Success in Failure


I have had a desire to try this for some time. When Pamela and I vacationed in Maui, we went to the beach, just a few blocks from our Condo to attempt to capture a photograph of the spirit of the ocean.

She is infinite and dark, beautiful and terrible all at once. This was the best I was able to do, but it was a first attempt. I like this photo because it represents to me possibility. There is an idea here I want to explore more.

I hesitated posting this because this one of very personal to me, for a variety of reasons.

I have very much favored the work of several notable abstract expressionists, most personally Mark Rothko. His color fields speak to me on a visceral level, something older than I am, something ancient inside of me. I want this photo to feel the same, it does not.

This is also a pretty big departure from the other work I generally do. Though this fits into my travel photography, it is uniquely different.

I consider this photo a success even though it isn’t exactly my intent. Even when we fail, the results can be unexpectedly wonderful!

Moulin Rouge

Pig Alley

The world famous Mouiln Rouge in Paris is a cabaret built in 1889 and is known to we Americans as the place that made the cancan famous. It is located near Montmartre though I believe it is technically in Pagalle, a section of the city know for its more lurid nature. We though perhaps it was better to avoid some parts of the Quartier at night, but honestly I think Times Square back in the 90’s was more of an event. The shows can get sort of expensive at Moulin Rouge (Red Windmill literally translated) and there wasn’t anything we particularly wanted to see though from the photo you can see we missed Les Petits Chevaux du Moulin Rouge (The Small Horses of Moulin Rouge)…oh well maybe next time.


This is a three bracket exposure (-2, 0, +2) taken on a gorillapod. The brackets were combined in Photomatix, cleaned up in Photoshop, enhanced with Nik Software, and finished in Lightroom. Total processing time was around 1 hour.

Le Consulat

Noir Streets

It had been raining most of the day in Paris. The streets were still very damp the night Pamela and I walked the hill to Sacre Coeur through Montmartre. I had been looking for the Le Consulat building, everyone takes a photo of it when they visit Montmartre; it sort of stands out among the other buildings. Because of the rain the cobblestone streets in this old part of town seemed very black. Much like one of those wonderful old Film Noir movies I so love. I was, photographically speaking, happy for the continuing mist that kept things damp that night, even though it made for a chillier walk. I think Pamela described the mist with different words.

On Other Photographers

There probably isn’t much doubt that I really enjoy my photography. I take it more seriously than a good number of things and as such I spend quite some time scouring the web looking for inspiration, ideas…challenges to issue to myself. I recently stumbled upon (actually it was Google+) a photographer named Elia Locardi who runs the site Blame the Monkey. I was blown away by Elia’s work with color. It made me stop and think about where I place my emphasis during post. His work seemed to issue a challenge to me to pay closer attention to leading the viewer’s eye and color in my own images. Today’s photo of Le Consulat is a step in that direction.

Twilight in the Woods

The Long Good Sunset

I attended a going away celebration this weekend for a work colleague who was leaving our team for greener pastures. The party was held outside of town in what I might well call the woods. I was told before-hand to bring my camera as the location was atop a small hill that gave a good vista of the surrounding countryside. I arrived about a half an hour after sunset and I thought all might be lost as I prefer the overly dramatic nature of just before sunset. The positive was the low light pollution gave me some great starry night sky. This is my first attempt at catching stars with my 16-35 f2.8 and I am afraid I caught a bit too much of the Earth’s rotation, but it came out an interesting shot none the less. It was amazing how long the color stayed around on the horizon.

A Rant on Gear

As happens when I get around people with my camera in hand, I get asked lots of camera questions. Someone inevitably wants to purchase the awesome power of the DSLR and I am always a bit hesitant with the advice. Most people will see a shot like this and believe (thanks marketing) it was the camera. WOW! If I only had that $4000 setup like you, I could take pictures like that too! Well, not quite. Full disclosure, I spent 3 hours post processing this image.

My workflow went a bit like this:

  1. Lightroom – Import and initial color correction.
  2. Photomatix – HDR bracket combination and pre-work processing. This images was re-imported to Lightroom.
  3. Photoshop – I removed unwanted elements, blended the HDR and normal exposures with layer masks, reduced the impact of some green colored lights, etc.
  4. Nik Define – Noise Reduction (this step was probably unneeded).
  5. OneOne Perfect Effects – Autumn and Golden Hour Enhancer – Color enhancement and mild glow.
  6. Photoshop – Blending of the OnOne layers (I prefer layers in PS sorry OnOne).
  7. Nic Sharpener Pro – Sharpening for screen display.
  8. This was all re-imported to Lightroom for some final cropping and distribution to online sources.

All of this takes quite a bit of work. For YEARS, I would take pictures, import them onto my computer and be immediately discouraged. They were dull in color, not sharp, boring, poorly composed or cropped. This would lead to me putting my camera away for months at a time. In 2009 I literally took 44 photos. 44! What the hell! I LOVE photography…why did I take only 44 photos?

I had often heard from other photographers that gear doesn’t matter. Get out there and use the camera you have! I understand this truth now. The extension of this, that I missed for years…the thing that kept me for really pursuing photography is a simple realization that I would like to share with you now. Great works start with the click of the shutter. They don’t end there. The click is the first step in a huge process…great images come for blood, sweat and computer time. Today’s image isn’t an illustration of greatness, but its good and I learned ten new things I will take with me to the next image. I will grow…I will get better.

The same goes for you! If you want better images, start learning the techniques that help you create the images you see in your mind. Practice, learn, absorb, try new things. Perhaps someday you will want to spend $4,000 on a camera. Great! Welcome to the club! Know though, that an expensive camera doesn’t create good images. Only you can do that.