Sunday, March 30, 2008

Terra Perma Gallery Exhibit

Beginning on the first of March and running through the end of April, the Terra Perma Gallery in Laconia, New Hampshire, is playing host to an exhibit of photography, comprising of more than twelve photographic artists from around the country. I was honored to have my work included in this exhibit.

This past Saturday, from 1:00 - 3:00 PM, the gallery hosted a reception for the participating photographers. There was a great turnout for this event, with the community showing great support for both the Terra Perma gallery and for photography as an art form.

Scott Bulger Display

Many superb artist were included in this exhibit, including Alicia Bock, Irene Suchocki, Madelaine Adelaide, Amy Wilson, Kevin Sperl, Cathy Thorsell, Scott Sughrue, Andrew Thompson, Gillian Martlew, D. F. Dunn, Tarren Bailey, and Linda Ost.

The owner of this gallery, Ana Gourlay, has done a beautiful job with this space, and even though there were many photographers in this show, each one had their own very distinct style, so a tremendous variety of work was available for viewing.

I'd like to extend a sincere thank you to both Ana Gourlay (Owner) and Sue Quimby (Gallery Manager) for the service they are providing both to the art community and the community in general, making these exhibits available to the public.

The Terra Perma gallery is located at 676 Main Street in Laconia, New Hampshire. Please stop by and check out this great exhibit if you are in the area.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Life Imitates Art

Caution: Potentially Offensive Rant Ahead.

Well, I suppose that it was only a matter of time before this finally happened. Photography isn’t competitive enough, what with having to compete with everybody that has access to a digital camera, now we have to worry about BLIND photographers using up valuable funding, gallery space, and publicity? Are you serious? Somebody must have just seen the movie “Pecker” and thought this would be a good idea.

I can see blind people participating in a number of the arts, sculpture is a very tactile art, even painting where they could feel the brush strokes and use their hands, but photography? How would a blind person compose a photograph? How would they see the result?

I can see it now, “this guy must hate blind people”…I don’t hate blind people, but I do hate this politically correct namby-pamby world that we have become where no one can be left out of anything regardless of their actual inability to do it.

Some people can see and some can’t. It doesn’t make either one of them better than the other as a person, but it does make them better at doing different things than the other, like seeing and the art of photography. Heck, I've seen plenty of sighted people that have no business owning a camera, but that's a rant for another day.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Good Enough" is not "Good Enough"

The photographers arch-nemesis....Good Enough. No, good enough is not good enough. If you ever hear yourself say "This is good enough" delete it. Your work should mean more to you than that. You should do everything in your power to insure that every image you produce is as good as you can possibly make it.

Photography is an exacting skill. I can look at every image that I have ever shot and find something that I would like to improve. Every one. Every single one. But at the time that I shot them, I had done all that I could do to make them as close to the image I had in my mind when I shot them.

Now sometimes, this takes only seconds. You are out in the field with your camera and happen upon a scene you want to photograph. Before your camera comes up to your eye you should have a very good idea of what you want your final image to look like. You might have to take a few shots, and you might have to do some post-processing. You might even have to wait for the right conditions or for the plan to come together in your mind.

This particular image was six weeks in the making. I first spotted this wooden vase six weeks ago and I knew I had to incorporate it into an image. How was I going to do it? I started to formulate ideas in my mind.... worked on compositions in my head. Thought about color palettes and lighting. When I got it to where I wanted it in my head, then I had to find the pieces to the puzzle. The vase I had already found. So I needed the pedestal and the flower. Then I needed the right colored wall with the right texture with the right wainscoting in the right relationship to windows for natural light. Piece of cake. So six weeks later, I was ready to shoot. The stage was set and my camera set up. I placed the camera on the mandatory tripod and framed it up. I adjusted the individual pieces of the composition and framed it up again. I readjusted the items and reframed it. Then I moved my tripod and framed it again. OK, ready to shoot....wait, the light isn't right. Five hours later, the light was right. I snapped one frame and looked at the preview on my LCD. Not quite right due to the little bit of extra space that doesn't show through the viewfinder. I reframed it and snapped one more frame. This one was right. Just as I had seen it in my mind. I got it loaded on to my computer and opened it up full screen. No cropping, a little bit of dodging and burning, a little unsharp mask and it was done. Six weeks to plan and execute and less than an hour on the computer. I can say that this is as good as I can get it. There is nothing that I would change. At least, not right now.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Back to Basics: Rules of Photographic Composition

Back to Basics: Rules of Photographic Composition

With the advent of the digital camera and home computer, more and more people are fancying themselves “photographers” without having a basic understanding of photographic composition

Just by knowing a few photographic basics, the novice can be helped immensely, and even those that have been at it for quite some time can always use a reminder, myself included. There are several compositional rules, but I am going to talk about the ones that I find the most important.

1. The Rule of Thirds

Imagine your viewfinder or image divided into nine parts. Two vertical lines and two horizontal lines, equally spaced, creating nine equal sections, looking like a tic-tac-toe board. If you look at these lines, this is where you can place your important lines and where these lines intersect is where important elements in your image can be placed. Studies have shown that the human eye is naturally drawn to the upper right intersection point, so try to use that to your advantage.

2. The Golden Rule

Similar to The Rule of Thirds in its concept, but a little different in execution. This was developed hundreds of years prior to photography and was used by the ancient Greeks in their architecture and art. Leonardo da Vinci elaborated on this theory, relating it to proportional harmony.

Imagine your image again divided into nine parts by four lines, but this time, the lines are closer together in the middle of the image both vertically and horizontally. The resulting sections proportional width to the entire frame is the key here. Each line is drawn so that the width of the resulting small part of the image relates to that of the big part exactly as the width of the whole image relates to the width of the big part. Points where the lines intersect are the "golden" points of the picture. By placing items at or near these intersections, and along these lines, the proportions of the image relate peacefulness and serenity to the viewer.

3. The Diagonal Rule

Simply stated, linear elements in the image, such as paths, roads, important shadows, fences, streams, etc… when placed along a major diagonal are much more dynamic than when placed horizontally or vertically.

4. Leading Lines

Use natural lines within your image to lead the viewers eye where you want it to go.

5. Separation

Separate your subject from the background. You can do this by using a shallow depth of field, or by using a contrasting background.

Now, be aware that adherence to these rules will not guarantee you a good photograph, and there are many good photographs that don’t adhere to these rules, but by knowing the basic compositional guidelines, you can certainly increase your chances. It’s OK to break the rules, but you need to be breaking them for a reason.

Questions? Just ask.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Digital Framing Technique Tutorial for Your Images

More than a couple people have asked about my digital framing technique. I didn't invent it, someone shared it with me years ago, so I will share it with those that would like to know. It's pretty simple and really takes just a couple of minutes.

1. Open your image in Photoshop and resize it to 72 dpi and about 500 pixels across. Always resize any image you post on the web to 72dpi. If someone is desperate enough to appropriate your work as their own, there isn't much they can do with it except repost it on the web....72 dpi is useless for printing.

So now you have this:

2. Display the image at actual size in your window...

Change your background color to 204, 204, 204

Go to Image>Canvas Size

Change your view to pixels instead of inches and add 6 pixels to both the height and the width...

Now you have this:

That gray line will appear as the bevel cut in your matte.

Now change your background color to white..again go to Image>Canvas Size and add pixels that equal about 40% of the longest dimension of your image...this image is 500 pixels wide,

40% would be 200, but I'm going to go

180. Then change the background color to black and again go to Image>Canvas Size and add 60 pixels to both the width and the height.

Now you should have this:

Now for the tricky part...

Go to Select>All (a dashed line should appear around the entire frame)

Go to Edit>Copy (everything withing the dashed line should copy to the clipboard)

Go to File>New and open a new white sheet that is larger than the copied image and frame

Make sure the new sheet is active and go to Edit>Paste and the copied image should appear right in the middle.

Now, you should have this:

Now close the original you were working on and just keep this new one open.

Time to do the drop shadow.

Now go to Layer>Layer Style>Drop Shadow:

These are the settings I use....Experiment to find what you like...

Now you should have this:

Now go to Layer>Layer Style>Bevel and Emboss

These are the settings I use here:

Almost done now.....

Go to Layer>Flatten Image

Crop it to your desired amount of

background and save it. Now you should be left with this:

Done. I'm sure there are a lot of other techniques for this and similar things, but this is how I do mine. I hope this helps those who asked and maybe some others as well.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Are Mixed Feelings a Bad Thing?

I'm not writing this to get a lot of responses, or even generate a dialog. If that happens, so be it, but this is one of those blogs where I just want to express some mixed feelings about a topic.

As you have read in a previous blog, my work has recently been accepted into TrunkT HERE

Recently, the administration of the site separated photography from underneath the umbrella of "Art" and made it it's own category. I understand why they did it. The respect for the work being exhibited is great and they felt like it needed better exposure, and by making "Photography" it's own category on the header it certainly does this. I appreciate the additions viewers. But what does it say about photography as a craft when it is pulled out from within the "Art" category and put on it's own right next to it. Here is ART and over there is Photography.

TrunkT also just put out a notification that they will be publishing and distributing some coffee table type books of the artisans on their site. Initially, there were to be three books; Jewelry, Art, and Photography. They have since ended up combining the "Art" and "Photography" books into one publication. I will be interested to see how they title it.

I'm perfectly secure with my own feelings about my own work, but I am looking at the big picture here. Are there bigger sociological implications at play here?

I've been arguing for years that photography IS art. I'm not the first, loudest, or most important to do so, but I've gotten into many a heated debates about the topic. While the move is certainly well intentioned, does it have some other more subtle psychological ramifications about the perception of photography as art?

Or am I really just a delusional paranoid artist sharpening my knife to remove my ear and mail it to the administration of the site? Ears are highly overrated anyway. I've never liked the shape of my lobes.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Roomful of Blues and James Montgomery

For the better part of the last 30 years, I have been roaming around with my camera, making photographs of whatever took my fancy. Shooting landscapes, sports, some portraits, and working on my true passion, fine art.

Last summer, I became friends with a couple other photographers that specialized in shooting live music. I hadn't shot a live band since the early 80's in Boston (f you want to see some real old photographs of Gary Cherone and Nuno Bettencourt before they got famous with "Extreme", let me know.)

I wanted to take another whack at some live music work, so I coerced a friend of mine that is a concert promoter to get me into the 2007 Manchester Jazz and Blues Festival and let me shoot it. I was incredibly fortunate that the headliners for this two day event were James Montgomery and Roomful of Blues.

They were two very energetic and great sounding performances, which really allowed for me to get some shots that I was quite happy with.

I found shooting these show quite challenging. There are no "do-overs" if you miss your shot, and composing your images took quite a bit of and planning and anticipation.

James Montgomery closed the show on the first night with a 60 minute set of great tunes. Quite the showman, he was very engaging with the crowd and seemed to really enjoy what he was doing.

The second night of the festival was closed by Roomful of Blues. I've always loved these guys having first seen them back in the early 80's in Harvard Square. Many of the members have changed, but the energy remains high.

I was shocked to hear that their long time trumpet player, Bob Enos, had died this past January. That guy could really play the trumpet.

Bob always put every ounce of energy into his playing, and it was always fun watching him look around for someplace to stash his cigar stub before the show. You will certainly be missed Bob.

These guys never fail to put on a great show.

All things considered, I was very pleased with these shots and am looking forward to doing some more work in this area.

If you are a band, or know of a band that is looking for some live shots, send me an email to discuss the possibilities.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Upcoming Exhibits

I have three shows to talk about today where I will be meeting people over the next couple of months.

First, if anybody is going to be in Portland, Maine this Friday, March 7th, my work is hanging at the Eastland Park Hotel Gallery thought the end on the month. This Friday, March 7th, I am the featured artist for the First Friday Art Walk that Portland has every month. I should be around for at least part of the day saying hello, and I will definitely be there from 5:00 to 8:00 PM.

A second exhibit opened today in Laconia, New Hampshire, at the Terra Perma Gallery at 676 Main Street, in downtown Laconia. I have 6 pieces hanging there in a great photography exhibit that features 12 photographers from the area. The Artists Reception for this show is Saturday, March 29th, from 1:00 - 3:00 PM. If yo are in the area, come by and say "Hello".

Finally, I am honored to have been asked to exhibit at the Jill Coldren Wilson Gallery that is part of the Kimball-Jenkins Estate in Concord, New Hampshire. I will be exhibiting in a solo show there from May 2 through May 29. The Opening Artist Reception will be on Friday, May 9th, from 5:00 - 9:00 PM. It would be great to see you all there at this very prestigious gallery.