March 25, 2017

Still Life Linked to a Landscape or Cityscape

This is a compositional approach that allows you to create stories with deeper context by looking for the linkages between foreground still life and it’s surrounding background scene.

The definition of still-life for this purpose is simply “man-made objects”. There is no need to get all technical about this.

This idea is best described by an example.

I found these two chairs going sitting in the beautiful morning light coming through the window with the subtle and delicate autumn scene in the background. The chairs alone would be a bit dry. The autumn scene alone would be pretty, but perhaps not all that compelling to look at for a long time. By composing the two together, the viewer can now imagine a greater story. In their imagination, they can fill the chairs with characters and watch the light come and go, the seasons change. The linkage works because of the color linkages as well as the contrast of the delicate trucks against the man-made wooden walls and chairs.

In these compositions, the still-life is placed in the foreground and should be the focus. The background adds the context and may, potentially, be out of focus. But both must be interesting, well composed, and well composed together.


How to Link a Still Life to a Scene

Step1: Find a compelling still file subject in the foreground

  • Look for light
  • Color harmonies
  • Unusual objects
  • Poetic organizations

Step 2: Organize the still life into its background

  • Move around (left-to-right, up-and-down)
  • Observe the relationships between the foreground (still-life) and the background


Simple Examples


Provocative Examples



Visual Puzzles


Waiting for the scene to develop


Recipe for Success

  • Look for inside-to-outside situations
  • Static items in the street connected to their environment
  • Your still-life should be in the foreground and dominant (and in focus)
  • Pay attention to the relationships between the still-life and the scene.


March 25, 2017

My Japan Portfolio – A Story of Printers

Japan - Basho's Path November 2016 with Sam Abell and George Nobechi

There is an old story about how to save money on tripods – buy the best tripod first. I’m beginning to wonder if that same expression applies to printers (except that printer technology changes more over time than tripod technology).

Today I started printing on my 3rd generation of printers. I started out modestly with the over-capable (for the money) 13″ x 19″Canon PixmaPro-9000 MK II. This printer cost me less than $100 dollars with rebates and printed beautiful prints as long as you didn’t push the color gamut too far in the oranges and magentas. I loved this printer until I retuned from a trip to Oaxaca with a bunch of night-time images from the graveyards covered with wild orange marigolds and royal purple bougainvillea. So I upgraded.

My next printer was a bit more of an investment. The Epson13″ x 19″ R3000 costing about $700 (if I remember correctly). This printer was the replacement for the 2880 and the predecessor to the P600 now on the market. I was really impressed with the increased sharpness and broader color gamut. When I purchased this printer the Epson’s were still definitely way better than Canon. Epson’s achilles heel, however, is the issue with clogging and expensive print-heads. In 2016 that all changed.

In 2016 Canon came out with a new line of printers including the 17″ x 22″ capable ImagePROGRAF PRO-1000. Canon needed to prove that this printer could match print quality with the Epson, and if you look at the reviews, it has succeeded indeed.

And so today, I sit here printing my Japan portfolio on my new best friend and falling in love with printing all over again.

Japan - Basho's Path November 2016 with Sam Abell and George Nobechi

February 12, 2017

Sohei Nishino – Dioramic Maps


Diorama Map of Jerusalem by Sohei Nishino

A few days ago, a new photo friend Fred Zafran posted a link from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) about Japanese photographers

This interview series focuses on Japanese Photography. Watch established photographers who redefined the medium after World War II and still-emerging contemporary practitioners reflect on cultural landscapes and personal truths.

As is usually the case when I am referred to broad links like this one, I only have time to explore a little at a time. Today, I clicked on the first link and was truly moved by the Diorama Map project of Sohei Nishino. Nishino creates intricate map collages of cities using small section photographs. On his website are diorama maps of 21 cities including San Francisco (his latest, I presume), Havana, and Jerusalem. The planning, perseverance, and just plain grit it takes to complete one of these projects is impressive.

Thanks to Fred for this introduction.


February 11, 2017

Shoot-Thru Abstractions

Japan - Basho's Path November 2016 with Sam Abell and George Nobechi

I happened on this glass wall in the Shinkansen (the high-speed bullet train) station on our travels between Mastushima in the north and Kanazawa in the west.

There are many examples of shooting through walls and fences and other textures in the works of the great American photographers such as Jay Maisel, Joel Meyerowitz, Arthur Meyerson, Saul Leiter, etc… In order to break out of the cliché, you must look for light, color, gesture, and micro composition.

Japan - Basho's Path November 2016 with Sam Abell and George Nobechi

January 29, 2017

Jay Maisel 60 Year Retrospective


In May 2012 I had the honor and privilege of taking the “Jay Maisel Workshop” in NY City at his home, the 35,000 square foot Germania Bank building in the Bowery. The workshop cost $5,000 for 5-days inclusive of Jay taking us to his favorite NY restaurants for lunch and dinner. To describe the workshop would take far longer than I have today at this sitting, working to get out a quick post. A few years ago, Jay stopped giving his workshop and ultimately moved to Brooklyn.

However, last night was the opening of a small show representing a 60 year retrospective of Jay’s work. It was great to see Jay and a few other luminaries in the photography world.

If you read my blog, you know that I’ve been talking about personal documentary projects lately. Here are my personal documentary photos from last night. Also at the opening where photographers Gerd Ludwig and Douglas Kirkland with his wife Françoise.


Jay and an image of his daughter Amanda, taken in 1969. The epitome of personal documentary photography.


Gerd Ludwig – National Geographic photographer


Douglas Kirkland


Jay and Françoise Kirkland (the wife of Douglas Kirkland)


Michael Richards, Jay and Jay’s wife L.A.

January 10, 2017

Personal Documentary Photography

Japan - Basho's Path November 2016 with Sam Abell and George Nobechi

I spent two weeks this past November traveling through Japan with Sam Abell, a retired National Geographic photographer and mentor of mine. Sam believes strongly in keeping a photographic diary. He uses all the same care and skill capturing images for his diary as for his assignments. He believes that there is great power in documenting your daily life and those around you. As an extension of writers keeping a written journal, it makes sense for photographers to keep a photographic journal.

In order to do this topic justice, I wrote a somewhat longer article that you can find on my Composition area of this site. Here is the full article – Personal Documentary Photography – What and Why.