Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

May 23, 2017

Artist versus Photographer

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Big Raft, Bluewater Shore, 2017 copyright Douglas Stockdale

Recent events related to the self-publishing of my limited edition artist book Bluewater Shore now has me rethinking how I might describe myself: artist or photographer? Okay another option might be artist/photographer. I am probably thinking more about this whole classification subject because of my current reflection on the subject of “Branding” for my Marketing Your Photo Book workshop coming up at LACP in July.

So here’s whats been happening; I have been reaching out to some photographic friends and editorial acquaintances who helped me with the promotion of my earlier artist book Pine Lake to spread the word about Bluewater Shore. I did not anticipate all of the rejections based on the fact I am using family archive photographs as my source material versus the fact that I did not actually take the original photographs. I am not sure what has happened or shifted in the past four years, but it seems that a lot more photographic folks are being more discerning as to what constitutes a “photographic” book.

Their response is that Bluewater Shore is an artist book using vernacular photographs which I found to create my artwork versus being a “pure” photographic project in which I created (photographed) the original photographic source material similar to my book Ciociaria. Or maybe I have pitched my Bluewater Shore story incorrectly? Now that I take a closer look at these magazine and web-zines I see that artwork similar to what I created for Bluewater Shore is not being featured.

So maybe you are wondering; what’s the big deal? For me it might be that I have been envisioning myself as just a “photographer” when I made this declaration back in 2008. Realize that for about 15 years before that I was a painter so I thought that this was a big deal that I was dedicating myself to photography. I also did not think it was a big deal to create my two self-published books Pine Lake and Bluewater Shore since I was using photographic material. Wrong!

Turns out what I perceived I was doing is not matching up with the outside world’s perception. I think there was hints of this difference while I was talking with those who attended my exhibit space at Photo Independent for my launch of Bluewater Shore but at the time I was not picking up on it. Duh!

This takes me to the Stockdale Paradox (okay, this was from Admiral James Stockdale, un-related); which states “Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties” while at the same time “Confronting the most brutal facts of your current reality, what they might be“. So the brutal facts of my current reality is that I am deemed to be an artist and I am NOT a pure photographer. Which is probably good to know and understand.

I am not sure that this is a seismic shift of who/what I think I am; but what this does is better prepare me for where/who I make submissions of my work. I still feel that I am part of the pure photographic community since that is also the space I created both of my photo-investigations In Passing and Ciociaria. Nevertheless this means that I will go across those pure photographic borders when I am inspired to do so and I need to understand the implications when I do.

Another aspect of this is that curators, art directors and others like and actually are more comfortable with classifications. So am I an artist or an artist/photographer? I guess if I have to chose one it would appear that I am an artist and one who uses primarily photographic source material, mine as well as others. Done.

Maybe this is a seismic shift after all as I now need to look at all my photographic reference sites, e.g. LensCulture and here on Singular Images, and make some adjustment tweaks to my biography; artist, educator and mentor.

Cheers!

May 21, 2017

Reflective weekend – May 21, 2017

Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: — Doug Stockdale @ 7:47 pm

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San Clemente Beach May 2016, copyright 2017 Douglas Stockdale

This was not a great weekend. Earlier in week I was not feeling great, but Thursday evening and Friday morning I seemed to be over what-ever-it-was. But what-ever-it-was came back to bite me Friday afternoon and only this morning did it seem I was getting on the mend. I suspect it was strep throat. sigh. I have been drinking so much hot tea that I keep track of by the kettle-fulls, not by the cups. Even sipping a cup while I write this.

So in between some long naps, I have been thinking about my photography and my art. Seems that I have wondered into being more of an artist than a photographer with my second artist book Bluewater Shore. Which has a lot to do with the fact that I used someone else’s photographs as a source material versus the fact that I did not take the actual photographs. This appears to be a bigger deal for a lot of other photographers, galleries, photo magazines and now collectors. At the moment I just need to think about this some more, but it does create a shift in my/others perception.

The photograph above was something that I had energy to play with this weekend between my various naps; initially this was a very straight photo but after posting my earlier Experiment/play urban landscape, I decided to apply some of the same SnapSeed magic to this image. It’s a combination of desaturation of the colors and some refined Lens Blur filter. I feel it definitely changes the feeling that this photograph now evokes. Interesting. Btw, I made the original just about this same time last year but added the current copyright date to reflect that I created this new edition recently.

So that’s all the energy I have for now, perhaps time for either another cup of tea or a nap (or both in quick succession!)

Cheers!

 

May 19, 2017

Studio Lighting – Norman strobes

Filed under: Photography — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:00 am

Norman Strobe set-up for book photography

Photo Book Photography; Norman strobe set-up, April 2017 Copyright Douglas Stockdale

In conjunction with The PhotoBook Journal, I received a donation of a very used Normal Strobe Lighting kit to improve my process of photographing book covers and interiors. The donation was made by Dual Graphics, the Brea, CA book printer who printed my recent artist book Bluewater Shore. (yes, and as a result, I am providing them with some shout-outs as a way of saying Thanks!). I received a Norman P2000 power pack, two Norman strobe heads and a pair of Bogen light stands.

To make this lighting set work I received some good advice from my studio photo-guy, Scott Mathews and I purchased a pair of light reflectors and a pair of wireless transmitters to trigger the lights (“Do NOT hook a digital camera up directly to these old power packs!“), as well as some advice on how to set the lights up for photographing flat reflective objects like books.

For those who follow this blog, you will recall a few days ago I discussed my new studio camera configuration to complement this studio set-up, below.

It has become quickly apparent to me that this lighting rig is a really big improvement in my book photography process. It is easy to set up and provides solid and consistent image results versus my prior make-do process. Mathews suggested that I use a sheet of white matte board to provide a “kick-in” fill light which is not in the photo above but has made a big difference in the book cover photos, see below, to almost eliminate any dark cast shadows made by lighting a book.

All of this lighting is to support The PhotoBook Journal as I do not see myself right now as a studio photographer as far as who I am as a photo/artist creative. I will admit that this studio lighting capability does open a potential new photographic option for me. So I will see what happens next as my process of experiment-fun does allow me to play with this as a possible option ;- )

Cheers!

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May 18, 2017

Life Guard Station #14 – San Clemente

Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:00 am

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Life Guard Station #14, San Clemente, CA, May 2017, copyright Douglas Stockdale

The same day this month that I captured the gradations beach photo on San Clemente beach that I discussed here, I also photographed the adjacent Life Guard Station #14. In fact I believe that the earlier beach photograph was captured in front of this Guard station.

These are relatively two different photographic image treatments, although both share a similar frontal and formal framing. As the occasion was at dusk, the Life Guard Station was closed down for the evening, thus has a somber, if not lonely, air about it and the beach was without the throngs of beach-goers. But being a man-built structure this does hint at the surrounding beach-oriented culture.

I think the shallow dept of field places more emphasis on this structure rather than the breaking surf in the background. There is still enough environmental context provided while yet still being ambiguous (and hopefully a little mystery) to allow a viewer an opportunity to create their own stories and recall similar memories.

Btw, the subtle differences between the two modified images has me thinking about how I document events and the subsequent treatments applied to the images. Perhaps because I am doing some mentoring for other photographers now and I need to consider my own advice regarding how one creates their own “Brand”. So I suspect I will be writing more about that in the months to come.

Cheers!

May 17, 2017

Experiment-play – LA landscape

Filed under: Middle Ground, Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:00 am

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Los Angeles, I-5 Freeway, March 2017 copyright Douglas Stockdale

While driving up the I-5 Freeway into Los Angeles earlier this year, I was again finding myself in the bump-to-bumper traffic grind common for this part of Southern California. So similar to my bumper-to-bumper photographs in my recent drives to San Diego, I used the opportunity that when I came to a complete stop to take a photo of the adjacent landscape. So the resulting urban landscape photographs are a combination of serendipity and chance, something that the Surrealist would appreciate.

The resulting photographs from this day-shoot lay dormant, but I kept coming back to this photographic set as there was something there that retained my interest. Over this last weekend I found myself working on one of the photographs and the results are posted above. This photograph is in line with my idea of experiment-play in which I give myself a lot of freedom to visually experiment.

There is a bit of artistic manipulation of the image, but not too far visually off what might be possible with a long lens from a distance further back while using a wide open (shallow depth of field) aperture. So it’s kinda of “realistic” and might pass as a “straight” photograph. Nevertheless I posted this on Instagram and was somewhat impressed by the big response as measured by the amount of likes.

For me, I have moved beyond a straight document of the landscape to something more personal, perhaps a little more ambiguous, a touch of mystery and that has some metaphoric potential. As Sara Terry said about my Memory Pods project, I have made this subject my own. It has my imprint on it. (Okay, what does that mean? Good question as I am not sure yet, but this idea has my wheels turning)

So this has me thinking some more about my other freeway photographs that I have taken over the years in which I might want to reconsider what a straight or documentary style image should look like. Or perhaps better yet, what is my take on LA and how should I interpret this urban landscape?

Cheers!

 

 

May 16, 2017

Gradations – San Clemente Beach

Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:08 am

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San Clemente Beach, May 2017 copyright Douglas Stockdale

One of the delightful aspects of picking Ella up at the San Clemente train station is that the station is directly adjacent to the Pacific ocean. We are talking about only a few yards. Thus I normally volunteer to pick her up and then I leave early enough to spend a little time on the beach in the late afternoon to absorb the sights, smells and sounds of the ocean. And on many occasions, take a beach photo, which I realize is an overworked genre of landscapes (seascapes), but nevertheless I find this subject intriguing.

On this occasion with some weather coming in, I realized that I was visually captivated by the various gradations created by the layers of cloud, sea and surf breaking on the shore. I have some versions in which there is a small surf break rolling in, but I found that I preferred this photograph with the flatter water while the wave was in the early stages of forming. I am always fascinated by the ensuing temporal patterns created on the beach as the ocean water recedes.

For this photograph I also desaturated the colors towards a monotone gray-blue palette as this seemed better suited to what I was feeling at the moment, probably a bit of departure from those who might amp up the color saturation for instances such as this.

I also notice that I have been accumulating a collection of these pensive seascapes, so I will see where my muse leads me this ;- )

Cheers!

May 15, 2017

Canon not supporting original 5D camera

Filed under: Photography — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:00 am

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Canon 5D body copyright 2017 Douglas Stockdale

Maybe I might not be the last person to find this out, but I now know that Canon Service is no longer providing support, either maintenance, repair or replacement parts, for the original 5D body.

I found this out last week when I drove over to Costa Mesa to the Southern California Canon Service center to have my Canon 5D body serviced. The back screen was not functioning properly as the after image capture in the display was posterized. I could see if the composition was correct, but could not tell if the exposure was correct by visual examination, as the histogram can only tell me so much.

The back screen has actually not working correctly over a year ago and one of the reasons that I finally made the investment in the Canon 5D Mark 3. Since I did not have the funds to fix the 5D back at that time so I just figured I would wait a little until I did. Apparently I waited a bit tooooo long. crap!

The good news is that when the shutter was not working well a couple of years before, I did take it into Canon service and they replaced the entire shutter system under warranty, which was very nice. So now I have a relatively new shutter but a piss-poor back monitor so this was not going to make it easy to sell or trade this 5D as its value was now about zero.

Okay, then the Aha!

For my Norman strobe lighting kit, the Canon 5D system needs to have the camera set to Manual and then dial in the lens aperture and shutter speeds. Once I had the right exposure combination for my studio to photograph the books, the exposure was essentially locked in (1/125th of a second at f/16). I did not really need to check the camera’s back monitor any longer. Sort of reminds me of the old 35mm film days; shoot with confidence and find out later if there are any issues. The good news is that the time and distance to check my studio results is measured in minutes and feet. The alternative is to hook up a USB between the camera and a computer as a tethered system, but I did not want to hassle with the required cable, plus I do not have a great place to set up the computer (right now).

The second part of this is to add on a dedicated lens to the 5D body, which I have been experimenting with various focal lengths to photograph book interiors for the past couple of months. I had come to the conclusion that a 50mm lens on the full frame 5D would work fine; thus I acquired the Canon 50mm f 1.4 lens to complete this studio set-up and I did a quick test with it yesterday after purchasing the lens. This is the set up below, with the PocketWizard PlusX in place to trigger the strobes, on top of my Norman P2000 power pack. I also went the little extra with the Canon lens hood as the knock-offs from China are dirt cheap, but do not come with the matte interior lining to deaden any potential reflections.

So now I looking forward to the next set of books to photograph for The PhotoBook Journal. I will probably have this camera & lens working in the studio for the next set of reviews by the end of the month. And I found a great use for the 5D body and what I might call a win-win for me.

Cheers!

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May 14, 2017

Canon 50 mm f1.4 lens check

Filed under: Photography — Tags: — Doug Stockdale @ 8:00 am

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Santa Ana, CA, May 13 copyright 2017 Douglas Stockdale

This is not meant in any means to be a technical review of the Canon 50mm f/1.4 lens that I just purchased, but in the immortal words of the late Garry Winogrand, I want to see what this looks like.

This is essentially the first exposure I made after walking out of Samy’s Camera in Santa Ana, a full frame capture on my Canon 5DMk3. I am planning to dedicate this lens on my Canon 5D for my studio work re-photographing photo books for The PhotoBook Journal. More about why this is occurring in a pending post. BUT, I may just tuck this little lens in my little camera bag when I take some road trips, or if I want to go low-key/light-weight, replace the 24-105mm zoom altogether ;- )

Right now, I want to see this full frame image after processing with PhotoShop in a lower resolution (72dpi) JPEG on my monitor, since the images I make with this are essentially destined for viewing in this format on the net. I first did a check of the image’s outer edges and corners since that is where lens usually start to fail in image quality. My assessment: looking good, this appears to be a keeper and no need to make a return trip back to Samy’s Camera.

And no, I am not thinking about another photo project involving Southern California food trailers, but it is nevertheless an interesting idea. I must admit, while walking out of the store and trying to decide what to quickly photograph, this red foodie trailer quickly caught my eye. So a little bit of formal composition and the photo was captured.

After working with a zoom lens for so long, using a fixed focal length (e.g. prime) lens was a mental rust remover; if I wanted to tighten up this composition and stay full frame, I actually needed to move my feet. Back in the day, when one bought a 35mm film camera, it usually came outfitted with a 50mm lens, such that my Canon Ft-QL had a 50mm f/1.8 lens, same for my upgrade to the Canon Ae-1.

Cheers!

May 13, 2017

Portfolio Reviewer – LACP EXPOSURE 2017

Filed under: Art Market, Photography — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 3:41 pm

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Gerhard Clausing’s portfolio, EXPOSURE 2016, copyright 2016 Douglas Stockdale

LACP (Los Angeles Center for Photography) has just announced the dates for EXPOSURE 2017, their three day portfolio review event. I am very honored to be among a diverse and broad group of portfolio reviewers again this year. Similar to last year, I will be providing portfolio reviews on Sunday, July 16th, from 9:30 to 5:00 pm at the dnj gallery in Bergamont Station, Santa Monica (CA).

These portfolio reviews are always great events to network and have your work seen and discussed. As a reviewer, I have found this to be a wonderful opportunity to hear and see photographic projects that are in the various stages of development. As a networking event, myself included, a chance to meet up with reviewers, make a stronger personal relationship and as importantly, network with fellow photographers in between sessions. As you might imagine, I am very intrigued with portfolio’s that are intended to become photographic books.

My friend Sarah Hadley will be providing a FREE LACP portfolio review prep talk on June 14th. So if you have not participated in a portfolio review before or it has been a while since you last participated and need a “rust remover”, a great discussion about what to do and as important, what not to do, for a portfolio review session. The review sessions are relatively brief, 20 minutes, and time flies by fast, so you want to make a lasting impression and being prepared with your portfolio, the “leave-behind” and a short rehearsal of your “elevator speech” will be well served.

I am looking forward to seeing you there!

Cheers

 

May 4, 2017

Bluewater Shore book launch at Photo Independent

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Photography by Jessica Sterling, copyright 2017

Well I thought I was going to post this a bit sooner after the Photo Independent exhibition, but all of the post-exhibition follow-up needed tending to first. Such as taking more orders for Bluewater Shore, (which can be ordered here) finishing the production of this artist edition, then start mailing the pre-orders, contacting other editors about book reviews and of course contacting book stores about carrying Bluewater Shore. Time flies when I am busy, busy, busy.

First, the exhibition and book launch of Bluewater Shore was great and I had a great time connecting with other photographers, making stronger relationships with acquaintances and starting some new connections. Even sold some of my edition, which of course was the sweetest part of the deal for a book launch.

At the last moment before driving up to Los Angeles on Friday afternoon for Photo Independent  I was able to print six of my 15 x 15″ image prints from Bluewater Shore as part of a portfolio and unexpectedly ended up discussing some potential commissions as a result. My purpose for the prints was to help stop traffic and start a discussion about my book, but there was some strong positive responses to the vernacular photographic prints. So it will be interesting to see where this leads.

I also had a chance to spend time talking with Roger Ballen who was the featured photographer for Photo Independent. As a result of my Editorial role with The PhotoBook journal, we had been in email contact and book discussions over the years about his publications, so this was the first chance we had to meet and have a discussion during the events. Ballen also provided some creative book signings for a couple of his books that were in my collection. Very nice.

I provided a book discussion on Sunday morning as a result of being a jurist for the Photo Independent Book Competition which went very well. My principal focus was on discussing the design and layout of the competition’s winning books and a couple of the honorable mentions.

Also coming news, I will be doing portfolio reviews at LACP’s Exposure 2017 in Santa Monica next July 16th at the dnj Gallery and finalizing as guest curator for the L.A. Photo Curator photographic competition next September. More details about these two events shortly, so stay tuned!

In closing another reminder that the 20% discount for an early-bird registration for my two LACP photo book workshops, Marketing Your Photo Book, July 22nd and Introduction to Photo Book Design Oct 1st & 8th, are still in available for another couple of weeks.

Cheers!

Doug

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above, discussing Bluewater Shore, photography by Gerhard Clausing, copyright 2017

below, Roger Ballen signing one of his books from my collection

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