Thursday, December 27, 2007

Velib Bike Rental in Paris

Hello from Paris. The first thing I noticed since the last time I was here last year is the new Velib bike rental system.
Riders take out a subscription (a fee paid by credit card right at the machine where the bike is). Subscriptions can be purchased by the day (1 euro), week (5 euros) or year (29 euros).
After that, the bike rental is free for the first half hour and a couple more euros for subsequent 30-minute periods.
I haven't used it yet, but plan to tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

What is Creative Commons?

There's a great article posted on a blog today about creative commons. Take a look at the little girl in the above picture. Then think about these questions. 1. Who owns the photo? 2. Who can use the photo? 3. Does Blogger (Google) have any interest in this photo? 4. What are the stipulations for use of this photo? 5. What would you have to do to protect the photo from others using it? These are many questions that come to mind when you post a photo on blogger or on Flickr. Flickr states: "Respect the copyright of others. This means don't steal photographs that other people have taken and pass them off as your own. (That’s what favorites are for.)" What this implies is that you're free to link to other's photos but not free to borrow them if without linking back to his/her site/posting. But does this mean you should ask the person who took the photograph if you can use it? I say, absolutely! Creative Commons sets guidelines for photographers to use with regard to the photos they post on the Internet. "Creative Commons provides free tools that let authors, scientists, artists, and educators easily mark their creative work with the freedoms they want it to carry. You can use CC to change your copyright terms from 'All Rights Reserved' to 'Some Rights Reserved.'" In other words they let you change the automatic* stipulation that any photographs you post are all-rights-reserved photos to other stipulations that you can choose from, "like some rights reserved." *According to, "all major nations follow the Berne copyright convention. For example, in the USA, almost everything created privately and originally after April 1, 1989 is copyrighted and protected whether it has a notice or not." This is known as the Berne Copyright Convention. Moral of the Story: Read the fine print. Don't go posting on a site that lets them have your rights. And don't take others' photographs without asking!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Paris, Morning

I sure would like to go back to Paris for a while. I’ve been there twice - no, three times, and have a nice big box of negatives that I look through once in a while. It’s been at least 10 years since my last visit. But I love the Paris morning. On a slightly chilly April morning - the light envelopes you.

Next up in my web world - among so many things to do - is a gallery where I can put my non-New York work - hopefully without scaring off too many customers. I’m also working on an inexpensive proof book (with WHCC) that can be used as a portfolio and sent out to some of my design firm prospects. I have to say that I have fallen in love with WHCC - if you can fall in love with a vendor. Another vendor I’ve got a crush on is Uline. You’d be surprised how emotional I can get about corrugated cardboard (200 lb).

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Electrico - Lisbon Tram

An “electrico” or traditional Lisbon tram. There are many expensive tours on double decker buses, but a ride with electrico 28 will also bring you to most attractions and actually get much closer to some of them. It’s also much cheaper - and more fun! The sign on the tram says “colinas de Lisboa” - “Hills of Lisbon” and indeed, it has a steep hill to climb. Like Rome, Lisbon is built on 7 hills and there are “Miradouras” (”golden views”) almost everywhere.

Is Photography Dead? Consider the Process

Two shows are highlighted in Newsweek's recent article, "Is Photography Dead" The show at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, "The Art of the American Snapshot, 1888–1978 and the show at Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, "Depth of Field" are two shows the show how photography has evolved since its inception. Peter Plagens, the writer of the piece states that a "mimetic new medium" was formed in 1839 when a print was made from a negative. In other words he describes photography during that period as realism--real subjects and objects that the lens captures. He then goes on to talk about the changes in photography that occurred when everyone started taking pictures with their Kodak Instamatic and Brownie cameras. Last he moves to the postmodern days of Photoshop, image manipulation that's easy and, well...fake. Basically Plagen's asserts with reservation that photography is an "easy" medium in which to work. You take a picture with your digital camera, and, if you frame it right, you might get posted on the Internet. I think a point can be made that there is a difference between a photograph and a snapshot. One is planned from finding the right time, place of the shot to adjusting camera settings to framing and shooting. The other is a picture taken casually without much thought. Plagens focuses on post-processing (using Photoshop) as the beginning of the end of photography. It would be better to say that photography's last step (using Photoshop) is a small part of what a photographer does and when it is done it's no simple task.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Gondolier

You've probably seen pictures of a gondola. But have you ever taken a good look at the gondolier, the gondola's driver? A gondola, if you don't know is a boat that gets you around the city of Venice. The laws in Venice state that you have to have been born there to row a gondola. The gondolier faces the bow and pushes with one oar. Long ago, there used to be thousands of gondoliers rowing their gondolas, but today there are only a few hundred, and most of them serve the tourists.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Sepia Tone and Motion Photography

Five Hints to Create a Sepia-toned Photograph Filled with Motion I always play with my camera. One of the things I like to do with it is move it in different directions when the shutter is open. Here are some hints to do just that... 1. If an object, such as a horse and carriage are moving at night, set your camera to Tv mode and then set your shutter speed to 1/2 a second, more if you are daring. 2. Follow the object you are photographing as you shoot, kind of like how a seagull follows a boat. Your objective is to get the object clear among a moving background. 3. Take the photo in Raw format if at all possible so that you can get sepia from the Raw workflow in Photoshop CS 2. You can do this with any object from your dog catching a frisbee to your baby crawling on the floor.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Catch the Train in LA

Train travel in the United States is fragmented at best. While we don't have an extensive train network as vast as that of Europe, we do have one that suits the needs of the larger cities. One doesn't think of Los Angeles as a place where one takes a train, but many people do as routes extend out like a spider from the city's Union Station. Union Station opened in 1939 when at that time it carried 7000 passengers a day. Today 26,000 ride the trains to and from the Inland Empire and up and down the coast. You can catch the Los Angeles Metro to many places around the city, including Hollywood from Union Station.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Getting Into a Gallery

It's early in the A.M. and I'm preparing proofs for the Photographer's Gallery in Singapore. Matthew (I prefer Matt, however the editors of Wiley went with Matthew for my book "Digital Art Photography for Dummies") here, working to put some proofs together for Fabian So, a nice gentleman I met while I was traveling through Singapore. Before I begin I want to offer a TIP: Do everything you can do to help your photography find a name for itself (that is make it stand out from the thousands who want publication of their photographs, gallery shows and all the rest of the so called glitz of an artist's life). Before I picked up a camera, I learned how to write. I knew when I wanted to become a writer that the writing would need some help, that is, I felt that my writing alone would have a better chance of selling if it had some images that went along with it. I read that in some writing rag about six years ago when I started all of this publication business. Viola! My formula began to work when Mona D. from a local alternative paper in Palm Springs, CA. picked up a story called "Confessions of a Picker" that I offered her via a phone call in 1999. She came over to my mid-century modern condo and took pictures of all the 50s and 60s stuff I had bought on the cheap for resale. I watched her as she stood up on chair snapping pictures of everything from ceramic poodles to radioactive orange McCoy pottery to minimalist patio furniture. The article was about a picker (that's someone who hunts valuable stuff at garage sales and flea markets and turns it over to antique stores and consignment shops for resale) and she made it the cover story of the paper. In the article I describe myself as a being an expermental type of guy (who can't cook) blasting Melmac dishes in the microwave when I decided to cook with the old brightly-colored, plastic relics that look like dolls should eat from them. But more important than that, I went out and bought a Canon film camera and started taking picture of the radio dials, mid-century signage and just about anything else that was a "blast of the past" so to speak. I moved from picking (oh, okay, that was a part-time thing, I have a Masters in Creative Arts from San Francisco State and have been a school teacher for 14 years) to taking pictures of signage. The signs began to sell like hot cakes when instead of supplying the consignment store with stuff I "picked," I happily made them framed prints of signs. So a couple of stores and galleries later (M Modern Gallery sells my work as well as Room Service and the Neon Musuem in Los Angeles and Palm Springs Consignment in Palm Springs) I find myself wanting more sales. So, on my photos move on to Fabian So, the curator of the Photographer's Gallery in Singapore, another place I just visited in Asia (and a very spiffy place at that). Fabian has sent me a contract for a Christmas-time show in his gallery. Having a Dummies title under my belt helped to sell my work (you need all the help you can get to get into any gallery as most won't even talk to you unless you have a proven track record of making money with your art work). Today I just sent him the templates of my signage pictures. He'll pick 20, frame them for me (I have to pay for that) and sell them (hopefully) at the show. Above, you'll find one of the templates that I made using Photoshop CS 2's new automate command (File>Automate>Contact Sheet II).

Friday, December 14, 2007

How to Take a PIcture of a Christmas Tree at Night

So, you want to take a picture of your Christmas tree at night... Here's how without a tripod: 1. Set your camera to a high ISO speed, say, over 1600. 2. Turn off your camera's flash. 3. Set your camera to Av mode, then set the f-stop at f/8. (Or set it to auto mode or "P" mode depending on what setting your camera has). 3. Turn off all the light except those on your tree. 4. Snap your Christmas photograph. Here's how with a tripod (for the pros). 1. Set your camera to a low ISO, say 100. 2. Set your camera to Tv mode and your shutter speed to 1 second. 3. Turn off all the lights except those on your tree. 4. Snap a picture. Try these steps at the following shutter speeds: 3 seconds, 5 seconds, 10 seconds, 15 seconds and 30 seconds and pick the image that comes out best.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Babcock in Billings

The Art Deco theaters opened all across the country in the early twentieth century. This is the Babcock Theater in Billings Montana. Movies are no longer shown there, but it is the place to see boxing. The site of this theater was purchased by A.L. Babcock in 1889. Before this theater was built, there was an opera house on the property. The opera house burned down in 1906. Babcock went on to build a theater on the site. Fire destroyed the interior of the theater in 1935. It was rebuilt by a Californian right after the fire.

Digital Photography: How to Take Portraits and Self-Portraits

Everyone who’s anyone’s done it-made self-portraits or had had them shot or painted. Pablo Picasso, Andy Warhol, Henri Matisse, Dali, and Max Ernst all did. It’s a simple process, really that documents your existence, and even more, it reveals your character, who you are at any given moment. It represents the likeness of a person that can be caught on canvas or in a photograph or sketched on paper, any of which can be scanned and made into digital art. In 1932 Gilberte Brassai photographed Pablo Picasso and in 1944 Henri Cartier-Bresson photographed Arnold Newman. Portraits entertain though the expressions of the subject. Some portrait artists collect images of the same person over a lifetime, some, like Cindy Sherman, photograph themselves. As an artist you can choose who you want to create as your subject from the over-50 women of America’s Red Hat Society to young RAP singers or collect those of everyday people. All you have to do is put your camera in auto or portrait mode and step back a bit from your subject, then zoom in to 80 mm focal length stepping back or forth until the image is clear when you press the shutter half-way down. You can take your own self-portrait too-- 1. Find a place to sit that's relatively clutter free both in front and in back. If you have to move a chair to the place go for it. 2. Check the lighting keep away from places where everything is casting a shadow. 3. Set your camera to portrait mode, look at the view finder and place the camera (use a tripod if you have to or a chair) so that it's pointing in the area where you will sit when it takes your picture. 4. Set the timer to the longest time there is. The timer shows up on your LCD screen as a clock (without a line crossed through it). 5. Place the camera where you want it (should be far enough so you have to zoom to 80mm to get the portrait) and click on the shutter. 6. Quickly move to the place that you found where you will pose for a picture. 7. After the camera takes the picture look at the LCD screen to see if your head and shoulders are comfortably in the frame. If not zoom in or out to where you think you will be in the frame. 8. Set the timer again and click the shutter. 9. Check to see if you're framed well. 10. Repeat steps 6 to 9, this time practicing a pose, say leaning forward in with your arms resting on your knee (a writer's pose).

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mission San Francisco de Solano

In 1869, King Charles III of Spain sent Father Junipero Serra to build a string of missions in California. By 1823 21 missions had been built. The Spanish friars and Indian tribes helped to build them. Mission San Francisco de Solano (pictured above) was the last one built. The Roman Catholic church set up each mission to convert people to Christianity. A convert was called a neophyte. Russian fur traders shared their supplies and donated bells to Mission San Francisco de Solano in the 19th century. Today the mission is part of the Sonoma town square. Sonoma is the center of Northern California's wine country.

The Dot Building

The South of France is filled with architecture from the 60s and 70s. On a walk from the Old Town in Aix de Provence (town of about 100,000 with architecture from the 5th to the 18th centuries); to the outskirts of the city, there's a weird and wild building, which I like to call the dot building. It was built in traditional mid-century modern style--long lines of concrete steel, glass, zig-zagging roof lines, outlined in some serious black and white. The building is home to the Foundation Vasarely. It was designed by Victor Vasarely, who's considered the Father of Op Art. If you're going the way of Provence, this building should not be missed.