Subjectivity (…like walking in the dark with a dim flashlight. .)

By The Sea

By The Sea

 

Art is subjective and photography is art. I once had to sit through a three hour meeting about sexual harassment. I was working at a company and all the employees were corralled into a general assembly and given bagels, sugary pastries and coffee. Then the meeting started as a well versed speaker took the stage and proceeded to tell us all the evils of sexually harassing a fellow coworker. I felt as though I was missing something… as if something was going over my head. I certainly know the difference between right and wrong and as a man I certainly know how to not be disrespectful to a fellow employee be it male or female. But where’s the line? Where is the definitive line? Certainly the behavior the speaker was describing and some of the scenarios were explicit descriptions of things I had seen people (both men & women) do many times in the workplace and no one ever got in any trouble at all. But I sat silent trying desperately to grasp something I had missed. Maybe it was the sugar high from the bagels… I must have missed something. So at the end the speaker asked if anyone had questions and I certainly did. I asked back (in a perplexed way); “While I understand most all of what you spoke of here today, I still do not understand when a person has actually been harassed? Where is that definitive line? The speaker quickly came back with the answer “there is no definitive answer, it is subjective.” Some people may like the behavior and others may find it harassing.” I said nothing, but I wanted to kill someone. You mean I had to sit here for three hours to learn that sexual harassment is subjective. Oh well the bagels were free.

So as a photographer and creative person who loves to produce images that fall somewhere between real and not real this topic of “subjectivity” for me is like walking in the dark with a dim flashlight. Like most all people I know I want to create images that are pleasing to others… but how? How and the hell do you accomplish this task if everything you do is “subjective?” So my answer is “I gave up trying a long time ago” and now I just have fun with it. I rely on composition skills such as rule of thirds, leading lines, rule of odds and so on. The rest is “whatever mood I’m in at the moment and what I have to work with as far as elements. As for; “does anyone else like it?” If someone is holding a print in their hand and they proclaim they like it, sure I take them seriously. If someone is paying me money to create something for them, then I truly believe they like my work… or they’re blind lol. If someone follows me on social media, keeps following me and comments in a heartfelt way, then again “yes” I feel they like what I do. But for all the followers who just push the red heart or hit the like button… that doesn’t mean dittly squat to me. And for sure, to the Time for Print models that come strolling along and fawn all over my work… just save your time and breath with all the honey tongue comments about how much you like my work. Just get to the point and ask if you can have free photography. I know that all sounds a little harsh, but I’m just laying out the facts and these words come without anger, but they do come with reality. Remember it is all subjective and money is what pays the bills, not hearts & likes and sweet comments.

However I am very happy with these two images and I would like to unveil them here on my blog for the first time. Thanks for reading and have a great day everybody.

Stadium Game Face

2K17 Goals (I would go “old school” and sit and look at magazines for inspiration,)

Nixlot Dameus 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 50mm

Nixlot Dameus
1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 24mm

So last year I had set a goal to create portfolio quality images with “impact.” Now I felt (at the time) I had some great images in my portfolio, however the goal is always to add more. Now with that said; you cannot just keep adding, if you put something in you have to take something out and my personal preference is to keep the portfolio around 20 images and no more. After looking at ten images, a person is either going to interested or not. If they’re really interested they will look at ten more and that is why I feel the number 20 works. So creating new images that are portfolio quality is a daunting task because I am actually competing against myself. I have to make something good enough to knock something I already love out of the portfolio. This is like killing a child to make way for another. A horrible comparison I know, but I love the images I create and I don’t want to see them leave and go to the “back-shelf” so-to-speak.

I knew going into this that if I could come out with three great images I would consider myself lucky, two great images and I would feel accomplished, and one great image I would be happy.

Well let me tell you “happy” came quickly, Saturday January 16, 2016 to be exact. That is the day that a young lion named Nixlot Dameus walked into the studio. Just a mere 17 years old this amazing young man not only looked amazing he embodies “overcoming the odds.” Soft spoken and serious as a heart attack about what we were there for, Nixlot was focused and serious and that made me feel confident that what I had planned would actually come to be. The image you see posted here is “exactly” what I had envisioned. To have a seventeen year old kid whom I never met before and who is not a model walk into the studio and do exactly what I say is not only amazing, but also very gratifying. This image came at the very end of the shoot as is almost always the case with my shoots. I knew when I left the studio I had a “keeper” and I hadn’t even downloaded the images yet.

LaydeeFly Reyes

LaydeeFly Reyes

Now meanwhile I should say that this goal started on January 1, 2016, yes that’s right on New Year’s Day I was out shooting the cold and windy streets of Bethlehem PA with a local model LaydeeFly. The shoot was fun and it was cold, but the fun outweighed the cold. There were a few amazing images that came from her shoot, the one of her sitting on the street corner was a favorite of mine for sure.

Mina Santiago

Mina Santiago

Then the very next day with teen model Mina I was shooting of a forest in Tinicum Township PA and it was even colder than the day before. I did make one creative edit from that shoot that actually got a lot of attention on social media. Still I was looking for another good image, the year was young, but I wanted something to happen.

 

 

Ice_Princess-4802Instagram

The “Ice Princess” shoot with Kendall seemed promising, however due to time constraints the shoot did not last as long as I would have liked. But there was still a great shoots that came from that shoot. The portrait shots were awesome and I had one creative edit that I really liked and I felt was decent enough to put in the portfolio. So up until now I had the stellar image of Nixlot and then spring gave way to summer and I was getting worried because I had nothing in the works that would seem to yield a great image. Sure I was working doing paid shoots, but they never yield stellar shots.

 

ryan_5_15-6591-edit-2

Model Ryan McNally

Then came Ryan McNally and again I gained a stellar image that got good reception on social media. But… Now my two best images of the year were in the same genre of male fitness and I want diversity, something with a punch. I needed to kick in an afterburner or something, I wanted… I couldn’t think anymore and it was eating at me, day in and day out. I didn’t talk about it much, hell I didn’t even blog about it. It was almost like writer’s block or something. I would go “old school” and sit and look at magazines for inspiration, I looked on Pinterest till my eyes were ready to bleed. Inspiration!  I need you so bad and I cannot find you. Then it happened, just like finding love when you least expect it and in the least likely of places. On

 

 

 

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 88mm Model Nicole Gallagher, Makeup Artist Jade Alexandra Brown, Photographer Richie Smith Jr

Sinister Clown 1/125 sec at f/7.1 ISO 50 88mm
Model Nicole Gallagher, Makeup Artist Jade Alexandra Brown, Assistant Makeup Jordan Brown, Photographer Richie Smith Jr

Facebook I see a post about entertainment news and I see the image of the “new” Pennywise the clown, the villain from the Stephen King Novel “IT.” THAT’S IT! A clown and I had been thinking about a clown “crawling on a floor” (strange I know) but this would be even better. Now with all this said; I did not want to just create a duplicate of the new Pennywise, but rather I wanted to take that concept of a… I don’t even know what to call it… “Evil clown” no that sounds to generic. “Sinister Clown” sounds more like it. So I wanted to take this so-called sinister clown look to another level, same as they have with Pennywise. They made the new Pennywise look more like a doll with his wardrobe, like and old doll from the renaissance or Victorian era. So hey why not shoot my Sinister Clown in a renaissance context, such as was done with the Super Heroes by French photographer Sacha Goldberge.

And so it was to be, but this look would take a whole lot more than a model and a makeup artist. This would be a lot of work. So how to you climb a mountain? “One step at a time” and that is what we did. The clown images were stellar and I was satisfied. I would now put myself in that extremely “Lucky” category and I can now say I accomplished that goal. That my friend, is a great feeling.

So here we are in 2017 and what are my goals? I have set a goal for just two stellar images this year, concepts are in the works and who knows maybe more than two will come, but I will be satisfied with two. More-so the bigger goal is to get more content on the YouTube channel and to increase subscribers. So in-order to do that I need to improve my vlogging skills and I started working on that at the end of last year. Along with vlogging skills a drone will be needed and it may be time to update the DSLR… we’ll see. Thanks so much for stopping by and reading. Have a great day.

Into the Light (…he has to step into the light and be seen, be heard and most of all be felt.)

Two element composite with model Ryan McNally.

Two element composite with model Ryan McNally.

It has been awhile since my last blog post and if my blog falls silent it usually means “busy” as in too busy to sit and type out a few sentences and talk about a photo. So yes I have been busy to the 10x and then some. Mostly with personal life stuff like “moving” from one apartment to another. But today I had time to sit and edit a photo from the shoot I had done with Ryan McNally a few weeks back. As I edit these images of Ryan I want more and I think of more… more stuff that we can do at the next shoot. Ryan is new so we have to work him up to the good stuff. I would like to do a series of action shots with Ryan. So we’ll just have to wait and see what the next shoot brings.

The feeling or inspiration that went into this composite was “the light.” Any gladiator or warrior has to step out into the light of battle. The warrior can hide and be stealth like all he wants. He can even keep his back to the light of battle. But at some point to advance the battle and turn the tide to his favor he has to step into the light and be seen, be heard and most of all be felt. He has to have game on and he has to have the game face. Be it a fighter pilot, a boxer, a cyclist, base jumper or soccer player… when he steps into the light of battle is when he must show his mettle. Game on!

Double Exposure Fun (…getting accidental double exposure would almost always upset me)

Double exposure created using Analog Efex Pro 2

Double exposure created using Analog Efex Pro 2

Double exposure photography can be fun and creative and something I like to play with from time to time. I remember back in the day getting an accidental double exposure with a film camera would almost always upset me because the image I wanted was ruined. Imaging somebody posing in front of your camera and getting the prints back only to find a double exposure of your intended photo, but with a bridge or building or birthday cake exposed into the image. Sometimes it was like this prolific image that everybody was amazed by, however most times the image was a flat-out mess.

Now back in the film days I knew a few photographers that actually loved to create double exposures and they did it quite well. For me it was a nuisance.

Cut to today with Photoshop and software like Nik/Google Analog Efex Pro 2 you can control your double exposure to maximize you creative power. Also most DSLR’s have a double exposure mode that many photographers never explore.

I leave with a double exposure created in Analog Efex Pro 2. I used two images of Kendall that were actually shot on film and then scanned.

Dark Days (when the creative light weakens)

Dark Days make you create what you feel.

Sometimes you just create what you feel… literally. Mood is the major factor in “what, when and how” most people are able to create. Stresses (or the lack of) from the outside world help set the tone or kill the creative spirit all together. Internal stresses are just as incriminating because we all know demons never sleep and they rarely take a day off. But for the strong healthy minds and souls demons are kept at bay, although there are those times we let our guard down and the demon within will rise up unexpectedly and quell your ability to create.

For me right now it is the outside stresses of the world that have all but extinguished my creative fire. You cannot control your outside world. We try to and we feel we can, but as we all know life can really come down on you sometimes and like a rainstorm it can be hard, real hard and when it’s real hard and you’re hurting from the rain… it gets even harder and yet again harder.  You feel as though you’ve done something to make God angry with you. When in reality you really cannot complain. For if you wake up breathing with two good eyes, legs, feet, hands and arms your still in the game. You just need to be stronger. Love the most those who love you back. Most of all love God and yourself.

I could list my problems and try to invoke drama but my problems are mine to solve. After all what is life? Just one problem after another, they key is to “solve the problem at hand and wait for the next one.”

Who is Pigford? ( So now you know Pigford, my buddy and terrorizer of dogs and house guests.)

Pigford Fine Art project.

Pigford Fine Art project.

Who is “Pigford” you may ask? Pigford came to me years ago as a Christmas gift from my (at that time) girlfriend’s daughter. I’m guessing it was about 10+ years ago he appeared under the Christmas tree and has been in my home ever since. Now you must know I own a BBQ catering business and the mainstay of the business is “on-site pig roasting” and because of this many people for whatever reason feel they have to give me “pig” gifts and it is actually quite annoying. Do electricians get a piece of wire or a light switch? Do plumbers get a piece of pipe or a pipe wrench as a gift? Well I certainly hope not. With that said; I fell in love with this creepy little guy and I wouldn’t part with him for nothing. I named him Pigford and I just think he is so damn cool because the look he has epitomizes how I feel about my BBQ business. 19 years is a long haul in a business that I never intended to be in. I was laid off from a job and I used what resources were available to me to save myself from poverty and unemployment and cooking was something I knew how to do. Now today, sure I love BBQ, I love my BBQ the best; I have honed my craft over the years to be the best I can make it. Now as I move on to more creative things in life my wife and I still have the catering business and she loves it.

So to it was time for Pigford to step up. He has spent the last three years in my living room and there were times the poor guy was put into a storage unit while I was transiting from place to place. He never says much and I hope he doesn’t because that would be scary. However I wanted to use Pigford for a Fine Art project and this time I was successful. I say this time because in the past I have photographed him and it just didn’t work, it seemed dead and flat. However this time I put him in his element, a kitchen. I realized right away that this is what Pigford needed, he is a chef and he needed to look like a chef.

So I feel the final image although not 100% complete yet, it will be a great image to blog about and discuss the techniques I used for making the final image.

So now you know Pigford, my buddy and terrorizer of dogs and house guests.

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Poor Santa Claus the day after Christmas. (the backstory to the composite)

Poor Santa Claus the day after Christmas.

Poor Santa Claus the day after Christmas.

Sometimes I have a well thought out plan about a composite image. Maybe I have to make a portrait of an athlete, let’s say a football player. So I know the background is going to be a sports field or a locker room and this will be very much cut & dry as to what the end image is going to look like.

Then there are those times when I have no idea what is going to happen or for that matter, no idea what is going on. I start to get kind of lost in what I’m doing and actually “lost” is not the right word but I just see something in a background that resonates with an image I already have in my library and then I will run down a rabbit hole in Photoshop. The whole process could take hours or it could take minutes, but if it starts to come together and it “gels” then I can’t leave it alone until I get it finished or almost finished. I say almost because I have learned that as I’m approaching the so-called “finish line” on an unplanned image, I really need to sleep on it and revisit the image the next day. Maybe the dodge & burn was a little over the edge or the sharpening was too much. The finishing touches have to be done with “fresh eyes” as I always say.

So while shooting Santa Claus photos at the local children’s play gym I captured images of the Santa that were kind of different. I was getting the lights set up and taking test shots while Santa was sitting and thinking about his upcoming Hawaiian vacation. When I viewed the images in post I saved a few thinking they could possibly be used in a composite. Santa looked kind of “washed out” and “far away” and that just stuck in my head.

Then the background image really resonated with me. It looks old yet it has these rays of light coming in, the room is so basic and screams of negativity to me. I think because it is mostly an empty room with nothing happening other than sunlight. I loved the leading lines on the floor and somehow I got the same feeling of despair looking at this room as I did seeing the washed out Santa. Soon I’m opening Photoshop and the creativity starts to happen. Santa is in the wrong kind of chair so I used an image of the posing chair I use for model shoots. My chair, although you only see the legs seemed more “time period” appropriate for the room. As for Santa, he is timeless so he works, but he did require a little “Puppet Warping” in PS to make his hands fit the scene. You have to know unlike most composites, in this example Santa was not photographed to be used in a composite. The camera was at f/8 and ISO 50 and there is studio lighting, however the masking out of the Santa from the original scene was not a walk through the park by any means.

So to put the whole scene together Santa needed some serious dodge & burn to put him and the chair into the window light of the room. And it is around this time that I start conversion process to black & white. It does not mean I will use the black & white image, but for all intent purposes I like to make both a color images and a b&w. I have posted in the past about my processes for b&w conversions (I have several) but this one was accomplished using Nik (Google) Silver Efex. All my b&w images first start with a fully edited color images and then go to b&w. Most of the way I edit came to me several years back by way of the two books “Welcome to Oz” and “From Oz to Kansas” by Nikon Ambassador Vincent Versace. These two books are great reading for the intermediate to advanced Photoshop user and have to be read in the order as I have mentioned.

In the end I decided to go with the b&w image although I then have to decide will it be tinted towards the bluer side or the yellower side. Realistically there are only two tints to use other than straight & pure b&w. Blue implies coolness, cold or it could imply night, dark and moonlight. While yellow implies daylight, warmth and heat. Although not a realistic image by any means, I mean we have a mythical Santa, the images is not in color and Santa was never in that room or even in that chair, but we still have to give the viewer a sense of the time of day or some sort of ambiance and I chose an ever so slight “coffee” tint. I do this final tinting in Silver Efex and I myself am more partial to a “brownish” monochrome image rather than a true and pure black & white.

So there is the backstory on the “Poor Santa” image. In the end I see Santa all wiped out the day after Christmas. For weeks he has been putting up with the entire Christmas calamity and now he’s done! Ready to catch a flight to the islands.