Category Archives: Ideas

“Photography and Luck” in Extraordinary Vision Magazine

Extraordinary Vision Magazine — Issue 24
Extraordinary Vision Magazine — Issue 24

My article, “Photography and Luck” appears in this month’s edition of Extraordinary Vision Magazine, available for iOS and Android platforms for free. This is a great photography publication that features images and writing by a wide range of photographers.

Download links:

Enjoy!

(Post originally shared on December 25, 2014.)


G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Social Media and the Death of the Web (Morning Musings 9/27/14)

Dan Mitchell 1977 Website Screenshot
Dan Mitchell 1977 Website Screenshot *

How many of us have considered the ways in which popular social media services — which admittedly are hugely appealing in many ways  — are doing an effective job of killing the world wide web and undoing the early promise that it offered of direct and open access, along with visibility proportionate to quality, and critical disintermediation?

A few years back there was this astonishing, exciting, powerful, accessible thing called the world wide web, on which virtually anyone could share their story, their creative work, their business — and we saw the beginnings of the great disintermediation as boundaries were broken and the middlemen who had stood between content producers and consumers began to disappear. This was a world filled with promise. Those who produced valuable and interesting content (as differentiated from those who simply channeled it) could connect directly with a world of people who found that content compelling, and those looking for content could easily find it and follow it. Word got around, and it did so fairly directly, with little or no intermediation by those who had controlled traditional media.

Social media applications are seductive things, especially during their start-up phase, when the typical approach has involved giving away (or at least appearing to give away) a great deal of access by means of what seem like very open platforms. In fact, many who jumped onto these platforms early on did manage to leverage their initial power to their advantage. However, virtually without exception, these applications have morphed in directions that do not enable our own control over what we see and who we connect to, but which instead take control out of our hands and begin to determine for us what we will see, most often based on generating advertising revenue — a old model that takes us back to (to coin a term) nondisintermediation. Continue reading Social Media and the Death of the Web (Morning Musings 9/27/14)

Quotations and Photographs (Morning Musings 9/21/14)

Self-portrait with Friedlander Poster - SFMoMA
Self-portrait with Friedlander Poster – SFMoMA

With partially ironic intent, I’m going to begin this Morning Musings post with two quotations. I snagged from the web by doing a quick search on “quotations about quotations” and, in line with common web practice, I simply present them for what they appear to be — I have not checked to validate the sources. Hey, it’s the internet! ;-)

“In the garden of literature, the highest and the most charismatic flowers are always the quotations.”
― Mehmet Murat ildan

“He wrapped himself in quotations – as a beggar would enfold himself in the purple of Emperors.”
― Rudyard KiplingMany Inventions

I’ve thought about this quite a bit, largely in the context of the (increasingly?) common practice of attaching quotations to photographs. I think that there are things about this practice that seem useful and beneficial, but there are also some aspects that seem a bit problematic, at least to me, and I’d like to briefly explore this in an entirely incomplete way.

I can call up a few relevant quotations pretty quickly when necessary. Some of you may have seen me post a favorite John Muir quote as a way of acknowledging that I’m heading of into the mountains: The mountains are calling and I must go.  Continue reading Quotations and Photographs (Morning Musings 9/21/14)

I’m Amazingly Humbled! Not. (Morning Musing 9/17/14)

OK, this “morning musing” post is a) not really being posted in the “morning” (though I was musing about it then), and b) about as totally unrelated to photography as possible. Hey, its my (humble) blog!

Recently recipients of high honors or acclamations have been responding to these honors by saying, “I’m humbled.”

Probably not.

I just grabbed one definition of the word “humbled” off the web — from the Free Dictionary:

tr.v. hum·bledhum·blinghum·bles

  1. To curtail or destroy the pride of; humiliate.
  2. To cause to be meek or modest in spirit.
  3. To give a lower condition or station to; abase. See Synonyms at degrade.

Imagine that the recipient of high honors and acclaim stood in front of those conferring the honor or award and announced:

“Your award humiliates me and destroys my pride. You have reduced me to a lower condition and station, and I am abased. You have degraded me. You make me meek. Your award demotes and dishonors me and devalues me.”

Actually, you don’t have to imagine. That is essentially what it means when a person claims to be “humbled” by an honor!

If you want to have even more fun with this, see some of the synonyms and related words listed in one  of the comments following this post. Using them, our recipient might add:

Thank you for demeaning and discrediting me, humiliating me, and bringing me shame. It is wonderful to be taken down and dishonored by a group such as yours. I am embarrassed and grateful that you have castigated and diminished me in this way. I thank you for your ridicule and bad-mouthing disparagement and for presenting me with such a slanderous public affront.

I think that the people misusing the word “humbled” in this context actually mean well. They are trying to express gratitude and to not seem fat-headed or egotistical — and those are good things. However, there are better words to convey what they likely want to say. How about: “I’m grateful. Thank you. You have honored me. I never thought that this would happen. I deeply appreciate this. I want to thank all of the people who have supported me. I hope I can live up to your expectations. This means a lot to me.”

And thus ends my humble rant. ;-)

Morning Musings are somewhat irregular posts in which I write about whatever is on my mind at the moment.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

“Secrets of Photography.” Not. (Morning Musings 9/16/14)

Bricks, Windows, Sky
Bricks, Windows, Sky

Earlier today I saw the notion of “photography secrets” come up in an online discussion. There is, I think, a lot to say about this concept — too much, in fact, for me to fully deal with in this little “morning musings” blog post. But I do want to consider a few aspects of the concept of secrets relative to photography.

The word “secret” can be used in several ways — a bit to my surprise, since I began this morning with more or less a single idea of what the word implies in mind. (A look at a dictionary often sets me straight about such simplistic assumptions!) My original definition was, more or less: important information that is kept from others. Or, as one source states, “Kept hidden from knowledge or view; concealed.”

This implies that the existence of secrets is the result of intention — “people in the know” possess special knowledge and they act to control and conceal that knowledge so that others will not obtain it, thus giving themselves an advantage over others. It is not just that most people don’t know the secret, but that it is “kept hidden” intentionally by those who do. A related description is: Known or shared only by the initiated. This takes the concept just a bit farther — not only is the information “kept” secret, but it is also shared among a special, select group. 

In photography, the mystery of secrets takes several forms. Continue reading “Secrets of Photography.” Not. (Morning Musings 9/16/14)

Photographing Icons — Pluses and Minuses (Morning Musings 8/29/14)

Autumn Leaves, Reflection of a Monolith
Autumn Leaves, Reflection of a Monolith

When it comes to photographing “icons” (the famous things that everyone photographs when they visit certain locations) the disagreements can become impassioned and the points of view range from “Don’t do it!” to “That’s why I go!” After replying to a question about photographing a particular icon (Zabriskie Point in Death Valley) recently I thought a bit about how the answer to the “should I photograph them?” question is a bit trickier than either “yes” or “no.” So, here’s an off-the-cuff listing of some things to consider.

Pluses – Reasons to go ahead and photograph them:

  • If you are new to a location, you have to start somewhere. Even if your goal is to eventually develop a deeper and more thorough understanding of a place you will likely need to discover even the most obvious things about the location first, and your knowledge should include these elements as well.
  • There is usually a good reason that an icon has achieved iconic status. If you haven’t seen them before, they are not the “same old same old” to you, so go ahead and enjoy their newness. (I was reminded of this a few years back when I visited Arches National Park for the first time. I had not studied the place at all before going, and my response to the place was a very strong one — even though I didn’t know that I was, at least in some cases, responding to elements that are well-known.)
  • While you are very unlikely to create a wholly new and original photograph of a subject that has been photographed perhaps millions for times (Tunnel View at Yosemite, anyone?), at a certain point in your photographic development there is something to be said for trying to understand the ways in which others have photographed icons and the means (technical and aesthetic) by which they created their images. Consider it a form of distant apprenticeship.
  • Sometimes it is possible to photograph an icon in ways that are new and fresh. This often depends on being able to see past the obvious and on being sensitive to the times when something really special happens with them. It is extremely challenging to create a new way of seeing very familiar things, but it is sometimes possible.
  • If you are very serious about this photography thing, it isn’t a bad idea at all to have  some images of iconic subjects in your catalog for practical reasons.
  • In the right situation, in the right place, at the right icon, on the right day, there can be social value in being in such places. I once photographed Horsetail Fall on a beautiful winter evening in Yosemite Valley, and soon realized that the outcome wasn’t so much going to be photographic as it was realizing the miracle of joining hundreds of people from around the globe who gathered in mid-winter in snowy meadows to gaze upwards toward a high rock face in the hope of glimpsing a transitory and rare effect of water and light and rock.

Minuses – Reasons to be cautious about “icon fever,” and a few thoughts about alternatives

  • It is extremely unlikely that you are going to produce a photograph that is new or special beyond its potential to recall your personal experience of being there. The best photographs of such subjects are rarely made in typical conditions, but instead in truly exceptional light and atmosphere at just the right moment on just the right day in just the right season.
  • There is a risk of falling into the trap of “capturing” trophies — traveling from place to place with the goal being primarily or exclusively to bag shots of those icons. I would argue that this, in and of itself, ultimately is not going to be very rewarding.
  • Too much focus on icons that distract you from other wonderful and beautiful things in the vicinity of the icons.
  • I’ve seen people disappointed that the prospective iconic shot did not work in the light and other conditions that they had to work with — while that very light and those conditions were making other nearby subjects beautifully photographable.
  • Focusing too much on the goal of reproducing the view you already know from other photographs can blind you to other ways of seeing that very thing. What else is in the scene? What smaller element of the scene might make a photograph?
  • By focusing on the things that are iconic, it is possible to miss the fact that great photographs are often less about the objective existence and form of those things, and more about how we see.

Photographing icons has its place. Almost all of us have done it and almost all of us will continue to do so. But if you are at a point where that is your primary goal, I urge you to grow your photography by thinking outside of that box.

Your thoughts? Leave a comment below.

G Dan Mitchell is a California photographer and visual opportunist whose subjects include the Pacific coast, redwood forests, central California oak/grasslands, the Sierra Nevada, California deserts, urban landscapes, night photography, and more.
Blog | About | Flickr | Twitter | FacebookGoogle+ | 500px.com | LinkedIn | Email

Text, photographs, and other media are © Copyright G Dan Mitchell (or others when indicated) and are not in the public domain and may not be used on websites, blogs, or in other media without advance permission from G Dan Mitchell.

Concerning Megapixels

(This is another in a series of articles based on posts I shared elsewhere. This one is based on a reply to a post concerning how important it is to move to a newer, improved sensor with higher photo site density. The immediate question had to do with how often the improvements would be significant enough to be seen, and the writer had correctly pointed out that there can be advantages to higher “MP count” when making very large, high quality prints.)

It is useful to try for a realistic understanding of how and when a higher MP sensor may show its advantages. This post tries to not take a position on brands and models, but rather to lay out a comparison of some relevant technical stuff — from which we can all draw our own individual conclusions.

There is a point below which you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between prints made from 22MP and 36MP cameras and above which you might be able to.(1) For example, virtually everyone would agree that the difference is typically completely invisible in small web images, and virtually everyone would agree that it could be visible if you closely inspect a print that is six feet wide. Since we could debate just where the boundary is — and, frankly, it is somewhat subjective — you could pick any point on the print size scale that you want and the principles will be the same.

Some Comparisons

Just for fun, let me use completely arbitrarily use two print sizes and base the comparisons on the 22MP Canon 5D Mark III and the Sony/Canon 36MP sensor cameras. Continue reading Concerning Megapixels