Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Tag: bob krist

Of Indians, Landscapes and Pooping Dogs

All things being equal, The Sky, The Moon and the Mountain.

All things being equal, The Sky, The Moon and the Mountain.

I found myself roaring through desert canyon land over a hundred miles an hour astride a 1810 CC Indian Chief Vintage. I had companions; a lithe young photographer who specializes in portraits blazing alongside in a huge Harley Davidson, and the other just as opposite but more magnetic, a night photographer completely ecstatic as he was rolling on an Indian Scout. Oh, and there was a King with his Queen on another big Harley Davidson Road King, of course.

The strategic tilt is executed in the Valley of Fire. I loved the shadows from the bushes.

The strategic tilt is executed in the Valley of Fire. I loved the shadows from the bushes.

We cut a road that allowed sprits to pass over as we became ghosts leading each other into the Valley of Fire. In this baptism I would attempt to solve a puzzle of the landscape photograph. Not to capture a good one, but to make a great one. One that will undeniably NOT have a strong centralized subject found as a singular element, but rather as a whole would sustain the image.

Like Malcom said, Life finds a way.

Like Malcom said in Jurassic Park, “Life finds a way”.

The Indian was taking us there clad in chrome and distressed leather. I had one camera, one intention, and lots of questions. The camera was a versatile Sony RX10 that held a long range Zeiss lens that would deliver my vision, and the questions would be in my self critique. Would these images stand up to my own Occam’s razor?

Cliffhangers of Zion

Cliffhangers of Zion

Teaching alongside Bob Krist, Michael Melford, and Ralph Lee Hopkins, this National Geographic trio spoke about the “Pooping Dog” in the image. Of course not literally (but hey it could work if not reeking of ‘lowbrowness’) but metaphorically as an element that is identifiable as the subject and plays an interesting role in the image. The pooping dog tells the story and narrates the message of the image. The pooping dog has a bark and a bite for the image to be successful. Without a pooping dog, the image is flat, lifeless and not fully accomplished.

The Valley of Fire.

The Valley of Fire.

In my critique classes, I frequently admonish beginners for not having the pooping dog in their images. But what happens when you are in a gorgeous landscape, the light is right, you have the time and tools but no pooping dog? Can you still make a compelling image? The challenge of landscape photography is that.

Valley of FIre

Valley of FIre

I found the answer to be what I suspected: if the aesthetic of the image is extremely strong, and the execution dynamic enough, then you can avoid an obvious and demonstrative main subject. The photograph becomes its own gestalt that moves a viewer.

The Three Horses of the Valley of Fire.

The Three Horses of the Valley of Fire.

Did the Indian take me there? Was I able to channel my inner Ansel Adams and execute a formidable American Landscape? I guess i shall have to continue on the road to see if I did.

The Road to Upper Zion

The Road to Upper Zion


On Wanting, Achieving and Sacrifice.

Selfie and found mirror in the Lower East Side. Winter.

Selfie and found mirror in the Lower East Side. Winter.

I do not believe in limits. I do not believe any thing is beyond ones reach nor any goal unobtainable. The only limit you have is weighted against how much you want to achieve that goal and accomplish what you set.

I hate to hear excuses; I feel they hide the hard cold facts to your self. An excuse is certainly easier than the path to fulfillment. I know that I am not treading any new ground, but that wont stop me from elaborating on why I feel this way. I also feel I can add to the established “rah rah- go do it- yes I can- no whining” motivation camp.

First let’s just get honesty out of the way. You have to be honest with your self and understand that you simply can do anything you want. Anything short of achieving the goal rests sorely with you. I wont even entertain the idea of realistic goals, all are achievable and some are more probable and some less. If you don’t believe anything is probable then let us first start off with the 44th President of the United States, President Barack Hussein Obama as an example. Who would have thought a black man, with an Arab name could reach the highest office (arguably in the world) just a generation away from the civil rights movement and post 911 America? Want a different spin on that achievement? Lets look at this scenario, a mediocre actor becoming the president of the USA? How about taking a Hassalblad up to the moon and doing some … moonscapes? In our history there are countless stories of amazing acts of goal achievements.

I would like to use an example someone a little more humble and down to earth, the photographer Michael Murray. I worked with Mike at B&H in the marketing department and sales since the early 2000’s. Bravely, about 6 or so years ago, Mike took a big chance and left B&H to pursue his passion of photography. He walked away from a nice salary, health benefits, and stability. He diligently worked hard to make fine art photography and sell it in the cold, in the rain for12 months out of the year on the streets of NYC locations such as; Union Square, Central Park, Holiday Markets, Mike didn’t stop and busted his ass. He developed his own unique style, stayed the course and now, he will live on beyond his years, with his work published from the crème de la creme of book makers, 21st Century Editions. Take a look at the “Worlds Apart” video.  I must also note that in the interim, Mike got married and had his first daughter.

I hear the books will be extremely collectable and costly. I’m sure that prime gallery representation will follow and Mike from freezing street artist will catapult to Chelsea gallery artist. How did he do it?

He sacrificed. He redirected every aspect of his life to accomplishing the goal and pursuing it. He flirted heavily with the bohemian and realigned his priorities be able to put him self in the position to create art. These included; changing his environment from the costly central to the provincial, managing resources carefully and mostly of all, not stopping. Michael continued to be a photographer, making images, exploring the medium, and bringing it to market. He quit his day job to follow the path of the artist and he is well on his way down the golden path. I’m sure it took a few turns and detours, and the days were dark at times, and the bank account hovering at that dangerous level of emptiness. In the end, Michael Murray wants it. And he got it.

Time is a funny thing, you may want it now, but most times, now has to wait. Staying toasty though, keeping eyes open and on the road, time goes by and you are closer to the goal. Often the goal morphs into a similar reality, and one you didn’t actually plan for, yet by following the passion a new door opens and while not the original goal exactly in detail, it is a similar strata or for lack of a better word, “awesomeness”. Time changes the face of the goal but not its essence.

Whale fluking in Alaska. Shot on the Lindblad Vessel, Sea Bird. Canon 1DSmk2 with 300mm 2.8 processed in Silver FX.

Whale fluking in Alaska. Shot on the Lindblad Vessel, Sea Bird. Canon 1DSmk2 with 300mm 2.8 processed in Silver FX.

Those seeking the path or those on the path, there is a lesson here. Listen to the inner voice, follow your heart and be the artist you are. Bob Krist and Michael Melford taught me that Nat Geo Magazine isn’t in the business of publishing excuses, they publish photographs.

Dream, dream big. No excuses.


DSLR is Dead, Long live DSLR

Gene Simmons of Kiss, still spewing blood after 40 years.

The grumblings of this rumor started with my friend Brandon a few weeks ago. We’re both “photo industry” guys and we are privy to charts, numbers and insider information (of course this is photo industry insider info so we wont be chillin’ with Bernie Maddox) about cameras and the technology that drives them. In the past few days after the big Photokina show (photo industry trade show in Europe where half the new camera’s of the year are announced) a flurry of “Mirrorless” cams were announced. Also back in January 2012, photo blogger and all around good guy, Trey Ratcliffe posted “DSLRS are a dying Breed”. Seems a lot of attention is being mentioned online about the future of camera gear and it seems the poor old DSLR is getting it’s mirrored rump slapped.  However, I disagree whole-heartedly with these predictions.  The DSLR is a vital tool in photography, it has its place and shant be replaced with a Mirrorless camera they way the DSLR made the film based SLR obsolete. On the contrary, DSLR lenses and functionality will continue to increase and become much more popular as the coveted full size sensor becomes more affordable. For a long time I believe, at least a few more generations of photographers. Many of my students ask which is better? I don’t believe one is better than the other inherently, but which is better matched to the user. I do get rankled when I hear that DSLR is dead. I think far from it. Very far, like galaxy far.

First I’m going to characterize the users, the photographers who will be making images so we can establish what they need. The first letter will act as code applying to the following lists, the strong points and weak points of DSLR vs. Mirrorless and which photographer can benefit. This is a very fair way of evaluating the merits of each class of camera.

Types of Photographer

<PP> Pro Photographer: Someone who pays for their food and shelter with money generated by photographs they make. In most cases, they will specialize in genre such as journalism, fashion, portrait, event (weddings and such), sports, commercial (companies need photos of all the time), fine art, and the a common one, the “freelancer” who will shoot just about anything to make buck. Often they may have studied photography in school and fallen in love with the medium. Pro Photographers often blur the lines teaching, lecturing, testing and taking on new projects as they present themselves. But for all, this is their primary source of income.

<AH> Advanced Hobbyist: Someone who loves photography including the images, the gear, and the simple act of clicking a shutter and capturing a slice of time and place. They can be fanatical in their pursuit of photography. They purchase the latest gear, they take photo trips and join clubs and enter photo competitions. If their 2.0 minded, they might also have a heavy online presences with social media such as Flickr, Pinterist and such. I’m also going to put the fine art photographer in this category. The emphasis is on vision with a solid versatile camera for the needs of these shooters.

<CS> The Casual Shooter: They would never call themselves a photographer, they just seek to document important people and occasions in their life. They are the vacationers, family, and friends. They are not usually artistic nor the have the inclination to really care about the finer aspects of a good photograph. They often know a good photo when they see one, but their quest is to record a slice of time and place sharply, well exposed and with a minimal of effort and size.

What cameras will this generation be shooting with? BadAss I’d say!

Merits and Shortcomings of DSLR and Mirrorless

Long lenses: Long and fast telephoto optics is plentiful for the DSLR. Since these lenses tend be long and heavy, having a larger camera on the back of them really helps your maneuver the whole package to get what you want. PP, AH

Easy Ergonomics Due to Larger Size Camera: DSLR are indeed larger, and that can help by providing more space to put buttons and larger buttons at that. The Olympus Pen cameras in particular have very small and annoying buttons to navigate menu and camera features. Having a good grip on the camera can help make it more easy to use and less fumbling. This rings so true when working with heavy fast optics. PP, AH, CS

WYSIWYG or “What you see is what you get”: No matter how good a EVF (electronic view finder) is, your still looking at pixels. Movement, gain, grain is all presented in the viewfinder if your lucky and even have one on Mirrorless cameras. That archaic mirror reflex system found on DSLRs lets you see in analog, like the world was meant to be seen. I don’t want to compose looking at a TV screen, because that’s exactly what an EVF is, a miniature TV. I’d rather look at the real world when I’m making a photograph. I want to “feel” the place and find the image. I have never been a huge fan of video games and seeing the scene gives it more tangibility.  PP, AH

Pros shoot with Pro “looking” Cameras: Show up to shoot a wedding with the same camera that Uncle Bob has will make the Bride wonder why they are paying you the big bucks. It may be superficial to make this claim, but it’s true. There are different levels that a pro photographer can attain. Lets say the highest is shooting for Vogue, you will need to project an image to have access to this type of photography, and yes, a Hassalblad H4 will impress the art directors, models, and most important, the client. Show up with a Panasonic GH3 and your going to get laughed at. PP

Value: $500 bucks gets you a really nice DSLR. $3000 gets you’re an extremely capable camera. I think that there are great values in the range of DSLR’s out there. CS

Compact and Light Weight: For the photographer who travels, this is fantastic. Hauling around lots of heavy and cumbersome gear is annoying and for some folk prohibitive. Many of my female students have small hands, and the smaller cameras fit into them better. Some of my students have been older and between arthritis and other physical reasons a smaller camera is easier on their wrists and back. The photographer Bob Krist who is known as a travel photographer likes to use these smaller cams because he is restricted often by weight limits on bush planes. CS, AH (and sometimes the PP if travel is their specialty)

Performance vs. Cost: Bigger sensors provide more information and can yield a better image. Especially if your printing large or will be cropping. Larger sensors to tend to also have a greater dynamic range to capture highlight and shadows. As of 2012, it is less expensive to purchase a DSLR with a APS-C size sensor than a comparable mirror-less camera. The Canon Rebel T3  costs $479 which is the least expensive DSLR on the market. The least expensive Mirrorless that has a APS-C size sensor, the Sony NEX 5n is $499. All the other models of Mirrorless that have APS-C size or micro 4/3 are much more expensive. CS 

Lens Selection: You can mount more lenses without adaptors onto the DSLR system. While this may be true you may never venture out to using a 1970’s vintage Canon FD, Nikon AI or maybe that hip Russian Zenit lens. Mirrorless cameras can use various mount adaptors that can be costly but usually the focus will be hampered by the EVF. The only one that does it well is Sony with their focus peaking feature, but I don’t care to evaluate focus with shimmering white dot matrixes personally. PP, AH

Cool Factor: DSLR cams hearken back to the golden era of film based 35mm photography. There is nothing like making pictures with a SLR, the clicking sound, the heft of the camera and the strapping on of a camera that says Nikon. Mirrorless cameras are radical and hi-tech. they often don’t even look like a camera. AH, CS

Talk to the skull, er I mean hand.

I hope this post sheds light on the recent debate. As for me, I chose the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 mainly because it gave me parallax corrected viewfinder, performance, and size plus a whole lotta cool factor. I stand by saying that any camera in the hand of a person who has vision and some technical skill can make a great image from that camera. Can they make many? Then it takes the right camera to photographer combo.

The place is really jumping to the Hiwatt amps,
‘Til a 20-inch cymbal fell and cut the lamps,
In the blackout they dance right into the aisle,
And as the doors fly open even the promoter smiles,
Someone takes his pants off and the rafters knock,
Rock is dead, they say,
Long live rock, long live rock, long live rock

The Who

~David Brommer

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