September 18, 2014

Jock Sturges Interview with Jonathan Blaustein

Jock Sturges Interview

 - August 21, 2013

This interview is from last year, but since Jock is teaching his popular The Portrait and the Nude workshop with us October 19 - October 24, 2014 in San Miguel, we think now is the perfect time to share this! The interview originally appeared on aphotoeditor.com. To see the original post, visit their website here.


Jonathan Blaustein: How did you come to photography as a method of expression?
Jock Sturges: It’s an important question, because the answer sets the groundwork for my whole life’s work. At age eight, I was sent away to summer camp. And, from eight on, I was in boarding schools or summer camp right until I joined the Navy in 1966.
That’s pretty young to be away from home. These were all boys boarding schools and all boys camps. I had as well four brothers, all of whom were similarly sent away. No sisters.
So, as circumstance dictated it was in these schools and camps where I was obliged to find what family I could – amongst the other boys. And right from the beginning I had an appetite for beauty. Due to a chain of circumstances that involved several broken arms, I wasn’t allowed to do sports for several years, and ended up swiping a camera from one of my roommates who had in turn swiped it from his dad. I was eventually able to make prints from the work I was doing. My roommate’s mother came up for a visit and saw some of the prints of her son on the wall and took them down and kept them. 
JB: (laughing.) For real?
JS: But she paid me for them!
JB: OK. 
JS: What was then a small fortune.
JB: How old were you?
JS: I was about eleven at that point.
JB: You sold your first work at eleven? I haven’t heard that before.
JS: Right away, I discovered that many of my friends’ parents suffered from guilt for having sent their children away to school so young, so, as it happened, there was a nice market there for me. Some of my friends in turn figured out that they were a kind of cash register, and wanted a cut of course 
JB: I sold lanyards. I had a friend making them, and I was basically the middle man, selling lanyards around the lunchroom in what was probably seventh grade. I think you have me beat, for an early understanding of capitalism. 
JS: The capitalism was a side affect for me. It was certainly very much enjoyed, because we had no spending money. But really I was keeping the images of my friends because at the end of the school year, or the end of summer, many kids would disappear. You’d never see them again. Their parents would be transferred to Europe, or wherever.
It was a way of keeping family. And beauty was also a big part of that for me. Boys can be very beautiful, and I was drawn to it, right from the beginning. Long before that, when I was five, my parents moved into a house in Providence that belonged to my great uncle Howard Sturges – a legendary bon-vivant who was Cole Porter’s partner for much of his life. Anyway, there was a big set of US Camera Annuals, in the bookshelves of that house, which I just loved. There, inexplicably, I fell in love with Grace Kelly because of two images of her swimming in Lake Como. I had a massive crush on her. I was five or six.
I don’t have any particular explanation for why that aesthetic appetite exists in Homo Sapiens, even in young children, but there it is. 
JB: I was going to ask if you were coming from the North East. Was your family part of the cultural tradition of boarding school? 
JS: In fairness to him, my father had been sent away at the same age himself. It was just how it was done. The English pattern. My family came from money, but several generations before them. I like to describe them as camped in the ashes of a great fortune. 
So I grew up with the trappings of privilege, but almost none of the economic leverage. The good schools, etc, were actually paid for by a relation. I came out of that, making photographs all the time, but mostly just of the other boys, because that’s who I was around. It wasn’t until after four years in the military, where I was a Russian interpreter living in Japan for three years, that I found myself finally in a context that included women.
This was Marlboro College in southern Vermont. It was very small, 200 students, and I arrived right at the height of the sexual revolution. The school’s only rule was, whatever you’re doing, just please close your door. 
That was paradise for me. I was finally in the context of women, and finally really happy socially because the truth was, I’d never much liked talking about cars and…
JB: Sports? 
JS: About cars and sports. Exactly. The conversation with women was instantly more interesting to me than any conversations I’d had before. The critic, AD Coleman, has since described me as having a strong feminine aspect, and I really appreciated that clear perception of who I am. It realys fit with my own sense of self.
From that point on, I only really photographed girls and women.
JB: But your first experience, based upon your age, and the age group of the kids with whom you were billeted, was in photographing young boys.
JS: Very much so.  My cofrères.
JB: Is that something you think people are familiar with?
JS: It’s been in an interview here or there, but it’s kind of the bedrock of where it all comes from.
JB: At what point in your evolution as a photographer did you start working with nudes?
JS: Not for a long time. When I was at Marlboro, in Vermont, I did some. But the work then was really fueled more by hormones than intelligence. I was 22 or 23 years old, and new to the game of sex and relationships. Making pictures of naked women struck me as an enjoyable endeavor. But it left me feeling hollow, somehow dishonest, so I stopped pretty quickly
Then in 1973 I took a feminist workshop in Minneapolis/St Paul as part of a larger workshop I was doing on alternative education. It changed my life significantly, because, for the first time, I started to really appreciate the problem with objectification in nude photography — and how much of traditional photography of women was hard on them as a group. Abrasive, even.
I came away from that deciding I didn’t want to make photographs like that, and I actually stopped doing nudes for almost ten years. But then, almost accidentally, I stumbled upon the fact that making portraits of people over a long period of time transitioned the work from being about the body to being about relationship. In the same time frame I found myself in a counter-culture context in California where nudity was commonplace and shame absent. This was an epiphany for me!
This encounter with people who had no complex about simply being naked combined with my experience with feminism in the early 70′s and set me on a completely different path from where I started. Very happily so, because, since then, I have not photographed a great many people, but I have photographed the people I do photograph a great many times.
JB: So what led to photographing younger girls was that starting earlier enabled you to potentially open up a lengthy, multi-decade process?
JS: That’s exactly right. In fact, as time went on, I got more and more interested in even starting with pregnancies, when possible — starting as early as possible so that I felt like, when I’d been photographing for a number of years, that I really knew something. 
Now, I’m photographing a third generation. You begin to have something on the order of a significant understanding of who a person is when you’ve known her parents, and then their parents before that, most of their lives.
The first two Aperture books did me a real disservice, in that respect. Michael Hoffman refused to allow me to edit them chronologically, as I wanted to. I had edited my first book, “The Last Day of Summer,” with a great editor from Aperture, and we had worked it out together as a chronology to our mutual satisfaction. With each of the models depicted, you’d see them getting older image by image, and that painted the picture of a relationship.
That didn’t suit Hoffman at all. He wanted to edit it graphically, so he ditched our chronology as not interesting, and basically did it as an exercise in graphics. His mantra was, “You don’t know anything about making books. I do. Shut up.”
JB: Had you gotten your way, it sounds like you would have created something within the realm of what Nicholas Nixon did with “The Brown Sisters,” which, of course, drew him massive acclaim.
JS: Exactly right. I’d been doing lifetime studies for a long time at that point. I wanted people to understand that it wasn’t just pictures of pretty girls, it was a long-term relationship with a huge amount of respect as the engine, and that the project was open-ended and continuing.
All my subsequent books with Scalo and Steidl, etc, and, after Hoffman was gone, even with Aperture were in fact edited chronologically.

Fanny; Montalivet, France, 1990

Fanny; Montalivet, France, 1996

Fanny; Montalivet, France, 2011
JB: It seems like a great opportunity to talk a bit about the way your vision of your own process, your motivations and intellectual curiosity, have led you in one direction. Clearly, the elephant in the room here is the way an audience, critics, and other people have responded to what you’re doing.
It’s not edgy here to say your work is among the more controversial that’s come around in the last three or four decades. 
Can we start with the way you react to other peoples’ reactions? What’s it like for you, when you feel your own actions are coming from one place, and other people are responding from such a massively different set of assumptions?
JS: The Aperture book set off a certain amount of reaction that was conservative, as you depict. I think, if it had been edited chronologically, that wouldn’t have necessarily been the case, as much as it turned out to be. Subsequently, most of those critical voices have gradually been stilled, by seeing the chronologically edited books, and the long, long timespans.
And then came the Aperture book, with Misty Dawn which described a quarter of a century of her life. That kind of calmed people down. It became impossible not to realize that there had to be a profound level of trust between a model, who was letting herself be photographed for that many years, and who then entered her own child into the process. There’s no harm being done there. Just the opposite, in fact.
In fact, the work is reifying, and re-enforcing in a very positive way for the models. Simply put, the people whom I photograph love both the process and the work. People who are too conservative to appreciate that, frankly, just don’t interest me that much. I’m fine with how the work is made. I know that it’s a great joy for me to make it, and it’s a huge pleasure for the models to be in it.
Finally there are only two entities that I answer to: myself, and the models. What the rest of the world makes of it is, frankly, just not that interesting or relevant for me.
JB: Context is key. It’s hard to have any kind of art conversation in the 21st Century without bringing it up. 
I’ll speak plainly here. I saw one print, decontextualized on the wall at Aperture a couple of years ago. I hadn’t been face-to-face with the work before, and it threw me. I had a very powerful, negative, visceral reaction to it. And I wrote that as well.
It was just one print, a slice pulled out of the narrative that you’re describing. I have to say, I think it did you a disservice in that regard.
JS: We’re not there to protect the work and make sure that doesn’t happen. 
To advance my notion of it, the most important thing in my work is an absence: the absence of shame. The people that I photograph are basically living a lifestyle without clothes because that’s the lifestyle they choose. They’re not taking their clothes off for me. They live that way.
That’s one of the things I discovered at Marlboro, was that getting people to take their clothes off for you is something that’s been done rather too much. It’s essentially artificial; kind of understandably hormone induced. 
I have this visual curiosity, and became fascinated, later in the 70′s, when I finally started on the body of work that I’m doing now, by the reality that I encountered in the counter-culture in Northern California. Dress or undress was dictated only by weather – not social convention. A new world.
There I found the nude, per say, as something that was organic to the being of the people. They were completely unashamed of themselves. Coming from the East Coast, an absence of shame was a little startling, because I was raised on it. 
That absence, even in an individual picture, can be breathtaking for people who’ve been raised in a context where it doesn’t exist. Where the body is hidden, and where nudity is routinely conflated with sexuality. That’s really not my problem, and it’s not the model’s problem. It’s the viewer’s problem.
JB: That’s why the work creates such powerful conversations, and can so easily end up in the political crosshairs. Given the times, and the decades we’re talking about, did you ever find yourself in a room, sharing a conversation with Robert Mapplethorpe or Andres Serrano? 
JS: No. I never met either of those two artists. I wish I had done, and I would have been intrigued to speak with them.
My roll as a test case, as it were, was not a role that I enjoyed or embraced in any way. I wish that it had never happened. But, culturally, it was more or less inevitable. The fact that I was unaware of that, and hadn’t thought to predict it, is evidence, once again, as AD Coleman points out, of my naiveté.
As we record this interview, you’re in New Mexico and I am in France in a naturist resort with a summer population of 29,000 people on the Atlantic Coast. There are many other such resorts up and down this coast and elsewhere in Europe. I’ve been coming here for thirty years. Nudity means nothing to anybody here. People come here to exist wearing whatever they want. When the weather is cool, people wear something. If women have their period, they usually wear bottoms. People wear whatever’s relevant or nothing – as they please.
Children, especially, are rarely clothed here, because they enjoy so much not having clothes on. If you exist in that context for a while, it gives you an artificial notion of what’s reasonable behavior as regards the rest of the world. This is such a comfortable place to be. 
JB: It’s great to learn more about the roots of your process, especially as one who was so offended by the work out of context.
Given that we’ve been talking about nudity, that seems like a good segue to discuss yourupcoming workshop with the Santa Fe Workshops. It’s called “The Portrait and the Nude.” 
How long have you been teaching? 
JS: Pretty much my whole life. I’m kind of a natural teacher, if I can say that without sounding self-aggrandizing. It’s probably the thing I do best in life. I love it.
It is an abiding sadness for me that, given the political take on my work, probably no major University would dare hire me. But I’m brought in as a lecturer from time to time and I love doing it. I particularly like looking at people’s work, and then trying to help them figure out how to do it better. 
JB: What do you think are the advantages of working in small groups? What is it like for you as an instructor, and what do you think your students tend to get out of the environment?
JS: Every student is a different person, and it’s my job as a teacher to try to figure out who they are, and then turn the key in their lock to help them be better. Help them manifest themselves in the work. 
In a small group, I have time to spend with individuals, to try to get my head around who they are, what skill set they have, and what skills they could use to go further. Sometimes, that’s a manner of looking at what equipment they’re using, and then figuring out if they’re frustrating themselves unnecessarily by using equipment that’s not appropriate for what they need and want to do. You’d be surprised by how often that is the case.
Other times, it’s talking about the larger philosophies that are behind making pictures; understanding them, and how they relate to what they might have been born to do. I’m not much fond of art schools, where people are often taught to think in parallel as it were — where political cant has a large place, and political correctness often holds sway. This can result in students manifesting popular schools of thought as opposed to the individuals they were born to be.
My assistants during the summer come from The Norsk Fotofagskole in Trondeheim, Norway. Five years ago I had occasion during the Nordic Light Foto Festival to review the school’s entire student body’s work during one long day. No student had work that was anything like anybody else’s! Every student was doing completely original work and all of it was extremely well-made. That’s a terrific photographic education.
That’s my ideal. I’m trying to help the students be individuals. I don’t want them to be me by any stretch of the imagination. I give a gentle hard time to those people who think they’re flattering me by resembling me.
JB: A gentle hard time? I haven’t sorted that out yet. I’m more accustomed to a hard hard time. 
JS: I really believe in blowing on sparks and encouraging people. Figuring out what it is that they do well, complimenting them for it, making them feel good about themselves, and then getting in a little medicine by saying, “And you could do this even better if…” I never want to do anything but encourage students.
JB: In something like this, where the purpose of the workshop touches so closely on your own process, do you ever encourage students to photograph people with clothes on? Does it always stick to the nude? 
JS: Absolutely. What I like best to do, if it’s a two day workshop, the first day we’ll shoot kids who are dressed. Working with young people obliges the students to be decent people, because kids won’t pose for them if they’re not. 
Kids simply won’t accept a person who’s being mean to them, or being officious, bossy, or pushy. You’ll get nothing from them, under those circumstances.
Then, for the second day, we transition to the figure, which a lot of people come to study. I still emphasize, of course, that you need to be treating this person as a person, not a model. It’s vastly better if you accept from them what they have to give, and not tell them what to do. The set of ideas we have when we instruct a model to pose is tiny, compared to what people do naturally.
There is far more beauty in the awkward grace of a natural position than there is in any sort of Neo-Greco-Roman pose. If I never saw another one, it would be too soon. I’m sick to death of all the arms behind the head and everything. No thank you!
For a five day workshop we do two or three days of younger models followed by the days of figure models. I let the group decide on the balance of what they want to do.
JB: What about San Miguel de Allende, where the workshop is taking place? Have you been there before?
JS: I’ve taught there I think as much as a half a dozen times. It’s a terrific location. My first workshop there was a real eye-opener, and was actually my first time in Mexico. San Miguel is at altitude, and has enormous charm. As a photographer, it is a paradise of brilliant locations and amazing light.
The model population is surprising too, because they’re not the kind of over-tired, worn-out models that I sometimes associate with workshops. They tend to be relatively new to it, and quite beautiful. They’re interesting people, and the workshop students become enamored of them. They develop a relationship and of course that for me is the holy grail.
JB: I’ve been through that part of Mexico. It’s lovely. There are some cool, smaller cities around there, like Guanajuato and Queretaro. Do you get out of San Miguel at all? Are there outdoor shoots?
JS: They’re all outdoor shoots, and we go all over. We go to people’s ranches. We spend a day up at an abandoned silver mine, which is a bit higher. It’s a long trip up there, but it’s a stunning location.
We definitely get into the real Mexico doing this. It’s as rich a workshop experience as anyone could ever hope to have. At the end of the week, we are all pretty beat, because we do so much. Tired but happy.
The Santa Fe Workshops does a great final evening, where everyone’s work is seen. There are slide projections. It’s a terrific experience for people. It’s my favorite workshop that I’ve taught. 
JB: That’s great to hear. I’m glad we got a chance to talk about it, as the Santa Fe Workshops are sponsoring this interview series. We all know each other here in New Mexico, and I’m a big fan of how they promote education and creative practice.
Can you tell us a bit about what you’re working on right now?
JS: This evening I’m shooting Flore, whom I have known for more than 25 years. With her kids. So I’m doing a mother and daughter portrait there. 
At a greater distance I am leaving for China in a few weeks where I have a series of museum openings of my work to attend. I then come back to Europe to print a new book of 25 years in the life of my goddaughter, Fanny, with Steidl. And then I get to finally fly home.
JB: What’s the light quality like on the Atlantic Coast this time of year?
JS: The light quality is staggering. The first time I walked onto this beach, 30 years ago, I suddenly understood the Impressionists in a new way. The light here is stupefying. It has a lot of moisture in it, and in the evening, it fluoresces. Things are lit from all directions when you’re on the beach. 
Shadows have an enormous amount of information in them. The highlights are soft, with beautiful, beautiful scale. The light saturations here are just so richly appealing. 
JB: Do you get to travel around and hit the museums, or do you mostly stick to your beach?
JS: I tend to be doing just one thing. I’m either with my family here, or I’m shooting. I’m also in Europe a lot during the winter. That’s when I hit museums and shows, because I’m omnivorous. I’m much more influenced by paint, in fact, than I am by photography.
I love ingesting new art. It’s one of the reasons why I love teaching so much because I see things I would never have thought to do myself. I hope that I’m learning permanently.
JB: I try to use this platform to encourage people to go look at work as much as possible. I find, anecdotally, when you talk to photographers, they often say they’re too busy. But I believe, without good input, there’s very little chance of great output.
JS: I couldn’t agree more. You are what you eat. Period.
Occasionally, I’ll teach someone over the age of 60, and they’re often a lot harder to teach. Very often, they’ve made up their minds, and they’re not taking on new ideas. Because I am 66 now, I’m terrified of that ossification.
I’m always trying to push myself, and at least once every couple of days, I’ll make a picture that breaks some or even all of the personal rules I have for making pictures. I don’t want to live in a cage of my own habit and practice. Often those experiments fail – but not always. The only truly bad picture one can take is the one that one does not take at all. We learn from all the rest.
Join Jock Sturges at his upcoming workshop, The Portrait and The Nude, in San Miguel de Allende, October 19-24, 2014.

September 2, 2014

SFPW Staff Picks: Favorite Photo Apps



Apps. Love 'em, hate 'em, or don't understand 'em, apps are here to stay. More become available everyday and, as photographers, they can be useful tools for photographing, exposing, processing, or sharing. We were curious what our staff uses, so we asked our full-time team, recent instructors and seasonal support staff: "Do you have a favorite photo app?" While we discovered that some staff members are decidedly old school others definitely have a blast checking out all the latest digital toys, from the extremely practical to the just plain fun. See what we use and why below:

Reid Callanan
Director          

I don't do a lot of apps, but I do use Instagram. Their new picture processing features are pretty cool, and I also use Hipstamatic. That's what I've got on my phone.


Carrie McCarthy
Marketing Creative Director

I definitely have a favorite. It's called Retro Camera. It's sort of like Hipstamatic but I like it because not everyone has it. It has all these fun retro camera options, like the Pinhole, the FudgeCan, the Barbl, the Xolaroid 2000, and my personal favorite, Little Orange Box.


Melyssa Holik
Marketing Assistant

I just started using The Photographer's Ephemeris, and I'm finding it useful because I shoot in some pretty remote areas and it helps me plan, even weeks or months in advance, what the light will be like at different times of day and night. Maybe there are people out there that have a really good sense of direction and can just visualize how the moonlight will fall on a specific rock formation in Utah in October... but I am definitely not one of them!


Renie Haiduk
Director of Operations           

I love Hipstamatic, because I have found the perfect lens and film combination that renders images the way I would photograph with film.


Cotton Miller
AV Coordinator            

Snapsy and Slow Shutter CamSnapsy is like Nik software, and Slow Shutter allows you to take a longer exposure than the camera would normally allow, it uses the video function to record for a long time and then compresses that into one image.”


Abigail Moore
Digital Lab Assistant

Pocket Light MeterSince my film camera doesn't have an internal meter, it's important. The app lets you select whether to meter for shadows or highlight, from anywhere in the scene, and it lets you preview what your image will look like at different exposures. My exposures are perfect every single time I use it.


Brandon Johnson
Operations Assistant 

I don't have any apps, other than what my daughter downloads!


Will Van Beckum
Digital Lab Coordinator

I have a lot, but which one is my favorite? If I have to choose, I'd say VSCO Cam, a better retro filters app than Instagram. It allows you to be very subtle, so I can use it without it looking like I used an app. I process with that and then send my images to Instagram—I'm an avid Instagrammer, too.”

Instructor: The Portrait Essay

My enlarger is my photo app, I'm a darkroom worker!


Instructor, The Intimate Portrait: Connect With Your Subjects

For now I'm anti-app!


Instructor, Basics of Digital Photography

“The one that I've been playing with recently is called Miniatures. It's a tilt-shift time-lapse combo. It lets you set the interval for your time lapse, the duration, and the amount of tilt-shift effect you want. I just got it and it's my favorite right now!


Instructor, Visual Storytelling with Audio

My favorite photo app is actually as video app called MoviePro. I love it is because it shows an audio level on your phone. There are also a lot of adjustments for the camera. For example, you can lock your focus, white balance, and exposure, and that's especially important for video.


Mark Woodward
Course Coordinator

Instagram is my favorite, and only, photo app. A lot of the photographers I follow travel a lot, and Instagram gives me updates every day, instead of a blog where there's a delay.


Leah Woodruff
Studio Coordinator

My favorite app is Afterlight; it's the easiest way to edit.


Emily Mason
Work Study

I use Instagram, and Negative Me. Negative Me inverts negatives, so if you shoot film it's great for previewing what your negatives will look like.


Alicia Turbitt
Course Coordinator

“I use Instagram, and that's about it.


Stefan Wachs
Assistant Studio Coordinator

I don't use any. It's not that I don't want to. I just haven't learned to use my phone well enough yet!


Jeremy Wade Shockley
Course Coordinator

Instagram is the app I use the most.


Morgan Cadigan
Work Study

VSCO Cam, because the filters mimic different film types, and I like the look of film. I feel like VSCO Cam does a better job of creating those effects than a lot of other apps.” 


What are your favorite photo apps? Share them in the comments, or when you join us in Santa Fe or On The Road for a workshop this fall!

Read more of our SFPW Staff Picks here.

August 22, 2014

The Nikon D810: Tony Bonanno's First Impression

Nikon D810 - First Impression


Reblogged with permission from Tony Bonanno's blog, tbphotonews. The original post can be found here.

© Karen Herman

The Bottom Line: The Nikon D810 camera is probably the best pro quality DSLR that I've ever used. It's not quite the solid build of the Nikon D4s or the Canon 1D series, but the overall performance is very refined and sets a new standard for resolution, dynamic range, and functionality. Previously, I was using a Nikon D800 and D800E. When the D810 was announced I intended to replace my D800 and keep the D800E as the second body for backup and client shoots. I was so impressed with the new D810 after a few days of shooting that I decided to replace the D800E with a D810 also. Admittedly, I had not anticipated such enthusiasm for this new camera. The D810 was described on many websites as a "minor" upgrade, but I would call it a "substantial" upgrade (depending on your intended use of course). There are many improvements, but two in particular apply to my work and they are "major" improvements for me. The first is the AF system from the D4s (very fast and accurate) with the Group Area Autofocus. The second is the much quieter low vibration shutter mechanism. The D810 is not the frames per second speed demon or high ISO king that the D4s is (although it does a commendable job in these areas), but it has many other qualities (including the superb 36 MP sensor) that combine to make it an impressive tool for almost any application or assignment. The only criticism I have is the lack of user interchangeable focusing screens. I'm old school and I miss that feature. Regarding video; Supposedly the video performance is significantly improved, but I'm not a video shooter, so I haven't any experience with the video function. The high resolution 36 MP sensor does demand the best glass. Do not skimp on your lenses. Would I recommend this cameras to my colleagues, serious enthusiasts, and pros? Absolutely.

 Some of the changes/improvements compared to D800/D800E:

  • 36 MP sensor with the highest rating and dynamic range ever tested by DXO Labs. It is very similar to the D800E sensor as far as image quality in my preliminary tests.
  • Addition of Nikon D4s AF system with Group Area AF is a HUGE improvement.
  • Electronic front curtain shutter option during mirror up mode and live view offers a visible improvement for landscape photographers due to very low vibration.
  • Very quiet shutter mechanism compared to 800/800E.
  • Very low vibration shutter mechanism.
  • Improved viewfinder and viewfinder display.
  • Improved LCD screen.
  • Base ISO 64.
  • 5 frames per second high speed mode (6 in DX mode and 7 with optional grip/battery).
  • Faster overall operation with Expeed 4 processor.
  • Longer battery life (1200 vs 900 frames). Same battery as D800/D800E.
  • Somewhat improved ergonomics (handgrip, AF control button, etc.). Slightly less weight.
  • Larger and faster buffer for continuous shooting.
  • Provision for a "small" RAW file.
  • Option for in camera TIFF file in addition to the normal RAW, JPEG, etc.
  • Improved Live View Mode.
  • Improved Video.
There are a number of other minor changes and refinements. I can't over-emphasize how significant the new autofocus and shutter mechanisms are though. Those two items alone have transformed the shooting experience dramatically compared to the previous models.

Hummingbird photo taken with D810 using Group Area Autofocus and Nikon 300mm f/4 lens. Click on photo to see detail. (Image will open in a new window) 



To get more of Tony's expertise in person, join him on a photo adventure down the Rio Chama this August: Rio Chama: Capture to Print, August 22–26, 2014.

August 18, 2014

Flying High with Alexander Heilner

This fall, we're excited to be offering a range of brand new workshops. One of the most interesting new additions is our Aerial Photography intensive with Alexander Heilner. We recently talked with Alex to discuss the inspiration, creative perspectives, benefits, and challenges of photographing from high above the earth.

© Alexander Heilner

How did you get started in aerial photography?
"Well, from the day I was born all the way through high school, my dad worked for TWA, so one of the constants in my childhood was a lot of travel, and a lot of looking out airplane windows. I also started in photography very young; I did it all the way through high school and college. So I think these two interests were bound to collide at some point. The first time I hired a small plane, I did it almost as a lark. I was visiting a friend in North Carolina, and we basically just looked in the phone book, found a pilot and decided to give it a try that afternoon. I was really surprised by the fact that it's not as outrageously difficult or expensive as people might think. I dabbled in it for a while, and started doing it more frequently, and more seriously, from about 2006 on."


What do you find fascinating or intriguing about photographing from the sky?
© Alexander Heilner
"What's most interesting to me is the relationship between artificial infrastructure and the natural environment. It's conceptually interesting because of the economic and environmental issues, and I often examine how humans impact our natural environment, and vice-versa. But it's not only conceptual; many of these human-built structures are also visually striking. Sometimes that's intentional, like the artificial islands in Dubai that have been built to look like palm fronds. Other times it's unintentional, and it's fascinating how something quite pedestrian can become really intriguing when it's abstracted. For example, a single highway winding through a remote landscape becomes about the geometry of that line, or rows of canals dug into the land turn into shapes and patterns. I'm really drawn to the fringes—the edges where urban and natural environments meet."


Why should terrestrial photographers give this a try?
© Alexander Heilner
"Viewing the world from above really changes how we see things, and makes ordinary sights more interesting. We may know rationally what something is, but when we see it from above, we see it in a new way; we may even be amazed by it, and start to ask questions about it. That awareness and interest in looking at things differently continues once you're back on the ground, and for me that's a big part of what's exciting about aerial photography."




Why do you want to teach this workshop?
"I love, love, love teaching! I've taught for a living for many years and I really enjoy being in the classroom with people. For me, teaching and making art are born of the same impulse. It's about recognizing something I find interesting and exciting and wanting to share it with other people. Hopefully, they will find it interesting and exciting too. With art, it's seeing something intriguing and creating an image for people to look at. With teaching, it's sharing a method, or a way of seeing. Both are ways of giving, and sharing my experience with other people. 

For aerial photography specifically, I want to show that it's easier and more accessible than people think. I mean, people are sometimes in awe that I'm doing this, and they really shouldn't be. It's not rocket science! And for the parts of it that are challenging... I can help them get the practice they need and set them up with the skills to do it on their own."


© Alexander Heilner

Why photograph over Santa Fe?
"Santa Fe has a variety of landscapes: remote highways, railroads, mountains, forests, arroyos, rivers, the desert, and of course the city itself. A lot of what we photograph will depend on what participants are interested in. I'm really looking forward to different people's aesthetics leading us in different directions. 

Also, for people who are coming from a place that's visually very different, at first it can be overwhelming to find yourself in this endless desert. But it's a great opportunity to practice narrowing and focusing your attention to see what's really there. Again, it's all about changing your perspective and how you see."


What can people expect from this workshop?
"This workshop will really be a combination of practical skills and aesthetic exploration. There's the logistics of doing this kind of work—getting up there, how you need to adjust your technique, how you photograph from a moving vehicle, how you work in additional dimensions you're not used to, and so on. Then there are the creative aspects—considering what you're saying with your images; whether you shoot straight down or at an angle with the horizon; and what makes a beautiful or interesting aerial photograph. Honestly, the real skill in this work is learning to engage the logistical opportunities and limits in order to serve your conceptual goals. As far as where we'll go and what we photograph, that's going to be determined at least in part by the participants and what they are interested in photographing."


Is there anything else you want to tell people that are considering your Aerial Photography intensive?
I hope participants come into this with a sense of adventure and ready to explore together. I expect we'll learn as much from each other as everyone learns from me. 


Interested in taking your photography higher? Join Alex for his Intensive: Aerial Photography in Santa Fe, October 16-18, 2014.

August 8, 2014

Reid Callanan Shares Seven Tips for Better Travel Photography

Reid Callanan's Tips from the Top

As an experienced traveler with more than 25 years of photographic expertise, Reid Callanan has spent many years traveling and photographing in unfamiliar places. As Director of Santa Fe Photographic Workshops, he's also worked with, and learned from, hundreds of talented photo instructors. Reid recently shared seven easy-to-follow tips for improving your travel photography.

1) Give Yourself a Theme for a Morning or Afternoon
Exploring a new destination to make interesting pictures can be very overwhelming. So it is often easier to make photographs when one narrows down the options.  

Where to begin? One way is to start is to give yourself a theme to focus on during your wanderings. Simple themes are best. A few favorites are reflections, doors, flowers, or just photograph the light of the location. You will be surprised how easy it is to make interesting photographs in a new place with this simple self-assignment.

2) Get an Insider’s Perspective by Blending into Your Surroundings 
If you look like a photographer with a camera vest, several cameras hanging around your neck, and a big camera bag, people tend to get nervous and wonder where the photos you are taking will end up. 

Take one camera, one lens, use a backpack as a camera bag, try to be invisible and don’t call attention to yourself. If you stand on the corner for long enough, or show up at the same places multiple days of your trip in a low-key manner, people will get used to seeing you and not feel so intimidated.













3) Wait for a Picture in an Interesting Place
Find an interesting scene with beautiful architecture, light, murals, a unique background or backdrop, or anything unusual and park yourself there. 


Wait for it. Wait for that great photo to happen. It could be a horse passing by, a wedding party, a man carrying a cello, or a child with a goat. 

Trust me, if you wait long enough, an interesting photograph will reveal itself.

4) Eye Contact in Portraiture is Critical
The old saying that eyes are the windows to the soul is especially true in good portrait photography. 


Capturing your subjects eyes adds another dimension to the photograph, makes it more compelling, and better illustrates the essence of the person.











5) Deliver Pictures Back to Your Subject
You can purchase a travel printer for under $100. The size of a small notebook, they connect directly to your camera or laptop. 



When you have the opportunity to do portraits of local people, print a picture of them in your hotel room at the end of the day, then make a beeline back to them the next day to give them their photograph. Often this helps open doors for an additional round of portraits and for meeting other family members. These portraits are always more intimate and insightful because of the trust you have built by offering a print as a gift.


6) Take Advantage of Bad Weather
Travelers often take a stormy day as a sign that they should stay in their hotel room and read a book or visit a museum. Often, dicey weather creates beautiful scenery, great clouds and dramatic light. 


Find reflections in puddles, and experience your destination in unusual, unique ways with the weather playing a leading character in your photographs.
7) Get up Early or Skip Dinner
Great light makes great photographs, and the best light is often found early in the morning or right around dinnertime.


Visit www.santafeworkshops.com to check out all the inspiring workshops Reid has planned for SFPW, including his 2014 plans for fall in San Miguel de Allende. And d
on’t forget to follow Reid on Instagram!