Second Looks

November 11th, 2010

I think it happens to all photographers: you take a photo that you’re not quite pleased with in the first edit, and it gets culled. But when you see it again later you change your mind. It’s grown on you. You see something new in it, a detail, action, emotion that you hadn’t noticed before. Maybe your eye has matured since that first edit, or maybe your emotional state has shifted enough to give that photo a second look. Whatever the circumstance, you’ve found a gem that hadn’t been evident to you the first time around. Quite often, these are happy accidents; that shot you had in your mind’s eye didn’t pan out during editing, yet that second photo you took without planning turned out great. Instinct over intellect. Serendipity over planning.

A seamstress folds cloth, Hampi, India.

This image of a seamstress folding fabric in Hampi, India, took many second looks. I distinctly remember taking the photo, quickly ducking into position, firing off a few frames, and “stealing” the shot from AKB, who had been right next to me. It felt like a keeper at that moment. Yet, when editing, I had doubts. I loved the colors, and was happy with the composition, but something about it didn’t stick with me. It felt too simple, with too little mystery to it. At the time I was probably trying to make it fit into a narrative it didn’t belong in, maybe because I had skipped ahead in the edit chronologically to work on it. Whatever the reason, I over-thought it, tried to make it more complex than it needed to be. Now, months later, I have grown to really love the photo, and it glows on our kitchen wall at home. What at first I dismissed as simple, square, straight-on composition actually frames the serenity of the moment well. Quite the contrast to the off-camera chaos of the surroundings.

Here’s hoping to more second looks at hidden gems in the future.

Retail Prints

November 11th, 2010

I am very pleased to announce that my work is now available for sale at RayKo Photo Center in San Francisco. RayKo is a wonderful hub that offers classes, darkrooms and a digital facility, not to mention a great gallery space that hosts awesome work year round. The marketplace features bins of work from local artists, and is a perfect place to browse for art to hang on that empty wall of yours.

I’m excited to have people see my work in person in such a setting, among many great Bay Area photographers. If you’re ever in SoMa, please stop by and take a look. The holiday season is the ideal excuse to support your local artists. And remember, you can always order prints by visiting my Photoshelter gallery.


September 25th, 2010

In prepping work for display and sale, I tried various papers to use with my printer. This was a really tough process. For one, I’d never done this before; so, picking a print size, mats, frames, etc., were each a daunting task. But really, choosing the paper was the hardest.

I went into my local photo shop half a dozen times to look at paper samples and pick up sample packs, literally spending thirty minutes at a time deliberating over which one to try next. I almost went with Moab Lasal Photo Luster, which had a nice, muted quality that complemented my work. Plus, I’m a sucker for Moab’s packaging.

However, I ultimately went with Hahnemühle Satin Photo Rag. Although this is a luster paper, the profiles for my printer require matte black ink. The biggest drawback to this otherwise awesome printer is that you commit to either glossy or matte blacks. If you decide to change paper types, you have to swap cartridges, which means lots of wasted ink, and lots of wasted money. So, committing to the Hahnemühle was more than a quick decision.

The results were lovely. The paper really is matte, with the slightest eggshell shine when viewed at the right angle. At first, I thought this would detract from the prints, but it really makes colors stand out, and India is full of color, even in my undersaturated style. The only trouble I had was with some chunky black transitions (gloss differential) in a couple of photos. In the end, upping the contrast and minor experimentation was all it took to make them look good.

AKB and I stumbled upon evening services at the Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Connception in Pondicherry, India. Between the dusk sky, the contrasting warm and cool lights inside and out, and all the colors present between churchgoers’ saris and statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, it was replete with beautiful scenes. We spent a long time viewing and photographing the grounds. One resulting image has become one of my all-time favorites. I grinned like a little kid when it printed beautifully – it really benefited from the delicate qualities of the paper.

Church of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception, Pondicherry, India

I’m still mastering this whole printing thing. This year I invested in a screen calibrator (Spyder 3 Pro), not to mention a good deal of time and money towards experimentation. I’m happy to say that I’m loving the results; now I just need to find more wall space to hang them on!

Since getting back… a recap

September 12th, 2010

Since getting back from our India/Sri Lanka trip, I managed to keep a sense of openness and forward-thinking, for a while, anyway. That’s the essence of good travel – saying yes to opportunity when it strikes. With this attitude comes great reward, and this definitely applies to life in general. Personally, I find it hard to remember, even as it’s yielded wonderful adventures. During our time in India and Sri Lanka, we vacillated between openness and being closed — the effect of wary travel, having encountered one tout too many. Still, on balance, I came back to SF with few expectations or plans, just a general sense that things would be just fine.

And they certainly have been. I serendipitously found programming work right away, which was a great relief financially. However, I have been struggling all year to find time to edit photos from our trip. I don’t know about you, but editing photos is very time-consuming for me: I have attachments not only to the photos and memories, but also to the final product. I want my photos to be good, and my travel photo sets are not just a photo diary, but also, hopefully, a source of keepers.

Chowpatty Beach in the evening attracts Mumbaikars of all ages and walks of life.

This photo of Mumbaikars hanging out on Chowpatty beach, stood out to me right away. In a bustling city, full of traffic, noise and people, some serenity can be found looking out onto the water. In truth, that serenity is short-lived: the beach is crowded with families, and the view is spoiled with litter. Photographs seldom convey the whole story – if they did, they’d be boring, wouldn’t they? After all, even the best reportage images raise questions.

As I continue my photographic journey, I’ve been looking for inspiration in artists I admire: Steve McCurry, David Alan Harvey, not to mention dozens of talented folks on the web. More and more I am able to appreciate and develop a style, to look for subtleties in my work, mystery, edge; to go beyond the simple photos. There is, of course, a clear line between travelogue and portfolio. The former helps viewers relive a journey, whereas the latter is what you will, hopefully, be remembered for.

Fortunately, I have so far been very pleased with the selects I’ve gotten from my trip. They have helped me refine my style, and complement my earlier work. The photo above was one of ten photos I displayed this summer at my very first show at RayKo, a group show aptly named Into… The exercise of putting together a show was quite useful in finding a voice, describing my work, and finding threads within it. I should also like to extend my gratitude to my wonderful fellow artists, and, of course, the instructor of the Artist’s Toolkit course, Sita Bhaumik.

As those beachgoers look into the distance, I look back at what this year has and will be bringing: a new job, some measured success in my own photography, and the very best gift of all: impending fatherhood.

I’ve been very blessed in 2010. I hope you have, too.

New Blog Format

September 12th, 2010

I have decided to change the format and focus of this blog, to feature more photographs, recollections, and occasional musings.

Stay tuned!