Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

November 2, 2015

Refocusing a project

Morning Shadow - Central California

Morning Shadow, Denverton, California, 2007 copyright Douglas Stockdale

Following up on yesterday’s post perhaps a little more about how this project has come back full circle to a Black & White portfolio. As a project, this series of roadside memorials was starting to get a little traction in 2008 and I felt it had potential to go beyond the LensWork magazine publication as a photobook. The project at that time had a uniqueness, although  I did feel that the subject did not lend itself to posters (I did get this wrong) and something folks would want to hang in their living room. After a couple of rejected book submissions the project began to coast, as feeling a little defeated, I stopped making book submissions and became very introspective.

As a result, I “jumped the shark“, the t.v. slang for when there is a big change in a series plot, resulting in the audience losing interest and the series quickly tanks. I think that moving to color photographs and renaming the project did just that. I lost continuity with my audience. I did learn more about myself during this transition, such as photographing my Ciociaria project in color which resulted in the publication of a book. But in retrospect, I think that the In Passing project was visually stronger in Black & White.

Now I am re-examining all of my original photographs and although I will develop these as Black & White images, I have found that my interpretation has become a bit more refined. Part of which is that I have learned more about how to convert a color digital file in Photoshop to Black & White.

As an example is this photograph, Morning Cross, Central California, I had used a lens polarizer for the original exposure, but regretfully that only effected part of the morning sky. This resulted in a dramatic darkening on the left side of the sky and fading to almost white on the right side of the print, which I had found visually distracting. Now with a Photoshop Black & White adjustment layer and playing with the two blue settings, I am able to create a more even sky tone across the horizon. I think the print/image retains more of the emotional impact that I had experienced and I am very happy to have revisited this image.


October 3, 2015

Flying by the seat of my pants


Untitled (Over Oz, Michigan, 2015) copyright 2015 Douglas Stockdale

I keep getting asked how I am able to create my interesting aerial landscapes that I share here, such as this one and the one I posted yesterday. So here is the story about how I photograph landscapes while flying by the seat of my pants, thus I guess you could describe this article as a mini-photo workshop.

Since I fly frequently on assignment, I fall into that category of being a frequent flyer (yep, over 2 million miles on just one airline, and yes, the airlines does keep track). The favorites seat for most frequent flyers is an aisle seat towards the front of the airplane. On the other hand, I also go for the front of the plane, but a window seat that will be facing North (e.g. on the left of the plane leaving southern California). Two reasons, I want to be in front of the wing to maximize an unobstructed visibility of the passing landscape and if you are facing South, you will deal with the effects of constant sunlight. Most aircraft have been around a while, which means scratched windows, both inside and out which creates issues with flare and terrible reflections.

The creative corollary is that if you like to deal with the effects of sun as part of your image development process, then go for it and select the South facing window seats; I for the most part, don’t. Another reason to choose a South facing window is if you have a late afternoon flight and you think you might catch an aerial sunset, which at times can be very striking. But then I am not usually chasing sunsets.

As a last alternative, I may have to end up with a window seat at the back of the plane. If the plane engines are configured on the wing, then I try to get as far back in the plane as possible, as the hot engine exhaust can create a soft blur in the resulting photographs (optical diffraction caused by the hot rapidly moving air). Again, the corollary is that this optical effect can be used to creative purposes, but I prefer to get as straight of an image as I can, then work my creative options post-production in PhotoShop. I find it much easier to add a layer to an image and if I decide the effect does not work for me, to then delete the layer and start over again.

As to when to photograph, I think that there are three basic flying conditions; take-off, in-flight and approach on landing. For me, the best of these three conditions are the approach for landing as I am more interested today in the middle landscape, and not as much with the high altitude (30,000 ft plus) broad landscape. On approach, the aircraft will slow down to perhaps 150 mph, rather than the 350 mph plus while cruising. Unlike the take off which can be a rapid climb, the approach is a slow decline lining up with the runway, taking upwards of ten minutes or more in duration, which creates a lot of photographic opportunities. My other trick is to try to look far enough ahead to determine what might come into view by peeking out the window in front of my window, if I can. Even at 150 mph, the composition opportunities are rapidly fleeting.

One of the nice aspects of digital capture is to do a quick sanity check to see if you are picking up any unwanted reflections in the image, as the angle you photograph out the window can pick up some subtle’s that might not be evident in the viewfinder. Not unusual to find my hand or interior of the aircraft being picked up on the interior window reflection if not careful. Basic rule of thumb is to place the front of the lens flush on the window, because as soon as you start to tilt the lens down, the higher the probability you will pick up some window reflections. Since I usually do aim the camera down to capture the passing landscape, I complete a quick check on what angle I can use without picking up unwanted reflections. Always some compromises.

My last piece of advice is to have your camera ready after boarding, not in a never-ready case or in a backpack, as the images are literally fleeting and there is not much time to react to what is rapidly unfolding outside the window. Thus I like to take at least one or two images while the plane is still docked and starting to move out on the tarmac. It gets the creative juices flowing.


December 22, 2014

Elizabeth Avedon’s Best Photography Books for 2014 – and I am on it!


Pine Lake, copyright 2014 Douglas Stockdale

As a book artist and photobook specialist, this is the time of year that I provide kudo’s to all of the photographers, photobook designers, photobook publishers and the book artists who use photography as a part of their creative medium. This year I was asked by Manik Katyal, the Editor/Publisher of Emaho magazine to provide five photobook titles for the Emaho annual list of Best Photobook lists. So since getting my list down to just five, I needed to again published my own Interesting Photobooks of 2014 on my other blog, The Photobook.

What came as a very pleasant surprise is when the amazing NYC book designer Elizabeth Avedon (yes, a familiar last name to those following photography over the years) selected Pine Lake as one of her Best Photography Books of 2014. A total surprise as this is a very limited edition artist book (edition of 25 plus 2 A/P’s) and thus I am assuming not many have actually held or seen.

What a sweet ending to the year and which reminds me that I need to get my butte back into gear and finish my next limited edition book Bluewater Shore, the second of the three photo-narratives plan for this series.




September 24, 2014

Pine Lake > The Box of Dummies


Pine Lake copyright 2013 Douglas Stockdale

A little update on my artist and limited edition photobooks. With Paris Photo approaching in November, I noted that there is another call for book dummies (Rock Your Dummy!) by the Paris PhotoBook club to be submitted by the end of this October. Last year I had submitted the book dummy for Pine Lake and just noted that the Paris PhotoBook club has a page about resulting The Box of Dummies which are on tour and includes my Pine Lake book dummy. Currently the last remaining copies of this artist book are available from photo-eye‘s photobook store.

So at the moment I am starting to assemble another book dummy (or two) for Bluewater Shore to submit to the Paris Photobook club for potential acceptance and exhibition during Paris Photo and the Rock Your Dummy! event. Especially now that I have most of the kinks worked out for the book design and image sequencing. If all goes per plan, I expect to publish and release the limited edition (150 books?) of Bluewater Shore early in 2015.


May 8, 2014

Publish Your Photography Book – revised edition

Filed under: Books, Photography — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 7:12 pm


Copyright 2014 published by Princeton Architectural Press

Darius Himes and Mary Virginia Swanson have updated and revised their how-to book Publish Your Photography Book. The revised (second) edition has a stronger emphasis on Print-on-Demand, mostly focused on the Blurb publishing company, Zines and the Digital Revolution. The later may not be any longer a Revolution. There is a corresponding reduction in focus on the publication of artist books.

I am very delighted that my blog The PhotoBook is again listed in Appendix X, Print and Online Publications and Marketing Resources. Thank you Darius and Mary Virgina!



February 21, 2014

Emaho magazine

Filed under: Art Market, Books, Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 9:34 pm


“American” photobook titles, copyright 2014 Douglas Stockdale.

I have been just invited by Manik Katyal, founder, editor and publisher of EMAHO magazine to be a contributor to his magazine joining he and Colin Pantall as photobook reviewers. We are still working on the details of what that means, but the short answer is that he would like to co-publish my book reviews that I post on The Photobook blog. You may also recall that Katyal featured my artist book Pine Lake on EMAHO magazine.

Katyal has also asked that I focus on American photobooks, as Pantall is located in the UK and is predominantly covering the European photobook scene. When I stated The Photobook blog in 2009, one key aspect of this project was for me to look at photobooks beyond the borders of the U.S. as I see photobooks having a intercontinental reach. So this has stirred mixed emotions, but fortunately Katyal has not asked me to be a book reviewer exclusive to American photobooks.

With the internet and social media I observe a really quick mashup of ideas and concepts being shared amongst photographers and book makers. This request to be an American specialist is an interesting one. I am in the midst of reading America Latina Photographs (1960 – 2013) recently co-published by Museo Amparo, Fondation Cartier in conjunction with Thames & Hudson. American Latina covers an extensive and diverse region, extending from Argentina and Chile north to Mexico and includes the Caribbean islands. The curators/authors devolve into question of what does the term America Latina photography signify. I think the same beguiling question encircles the idea of American photobooks. Thus expect me to be equally broad and diverse while to looking at American photobooks.

I will start by broadly defining American photobooks as those created by someone born in America, someone who has moved to and resides at least a part of their time in America and photographers who reside in places other than in America who in turn investigate the culture, landscape and society of America.

An example I have in hand is Andreas Oetker-Kast’s recently published photobook Looking for Wonderland, a German photographer who made an American road trip investigation transversing across the U.S. Likewise Andrew Phelps, an American photographer who now resides in Austria who returned his family home to investigate a region of Arizona titled Haboob. And quintessential American photographers such as the late W. Eugene Smith and his three volume opus Big Book.

My photobook reviews will not be exclusive to the American photobook, but perhaps I will become a little more keen observant as to what is being published with regard to America.


footnote: the photograph of the American photobook stack, above, is also an investigation into the use of my recently expanded studio space. Another work in progress, but so far, so good.

January 19, 2014

Bluewater Shore – Maquette walk-about


Artist photobook maquette, Bluewater Shore, copyright 2014 Douglas Stockdale.

As I stated earlier this month, one of my short term objectives to finish my first maquette for this artist book was to obtain some feedback on book concept & design during photo l.a. this weekend. In fact, I did manage to obtain a bunch of evaluations on the fly with friends while attending photo l.a., then a couple more afterwards over dinner with a some other like minded friends.

Part of our discussions centered on the book’s design, layout and sequencing with one outlying image as an alternative. There was also some brainstorming this limited edition concept, the series of books that this project will be part of as well as photobooks & photography in general.

Mission accomplished! I think that I am now ready to lock down the selection and sequencing of the images and the related text to fabricate a second maquette for my graphic designer to prepare the pre-press files. nice.

At photo l.a. I acquired Gerd Kittel’s photobook Route 66, to help with the concept of what will probably be my third artist book in this series. What I did not anticipate was a little artist book brainstorming session with the woman who does the hand bindery for the Silas Finch photobooks, a conversation which may lead to a fourth book in my series. very cool.


January 10, 2014

New Year’s housekeeping – start of 2014


10×10 American Photobooks exhibiton catalog, copyright 2013 10×10 Photobooks

Today was a bit of virtual housekeeping day, as with all of the events that crashed into the end of the year, there were some things that I did not complete that I should have. Most of these tasks are related to my personal self promotion as an artist/photographer, but in the end, the cobblers kids don’t have shoes. Yeah, those subtle things that I need to do for myself go to the sidelines while I complete the tasks at hand; ship books to bookstores, send out invoices, attend book fairs, respond to editorial requests about my books, etc.

So in order of what I did today  (since I kinda hear you asking), is 1. update my web site with the shout-outs regarding my artist book Pine Lake, 2. update this same web site with some 2013 accomplishments (you probably get the idea that keeping a web site updated is viewed as a necessary pain. Yep!), 3. finishing some Facebook shout-outs regarding my photobook Ciociaria and last, 4. publishing a commentary on the 10×10 American Photobook exhibition catalog in which I am featured. sigh.

The three publications which featured Pine Lake at the end of the year were easy to copy & paste into the web site. Yes, this blog is more interactive and easier to use repository of links, etc., so the links are over to your right under the category of Web Ink.

Same for a few updates to the my CV on the web site. My book Ciociaria was accepted into the Indie Photobook Library (IPL) a donation that was made possible by the support of Ella and Zachary Webb.  hmmm, Pine Lake would be another possibility for IPL, so I am now looking for a sponsor who might want to help make this happen.

And last is the review of the 10×10 American Photobooks catalog that includes my selection of photobooks for this series of exhibitions.

Okay, Done!


January 8, 2014

Bluewater Shore – Maquette


Artist photobook maquette cover, Bluewater Shore, copyright 2014 Douglas Stockdale.

A couple of days ago I started a discussion about my next artist photobook for 2014, Bluewater Shore, which I have just finished the first maquette in preparation of getting some feedback from friends at photo l.a. next week.

First, in the photo of the marquette above, the artist photobook dummy appears kinda of chunky, but that is due to my creative process. At this point in time, I have not finalized the selection of the interior photographs, nor the sequence. The image size and margins on the page will be the same as those I used for Pine Lake. Thus after I developed the marquette’s framework, the photographs are being held in place with paper clips (you can see them at the edge of the page) to facilitate changes. Thus, the thickness is a bit unwieldy. When I am pretty sure of the image selection and sequencing, then I will probably tape the images into place.

One change that I am making to Bluewater Shore  is the book binding process of the interior block to the book cover and I am using another manual process; pamphlet sewn stitch. For the Pine Lake artist book, I had used an aluminum prong binding process, almost identical to what was used by Kodak and Ansco for their promotional processing booklets. The downside to the manual prong binding process was the tedious punching of the holes and getting the alignment of the holes correct. Since I was using a hand paper punch, I could only punch three pages at a time. I busted a couple of these punches when I pushed the amount of pages to hole punch. One result of the prong binding was another reason to keep the edition size of Pine Lake to 25.

With the pamphlet sewn stitch, still a very manual process, it is keeping me literally in touch with each and every photobook that I am making. Even the ice pick tool to make the holes for the pamphlet stitching is from the same 1940’s period as the found photographs, or maybe even earlier. A very subtle, essentially unseen, and metaphoric book binding process.

The colors for Bluewater Shore were selected from those used in the same late 1940’s period as my short story is set in. The Canson 300 gm cover is a Sky Blue and the waxed Irish linen thread is a wonderful pink, aptly called Bubble Gum. You can still find these two colors in many of the bathrooms and kitchens of the 1950’s and probably 1960’s houses in the US. My parent’s house in Michigan comes quickly to mind. Oh yes, these were two of my mom’s favorite colors as well, thus another symbolic element.

What I did determine during the construction of this maquette is that my HP desktop printer can not process the 300 gm cover stock. This heavy paper jams the paper feeder and it jams it really well. Thus back to my Epson 4800, which I had suspected that I would need to use and I should have started with it to begin with. sigh. Some lessons are harder to learn than others.

A big change for Bluewater Shore will be that this artist photobook will not have the matching hand made wood frame and cover as did Pine Lake. Since I want to increase the edition size and keep this artist book reasonable priced, I need to make some changes, this probably being one. One thought is to have a large edition of just the stiff-cover book, and a smaller edition of the hand made frame and stiff-cover book. Nice thing about being an artist, I can change my mind on this.

Another change I am making is the printing of the interior pages. With Pine Lake, I had utilized laser printing from a local quick print shop. hmmmm, an area for improvement.  For Bluewater Shore, I will be using an offset lithographic printing process, probably two color. Still working the print, fold and trim details out with a local printer. I will have the printer also fold and trim to a saddle stitch style (without the saddle stitching) so that the signatures will be ready to stitch to the cover. I also plan to increase the limited edition size to 100 or more.

Another draw back to the small edition of Pine Lake was the limited samples available to send out for reviews; there just weren’t any. Thus Pine Lake ended up being under the radar a bit. So for Bluewater Shore, I want to have enough copies to send out to my fellow photobook reviewers to generate some buzzzzzzz. Or at least I hope it will get a little :- D


oh, as to the contents of the maquette, here’s a tease:


December 30, 2013

Pine Lake featured in Emaho Magazine


Pine Lake copyright 2013 Douglas Stockdale.

I was thinking earlier today that I should finish the year with a post about what my objectives were for next year and thoughts about this past year.

But then Manik Katyal, the Editor-in-Chief/Publisher of Emaho magazine disrupted my great plans with his article about Pine Lake. So how cool is that?!

I have to admit, what a very, very nice way to end the year. So check it out here.


Oh, and there are only a few copies of Pine Lake left now.

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