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Articles by: Guest Contributor

Robert Herman 1955-2020

Some of you may remember Robert Herman when he was at DCP for a street photography workshop and lecture in the summer of 2016. He died recently and below is a remembrance from Robert Moore, one of our board members who attended the workshop.

“I felt like a very vulnerable person. Photography was my intermediary between me and the world. I was trying to find peace wandering the city.”
Robert Herman
1955 – 2020

Street photography captures fleeting glimpses of the world we all wander. Robert Herman was a master of the street, especially in his hometown New York, but the peace he sought ultimately evaded him and he lost his battle with bipolar and depressive disorders when he took his own life on March 20, 2020.

Born in Brooklyn, as a youngster he worked as an usher in his parents’ movie theater and his years long exposure to cinema deeply affected his work. He studied film making at NYU in the 1970’s before turning to photography. The cinematic styling is evident in his work. Vivid colors. Engaging, recognizable stories.

Robert’s acclaim in street photography circles was cemented with his two books, The New Yorkers and The Phone Book.

The New Yorkers is a collection of work taken from 1978 to 2005. The Kodachrome images are a time capsule of an evolving city, painted in striking colors and making use of NY’s street light. The Phone Book draws from Robert’s travels around the world and was shot on an iPhone using the Hipstamatic App’s square format.

I was familiar with both books and signed up immediately when DCP announced Robert was coming to Dallas to teach a workshop in June 2016. It was a rich week. His passing reminds me that life can be as fleeting as our images.

Peace, Robert.

Photographing Artwork

It’s important for artists to get excellent and accurate photos of their finished pieces for their websites or portfolios. DCP board member and fine arts painter Jo Mattison shares her journey into photography as a means of documenting her paintings.

Photography has been an interest of mine since childhood. When I was very young, I had to have the latest camera on hand and lots of film. In high school, I was the unofficial photographer for the yearbook. Lots of my photos made the books my junior and senior years. Then I went to college and studied art, painting in particular, but not photography. Sigh.

Several years ago, as my inventory of paintings grew, I got really tired of having photographers come to my studio or me dragging my large paintings to them. But art has to be photographed! And it has to be done right in order for the pieces to look great on a website, a brochure or business cards. Also, pictures have to be the correct file sizes for the different shows you enter. And the color has to be right. The last thing you want is for someone to see one of your paintings online and then when they see it in person, it looks different to them. This happened to me once. I lost a sale. So far, it has not happened again.

Jo Mattison in her Dallas art studio

When I decided to take matters into my own hands and photograph my art myself, I went to Competitive Cameras in Dallas and bought the equipment they recommended. I got an entry level DSLR camera, a tripod and strobe lights. Then I worked with someone at Dallas Center for Photography to learn how to setup the strobe lights correctly distanced between each other and from the piece of art. You can place a pencil perpendicular to the surface of the painting to make sure the lighting falls equally onto the surface from both lights. Proper lighting is extremely important. I have heard some artists take their artwork outside and use natural light but that is very unreliable and the color can shift. Strobe lights are consistent; and once you have your setup tuned, your photos will come out the same every time.

Proper art photography starts with everything being square and level. Start by measuring the distance of the middle of the art to the floor. Place the center of the lights at the same height as the center of the art.

 

Place the center of the lens at that same height as the center of the art.

I ended up with a pair of Versalight 360 monolights by JTL which give me plenty of power and are easy to use. With your lights set up, put your DSLR on a tripod and get your camera settings right. If you don’t have a handheld flash meter (which I don’t), this sometimes takes trial and error. First, put your camera on manual mode and make sure your ISO is not on auto. I usually put my ISO on 100 or 200. The shutter speed should be set to 1/125 because any faster and you can end up with shadows of the actual shutter blades; slower and you end up mixing in the ambient light. I set my aperture at around f11 which gets rid of vignetting and is sharp edge to edge. As you approach the bigger f-stop settings of 16 and 22, you can start to get diffraction limiting which basically just makes the whole photo fuzzy. I take several shots and adjust the strobe power as needed. 

I make some large paintings that have a clear glossy coating on them. To avoid a glare on the photos from the gloss coat, I use a polarizing filter on my camera and a large plastic polarized sheet on the front of each of the strobe lights. I ordered 17”x 20” Rosco linear polarizing filter sheets from B&H Photo. It is very important to have the polarizers lined up the same on each light in terms of polarizing direction. The polarizer on your lens has to be lined up in the opposite orientation. It just takes a little trial and error, but it works like a charm and you end up with no glare or you can dial the filter on the camera a little to allow for a little bit of glare which can show depth to the surface of the painting. 

Detail of the polarizing sheets taped over the strobe soft boxes. Orient the polarization axis of the camera filter at right angles to the light polarizers.

It is important for your monitor to be properly calibrated, so when you’re editing in Lightroom or Photoshop you know that you’re seeing the right colors. A good color checker is Datacolor Spydercheckr. Then you need to calibrate the camera using the Xrite Passport system. It’s a small test card with multiple colors that are industry standard. By plugging the software into Lightroom you can be sure that all colors are represented properly, especially those challenging hues like blue/green and burgundy. You can get these tools on Amazon, B&H, or at your local camera store. There are lots of YouTube videos that show you how to use them.

Jo working in Lightroom to finalize her image.

When I get several shots that look good, I download them into Lightroom. I took classes on Lightroom so I could get the hang of it. And it’s so worth it! In Lightroom you can adjust the exposure, contrast, texture, hue, vibrance, tint, etc. Even though the Xrite Passport gives you the best color possible, there are often pigment colors on a canvas that just don’t translate properly to the more limited palette of a computer screen. You can make sure the colors in your art work are correct so that you don’t misrepresent the work on your website and social media. Also, you can make the file size of your picture whatever you need it to be for the situation. That is, small for quick downloading on certain sites, or larger for publication, etc. Lightroom is a must-have tool for showing your art accurately online or in print.

Since I bought the camera and lighting equipment to photograph my art, I have gotten the photography bug again! Now I also use my camera to have fun, and it has become my other art! I have taken several photography classes and workshops and even started learning Photoshop! There is a whole other world out there for artistic pursuit in photography. I am having a ton of fun learning and creating art that is different from painting. I enter contests occasionally and I don’t worry about selling my photographs. Ahhhhh!

Jo Mattison

Instagram: @jmattison

Website: www.jomattison.com

DCP Client Tracy Allard Places at International Photography Competition

We love celebrating DCP clients’ photographic achievements. Longtime student and client Tracy Allard placed second in the Assistance Dog Category of the 2019 Kennel Club’s Dog Photographer of the Year contest. Tracy recounts her photographic journey and how she captured this winning photograph:

Tracy’s winning photograph: ‘Laying Down on the Job’; Assistance Dog Category 2nd Place Winner

When I was offered an early retirement package, I jumped at the opportunity. I’d been on a very fast career treadmill in the corporate world for quite a long time and I was ready for a break. My exit package gave me two things that I’d never had at the same time before: free time AND money! One of the first things I wanted to do was finally take a proper photography class and so I started searching the Internet for local options. I was pleasantly surprised to find Dallas Center for Photography. I started at the beginning with the DSLR series of classes, then Lightroom. If it involves a camera, I’m interested and I went on to take classes on travel, macro, panorama and tabletop photography, studio lighting, natural light portraiture, dog photography and more. But it was two multi-day, immersive workshops from Sam Abell and Ed Kashi that really changed me as a photographer, both in my personal documentary-style work as well as my client portrait work.

Sam taught me patience, to compose and wait, and the importance of composition – that every photo has a macro and a micro-composition and to pay attention to both! I learned about internal framing and to carefully watch the horizon line. I learned that flawed and interesting is better than perfect. An image needs to give life to a still life and include a setting, expression and gesture.

The strongest lessons I learned from Ed were how to tell a story through images and to ruthlessly self-edit. We photographed for 4 days and had to tell the story of our subject in no more than 20 images. I became fascinated with reportage photography and to this day I’m always looking to challenge myself with succinctly telling a story with thoughtfully captured images when photographing family and local events. “It doesn’t matter what you had to do to get that image, if the story isn’t in the frame, it doesn’t make the cut” is an “Ed-ism” I’ll never forget. That and “Don’t insult the viewer by photographing signs. They shouldn’t have to read text to know what you wanted to convey in the image. It’s your job as the photographer to capture that in the frame.” Tough love for sure, but that week improved my photography twice over.

Fast forward to present day; I decided to enter the Kennel Club Dog Photographer of the Year contest this year. It’s the largest dog photography competition in the world, receiving in excess of 10,000 entries every year. I had client work to submit in other categories (which didn’t place) but needed to photograph specifically for the Assistance Dog category entry. I knew this therapy handler and dog team so asked if I could photograph him at work. That kicked off a few weeks of permissions from the school and parents, but I finally got the go ahead.

I attended three 2-hour reading sessions with multiple children coming and going throughout. The kids entered the room and sat down without any prompting or posing from me. I had to make the most of what was in front of my camera. I tried multiple angles and heights, constantly moving around the room and took almost 400 images over the course of those sessions, but there was one image that popped up on my screen that I knew this would be my submission. It had a clear setting. It had expression and gesture. The composition holds the viewer in the frame and tells a story. There’s both macro and micro internal framing and a harmonious color palette. The Kennel Club awarded it 2nd place, and I traveled to London in October to collect my award.

Tracy (left) receiving her award in London

Tracy Allard
Instagram: @pennywhistlephotography
Website: www.pennywhistlephotography.com

Digital Photos to Printed Photo Books

Past DCP staff member KC Frost shares with us her love of creating photo books:

I have been interested in cameras for as long as I can remember, probably because my dad always had his camera around his neck on most occasions while I was growing up. I remember dropping off the film with him at the local photo store and the anticipation of picking it up 24 hours later. Fast forward 20 years and I now have a digital camera of my own that accompanies me on my trips and on special occasions. I would call myself an amateur photographer who loves to capture memories.

When I am spending time with friends and want to share photos from a trip, it kills me to open my iPhone and search for the photos. Let’s be honest, it’s hard not to open the notification at the top of the screen while searching for the perfect photo that you think you remember taking sometime between January and May of 2013. Plus, it takes away time with loved ones! Besides, that little iPhone screen does not do justice to the large elephant who charged our safari vehicle on a recent trip to South Africa. I found myself overwhelmed with the 25,000 photos (and counting) available at my fingers tips, so I started making photo books that we keep on our coffee table and on our bookshelf.

Creating my first digital photo book for print reminded me of the mid-90s when scrap-booking was all the rage. Now the process is better because I like for things to be straight and pictures perfectly aligned which can be accomplished quickly on a computer.

A few tips for your photo book:

When I am on the plane home from a trip, I start going through the photos and picking my favorites. If a picture sparks a memory or brings a smile to my face, I put it in the ‘to be considered’ folder. After a few days of being home, I revisit the folder and start to be selective of the best photos that capture my storyline and what I want to remember.

Captions are your friend! While events are fresh in your mind, write captions that will jog your memory years down the road. In my first couple of photo books, I thought I would remember the details — the name of an island we were on and the name of the restaurant — but it was difficult without making notes soon after the experience. Looking back a few years later, I wish I had written down those details.

Somewhere in the Caribbean…. I wish I had captioned this.

Have fun with it! With so many pre-made formats available, you can drag and drop your photos and find the right combination to show off your adventure.

Let your personality show when you are in front of the camera. Those are the pictures that will spark the most memories when you look back on them.

You can use online services like Shutterfly, Snapfish or Blurb. Lightroom has a Blurb module built in which makes layout easy and lets you edit the photos once they are placed. Sometimes two photos that look good separately don’t look so good next to each other. Being able to click over to the Develop module and make adjustments is fast and easy. I personally love creating small series of photos. Maybe it’s of my husband and I trying to pull off the perfect jumping photo or a lion cub yawning in sequence. I also love having my strongest photos stand alone and make a statement. Lay-flat books are great for this exact reason!

The feeling of flipping through the pages of your finished book is rewarding and powerful. Call me old-fashioned but the element of having your photos being printed on the pages of a book bring the story to life which can’t be replicated the same way on a digital screen. Printing images is a part of digital photography that many people have abandoned and need to reconsider. The pages of a photo book make the experience real for family and friends to enjoy. Photo books also make the best gifts for family and friends. Take as little as 10-15 pictures from an experience you shared with someone and create a book to give as a gift. It is something that they will treasure for years to come.

Sam Abell Image Critique

This past October National Geographic photographer Sam Abell returned to DCP for an afternoon of image critiques. Sam started his presentation by sharing some of his life’s work and explaining why these specific images meant the most to him. His biggest message was to take the photos that are most important to you. As he flipped through the slideshow he shared stories of his artistic search and intimately described some of the most difficult times in his photographic life.

After his presentation, Sam turned his insight towards the work of the students. Over the next hour and a half Sam critiqued two to three images of each of the 24 participants. Photos ranged from travel photography to geometric landscapes to intimate portraits. Sam’s comments included what he liked about each image and gave suggestions on how he may have photographed the situation differently to make the image stronger. He encouraged students to slow down and compose the image and then wait for the action to happen. He shared that the photos that work well are the ones where the subject’s head is above the horizon line and they have their own space and room to tell the story.

Whenever Sam is working with images he always wants the projector to be placed so his shadow can enter into the frame. There is something magical about watching him step into an image and use his hands to call out details, crop out something he finds distracting or point out some small change that would make the image more powerful. By entering into the photograph he can clearly communicate the concept he is wanting to illustrate.

Here are a few images of Sam critiquing photographs along with the students’ comments about the experience:

Sam Abell critiques Frank Richards’ Photo

Sam Abell critiquing Frank Richards' photo

“Sam has an uncanny ability to hone in on the essence of an image – commenting both on what makes an image work and how it might be improved. I do not normally shoot photojournalistic type images like Sam’s but have been able to easily apply the principles he teaches to my work. I like that he focuses on a few powerful concepts that can be easily grasped and when successfully applied have really improved my work.” – Frank Richards

 

Sam Abell critiques Tracy Allard’s Photo

Sam Abell critiquing Tracy Allard's photo

“I like that Sam sees value in many types of images; not just landscape, or portrait etc. I learn from every image that he critiques. He’s really made me think about what makes an image “mine”. I am still trying to find my voice and style but I think I’m getting closer the more that I’m exposed to.” – Tracy Allard

 

Sam Abell critiques Neil Resnik’s Photo

Sam Abell critiquing Neil Resnik's photo

“I was fascinated by his ability to look at a picture and point out things about the composition that I would never notice. For example he would point out the little spaces between subjects or the space at the top of a photo and how it made a difference in the photo. Sam’s critique of my work was very affirming. It was helpful to see my photos through the eyes of another with his skill.” – Neil Resnik

 

Sam Abell critiques Robert Moore’s Photo

Sam Abell critiquing Robert Moore's photo

“I enjoyed Sam talking about his own story, his own struggle trying to be “commercial” and yet be true to himself. Connecting his work images with his personal outlook on life was very touching.” – Robert Moore

Ed Kashi Near and Far Workshop

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Photojournalist Ed Kashi spent four days at DCP teaching his Near and Far Workshop where participants exercised their story telling muscles by photographing topics close to home. Ed is president of the VII Photo Agency and is best known for his long form photo essays which bring awareness and explore a situation or a problem. Some of his current work includes an in depth look at Chronic Kidney Disease in Central America in sugar cane workers. His work has been published in publications such as National Geographic, Time, Newsweek and The New York Times Magazine.

During the four days, students had the opportunity to develop an idea for a photo essay, shoot, edit and present a complete story. Projects ranged from an afternoon at a gun range, to preparation for a ballet performance to the life inside an apartment complex of Burmese immigrants. Ed provided guidance on how to approach each situation and taught how to develop a body of work that clearly communicates the story. During a group editing session led by Ed, each participant’s story was pieced together to form a cohesive, engaging photo essay.

Here’s what some of our students had to say about the workshop:

“I find myself falling to the rut of only taking meaningful pictures while on vacation. The concept that you don’t have to go far from home to capture great images was speaking directly to me.” – Tracy Allard

“I was forced to do a lot of fast work in order to get the pictures I needed. This experience game me the confidence to do future project down the road.” – Cristian Heredia

“Ed was very easy to talk to and relate with which made asking questions and seeking guidance easier. His critiques were direct which I like and made sense to me and made it easier for me to dissect my own work.” – Robert Moore

Here’s Tracy Allard’s finished photo essay “Home on the Range”:

“We were snowmobiling in the middle of nowhere”

A client of ours is with her husband in Longyearbyen, Norway. She’s there to shoot the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis). We asked her to send back a photo of their trip so far and this is what we got yesterday. The “rig” mentioned at the end is the Noorderlicht, a ship frozen in the ice that has been converted to lodging.

“We were snowmobiling in the middle of nowhere and stopped at a frozen water fall and there was a man there taking video. Turns out he’s a German photographer making some movie/book. Anyway we pulled in and he had also just gotten there to shoot the frozen fall, but he left his battery back in the town. He had a brand new D 4 S, but he borrowed my body to get the shots as I had battery. Then he rode off in his snow mobile and told me that I’d get a free copy of his book! It was pretty cool, so that’s what the one photo is. The other is of our “rig”, the ship frozen in the ice”.

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A Nikon Royal Flush

Over the years, we have had almost every kind of DSLR walk through the DCP doors. We’ve seen combinations of Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Sony and Olympus during our classes and workshops. However, in our DSLR-1 class this past week, something happened that has never happened before. Out of 20 people we had 19 different models represented, including this almost perfect royal flush of Nikons.

D40, D60, D80, D3000, D3100, D3200, D3300, D5000, D5200, D5300, D7000 & D7100

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Humans of New York smashes fundraising goal

At the time that I have started writing this blog post, it is 3:36pm on January 28th and the Humans of New York Campaign has raised $953,000. Their goal was $100,000.

Humans of New York is a blog started by Brandon Stanton. The concept is simple. He meets people as he walks around New York City, takes their portrait and then asks them a few questions about their life. He then posts the portrait on his Facebook page with a short story about the individual.

Brandon posted the photo below on January 19th of Vidal:

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As any good photojournalist does, Brandon asked to meet Vidal’s principal at Mott Hall Bridges Academy in Brooklyn. They decided to run a campaign to raise money to send each sixth grader in their school to visit Harvard. “I want every child who enters my school to know that they can go anywhere and that they will belong,” said Ms. Lopez. Their goal was $100,000 and with 8 days still left of the campaign, they have almost received 10 times the amount.

What started as a simple portrait has now collected almost $1 million in donations proving once again that images are powerful. They have the ability to expose and bring light to people and situations that would have never been seen otherwise. With the click of a shutter, the world met a young man living in a neighborhood with the highest crime rate in New York City. This isn’t your typical image of one of the roughest areas of New York City but that is where the power lies. Vidal is like any other middle schooler in the United States but he lives in an extreme environment. Through Vidal and Brandon’s brief connection through the camera, a school and a community has a chance to be forever changed.

Of course, Humans of New York has quite a following but it all started because Brandon picked up his camera and started taking pictures. This is a beautiful example of the importance of photography and how it can make a difference.

In the 30 minutes it took me to write and edit this post HONY has now raised $958,226. That’s over $5000 in 24 minutes.

To read more about the campaign and to donate, click here.

DCP’s first movie night

Last night was our first DCP Movie Night and it was a lot of fun. We ate some pizza, watched the excellent documentary Annie Leibovitz : Life Through a Lens, and then had a lively discussion about the movie, her work and how it related to our experiences as photographers. The documentary did a great job showing Annie’s importance as a portrait photographer. Her ability to connect with the subject and create compelling images continues to have her stand out as one of the best portrait photographers of our time.

Our new projector and sound system made this a real cinematic experience and we’re planning to do these every month or so. Our next one is Monday, January 26th where we will be screening the documentary War Photographer which follows James Nachtwey who is best known for his work in war torn countries.

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