Archive for November, 2008

My Magnificent Obsession

Posted in photographers, PHOTOGRAPHY with tags , , on November 27, 2008 by cliffmichaels

Taken at 6:38 AM in Cades Cove 

I wish somebody had told me. Really, I do. Five o’clock. AM. Five — that’s what time I got out of bed that morning (night?). By the time I stumbled around getting dressed as quietly as I could in the darkened house (wives don’t take kindly be to being awakened at five…), and then drove through the goddam gloom to the Cove it was just short of 6:30 AM.

Before – well, before I became obsessed with this photography thing I was a late sleeper. I mean, if I got out of bed before noon on a weekend I felt just virtuous as hell. Wanted a medal and a parade. If I saw the sun come up it was because I had been up all night doing — well, never mind what I was doing…

But you gotta get the light. The good light. Not that crappy, really harsh stuff you get in the afternoon. No, not that. That second rate, bush league light is for snapshots and just won’t do for these great, arty photographs I make all my employees, friends and family admire. No, you gotta get that early morning, silky soft, golden, Park Avenue rarified Ansel Adams certified light.

So you gotta get up with all those birds looking for that proverbial, anxious, premature and overrated worm. I just wish somebody had told me. Really told me, before I bought all those lenses, tripods, doublers and other expensive stuff. I woulda taken up sea shell shucking, baby ball bowling, rattlesnake racing or anything that didn’t mean dragging my rose perfumed ass out the sack before even the stupidest dumbcluck bird began hunting its segmented and slimy morning morsel.

Cades Cove is part of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in east Tennessee.

Read all of VISIONS


Posted in PHOTOGRAPHY with tags , on November 27, 2008 by cliffmichaels

Why are so many of us so obsessed with the gear we have and the gear we want to have? Half the Flickr profile pages list all the cameras, lenses and other stuff the photographer toats around. Some of those lists are pretty damn impressive and make me drool. My old Nikon d50 is a perfectly adequate camera; I certainly haven’t gotten to the point where it can’t keep up to my skills as a photogorapher. I have to admit, however, that I dream about having a D300 or even a D3 (I’m a Nikon guy; we all know Canons are crap).

The same goes for lenses. I’ve got five very adequate lenses. I do mostly landscape and portrait work. I’m not shooting rabbits half a mile away at midnight or the hairs on a fly’s ass. Still, I want, want, want some of those sexy fast, long and macro lenses most of the pros have. Don’t even get me started on tripods, camera bags, back packs, rain gear and high capacity memory cards.

Will I be a better photographer if I have that D3 with a sexy fast lens up to my eye? Uh, well, maybe not… But that fact doesn’t keep me from lusting for that kind of gear. I think it’s a guy thing. “What’s ya shooting with?” My current answer, “Nikon D50,” only gets a barely noticeable nod from another serious photographer. If I could answer, with a very casual tone as if its no big deal at all, “oh, just a Nikon D3,” the other guy would whistle, immediately feel inadequate and intimidated by my primo gear and maybe even piss his pants. What a rush that would be!

Guys, including me, love gear, particular brand name gear with numbers and slashes and letters in the name. Whether its lawnmowers, rifles, fishing rods, tool boxes, chain saws, bowling balls, audio equiment, golf clubs, tires, televisions, GPS units, cell phones, cars, or, best of all, pickup trucks, those letters and slashes and numbers let us quickly sort out who are the winners with the really boss stuff and who are the losers stuck with that pitiful, plastic budget crap.

The truth is usually the actual difference in utility between that top of the line Ecletrix S9000x and the entry level Ecletrix E90 is very little. It’s also true the pro can run rings around you using that crap budget gear even if you use the   “highest rated” BLT/19000 super-titanium, triple coated, digital, lazer, hemi-headed gear that lists for just under half the GDP of Iceland. Use the best golf clubs in the world and Tiger Woods will beat you with a coke bottle. Send me out with a really good pro photographer – me with a D3 and my choice of top lenses and  the pro with a hundred dollar point and shoot. She’s going to come back with much better photographs than I am. Gear is great. I love gear! I want the greatest gear there is. But the secret of good photography isn’t in the gear, not the camera body and not the lens; its in the eye, that one damn piece of gear I will never be able to upgrade… But I don’t care. Only a handful of you out there can tell I’m at best an average photographer, the rest of you I can dazzle with my bullshit and intimidate with my gear (as soon as I can afford it…!

Flickr – Red or Blue?

Posted in FLICKR with tags , , on November 25, 2008 by cliffmichaels

I’m a yellow dog democrat living in a very red part of a very red state (Tennessee). There are many reasons I’m happy about the election of Barack Obama, not the least of which is seeing that look of pain and fear in my Republican friends’ eyes when I whisper to them with an evil grin: “President Barack Hussein Obama.”

But how did my beloved Flickr vote, I wondered. Is our little piece of cyberspace red or blue? I decided to do a very unscientific sampling. I searched Flickr for both “Obama” and “McCain”. The result: Obama 422,436; McCain 58,582. Wow! That’s a margin of 76%!!!

I Hate this Guy…

Posted in FLICKR, photographers, PHOTOGRAPHY with tags , , on November 23, 2008 by cliffmichaels

“What kind of photographer are you?” I get that question fairly often. My answer depends on my mood. But if I answered on what kind I’d like to be, it might be, “landscape photographer.” 

Any pretensions i have of being good at landscape work goes out the window when I look at this guy’s photographs. He’s good. Very good. Depressingly good. His name is Peter Bowers and he is simply great. Thank God he is Canadian, so I can pretend to be in the running for “Best American Landscape Photographer.” Half of what little I know about shooting landscapes I learned from him and studying his glorious photographs.

Here’s a link to one of his magical landscapes…

How to Tell a Flickr Photo is Really Serious Art

Posted in FLICKR with tags , on November 22, 2008 by cliffmichaels

It’s dark. Really, really dark. Obscurely dark. Incomprehensibly dark. Pretentiously dark…  Here’s an example. And another. And one more.

I don’t know if any of these images are any good. I can’t see enough of them to know. But I do know this: they are very, very, very serious…

Other indications a photograph is meant to be “serious Art”: it’s deliberately out of focus or blurred, it’s tilted left, right, or flipped ninety or even a hundred eighty degrees, the subject matter cannot be identified or takes at least a minute or so to identify (or is something strange like a bit of beetle dung), is all bokeh, or it has no or little contrast. It’s also a sign the work is “serious” if there is either a poem or long, rambling leftist political statement beneath the image.


What are the odds a photographer of one of the three images linked to in this rant would read this page… Apparently not as high as you think – read the comment.

 Urgent Update: The photograph of the commenter below has been removed and replaced with an even more “serious” photograph…

This Image is a Lie!

Posted in FLICKR, PHOTOGRAPHY with tags , on November 22, 2008 by cliffmichaels

The above image, one of the most popular on my Flickr site, is a complete and total lie, an absolute piece of perjury. . It poses as a depiction of a frosty field on a cold Winter’s night. Almost makes you shiver, doesn’t it?

This image came from this one. I snapped that shot early on a Summer morning. At the time I had no thought of doing anything other than posting it to Flickr. I conceived of, and created the Winter scene much later.

Oh, of course, the moon is totally fake. Took that from anothr photo and dropped it into the darl Winter sky. I messed with all kinds of things, took some trees out of the shot and added others. 

I was so pleased with my photographic skullduggery that I created several other fakes based on the Summer photo, including this one:

The cover art for my latest Blurb book is the Winter Scene. Only I made the moon bigger and the sky a little darker. I thought about adding a snug little cottage, but got lazy and never got around to it.

So don’t trust any of my images on Flickr. Not one. My whole site is just one huge nest of lies!

The World Turns Brown, Wet and Cold…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on November 22, 2008 by cliffmichaels

I haven’t been outdoors with the camera clicking in over three weeks. Rain, bad luck, cold and lethargy have stilled my trigger finger. With luck this Sunday will see the end of this wretched digital drought. I’m shooting kids and horses, kids on horses, and horses and mom and kids… for pay. If the weather cooperates. If the weather does cooperate you’ll see some of the results on Flickr Sunday night.

(Later that same day…) How dedicated a photographer am I? Real dedicated! At least till the morning temperature is predicted to drop well below freezing… Sunday morning’s horse & kid & mom shoot has been postponed.