trace photographs: Blog en-us Copyright (C) trace photographs All rights reserved (trace photographs) Wed, 08 Feb 2017 04:08:00 GMT Wed, 08 Feb 2017 04:08:00 GMT trace photographs: Blog 120 90 "Are You A Right-Eye Or A Left-Eye Photographer?"

Some time ago I posed that very question to about twenty of my students. Do you shoot with the camera to your left or right eye?  The resulting poll fell evenly split. Funny thing is there seemed to be no correlation to anyone being right or left handed (or right or left footed for that matter.) It was just a preference. 


But I had another reason for asking besides mere curiosity. Back in 2008 I was diagnosed as having a condition in my right eye called Choroidal Neovascularization. Fortunately I'm a left-eye shooter. I was treated by a retina specialist to five monthly treatments of a medicine that was injected directly into my eye! The blood that had pooled inside my eye as part of the condition and affected my vision eventually dissipated and my vision returned to 20/30 (it was 20/80 when I was diagnosed.) 


All was good for several years, though I was told that since I had the condition in one eye, chances were very high it would develop in the other... eventually. Then eventually came along. When it did three years ago, it didn't have the same symptoms. I didn't have the black floating cobwebs, like ink dropped in water that indicated blood was leaking into my eye and affecting my field of vision (don't worry, you couldn't see anything from the outside and there is no pain or anything when that happens.) No, this time I had other symptoms of poor vision. What is now Wet-Age Related Macular Degeneration in both eyes. Initially I resumed the same eye injection treatments as before, times two. After several months I decided to stop treatments as my vision was good in both eyes, and I didn''t want the expense of ongoing treatments. Denial can be a powerful thing. 


It took eight months sans treatment for my left "good eye" to go from 20/20 to 20/200! That's the threshold for legal blindness (insert sad face emoji.)  That's when I posed the question to my students. Because I was forced to try and shoot with my right eye, which wasn't in that great shape either at the time. It was very awkward to switch, and I actually gave up photographing for a short while, until I returned to treatments and my shooting eye returned to 20/20! Now after nearly two years of monthly treatment my vision is, shall we say in flux, meaning it is not quite stable, and the prognosis is this will need life-long monthly treatments. In fact writing this post has been a visual challenge. Bottom line if your vision is good and clear, count your blessings and protect it. And learn to shoot with both eyes... just in case. 


]]> (trace photographs) Creativity Health Inspiration Photography The Creative Life Vision Tue, 07 Feb 2017 09:27:51 GMT
Going Forward After Aperture :: The Future Looks Bright Threshold VIIIThreshold VIII Some time ago, I wrote a post about the demise of Aperture being premature when the interwebs responded to the Aperture update to version 3.3. Now, it seems Apple has finally put future Aperture development aside in favor of a new photo paradigm that potentially promises to be a re-think in how we, as photographers, deal with our images and workflow. By re-think, I mean the very way we set up the structure of our files, libraries, projects, etc. is ripe for a newer way of accessing and finding the images we need in any given moment. How and where they are stored (and found), be it the Cloud via iCloud, or on local storage media, it is clear Apple is designing a total OS based ecosystem for images that simplifies and makes unnecessary much of what we worry about today. 

I think Apple is a company focused on integration rather than segregation. Having two photo apps on one system, one for "pros", and the other for the rest of the photographing world was not part of the far looking company. Apple is looking farther down the road in terms of photography (and probably most things we do in computing) than most people can. Convergence, the blurring of lines between "pro" and "amateur" photography is already here. In many cases, those lines don't matter any more. As I said in my post previous to this one, Apple is building a platform for photographers of different skill levels to make the most of their work in a simpler, usually more elegant way.

Will this new Photos app have all the power and features that pro users have come to love and know via Aperture? Time will tell, but while Aperture was a total re-think in how photographers dealt with their images (it was the first non-destructive workflow for photographers on the market) when it came out in 2005, this new paradigm may, just may, be as equally revolutionary. One really compelling piece of news coming from Apple on the new app, for me, is the extensibility they are building into the new app for third party apps. This means that potentially any developer, be they OnOne, VSCO (VSCO Cam), Google/Nik, AlienSkin, or any smaller developer can create, via Apple's PhotoKit, a filtering or perhaps more elaborately featured program to offer incredible new possibilities for image creation, all while staying inside the Photos app. 

This is big! Just like the explosion on the App Store of photography apps for iPhone and iPad, I think a similar explosion for working on the desktop in Photos for OSX will happen. Far better than the current plug-in architecture via Aperture, this looks to be the way photography is headed. It will be interesting to see how this new path develops, but as I said, Apple is looking far down the road, and re-thinking how we will work with images. They've done it before, and we got Aperture. Be patient, they're doing it again and you might be surprised what a new way of thinking brings...   

]]> (trace photographs) Aperture Apple Inspiration Invention Learning Photography Photos app Software The Creative Life Mon, 07 Jul 2014 11:15:00 GMT
Aperture Closing :: Apple Stops Development On Aperture Photo Software Aperture ClosingAperture Closing It's official: On Friday, June 27th 2014, Apple announced it would cease any further development on its professional photo application Aperture. The interwebs and social media sites lit up over the weekend with all sorts of "Told You Sos", and "The Sky Is Falling" doom and gloom, peppered with a few, well written pieces on what this big announcement really means.

Let me give you my perspective on it: As an avid Aperture user and instructor in the virtues of the program and its workflow power, I too was initially dismayed at the news, but then my thoughts turned to the inevitable "What's Next?"  I had bought my first Mac back in 2006 (a Black MacBook) mostly because Adobe had announced they were offering Beta testing of a new program in development for photographers called Lightroom. It looked promising, and I jumped on board with my new MacBook (it was only available on the Mac at first) to test and see how this would develop.

I had not initially heard of Apple's development of Aperture (secretive buggers those Apple folks!), but when it launched to professional photographers, before Lightroom was out of Beta, the announcement was big news. I do believe that without the competition and development of Aperture, Lightroom would not be half the program it is today.

That said, I've always had problems warming up to Adobe's Lightroom app, and even though I've looked at every iteration of it, I found it simply didn't meet my photography needs in the way that the more elegantly designed and powerfully simpler Aperture did/does. Now that Apple has announced it will no longer develop Aperture, and in fact will be replacing it (along with iPhoto) with a brand new, made from the ground up, application called Photos, it remains to be seen how this new app will serve the needs of photographers. Apple has said they will continue to offer compatibility for Aperture in the next OSX Yosemite, so there really is no need for panic for some time.

I'll keep my Aperture running into the next OSX, and by next year, early hopefully, we will see what Photos is all about. Something tells me it will be a free app when launched, and as Apple plans, it will be tightly integrated with the entire Apple ecosystem, from Macs to iPads to iPhones, and iCloud, and all the core technologies in a way that third party photo software can't. The idea of plug-ins and the rather kludgy way they run now in photo software is likely to be a thing of the past. Apple has a plan, and a "Big Picture" (pun intended) in mind. We just don't know quite what that looks like.

Now, not being one to sit around and wait, I've researched alternatives to the end of Aperture. For me, Lightroom is not an option. I simply don't like its boxy, modal workflow and tools, and I certainly don't want to pay/rent monthly for it either. I've been working Adobe-less for a while now, and don't miss it at all. What I have found is Capture One Pro 7 software by PhaseOne is a ridiculously powerful program that has many of the fine features of Aperture, but so much more. It is the way I will be going forward, and plan for the day Aperture no longer has a use to me.

I'm learning Capture One Pro, which is quite similar to Aperture in a number of ways, and at the same time, much more powerful and deep in terms of the level of detail you can get out of your images. First thing I've noticed is the RAW processing in Capture One is vastly superior to Apple's Core RAW conversions. No contest. Going forward, I'll be providing more info on this transition to a RAW/DAM solution and workflow for new photography.

We live in such interesting times for photography, which hardly looks anything like when I started in the film days, but that's exactly what makes photography so incredibly exciting! And it won't look like it does today in the near future... be fluid!

]]> (trace photographs) Aperture Apple Inspiration Invention Learning Photography Software The Creative Life Mon, 30 Jun 2014 19:30:40 GMT
Learning To Love Layers LayersLayers Ok, I love layers! I'm not talking about the Photoshop Layers feature, although that is great and how most of us think of "layers", but I mean the visual layers that images can provide. Like music with many tones and chord changes, multiple instruments building a beautiful soundscape, images can give us a similar, visual experience.

I've often said that what I'd like to accomplish with my photographs is the visual equivalent of music. Sometimes, the more layers built into a photograph gives you more ways to "read" an image, and in turn makes you want to spend more time looking and discovering. Layers seem to let you look deeper into an image, rather than simply scrolling past the way we do with so many photos. 

So how do you do that in a single still image? By training your eye to first notice layers in your everyday world. Torn billboards or wall posters showing other posters underneath. The reflections of things or people in a window or puddle, for examples. When you look at a scene, our eyes naturally focus on one or two things, but our vision sees other elements in our field of view. Naturally they are the out-of-focus elements until we shift our attention to them, and our vision quickly adjusts to the new focus. Cameras and lenses let us pull an incredible focus that the eye can't manage on its own.

Torn Beautiful (Homage To Picasso And Braque)Torn Beautiful (Homage To Picasso And Braque) Lenses and sensors let us focus far deeper and wider than is normal. That, plus the ability to look at a still image for a length of time, to sit with it, gives us the opportunity to explore nuances of layers, and subtlety of meanings that even motion/video doesn't allow. Images with layers don't need to be complex either.

Street Glyph #1 :: AtlantaStreet Glyph #1 :: Atlanta All you need to do is start noticing the layers of visual interest all around you, look at the interplay of elements, of the quality of light and shadows and how they all add to a more nuanced, intiguing image. Train your eyes to see deeper and over time, you will see patterns, relationships, and things that overlap and layer upon one another, and influence one another, just like life does. How you frame a composition, where you select to focus on, how you choose to place the relationship of elements in your photograph, all factor into the depth of your vision.

Learning to love layers and exploring what they can bring to your images will give you a more powerful way of expressing your creativity and the language of photography.   

]]> (trace photographs) Creativity Imagination Inspiration Layers Learning Photography The Creative Life Vision Thu, 01 May 2014 03:58:32 GMT
On The Streets :: Notes From The Unknown Lens Rosa and the BicyclistRosa and the Bicyclist

You could blame it on Vivian Maier, or Jay Maisel, or Cartier-Bresson. French photographer Robert Doisneau would be another likely suspect. Influences abound in the world of photography, whichever genre you turn to, but really they only serve to inspire the urge to go out and create your own images. For want of a new direction, a new challenge, an impulse to go way outside my comfort zone, I have been bitten by the "street bug'. I have created a new gallery of images to explore what I can bring to this well covered niche of photography.

A lot has been said by those who eat, sleep, and drink this type of work, and I am not here as any form of photojournalist, but simply as an image-maker drawn to elements and energy that intrigue and evoke in me a curiosity about who we are. That said, I don't set out with any preconceived notions of what to photograph. I have no idea what I will find, or what will unfold in any given moment. And that is both the blessing and the curse for someone who has traditionally photographed under very controlled conditions.

This serendipity of constant flow and change is the energy that propels many street photographers in exploring new environments. It challenges both your ability to observe and read interactions between people and their surroundings, and your own comfort level in participating in it. Do you interact directly with your subjects? Engage them in conversation before asking to photograph them? Or do you move furtively and try to go unnoticed, in order to not influence what you're seeing? Do feel like a stalker or hunter "capturing" stolen moments from people, shooting them mostly from behind? Do you at least make eye contact with those you photograph on the street, at least if they are paying attention and notice you?

I think what I want to bring to the table, when I lay my street images out, is something different from those that have gone before. It wouldn't serve to travel well-trodden ground without adding a unique view-point. What would be the point? I can't say yet what this work will be, or how it will coalesce, but I'm already noticing a certain cinematic quality to the images. With street photography in particular, what is left out of the frame is as important as what is included. What has always been important to me in any mode of photography, namely composition, light, form and graphic nuance translates to this new work. I do see where a lot of skills, both photographic and interpersonal, come into play here. All that you know and learn about what makes a photograph great needs to walk hand-in-hand with your innate social skills, your unique personality. It's been said that Robert Doisneau was so shy when he began that he photographed cobble stones before he was able to raise his camera and capture the poignancy of his fellow Parisians.

One of the things I noticed in Vivian Maier's work, was that many of her subjects are viewed from a low angle, almost as if they are seen from a child's perspective. This is the result if her using a twin-lens reflex camera with a waist-level viewfinder for those images. What a perfect view-point to evoke a child-like wonder at the world around you?

I'm really excited to continue this new work, and to see how both it, and myself evolve. There is nothing more sure-fire than stepping well outside your comfort-zone to grow ever more human!

* in addition to the links to the street photographers above, this video of photographer Joel Meyerowitz taking on the streets of Manhattan is a treat... 

]]> (trace photographs) Creativity Henri Cartier-Bresson Inspiration Jay Maisel Joel Meyerowitz Learning New Work Passion Photography Robert Doisneau Street Photography The Creative Life Vivian Maier Mon, 28 Apr 2014 06:20:10 GMT
Tools :: On Why Gear Really Does Matter ToolsTools

So you think gear doesn't matter? Or maybe you are on the side of those who are all about the supremacy of gear at the expense of creative expression? So many folks side with one or the other, or split the difference for the sake of peace and tranquility. If gear does matter, then the arguments go to which gear matters more. It's always interesting and fun to sit with a group of photographers, preferably at some outside café, and talk shop. 

I love the argument that says, "Well, do you think Picasso and his artist friends argued which brushes were best?", or that other professions like plumbers don't discuss the tools of their trade like photographers do. Fact is, we weren't privy to those enchanting discussions between Picasso and his group at the Paris cafés, or sit with a gathering of plumbers or (insert trade) in order to know what they discuss. But, humans being humans, in all walks of life, we talk about "gear."

We talk about techniques, vision, style, sensibilities, taste, trends and the tools that make those things possible. And that is what gear is: tools. Cameras/lenses, software, film, hardware, and all the accompanying accessories that go with, are simply tools. Tools of the trade. Nothing new there.

But why it is important as I see it, as important as the creative vision itself, is that the tools make possible the vision to exist. If the argument goes: "it doesn't matter what hammer you use, they all pound nails..."  I would agree with the last part, not the first part. I would not use a hammer that caused blisters or was awkward to use. It might be fine for someone else, but it doesn't fit me. If a tool, a camera, lens, software or other hardware tool doesn't create some spark of excitement in you to pick it up every day and learn it, play with it, experiment with it, and discover new possibilities with it to create what is your vision, why bother with it? 

That's why questions about which gear is best for someone can't really be answered by anyone else. It's a matter of personal taste and what fits you. You can discuss, argue, and research until the cows come home, but in the end, you have to be excited enough by your tools to want to use them. The first camera I ever used was an old Yashica Mat twin-lens reflex camera (think Vivian Maier) borrowed from the high school photo dept.,  which I thought of as a Cracker Jack box: a boxy film camera with a prize inside. That prize was the exposed film, my image, that I was going to make into art. I didn't care much for the camera then, it was just a means to an end.

One day a fellow student, sporting a fancy 35mm camera and new lens, took to berating me for using a beat up old school camera, while he had the best camera money could buy. I really didn't know what to say. I guess I had my first "hater" as early as high school! My wonderful photography teacher, hearing this from his office, came out in an indignant sort of rage and proceeded to put this student in his place, saying that I, with my worn used camera could out shoot him any day, and no matter what camera this fellow student had, he couldn't shoot his way out of a wet paper bag! Way to go, Don!

I never looked at gear the same after that. It was important, all of it. But what matters most lays in how you use it!  The marriage of all the elements from vision to tools, to final image, and everything that goes into the process matters. The process matters!  One thing I love in these incredibly creative times is the tools, as evolving as they are, are readily available to try out, and see what fits. You can rent most any camera, lens and accessory you want, before you commit to buying something based on someone else's opinion. Places like LensPro To Go, and BorrowLenses are great resources to try out all kinds of gear, get to know it, and see if it's the right tool for you.

So, the next time someone tries to tell you gear doesn't matter, or that it should take a backseat to creativity, just tell them with a knowing smile that, "they go hand-in-hand".  

]]> (trace photographs) Cameras Creativity Gear Hardware Inspiration Invention Learning Photography Software Tools Tools Of The Trade Fri, 25 Apr 2014 16:31:12 GMT
Paint The Fence :: Lessons I've Learned From Mr. Miyagi

Mr. Miyagi was a great teacher, albeit a fictitious one. If you are not familiar with this inspiring teacher of karate, see this clip from the the original "Karate Kid " film. Then rent the whole film for more wisdom on life, courage, and the powerful influence on each other student and teacher share. It got me thinking of all the ways we learn without even realizing we are doing so. As Mr. Miyagi says, "Not everything is as seems." 

Cultivating muscle memory, both physical and mental, is a key component to deep learning, but mindless repetition of a task for its own sake is not learning. When you can take a task, the information you are given about one thing, and make the connection to something seemingly unrelated, you have achieved the point Miyagi was making. It is this ability to translate disparate things into cohesive action that characterize the journey to mastery of anything; your art, your life, and yourself.

When you set about learning photography, this visual language, you begin to see connections, patterns, and relationships between things most people ignore on a daily basis. Your muscle memory becomes more acute as you start to see like a camera. Your eye(s) begins to frame things subjectively, according to your growing sensibilities. Your friends and family might look at you sideways as you stop and focus on some fine detail of texture on a wall, or talk excitedly about an intriguing composition, or the luminous quality of the light you notice while walking down the street.

On one of my recent walks, I noticed the fence above, after first noticing the paint drips on the sidewalk. Lost in other thoughts, I walked past it all, then stopped. Something in my long cultivated muscle memory of being a photographer and connector of disparate dots pulled me up short, and made me take another look at what, to most people would be nothing more than a "sloppy job" of fence painting.

Paint the Fence


Paint the Fence

Where some will see the mundane, the ordinary, the unremarkable, the visual artist, the photographer, is able to see the beautiful. This quote, from Emily's monologue in Thornton Wilder's "Our Town" is poignant:

"Oh, earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?"
Stage Manager: "No. (Pause) The saints and poets, maybe they do some."

 And I would add photographers to those who have the capacity to, at least. Mr. Miyagi was a poet of action, and as I was passing that fence on my walk, I heard his admonition to, "​show me paint the fence!" 

]]> (trace photographs) Creativity Discoveries Inspiration Learning Mr. Miyagi Photography Poetry The Creative Life The Karate Kid karate Fri, 18 Apr 2014 12:00:00 GMT
On Perfectionism And Craft The BlacksmithThe Blacksmith "Do a good job, Trace, but not too good of a job." I was told that once, from a photographer I had worked with many years ago, when I was starting out. Considering the incredible attention to detail and painstaking work on set we achieved to create the highest quality commercial images, I was a little surprised. I guess I had garnered the reputation of being a perfectionist  around the studio. 

Truth be told I was. What I needed to learn was just when perfectionism was required, and when good was required. An earlier post I did about Steve Jobs and pursuing excellence touched on a bit of this. I love how in the behind-the-scenes making of the "Lord Of The Rings" films, I think it was in reference to the tensions over whether director Peter Jackson would deliver the final film in time for the premier, Jackson made the point, "Of course I'm going to deliver the film on time. It would be irresponsible filmmaking not to deliver on time..."  But then he added, with a gesture of his thumb and forefinger, "but you have to deliver it just in time!"  That is the mark of a perfectionist who knows the lesson of just what constitutes the idea of perfect.

Of course, there really is no "perfect", only a notion of your absolute best effort, and the time it takes. I do believe though, that in this day and time, too much of "good enough" is now the gold standard. Learning the craft of photography, and a striving for excellence (a rather subjective term, I admit) has been supplanted by the easy solution and the shortest time to get from A to B. I don't mind easy solutions and short time results when they exhibit the elegance of excellent craft. I see so many photographers without an understanding of what real craft is, and sadly, little interest in achieving it.

If you can look at your own and others work, and recognize when you have achieved your very best, and understood how and why that came about, then you are certainly on your way. Striving for better, your better, is to be in the company of perfectionists who never achieve perfect, but the highest form of "truly good" work.   

]]> (trace photographs) Craft Inspiration Learning Perfection Peter Jackson Photography Steve Jobs The Creative Life Mon, 31 Mar 2014 04:27:43 GMT
Creative Healing :: Of Horses, Memories And First Loves Sherry's Horse I remember the first time I saw her. I remember the first time we spoke. It's said we never forget our first love, the one that first touched us heart and soul. Truest words I know. There are people that come in and out of our life, and there are special ones that leave a mark on our hearts. If we are among the very luckiest people on earth, we get to meet someone like that, however briefly. 

I found out this past weekend that my first love, Sherry, had passed away early last November. I was so shocked! I was expecting to find a Facebook profile for her, but not that! Certainly not that. She was only about a year and a half younger than me. Too young, too sweet, too vibrant to go... and all the memories come flooding in. 

I remember asking her to marry me, and how she happily said yes, and me saying, "after I finish art school and get established." It wasn't meant to be. Funny thing is, connections being what they are, many years after we had gone our separate ways, I had had a dream of Sherry one night. I never dream of specific people, but this time I did. In the category of "where are they now?" I got in touch with her. I told her about the dream and how it felt like a nudge from the Universe to reconnect. 

We laughed and talked about our separate yet oddly similar journeys and spiritual paths, our mutual love for Native American ways, and all kinds of things kindred spirits share. We talked for six hours! We kept in touch, and months later I visited her on a trip to Florida. It was a great, all too short visit. More connections and serendipity during that visit, I had read an article in an issue of Southwest Art Magazine that Sherry had subscribed to. 

After I had returned to New York City, months later that article kept pulling at me. I called Sherry and described the article (I couldn't remember the name of the magazine), about an artist from San Francisco who took a six month solo journey with two pack llamas and her dog to wander the Southwest Desert wilderness of New Mexico and Arizona. Sherry found it and xeroxed the article and sent it to me. Through that gift and connection, I met the artist Kirsten Hardenbrook, another kindred soul. I did an Artist-in-Residency at Kirsten's Fellowship For Ecology And The Arts in New Mexico a year later.

As with the ebb and flow we know as life, sometimes we lose touch with even the most special people we know. I regret that with Sherry. I saw on her memorial page, a beautiful prayer from her uncle about hoping she was riding one of the beautiful horses she liked to draw. I remember that, and the horse sculptures she collected. They were her Spirit Animal. I went out yesterday to photograph some horses for Sherry. It is my prayer for her and my memorial for a beautiful woman who touched my heart, and gave me the keys to the Land of Enchantment.

I will forever be grateful for you, Sherry, and the memories you leave me with. I will keep you in my heart always, and I know you are smiling your big, sweet smile, astride your heavenly horse...

In memory of Sheryl Lynn Saxton

]]> (trace photographs) Horses Inspiration Memorial Mon, 24 Mar 2014 17:12:57 GMT
On Teaching Photography, Teaching Life “We could teach photography as a way to make a living, and best of all, somehow to get students to experience for themselves photography as a way of life.” ~ Minor White 




I love Minor White. I never met him, nor had him as a mentor, but his teaching and influence has impacted my life and my own teaching. I first found out about him an his work from my own teacher in high school. Along with being introduced to Jerry Uelsmann's work (who was a student of Minor White's himself) at the same time, these two master photographers became my virtual mentors. 

Minor White introduced me to black and white infrared landscapes, which led me to do a series of images for my first gallery show at the Center For Photography At Woodstock, right after high school. Like the very best teachers, Minor taught not only the great detail of craft and technical knowledge that goes into photography, he taught a philosophy of vision, and as such, a philosophy for life. 

 The only way I know to teach, to give a student the very best I have and what I truly believe they deserve from any teacher, is to teach photography from the point of a way of life. Putting the subject in that context gives a richer experience of what can be a difficult thing to understand. I see many students get bogged down in technical information and certain rules. When a teacher/mentor can break down and then build up the information in a way the student can really understand, in a language they can relate to through their own experience, you get the proverbial light bulb moment.

"Ah-ha!" moments are great to see, and even better than that, for both student and teacher, is when those moments propel a student to further and deeper exploration of their own sensibilities. Nothing makes me happier than to see a student shine on their own and find new ways to implement something we've been discussing and working through. 

A passion for photography, a pre-requisite for understanding this artform, is something we should never lose. Any truly gifted teacher should forever consider themselves a student. I do. I think Minor did too... 


(Images of Trace teaching: Copyright © Nan Mac used by kind permission.)

]]> (trace photographs) Creativity Infrared Inspiration Learning Mentoring Minor White Philosophy Photography Teaching The Creative Life Vision Fri, 14 Mar 2014 15:16:23 GMT
This Is Photography On Film This is photography... on film. Sarah Moon, a master of photography from the days of silver gelatin film and the darkroom print, delivers a stream of consciousness tour-de-force of her process and images. If you listen carefully, her thoughts, ideas, struggles and triumphs echo what many photographers today deal with when they pick up the camera. If you have a deep passion and creative vision inside that can be expressed through your photography, you can find kindred artists everywhere, and in any time. Then you realize how incredibly rich and diverse our tradition of photography really is, and you are a welcome part of it! So go...

"Add to the legacy of those who were before." ~ Steve Jobs 

]]> (trace photographs) Art Creativity Fine Art Imagination Inspiration Masters Of Photography Photography Sarah Moon The Creative Life trace photographs Mon, 10 Mar 2014 01:32:05 GMT
Torn Between Two Lovers Nymphaeaceae, Water LilyNymphaeaceae

Autumnal, Japanese Maple, LeavesAutumnal I've always smiled at the thought of American Poet Robert Frost's epitaph, which reads, "I Had A Lover's Quarrel With The World."  I get that. As photographers and artists, I think we all have a genuine love affair with the medium, and by extension, with the world as well. Most photographers become drawn to certain types of images, be they monochrome or color, and pursue that aesthetic almost exclusively.

And with good reason. Each way of photographing has its own unique considerations and qualities to master. With black and white, or monochrome images, you have to see in a different way than you do in color. When everything is reduced to tones of greys, from pure white to pure black,and everything in between, you become far more attuned to seeing line, form, texture and the subtle nuances between tones. Composition becomes a paramount visual element. Not all images will translate to monochrome as well as color. It helps to think as you're shooting if you want it to be in black and white to see the image with an eye for those things that make a great B+W image. 

Seeing in color is our natural gift, and when it comes to color photography, we have certain unique things to think about. First thing is the harmony of colors. The relationship of harmonious colors communicates beauty, order, and emotions we all share. Odd or dissonant color combinations can evoke tension and uncomfortable feelings that, given the purpose of the image, may be what you want to say. Color photography can be bold, vibrant. or subtle, pastel and quiet. It is the best at bringing forth emotions in viewers.

Not every photographer dances well between the two mediums. A lot of black and white masters from the past simply didn't have, or couldn't develop the proper sensibility to work in color. It is a different mindset, and for those who do work creatively well in both worlds, it can sometimes feel like being torn between two lovers. I get asked all the time from photographers, "Should I make this a black and white, or leave it color?" 

That's a question I ask myself every time I start to process images. Assuming you are always shooting in RAW, it's good to do a quick B+W conversion in post just to get a taste of the difference. If it looks worth pursuing, either in color or monochrome, then work the image fully until you are satisfied. In the end, you may process an image fully in both methods, put them up side by side on the computer, and spend hours deciding which works best!

At the end of the day, the more you explore each aesthetic, you will find what works best for you. If you decide to master both color and black and white photography, you will be richly rewarded with a fuller experience of seeing. Study great art and photography to learn about the qualities of color and monochrome and how others have translated those qualities. With any luck, you won't have to feel torn at all.  

]]> (trace photographs) Art B+W Black and White Color Creativity Fine Art Imagination Inspiration Learning Photography The Creative Life Mon, 27 Jan 2014 13:00:00 GMT
We Were Mod Once :: Last Of My iPhoneography Books We Were Mod OnceWe Were Mod Once

Feeling nostalgic for things we grew up with is as natural to humans as breathing. We're simply wired for nostalgia. Some of the things we grow up with aren't only from the time but include things from earlier times too. Things from our parents and grandparents days filter in with what we see as uniquely ours. Music, movies, dances, clothing styles, cars, and styles in art all are things we can feel nostalgic for.

For my last iPhoneography Book (X), I chose to do a look at some vintage autos in an old-timey, tintype way befitting the theme. As I type all of this, I'm in a coffee shop that's playing Frank Sinatra and Louis Armstrong. Apropos, I'd say.

There are old movies and tv shows we've all seen growing up that are older than we are, but they have become a part our story. I love seeing old black and white films that show what those times where like for our grandparents, and how cool, vibrant, alive and vital they were "in their day"! One thing I find is no matter the span of years, everything was modern once. Everything was once cutting edge, forward looking, sometimes scandalous and shocking, but always saying something about where the culture is at the time.

Photography and film are great mediums for communicating the nostalgic in us, as well as showing how we're not so different from past generations after all. Take a look at the brilliant street photography of Vivian Maier, and compare it to examples of modern street photographers. Look at films shot on location in New York City from the '30s and '40s, and then newer films that show the same locations. The clothing and hair styles change, as do the automobiles on the streets, but the city, the buildings are essentially unchanged. It's a bit Twilight Zone-like (see what I did there?) 

The big trend now for photographers is going to Cuba to photograph the people and the culture (and the cars) there. There is a certain look and feel to images being shot there today that harken back to a by-gone era in our own culture. Old cars, TVs and appliances, among other things trigger a sense of nostalgia in those images, yet they are of a current, modern and vibrant people and culture. Its a bit of a paradox, really.

I'm not a car guy per-se, but I think the style and design sensibilities from the '30s, '40s and '50s reflects a better "cool-factor" than anything we have today, in the way of your average car on the street. They were all way before my time, but I can appreciate how they represented the best vitality and creativity of those times. 

So what are you nostalgic for? Interestingly everything we have today that we see as so modern and cutting edge is ripe to be seen through a nostalgic lens... one day.

P.S. And the Mac just turned 30 years old! How's that for modern nostalgia?

]]> (trace photographs) Art Creativity Hipstamatic Imagination Inspiration Invention Learning Nostalgia Photography The Creative Life Tintype Vivien Maier iPhone iPhoneography Mon, 20 Jan 2014 06:35:19 GMT
On Resting Places A Poet's PlaceA Poet's Place

Sometimes it seems like this techno-photo-centric world we are in is racing along at a break-neck speed. Newer cameras, faster lenses, more powerful and innovative software, coming at us faster and faster, with so many pundits and others in the industry touting the virtues of the ever newer thing. Can we just catch a breath?

Where do you rest? Where do you find moments and time to really sink deep into the tools of photography gear and software you have and simply explore a purer experience of photographing? Along with and included in all of this rapid change is an underlying fear of being left behind, of missing out on all of the innovation. I talk to many photographers and students who all talk about these very same things. 

Recently, with the start of a new year (hey, what better time?) I've started opening the dialog to ideas of slowing it down, simplifying gear and processes, of finding a resting place. But this is not about inactivity or giving up on technology per se. I think a more human pace to change is what is needed. I don't expect those who have vested financial interests in keeping things moving at warp speed to slow things down. This is something we as individual artists can choose. 

The fear of missing out is a powerful motivator for most of us. Technology thrives on this and counts on it. I think it's funny that with all the admonitions to be fearless in pursuit of your dreams, in casting off from the shore and heading into the unknown seas of photography, no one talks about applying that philosophy of no-fear to every aspect of our photographic journey. To me, that means not being afraid of not having the latest greatest new thing.

Taking the time to breathe, metaphorically speaking, and not run after the cutting edge all the time is more human, more natural, and more vital to our well being. When it comes to photography, if you really look at images over time, actual images are not so much better now, maybe a bit different in some respects, but photography is still photography. 

I'm taking more of a Zen approach to more and more areas of my life, and how I look at my gear and image processing, as well as my photography in particular is a part of that. Simplifying, taking time to breathe, and experiencing the process of photographing in a fuller, deeper way is my intention going forward. Find your own resting place from all the nonsense racing around you, and just simply do your photography. And fear not: your images will show the difference.  

]]> (trace photographs) Creativity Gear Inspiration Learning Photography Software The Creative Life Zen Wed, 15 Jan 2014 02:20:08 GMT
Reflections :: A 2013 Look Back And A Look Forward koi Ikoi I As this is the last post of the year, I can't help and do some reflecting on this past year, and looking forward to 2014, and new adventures to come. It has been a year of trials, tribulations, and triumphs. I've always had a hard time at this time of year. Being a spring baby, the winter months feel depressive, though I grew up in upstate New York and loved being in the snowy woods. Now that I'm Florida based, you would think the winters wouldn't affect me as much. 

Though it is wonderful being in perpetual sunshine while the rest of the country shivers, winter is still winter. It's why I look forward to spring so much. No matter how difficult things may be, there is perpetual hope. Perpetual spring follows the darker winters, and on it goes.

koi IIkoi II What the koi teach me, true Zen masters as they are, is to keep moving. Standing still will kill you! To be engaged with life, you have to keep moving, keep adapting to the ups and downs, and sideways of your life. Giving up, giving in is not an option. It had been some time since I visited these koi last, and I was amazed at how big they had grown! Several people who stopped by while I was photographing them said the same thing. This past year for me has in some ways felt like standing still. In some ways like a going backwards. Depending how you do it, going backwards can actually help you discover things that can propel you further in a different direction than where you were headed. 

koi IIIkoi III It can be a yin-yang path. I used to think going backwards from a set path was not an option, but it does allow you a "reset" button to alter course when life tells you you're not on your right path. It just may be time to course-correct your life and asses where you truly belong, and what you need to be doing. As Joseph Campbell was fond of saying, "You have to give up the life you have planned, in order to have the life that is waiting for you."

That speaks to me of not living small. Of living out of your authentic self in every way. I've been listening to the audio book "The Four Agreements" by Don Miguel Ruiz lately, and it has a lot to say on how we don't live fully, and why. It talks deeply about how to break our domesticating habits and live a fully rich life. I've been getting a lot of these messages lately, from many sources, even in the midst of personal turmoil. Or maybe because of the turmoil!

They (wise folks) say that in your darkest moments is when you find a light to carry you through. "Where you stumble, there's your treasure"  (again, Joseph Campbell). So even though for me it has been a difficult year on many levels, the hope instilled in the very act of creating something holds the flourish of spring.

I wish you all a joyous winter season, with the creative spirit in you giving you the spark to look ahead to the new year to come, full of promise and growth!        

]]> (trace photographs) Creativity Imagination Inspiration Invention Learning Photography Reflections The Creative Life Winter Wed, 18 Dec 2013 20:31:04 GMT
Why Zenfolio Matters trace photographs Zenfolio Home

Why have I chosen Zenfolio for my website as opposed to any other portfolio hosting solutions or a Wordpress site? Essentially, why does Zenfolio matter?  Let's take a look: First and foremost, Zenfoliio has easily customizable templates that make creating a unique folio site easy. The backend, which we'll get to in a bit, is uniquely built for ease of use, without any need (though some would feel otherwise) to know or learn coding or CSS. What this means is, if you have some graphics skill in Photoshop or other such programs, you can create a site that is totally you.

I have been with Zenfolio now since 2007. Before jumping on board and trusting my work to the Zen, I looked at every other folio site from LiveBooks to SmugMug, to Photoshelter and any other possible iteration I could Google. I researched obsessively for the best solution I could find. I even spent a year teaching myself HTML coding and learning Java Script to see if I could create my own site (remember Dreamweaver? Yeah, I tried playing working with that too.) 

I compared price, service, features, image quality, what other pro photographers were using, ease and aesthetics of navigation, everything about the feel of a website. I wanted to know what best fit me. I settled on Zenfolio, and since becoming a member, I have watched the platform grow and mature. I have spent a fair amount of time in the backend of my site, tweaking and altering each detail because it has been fun, creative, and I can be obsessive about these things. The Zen team also makes it so you can do as little or as much tweaking of your site as you like.

ZenfolioPresetZenfolioPreset A recent update to the platform has brought new, more modern templates that you can adjust in a number of ways. It follows a trend I see on a number of the other folio sites mentioned, as well as some newer Wordpress themes. While I see a lot of pro photographers doing design refreshes to their sites, I don't always agree that new layouts and navigation features make for a better experience. 

ZenfolioThemesZenfolioThemes I personally hate scrolling continuously, either vertically or especially horizontally to see images. I'd rather have the freedom to be-bop around a small grid of thumbnails, and click to see an image larger as I have my folios set up to be. I've also never been a fan of the only navigation of images being a rigid sequence of backwards and forwards streaming. It feels locked in to the way the photographer wants their images sequenced, without allowing the end-user to easily go to the exact image(s) they want. Just like a portfolio book you would show a client, I think your website images should allow both a sequential viewing and an easy skipping around quality. That said, I am always looking at what is new, and what will make my images stand on their best footing. I have seen a number of photographers' sites that went from a great presentation of their work, to one that proved more annoying to navigate than was worth it. Always be open to what will best suite you, your images, and your clients.

Zenfolio Site MenuZenfolio Site Menu The thing that makes Zenfolio so great to work with is the WYSIWYG design of the tools and features you can use to tweak your site. Pretty much everything can be adjusted to modify the look and layout. 

Zenfolio ThemeDesignerZenfolio ThemeDesigner

Zenfolio ThemeDesignerElementsZenfolio ThemeDesignerElements Compared to many other platforms, especially Wordpress themes and Dashboards, Zenfolio is both feature rich and easy to modify. If you need any help with getting started or with a particular issue, The Zenfolio Support team is great to work with, plus you have a great built in resource with the Zenfolio Forums. As a member, you have access to a great and growing group of like-minded artists, at different levels of experience and skills, who are eager to help. In addition, you also have the ability to suggest new features and functionality to the Zen Team. Yes, they are listening, but like all things  in technology, nothing happens fast enough for our instant gratification nature. That said, I've been totally happy with the roll-outs Zenfolio has made since I've joined. 

Features including uploading or embedding videos, adding custom logos to your design, and even the subtle addition of a favicon (one of my favorite little touches) go a long way in my book for a quality experience. When the Zen team implemented a built in blogging platform, with SEO integration and the ability to add background coding for monitoring post traffic and comments, and that followed the design and formatting of your portfolio site, I did a Snoopy Dance! I could finally delete my Blogger blog (which had gotten a malware notice from Google that was erroneous and wouldn't go away!) and my foray into a short-lived Wordpress blog that got to be too much work in the backend and never had the look I wanted that resembled my Zen site. I think Zenfolio got the blog platform right, though I do see room for improving it.


Mobile ZenfolioMobile Zenfolio

Another really nice feature Zenfolio members can enjoy is a mobile app that allows access to your images on an iPhone. You can upload as well as download images to show your clients on the go, anywhere you are. Being able to use the mobile app to backup your entire iPhone camera roll ( I do this to a special iPhone gallery I've created) is great when your Apple iCloud account limits your storage.  You can also view a Zenfolio website in a mobile browser (Safari on iPhone for example) using the mobile version of the site (if the photographer has enabled this feature in their site's backend). All in all, Zenfolio is a feature rich, beautiful and elegant platform that is highly and easily customizable, very affordable with great image quality and the ability to have a fully functioning shopping cart e-commerce features.  

I've only scratched the surface here as to what Zenfolio offers the creative photographer, and I encourage you check out the full Zenfolio site for more information, tutorials, and a free trial. You can create and experiment with a free 30-day trial that only you see (you don't need to "go live"  until you are ready) if you like. If you do choose Zenfolio as your portfolio site, please feel free to use my promotion code: ( KDG-AVH-TZY ) to get an additional $10.00 off your first year's fee (and yes, I get a discount too, so you, me and Zenfolio all benefit!).

I've been very happy working with this great team of creatives who are passionate about providing a great platform for photographers. Oh, and if I haven't mentioned it yet, the Zen Support team have been absolutely great, always available, even at 4:00 am if you need them!


]]> (trace photographs) Creativity Inspiration Invention Photography Portfolio Software The Creative Life Zenfolio Tue, 10 Dec 2013 23:08:36 GMT
Are You "Seriesous"? Refractions IRefractions I


Refractions IIRefractions II Creating a new body of work can start with a whiff of inspiration from anywhere, and that inspiration can come to you at anytime. All of my iPhoneography Books have been born out of some form of this process. The idea of taking a subject, exploring a process, and working through a series of improvisations, much like a  jazz musician does, can lead to really interesting discoveries you wouldn't ordinarily find any other way.   

This latest series, iPhoneography Book IX (Refractions)came from watching a lot of film noir movies lately (I'm a huge Bogie fan!), such as "The Maltese Falcon", "The Big Sleep", and "Citizen Kane". With their exquisite use of creative, directional lighting to build a mood and ambiance of suspense and intrigue, unique and sometimes jarring camera angles and juxtapositions to keep the audience slightly (or completely) bewildered, but at the same time curious about where the story is leading, a film noir motif seemed the perfect place to start a series of iPhone (or mobile, if you prefer) images.

I decided to explore this series with some simple, common objects we all know and use, which also have some psychological undertones we've seen in noir films. I also chose to use the iPhone and the Hipstamatic App for the tintype old film quality it has.  The more I look at these images, as a complete series and in the context of the film noir genre; the male/female dynamic and tensions, the potential for plot violence (why is it so often the knife that is the culprit?), the juxtaposition of light and dark elements, it almost tells a whole story with a tragic ending.

I didn't set out to create a story from a fork, spoon and knife, but that is what I see now in retrospect. What started out as playing without conscious intention can grow into something with more depth and interest if you give yourself permission to explore a subject as a series of images, rather than simply as one-offs. You may find that out of a series of images created in this way, only one or two might be worth keeping. That's ok. Photographing in series can sharpen your eye and creative thinking, and help you see strengths and weaknesses of your images as to how (and if) they do really fit together. This is what magazine editors do and look for when they need a photographer to illustrate a story.

Remember, as a photographer, you are always  a storyteller. Whether you chose a single image or a series of them, always you tell stories.         

]]> (trace photographs) Art Creativity Film Noir Fine Art Hipstamatic Imagination Inspiration Invention Learning Photography The Creative Life iPhone iPhoneography Tue, 26 Nov 2013 22:43:37 GMT
"But It's Not A Portrait" My Mother's Hands I



My Mother's Hands II These two images of my mother's hands are part of a new project I'm working on; a long term project to create portraits of people through the stories that hands tell. In discussing portraits with students and other photographers, it's often talked about what does and doesn't constitute a "portrait". I always liked Picasso's reply after painting a commissioned portrait of Gertrude Stein. When it was remarked that it didn't really look like the author, Picasso said simply, "it will." 

I like to get photographers thinking differently about what a portrait is. On one hand, every image you make is a kind of self-portait. Landscapes, seascapes, iPhone images all say something about you. Your sensibility chose that subject, photographed it in that way, to express something within you. Even when you portray another person, it says something, not only about you as the artist, but also about your subject. It also speaks about the relationship between you. 

A portrait like the one Avedon made of ballet star Rudolph Nureyev, showing just his barefoot en pointe, says so much about both artists without the need to show more. A face is not a portrait, at least, it's not the only thing that defines a portrait.

 When creating portraits, step outside of the norm as to what most think a portrait is, and find ways to show what is unique, interesting, and deeper about your subject than simply having them look straight into the camera (although that can make compelling images too!). Look for a way to tell the story of your subject that is unique to you both. 

My portrait project on hands is about discovering the story they tell about us: about the things we've created with them, the things we've destroyed with them, and the things we've loved with them. All of our life experiences can be displayed in hands (or feet)!    

]]> (trace photographs) Art Black And White Creativity Fine Art Hands Imagination Inspiration Invention Learning Photography Portraits The Creative Life Tue, 12 Nov 2013 20:50:25 GMT
Create Custom Textured Brushes For Unique Portraits

Create Texture Brushes In Pixelmator Part One from trace photographs on Vimeo.


Create Texture Brushes In Pixelmator Part Two from trace photographs on Vimeo.

Creating a completely unique and customizable look to your images can be as easy and fun as painting with textured brushes you make yourself. Harnessing the power of Pixelmator makes the process simple and allows you to create layers of nuance and depth for your images. I get so inspired by the possibilities available to photographers today, it sometimes reminds me of the crazy things we did to manipulate film back in the 'darkroom days": Yes, I've stepped on a negative and rubbed it in the floor to put scratches and "texture" on it... all in the name of creativity (hey, I was young and you had to be pretty inventive then!)

Now we have so much better, infinitely cleaner, and more adjustable means to exercise our creative imaginations:  

Textured Brushes 05Textured Brushes 05

Textured Brushes 06Textured Brushes 06

Textured Brushes 07Textured Brushes 07


Cathy - Version 2 - Textured BrushesCathy - Version 2 - Textured Brushes

And sometimes, textures look so good in B+W images. Creativity is boundless, if you let it be. Be bold, be imaginative, be creating, it's the best way to live! 

Cathy - Version 2 - Textured Brushes B+WCathy - Version 2 - Textured Brushes B+W

]]> (trace photographs) Art Creativity Fine Art Imagination Inspiration Invention Learning Photography Pixelmator Software Textures The Creative Life Tutorials Video Thu, 07 Nov 2013 22:41:53 GMT
Got Film? Digital Photographers Now Have Choices Aperture Edit With Plug-inAperture Edit With Plug-in

To answer the question above, it can now be argued that "yes, indeed", digital photographers have film. Or rather "film simulation". What's propelling this resurgence of the film look? Is it just a nostalgia from old-school photographers, or is it a hip trend? Either way you see it; hate it or love it, there are a lot of choices for software film simulations, and no two experiences are the same. 

Aperture Ilford HP5+ Film TestsAperture Ilford HP5+ Film Tests

Before we dive into the different program choices for film simulation, I want to show these examples of four that all have a preset for the Ilford HP5+ film. Not all of these programs have the same film names, or include all the same parameter adjustments, but this is one they do all have. 

Aperture Ilford HP5+ Film Tests ZoomedAperture Ilford HP5+ Film Tests Zoomed

As you can see, each program handles the simulation differently at the base preset level. Not only do they simulate differently, the experience of working in the programs and the adjustments you can do to get the look you want, varies. This isn't a matter of just adding grain or noise to an image. 

Nik Analog Efex Pro Classic CameraNik Analog Efex Pro Classic Camera The newest edition to the film simulation applications is an update from the Google/Nik Collection called Analog Efex Pro. This is a free addition if you already own the Collection, which includes Color Efex Pro and Silver Efex Pro. It is also, in many ways, one of the more limited programs in terms of what you can adjust. As of now, it doesn't have any of the U-Point technology that made Nik famous before Google bought it. Using different "Camera" categories rather than any nostalgic film names, this app feels more like Google's Snapseed on steriods. It is rich in what it offers, but it does feel limiting compared to the other offerings in the Collection.

Nik Analog Efex Pro Toy CameraNik Analog Efex Pro Toy Camera From Toy Camera simulations, and the ability to toggle through variations in some effects, just like you can in Snapseed for iOS or desktop,

Nik Analog Efex Pro Vintage CameraNik Analog Efex Pro Vintage Camera to a Vintage Camera mode with different choices to simulate light leaks, Bokeh, and a number of other adjustments, as well as a camera mode that simulates the Wet Plate process similar to tintypes, Analog Efex Pro is situated not so much between Color Efex Pro 4 and Silver Efex Pro 2, as film simulators, but as a separate camera simulator with robust post-processing features.  

  Nik Color Efex Pro 4 Faded Film DefaultNik Color Efex Pro 4 Faded Film Default  Color Efex Pro 4 has been my color film simulator of choice for some time, as the ability to control so many nuances of the process is wonderful.

Nik Color Efex Pro 4 Modern Film Fuji Provia 100Nik Color Efex Pro 4 Modern Film Fuji Provia 100 Using traditional film names and simulations is also a plus with Color Efex Pro 4, especially for former film photographers like me. Most of these software companies claim that as part of their process, they have incorporated actual film stock scans to replicate the grain structure and pattern as well as tonalities. I'll take them at their word, as I know most of these engineers are die-hard photographers with a passion for this process!

One really nice thing about working with these filmic features is the ability to create and save your own presets (or recipes). Make your own "secret sauce" as it were. This is like making your own film on the fly, something completely impossible in the limited analog film days!

Nik Colour Efex Pro 4 Film NostalgicNik Colour Efex Pro 4 Film Nostalgic The versatility almost seems limitless, no more so than in the choices for black and white films:

Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 NeutralNik Silver Efex Pro 2 Neutral Silver Efex Pro 2 quickly became the de-facto preference for many photographers when it hit the market (in the pre-Google buyout era). The ability to simulate beautiful B+W film images quickly and accurately, without having to use or learn complicated Photoshop techniques was liberating! Adding Silver Efex Pro to a photographer's workflow, along with other techniques could produced rich images worthy of any gallery. 

Nik Silver Efex Pro 2 Custom PresetsNik Silver Efex Pro 2 Custom Presets I have several presets (recipes) in both Silver Efex Pro and Color Efex Pro that I would be loathe to do without, or even try to simulate in any other program. They all just tweak things ever so differently.

OnOne Perfect B+W 8 Ilford HP5-N 400OnOne Perfect B+W 8 Ilford HP5-N 400 OnOne's Perfect Photo Suite 8's B&W module also has great potential and offers lots of customization. For those that like an all in one program that offers color and black and white options, OnOne may suite your needs. That said, I am learning to appreciate the different qualities each program offers, but I do have concerns that the Google/Nik offerings in the future (updates to both Silver and Color Efex) may change to be more inline with the new Analog Efex Pro experience. It's hard sometimes to go with changes, especially when you have your digital darkroom just so!

For me, not only is the quality of the software's output important, but the experience of using it is too. The tools, UI, and ease of navigation within a program all matter. That's why I'm really liking AlienSkin's Exposure 5:

AlienSkin Exposure 5 B+W Preset 01AlienSkin Exposure 5 B+W Preset 01

AlienSkin Exposure 5 B+W Preset 02AlienSkin Exposure 5 B+W Preset 02 This program, available as a plug-in for Aperture, Lightroom or Photoshop, or as a stand-alone, is chock full of features for both color and black and white images. I'm just now exploring this, but I can already see it becoming a staple in my workflow. The film simulation quality is so far superb, and the robust tweaks you can do are amazing.

One last, but certainly not least option is VSCO Film, which if it didn't start the film simulation craze, certainly popularized it! Now VSCO Film works very differently from all the other simulators. First, it is available as a plug-in for Photoshop (utilizing Adobe Camera RAW), Lightroom, and Aperture. For us Aperture users, it works differently than in the other two, since it uses the built in "adjustment bricks" such as Curves, Color, Dodge and Burn (for grain) and more, that are unique to Aperture. Also, since Lightroom and Photoshop (ACR) are the more popular programs for image editing, they have the lion's share of the VSCO Film love which has updates to VSCO Film 04, while the Aperture plug-in has versions 01 & 02 only. 

Honestly though, as an Aperture user, I'm good with that. The other pretty cool aspect to using VSCO Film as your film simulator of choice, is the fact it sits inside your program as an effect or adjustment, and unlike most plug-ins, it doesn't take you out of your program into another interface. If you don't like plug-ins because of that, I highly recommend VSCO to achieve great results. 

When I'm asked about which one to choose, which program is better, best, bestest, I tell photographers to sample them all (most offer free trials), and see which will give you the images you want. It really is a salt-to-taste proposition. I'm still working out my preferences, but that is currently leaning towards AlienSkin Exposure 5, with its full color and B+W features, and easy to use UI. 

Call it the latest trend, a gimmicky style, or simply a passing nostalgic fad, I see this film simulation as another method to create compelling images with a unique quality that does what I ask any image to do: astonish me in some way!  That doesn't mean the image needs to be anything over the top. It can be as subtle as a gesture, the quality of light, and the depth of a shadow.

]]> (trace photographs) AlienSkin Exposure 5 Aperture Creativity Fine Art Imagination Inspiration Learning OnOne Perfect Photo Suite 8 Photography Software The Creative Life VSCO Film Mon, 04 Nov 2013 20:48:45 GMT