Friday, May 28, 2010

What do you SEE?

"When you're holding your camera and peering through the viewfinder, what is it that you see?"

I'm repeatedly asked this question (or some variant of it) by students and viewers of my work, all wondering how I get from what I'm looking at, to what I see. Since I work almost exclusively in black and white, my finished images are always significantly different than what is actually in front of me.

Pre-visualization. Visualize the scene in front of you as it is going to be when you are done, not as it appears in front of you. It's much easier to get to your destination if you know where you are going. If you don't have a specific destination, it's too easy to get sidetracked or end up someplace good, but not great. Once you know what you want a given scene to look like, then go about planning on how to get it there.

This is what was in my viewfinder when I set up the camera on the tripod.

©2010 Scott Bulger, All Rights Reserved

This is what I have in my mind BEFORE I ever trip the shutter.

©2010 Scott Bulger, All Rights Reserved

Don't rely on happy accidents to create a beautiful image. Be meticulous in your planning.
  • Know where the light is and the effect it's going to have on your subject. Don't go out at high noon on a cloudless day and complain about the shadows and the unbearable contrast. Set your alarm clock and get out of bed while it's still dark if necessary.
  • Choose the appropriate lens to gain the point of view, proportions, and relationships between objects that you are attempting to obtain.
  • Get your camera off of "Automatic". Take control of both your shutter speed and your aperture.
  • Choose the appropriate aperture to get the depth of field that you want, and combine that with a shutter speed that will control any motion in your image and have it displayed the way you want it. Your options can be limited here either by your equipment or by the current lighting conditions.
  • Use your ISO setting and/or neutral density filters to compensate your exposure. It's not just a simple nod to reciprocity anymore.
  • Bracket your exposures. The better exposure you start with, the easier it is going to be to get to your destination.
  • Understand what post-processing you are going to be able to do and how it will affect your image. We aren't talking about HDR here, just some levels, curves, dodging, and burning. Simple darkroom techniques.
So know where you want to go, and know how you are going to get there. It makes it a much nicer ride when you safely arrive at your destination.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Exopthalmus, ©2010 Scott Bulger, All Rights Reserved
Exopthalmus, 2009

In conjunction with the release of my second book of photographs, "Khronikos", the Carolyn Jenkins Gallery on the campus of the Kimball-Jenkins Estate on Concord, New Hampshire, will be hosting an exhibit of new work from the book. A selection of seventeen 20" x 30" fine art digital prints will be on display beginning July 1st and running through August 27th. An opening reception will be held on Friday night, July 9th, from 7:00 PM - 11:00 PM. Music will be provided by the Scott Solsky Quartet. Look for a review of the exhibit in the upcoming June issue of Art New England magazine.

“Khronikos” is from the Greek for “Chronicle”. A “Chronicle” is a historical account of facts and events arranged in chronological order. Typically, equal weight is given for historically important events and local events, the purpose being the recording of events that occurred, seen from the perspective of the chronicler. Since these events are seen from the perspective of the chronicler, they are open to interpretation. Scholars categorize the genre of chronicling into two subgroups: live chronicles, and dead chronicles. A dead chronicle is one where the chronicler collects his list of events up to the time of his writing, but ignores further events as they occur. A live chronicle is where one or more authors add to a chronicle in a regular fashion, recording contemporary events shortly after they occur. Because of the immediacy of the information, historians tend to value live chronicles over dead ones. Chronicles are the predecessors of modern "time lines" rather than analytical histories. They represent accounts, in prose or verse, of local, national, or worldwide events over an extended period of time, the lifetime of the individual chronicler, and often several subsequent chroniclers.

Time is the thread that binds these photographs together.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Art is Not for the Timid

©Scott Bulger 2010, All Rights Reserved

Once there lived a village of creatures along the bottom of a great crystal river. The current of the river swept silently over them all--young and old, rich and poor, good and evil, the current going its own way, knowing only its own crystal self.

Each creature in its own manner clung tightly to the twigs and rocks of the river bottom, for clinging was their way of life, and resisting the current what each had learned from birth. But one creature said at last, "I am tired of clinging. Though I cannot see it with my eyes, I trust that the current knows where it is going. I shall let go, and let it take me where it will. Clinging, I shall die of boredom."

The other creatures laughed and said, "Fool! Let go, and that current you worship will throw you tumbled and smashed across the rocks and you will die quicker than boredom!" But the one heeded them not, and taking a breath did let go, and at once was tumbled and smashed by the current across the rocks.

Yet in time, as the creature refused to cling again, the current lifted him free from the bottom, and he was bruised and hurt no more. And the creatures downstream, to whom he was a stranger, cried, "See a miracle! A creature like ourselves, yet he flies! See the Messiah, come to save us all!"

And the one carried in the current said, "I am no more Messiah than you. The river delights to lift us free, if only we dare let go. Our true work is this voyage, this adventure." But they cried the more, "Savior!" all the while clinging to the rocks, and when they looked again he was gone, and they were left alone making legends of a Savior.

Excerpt from "Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah" by Richard Bach

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Where do We Draw the Line?

©Scott Bulger 2010, All Rights Reserved
“One final paragraph of advice: Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am-a reluctant enthusiast… a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there. So get out there and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to your body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those deskbound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards.” Edward Abbey