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In the first of this two-part blog posting, I wrote about all the non-gear related things that make my life easier as a photographic road warrior. In this posting I will talk about the gear related technologies that do the same thing for me.
I started riding motorcycles before I even took up photography, way back in 1972. Both riding and photographing require a lot of practice to achieve mastery. Both pursuits can be rewarding (or frustrating) as that expertise develops (or fails to.) Both involve complex technology with numerous opportunities to spend more and more money.
Someone recently asked for a “super basic lesson on flash” in, as they said, “one or two steps.” When I say flash, I mean supplementary light that is being used when documenting people, places or things as they are presented to you. I am NOT talking about studio work, where you can control the light and the subject. I am talking about when the photographer has to react to the subject and the light as they are given.
Every serious photographer has an archive of some form. Some of those archives become important libraries at the heart of our collective visual culture, holding significant imagery that historians utilize and the public enjoys. Others disappear into obscurity, and with them go potentially important images, never to be seen by the public. As photographers, we want our work to fall into the former category. Most photographers neglect image archiving to the point that most of their work will sadly end up in the latter category.
Like most photographers, I have a love-hate relationship with the tools I use. I am as captivated as the next photographer by the promise of the newest cameras, yet I am loath to give up old strategies that have served me so well. As a photographer, I depend on my cameras to make the pictures I want to make. As a professional, I depend on that same gear to earn my living.
I have blogged, lectured and argued for many years that a camera is nothing more than a tool that solves a given photographer’s problem. A camera brand is not a symbol of loyalty to one kind of photography, nor is it some kind of credential for membership in some kind of “club.” The sooner each photographer starts to figure out what their particular challenges are, and which camera works for them to resolve those challenges (regardless of brand), the sooner they will start making the kind of photographs they want. Recent experience has taught me that I need to start talking the same way about the laptop computers that photographers use for digital image processing.
I have been taking photographs for almost four decades—mostly for money and always for myself. Over those forty years, I have slowly figured out what I wanted to ask the many photographers I encountered along the way. I have distilled this down to a list of questions that I would ask any photographer, knowing that the answers will help any photographer.
As a professional photographer, I am often labeled—even pigeon-holed—using simple titles like stock photographer, documentary photographer, photo-essayist or fine-art photographer. That makes sense to me, because people want a quick way of knowing who I am as a photographer, and what kind of work I can do. A student recently asked me to explain how one photographer (me), would approach one subject, and photograph that subject different ways while wearing those four different hats.
In my last blog entry, I wrote about my experience as a photographic “heretic” when it came to gear. I was thinking about this after the first annual California Photo Festival. Working alongside the thirteen other pros at that event reminded me of the amazing range of career paths different photographers travel from aspiring photographer to established professional. If I took one lesson away from my chats with the other pros, it was that no single career path is best for all photographers. I was also reminded how much of a heretic I am when it comes to my own career path.
Most professionals (and serious photographers) working digitally, shoot RAW files. They usually do so because of the incredible degree of control and the higher image quality that comes with RAW files. Being able to correct white balance after the fact is one of the many great things about RAW files. The worst thing about RAW files, in my mind, is what I call the ongoing proprietary RAW file wars. In this blog entry, I will talk about what you need to know to stay clear of the RAW format wars.
For the last two weeks of December and most of January, I was on the road for work, fun and family reasons. I learned a few new things—and reconfirmed a few old ones—while I worked in different parts of India and Vietnam, and spent some time in Singapore. Always the teacher, I was watching my own photographing process to see if there were any lessons worth sharing. One thing struck me as a potentially interesting lesson for any serious photographer.
In this second part of a two-part blog entry, I will be talking about the technological strategies I use when I organize my image archive. In the first segment, I explored the thinking points I had in mind when I was first organizing my archive. One important point I tried to make was that image archiving is one area of photography where you should never let the perfect get in the way of the good.
I have been making photographs seriously since 1972, when I fell in love with photography during an intro to photography class in high school. I have been taking pictures for money since 1980, when I graduated from college after studying the history of photography.