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Monday, 18 August 2014


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Thoughtful piece. I think the comparison is more with music or film than with wine and cheese. Some food needs to 'age' because that is how it gets finished off. But I wonder if what we are really appreciating is scarcity.

With the audio/visual arts the passage of time lets us become aware of underlying subleties. Music played on the radio has certainly immediate appeal but you wouldn't want to listen to it for years. Other music takes time to grow on you, it is not the music which is maturing, it is ourselves. So I suppose it is the same with photographs which have any 'artistic' aspirations.

It's been the first time in years that I'm using a monitor that's uncalibrated for over a month. I could see the shoe. But it didn't bother me so much. Actually I quite liked the picture with it in.

I agree that it is easiest to judge a photograph when you look at a print. Despite all the high-end monitors and sorting tools, I like to print my potential keepers on either 8x11.5 or sometimes 9 photos per Super A3 sheet.

On the same note, when shooting 4x5 these days, I dearly miss Polaroid and Fuji's instant film. I know I should be able to judge everything on the ground glass, but when in doubt I used to take an instant shot, look at the composition, and sometimes reevaluate.

Mike, Regardless of the state of your vision (mine is deteriorating too) you can determine whether an area is totally black in Photoshop using the Threshold or the Curves tool. In a Threshold layer. Just move the slider back and forth* to see whether the whole area appears/disappears at once. If there are lighter areas they will show up as you move the slider. If there are lighter parts just select the area of the lighter bits (lasso them) and burn them in on the image layer then ditch the Threshold layer.

*My grandfather was fond of saying that the expression should be reversed, "forth and back", since you can't come back until you have gone forth. Something to ponder as we go forth into a new week. :-)

On my (calibrated, but seven years old at this point) 30 inch HP LCD monitor, I can't quite see the shoe in the image, but it takes only a tiny adjustment in the curves dialog to make it visible. That puts it in the range such that I would almost certainly notice it when printing the image, but it would probably escape notice until then.

But I like the one with the shoe (kidding, of course). I also have an iMac, and my night vision is getting worse even at 48. I saw no shoe.

At my best I do what you did with your dog legs photo, work it. At my worst I take a snap and move on, then get home and think, gee, should have worked on that more.

I'm ahead of you in the moving process (closed on July 14th, movers showed up a week later) but as I type I can look to my left in my nice new basement and see that my printer still is not hooked up. A new extra-long cord will arrive shortly, so I will be printing by tomorrow, I think.

It's a lovely picture.
Re the shoe: I did not see it yesterday, so when you pointed it out I went back and looked. Still didn't see it. All my displays are calibrated.
Modern computer displays are set very bright from the factory.
Calibration has my brightness slider somewhere near 5/8-up on the scale. I raised the slider to 3/4-7/8 and the shoe was clearly visible.
It may not be your eyes.

Regarding 'aging': I think many of us, if we are honest, experience exactly what you describe. Part of it is just as it should be, we pressed the button with high expectations---we're 'rooting' for them to succeed. We then eliminate easily the clear misses and turn our attention to the few or perhaps the one.
We all go through the long and slow vetting, and given enough time it is easy to end up at "What was I thinking"

If we do photography professionally, we are forced to do our best, make our selections and let them go to stand on their own, for better or worse. We are then forced to move on and make more work.
I know you are not talking about professional work, but I raise it only to bring up the idea of letting go ---even when there is no external pressure to do so .
Moving on to do more work is the only way we build a body of work. "Doing the Work" is sometimes more important than the work we produce.
For myself, I very much Identify with your aging process, but at some point make the best print I can make and either tear it up or put it in the flat files to take it;s place with the other 'mile markers' of the journey.
When I go through those accumulated mile markers, if I am honest I cannot find a single picture that couldn't be better in some way----but taken together I am proud of the work.
This adds a bit of discipline and frees me to go do more.
I'd be interested to know what you and others think of a mildly enforced "Letting Go"

If I may, I would like to share with you my thoughts on your doggy photo.

I agree with you that what is really interesting is the intertwining of the paws.

And I agree that it is better in monochrome.

But, once I had become aware of that as the key feature of the image, I went back and looked at the original. If it were possible (and if it was my picture - which of course it isn't) I would very much like to see the whole dog in monochrome with the armchair faded as much to black as possible. That's because to my mind the dog's soulful expression relates significantly to the crossing over of the paws. The picture then, for me, moves from being mainly a formal exercise in shapes and tones to saying a lot about how a dog might feel when it relaxes but is still hoping for some human interaction. Maybe it even says something about that dog in particular. I've never had a dog so this would be something new for me and for me adds value to your photograph beyond what I get from the paws version. But of course you may well disagree with this and as I said, it is your photo. Thanks for the space to let me say this, if you post it.

You should be pleased, it's a great picture. So pat yourself on the back and pat Butters on the back while you're at it since he had something to do with it!

Mike, it could be your eyes, who knows, but it might just as well be that you as a printing photographer (and as one who feels photographs are often printed too light) have set your screen a little less bright than the default position. My (limited) experience tells me that default brightness makes me print my pictures too dark, so I have calibrated my monitor a little darker. It suits me fine, but alas, my JPEGS will show up on other people's super bright screens a little brighter than intended.
And on the other subject: in stressful times, a little less coffee works wonders. Unfortunately, in the short run, stress seems to beg for more coffee, so it is easier said than done - I know.

As an outside observer with no emotional stake in the process or the subject I believe the Doglegs will age very well. B&W was the right thing to do. I like the composition and the one paw breaking into the black. Would this be an example of what some people call tension in a photograph? One can tell this is a picture of a relaxed dog, without having to see the complete dog and its environs. The mind has to exercise a little to fill in the rest of the scene, thus producing interest. Would that be an accurate assessment in the art critique world? Typing all of that I realized it is very difficult to explain why a picture is perceived as good versus why a picture is perceived as not good. I am sure someone else will view Doglegs quite differently and not so pleasantly, can they explain why?
As for your aging process, I too like to print current favorites. They are all over the house and sitting in piles. If I have to move a pile it gets moved one print at a time, then a couple of prints end up in the trash.

I see two shoes, a Tootsie Roll wrapper, and part of an old newspaper under the chair.

I love the dog legs, but I urge you to crop away some of the black area at the bottom.
Assuming this is full 1.5:1 APSC or 24x36 camera frame, it is an example of where slavish devotion to the 'original camera frame' works against the success of the photo. The 1.5:1 aspect ratio can be especially nasty when used in vertical orientation.

I have still been scanning old film and found this image (http://flickr.com/photos/brucebordner/8595827567/in/set-72157632462027053) of my son and grandfather in their first and last days. Of course it has an impact for me but I think it's more than a snapshot. Taken in 1989, reconsidered and scanned in 2013. Don't throw anything away!

Regarding print sorting/aging - I am working on a picture display system which is 4.5Hx9 feet wide. It's basically adjustable shelves 1" deep. It can hold mats of 12.5", 17", or 25.5" height, all 32 or 36" long. So I will make mat sets where I can easily exchange the prints, to make up "wall shows".

This is crazy, and don't ask me to make one for you. I just had all this cherry wood left, and I'm retired... stuff happens. I'll post photos on Flickr when it's done.

My ideal sorting layout would be a large steel plate on the wall and magnets. Mats do make a difference; just have precut ones or get a mat cutter. Whee, more hobbies!

Nope, I didn't see the shoe in the image on line either in Chrome Web browser!But when I downloaded the earlier image and opened it in Photoshop, yes it was visible.

Remember. most of the people don't have calibrated monitors, and the default brightness level of those uncalibrated monitors tends to be pretty high. This is probably why some people brought it to your attention.

But if you were not able to see it on your monitor in PS, then maybe it's time to think about upgrading monitors? ;-)

You should make this a diptych with this picture: http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2013/07/random-snap.html

and make it another print offer :)

I also can see your foot (black socks?) in the original post. And my monitor, although very good (IPS technology), is not a multi thousand dollar Eizo. It is only calibrated with a version of Spyder2express … And I didn't need to open the jpeg in a fancy program, just clicking on it and viewing it in Safari was enough. Now your second version indeed hides your foot but now I can see a black mask on the 2/3rds of the concerned area, a mask which doesn't melt well with the dark grey part on the left. You've said you were wondering about your vision; I'm wondering what the light level is that you are viewing your monitor in. That could completely nullify whatever good calibration or vision you may have. I'm sure a print, however good, would not be capable of showing such subtle shades of grey so this seems a bit nitpicking anyway.
And, Mike, I'm just about the same age as yourself !

I like this composition, and really enjoyed your article on how you arrived at it.

As for staying power...

Kenya, 1982 (3 weeks with 3,600 film exposures)
50 shot portfolio in 82, 20 in 1995
currently have 3 in the portfolio

South Africa, 2013 (3 weeks of unlimited shooting with digital systems)
11 kept in the portfolio originally
currently have 4 in the portfolio

Of probably 35,000 canine photos I have made over the last 50+ years (my primary interest and avocation) I have printed many for myself and family and customers, but personally only framed and displayed 9, and one is in the guest bedroom because to this day I cry everytime I see it.

I find I am getting more and more selective, more critical if you will, based on my own views of compositional excellence (which I call "clarity of focus"), lighting and color impacting the emotion of the shot, and the potential for the shot to tell a story or hold the observer's attention. I would rather see 1 outstanding image and then discuss it with the photographer than see a dozen really nice shots.


Reinstate the foot. Now you have only dead dark tone, featureless and footless - devoid of modulation.

Sam Abell, the ex-National Geographic photographer has at least two pictures that he stands-by (pun not intended) which accidentally show his feet.

One made in Newfoundland, the other in Australia.


You went too far in the wrong direction. Replacing the shoe with a black glob doesn't fit with the texture of the remaining carpet. The black spot looks like a wet spot, not a dark shadow. The carpet has a nice texture. Replacing the shoe with carpet would have been better in my opinion.

[Repeat--you're not supposed to see any carpet at all. It's all supposed to be black below the cushion. I apologize that I can't make you see it that way, but you're seeing it wrong, not as it is intended!! --Mike]

There's too much black. It would look better cropped to a square or, 4 x 5 dimensions. Otherwise, Not bad for digital.


And I'm looking forward to you being able to write about printing in the new digs.

It's the same thing for me - the next step after initial processing and the first proof print is putting the print onto a viewing easel and just leaving it up in the office for a few days, looking at it while a bit of time and perspective do their work.

It was a great pleasure to come home from my trip and the print there was still something I'm happy with.

What a lovely photograph - dogs legs I think this is one of the best of your photographs you have published. Nice, very nice!

Hi Mike,

When I saw this image today I immediately thought of your print "Hands".
As far as I'm concerned there is a strong similarity between the flow of lines and the overall organization of both. By the way, a belated "Thanks" for my copy of "Hands" to you and Ctein... it's a beautiful print.
As a photographer and painter, I too take the same route in analyzing a new work that has potential, allowing it to slowly reveal it's strengths and weakness over time.

A fan of your blog, keep up the good work,

Phil K.

I really like your doglegs photo. I seems this type of photo has become cliché with baby portraits (showing just the feet, hands, ear, etc., but I think you've broken new ground in pet portraits.

I'm pretty new to all this so it gives me some sense of comfort that someone who has been making pictures for some time also has to let them "gel" for a period of time. Sometimes I am truly embarrassed at what I originally thought was a keeper.

I agree with Phil K. I too thought of your "Hands", but I could not find it. (It is two people in a car?) Would you mind showing it?

Dog love is what that picture shows me. So graceful and fluid.

[Thanks! He's a very high-maintenance youngster, but I do love him. --Mike]

Reminds me of this one…


For some interesting comparisons, look at a copy of "Beware of Dog," by Martha Casanave, an excellent monograph with lovely images, like yours, of a beloved creature.

All critiques appreciated but aside. Sometimes a photograph works so beautifully that it says everything that could be said.
Thanks Mike. It's grand.

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