Sunday, May 24, 2009

SPBM Update

I officially kicked off my own book project for Solo Photo Book Month (SPBM) a few days ago. Thursday the 21st, to be exact. Not too long ago, while my mom was visiting from out of town, my wife and I took her to the Aurora Colony, which is about 30 miles south of Portland, Oregon. It is the site of a Utopian Community that was founded in the mid-1800s. While I was walking around on that visit, I thought it might be a good subject for a book, and therefore would work for SPBM.

It also worked out that I finally decided to pony up the money and buy a new Canon 5D Mark II and this would be a good project to get up to speed on this new camera. So I headed out to Aurora with my new camera on Thursday morning. I spent 6 hours there shooting and came back the next day for 2 more hours. I came away with 552 images from 8 hours of work. Uh, that comes to a shooting rate of 69 images per hour, which is kind of interesting. I sat down and edited those 552 images down to a more manageable 132. Now it's a matter of picking which images will go into the book. Remember that according to the rules of the event, I have to have a minimum of 35 images, so I shouldn't have too much difficulty meeting that requirement. Of course, few of those 132 images will make the final pick.

At the moment, I'm printing out contact sheets, so I can cut them apart and start to combine them in the order that they will appear in the book. When I get the chance, I'll post a few of my favorites images. Well, the clock is ticking and I still have a lot to do and only 27 days left to do them. As I get things done, I'll you know how it's going.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Bill Jay, 1940 - 2009

Bill Jay passed away the other day. I never met him, but he still managed to have a profound effect on me, my writing, and my photography. He was probably best known at this time for his column in LensWork magazine called EndNotes. EndNotes was his random, sometimes stream of consciousness, musings about the state of the art of photography—occasionally funny, sometimes off topic, always fascinating. Early in his career, Bill was the founding editor of Creative Camera Magazine, a very influential British photography magazine. He was born in Britain. He wrote hundreds of articles on the subject and published more than a dozen books about photography. Eventually, he moved to the United States and founded the Photographic Studies Department at Arizona State University. He retired earlier this year and had just moved to Costa Rica. Bill Jay died in his sleep just the other day.

It is my hope that Bill will be remembered by future generations of photographers because of one particular book he wrote. It is a book he co-wrote with David Hurn called Being a Photographer. There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of photography manuals and how-to’s that have been published over the years, but this book is special. Instead of focusing on how to use the equipment, which nearly all photography books do, he chose to write about the mental and intellectual processes that a photographer undergoes in making photographs. The result is the best book on how to approach the craft and process of photographing. When I read Bill’s book, I immediately thought that this is what every aspiring photographer needs to read, no matter their level of accomplishment. It’s the book I wish I had read when I was starting out. It would have saved so much time and effort and struggle. Even after being a photographer for thirty years, I still learned a great deal. I never had the chance to thank Bill for this gift of his experiences and insights. Thanks, Bill.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Solo Photo Book Month

First there was National Novel Writing Month, where (as the title implies) you write an entire novel from start to finish in one month. For people who have a problem doing a project without a deadline, this is perfect. Now for photographers, there’s Solo Photo Book Month. The idea is the same: complete a photography project, do any writing that’s needed, and make a book out of it in one month’s time, or 31 days. So many photographers never get around to doing a book. We might have exhibits or portfolios, but there’s something different about a book of your own images.

The specifics are doable for most people. The month is actually kind of loose. It’s any 31 consecutive days during May or June, so you plan around your own schedule. So you must start on or after May 1st and the book must be completed by June 30th. You need at least 35 images—usually, the projects work better if they’re of a single subject and every image needs to be shot in this 31 day period. Of course, you can do the planning ahead of time. The nice thing about this is that you don’t have to produce a physical book of images, just a PDF version of it. You can read all the specifics about the event here.

This is a great way to focus your efforts and output. It might even be the beginning of a real printed book, even if you publish it yourself on Blurb or Lulu as print-on-demand. That’s what I plan to do. Or it could be an excellent way to jumpstart a new long term project. Give this some thought and give it a try. If nothing else, it’ll be a lot of fun. But remember, since we’re in May already, you better get started soon. Check out the Solo Photo Book Month website for all the info you need to get going and to see examples from last year’s participants. I'm planning to do this as well, so as I work on it, I'll give you updates on the project's progress.