On Not Being Eric Kim

Admiration. That’s what I have for street photographer, blogger, and vlogger Eric Kim. I started following Eric’s blog several years ago as he began actively writing about the joys he found in street photography. His blogging efforts led him to pursue teaching street photography classes in various cities around the world and, more recently with his partner Cindy, an active publishing (both open source and for sale) and photo gear related business (see his product page).

Eric’s blogging has evolved beyond the mechanics of street photography into his philosophy of life – his joys, his worries, and his endless pursuit of creativity. I enjoy reading him for his quick comments and insights – almost always stimulating my thoughts off in an unexpected direction. Reading his work and watching his talks open my mind in new ways.

Recently, Eric gave a talk at Google which is available for watching on YouTube. One of the best parts of his talk – much of which is focused on his approaches to creativity – starts at about 19:30 into the video. He shares one of the photos of an older woman with a big smile that he captured years ago on the streets of New York City. His description of that image, how he shot and and his interaction with the audience about the photo is just great. (He sells a signed limited edition of this print on his website.) He’s written about this on his blog as well.

As for me, Eric’s had an impact recently – he’s helped jumpstart me back into more actively writing for my blog. Watching his work, I’ve come to realize that sharing is both worthwhile and also easy to do with today’s blogging tools. I’m able to quickly have an idea and – on any of my computers or mobile devices – being drafting a blog post on that idea.

This post is a great example. While waiting for my coffee to brew this morning, I was thinking about Eric and that segment where he shares the store of the smiling older woman. That got me thinking about how I admire what he does – and what he’s been doing for years now. And so here we are. Thanks Eric!

Donald Neff: The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley

Donald Neff

Donald Neff is an old friend and business colleague – who’s also a great painter of landscapes. We worked together as computer geeks in prior lives – and, while my journey into photography is a recent passion, painting is something for Don that goes way back. And he’s great at it!

This afternoon Don gave a talk at the Don Edwards National Refuge Education Center in Alviso about his most recent project – The Creeks and Rivers of Silicon Valley. Don started this project in November 2013 and, over the next twelve months, painted a series of sixty plein air paintings in the nooks and crannies of Silicon Valley. During today’s presentation, he told some wonderful stories about several of these places – full of suspense and delight. His exhibition at this venue will continue for a few more weeks.

Don’s got a lot of material about the project available on his website – and, if you like what you see, I’d encourage to to order his book on the project. It’s beautifully done – and in the same 8×10 size as his original plein air paintings.

Beautiful work indeed!

Inspiration – What are some of your sources?

Paris - 2014

I’ve had a page titled “Inspiration” here on my blog for a while. I’ve been less than diligent in keeping it current – but tonight I made some major updates to it reflect some recent learnings – as well as filling out some of the actual experiences I’ve learned from those who have inspired me.

In my life, I’ve come to appreciate the power of serendipity in inspiration – how sometimes it seems that random events trigger a new insight, understanding – or just pique my curiosity to explore deeper. Increasingly, I’m finding new sources of serendipity – in my RSS feed reader and in both Twitter and Facebook – enabled by the current state of web technologies.

I wonder what we’ll be doing in five years to be inspired – wearing our VR headsets and exploring further/deeper?

Meanwhile, I’ll try to do better at sharing what I find inspirational – and welcome your comments here sharing what you’ve found inspirational.

The Image Quilt

ImageQuilt 2015-11-02 at 6.42.48 PMAt a recent one-day course taught by Edward Tufte, he introduced me to the notion of an “image quilt” – a mosaic of images that you can create using an extension available for Google’s Chrome browser.

Here’s an example of just such an image quilt – based on a Google image search using the phrase “ny times infographic

When creating an image quilt, you can make a number of adjustments including size, spacing, ordering, etc. as well as removing certain images from the quilt before saving it as a PNG image file.

Tufte also suggested that when searching for things on Google he often chooses to view image search results – not the regular web search results. He notes that the regular web search results have typically been extensively “gamed” using techniques like search engine optimization to influence placement of the results on the page. He suggests that isn’t the case with the image results. I’ve been trying it more frequently – it is a useful alternative for certain kinds of searches.

Life Will Never Be the Same!

Fujifilm X-T1

With my friend Doug Kaye, we headed to New York City last week for a five day photography workshop with Jay Maisel. The workshop was truly a life changing experience for me – opening new eyes and providing new ways to see as taught by this 83-year old American treasure! Jay is famous for being a tough critic – but it’s from that criticism that new learning happens and bad habits get eliminated.

I spent the week shooting with my Fujifilm X-T1 – mostly using the Fujifilm XF 55-200mm F3.5-4.8 Zoom Lens (70-300mm equivalent on a standard 35mm camera) – along with occasional iPhone 5s shots. If my X-T1 could talk, it’d share even more about how things changed in my photography.

During our shooting on the streets, we used Jay’s preferred camera settings for street photography: ISO 1600 (which helps the camera take advantage of faster shutter speeds to freeze movement), increased sharpness and increased color saturation in the JPEGs.

Jay also brackets exposures when he shoots – with one image properly exposed based on the camera’s meter, one over exposed by one stop and a third underexposed by one stop. It was interesting to see the differences between these images – how often the colors in the image were also affected.

Unfortunately, exposure bracketing isn’t a strong suit for the X-T1. Although the X-T1 is capable of high speed burst shooting at up to 8 frames per second, it isn’t capable of that when choosing exposure bracketing. Rather, the shots take about a second to complete the three images – which often results in movement in the scene. Jay’s Nikon D3S fires off his three bracketed shots in rapid fire fashion – minimizing any movement. I really hope that Fujifilm can provide a firmware update to the X-T1 that enables rapid fire exposure bracketing – that would bring it from “pretty good” to awesome for this kind of street photography!

After trying exposure bracketing on the X-T1 for the first day and a half, I abandoned it – moving instead to film emulation bracketing. In that mode, the X-T1 takes one image and then applies up to three of the Fuji film types supported by the camera – I chose Standard, Velvia, and Black and White with a yellow filter. Nine times out of ten I found the Velvia images the most satisfying of the two color films – but many of the black and whites also looked superb right out of the camera. I didn’t work with them much, however, and Jay’s passion is all about vivid color photography.

With almost 2,000 images to review from the week, I’m slowly working through and posting some of those that seem pretty good to me. You can find them here in this Flickr album. I’d welcome your feedback on any of them!

Lily

Our Gal Lily by Scott Loftesness

On Friday, we lost our beloved Lily – just shy of her tenth birthday.

Lily was our constant companion over the last ten years – her only desire was to spend time with us, to be with us, to cuddle and play with us. She was selfless in her pursuit of our companionship, just wanting to be by our sides sharing our times together. So many special times.

Lily really selected us – we didn’t select her. We vividly remember first meeting her – along with her litter mates. They were all huddling close – but then Lily noticed us and walked away from the group to come over and say hi to us – her little tail wagging and her big eyes looking up at ours. We knew immediately she was the one.

Her official name was Tigerlily. She had a cowlick on her forehead – a tuft of hair – her own “mohawk” style – that just went straight up and earned her that name.

To us though, she’s always just been Lily. Our very close pal for all of these years – who we still can’t believe isn’t with us tonight. We really miss you girl!

Inspiration: Art Wolfe’s “The Art of the Image”

Today I watched Art Wolfe’s recent talk at Google – “The Art of the Image”.

This talk is an inspiring panorama of Art’s interests – and how he’s been influenced by artists who have come before. The range of his work is exhilarating – his combination of travel with seeing differently yield some beautiful – and striking – images.

His shift over the years to more abstract images – after an early focus on wildlife – provides a valuable lesson. Do take a look! And, for more inspiration, see my Inspiration page!