Reflections on Reflections

Self-Portrait. Frisco, Colorado, 2013
Self-Portrait. Frisco, Colorado, 2013

Any time I see a reflective surface–water, a puddle, a convex traffic mirror, stainless steel, glass storefronts, windows of all kinds, a 19th century mirror (as above)–it attracts my eye. There are lots of playful things you can do with reflections.

And then, there is the question: What, exactly, is being reflected?

You could answer that on a simple, literal level…or, you could contemplate other answers that push into the more fuzzy realm of philosophical introspection.

Why did I compose and process the above image they way I did? What does that say about me as a person…as a photographer? What do you include in your “reflective photographic compositions”?

The Workflow

Geometry. Denver, Colorado, 2013
Geometry. Denver, Colorado, 2013

It’s all starting to come together. Here is the flow:

D800 image capture – Lightroom – Photoshop (with Nik Plugins) – NEC monitor/Epson 3880 to print – Seal 210 press for dry mount – final matting – clear archival bag

This fits my style. Each of those steps, of course, has its own individual learning curve. Mastering them all will be a never-ending journey.

[UPDATE: Yes, it’s a journey, and things change along the way. For example, nix on the dry mounting as stated above. See my blog entry on Matting and Mounting, dated October 4, 2013.]

Photographer Spotlight: Helen Levitt

Watching You. Denver, Colorado, 2013
Watching You. Denver, Colorado, 2013

Henri Cartier-Bresson gets all the press…and maybe Robert Frank…and maybe Garry Winogrand and maybe William Eggleston, too. But in the annals of street photography, there is one photographer who should get more than her due: Helen Levitt (1913-2009). Could it be because she was a woman in what was always seen as a man’s game up until then?

Even if you have heard of her, here are some things that might surprise you: Click here to read the little surprises.

The Denver Bear, and Pro Bike Races

Let Me In! Denver, Colorado, 2013
Let Me In! Denver, Colorado, 2013

This giant bear, apparently trying to push in the glass at the Denver Convention Center, is certainly the most photographed bear in the entire state of Colorado. Even while I was making this image, two other passersby were also photographing it.

This is one of those oft-encountered difficult situations for the photographer: how to snap the shutter on a very, commonly photographed subject in a way that creates an image that is at least slightly different than those commonly seen. Creating the image in the camera is the first place where your creative eye can make a difference (composition, perspective, lens choice, depth-of-field choices, etc.)…but don’t forget that post-processing is a second very important step during which you can allow your creativity to take wing, bling, or zing, as per your personal preference and style (special effects or filters, color, monochrome, HDR effects, and so on).

Another example…you are at a professional bike race (as I was yesterday), and everyone is snapping pictures of the breakaway, the peloton, the riders zipping by at 50 K-P-H, the riders after the race, etc. Why not aim your camera at the cameras? I wonder how many Benjamins went into the lens inventory in the bottom 2/3 of the image below (the top 1/3 is the peanut gallery, I suppose)!!!???…

Press and Paparazzi at the Pro Challenge. Denver, Colorado, 2013
Press and Paparazzi at the Pro Challenge. Denver, Colorado, 2013

The Print

Pony Island. Boulder Creek, Colorado, 2013
Pony Island. Boulder Creek, Colorado, 2013

These days, probably 99% of the photographs made in this world are destined for:

1) the memory card in the camera in which they were taken, never to see the light of day, or

2) a brief 30-second display on the LCD of the camera or phone involved as folks all lean their craniums together to see, or

3) an attachment on an e-mail to friend or friends, or

4) a quick upload with inane comment (I’m guilty, too!) to Flickr or Facebook, or

5) display on a personal website, or…

…or, whatever other digital media display environment you might imagine.

Chances are, though, very few end up as physical prints that you can actually pick up in your hands (white gloves, please!) and admire at close range. To me, though, it is the print that really has me fascinated. To see an actual print, up close…to touch it, to note the heaviness, texture, and quality of the paper…the fineness of the colors and tones…well, that, to me is what photography is all about. The computer screen is nice, and it can even be pretty, but it just doesn’t quite do it. (As an added bonus, note that prints will even survive power outages!)

Ansel Adams famously said that “the print is the performance.” I and many others would agree with that. He even published a famous trilogy of books of which the third is called The Print–a tome with principles still relevant today even though some of the chemical and darkroom-related techniques may have moved into the digital darkroom.

A friend pointed me to a John Paul Caponigro essay on this topic–the print–and it is worth reading if you are interested in What Printing Can Do For You. [NOTE, as of October, 2016: This article may no longer be available online. Try Googling, though, just in case it might have made a reappearance.]

Yes, when you decide to present your work as finished prints, a whole host of decisions need to be made–paper (weight, color, luminescence, texture, thickness, etc.), size, matting, mounting, framing, hanging, lighting, expected viewing distance, and so on. What you choose at each turn of the road will eventually define your vision and style.


Summit Lake. Near Mt Evans, Colorado, 2013
Summit Lake. Near Mt Evans, Colorado, 2013

That is about all I have to say now that I have had a chance to open up and work some of the RAW files from my new D800. (Previously posted D800 images were merely tweaks to the in-camera JPEGs.) The detail, the clarity, the dynamic range, what you can pull from the shadows, is…well…VEWY, VEWY impwessive. Certainly a huge step up from the D90!

These images simply cannot be appreciated on the web (as above). You have to see them at their full size to experience the complete photographic, orgasmic delight.

My blog entries will likely be short over the next few days as I get used to the new workflow and get the printer up and running. There is a huge learning curve staring me down like a mangy, rabid, dog…no, wait. Bad simile. A mangy dog would be very unpleasant, no? This learning curve will be a bit more enjoyable than that. Maybe what I’m staring at is more like a reluctant, recalcitrant, well-groomed, 220-pound, Saint Bernard.