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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category


Nov 24

In Books, Sale!, Videos at 10:05am

It all sounds kind of ominous, doesn’t it? Hardly has a jingly ring to it, the way one might expect for the titular opening of the holiday shopping season. I vastly prefer the day in between these two, which is now referred to as “Small Business Saturday.” Sounds like a kinder, gentler day, and here at the studio, we definitely qualify. Hard to get smaller than us.

Big, we ain’t. So it’s a welcome thing, this Small Business Saturday initiative. We have a pretty short list of things to offer – some things are on sale and a couple of brand new things to share in case you’re interested. Check out options below, and if you do venture into the stores on Black Friday, be careful. I have worked on several aircraft carriers, where they flat out tell you that the flight deck is the “most dangerous four and a half acres on earth.” I think that title transfers temporarily to the parking lots outside the big box stores on these holiday shopping spree days.

The download version of the Language of Light video, a well reviewed instructional in small flash, will be on sale  from Friday November 28 thru Tuesday at midnight on December 2, 2014. Got 3 options of discounts, depending on what you’re looking for. Below are the URL links and the COUPON CODES. Here we go!

First step. Select which version you’d like and Hit  “ADD TO ORDER”
Next, copy and paste the COUPON CODE in the UPDATE COUPON box and hit enter. Once you enter the coupon code you will automatically get the sale price. That’s it!

Language of Light Download- Volumes 1 & 2 (Combo Set) is 40% off.
Link:   Coupon CodeLOLCOMBO40

Language of Light Download- Volumes 2 is 25% off
  Coupon CodeLOL225

Language of Light Download- Volume 1 (ONLY) is 40% off.  
  Coupon CodeLOL140

In the LOL 2 version, we go forward with more advanced concepts, and a bit less piece by piece explanation. There’s a lot of discussion and explanation, but as we’ve said, this one is more of a backstage tour of shots that are happening, some of which are a tad complex, like tap dancer Baakari Wilder, seen below.


Since we are talking about gift options:), happy to announce that I put together my first eBook.  I’ve been asked a lot over the years if I’d make a book, a compilation, of the best, most popular, most informative, most off the wall posts to my blog as a keepsake for people. We gathered a group of technically informative entries, and paired them with a roughly equivalent number of posts that are just about the humorous, vexing, frustrating, and ultimately wonderful life of a traveling photog.  And we put them together in this roughly 200 page version called The Light and the Life. It’s in both English & Spanish. I travel a lot, and over the last few years I’ve visited and taught in numerous Spanish speaking countries, particularly Mexico. The photo community there is vast, passionate and skilled, so, we translated the book into Spanish. Big thanks to Eduardo Angel for his keen eye, expert attention to detail, and dedication for making the Spanish version happen. And of course thanks to my wonderful editor Ted Waitt at Peachpit


Here are the links:

Peachpit, English version:

Peachpit, Spanish version:

(Note, the Peachpit site allows you to download three formats, including PDF and EPUB.)

Have great holidays, everybody!  More tk…


Required Reading

Nov 13

In Books at 7:55am

Greg Heisler and I grew up into the uncertain profession of taking pictures for magazines about the same time. Which was wonderful, as you could watch his extraordinary talents literally change the face of magazine portraiture and the use of color right then and there, in real time.  And not so wonderful, like when you would be called into a meeting with the creatives at a mag and they would throw one of his recent triumphs down on a table in front of you and say, “We want our pictures to look like this.” Gulp. Read the rest of this entry »

Big Data, Big Book

Jan 15

In Books at 5:42am


I recently shot for a new book called Big Data, which gets a handle on heavy seas of ones and zeroes we navigate everyday of our modern lives. The book pops from the ever prescient noodle of author/photog/entrepreuner Rick Smolan, who long ago helped forge what was for a period of time, an almost yearly photographic gathering of the tribes called the “Day in the Life” book projects. Beginning with Australia, the projects reeled off an impressive number of countries, all willing, apparently, to host 100 of the world’s top photogs for the photo equivalent of a quickie. (My thought, at least occasionally, was something on the order of, “Haven’t these poor people suffered enough?”) Read the rest of this entry »

Friends With Books

Jun 27

In Books at 10:19am

Tim Mantoani, for most of the last 5 or 6 years, has been a man on a mission. His self assignment was the most daunting of tasks–to document historically important photographers, a group notably reluctant to trade places and get in front of lens instead of behind it. Further, he could not simply go to the photographers, and meet these constantly circulating creatures at such places as hotels, or airports, which they are known to frequent abundantly. No, he had to convince them to come to the camera, in this case, a behemoth Polaroid 20×24. Not exactly a street camera, its lens offers up a remarkably beautiful study of the subject standing in front of it, in this case, photographers, holding a print of their favorite, or most famous image. The camera, married with Tim’s simple, one light approach, has a certain stately quality, a rectitude, if you will, it seems to stamp its subjects with. Given the somewhat motley, ragtag assemblage of subjects constituting Tim’s project, this is a good thing. With each turn of the page, the book gains power,  authority and fascination. The photogs’ choices of imagery alone is intriguing, and offers a visual road map to some of the most famous images ever made, along with a look at the person who made it. It’s a worthwhile investigation on Tim’s part, a benchmark of photographic determination and tenacity. Well worth the time it took to create it. Very worth the time to turn the pages. Here’s a link to more info. And below, some of the subjects.

Neil Leifer

Barbara Bordnick

Douglas Kirkland

Jay Maisel

At the Polaroid studio, and an amazing array of portraiture.

Alex Webb has been on the streets and borders of the world, shooting color in his truly distinctive way, for over 30 years. The result is his new book, a startling, arresting survey from one of the most expressive color shooters in the history of the field. He has always been not so much after the facts of a place, but more of the feel of it. Called The Suffering of the Light, it was cited by American Photo as one of the books of the year.

Alex’s photographic energy flows from the street. An inveterate wanderer, he has never really hewed close to a narrative, rather, letting the wander itself become the narrative. You don’t really get the specifics and information of a place on earth, having looked at one of his many books, but you do get an emotional notion, be it a quiver, or a shudder, feel in the gut, for what it might be like to be there. He’s continually able to mesh the disparate, seemingly conflicting elements of turbulent, vibrant street life with a beautiful awareness of light, and the results are not so much answers or facts, but questions in color.

His mate, Rebecca Norris Webb, also a color photographer, just published an personal reminiscence of her time growing up in South Dakota, called My Dakota. Recently profiled in the NYT lens blog, the book is an intensely personal journey through open spaces, running counter to her most recent book, The Glass Between Us, which largely dealt with walls and confinement.

We all feel things when we’re kids, without really knowing what they mean, and those feelings, when you’re a photographer, inevitably surface in your work. The book is a return for her, I suspect, both visually and emotionally, to truly open skies and an earth not papered over with concrete, such as here in New York where she currently resides. Remarkably evocative, there is no urgency to the turn of the pages. Rather, with its color palette and framing, it encourages a certain languid type of looking, a slow and thoughtful pace, similar to the pace one might adopt if one were actually confronted with the heat, the skies, and the land of a truly sparse place such as South Dakota.

By contrast, there is an urgency to Stacy Pearsall’s book, Shooter. Though not available quite yet, it has already provoked strong reaction. Long time picture editor Jim Colton, formerly of Newsweek, currently at Sports Illustrated, said in a review: “The powerful images put a face, not only on our troops, but also on the civilians who are involuntarily brought into the fray. The images do not glorify but rather document the reality of war….through both critical and intimate moments. After seeing the photographs, the viewer will feel like they’ve just ridden shotgun with our troops abroad.”

There is the intensity of the observation of combat, made all that much more compelling by the simple fact that Stacy was not simply an empathetic observer, she was a soldier, on the streets with her unit. The fact that the soldiers she photographed were her friends, people she lived with, walked with and ate breakfast with, makes the book more than simply a compelling document. It makes it personal and emotionally resonant.

And Ron Martinsen, who just topped a million viewers of his blog, came out with a definitive guide to printing. Printing 101, An Introduction to Fine Art Printing, came out as an eBook recently and has rapidly gained a following as a definitive guide to getting the most out of your ink jet printer. Replete with interviews with printing masters such as Eddie Tapp, John Paul Caponigro, and Greg Gorman, the book is a 90 page road map to great prints.

And Steve Simon has chipped in with his latest book, The Passionate Photographer. A veteran observer of the human condition, Steve offers not only his pungent and heartfelt images, but a large store of practical advice for the shooter thinking they might be poised to take a plunge into the world of documentary photojournalism. As the cover suggests, he takes you through, step by step, the logic behind the passion–the planning, the research and the underpinnings that go into any sustained documentary effort. If you are taking up a camera with documentary intent, it’s well worth the read.

More tk….

A Book About Possibilities

Dec 5

In Books at 5:42am

It’s actually real. Just got sent a copy, and physically held it in my hands. It’s hefty, at 420 pages. I was feeling good for about thirty seconds, but I am cut no slack in my studio. Drew came up to me and nodded approvingly. “It’ll make a good doorstop,” he said.

So it goes. I do have apologies to offer, because this book was supposed to have been done long ago, and there are some folks (bless them) I’ve heard from who have left their pre-orders ride for over a year. Really, truly, apologize. The last couple years have been assignment work run amok, and I’ve had to improvise and re-invent our studio schedule constantly to just keep going out on location. (Which is where I am today, in an open field with a bunch of folks looking at me and expecting that I should know what to do next. Heh, heh–are they in for a surprise!) The delays weren’t entirely self-inflicted–I did wait to experiment with some light shapers, radio TTL and the like as they came on board. And, thankfully, we have been very assignment driven for the last year and a half. Lots of shooting. No down time.

This book was a long and winding road indeed. I looked at tried and true methods, new technology, big flash, and small flash. I experimented with lots of light shapers, both store bought and found, in the studio and on location. I pushed light through umbrellas and windows, off walls and cardboard, and into soft boxes and panels. I disclosed everything I did, via text, sketch and/or production photos. As I mentioned in the intro sections: “There’s a ton of basic information in this book. there are pictures, sketches, production photos, notes, and metadata. In most instances, I’ve divulged virtually everything you could want to know about any particular shoot, short of the color of my boxers. They’re generally blue, by the way, though I do have a couple of pinstriped numbers, and on really big shoots I wear my lucky thong. Joe make joke.”

A great deal of the book coalesces around the use of one light, be it a speed light, a Quadra, or something bigger. I also gaggle two or three speed lights into single sources (so they behave as one light) which is currently popular with new tools and light shapers coming on board.

Advanced techniques are discussed, but the book starts with one flash, hot shoed to the camera.

I take a look at radio TTL, and the new Pocketwizard technology, and examine all manner of triggering, from PW’s to Skyports to line of sight TTL to good old fashion manual slave operation.

There are lots of  production pix, such as the above, courtesy of Jay Mann, and sketches all over the place, courtesy of Numnuts.

The main deal with the book, and why I wrote it, actually, was to cover the gear, the nuts and bolts, the machinery if you will, very, very thoroughly. And then, having done that, get to the much more important questions about why we shoot. As I say, the “how” serves the “why.” There are several chapters called TITIK by my irrepressible editor, Ted Waitt, short for, “Things I Think I Know.” These are simply life lessons derived from 35 years of photography, all over the world, for all sorts of clients. Things to be aware of. Things to avoid. How to behave when things go wrong, knowing that they often do. Advice, if you will, on how to survive and navigate these perpetually uncharted waters.

Why big flash instead of small flash? Why does a certain face need a certain light? Why f11 as opposed to f2? Why would you choose one face over another? How to move fast, in a swirl of uncontrollable events, and keep your cool, light well, and come away with pictures. Building trust on the set, with models and crew. Self assigning, the key to everything. Mixing big flash and small flash. (The lede to that section: “THE BIG LIGHTS FORM YOUR SENTENCES. The little lights are the punctuation marks.”)

How to tell stories with light. How to use light as language. The underpinnings are technical, to be sure, and information about technique abounds in these pages. But the soul of the book resides in the realm of reasons we are compelled to use that technology to  shoot. And why, despite repeated failure, we never, ever lose that boundless enthusiasm the eye exudes when it is comfortably nestled into a lens. For those moments at the camera when everything works, I express thanks.

“…. I remain thankful to be a photographer. In the midst of the torrent of technology we swim in daily, the unchanging mission for all shooters is to make pictures that arrest the eye of the viewer and describe our chosen subjects eloquently. We are part of an honored tradition, that of storytelling, which goes back to the dawn of time. Those prehistoric people, painting on their cave walls—were they doing anything different than we are now, with all our pixels and technical wizardry? I think not. They were leaving their footprints, and telling the story of their times, and their lives. With those ancient pigments on those rough walls, they were saying one simple thing: Remember us.”

Remembrance is important, and the discussion of how we achieve significant remembrance, for us and our subjects, is ongoing and important. As I say, again, in the intro section….

“The discussion is important, because talking about this stuff makes us all better shooters. It’s just that when the talk starts and stops at the numbers, and the whole world revolves around the precious, soulless hardware in the bag, we miss the point. The point is the picture. The conversation starts there.

So we do need to know the numbers, and that’s a beautiful thing because they are, indeed, knowable. There are good, clear, reproduc- ible, precise approaches, distances, f-stops, and shutter speeds here in this book, and elsewhere. Sure-footed knowledge of technique feeds your pictures, and grows your confidence. and that confidence enables you to pursue ever more aggressively the answers to the far more interesting questions that are really the heart of the matter.

So read on, if you will. Study the numbers. Learn the techniques. Ask the questions. Create your own beautiful pictures. Risk failure. Court disaster. Entertain possibilities.”

This is a book about what might be possible when you pick up a camera.

More tk….