Friday, February 18, 2011


When I was in high school I enrolled in the Famous Photographers correspondence course, however I long ago gave up any notions of becoming a "famous photographer". This comes up this morning because a friend jokingly suggested that I was famous but it reminded me of a discussion I had with Diane a while back.

There aren't many photographers who are famous in the conventional sense to the word. There are the famous people who take up photography and instantly get attention because they are already famous from some other endeavor. I'm thinking of people like Graham Nash (Crosby, Stills & Nash) or by virtue of association with someone famous (i.e. Linda McCartney) or even a bit of both like Julian Lennon (son of John Lennon & a musician himself). This is not to imply that they aren't good photographers, just that fame and quality of work are not necessarily connected, especially in the field of photography.

I challenged Diane to name 10 photographers that would be known to the average American who did not owe their fame to some other field or a relationship to someone famous in another field. She thought of Alfred Stieglitz but she was forgetting his relationship with Georgia O'Keefe. Aside from Ansel Adams I can't think of any. There are some who are semi-famous in that they are known in a certain subset of society, for example Annie Leibovitz but even she owes her fame largely to the celebrities she photographs. Edward Curtis might make the list but he isn't remotely contemporary. The average person may vividly remember an iconic photo but probably not one in ten thousand associates the image with the photographer who made the image. Photography in itself is a poor path for pursuing fame.

Perhaps that is because unlike acting, singing, politics, etc. photographers, as individuals, are largely absent from their work. The viewer sees the image but not the person who made it. Perhaps it has been compounded by the recent proliferation of photography with the advent of digital imaging. It is much harder for any one individual's work to stand out in the crowd.

In any case here is my challenge: Make a list of contemporary photographers whom you believe are "famous" in their own right and submit it as a comment. By contemporary I mean from about 1960 to the present. By famous I mean someone whose name would be recognized by at least the same number of people as a well known musician, actor, politician, etc. By "in their own right" I mean that they weren't already famous for something other than their photography and they aren't related somehow to someone else who is/was famous and thus had access to media attention that the ordinary individual does not. Your list can be any length. Comments are moderated so it may not appear immediately.

The photograph above is from the Owl's Head Peak outing on Monday during one of the moments when the sun was on the peak and a rocky nub beyond. Canon 7D, ISO 100, 1/250th at f/9, 18-135mm EFS IS lens at 25mm, wind at 30-40mph.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Weather or Not...

A friend and I went down to the Adirondacks today to climb Owl's Head Peak, a small subsidiary summit that rises from the slopes of Cascade Mountain on the Keene Valley side. It is a favorite location of mine and photos from there have appeared many times before in these posts but this was the first time I have climbed it in winter.

On the way into Saranac Lake we encountered what was probably the best scene of the day on the high flats by Gabriels, NY, a view of Whiteface Mountain against the early morning sky with dark clouds approaching. We grabbed a few shots before continuing on. Only moments later the summit of Whiteface was in the lowering clouds.

Although the experience on Owl's Head was enjoyable, we had some of the worst photography conditions I have worked in, wind, rain, wind, sleet, wind, snow, and did I mention the wind? It howled through so that we couldn't leave cameras on tripods to stand of their own accord. We had to physically hold them down. At times the gusts were so strong they nearly knocked us off our feet. And then there was the changing light. If you weren't positioned and ready to shoot, you missed the photo because the light we wanted seemed to last only a second or two before moving on with the wind. Fortunately the temperature was mild. Had it been 10º like it was last Friday it would have been impossible. Despite the difficulties I thoroughly enjoyed the outing. Yeah, I know. Photographers are strange.

Friday, February 04, 2011

A Day in the Adirondacks

I took a drive down to Lake Placid today (the Adirondack Park is South from here) and hit some of my favorite photo haunts along the way. I started under clouds, went through snow flurries, back to cloudy, on to sunny, back to cloudy, to fairly heavy snow and back to clouds by the time I got home. Typical NNY weather. I shot 157 photos along the way including a series of the rapidly changing sky over Barnum Pond. I think this is the best one of those. I haven't entirely made up my mind but it is tentatively number one so it gets posted.

Canon 7D, RAW, aperture priority, ISO 100, 1/125 sec, @ f/16

Addendum: A series of photos from the drive/snowshoe day above can be seen here. If the link doesn't work for you, copy and paste the following URL into the address field of your browser .

Thursday, February 03, 2011

A Road Less Traveled

A busy day today. After cleaning up the snow from the recent storm I decided to go snowshoeing in the Southville State Forest. The River Hill Trails there are just 2 miles from my house and regular readers will notice that it is a frequent destination when I want to get out into the woods in winter. It was a perfect day, 8-12" of new snow. I actually enjoy breaking trail so it was with pleasure that I was the first person through after the storm. Lots of snow broken only by the tracks of animals from deer to mice. Bright sunshine and an impossibly blue sky. I did not use a polarizer and there has been no added saturation in Photoshop in the image above. It really was that intensely blue. The temperature was still in the teens but between the sun and an occasional breeze the snow was starting to come off the trees, clumps breaking up and falling, glittering like showers of diamonds. Unfortunately I didn't manage to get photos of any of them. The good news is that none of them landed on my head or went down the back of my neck as I passed under the trees and I still have the images in my heart even though I can't share them with you.

Canon G10 set on aperture priority ISO 100 with  -2/3rds exposure to compensate for the sun reflecting off the snow

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Not A Nice Day

All the schools are closed. We are getting a mix of snow flakes and mini snow pellets. The wind is blowing and it is only 8º F. Even at that the worst of the storm is apparently South of us. I won't be breaking out the snow blower until much later. We aren't going anywhere and whatever I did to clear it now wouldn't last.