Ferry Crossing. Puget Sound, WA
We’re still in the first month of 2015 and it seemed like the appropriate time to do a little house cleaning. What you’ll find on this page are the results of an experiment I worked on last year but never got around to publishing. Actually, that sums up a lot of last year. I created a fair amount of work that I enjoyed but didn’t share publicly, and in 2015 I’d like to change that. Here’s a small start. I hope you like it. (And I hope you have a fast internet connection to load these massive .gifs!)
There are times when I think the best part of stepping into a new year is not making resolutions about where you are going but reflecting on where you have been. In 2014, one of the most enjoyable and personally meaningful things I did was read. So I thought I’d share my favorite books from the year here. I hope you find at least a few interesting book recommendations on this list that will entertain and enlighten you in 2015!
MY FAVORITE BOOK OF 2014
Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig
I know, I know I’m several decades late to jumping on the ZAMM bandwagon. And I know I’m probably the millionth person to say, “Have you read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance? It’s amazing!” But it is a testament to the book’s status as a cultural icon that 40 years after its publication it still draws new fans with its compelling storytelling and an even more compelling approach to philosophy. The central narrative of the book is a motorcycle trip across the United States interspersed with mysterious flashbacks and rambles into questions about knowing, meaning, and reason. Among other things, Pirsig wonders if there is anything beyond the objective world we see and the subjective world of our mind. And if there is something else, what is it? I found this book while I was asking similar questions and it was a great catalyst for my own thinking. Though the paths Pirsig and I took may not have been the same or led to the same end, I’m deeply grateful for his guidebook to the “high country of the mind.” It would be easy to keep writing about this book and the ways it influenced my thinking over the last year but I’ll end here by simply saying that I’d encourage you to read it.
10 OTHER GREAT READS
A Beautiful Anarchy, by David duChemin
This is a powerful manifesto on art and creativity from my favorite photography author. There are no photos in this book, just page after page of reminders to go out there and create. As duChemin puts it, “The magic rarely happens within our comfort zone, but outside it, on the ragged scary edge, where we have to fight like hell to keep from drowning in the unknown. This is where most of us create our best stuff…” If you’re feeling stuck in your creative work, this book can help. Continue reading
Consider this one of those postcards that you get and then notice rather than being sent from the exotic location pictured on the front, it didn’t get postmarked until about a week after the sender arrived home. I had ambitions of doing an update (or two) from my time in Spain but after the first couple of days of working well into the night and next morning, it was clear that wasn’t going to happen. Continue reading
On Sunday, I will reach a major milestone in my world travels as I revisit a country (outside of North America) for the first time. It’s kind of funny to think that with all my travels in the last years I’ve never taken a trip to the same country twice, but if any country deserves this honor, it is Spain. When I got home from that first Europe trip, it’s the country I told everyone I’d like to visit again. It’s a place with family heritage and a place full of good memories. I’m traveling as part of my work for the University of Washington and the schedule looks packed. I won’t promise any updates from the road, but I’m sure there will be a photo or two to share when I get back. I’ll keep you posted.
I’ve seen a lot of waterfalls around the world but there is something special about Snoqualmie Falls just outside of Seattle that causes me to return again and again. I’ve heard this is the wettest March on record and the volume of water rushing over the edge of these falls seems to confirm that. There are taller falls and wider falls and falls on bigger rivers, but the sheer volume of water racing through a relatively narrow crevice and exploding out from the cliff top impresses me every time I visit.
Clicking on the image will open a high-resolution version. From there you can save it to your computer.
How do you land photography jobs? How do you get good enough to become a professional photographer? If you’re starting out in this industry or even if you’ve been in it for a few years but feel like your creative wheels are stuck in the mud, these are the kinds of questions that lodge themselves in the front of your mind. Even if you are well into your career, there’s always a haunting feeling that one day people are going to figure out you’re a fraud, that the majority of the images you take are garbage and sometimes you feel more lucky than talented.
If you are anything like me, you struggle with the gap between your creation and your vision — between the work you do produce and the work you want to produce. In my career there have been times when I wanted to (and at least one time where I actually did) put down the camera and stop creating because I couldn’t stand the images I captured. During those times, everything I made repulsed me. My photographs were cliche, shallow, and uninspired. I felt like a climber who has given his best and just wants to lay down in the snow to rest a while. But just like that climber, giving up would be dangerous. If you want to get better, you have to keep pushing forward. It’s true in life and it’s true in art.
The video in the top of this post is a great reminder that pushing forward and creating new work is the best way to improve your craft. It’s from a longer series of talks by Ira Glass about storytelling which I highly recommend to anyone who does creative work, even if journalism or radio isn’t your thing. There’s some deep stuff in there and great reminders about the work that goes into making something meaningful.
I can’t believe it’s been a year since we moved to Seattle (okay, it’s actually been 13 months since we moved but I’ve been busy and this blog is late). Leaving South America and moving here was supposed to be about settling down a bit, finding some routine in our lives, and taking a moment to breathe. In reality, this year ended up full of the unexpected and not without its share of adventures/misadventures. Continue reading
Summers in Washington, what can I say? Long evenings and pastel sunsets. Warm weather, mountainsides bursting with wildflowers, and miles of once snow-packed trails open for adventure. Sure we have pretty gloomy winters here but — my gosh — summer pretty much makes up for it. In the last couple of weeks I’ve visited all three of Washington’s National Parks (North Cascades, Olympic, and Mount Rainier). Traveling through those parks really illustrates the stunning variety of landscapes this state has to offer. From high lakes, to alpine meadows, and cool rainforest it’s really something like a wonderland up here in the great Northwest. I never wanted to live in a big city like Los Angeles or San Francisco but Seattle is different. I’m in the middle of a world class city and only 30 minutes from mountain trailheads. If there was ever a city for me, this is it. Continue reading
This month’s free wallpaper comes from Mt. Rainier National Park here in Washington. I’m not going to lie, the reason this image is awesome has less to do with myself as an artist and more to do with how flat-out amazing the location was. I’d been to Rainier twice before — once in the fall and once in late winter — but I had no idea how incredible the already stunning vistas became once the wildflowers had taken over the meadows. Rainier in bloom deserves to be near the top of any landscape photographers list of places to visit.
You really need to see this place for yourself, but until you do visit, feel free to download this wallpaper. Clicking on the image will open a high-resolution version in a new tab. From there you can save the image to your computer.
About the image: This photo was taken on a Canon 5D Mark III with a 16-35mm lens at 35mm. My exposure time was 1/400 with an aperture of f13 and an ISO of 400. Lightroom edits included slight tweaks to the global settings, changes to the curves and color balance, as well as dodging and selective sharpening.
Some people think converting to black and white is an easy way to make their photos look better. It’s true that the simplified color scheme can minimize distractions, but good black and white photography takes work. Most people don’t want to put up with the hassle, and stop after desaturating their images. But stopping there doesn’t take full advantage of your photo’s potential. Today, I’m going to walk you through my processes and hopefully show you how you can take your work a few steps further and make something great. Continue reading
Look at this photo. What do you see? Those are the eyes of a Peruvian boy. If I had to guess I’d say he was around 10 years old. His cheeks are red from the merciless sun and wind of the high Andes. You can’t see it in this cropped photo but he’s wearing a purple sweater with a dirty blue shirt underneath it. His pants show signs of repair and mismatched threads stick out here and there. The photo doesn’t show you his worn rubber sandals that instantly mark him as a “campesino.” It doesn’t show you his rough hands and it doesn’t show you the blade he’s holding in them. Continue reading
Most of you know me as a photographer so it may surprise you to learn that a few of my biggest professional projects to date have been animated motion graphics (including the one you see at the top of this post). A big part of multimedia storytelling is using the right tools for the job. While photography, writing, and video are the core of what I do, animation allows me to tell stories with dense information quickly and in a way that engages an audience differently than other visual media.
My most recent project was a graduation video for the University of Washington’s College of Arts and Sciences. Animation projects are time-consuming beasts and require a lot of thought to execute well. My team spent hours making sure we had the right information, brainstorming ways to present that information, and then creating the foundational graphic before animation ever began. It’s been great to work on a big collaborative project like this. While your own artistic vision can take you a long way, bringing in other viewpoints and skill sets opens doors you didn’t even know existed. It also helps you catch mistakes and that’s important when every export of your video takes several hours to render, and fixing one typo can mean almost a full day of work — trust me, I know.
There were a lot of technical challenges to overcome and many lessons learned. I now know that all those fancy cores your processor has won’t live up to their potential if there isn’t enough RAM backing them up — Adobe recommends 2GB per core. I learned that even when you have enough RAM you’re not going to get the fastest render speeds until you enable multiprocessing. Seriously, if you’re doing any video/animation work you need to learn about this. There were lessons about hard drive configurations and about optimizing Illustrator files for After Effects (better to use a lot of small files than one big one that takes 30 minutes to conform every time you make an edit). Probably the most valuable thing I learned was to set keyframe interpolation to linear before you draw a massive animation path. Leaving it on the default “Auto Bezier” is a sure way to make your animated paths look like bouncy boomerangs.
This project took about two weeks of solid work but I had a blast seeing it through. I feel like one or two of these a year is an ideal number for me. Enough to keep my skills from getting rusty but not so many that I spend more time hunched over my monitor than I spend behind a real-life lens.