Elsa Dorfman, the photographer best-known for her portraits captured with a 20×24-inch Polaroid camera, passed away this week at the age of 83. We wrote a little bit about her in our January newsletter, in reference to Errol Morris’ delightful documentary from 2017, The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography.
Living in Cambridge, Mass. (the hometown of Polaroid), Dorfman was a master of the Polaroid 20×24 large-format camera, a behemoth of which only a handful were made. Over the course of 30+ years, Dorfman photographed family members and celebrities in her studio with the large camera, usually preparing two photographs on the instant-film format: one for her and the other for her subject. Now, as supplies of the film are drying up, and with her own advancing age, Dorfman is winding her studio down. (If you’d like a deeper dive into Dorfman and her work, Harvard Magazine did an extensive feature on her, “The Portraitist,” a few years ago.)
I have been in a photographic funk of late, unable to get into the right frame of mind to shoot. Last week, in the midst of this struggle, I knew that I needed to force myself back into my photography practice. I gave myself an assignment: go out for an afternoon and challenge myself, using one lens at a single focal length.
I use this exercise from time to time, to push me out of my comfort zone and get my mind unstuck. I’m not looking for great photographs; I’m looking to practice the art of seeing. And the great thing about choosing a single focal length — whether using one setting on a zoom or a prime lens — is that it forces me to move around a scene. If I find that I’m receptive to the exercise (it doesn’t always work), it can help me see.
April 24, 2020 by Rick LePage & filed under Printing
Epson this week announced the SureColor P700 and P900 printers, updates to their SureColor 13- and 17-inch, pro-level photo printer line. The new desktop printers offer a smaller footprint; a new pigment-based inkset with 10 inks; improved color gamut; and enhanced connectivity and paper-handling options. In addition — and possibly the most important enhancement for many photographers — the P700/P900 printheads have dedicated channels for the matte and photo black inks, eliminating the previous generation’s ink- and time-consuming process of switching black inks when moving between glossy and matte paper types.
When speaking with students, Ben and I will often talk about the importance of projects as an element in one’s photographic growth. While we tend to talk about this in the context of practicing, projects can take on a life of their own, and can help motivate you, either when you’re out in the field, or simply to get you out shooting. It can also be the type of thing that can fine tune your ultimate photographic vision.
A project can be anything thematic, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be of tangible ‘things,’ although it can be, like Ben’s tree project, which he mentioned in Chapter 9 of Complete Digital Photography (that chapter is available as a free download from the book support page):
One way to make yourself practice, and to breathe new life into familiar locations, is to give yourself an assignment. You can choose a subject—old cars, doorways, local flowers—or maybe a phrase or a word—contentment; no pain, no gain; a penny saved. The subject matter or word doesn’t have to mean anything to anyone else, and you can interpret it any way you want. The idea is simply to give yourself some way to frame your view of your location. Having a specific point of view or photographic goal will often make you see familiar ground in a new way. I like shooting trees, so I keep an ongoing tree project. Often, going out with the idea of shooting trees takes the pressure off; I don’t have to worry about finding subject matter. The world is a big place, and limiting it can make shooting much simpler.
In a world where photographs are everywhere, displayed largely via web pages and small screens, the traditional career tracks for professional photographers have fallen by the wayside. So what do you have to do to make photography your livelihood in today’s world? I recently moderated a lively discussion on this topic with two professional photographers based in Portland, Oregon: Hudson Henry and Dan Hawk. In this short, thirty-minute video, we talk about how each photographer turned their passion for photography into a career, how to keep your outlook fresh, and the role of diversification in building a successful business. Click the link below to watch.
At the end of October, 2019, my photo library contained approximately 60,000 images, mostly taken over the past 20 years. (Of those, nearly 40% are from the past five years.) Comparing the size of my library with those of friends of mine, I’m about average, but still, 60,000 is a big number, and managing that many photos can be a bit intimidating. I once topped out at 80,000 photos, but about six years ago I came up with an exercise — pruning a single year’s worth of photos — that has helped me get my library better organized and more efficient. As a photo-management tool, I felt it was worth sharing here.
The editing conundrum
I tend to do the majority of my editing — culling, sorting and post-processing — on my most recent photos. For example, out of a shoot where I end up with 600-800 images, I’ll quickly get that to upwards of 50 selects, and I will then spend most of my time working on those photos. The rest soon get lost into the archives. It’s not that they’re unimportant, but they aren’t compelling to me at the moment, and as such, they end up disappearing. As time goes on, and I take more photos, it becomes harder to find key photos from the past (at least those non-portfolio photos), or to even know what I might have hidden that is of some value.
You can now purchase the electronic edition of Complete Digital Photography in PDF, ePub (Apple, some e-readers), Kindle azw3, and Mobipocket versions. When you buy the ebook in our store — currently on sale for $25 — we include download links for all four book formats. Choose the version that applies to your desired device, and follow that device’s guidelines for installing the book.
Further information on the file types is listed below.
PDF is designed for use with Windows and Mac computers, and can be opened with most PDF reader applications, including the free Preview app (macOS), and Adobe Reader (Windows, macOS). The PDF can be printed directly from most of those apps.
ePub can be read by many ebook readers, including Apple Books (macOS and iOS), Calibre, Sigil, and others.
azw3 is the format used on most Kindles made after 2011. It offers superior typographic options, better graphics handling and more. If you’re sure that you have a recent Kindle, try the azw3 file first — it looks a lot better than the Mobi format. (Note that azw3 files cannot be viewed in the Kindle app on iOS devices; you’ll need to use Mobi, or download the ePub version for the Apple Books app.)
Mobipocket is the original Kindle format; this version should be viewable on all third-generation Kindles and above. Use this if you have an older Kindle, or want to use the Kindle app on iOS.
One final (and important) note: Please respect the work and the time that we’ve put into Complete Digital Photography by not sharing these files. These files are intended solely as a study aid and reference; we have priced the book (which has more than 400 pages of content!) so that it is affordable for most people.
December 18, 2019 by Rick LePage & filed under Workshops
Join Hudson Henry and me on a special, six-day photo workshop in Cuba, April 4-9, 2020. It promises to be a magical photographic and cultural experience:
Cuba is one of the more exciting, rich photographic locations I’ve been to in a long time. Wonderful people, great landscapes and cityscapes, gorgeous beaches, music and good food abound. We’re going to have a ton of fun on this all-inclusive workshop to explore Cuba and its culture. Our group will be traveling on pre-arranged ‘help the Cuban people’ visas and we will meet, photograph and interact with artists and local craftspeople.
We will ride in vintage cars through Old Havana, and see how cigars are made…and we’ll meet with Cuban artists — including a dinner with local photographers.…This trip is not just a photo workshop; it will also be a cultural exchange, and I think you’re going to be amazed at how special the experience is.
This workshop is priced at $4,495, and is all-inclusive; during the first part of the trip, we will stay in a beautiful, private residence in Old Havana, then we will move to a hotel with spectacular dawn and sunset views in the limestone-rich agricultural valley of Vinales. Come join us on this special, once-in-a-lifetime workshop.
Additional 2020 workshops: Kauai, Portland, Yellowstone, Tetons and Moab
Hudson is also leading a workshop to Kauai in late February, complete with an open-door helicopter tour; there are a few spots left, but they will go quickly. He will be assisted in this workshop by his good friend (and amazing photographer in his own right) David Archer.
I will be helping Hudson run a number of other workshops in 2020, including Portland (July 31 to August 3), Yellowstone National Park (Oct. 2-6), Grand Tetons National Park (Oct. 9-13), and Moab (Oct. 16-21). Signups for the latter three workshops aren’t open yet, but you can add your name to the priority waitlist on each workshop page, which will get you the first shot to sign up.