A Couple of Old Essays from The Quiet Way

Table of Contents

1. Photography
2. Photochopping
3. Published


January 9, 2008

Stone Wall — Holmes County Trail

Some photographers work for the money.  Some work for the art.  Some work  to communicate or to document.  Some to convince, some just to share a view of life.  In the years since I first seriously picked up a camera I have pursued all of those things at some point and I do not dismiss any of them.  Nowadays I don’t even claim to be a photographer…just a man with a camera.

I always hope that people enjoy my photographs.  I would feel honored if even one of them would raise some new awareness or tiny spark of emotion in the person viewing it.  But those things don’t drive me to pick up the camera.   Photography is a singularly personal pursuit.  Only one eye peers into the viewfinder, only one brain tells one finger the one instant to release the shutter.  A camera is a license for the person holding it to slow down and to see the world in a different way.  Suddenly, subtle nuances of light and texture become more important than almost anything else.    The juxtaposition of a clump of dead grass with an old fencepost, the texture of handcut sandstone in an old stone wall, the sensuous curve of a vine climbing the trunk of a tree, or just the glow in an alleyway from the light bouncing back and forth off the walls, in that instant, becomes the most beautiful thing in the world.  The photograph almost becomes secondary but we make it anyway.  Although it is always the goal, only good photographers are regularly successful in translating that instant of beauty into a great photograph.  Most of us are somewhere along the continuum between success and failure.  But we do it anyway and then we share them, hoping that a little bit of the excitement, the emotion, that little gift of light and shadow comes through…and resonates with someone else.


May 30, 2009


Last evening we went for a short ride on the Holmes County Trail. A couple of miles out we met a young woman on roller blades. After she went past it occurred to me that she would make a good candidate for Trail usage photograph. It happens to me a lot that I see a good photograph after the opportunity to take it has passed.

We turned around. I was riding my old Schwinn Collegiate 3 and various pressure points on my body were starting hurt. I kicked it into high gear and started to pedal…Hey! This is not bad. I felt better and was a little surprised that the old bike would ride that well. Then I saw the woman on roller blades out ahead of me and realized that I might have another chance to get a photograph.

The long and the short of the story was that she was constantly moving away from me so the only way to take the picture was from the moving bicycle. That of course resulted in a whole series of blurred photographs.

Later as I was editing them, throwing away the files, this one caught my eye. I cropped it and did an auto adjust of the contrast and color. I like it.

That got me thinking again about the contrast between digital and film photography. When I shot film, I would sometimes throw the lens seriously out of focus and stop it down a little to saturate the colors, just for a little different view of the subject. Or perhaps shoot through a wet or frosted window. I still do it with digital but with digital images, all of that, and more, can be done in software, sometimes derisively known as Photochopping. Both known as and done, sometimes even by me.

This photograph looks photochopped…some kind of blur or soft focus effect. But this is the original base image. Does the distinction matter? Does it matter that I didn’t intentionally make the photograph the way it turned out? And where do you draw the line? Cropping, straightening, contrast, and color adjustments are OK but special effects are too much. These are questions that photographers, collectors of photographs, and others with pecuniary interests in photography like to debate.

It has always seemed to me that the image had to stand on its own. Photoshop and other graphic manipulation programs are part of photography. The photographer uses his/her skill with all the tools available from camera to final medium including their eye for design and composition to create the image. Even if the image is serendipitous…



February 15, 2010

This morning I happened to notice my wife’s 2010 American Sheep Industry Association desk calendar next to the computer. Last summer, I had entered their photo contest, on a whim. I wondered what kind of photographs they liked so I picked up the calendar and started leafing through it looking at the pictures, starting in February. I got to the end and flipped it back to the beginning.

There on the front cover was my photograph!

I was stunned. In a not altogether pleasant way. I didn’t print out the terms of the photo contest but I did read it. I think it probably had a little line in it allowing them to use any of the submissions, winner or not, in their promotional material. At the time I was OK with that but now looking at the calendar I had a sunken feeling that I had been had.

I looked through it again. Inside the cover. On the Back. There wasn’t even a credit line.

I really don’t have any reason to respond this way. By submitting the photograph I agreed to their terms. They could have sent a copy of the calendar. They could have sent an email saying that they were sorry that I didn’t win the contest but that the photo had been selected for the calendar. They could have put a little credit line under the photo. A credit line would have cost them nothing but would have bought a lot of good will.

The photograph attached to this post shows the calendar and a print from the original image, held by the photographer. I am somewhat biased but I think the calendar cover looks pretty good! They did a nice job with my photograph.

But I probably won’t enter any more photo contests like that…

Postscript (2010 Feb 18)

I checked last year’s rules and was amused to find the rule allowing the organization full use of all of the entries listed first.

I had used their online contact form to admonish them for not including a credit line on the photographs they use.  This morning I got a nice email reply from them reminding me of the rules but saying that they would consider doing that.

It seems like such a small gesture…doesn’t it?