the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

Posts tagged “Blog


Taking control of your photography can be a daunting process.

Taking control of your photography can be a daunting process.


VISITORS TO THE FACTORY HEADQUARTERS OF BEN & JERRY’S ICE CREAM in Stowe, Vermont, upon completing the standard tour of the works, are encouraged to climb a small hill out back of the building to view the company’s Dead Flavor’s Graveyard, an actual cemetery, complete with elegantly epitaphed tombstones and dedicated to such failed B&J varietals as Turtle Soup, Fossil Fuel, White Russian and Sweet Potato Pie. It’s a humorous way to point out that, even for talented startups, there’s no such thing as a direct shot up the mountain of fame. We duck. We detour. We change direction. It’s a process, not a product.

Photography is, in this way (and in no other way that I can think of) much like ice cream.

As we clear the 500 mark on posts for The Normal Eye, I want to (a) profoundly thank all those who have joined us on the journey, and (b) restate that, as our sub-head reads, it really is about a journey, rather than a destination. This small-town newspaper began because I had met so many people over the years who had become suspicious of their camera’s true intentions. Sure, they admitted, the automodes do pretty great on many pictures, but what if I actually want some say in the process? Can I be an active agent in the making of my own pictures?

Now, these weren’t people who wanted to purchase $10,000 worth of gear, sell their houses, abandon their children, and become photo gypsies for NatGeo. These were simply people whose photographic curiosity had finally got the better of them. What would happen, they asked, if I were to, all by myself, make one little extra choice, independent of the camera’s superbrain, before the shutter snapped? And what if I made two? Or three? Other questions followed. What is seeing? How do you learn to value your own vision? And what tasks from the era of film still apply as solid principles in the digital age?

The Normal Eye has spent the last four years trying to ask those questions, not from a top-down, “here is how to do it” approach, since so many of these solutions must be privately arrived at. This is not, and will never be, a technical tutorial. I reflect on what thoughts went into a particular problem, and how I personally decided to try to solve it. The results, as are all my words, are up for debate.

It’s humbling to remember that, in photography, there is always more than one path to paradise. And when I find myself being crushed under the weight of my own Dead Flavor Graveyard, I take heart in those moments when your feedback has made a difference in my motivations, or methods, or both. Recently, I received what I still cherish as one of the best comments over the entire run, with one gentleman proclaiming:

I’m not a fan of words, but the ones in this article are in a tolerable sequence.

Hey, that’s enough to hold me for another 500, and I hope you’ll be along for the ride.




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.