Confessions of a Serial Over Processor

I think that it is human nature, when we learn something new, the last aspect we master is moderation!  That is not something that is limited to photography, but I will try to stay in that arena.

One of the real benefits of the technology now at our fingertips is the ease with which we can do incredible work.  Clearly, the main tool is Photoshop.  Because Photoshop is such a dominant force there are lots of extra tools we can use with it to create spectacular images.  To me one of the hardest things to master, and I don’t claim to have fully done that, is the balance between too little and too much.

By now, I think we all understand the concept of letting the camera do as much work as possible.  With a good capture, the post processing needs are less both in quantity and complexity.  There are so many ways that we can work an image.  Each of them can make that image better, or worse.

Following is a short trip through some of the adjustments and techniques that I have managed to overuse:

Temperature: That lovely kelvin number that seems to range an image from blue to red.  For many images small changes to the temperature allow you to go from sunny to cloudy, etc.  Then come the people pictures.  These get real tricky.  Cool an image down too much and your subject looks like they’ve never seen the sun.  Warm it too much and they look like they are totally over made up, affected by a fever or rash, or worse!  Here is an example.  This was shot by one of my mentors who is a top portrait photographer.  The first has the temperature “as shot”.  The other two use standard preset temperatures, tungsten and shade.


Need I say more?

Sharpness:  Good sharpening is a wonderful tool for turning what is a two dimensional medium into three dimensions.  Good sharpening needs to be applied judiciously to selected parts of the image.  That will bring out the features you want to highlight, draw the viewer’s attention to a specific part of that image or even change the emphasis of that image.  It is truly rare that an image will not benefit from some sharpening.  Too much sharpening, either applied uniformly to the entire image or too strong has everything “screaming” at you.

Here’s an example of the difference sharpening can make.  I really like the image.  I hope you can tell which one may be a bit too sharp.


Of course, there are those who would say that a heavy hand on sharpening is just “my style”!  I’ll leave any decision on that up to you.

Saturation:  This is another adjustment where the amount can be construed as part of an individual style.  The reality is that under saturating is really obvious.  One way to create a black and white from a color image is to totally desaturate it!  The other extreme is colors totally blown out almost to the point of distortion.  Those of us who remember the days when psychedelic first happened can remember colors like electric day glow orange that never looked real and were hard on the eyes.  That’s what over saturating can do.  I’m not often guilty of unintentional over saturation.  Here’s an example of where I did that, but intentionally.


I don’t think there is any question about over saturation.  We had an assignment for our club critiques to try things “outside of your comfort zone”.  This clearly fit that bill.  (side note…the cyclist just happened to come into the picture as I snapped it, there is no way I could have planned that!)

HDR: The idea behind HDR is to get multiple shots of the same image at different shutter speeds.  That allows you to get one or more shots that emphasize the brights and highlights, the mid tones and the shadows and darks.  You then merge the images together.  You have to use software for this.  When well done, HDR produces some incredible images.  Truth be told, I still struggle a lot doing these images.  Yes, you can also process a single image via HDR with the same possible pros and cons.  HDR software provides a lot of options for tweaking your image.  These tools are probably the easiest to overuse.  Again there are some folks who think that obvious overuse of HDR is cool.  Here’s an example of how bad/wrong an image can go.  I shot this in Rockport, MA.  Rockport was a serious art colony for a long time and the iconic scene one painted was called Motif #1.


The first image is fairly close to what things actually looked like.  The second image has a lot of aspects blown out, there are artifacts jumping out all over, many of the edges have shadows around them, in other words…yeech!

Add-ins: Add-in tools for Photoshop are designed to allow the photographer to more easily do certain adjustments.  The one I use the most is Silver Efex for converting to black and white.  There are a huge number of these add-ins, including HDR tools.  When used judiciously, these tools can really take a lot of the work out of enhancing an image.  If you are not observant when using them, you run the risk of so over exaggerating one or more aspects of the image that it becomes unrecognizable.

The bottom line, the tools we have at our disposal today are terrific.  They allow us to do incredible things with our images.  The best example I can use to emphasize the two aspects is to think of power tools ( you know drills, saws, routers, etc.)  Used properly, they let me build some really neat “stuff”.  Used improperly, you’ll probably have to call me “lefty”!


Events…When You’re Shooting Where Someone Else Is Working

This is a topic that has irked me for some time, so I’m going to vent and express my opinions…

Several years ago, we were invited to a wedding where I was asked to take some candids.  I mentioned this to one of my mentors who asked if a wedding photographer had been hired.  When I said yes, he cautioned me to be careful as there are any number of wedding photographers who have been known to walk out if they see others coming with “serious” gear.  I initially had mixed feelings about such a reaction.  As it turned out, the couple hadn’t engaged anyone to video the actual ceremony, so I volunteered.

When we got to the venue, I introduced myself to the “official” photographers.  I also explained that I would be shooting video during the ceremony and told them if I was in their way for a shot to tell me and I’d move.  They seemed to appreciate it.  We are very old friends with one side of the wedding, so on a couple of occasions, when I saw what was a must get shot, I would point it out to one of the working photographers.  I always got a thank you, and made a conscious effort not to be a know it all or a pest.

A year or two later, we were at another wedding where we knew one side for a long time.  One of the groom’s relatives is an amateur photographer who believes in the big numbers theory of photography.  If you’re not familiar with this theory, it goes like this…don’t worry about the rules of composition, exposure, etc.  Take enough pictures and you’ll get a few good ones.  So this person proceeded to shove their way into every possible scenario, including getting in the way when the pros were setting up the standard wedding party shots.  I have to give the pros a lot of credit for dealing with it very diplomatically.

More recently, I was asked to shoot a bridal shower.  The bride and one of my daughters have been best friends since they were little girls.  Of course I said yes, and it was done gratis.  I got hit with the same silliness.  One or two of the guests had their cameras and were just about throwing elbows to get me out of the way for their shots.  Fortunately, I have strong ribs.

I’ve even heard of weddings, in particular, where they actually had to stop the ceremony and “ask” people to sit down and get their phones out of the way so that the video and still pros could do their jobs.  Wouldn’t you just love to have the pictures of you walking down the aisle with your family and friends blocked by people’s phones?

I didn’t make up any of the above!  When I go to any event where someone is being paid to shoot the event, I make it a point to stay away from their shots.  Further, as an invited guest, I probably have more insight into relationships among the other guests and what might make a good memories type shot of people outside the very immediate family, wedding party, etc.  When I can, I get the folks who are working get the shot, but that isn’t always possible.  I don’t come away from these events with hundreds of shots.  Rather I get those shots that I think will be well received.  These shots are often outside of the typical event shots.

At one wedding, part of the ceremony was for the bride and groom to put a lock on a heavy chain.  The lock had two keys so they each took one and the tossed them into the pond around the venue.  It was a very sweet little part of the ceremony.  When everyone had moved away from there, I went back and got some shots of that lock.  A few weeks later, the bride and groom got an extra gift…we had that shot put on note cards.  We heard that they loved them.


As I recall, this phenomenon of everyone taking pictures at weddings, etc. started in the pre digital days.  We would go to an event and there would be disposable cameras on the tables.  The guests were encouraged to take pictures with them and turn the cameras in when they left.  Remember, in those days we used film and getting the images out of the camera typically cost money.

We have reached a point where we need to set out the etiquette for guests taking pictures.  I’d like to propose the following which could be given to guests as they arrive:

We are looking forward to sharing with you.  We do ask that you observe these simple requests when taking pictures, video, audio, etc.  Please stay in your seat during the ceremony.  Please keep any cameras, phones or other recording devices within the confines of your seat during the ceremony.  We have hired the services of professional photographers and videographers to record the event for us.  Please do not interfere with their work.  Let them do their jobs the same way that you would appreciate others letting you do your work.  Please respect others’ privacy, if they do not want to be in a picture or video don’t include them.  If you decide to post pictures, videos, etc. online, please make sure that those in them agree.  As a guest you have no rights to sell any images, videos, etc. for profit without first getting permission of everyone in them!

So what’s your opinion?  What are your experiences with shooting at events as either the paid photographer or a guest?  I’d love to see a small discussion starting.

(Editorial note:  This post is light on images as the shots from events all involve family and friends who are not always big on having more pictures of them posted online)

Are You Growing Your Craft?

I need to start out by apologizing for not having posted for several weeks.  Sometimes “stuff” gets in the way of what’s important.  One very relevant thing was that I did a guest post for Leanne Cole’s excellent site.  The topic was winter photography  The responses were numerous and positive so I am very grateful to Leanne for allowing me to guest.  In case you missed that posting, you can see it here.

I’ve enjoyed photography since I was a kid.  When I started out, I also learned some of the basics of processing, printing, etc.  Yes that was back in the film days.  Back then, there were not nearly as many opportunities to learn.  There were books and magazines, a limited number of classes, some clubs and if you were lucky mentoring and good old trial and error.  At that time, trial and error were expensive because film, chemicals, paper, etc. all added cost.

Some time back I wrote about the many types of photography.  Now the question is how well do you embrace them.  As a combination of artist and technician we photographers can only get better at our craft by practicing it. One thing that I have learned in doing just that is that each type of photography has its own unique characteristics and techniques.  Another fun thing I have learned is, to paraphrase Yogi Berra, the more you know, the more you know!


My serious learning path started several years ago.  At that time, I was using my camera in auto or presets mode and capturing jpegs. (okay enough laughter)  I was also taking the pictures off the camera and that was that.  Then I started learning.  At first, it was about some post processing via books and websites.  Then I met some more skilled, experienced photographers who got me shooting in RAW either in aperture or full manual mode (I’m not going to get into a debate on Raw vs jpeg here).  They also got me to start processing via Lightroom and Photoshop.  That’s when my images started getting much better.  Let’s face it, mastering Photoshop is not a small task and while I’m nowhere near a “master”, I manage.

I started looking at pictures differently.  I would look at an image I liked and ask why I like it, what did the photographer do to make this image interesting, etc.  All of that led me to start looking at the different types of photography.  I must also include that in that time frame I joined our local photo club which also introduced me to new techniques and methods.  Truth be told, none of us will ever master all types of photography.  Much as I might like to, I doubt that I’ll ever be a high fashion photographer or that I’ll be creating images of the inside of living organisms among other things.

That doesn’t mean that many other types of photography are closed to me, or that I can’t benefit from learning techniques that work especially well in those areas.  Most of my early pictures were nature, family gatherings and “how I spent my summer vacation”.  I know that I have improved the images I take in these areas through a combination of practice and learnings.  I have also gotten into some new types of photography.


The first of these was serious black and white.  A few years ago had you told me that I’d be loving B&W I’d have simply told you no way.  It has taken some time and practice as well as some excellent software (Silver Efex and BW Effects).  Some of the early results were nothing great.  Therein lies a big lesson, keep at it, be self critical and get constructive criticism.  I can’t overstate how important all three are.

Another area that I’ve gotten much more interested in is urban/street photography.  I had always admired good street photography.  Probably my first exposure to it was the iconic VJ Day Kiss.  What I love about street photography is that it gives me the opportunity to show people and life as they really are.  Showing them in black and white makes it easier to show the “essence” of the image.  Again what got me interested in trying my hand was a presentation on some key aspects of this specialty.  Ironically, many of my best “street” shots show in black and white.  That’s another benefit of growing in all directions._DSC0766BWCOu

One amusing side from the everything old is new again department is that lately I’m also experimenting some with square images.  Some cameras will shoot that way.  Mine doesn’t.  In the right circumstances, it creates some great results.

I’m not going to rant on about the other aspects beyond saying that I’ve gotten much better at portrait type shots as well as candids.  I’ve also learned a number of tricks and techniques in post processing that can help to turn a good image into something special.DSC_3801COu

I’ll finish up with perhaps the most important lesson of all.  Let the camera do as much of the work as possible.  I know this sounds really simple, but to most people it is anything but.  Today’s cameras are very sophisticated computers.  There’s a lot that they can do to improve on the images they capture.  Take the time to go through the manual, learn and understand how and when to use those features.  It’s a lot easier to get all those elements right in the camera than it is to get them in via post processing.

Please feel free to offer comments, provide constructive criticism or ask questions.  I love hearing from you.

Making the World a Better Place

We’ve taken lots of shots, had some that we thought were the greatest thing since Ansel Adams and worked diligently to grow our craft.  If you’ve been lucky, you’ve also managed to sell some of your work.  But there is another side to all these beautiful images.

Photography is an art form that brings beauty, reality, information and emotion to the world.  Unlike most other art forms, producing copies of a great photo is pretty straight forward.  If you’re talking digital, it takes a few mouse clicks.  If you’re talking prints, it takes a bit more, but it’s still not a long involved and tedious process.  By comparison think of what it takes for a visual artist to do numbered prints.  (If you are not familiar with printmaking, check here.)

I am a strong believer in sharing, giving back, helping others, doing what I can to make the world a better place.  As photographers, we have a unique opportunity to accomplish good with our cameras, our skill and our time.  There are many different ways to do this.  I’m not proposing one over another.  What I get out of doing good works with my images is that warm feeling when people are able to benefit from my actions.  Think in terms of donating to charity or volunteering at a soup kitchen.

Here are a few of the ways that I’m aware of where people are using their images for the good of others.

At the top of the list is one of my mentors, Jim LaSala.  Jim is one of the truly gifted photographers out there.  He has dedicated countless hours to documenting the plight of the Haitian people since the earthquake several years ago. His images are some of the finest photographs you will ever see, both artistically and technically.  He has made any number of trips there at his own expense, because as far as he is concerned, it is the right thing to do.

A number of my friends volunteer to be photographers for specific charities or charitable events.  I know a number of photographers who volunteer to take pictures at big charity events (think Susan B. Koman walks for the cure).  They will spend all day, often under less than ideal conditions taking pictures that are either given to the subjects or sold back to the subjects by the charity as a fund raiser.

One friend has been the official photographer for the local Cub Scout Pine box Derby.  I know he got started because he had a grandson in the Cub Scout pack.  Since then he likes to tell us how thrilled the kids are to see high quality images of the cars that they have worked so hard to build.

Our photo club is working on a couple of initiatives.  We have a number of shows and exhibits each year.  For these shows, the images are typically 16 x 20 inches or bigger, matted and framed.  We all enjoy participating in the shows.  When the show season is over we are faced with the question, now what do I do with them.  To answer that, we’ve started a program where local charities can choose from a variety of donated, framed prints to use in their fundraising activities.

We are also putting together a portrait day in concert with four local charities.  The idea is that we will provide the photographers, cameras, lights, backdrops, etc.  The charities will publicize the event to their members and supporters.  There is a charge for each sitting which is paid directly to the charity.  In return, the supporter gets a high quality 5×7 print as well as a hi res digital file of the image.

Okay, so at this point you are probably saying talk is cheap, what am I doing?  I’m on the committee that is putting the shoots together. Working with one other member we started the pictures for charity pitch.  As the club webmaster, I also manage getting the images online so that the charities can see them.  (cheap self promotion time) If you take a look at my website, you’ll see that I tell anyone wanting to use my images for educational, religious, spiritual purposes, or to promote yoga (another of my passions) should contact me as I am honored to have my images used for those purposes.

I’ve been going on retreat to the same Jesuit retreat house for a very long time.  I’ve managed to get some wonderful images of meaningful places around the house and property.  I’ve shared any number of those images with the house.  Last year, I decided to go a step farther.  I started making 3×5 cards using some of these images and give them anonymously to my fellow retreatants.  They are laid out on a table with a sign saying please take on or two.  Every year, they “sell out”.  Each year as I get more images, I create new cards.  Here’s a sample.

Picture of a stained glass window

If you ask people who go on retreat to this house what are your favorite places/things in the house, this window is almost always one of the top things mentioned.  I don’t get paid for  the cards, in fact I incur a small cost because I print them.  What I get back from them is seeing how much they are enjoyed.  Several of my fellows go out of their way to thank me and tell me how much they enjoy them and how meaningful they are.

We are always hearing about the bad and the ugly in the world.  We are overloaded with tacky selfies and mealies (is that a word) that have us asking what made the poster think anyone is interested in it.  As serious photographers, we have the opportunity to not only bring some beauty to the world, we have the opportunity to help those less fortunate than ourselves.

It’s Supposed To Be Fun!

Picture of the Molly Malone statue in Dublin

A wise person once told us to do what you love, because then it never seems to be work!  That was one of the rationales for my embarking on this journey into photography.

I’ve always enjoyed photography.  No matter how much I try, I can’t narrow down why into one thing.  Some of the reasons…it gives me and my total lack of visual arts talent the chance to create beautiful images, people seem to enjoy what I produce, so giving them that joy makes me happy, there’s some combination of the artist and technician…you get the idea.

I got my first real camera when I was thirteen, a lot of years ago.  Back then, we shot film because there was noting else.  I learned some basic darkroom techniques with black and white and had a lot of fun with it.  I took a number of pictures that were printed for family and friends and always got nice “thank yous” and “how nice”.

The first image that got me that warm, I did something nice, feeling was a black and white candid I got of my best friend’s father.  I did all the processing and printing (the printing left something to be desired) and gave the only print to my friend’s mother.  She put the picture in a frame and to this day it is still on display after various moves.

Fast forward a number of years.  When I was in my twenties I bought a Nikormat.  I wanted a “serious” 35mm SLR, but wasn’t ready to spend the money on the Nikon F.  That was when I started trying to be a bit more serious.  i can remember being out with my wife (then girlfriend) and her lamenting about how many shots was I going to take of the same thing?  For me that was learning, understanding how the different settings impact the picture.

All that practice paid off.  I got some very memorable pictures of our kids growing up.  What better use for a camera?  Was that fun? You bet!

Then came digital.  After playing with it for several years, I started getting more serious.  I spent more time taking the shots, got some serious glass, etc.  When I joined our local photo club, I also got serious software for post processing.

Throughout the process, I was learning and having fun.  Yes there have been times when I’ve struggled with deadlines, getting the annual calendars ready, preparing for shows, getting event pictures processed and out.  I’m sure you’ve had the same experience.  There have also been the frustrations over why I couldn’t get the image to look exactly as I thought it should. Through all of it, I’ve kept on learning and it remains fun.  That’s the important thing.

As you may know, in addition to photography, I’ve been involved with yoga for a number of years.  Each summer I go to “Yoga Camp” for fun and to get my PDUs to maintain my teaching certifications.  I bring camera gear to these for a number of reasons.  I can video the presentations so that I can review them later.  I also try to get some good shots of my fellow campers that I share with them.  Anyway, a couple of years ago, I was chatting with one of my fellow yogis.  He saw me working on the days images.  What he told me was that he had been a professional studio photographer for many years.  By his description of the work he did he was quite good and successful.  My obvious question to him was why had he left the profession.  His answer, “it stopped being fun”!

The image at the top of this post is one I took of the Molly Malone statue in Dublin.  This shot is multiple fun.  First it reminds me of a fun trip to Ireland, then the characters in it are having fun and finally, I’ve worked on it any number of times as my skill set has grown and I like it better and better.

The Eye of the Beholder

One of the really hard lessons we all need to learn is that everybody sees things differently.  I’m not talking about my seeing something and calling it a tree while you call it a peanut butter sandwich.  The reality is that we all have different experiences and education which significantly influences how we see things.

As a photographer, I always try to capture meaningful images.  Yes, what is meaningful?  If all I am trying to do is capture images for myself, the job is easy…shoot what I like, end of story.  Most of us need to have a broader view.  In some cases it’s because that’s what your customer wants, perhaps you’ve been asked to capture a family function or something else where many others are looking to you to record an event in a way that will be meaningful to many people.

Perhaps my first lesson in this arena came quite a few years ago when I was best man for a college buddy.  While the groom and I were waiting in the church, the photographer came to get shots of the groom.  The photographer really wanted to take some shots of the groom with his chin resting in his hand, looking whimsically skyward.  There might have been some poses that were more atypical of the groom, but we couldn’t think of any.  My buddy made it very clear to the photographer those shots were not going to happen!

One thing that I do like to do is to create several versions of the same image through differences in their treatment and ask a group of people one question…which do you like best and why?  The amusing part to this exercise is that there is almost never a consensus on one image or one reason why!

Following are three versions of the same image.  I took the shot about a year ago in the morning golden light.  The setting is on the grounds of a retreat house where I have been going every January for many years, so I always try to get shots that capture the spiritual feel of the place.

What I ask of you is to leave a comment telling me which you prefer and why.  (If you don’t like any, that’s fine, please tell me why.)  Depending on how many people read and respond, you might find it interesting to check back a couple of days after you post your preferences.

The first image is the original color image.  That is followed by two black and white treatments.  For simplicity’s sake, let’s call them 1, 2 and 3 starting with the color version.

_DSC1746-3COu-LR _DSC1746BWCOu-LR_DSC1746-3BWCOu-LR

Taking this theme farther, we get into the idea of photographing people.  I know there is a very strong branch of photography around glamour shots.  These can be for magazine covers, product endorsements or publicity for the subject.  To me that category of image only shows a very superficial view of the person.  Those images are in the same category as the Barbie doll!  They are typically processed to remove some editor’s definition of every flaw, blemish and imperfection.  While they show that stylized ideal, to me they are not real!

To me the real art and beauty in photographing people comes in capturing the inner beauty and personality of the subject.  In many cases the person or image would be an absolute fail in terms of the mass market idea of beauty.  To me, however, that is the real beauty.

Capturing this kind of beauty, and again everyone sees it differently, is very different than how one gets the glamour shots.  I find that the way I get the best results is shooting candids, often from a distance so that the subject does not even know that they are bing photographed.  Yes I know there are huge discussions out there on the pros and cons of this, but that’s a topic for a different posting.  Almost everyone changes when they know that they are being photographed.  This is not so much based on deep rooted vanity so much as an inbred reaction from our society.

So what brings out the inner beauty?  First and foremost, the eyes.  Remember the old saying that the eyes are a window to the soul?  In this case that is absolutely true.  The eyes convey feeling, expression, mood and so much more.  The structure of the face, its features and complexities are the other big component.  In this environment, the nose typically is not the result of plastic surgery, often the glamour folks would scream that it needs that!  Is the skin smooth and flawless?  Not at all.  Life creates wrinkles, creases and blemishes.  Some would call them character lines.  These are the things that distinguish us.  They show that we have experienced life, both the ups and the downs and how they have effected us.  All of these little pieces help to convey a sense of dignity that tell our individual stories better than all the make up and retouching in the world.

Here’s an example of what I’m talking about.


This gentleman is one of my favorite subjects.  Take a good look at the image.  Is this classically beautiful? No. Does the face tell many stories of a life? Absolutely.  To me what makes this image special is the way it conveys a quite dignity.  I will leave it up to you to put your own story around this image.  That’s one of the great things about this type of shot.  To me images like this (even if I haven’t made them) are the kind that can pull at your heart strings, no words required.  That is one of the truly great things that a well made image can do better than almost anything else.

Can You Present Your Images?


It’s all well and good to be able to create great images and post them on the web, your wall or wherever.  There comes a time when you might actually need to stand up and present some part of your work to a group of people.  This can be an informal gathering, a club meeting, or maybe at your own show!

I am fortunate, that standing up in front of a group and presenting has always come easy to me.  For others it can be incredibly intimidating. I know a number of great photographers who would rather be boiled in oil than get up in front of an audience and talk about their work.  This is a huge shame for both sides.  The audience is deprived of seeing some great art and the photographer loses the opportunity to share their work and possibly make a sale or two.

Earlier this year, our photo club started including portfolio presentations into some our monthly meetings.  A few times a year two members present a small portfolio of their work to the club.  The presentations contain about ten images and run for about thirty minutes.  We also ask all presenters to create a brief document describing the portfolio and images that can go on the club website with the portfolio so that others can see the images and read the document along with it.

Being a blabber mouth, I volunteered to go first.  For me, the hardest parts were:  deciding on the theme for the presentation, choosing which images to use and ordering the images in some coherent way.

Deciding on a theme or topic is never easy.  Our images tend to be shot based on where we are and when.  Presenting a portfolio can match to that in some cases, but not always.  When starting out, I tried to come up with categories for which I know that I had images.  The old grade school favorite “How I Spent My Sumer Vacation” is always possible and fits nicely with a few sets of shots.  Others like presentations on wildlife, architecture, etc. will go across lots of images and timeframes.

I settled on a half dozen topics and then started selecting possible candidate images.  Lightroom collections are a great tool for making this process smooth and easy.  Once I had the categories and collections, I started taking a critical look at each collection to see which one(s) had the best potential.  That ultimately led me to one.  The hardest part was done.

Now came the question, which ten from the fifty or so images in the collection would I use?  Again Lightroom collections functionality helped a lot since I can easily rearrange the images in a collection.  I just kept moving images around with the stronger candidates to the left.  That got me to my eleven images.

With all that done, now came ordering them for presentation.  There are some guidelines that help here.  In most cases, find a way to tell a story(s) with the images.  Doing so will enable you to easily group the images and fine sort them to meet your story.  In most cases, you don’t want to shock your audience, so if you have images ranging from cuddly chicks to wartime atrocities, try to go stepwise from one extreme to the other.  Another trick is to mix your orientations so that you aren’t showing all portrait and then all landscape.

Putting the presentation was a lot of work.  I did the presentation and it was really well received by a critical audience.  It was definitely a worthwhile experience.  I encourage all serious photographers to master this skill.

Enough of all that.  Onto the actual presentation.  All the images will be shown below along with some descriptions.  You can see them as a slide show on our club website.  You can also read the accompanying descriptive document.

As you may have guessed from the image announcing this post, I did a presentation on Black and White photography.  I’ll skip the opening descriptors that include thanks to those who have helped me and some thoughts on why I like black and white.  Here we go…

Irish Farm Equipment
Irish Farm Equipment

The first few images were taken on a trip to Ireland.  This image was taken atop the Cliffs of Moher.  I was struck by two things which got me to take the shot.  First, no more then thirty yards behind me was the edge of the cliffs and sheer drop a few hundred feet to the Atlantic.  The other was the timelessness of the setting.  There were no tractors to be seen, but the rusting bit in the foreground could have been around since horses were used.  Once I had the image and a good look at it, taking it to black and white just enhanced the timeless aspect.

End of Pier
End of Pier

This shot was taken in Doolan, Ireland, just below the cliffs.  What originally struck me was the absurdity of the notice.  Clearly the end of the pier was there.  The more I thought about it, the message made sense.  Along the coast, fog is common.  In a thick fog it is quite possible that someone could come to the end of the pier without being able to see it until too late.  I shot this on a very dreary, windy, rainy day so there wasn’t a lot of color.  Black and white shows it best.

Sligo Derelict
Sligo Derelict

We were leaving Sligo having visited W.B. Yates’ grave and the church next to it.  As we went along the coast, we spotted this old boat sitting on its side along the shore.  I got plenty of shots, despite the foul weather (look carefully and you’ll see the raindrops hitting the water).  When I did the post processing and was showing my wife what I had, she told me that this one has to be black and white.  She was so right.  There is some color in the original, but taking it to black and white really increases the impact of both the boat and the weather.

Gloucester Fisherman
Gloucester Fisherman

Keeping with the maritime thread, we come back to the U.S.A.  Gloucester MA to be specific.  This is the fisherman’s memorial.  It is a famous statue that sits along the water’s edge to remember all those who lost their lives plying that trade.  Gloucester is the oldest fishing port in America, so there are a lot of men being remembered.  This image is in black and white because it helps bring out the impact of the statue wile remaining somber and respectful.

Bird on a Fence
Bird on a Fence

 Like Neil Diamond, I’m New York City born and raised.  My mom still lives in the neighborhood in northern Manhattan where I grew up.  A was walking up Cabrini Boulevard approaching Fort Tryon park when I saw this little guy.  The whole idea of wildlife in New York always strikes me as an oxymoron.  Needless to say, very shortly after I shot this image, he flew away.  What you cannot easily see, due to a short depth of field is the pile of trash behind him, so New York!

Schoolyard Basketball
Schoolyard Basketball

Schools in New York all have some type of open area where the kids can play.  This is much more significant in the city schools than in the suburbs or country since there are not a lot of safe places where kids can play without the fear of dodging cars.  I was walking down Fort Washington Avenue passing the school yard at P.S. 187, where I graduated from sixth grade.  I heard some kids playing and turned around just in time to snap several shots of the ball approaching the hoop (six frames a second can come in handy).  The basket was good!  I didn’t move the ball in post processing.  Again, taking out the color totally changed the shot to something that hits home at a visceral level.

Walk Sign
Walk Sign

I’m still not sure what it was that first got me to take this shot.  I was facing east coming up 187th street towards Cabrini Boulevard.  I’ve crossed that intersection more times than I care to consider.  Something just struck me about what I was seeing.  The obvious is the crossing sign.  As I worked on the image, I kept seeing more details.  The window behind is most certainly a child’s room, the reflection of the traffic light in the window, the gradual focus sharpening along the wall to the left.  Sometimes, the shots we think are nothing turnout to be just the opposite.


This is one of my favorite images.  The location is at the the northern end of Fort Washington Avenue and is the start of the #4 (that’s number four, no hashtag!) bus.  Okay now they call it the M4.  I’ve seen people gathering at this spot since I was a small child.  Over the years, the details of those waiting have changed, as has some of the amenities.  Where there was once just a sign announcing the stop, there is now a shelter and a bench.  Look at all the different people, what they are doing, what they are paying attention to.  To me this image is a near perfect representation of city life.  I’ve shown this image in color and black and white to a number of people.  The majority agree that in this shot color is a distraction.

Arthur Avenue
Arthur Avenue

Arthur Avenue in the Bronx is the current, and probably last, “little Italy” neighborhood in New York.  The original area in Manhattan has been taken over mostly by Chinatown and gentrification.  There are only two blocks left of that neighborhood and they are a total tourist trap.  Arthur Avenue still has a lot of shops selling all sorts of merchandise from Italy or food stuffs of Italian origin.  You can still hear Italian spoken, perhaps more than English!  We were on a shopping trip and my wife was in one of the stores.  It was pretty crowded so I decided to wait outside.  I happened to see this gentleman walking down the street.  He strikes me as a classic image of someone I’d expect to see in this neighborhood now or fifty or more years ago. (Okay, fifty years ago the cane would probably be wooden.)


We’re back in Gloucester.  It was a bright sunny day in early September.  We were walking along the docks.  I happened to turn around at one point and see this woman.  I don’t know if she was ever aware that I took the shot.  That’s actually one of the really important things in capturing candids, they are completely unposed.  I showed this at one of our photo club meetings and it had a very high “awww” factor.  Sometime I’ll need to write a posting about the “awww” factor.  Yes I could have cropped it in to eliminate the fence on the right, but I think that adds something as the shadows are all pointing to her.

Endless Love
Endless Love

 This is my wife’s all time favorite of all the images I’ve done.  This is once again on Fort Washington Avenue in upper Manhattan.  To put this in other contexts, the basketball shot was taken maybe thirty yards behind them as the school yard is to their right.  This is another of those timeless images.  I can make an educated guess at the ethnicity of the couple, but that doesn’t matter.  They have clearly been together for a long time and seen their share of good and bad.  They are clearly close and very comfortable with each other.  How comfortable, I’ll bet they aren’t even aware that they are walking in step together!  Yes, this has an “awww” factor that is off the charts.

That’s the portfolio.  Thank you for making your way to the end.  I hope you enjoyed at least a few of the shots.  I’m always open to comments and constructive criticism.