Visual Poetry by Chris Orwig Book Review

Clint Eastwood, Yvon Chouinard, J.R.Tolkien, Hemmingway, Picasso, Steinbeck, Henri Cartier-Bresson and many more people than I can recall.

What do these people have in common? They were all quoted in Chris Orwig’s book Visual Poetry. (amazon) In fact, when I fist started reading this book, I was amazed at all the great quotes that came up in the first couple of chapters. For example: “You can do brickwork as a laborer or as an artisan.” Anne Lamott, and “All children are artists. The problem is to remain one when you grow up.” Picasso.

So, I started to write them down (as you can tell). I wrote down more than a dozen as I started combing the pages looking for quotes. Then I realized that I wasn’t paying attention to what he was saying, but was just collecting quotes. Ok, lets leave that for another pass then.

I then really tried to absorb what was being taught in this book. I don’t know if it was because I was reading before I went to bed late at night, or between calls of “Daddy, daddy, daddy, look at me!”, but I had a hard time.

The book was starting to feel “over my head”, which I found really frustrating. I know tons about my camera and how to use it. I know rules of composition and what f-stop and lens to use when, but what Chris was saying was just not getting absorbed. It was starting to get hard to read. Many people loved this book, so I couldn’t give up on it. I had to finish it.

Three quarters of the way through, something connected when he started to talk about shooting portraits, then kids, then weddings. Maybe this was because of what I am shooting right now. I looked back through the previous chapters, and they didn’t seem all that different, so what had clicked? Was I starting to get it? Not quite yet.

What was getting to me at the beginning, was that Chris is a poet. He writes beautifully, takes great pictures, and I sometimes get lost in his words. I have trouble identifying with the artist in me, where he considers himself an artist who happens to use a camera to express his creativity.

Creativity is a scary word to me. I can understand technical things. I know what every button and dial on my camera does. I even read the camera manual. I can skim those things and absorb the material, but art, creativity and vision are works in progress.

I am starting to understand vision, thanks to David duChemin (book reference). At least partly. I am starting to get a handle on what I want a picture to look like before I take it. But then again, it is a lot of the technical aspects that I see in my head.

This idea of creativity flowing through me, generating ideas, and generating art. Bah. That isn’t me. Maybe this book just wasn’t for me. Maybe it is just one of those things that I put up on the shelf and move on. Maybe I’ll eBay it when I am finished. But I had to finish.

I had just finished the Found Objects chapter toward the end of the book, and was flipping back through the book. I was looking for something that I can’t remember now. I saw a section at the back of a chapter with exercises to do, and a flickr group to post to. Then I saw it for another chapter. Guess I skipped those. I looked at some of the suggestions, or assignments. Man, some of those are tough. 10 of them? “Good grief, how would I do that?”

Bam! It hit me like a Nikor 200-400mm lens dropped by Joe McNally from an airplane above me (not that he would do that). This book was a textbook on generating or finding my creativity. How did I miss that? I was being lazy! I was skipping over the most important part of each chapter. As I looked over the exercises that were suggested, I was getting even more ideas, and getting frightened/excited about how I would accomplish some of them.

I have now finished the book, but I haven’t really started. I am not sure what I was looking for when I started this book. Did I want to know how to “see” poetry? If I did, I wasn’t ready to see how much work it would take to get to the next level.

I started to then realize how the book/chapters were structured. There is much more here than use this f-stop and lens. That is not the reason to read this book. Each chapter talks about new ways of seeing. The photographer profiles are about people who see different, who see creatively. The exercises at the back are about learning to see differently. Learning how to see children, flowers, and even road signs, is what this book can teach you.

Some poeple are born with more talents than others. Some people have to put in more effort to get intouch with some aspects of our inner selves, such as our creativity. This is me, but for the first time I think I have found a textbook to get me going in the right direction. This is not a required course. I don’t have credits or loans sitting behind me to prod me to complete the course work. I just have a goal of creating more creative images that connect with the person viewing them.

Who’s with me. Care to go to creative school?

What is the first Digital Photography Book I should get?

Tdigital photography bookhe first book you should read is your manual. I know, I know, that is not what you wanted to hear. But you really do need to read your manual to understand what your camera can do.

What’s after that? What is the first Digital Photogarphy Book you should get? I would suggest, funny enough, the Digital Photography Book, by Scott Kelby. After that, check out the book page here on my blog.

Why did I suggest that book? For one thing, you don’t need a DSLR to do lots of the stuff in this book. It is easy to read, and written with quite a bit of humor. What Scott says, is that he is trying to explain things to you as if you were a shooting buddy that went out shooting with him. Kelby himself says in the book, that this is not the most technical of books, and if you want more detail, you will need to find another book. What you will get are simple recipes and instructions on how to do certain types of photography, and how to get certain types of shots.

You will also get introduced to some new equipment. Do you have to buy it? No, but some things do require some extra gear to get the best results. Photography isn’t a cheap hobby, but make sure that what gear you buy will be worth it for you.

There are two other volumes in this series. They get more advanced and more in depth with each volume. You will get more into flash photography, and using some other gear. Start with the first volume. It will give you a good exposure to what you might want to do with photography, and what gear you might put on your wish list.

Visionmongers Book Review

visionmongers book coverThe title: Visionmongers, Making a Life and a Living in Photography is a perfect title. It was written by David duChemin who writes the pixelatedimage blog. He also wrote the book “Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision“. (See also this “interview” I did with him after reading Within the Frame.)

This book is a blend of the two. David is very clear in this book that if what you want is to make a living in photography, he wants to help you find out how to make a life in photography. There is a difference. You need to find a way to do something that you enjoy, find a balance between work and family, and find a way to feed your family.

If you are thinking of leaving “your day job”, or have recently jumped ship, or are starting to make some money from photography, this book is for you. In fact, if you are a working photographer, and feeling frustrated, this is also probably a good read for you.

So how does David DuChemin tell you how to make a life in photography in Visionmongers? He scares the shit out you. Seriously. I put the book down several times to go shoot instead of read. I kept thinking “Am I really good enough?” (Which is something that he addresses.) I think this was somewhat his intention. David follows a thin line (successfully I think) where he tries to make sure you understand just what you would be getting into. This is not an easy road. This is not a glamorous job. This is not a two hours a day job. This is hard work. Damn, I gave away the killer secret in the book already. Oh well.

David doesn’t want to scare you out of the life of a photographer. He is not afraid of anyone taking his job. He has made is own job. That’s a big theme in this book: making your own job. He just wants to make sure you really want to do this.

So after getting shocked a couple of times, and trying to take a real look at who you are, what your photography is like, and where you want to go, if you are still reading, David is back to all smiles. Back to giving honest, practical information, and concrete ideas about how you can get going as a full time paid photographer. (Ok, the whole book is refreshingly honest, but the second part isn’t as scary 🙂

There is a ton of information in here that while very relevant to photographers, isn’t really about photography:

  • Understanding what you are good at, and what your market wants
  • Learning how to serve your customers and exceed expectations
  • Basic marketing (logo, business cards, website)
  • Importance of contracts and insurance
  • Understanding finances (assets, liabilities, debt, pricing)

You aren’t going to be reading this book to learn what you should be shooting. Look to “Within the Frame” for that. You are reading this book because you want to know exactly how to make the transition from amateur to professional. You get the answer. You get the answer from several people in fact: Chase Jarvis, Gavin Gough, Zack Arias, and some others. David and the others all say the same thing:

  • Be good at what you do (taking pictures with vision)
  • Find a market to serve (while doing what you love)
  • Work really really hard

No silver¬† bullets here, but there is sound information you can apply in your own journey. As someone who wants to make the transition, I think this book succeeds in preparing one for the journey ahead, and in providing some great “1st step” marketing business advice. David mentions some other books in this one as follow ups for some of the business and marketing ideas that he has presented too. Who knows they might end up getting reviewed here.

Anyway, if you fit the criteria I mentioned at the top, of a photographer that wants to transition to paid work, part or full time, or a beginning photographer that wants some more business advice, then this is a must read.

Holiday Book List

It seems like everyone is putting out a holiday book list this year, so I thought I would be a sheep, and add my two cents. I also thought I would try to be the last one to get one out. So, not in any particular order, this is a selection of what I would recommend this year.

Visual Poetry – Chris Orwig : This is a great book to feed your creativity and spark your imagination. This is not so much a book on how to use your camera, but how to use your imagination and creativity to get the images you want.

Vision Mongers– David duChemin : Case studies with working photographers, and discussion on what it takes to make a living with a camera in a way that feeds your soul. Only read this book it you want to step up from a hobby to the big leagues.

The Hot Shoe Diaries: Big Light from Small Flashes– Joe McNally : Speedlight master shows some amazing photographs and discusses how he lit them wrapped in great stories. Very entertaining, and instructional at the same time.

Digital Photography Book v3 – Scott Kelby : This is a great series with technical tips, tricks and know how, for the the beginning to intermediate photographer. If¬† you don’t have any of the series, get all three. You won’t be lost starting with the 3rd, but they do get a bit more advanced as the books progress.

Lightroom 2 for Digital Photographers– Scott Kelby : If you have been on the fence about Lightroom, buy this book, get the demo and sit down at your computer. Using this book you will be a maser of and convert to Lightroom in no time. Don’t set there wondering why and how people use Lightroom. This book will make you understand it’s power, and become proficient in no time.

Understanding Exposure– Peterson : This is not a new book, but a classic all the same. If you haven’t read it yet, you should to get an understanding of how to use light and aperture to get the look you are looking for.

Hot Shots Flip Books – David Ziser : Great set of little flip books with photos, lighting diagrams, and tech info on how to get the same shot. These are not books in the traditional sense, but worth a flip through to get ideas and how to light them. Keep them in your camera bag for when you are stuck.

A Hands-on Guide to Creative Lighting (DVD) – Nikon (Joe McNally & Bob Krist) : Ok, not a book, but educational none the less. Takes you from how to set up your speedlights in remote, through adding lights one by one in a studio setup, to several location shoots with Joe both indoor and out. Good stuff.

The Craft & Vision Collection– David duChemin (eBooks) These eBooks are great self-contained “chapters” that focus on one specific element of photography. Well worth getting at $5 a piece. There are 5 of them right now.

Interview with the War of Art author Steven Pressfield

the Art of WarA little while ago I posted a small post about reading the book “the War of Art” by Steven Pressfield. It was a good book, and it got me thinking about how resistance has started to plague me and my photography. I had some questions that were more photography specific than the book was, but¬† book reading is a one way medium right?

Apparently not. First, Steven is blogging, and has a Wednesday column that talks more about the things he mentioned in his book. The second, is that I was contacted by Callie, who works with Stephen and had seen my blog post, to see if I was interested in submitting some questions that I could then blog about!

The first thing that hit me was resistance telling me that my questions would be no good, and that Steven wouldn’t even want to answer them. How appropriate! I shook it off, wrote down my questions, and sent them off. Here are the answers that Steven provided.

Chris: Your book seems to be directed at writers and painters. Do you think that the principles of fighting resistance apply to photographers as well?

Steven: Absolutely.  I didn’t think so at first, but that was just because I was dumb.  I originally thought the principles of Resistance would be of interst only to writers; in fact the title I had in my mind was “The Writer’s Life.”  My editor and publisher, Shawn Coyne, said, “No, this is much bigger than that; this applies to all artists.”  So he came up with “The War of Art.”  But since the book has been published and I’ve gotten letters and e-mails from readers, I’ve learned that Resistance is out there everywhere.  What has surprised me most is the number of letters I’ve gotten from entrepreneurs—and the number of coaching/management/leadership/business blogs and seminars that have responded with great enthusiasm to the book.

What is an entrepreneur?  Dan Sullivan of Strategic Coach has a great definition.  He says an entrepreneur is someone who “does not expect to receive compensation (i.e. money) until he has created value for somebody else.”  That would be all of us artists, including photographers.

For me, from what I’ve learned since The War of Art was published, I’d say that anyone who is trying to follow a vision—writer, photographer, business person—will experience Resistance.  Anyone who needs to self-motivate, self-discipline, self-validate will find himself fighting that fight and facing those demons.

Chris: You mention both art and craft in your book. I think many photographers, myself included, go back and forth thinking their work is art, or craft. Is it both, or does it not matter, and it is just another form of resistance?

Steven: Photography is both art and craft, wouldn’t you agree, Chris?  The technical side of it could be called craft, just as in writing, stuff like structure, composition, etc. is craft – that is, it’s something that can be taught and something that can be learned.  But of course photography is art too.  That’s the part that can’t be taught.  Resistance, I think, comes in to the art part.  It’s not so hard to learn craft; we can apprentice ourselves to a master and learn it, just like going to school.  But the art part can only come from our own vision—and for that we have to face Resistance on our own.

Craft can be a huge help to overcoming Resistance, I think.  It gives us the tools we need to enact our vision.  And just the doing to something physical—the lighting, the composition, the tech stuff—can help get our momentum going.  After that though, it’s all up to us and our vision.

Chris: What is it about resistance that makes it so strong when we try to move from taking pictures for fun to trying to make a living from them? What do you think the best tool for photographers would be trying to make that transition, and battling resistance?

Steven: Wow, that’s a great question.  I’m not sure I have a good answer.  I think what you mean is that Resistance kicks in hard when the stakes are raised, when we go from being an amateur (whose heart is only partly invested in the act) to a professional, who is in it, heart and soul.  This comes down to a question of courage and commitment.  How much do we want it?  How important to us is pursuing our dream?  The more Resistance (i.e. fear) we feel, the surer we can be that we have to do it, for the sake of our owns souls – and the greater the damage will be to our inner world if we fail to do it.

There’s a tech term in mountaineering called “exposure.”  A climber is “exposed” when there is a drop underneath him.  By that definition, we can be ten feet from the summit of Everest and not be exposed, if there’s a nice shelf two feet underneath us.  On the other hand, we can be exposed when we’re only ten feet above sea level, if that ten feet is a pure drop.  What’s the answer when we’re exposed?  Whatever it takes to give us the courage to keep going.  It does come down to that, I think.  It may be recklessness that works for us, or a vision of ourselves as warriors or professionals or gunslingers or “chosen ones.”  Maybe we just see ourselves as crazy and go for it.  Or the pain of not doing it may be so great that we have no choice but to do it.  The best I can say, Chris, is that EVERYBODY feels it.  Nobody’s immune.  It’s kind of like a first-time Mom giving birth; it seems absolutely impossible when you think about it—and yet women have been doing it for millions of years and they keep on doing it.


Thank you very much Stephen. I appreciate that you took the time to answer my questions. I am sure that the people reading your answers got something out of it. Readers, don’t forget to check out Steven’s blog, and Wednesday column.

Photoshop Lightroom 2 for Digital Photographers

lightroom2The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby is too long a title for a book. But I will forgive Kelby for the title seeing as the book is such a great resource for Lightroom.

I had decided to give Lightroom 2 a trial 30 day workout. I figured that if I wanted to really get into the software, I should get a book so I didn’t get bogged down. I have a couple of other books by Scott, and figured that this one would be good too. I wasn’t disappointed. I like his writing style, and his “just explaining to my pal” way of telling you how to do things.

From my last post, you can tell that I really liked Lightroom 2. I wonder how much of that was from the book. I started by reading the book before I even imported some images. When I went to import, I knew exactly how I was going to set up my import, how I would apply some basic meta data on import, and most importantly, that I should go get a sandwich while the import process happened.

There is a lot of good info and tips in this book. Many books on how to use software are of the sort where they go through menu options, and buttons and tell you what they do. Not really that useful. But thankfully, this book is not like that. It is truly useful. For example, in the beginning chapters on importing, he covers the pro’s and cons of where you might store your photos, and how you might organize your folder structure. How to convert your RAW files to DNG seemed simple enough, and I decided to do that on import. I doubt I would have without the book. Now I get my metadata like keywords saved back into the DNG file without needing a sidecar file. I doubt I would have figured this out without the book. Explanations on creating metadata templates for copy write info, file name templates, practical info on what the initial preview setting actually does and how much time it adds to import if you pick 1:1 round out some of the other useful things I picked up.

Coming from Aperture, there are many things similar, but sometimes you make assumptions that can be frustrating if you don’t get some help. It was great to find out some of the things that Scott himself uses to make his workflow easier. I liked all the short cuts he gave, and how to switch between viewing modes, and especially how to use the lights out mode to see just your image. I still don’t use short cuts with Aperture. The way Lightroom stores images and how best to use collections and the way he sorts his images was all great info. I may not use or set up Lightroom exactly the same way, but hearing how someone else is using it is a great start instead of just clicking around hoping what you are doing is a good idea.

I think that if I was to go on about this book, it would end up being the same thing about every section. Scott tells you exactly how he uses Lightroom, some other possibilities, and shortcuts on how to do it. Everything is explained in a very simple manner as if he was standing over your shoulder telling you what to do. The images perfectly complement the text. There are just the right number of images that help you figure out what is going on. This just happens chapter after chapter. For example, I jumped ahead and tried to use the printing module in Lightroom without reading that part of the book. I figured some of the stuff out, but was getting confused about margins. After reading that chapter, it all makes sense. And he doesn’t just have a paragraph on how to set margins, he shows you how to create a couple of different print layouts, which shows you how to use almost all aspects of the tool with real examples. This is why this is a great¬† book.

If you plan on getting Lightroom, or even if you want to really get a good sense of the software during the 30 day trial, I definitely recommend this book. Get it before you download the trial or buy Lightroom and read the first few chapters. It will make your time with this tool much more useful and productive.

Interview with David duChemin

Within The Frame by David duCheminDavid duChemin is a photographer, blogger and author of the book Within the Frame.

Note: This is not really an interview with David. He was not involved with this at all. This is just me misappropriating his words from his book. My leading questions, his words taken completely out of context…

Chris: Hey David, lets get right to the questions. Would you say this book is just for professional, travel, or aspiring travel photographers?

David: It’s a book for everyone who’s wanted to shoot images of the places and people they love, whether or not they ever go around the world to do it.

Chris: So your goal with this book is to reach all types of photographers, not just travel photographers?

David: If you come away with anything from this book, I hope it is a renewed resolution to seek and serve your vision through this elegant craft.

Continue reading

More David duChemin

David seems to be everywhere recently, including the guest post on Scott Kelby’s blog. He talks about the coming revolution in photography where photographers will give up the endless techno-bable and talk about the images themselves. I hope people like David can continue to lead the way adn that people will listen.

David is even in my living room. Well, at least his book his. I tripped over the Amazon box with his book Within the Frame two days ago. I wish I¬†had more time¬†to read¬†it, but I am really enjoying it so far. Reading David’s blog has really pushed me to think about the images. “Gear is good, vision is better.” as he would say. I came at this whole thing from more of a technical geek backbround, and the creative/art process is much harder for me to grab hold of. People like David are helping me get there.

I have only just started the book. It is a great read so far though. It feels like he is sitting in your living room telling you all this info. Just like a conversation on the couch. He has a great way of writing that feel like he is speaking directly to you.

RC (of layers magazine) posted his first impressions, and I can’t believe how similar they are to mine. To the point that I don’t have anything to add other than to suggest you check his post.

Hot Shoe Diaries Review

Hot Shoe Diaries by Joe McNallyI am finally finished reading my copy of the Hot Shoe Diaries by Joe McNally. If you want to check out what Joe had to say, here are links to a couple posts from his blog. But don’t forget to come back 🙂

Why did it take so long? Is it that dry? Far from it. It is an awsome book. Joe manages to work in quotes from several movies, including the Princess Bride. That was funny. I like his style of writeing. It might not be for everyone. Joe writes just like I imagine him talking, if he was talking to me. Just one photographer who has been around the block (or globe, really) to another photographer who wants to know more about this whole lighting thing. It feels very personal. You get to step into the shoes and life of someone who has taken shots with 47 Speedlights, or maybe it was 108. Not sure.

The book doesn’t really have seperate chapters per say. Some of the content is grouped into chapters, but the content is really one shoot. So it feels like every 2-4 pages is another chapter. This is good and bad. It’s great because I can read little bits at a time. I can read about one shoot while waiting for my kids to finish something. I can read about another shoot just before bed. You never have to stop in the middle of one of thes sections, because you only ever have a page or so to go. That’s where it got me. I never sat down with the intention of reading the whole thing, or 40 pages at a time. I just read bits and pieces every once in a while. Now that it’s done though, I wish there was more. I will probably start over with the location shoots again. I did with his previous book The Moment it Clicks too.

I found myself stairing at the pictures and rereading the text, trying to figure out where all the lights were hidden. He calls it a game of inches. Some of the lights are set up to just give that extra little flick of light that most wouldn’t notice, but taken all together, make for extrodianary images. I would find myself tyring to figure out the sight lines for the triggers too. How did he manage to fire that SB900 that is outside shooting through the window? With two extension cords from the hotshoe to a MU800 bounced off a reflector? What? Really?

As I am starting to get more and more into using little flashes, I am realizing just how amazing his pictures are. The lighting diagrams that he has in his head are astonishing. How he can look at a scene and know how to light it is still beyond me. Never mind the pulling it off. And yet it tells you how to do it. It’s all there. You just have to go out and give it a try yourself.

Thanks Joe. The book is great. I learned a lot, and expect to learn more as I reread it. I hope you sell a truckload. (To other non photographers that won’t try to put this knowledge to use 😉

Within the Frame Why-To Book Preview.

Within The Frame by David duCheminWithin the Frame, David duChemin’s upcoming book¬†is going to print. This looks to be a great book There is a preview of the book out including the chapter on Storytelling. (See the above link to Davids site for the link to the preview) The pictures look great, and the story he wants to tell seems right on with what I was hoping for. His why-to book has some similarities to “The Photographers Eye” by Michael Freeman in his approach to composition, but David’s writing style is less technical and more personal. (That is a book David recommends) I am looking forward to the whole book, which should be out in a month.