Thursday, January 29, 2009

Winning Awards

Well, good news. One of my photographs has been selected as a finalist in the 29th Annual College Photography Contest sponsored by Photographer's Forum Magazine and Nikon. The image is posted below.

I'm pretty excited about this. If you haven't submitted an image of your own to this contest, I recommend it. Awards of any kind go on your resume and put you one point ahead of your competition. Remember, colleges and universities around the country graduate thousands of artists every year and they're all looking for the same jobs. Sometimes, it comes down to little things like awards and recognition.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

More school work

This session I am taking four classes: Web Art, Multimedia Design I, Digital Letterform and American History. The history class is just to finish up my gen ed requirements so I'm taking it pass/no pass. The other three are pretty intense. I haven't had a spare minute for any photography since none of my classes require it. I've decided to apply for grad school here at the U of O. It's a little unusual for the school to take someone directly from the undergrad program. they encourage you to go elsewhere for grad school. But, I think I have a pretty good shot at it anyway. As a non-trad student with prior experience at different schools, I think I can pull this off. If I can get it, I'll stay here for another two years and get my MFA.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

CSS and the quest for meaning

So I signed up for Web Art this session thinking it would be about art, right? Well, grasshopper, you would be wrong. It's about web production. So far, all we've done is CSS. For those of you who do not know what CSS is, let me break it down for you. In a nutshell, Cascading Style Sheets, or CSS, is the standard for the coding and transmisssion of web pages. In the early days of the web, webpages were displayed on your computer screen via HTML code that downloaded to your computer every time an individual web page was requested by you. Every page, lots of code, lots of overhead for your computer, yadda, yadda, yadda. Okay, fast forward. Now we have CSS which allows a website to have one page of code that determines the styling so that it only has to download once. If you don't understand, that's okay, because it doesn't really matter. The point is that this class is not an art class. It's not even about design. It's about making the computer gods happy. Yesterday in class I was thinking to myself: CSS is what happens when the cafeteria industry takes over the culinary arts.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

And it's only just begun...

The Winter session has just begun and already I'm feeling overwhelmed. I'm taking four classes this quarter - two of them are 5 credit studio courses - and even though it's only the end of the first week, I'm getting that running-out-of-time feeling. On the first day of classes, I discovered that my Adobe CS2 was not going to cover me through the end of my academic career. In just the past two years, the industry has moved so far ahead that I have been forced to upgrade to CS4. Fortunately, I found I great deal on the academic version. If you are a fellow student, you can get a fantastic deal on creative software through a non-profit organization called Organization for Educational Technology and Curriculum ( You can find their purchasing website at

From there, you can purchase software at steeply discounted prices. Caveat: more than likely, you will receive an error message saying something like "unable to verify enrollment." Don't worry. Just continue the purchase process to the last page. Then, print that page out and fax it, along with a copy of your student ID card to their fax number located at the very bottom of the website (it's a different website). Yeah, it's a little weird. But, it worked for me. I got my software in two days via UPS. Of course, I live a very short distance from their offices here in Oregon. But it worked out well for me. I got my new CS4 software on Friday and got it all loaded on my laptop yesterday.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

What camera should I buy?

Not long ago, a young art student here at the University asked me for my opinion of what camera she should buy. I was flattered and frankly, a little intimidated. Did she actually consider me an authority? After all, I'm a student too. In fact, her question seemed doubly odd given that I had seen some her work and it was very impressive. For example, she had recently completed a series of traditional black and white nudes only to find when she developed the negatives, she'd experienced some sort of light leak or other contamination and had been left with negatives that anyone else would have simply thrown out. But instead of giving up, she printed the compositions she liked the best and then - in an act of artistic courage - took a pair of scissors and scrawled intricate designs directly on to the prints. The results were spectacular. I wish I had that kind of genius.

Ordinarily, my response to her question would have been to point out that she already had everything she needed to make great art. But, her question that day was specifically about digital cameras. And, I'll admit, with new technology coming at you at light speed, there is a lot of confusion. But before I tell you what my response was, let me tell you a short story.

I wish I could take credit for this, but, I'll share it anyway. A photographer was sitting in a sidewalk cafe with an art director, showing the art director his portfolio. Meanwhile, the restaurant owner happens by and catches a glimpse of one of the images and asks the photographer if he, too, can see the portfolio. "Well, of course!" replied the photographer. When the photographer had finished showing his work, the cafe owner exclaimed, "Man! These are fantastic! You must have a really nice camera."

The cafe owner went back in to his restaurant, the photographer and the art director finished their lunch and when they were done, the photographer went back in to the cafe and found the owner sitting in a booth, pouring over some papers. The photographer stepped forward and said to the cafe owner, "Before I left I just wanted to let you know that we had a wonderful lunch today. The food was fantastic. I really enjoyed it. You must have some really great pots and pans back there."

I love that story because it illustrates a point so often missed about equipment: your camera doesn't matter. There are two kinds of photographers in this world, artists and gear heads. There are the very few who want to talk about art, seeing the light, and being in the moment. Then there are the remaining 98% who want to jaw-jack about equipment. My advice is, stay away from the latter. They'll only cost you precious time and money and you'll never learn anything from them. If you don't believe me, read this:

So, what was my answer to the young woman's question? Simple: your camera doesn't matter, just get one that you can use without having to think too much about it. In my experience, the more bells and whistles my camera has, the more time I spend fiddling with it instead of looking. In the early days of digital, when the technology was new (early to mid-90s for example) megapixels probably made a difference. But today, even the lowest cost DSLR will pack enough image quality to satisfy just about anyone. And they're cheap, too.

I won't get down in the weeds on the issue of megapixels. That's been done already by more knowledgeable people than me, here. Let me just say that standing around comparing megapixels is not a lot different than comparing penis size. There, I said it.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Another Contest!

That's right. Win valuable cash and prizes. And more importantly, get recognized. Here's the link:

This is a monthly contest through October so you'll have 9 chances to win throughout the year. Good luck!

Free Compact Flash Cards at Adorama

Right now Adorama is having a sale on Lexar 8Gb CF cards. The card is $80 with an $80 rebate making it free. I just bought one myself.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

The chase

I just came back from a visit to my father-in-law's place up in Scott's Mills and took these images of some old farm equipment he has on his property. The first two are of an old horse-drawn plow and the second two are of a 1950s Oliver tractor. Of course, I've seen these things many times and have photographed them before, but I never get tired of them. Admittedly, I'm not as good at this sort of thing as Melynda is, but I try. I would prefer to use a wide angle lens and get the whole thing in. But both of these are surrounded by huge fir trees and impossible to get a clean, unobstructed shot of either one in their entirety. Because of this, it's a puzzle to try and solve because they force you to really zero in on some smaller aspect. Further, the colors of the patina and rust are beautiful in the late evening light but again, since they're protected by the trees, you can't really drink it all in at once. You have to take it in pieces. These two rusted hunks have vexed me for years. I've taken hundreds of images of them - in digital AND black and white film - and these four are really the best I've been able to come away with. The only thing I have yet to try (and I will) is my 4x5 camera. That will be my next challenge. But, I'm using my digital to try and discover the perfect perspective so that when I train my 4x5 camera on it, I'll know just where to frame the shot. Beyond that, it will be a matter of waiting for the light. I love this chase.

Plow seat w/fill flash

Plow wheel w/fill flash

Tractor grill, oblique view w/fill flash

Tractor grill, front detail, all natural light