And now for something completely different

The other day I wrote about the inspiration I receive from the annual Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta. It is true, I do garner quite a bit of inspiration from this wondrous event. But that doesn’t mean that I am out there pointing my camera skyward each day; alas, rising early to make it to the launch field is not happening at this time.

However, I do have my eye out more for the vibrant colors that belong to the southwest this time of year as these images will attest. These were all taken at a fall harvest festival in Corrales, NM just over a week ago. I hope you enjoy them.

(c) 2010 Brian E. Miller Photography

(c) 2010 Brian E. Miller Photography

(c) 2010 Brian E. Miller Photography

(c) 2010 Brian E. Miller Photography

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Inspiration Monday: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta!!

(c) 2010 Brian E. Miller Photography

Today is the 12th in my series of inspirational people or works of art that inspire me. As I thought about my subject today I had a lot of ideas, but realized I didn’t have enough time to really do them justice; it’s been a busy weekend and so I need to get this post up quickly. Then I realized I was quite motivated these days to create art due to an event happening in my hometown: the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

Each year, beginning the first Saturday in October and ending 9 days later, hundreds of hot air balloon crews and millions of tourists descend on Albuquerque, New Mexico to take part in this colorful and spectacular event.  There are mass ascensions each morning with hundreds of balloons taking to the skies above the high desert landscape and each evening the Rio Grande Valley is illuminated with “balloon glows”: coordinated lighting of the balloons by their pilots and powerful propane powered burners.  You can imagine the photo-ops.

Indeed, the dollar value of camera equipment on the take-off lawn is stunning.  I had lens envy and I was only there for about 2 hours the other day.  Unfortunately the storm blowing in from the north was strong and only a few balloons even inflated.  Still, the opportunities for some fun images did presented themselves and the excitement was palpable; this is what I find inspiring about he balloon fiesta.  Everywhere one looks as the sun rises and the balloons take flight is a perfect photo opportunity and I am often highly motivate to go make some images each year.  I do hope to get back down to the field again this year and witness an ascension.  In the meantime you can check out some images here.

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eBook Review: Journey Through Java by Mitchell Kanashkevich

Craft and Vision, which I am a huge fan of, has released another in their series of Print And Process ebooks today.  Written by photographer Mitchell Kanashkevich this series of photographs takes the viewer through Kanashkevich’s journey to the East Java, Indonesia, photographing Mount Bromo, the ljien Crater, and the Island of Madura.  The photos are initially presented on their own for them to speak their own story, and then followed by the photographers thoughts on his process of making these stunning images of a beautiful and striking land.

These Print and Process ebooks, while not as initially attractive as some of the instructive books created by the good folks at Craft and Vision, are always a joy and wonder to read.  I find myself returning to them time and again as I dig deeper to understand the photographic process these visual artist travel while creating their art.  Each time I am inspired.

Special Offer on PDFs                                                                                                                   For the first four days only, if you use the promotional code JAVA4 when you checkout, you can have the PDF version of Journey Through Java – The Print & The Process for only $4 OR use the code JAVA20 to get 20% off when you buy 5 or more PDF ebooks from the Craft & Vision collection. These codes start at 1:00am PST, September 30, 2010 and expire at 11:59pm PST October 3, 2010.

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The benefits of pulling back

(c) 2009 Brian E. Miller Photography

Boy we live in a world!  A world of non-stop availability and consumption.  Anything we want to know or see, and a lot don’t, is available right at our fingertips through iPhones, computers, iPads, billboards, TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, etc.  Media has made it a wonderful world; it has also made it a terrifying world!

Some time ago I noticed I was getting sad, and grumpy, and irritable.  I was just generally pessimistic about the state of the world.  My solution?  I turned off the news.  Not as a whole, I don’t have a magic remote control, but in my life.  I stopped watching the nightly news (especially local news) and I stopped reading newspapers.  It was all negative news anyway and therefore slanted and biased toward selling newspapers and news shows.  So I went on a “no news diet.”  You know what, it worked.  My mood improved dramatically.  I’m still on that diet to this day.

With that in mind I wondered how I could make a similar shift in my photography.  I spend a fair bit of time reading blogs and looking at other photographer’s work and while sometimes I get inspired, as my Inspiration Monday blogposts might suggest, I also find myself getting down on myself.  You see, I compare myself.  Sometimes I compare my skill level to others’ skill levels; I compare the quality of my output to others’; I compare the quality, intensity, depth, creativity of my projects to others’ as well.  And that can depress me with regard to photographing.

Hmmmm, where have I seen this pattern before?

So, what about going on a low-photography diet?  You know, to stop looking at others’ work and comparing myself against it, even subconsciously?  Especially subconsciously!  What if I just dream up a project and work toward it, without distractions, in my own little creative bubble, without critique, without comparison.  I might just have to pull back a bit to do that, but I’ve survived (thrived) doing something similar before.  And heck, I just might have the time to pursue those creative endeavors if I stopped.

Posted in Creativity | 5 Comments

Cafe de la Presse

Yesterday I posted an image taken at Cafe de la Presse, a French cafe in San Francisco that I fell in love with.  I thought I might share the other images I took on that trip for your viewing pleasure.  I hope you enjoy them.

(c) 2008 Brian E. Miller Photography

(c) 2008 Brian E. Miller Photography

c) 2008 Brian E. Miller Photography

(c) 2008 Brian E. Miller Photography

(c) 2008 Brian E. Miller Photography

(c) 2008 Brian E. Miller Photography

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Inspiration Monday: Zack Arias

(c) 2008 Brian E. Miller Photography

This is the 11th in my series of inspirational people or things that motivate and inspire me to pursue my photographic and artistic endeavors.  Today’s post is about Atlanta based commercial photographer Zack Arias.

I first came across Zack Arias in much the same way I come across many photographers: through the blogosphere.  In this case it was through his stint as guest blogger on Photoshop Guru Scott Kelby’s blog in February of 2009.  Arias, since he was generously given the freedom to choose any platform or subject he liked, simply posted a black and white video.

But what a video.  Rendered mostly in black and white and with his wife’s beautifully haunting music as the backdrop, Arias’ video takes the viewer through an intensely personal moving snapshot of one professional photographer’s life.  It damn near went viral.  It kinda did go viral in the photography world, especially since Arias was reminding people of photography’s proper place in the grand design.

And it is not only pure genius to my way of thinking, it is also pure Arias.  He’s a straight shooter, it seems, calling things like he sees them and often bringing photographers back to earth.  His blog is as wildly popular as it is full of opinion.  Love him or hate him, he’s got something worth saying.

Oh, and he’s a pretty skilled photographer.  He’s made a niche for himself in editorial music photography as well as teaching photographic techniques and workshops.  His “white seamless” tutorials, available for free on his website, is renowned, as are his workshops.  He is especially well known for his OneLight Workshops where he debunks the need for a constellation of strobe lights at photoshoots and shows workshop participants how to get stunning images with one light source.

He is honest, open, transparent and of immense benefit to the craft and art of photography and he repeatedly inspires me to create work, push myself, and (hopefully) create my vision.

The above image is a dyptic shot in 2008 at Cafe de la Presse in San Francisco.  I used a borrowed Nikon d80 and a Nikkor 50mm f1.4 lens.  I just loved this cafe, mostly because it reminds me of the cafes in Paris with all the pastries, cafe au lait, and waiters who speak French.  I think we went there three times in four days.  I love the feeling of Parisian cafes, they seem to embrace and celebrate the simple and important aspects of being alive: good food and drink, community and camaraderie, and quiet time.  I never feel more at home than when I am in an authentic French cafe where I can sit as long as I like without worry about taking up a table.  This and other images I took while there are some of my favorites because I feel I was successful at portraying my feelings for the environment and my experience.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

Posted in Inspiration Mondays | 2 Comments

On Copping Out: when there is no time to make photographs

(c) 2009 Brian E. Miller Photography

I’ve not written much on this blog lately, I don’t know if you’ve noticed.  I haven’t burned out though.  Quite the opposite.  I am smoldering, slowly, waiting, watching.

Life has become hectic and running the edge of unmanageability.  There is little extra time for anything, including photography.  Most days as I collect my things to leave the house for work I look down at my camera bag sitting there, waiting patiently to be picked up, and I wonder, “can I?”

But, for now, I can’t.  There isn’t time; and there isn’t time that can be made either.  Life has become like that and I surrender to it.  Yes, I could choose to rearrange my priorities.  I know that.  I could choose to make time.  But my priorities are right where they need to be, and that leaves little or no time for making photographs.  So I leave my camera bag at home yet another day, on purpose, mindfully.  In this case taking it along would pull my attention away from those things that rightfully need to have it.

So, what is left then?  Well, I watch.  And I wait.  And I observe.  And I dream.  And this makes the desire burn.  The hot coals smolder and gain energy and when the time comes there will be a bright bursting forth.  How do I know this?  Well, it’s happened before.  I’ve lived long enough to know that.  I’ve seen it happen in others as well and the resulting creativity has been fabulous, amazing, fascinating.

It helps to want to create good photographs and this time of restricted productivity can fuel that “wanting to.”   Or it can create frustration and resentment if I let it.  The choice really is up to me.

Posted in Creativity, Monochrome | 3 Comments

New David duChemin ebook: Iceland: A Monograph

Best selling author and acclaimed photographer David duChemin released a new ebook on his Craft and Vision website today entitled “Iceland: A Monograph.” With images shot on a recent personal trip to Iceland, duChemin presents the prints and then walks the reader through his process in creating the images. This is the third in a series of monograph ebooks that duChemin has published and they each are enjoyable reads.  Being with a professional photographer as they walk you through their creative thought process can be helpful in developing one’s own process and these ebooks do just that.

Filling the book with beautiful and ethereal images of this wondrous land, duChemin also uses the pages to demystify the process of capturing the images and the equipment used to do so.  Check out Iceland: A Monograph as well as other photography ebooks available at Craft and Vision for the ridiculously low price of $5 each.  Really good stuff.

Special Offer:  For the first four days only, if you use the promotional code ICE4 when you checkout, you can have the PDF version of ICELAND, A Monograph – The Print & The Process for only $4 OR use the code ICE20 to get 20% off when you buy 5 or more PDF ebooks from the Craft & Vision collection. These codes expire at 11:59pm PST September 12, 2010.

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Inspiration Monday: Chase Jarvis

(c) 2008 Brian E. Miller Photography

This is my tenth in my series of posts about people or works that inspire me to continue pursuing my artistic endeavors. Today’s post is about Chase Jarvis, a commercial photographer based both in Seattle and Paris.

Chase is well known in photographic circles. He seems to be everywhere, all the time. And not just photographically. He seems hell bent to show each of us how absolutely creative we can be. He appears to be the creative energizer bunny on speed given how much work he produces and the sheer number of projects he spearheads. Not only does he operate two studios, in highly creative cities, on opposite sides of the Atlantic serving clients such as REI, Toyota, Reebok, Apple, Brooks, Microsoft, Smith Optics, Volvo, Jeep, McDonalds, Columbia Sportswear Company, and Nike to name a few (phew), he also throws himself headlong into supporting creative endeavors made possible by the advent of the internet and web-based technology.

Chase also gives. In fact, the first time I heard him speak was a video of a keynote he was giving in which he encouraged the photographers in the audience to give freely of their knowledge rather than attempt to secretively protect their hard-earned talent.  His thought was that if you give it away you will have to continue to work to grow your style and will subsequently maintain your creativity, freshness, and vitality as an artist.   This view, I imagine, comes from his background in philosophy and appears to guide his professional life. You see, Chase Jarvis hides nothing professionally. He gives of his knowledge freely and appears to seek out opportunities to do so.  His blog often has video posts in which he takes the viewer behind the scenes of a photoshoot, walking us through every step of pre-production, production, and post production, showing all the secrets, tips, and tricks to being a successful commercial photographer.  He also donates images, his time, and sometimes even his earnings to worthy creative causes.

In addition he has also recently spearheaded a project called CreativeLive.com in which he invites creative teachers (photographers, painters, web designers, app developers) to a film studio in Seattle to teach workshops about their craft.  The live feed is broadcast on creativeLive.com and is free to the viewer.  These web workshops happen most weekends and are just wonderful!  In a recent edition wedding photographer Jasmine Star taught a wedding photography workshop and integrated it with a live wedding shoot.  It was the real deal and gave the viewer a deeper understanding of what goes into shooting a wedding.  The work that must have gone into making that weekend happen was astounding.

He also has started ChaseJavisLive in which he personally interviews somebody he respects and thinks might be interesting to the viewing public, and posts the interview on his blog and YouTube account.  Some of these interviews are close to 2 hours long and all provided free to us.

He’s also created an iPhone app called “Best Camera” and been involved in photographic book projects about aspects of Seattle that he loves.

Like I said, energizer bunny.  Generous energizer bunny, but energizer bunny!

But what I love about Chase is his willingness and courage to be open and transparent about the work that he does.  He’s received some flack about it and his good intentions have sometimes been cynically questioned, but that has not deterred him; he has developed the endurance necessary to maintain a good heart in the world, and we are the better for it.  So take advantage of what this man (and his team) have to offer.  His intention is to raise the level of photography across the board and subsequently raise each of us along with it.  I don’t know about you, but this inspires me.

Posted in Inspiration Mondays | 2 Comments

Updates at Flickr.com

I recently noticed some changes over at Flickr that have been in effect for a month or two and I got quite excited. You see, I started this blog in order to control how my photographic images were presented on the web. Although I love Flickr as a place for photographers to share their work and perhaps provide each other feedback, I found the relative busy-ness of the page distracting. I felt I could not view or show images in the manner I wanted. That frustrated me. I was much more impressed with how Picasa formats their viewing page.

Well, I am very happy to discover Flickr was listening to me. Well, OK, they probably weren’t really listening to me but they addressed the issues that had become near and dear to me: page layout, optimal viewing environment, ease of use and movement between images. Now there is the option of viewing individual images without all the distracting sidebar links. By clicking directly on an image (when on the image page) Flickr navigates you to an “on black” viewing area they call “lightbox” thereby providing a pleasing viewing experience. On the page are just a few discreet yet accessible buttons. These buttons allow the viewer to navigate forward or backward through the photographer’s photo stream, to start a slideshow of the photographer’s photo stream, or to view the current image in all its available sizes.  An example is shown below.

(c) 2010 Brian E. Miller Photography

Other improvements include more streamlined ways to add tags, notes, and people to images as well as ways to share the images through blogs, email and link acquisition. There is even a very easy way to link your Flickr updates to FaceBook making the need for third party apps obsolete. It is seamless and very user friendly. These are all very nice updates and will speed up the way images are viewed on Flickr but for me the improvement in the viewing environment is the biggest thing. Thank you Flickr, you have rescued my enthusiasm for your site.

To view my Flickr stream feel free to click on the photostrip at the bottom of this page or follow the link here.

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