Thursday, October 16, 2014

How Creativity Can "Kill the Artist"

Got 20 minutes to kill? I'm not a mystical person by any stretch, but I stumbled upon this talk that makes total sense to me, and it suggests that we give external credit for the creativity that most artists claim as their own - not for faith's sake, but for sanity's sake. As a person who has slogged to work every day for 30-some years in a job that entails trying to capture a few infrequently-passing "Ole! moments," I understand Ms. Gilbert.

What I don't understand is why some people heap praise on me for some "natural moment" that I managed to capture. Conversely, I never quite understand how others can look at these exquisite moments and not feel the least bit moved. I'm happily confused and stuck in a blue-collar position where "my" creativity might well have peaked (who knows?) back when I was nineteen years old. I still get up and go to work, and I'm still (mostly) sane. What is it that you enjoy creating?

"In the end, a person doesn’t view his life as merely the average of its moments—which, after all, is mostly nothing much, plus some sleep. Life is meaningful because it is a story, and a story’s arc is determined by the moments when something happens." 
(Atul Gawande)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Photography Workshop

At art shows every weekend all summer long, people ask if I'm leading any photography workshops. Most years I have to sigh and say, sorry, my schedule won't allow it. But this fall I'm breaking free to offer a one-day workshop at the Dunrovin Ranch, along the beautiful Bitterroot River just south of Missoula.

We'll meet on Saturday, September 27th, from 11AM to 5PM. I'll be focusing on simplifying the foundation that you need to take your photography into the creative realm - how to take control and make better pictures, no matter your skill level.

You can sign up and get more information by calling or emailing the friendly folks at Dunrovin Ranch, at 406-273-7745 or email Their web announcement is here.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Show & Tell v. 8.01

Comet Lovejoy over Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park (c) John Ashley
"Silent Night." Comet Lovejoy over Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park
"Wow, these are phenomenal," he gushed. "If I brought you my cameras, how much would you charge to teach me how to use them?"  "Well," I paused, "It depends. How smart are you?" "Well, not that smart," he offered. "Then I'll have to charge you extra."

"Boy, you just have to be in the right place at the right time, doncha'?" Yep, that's all it takes lady. That, plus the months and years of planning and effort to be in the right place at the right time. Oh, and a wee bit of skill with a camera helps, too. That, and thick skin when people confuse all of your skill and work with a little bit of luck.

He said, "This is spectacular work." She said, "And he's not just being sarcastic." I briefly considered trading a print for his t-shirt, which read, "National Sarcasm Society. Like We Need Your Support."

"I've been coming to this show (Sweet Pea, Bozeman, MT) for 20 years, and you have the best photography I've ever seen." Wow. Thanks.

Seven-year-old girl, "What is that a picture of?" "It's the moon during a lunar eclipse," I explained. "Were you in outer space when you took that?"  "No," I said, sadly, "I had to stay on Earth. It's much easier to breath here."

"I work at (local photography supply house) and I see so much photography that I usually just walk right past," she explained. "But your's is different from the rest." "How so," I asked. "You're not just a guy playing with a digital camera. You have an eye. You're an artist."

Thursday, July 10, 2014

A Bigger Flashlight

Under a midnight Milky Way, the headlight beam from a westbound train paints the foothills
framing Mount St. Nicholas, along the southern edge of Glacier National Park. 
For three of my first light painting photographs, back in the late 1970's, I used a flashlight to paint a small Big Bend cave, a Vivitar 283 strobe (still have that old guy) to paint a new house and yard at night, and three lightning bolts in a central Florida thunderstorm at midnight to create a ghostly self-portrait.

For my most recent light painting, a couple of months ago, I used a bigger light - the headlight on a train. In "Midnight Train," a westbound train was winding its way along the valley floor, from camera right to left, while I shot sets of 14 images to stitch together later. When the headlight swept across the foothills, I thought, "Dang, there goes that set." Then I reconsidered. I like it. A lot.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Brain-pretzel Timelapse

This beauty turned up on a science blog I regularly read, and it is simply amazing. It looks to be many orders of magnitude more challenging than the simple timelapses that still give me technical troubles from time to time. Photographer Vincent Brady, of Lansing, MI, explains some of it here - wait until your head is clear before reading. It makes use of a custom quad fisheye setup of his own creative design. But first, watch this video.