the photoshooter's journey from taking to making

Posts tagged “Twitter


Hey, we're all just trying to catch light in a box. Use any box you have, just grab something, like, say, the Empire State Building. 1/320 sec., f/5.6, ISO 100, 35mm

Hey, we’re all just trying to catch light in a box. Use any box you have, just grab something, like, say, the Empire State Building. 1/320 sec., f/5.6, ISO 100, 35mm.


SOMETHING THAT LIVES IN THE NETHER WORLD BETWEEN A DIARY AND A PHILOSOPHIC SCREED, at the intersection of passion and obsession. That’s the no-man’s-land  I aimed this blog at 100 posts ago, today. From Day One, The Normal Eye was, and remains, an attempt to get beyond the mere technical doing of a photograph and scratch away at the ticket of techtalk to reveal why I was trying to capture a given idea inside a box.

There are, and have ever been, far better teachers on a purely technical level than I can ever hope to be. And, let’s face it, knowing just the metadata on a shot is no guarantee that something magical will happen, just as high-end cameras don’t guarantee high-concept images. No, the only thing I’m expert at, in any way, is judging my own intentions, in hungering after a visualization of what I feel in my bones.

All of you patient ones out there already know me, because your dad or your corny uncle or your nerdly, bookish kid is just like me. I am “that guy”. I have always been that guy. The guy who pipes up, in completely unrelated conversations, with the observation that “it’s so cool what the light is doing right now”. The guy who comes back from a family gathering with, strangely, no pictures of the family whatever, but a killer shot of what everyone concurs is a colorful shmear of…something. The guy who is so busy looking for “the moment” that he forgets to be in the moment.

Guilty, guilty, guilty, and, ouch, guilty.

Funny thing is (and this is the mainspring that drives The Normal Eye), I’m almost as excited about where I’ll fail next than where I’ll succeed. If less than half of the pictures out of a new batch doesn’t make me groan, what the hell was I thinking?, then I’m not working hard enough, and certainly not reaching far enough. Nothing artistically good comes from a place of safety, and repeating your past choices doesn’t repeat your past successes.

Those of you who have done me the great honor of reading and following this mess have my undying gratitude. And as for those who have taken the extra time to comment as well, thanks for becoming the most vital link in the chain. Bloggers may be doomed to forever shout off the edge of a cliff, but it’s a real Robinson Crusoe moment when some man (or woman) Friday actually shouts back. Thank you, one and all.

As far as there are clearly stated goals for any enterprise such as this (except to keep on going), I can faithfully pledge to keep the process as honest as possible, and to let my inner child, the brat who first picked up a camera, to shout down the rational adult, who unlike the kid, occasionally forgets that this is all supposed to be about discovery, and wonder. If I lose track of that, the whole game is up. I also hope to act as a better conduit to the best work going on in photography today, in these pages and through my Twitter feed @mpnormaleye. The great news: the golden age of photography is happening here, now. Everything that has gone before, while amazing, is mere prologue to what is on the way.

That is pretty damned exciting.

So thanks for where this has taken us so far, and please sign up for another hitch. I can’t promise I’ll dazzle you. But I do promise I’ll be dazzled.

After all, it’s so cool what the light is doing, right now.

Where’s my box?

follow Michael Perkins on Twitter @mpnormaleye.


A pensive moment with Timothy Egan, Pulitzer prize winning author of "The Worst Hard Time".

A pensive moment with Timothy Egan, “Opinionator”columnist for the New York Times and Pulitzer prize-winning author of “The Worst Hard Time”. 1/80 sec., f/6.3, ISO 1600, 300mm.


THE TUCSON FESTIVAL OF THE BOOK, not yet five years old, has quickly evolved into one of the premier annual events in the publishing world. Hosted over an entire weekend in March during spring break on the University of Arizona campus, it showcases hundreds of authors and thousands of titles that range in content over the entire spectrum of the printed word. It is also one of the most hassle-free environments for candid photography of many world-famous authors, with an atmosphere which is intimate, informal, and bristling with energy.

In the simple discussion forums and panels of the TFOB, authors occupy the immediate space of their readers in a way that fires their features with zeal, a quality that lends itself powerfully to seeing the very faces of books. It’s a shooter’s smorgasbord, and the meeting spaces are compact enough (usually University classrooms) that a good medium zoom boosted to about 1600 ISO will give you captures fairly free of noise and a real feeling of being there. In these smaller settings, a relaxed feeling pervades, with authors evolving into stage performers rather than lecturers. The result is no bloodless reading, but a kind of theatrical sales pitch on behalf of the author’s ideas, one part poet and one part Professor Harold Hill from The Music Man. 

I started shooting at TFOB four years ago and have learned more each year about circumventing the less-than-ideal lighting scheme (there really isn’t any) and clicking off hundreds of “drat!” images that fell short of what I was seeing. Shooting inside by flourescent light always means taking sample images with various white balances and making changes on the fly, as well as compensating for the light fall-off and additional vibration risk that occurs when you’re fully zoomed in.

Best thing is, though, there are almost no visual distractions to lead the eye away from the authors, since

Culture hero Chuck Klosterman, author of "Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs"

Culture hero Chuck Klosterman, author of “Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs”. 1/100 sec., f/6.3, ISO 1600, 116mm.

for the most part they stand before blackboards or blank walls. The shots don’t have to be simplified….they are already pretty stark. In addition, you can just frame head shots for the middle third of the subject’s faces, since you aren’t really there to capture their haircut or the water bottles and mics nearby.

Do yourself a favor and investigate a trip to the southwest each March for this amazing event.

If you love books, it’s essential. If you study faces, it’s the icing on the cake.

(NOTE: follow Michael Perkins on Twitter for the “Normal Eye Clicks Of The Day” and “Today in Photo History” at Share your own images with me, especially Instagram and phone snaps. You are always a vital part of this conversation.)