2012 McCuistion Family Portraits

I just added the family portraits I did two weeks ago of my ‘new’ family. This includes all the kids that are still at home – my 3 and Cheryl’s 2.  I failed to get one single picture of all of us – but that’s a little tough when I’m holding the camera.

2012 McCuistion Family

I also redid the Profile shot I did of the kids 2 years ago. I was going to do it every year, but the whole ‘life being seriously screwed up’ thing messed me up last year. But maybe every two years will work?  I added Cheryl’s 2 kids so I have three versions. One with all 5 of them, one of just my kids and one of her kids. I also built a base template that I can drop the images in, so it should be much easier and more standard going forward. This is the full composite of all 5 kids.

I’m still working on our engagment pictures. I have a couple of ideas I want to try. I’ll share them if they aren’t total bombs. Here’s a teaser.

This is the first test of my gallery concept. A way to post pictures for customers to view and select from. It’s worked pretty good so far, I think. It took a lot of time though. Uploading to the web site is slow – and WordPress is even slower when I have to fix things. It’s completely manual at this point. I will be looking for a better solution going forward. But this was a huge gallery. It consists of 7 sub galleries. I shot over 400 pictures, 4 groups, 2 sets of 6 individuals, 1 set of engagment shots (my patient daughter pushing the button under the direction of her impatient father), 3 locations and 2 seperate studio setups. I think I pulled out 140 final shots which I posted in the gallery.  I was wiped out at the end of the shoot.

I fine tuned shooting head shots on white seamless with my new strobes and gear. That worked well, except for when I shot before the strobes recycled.  I can’t adjust the grey out of the seamless on those, at least not cleanly, without impacting the subject. But the darker background looked nice on some of the shots and I always like the deeper shadows. I’m constantly fighting myself to pull up exposures.

I worked on my group shots. I’m getting better at arranging groups. These looked much better.

I’ve extended my work flow. I’ve setup a WorkArea on my hard drive where I will work on pictures that need more attention than just LightRoom, composites, etc. That way I can save source images, different stages, notes and the final image(s) all in one place. I am using the same LightRoom catalog (for now). We will see how that goes.

The fun shot…



Christopher James – Alternative Process – Future of Photography

I’ve been reading ‘The Book of Alternative Photographic Processes’, second edition by Christopher James.

Alternative Photographic Processes by Christopher James

I played with Alternative Processes in college. I wrote a research paper and printed Gum Bicromate images of a Ram’s skull and a beautiful young lady. I couldn’t find the Ram’s skull image, but here’s the young lady. It’s faded a bit in 25 years. Not that it was ever an amazing image to start with, but it got me the grade and I enjoyed the process.

It intrigued and interested me, but I haven’t done anything with it since then. But I never lost my interest, so I bought this book. Its was pricey, but it is rich in material. I intend to get into playing with some of these alternative processes in the next few months.

While researching the author a bit more on his web site, I found an interview by South x Southeast photomagazine – Vol IV, Issue 1, April 2012

I was intrigued by some of the comments he made regarding the future of photography due to the digital democritization of photography – the fact that there is a camera in everybody’s hand and that Photoshop is so prevelant and powerful. What does that mean going forward to photography as an art form? How do we seperate the ‘artistic’ image from the common iphone image? Or is there a seperation? This has been pounding around in my head of late.

The whole point in returning back to Alternative Processes is to re-introduce the personal, artistic touch that seems to be lost in the clean perfect digital image. The happy accident. The inbred flaws that add character. I miss the character film grain added to an image. It just isn’t the same to ‘add’ grain in Lightroom or Photoshop. The generated grain doesn’t have the umph that the actual physical grain does. There is a depth that comes from the physical limitations of the medium.

For your consideration:

We recognized that photography was squarely at a crossroads in the evolution of medium … predicated upon the philosophy that photography is no longer a single entity, but is unique among the visual arts in its ability to successfully merge new technologies, and traditional influences, with personal artistic production. It is, now more than any other form of visual expression, an ideal nexus of art and culture.

We are in an interesting time for our medium. Photography is evolving into something entirely new. From an alternative-process perspective: the opportunity of finding the future in the past, returning to the unpredictable and the hand-­made image. Consider the ramifications of photography in the early 1800s, a truly radical innovation that set painters free. With the current speed of processing and digital invention, I don’t think we have a clue about all of the ways in which digital imaging will influence and alter hand-made photography.

To the upcoming generation of photographic artists, schooled with the pixilated sterility of digital imaging, and a social-networking visual aesthetic, using one’s hands to make an image is a persuasive argument simply because it is imperfect… and as a result a profound and precise reflection of us all.

There is a hunger for the accident; I literally feel it in the energy of my students, …


… we are being inundated with photographic uniformity, simple and nearly-­free archiving, that is technology-­dependent, with imagery that is built upon an aesthetic of social networking and marketing. There is no price to pay for this work and with the exception of showing friends pictures of, and to, other friends, the experience of making images is often a sterile one, without relationships to the hand of the artist … or her senses

Students need to learn to love what they are seeing and creating without having to be told, via the “high priest” edictums, that their work could be important … and maybe “art”

The fact is, there is often precious little difference between the imagery selected by the Grand Poobahs of the museum and gallery world and much of the work I am seeing from my MFA students … it’s just a matter of right-place-right-time, intelligence, luck and being ready when you’re lucky. I really like the art-game but am not a fan of the religion or the politics of its high priests.

Like I tell my students, if you want to be really good at this, you need to learn how to play really hard. Little bears become very successful big bears through play, not because they follow the rules and current bear fashions.

That last quote hit me with the same hammer that has been pounding me in the head – You succeed through hard work. We (I) spend to much time trying to figure out how to be successful and to little time DOING IT!!!!

Just do it, damn it…

Site Restructure

Fast Cars

Fast Cars

I’ve been tinkering with the site the past couple of months. What I had before was a bit messy and not structured the way I wanted, going forward. So some modifications were needed.

I can’t create in a vacuum, I need somewhere to show off what I’ve done. This is it, for now. I’ll get more ambitious later.

Previously I had two sites – my blog and a gallery on SmugMug.  My domain went to the gallery and linked to the blog. Now there is only one site and the domain points here.

The site is now made up of 3 areas:

  • Work Log (Blog) – This is my working journal. Here I record my thoughts, notes, research, anything that I think is interesting or anything I just want to verbalize
  • Gallery - I will publish the results of my projects, jobs, etc here. This is the finished product area
  • Training – I want to do more classes, reach out and help others learn. Each class I teach will include a syllabus – a summary of the key points with example images.

It ain’t pretty. There are some formatting issues, it could be cleaned up here or there. But it’s fully functional and it’s time I start being a photographer again, an artist, not a bad computer programmer.  Content is king here.

Meet Beaux

Meet Beaux

Next up – probably a store. It would be cool to actually generate some kind of income.  But there are some ego issues involved there. What if I put it up and nobody comes… :0)

But before the store or anything else – a whole lot of images, good, bad, some great. Tune in and see how it goes.

Oh, and the pictures above – no relation at all to this post other than they look nice and add some color to a fairly boring post.

Happy shooting all…


Jerry Uelsmann and John Paul Caponigro

These are excepts from a converstation between John Paul Caponigro and Jerry Uelsmann, first seen in the Nov/Dec 1997 issue of View Camera magazine.

You can see the full converstation here, on John Paul Caponigro’s web site.

The bolding is mine – the comments that caught my minds eye…

Jerry Uelsmann

I certainly don’t feel threatened by the computer. It’s a tool. It’s another way of making marks. Good creative artists will come along. We’re in this phase now where a lot of people are overwhelmed by it, feel it’s it, feel it’s the one thing. It’s going to be with us for a long time, but it’s going to find it’s place. I figured out pretty early, even in the darkroom, having too many options is counter productive to the creative process. The computer is the king of too many options.

John Paul Caponigro

Exactly. There is always the danger of doing too much. Knowing when to stop is important.


One of the things I’ve felt, a bizarre thing, was that photography had become so camera oriented. I had always liked the darkroom, it was this visual research lab, a place for alchemy to occur. When you look at photo magazines, for every enlarger ad, there’s a hundred camera ads. So that’s the focus, for the populace too, because many people like to take pictures and they don’t have darkrooms. That always was the emphasis for the whole industry. My analogy was a lot of photographers have many cameras and one enlarger and I have one camera and many enlargers. (I actually have more than one camera but I don’t have a lot.)


Painting felt threatened the minute photography was born. Yet later it was photography that liberated painters from the confines of realism. All of these restrictions and definitions are undergoing a process of disintegration. Technique and materials have been driving this relatively recent revolution too much, placing the emphasis on the wrong areas. Evolution is far too optimistic a word, but there has been a progression of vision. One would hope we could shift our concern to a history of vision and process, not a history of materials and technique.


The limits are up here. It’s not in the materials. It’s endless, the possibilities that exist out there for making marks with whatever you have. You name the system, it is wide open. The limits are truly in how people think about it. We’ve seen major, major changes in the world of art. It is only natural to accept that thinking is constantly challenged. It goes up and down, some things survive and some things don’t. It’s part of life’s rich pageant.


I maintain, and there have been a few books, that a part of the art scene is very much that work that has a poetic sensibility to it. I felt back in the fifties, even in the sixties, there was some effort to deal with poetic imagery. As we got into more politically correct art it was cast by the wayside.

Weston had this thing years ago, “When I was young you see, in my early thirties, I defined art as outer expression of inner growth. But I can’t define art any better today. My work has changed. It is not something to be learned apart, from books and rules. It is a living thing which depends on the whole participation. As we grow in life so we grow in art. Each of us in his own way.” Amen. Obviously that meant so much to me at one time that I memorized it. This modernist, romantic, poetic definition of art still works for me. I would modify it somewhat, but I still basically believe it.

Jerry Uelsmann’s web site

Bio of Jerry Uelsmann by John Paul Caponigro

Wikipedia entry on Jerry Uelsmann


Blending Modes – Composite Portraits

Here are a couple of examples of using blend modes to build composite portraits. I found these on 500px by Alfredo J. Llorens.

The first one uses multiple head shots blended together to create a single portrait image. I really like this:

25 Aniversario by Alfredo Lloren

Here’s another one using an environmental element to blend. I can’t say I love this image, but I really like the concept.

Alfredo Lloren A Forest

Thank you, Mr. Llorens

Back again, again

I am still around. I can’t believe it’s been this long since I posted.

The last year has been a year of trial and transformation for me. A year ago this month my wife decided to end our marriage of 17 years. So I was thrown into a whirl of change, both emotional and physical. And just for kicks I decided to take a new job working in a different state.

Where I thought I’d have all kinds of time to dedicate to my art and photography with the kids gone half of the time, I found working and taking care of the house and trying to have a social life pretty much ate up that extra time. Now, I think I’ve got the routine down, I have some grasp on my social life and the new job is in process. Maybe now I can work what I really want to do into my life. At least I can hope.

I’m going to give it my best shot,..

We see things not as they are…

From the Talmud:

We see things not as they are, but as we are.

A talk about beauty from TED:

A story, a work of art, a face, a designed object — how do we
tell that something is beautiful? And why does it matter so much to us? Designer
Richard Seymour explores our response to beauty and the surprising power of
objects that exhibit it.

Durer – Praying Hands

An amazing example of sacrifice and love – and how art can impact generations.

This story wouldn’t be as profound without the image that goes with it.

I pulled this story from here.

Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children.

In order merely to keep food on the table for this big family, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighbourhood.

Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Durer the Elder’s children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.

They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg.

Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht’s etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.

When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht’s triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honoured position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfil his ambition. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.”

All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, “No …no …no …no.”

Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long table at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, “No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look … look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The ones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother … for me it is too late.”

More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Durer’s hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver point sketches, water-colours, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Durer’s works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.