Having a Voice

Most photographers and artists find themselves constantly asking why they do what they do and does it really have any purpose or meaning. I spent quite a few years making photographs with a strong belief that I had a vision and something to offer but never convinced that I really had anything at all.  After countless hours of study, practice and making photographs I grew more comfortable with what I was doing but the doubts were always present.  I suppose these doubts are a key contributor to what pushed me to continue and kept me from giving up. I kept telling myself that I was making art for myself and what others thought about it did not matter to me.  I was lying to myself, other’s opinions did matter.   I can honestly say that I have grown out of this and did in fact stick to my beliefs and vision making the photographs that I wanted to make.  Suffering the many highs and lows that any artistic endevour will surly experience, I stayed true to myself. My work may or may not have a wide audience, may or may not be appreciated but I do not allow this to influence my work.  Experience has taught me that ones art will in fact be stronger if they believe in themselves and pursue their vision.

I certainly don’t like or appreciate every image I make. In fact I like very few of them.  If I end up with ten or twelve photographs a year that I can honestly say have a voice that speaks to me, I’m thrilled. I spent a few hours this morning combing through my image library selecting images for submittal to an upcoming juried exhibit.  I wanted my selections to be strong and on point with the theme of the exhibit.  I started with fifty one images spanning eight years and narrowed it down to ten which was a difficult task.  Yeah, do the math, this is less than seven images per year and this exhibit is for figure work, my primary focus over these past eight years.

Do I believe these images will make the cut?  I have no idea if they will but they speak the loudest to me and have deep meaning to me, which, at the end of the day is what’s important to me. I receive many more rejections then acceptances to juried exhibits but that will not deter me from submitting. I won’t bore you with all of the details but every one of these images has a back story which is one of the things that makes them so special to me and why I chose them.

I would be remiss if I neglected to acknowledge my collaborators.  Without their artistry these images would not exist.

Brooke and Lela RaeCandace NirvanaDeSalleJazmine Keira GrantRhusStephanie AnneTendu Venus deMiloYarrow

Owens Valley

On our last trip to the Eastern Sierras in Lone Pine, CA we ventured out onto a back road in Owens Valley just North of Lone Pine.  I believe that the road has a name but I don’t remember it.  This image was shot late in the afternoon facing West looking at the Sierra Nevada mountains.


Owens Valley

Be Square – Juried Exhibit

I’m thrilled and honored to have two of my pieces selected for inclusion in this exhibit at The SE Center for Photography. The juror for Square, Christophe Dillinger, a photographer whose work is focused on experimental analogue techniques and the editor of Square magazine, a web publication dedicated to the square format.


A very simple composition using natural light from my Bits and Pieces portfolio.


One of my favorite images from my Empty Room portfolio. Model credit: Zoe West

Mt Whitney – Sunrise

Every time we visit The Alabama Hills we’re up early for sunrise. It’s a different experience every time as the light varies and if we’re lucky the clouds are out in full force adding drama to this beautiful landscape.


Mt Whitney – Sunrise


Mt Whitney Portal Road – Sunrise

The Colors and Textures of Owens Lake

Owens Lake is a mostly dry lake in the Owens Valley on the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada in Inyo County, California. It is about 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Lone Pine, California. Unlike most dry lakes in the Basin and Range Province that have been dry for thousands of years, Owens held significant water until 1913, when much of the Owens River was diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct, causing Owens Lake to desiccate by 1926.  Today, some of the flow of the river has been restored, and the lake now contains some water. Nevertheless, as of 2013, it is the largest single source of dust pollution in the United States.

We met Laura Campbell, a local resident and fine art photographer who was kind enough to give us a tour of the lake which is incredibly large with a maze of roads. Click over to Owens Lake to learn more about the history of this extremely large lake. I have to say that it was without question the most putrid air I have ever inhaled.  A photographer’s paradise that comes with a price.

What you see in these pictures is real, not manipulated or enhanced in any way

Owens Lake #190Owens Lake #202Owens Lake #204Owens Lake #206Owens Lake #220Owens Lake #243

Evie – Alabama Hills

Alabama Hills is a place that I never tire of visiting. I’ve been there quite a few times already and it always has something new to offer.  Evie made the trek from LA to join us on our journey a few weeks ago.  She loves the hills as much as we do. The image making possibilities are boundless and these are just a few of my favorites.



Landscape: Earth and Sky – Juried Exhibit

I’m thrilled and honored to have one of my pieces selected for the on line annex exhibit for this juried show at PhotoPlace Gallery. This image was made in Death Valley National Park at the Mesquite Dunes and is one of my favorites.


Mesquite Dunes

Bristlecone Pine Forest

On a recent trip to the Eastern Sierra Mountains we took the time to drive up to the Bristlecone Pine Forest, just a wee bit up the mountain from a town called Big Pine, CA.  Joined by good friends Michael Pannier, Beamie Young, Marc Nathanson and Evie Crocker we struggled with the thin air at 10,000 – 12,000 ft elevations all in an effort to enjoy this incredibly beautiful landscape and capture images of the longest-lived life form on Earth, the Bristlecone Pine Trees. Some of these trees are literally a few thousand years old. After quite a few miles on an extremely rugged road that is not kind to highway tires we experienced the very unique landscape where these ancient beauties grow. These are a few of my favorite images from that adventure.


SE Center for Photography – Greenville, SC

This past weekend I traveled to Greenville, SC to attend the opening night for the Black White & Everything in Between exhibit.  I made the trip for a few reasons. To visit with good friends, learn more about the SE Center for Photography, attend the opening for the show and to see the City of Greenville, SC.

I’ll begin with the City of Greenville.  A medium size city with a small town vibe and energy incredibly rich in culture, cuisine, art and education. The City features something for everyone with a wide variety of shops, restaurants and performing arts venues.

The SE Center for Photography is a new venue located in the Village of West Greenville, South Carolina’s textile mill village turned arts district. Just one mile west of downtown, it’s a wonderful exhibition and education venue promoting the art and enjoyment of fine photography.

One of the best and most important things photography has done for me is bringing wonderful people into my life.  This past weekend was no exception.  I met some local and international photographers and a huge surprise when I was introduced to Sandy King.  Sandy is a rock star in the photography world and more specifically alternative processes.  Back in my film days I used a custom film developer (Pyrocat-HD) that was in fact formulated by Sandy.  We had some wonderful conversations about photography.


If you’d like to receive email notifications for my blog updates, there’s a registration option on the right hand side of this page.


Textures Tutorial

A few years ago I became interested in using textures on selected images as a post processing technique. Obviously this is nothing new, many have been doing it for a long time. I don’t attempt to be different than others, I simply craft my images towards my vision. My approach is to apply the textures thoughtfully and carefully. My Something New Portfolio was my first foray into textures. I use a variety of sources for textures.  Adobe Texture Pro that comes with CC 2015 is great, Brooke Shaden offers some free textures, Jen Kiaba offers a free texture pack if you sign up for her newsletter and some I’ve created a few of my own.  The reality is that they are all over the Internet and easy to find.  The challenge lies in your choice of which one to use for which image, how to apply it and even if it makes sense to use one.  I use textures in both color and black and white, however I tend to lean towards color since much of the texture effect can be lost on black and white.  Again it’s personal choice and what fits your vision.  There are no rules or right or wrong. Below is a general narrative of my process. All adjustments in Photoshop are done on separate layers.  I’m a firm believer in this as it’s much easier to go back in and tweak if needed.  I always allow my work to brew for a day or two before showing it, i.e. I go back in on different days and look at it multiple times usually discovering a few things I didn’t see the previous time.  It’s a process that I highly recommend as it will subtly improve the quality of your work.  These subtle tweaks may not seam important but they are critical and add up to significant improvements.

  1. I always shoot RAW and import my images into Lightroom.
  2. Begin with a properly calibrated display.
  3. Exposure adjustment if needed in Lightroom.
  4. White balance adjustment if needed in Lightroom.
  5. Open the image in Photoshop as a PSD or TIF file.
  6. Color correction if needed
  7. Lens correction if needed.
  8. Straighten horizontal and vertical lines using the transform tool.  Not always necessary depending on the subject and overall image.  It was necessary for this image as it was shot using a fairly wide angle lens (35mm).
  9. Crop if needed.  I always work hard to get my crop and composition in camera, however there are times when a post crop is necessary.
  10. Touch up as needed.
  11. Add the texture layer. In this case I used the Necropolis texture from the Adobe Paper Texture Pro tool. Set the blend mode to Overlay.
  12. Create a layer mask on the texture layer completely blocking the texture on the subject.  In most cases my subject is a person.
    I don’t use the selection tool, I manually brush in the mask taking great care to get the edges precise.  Precise edges are critical for this technique.  The selection tool can be used and then you can go in and clean up the edges.  I spend most of the editing time here refining the edges.
  13. Highlight the mask on the texture layer and double click on it displaying the properties dialog.
  14. Reduce the density to somewhere around 80%, this will vary depending on the image, texture used and your vision.
  15. Feather the edges by about 1.2px.  The intent of this coupled with a proper mask is to render the edges undetectable in the final image.
  16. Add a Hue/Saturation layer and desaturate the color to taste. The level of desaturation will vary depending on your vision. In this image I landed on -59.
  17. Add a Levels layer and adjust the contrast to taste.  Sometimes I’ll add a Curves layer on top of the Levels layer to further fine tune the contrast.  Once again these are all subtle adjustments.

The images below illustrate the various steps in the process. My hope is that you pick up something that may help you in achieving your vision.


Original Image



Touchup Lens Correction and Transform

Touchup, Lens Correction and Transform

Texture Applied

Texture Applied

Texture Layer Mask Applied

Texture Layer Mask Applied

Hue Saturation Layer Applied

Hue Saturation Layer Applied

Levels Contrast Layer Added

Levels Contrast Layer Added

Final Image

Final Image