And speaking of Blurb…

There are a number of updates to the ubiquitous print-on-demand service that might be of interest to folks.  First, the B3 program that they have had the last few years for professional photographers is ending as of March 18, 2010, per an e-mail they sent to me.  According to Blurb, they are rolling out actual color calibration to everyone – good news for all photographers using Blurb for their work – making the B3 program unnecessary.  I was very happy with the color calibration resulting from the B3 program and  hope that the new universal color calibration works as well.

Blurb has also launched a new Color Management Resource Center to help explain color issues.  It is pretty sparse at the moment but it looks promising.

Color guru John Paul Caponigro also describes Blurb’s new ICC profile and suggests converting Adobe RGB or ProPhoto RGB images to the new Blurb ICC rather than the normal sRGB for improved color saturation.   I agree with his explanation and will try this myself for my next Blurb book.

And last, but not least, Blurb is having their second annual bookmaking competition for photographers with a $25,000 grand prize and a deadline of July 15th.  While the competition is fierce, I find the deadline of last year’s contest provided me with the motivation to finally put my first book together, making the contest worthwhile for me personally.

Blurb Book update

As some of you may recall, I self-published a Blurb book last year entitled ‘Red Rock’.  Red Rock included images from my multiple trips to the Utah parks over the previous decade.  I was pleasantly surprised with the print quality from Blurb – given how many horror stories were out there, perhaps lowered expectations also played a role.  The color was very close on almost all of the images, and only one image was clearly off.  Anyway, Blurb has a new feature now where you can preview the entire book online instead of just a few pages – a feature I’ll test right here:

[Update – it works on my browser – pretty slick!].

Shows, Shows, Shows

Well, make that two shows upcoming from my perspective.  Two shows that I’m currently in, the Pixels show in Lewiston’s Gallery 5 and the Aarhus Gallery show in Belfast, are coming down this weekend.  Luckily, two new shows are starting to replace those.  First, I’ve been selected for the Maine Photography Show 2010 in Boothbay Harbor.  The opening for this show is April 16th and the show runs from April 17th to May 3rd.  Based on previous years, the show (and opening) will certainly be well attended and will have a great selection of work from Maine photographers working in all genres.  My image selected for this show is The Tarn:

I’ve also had two pieces selected for the next Gallery 5 show entitled ‘Scapes’.  Here is a brief newspaper article about the show and I’ll update the blog once online versions of the selected work are available.  Scapes runs from April 2nd through May 8th.  My two images selected for this show are Moon at Sunrise, Utah and September Snow, Colorado.

This should be a great show as well and I’m looking forward to seeing other landscape work (and anything else considered a ‘scape).  Here is a copy of the flyer, too:

Update:  We went to the opening of the Scapes show and their was some excellent work there.  I particularly liked a beautiful abstract landscape by William Pearce Cox as well as a stunning, moody landscape by Steven Langerman.

Slick Site for Astronomical Data

Any nature or landscape photographer is likely cognizant of the importance of sunrise and sunset times on their photography.  Many landscape photographers also shoot in the twilight before dawn or after sunrise, or seek to include the moon in their compositions.  I just found a great site called sunrisesunset.com that quickly and easily gives you not only sunrise and sunset times for a particular location but also moonrise, moonset, moon phase, civil twilight, nautical twilight, and astronomical twilight times.  Here’s a sample image for March 2010 in my town of Camden, Maine:

This is actually a crop of the full calendar – the default seems to be showing information for an entire month.  To find your specific location, US residents can simply choose their state from this page and then select the town and month and, like magic, you get all this wonderful information.  For free.  I’ve seen this information in various other locations before but nowhere so readily available.  Highly recommended.

Upcoming Show at Åarhus Gallery in Belfast

I’ll have a piece hanging at the Åarhus Gallery in Belfast, Maine, starting this coming Friday.  The show should be a great one with an incredibly wide variety of work, and a signficant portion of any sales go to local food kitchens.  Great art for a great cause.  The opening reception is Friday, March 5th from 5-8 pm and the show will continue until March 28th.  I’m not sure yet whether I’ll make the opening because of other commitments, but I definitely plan on making it up the road to Belfast during March to see the show.

Here’s some info from the gallery:

2nd Annual “44N 69W: Radius Belfast” to Benefit Local Food Pantries

Åarhus Gallery once again, toasts our vast creative community by opening its walls to Maine residents of any age or training, living within a thirty mile radius of Belfast, to show their stuff – artwork, that is – in our all-encompassing 2nd Annual show entitled “44N 69W: Radius Belfast”. From potters, painters, and welders to musicians, knitters and mobile makers, all work falling within the gallery’s fairly liberal view of ‘decency’ will be presented on the walls, floor, or ceiling, as the case may be.

Plagiarism or Homage?

There is a minor ongoing Internet kerfluffle regarding the images of David Burdeny and whether or not his images, particularly his Sacred and Secular series, are copies of the work of other photographers.  (As an aside, I’m a fan of Burdeny’s work generally).  I first heard about this from the Conscientuous blog – posts here and here – and this issue is explained in much more detail, with many sample images, on the PDN blog here and here.  The details of this particular case are not what I am concerned about here.  (Though, for the record, my initial take was that the images were sufficiently different to be perfectly acceptable – but Burdeny’s own defense hurt his case in my eyes as it convinced me that he is very possibly in the wrong here.  The similarity of the gallery installations, and the remarkable coincidence of so many shared locations, also worries me.  And please note that I am only talking about the ethics of the situation, not any legal issues.)

So what am I concerned about?  I think this is an issue that impacts all photographers, particularly ones that photograph images centered on place.  If you are a serious photographer, you likely study the works of other photographers and many of those will influence you, either directly or subconsciously.  If you photographing relatively famous subjects, whether it be the Bubbles in Acadia or Half Dome in Yosemite, you certainly will be walking in the footsteps of other photographers (or positioning your tripod right next to someone else) and therefore run the risk of copying the work of others, subconsciously or otherwise.

For me it all comes down to intent.  If you study photographers and go to some of the same locations as them, many of your images will likely be similar to ones you have seen.  If you intentionally try to copy someone else’s work and pass it off as your own, however, you are the one who has to look in the mirror each day as such an action is clearly inappropriate.  Of course, many photographers emulate previous shots for legitimate reasons, such as having a record of being there, for educational purposes (what do I need to do to replicate this?), or just because of physical limitations (using the same pull-out in a national park looking over the bend in the Snake River).  Some similarities in photographs, particularly those taken from more common locations, can be completely appropriate, but photographers should take care not to mimic the work of others as, beyond any ethical issues, I believe it can stunt the growth of your own unique and personal style.

As you develop your own personal style, I believe that images will start to become unmistakenly yours even when taken from the same iconic locations.  I know for me, when I go to a well-known location, I try to take photographs I don’t think anyone else has taken – and because I can be somewhat competitive, I try to better what I’ve seen before.  Building upon the work of others, after all, is essential to the history of art itself.

So, what do I recommend?  Don’t worry about “polluting” yourself by studying the work of others – because to do so you will sacrifice one of the best ways of improving your art.  Go out and take photographs and, if you have to, get those iconic shots that “everyone has done” out of your system.  After that, though, seek out images from those locations that are different from what you have seen before.  And, with some luck and skill, maybe you can surpass those early images or provide a fresh perspective.  Or, simply try to find less iconic locations and make them your own.

Peter Turnley on Haiti

Just posted this morning is an excellent (and heartbreaking) piece of that increasingly rare beast, long form photojournalism.  Peter Turnley’s photographs provide a striking narrative of the recovery (or at least the beginnings of a recovery) for Haiti approximately three weeks after the devastating earthquakes.  Kudos to Mike Johnston’s The Online Photographer for providing the platform for these 60 photographs from Peter Turnley.  Highly recommended.

The Lenswork "Look"

Many black & white photographers are familiar with Lenswork magazine, the excellent fine art black & white magazine that is known for its superb quality of printing.  Founder Brooks Jensen has started a number of promising blogs associated with the magazine, and I wanted to highlight two recent postings that might be of interest to many fine art photographers and printers.

One thing Lenswork is also known for is its consistent warm, brown look for its black & white imagery.  Lenswork uses a duotone printing process and Brooks has an interesting discussion of why they use such a process instead of a more traditional quadtone CMYK printer on his new blog.  Many people have tried to replicate that look (which originates from the duotone printing process and their choice of inks) but Brooks has posted his own personal attempt to do so in a format suitable for both Lightroom and Photoshop at the bottom of that article.  I tried out the Photoshop version (a Black & White adjustment layer that you ‘load’ as part of a new adjustment layer) and I’d say it is a pretty close match, as you can see in the image below:

I don’t think that one should blindly follow the settings of others, but this should be a good starting point if you are a fan of the tone of Lenswork.  Each printer and paper will also have an impact on any final printed images, and to use this particular conversion you will have to print the image as a color image using Photoshop.

If you use an Epson printer with its Advanced Black & White mode (which I find to be superior to printing a black & white image, even toned, as a color image), you can also use Brooks’ ABW settings as a starting point for your own printing.  I haven’t tried to print using these settings but I look forward to testing them out.  Achieving a satisfying tone and color on a fine art digital black & white print is often difficult to achieve, but the tools to do so are quite powerful (and complex) and having a good starting point for the look you are trying to achieve can result in significant savings in time, ink, and paper.

Pixels Show in Lewiston

UpdateThe local Village Soup/Herald Gazette has an article about this show featuring one of my images.

This coming Friday, Jan. 29th, from 5-7 pm, L/A Arts’ Gallery 5 in Lewiston is hosting an opening for its Pixels show.  Three of my pieces will be in the show and the show will run until March 29th.  I’ll be attending the opening (maybe with my daughter Eliza, perhaps not).  Here is a copy of the flyer:

pixelsfrontpostcard-copy

pixelsbackpostcard-copy

The show should be an interesting one as the curatorial basis for the show is “Pieces of a Whole”.  My interpretation was to include my abstract cityscape photography that includes, well, pieces of whole buildings.  You can see two of my images on the flyer – and since those are hard to see, web versions are below.  And, of course, if you want to see the real thing, hopefully I’ll see you on Friday night at the opening.

nickelson_jim_reflections1

nickelson_jim_reflections2

nickelson_jim_boston_reflections

The first two are from Seattle and the third from Boston.  You can see more of my cityscapes here.