the photoshooter's journey from taking to making



Another year spent chasing the light.

2014. Another year spent chasing the light.


The White Rabbit put on his spectacles. ‘Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?’ he asked.  ‘Begin at the beginning,’ the King said gravely, ‘and go on till you come to the end: then stop.’

IN A SIMPLER WORLD, THE KING OF HEARTS, quoted above in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, would be perfectly correct. All things being equal, the beginning would be the best place to begin. But, in photography, as in all of life, we are always coming upon a series of beginnings. Learning an art is like making a lap in Monopoly. Just when we think we are approaching our destination, we pass “Go” again, and find that one man’s finish line is another man’s starting gate. Photography is all about re-defining where we are and where we need to be. We always begin, and we never finish.

As 2014 comes to an intersection (I can’t really say ‘a close’ after all that, can I?), it’s normal to review what might be either constant, or changed, about one’s approach to making pictures. That, after all, is the stated aim of this blog, making The Normal Eye more about journey than destination. And so, all I can do in reviewing the last twelve months of opportunities or accidents is to try to identify the areas of photography that most define me at this particular juncture, and to reflect on the work that best represents those areas. This is not to say I’ve gained mastery, but rather that I’m gaining on it. If my legs hold out, I may get there yet. But don’t count on it.

The number twelve has become, then, the structure for the blog page we launch today, called (how does he think of these things?) 12 for 14. You’ll notice it as the newest gallery tab at the top of the screen. There is nothing magical about the number by itself, but I think forcing myself to edit, then edit again, until the thousands of images taken this year are winnowed down to some kind of essence is a useful, if ego-bruising, exercise. I just wanted to have one picture for each facet of photography that I find essentially important, at least in my own work, so twelve it is.

Light painting, landscape, HDR, mobile, natural light, mixed focus, portraiture, abstract composition, all these and others show up as repeating motifs in what I love in others’ images, and what I seek in my own. They are products of both random opportunity and obsessive design, divine accident and carefully executed planning. Some are narrative, others are “absolute” in that they have no formalized storytelling function. In other words, they are a year in the life of just another person who hopes to harness light, perfect his vision, and occasionally snag something magical.

So here we are at the finish line, er, the starting gate, or….well, on to the next picture. Happy New Year.



The only consumer camera designed to create personal View-Master reels. 15 sec., f/5.6, ISO 100, 35mm.

Sawyer’s mid-50’s View-Master Personal Stereo, the only consumer camera able to produce those eye-popping 3-d reels. 15 sec., f/5.6, ISO 100, 35mm.


THIS WEEK, THE NORMAL EYE REACHES A LITTLE BASE CAMP OF SORTS, with the welcome arrival of our 1,000th blog follower. A few thoughts before we climb to the next ledge:

I never wanted this forum to be a mere photo diary, a refrigerator on which to tack up my pet pic of the day, because, despite the fact that my photography illustrates the blog, it’s not really about,”look what I did”, so much as it’s about “look at one thing you can try”. It also was never supposed to be a purely technical tutorial, although we do offer a few simple step-by-steps on emerging methods. My thought, then as now, is that there are many, many master technicians in the trade whose command of the pure science is so much stronger than mine, that I’d  be better off talking about the part we all understand….the millions of little miracle moments and motivations that shape our visual decisions in the making of images.

Accordingly, your most typical responses to The Normal Eye have been along the lines of “I’ve been there”, or “I came to the same conclusion” or “I never thought of it that way before.” That has sparked dialogue, which was my principal aim in creating TNE in the first place. I use my images to illustrate my ideas because they’re the closest visual equivalent of what’s rattling around in my skull, but not because they’re the ne plus ultra of anything.

From my years as an illustrator, I also love the idea of designing a page, and I try to vary the visual arrangement of the blog to incorporate useful links, historical figures, and, as we go forward, gifs and other tools. I liken it to the front of a newspaper, which, other than the masthead and the familiar type faces, has to be completely new every day. It’s more interesting to make, and, I hope, more fun to read, but it’s still in its infancy.

The most amazing part of this venture has been seeing the numbers change, to realize, day by day, that many of you have chosen, on-purpose, to bring these conversations into your day on a regular basis. I truly appreciate that choice, and am gratified if any of these chicken scratchings have a positive impact, for anyone. Sometimes, online writing is like throwing a pebble down a dark well and listening for at least a splash. Sometimes it’s like waking up to a roomful of birthday presents. So, to everyone who has kept faith or at least sampled The Normal Eye thus far, my sincere thanks. As I’ve stressed before, although solo sermons are often inspiring, this forum only works as a conversation.

Your turn.