At the gate, you will have to pay a $3 daily fee (seasonal passes are available as well).

The first left off of the road past the gate is where the Wildlife Loop is located. After 3:00 p.m. until sunset, you can drive the three mile loop (or walk or bike it any time between sunrise and sunset). There are many varieties of birds to photograph, and the occasional stray Chincoteague pony (which should not be there, but they sometimes jump the fences and wander over for the salt grass).

Most of the way around the loop on the right side of the road is a ten mile extension (not a loop). This road is restricted to walkers and bikers only except for a few days in November at the close of the season. Near the first clearing is a bald eagle (which are making a return to the island) that hunts that area fairly regularly. You will also see deer, ponies, and other four-legged wildlife down the road.

Just as an aside, please do not feed any of the wildlife, nor leave the roads on the island. Those areas are restricted and patrolled on foot, in vehicles, and electronically, and you wouldn’t want to pay the stiff fines. Please remember that these are Federal lands.

If you stay on the main road, you will find the Lighthouse Trail on the right. You have to hike in (and up) to Assateague Light. The light is normally open for tours from Easter through the last weekend in November. You can check with the Refuge information desk to be sure. If you are going to photograph inside, my suggestion is to go a half-hour prior to closing so that you can be one of the last in. Remember that the keeper’s and light rooms are very small (located up 198 steps + 18 to get to the light room if memory serve), so you will need a fairly wide lens (unless you are doing detail work), and you will not want to carry a lot of equipment (unless you are working with an assistant ;-). You cannot step back if your minimum focus is at six feet—there is nowhere to go. Your only option then is to stand on the narrow steps leading up to the lens and shoot from there, but then you are shooting at an upward angle. Also, remember that the lighthouse is open to the public, so you will have to work fast between visitors.

Finally, there is no electrical power available (nor would you want to trust your delicate computer or digital equipment to it if it were), so be sure everything is portable.

That’s it for now. In Part II, I will tell you about the southern part of the island, and in Part III, I will describe the northern Virginia end beaches where the surfers like to go, and I will tell you about Gatey Dawkins, a Jamaican surfer who has taken up residence on Chincoteague.

Good shooting, everyone!

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Thoughts on Virginia

I apologize for not posting sooner, but I was preparing for my trip to the Eastern Shore of Virginia (I am writing this overlooking the water, watching a scallop boat come in).

If you’ve never traveled to the Eastern Shore, it is a beautiful place, especially Assateague Island National Seashore, a barrier island that runs between Maryland and Virginia where wild ponies still roam and you can photograph 10,000 snow geese taking off together. Assateague is probably best known for Marguarite Henry’s wonderful story for children, Misty of Chincoteague, a descendent from one of the ponies who, according to local legend, swam ashore following the wreck of a Spanish galleon in the 1600s. (The ocean and bays of the Eastern Shore are littered with wrecks of every type, from old wooden sailing ships to sunken German U-boats, and more recently, a fishing vessel that sunk over the winter in a gale.)

Each year, during the last week of July, the Chincoteague Fire Department, who is legally responsible for maintaining the pony herd, swims them across the channel from Assateague. Thousands of people come from all over the world to watch this event, and the week culminates in an auction of the yearlings.
These yearlings sell for tens of thousands of dollars sometimes, as buyers are willing to pay a premium for the privilege of owning a descendent of Misty.
Also notable is Assateague Light, one of the last remaining double-walled lighthouses in the world. No lighthouse or light station has been manned for years, and the ones that still are lit are automated (with GPS being so readily available, the lighthouses that are operational are there more for their romance and history than their use as a navigation aid).

Assateague Light was transferred in June 2004 from the U.S. Coast Guard to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service by the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000. The Chincoteague Natural History Association (CNHA) is now trying to raise a quarter-of-a-million dollars to paint her. I had the privilege of being the last visitor in the lighthouse before it closed last season, and I can attest to the fact that she needs the attention. If you wish to contribute to this worthy effort, please do so by contacting them at (757) 336-3696, and please mention that I sent you (there is nothing in it for me other than to let them know I care). It would be a shame to see this magnificent lighthouse go the way of many others, as they are an important part of our country’s seafaring heritage.

While you are on the Eastern Shore, do take the time to visit Chincoteague, a charming little island between Assateague and the mainland whose quiet existence is threatened by the erection of three-story condominiums and townhouses on the waterfront. Some of the current residents are disconcerted that their waterfront view, which remained unfettered for decades, is being jeopardized, causing their property values to fall (if the truth be told, since folks from New York and D.C. have started buying up properties to use as vacation and weekend homes, prices have risen astronomically over the past couple of decades). The island would greatly benefit from local regulations that would slow development by defining what can be built and where. In the end, big money talks, and property owners who want to make a fast profit are erecting pressboard boxes or selling their waterfronts to those who would.

The channel between Chincoteague and the mainland is spanned by one of the few remaining swing bridges. This bridge, complete with a bridge tender who opens and closes the bridge to allow commercial fishing vessels to leave and enter the channel, is wonderfully photogenic, but it takes time to open and close a swing bridge, and when traffic backs-up a few blocks on Main Street, something must be done. It appears that this piece of history will be gone in 2007 and a 4,035' two-lane bridge
will take its place. This bridge will completely circumvent the downtown shops and restaurants along Main Street, and the old bridges that have served the island since 1939/40.

Yes, progress is a good thing, but not in every case. This island that was once a sleepy little fishing community may well turn into another Rockport (an artists community on the Maine coast). I had the privilege of teaching for two weeks each year at The Maine Workshops, now just called The Workshops. The residents would tell me how much they resented the “big city people” buying up property because they liked the quaintness and charm of the old textile mill town, but just as quickly objecting to the lack of big city convenience. When this sort of behavior was tolerated, things begin to change, and her charm and quaintness began to fade. It is not that skyscrapers were built, mind you, but the community has a whole different tenor than it did 15 years ago (and before anyone takes me to task, I spent the greater part of my life around New York City, so I know of which I speak).

It is my hope that Chincoteaguers realize that, if they fail to pay attention, these very same things will eventually all but erase the culture they have known and loved in Virginia.

In my next blog, I will write specifically about where I am shooting on the islands (and where you can too).

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Cosmic Opportunities

I photographed the most interesting young man on Tuesday. He is an instructor at a space camp, and his intention, after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps as his Father before him did (Semper Fi!), is to be an astronaut.

You know what? I believe he will do just that.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Children’s Mercy Hospitals (Kansas City, MO)

If this blog seems a bit off the topic of photography, please bear with me and you will see why it applies.

I have friends who have a daughter named Krista. Krista is now nine years old and living in Colorado, and her family is coming to visit me this weekend. They are coming because she is having a pulmonary valve (heart) problem which may, or may not, be immediately correctable, and she must see her doctors in Missouri. Time is of the essence, as it has progressed much faster than what is considered normal, and we should know this weekend if her problem requires immediate surgery. If it does, their stay will be a longer one.

Krista is a remarkable young lady in that she contracted cancer when she was two. Cancer is something that a two year old cannot comprehend (let alone most adults); she only knew that something was wrong and that she was “sick.”

Krista is different in that she has not had the same kind of childhood that other children have. She is limited by a tiredness that may never go away. Her treatment, you see, required chemotherapy, and chemotherapy always ravages your system. She has learned to live within her limitations, and because she has never known anything else, this is “normal” for her.

When she was ill, she was treated at Children’s Mercy Hospitals in Kansas City, remarkable places that give families hope for the future. There is no doubt in my mind that Krista would be dead had it not been for the Children’s Mercy medical team and staff. They are an amazing bunch of people who care about their patients and do not treat merely a disease or disorder, but a little (and sometimes not so little) person.

Krista is not related to me by blood, but I love her anyway, and I never cease to be moved by how she lives her life without much thought of her illness while the rest of us gripe over trivialities. Her courage and steadfast faith that God will care for her is an inspiration to those who know and love her, and unlike most, she never complains. When she is not feeling well, she tells her Mom and Dad because she knows that they will do for her the best they can. We should all learn a lesson from this little person.

When her Mom called and asked if they could “camp out” while she saw her doctors, I began thinking that I wish someone had documented her life journey. You see, Krista has pictures that her family took during her illness. Most of us would have hidden them in a drawer with hopes that no one would ever discover them. Not Krista. They have become important to her. They are a part of what she is and will become, and they serve as a reminder of what a blessing she is to her family.

But the question that nagged at me the most was, Why do we professional photographers not document more stories like Krista’s? I don’t know. There is, of course, the ever present HIPPA
regulations to blame that on, but parents can decide to grant permission to record the journey their family will walk together. Perhaps the stories are too painful even for those who have seen more than they should.

I realize that this course of action is not right for every family, but this is often the only recollection these children and their families will have of what occurred during their treatment—treatments which tend to be a whirlwind of emotions and confusion and questions. Is it worth it to be able to look back and make some sense of what happened? Each person will have to answer that one individually.

This is not, mind you, about money (nor should any be accepted for this priviledge). It is about the children. It is about the marvelous work done by the hospitals’ medical teams. It is about a race to preserve the life of someone who is precious in the eyes of those who care about them.

Of course, Children’s Mercy is not the only medical facility doing this sort of work, but it is the one which I am most familiar with because I know Krista’s story. I am hoping these hospitals—and others like them—will allow me and other professionals to approach families with the offer to document these journeys that can seem interminably long and arduous. Journeys that will change them forever, but hopefully in positive ways as they treasure the gifts of love and support they receive.

There is a story to be told here, and I and other photographers can tell it in a way that will be unique. Why do I say this? Because I know Krista.

Good shooting to you all!

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Why Blogs Will Conquer the World

Shel Israel, writing about why blogs will eventaully win out over newspapers, said:
“Let me back up for a second. The problem with your daily newspaper is not the organization, but love of the paper product. In the Information Age, the newspaper has become a cumbersome and inefficient distribution mechanism. If yo want fast delivery of news, paper is a stage coach competing with jet planes.

“Newspaper executives seem to disdain us bloggers as unruly, inaccurate and unprofessional. Some of us are. Most are not. But we have feet on the street. Every street. All over the place and our numbers are getting bigger.”

How true this is. But I’m too tired to write about it tonight. Just go and read his post and you’ll see why blogs are a large part of the Internet’s future.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Models who Misrepresent their Age and the Problems they Pose for Photographers

If you are a photographer or parent of an underage model (or model-wannabe), you need to read this one, as there are several issues involved.

I read an interesting post today on a model/photographer website that I am listed on about an female model (she is allegedly 16) who misrepresented her age as 19 and available for lingerie shoots. Her model profile has generated a lot of interest among photographers, and one photographer wrote in and asked the group if (since he had personal knowledge about her real age) he should tell the photographer who had her scheduled for a shoot.

Now, you would think that this one would be a no-brainer, but evidently it wasn’t. There were those who answered unequivocally that he should tell both the photographer and her parents, but then there were those who said that, while the unsuspecting photographer should know, her parents shouldn’t. I began to wonder, has post-modernism affected us so deeply that parents are not permitted any rights? I fear the answer may be "yes."

In the meantime, what will this girl be learning? That if you lie, there are few consequences. I wrote back and said that I whole-heartedly disagreed with that advice. Her parents, who have the responsibility for her safety, should be informed. It made me wonder: if something dreadful happens to her, will those who said to keep her actions from her parents feel remorse? Perhaps you and I don’t really want to know the answer.

The discussion also generated a good amount of fear from the photographers. You see, we are responsible for ascertaining a model’s age. Even if we are shown a counterfeit photo ID, have copies of it, and the model signs a release, we can be held responsible if we are lied to. One photographer pointed out that he was not a law enforcement officer and didn’t know how to spot a counterfeit. I wonder how many of us could?

Caveat regarding the following: I am not a lawyer, nor do I play one on TV.

Now, you may be thinking that this discussion is immaterial if one is not shooting lingerie or nudes, but that is not necessarily true. The fact is, you may encounter a lawsuit if you use the images for commercial purposes (even assuming you have a proper release and photo ID) without parental consent.

Good advice for photographers is to always verify a models age and retain either a photograph or copy of their picture ID, along with a release. You still may be held legally responsible, but hopefully your liability will be limited. Without it, you won't have a leg to stand on.

But how do you tell a genuine from a fake? Rick Rosner, in his Mega Society/Noesis blog, writes about his experiences with checking for fake IDs at bars in California. He lists tips on what to look for at the bottom of this blog posting. But even he (who has an IQ above 173) readily admits he sometimes makes mistakes.

All of this is, well, scarey. Photographers seem to be left twisting in the wind, and there is nothing in place to hold the minor legally accountable. I would not at all be sympathetic to a photographer who suspects the model is a minor and shoots him or her anyway (especially lingerie or nude, even if they claim it is “art”). But for the photographer who unintentionally shoots a minor and is prosecuted for it, that is different.

There really should be a review of these laws to allow them to protect minors from exploitation by unscrupulous photographers, but also to be fair and equitable for serious professionals who are trying to make an honest living by creating images to be marketed.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Film vs. Digital (Confessions of a Film Snob)

There is a spirited discussion these days among clients and photographers over whether film or digital imaging is the best way to go. In my opinion, it depends on what you are shooting.

For instance, if one is shooting architecture, large or medium format film is still king (even though the new digital backs are making inroads). And there is nothing like a B&W platinum print to stir my creative juices.

Before 2004, I was a die-hard film kind of guy. I was working in the motion picture industry in 1981 and I remember the early attempts at digital video. They were pretty deplorable. Sony, who was a frontrunner in the video revolution, set up a very expensive demo for cinematographers and other film-industry types in Las Vegas. They built a two-story set painted in brilliant reds, oranges, and yellows. There were a million lumens of light on it (okay, maybe that’s a bit of an exaggeration) so that the image would pop.

I took a Sony rep aside and asked him what would happen if I shot outdoors at high-Noon on a cloudy day and he admitted that there would be “some contrast issues” (in other words, the image would be pretty muddy). I swore never to use digital anything until there were vast improvements. Okay, I was in denial in those days, but now I can say it: My name is David, and I (was) a film snob.

Aside from my occasional forays with a point-and-shoot, I didn’t touch digital until I looked at the Nikon D2H in 2004. To make a long story short, once I had the camera in my hands, I was hooked. While the D2H was not perfect (nor is any digital camera today), it delivered consistently good images, and that is my first and foremost requirement of any system.

Digital systems tend to have a useful lifespan of about three years before they are replaced with something more advanced. In the coming years, we will see vast improvements in digital imaging.

As for me, I am sold. My digital workflow is much faster. What that means is that I can deliver an image to a client almost immediately. I also don't miss the carcinogenic chemicals I used to breathe and handle in the darkroom.

In closing, I would be remiss if I failed to mention that there is a certain nostalga involved in shooting on film, and that is often what keeps us shooting. Me? I am 100% digital these days. I still have my film-based camera bodies and will hold onto them for nostalgic reasons, but digital has transformed my world in a way that I cannot ignore.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Photos Never Sleep

Photos never sleep. It’s true, you know. They are always there, 24/7, just waiting to be noticed. Oh, and they are all around us. Our world is full of them. They can be found on billboards, in newspapers, magazines, albums, homes, and books, on television, website, posters, and cell phones. They are on the sides of buses, in airports and train stations. That’s right, in the Information Age, we are surrounded by images.

Photos never sleep. They are always ready to entertain, teach, or sell you something. They have the evocative power to comfort, tease, even anger us. They are used as tools by businesses, politicians, and educators. They are always with us. Just take a look around. Photos never sleep.

My name is David Michael, and I am a professional photographer. That’s right, my job (it’s really too much fun to call it a “job”) is to make photographic images for a living.

My love of photography stems from a Kodak Brownie Instamatic that belonged to my Mother. The bright red window where you could see the frame number fascinated me—to this day, I love vibrant colors—and the click of the shutter was always a thrill. I must have dry fired that Brownie shutter thousands of times as a kid. I was hooked.

A Polaroid Land Camera came next. (I learned early on not to pinch my fingers in the bellows support as it folded shut—remember that?) The anticipation, the excruciatingly slow wait for the image to develop, was delicious. Would it be under or over exposed? Would the backing pull off the emulsion? Living on the edge like that, those were certainly heady days!

I bought my first Nikon FE in the early 80's (I’ve used Canons and Minoltas as well, but have always returned to Nikon as my camera of choice). I still have my FE. It sits quietly on a shelf above my computer, a reminder of by-gone days and that thing we called “film.” More on that in another post.

After graduating from Syracuse University with a degree in film, I worked in the motion picture industry for over ten years. I dealt with cameras every day. These were of the 16mm, 35mm, and 70mm kind, but creating images, whether still or moving, held a broad appeal to me. Teaching went hand in hand with it. I have been invited to instruct at the International Film & Television Workshops in Rockport, Maine, multiple times, and I was the designer and lead instructor of the camera assistant certification program at Camera Service Center in New York City.

Today, I have returned to my first love—still photography. These days, I shoot primarily with the Nikon D2 system (I just hate eating my words, especially when I said, “I will never, ever, ever shoot digital”).

I have the privilege of creating images for the commercial and fashion markets, as well as shooting portfolios, stock, and fine art. My experience with theatrical film and commercials serves me well in that it taught me how to look at my world and see it in a different way then most people.

But most importantly, my work will outlast me. I will still be sharing my view of the world with my children and grandchildren long after I am but a memory. I can do this, you see, because photos never sleep.