Thursday, January 30, 2014

Infrared & the Overactive Imagination

It snowed here and my kid's school was closed (again) for what I can only imagine will be the rest of their lives. I spent the day inside staring at various parts of the wall while trying to write when something out of the window caught my eye. In the white field of snow, there was a blue bicycle lying on the ground. It's the kind of bike a teenager would ride and it seems odd that they would just leave it there and even stranger that lying on top of it was a shovel. My mind immediately went into hyperdrive and imagined a missing kid and the discovery of a body. Recognizing the signs of snow day stir crazy, I decided to take my camera outside and not only not photograph the body that I wouldn't find, but also get some air and look for high contrast for black and white images.

After slipping down the hill to my imaginary murder scene, I was relieved to find no body or traces of anything sinister. In fact, it appears that the shovel was there as part of a teen's efforts to create a ramp to use for jumping the bike. I plan on yelling things like 'consarn it' and 'get out here you young whippersnapper' when the bike's owner returns as a way of expressing my gratitude for their continued health.

In the meantime, I found plenty of contrast and two of the images were interesting enough to work with. Unfortunately, there weren't any people or animals wandering about to serve as subjects, so I had to settle for the more abstract. I decided to use infrared filters to process my images, because I wanted that silvery effect that I have seen in so many old photos of snow. I'm pretty pleased with the results and it kept me from typing 'all work and no play makes Hannah a dull girl' 3000 times on my screen.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

500px, Flickr, Twitter, and Charles Bukowski

I think I am learning a couple things about to use social media more effectively. I'm still not going to be raking in the pennies for many years to come, but it's good to learn a bit. 

The first site that I have learned more about is about Flickr. Primarily, that it's not enough to just post your photos and walk away, you have to actively promote them…to the point where you feel like a complete egotistical douche by posting them in as many groups as you can. I have seen the photos with the big number of favorites and they are in about 100 groups each. Now, I try to look for groups that the photos I admire are also in and join those groups and then post my pictures there. That has helped get them a lot more exposure than they were getting before (basically none). I'm still not getting the 99+ likes and whatever happens to get you into the hallowed gates of Flickr explore. 

However, I have also figured out that you have to have an image in that top panel of the group when people go to it otherwise they are really unlikely to see it. People are posting their own photos in these groups, dozens a night, and so are looking at those on the first screen to grab a couple of favorites and then running over to the next group. So, even if a group lets you post 5 or 6 at a time, don't. Instead, post one at a time because once you've posted a photo to that group, you can't post it again and once it's off that first screen it is basically buried. So, you want to add slowly so that you can keep your posting in line with your photo production and consistently have something that hits the top of the screen (or at least is doing that as many times per day or per week or per month as you can.) I am now focusing on one photo per day and trying to find as many groups for one particular photo as I can and then the next day moving on to the next image. It makes it a bit easier to manage and lets me see the results in a more comparable way. It takes a lot of time and I'm still not sure how worth it it is other than it makes me feel slightly less crushed by my professional rejections.
I have been using Twitter again (@hrozmendoz) despite the fact that I really don't know how to lookout for success other than the number of people following me (please, stalk me!) although what that translates into, I do not know. I seem to get the highest boosts in followers when I post things about cats. Especially fat cats, and I mean both especially when I post about fat cats, and when the cats themselves are especially fat. So, there's the data I've gathered on that so far. I have 34 followers most of which I have gotten by following other people which oddly enough seems the best way to grow that list. Other than posting fat can pictures - oh, and the smart ass comments I have made in reply to the bizarre flood of Huffington Post headlines I get.  Again, I think it's a matter of shameless self promotion - imagine what Richard Avedon could have done with Twitter.

Through Twitter (aha, here's how it works…) I found a website called 500px which is kind of like Flickr except a bit more exclusive (i.e. snobby and it charges for some of its services). There is a free account which lets me upload 20 images a month and it does seem to do a very good job of generating views without having to go through all of the groups nonsense present on Flickr. There seem to be a lot less snapshots and a lot more photography. It also lets me know how many people are looking at my photo in relation to those who like the photo and then for 3 of my pictures which have made it above the 75% mark, it puts them on a special page where people can see the 'up and coming' or 'popular' works which gets them a lot more views. I've probably had nearly the same number of views in the last two days on my 500px page than I have over the last year on Flickr. 

All-in-all, it's a lot of work, continuous networking, following people so they will follow you, blogging about it (check), and just trying to shove your images under everybody's nose. What I can't figure out is how to know which places are the best way to allocate my time so that I'm not spreading my work too thinly, dividing my audience between places and so losing whatever power there might have been in numbers, and not driving people crazy with multiple posts. I did finally figure out how to disconnect my Twitter and Facebook accounts so that people wouldn't be getting every photo thought that crosses my mind and repeated across platforms. I'm trying to make sure that my Photogirafika Facebook page is the one that is the center of all photo news since I figure people who liked that page are more likely to care about that side of things. 

One thing I have been very impressed with is the enormous amount of really good photography that is being created. Of course, there are even more enormous amounts of mediocre and terrible work being created too and I'm not talking about the family snapshot, those are fine, I mean people who are producing works of photography but just aren't doing it particularly well. This must mean that it's a part of mainstream culture, like singing or acting. Then everybody thinks they can do it a bit, I mean you rarely see poor sword swallowing performances or mediocre cat juggling, but that's because people don't think of those things as being part of the everyday experience. It's kind of wonderful that photography has become so much of the way that we think of and communicate about the world.

I do like to keep in mind the words of Charles Bukowski though, when God crossed his legs and said: 
"I see where I have made plenty of poetsbut not so very muchpoetry."

Friday, January 24, 2014

Now and Again or if Picasso had PhotoShop

Primary question: What does it mean when somebody says they do something 'every now and again'? Is there some sort of predictive time-travel involved in this phrase that I failed to find out about?

Secondary question: how does Reddit work? Tumblr? Twitter? Pintrest? When did I become so out of the loop? Somebody did mention me on Twitter today and so I followed them but I'm not sure that really means anything. It might just mean I'm a very hands off stalker.

I have just received another rejection notice, this time from a regional show called Positive/Negative that is to be held at East Tennessee State University. So, the positive was that they received $30 from 174 artists. The negative is that 50% of those artists are now drinking a beer wondering if everything they have ever done with their lives was a waste of time. Which brings me to this, imaginary audience, is Flickr a good tool for self-promotion or is it also a waste of time? What about blogging?

I'm pretty compulsive, so it is kind of hard for me to know the difference between things I do because I am driven to do them and things I do that are actually just part of the handwork of getting somewhere. I expect all of these questions to be answered in a dream tonight, so stay tuned for that.

*Insight* I just realized why Kanye's baby is named North. Because that means his name is North West. Oh, Kanye, you are so very clever. I guess Dweezil was already taken, so that is pretty cute. I mean, he's just a person who is going to have to live with that, but whatever, that sounds like his problem. 

Speaking of difficult segues, can you imagine what would have happened if Picasso had been fluent in PhotoShop? Please explain your vision of how the world would have been different by writing it on the back of a $100 bill and mailing it to me at home. I'll let you know how everything turns out.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014


I have been trapped inside all day; there is nearly 1/4" of snow on the ground outside. That's not what is trapping me, it's more that I haven't changed out of my pajamas yet because my kids' school was cancelled and since we're not going anywhere, why get dressed? I am planning on eating one of them later on though, just for effect.

In the meantime, I watched Harold Davis' talk about creative vision and digital photography another installment to my B&H education. HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography is apparently a sensitive subject among photographers. Of course, you have to remember that artists are a sensitive lot and so sometimes you can hit a nerve in discussions about socks, daisies, or candelabras too. I understand some of the debate though, some of the HDR images can look really gaudy, but that's really more a problem of bad craft that it is anything inherent in HDR. Harold Davis showed his work and I could really see how it could be used with care, intention, and skill. He has written a ton of books about PhotoShop and offers an online course on flower photography through Craftsy's Photography offerings. I've still got enough free stuff that is basic to run through before I'm ready for anything like that, but his flower photos are beautiful and he uses HDR to bring out all of the detail without it looking like a cartoon.

Looking up the mineral falls at Hierve
I went back through some more of my photos from Mexico and worked on a couple more from this place called Hierve el Agua in Oaxaca. I find more and more that I like black and white in almost all cases over color versions of the same image; even when I thought I was taking the picture because of the colors. After I look at the black and white version of an image, the color version almost always looks gaudy. I don't know if that's because I'm really into structure or if it's because I'm not skilled enough at controlling color and so it's better when it is removed. After all, it's yet another variable to factor in and simplification is, well, simpler. It also could be because I am so accustomed to looking at black and white photography as the 'art' photography that I feel like my work looks more like art if I do it in black and white. In that case, it would be more akin to pretending that just because your writing doesn't make sense, that it is poetry rather than just acknowledging that you need to improve your writing. It is probably the case that these things are true for different photos to different degrees.

One challenge I am confronting now is how to find a link between my passion for photography and my progress through the PhD program in Geography at UNCG. I think I've had a bit of a break through in that area - I am exploring the idea that photography has played a certain role in geographic exploration and in its popularization (National Geographic for example) and that there might be something to look into their regarding attitudes about geography and its processes that would give me the opportunity to look at photography in depth in terms of the history of geographic thought. It seems like this would be an excellent way to combine these two areas, now I just have to figure out something a bit more specific (like a question I'm trying to answer, for example…) although maybe that requires a lot more familiarization before it becomes apparent. 

Looking out over the site of Monte Alban in Oaxaca
Now, back to checking my email every 4 seconds to see if I've been notified about acceptance/rejection to the Positive/Negative Exhibit at East Tennessee State University. The juror's notifications are supposed to be sent out between the 17th and 22nd of January, so I can't tell if I should already give up hope or if there is still a possibility. My batting average is pretty below par at this point and I know that I'll be pretty bummed if I get rejected. However, I'm sure I will turn it into a moving testament of my endurance…right after I have several martinis to help me remember to endure...

Monday, January 20, 2014

The Long and Winding Weekend

I wish I lived in some place with an amazing and dramatic view that I could use for practicing photography techniques, I fairly quickly have exhausted the small suburban backyard genre…although I'm sure people will say 'a good photographer can find a photo in anything.' None of those people are invited to my birthday parties because they are obnoxious. Also because I am too old to have birthday parties.

I have been on the B&H photo/video channel of youtube again, this time watching another of Jeff Cable's videos on night photography. I did take some night shots outside up at the trees and into the night sky, just to practice some of the exposure techniques. Nothing particularly interesting visually came out of it, but it got me ready to do some night shooting in more interesting areas. Also, I didn't want to change out of my pajamas yesterday and that somewhat limits my ability to roam the wide world looking for photos, so it's at least partly my fault.

Since I haven't shot anything in the last couple of days (other than the light streaming through the plastic ball that my rats roll around in…very dramatic and probably would fill a previously unknown void in the stock photography world), I revisited some of my images from Mexico. I took a lot of pictures at Monte Alban in Oaxaca and I keep looking through them thinking there will be more interesting stuff in them because the site itself was so wonderful. I have come to realize though that a lot of those types of environments require people in them in order to be more than just a visual note of the sites appearance. The sky there is big, but somewhat dusty and it was completely cloud free without being that deep piercing blue that can make photos stand out. The grass was fairly dry, the stones of the site are shades of buff and orange and I didn't take sufficiently good quality images to stitch together for the panorama, so instead I have overall panoramas where everything is just too small to really appreciate. It's like I'm learning…So, clearly, I will have to return in the future (because I can't return in the past or I would) and try again. 

I did come across one image of a woman walking across the top of one of the platforms that has grown over and the nearly white/blue sky disappears as a background creating this nice relationship between her figure and the lone tree growing in the middle of the frame. I'm pretty happy with this image and actually think it does a better job of capturing some of the desolate nature of the place. It wasn't all like this, the site is expansive and there are parts with trees that were absolutely overflowing with yellow flowers and alive with the sounds of thousands of bees. But, it was very hot and dry and so this feels like one of the moods of Monte Alban. Particularly since I think we had run through all of our water by the time I made this image.

One of the other things that I have learned from listening to photographers is that I shouldn't post every image I make, just the best ones. In that spirit, I am going to try to limit the images I put on the blog. I also would like to go back through my Flickr page and see if I can cut down on the number of images I have displayed there. It's hard to erase them, even though I know I still have them on my hard drive, but it makes sense to not have mediocre work out there to become part of any first impression I make. Given that Flickr seems to be somewhat like Facebook for photographers (shout outs about what you've done and a popularity game) I'm not sure what benefit the time spent on there really has, yet, but I'm still hopeful that there is a reason to be involved. We'll see.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Chinchilla Adoption Photographer

If I were a perfume, I would smell like Rodinol developer. Actually, while that sounds good, I would probably just smell like a keyboard with a hint of PhotoShop. Not nearly as cool.

The book chapter that I wrote for Discovering Architecture: Built form as cultural expression was released yesterday through Kendall Hunt, so that's pretty cool. It has five of my photos in it to accompany the text for my chapter "Architecture Abandoned." I don't think it has a preview available yet, but mine is the first chapter…you know, 'cause I'm a big fancy deal. Or they are alphabetized…I'm not sure.

Today classes start. I am teaching materials at 2:00 and taking History of Geographic Thought at 6:00. This means that I have to stay awake until 9:00 at night. I am a morning person, but I may have to reconceptualize 'morning' to mean, afternoon and night. We'll see how that goes. Violet is home sick today, so I'm on duty until Pepe gets home at 1:00.

Yesterday, I watched another great youtube video with photographer Jeff Cable (he's an event photographer and works at Lexar…he also photographed for team USA at the last winter and summer Olympics). The talk was How to Photograph Events and Make Money Doing It on the B&H channel. I wasn't sure if it was going to be helpful since I'm not an event photographer, but it really was great in terms of workflow and the mindset for how to prepare for and capture moments. When I was done, I actually thought that being an event photographer might be interesting and could be a good way to stay involved in what I love and earn money. I still need to learn a lot more before I could do something like this - that's a lot of pressure and I'd hate to mess up recording someone's big day. 

Really Small Lizard Discovery #1
Mission, Texas
So maybe, I could record some smaller events until then, such as: 
  • Checking the drugstore pregnancy test
  • Finished the penultimate semester of college
  • Regularly scheduled car maintenance
  • Returning library books before the due date
  • Making a movie choice at Redbox
  • Going to a well visit with your doctor
From there I would work my way up to mid-level events like: Rex comes back from his big visit to the Vet, Really small lizard discoveries, and Chinchilla adoptions. After that, the sky is the limit!

At the end of the talk, he said that anybody could email him their work and ask for some feedback, so I screwed my courage to the sticking place and did just that. I was really surprised that he emailed me back the next day - and said:
Your work is VERY good and you should be proud of it. I get lots of emails from people and I have to say that your web site was refreshingly good. Keep it up!!!
I didn't even have to movie review edit that so it sounded good! I was so thrilled - I mean, even if the website had sucked, I'm sure he would have found something vaguely encouraging to say like, 'keep learning' or 'could be worse' or he could have just not responded at all, so this is some of the first non-family/friend feedback that I've gotten. I'm probably going to have this tattooed on my forehead. Or at least printed on a t-shirt…

This came at the perfect time too, because I was just beginning to be a bit of a Debbie Downer which makes it hard for me to work on new things because I keep thinking: maybe I'm just wasting my time.  So, if you haven't already, you should check out my website at feel free to commission me to shoot your portrait!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Exhibit Prep & Stalking Adam Marelli

Okay, I haven't written in the last week because I've been hauling tuchus (thank you to for confirmation of the spelling) getting my photos ready for my exhibit at the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC). It was a longer, more complicated process than my brain was prepared for. It never would have happened without Pepe's help - I'm just not sure what people who aren't married to him do in order to get things done. Without his assistance I probably would have just thumbtacked stuff to the wall at odd angles. 

Pepe built 25 frames. Actually, I built 5 of them, but since Pepe had to be present to make sure I didn't remove a finger, I'd say he gets the credit sort of in the same way that I baked the cake, my daughter just dumped in the flour, but we all say that she baked it because she's trying her best. He does fantastic work, such attention to detail, he sanded and painted the frames and in general was wildly productive. Meanwhile, I was measuring and cutting the mats. Doug Leckie in my department lead me through the mat cutting on the laser cutter. It was a pretty cool way to cut stuff, it did leave some singe marks (I can't remember the technical term for it) around the cut area but those sanded away fairly easily. I could see that becoming part of the overall aesthetic. Unfortunately, I didn't do all of the measurements with what is known as 'any degree of accuracy' and so eventually we did what I had been avoiding: went to Michaels and bought an expensive mat cutter. Then Pepe cut mats and I taped the pictures in place. The final step was to go to my office and use the commercial mat cutter to cut the cardboard to fit in the back of the frames and tack that in with nails. 

MRC Exhibit Wall
When those were all done, we took them over to the MRC and hung everything. They have some adjustable track lighting and if I could offer one piece of advice to anyone else who might hang in this gallery in the future, it would be: don't grab the adjustable lights by the metal backing of the halogen lights because you will immediately burn your finger to the point of blistering. That's the kind of advice you can expect to find here, regularly, on this helpful blog. All for free! Then, to relax after the hanging, we went to Taekwondo practice where I dislocated my pointer finger by upper-cutting a dummy. Once again, Pepe the helpful stepped in and re-located it. It felt wonderful. You can't kick my ass…I'll kick my own ass.

In the meantime, I've been watching more the B&H masterclass/event space talks. They are really fantastic. The best one that I've seen so far was Adam Marelli's "Bridging the Gap: Classical Art Design for Photographers" - I was both impressed by Morelli's fluency in classical art theory and history and by his ability to clearly explain and demonstrate the ideas. His work is also very impressive, he has been working on projects to document artisans around the world, places like Japan and Italy, and the quality of his images is superb. Definitely someone I am interested in emulating and learning more from. If I were young and pre-family, I would sell everything I have and apprentice myself to him (I can't imagine why he wouldn't want me following him around??) 

Friday, January 3, 2014

Avedon and the Tortured Jewish Soul

I watched two excellent programs yesterday about photography. The first was from a series called "Masters of Photography" about Diane Arbus who was a really interesting person. It consisted of interviews with her daughter, best friend, and teacher (3 different people, not just adjectives for one person) and then her own words as read by another good friend. I love the idea of photographer of freaks, she really managed to capture images of people we would normally wish we could stare at but wouldn't all while not turning them into objects. They stare directly into the camera and appraise the viewer with the same frankness and without any sense of shame about their condition. The images remind me of the fact that we are all only used to our own way of existing and it isn't alarming to us in the same way it is to anyone else when they first encounter it. 

A Diptych: The computer is in the window of this exterior shot but the lines worked together so nicely, I thought I would put them in a single image. I plan on experimenting more with multiple image compositions.
It also made me think about a German project to create mannequins that were based not on the Putnamm perfect body but rather on the bodies of the deformed. Watching the models as measurements were taken of their bodies, I realized for the first time how perfectly comfortable they were in their own skin. That it was possible that they didn't spend every waking moment wishing they were different, but rather that they thought about it as little as anyone else and then maybe only wished their bodies were thought beautiful, rather than so much that they wished they were different. There was a look of wonder and appreciation and true enjoyment at seeing their bodies turned into these mannequins that I had not expected. Then, it was interesting to watch the reactions of the people walking by the storefronts where these mannequins were placed. Sometimes, the bodies of mannequins are so actually inhumanly deformed that it wasn't immediately apparent if these were simply more imaginations of what the human body might be propagated by fashion designers. It made me realize how freakish the 'normal' mannequins actually are. In the comments on the video, some people condemned the reaction of the people who saw the window displays because they looked surprised or disgusted. I wonder though if, since they did not know about the project, if they thought they were just more fantastical inventions by designers or had been created to make fun of. It seems to me that it would be important for people to stare and try to form their own bodies to the same positions in an effort to really understand and relate to the shapes of the human body. After all, children imitate not to mock (until they are taught to really) but more simply to connect and understand. There is a curiosity that we are never allowed to satisfy and a feeling that there is something shameful that really needs to be addressed.

The second program that I watched was about Richard Avedon called Darkness and Light. Avedon has been criticized for being so self-promoting, but I really can't imagine how he could have gotten where he is with the amount of humility people would like to see him exhibit, it's just not the way things work, especially in the arts. He is also looked down upon by some as a commercial photographer rather than an artist, but I think that's just silly. He has done commercial work and he has created art, they are not always both, sometimes his images are one or the other, but really the dichotomy is much more of a gradation than a division. People seem to think if you make money or have a client it is a commercial work rather than art, but there isn't any particular need for this distinction, at least most of the time. So many people are just snobs. Avedon seems to possess that same anxiety and the emotional swings from certainty of genius to absolute despair that are so common in artists and in a form so common to the Jewish cultural personality. Even when we are agnostics or atheists, there is some part of that culture that seems to be passed on and almost inescapable. In any case, I identified with a lot of the ways he expressed his ideas and was very impressed by his photography.

I was also taken with his self promotion and thought that I really should continue my efforts - part of me really enjoys it and the other part is sort of disgusted by the idea of saying how good I am (and another part think I'm lying while another thinks, "yeah, damn right.") 

In the meantime, however, I took some pictures of rats.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


Don't worry, this isn't a post about my existential despair. 

Yesterday, Pepe and I loaded the kids in the car and went looking for abandoned buildings and spaces I could photograph. You know, just like I'm sure every family has done for hundreds of years as part of…part of…well, maybe just part of a mental disorder. Anyway, the kids were a bit bored, but they are used to the way I operate and they had iPads and toys to keep them somewhat busy. Pepe was probably bored, but that's his fault because he didn't bring any toys!

I was enthralled. I love weathered, neglected, worn-down, abandoned, unrepaired, etc. I am drawn to places that exist in a current past. There is something absolutely romantic and fascinating about a place whose only current existence is as a bookmark to another time. It's one thing to go to Notre Dame or the Duomo and think about the time and people who have flowed through that space, but it's another when the flow stopped and you get to knock into that past more directly. It's not that the spaces are preserved so well, because most often they are not, in fact I think it's because they aren't particularly well preserved, the connection with what was there is still so present. When too many hands have cleaned up a place, it rejoins the present. The places I like to see are those that whisper in dust and vines.

Also, I find, that if I know too much about the details of what happened in a place, my imagination isn't as drawn to it. I love the exercise of dreaming about the sounds and breath of a space when it was a container for some small portion of human existence. So, the chances are that if there were a beautiful mansion next to an abandoned hovel, you would find me in the hovel, even if I had been invited into the mansion (which would be the most surprising thing of all) and told I could have as much sushi as I wanted. Unless I thought I could somehow sneak back into the hovel later and I was hungry…but I digress…

Pepe always teases me that if anyone lives in an area which I find fascinating, they should move if they can because property values are about to hit rock bottom. An interesting take on the 'there goes the neighborhood' lament. I'm not the only one who is like this - there are urbex movements all over the world and amazing photographers who find themselves drawn to these places too. I found a website for Abandoned NC which may be the organizing force for my next road trip. There are photographers such as Matthew Christopher who have travelled all over the US and whose photographs I can't get enough of. 

I'd say the only thing that fascinates almost as much as abandoned places are abandoned people. I want to know what happened, where did they come from, who are they now? In some of the buildings we went to yesterday, I saw that there were inhabitants even though the door labelled the building as condemned. These are people on the edges and they went inside the moment I stepped out of the car. I would most likely not have taken their picture, I feel much too self-conscious to talk to people I don't know and I hate to treat them as if they were animals in a zoo. Maybe that's my hang up though, I'm not sure. 
I would love to undertake a project to take photos of people who are supposedly placeless in their spaces, because they must exist in space somewhere, the laws of physics can't be avoided - even if the laws of the city or state wishes it. As David Cross says, if we can put a man on the moon, maybe we should work on putting a man in an apartment.