Richard Lishner Photography: Blog en-us (C) Richard Lishner Photography (Richard Lishner Photography) Thu, 29 Sep 2022 00:35:00 GMT Thu, 29 Sep 2022 00:35:00 GMT Richard Lishner Photography: Blog 80 120 THE VALUE OF NOT KNOWING WHAT THE HELL YOU'RE DOING                             LIBERTY : FINAL VERSION

I'd like to make a couple of confessions this week. I've been writing these essays for almost two years, and I have become a little cocky about my ability to write what I call a weekly column, as long as I have no editor, no word limit, high or low, or even a topic I have to cover. So cocky that I have even begun to not even know what I'm going to be writing about before I sit down to write my blog post. This week I even had the nerve to start a blog post about images I hadn't even created yet! The other confession I have to admit is that while I can mansplain with the best of them, I usually am a little uncomfortable with entering a project without the slightest idea of how I'm actually going to accomplish my goals. I tend to overthink things rather than just winging it.

                            LIBERTY : FINAL B&W VERSION

So today I want to address the value of trying something new, especially when you don't know what the hell you are doing. While frustration can ensue, the shear terror and understanding that your inexperience will not just betray you but completely undermine your efforts can lead to the excitement and liberation of very low expectations.

                            ONE DOLLAR : FINAL VERSION

People often ask me about my photographic training and skill set, and my usual answer is that I am an artist who happens to use a camera, but that I have large gaps in my photographic knowledge. I know how to make the images that I make, and do a damn good job of it, but if you ask me to shoot sports, or wildlife, or portraits for that matter, I am working on instinct. It's not that I might know more than you, but I certainly know less than a photographer who shoots those type of images, sometimes a lot less. My self-labeling myself as an artist relieves me of the expectations others might have that I can pick up a camera and of course shoot a ballgame or a wedding or even their dog.


My training as an architect gave me a skill set as an artist when it quickly occurred to me that since I was an absolutely terrible businessman, my future in architecture relied on my skills as an artist that happened to be an architect. So it was a natural progression when I needed to take photographs of my architectural projects and couldn't or wouldn't afford to hire a "real" architectural photographer.  It took me years to realize that even though I might never have their technical skills and wizadry, most architectural photographers didn't have a real clue about what the architects had been thinking when they designed the project - and I did. My architectural images thus combined the skill sets I had honed as an architect with the self-taught experience I gained as an artist whose subjects were usually far away, did not move, and certainly did not talk back.


These images I am showing today are the result of a deliberate effort to try something completely new - not for the universe, but at least for me. I had little expectation that I would exhibit incredible skill as a still life macro photographer. A big part of the fun was the idea that I could accomplish anything at all, since I really didn't know what I was doing beyond holding the camera reasonably still. I even flubbed the things I did have experience with, like realizing that my tripod was still so full of North Carolina beach sand that it was really unusable. I set out to shoot some macro still lifes without a backdrop, or a real macro lens, or any flash equipment beyond my on-camera flash, which I had used about a dozen times in as many years - what could go wrong?

                           BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME? : FINAL B&W VERSION

Amid a lot of frustration I did have a lot of fun in the ensuing hour or so of shooting three subjects that were all available in my studio, hiding in plain site. These included a pile of coins which I haven't even had the energy to take to the bank, a collection of paperclips that fell on the floor as I reached for the coins, and a few cherry tomatoes that I snacked on just slowly enough to allow me to use some of them in several images. Out of about one hundred images, here are a dozen or so that are not completely embarrassing.


I started with the coins since I had a few bad puns to at least work with, even though I knew that I wasn't going to make a profound statement about inflation or inequality with a pile of coins on a white background. Window light and one architectural lamp provided some good light before I dared to turn on the flash. Even though I did find the button to turn on the flash, something that has eluded me in the past, it was quite humbling to realize that my characteristic vertical grip on my camera was actually placing my hand in front of the flash. Talk about a newbie! I tried to use my reversing ring to achieve true macro enlargements that allow for 1:1 ratios between subject size and image size, without much success. The reversing ring is a simple metal ring that allows you to reverse your lens and attach it to your camera backwards - making it into a very low powered microscope. The only trouble is that all electronic connections between the camera and the lens are lost, which makes for a trial and error shooting style that can only be mastered with about several years more experience that I possess. I could never overcome the incredibly narrow depth of field that results from such close-focusing. That is why one part of something even as small as a penny can be tack sharp,while the other edge is very soft. I soon abandoned the reversing ring for just using my zoom lens which can achieve somewhat close to macro  magnifications - but only after almost mangling it when I didn't realize that removing the reversing ring required me to push the usual lens removal button on my camera body. It's a good thing that this photo session was not taped for posterity.

                            MY TWO CENTS : FINAL VERSION

After several bad photo puns, and the realization from Fran's casual chuckles and comments revealed that she had far better ideas for possible shots using coins, I moved on to paperclips. At least I learned that a casual pile of paper clips wasn't as exciting as a pile of coins, so that I had to do at least a little compositional thinking. But not much.

                            CLIP ART : FINAL VERSION


I finally moved on to cherry tomatoes. What was interesting was that I actually had to remove a lot of the light to control the hot spots on the tomatoes, so off went the flash. In the end, a collection of tomatoes wasn't much more than a few tomatoes, but at least they are colorful. The coins and the paperclips both seemed to gain interest when rendered in black and white. The extra detail and contrast seemed to more than make up for the lack of color.

                                                        GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT : FINAL VERSION

I hope that my experiments might encourage you to allow yourselves to engage in something way out of your comfort zone, whether in photography or some other endeavor. Don't start with skydiving.

                            CHERRY TOMATO BABY! : FINAL VERSION




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 30 Sep 2022 19:00:00 GMT


This week I would like to throw caution to the wind and insist that the real reason that you should try to learn post-processing software is not to improve your images and to communicate your artistic intent to viewers, but to have fun. I simply get a kick out of trying new things, not out of an effort to be weird, but to use these computer manipulations to get out of my comfort zone. The goal is to get a "better" image, but the fun is in the process, and the liberation that can come out of experiments beyond my normal "work flow." All of these images were rediscovered on a fruitful search in the archives after I had once again lost one of my most popular images, which I fortunately rescued from the "missing" file.

                                                       JOSHUA TREE, DEATH VALLEY : FINAL VERSION

                                                        JOSHUA TREE, DEATH VALLEY : ORIGINAL IMAGE

Sometimes the result is just a far better rendition of an image - not saving a photo per se, but attempting to find the potential I saw when I pressed the shutter and somehow missed when I viewed the result. Often this is simply the result of the perfectly ordinary fact that photographs do not directly relate to reality, which is one of the reasons we take them in the first place. The camera sees things differently from you and me, and while that often leads to wonder, it sometimes can disappoint. There is nothing wrong with continuing your artistic pursuits beyond your efforts "in camera."

                                                       DEATH VALLEY ROCK FORMATION : ORIGINAL IMAGE

                                                       DEATH VALLEY ROCK FORMATION : FINAL IMAGE

These first two images were created on my only visit to Death Valley, which I recommend to everyone - just don't go in the Summer, and please skip Las Vegas, which exemplifies everything wrong with our country if not the entire world. My post processing efforts are not dramatic, but I think they clearly improve these two images which were initially lost in the shuffle. Judicious cropping, increased saturation and contrast,sharpening and you've gone a long way to a better rendition.

                                                       STERN WHEEL : ORIGINAL IMAGE

                                                       STERN WHEEL : FINAL IMAGE

                                                        STERN WHEEL : BLACK AND WHITE VERSION

The next two images show how these efforts can improve the graphical bent that is one of my chief ways of seeing the world in the first place. Even these simple compositions can benefit from efforts that make them even more simpler. The switch to black and white can also be a major move towards abstraction, further removing the images from the morass of documentation. I didn't care "what" I was taking, and these post-processing moves can further highlight my intent. Structural ingenuity, separated by one hundred years, can also be treated as beautiful sculptures devoid of a purpose far beyond their maker's intent. Not that I don't think for a minute that those makers didn't delight in the beauty of what they had made - they just didn't revel in it for fear of it being removed by "value engineering."

                                                        SAFECO TRUSS : ORIGINAL

                                                        SAFECO TRUSS : THE COLOR IS BETTER, AND DON'T YOU SEE IT'S STRAIGHT? COME ON, MAN!

                                                        I HATE THAT SICK GREEN ANYWAY, SO LET'S GO BLACK AND WHITE

Sometimes my efforts can be totally arbitrary, often in my pursuit of a photo coaster which requires a square crop. While certain images can only be compromised, if not ruined, by such treatment, others are strengthened by this stringent simplification.


                            CLEARLY, FOUR IS BETTER THAN SIX!


                            CLOSER, BUT NOT CLOSE ENOUGH


If you have been wondering where all these wild moves I initially talked about went, I would remind you that I am inherently a pretty conservative photographer. My liberation might be your straight jacket. But in discussing this final image, I hope I can show how I can loosen up a little.


This image was taken several years ago on a trip to the Statue of Liberty. As we sailed past I tried to capture an overall view of Ellis Island, the beginning of many of our families' American journeys. It's not a bad snap, but the first things I did were to straighten my wonky horizon and crop out some meaningless sky and water to achieve the real wider angle the building deserved. The usual sharpening, a little saturation -especially of the overall brick and the remaining fall foliage - and we have arrived at what would ordinarily be my "final version."



Then I just decided to have some fun, and use some filters that I had previously avoided. The color image was first subjected to what the software world calls a LUT - a "Look Up Table", which are color filters that come out of Hollywood, used by cinematographers to achieve their overall "look" for a film. This look can become their career signature or at least the color cast for that movie. Think of "Chinatown", or "The French Connection", or even "The Lord of The Rings" - there was something going on in the rendition of color that gave them a certain feel, even if you couldn't put your finger on it. This LUT was labeled "Branaugh" by my software, which was good enough for me. It clearly muted the colors in such a way that I could temporarily forgive him for leaving Emma Thompson. I finally added a "texture" layer in the background, that added enough crunch and wrinkles that the image now can begin to resemble a postcard from the last century. Maybe yes, maybe no, but I certainly haven't "ruined" anything.




I then switched to black and white. The first effort is the result of my normal procedure in monochrome, and as usual the result focuses on sharper details and allows for more contrast overall and especially in the sky that can be achieved in color. I believe my efforts achieve a stronger image, especially if you don't miss the color. This final attempt lightened up everything, using a "sunshine" filter to brighten up the image a little more subtly than by increasing the exposure - as if the Sun just came out for a minute when I snapped the shot. Add some "glow" and the Sun can begin to really beat down on the lighter tones. Of course use restraint unless you are going for a radioactive representation. Finally a very subtle sepia tone was added to achieve an element of nostalgia, which is really just apparent if you view this rendition side by side with my standard black and white.

A great tip for working with images is not only to learn when to stop, but to go back the next day or a week later. It will instantly become apparent where your have gone too far, and then you can dial back your "radical" moves. Goldilocks learned an important lesson which can become your motto when working with images.

Non of this stuff is earth shattering, but I did have fun, and I encourage you to also move past your comfort zone, maybe even beyond my conservative parameters. When people ask me if I have had fun taking any photographs lately, I often tell them how much fun I have discovering the hidden value in images that I captured many years ago.




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 23 Sep 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to show you the images I captured on two hikes in the Columbia Gorge ten years ago. The commentary will be short and sweet, since my organizational talents have left me completely bereft of any real idea of where exactly these two walks took place. I know I should be upset, but what is the point? These images function as reminders of how blessed we are to live in such a beautiful place; they can stand in for generic Oregon Beauty Shots without too many more specifics. The real point I am trying to make is that this first image is the only one I have ever actually printed from those walks ten years ago. The value of Lightroom and my archives, disorganized as they are, is that I can take another look at images that would be lost otherwise, and find some that clearly deserve the light of day. It is that ability to go back in time, and post-process images from ten years ago with better software, and more importantly, better skill at using the software, that makes these forays so delightful. Yes, I'd "rather be out shooting", but what is wrong with going on a hike that you barely remember going on?

If I racked my brain I probably could remember exactly where these images were taken, but I think the images can stand by themselves without GPS coordinates. So let's take a look at some as photographs without worrying about their exact subjects.                                                        OREGON TRAIL : FINAL VERSION

Fran and I are not world-class hikers, and my photographic efforts, and my incredibly slow pace, serve to slow down and shorten our trips into the woods. This image above illustrates the beauty and civilized nature of our typical hike - a nice, safe trail, so that the hike is about the surroundings, not the effort and danger involved in the trip.

                                                        TWO "SMALL" MOUNTAINS, TWO DIFFERENT DAYS : FINAL VERSION

Which is not to say that the surroundings can tend to be spectacular. Some readers might even recognize these two mountains, which are no big deal in the context of volcanoes like Mt. Hood, but which served as the focus of the two hikes. Getting anywhere near the top is not on my list of things to do, but I can still admire their stature, even without remembering their names. I can take comfort in the knowledge that whatever the settlers called them, their native names were probably more evocative and had a several thousand year head start.

                                                       INTIMATE NORTHWEST LANDSCAPE : FINAL VERSION

Sometimes a very quiet spot on the trail can mean more than the hike's apparent goal. This intimate landscape reveals the wide variety of tones present in what can seem an overwhelmingly green environment. I also frequently delight in the fact that I can walk in such  settings without worrying about the violent nature of how they were probably formed hundreds if not thousands of years ago.

                            ONE BRIDGE, TWO WAYS : FINAL IMAGES

Often as a retired architect I can really appreciate the efforts that went into the creation of these trails that allow for my casual walks in the woods. Most of these trails were probably the result of "make work" projects by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) during the Depression, and you don't have to be a socialist to wish for such energy today. These two views of this bridge, miles from civilization, show how their efforts both enhance and make it possible for ordinary people to appreciate this beautiful environment.

                                                       FRAMING THE WATERFALL : FINAL VERSION

                                                       HORSETAIL FERN : FINAL VERSION

Of course it can help if you really slow down to enjoy the small wonders which can often be overlooked on the way to the overview. These two images highlight such moments.

                                                        TWO WATERFALLS : FINAL VERSIONS

Then there are the waterfalls which are the usual "goals" of these trails. You can't beat a waterfall, although I sometimes wonder why mankind is so mesmerized by these water features as a proof of gravity. The Native Americans and hunters that forged these trails out of animal byways surely weren't in for the views, were they, so why do waterfalls provide our excuse for these walks in the woods? But you cannot deny their power, especially when you consider that the water formed the immediate environment. Aren't you glad you were not around the day those rocks arrived at this beauty spot?

                                                       WEEPING WALL, TWO VERSIONS

The gorge environment is generally so wet that you don't even have to name the waterfall. These two images show what happens when the very walls of the canyon seem to be weeping. The black and white version allows for more subtle manipulation of tones to bring out the wispy water down the cliff, but both versions are enhanced by very subtle "dodging and burning" of light and dark areas to bring out the contrast an make the image really pop. Sometimes these efforts can seem so subtle as to be a waste of time, until you throw the "switch" and see how much of a difference your work can make in bringing out what you saw in the first place.

                                                        A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT : ORIGINAL

                            A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT : FINAL VERSION

                            A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT : FINAL B&W VERSION

Finally, let's get back to the one image I thought I had gotten out of these two hikes ten years ago. On the way to the waterfall it is easy to overlook the stream that will make it all possible. On this day those trail builders had fashioned a bridge right over the river, allowing me to focus on the beautiful leading line that it provided in the forest. The square coaster crop eliminated some of the foreground, bringing you closer to the action. This final image also shows how sharpening, enhancing contrast to bring out the rapids, and some subtle saturation of those gorgeous greens can make an image pop. It's a matter of taste, but the details and range of tones in the the black and white version show that you don't really have to rely on the green at all.

Obviously, you have to appreciate the process in photography, since you can hope for only one "keeper" out of one hundred shots you might take on a hike, or in a month. While this is generally true, and nothing to be ashamed of, I hope you can see that  you can find more than one image from a trip that is worthy of your efforts. You just have to be willing to take the walk again.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 16 Sep 2022 19:00:00 GMT


I would like to take the opportunity this week to take you on a photographic journey through a small portion of Northumberland, an English county on the edge of Scotland. This area serves as the model for "The North" in the "Game of Thrones", which Benjamin introduced to me as "The War of the Roses, with dragons." Benjamin, Fran, and I had the incredibly good fortune to visit there in the winter of 2008, which I cannot believe is now almost 14 years ago. We were traveling to Scotland on the wrong side of the road, and needed a base of operations on the way for a few days. I chose the coastal village of Bamburgh when I discovered it in Powell's while looking at a book on great English seaside villages. I hope these following images will reveal why I suddenly knew we had to stop at this small place on the map.


Bamburgh entered my thoughts this week for a number of reasons. One was all the renewed talk of dragons and such with the advent of the new series. Another was the completely depressing news from the UK, which seemed to mirror the mood of England and the world during our visit in the Winter of 2008-2009. In case you think that we are the only english speaking country that can so mess up it's own politics, I would recommend that you pay some attention to London. We were on holiday that winter in the midst of the economic crash, and most Brits we met seemed to think that we might be the last Yanks they would see for some time. The drumbeat of bad news got so bad that the mayor of London, Boris Johnson (!) went on the "tele" and said that while things were bad, Britain had obviously gotten through more trying times in the past, and everything would be alright. The next day the Archbishop of Canterbury responded by calling him a "cockeyed optimist." The third item that jolted my memories was an article in the New York Times that highlighted the Holy Island of Lindisfarne that is a short drive from Bamburgh and that we also got to visit on this trip.


Bamburgh is a small prosperous village of 400 or so souls on the Northeast coast of England, one of several in this area north of Newcastle. It really doesn't feel like a tourist mecca, especially in December. It resembles an exclusive town on the Oregon Coast like Gearhart, which only caters to people who can afford a beach house. But of course it is 1500 years old, and those uncouth tourists included real Vikings from time to time. December travel in England is certainly unusual unless you are visiting Grandma, so we had the Bed and Breakfast to ourselves, and got to sample the three pubs which were within walking distance for our entertainment and dinner after sunset at about 3:00 P.M. each night.

                            BAMBURGH SEASCAPE : FINAL B&W VERSION

These first few images are seascapes which could be really anywhere with an ocean view, though the beach was certainly very nice and fit into Fran's love of the "Winter Beach Experience" very well. I've done my usual bought of post-processing to make them my own, converted some to black and white, and I think they can stand in for a nice coastal image of a non-tropical beach. But then you turn your back to the North Sea, and realize why you came here, and that this is certainly not the Oregon Coast.


Bamburgh Castle is right on the beach above the dunes. Built in stages and occupied  at least since 500 A.D. it was saved and refurbished by a wealthy Victorian aristocrat into a private home (!) in the early 20th Century.  The castle served as the seat of the Kings of Northumbria, a northern kingdom that controlled the area way before the English did. Henry VIII seized the castle and the monastery when he "dissolved" the monateries in 1500. It is one of a series of castles on this coast that protected the North from the current marauders, who changed over the years from the Vikings to the Scots. They were placed so that fires could signal of trouble for the next castle down the coast - think of the pyres of Middle Earth.


My castle shot isn't bad, but of course it pales compared to those of photographers who live nearby and can come before dawn. What is funny and only occurred to me later is that these include most of the best photographer authors of "how to" books on my bookshelf. I swear it must be the water, but they all could gather in the local pub, and I am no longer surprised to turn the page of yet another book and once again find another spectacular shot of Bamburgh Castle.


                                                       A "FRIENDLY" AT A UNIQUE PITCH : FINAL VERSION

                                                       LOCAL PHONE BOX - IS IT STILL THERE? : FINAL VERSION

The castle dominates the beach as well as the central part of "downtown" Bamburgh, serving as an understated backdrop that only an Englishman could learn to just get used to. The local football pitch literally fronts the castle, so this might be the only place where you can score a goal in such an environment. Our B&B and those pubs and this phone box were a few blocks away.


Part of the charm, and tribulations, of touring through such a small place in pre-Google days was that map reading was required, and English addresses were sometimes "quaint." These two examples were actually pretty user-friendly, since most addresses and street names were set into unlit stonework so that our usual post sunset arrivals were always an adventure.

                                                       HOLY ISLAND, LOW TIDE : FINAL VERSION

Five miles up the road from Bamburgh is another incredible spot, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Northumberland's answer to France's Mont Saint-Michel. This monastery/castle stands on a very small island off the coast which is reachable by foot only at low tide. Several hundred people and a lot of sheep live on the island, and day-trippers have a penchant for, shall we say, pushing their luck. My photo of the warning signs still don't seem to work, and I wonder what you tell the agency when they find dead fish in your rental. Last week's Times article showed a recent innovation - seemingly random-spaced emergency stairs to decks above the twice daily waterline so that you don't have to wait on the roof of your car to get rescued.

                                                       DARWIN'S WORD TO THE WISE : FINAL VERSION

When you successfully arrive on the island you can view the low-lying landscape that will soon be underwater, and the local architecture that even include storage sheds that might be overturned fishing boats. Just be sure to check the tide tables - when we were there there were no overnight accommodations.

                                                       HOLY ISLAND CANALS : FINAL VERSION


                                                        PARTNERS IN CRIME : FINAL VERSION

I hope you have enjoyed this short trip to the Northeast Coast of England. And I hope that it might inspire you to include an "obscure" spot on your next road trip, for not every great spot can command the world's attention.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 09 Sep 2022 19:00:00 GMT

My troubles with my photographic archives have not caught the attentions of the FBI, but that doesn't relieve the headaches that can ensue during a simple search for an image that I have somehow lost. The fear is that the image is gone, but it's usually just hiding on my computer somewhere, out of sight of Lightroom. The analogy that software engineers use when discussing programs like Lightroom or iTunes, for that matter, are that these database compilations are like the library catalogs where you search for a book that is somewhere on the shelves. Bear with me if you have never seen a library catalog, or searched among the shelves. Let's just say that my photos are not in Lightroom, but hopefully in one photo file on my computer, or more accurately, on one of three auxiliary hard drives that are plugged into the computer. One of Fran's favorite curse words is "dongle", the annoying series of wires that connect these drives to my computer. The trouble is that Lightroom sometimes doesn't remember where the file is, since yours truly has messed up something once again. The converse is that the original file, if you find it, is not enough, since you are really interested in the post-processing you did in Lightroom, which is contained in my Lightroom catalog. Continuing with the library analogy, my organizational skills often lead to a situation where the librarian has lost both the dog-eared card in the library catalog, or has not put the book back on the right shelf, or maybe both.


The result is that I literally have a continually updated list titled "The Missing", which lists the images that I currently have misplaced. The "Missing" are not some random forgettable images, but are often photos that have actually proven themselves in the marketplace. Frustration abounds. Recently I have tried to respond to the current economic conditions by re-emphasizing the position of coasters as central to my marketing efforts, such as they are. Customers are back, but they seem worried. I have returned to the idea that each coaster can trigger a sale, especially as a solo item, so that variety is again more important than concentrating on my best sellers. That single coaster, with an image that appeals to a tiny minority, can turn a complement into an actual transaction. Of course this only works if you can find the bloody image in the first place.



My recent forays into the archives have been actually more successful than usual. This past week I did find these two out of seven on my current list. What  I would like to tell you about this week are about the half a dozen images that I discovered hiding in-not-so-plain sight during my search. These kinds of discoveries can find some hidden "gems" which I have never even realized that were there.

Sometimes my initial exposure decisions were so out of whack that I passed over an image that had some potential. This Oregon stream, don't ask me where it is, was lost in the forest murk until I raised the exposure a full stop in Lightroom. This is the kind of corrections that are possible if you shoot in RAW, which doesn't touch your original file, but allows you to retroactively rescue an image from yourself.

                                                       OREGON STREAM, BEFORE AND AFTER

This next image shows the value of emphasizing the image's original strengths while eliminating superfluous issues. Here the crop tool works to play to the wide angle view I like at the coast, and subtle exposure fiddling emphasizes the incredible light conditions that prompted my interest in the first place.



Occasionally I discover an image that I wonder why I ignored in the first place. In our search for "the winner" we sometimes overlook an image that deserves some attention. This reflection in a neighboring building is the kind of thing that caused me to put aside my polarizing filter, a landscape photographer's constant companion, once I started to concentrate on architecture and cityscapes. Reflections are just too much fun to try to eliminate - they are often what creates a unique view in the city. I just tweaked the image a little to brighten it up; the black and white version further emphasized the distorted details in the reflection.

                                                        REFLECTIONS ON ARCHITECTURE : ORIGINAL, REFINED, AND BLACK AND WHITE

This image of a water tower in Portland  required a lot more processing to show it's potential. The vast differences in exposure required multiple graduated filters to both balance the exposure and then tweak it further to bring out the contrast. As usual, black and white allowed for more aggressive manipulation, especially in the sky. The sky had been so boring initially that I had felt that I only could improve the photo by croopin it out.

                                                        THREE WATER TOWERS : POLISHING A GEM?

The wreck of the Peter Iredale on the Northern Oregon Coast is a on every landscape photographer's bucket list. As is often the case, the image becomes so ubiquitous as to render your version somewhat superfluous. Here I set out to convert one of my efforts into a striking coaster, cropping to a square, and manipulating the exposure to render the wreck as a silhouette. Finally the black and white conversion makes the image even more graphic, and my Peter Iredale is certainly different, if not better than yours.

                            MY PETER IREDALE : WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION?

And finally we come to an overlooked image that might serve as a postage stamp or in a dictionary to illustrate the term "Oregon." I cropped to my usual square and used multiple graduated filters and some subtle dodging and burning to bring out all the variations of tone on one Oregon hillside.


                            OREGON : FINAL VERSION

I hope you've enjoyed this trip through the archives, and I encourage you to try a journey through your own so that you might also find some fine image amongst the murk. Otherwise that gem might be hidden in the warehouse next to the "Ark of the Covenant" at the end of Indiana Jones.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 02 Sep 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to discuss a topic that is a big part of my work, which is abstraction in photography. To some observers, this topic is pretty senseless, since photography is in many ways the most concrete of the arts. Photographers don't start out with a blank page, but with the real world, which they then endeavor to organize, frame, and simplify in order to present their view to the rest of the world. So we seem to some extent to be stuck with the real world, although Photoshop has changed that to a certain degree.


But of course a photograph is a two-dimensional abstraction of the real three-dimensional world in front of the camera. Photographers inately understand this, even if the viewing public often searches for the "truth" which is not really there. Some photographers compose their images to try to use every strategy they can to make their images more three-dimensional, through contrast, layering, or emphasis on foreground, middle ground and background in a single epic view. Others embrace the differences between a photograph and real life; Gary Winogrand famously declared that he took photographs to see what he pointed his camera at would look like in a photograph. And the extra level of abstraction that is a large part of the charm of black and white photography is often lost on the public, even those who admire that abstract art.

TURQUOISE, SAN FRANCISCO                                                    TURQUOISE : FINAL VERSION

So there is no doubt in my mind that while photographs are abstract art, there are various levels of abstraction, ranging from the seemingly documentary image to the images that are so divorced from a subject that they are mostly about themselves. I find playing with these levels of abstraction a lot of fun, even though I know that the more abstract an image, the less chance I have of actually making a sale. People generally do not like to be challenged or confused by an image, and their desire to find out "what is that" directly undercuts the artist's belief that it really  shouldn't matter. Most of the time viewers who have been drawn to an abstract image are very disappointed when they find out what it really "is" - almost as if the magician has been conning them rather than delighting them. So it is okay if many of these images leave you a little cold - I will understand, even if I never stop trying to provoke a positive reaction.

I think that there are probably about five "levels of abstraction" available to the photographer; some overlap, and you could argue that I am often confusing the issue. I present these three views of one subject to try to illustrate these levels before I explore my five levels one by one.

                            GREEN SCREEN : FINAL VERSION

                                             LAYERS : FINAL VERSION

                            THE GATES OF MORDOR : FINAL VERSION

These three images are all renditions of an heroic sun screen on the western facade of a federal government office building in downtown Portland. Like a lot of my images, they don't really appeal to tourists, but are more oriented to Portlanders who will recognize the subject even if they would never look at it that way. The first image is actually the most realistic in terms of color, even though it is inherently abstract since this is only a small portion of a 15-story facade. While the second image appears to reveal more of the structure, I still don't know where those green and blue background colors came from, since I do not think they really "are there." The third image is so abstract that it appears to be a black and white rendition until you notice the dark blue in the windows. I've exposed so much for the bright aluminum fins that everything else has faded to black, and I think my title conveys mysterious power that the image conveys, at least to its creator. I hope you can see the different levels of abstraction, even if all of the images are certainly abstract.

The first level of abstraction might not be abstraction at all, but I think it is the introduction of the subject at hand. "Minimalism" is a type of photographic image that deliberately simplifies to the point of abstraction. There is a lot of "negative space", which is a fancy way of saying emptiness, and while the viewer might know what they are looking at, they often might not know why in the hell they should care. There is a lot of overlap between minimal and downright boredom, often hidden behind the emperor's new clothes. Here are a few examples of minimalism you might either hate or love; try to remember that there are entire photography magazines devoted to this genre. Most minimalists might argue that these images are far too complicated!

                                             DAMN NEAR CLOSE TO PERFECT : FINAL VERSION

                                             BAMBURGH BEACH : FINAL VERSION

                           BIKE RACK : FINAL VERSION

LIGHT SHAFT (BRITISH MUSEUM)                                              BRITISH MUSEUM : FINAL VERSION

                            LIGHT, SHADOW, AND STUCCO : FINAL VERSION


                                            THREE LINES AND A CROW : FINAL VERSION

If you can control your laughter, realize that the "single cloud" image is sometimes a photographer's best seller, even though mine leaves me cold. Some portfolios are stuffed with obscure scenes that are mostly collections of lines, shadows, or colors without a clear subject to even caption. And of course the last shot is my response to Portlandia's "put a bird on it."

An interesting inversion of minimalism are images devoted to deliberate obfuscation, either through photographic technique or just a weird subject. This is difficult to pull off, since we are supposed to be engaging in visual communication.



                                                        ARCH ABSTRACT : FINAL VERSION

The first image is actually a pretty "straight" rendition of a facade on the Portland State campus. The only weirdness that I added was my white balance shift which rendered everything blue. The strangely drunk architecture is due to placing two glass facades opposite each other, and then allowing the glass windows to be just a hair too large. The strange reflections are available to anyone who walks by. The second image is a trip to a perfectly ordinary coffee shop in St. Louis, where I happened to be beguiled by multiple reflections of reflections that transformed the scene into a multiple exposure without making a multiple exposure. The last image is of a reflection that I spied at the Gateway Arch, and I can honestly say that I have no memory of actually capturing it, or how I managed to create it in camera, or what it is in the hard reality of the architectural context.

A wild sub-category of the abstract pursuit is what happen when you take photographs of abstract art itself. The art is already abstract, but now the photographer is tasked with making their own interpretation, which will inevitably lead to another additional level of abstraction.

                            VETERANS' MEMORIAL : FINAL VERSION

                                                       WILMINGTON COUP MEMORIAL : FINAL B&W VERSION

                            TANNERS CREEK #2 : FINAL VERSION


                                                                   GATEWAY ARCH : FINAL VERSION

I feel that my abstract images of abstract art contribute an additional level of abstraction, my own, to what is already an artistic intent to render an idea in an abstract manner. The first image is of a sculpture of hundreds of dog tags that memorialize service and sacrifice at a memorial to North Carolina's veterans. The second image is of an abstract sculpture that serves as a memorial to the only documented coup d'etat that ever occurred in the United States, when the white citizens of Wilmington, N.C. overthrew the legally elected mixed race municipal government. Next comes a portion of an abstract sculpture of railroad rails that reminds visitors that Portland's Pearl District was a giant rail yard before it became a sexy place to live and eat and shop. The picket fence is an abstract sculptural comment on the American ideal of the picket fence. My choice of exposure makes the mirrored sculpture even more abstract by removing the context beyond the fence to black - now the only reality is the field in front of the fence. And finally I have attempted to make an abstract image of the Gateway Arch, an abstract symbol of Western expansion that is a very real sixty-stories tall.

Photographers can also render very real subjects into abstracts by emphasizing patterns that "could" go on forever, even though we know they do not.

                            THE RED CHAIRS : FINAL VERSION

                            COILS OF STEEL FINAL VERSION

                            GERONIMO! : FINAL VERSION

                            FRACTAL POND : FINAL VERSION

Images like these are almost an attempt to create an abstract image out of the real world without distorting reality but by framing it in an abstract manner. They are all about patterns, rather than the actual subjects, without obscuring their ordinary subjects. These four abstract images started out as a portion of a beach condo facade, a stack of rattan cafe chairs, the underside of a parachute display at an Airborne Museum, and an ordinary collection of leaves in a pond. If you don't recognize the patterns, you might wonder why I created the images at all.

Now we can explore subjects that are more or less divorced from their contexts, so that while the viewer knows what they are looking at, it is an unusually detailed portion of the subject at hand. We are on they way to the point where the subject of the photograph is the photograph.

                                             GARDEN POND : FINAL VERSION

This color study is all about the ripples and the mysterious colors, which are actually reflections of the fall foliage overlooking the pond.


A detail of the facade at the New Museum in NYC that is such a close-up view that only adds mystery to an already opaque facade.

                            GLASS CEILING : FINAL VERSION

Incredible detailing of the glass roof of the shelter at Director Park in Downtown Portland, taken from above instead of below. My exposure also eliminated the busy context of the mediocre architectural surroundings of the park.

                            AFTER THE RAIN : FINAL VERSION

One of my most popular images; people love the rain drops, love the tree shadows, but are usually somehow disappointed when they find out that I found this image on a TriMet bus shelter.

KOIN CORNER                             M.C. ESCHER MEETS THE KOIN TOWER

SPACE NEEDLE 2 B&W                                                         A SLIVER OF THE SPACE NEEDLE, WHICH SOWS CONFUSION IN MOST PEOPLE

                            DRAGONFLY TENT : IT'S JUST MY IMAGINATION

                            DROVE MY CHEVY TO THE LEVEE... : FINAL VERSION

And finally we arrive at images that are so abstract as to leave the actual subjects way behind. These are the ones that can provoke reactions way out of what this photographer might expect in my booth. I usually just ask why my customers like the image, having learned through experience that they don't really want to know what it is, even though they demand that I reveal the subject. I will follow my usual practice and will not reveal what the hell it is. I hope you have enjoyed this trip down the rabbit hole.

                            DOODLE #1 : FINAL VERSION

KIND OF BLUE                             KIND OF BLUE : FINAL VERSION







(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 26 Aug 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to exhibit and discuss the strategies behind another batch of images that I have rescued from my archives. They all show the beauty available in the gardens of Southeast Portland. These range from neighborhood front yards to the incredible Portland Rhododendron Garden near Reed College. One of the delights I have in doing this blog is that it gives me the opportunity to tell a story with images that really have no chance of ever making an impact on my sales at the Market. While all of my work is "personal", there are some images that do not have any commercial potential at all, despite their artistic value - either because I have a "better" shot, or that the apparent subject does not scream at the viewer. Of course this is all in my humble opinion, and should be taken with a grain of Kosher salt.


I will repeat my main rules for garden imagery:

1. Get closer - think like an insect, not like a human casually viewing a plant from six feet away. Do not be afraid of not including the entire plant, or even the entire blossom. With my zoom lens I have discovered that I can fool the "minimum distance" limitations of the lens by first focusing on the wide end, then zooming in to take the image I really wanted; sometimes it helps to turn off auto focus after the initial long-range focus so the lens will not try to refocus and tell you that you are too close. My lens actually allows you to tweak auto focus manually, which makes this far easier.


2. Search for calm backgrounds. Flowers are like supermodels - you do not want the background to compete with the subject. While you should be using a wide aperture on your lens to soften the background, it pays even more to adjust your framing if at all possible to achieve as "clean" a background as possible.

                            SHOW OFF (LILY OF THE INCAS) : FINAL VERSION

3. You are not making a documentary photo - they have all been taken. Use exposure controls to place as much emphasis on your subject as possible. Subtly lighten and saturate the subject, while de-saturating and darkening the background. Think of it as giving nature a helping hand, since flowers are almost always lighter and more colorful than their surroundings, so that the pollinators can easily find them.

                            BLUE AND WHITE (BELLFLOWERS): FINAL VERSION

                                                       STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL (SENSITIVE PLANT - I'M NOT KIDDING): FINAL VERSION

4. Try for the shade. While it might be fun to be out and about on a sunny day, your camera cannot handle drastic differences in light and shadow as well as your eyes, especially on a blossom. It just gets confusing, and like most portraits of people, flowers look better in a quiet light. You can literally achieve this often by just shielding the flower with your own body. Overcast skies work better than direct sunlight for garden imagery, which gives Portland photographers a built-in advantage. The exception to this rule (there's always an exception) is if you can use back lighting, with the Sun hidden behind the foliage and shining through to highlight the colors and structure.


                            VIOLATING MY OWN RULES : FINAL VERSION

Sometimes I violate my own rules. This image lacks a clear focus and is on the edge of shear confusion. Yet I delight in the complexity of a real bush, and I like the banded water background even more. This type of garden imagery is very difficult to pull off, and maybe it doesn't really work, but I like it anyway.

If you think of your garden photos as color studies, you are more than halfway there. You are reacting to the beauty of the subject, not the subject itself. While it might be an exaggeration to say that the subject doesn't matter at all, think in graphic terms - it just happens to be a flower. My photos try to be about color, or texture, or shape. Even when I'm just overwhelmed by the structure of a blossom, I hope that the photo is about natural structure rather than about that flower. When you convert to black and white, you are further emphasizing the power of contrast and detail - and again separating the subject from its environment. While it might seem perverse to render a flower in black and white when the subject is "all about" color, I am frequently surprised at how effective a black and white version can render the beauty of a garden scene.


It is not about the gear. Your iPhone can beat an advanced "real camera" at this type of imagery hands down, at least until you spend $2000  on a camera and another $1000 or so on a macro lens. Just try to make sure that the phone is focusing on the flower, and that it is exposing for the flower. Once you post-process the image any viewer would be lying if they thought they could pick out the iPhone photo, at least until you tried to blow it up to fill a wall.


I find that concentration on small parts of a grand garden can inspire the idea that you could try for a similar vignette in your own garden, although that might be just wishful thinking.


     Then again, somethings just can't be duplicated at home - that's one of the reasons these places can be world famous, beyond the plantings.


I hope these images can inspire you to try your hand at some personal floral imagery. Remember that you are not the gardener - you do not have to know what type of flower you are admiring in order to express your admiration in an image. Google is more than happy to tell you what you just shot, and supply the documentary image you are trying to surmount. And weeding is not required for garden appreciation.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 19 Aug 2022 19:00:00 GMT
AALTO IN OREGON                                                        AALTO MAGIC : FINAL VERSION

This week I'd like to discuss the problems and opportunities that face a photographer confronted by a place, either natural or man-made, that is both beautiful and somewhat resistant to communicate its charms. While I always encourage photographers to "work the subject", what about the idea that there is one obvious "money shot" - and that any other images cannot compete, are just variations on that shot, or way too narrow in scope. I believe that the answer to these concerns is for us to return to the idea of the photo essay, wherein we try to tell the whole story, or at least a large part of it, by including images that can support one another. Obviously it helps if you have an outlet for these stories, since the "money shot" will be the only one to sell, maybe, in a gallery. Since LIFE magazine seems to have lost my contact information, this blog will have to do.

                                                       AALTO MAGIC : FINAL B&W VERSION

The subject of this week's essay is Alvar Aalto's library at the Mount Angel Abbey in the Willamette Valley, about two hours south of Portland on mostly rural roads. The monastery is essentially a small college campus on a bluff overlooking the valley, complete with a beautiful quadrangle comprising all of the requirements of a Benedictine religious community with spiritual links to Medieval Europe - a very nice church, dorms for the monks, a dining hall, an office space for the community, and paths to walk and think in the surrounding woods.  The monastery was started in the rural Oregon by Swiss monks in 1882. The seminary continues religious instruction, and laymen can come to participate in religious retreats with the monks. The Benedictines even carry on Medieval traditions by running one of the few monastery breweries in the nation in nearby St. Paul. While no t-shirts are for sale at the gift shop, I did once have to "shush" my young son Benjamin when he asked who this Jesus character was who seemed be prevalent among the items for sale.

                            NOTHING TO SEE HERE : FINAL VERSION

The real reason for visiting this complex, for those in the know, is to see a building whose beauty is as totally unexpected as it is quietly unassuming. Every campus needs a library, and the monks get to use one of the most beautiful libraries in America. While the library does take advantage of a beautiful site, its quality has nothing to do with its size, the art it contains, or its collection of books. Unlike the great central libraries of large cities or well-endowed universities, this library's size and external appearance most closely resembles a quiet neighborhood branch library. The major difference is that one of the greatest architects of the Twentieth Century designed it.

From the exterior the library is so low-key that you could be excused if you just passed it by on your walk around the quad. It is a mute one-story structure whose quality construction and materials do not overcome an architectural reserve that fairly shouts "background" building - "nothing going on here, just move along." An image of the exterior facade would only prompt a response of "huh?"

                            ENTRY TRELLIS : FINAL VERSION

This is actually pretty characteristic of all of Aalto's work. His buildings might be handsome, but they are not pretty, and his concerns do not center on making a splash on the exterior, but getting to the fun stuff inside. It might even be said that his work is almost unphotogenic. It is certainly clear upon investigation that exterior elevations are nearly unnecessary - that all of the drama is in the floor plan, the cutaway sections, which form the interior spaces. The incredible detailing is more sensuous than obsessive, although its intensity will only make most architects wonder how charismatic he must have been to command such loyalty from his clients and their budgets. Aalto was one of the giants of architecture who seemed to be "modern" but stylistically apart from the holy trinity of Wright, Mies, and Le Corbusier. He most closely resembles Louis Kahn, another "architect's architect", whose work only revealed its power upon close inspection rather than through photography. As a photographer it can be somewhat hard to admit when you come to realize that a photograph cannot do a particular subject justice.

                                                       LOW KEY LOBBY : FINAL VERSION

The monks actually wrote a letter to Finland in the early 1960's to inquire if Aalto might be interested in their library project. Almost all of his work was in Scandinavia, and he had only completed one project in the United States, a student dormitory at MIT in Boston. Since Aalto had designed several libraries and community centers in Finland, maybe the monks figured that he had another one in his back pocket. I Imagine it was analogous to when some advertising agency calls a classic rock band seeking permission to use what was once a counter-cultural anthem to sell insurance. "Well, hell yes, where do we sign?"

                                                       PULL UP A STOOL : FINAL VERSION

Aalto sent over a variation of his "typical" radial fan-shaped library design. At Mount Angel, his characteristic  plan expanded in three dimensions. The one-story building is revealed after entry as one cascading three-story space, flowing down the hill that surrounds the quad. The space is organized as a series of terraces, reading desk overlooks, and bands of skylights that configure the space without dividing it. The rows of book stacks radiate out and down three levels, and almost everything is theoretically in view from the circulation desk, without CCTV cameras.

                                                       PRIVATE AND PUBLIC : FINAL VERSION

Once you get over the initial shock and awe, you begin to inspect the structure in detail, and discover to your delight that you are inside a "gesatkunstwerk", German for a project that has been completely handed over to the design team, down to almost every detail. For most architects this chance to influence nearly every aspect of a project is an impossible egotistical dream that would be such a shock as to almost certainly quickly lead to design paralysis.


The library was dedicated in 1970 with a performance by jazz great Duke Ellington. Aalto, or at least his firm, designed almost everything at Mount Angel, from soup to nuts. The attention to detail, and the idiosyncratic details  themselves, reveal a Scandinavian sensibility brought virtually intact to Oregon. It goes way beyond the famous furniture designs that you can still buy for your home today, like the three Aalto stools we own, just as beautiful and utilitarian as they were when Fran and I received them as wedding presents 38 years ago. But rest assured that the library contains the most extensive collection of Aalto furniture in the United States.

Every detail is thought out and customized, such as the unique light fixtures on the continuous desks at the perimeter of each floor level. Utilitarian metal bookshelves have beautiful wood slat end caps that mirror the custom wooden ceilings over the circulation desk. Windows overlooking the valley are used to ennoble individual study spaces, while the overall windows on each floor are bands of transom windows that resemble the skylights at each break in the ceiling above. A private perimeter office is surrounded by such a beautiful obscure glass partition that you almost can't resist breaking in to see inside. You can almost forgive the madness of seven different types of skylights in the initial foyer alone.

                                                       BOOKSHELF END CAPS : FINAL VERSION

                                                        QUIETLY ENJOY THE VIEW : FINAL VERSION

                                                        PRIVATE PERIMETER OFFICE : FINAL VERSION

My favorite professor in architecture school once punctured my attempt to analyze an Aalto building by humorously pointing out the inherent difficulty of such an exercise. He revealed the secret of Aalto's "design method" by drawing a cartoon of a lightening bolt. Mere mortals could only appreciate his work, without truly understanding how it was done. Please  take a trip to Mount Angel and be thrilled by the show; the monks in their robes only add to the magic of the architecture.

                                    THE DRAMA EXTENDS TO THE "BASEMENT" LEVEL : FINAL VERSION



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 12 Aug 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to try to try and convince you that all you need to do to find something interesting to photograph is to go take a walk in the neighborhood. It's about that easy - all you need to do is open your eyes. Even Manhattan or Yosemite can become old hat if you are not willing to pay attention to your surroundings, but taking the time to look can deliver interesting images on a simple walk to the store.


Most of my customers think that the nicest compliment they can make to me is to extol my "eye". I am not discounting my skills at composition, which led me to be an architect, nor all of the design training that can translate from the drawing board to the camera. But the biggest skill I possess as an artist is the ability to slow down enough to actually notice the world around me. I see things most people miss merely because I stop to smell the visual roses. After that my "eye" comes into play because I am willing to see things without caring to merely documenting my subject, but by expressing my wonder by interpreting it in my own way.



These images were found and created on about three walks this past month as I "hiked" to the grocery store on Hawthorne Blvd. Thirty years ago our real estate agent apologized that our prospective house was eight blocks from Hawthorne - I replied that if I couldn't manage eight blocks that I would just stay in bed. All of these images were found on those eight blocks. I frequently get quizzical looks from passing pedestrians wondering what the hell I am possibly finding to photograph. And sometimes even I wonder what there is still to discover on that short walk, but inevitably I come across some little pocket of beauty I hadn't noticed before.

                            BUNGALOW CANADA LILY : FINAL VERSION

None of these images are earth shattering, but maybe that is the point. One of the reasons that I enjoy writing these essays is that it gives me the opportunity to create images that are totally divorced from any effort to sell them. The images that I exhibit at the market are all my "personal work", in the sense that I was creating them for my own amusement long before I imagined selling them. But I am not so divorced from reality as to understand what might appeal a little more to potential customers - my lack of skill as a businessman serves as a curb to any aspiration to "sell out." These images from my walks only need to appeal to me, and to possibly provide proof of my theories of what you can find out there on your own walks.


In a funny way my floral portraits are not commercial in that they are just too damn easy. A well exposed photo of a beautiful flower starts to lose its meaning after the first few hundred images. I could sell an unlimited amount of these images, but what is the point? Take photos of what you love, a wise man once said, and I love a pretty flower as much as the next guy, but not enough to actually care that much to make these images a large part of my work. I am not willing to obsess about flower imagery, which requires extensive lighting, carting along portable backgrounds, and heaven forbid, actually buying some flowers at a florist. So I take my casual "floral portraits", as I call these images, to emphasize the idea that it is my feelings about these blossoms that count, because it is hard to "document" something that you don't have a clue about. The only reason I can pretend to know the names of any of these flowers is because I recently discovered that Google images could reasonably tell me what the heck that particular flower actually was, way after the fact. I hope you can see that my portraits have very little to do with the documentary images that appear on Google.

                                                                      FLORAL PANORAMA (BROOMRAPE) : FINAL VERSION

All of these images could have been taken on my iPhone. In fact, the only way you can make flower images much better than the output of your phone is by spending another thousand dollars for a macro lens for your "real camera" - the iPhone is that good at capturing nearby small objects in good light, which is kind of the definition of garden photography. My only advice is to get close, try to take photos in the shade, and expose for the flower, with the idea that the background can go dark. Just like a supermodel, you are trying your utmost to achieve separation of your subject from the background.


All of this can be emphasized with your post-processing skills. Judicious saturation and brightening of just the flower, coupled with the opposite for the background, can give you the figurative spotlight that the star demands. Any way that you can heighten the contrast between your subject and its surroundings can help, but try to keep it subtle enough that your viewers won't notice your manipulation. Introducing vignetting, a subtle darkening of the exposure around the edges of the frame, can also contribute to separation. This is pretty funny since some portion of that thousand dollars you paid for your fancy lens was to correct for that same naturally occurring darkening of the edges of an image that plague cheaper optics. And you can always try for a black and white conversion, which can show your skill in pulling off an engaging image of something that seemingly was all about color.

                           A POX UPON YOUR PHLOX : FINAL VERSION

                                                       BANANA LEAF, ON THE PATH TO ABSTRACTION : FINAL VERSION

Since I am an architect, I also tend to notice the details that I find on the older houses in my neighborhood. Architectural details are always there for those that look, and can give you a measure of faith in human ingenuity despite the constant cheapening of our environment. These small bits of craftsmanship show the value of "vintage" construction, when people actually seemed to care about what they were doing while they made a living.

                                                        METAL SMITH TRYING TO COMPLEMENT, AND OUT DUE MASON : FINAL VERSION


                            RECENT STREET MURAL : WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM!

I hope my short walk might inspire one of your own. Bring a camera, and remember my admonition that when someone comments "why the hell are your taking that photograph?" it means that you are more than halfway to achieving a personal "eye" of your own.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 05 Aug 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to return to the Big Island of Hawaii, which Fran and I last visited in February 2019, so we could spend time with our good friends Vinny and Steve. We enjoyed the hospitality of our friend Miriam who had left for Hawaii to live with her partner Greg, where they lives in a jungle subdivision near Hilo. Sitting in my study today, with the temperature hitting 100 degrees, it is a relief to visit pre-Covid paradise through the magic of post-processing some of the images from that trip.


These images were culled from hundreds I took in these two weeks on the Big Island. We first stayed in Miriam's condo on the dry side in Kona, which she rents out and uses as an escape from the rain in Hilo. To say that this place is luxurious is to belabor the obvious, but in fact it is not considered ne plus ultra. This despite the fact that groundskeepers literally spruce up the grounds outside your bedroom before breakfast every day, carefully removing any vegetation that has ceased to behave. Just beyond the grounds are lava-filled deserts featuring unruly palms and distant views of the volcanoes in the center of the island. The place is so isolated from reality that I found only one mailbox in the entire complex when I had the wild idea of mailing a postcard.


They are not kidding about the dry side. Kona's landscape is basically composed of the ocean and lava. We soon realized that the civilization that existed had also been been built on lava flows. This results in beaches that we were not used to, with very little sand, and lots of lava right behind you and sprinkling the water a few yards from the beach. The redeeming qualities were the pristine waters which are required for snorkeling,  and the fact that the beach is usually a good ten degrees cooler than the grounds of the condo ten minutes away. The best beaches literally feature a palm tree for each blanket group, as long as you get to the beach before noon.


These beaches are also interesting since most are not just straight lines, but are little bays, so that there is something on the other side of the water, headlands which separate the "wonderful" beach which you have chosen from the one from the hoi-polloi next door, or even better, from the exclusive private beach one the adjacent resort grounds that won't let in the likes of you. Sometimes the lava flows are so extensive just off the beach that they protect a lagoon that has pretty much no relationship to the pounding ocean just beyond the rocks.


There are also some environments that you only discover on a trip to the islands, such as the ancient royal fish ponds adjacent to the ocean. These are placid centuries-old lagoons that cleverly allow ocean fish to enter, but not escape, to live out their lives before they provide dinner. Now they are parkland, with mile-long trails and islands on the grounds, shaded by palms. There are also some places that reveal a small glimpse of pre-resort desert, as long as you know where to look.

                                                       JUST OFF THE RESORT PATH : FINAL VERSION

And there is always another beach. I would search for slightly different viewpoints, since I knew that only residents could probably achieve the perfect combination of clouds, surf and palms that my two weeks would probably not conjure up.


Sometimes all you need is a different perspective. we are eating lunch at a cafe on a ridge hundreds of feet above the beach. Those "weeds" below are fully-grown palm trees.

                            LAVA  JUST OFF THE BEACH : FINAL VERSION

                                                        LAVA BEACH : FINAL VERSION

                            LOOK BUT DON'T GET TOO CLOSE : FINAL VERSION

The trick with Hawaiian photography for visitors is to adjust to the environment rather quickly. It was hard for me to realize that my usual vertical framing would just not work on the beach - that in fact even horizontal views usually benefited greatly from wide angle cropping. As an urban photographer usually interested in reflections, I'm not experienced with my polarizing filter, which is about as necessary on the islands as the analogous sunglasses you probably should be wearing to cut down on the glare.

As usual I compensated by concentrating on the details, ranging from my "intimate landscapes" to near abstractions. These allowed me to focus on the beauty available in this alien environment.

                                                       TROPICAL COLORS : FINAL VERSION

                            PALM LEAF DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

                                                        JUST OUTSIDE THE BEDROOM : FINAL VERSION

I hope you have enjoyed this return trip to the Big Island. I will leave you with a final image, one that I think that proves that a subject can transcend its documentary restraints. A palm leaf is not always just a palm leaf - it can stand in for a mathematical formula.

                                                        PALM LEAF CRESCENT : FINAL VERSION




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 29 Jul 2022 19:00:00 GMT

We went for another walk in the woods last week. I'd like to show you about half a dozen images from that trip, with the emphasis again on concentrating on the details that can make an environment sing. Woodland photography has two main "rules." You must use your compositional skills to find some order in one of the most complicated environments that exist - to make sense and find landing points amid the visual chaos. Your other mission is to resist including any sky in your images, since the sky's brightness will distract the viewer from the forest environment that you are endeavoring to portray. If you can find a subject to focus on, and eliminate distractions in both your frame and exposure, you are well on your way to developing some expressive woodland imagery. It's also great if you can find some fog, which can reduce the visual overload, but I have never been as successful at that as the landscape photographers that I follow on the web. Oregon's environment does usually provide overcast skies, which ensure that the woods do not become a confused tapestry of contrast - sunlight can ruin your photography in an otherwise dark environment.

                                                        THE VARIED SHADES OF GREEN UNDER OVERCAST SKIES : FINAL VERSION

These first two overall images of the park, visible from the visitor's center, show the miracle of L.L. Stub Stewart State Park. The park was created through a series of land swaps with surrounding private and public timberland. The 1800 acres of the park stand in the midst of ordinary Oregon timberland off Highway 26 to the Oregon Coast. If you look beyond the park boundaries you will find the outlines of the generational cutting of Oregon forests, which denude hillsides for at least 20-25 years before they are presentable, even at long range. This state park was opened fifteen years ago and was the first state park to be created in Oregon since 1972. It is 34 miles from Portland, and is large enough to accommodate widely different user groups - hikers, horseback riders, off-road bikers, disc golf enthusiasts, campers - who can enjoy themselves without ruining anyone else's fun. After our first tip to the park, I feel a lot better about my state income taxes than I have in years.


The hiking trails we tried out went through very varied environments in addition to typical Oregon woodland. This first image shows the edge of the forest, daisies right outside seemingly impenetrable darkness.


     DAISY MEADOW : FINAL B&W VERSION                                                                               

These "daisy prairies" exhibit character both in color and black and white. They seem to rise up immediately anytime the tree cover opens up, either through man-made interventions like picnic areas or in natural areas near recently fallen large trees. The color rendition highlights the subtle color variations in the underlying grasses, while the black and white plays of the contrast between the flowers and the grasses.

                                                       DAISIES READY FOR THEIR CLOSE-UP : NATURE DOCUMENTARY AND HOLLYWOOD NOIR VERSIONS

These daisy close-ups show the interpretative power of black and white - this exposure would not work at all in color, but allows an isolation of the flowers from their background while losing the yellow flower centers.

                            AMIDST THE FERNS : FINAL VERSION

As you move into the forest, Oregon ferns begin to take over. These yellow leaves were the only distraction in an ordinary field of ferns that could supply multiple garden centers.

                                                       BIRCHES IN THE FOREST : COLOR AND B&W VERSIONS

The woodland we walked through on some of the trails was unusual for Oregon in that Birch trees seemed to rule the roost instead of the usual Douglas Firs. While they might not be the stark white of a stereotypical Birch, they did provide a lot of contrast with the green of the surrounding forest. This contrast works in both the color and black and white renditions, providing the focus for the image that will show the viewer where to look. It helps that the Birch trees are the lightest parts of the image.

                                                       BACKLIT THICKET : FINAL VERSION

These are probably Willows, but the Birches also exhibited multiple trunks as their usual configuration. This image shows how the thicket can both highlight and screen the lighter background.

                                                        BIRCHES AND BRANCHES : FINAL VERSION

                                                       BIRCHES AND BRANCHES : HIGH KEY B&W VERSION

This final image proves again how a black and white conversion can allow for widely different interpretations of a scene. I was struck at how the two birch trunks stood out from the surrounding greenery. In the color version I discretely darkened the forest, especially the small areas of sky peaking through the foliage. You would be surprised at how these very small areas could still distract the eyes, and how a subtle darkening will not alter the overall scene. In contrast, forgive the pun, the black and white version allows me to lighten the forest for an ethereal feel. I could both lighten the green information that is still contained in the black and white file, and then use graduated filters to further lighten the forest behind the trees. These strategies would be clearly garish in a color rendition.

I hope you have enjoyed another short walk in the woods. And I hope that you see that you can create woodland imagery without having to travel hundreds of miles to a National Park, not that there is anything wrong with that. Good hunting.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 22 Jul 2022 19:00:00 GMT

A couple of weeks ago I resumed my exercise regimin, such as it is, by walking across another of Portland's bridges over the Willamette.  The Broadway Bridge was built in 1913 during Portland's bridge boom, when the city fathers were consolidating the takeover of East Portland by replacing the ferries with bridges and more importantly, carrying the streetcar lines across the river which would allow for real development of the Eastside of the larger city. Portland had grown in 1898 in exactly the same way as New York City, by annexing the city across the river. The ramifications were certainly not as great, since Brooklyn had been the fourth largest city in the nation when it became part of Gotham.

The Broadway Bridge was named for the street it carried over the river, which had been named after New York's Broadway in the 1850's when East Portland was first platted out on farmland east of the river. What is interesting is that 7th Avenue in Downtown Portland on the West side was renamed Broadway because it connected to the new bridge, and subsequently became a smaller copy of New York's Broadway with theaters, nightlife, and a lighting scheme that can charitably be described as gaudy. This renaming was only as confusing as the 90 degree shift of the street from East-West to North-South when it crossed the Willamette.


Walking across the bridge is a pleasant excursion, marred only by the relatively bare moonscape of the road just east of the river, caused by the lack of street life near the Rose Garden parking lots. Yes, the Rose Garden now has a different corporate name, but we must fight the power. The only bright spot on this portion of the street is this sculptural, if somewhat non-functional transit shelter at the Streetcar stop near the East end of the bridge. The 1% for Art shelter was designed by Jorge Pardo and built in 2013.

                                                               NOT JUST ANOTHER TRANSIT SHELTER : FINAL AND B&W VERSION

The bridge, now 119 years old, is an historic structure known as a Rall-type Bascule bridge, whose lift span of 278 feet is the longest of its type in the world. For the non-engineers out there, it basically means that the counterweights pivot and slide rather than go up and down, so the Broadway Bridge doesn't have towers like the Hawthorne and the Steel Bridge, and the lift span doesn't stand out from the other four portions of the bridge, which extend 1742 feet across the river. The lift span confounds commuters about once a day. Parts for the bridge have to be custom-made, since the mechanism is so unique. 

The bridge was painted black, just like the Steel Bridge, until 1961, when the powers that be decided that each of Portland's bridges should be painted a different color. "Golden Gate Red", also known as "International Orange", was chosen for the Broadway, and it is similar if not identical to its more famous cousin in San Francisco. We recently painted our house a similar red/orange, which is one of the hardest in the family to find in the paint swatch book. In fact, most oranges are not recommended for exterior paint due to excessive fading, but the "City that Works" knows best. The bridge has certainly faded a little since it was last repainted a dozen years ago, but everyone loves the color even if they can't quite define it.

These truss bridges were certainly Benjamin's favorites when he was a youngster, because of their complicated and seemingly inexplicable steel geometries, with girders and connections galore. He christined them "Dinosaur Bridges" after his childhood obsession, maybe because they were as ungainly as they were obviously antiquated.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 15 Jul 2022 19:00:00 GMT
A WALK IN THE WOODS                                                        MT. TALBERT NATURE PARK : FINAL VERSION

The other day Fran and I and our friend Kathryn took a walk in the woods. I hesitate to call it a hike, since it was only three miles long, and my pace these days, especially with my camera, constitutes a stroll at best. On the other hand, though it was rated as "easy", it was clearly "moderate", though any route that is labeled the "Summit Trail" should have foreshadowed something a little harder than "easy." Fortunately the hardest part of the trail was right at the start, so at least it did get easier as we stretched our legs. And the summit was only 600 feet higher than the the parking lot.

                                                       MT. TALBERT NATURE PARK : B&W VERSION

The nicest thing about this walk, besides the company, was the implausibility of the setting. Mount Talbert Nature Park is almost a prototypical Oregon woodland, but it's survival in suburban Clackamas County outside of Portland, just off one of our horrible highways, I-205, was very surprising, at least to yours truly. I instantly decided that this natural area, set aside by our Metro taxes, was probably about the only thing that anyone should care about in this particular suburban setting. Happy Valley is a neighborhood that offers nothing to the greater Portland Metropolitan area - a creation of the home builders' industrial complex that builds horribly designed McMansions over anything they can get their hands on. It is one of those areas where they can plant subdivisions without any further thoughts about their connection to the region, much less the city. Happy Valley, in my humble opinion, is one of those places whose very existence is problematic at best. While of course I'm sure there are very nice people in Happy Valley, they choose to live there mostly because they believe Southeast Portland is an urban hell-hole. You might understand our mutual disdain as I write this essay in my 110-year-old bungalow, secure in the knowledge that the urban/suburban split might even be more important than Oregon's incredible urban/rural conflicts. What is even more ironic is that the preserves that our Metro taxes create are mostly supported by the more urban areas, where parks are harder to come by. So this section of woods was an unexpected delight. While you this hill seems pretty remote, it is the largest undeveloped butte in the area, an ancient subsidiary volcano of Mt. Hood. It is only what we call a very young Old Growth Forest. These woods were clear-cut about 100 years ago, and they would be cut again if they weren't preserved. Too many of the rolling hills of Happy Valley's subdivisions resembled this area long after my family showed up in Oregon in 1992.

                                                        FERN FOREST : PRIMEVAL OREGON, COLOR AND B&W

I think that these images, culled from about two dozen photos that I took over a couple of hours, can illustrate the value of taking your camera along on a walk. I had very low expectations when we set out, but found that this woodland offered some very nice prototypical "Oregon" images that closely resembled those found much deeper in the woods, hundreds of miles away from my house. These first two images show key components of our woods - evergreen trees ranging in size from large to gigantic, above groves of ferns that were around in the age of the dinosaurs. Once you realize that the color photos are largely monochromatic shades of green, you can try black and white versions that tend to show more details. The important tip that I might suggest is to avoid any significant areas of sky in your image, since the brightness of the sky will distract your viewers away from your subject, the forest. Remember that a desire to show the entire scene can detract from the important parts of the scene that led you to push the shutter button.

                                                        THE FOREST FLOOR : COLOR AND B&W

Here I've gotten even closer to those ferns, with only a hint of the big trees. Natural groves of ferns like this can be truly overwhelming, far surpassing any display at the garden center, and all without any intervention by mankind, thank you very much. The choice of color or black and white is very much one of personal taste, though close inspection will see that the black and white versions can allow for more manipulation of the scene than we can accept in color.


Occasionally only color will do, because the primary reason for the image itself is color. This blossom deep in the woods shows off its colors to attract pollinators, not photographers, it attracts us just the same. If I had gone even further in for a macro shot, then there would be enough floral structure to justify a black and white version, but at this size the color really helps. This already is only a very small part of the actual original shot, so you can see what even a fifteen-old camera can accomplish. Of course the Iphone in my pocket would have done even a better job on a flower, while it can't hold a candle to a larger scene. Post processing increased the seperation between the flower and the background by selectively sharpening the flower, and blurring and de-saturating the background.

                                                       LACY BUSH - ALYSSUM, ACCORDING TO GOOGLE : FINAL VERSION

We came along this showy shrub which we had not encountered before, with very white and lacy flower fronds that stood out in the woods without any need for color. This really benefits from the black and white conversion, which allows for a very dramatic rendition that would not pass the smell test in a color photograph.

                                                       THE BURNING BUSH : FINAL B&W VERSION

The bush is now clearly ready for its close-up, and the forest can be reduced to a very dark bit player. The structure of the lacy fronds is more clearly delineated even while they positively glow under my artificial, but realistic spotlight. The black and white version more clearly shows what I felt about the bush in its environment - I can leave the documentation to Dr. Google.

I hope you've enjoyed this short walk in the woods. Nature can enrich our lives even if it is not as dramatic as a National Park - especially if we encounter beauty in such an unexpected place.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 08 Jul 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to discuss the power a photographer possesses when it comes to using modern post-processing in adjusting images. I believe it can in fact be much more important (and fun) than the initial capture of the image. This after-the-fact manipulation is based on the photographer's compositional skills, but it allows for a more personal interpretation of what might be a standard shot. It is certainly not "cheating", although everyone has certain limits concerning what they are willing to do to an image. My art is open to your interpretation - but it is my art, and the viewer should avoid declaring that my rendition of a scene is not the "truth". These nine different interpretations of this scene on the Willamette differ, and one might appeal to you more than the others, but none of them, in my humble opinion, is "wrong." Their is no real difference in interpreting an image in the traditional darkroom or in Lightroom, the clever name for the computer software that I use. Photographers have always used various techniques to interpret an image to their current satisfaction, which might change upon further viewing. Sometimes we will get even bolder, but often we dial it back a little after taking another look. I have already "dialed back" two of these images while I was preparing this essay this morning. 

The "original" image above not straight out of camera - it has already undergone some basic corrections. It has been cropped to emphasize the subject, which has been adjusted to fit the square format required for its future as a photo coaster. The river bank has been straightened out for a level horizon, but i was far enough away so that Big Pink is not leaning enough to need to be corrected. The image has been sharpened to my standard levels, which will not make up for any camera shake, but is required by a digital photograph's initial softness. Subtle adjustments to contrast and saturation has also been made, because the "digital negative" of the RAW settings that I use allows for more manipulation later by delivering a very flat, uninterpreted file. Another falsehood that many photographer's continue to believe is that their JPEG files "straight out of the camera" are a straight interpretation of reality, while they are in fact the camera's computer rendering of a smaller file. The JPEG is already an interpretation, just one that is done frankly by a simpler computer than your laptop, over which you have no control, and will be degraded every time you subsequently adjust it. Programs like lightroom never touch the original file - your editing is non-destructive, and what you see on your screen is just a compilation of the "instructions" that lightroom will do if you export the image to the web or print it so that will re-enter the analogue world.

                            BIG PINK AND THE WILLAMETTE : HIGH KEY COLOR

Now the fun begins. These three other color versions are I believe, realistic interpretations that I could make of the scene. The first is what photographers call "high key." It is not over-exposed, but the exposure is twice as bright as the original. it's just adjusted so that the brightest tones are in fact brought down, while the darkest tones are "crushed" to eliminate almost all of the true blacks in the image. The contrast is also lowered to reduce the difference between the lightest and darkest tones in the image. Unlike an HDR image, which tries to make everything visible, the high-key image will not eliminate all of the shadows, and might still contain some very small areas of dark tones that will ensure a degree of realism. So the result is a "brighter" version of Portland, which might be aspirational while still close to reality. Big Pink has in fact been darkened to ensure it doesn't fade into the brighter sky.

                             BIG PINK AND THE WILLAMETTE : LOW KEY #1 (TOO MUCH) AND #2 (JUST RIGHT)

Now we turn to what is termed a "low-key" interpretation. The  first version is darker, and upon instant reflection I dialed it back. The second low-key version is more subtle. The real difference from the original image is now the tones in the river, which are a little darker and richer.


There are other ways to affect a color image. One can manipulate the white balance to a degree without outraging the viewer. Most people seem to like warmer tones, and photographers have been baking this into their images for a long time. Subtle under-exposure when using film by rating it at a lower ISO then on the box was common; now a lot of people just tell their camera that it's shady when it's just a bright Summer day to accomplish the same thing in camera. Shooting in Raw allows you to subtly do the same thing in the computer with more control by just tweaking the white balance a little towards the warmer part of the spectrum, avoiding the color casts that can occur when "colorblind" males like myself directly adjust color hues directly. The result is just a sunnier, warmer day than most Portlanders expect, but not unbelievable.

It is hard to achieve bolder color interpretations without straining viewer credibility; I never subscribed to the HDR craze which resulted in what can only be described as surreal color imagery. While our eyes can see much more of the dynamic range of the world than our cameras can, it just seems weird to open up the shadows so much in a photograph. Our brains can see more detail in the highlights and the shadows because we are not really looking at them at the same time. But when our brains allow for abstraction by removing colors in a monochromatic image, we all seem to widen what is an acceptable interpretation.


This is the standard black and white interpretation Lightroom will make when it converts my original color interpretation into black and white. It is not just a de-saturated color photograph, but is in itself an algorithmic interpretation by assigning subtle values tones to different colors found in the original color version. De-saturation alone will yield a dull, lifeless image because the different colors we see might be rendered as very similar tones in grayscale. In other words, the original color information is not discarded, and we can easily overrule even this computer version by adjusting the grayscale tones of different colors. Special software tools even "know" the original colors so you can adjust tones in your black and white without looking back or remembering the original color photograph. This computer interpretation is a pretty good black and white interpretation, but there are an almost infinite range of other renditions which can transform the image into something very different.

You can access these varied interpretations in many different ways. The easiest, and again by no means "cheating", is by using presets which are supplied by the software. In this way one click will lead to a different interpretation which the human in control will have to decide is appropriate  for the image under consideration. You don't like, go on to the next one, until one strikes your fancy. But the best part about presets, once you get over their amusing names which rival the names of paint colors, is that the same sliders that you move in the software move when the preset is clicked - and then you can still move any of them make the preset just the start, not the end of your black and white journey. Another way is to make  the "standard" black and white interpretation, but use the different color interpretations you have already made as the different starting points. I, true to curmudgeonly form, just started out with the standard black and white and made my different versions by manipulating the first black and white interpretation.


Here is the "high-key" black and white. While if you look at the mid-tones you can see that the overall exposure hasn't changed much, The shadows have been opened up considerably, and there is very little pure black anymore. It's a sunny day in Portland!

                            BIG PINK AND THE WILLAMETTE : DRAMA

Or we can go for more low-key without muddying the waters, forgive the pun, by avoiding lowering the overall exposure but just manipulating certain colors. Viewers accepted early black and white photos even though there was almost no detail in the sky since early films were not very sensitive to blue - our brains accepted white skies in the black and white world until advancements in film technology allowed us to see the clouds up there. Since photographers could now manipulate the sky, we soon learned that in our quest for contrast - the "color" in black and white - allowed us to render the sky in very dark tones. We know that the sky isn't really black, but isn't this arresting? Lowering the exposure of just the original blue tones in the sky and its reflection in the river makes for a much more dramatic mood.

                           BIG PINK AND THE WILLAMETTE : KIND OF BLUE

Monochromatic images don't have to just black and white. Sometimes it can be delightful to inject a little monochromatic color to subtly affect the tones of the photo for a slightly different mood. I resisted the sepia tones most familiar to viewers from early black and white photos because it didn't seem to fit this view of modern Portland. But this blue tone seemed just right for our overcast city. A Selenium tone is another historic way that photographers used additional chemicals to prolong the shelf life of their prints. The software adds a blue tone, mostly to the highlights, while the darker tones remain mostly black. Even though no chemicals have been used here, I could add their blue tone, and then dial back the saturation to achieve even more subtlety than the computer's version.

                            BIG PINK AND THE WILLAMETTE : SPLIT TONE

Soon photographers started asking themselves that if they could add a color cast to their black and whites, why just one? Contrast could be subtly heightened by adding contrasting color tones to the highlights and shadows. Instantly dubbed "split tones", these black and whites achieved more than straight luminosity contrast by injecting subtle color tones in their shades of gray. This was not colorizing - these colors were still abstract tones - but photographers were soon tanning up the highlights while blueing up the shadows. As usual in post-processing, subtlety is the key, with success achieved through intriguing the edge of view consciousness without hitting them over the head. Somehow the black and white is richer; and if our brains allow for a white, or a black sky, why not a tan one?

I hope you've enjoyed these different interpretations of a February day on the Willamette. None of them strike me as too weird, but I'd love to hear which ones struck your fancy. Don't feel bad if any  were just not your cup of tea. And I would really love it if this essay allowed you to think "out of the box"  when it comes to reinterpreting your images. Your creativity can extend way past hitting the shutter button.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 01 Jul 2022 19:00:00 GMT

I would like to continue my discussion of the power of travel photography to provoke memories, especially if you allow yourself to personalize your vision by looking at and responding to the things that provoke you. So many of the places we visit have been so documented by both good and bad photography that it's sometimes hard to see how your image will be any different than anyone else's take on the subject. But I believe that this challenge can lead to some important and personal images. And even if they are not that "loaded" to anyone else, you will remember how you felt at that place.

I approached our trip to Germany in 2006 with some trepidation, but we had promised Benjamin a European trip before he went off to college, so our German language student mapped out our route through Germany. We ended up having a great time, and the beauty of the country, my love of it's wine, and my ability to map out a weekly rotation of the narrow confines of German cuisine overcame my anticipated depression in confronting the overwhelming layers of German history. It turned out that we visited at just about the best time, since the Germans were in an unusually good mood during the World Cup, and the country was finally beginning to see the fruits of reunification. I might have been a little naive, but people seemed generally friendly, and I concluded that most felt like the United States was still the big brother who had delivered them from the evil of their own creation, not once but twice. 

                                                     MEMORIAL TO THE MURDERED JEWS OF EUROPE - INTERIOR VIEW

It was fun watching Benjamin leading the way with his language skill, although his incredibly good accent would quickly lead to village idiot status when the natives would instantly conclude that he wasn't an American, but just an ignorant German with a small vocabulary. While Fran was certain that I was an idiot when I decided that I could communicate in English as long as I affected a German accent, the truth was that many Germans seemed fully fluent in English, with a German accent. We also soon realized that unlike in the rest of Europe, and even in England, we could pass as Germans, since we looked like them, especially when we held hands, which is our habit and seems to be theirs, while walking through the city.

Which is not to say that I overcame all of my personal triggers. Sometimes the small towns and villages were just a little too neat. Street names and map reading was okay, but I still seemed to quake when confronted by a full newspaper in German. I still couldn't abide with German Shepherds, no matter how handsome they were. The fact that it was 2006, and Germany seemed to be a very young country, helped me get comfortable with most people under 75 years of age. But now we were heading to Berlin, which in my nightmares is always pronounced in a very forbidding accent.

                                                      THE REICHSTAG : FINAL VERSION


Berlin turned out to be just fine, a city still finding itself 60 years after the War, and less than 20 years after the Wall was torn down. We stayed in the former East, in a neighborhood named Prenzlauer Berg, which seemed to be incredibly authentic since it hadn't been destroyed by Allied bombers and had been mostly abandoned by the East Germans since it was too close to the Wall. While we were at first a  little disturbed by the graffiti, whose presence was over the top even for New Yorkers, we soon realized that gentrification and change were happening so fast that it would probably be gone in another six months. It was very interesting to be in a city of two million people with only a few skyscrapers in the new developments at Potsdamer Platz. How did so many people live in a city of only ten story buildings? It was only when we realized how big the blocks were, with most apartment houses containing a large park as a courtyard, that it all started to add up.

These images are mostly my reactions to the overwhelming layers of history in the city, and the German relationship with their own history, which seemed more introspective and nuanced than most Americans. Sometimes these were outright memorials, but often we would just stumble on something that would stop us in our tracks. A little park where we had some ice cream turned out to be the place where most of Jewish Berlin was assembled to depart to the East. I visited an exclusive camera store, and found one of the few swastikas in Germany on a vintage Leica similar to the one my father owned - it was the SS edition. What was interesting was that the Germans were ensuring that they would not forget their terrible history by keeping it around in prominent locations, no matter how disturbing the juxtapositions.

The first two images are of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe right in the center of Berlin, near Parliament, the Brandenburg Gate, and across the street from one of the most exclusive hotels in the city. These are color images, but you can see how these granite blocks seem to suck all of the color and sound and views of the Capitol city. The field of obvious granite caskets from the outside swallows up visitors who venture inside, since the ground falls away, and you are soon alone with your own thoughts, only conscious of the terrible grid and searching for the city you were just a part of.

                                                     REMNANT OF THE WALL : FINAL VERSION

The Wall is mostly gone, but it always reappears when you least expect it , even as just a line in the pavement. The idea of a city as a prison can seem almost beyond politics, but it's hard not to be proud of the Allies at Checkpoint Charlie, preserved as a museum of the Cold War division of the city.

                                                      ALLIED FLAGS, MINUS THE SOVIETS, AT CHECKPOINT CHARLIE : FINAL VERSION

Sometimes it wasn't so grim. One of the most jarring things to this New Yorker was a subway without turnstiles - this is an above ground station. The idea that people could just buy passes and be free to come and go as they pleased (and pay a hefty fine if they were caught with out a pass) was as foreign to me as the language.

                                                      "WHERE ARE THE TURNSTILES?" : FINAL B&W VERSION


                                                      BACK GATE, JEWISH MUSEUM : FINAL VERSION

The Jewish Museum was one of the most interesting, and troubling, and frustrating buildings this architect had ever visited. It is an addition to an old Palace, which is now the entrance. The building seems to have been dropped from Outer Space, and it hits the ground with such force that even a simple back gate seems weird as Hell. This sculpture of a building doesn't even have a front door - you enter underground from the old Palace and then head down a one-way stair another five stories to an atrium that you can't see from anywhere else. This route is as disorienting as it sounds.

                                                     MAIN STAIR, JEWISH MUSEUM : FINAL VERSION

The only thing that relieves the pain is that the Museum succeeds in showing the entire history of Jewish Germany, not just the Holocaust. The building of course drops hints at the dislocation everywhere, from the windows on the skin which obviously don't seem to function as ordinary window openings, but appear as gashes in a metal skin. Once you are inside you realize that they have absolutely nothing to do with the rooms they appear in, so they don't seem to relieve the architectural tension.


When you finally get to the inevitable end, you are confronted with that hidden atrium, only lit from skylights at the top of the cube. The floor is lined with German train couplers, whose resemblance to faces is much more than off-putting. The climax comes when you are allowed (?!) to walk across the atrium, where the metallic sound of death echoing off the concrete will never leave you. Architecture, even that of a concert hall, has never left me with such an overwhelming sonic memory.

As if Berlin wasn't enough, the final image comes from Nuremberg. This city as well preserves it's history, seemingly by design, and almost in spite of itself and of the future. The Holocaust Museum known as the Documentation Center is just for Germans - their are no translations in the entire museum, although it is clear what is being discussed. The museum is also a "local" museum, since it concentrates on the Nazi nightmare in only one place - the spiritual center of the Party, Nuremberg. The museum is only part of Albert Speer's enormous arena - think of Madison Square Garden as a brick ruin - which seems almost too big to tear down. The most chilling part of the exhibit to me was my realization that the plaza where we had just eaten lunch, the exact table, appeared in a photo from 1938 under a large Nazi flag.


We took a tram to the reviewing stand, that reviewing stand where Hitler screamed his evil intent to thunderous applause. While the American Army blew up the swastika that crowned the stands, it made it clear to the Germans that this place would not be allowed to disappear, and it hasn't. In fact the brand-spanking new municipal soccer stadium is literally in view across the parade ground. In many ways it's like being in your own private newsreel, and I hope these images have conveyed some of my feelings of historical dislocation that will always be present in Berlin and Germany.




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 24 Jun 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to explore one way you can try to make your travel images much more personal. The natural tendency of most photographers is to concentrate on the top ten "money shots" of a particular location. While in my opinion that is a considerable advance on the selphie in front of a famous view, it is not a very satisfying way to document a trip. So grab the obvious shot, but concentrate on your particular way of seeing the world, which doesn't really change with a new venue. This can also help in overcoming the sensory overload that can accompany a new fantastic location. Restriction is frequently the mother of invention. After all, this is your trip - the standard images are all available on Instagram anyway, and it's really hard to believe that you can challenge a native photographer, who has the advantage of unlimited opportunities to take advantage of the season, the weather, and the light that will most certainly not occur on your once in a lifetime visit. So I would encourage you to make images that are as idiosyncratic as you are.

                                                      A VIEW FROM THE WINE VILLAGE : FINAL VERSION

These six images are all of very particular architectural details that caught my eye during a family trip across Germany in 2006. We had promised Benjamin a European journey before college, and like most good Jewish boys (!) he wanted to try out his German which he had taken for three years in high school. My love of German wine also didn't hurt. So we set out for Germany, where Benjamin learnt that most cafe conversations he could overhear and understand were not about philosophy. Fran and I were comfortable once we realized that most Germans seemed to be born after the war, and that the prevalent feeling we could discern was that most Germans attributed their comfortable present to our victory in 1945. America in 2006 still seemed to be the protective democratic big brother that had delivered freedom to the German people through defeat.

So in the spirit of recent books that promise historical insights by exploring a few artworks, or culinary dishes, or particular alcoholic drinks, an architect might try to explore a place through attention to architectural details. We started our trip in the wine country, staying in a room at a winery which had formerly only been a name on one of my favorite bottles of Riesling. Only a visit to a wine-growing area can provide the memories that will seal the deal. This initial image is really just a "typical" view of the village of Bernkastle-Wehlen in the Mosel wine region. The textures of the pavements and the stone houses set you up for strolls through the vineyards, where you can literally kick the slate on the ground that you taste in the bottle. The walk through the vineyard is usually only next to the vineyard, since that steep hill just beyond the town filled with vines is also typical.

                                                       J.J'S GATE : FINAL VERSION

                                                       J.J'S GATE : FINAL B&W VERSION

We stayed on the estate of S.A. Prum, "Eric the Red" for his thick red hair. He is a cousin of the most famous vintner in the Mosel, J.J. Prum.  This detail is from the gate of his mansion in the village.  J.J. obviously knows where his fortune comes from, and celebrates it on the imagery of his front gate. The best thing about Riesling is that until fairly recently I could afford most every bottle in the wine store, even J.J.'s, because my tastes were out of the ordinary. Visiting the vineyards reinforced the truth that most of the wine labels probably represented only a very small portion of the hills out of town. As usual, the black and white version heightens the gate details at the loss of the "green" grapes and some separation from the windows beyond.

                                                      POLYCHROMY MASONRY : FINAL VERSION

                                                      POLYCHROMY MASONRY, HOLD THE COLOR

The Germans had an unusual love of color for a Northern European country. While this Medieval window was certainly not typical, it was far from unique. Frequently the prevalent ornament seemed to be a variety of colors of the materials used for the stone or brick walls, or the roof tiles, rather than sculptural ornament. It occurred to me that Germans held to a belief that you had to build a building anyway, so why not achieve some distinction by just using more crayons in the box. Since these color combinations are sometimes not very subtle, even the black and white version highlights the contrast in the masonry, although those incredible interior colors are lost behind the windows.

                            LUBECK CATHEDRAL DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

Sometimes only a color version will do, like on this detail of the cathedral in Lubeck, on the Baltic coast. As part of the Medieval Hanseatic League, a Baltic confederation that predates modern Germany by centuries, Lubeck built most of the city, including its cathedral, not with stone but with very elaborate brickwork. The bricks just go on and on, realizing all of the details, and some new ones, that we are used to seeing realized in stone. Throw in some painted symbols, and you get a very unusual cathedral.

                            SHIVERS UP YOUR SPINE : FINAL VERSION

The detailing can sometimes even scare you. Just because you don't have sculptured stone gargoyles doesn't mean you can't achieve horror in metal flying off a building. When you don't introduce color in Northern Europe, you can achieve a color photo that might as well be in black and white. In any case, the mood is just as grim.

                                                       DOOR HANDLE DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

The German attention to detail can extend into art for art's sake, such as this door handle. When you merely open a door you can explore the history of a rain-drenched town. Hundreds of years of door-opening have burnished those bronze umbrellas to a sheen which shows you where to touch the handle.

                                                      ANNO 1622 : FINAL VERSION

This last image illustrates the historical layers present in this country, far older than the modern German nation. Many structures, ranging from houses to cathedrals, will cite the date of construction right on the edifice, celebrating their erection hundreds of years after their birth. It seems to be a natural belief that this structure will never disappear. Notice that this castle was renovated in 1936, before most of the older buildings in German cities, whose urban renewal was due to Bomber Command by night and the Eighth Army Air Force by day.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief journey through German history through six details, and encourage you to pursue your own individual photographic journeys the next time you visit somewhere new.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 17 Jun 2022 19:00:00 GMT

                            PORCH SHADOW : FINAL VERSION

This week I'd like to discuss an attitude that frequently comes up in my booth at Saturday Market. I can summarize the conversation as " you don't use Photoshop on these photographs, so you?" As if post processing is somehow fraudulent, or at least morally suspect. Now I don't advocate replacing skies, or liquifying waists, or taking away twenty years of aging instead of just using old portraits. Every photographer has lines they will not cross, some set up by the New York Times (I wish I had such problems!) but mostly by their own ideas of what they are trying to do with their art. My basic stance is that I am trying to communicate my view of the world, my take on subjects great and small, and that this communication should at least be based on what I saw, or what I feel now. The idea that photography conveys "truth" is just as silly as the one that History is the repository of the "truth" of the past. I went to graduate school in History too many years ago, and the first thing graduate students learn is that History is written by human beings, who have their own points of view, both weaknesses  and insights. The study of History is called Historiography, and students learn that more than one viewpoint is necessary to take in the entire breadth of the historical story. This is a good thing, since if History was perfectly "true", there would be no need for future interpretations by those same students. Economic prospects for historians are bad enough as it is.

                                                PORCH SHADOW : ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

Photographers channel their viewpoints in the same ways as historians. The primary way is their choice of subjects, which like any artist is usually  completely up to them, in the sense that they are artists, not employees. Shoot what you love, and if it's flowers you probably aren't also shooting airplanes, although there's nothing wrong with that. Then you have to decide what to include in the frame. Even historians who write histories of the world cannot include everything - they must make choices on what to leave out. Now you have to choose your point of view, stated or otherwise, which hopefully will not distort the facts so much that readers will not accept most of what you say. That is why open-minded historians can respect Marxist historians even though they might think the underlying ideology is bogus. And of course we haven't even gotten to the point of deciding how much the particular historian will care to, or can even achieve, a truly wonderful way of telling a story, which in History is as fundamental as play writing.

                            PORCH SHADOW : FINAL B&W VERSION

The idea that traditional analog photographers did not affect their original captures in the darkroom is of course sheer ignorance. Even photo journalists or their editors decided which images were fit to print, and would of course choose a striking, well composed image if it was available over the other twenty shots that were rejected. Other photographers were restricted by the difficulties of dealing with technology. Color slide photographers would have to bracket, take multiple exposures of the same subject, because it was almost impossible to affect the slide image after the fact. Kodak was in charge of processing for everyone from my father to the world's most famous photographer when it came to slide film. Before that of course, you could have any color you wanted, as long as it was black and white. Monochrome was the rule, not an "interpretation."

                            PORCH SHADOW : COLORIZED BLACK AND WHITE 

But of course the whole point of photographers working their magic in the darkroom was not to save money at the source for most prints, which changed over the years from the mail to the one-hour kiosk at the mall. Photographers would spend countless hours in darkness, become amateur chemists, and devise innumerable ways to affect their images after the original negatives emerged from the film canister. If you have ever seen a master printer's record of what they have decided to do to a negative, which might include dozens of different development times for different parts of the image, then you might forgive me for moving some sliders in Lightroom.  The final print is an interpretation of the original negative, which was even more true in the darkroom, where the "technology" consisted of holes cut in paper and wands of paper shapes to mask parts of the negative for longer or shorter exposures of light from the enlarger. Under these circumstances, it was hard enough to duplicate a print that photographers just admitted that this particular print was just their latest interpretation. The conductor interprets the composer's score, and it was only with recording technology that listeners could actually hear those interpretations side by side instead of in their memories of a particular live performance decades ago.

This first image is an example of what I would call a "grab" shot, taken yesterday with my Iphone as I walked out on my front porch. I was enamored with the shadow of one of our Japanese Maples on our newly painted porch columns. The original photo has many problems - it includes too much, is not straight, and it is not symetrical either. A simple shot like this usually is required to become more simpler in post production. The square crop focused on the shadow, straightened the post, and placed it in the center of the square frame. The black and white version allows me to realistically darken the shadow and brighten the column. The "colorized" black and white allows the viewer to see the yellow trim while eliminating the colors in the background. You are entitled to your own favorite, but it's not a stretch to say that it is probably not the original snapshot.




The next photo was taken  during a windswept ferry ride back from Vancouver Island. The horizon is not straight, a cardinal sin in landscape photography, and is obviously underexposed. But it had potential. The final color version fixes those flaws, and the panoramic crop lets the horizontal orientation breathe by eliminating unnecessary sky and water from the composition. The black and white version increases the drama, and now the sky is back to being the original subject. There are probably dozens of fine black and white interpretations - this is just my final one for today.

This last image is yet another image of Tilikum Crossing, Portland's latest bridge over the Willamette River. Since it's now one of the signature walks in Portland, I take a ramble across from time to time. I am a photographer, and it is almost impossible to not try for yet another view, even if it might only be marginally different from previous attempts. Since I am one of the few photographers in Portland who doesn't have an image of the colored light night-time view of the bridge (my rare attempts at actually timing a photo shoot were on nights in which unaccountably the lights did not go on) hope at least springs eternal.

                                                       TILIKUM CROSSING #WHO KNOWS? : ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

The original dusk snapshot is crooked, and includes much too much of the light post on the left as well as all the, let's face it, "crap" on the waterline. But the big problem is my white balance, which is too far off for even my liberal tastes to allow - the blue is overwhelming, and while skies are blue, and the river is rumored to be blue, concrete is certainly not, even in blue hour.

                                                       TILIKUM CROSSING #WHO KNOWS? : FINAL VERSION

Cropping up and to the right eliminates most the crap. The "real" white balance eliminates the blue but actually hints at a sickly green concrete bridge against a Portland gray sky. When colors are under inspiring I naturally try black and white, which will eliminate any obvious color casts and take care of meaningless and distracting lights on the river. Most important, black and white allows me to realistically darken the sky to get back to the original dusky mood.

                                                       TILIKUM CROSSING #WHO KNOWS " FINAL B&W VERSION

The absolute "truth", at least in my humble opinion, is that post processing is more than half the fun, and that both my and your images will only be their best after a little work on the computer. No you can't save a bad photo, but that is not the point. You can improve your photography by taking the time to improve on the original capture. Not doing so is akin to being an athlete who refuses to train for competition. The photographs I am showing you today all improved with a modicum of work, so much so that I think they bear very little resemblance to their original form. Whether or not you like my interpretations, I believe that you have got to at least admit the distance traveled, if not the value of the final destination.

The real magic in post processing is not in misleading the viewer like an illusionist, but in enhancing the viewer's experience through the magic of reinterpretation. And by the way, I do not use Photoshop, only Lightroom and On One software, which I swear you can easily use, if not master. Why don't you try it with some of your best images?

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 10 Jun 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to make another trip into my archives in an effort to encourage you to revisit old photo shoots to see if you missed any gems in your first, or second, or even third go-around through your images. The last time I wrote of this effort, I entitled it "Revisiting Your Archives." But let's get real - this is really a rescue mission. It's not like I'm the only one who fails to see the brilliance of his efforts at first glance - although I would have to admit that my skills, along with my lack of organization both contribute to a supply of images worthy of later attention. After all, we are talking about a man who has a file called "The Missing", which notes images that I can no longer locate. In my efforts to highlight my images on social media, I need a steady supply of new photos which I cannot fulfill with just new photo shoots. Thus my efforts to slowly go through my archives, as disorganized as they might be, to find images I might have missed previously. I'd like to emphasize that these are not "rejects" - in fact some of these images are so good, in my humble opinion, that I now question my editing even more than I used to.

                           BAGDAD #4 : FINAL VERSION

This first pair is probably at least "Bagdad #4", since the theater is such a compelling subject and is only a fifteen minute stroll from my house. This latest effort was a grab shot with my Iphone while waiting for the traffic light to change. I was struck by the clouds and the sunset behind them. My usual tight crop reduced the image to just sky and sign. I do like the pink in the clouds in the color version, but as usual I like the black and white mood better. because it further reduces the information about the small section of the building in favor of the clouds and sign. The only hints that this is not the original West Side Story are that we know the Bagdad was a porno theater back in 1961, and that there was no such thing as dot com 60 years ago. I also like the window reflection  of the marquee in the window, which is more apparent in the color version.

                                                     EASTER OREGON MONOLITH : FINAL VERSION

                                                     EASTERN OREGON MONOLITH : FINAL B&W VERSION

I somehow missed this image of a random monolith in Eastern Oregon when I put together my latest photo book, "Exploring Oregon" and can't for the life of me wonder why. Of course the black and white version is rich in detail, but I like the subtle colors of the color version better anyway.



These two studies of overhanging branches on the Cape Fear River come from our recent trip to visit the kids in North Carolina. I don't know why I overlooked it before. While the black and white version as usual contains more detail, I feel the blue of the river achieves more separation and punch in the color version. The panoramic crop helps orient and concentrate the viewer's attention on what I consider important.


                                                       SOOKE POTHOLES : COLOR AND B&W

These two versions of a portion of the Sooke Potholes Park on Vancouver Island eluded me on the first edit of these vacation photos. I blame that on the success of a crop of the original image, and mostly on the many different images I took on this hike. Sometimes a lot of images can cause  a photographer to fail to see the positive aspects of an individual photo. I think the color version's subtle colors show off the layers of the landscape better than the black and white. Of course if you want to pretend that the lichen on the hillside is snow, the black and white version is the way to go.


This image is from my foray across the Hawthorne Bridge last month. The Ross Island Bridge to the south caught my attention when I realized I could frame its central arch. The sailboat clinched the deal and I waited a minute or so until it found its rightful place in the composition. The green island trees provided a nice color contrast, but the black and white version really shows off the geometric lines of the bridge structure. In the black and white I can darken the sky and lighten the clouds and sails much more than I can get away with in color. I also think the thin shadow of the bridge is better portrayed in black and white. The panoramic crop emphasized the arch and eliminated a lot of superfluous river and sky. For the life of me I cannot understand how this image, one of the few I have ever taken of this bridge, eluded me when I went through this photo walk.


Finally I will show you one of my first experiments in Intentional Camera Movement, where the photographer deliberately moves the camera during exposure. Not one to think out of the box even when I'm thinking out of the box, it took a lot for me to go against my training and allow myself to move the camera. But I had spent the week looking at the same beautiful stretch of North Carolina beach, and was frankly looking for anything to see something different from the condo balcony. I overlooked this image as a failed experiment until I gave it the panoramic crop that it deserved, and actually decreased the saturation of the sunset reflections, especially that yellow sky. I'm now fairly well pleased with this image, although the algorithm's intent to throw every ICM image across my Instagram feed since I posted this image is not appreciated and a little disconcerting. But I am glad I saved all of these images from the obscurity of my neglected archives.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 03 Jun 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to describe the process by which I "work a subject" by concentrating on seven different versions of one subject. Working a subject is even more exciting when that subject is completely unexpected, a surprise on a photographic jaunt that delivers something beyond the ordinary. Such an experience was part of an exploration of a garden center that I described in last week's blog. I anticipated a flower portrait session, and suddenly encountered an architectural abstract that falls into my wheelhouse. I was pleasantly surprised, and the following variations show how I tried to respond. By the way, if you do not share my enthusiasm for this image I fully understand. What piques my interest does not necessarily float your boat. It is my job to convert my initial "wow" into your "wow", and failure on my part might reflect on my photographic skills without in any way dismissing my initial interest. In any case, these images might inspire you to try different things when you encounter a subject that grabs you.

                                                       HOOP HOUSE #1 : FIRST TRY, PROCESSED

I walked through a door into a tent structure that was designated as "Hoop House #1", and while it's not the Pantheon, this arched shed for shade plants lifted my spirits. I guess the architect in me was excited by how such a utilitarian structure had achieved some poetry. The lightness of the structure, the way the fabric controlled glare without cutting off most of the light, and the unexpected size of the interior told me that I had found something special, at least for me. I might be wrong, but I think the tent is about 50' wide by 150' long. Did I mention that  am a sucker for Japanese lanterns? Needless to say, I didn't spend much time looking at flowers for the next few minutes.

These photos were all post-processed and cropped, and "corrected", but I think they reflect the strategies around each initial attempt to respond to the subject. The first one above shows my fascination with the lone yellow lantern in the midst of the other lanterns marching down the tent. I cropped the image, but was uncomfortable with how close the last lantern was to the bottom edge.


I tried a horizontal orientation, somewhat unusual for me, to place the yellow lantern at the head of the line. I will say that I was concentrating on the ceiling because I do not have a wide angle lens, and more importantly, I didn't want to include any messiness, commercial signs, or even the plants that would clutter my vision. You might have reacted differently.


What if I left out the yellow lantern? Was it a distraction in the line of lanterns, or a highlight? This next shot tried to answer that question, and I found five lanterns, all lit, to run through the frame. I will tell you that a problem with all my shots was trying to determine the "proper" angle to achieve the illusion of a straight horizon with so many horizontal supports running through the frame - it usually involved a compromise that involved either leaving out or highlighting the level of the frame member closest to the edge of the frame.


Once I left out the yellow lantern I naturally tried a black and white conversion. This seems more "pure" to me than the color version, and as usual brings out the details in parts of the image like the lanterns and the tent that might be overlooked in the color version. By the way, I never got the yellow lantern to look any good in black and white - it only looked discolored and dirty.

                                                       RIGHT SIDE VERTICAL, HOLD THE YELLOW

It was now time to return to my normal vertical orientation, which would emphasize the view down the tent.  I liked this angle better, but was troubled by two things, which of course border on the anal, but it's my image, right? The lead lantern doesn't seem to be lit, and by including the vertical back wall I have had to include an intruding fan. I will admit that with a modicum of work I could "light" the lantern and erase the fan, but you purists in the audience don't want to hear about that, do you?                                                                      VERTICAL PANORAMA

My solution as usual was to crop even tighter and go to an even more vertical 1:2 aspect ratio, reminiscent of Japanese screens. I no longer find the inclusion of the gable a problem - only architects would probably notice.

                                                                      VERTICAL PANORAMA, BLACK AND WHITE

I immediately went to black and white. The image is even more clearly about the lines and lanterns, and somehow the lead lantern seems a little brighter.  What is funny is that I don't really appreciate extra detail in the tent surfaces, which seems too busy, and the gables vertical lines are more intrusive too. And what's that ridiculous cable coming off the third lantern? It's there in the color version, but here it really is a distraction, so it will be gone when I open up this version again.

                            HOOP HOUSE #1 : SQUARE ORIENTATION

I returned to my original spot in the tent. When in doubt, I always try the square orientation. 16,000 coasters can't be that wrong. I let the yellow lantern lead the way, and trusted the receding horizontal supports would lead the viewers' eyes even though I only included three lanterns. I am under no illusions that this would make a popular coaster - you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

                                                       HOOP HOUSE #1 : FINAL VERSION

Although I liked the square, I went back to the vertical to get more depth in the image. I adjusted the photo in post processing to get the most clearance I could for the last lantern, mostly by letting the horizontals go wonky by emphasizing the first level horizontal support.

This is my favorite, but that's just me. I would love your opinions. What is the best part about this unexpected photographic find is that it is about fifteen minutes from my house, so there is always the opportunity for more experimentation.





(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 27 May 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to expand on my recent essays concerning the opportunity for taking photographs on "walkabouts", and also the power of using photography as an excuse to get out of the house. Photographic pursuits can both enliven activities and through the pursuit of art make these trips a "both/and" proposition. This is especially important when you are not walking by yourself but spending time with someone else. While Fran has never been coerced into carrying my tripod, she has acceded to my camera as a third wheel as long as I don't make a walk around the block, or on the beach, into a National Geographic assignment. These impromptu photo walks work even better if I'm tagging along on an activity that she knows will require some intense attention on her part. Instead of the stereotypical couch for husbands at the boutique, why not search for images when your significant other is otherwise engaged?


These images were created during a visit to a local garden center this last week. Fran loves when I accompany her on these outings, even though I am restricted in my commentary on her choices since my lack of stoop labor has given me no say whatsoever on any aspect of what has become her beautiful garden. My two cents are worth less than two lira when it comes to her garden. Sometimes she will allow me to pick out one specimen if it also passes muster with her personal vision, but I still find that I spend much time falling in love with some plant that needs an environment far different than our 40' x 100' plot can muster. And long ago I resisted going along with Fran on her walks "way to the back" of the nursery to search for "social worker" plants that only prompt the question "are these plants dead?"


So I take my camera along to while away some of the time. This allows me to pursue what I call "plant portraits" without walking in the garden, or through the neighborhood. Since this is very different from my usual photographic pursuits, it allows me to stretch my aesthetic legs while really lessening the pressure for a great shot. After all, I'm just walking in the nursery - how do I ever expect to grab a real image?

                            AFTER THE RAIN : FINAL VERSION

In fact the problems in taking a natural image in the midst of an artificial environment only encourage my natural tendency to concentrate on details or snippets of a subject. While this is somewhat similar to taking photographs at the zoo, instead of cages the photographer tries to restrict the presence of price tags and labels. So I try to zero in on the details of the plants rather than the commercial backgrounds. I used to even try this at the supermarket until multiple managers accused me of working for their competitors, obviously trying to steal their display ideas for green peppers. So far nobody has objected to my taking photographs of their beautiful plants on offer.

                                                         BIG LEAF STRUCTURE : FINAL VERSION

In addition to the isolation problem, I also have learned to deal with two other constraints on photography in this environment. The first is depth of field, which is a very different cup of tea than what I usually face as an urban landscape photographer. Instead of trying to get a majority of the image in focus, I am actively trying to reduce the surrounding environment to an out of focus haze to eliminate the commercial distractions. This then leads to the problem that plants, trees,or even flowers are three dimensional objects, and this reduced depth of field can lead to a very distracting view of a flower that is only partially in focus, even though front to back is measured in inches. "Focus stacking" an advanced concept requiring even more software than I own, and a tripod that would be way too much in a commercial environment, is unavailable on a simple trip to the nursery. Framing  your image to restrict commercial artifacts becomes more important than wide-open apertures that might lead to out-of-focus segments of the subject at hand.

                           BUG'S EYE VIEW : FINAL VERSION

The other problem is focusing distance, which is probably too far away from that flower unless you own a specialized macro lens. Your floral subject will either be too small in the image, or your camera will not focus on the smaller part of the flower that you really were interested in at all. Auto-focus can be really frustrating as the camera either chooses to focus on the wrong part of the image, or just doesn't work at all. My lens will not focus at a distance of less than about two feet, but I have discovered a work-around that seems to work, at least for my lens which allows me to "tweak" the focus manually without going into manual focus mode. You might try this. Move back to a distance that your lens will focus at, then either "tweak" if your lens allows, or turn off auto-focus. Now move in to where you wanted to be in the first place, and try to manual focus on the flower. It is my experience that somehow this allows me to achieve focus at these much closer distances than my lens can supposedly allow. Your mileage might vary.

                            BUG EYE'S VIEW : FINAL B&W VERSION

What the real strategy that works for the garden center, or floral imagery in general, is to eschew your fancy real camera for the one in your pocket. The Iphone is actually the best camera that most people will ever have for taking flower images. It excels at such imagery because of its wide depth of field, its light weight, and its short focusing distance. It even has a built-in flash, which works very well if you can turn down its power. I would speculate that the only way to beat an Iphone in the garden is to buy a $2000 dollar camera with a $1000 dollar macro lens, not that there's anything wrong with that. If you are disappointed with most images from your Iphone, I think you would be delighted with the garden images you can achieve with your that "fake" camera in your pocket. Especially if you post-process them, print it, and put it on your wall.

                                                       A WALK IN THE FOREST GARDEN CENTER : FINAL VERSION

So I hope this encourages you to find some photography available in unusual places. Remember that a latte and a pastry at the end of the trip will go a long way to reduce the tension of bringing along the camera. It goes without saying that you should resist taking any pastry pictures. Enough is enough.

                            MAPLE LEAVES AGAINST THE SKY : FINAL VERSION


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 20 May 2022 19:00:00 GMT
WALKABOUT I'd like to continue last week's discussion of finding excuses for getting out there and taking photographs. In addition to promoting some exercise, a proper photographic walkabout lets you stretch your aesthetic legs, especially in the pursuit of what I might call "the picture not taken." It's one thing to take a hike in Yosemite, or even a local park, and another to try to find photographs on the short walk to the anticipated photo destination.

By stretching your imagination of what could make an interesting image, you accomplish three things. You begin to appreciate the beauty that exists in the world beyond the obvious. You reduce the pressure to create an epic image, because after all, you are just noticing a little thing that maybe didn't even make you go "wow", but at least made you go "huh." And finally, by focusing on something that others might not even consider a "subject", you reduce the ordinary pressure to make your image about documenting the real world.

In this essay I will concentrate on just four images, all taken on a jaunt to and across the Morrison Bridge to Downtown Portland. It is very rare that one walkabout can deliver four "keepers", and I don't really feel that any of these photos are in any way "epic." Remember, I did get in a nice walk on a beautiful day, and sometimes the exercise of getting something out of basically nothing is worth the experimental time. I hope you can get something out of the process of making these images, even if you are not overwhelmed by the results I achieved.

The first image is of a somewhat famous neon sign of a bowling alley on my route to the bridge. Portland has a heritage of unique signage that recalls a time when sign makers came as cheap as carpenters, and a good sign was a point of retail pride, no matter how humble the establishment. I took something close to this same image a few years ago, and it had a future as a pretty steady selling coaster - most of my customers respond to a local landmark, especially if it is obscure enough to highlight their local expertise. Of course I mislaid this original file, and the image became one of "the missing", cited on my list of hopefully temporarily lost images that actually will sell. So on this walk I took a moment to try to recreate the image.

I took about half a dozen attempts, trying to isolate the sign, make sure it was somewhat straight, and give it enough room so that I could later crop to a square coaster.  This is not as easy as it sounds, since I'm trying to fit a vertical sign into a square frame. I also had to deal with the support structure and the awnings that were underneath the sign. I finally determined which side of the sign looked better, based on the background, and went on my way.

The result was pretty underwhelming, but I began to see what I could make of it. The square crop was accomplished without losing any of the sign, and I straightened and centered it in the frame. Images this simple must be straight, and if you are going for symmetry, you better adjust that sign to be right in the middle or your "mistake" will jar and annoy your viewers. After all the usual moves in Lightroom, it was time to proceed to On One for some magic. At the risk of the balance of the image, I had to get rid of the remnant of the vintage lamp post on the left - my crop had left this distraction, and it was time for the magic eraser to get rid of something that was clearly not adding to whatever the image was trying to say.


Magic act over, it was time to get rid of the blue sky, which always seems inauthentic in a Portland photograph. By converting to black and white I would place more attention on the sign, which dealt with the black and white world of black bowling balls and white pins. But I was losing too much by losing the red neon, so I used some manipulation by de-saturating everything but the saturated colors, which left me with a black and white and red image. This was the extent of my knowledge of On One, which I am still mastering. After returning the file to Lightroom, I then knew how to de-saturate the only other color that remained, the remnants of blue in the sky. Don't be afraid of using parts of multiple post-processing programs to make life easier. I hope that the final image concentrates the viewers attentions on what attracted me to the sign in the first place.



The second image highlights another "site" adjacent to the Morrison Bridge. It also is another example of my folly of trying to create an attractive photograph of an art piece that I find problematic at best. This building is a speculative office building that is actually between two segments of the bridge, and is an example of "creative space" office space which is so weird that developers know it will only attract artists, architects, and other creative types - law firms need not apply. Most of Portland's bridges actually rise up over solid ground for a few blocks on the east side of the river, to reduce the grade and get over railroad tracks. Thus the first section of the Eastside has always been kind of a hidden area for trolls, darkened by the multiple bridge spans and becoming even more obscure than those streets under the "El" in New York. I think the only people who know what this building actually looks like at grade are the tenants and the architects.

It obviously has pursued a "look at me" strategy that easily provokes comment, and maybe interest, as you cross the bridge. I remain unconvinced, although I do acknowledge that the building actually improves a very problematic site. The paint job is wild enough, but when the potted plants appeared it clearly went over the top as well as over the roadway. Fran considers this kind of stuff "whimsy", while I wonder if it degrades my entire former profession.

I corrected the white balance, since the wild blue facade had made everything, including those pots, blue as well.

In any case, I try my usual strategy in isolating one part of the building in order to highlight the absurdity - their is no need to show the entire five-story box, and the idea that the viewer could imagine that this nonsense goes on even further might heighten their fears. The color of the facade was so wild that even my black and white version just de-saturates everything but the blues, and those potted plants now look closer to their eventual grey demise from all of the surrounding auto fumes.

When I finally arrived Downtown, I was struck by the contrast I noticed at one corner of one of our vintage office buildings. I don't know its name, and I don't care. This image is all about the sun, the light and shadow, and the repetitive nature of office windows of a certain age. It was necessary to straighten and relocate my corner as close as I could get to a central vertical. While I've got nothing against light brown brick, that blue sky was again annoying me, so I went to black and white. Monochrome allowed me to both add more contrast and to highlight the sun's focus on one side of the facade, and its absence on the other.

My last image on this day could symbolize one of city's nicknames as "Bridgetown." While it is frequently easiest to focus on the bridges when we are actually crossing them, I was struck by the layering of, count them, four different bridges to the south of the Morrison. The Hawthorne, Marquam, Tilikum, and Ross Island bridges all combine to form a wave of lines and shapes and four different engineering eras in one shot. My main attempt was to try differentiate the different spans so the viewer wasn't overwhelmed by the mess. I cropped to a panorama to focus the attention on the lines, eliminating distracting amounts of sky and river. I increased the contrast to show off the Tilikum's white cables and the Ross Islands"s black steel, and hoped the Hawthorne's towers and the Marquam's hulk would allow them some power in the image. I tried to place the Ross Island's arch as close to the center as possible. The color version tries to use the green of Ross Island to prove a contrasting background to all of these lines. The black and white version increases the contrast and allows more bridge detail to draw the viewer's attention. I'm not sure which works better.

I hope you've enjoyed another jaunt, and encourage you to take along your camera provide another excuse to get out of the house. Every one of your images doesn't have to be "important" if it provides the opportunity to practice your craft.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 13 May 2022 19:00:00 GMT


This week I would like to discuss the origins of a long-term photo project, which can provide the excuse you need to get out and shoot. These excuses do not even need to be aesthetic, because the joy we get out of capturing images can be combined with other desires that can be good for our bodies and souls. Most landscape photographers date the beginning of their image making to an overwhelming love of the outdoors, with the camera being mostly a means of documentation. It was only later that the chronicling of their hikes became an artistic pursuit to communicate their feelings about the landscape to others.

                                                 TILIKUM DETAIL : COLOR & B&W VERSION - I prefer the black and white


I have never been a long distance hiker, and my camping exploits ended when I rejected the idea of going places where I was not the apex predator. As an urban landscape photographer, my hikes are not as adventurous as hikes in the wilderness, but my love of the city and architecture has always propelled me to be a "walker in the city". Recently I began to try to combine this excuse for going for a walk with the actual aerobic benefits of said walks. The trouble with a "photo walk" as exercise is that this photographer needs very little excuse to stop and take multiple photographs that turn an already slow stroll into the aerobic equivalent of a chess game.


So I began a game with myself that I might recommend to other photographers. I left my house and walked at a steady pace in one direction for a half hour, no stops allowed, with the promise that on the walk back I could take out the camera and shoot to my heart's content. Thus i am getting some benefit from the walk, which usually only takes 1 1/2 hours or so, and I can see that I have been walking farther than at the beginning of the game. The trouble remained that even though I was walking down some streets in my neighborhood that I had never seen in the thirty years I have lived here, it was still the old neighborhood, which left a certain photographic motivation tepid at best. Southeast Portland can be beautiful, but it isn't the Gorge.

These two images highlight the Morrison Bridge opening up, and the place where pedestrians must stop when the span opens - you don't want to be on the wrong side of that gate!

But as my walks became longer, and society gradually opened up from our pandemic slumber, I realized recently that I could drive towards the city, park, and start my walks from wherever I felt like, knowing that there would be something new to look at in my half hour. I know that this new regime is not earth shattering, but I have begun to broaden out from my own neighborhood. I used to do most of my walking Downtown, but while Portland is not the Fox-addled nightmare of urban decay, it can be somewhat depressing. Empty storefronts and encampments don't make for delightful urban landscapes.

                                                       EASTSIDE ESPLANADE BOARDWALK BRIDGE FROM THE BURNSIDE : FINAL B&W VERSION

In the past few weeks I hit upon the idea of walking to Downtown instead, and began my jaunts about 15 blocks from the river, with the promise of getting to walk across one of our bridges as the goal/highlight of the trip. Thus I have combined aerobic exercise (at least for me) with an opportunity to take a slow look at some of Portland's icons - one of our city's nicknames has long been Bridgetown. Portland's river, the Willamette, shares the centrality and dimensions of the Seine in Paris and the Thames in London - bridging the river allowed for the city's growth while not requiring the earth shattering engineering of the Brooklyn Bridge. Portland's bridges are numerous, and for more than a century their varied and picturesque designs have enlivened our landscapes. The fact that we rarely throw anything out means that some of our bridges are now living museum pieces, which can only be repaired if we reinvent their components. Throw in the fact that about half are drawbridges, with a potentially fatal effect on traffic, and you can see why Portlanders have a pretty intimate relationship with these spans.

                            BURNSIDE BRIDGE CONTROL TOWER : I don't know which version I prefer.

These photographs come from the walks I've take in the past few weeks, along with some of my most popular images of our bridges over the years. As usual, most of my imagery is pretty specific, and a lot of people only know some of the images because they have taken the same walks as I have. I have resisted the heroic shots that my colleagues take as required, usually suffering as a businessman. Portlanders have a relationship with the St. Johns Bridge that can only be characterized as an addiction - when I finally allowed myself to take a shot of the bridge, I sold over 30 coasters in the first three weeks. These were not to tourists, since almost no tourist even knows this most outermost of our bridges even exists.

                           INTO THE WOODS, ST. JOHNS BRIDGE : FINAL B&W VERSION

I'm one of the few people who actually don't like the green of the St. Johns, so black and white it was. I avoided symmetry out of habit and a fear of the semi trucks from both directions if you stand on the center line.




                           LATE AGAIN : FINAL VERSION

Three views of the Hawthorne Bridge, one of intimate disappointment as a commuter, the other a classic blue hour shot with the city lights just coming on. Much to my surprise, I think the black and white version works as well.

ON BROADWAY                            ON BROADWAY : FINAL VERSION

A really intimate view of the Broadway Bridge, which I have sold to several city engineers involved in it's restoration. While the color is similar to the Golden Gate, it's not an exact match.

I hope you enjoy this short trip across the river, and find your own excuse to get out and walk the city. It doesn't have to be for miles if it takes you to places you really didn't know because you've never taken the time to be a pedestrian there.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 06 May 2022 19:00:00 GMT

Last week I discussed how it could be very useful for photographers to actively experiment with new techniques or approaches when they go out into the field. I would like to expand this idea by encouraging you to experiment after capture by taking new paths in your post-processing as well. It is very easy to fall into patterns when using software to enhance our images, and a conscious decision to try something new, or even crazy, when we process an image can lead to unexpected and liberating results.


I have a lot of problems with the idea that photographers must develop what we call a "workflow" when we process our images. My first objection is primarily psychological, in that I resist the idea that this is "work", since I have a belief that art should be fun, even if you are crazy enough to try to earn some money from your efforts. I have never spent my work life in front of a computer screen, so I can understand why others might resist transferring their hobby time to more screen staring. But in reality this is not digging ditches, and while it can be repetitive, one might realistically ask why you are pursuing something if it has ceased to be fun. Part of the solution might be to deliberately switch things up, and I'd like to show you some examples of divergent paths I have taken in post-processing several images. I believe that this has led to some exciting new ways to interpret an image.


Frequently the first move I try is to see how the original color image would change if it was converted into black and white. This is not usually done in search of nostalgia, or in an effort to just include an image into a portfolio of monochrome images. I have found that a black and white conversion can totally change an image, especially if the conversion is accompanied by additional moves that modify the image beyond removing color. In other words, we are not just searching for grey-scale, but seeing what we can also do to change the image's interpretation. Using the abstraction of black and white allows us to modify an image far beyond what most viewers would accept in a color photo.

The first example is the three different versions of this seascape off the North Carolina coast. The first image is a classic color image of the pink skies that can accompany the beauty of sunset if you are looking in the "wrong" direction, i.e. the sun is setting behind you. It's even more fun if the moon is rising. I cropped the image to emphasize the pink band, but increasing the saturation  was not necessary - this event, which seemed to occur at 7:15 pm on the dot for over a week, was just that beautiful all by itself. The question then becomes what you would do  and why you would convert a photo which seems to be all about color into a black and white photo? The first example shows what usually happens - a somewhat boring grey scale interpretation which does not replace the intensity of the color with anything very useful. We'll see later that you can attain a new level of detail by leaving out color, but this image is very simple, so that doesn't seem to work. But what about if you advance the clock a few hours? The final moody night-time shot, done by simultaneously drastically lowering the exposure and heightening the glow of the moon, changes the mood completely and doesn't strike the viewer as fake at all - impossible in a color shot.

                           FLORA #2 : FINAL COLOR AND B&W VERSIONS

Here is another classic example of what is seemingly a fool's errand in black and white conversion. Why would you remove the color from a flower portrait, a stereotypical example of the power of color imagery? In this example I do it to emphasize the structure of the flower, and as a way of surreptitiously isolating it further from the background by converting said background into a velvet curtain. Viewers would not begin to accept this much contrast in a color image, at best figuring it was a studio shot as opposed to a real flower in a garden.

                                                        ANTEBELLUM SEATING : FINAL COLOR AND B&W VERSIONS

Here I've used the black and white conversion to make the image more about the light on the chair than anything else. We lose the beauty of the various wood shades in favor of the various tones on  the chair. The Bible is subdued, the chair's surroundings fade to black, and the pattern on the curtain is made more important in the monochrome version.

                            ST. JOHNS NOIR : FINAL B&W VERSION

These days a popular political cliche is not to waste the importance of a political crisis to not take advantage and accomplish other changes while you deal with it. I would carry that over to black and white conversion. A well-composed (if I say so myself) view of the St. Johns Bridge is converted into film noir interpretation suitable for Gotham City by exposure manipulation that converts it into a total silhouette, with almost no detail inside the black bridge. While I am almost always in awe of others who can coax hundreds of shades of grey out of a black and white, I am neither as skilled or oriented in that direction, so why bother?


Sometimes it's just a matter of going with your gut, with the proviso that both interpretations might be equally as worthy. The color shot is a love letter to the beautiful sandstone Chelsea Cathedral in London, resplendent in the setting sun, with an interesting complementary blue glow in the stained glass. The black and white is all about the shapes of the arched window, the light and shadow of the flying buttresses, and somehow the texture of the stone is even more important without the golden color.

                                                       NAKED CITY CHRYSLER BUILDING : FINAL B&W VERSION

I love the Chrysler Building more than any other skyscraper in New York. It seems the most romantic building in the city, with its spire and frankly ridiculous Art Deco ornament, where hood ornaments become gargoyles, that it always makes me smile. The black and white conversion of this focus on the top converts what is really a post card into something very different. The spire and ornamentation, in fact the whole tower, positively glows because I have adopted a black interpretation of the boring blue sky that even Ansel Adams would be proud of. This has no relation to actual reality, but no one is offended by my departure, for we have an almost infinite acceptance of such manipulation in black and white.

                            OMSI : FINAL VERSION

Finally, we have an image which seems to be all about the color of the beautiful OMSI entrance sign that proudly stands in the building's lobby atrium. The image is another example of my love of outrageous color, and the power of letters to capture our attention as graphic devices way beyond their communicative utility. The OMSI red, contrasted with the mechanical/architectural gray and a typical Portland sky with powerful clouds, screams color photograph. Thus I was a surprised as anyone when I worked on this black and white interpretation.

                            OMSI : FINAL B&W VERSION

A black and white interpretation that cranks the contrast up to 11, throws in a lot of "glow" as well as an equal amount of sharpening, has resulted in a black and white image where, at least for me, the neon letters are even more vibrant than the color version. Once again, experimentation has yielded unexpectedly delightful results.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 29 Apr 2022 19:00:00 GMT

I'd like to discuss the idea of experimentation in your photography this week. Another way that you can "discover" things to photograph while you are on vacation, or just around the corner, is to consciously set out to experiment when you head out with your camera. Trying something new can open up loads of possibilities, especially when the "subject" of your image is overly familiar. Experimentation can allow for a new way of seeing, either at the point of capture or later in post processing.

The image above is of a groin on a North Carolina Beach near Wilmington, North Carolina. I don't know why a man-made intrusion that disappears into the sea is also the place that a man definitely does not want to be hit, but that's for another day (in England, they differentiate by calling the seaside feature a groyne). This groin carried a pipe that probably discharged something nasty into the ocean, but on this rainy day I found it interesting enough to see how I could manufacture an image out of concrete blocks and an iron pipe.

My solution was to search for elements of abstraction in the image. I will show you the original color image in a second, but I turned to black and white almost immediately for several reasons. Since it was such a nasty day, the sea was grey anyway; the hint of green on the moss covered concrete didn't add much either, and the pipe and the stanchions in the water were already black.

                            NORTH CAROLINA GROIN : FINAL COLOR VERSION

But my search for abstraction centered on my experiment with a long exposure. While it was a grey day, it was still day, and the sea was actually pretty rough without being very exciting - think breaking swells that threatened my tripod without throwing up any picturesque splashes. My objective became how to lengthen the exposure enough to reduce the sea to a flat, abstract surface leading past the groin and the stations out to the horizon.

Photographers do this with a few pieces of equipment that allow us extend our exposures enough so as to perceive a kind of zen-like gaze at the environment that is the exact opposite of an artificially lit flash shot. While strobe flashes stop action because they show us exact, almost infinitesimal moments in time, long exposures show us things that our naked eyes cannot see by stretching out the duration of our view. The shutter is open so long that momentary movement is ignored by the sensor. Moving tourists seem to disappear in the piazza because they moved too fast to be registered on our sensors, which only caught the things that were there the whole time. And recurring movements, like waves at the beach, get evened out, because the camera is recording all of the waves as a "still average" over a much longer period of time than any one breaking wave.

                            FIRST SHOT : f8.0 @ 1/350 second - A TYPICAL APERTURE/SHUTTER SPEED

Taking such long exposures that will yield images of things we really can't see in real life require a few accessories. You really need a stable tripod because you can't possibly hold or even place your camera down to stop camera shake when your exposure lasts for multiple seconds. We want to see the movement of our subject, not the apparent palsy in our grip on the camera. We put our cameras on a two-second delay when we push the shutter, because even that subtle act of hitting the button might actually register as shake, so we let the camera "settle down"  before it takes the shot.

To lengthen the time of exposure, and not just get an over-exposed image, we must cut down the amount of light that is getting to the sensor. We can't turn off the sun, so it's time to put on sunglasses to cut out the light. The sunglasses aren't for us, but for our camera - in this case it's not what we see, but what the camera sees, that is important. A neutral density filter placed over the lens will hopefully reduce the light by a measurable amount that will enable vastly increased exposure times by convincing the sensor that the sun has gone down. While reducing a waterfall to a gentle mist might require an exposure of a couple of seconds (still far too long to hand-hold), stopping the ocean might require an exposure lengthened to minutes. Now the problem is not hitting the shutter, but having to close it again. Most cameras will not automatically close the shutter after 30 seconds, so for longer exposures you need a gizmo to both open the shutter and close it again after your watch registers the appropriate excruciating time required. I cannot explain how long a two-minute exposure can seem, when we are used to the exposure being over before we are really concious of having pushed the button at all.

                            SLOWER : f16 @ 1/45 second, off-center, one stantion

There is one physical problem I haven't yet mentioned. You have painstakengly  determined the perfect composition, and accurately focused - but then you must engage in some lower-level math to take a photo you can't see. The filter is so dark that when you place it over your lens you can no longer see the scene through the viewfinder, and you cannot see what your subsequent setting changes are doing to the image before you take the photo. You are literally in the dark. You must change your focus to manual focus, because the camera will try to adjust the focus to the new midnight lighting, and it won't be able to auto focus. Even worse, your viewfinder is going to stay black no matter how you change your settings. Fortunately, the neutral density filters have ratings on how much light they are stopping. To stop the ocean, you should have a ten-stop filter, which reduces the light by ten stops. Remember that we are trying to reduce the light to the sensor. Thus you have set the sensor sensitivity to it's lowest native setting, exactly opposite what you would do to take a night-time shot. You have also set your lens to a very small aperture to reduce the size of the hole that light can get through. You then click your way down to the lower shutter speed, doubling the amount of light with each click, because you are letting in more light by extending the duration the shutter is open. Count ten clicks, and you are somewhere in the neighborhood of properly exposing an image that you can't see. It's time to experiment, and to see what happens.

That's what it comes down to, and why it often seems that photographers are just overthinking the entire affair. Our digital cameras will now let us see our results right after the shot is over, so after our long exposure is finally over, we can see how close we are to what looks a reasonable exposure. Adjust as required, and probably wait even longer. Something to read is highly recommended.

                           FASTER, BUT ALMOST SYMMETRICAL : f16 @ 1/125 second

You are not searching for a "proper exposure" once you are in the ballpark, but are actually trying to see if you have positively affected the image enough by lengthening the exposure. If we have a "proper" exposure at our first ordinary view through the viewfinder, then we will have another "proper" exposure if we keep doubling the exposure time while we halve the light getting to the sensor with our neutral density filter. But since we cannot see the exposure until we take it, we are in the dark until we take the photo.

I used to think that long exposure photos were just a gimmick, a way of easily creating an arty image out of nothing. This might be true to some extent, but now having experimented with the technique I can see that the rules of composition are not suspended just because we have changed the amount of time we are recording. This image would not be as strong without the central placement of the groin, and I for one think that the presence of the stanchions is crucial. And I regret that the rain caused enough discomfort that I refrained from getting out the electronic shutter release. A thirty second exposure was just not long enough to completely flatten the waves and eliminate their variations near the groin. But for a first experiment this wasn't bad.

                            TEN STOP FILTER : f16 @ 30 SECONDS

The exposure of the photo will not change, but the photo will. The waves will disappear, and the clouds will seem to streak across the sky, while stationary objects will still stay sharp. Once the viewer notices, they will frequently get fascinated, because you can't see this stuff on the beach. Our photographic experiment has yielded a new view of a familiar subject.

                             TEN STOP FILTER : f16 @ 30 SECONDS, B&W


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 22 Apr 2022 19:00:00 GMT

I'd like to return to North Carolina this week to discuss four images I created there. My overall theme is that most of my photography is based on noticing things - paying attention to light, shadow, forms, and geometry - that others might not see. What's funny is that this either leads people to really appreciate "my eye" or to not get my imagery at all. While I do not search for the obscure, I must accept that my way of seeing is not for everyone, and that's okay. I would suggest that this attitude can be very liberating to the rest of you out there - it takes a lot of the pressure off if you have a little faith in your vision and do not care as much if the public responds. With about 97 million photographs downloaded to Instagram every day, it's a miracle if anyone notices your efforts at all.

In that spirit let me try to explain what caught my eye in taking these four images, and how I tried to emphasize that act of paying attention in my subsequent post-processing. A big part of "proper" landscape photography is waiting for the light. This doesn't just involve waking up real early or staying late, but bringing along a book or just meditating while you wait for the light to hopefully change and transform a good image into a potentially great one. I usually lack the energy or patience to accomplish this goal, which is why I firmly believe that we take our best shots close to home, wher we can easily return for better light another time. But patience is not the only virtue; sometimes just noticing something can suffice. We stayed at a true beachfront property at Carolina Beach just outside of Wilmington, and it took only a few days for me to notice that the best light of the day, without a doubt, took place at 7:15 PM each evening. While some days were a little better than others, if you managed to be on our deck at that time you would be greeted with what Mountain people call Alpenglow, the pink shades in the sky that do not really require mountain views. It's just kind of a reverse sunset, and usually lasts only five minutes or so. What was so much fun was that this was so reliably predictable that it required no patience at all - just show up, and there you have it. Of course you can't have your camera set to auto white balance since your stupid expensive machine will wipe out the pink glow as a "mistake" instead of celebrating it. This image is all about color, so that I even violated my secret identity on 500 pixels by posting a color photograph. The world didn't come to an end, although there were probably some people in Eastern Europe who were shocked, just shocked. As usual with my landscape images these days, I've cropped it down to 1:2 to more fully emphasize the horizontal aspect. The pink glow was nicely confined to just over the horizon, so cropping didn't affect the image in any negative way.

                            THE RED CHAIRS : FINAL VERSION

The obverse of the beachfront stroll is to observe the state of that beach's architecture. I am always on the lookout for "architect was here" as a relief to the usual structures that don't even to seem to notice that they are located on the beach - there is a damn ocean over there! I noticed this relentless grid on one of the larger condo towers on the beach, which was a lot bigger than we are used to on the Oregon Coast. Then I focused on the rebel on a certain floor who was going to have red balcony furniture no matter what anyone else might think. Once you notice something, it really doesn't matter if no one else does - your job becomes merely how to emphasize what you have noticed. In this case the only requirements that I had to meet were to crop the image so that the grid could go on forever, and to do my best to straighten and align the grid in post-processing so that the photo looked like I could have taken it from a helicopter hovering way above the ground. The viewer is then left to decide if any of this means anything at all. And of course the image must stay in color since the red chairs are what's holding it together.


                                                       REFLECTIONS ON WILMINGTON : FINAL B&W VERSION

The next image was a happy accident. I could claim that I knew what I was doing, but that would be a lie. What appears to be an elaborate double exposure is in reality just a wild conjunction of interior and exterior reflections in a coffee shop. The most credit I can take is that I noticed something was pretty strange and I lined up an image that I really didn't understand at the time of exposure. This stands previsualization and the "decisive moment" on its head; it reminds me of the admonition to "say something if you notice something" as the least a photographic witness can do when confronted by the unusual. I only noticed what was going on in this image when I looked over my photos a few days later, when I was charmed by the many juxtapositions that occurred in one ordinary image of a typical apartment house. I am unsure which version, color or black and white, works better here. The color version is "lighter" and more lively, but there is enough contrast in the black and white to overcome the lack of color. Neither image is much more confusing than the other;it helps that the central light post is just as black a presence in each version.

                                                       ANTEBELLUM DETAIL : FINAL B&W VERSION

Finally I present another image from the plantation house we visited near Wilmington. Here I am just a retired architect,"nothing to see here", who is overwhelmed by the classical detailing on an Antebellum mansion. This image must be in black and white, since the off-white natural color is completely underwhelming, and we all know that the vegetation is actually green, and who cares? I found two things intriguing about this "subject". One was that this stone detail was so obviously painted, carved wood, which seemed to hearken back to the classical originals, whose leaves were actual leaves. The other was that while this detail certainly came out of a "pattern book", it was built by enslaved artisans more than two thousand years after other slaves had probably built the Classical originals. All I did was to notice their handiwork, and for this image, that was more than enough.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 15 Apr 2022 19:00:00 GMT
ART, TRAVEL, FAMILY, AND COVID - MARCH MADNESS                                                        ENSLAVED PERSON'S VIOLIN : FINAL VERSION

                                                        ENSLAVED PERSON'S VIOLIN : FINAL B&W VERSION

March and April 2022 have proven to be a very interesting time for this writer, photographer, grandfather and birthday boy. In no apparent order I had a wonderful trip with Fran to North Carolina to see Benjamin, Margaret, and Isaac; started off the art year with a nice few weeks at the Market; spent a wonderful time on the beach with our extended family, Vinny and Steve; created several nice images without driving myself silly; celebrated my 66th Birthday; and caught Covid. I am fine, and my week on the couch is over, and I am trying to take it easy and realize how lucky I am that I caught it in April 2022 instead of April 2020 or April 2021. To say it was anti-climatic would be to overly dramatize my bout, which was somewhere between a bad cold and the flu. Of course I was vaccinated and boosted, so the reaction of my doctors was muted; call us if you feel bad. I probably caught it either on the airport trips or at the Market, and felt much worse when I had double-pnemonia a few years ago. Mostly just tired to the point where napping and going to bed early could be done without much guilt.

                                                       ANTEBELLUM STAIR : FINAL B&W VERSION

                                                       ANTEBELLUM STAIRCASE : FINAL B&W VERSION

We spent our time in Wilmington on the beach about a half-hour from Benjamin's apartment in town, and though our accomodations kept going up in price each time we delayed our trip, the decision to book actual beachfront property was wonderful. We really lucked out with the weather, which was basically better than any week on the Oregon Coast any time of the year. It rained one day out of ten, and most days we could walk into the surf.


Wilmington is opening up nicely, and while it never was as buttoned-down as Portland, it also didn't seem like it was completely ignoring the fact that there had been a Pandemic. North Carolina seems to be stuck in purgatory somewhere between the Yankees in Virginia and the yahoos to the South, ashamed at the obvious problems with its history but unwilling to cow-tow to Northern superiority as well. Thus a considerable chip on it's shoulder that goes along with a pride in difference, and an urban/rural split very familiar to this Oregonian/New Yorker, with even less urban to leaven the overall countryside. Consider that Wilmington was really the only city in North Carolina for most of its history, and that Charlotte is so close to the border that it might as well be in South Carolina, and you can see why the overall ambience is distinctively rural.

                                                       PLANTATION SEATING : FINAL VERSION

                                                        PLANTATION SEATING : FINAL B&W VERSION

We had a wonderful time with everyone and my grandson is just a pistol. He is very different than Benjamin, with a sly side-eye, and you've got to watch him like a hawk. Thank god that his digital photo efforts do not cost me any money, since he is completely enamored with the camera and actually sometimes seems to be better than Grandpa in taking pictures of people, as long as you discount his interest in taking pictures of the floor with an attention to detail that borders on the obsessive.

                                                       ISAAC AT REST : FINAL B&W VERSION

I still have to go through most of the images I took on the trip. I'm beginning to realize that no matter how much I endeavor to experiment, my best images seem to be close to my wheelhouse, despite or in spite of their purported subjects. Most of these images come from the end of our trip, when we spent a few hours at a Plantation House near Wilmington. The tour guide was a wonderful woman who rightly emphasized the stories of the enslaved people who had actually built and lived in the house, rather than the purported owners. While I certainly did not "work" the subjects, I  am pleased that post-processing has brought out some of the artistic value of ordinary domestic objects; hopefully these images can honor their lives lived in the shadows.

                                                       WILMINGTON COUP MEMORIAL : FINAL VERSION

                                                       WILMINGTON COUP MEMORIAL : FINAL B&W VERSION

This detail of a new memorial for The Coup that took place in Wilmington in 1891 - the only documented coup of a legally constituted municipal government in the United States - brought to an end a successful Reconstruction administration and led to Jim Crow for seventy years. While the memorial seems ill-placed at an ordinary suburban intersection, it actually might someday play a more important role at a site that might be central to the city's future growth. It struck me that the site might one day be as central as the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin - a permanent reminder that precludes commercial use of the site.

                                                        BACK STAIRS : FINAL B&W VERSION

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 08 Apr 2022 19:00:00 GMT

It's a lot of fun to misquote Thomas Boswell's ode to baseball, even if the powers to be have conspired to destroy their opening day. Last weekend was Opening Day at Saturday Market, and it was fun to be back exhibiting and even sometimes selling my art. I had anticipated a lousy day, weather-wise, and feared that the monetary results would correspond. Instead it was about as nice a Pre-Spring day as Portland can muster, and the crowds seemed just as excited as the vendors to be back under the Burnside Bridge.


My new space under said bridge has a lot of possibilities, a corner space with three open sides in a good vendor neighborhood. The three open sides offer a lot of different areas to show my work, and also relieve any feelings of claustrophobia. Since I have resolved to try to be a "fair-weather" vendor this year, I am not as worried about being blown away by the wind - I will just be mature enough to stay home.


It is amazing how your location in the market can affect your mood. Some of the most exacting urban design experts I have ever met are my fellow vendors at the Market, who are convinced that a difference of ten feet can spell happy days or financial ruin. I have never thought it made that much difference, as long as one understood that the emphasis on seniority made monthly rents vary by location. But since everyone pays the same daily rent, no matter how good or bad your location, and daily rents dwarf monthly over the course of the year, the fix is in. After twelve years I have reached about as high as I ever will get on the seniority list, as young whipper-snappers attendance gains over me will make up for retirements among those vendors still above me on the list. And even I have realized that even my view from the booth will affect my mood, so that my new view of the sun beyond the bridge will certainly beat last year's view of a homeless encampment.


There are only four photographers left at the market, and we are a collegial bunch, since we each fill a different enough niche that we can actually send customers on to our "competitors." And the economy has eliminated the people who either existed by giving their work away, or just sold the same product as everyone else. Of course there has also been a certain amount of attrition due to a new-found sanity among even artists under the bridge. As I always say, the real insanity among artists is our continued belief that anything about the selling of Art makes any economic sense at all. As I slowly lose those beliefs, it is becoming a lot easier to have fun at the market.




There were even some tourists about, although I can't imagine how anyone is actively visiting our fair city at this time. Maybe I'm just naive about how bad the rest of the country is doing. After two years of Covid, it takes a lot of optimism to see how downtown will soon recover, even though I still think it doesn't pay to bet against Portland. Our leaders seem to lack any understanding in pursuing both short-term and long-term solutions, resulting in complete stagnation. There is a complete lack of attempting anything, and different factions decry solutions that actually even work because they are ideologically suspect. What is exceedingly weird is that no matter how incompetent our local leaders appear to be, the relative intelligence of our citizens seems to have so far preserved human lives. Most of the rest of Oregon resembles the Deep South, seemingly intent on ensuring that the virus will always have unvaccinated hosts to prey upon.       GORDON BEACH : FINAL B&W VERSION

Our food carts have reopened too, so that I can find a good lunch again. At the end of last year it was slim pickings indeed, but most of my favorite choices are back again. Lunch at the Market is always problematic, since I'm supposed to be in my booth, not on a twenty-minute long line waiting for lunch. What's funny is that the second you start lunch, business picks up, so that you are torn between eating a too-late lunch and actually making money.


Inflation has begun to take a toll, although as a small businessman with very low profit margins it also has provided an excuse to finally raise my prices for the first time in five years. What is interesting is that my emphasis this year is to find a way to create some lower price points to raise sales. The coasters sell themselves. The metal prints are extraordinary, but are too expensive for me to buy to sell them at a low enough price to really increase sales. As a premium product, they just cost what they cost. What is interesting is that customers seem to understand that the basic food cost equation of 3x costs is fair, but is just too high. Thus I am trying to see if I can sell larger laminated prints at about half the price that the metal prints must cost. Frustration has reared its ugly head in that the laminate prints were designed to "get the coasters on the wall." They have been successful, but my attempt to sell the small prints that are not "squares" has been a failure. So 4 x4's are cute, but 4x6's or 4x8's are too small.  So I am going to try larger and more expensive 9x12's and 8 x16's to see if laminated prints can sell at half the price of  similar sized prints in aluminum.


Most of the images in today's essay are processed at a 1:2 aspect ratio, which I have decided is the best "panoramic" ratio available. Ordinary photo prints come out of the camera as 2:3 or 3:4 sizes; the 1:2 ratio is significantly wider without being too wide. The wider 1:3 ratio only seems to be justified by a mountain range or a real urban skyline; most of the time there is just not enough "subject" for such a wide aspect ratio. But for a photographer who shoots mostly square images, the 1:2 ratio offers a different enough view of the world to stimulate my creative juices. While I can certainly stitch together shots for this wider view, I have found that most of the time I can justify a wide 1:2 ratio by just cropping out the wasted space in the foreground or sky or both. The historic "panoramic" ratios of 16:9 or 16:7 were functions of film sizes and are close enough, a little wider and a little shorter, to 2:1 to prove my point that 2:1 is wide enough.


I will have to see if this 1:2 aspect ratio, at a larger print size, is attention-getting enough to attract customer interest. But it has been interesting enough for me to crop some of these images to this new ratio to see if they work at this "wider" perspective.

                                                       EMPIRE STATE : FINAL VERSION AT STANDARD 2:3 RATIO - TOO WIDE?

                                                                     EMPIRE STATE : FINAL VERTICAL B&W VERSION AT 2:1 RATIO - TOO SKINNY?


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 11 Mar 2022 20:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to take a deep dive into post-processing one image. I hope to show how important it is to take your time with an image in an effort to improve your out-of-camera results. I have no doubt that almost every image you or I take can be improved immensely in just a few steps with some attention in post-processing. And this can go double for those images which you might have ignored in their original form. In my latest foray into my archives, I discovered this image I snapped Pre-Covid on a walk on the Eastside Esplanade, a highfalutin name we have for a walking path on the East Bank of the Willamette, stuck on a tiny sliver of land between the river and a freeway. Despite its location, it somehow works as part of a three-mile loop downtown, albeit a noisy one. This image shows the most romantic part of the journey, a boardwalk that juts into the river to avoid some train tracks (!) that had first claim on this portion of the river bank. The row of pre-rusted Corten steel piers show how far the floating boardwalk can rise or fall depending on the height of the river.


Here is the original overlooked snapshot from 2019. The crop is all wrong, as is the color balance and the exposure. But as I looked through the very small icons of the dozens of shots I took that day, I was intrigued by the several loops of curves that floated through the image. It is very useful to view your images at very small sizes, both to divorce them from their "subjects" and to see if any more important compositional aspects can grab your attention. I know photographers who make a pass through images after first de-saturating them, or even viewing them upside down, so that they are just looking at lines, or shapes, or tones, or negative spaces. If something grabs you at a very small size, there is a good chance that you can find something compelling at full size.

                            EASTSIDE ESPLANADE : FIRST SQUARE CROP

So I noticed those three or four or five curves floating through the image, and realized how much stronger they would appear without the wasted space to the left and right. The curves included the boardwalk rail on the right, the boardwalk itself,  and the line of piers, especially their tops. Secondary curves included the two segments of freeway above and to the right, and the roof of the Rose Garden Arena beyond the river. The question became where the square should be placed. I had to include the tops of the piers, but how many were necessary?

                           EASTSIDE ESPLANADE :  PIVOT RIGHT

I first tried to pivot right, to ignore the Rose Garden andto include more of the lower freeway curve on the right. But there is clearly not enough breathing room on the left, so I then pivoted left to lose what I thought was the distraction of the Convention Center tower on the right.

                            GOLDILOCKS : FINAL SQUARE CROP

You have got to learn to look closely at the edges of your frame, even if you didn't look closely enough in-camera. My final decision was based on losing all of the right freeway curve to include all of the Rose Garden roof, and more importantly not to cut the boardwalk bench on the left. Just like portraits, where you have got to pay attention to amputating limbs, landscape photographers must pay attention to disconcerting distractions at the edge of the frame.

                            WHITE BALANCE REVISIONS

Light has color, which our brain subtly understands and interprets so that we can exist in the world and not get eaten by the saber-tooth tiger. Our cameras, although technological miracles, are still not as smart as our brains. The digital sensor, like film before it, is much too literal for the real world. It actually pays attention to the exact color temperature of the scene, or more frequently doesn't show the same latitude as our brains in adjusting to changing light. The image has now been "corrected" for color, and the auto setting, frequently a disaster, has not done too bad a job here. While the result might be a little too warm for Portland reality, it is clearly much closer to the truth than the original which was way too blue - notice the top of the piers, which are now white. The clouds are now white as well, even though the sky has reverted to grey instead of its false blue overtones.

                            BLACK POINT

Things will start to get more subtle from here on in. In many ways the most important thing about post-processing is to manipulate your image, and improve it, without letting your viewers in on the secret. Like a magician, viewers want to be amazed, even deceived, as long as they don't notice the sleight of hand. Here I have lowered the black point, which forces more of the darker tones toward pure black. Viewers perceive this as a richer image. They think you've made it more saturated, even though you haven't touched the saturation slider. While the deeper tones have shifted, the mid-tones and lighter tones have not been touched. In general, the more you move away from "global" changes which affect the entire image towards more and more selective changes, the more you can change while keeping the illusion of subtlety.

                           LIGHTEN THE SHADOWS

Sometimes you can even feel that you are at cross-purposes in the pursuit of Goldilocks. I've just darkened some potions of the image. and now I lighten it back up. But I've lightened the shadows, which are different than the darkest part of the image down at the black point. Obviously everything overlaps to some extent, and the boardwalk has clearly gotten lighter. More importantly, the piers have now emerged more strongly as several shades of orange rather than dull brown.                             GRADUATED FILTER

Landscape photographers, even of the urban variety like myself, frequently have to deal with problems in the sky. Skies, even in Portland, are much brighter than the rest of the world around us. Our brains adjust, but our cameras don't. Thus the sky is frequently much too light in comparison with our subjects below it, and the image is out of balance. In the past, photographers would place graduated filters over their camera lenses, kind of like bifocal sunglasses which would gradually go from dark at the top to clear at the bottom. We can do the same thing now on the computer. Here I've lowered the exposure in the sky by one full stop, so there is now much more detail in the clouds. Again it's subtle, because if I went too far you would notice and not believe.

                           ADD A VIGNETTE

We are now almost finished, at least for today. As I've said before, a good strategy sometimes is to present two versions to a bystander to see if they can see the result of your incredible efforts. If a sane person like Fran is confounded by her confrontation with two images which "are exactly the same!", then maybe you've reached a point of diminishing returns. Here I've added a "vignette", a hopefully subtle darkening of the edges of the photograph. You can see it in the bottom of the boardwalk and the top of the sky. What is funny is that vignetting is frequently cited as a fault of less-than-stellar camera lenses, but that photographers will gladly do it themselves, thank you. The theory is that the viewer will be attracted most by the lightest part of a scene. Thus if you can subtley  darken the edges, the viewer's attention will now be drawn to the comparitive brightness at the center where you wanted them to look! Oh, the webs we weave. Of course, if one goes too far, the viewer will wonder if you took the photo through a periscope on a submarine.

                            EASTSIDE ESPLANADE : B&W FINAL VERSION

Now we reach for the abstraction of black and white. What can we achieve by eliminating color entirely from the equation? Remember, I was really concerned with those flying curves, not the color of the boardwalk, or the trees, or the river. While I didn't really care about the colors, I do miss the orange piers, but I really like orange. The green trees, and especially the green highway signs, which I now hate so much that I want to get rid of them from the color version as "distractions", are not missed at all. My curves are still there, and I do like the sky, but the tops of the piers have lost a certain amount of contrast with the rest of the piers. It is clearly a matter of taste.

You will have to trust me that this final black and white version is also a lot better than the original conversion to grayscale. While I am getting better with the On One software, I still can't figure out how to save steps to show the process. I started off with the "Paparazzi" preset, which is even funnier than its name. These presets, unlike Instagram filters, are just a starting point, because all the changes are revealed in the usual sliders, and you can change them and reduce the settings to your heart's content, which is usually a very good thing. "Paparazzi" applied a red filter, darkening the blues, but less so than my usual choices like "Machinist" or "Ansel in the Valley". Don't ask. In any case I added four more filters to varying degrees. Dynamic Contrast is a very good algorithm that just heightens mid-tone contrast while leaving everything else alone. The "Sunshine" filter adds a little glow of missing Portland sunshine to the scene. Sharpening and Vignette supply the finishing touches. A very important control that On One adds to its software is that you can select which parts of the photo will be affected by these filters with tools that can work much faster and more exactly than any brush you might wield yourself. The 'luminosity' control allowed me to use these filters just on the darkest portions of the image, so that the sky and the river were not affected at all. Controls like these allow for much more control in the digital darkroom, without that bitter chemical aftertaste.

I hope that you have enjoyed seeing how this photographer "makes" a photograph as well as "takes" a shot. It might not be important considering the news of the day, but we must do our best to at least keep us sane in this crazy world.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 04 Mar 2022 20:00:00 GMT
NEW YORK, MARCH 2011                                                        CHRYSLER SPIRE : FINAL B&W VERSION

This week we return to New York in 2011, when Fran and I visited to plan Benjamin and Margaret's wedding. Through the power of the photographic archive, we can return to a simpler time, when people still crowded the subways, and Donald Trump was just an asshole local developer. Most of the images featured in this essay have never had a second glance since I captured them eleven years ago; it's a tribute to the opportunity that awaits you when you return to your archives. It's not like your original selects were not your best, but that your editing and post-processing skills have now allowed you to see the possibilities in images that you originally ignored because they weren't your "best."

                                                       THE BAT SIGNAL GONE AWRY : FINAL VERSION

Take these two images. I love the Chrysler Building more than any other skyscraper, and I am not alone in this sentiment. This image only began to sing to me after I cropped and straightened it in a deliberate manner that had nothing to do with the original capture. The power of monochrome is that the image looks a lot more realistic with a black sky than it does with a "real" blue one. The Empire State image shows the power of having to be there on a certain day at certain time, when some random contrails seemed to have marked a certain point in the sky. You wouldn't believe it if you didn't get to see it.


It happened to be St.Patrick's day, so you get a rare action shot by yours truly of a rare coed bagpiper squad. This was one of my few parade shots that came out at all; most of the rest of the day was spent trying to avoid the worst displays of drunken louts since I braved a soccer match in London in 1975. This parade featured a controversy over blessings at St. Patrick's, and of course my future daughter-in-law had something to say about it.

                                                        GOOD TROUBLE ON FIFTH AVENUE : FINAL VERSION


The Irish Brigade from the Civil War also made an appearance to honor their service for the Union.


Public drunkenness was not the only addictive behavior on display - we also took in lunch at the newly opened celebration of all things Italian, which included this minor display of Parmigiano, which might constitute the entire supply available in most American cities. Again, this is before we had to deal with Batali's indiscretions. A simpler time.

                                                       GRAND CENTRAL #1 : FINAL VERSION

                                                        GRAND CENTRAL #2 : FINAL VERSION

                                                       WAITING FOR THE 11:52 : FINAL VERSION

A New Yorker has a special relationship to the city's landmarks, especially after a lifetime away. There is no need for "the shot", since you have not only seen it duplicated thousands of times, but you have it implanted in your brain even if it was taken before your existence as a New Yorker. As Fran frequently reminds me, I never had to wait for "next year" because I hadn't yet been born. So our brief visit to Grand Central yielded these three snippets; only the last image has been seen since 2011.


I have shown a square. black and white version of this guardian of the Main Library before, but I now find this full-length "tourist " version a more surrealist take on its appearance on Fifth Avenue. It just belongs there among the stores, offices, and apartments that are just as out-of-this world as the statue.


Now some landmarks are so personal as to defy translation. I have always been fascinated by the granite outcroppings in Central Park, perhaps the only "natural" things in that very contrived natural landscape. How many other places offer a potentially dangerous rock scramble within site of skyscrapers? There are only two more personal shots I can think of, and am almost sure I don't have, the view through the front subway car, which I am told is no longer available. The other is a detail of the steel-trimmed stairs encountered upon entering the subway; this tells me more than anything else than I am back in New York, and I better pick up the pace if this "corn boy" is to avoid being swept away in a tidal wave of urban angst.

                                                       MADISON SQUARE DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

I always thought it was so helpful to be able to know the time even if your watch was a little inaccurate, and it seemed to connote a certain sense of adult responsibility if a company was willing to stand behind their clock. I only recently realized that I was old enough to remember the "Old Garden" even though it wasn't actually at Madison Square either. The name "Boom Boom Geoffrion" somehow appeared in my brain, and it took a trip to the Google to confirm to Fran that she shouldn't yet make a reservation for me at the Memory facility on Division Street. Of course the fact that she soon cited "Rod Gilbert" was no cause for worry.

                                                       FLAT IRON WITH LAMP POST : FINAL VERSION

                                                       FLAT IRON DETAIL : FINAL COLOR VERSION

Here are two of my out-takes of the Flat Iron Building, which might be the most photographed building in New York, if not the world. In fact, one of favorite photo books ever is one coffee table volume which just contains images of the Flat Iron throughout the history of the history of the photographic medium itself. It's hard to find fault with my modest efforts if your competition includes Alfred Stieglitz in 1904. I especially like my black and white version of the side of the building, which of course is in color. The clouds have created a beautiful pattern which is enlivening the stone facade and its oh so subtle bay windows. It's only when you see the real black and white version that you appreciate the colors.

                                                        FLAT IRON DETAIL : FINAL B&W VERSION

                                                       PROUD PARENTS : FINAL VERSION

I would be remiss to leave out the other reason we were in town, to see the premiere of the Box Colony's one-and-only production on Broadway. To say that Fran and I were walking on air a few stories higher than the pavement as we sauntered down 45th Street past Daniel Radcliffe in one theater and Benjamin and Margaret's production a few buildings down was an understatement.

So I hope you enjoyed a walk in Manhattan with me eleven years ago. It pays to revisit some of the old photos you rejected many years ago, because some of them are in fact keepers. Every image can't be the "best" you took that day, but it can still be yours.




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 25 Feb 2022 20:00:00 GMT
WHY WE FIGHT                            OMSI SIGN : FINAL VERSION

This week I would like to discuss the various reasons, or excuses, depending on my mood, that propel artists like myself to pursue our calling. The Market is about to start again and I have been thinking about my justification for getting up so early on Saturday mornings to sit under a bridge and try to sell my art. I admit that "Why We Fight", which I have taken from a famous documentary (propaganda?) film made by Frank Capra during WWII, might be a little too serious for this question. Yet historians have tried to explain why men are willing to fight, or to make art, since war and art began. In the end it seems to come down to be based not on politics, or ideology, or greed, or lust, but on the simple idea of not letting the guy next to you down under fire. Artists also have several motivations - money, prestige, fame, or just love of craft - but it often comes down to a simple desire for self-expression that can overcome every obstacle along the way.

                            OMSI SIGN : FINAL B&W VERSION

I think I've struggled with four questions about my art since I decided that for better or worse I was an artist about a dozen years ago. Lately i have begun to decide that discovery and self-expression are the best explanations I can come up with for pursuing my photography, since most of the other answers seem to lead to various forms of frustration. In this spirit I am going to contrast color and black and white versions of some of my images in this essay, as I try to illustrate the delights of discovery that can play a part in your artistic expression. I have related before how I've been creating an alter ego on the website 500 Pixels, where it seems that my avatar has never even contemplated taking a color photo. It has been interesting to see how I have been accepted by photographers around the world who find this perfectly understandable. At this point I am rapidly running out of photographs in my archives that I can convert into credible black and white images, or at least I had thought I had. But I have found that some images that I had long thought that couldn't possible work in monochrome defy my expectations. Now you can judge whether you think they still work better in color, and that's okay, but my point is that I didn't think a black and white conversion would work at all.  The discovery that I was absolutely wrong has provided me with a lot of pleasure these last few months.

                            EAGLE CREEK MOSS - FINAL COLOR AND B&W VERSIONS

The fact that I have a lot of affinity for these two black and white versions is not related at all to questions of art versus commerce. After a dozen years of banging my head against the wall I have absolutely no doubt which version has any chance at all of selling no matter what I think - and it doesn't really make a difference that the color versions aren't exactly ringing up sales either. I have finally come to realize that my art has a small but devoted following, and that some images work well at different scales, and in different forms, and it makes so little sense that "marketing" is even crazier than I have always believed. While I have been more successful than most artists can even dream about, actually selling my art has always seemed a delightful accident more than anything else. So as commerce has grown even more mysterious, I am finally going to use any commercial success as an excuse to just do what I want to as I pursue artistic discoveries of my own.

                                            ST.JOHNS BRIDGE : FINAL COLOR AND B&W VERSIONS

While I will insist to my dying day that my silhouette has elevated what is at best just a well composed snapshot into something else entirely, I no longer feel any regret in selling much more to said snapshot.


Here the conversion to monochrome has completely transformed the image - it seems to be two different cities, and I know which one I don't want to break down in.

So if  business is as problematic as my fair city's current reputation on Fox News, that puts me back in the hobby category where any self-respecting pensioner wants to be. It is a lot more settling in not worrying how I will make this week's rent and instead contemplating which image to print next. While I am not so calm as to agree with the famous street photographer Gary Winogrand who declared that "he captured images to see what they would look like as a photograph", it certainly seems to make sense to explore without worrying about commercial possibilities at all. And somehow it seems less crazy to go across town, as I did yesterday, to spend another $180 on three ink cartridges (my printer has twelve different colors) in spending on my "hobby" instead of racking up yet more business expenses.

                           FREMONT 4 : FINAL COLOR AND B&W VERSIONS

In the end an artist, like anyone else, just has to enjoy the process and not worry about anything else, within reason. I have to enjoy myself,  both in creating my art and trying to sell it. It pays to have a good woman who lets me be myself; Fran has even declared that she looks forward to missing me on Saturdays after working beside me for two years at home. So here's to the next phase in our continuing Covid struggle - please stay healthy and discover how to pursue your art, whatever it may be.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 18 Feb 2022 20:00:00 GMT

Since Fran and I did not get to travel to Hawaii this year, I thought I would take you all on a virtual vacation that I took this week through the archival files of our three trips to the Islands since 2015. I hope in doing so that I can encourage you to also take a virtual return trip to some vacation spot - you will enjoy some memories and I believe that you will find some images that you formerly overlooked. I frequently find that my initial edit of images from past trips has been a little too severe - there were a number of images, especially after some post-processing, that deserved another look.

                            LONE TREE, BIG ISLAND : FINAL VERSION

At one point in January I think at least half a dozen people we knew were traveling in Hawaii,and that doesn't even include our friend Miriam who moved there a few years ago. But when I found a few hundred photos that I had "lost" in my frequent explorations of what I call "The Missing" in my archives, I went on my own virtual trip, where I rediscovered some worthy images.

                            BLACK SAND BEACH : FINAL VERSION

                            NEIGHBORHOOD VOLCANO : FINAL VERSION

                            BIG ISLAND INVERSION : FINAL VERSION

                                                        JUNGLE PANORAMA : FINAL VERSION

These first six images already were part of my Hawaiian portfolio. It's not that I want to replace any of them, but that I found some more images that I had overlooked. Sometimes an image only reveals itself years after a trip.

                                                       KAUAI GREEN : FINAL VERSION

Upon reflection, this image seemed to exemplify Kauai as much as my seaside image, Kauai Blue. Just like that image, the colors were not enhanced, and in fact I almost de-saturated them since they seemed unnatural in their natural state. In this image, the correct white balance actually increased the intensity of the green forest - my camera had initially felt that no forest could actually be that green. In Kauai I often got the feeling that no matter how wild a place Fran and I got to, the surrounding vista had rarely seen a human at all.

                                                       DR. SEUSS SILHOUETTE : FINAL VERSION

This image immediatly jumped out at me when I looked through my archives, because I love a good silhouette much more than the next guy. This tree on a cliff looking down from the Napali Coast Trail seemed to symbolize the Island's unusual vegetation. My post-processing efforts improved the image in my humble opinion, by deepening the blacks to emphasize the silhouette, and by eliminating some vegetative "distractions" on the left side of the image.



The two participants in our travels. This was just the start of the trail, before the right side dissolved into a drop of hundreds of feet to the sea. Fran was smart enough to bring her walking sticks, while I was smart enough to insist that she did not have speed up or leave the comfort of the uphill cliff face so that young whippersnappers could pass us on the trail.

                                                       NAPALI COAST TRAIL :FINAL VERSION

                                                       NAPALI COAST TRAIL : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

One of the best hikes in the United States. This was our turn-around-point, about a half-mile in on an initial dozen-mile leg of the trail. It was more than enough, since it's mostly downhill from here, there's nowhere to stay, and once you get to the very dangerous beach down there, you must hike back a dozen miles uphill. I heartily recommend this hike, as long as it hasn't rained for a few days before you head out; recent rain would make it very dangerous. Color or black and white is a matter of taste.


In this case I thought that the monochrome version was much more dramatic, emphasized the silhouette, and elevated the image above the typical postcard. Hawaiian skies are more interesting than the clear blue skies of the stereotype.

                                                        JUST AN ORDINARY TRAIL-SIDE SCENE : FINAL VERSION

One of the things I love about Hawaii is that scenes you might think only a gardener could create are just natural occurrences along the trail. Sometimes it seems that it is harder to kill something than to grow it.

                            STUDY IN BLUE AND YELLOW : FINAL VERSION

Just because I'm in Hawaii doesn't mean I have to ignore details that while they don't scream "Hawaii" do demand my attention.


While I tried to create even larger panoramas of the latest lava field after our last trip to the Big Island in 2018, this small detail seemed to exemplify the destruction of a suburban subdivision more than my larger efforts. When I returned to my archives, I was even more impressed by this less "arty" shot. By the way, my horizon is not slanted, because my friends, the humans added for scale, are standing up straight.


This lava flow to the ocean was about half a mile wide and seven miles long.


I thought I would end this essay with another image that seems to yell "Hawaii" without attaching itself to any particular spot in the islands. I don't even remember where it was taken, but I sure was having a great time.








(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 11 Feb 2022 20:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to discuss the opportunities that await when you take a walk in a location where the photographic possibilities are less than stellar. Ordinarily new locations will engender creativity by their intrinsic novelty. Some places almost defy you to take a "bad" shot, resulting in an embarrassment of riches. There a photographer is faced with the problem of the tyranny of choice, with the result that when we are reviewing our images later we realize that had we taken just a little more time it would have allowed us to improve a particular image. But what do you do when you arrive at a location and realize that there is not that much to photograph?


     Are we getting farther from a snapshot with black and white or am I just fooling myself?


My answer is to fall back on what I am ordinarily interested in, and try to create an image that appeals to me, even if it hasn't much to do with the location itself. Of course you can take the few obvious shots, but I believe your best success comes when you concede defeat by the location and just see what you can find despite the apparent banality around you. This also is a good strategy when you discover that the location has some possibilities, but that you lack the equipment or the experience to take advantage of it - you didn't bring the wide angle or the telephoto lens, or maybe you have very little experience in wildlife or sports photography.

Having watched some incredible football over the last few weeks, I'll try a football analogy. The best coaches are adept at taking what the opposition is willing to give them instead of banging their heads against the wall. On the other hand, they also do not abandon the tactics or players that "brought them to the dance." So when you are confronted by a less than stimulating location, rather than just putting your camera away, try to both experiment and fall back on your visual strengths, to take what the location has to offer and to create imagery that is not location dependent. By distilling your vision, by concentrating on your particular way of "seeing", I feel that you can create images out of thin air - let others worry about "what or where it is."

                            MT. ST. HELENS OVER VANCOUVER LAKE : FINAL VERSION

Right now I'm thinking that my readers are thinking that Rich is more delusional than usual - I'm showing you images of glorious mountains and complaining about a location. These images were captured on one of the few nice days we had in January, when I walked along the Columbia near Vancouver, Washington. The park was pleasant enough, the weather was wonderful, the birds were abundant, but in general I was having a rough time finding something to shoot. Part of this was the casual response I might have to what visitors would find extraordinary. I'm not saying that the mountains aren't beautiful, but that after thirty years of capturing Mt. Hood sometimes it can be hard to find something new to say. So familiarity can be part of the problem at a location others might find very stimulating. So sometimes take what you can get. Are these the best images I have ever taken of Mt. Hood? No. But are they mildly interesting? I tried to use the river's reflections and the flight of geese to generate something new. Someone might think of these images as "studies", reminders to come back sometime at a better time or with different equipment. If I was a "proper landscape photographer" I might return to the river at dawn to capture a better reflection, or rent a very long lens to capture the geese larger above the mountain. And my very aggressive panorama cropping also makes these images more than a casual snapshot. But come on, how many photos of Mt. Hood can you take? Even a Mt. St. Helens portrait, from such a far distance, is mostly useful to scare Easterners when they realize that lump was once far more pointy than Mt. Hood.


Another problem I had with this location was the very thing that attracted most of the visitors - the birds. I like birds as much as the proverbial next guy, but I have long realized that nice bird images require a lens at least of the 400mm length. My 200mm zoom will not suffice, and it actually pains me to see people taking birds in flight with their phones, although i know it shouldn't. Here I tried to compensate with a long distance look at the reaction of ducks across the river in Oregon when some hunters intruded on their lunch. No one has to know that I actually miss-timed the shot -there were at least twice as many ducks a moment before. A tight crop removed most of the sky and the sun behind my well-placed Oak.


This image shows how I finally achieved one good shot after many meaningless snaps of a large flock of geese in a field nearby. The first solution was to get closer, to cross the road and get right up to the gate about twenty yards away. 200mm would now suffice, with a lot of cropping. I finally got somewhere when I crouched as low as my knees would allow, which put me down to geese level. Just like portraits of children, it pays to get the camera down to their eye level to appreciate their view of the world. I took the image when I realized that one goose had been volunteered for guard duty while his comrades pecked at the grass.

                                                       BOLLARDS : FINAL VERSION

Like I said, take what you can get, especially if it falls within your comfort zone. If my specialty is noticing things that others might not, for better or worse, then why stop when you are on a walk across the river? Who cares if this "says nothing" about this park, or Vancouver, or my feelings about the state of the world? It just excited me to see perhaps my first shadows of the year. Remember, just because you might thrill at mountains, a resident of Portland might just get giddy at a shadow. I also wondered about how so dangerous cyclists could be that would require such a phalanx of bollards to protect the adjacent field from harm.


This was my best image of the day, in my opinion, which might mean nothing to you. I was attracted to this slightly surreal scene of a beach volleyball tournament venue ready for action at least four months before anyone in the Pacific Northwest would conceivably desire a chance to play. My telephoto lens only increased the absurdity by reducing the distance between objects in the scene. It looks like it would be impossible to play on these courts, just like photographers make New York streets appear to be crowded by millions instead of mere thousands of pedestrians. I also enjoyed the photogenic net borders, and the way the very white poles contrasted with the dull sand. The panoramic crop also seemed to fit with the subject. If this image is about anything, it's about the nets, so who cares about the sky, or the trees, the river or the sand?


Photographers must learn to judge their own images without concerns about how much trouble they took to get the image - most viewers certainly don't care, especially when it comes to post-processing. Some people still feel it's at least cheating, but I feel that it is my art, and while I still have not replaced a sky, I have gotten more liberal about "distractions." At least at this scale of enlargement, software can enable the disappearance of distractions like monkey bars or cargo ships that do not contribute to the subject of the image. Of course, some might feel that these distractions aren't really that important, but it is my image. What you don't know can't hurt you, right?


I did my best to convert this image to black and white, but I couldn't achieve the impact of the pink nets. I used the On One preset that is somehow called "Machinist" for some reason, that rendered the pink as the lightest shade of grey than any of the other poetic presets available in the program. I'm getting more comfortable with this program for two reasons. I have realized that while it's effects might seem ridiculous at first glance, all it takes is to just lower the opacity to a more reasonable level below 50%. I have also finally discovered a book on the software, which allows me to use my best learning method. I'm still learning to cope with the fact that it is an "e-book", but I have begun to reconcile with the Twenty-first Century. After all, I doubt that many of you are printing-out my musings, and I am grateful for my "readership", no matter how you receive my essays. Thank you.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 04 Feb 2022 20:00:00 GMT
LOLLYGAGGING IN LADD'S I've been spending a lot of time in the archives lately because I've been having fun there, but I must admit that the alternative of actually going outside and taking photographs has been forestalled by the weather and the mood of the city. Downtown Portland, my usual subject, while not the urban dystopia as it is portrayed on Fox News, has lost a lot of luster across the course of the pandemic. I don't need to get angrier at my city's leadership, or lack thereof, by walking through Downtown these days. In any case, I can't remember a longer run of depressing weather in a long time. Nothing dramatic, and no snow or ice, but a windy, dark, and rainy 42 degrees in Portland doesn't propel any journeys outside longer than picking the newspaper off the porch.

So the first really nice day all of this young year prompted me to get out and create some images. It was so nice to be out in the sun that I ignored the fact that it was pretty cold out, a rare case of sunny, cold, and dry "Football Weather" that doesn't quite seem natural in our fair city. The blue skies in some of these images, while out of character, were not created in post-processing.

I chose to take my walk through a neighborhood about a mile from my house, a dozen square blocks of American Urban Paradise named Ladd's Addition. Ladd's is one of those neighborhoods in Portland that renders suburbia even more absurd than it usually is. I would challenge any metropolitan resident in America to find a real reason they wouldn't gladly move into Ladd's tomorrow. An historic district, Ladd's was created as an early suburban development near the turn of the Twentieth Century across the Willamette, a half mile from Downtown. Portland Mayor William Ladd  platted out the neighborhood from family farmland in 1891. While it took longer to "build out" than the Ladd family probably hoped, by the the 1930's the former farmland was a thriving community. Developers moved on eastward in Multnomah County, but rarely if ever achieved a neighborhood as nice as Ladd's Addition.

These images show some of the character of Ladd's Addition. The first is a detail of the central Circle in the neighborhood. I chatted there with a Chinese woman who had moved with her husband to America only two months ago and somehow found herself in the neighborhood. The trellis and front door are typical of the details found on speculative houses for working families back in the day. The two towers on the apartment building, built only as a "gift to the street", would not be allowed by today's zoning rules for violating height restrictions.

While the housing stock is nice, their are grander houses, better small apartment buildings, and I daresay even nicer Bungalows elsewhere in the city. Ladd's strength is the urban design of the neighborhood itself, with an attention to detail and amenities that puts other neighborhoods, even "richer" ones to shame. Other nice neighborhoods contain or border beautiful parks - Ladd's Addition is in many ways its own park. In some ways it is an urban American version of Venice; you will wander, get absolutely lost, and not care a whit.

These are two views of a larger civic building on one of the four Rose Gardens in the neighborhood. It was probably once a church, now a club of some kind. While it resembles a contemporary Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie House, it's all one big room, so it is not residential.

Architects who peruse a city map pride themselves on their ability to "read" a city, finding a city's soul in the street grid, the path of the river, or the location of highways and parks. A map can frequently reveal truths about an urban area before you even view a photograph of the city, much less walk the streets. I am no exception, and when I took a look at the street map of Portland and hoped to find an apartment, I concluded that Ladd's Addition was either one of Portland's best neighborhoods or yet another blighted urban renewal district. On the map it resembled nothing more than an arbitrary and desperate dislocation of the ordinary street grid that surrounded it. This New Yorker feared that it was another "project" that was divorced from the city.


This is a window on another large scale building which seems to now be a residence.

These were my prejudices, so I was blown away when I met the real place. Yes, the streets were suddenly all diagonals, and you were destined to get lost in the car or on foot, but the only thing that separated it from its surroundings in Southeast Portland was the immediate uptick in the urban experience once you passed into the un-gated community. It was the streets themselves, not the houses, or the lawns, or the fancy cars, that caught my eye. These diagonal streets led to a central park roundabout, but the grid also included not one, but four (!) single block rose gardens. The angled street grid led to many unusual lots, which led to architectural solutions far beyond the ordinary 50 foot wide by 100 foot deep Portland lot size. I walked on and on before I realized that one of the reasons these street seemed so damn pleasant was not due to the century old trees, or to the architects that proceeded me, but to the absence of curb cuts. Their were no driveways to break up the streetscape! Ladd's Addition is one of the few neighborhoods in Portland that contains a system of alleys that parallel those diagonal streets. Even the most modest bungalow will back on to an alley, which allowed for the new-fangled automobiles to either be parked in front or back, but not to carve up the lots. Both the mansion and the bungalow will have a proper front garden, and a path for humans to the front door. Amazing!

A modest apartment building of quality, whose right angles really show off the shadows created by an unusually sunny day.

So Ladd's Addition was really a triumph of urban design. The design quality even increased in the details. The major streets were bordered by street strips of planting that measured 8 feet, twice as wide as the strip in front of my house. Thus those gigantic trees move less of the sidewalks than they do in most neighborhoods, which saves homeowners lots of cash, since we must maintain the sidewalks broken up by the trees required to be planted in the strips which are actually city property. The preponderance of architecture from the early Twentieth Century, whether mansions, bungalows or apartments, insures a certain level of quality and detailing that is missing from Postwar housing much less than the crap built today. As an architect, I was inducted into the "Ladd's Rules" when I put an addition on a house in the neighborhood; not only were there quality rules for windows, siding, etc., but anything viewable from the street had to relate to the historic fabric of the neighborhood. It was shocking to me that the planner could tell the architect that my addition would never have been allowed if I had exceeded the roof ridge of the original house, despite no written rules to that effect. When he demanded an additional small window to "balance" the facade, I could only laugh since I have never met a window I didn't like. His insistence overcame my client's resistance to a window in her new shower.

The "Missing Middle" in action. Somehow the quality of a one-story duplex allows it to coexist with a Four Square three times as big and probably twice as expensive as both of the units in total.

The neighborhood also benefits from its moment in time. While Jews and Blacks were not allowed, the times also resisted the idea of large scale development, even of single-family homes. Thus pretty much every house was designed by a different architect, or at least in a different style. Thus the streetscape is a collection of very different houses, even if they are mostly from the same era. More important than style is the fact that the individuality of the homes extends to their very size and market themselves. On the same block there will be three-and-a-half story mansions sited next to one-story bungalows, some smaller than my own 1200 square foot home. This kind of housing designed for very different social classes at very different prices would never be allowed in today's market. When socialists like me advocate this type of mix, even in an affordable  development, we are shouted down as hopelessly naive. Yet Ladd's has allowed for different price points since the beginning, and now the racist exclusions are now gone. This inclusionary idea extends even to the presence of what Portlanders call duplexes and small apartment buildings in the neighborhood, right next to similar-sized single family housing. This is the "Missing Middle" that has become the flavor of the month in planning circles which consider single family homes as somewhat fascist at best. The concept works in Ladd's because of the quality of these projects, which I have no doubt would never fly in today's America. Why would a developer put any effort into a small house when he could make much more money building a large one? The "Missing Middle" works so well here because for the most part it is just as attractive as the neighboring single family houses, just smaller and attached. If developers would  build to these standards today, I couldn't see any arguments against density beyond parking. The trouble is that you could drag the typical developer to Ladd's, show him the duplex, and he would refuse to build it today, just like they refuse to build my bungalow, even though every young couple in Portland would literally kill me and my wife to get ours if they thought they could get away with it.

Yes, it's just a front stoop. But a curved front stoop leading to a porch on a small duplex? If you don't think this is important, think of today's typical shoddy wooden stair leading up to no porch on a comparable small house that the middle class can't afford.

The downsize of all this quality is that it comes at a price. Fran and I could only dream of Ladd's Addition in 1993. We finally found our bungalow in a working class neighborhood one mile to the east. I can map the gentrification of Portland by which neighborhoods young architects could afford over the decades. We "missed out" on Ladd's by 1993; we probably could have afforded it a few years before. Now our bungalow is one of the lowest valued houses in my neighborhood at around 600K; if it was transported to Ladd's Addition it would probably fetch 800K. Thus Ladd's is obviously not affordable, unless you think bungalows at 800K are more affordable than larger houses at 1.3 million. The benefit of a historical neighborhood is that the neighborhood is protected from demolition much more than my neighborhood. A single-family house will not be replaced by an out-of-scale duplex, each half costing multiples of the original. Rant over!

If you can't get a tattoo, at least you can smile. I don't know what the billboard is selling, but I liked the shadow of the cross that is now part of the advertisement.


January! Why not?


That branch probably died way before I was born.

Ladd's Addition is still part of Portland, so my walk included a few amusing signs, engaging tree trunks, and flowers in January. The unexpected is to be appreciated and sort of counted on in a strange way. It is impossible to convey the cacophony of a murder of crows on Elliott Avenue. Let's just say that if you live on that street you better like "caw" in a multitude of accents. There were literally hundreds of crows ensconsed on each block, and since I am not a nature photographer these two examples were the best I could do in the cold. I missed the one time they all flew at once, since they don't seem to be afraid of much of anything. Three passersby referenced a certain Hitchcock film.

Ladd's Addition is just beautiful, and I heartily recommend that you Google it to get some overall photos of the neighborhood to give you a sense of the ambience. I am an artist, so my images reflect my own concerns and my tendency to focus on details. I would encourage you to shoot what you love, even while wandering in a different neighborhood. These images reflect one person's experience of one nice day walking in the cold in one of the nicest neighborhood in America.

                            NEVERMORE : FINAL B&W VERSION

                           Now that's the mood I was looking for!

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 28 Jan 2022 20:00:00 GMT
REVISITING THE ARCHIVES                                                     STANFORD  ARCADE : ORIGINAL SNAP

This week I'd like to briefly explore the possibilities that are revealed when you look back to your archives to find images that you captured long ago and for some unknown reason never bothered to care about enough to see if they warranted post processing. Last year I finally acquired a scanner that allows me to convert my old prints and negatives into digital files. Thus I can rescue them from the purgatory of the one-hour photo processor. I will exhibit three different images that I believe I have rescued from the shoe box graveyard. I have utilized the On One software I have explored in my last two essays. While I could just have easily used Lightroom, I have been practicing with On One to improve my skills. I still have to discover a way to show you each stage of my editing process in On One, which seems to lack the "history" function of Lightroom, but I have done the workarounds required to at least show the original scan, the color On One version, and the black and white conversion. I will describe the various steps in the On One process; there is no guarantee that you will like one version better than the other, but at least I hope that you find something in these images to justify their rescue from the archives.

                                                   STANFORD ARCADE : FINAL ON ONE COLOR VERSION

This first image is of a loggia on the campus of The Stanford University, taken on a field trip with Benjamin to check out his prospective college prospects two decades ago. While my son had little chance of admittance at Stanford, I thought it was worth it to show him what a large campus felt like. We were both blown away by Stanford's size and beauty, and how unsuited it seemed for my son. Stanford was designed in the early twentieth century to both mimic European models and to show that culture had arrived in California. It's recent expansion signals the absolute dominance of nearby Silicon Valley; we had to sit down and stare at the entire newly-built Science Quad endowed by Gates, Packard, Google et al. This image is of a part of the earlier main campus, designed to evoke medieval precedents of the Spanish persuasion, as if the Conquistadors had decided to endow a college while they were subjugating the natives. I enjoyed the one-point perspective of the colonnade, and the harsh shadows of the Californian sun. The original image was good enough that I wondered why I had ignored it at the time, but Post processing allowed for several subtle improvements.

I opened up the shadows a bit to allow for some more detail in the wooden ceiling, while also deepening the blacks to highlight the loggia shadows on the floor. The usual sharpening algorithms revealed more details in the columns. On One contributed its "Glow" effect, which is part of its "Sunshine" preset. This raises the white point, lightening the highlights present in the sun/shade contrast without effecting the shadows. The glow slider adds a bit of halos around the edge of the shadows, like an overflow of intense sunlight. While I enjoyed these effects, the important thing to remember is to reduce their initial power by reducing the opacity of these extra adjustment layers. What you see in my On One color version is only a subtle effect, no more than 50% of the original. If you don't reduce On One's adjustments your image will look a little garish. It is a very good strategy to work on an image, take a break, and then return - I find that I will inevitably reduce the post processing a little further. You get used to things while you work on them, only to be "shocked" when you return. If the viewer is too aware of your techniques, you've probably gone too far. This is why black and white can be much more fun, since the viewer seems to accept more manipulation after the initial abstraction of black and white.

                                                   STANFORD ARCADE : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

I personally find this much more satisfying. Black and white reveals much more detail in both the columns and the ceiling. Yet it revels in the real subject of the image - the contrast between sunlight and shade. The shadows are better delineated even while the glow filter makes the sun in the courtyard seem as oppressive as it was that day. The glow spillover actually reveals the subtle pattern of the floor tiles for the first time.



This image of Mt. St. Helens jumped out of the archives as a rare, at least for me, winter view which I had forgotten about. I could not remember that day at all. The image didn't need much post processing; I increased both the blacks and white points to increase the contrast, and applied a one-stop exposure reduction in the sky. I will understand if these seem very subtle.


Again, your reactions might differ from mine. I can live without the brown tones in the valley, in exchange for the raw detail revealed in the black and white. The shadows on the mountain also seem to be emphasized in the black and white version.

                                                      WASHINGTON : ORIGINAL SNAP

Several years ago I took this shot at the Reflecting Pool on some no doubt too hot summer day. It shows the juxtaposition of the Washington Memorial and the Capital, which reveals the off-axis placement of the memorial. Washingtonians will also realize that I must be on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, since the higher viewpoint shows more of the Capital in the heat haze than the dome, which would be the only portion seen if I had been on the ground. The post processing tools available in On One allow me to remove all of the distractions present on the Mall, such as the temporary fences. I left the people for scale, but also removed the ducks, which at this scale appear as sensor dust. I even lopped off the tree-top in the distance, which seemed to be ruining the shape of the trees. Distraction is in the eye of the beholder.

                                                     WASHINGTON : FINAL ON ONE COLOR VERSION

All gone, at least at this scale. I've learned to work at the real 100% image size to make sure that it still looks good if you print it at larger sizes. I think you will agree that a little clean up has not distorted the image. De-haze controls have also brought back some detail to the distant dome, which is more than a hot mile from my location.

                                                      WASHINGTON : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

What can I say? Emotionally, black and white seems more serious to me, more "Meet the Press" if you will. I also feel younger, because the image seems older, or something like that. It's been said that images that are older than fifty-years-old are inherently more interesting, so even though this image is not fifty years old, who cares? You can even pick out the masonry on the monument, and the shift in color of the masonry one third of the way up is more apparent in black and white than in color!

These three images are not earth shattering, but they are not bad either. I hope you have seen that you too could resurrect some memories of your analog past into the digital age. Finally, I would like to kvell in the appearance of our house, which at the age of 111 years finally received what we think might have been only its fourth paint job. In any case, your government's largess allowed Fran and I to finally repaint the house. It was an adventure, but we are very pleased. Our painter was exactly what we deserved, absolutely meticulous but the worst businessman that I have ever met, outdistancing even myself in that department. What should have been maybe a one-month job at most turned into at least four, and finally  one of his friends had to come to the rescue to finish the job. On the other hand, he did a better job at less than half the price of any sane painter in Portland. And he had to deal with us too - I've dealt with our unique color-picking in an essay last year. If you reopen the blog you will see that the color comes from one of my most popular images, "Go By Train."  This vibrant red-orange now adorns our house, and we are so glad that we resisted the Portland  greys, blues, and tans that define our neighborhood. It is so different that most of our friends can't even find our house, which I for one don't understand at all. We now live in the Orange house in the middle of the block, and we love it.

                                                1993 : We have just moved in, and I have proudly placed a Betsy Ross flag on the house on July 4th to                                            honor our roots "back East." It was stolen the next day. Twenty-nine years later the house still needed the paint job it needed when we bought it.

     Red/Orange with a Yellow Gable and Trim, a Black porch, and "religious" stark-White trim on the porch and windows. Fran knew that she could have any window trim she wanted as long as it was White, since that's about the only commandment that her heathan husband actually believes in.                                                  GO BY TRAINGO BY TRAIN                                             WHAT YOU SEE IS WHAT YOU GET!






(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 21 Jan 2022 20:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to continue my discussion of my attempts to come to terms with a new piece of software to use to process my photos. Once again, I understand that many of you do not use any of these software techniques, but that this discussion can have broader implications on the topic of learning anything new, irregardless of the subject. My struggles with "Lightroom" and "On One" could mirror your attempts at learning a new language, mastering a sport, or doing your taxes. Remember, you don't have to necessarily like these black and white conversions better than the color originals. And just because On One is a Portland company doesn't mean you or I should give them my money, or even yours.

                           BAMBURGH BEACH : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION


The first point I'd like to make is that taking on a new learning curve doesn't necessarily mean that your old way of doing things was irretrievably flawed. I have my problems with Lightroom, but have largely mastered the program, at least to my level of required competence. I feel confidant that I can process my photos with enough control that I can do anything I need to do within Lightroom's limits. I am just trying to learn to use On One to see if it had certain advantages to Lightroom, in the spirit that It's sitting on my hard drive, and I might as well learn it. I think that both programs are very useful and could be the answer to your prayers; you can try both, as well as most other software, with free trials.



My main problem with Lightroom has been one of its major strengths, organizing my archive of images. This is almost totally my fault. Lightroom functions in a way similar to iTunes, in that it catalogues your images, or songs, without touching the original photos on your hard drive. Thus your Lightroom catalogue only refers to the photos on your hard drive. You must make sure to keep your catalogue healthy (don't ask about the many ways it can get sick) as well as understanding that the original photo files should be backed up and disturbed as little as possible. The analogy is to the old card catalog in the library, which shows how ancient this whole thing is. The book might be in the library, but if the little card is missing, you won't know about it unless you go look on the shelves. Lightroom soon falls apart if for some reason you allow the catalogue to lose its tether to the photo file.


Since I am one of the least organized people on this planet, my Lightroom catalog is a total mess. This is compounded by the fact that my original photo files are spread over four external hard drives, one of which is in hospice. I've spent the last month trying to make sure that I haven't lost too many files, and in that effort I have saved some, but probably re-catalogued thousands of files onto Lightroom that I had previously culled! I have listened to most of Lightroom's gurus on how to remedy these problems, to no avail. It has gotten to the point that my latest gambit is to put each of my important photos, let's just say several hundred out of tens of thousands, in their own individual "collection" composed of just that one image. Needless to say, this is is not the way Lightroom is supposed to work, but I pray that it might work for me.

                                            ROSE CITY : FINAL VERSION

                            ROSE CITY : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

On One tries to solve this problem by not organizing your photos at all. It functions more like a browser, looking at your photos on your various computers and hard drives where ever they are, no matter how "lost" they are. The trouble is that no organization means no organization, and so you are reduced to looking through your whole archive, organized or not, in order to find a photo. The photos are all there, arranged in folders that correspond to the mess of your original photo files on your hard drive. You can organize those original files better, but any attempt to organize On One threatens to bring up all of the problems that plague your Lightroom catalog! Since On One started as a Lightroom plug-in, they didn't have to deal with a catalog, since Lightroom already had one, thank you. When Lightroom went to the subscription model, and photographers went ape in their desire for an alternative, On One tried to incorporate all of the things that Lightroom had formerly been responsible for; the most blatant attempt was to introduce a "switch" button that would supposedly bring your entire Lightroom catalog into On One, intact. I think you can see how this might seem to be a shot in the dark, and risk bringing your Lightroom problems right into On One. Talk about a nightmare!

                            TANNER SPRINGS 2 : FINAL VERSION


My biggest problem with On One relates to my personal learning style. Everyone has a preferred way of learning things; some of it is individual, some might be related to gender, some to your age. Some like to learn on their own; others through classes. Some can learn from You Tube videos, others from magazines, others from a co-worker. Some learn best by trying things on their own, no matter how badly; others thrive on systematic, organized classroom experiences.  I learn best by reading books, and gleaning new knowledge at my own pace. A book allows me to pick and choose, and refer back, and I just find it comfortable. There are literally hundreds of books on Lightroom, and no matter how contradictory  or repetitive they are, I can usually learn at least something new about the program from each one. Unfortunately, and I will check with Mr. Google today, I have yet to find a book, no matter how lousy, on On One's software suite. That is the price you pay with trying a relatively new software, which just doesn't have the "ecosystem" of the industry leader. For me, all of the videos in the world are mostly unsatisfying replacements for one good book, and this has set back my personal On One education program.

                            TANNER SPRINGS 2 : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

This is compounded by my problem with most computer software, which is the ungodly search for "intuitive." I have come to appreciate that it is only intuitive to the idiot that designed the software, but of course that doesn't help in unlocking any secrets. I am flummoxed by most intuitive solutions, which don't even make sense to me after I've learned them. My son Benjamin's learning method, "just try that button", fills me with both the horror of breaking something and my indignation that uninformed speculation is now a learning method. His admonition that "help" is the route to hell doesn't help matters, if you excuse the pun. After overhearing a group of programmers discuss the "human interface", and thinking that was clearly the whole point, I once asked why programs didn't just include step-by-step procedures as available aids. This group of well meaning experts declared that my "geezer button" would obviously be wonderful, but would put them all out of business.

                           STREETS OF HOPE : FINAL VERSION

                           STREETS OF HOPE : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

So what have I found to be the strengths of On One as compared to Lightroom, based on my haphazard learning curve? I took at least one of Benjamin's precepts to heart, and resolved to convert all of these black and whites using the On One software and just trying something to see what happened. This experiment in terror yielded very good results, and I now feel somewhat confident in using the program, mostly based on not knowing what I don't know. I do know that it works best for me as a plug-in, because it allows me to continue to use what Lightroom does best while integrating some things that On One clearly does better. And of course I am more comfortable with my tried and true Lightroom solutions, which might change with more On One knowledge. The plug-in solution also allows me to use Lightroom's cropping and printing controls, which seem to me clearly superior to On One. And of course, the plug-in will return the new On One version to Lightroom, instead of leaving me with the sinking feeling that all was lost when I realized that if I started with On One instead of Lightroom,  I had to then export the image to my hard drive and then import it into Lightroom myself.

                            SALT & STRAW : FINAL VERSION

On one has several features that justify its cost on their own. One is the "Magic Eraser", which can eliminate "distractions" in an image, whether sensor dust, errant branches, electrical wires, or Aunt Mildred, literally just like magic. They are just gone. Even if it doesn't work, a second pass will do it. While Photoshop has similar controls, Adobe has never granted them to Lightroom. The "Resize" controls in On One are far superior to Lightroom's ability to enlarge a file way beyond its original size to allow for larger print sizes than the original out-of-camera file can support. While there are still enlargement limits based on the laws of physics, it is remarkable how much larger you can print an image using "Resize's" algorithms. On One allows me to stitch together panoramas out of several shots, which also was not included in my old version of Lightroom. And it also includes the capability to work with Layers, so that you can combine several images into one. I do not usually do this, but it is still the one thing Adobe will not allow into Lightroom.

                           SALT & STRAW : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION


What is interesting about competing software is that of course there is a constant battle of reverse engineering going on, so that new versions will at least attempt to include a new feature based on the competition's previous innovation. Sometimes, like cell phones in the Third World, one can skip an entire level of software innovation. Thus Adobe had to invent a new kind of Layer, "adjustment layers" to handle parts of the same photo; On One went straight to adjustment layers, which I use all the time. These are not really layers, but increasingly sophisticated ways to select just parts of an image to apply with that particular control. On One allows you to portion out an image by color, brightness, or myraid other ways, and apply your changes to just that portion, without resorting to artistically skilled methods requiring "brushing." Specificity of this kind has always been restricted to Photoshop.

                            MR. JEFFERSON : FINAL VERSION

On One's "effects" filters are similar to Lightroom's presets, but much more sophisticated and also allow for adjustment layers. Both can be used as unthinking shortcuts, but since the sliders actually move, you can see what the poetically named preset has actually done to achieve its effects. This transparency allows you to then tweak the preset to your own ends and taste. Lightroom, seemingly in an effort to provide employment for individual gurus, has steadily included less and less presets, while On One just keeps adding them. On One's can be so all-encompassing that they can seem less transparent than Lightroom's, but eventually you can see exactly what the program has done. In addition to the adjustment layer capability, On One includes a percentage slider for each part of the preset, so that you can tweak it down immediately to your taste.

                            MR. JEFFERSON : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

And tweak them down you will, since they are all heavy-handed to some degree. But as long as you learn to do that, and to only apply them where you need them in the image, they are very useful. Of course some are just idiotic, but we are artists, so we can avoid those, just like we can ignore their "names." Some are very good indeed, and they are previewed before you apply them. The Black and White conversion controls are more complete than Lightroom's, with many more "chemical" processes included, as well as adding "grain" (from specific film stocks!) if you are so inclined. The "Dynamic Contrast" filter offers another algorithm which combines contrast, de-hazing, clarity, and sharpening into one slider that sometimes works wonders on an image. The "Vignette" filter offers far more controls than Lightroom's, and the "Sharpening" controls are so complete that they seem to require a book on their own.

                            OREGON TRAIL : FINAL VERSION

This has been an interesting process for me. There are no magic bullets, but I haven't broken my computer or ruined any images. I have realized once again that there is more than one way to do something, and that I needn't apologize for a particular method, if it works for me. All of the images in these past two essays have been processed with On One. Are they better? No. Are they different? Probably, but not to a large degree. Are they inferior? No. Are some things easier, and others harder? Yes. As usual, a combination and a judicious application of post-processing seems to be the answer. The long-standing rule of working on an image only up to the point that a viewer does not recognize what you have done still applies, at least for me. And while I am still "in the box", I've opened the lid a little bit.

                            OREGON TRAIL : FINAL ON ONE FINAL B&W VERSION



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 14 Jan 2022 20:00:00 GMT

This week, in honor of the new year, I'd like to discuss the trials and tribulations and opportunities involved in learning new ways to do the same things you've always done in the same way. This old goat has been attempting to actually master a "new" software, to see if I can actually improve my workflow or find some advantages in an alternative product. In this process, I have been trying to "learn" in new ways as well. Some of the details of my process, and even my goals, might seem pretty esoteric to many of my readers, who are not as involved in post-processing their photos as I am. I do think that some of these strategies are transferable to learning any new skill, way beyond photography. These new skills can enhance or replace the old way of doing things, for better or worse. Often it just gets back to square one anyway, but one must "trust the process."

                            PAC MAN : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

Make no mistake about it, I am a firm believer in not fixing things that are working. Fran thinks that I am not even just "stuck in the box, but that I often actually invented the box itself. I don't experiment as much as I should, and I have never been comfortable in just trying something new for the heck of it. But in the past few months I have made the effort to break out of the box to feel more confident when I use a software called "On One" to supplement my steady post processing path based on "Lightroom", the tried and true industry leader. All of these images were converted to black and white using On One, and this week and next I will tell the story of what I have done and why. Most of the time there is very little difference between a Lightroom black and white conversion and a version done with On One, and that might be both the point and not the point at all.


Sometimes my hesitancy actually helps solve problems that occur with the introduction of new software. It is often said to above all avoid "beta" software releases that are experimenting with your data, but these days I would consider even new release or updates of software to be unproven despite their designer's approval. Let early adopters deal with the inevitable bugs, and wait for the real software, which will be 2.0 if you and they are lucky. Thus my "new" version of On One is from the later half of 2018, and I see no real reason to update to On One 2022 in the near future. I look at each new version, and it's not the monetary outlay that stops me, but the idea that I am facing a learning curve on software that I already "know" without seeing any real gains in the software. But it would be nice to feel more confident when I am using a software, even if it is "out of date." By the way, my Lightroom is version 5.8 which is so old now that it not only has been superseded by 6.0, but it is now the last Lightroom that you can actually buy!



Lightroom still exists, but newer versions can only be "rented" via monthly subscriptions. Having spent thirty years warning Benjamin that he should avoid never-ending monthly bills like the plague, it has been impossible for me to pull the trigger and rent new advanced versions, even if I do acknowledge that there have been improvements that might justify the monthly $10 bucks. After all, I am a professional, and it would be a business expense. It's just the principle of resisting corporate pick-potting, especially when my ancient version of Lightroom still works fine. In fact, the $100 dollars or so that I spent on On One brought me most of the new tricks of Lightroom's newer versions, at a savings of hundreds of dollars since 2018.

                            BLOEDEL RESERVE : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

So I have successfully stayed off the software carousel now for awhile, and thus also avoided the problem of newer software not being compatible with my old laptop. The last time I went to the see the geniuses at the Apple store, the guys gathered around to gawk at my 2013 MacPro which they alternately declared the best one ever made, while not believing that it still worked. They solved all of my problems, which were totally due to "operator error", and sent me on my way. So I won't change my software until my hardware breaks down, and I am forced to find new software that the new hardware can deal with. I am no longer even really scared by rumors that Adobe will no longer "support" Lightroom 5, since they  actually stopped doing so long ago. I am confident that I can transfer my files to On One in case I have to, which is one of the reasons I felt that it might be nice to actually learn this "back-up" software.


Photoshop, despite its name, was originally conceived as a killer graphic arts program for art creation of all kinds. Adobe couldn't believe it when photographers rallied around expensive software and became "gurus" even though they only mastered about 10% of a program that was so hard to learn that these gurus were now making most of their money by teaching others how to use the software. Adobe kept improving the software for photographers, and it just kept getting more complicated and forbidding. It was also so expensive, at $700 dollars, that many people were more than willing to steal it rather than pay for something that was both necessary and beyond the means of most photographers.


Adobe responded in two ways which for all I know are still studied in MBA programs as either incredibly stupid or brilliant. Some of the software engineers looked at Photoshop and started dreaming about what their software would look like if they just started from scratch and just designed a software just for photographers! It could be easier, quicker, leave out all the stuff photographers didn't need, and be inexpensive enough to encourage purchases rather than larceny. At $100 instead of $700 it seemed like a winning proposition, and the program was deliberately not designed as "Stupid Photoshop" but marketed as just faster and oriented to working photographers rather than artists. It allowed for "batch" processing of many files at once, to make life easier for wedding and sports photographers who typically take hundreds of shots an hour. Nobody at Adobe believed that any ordinary photographer would actually try to use this new software to intensively post-process one image at a time. They assumed that those photographers "knew" that that was what Photoshop was for, and wouldn't try to make do with Lightroom.

PULL HERE TO OPEN                            ECO-TRUST : FINAL VERSION

The second move that Adobe made was to allow other software companies to design software to piggy-back on the base programs of Photoshop, and then Lightroom. The thinking probably ran along the lines of "why don't we allow other companies to think they were improving the program while still requiring customers to buy the original program?" Adobe was in some way outsourcing their own research and development in order to make their own software more and more a required purchase. They probably figured that no one would actually try to design a new Lightroom if they could make money just tacking things on to the mothership.

PULL HERE TO OPEN                             ECO-TRUST : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION

This might have worked if their own engineers had resisted adopting all these new ideas to the Lightroom software itself. Each new version would include more new features to show how Lightroom was such a value proposition that these "plug-ins" were no longer required. Adobe was now competing with the same new companies it had spawned in the first place. Each new software company soon found some small niche that was obviously better at one thing than stodgy old Lightroom, and then Adobe was forced to respond. It was like the nuclear arms race, but the USA was competing with Costa Rica instead of the Soviet Union. As Lightroom improved and improved, Adobe was even competing with itself. Why should you buy Photoshop at $700 if you got an ever-improving Lightroom at $100? Adobe started to obviously artificially limit what the new versions of Lightroom could do in order to preserve Photoshop sales.


This was a recipe for disaster, especially when plug-ins started including the features that Adobe resisted adding to Lightroom. Now I could purchase Lightroom, and then buy a plug-in that would include most of the features that were included in Photoshop. I might be the world's worst businessman, but I now had serious competition at Adobe headquarters. When Adobe finally realized that they had ruined both Photoshop and Lightroom as products they could sell at a profit, they threw in the towel. As a "public service" they announced they would no longer charge for new versions of their software, and would instead improve it constantly, for just $10 a month, forever.


Like I said, this obviously upset everybody over the age of about anyone who actually would use the software. Most of the customer base was just speechless, and began a valiant search for new software so they could shove it to Adobe. The problem was that all of the other software alternatives were plug-ins to Lightroom, and it would take years for the other companies to respond to cries to include more of the things in their software that made Lightroom Lightroom. The trouble also was that there was actually nothing wrong with Lightroom -Adobe was just holding it for ransom. Eventually the kidnappers succeeded in getting most to give in, and geezers like myself have had to make do with old software that actually meets my needs on an old computer that, knock wood, still works.

                            BEAT-UP FORD : FINAL VERSION

I have obviously gone on far too long, and will again divide this essay into two parts. As I have grown older, I find more interest in the Business Section, not in pursuit of investment acumen, but mostly in engaging morality tales of the sins of the greedy. The more I try to be a good businessman, the less respect I have for business. And I even read the sports pages as a disguised morality tale of organizations run by billionaires that are now actually competing in a better-designed merit-based environment and coming up so short that I wonder hoe they made their money in the first place. Having told this tale of software boom and bust, next week I will discuss my journey to actually include On One into my workflow. All of the images included this week and next were post-processed with On One, but what's fun is it still is all my fault.

                            BEAT-UP FORD : FINAL ON ONE B&W VERSION


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 07 Jan 2022 20:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to end the year by continuing my round-up of what I consider some of my best work of the year, along with some more thoughts on my attempts to actually make money as an artist in America. On the whole my last eight weeks at Saturday Market went very well. After some initial doubts about my sanity, I enjoyed being back at the market, while resolving to change some of my ways next year. I remain convinced that I am a very good photographer, and a lousy businessman. I think the answer lies somewhere around the idea that if the businessman can compromise on his search for another "magic bullet", and just go with what actually works, I can afford to enjoy myself by not compromising on the actual art, and make my work even more personal. Above all, I need to work to make things easier for my workforce, namely me.


The first priority for next year is to continue my struggle to "bring less and sell more", which has become my goal ever since Fran introduced me to this novel concept several years ago. I have slowly become convinced that this is the way to go, that customers are more receptive if they are not overwhelmed by choices. The people who want more choices can be tricked by making them themselves, which I have been somewhat successful by leaving more stock in bins that they can explore to their heart's content. Even more important, I am reconciling myself to the idea that a person who really is moved by my art can show their appreciation by working just a little by ordering it off my website. Large art purchases are rarely done on the spur of the moment anyway. Fundamentally, by reducing the stock of what doesn't, or rarely sells, and also reducing set-up time for the stock that does sell, my enjoyment earnings will probably go up without affecting my actual earnings very much.


If all this sounds pretty easy, well remember who is talking. I have also resolved to pay more attention to price points, those elusive points where quality can seem a small price to pay for art. I have discovered that I am now at a price point lower than my less accomplished competitors on the low end, while at the high end I just can't compete with my fellow photographers who seem to be hell bent on giving it away. My answer seems to be threefold - possibly raise my lower price points, because I can, and keep my higher end the same because anything but drastic, and unrealistic reductions have never seemed to make any difference. The real trick seems to be finding that middle ground which I can persuade a possible buyer that they are getting a real steal, while also acquiring my art. Thus I am searching for a price point of about $100, which seems to be the upper limit of a random purchase, while not cannibalizing on what I already sell. I have enough failed concepts already taking up space in my basement.

These first three photos illustrate a few trends in my artwork this year. I have fallen in love with the 1:2 Panorama format, either through stitching several shots together or cropping into a strong horizontal perspective. I believe that it has real advantages over the typical 2:3 format, in that if an image is in a horizontal orientation, it probably deserves to be a true horizontal. For a person who usually crops to a square anyway, I find that this panoramic crop really says something different. It hones into the world in front of my camera without introducing the excessive overview of a wider 1:3 panorama, which is hard to fill with enough subject to justify its breadth. The other trend in my art is my love for the monochromatic alternative. All three of these images looked fine in color - but they all worked better as black and whites, so that is what they shall be.

                            CRATER LAKE DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

I have also learned some marketing lessons in the value of strength in numbers. The market works best when there are more vendors, not less, and I can even stand more photographers, since it will take them years to know what they are doing. On this theory I will become even more of a "fair weather vendor" than I already am - I am just not willing to put up with real discomfort anymore. I am also probably going to go only on Saturdays in the future, except possibly on incredibly beautiful Sundays in the summer. After fearing that setting up, and taking down eight hours later would feel impossibly stupid, I now realize how much fun it is to not have to go back on Sunday. While my hard work has gotten me enough seniority that I am out of the weather under the Burnside Bridge, I will never make it into what I call the "penthouse", which I believe is the only location which appreciably improves sales. Thus it makes even less sense than before in accumulating seniority points when I have achieved my place in the heirarchy, such as it is.

                            SMITH ROCK REFLECTIONS : FINAL VERSION

Despite our frequent complaints that Saturday Market is not really an "art market" that promotes visual artists, I learned a valuable lesson on my last day of my selling year. A new local art gallery(!) on Division Street invited me to show some of my wares in an outside space (think outside dining) that they had procured in a parking spot in front of the gallery. It was covered, heated, and right outside the front door. Yes, it was a horrible rainy day, but that wasn't the problem. My art was very accessible, well lit and displayed, but the public was not expecting to find me there. It wasn't just that after three hours and no sales and finishing the newspaper that it was time to leave. I had not had any interaction, much less a meaningful one, with any one at all. It wasn't like anyone was making any money. The barber down the street had about six customers in three hours. The gallery owner paid her son much more in minimum wage than the gallery made while I was there. What was very illuminating was that even though about one hundred people actually went into an art gallery, they couldn't even take a second to look at my art right outside, even with eye contact and a hello. While Saturday Market vendors frequently grouse that "it doesn't seem that people are aware that these objects are for sale", at least they have been trained to at least give them a look-see. It's all about the expectations of the selling environment, and I will try to restrict my involvement to those times where I can sell more, or at least have a pleasant time. Such dreams.

A number of my "best" images this year were taken many years ago. I have always had a lot of fun post-processing my images, and part of that exercise has always been trying to find some hidden gems in my archives. This year I had the additional desire to find images for my latest photo book, a survey of my images of Oregon beyond Portland. It provided an excuse for my latest toy, a real scanner that allows me to convert my old prints into digital files so that they can be useful in this digital age. More importantly, it allows me to process the image, rather than relying on the minimum-wage one hour technician of yore. It can be amazing what you can get out of an old print that you were ready to throw away, once you have actually processed it yourself. My God, I wasn't that bad twenty years ago after all.


                                                     EASTERN OREGON LICHEN : FINAL VERSION

                            VINTAGE CANNON BEACH : FINAL VERSION

These five images all were included in my new book. Upon inspection of my archives, I discovered a few images that surprised me. Despite the lack of a wide angle lens, I had made a few nice images at Crater Lake. I had made an image at Smith Rock just a little different than my own rendition of everyone else's Smith Rock shot. Even though I couldn't tell you where those mountains were until the New York Times published an eerily similar shot in their coverage of this year's forest fires. My attention to detail found some color in the High Desert. And it turned out that I was capable of taking a fairly conventional image of Haystack Rock and post-processing it to be as timeless as it really is.

                                                   GRAND CANYON OVERLOOK : FINAL VERSION

                                                   CHICAGO : FINAL B&W VERSION

Even more interesting to me was to leaf through thirty years of prints and to find a few images that struck me as seriously "not bad at all." The Grand Canyon is notoriously one of the hardest places to photograph, since its overwhelming majesty seems to defy expression as a small two-dimensional image. But among the numerous failures, I did find this image which believes in some way conveys the power of the place by concentrating on one beautiful tree on the edge of the North Rim. The other image seemed to leap into my hands as "Chicago", especially it is a rare (for me) original black and white film rendition. The giant Calder statue is very red and is usually seen in front of a modern Miesian skyscraper on the other side of the square; I like my black sculpture in front of an older type of Chicago skyscraper.

                            REAR WINDOW : FINAL VERSION

These final images shows how black and white can benefit a long-standing image that I had always seen as a color shot. I took this image from a downtown parking garage when I realized that it was right across from a dance studio on the third floor of an old office building across the street. Uncharacteristically I took some action shots of one dancer peacefully practicing. I of course recognized the surreptitious nature of the image by labeling it "Rear Window" as an homage to Hitchcock, but I had been careful to not show the young lady's face, and this image was right smack in the center of one hundred years of street photography in both legal and ethical terms. As a coaster, it was reasonably popular, especially among dancers as you might expect. Then one day a middle-aged woman showed up in my booth and literally started screaming that she would sue me for all I wasn't worth if I didn't remove her daughter from my art gallery. Rather than argue, I stopped selling it even though I was well within my right to do so. I didn't even remember the image until I started looking for black and white photos to show on my 500 Pixels site, where I only showcase my black and white imagery. I have garnered some interest as I am what my "public" there assumes as just another old geezer who has never taken a color photo.

                            REAR WINDOW : FINAL B&W VERSION

I feel this rendition is much, much better, and I might even risk Mom's ire again to show it. The straightening out doesn't hurt of course, but look how much black and white allows me to concentrate on the dancer. It realistically allows me to cut down on the interior clutter and the reflections in the window by just reducing the exposure beyond the dancer to near zero. The reflections and scratches on the window are still there but all attention is on the white shirt, which was actually a beige that matched the brick color. Mom must be mistaken since her daughter now has black hair.

So that's another year of photographs, and I am grateful for all of the readers out there who read what I write on "Blog Wednesdays." Like my books, it has given me something to do during these pandemic years, and I appreciate your interest. Unless there are some literate bots out there, about 119 people on average read this blog every week, which is pretty amazing to me. If you are interested in my exploring a particular topic next year, or just want to tell me off, I encourage your comments on these postings. Happy New Year!



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 31 Dec 2021 20:00:00 GMT
2021 : BEST IN SHOW PART ONE                             ROSE CITY RAIN : FINAL VERSION

This week I would like to indulge in two end of the year activities, and I hope you find them interesting. The Market has closed for the year. I can rethink for the next few months, so I will try to tell some stories of marketing art this second pandemic year. In an effort to provide some images during that discussion, I took a stab at presenting some of my favorite images from this year. Ansel Adams famously said that a photographer should be very proud of coming up with a dozen good images a year, and in that spirit I went through this years crop, allowing myself two caveats - I could include some images from 2020, since these past two years have sort of run together. Since Ii have spent a lot of time this year going through my archives and extolling the value of taking a new look at old images, I've also included some of my best vintage images that were either transformed through post-processing this year, or even just rediscovered.

                            FLORAL EXPLOSION : FINAL VERSION

After being away from the Market since March of 2020, I returned for the last eight weeks of the season, and it was a shock to the system. The Market has only been open on Saturdays since the pandemic originally closed it down in 2020. Since I was getting unemployment from my gig at the hardware store, I couldn't afford to go to the market even if I had wanted to. So, despite unbelievable reports that business was great, I stayed away until unemployment finally ended. Of course that was the end of October, so the boom immediatly stopped upon my return, but I'm not complaining. It was a lot of fun to be back selling my work, and on the whole I did well.

                            BLACK AND WHITE FLORA : FINAL VERSION

Which is not to say that my return to the Market was not without it's frustrations. That first weekend I had the impression that ten years of experience meant nothing, and that I couldn't do anything right. I found myself literally staring at a bungee cord, not remembering how it worked. The alarm at 5:30 AM was the least of my problems, and I finally "finished" setting up at 12:30, two-and-a-half hours after the market actually opened. I was so fashtummeled that it was a miracle that I sold anything at all.

                            CHERRY BLOSSOM DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

The next few weeks were better as I gradually re-knew what I was doing. It remained a very long day, since I had to pack up everything, including my tent at the end of the day. Even Fran admitted that I was allowed to be tired even though I worked only one day a week, since that day was over twelve hours outside. I gradually finally started bring less to the market, something I had been struggling with over the last five years. It's not only me, since the photographers have two problems at the Market, both of which lead to bring more and more stuff despite logic. The only vendors who need more "sizes" than photographers are T-shirt people, since customers inevitably love an image but want it bigger or smaller, and there goes another sale. Since photographers are making art out reality, we also face the problem of not bringing an image of a subject that a customer suddenly realizes that they need, but is back in my basement - they kind of think that a Portland photographer should have that image. It's not the same as a painter, who more closely follows Fran's retail theory of a customer not missing what they do not see - "if they don't see the red one, sell them the yellow one." Unfortunately, potential customers actually know what is missing. The result has been that traditionally the only vendors who take longer putting their wares away are the potters, whose work is even more fragile.

These first four images are all floral portraits, which while I enjoy I had largely left aside in recent years. The problem is that I lacked three key pieces of equipment that could improve my images. I do not own an expensive macro lens, so that in many ways an Iphone is actually better for this work than my SLR. Even more specialized is the expensive ring flash that really separates the men from the boys. And while I will bring along the tripod, I don't have an assistant to hold the black foamboard behind the blossom that gives that great black background. But the pandemic so limited my usual travel that I found myself taking floral portraits again, and I liked these four the most. I spent a day by myself in the rain at the Rose Garden, but also found subjects in Fran's garden. I even limited my view of this year's Cherry blossoms to just a couple of blossoms instead of even one tree. I've also had fun converting flower images into black and white, a perversion that is challenged only by black and white sunsets.

                           BEACH GRASS DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

Another problem that I face at the Market is my over-exuberance on subject matter, especially when I discover a new "magic bullet" in my marketing efforts. Despite my resolve to limit my efforts until they have been proven, I still run things up the flagpole even when the flagpole has fallen down. My photo coasters have kept me in business for over ten years, but this year I finally reached something of a compromise with myself by cutting down on coaster production in an effort to reduce the "tyranny of choice." Over the years I have tried over 500 different images on coasters, both in an effort to keep me amused, and to actually appeal to different audiences. I realized that by allowing customers to pick out the images they wanted, to mix and match, I was allowing an "unpopular" image to actually provoke the purchase of a set of four. Thus car guys, and flower gals and animal fans could be coaxed into a set of coasters that also included the most popular images that went along for the ride. The trouble was that by the end I was actually displaying 200 images, and usually selling one each of dozens of different shots. It was all too much, and this year I finally held it down to fifty or so, and what they didn't see didn't hurt sales.


My second magic bullet plodded along at the Market this year, but again I think I learned something. I was the first photographer at the Market to display metal prints, with my images printed on aluminum sheets. These are so beautiful that people can't help themselves, except that the premium prices required usually keeps them just looking and not buying. They set up a completely bifurcated market, with rich people wondering why they are so cheap (they are a reproducible product) and regular people wondering why they are so expensive, which they are. Thus I am left with an inordinate amount of what vendors call "billboards", which bring traffic into my booth but rarely leave it. So while I have sold thousands of dollars of metal prints over the years, I usually have thousands of dollars of stock on display in my booth on any one day. The real problem with the metal prints was that they ruined the value of every paper print I had created. Despite any logic, customers refused to buy a paper print after they saw the metal print that I couldn't sell a paper print until I had reduced their prices to nearly below my cost to produce them. They wanted the best version of my work, but they refused to pay the price or to settle for a version that while it wasn't the "best", they could actually afford. After years of frustration, I have finally resolved to concentrate on the lower price points of smaller metal prints, and stopped replacing any large prints that actually sell, which they haven't. I also raised prices on the large prints, since after some experimentation lowering or raising the price didn't make a damn's worth of difference. And my price to buy the metal prints went up as well. So I will, I swear, bring more smaller prints and leave the big ones at home. We'll see how it goes.

                            COASTAL SUNSET : FINAL VERSION

My third magic bullet, which I call the miniature, has cooled down as well. Another element of frustration that surrounded my coaster success was that I never could translate the coaster to the wall. I couldn't add any "frame" that seemed to make sense to convert the coasters to wall art, especially since any customer with half a brain realized that of course they could do it themselves. Thus the coaster, which originally was a mistake when I ran out of wall space and put some of my small prints on a table, now could never make the transition back to the wall. People looked at me and said they couldn't put them on the wall because they were coasters, after all. Then they would graciously email a photo a few months later of their brilliant installation of four coasters on the wall! I finally came up with the miniature, a coaster on a thick wood block, that finally seemed to be the answer, even though several customers insisted they could work as coasters. They obviously are more accurate with their glass than I am after a couple of beers. Even though I refused to make more than one copy of a miniature until I had to replace it, you know what happened. I soon had made more than I could possibly display. The problem was compounded because since they were no longer coasters, I could finally make miniatures that weren't squares, so I soon had three more sizes to display. I then realized that people really only seemed to want the square ones! So I have finally resolved to canibalize the unsold images when I need to replace the rare sale of a miniature, and maybe just display the other sizes at home.

                                                        NORTH JETTY PARK, FLORENCE : FINAL  B&W VERSION

My final magic bullet is almost dead. I created posters in a fit of creativity when I realized that I could have a poster if I just straightened out the four coasters I printed on a sheet of photo paper, finally came up with a common theme, and printed Portland and my name on the bottom of the paper. This unused portion had been formerly used as the world's most expensive shopping list. You can see why market vendors can proclaim themselves geniuses and five minutes later realize they are dufusses because it took them years to come up with such an obvious idea. I allowed myself to think that I could always just cut up the unpopular posters into coasters if they didn't sell, and I was off. They sold, because I framed them with cheap frames I got at Walmart that were cheaper than any I could buy online, even at! The price was so low that I could give the poster away, and still make about 8 times what they cost. I only raised the price when customers proclaimed that my price couldn't possibly include the frame. After I had nearly doubled my price, and was spending too much time at Walmart, I faced an unsolvable problem. I had justified my low prices for my art on the theory that it was only a poster, and it had my name on it after all, so it was kind of an advertisement. The trouble was that my fellow photographers were suffering so badly that they kept reducing their prices for matted paper prints to the point that they were now competing with my cheap posters, and of course taking up valuable counter space. So now in an effort to reduce inventory, they have been reduced to packing material, with no worse for wear, serving to separate metal prints in their boxes. I have to still decide whether to re-introduce them, or just to use their back sides to print more coasters. We shall see.


Well I hope that has given you some insight into the struggles of this particular artist. Remember that I am among the world's worst businessmen, so I am actually proud that I actually make money, if not a living, selling my art. These coastal images were taken on the two trips that Fran and I were blessed with this year, to the coasts of Central Oregon and Southern Vancouver Island in Canada. I will now call it a day, now that I realize that next week is still this year, so my year-end blog post will end with a stunning wave, and you will have to wait for next week to see those gems I rescued from the past in 2021.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 24 Dec 2021 20:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to explore the idea that an image can support many interpretations, not just the one the photographer has labeled the "FINAL VERSION." There are many decisions that photographer makes along the way, and most of these are not "wrong" even though that photographer might eventually choose another path. Often it's just a matter of taste, or a desire to explore different interpretations of the same image. While you might actually like one of these paths better than my final version, that also doesn't prove that either of us is wrong. A fine image can support a number of interpretations, as I hope you will see in these examples. Most are carried out in the alchemy of post processing, and each of us has a different limit on what we can accept in the process of changing an image, and that is also okay - after all, this is my art. While the image could appear in the New York Times as the quintessential image of autumn in Portland, it didn't, so I'm allowed as much deviation from the "truth" as I want. Remember that is in my lifetime that the first color image appeared in the paper of record; now when a black and white photo makes the front page photographers sit up and take notice.

                           AUTUMN RAIN : ORIGINAL COLOR VERSION

As you compare these two images, you can see that I didn't change much from the original color version. About all I did was increase the exposure by about 3/4 of a stop,well within the range of what you can do when you don't completely blow the exposure, which a professional like me doesn't admit to doing that often. The mood has been lightened, but it is still pretty somber. This is the view from my tent at Saturday Market at the end of October in 2015. I am not having a very good day, revenue wise, and have enough time to take out my phone and take this snap. This image proves how much detail you could get out of your phone seven years ago, even when taking an image that the phone is not really made for, like this urban landscape. I've done all the usual adjustments, like sharpening and it's opposite, noise reduction, and will attempt to keep these constant as we explore these options.

                            AUTUMN RAIN : HIGH KEY COLOR

Here we've lightened the mood about as far as we can go. There only areas of the image that have blown out, even though I've increased the exposure by two stops, are the specular highlights of the streetlamps that have just turned on. The only trouble is that in color we've lost a little realism, since we don't know why the lights are on at all.

                           AUTUMN RAIN : MUCH LATER THAT DAY, LOW KEY

While I took this image at about 3:00 PM, it now looks like it's at least 8:00 PM, and I'm safely back at home. What is again interesting is that the only area of the image that is actually underexposed is the nearest light pole. While our vision is used to the idea that color saturation fades as night sets in, I think you will see that these two extremes look much more realistic when we convert to black and white. That is why black and white can allow the photographer much more range for interpretation.

                            AUTUMN RAIN : IN THE RAIN

Before we head into black and white, I'd like to show a brief foray into deliberately changing the mood of the image. Here I've actually lowered the "clarity" of the image, using a tool that is normally used to subtly sharpen the image. By lowering the clarity, it now appears even more "rainy" than it actually was, almost as if the rain had hit the lens of my camera. Interesting.

                            AUTUMN RAIN : BLACK AND WHITE

Here is the straight black and white conversion, with a little more detail perhaps, but also a touch more dismal in mood. From here we can get much more out of this image.

                            AUTUMN RAIN : LIGHTEN THE MOOD

We can move toward a high-key interpretation by lightening the lower portion of the image. The foreground has now become more reflective, which implies that the sky above is actually lighter than it was at the time.

                           AUTUMN RAIN : HIGH KEY

Here we've gone all the way - it now appears that this is a sun shower, and maybe in early March rather than October. You would swear that the Cherry Blossoms were pink rather than orange. The portion of the city across the river has completely disappeared in the fog, which is really heightened exposure.

                            AUTUMN RAIN : LATER THAT DAY

Moving towards low-key, and the mood has gotten a bit grimmer. I think this version is more realistic than the color version, but that's only my opinion.

                            AUTUMN RAIN : MYSTERY

I've increased the contrast so much that even though the sky is brighter, it now appears that the lights are set for later in the day. In my opinion, it lends an air of private-eye mystery to this river bank in Portland.

                            AUTUMN RAIN : 'ROUND ABOUT MIDNIGHT

I'm back in bed again, and I swear that often the night sky in Portland is this bright long after the lights come on, especially when you are near some streetlights.

                            AUTUMN RAIN : BLACK AND WHITE IN THE RAIN

What is interesting to me is the same strategy to lower the clarity and to increase the"rain" seems to just muddle everything instead of heightening the humid mood. This is one of the few times that the technique seems to work better in color.


                           AUTUMN RAIN : WARM TONE

It is now time to enter the wonderful world of toned images. These are still black and white, but with an added tone that subtly or weirdly colors them, depending on your point of view. They are monochromatic, but no longer true black and white. Most of the time the lightest portions of the image are most affected, which can affect the mood of the image. The fact that they can appear to make the images appear even more nostalgic is due to their origins in the darkroom. Prints were toned with additional toxic chemicals in order to increase their durability, and photographers either accepted or delighted in the color shifts these chemical preservatives lent to the image. The fact that we no longer need to do this speaks to their becoming a part of photographic history that speaks to mood rather than just nostalgia. Most black and white photographers I know actually prefer this warm tone, but I am in the minority who prefers his whites whiter, even though I know I'm being picky.

                           AUTUMN RAIN : AGED PHOTO (GOLD TONE)

Lightroom calls this preset "Aged Photo" which is just a little too poetic for my taste, but it resembles a gold-toned photo. If you're going to used a chemical toner, you might as well go for the gold. This was pretty expensive, until platinum printing came along.

                            AUTUMN RAIN : SELENIUM TONED

Now this is more to my taste, but you might not share my opinion. The chemical selenium lends a subtle blue note to the proceedings, and since I love Jazz as well as cooler tones, it is a natural for me. I equate the blue tones with water, so this water-logged scene speaks to me.

                           AUTUMN RAIN : SEPIA TONE

This option, in my opinion, is to nostalgic  for its own good. The brown sepia tone was the most popular chemical tone, and almost screams 1886. This scene would not contain the park, or the sea wall, but would show plenty of wharves and ships. My taste, as I said, tends toward cooler tones anyway.

                           AUTUMN RAIN : SURREAL BLACK AND WHITE

While I don't think by any means that we've explored all of the possibilities, we have gone pretty far afield from the original image. This final image explores the surreal by only selectively de-saturating  the image. Only when you have inspected the image for awhile do you wonder why those vintage streetlamps seem to be in color on an otherwise bleak black and white day. I just de-saturated everything except yellow, and only a little of the fallen yellow leaves follow along with the lights. Black and white allows us to go way beyond reality without spoiling our fun, since we have already accepted the abstract notion of black and white itself.

I hope you have enjoyed this trip through some of the possibilities of an image, once you accept that you are in fact in control of the viewers perceptions through post-processing manipulation. What is funny is that this grim day seven years ago was a lot more fun than last Saturday at the Market, which saw me abandon ship for the first time in a dozen years. I shouldn't have gone at all, but after two hours of set-up and two failures of trying to erect my booth, I showed enough maturity (my wife's words) to give up and come home. I had to sprint  to catch my runaway tent, saved only by the port-a-potties from ending up in the middle of Naito Boulevard. Please feel free to comment with your favorite interpretation , and wish me luck this last weekend of the year at the Market.







(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 17 Dec 2021 20:00:00 GMT
ANOTHER CACHE FROM THE ARCHIVES                                                     GRAND CANYON, NORTH RIM : FINAL VERSION

This week I would like to take you on another excursion through a tiny portion of my archives, courtesy of my scanner. I took a few minutes last night to resurrect a dozen images from obscurity, some more than thirty years old. I recommend you try this every once in a while, because you might be surprised what you might find. Often you find "rejects" that deserve a second look, either because they were overlooked because another image was deemed more worthy, or because the one-hour photo technician so mangled the file that you never even considered the image. These happen to be film photos that have been converted to digital with the scanner, but you could also find gems in your digital files. Either way a short post-processing session could bring back some pleasant memories along with a renewed respect for your formerly forgotten photographic endeavors.

                                                    KIVAS AT MESA VERDE B&W : FINAL VERSION

These first four images come from a trip to the Four Corners area about twenty years ago. This part of the country is so varied and beautiful that two weeks barely scratched the surface. In fact, I could easily fashion another month of travel by visiting the areas we skipped on this trip. These images were placed in albums and rarely viewed, but upon inspection deserved another look, especially since I didn't have the ability to process the images myself at the time. The Grand Canyon image, like most, has no chance of delivering the magnitude of the canyon, but it's attention to one wonderful tree on the edge shows what you can do by avoiding the wide view, which seldom works anyway. I have found that Grand Canyon images either depend on a magnificent sky, or an intense view into the canyon that avoids the horizon altogether. My effort follows that pattern, which depends on coaxing detail out of the background which is completely lost in most snapshots. I've been to the Canyon only this once, to the North Rim, which I recommend only because other people sometimes diss the South Rim, which I'm sure is also fantastic. By the way, the best photographer of the Canyon is Alan Briot, who proves that you shoot what you know best, since his "booth" is on the porch of the El Tovar Hotel on the South Rim, where he sells prints to tourists that know they cannot approach his artistry. Google him to see that images can begin to convey what you remember about the Grand Canyon.

The next image is from Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado, home to one of the largest cliff dwellings in the area. This detail focuses on several kivas, sunken ceremonial portions of the ancient apartment house. The conversion to black and white really brings out the details and textures that were not apparent in the original print.

                                                    BRYCE DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

You have got to get to Bryce National Park in Utah if you haven't gotten the chance to visit this magnificent landscape. The sculpted hoodoos that fill up an entire valley will blow you away, especially if you are an orange fan like myself. The park allows for hikes into the canyon so you can get detail shots like this one instead of just the ordinary spectacular overall view. Try to get some of the pine trees into your image, as the contrast of green and orange really brings out the colors more than just a sea of orange. This image in no way resembles it's one-hour forbear, which was completely overexposed and washed out. You would think that I didn't know what the heck I was doing.

                                                    CANYON DE CHELLY DETAIL B&W : FINAL VERSION

The big surprise on this trip for me was the Canyon de Chelly on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona. I was unaware of this remarkable area, a place of refuge for the Navajo in their long march pursued by the American army, and since then an oasis in the High Dessert of the Colorado Plateau. The canyon is a multi-pronged depression that is lost in the vastness of the reservation but contains the best farmland in the entire area, with a micro-climate unlike the surrounding desert. We had the wonderful opportunity to take a guided jeep trip into the canyon, led by a Navajo man who was only allowed to lead trips because he had married into a family that lived in the canyon. I will never forget when this gentleman showed this New Yorker his hogan, a traditional Navajo dwelling lost somewhere in the distance, and declared that he was moving because the immediate area was getting too crowded for his taste. If you want to learn more about Navajo history and culture, you should pick up a mystery by Tony Hillerman or his daughter, Anne Hillerman, who explore crime and punishment on the vast reservation. 

                               GEHRY LANDSCAPE B&W : FINAL VERSION

We will now take a whirlwind tour of Urban America, in a series of images taken across the country. These are not my best images from these places, which is one of the reasons why they were forgotten. But every image can't be your personal best, and other images can expand the story or bring out different aspects of the site. And just because an image is not "your best" doesn't mean it can't be explored now that you have more control over an image's interpretation. The Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles is like a gold mine for photographers; in fact, if it wasn't actually such a great piece of architecture, it would almost be a crime that it is so photogenic. It is pretty hard to come up with a bad composition, especially if you are content to focus on individual moments of its swirling form. I've left out the ground plane and the sky (and the almost inevitable fashion model walking through) to concentrate on the curve and its reflection. I especially enjoy the "fish scales" beloved by Gehry which are just reflections of straight lines and exist in my photograph despite their absence in the real world.

                                                    BIMBO'S B&W : FINAL VERSION

                                                     CALIFORNIA LINE : FINAL VERSION

Here are two images from San Francisco which in some way sum up the city's appeal for this observer. The first shows how the city subverts its own classical Mediterranean style by its casual embrace of hedonism. The Coit Tower on top of one of the hills co-exists somehow with Bimbo's on the bottom. A New Yorker can only gasp when he realizes that these people were crazy enough to put a grid on a mountain and then invent a mass transit system to overcome it.

                                                    CHICAGO IN BLACK AND WHITE : FINAL VERSION

This snippet of Chicago plays with a monumental sculpture in front of a prototypical early Twentieth Century Chicago skyscraper. If I focused the other way through the sculpture I would no doubt have a mid-century Mies skyscraper as another backdrop. When you also throw in dozens of Frank Lloyd Wright houses, you can see why Chicago is an architectural mecca.

                                                    SEATTLE CENTRAL LIBRARY : FINAL VERSION

This is just one image from an entire afternoon spent in Seattle's new downtown library. It remained in the archives because I made so many images of this incredible building that some had to be left on the cutting room floor. This is a view of the largest reading room at the top of the space-frame structure,  complete with sloping columns (why not?) that didn't seem to have much to do with the actual structure. I enjoyed how the varied angles of the ceiling seemed to change the color and structure of the grid, which is actually uniform. All in all, this is one building where the architects seemed to have an illegal amount of fun.

                                                     HEY BUD, CAN'T YOU READ THE SIGN? : FINAL VERSION


And onto my hometown, whose attitude knows no bounds. It is a miracle that anyone gets through Manhattan unscathed, especially when such clear instructions are provided at important intersections. Upon further inspection in slow motion, I wonder why "no turns" doesn't cover angled turns, or why one should walk to the next sign, which is only two feet away? Add in the fact that most pedestrians will certainly not follow any rules that are not convenient at the moment, and you get NY chaos. The other image shows the power of graphics in a photograph, especially super graphics; the tkts booth is a rite of passage for any experienced New York theater patron. Every monument is not monumental, and this version of the booth is now historical as well.

                            ALPINE : FINAL VERSION

You didn't think I could get through this essay without an ad-hoc detail of my own? This colorful automotive graphic hides the sad fact that the Sunbeam Alpine was one of the worst cars ever made, despite the joyous color and graphics. Research has revealed that Rootes was the overall corporate parent of Sunbeam; 1725 probably refers to the awesome displacement of the engine, which usually lasted longer than the body panels rust resistance.

                                                     BENJAMIN INVESTIGATES TUPPERWARE : FINAL VERSION

My son the college professor conducting an early experiment in kitchen organization, proving once again that the International Toy Complex stands no chance against simple plastic objects. The scanner and the computer have allowed me to time travel back to a simpler time on a kitchen floor 33 years ago and 3000 miles away. His father has promised his mother to organize our chaos of a Tupperware drawer this week - hopefully I will do a better job.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 10 Dec 2021 20:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to discuss Gear Acquisition Syndrome (GAS), a common malady among photographers and hobbyists of all types. I participated in a discussion over a Chanukah meal the other night over whether a ninth kayak purchase by my friend's son was merely idiosyncratic or downright insane. This conversation seemed particularly apt during the holiday season, although most camera gear is expensive enough that most purchases are made for ourselves. Like most hobbies with expensive toys, it is difficult to resist the feeling that you are just one purchase away from your true photographic destiny. Which is not to say that modern, even vintage image-making technology, is nothing short of miraculous. Most of us have only a hazy idea of how our equipment actually works, and epochal changes like film to digital are muddied by the vintage terms still used to describe new processes that have little to do with their analog forbears.

                            LAN-SU BAMBOO B&W : FINAL VERSION

Take ISO for instance. Formerly an obscure international measurement of film sensitivity, which no one understood even back in the days of film, it was printed on the film box and that was that. Over the years, new chemical formulations made it possible to produce speedier films, and ISO 25 was joined by 64, 100, 200, 400,1600, and even 3200 before digital replaced it all. We weren't even fazed by the "competing" ASA which meant the same thing but was determined by a different international cabal. Since the rating was printed on the box, it was considered a given until professionals realized that it was just a "suggestion", and they began to push or pull film for various reasons that required extra payment to the labs if they weren't doing it themselves. It actually became a "pro secret" to under-rate your film, let's say from 100 to 64, which just increased its saturation a bit by underexposing it. In fact, the ISO of your film only really affected two things - the amount of grain in your photos, and the contrast of the negatives. Some people liked grain, or at least tolerated it, as the price to be paid to take photos in lower and lower lighting conditions.

                            DROVE MY CHEVY TO THE LEVEE : FINAL VERSION

The digital revolution came, and chemistry was overtaken by electronics and computer technology. But how were we to describe how sensitive the digital sensor was to light, especially now that we could change that sensitivity on the fly? Somehow ISO was retained, even though it now longer connected in any way to its origins. Which is not to say that more sensitive sensors did allow even lower light levels than ever, which did open up more opportunities for niche pursuits like astro-photography or police stakeouts. But why are we still talking about ISO 100 or 102,000 (not kidding), even when the basic rules have changed enough that we now have to teach the exposure triangle (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO) instead of just aperture and shutter speed? Even though sensor noise doesn't have the vintage charm of film grain, and we can successfully eliminate most of it in post processing?

                            MAPLE AND BRICK WALL : FINAL VERSION

Obsolete terms continue to exist because people hate change even when they are embracing it, and they still have to somehow communicate basic concepts. The trouble is that while the machines are more and more sophisticated, the concepts don't really change that much. A camera is a light-tight box which contains a flat plane that is somehow sensitive to light. The lens at the front regulates how much light that plane receives by changing the size of the hole (aperture) or how quickly it opens and closes (shutter speed). If this seems too simple, imagine how hard it is to sell you a new version of this device. Unlike automobiles, it is hard to say how a new camera will have any attraction to the opposite sex.

DEAD AS A ...                             DICKENS - ONE THING WAS FOR CERTAIN... : FINAL VERSION

Yet GAS is still a problem because photography is a technological wonder, and people, even photographers themselves, can think that new and improved gear, even if only marginally, will have an impact on the images they eventually produce. Once in a generation change can be obscured by subtle improvements that mean little or nothing to 99% of photographers. This is only compounded by the public's misunderstanding of the relationship between the photographer and his or her equipment. You might be amazed at how many of my customers, even while graciously complementing my images, declare that I "must have a very nice camera."


Of course I have a very nice camera. It is nearly exactly what I need to take the type of photos that I take, even though it might not meet your needs at all. Some of its capabilities are in fact way beyond I need myself. While it was near state of the art when I bought it, that was 14 years ago; without me paying much attention, Canon has "improved" it at least a dozen times since. Most of my customers enter my booth with "better" cameras than the one that I own. It doesn't matter. It really doesn't.

1100                             FIAT : FINAL VERSION

And that is not because I am some idiot savant who triumphs over his outdated equipment. Newer cameras have improved, but only marginally as far as my needs require. Given unlimited funds, and nothing else to buy, of course I could justify a newer camera, or more lenses, or some new accessory - but I realized long ago that my images would probably only marginally improve, if at all.

                            FLOUR ON BROADWAY : FINAL VERSION

I take photographs of things that are usually far away, do not move, and do not talk back. Thus I need a longer lens than most people, but I don't need to take 10 photos a second because buildings hopefully don't move. I don't have to have a lens that will separate the supermodel from the creamy out-of-focus background; my urban landscapes usually require as exact a focus as I can achieve front to back anyway. The way to avoid GAS is to procure the photographic supplies you need for your type of photography, and to avoid new purchases only if they are obviously revolutionary or will allow you to do something new. I own a Canon 50D. There is a Canon 90D, four generations later, plus some other numbers they slipped in when people forgot that we were supposed to go by tens. Then Canon went full-frame, which meant they made sensors as big as old 35mm film. There are about half a dozen of those models. Then Canon finally reacted to market forces and went mirrorless, and another half dozen of generations have passed. The total result has basically been an increase in ISO range, an increase in megapixels, and the advent of better stabilization in camera.

VESPAS                             VESPAS : FINAL VERSION

My camera will go to 1600 ISO. Newer cameras will go to 512,000 ISO, but that's only for photos so noisy that the only suitable subject would be First Contact - nobody would look at anything else that noisy. Yes, they can be used at 128,000 instead of just 1600, but for best results you should still stay less than 400 anyway. My camera has only 18 megapixels instead of 50, but I can already produce prints that are beautiful at sizes that my customers cannot possibly afford. While better stabilization reduces the need for a tripod, I know I still need one to achieve the sharpness that only a tripod will produce. My one lens is very sharp, thank you, has been improved only once, and its zoom range equivalent is just what I need - about 50 at the short end, 200 at the long end. 50 is a lot wider than I used to have, while the difference between 200 and 300 is marginal. I own three other lenses, all of which are broken and would cost more to repair than to buy new versions, which I do not need. My lens has stabilization in the lens, which I consider crucial at telephoto lengths, so I don't absolutely require a stabilized body.


Your needs might be totally different, and I would be surprised if they were not. Sports or birds require much longer lenses to "be in the game." Subjects that move benefit from more frames per second. Portraits, especially in the environment, require faster lenses and benefit from full frame sensors. Street photographers require cameras that are much smaller and less conspicuous than mine in order to not intimidate or attract as much notice.

PULL HERE TO OPEN                             ECO-TRUST : FINAL VERSION

The important thing is to get what you need, and leave it at that. The real evil of GAS is that almost anything else you could spend money or time in an effort to take better photos is much better than new equipment once you have the equipment you need. A photo class, a photo book, whether how-to or just a monograph of a similar minded great photographer, even a you tube video (no gear reviews) will be much better paths to actually improve your photography. As will a vacation. And the most useful thing you can do is go out and take pictures or work on post-processing. It's called practice. Aren't you better than when you first picked up a camera? How did that happen?

                                             DONUTS + COFFEE : FINAL VERSION

It also depends on what you are used to. We all hate change. I picked Canon many years ago because all things being equal, and they are, I liked their logo better than Nikon's. The newer cameras are smaller, but I have big hands, and many of the new cameras are actually too small for me. I would have to buy the extenders, which of course they sell, just to use the camera which would then be closer in size to what I have now. I am one of the few people who actually benefit from the extended grip that allows me to take vertical shots (most people don't) without contorting myself into knots. Once you buy that extra grip, who cares how small the camera is? Even if you forgo the tripod, which you know you should have taken, and substitute a one-legged monopod, (think of pros on the sidelines at football games), who cares what your camera weighs if you routinely attach a one-pound weight to it? And speaking of weight, that's mostly due to metal versus plastic, which directly relates to cost and durability and how much you abuse your tools. As does ability to withstand the weather. If like most sane people, your idea of fun is not taking pictures outside in the rain, then why do you need a tank of a camera that can handle those conditions? When I bought my camera all those years ago I could have saved $1000, bought a Canon with the same specifications but not quite as robust. Considering how I abuse my camera, I would have replaced it twice in the ensuing years.

                                             SUNFLOWER : FINAL VERSION

So as usual, buy what you like, but if you complain, you must explain. And yes, some photography does require special prices for admission. If you want to take very long exposures, you will need that tripod and neutral density filters (sunglasses for your camera) that will slow down the lenses you spent good money on to be fast. If you want to take better flower portraits you will need a macro lens, OR you could just use your phone, which will take better flower pictures than my camera unless I do buy that $1000 lens. By the way, none of the images in this essay, like them or not, required any better equipment than what they were taken with, and would not look any different at these sizes no matter what camera I owned. Do you really think that most of these images have more to do with my camera than my particular way of seeing and responding to the world around me?

                                            SHOP 'TIL YOU DROP : FINAL VERSION

I just picked up an old book at the free library around the corner. "This Is Photography" dates from 1947, and except for the "glamour" shots that hint at what my father saw in my mother, it actually is absolutely relevant to photography 75 years later. My father's Leica was six years in the future, is still the inspiration for many of today's equipment, and is absolutely ill-suited for what I need as a photographer. Even that Leica, so state of the art that my father's camera was exactly the same as most of his photographer heroes, didn't have anything to do with the value of his photographs. Rest assured that your camera is technically superior to the vast majority of the cameras that were used to take every famous image of the past 150 years. Your gear has very little to do with your photography, as long as it works.

                            FRAN AND FRIEND (DAUGHTER?), LONDON 2008 : FINAL VERSION





(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 03 Dec 2021 20:00:00 GMT

                            IRA'S FOUNTAIN : FINAL VERSION

This week I'd like to take you on a journey to the culmination of one photo to at least six different images, if you count black and white versions as separate creations. Sometimes I think I make the process of image making sound too easy, as if my final stunning creation appears out of whole cloth, instead of as the end of a long process that could have easily ended up somewhere else. This is not to say that I'm some genius at post-processing - I could probably teach you "my secrets" in less than an hour. The real fun in using programs like Lightroom is that they put you in command of the processing of your own original photographs, so that your original intentions, or maybe completely different ones, come out in you final printed interpretations. Since I don't work on a computer all day, I even have fun; the second it stops being fun, I just stop. Artists certainly don't make a lot of money, but they can control their own working conditions.

                            IRA'S FOUNTAIN : OVERALL COLOR VERSION

Ira's Fountain is one block of Downtown Portland, converted as if by magic into an acre of the Columbia Gorge. The world famous landscape architect Lawrence Halprin was asked to design a fountain to sit in front of our new Opera house. Instead he landscaped the entire block, and took advantage of what seemed like a design obstacle of a drop of twenty feet from one corner to another, to create an evocation of a gorge waterfall right in the middle of downtown.

                            IRA'S FOUNTAIN OVERALL VIEW : B&W VERSION

These three different visions of Ira's fountain are derived from the same original snapshot taken on a clear day at the end of October twelve years ago. On a hot summer day the fountain would be filled with dozens of children and their parents wishing and hoping that they wouldn't meet an early end playing on the waterfall. In fact the pools at the top are designed so that a swimmer would really want to jump rather than just make a mistake, so it's a lot safer than it looks. On performance nights, you can escape our hot barn of an opera house and take your expensive glass of intermission wine across the street to the Gorge. I'm taking this empty view on a pleasant fall day before the wind and rain have denuded all of the trees in the park.

                                                       IRA'S FOUNTAIN : ORIGINAL

This is the original shot taken that day. At least it is straight and in focus, but it is nothing special. The exposure is off, the colors seem wrong, and the overexposed apartment building beyond is certainly adding nothing to the image. The concrete is a rather bad shade of brown , in my humble opinion, colored that way to resemble the Gorge's basalt after value engineering nixed the real thing. By the way, if you want to see the real thing, go to the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. It is very confusing to Portlander's, who don't understand why that memorial seems to be four renditions of Ira's Fountain. Due to the vagaries of national politics, Halprin's original idea for the memorial, with one outdoor room for each presidential term, accompanied by fountains to eliminate traffic noise, was held up by Republican opposition for so long that he eventually used the idea in Portland. Ira's Fountain, "copied " by the designer, was built a generation before the original design was finally realized in Washington. Of course a federal budget allowed real basalt, so there you go.

                            SQUARE CROP, WHITE BALANCE

I could have tried to save the upper portion of the image, but I didn't think it was worth it, and coasters are square, so I solved the overexposure problems by just eliminating that portion. I then corrected the white balance, eliminating the blue cast by reconsidering the original which had been swayed by the sun in the eliminated background. The "shade" setting corrected the blue water, but unfortunately it reinforced that brown concrete.

                            Only two changes still remained. I used the magic of the replacement tool to eliminate the white sign on the concrete block above the waterfall. Look back at the previous version to see how annoying it is once you notice it. When there is a distraction in your image, there is no rule against eliminating it - this image is not destined for the New York Times. A subtle graduated filter darkened the top background of the image to draw the viewer's eye back down to the subject. It's as good a color photograph as yours truly can make it, a big improvement over the original, but now it's time to see if monochrome can help.

                            ORIGINAL BLACK AND WHITE CONVERSION

This conversion at least eliminates that distracting brown. All of the other changes are already baked in, but it is a little too bright for me.

                            DEEPEN BLACK POINT

One technique to affect the exposure is to just deepen the black portions of the image, without affecting the lighter parts as much as changing overall exposure will. These selective changes allow more control on the way to more delicate changes that you brush in to small parts of the image. The image is now near where I want it - you are allowed to disagree.

                            FINAL BLACK AND WHITE VERSION

As I can as well, so I subtly increased the overall exposure. Frequently the transition to print will darken the image because it is not backlit, so if an image appears dark, it might need some brightening. The spot removal tool also eliminated all of the dots especially on the dark stone on the right. They are probably water drops, but since they appear as sensor dust they must be eliminated. As usual, the black and white image can allow for more exposure manipulation without appearing unrealistic. And I did hate that brown, so I like this much better.

IRA'S FOUNTAIN                                                        IRA'S FOUNTAIN : ORIGINAL CLOSE-UP

I always say that a good photograph has more images inside it. Once I looked at the image, I realized that a closer view would tell me more than the overall view. This is frequently a strategy that I try, and it fits into my usual way of viewing the world as a collection of more interesting parts. I am not alone in this, as a classic admonition is "to get closer."

                                    BLACK AND WHITE VERSION

I still hate that brown, so there you go. I have gotten closer, but now it's time to get even closer by cropping to a square.

                            FIRST SQUARE CROP

I first cropped to the bottom of the image, but I then I decided that I wanted to include more of the top that I thought was more dynamic. These are always interesting decisions on the way to a final image.

                            IRA'S FOUNTAIN : FINAL VERSION

So there are three journeys to a final image. You are allowed to disagree, but they are mine, so you can only vote with your cash, and you don't necessarily get to see your other choices. I like my final image as an abstract, but as usual only a small number of people will even catch that this is Ira's Fountain, so sometimes I can get too close. The overall black and white image allows someone who has been to the park to appreciate my image-making; my abstract will only appeal to those who like the fountain as much as I do. What is very interesting is that some people have concluded that the image must be a close-up of an actual Gorge waterfall, which seems to bring the entire art imitating nature argument all the way round to the beginning. I hope that Halprin would approve. I also hope that Ira Kellar, the planner who fought for the park design, appreciates that Portland, in it's informal way, finally felt that it should be simply named after him.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 26 Nov 2021 20:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to discuss the art of cropping your photographs, and how it relates to both commerce and art. Cropping has always been shunned by purists, who insist that the real artists always get it right in camera, even when they don't. Two genres of photography were responsible for this point of view - street photographers and photo journalists. Street photographers were out on the street, photographing snippets of real life, and considered their framing, done in the heat of the moment, to be the true measure of their art. Nothing could be done to improve their compositions, and some even included the film frame sprockets to "prove" that there was no cropping involved. Photo journalists, dedicated to "the truth", were not allowed to crop their images in case they changed their meaning. It didn't help that the State Department's only clue to Russian affairs was who had been cropped out of the latest image from the Kremlin.


Well I'm just an artist, and I get to crop with impunity in the service of my art. I get to both subtly recompose my images after the fact to correct for in camera mistakes, and to crop so much that the image doesn't much resemble the original photo. In fact the message of the image is sometimes unchanged, just focused, while other times it is completely transformed from the original. I am of the firm belief that most fine images, especially landscapes, probably contain the seed of several other fine images inside them if you are willing to look for them. And this is from a photographer who already usually captures snippets of the wider world.


Most of my readers already know that I make most of the little money I make by creating photo coasters, so I am no stranger to cropping. God decreed that coasters come in squares, so most of my in camera rectangular images have been cropped to squares. Now I happen to like the square format for its ability to calm and focus imagery, so it was fine with me that I seemed to be using an old and expensive square format Hasselblad camera. I actually had to learn to relax my in-camera framing in order to allow for square crops, since some of my favorite images were so "well framed" as to not allow for cropping to another format. But most of my imagery was now created with at least the idea that it was probably going to be transformed into a square.


So commerce had some effect on my art, but then the mere process of making coasters started to exert an influence. Frequently at the Market vendors go through mental gymnastics surrounding their marketing ideas. I am very guilty of suddenly getting a brainstorm that will of course allow me to make millions, or least make my life easier, only to get depressed when I realize how long it took me to discover what seems in retrospect to be an obvious notion that I should have come up with years before. How quickly I can go from genius to nincompoop even when I've finally hit upon something.


You see that for years I struggled with the fact that I could print four coasters on a sheet of 8 1/2" x 11" photo paper, but that I was "wasting" the bottom 2'' or so of the sheet. These are the kind of thoughts that run through your head when you have made and sold more than 15,000 photo coasters. For nearly a decade Fran and I had the world's most expensive shopping list paper as hundreds of these strips accumulated and I couldn't bear to throw them away. But I never figured out what to do with them. It took years for me to realize that if just wrote a title and added my name to that bottom strip I could create a line of photo posters. That worked for awhile as a way to market a cheap framed poster, but as the depression hit, my competitors at the market lowered their prices so much that suddenly my posters were no longer cheap.


It was only when I changed my coaster process to include lamination that I was forced to change my ways. I was not only wasting the bottom of very expensive photo paper, but now I was also wasting the bottom of expensive laminating pouches! What could I do? As I inserted four more coasters into the laminating pouch, a very dim light bulb went off in my head - why couldn't I insert a skinny photo underneath them? Since I was throwing away the paper, and now throwing away the laminating sheet, my costs had finally achieved parity with my time - as an artist, virtually zero. I was only paying for ink, which amounted to about 25 cents for that small print. The game was afoot!


How could I market a small, long, skinny image? It was even less substantial than a coaster. As I bought yet another book at Powell's, and they handed me my free Powell's bookmark, I suddenly started laughing and then apologized to the cashier and assured here I was not laughing at her hair color or piercings. I had hit upon the solution for my skinny images - yet another product that was seemingly designed "out of time." I already make prints for people's walls, when most images never leave our phones. I produce photo books while others write e-books. Who actually still uses coasters? Now became my adventure of producing bookmarks when most people had moved on to Kindles. On the cutting edge as usual.


As I entered the bookmark game, I naturally used the Powell's bookmark as my model, even though I realized their dimension was probably completely arbitrary or related to their printing parameters. But I had to start somewhere, so 2 1/8" x 7 3/8" became the answer to a question that nobody else had asked  for awhile. In photo terms this became a very panoramic 3.44:1, skinny even for a panoramic photo, which usually is somewhere between 2:1 and 3:1 in dimension. If you can believe it, most panoramic photographers still use the even more obscure ratios of 16:9 or 6:17, which are based on the original panoramic film cameras that most photographers have never even seen much less used. To each his own, and my first bookmarks used horizontal images that could be made even skinnier than their originals without losing too much.


Now I would be lying if I actually thought about this too much while I added the bookmark to my sheet of prospective photo coasters. Since the idea was that these came free, I was prohibited from actually "making" bookmarks, and they were only products of the printing layout. I couldn't even change the haphazard framing of the printing program, and just tried images until something worked. It was only in producing this essay that I actually had to go back and actually crop these images to create this 3.44:1 crop, so that I could actually manipulate the image to fit into the crop! Remember these accidents were free!

STRAIGHT-ON MOMA TURQUOISE, SAN FRANCISCO Accidentally, of course, it occurred to me that I could go beyond horizontal panoramas. After all, bookmarks were used in a vertical orientation in books, so why shouldn't they be the verticals that I naturally am oriented to? They just had to be skinnier. These three images, slices of a San Francisco museum, sunshades on an office building, and a portion of the stairs at Pioneer Courthouse Square, seemed to work.   LIVING ROOM STAIRS (PIONEER COURTHOUSE SQUARE) WAVY RAIL Snippets of verticals seemed to focus on the real center of interest in the image while keeping to the vertical orientation, whether it was Fran on the beach, a sculpture in the Pearl, or a portion of the twilight sky in the park.




































































































































It was only when I allowed myself to follow my rule that it was not necessary to include the entire subject in the frame that the bookmarks were liberated further from their original images. "If Only" became an even skinnier slice of New York madness, and the Ferris wheel revealed itself without showing more than a small part of its circle.




































































But when I started to include portions of my pattern shots as coasters these images truly became free interpretations of images that already had no real orientation.































































































































Rocks on the coast, water drops on glass, and fallen Gingko leaves are magnified when they appear as a bookmark, now that they are actually larger than their coaster originals. I hope you have had fun looking at my latest marketing brainstorm. So far I have only given them away with purchases of my books, but I'll soon try for $5.00, or 6 for $20.00, so wish me luck.












































































































































































































(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 19 Nov 2021 20:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to take another walk down memory lane, courtesy of my latest battle to preserve my photographic archive. The failure, maybe, of another hard drive caused another disruption to what I thought erroneously was a fool-proof system. I would encourage everyone to abandon the belief that it is possible to create such a system. In reality what everyone should do is to determine which images are really important, let's say 100 to start, and then ensure that they are backed up six ways to Sunday. Once you prove to yourself that this is true, then you can move on to the next important 100 images. Remember that even Ansel Adams' magnum opus only amounts to 400 photos. I think that my problems stem from trying to preserve too much instead of concentrating on what is important. That's why I have a list of important images called "The Missing" while at the same time I have multiple copies of unimportant or downright horrible photos numbering in the thousands. Just saying.

GEOMETRY                             PURPLE TOWER : FINAL VERSION

I've had the opportunity to revisit San Francisco, which I last explored during an AIA convention in 2009. While saving some old images I have also had the opportunity to find some images that I had previously ignored. As usual, most of these images are the result of my singular way of looking at things. I have no illusions that most people might agree with me, and encourage you to create images that please yourself. If anyone else salutes, that's just a bonus. Most people are totally consumed with the image's "subject", which restricts what your image might really be about. Anything that is a detailed look at something, or even worse an abstract, will cause most people's eyes to glaze over. Including other photographers. Your art is your own, and it can be very liberating once you begin to acknowledge that your audience might be very limited.

SLABS                                                        CONCRETE CURVES : FINAL VERSION

These first three images exemplify what I mean. They are not at all typical tourist images of San Francisco. In fact, unless you are unfamiliar with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, there might be no way you could place any of these images at all. And that's all right, since they are not meant to be part of a collection of the city's greatest hits, just my reaction to some of the things I saw there. The first image was my take on a new building that I loved. It is so tightly cropped not only because I thought this fragment was interesting, but that I felt that the overall image of the museum was clearly ruined by the building just behind it. Twelve years later my vision has been justified in two ways. The first instance is when I realized that a famous photographer, John Paul Caponigro, had made exactly the same image of the museum. At least someone had agreed with me. The second was when the museum subsequently spent years and millions to erect an addition behind the museum that solved the problem by serving as an architectural backdrop to the original building. The subjects of the other two images are completely unimportant. I reacted to color and then to the absence of color. I also was interested in the conjunction of curves with the rectilinear world. I didn't even park in the parking garage, which I appreciated because it unapologetically showed off its concrete slabs by holding back the railings; the only color in the entire structure were the yellow light bulbs which I lost in the black and white.

                                                        LIBRARY ATRIUM : FINAL VERSION

                                                       LIBRARY ATRIUM B&W : FINAL VERSION

This was another newer building at the time, and I just loved the exuberance of this skylight and the reflections off of a glass meeting room that interrupted the grand space. Curves and rectangles make another appearance. The black and white version has subtly different framing that clarifies the reflection in the meeting room.

CONCRETE CROSS, SAN FRANCISCO                                                         CATHEDRAL CROSSING : FINAL VERSION

This is another famous San Francisco interior of a slightly older era, but about as unashamedly modern cathedral as you might find anywhere. A concrete tour-de-force, it's pretty hard to convey the power of the space in just two dimensions. Here I follow one wall of glass, which is really inseparable from the arched roof structure that leads to the culminating central tower. Not bad for someone without a wide angle lens.


Okay, I think you might have noticed that most of the tours that I participated during the vacation were centered upon the newest buildings, especially the museums, that had recently been constructed in San Francisco just after the turn of the century. This enigmatic monster is just part of the roof of the new home of the city's science museum. One of the world's first large green roofs, the planting was interrupted by dozens of circular skylights that lit the main space below.

LOST AT SEA (DE YOUNG MUSEUM)                                            LOST AT SEA : FINAL VERSION

Across the way in Golden Gate Park was the new building for the De Young Art Museum; construction tends to boom following earthquakes like the one that interrupted the World Series in 1995. This was a very interesting building, an early work by a French firm Herzog and de Meuron,which specializes in coming up with entirely new facade systems which seem to frequently be the entire raison d'etre for their designs. Here the entire building is clad with an outer copper skin which is laced with holes in front of the glass curtain wall. Kind of an architectural Swiss cheese if you will. I always appreciate it when another architect gets away with a completely arbitrary move, since my clients usually never let me indulge myself in that manner. The De Young is a very spacious two-story building. The architects convinced the museum that they needed an architectural symbol, so they designed a tower for offices to jut above the rest of the building. They got their tower, provocatively shaped it asymmetrically, and accomplished even more power over design and budget since they now had to design the roof as a fifth facade, since most of the tower's view was of the roof below. The result was even more acres of copper, and the building now achieved its final form as an aircraft carrier complete with conning tower. The architects belatedly justified their tower as a viewing tower for all of San Francisco. My image, taken in a fit of laughter when I exited the Science Museum across the way, proves, at least to me, how misbegotten this notion was in this foggy neighborhood.


I have never met a skylight that I could resist, especially in a cloudy climate like San Francisco or Portland. Most of the time I just wish there were even more; I once convinced a client to install 24 skylights in her home, having lost only a few to budget and sanity. She didn't need electricity during the day. Here is a sculptural skylight at the new Asian Library at the Cal's Berkeley campus which cleverly lit a second floor reading room.

SPLIT PERSONALITY - SAN FRANCISCO                                                      ON THE LINE : FINAL VERSION

Sometimes I actually got outside. Here is a new park Downtown which I fell in love with, especially in the way it managed to create separate zones within the same park. I focused on one of these boundaries, a change of height and materials which diagonally cut the park into lounging and looking zones.


I loved this grove of timber bamboo placed against a contrasting orange stucco wall, and tried to make a natural abstract.

                           FLORA #1 : FINAL VERSION

It was only while investigating "The Missing" that I realized that this purple flower came from San  Francisco.

                                                       SAN FRANCISCO FOLIAGE: FINAL VERSION

I had never seen flowers like this, which were one of the main plantings at Union Square Downtown.

                            WISTERIA : FINAL VERSION

I was also overwhelmed by the exuberant patches of wisteria which I encountered throughout the city.


Just in case you think I can't take a street photograph, I include this view of my hotel, which is my home away from home in San Francisco. I heartily recommend it, as it is around the corner from the grand St. Francis Hotel, at a savings of literally hundreds of dollars a night. It's a great old hotel, as long as you don't mind the oldest, smallest,and slowest elevators in the city. Just look for the Union Jack. San Francisco loves Breakfast almost as much as Portland - I would never eat lunch, since Breakfast can hold you over until Dinner. Dozens of such places abound in the neighborhood.

TURQUOISE, SAN FRANCISCO                                              TURQUOISE : FINAL VERSION

But I love abstraction, so the final two images today are abstracts drawn from another pair of new buildings I encountered on my walks through the city. They have little to do with the buildings as a whole; I might hazard a guess that few besides their architects could instantly recognize their buildings as the "subject." Like most abstracts, viewers immediately want to know "what it is" and then are disappointed that they guessed wrong. I sometimes feel like a magician who has revealed the trick. I was interested in the color and the pattern. By withholding the context, viewers can rarely tell that these are glass sun-shading fins on one facade of a new courthouse in San Francisco. Each fin is a story tall. Viewers love the image and never buy it. What can you do?


KIND OF BLUE                            KIND OF BLUE : FINAL VERSION

This two images were my take on Daniel Libeskind's Jewish Museum in San Francisco. A tilted metal-clad square colliding with a century-old brick office building, the building disappointed me even as a sculpture when I realized that the interior had nothing to do with the provocative exterior shape. But I loved the metal panels, so I focused on just a few and named the image after Miles' seminal album. Proving once again that your images can show your love for the parts without caring about the whole. Your images are not necessarily documents of what you saw, or where you went, but can achieve artistic merit if they can express what you felt that was important to you.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 12 Nov 2021 20:00:00 GMT



This week I'd like to continue to encourage you to back up your archived photos, especially the important ones, and to explore new paths in processing them. I recently had another hard drive begin to act up, and at least I had the presence of mind to by a new one and start to transfer things around. Unfortunately the "seamless" system I had set up was anything but, and I have spent a week rescuing images from the ranks of "the missing." In order to make some lemonade out of lemons, I have also taken the opportunity to convert some of these saved images into black and white and have reinvigorated them, at least in my mind. I invite you on a tour of Great Britain, circa 2008, when Fran and I visited Benjamin, who was finishing up a semester at the University of East Anglia, in Norwich.

                                                       PEDESTRIAN TRAINING B&W : FINAL VERSION

The first thing we noticed was that efforts to save "colonials" were advancing apace throughout London, even if the cautionary sign painters hadn't yet refined the proper spacing between words. Black and white often works well in night shots because we accept higher levels of contrast than in color images, and of course they look more natural, because we tend to think that the sky is black, even if it really is not.

                           HORSE GUARDS PARADE B&W : FINAL VERSION

We also usually accept white skies, even though they are usually the result of misbegotten exposures. We learned to accept them long ago because early black and white film was not very sensitive to blue, so rendered it in white. By the time the chemists improved the films, we had accepted this abstract notion. This area behind the government buildings in "White Hall", is where the Queen's Horse Guards prance before the public, hence its name. The recent London Wheel provides an interesting geometric contrast in the distance.


                                                        STAIRS AND STRIPES B&W : FINAL VERSION

Sometimes I convert to black and white out of shear obstinacy, to allow for the inclusion of an image into a collection of monochrome images like this one, or to challenge myself. This image is all about color - the contrast between the red and white bricks on this office building somewhat out of place in the white district of Whitehall. Polychromatic architecture plays on this contrast, especially when it is literally striped across a facade. With black and white I lose the red, but can make it any shade of grey I desire, and can also cut down the glare on those windows. It doesn't take an architect to surmise that they light up a staircase within.

                            CHELSEA CATHEDRAL B&W : FINAL VERSION

While the color version of this image is very attractive, with golden hour enhancing the sandstone's hues, the black and white version has its own charms. Since I feel the real power of the image is the shadows of the flying buttresses, black and white will enhance this contrast. Emphasis on the stone's color is gone, but the texture and age of the stone is really brought out in monochrome.

                                                                              ST. STEPHEN WALBROKE B&W : FINAL VERSION

This Hawksmoor church in the East End shows the ability of black and white to remove color's distractions and to subtly remove historical context. While we know that this image is not a Nineteenth Century image of a Seventeenth Century Church, the image itself offers few clues. Black and white allows me to mute the red car in the foreground when magic processing efforts to remove it failed.

                                                       THE MUFFIN MAN B&W : FINAL VERSION

"Do you know the Muffin Man, he lives on Drury Lane?" This nursery rhyme come to life is in Covent Garden, and the only thing in the original photo that is not grey is the red brick surround. Since I want you to appreciate the folk sculpture, the red brick only distracts. Black and White also lets me realistically darken the sculpture's background, literally highlighting it within the stone frame.

                                                       TWO WINDOWS B&W : FINAL VERSION

The color version of this image shows off the beautiful shades of red brick masonry. But the black and white version emphasizes the textures of the facade, and the exuberant nature of the detailing. And of course my overexposed sky looks better as white in black and white than white in color we just accept the abstraction, instead of noticing the mistake.

                                                       TURBINE HALL B&W : FINAL VERSION

Black and white allows me to convert what might be just a tourist snap into my attempt at art photography. This is one of the newer grand interior spaces in London, at the Tate Modern, an art museum which adapted a defunct power station in a noted example of adaptive reuse. I've made the image about the contrast between the windows and the skylights and the dim interior space. This contrast is overblown, but doesn't "look wrong", as it would in color. The murky shadows only seem to emphasize the vastness of the interior. My fellow humans are now only for scale - the lack of color reduces our concern with their sartorial choices.

                                                       BRITISH MUSEUM CHARMS B&W : FINAL VERSION

Black and white is frequently the answer when the real world is already pretty monochromatic. Does it really matter if monochromatic tan stone is replaced by shades of grey? Black and white allows me to deepen the shadows and emphasize the textures, which is really what I think this image is about. Black and white also lets a photographer deal with harsh mid-day "bad" light, since the excessive real life contrast can highlight black and white's ability to turn it into a positive.


Moving on from London, more rural areas of Great Britain can also benefit from converting to monochrome. The tans and greys in this image were not very attractive. The grey skies of Northumberland yield grey seas, so black and white is useful for bringing out the light rays in the sky, the shafts of light on the water, and the shadows what seem like monumental pebbles on the beach. For example, that shadowy cliff in the sand was all of three inches high.


Okay, so we're not on Cannon Beach. When I turned around from the previous image, I saw the real reason to visit Bamburgh. Bamburgh Castle is right on the beach, still on the look out for invading Vikings or Scots, depending on the century. It was part of a chain of castles every 20 miles or so on the coast, all within signaling distance of each other, like Lord of the Rings. If you look in the distance in the previous image, you can see the small silhouette of the next castle in the distance.


This is the edge of Dartmoor in Southwest England, a thirty-square mile uninhabitable wilderness in the midst of England's "green and pleasant land." Black and white actually looks more realistic than color in this image, because the unworldly orange gash in the middle of the landscape is here just rendered a light grey. Black and white also plays up the brooding cloudy sky.



The Circus in Bath, one of the first multi-family developments in England, is a collection of identical curving row houses set around a circular garden. While we lose the beautiful tan Bath stone color, we gain enormous detail in the facade and the gates. And the vintage-looking bicycle looks even more timeless in black and white.


This sepia rendering of Stonehenge accomplished two things. It seemed more alive than the straight black and white, since the shades of brown achieved more contrast than the shades of grey in this instance. Monochrome also helped me clone out at least a dozen fellow tourists, since it is a lot more forgiving of manipulation than color.

                           HADRIAN'S WALL B&W : FINAL VERSION

It's about 4 degrees below zero centigrade, which certainly sounds more dramatic than the mid-twenties, but it still is plenty cold here on Hadrian's Wall overlooking Scotland, the inspiration for "The Wall" in the "Game of Thrones." Try to imagine the wall at twice its present-day height, since dust and dirt and Englishmen have built up the surrounding ground in the fifteen centuries since it was built. Black and white loses the green fields beyond, but adds detail and texture to those ancient stones.

                                                        HOLYROOD ABBEY B&W : FINAL VERSION

                            DARTMOUTH BURIAL GROUND B&W : FINAL VERSION

Black and white is really great at conveying a mood which can be undermined in a color image. These two images are all about death and remembrance, high and low. The first image is of a ruined chapel in Edinburgh which contains the remains of all of Scotland's kings before unification with England. The final image is of a modest but ancient church burial ground on the banks of the River Dart in Dartmouth in Southern England. The color images are also somber in mood, but the absence of lively blues and greens in both images certainly contribute to a deeper meaning in both of these images which capture Great Britain's long history. I hope that you have enjoyed this monochromatic tour.





(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 05 Nov 2021 19:00:00 GMT


This week I'd like to highlight some of the delights Fran and I recently discovered on a stop in Bellingham,Washington on the way back from Canada. It's no secret that I like both art and gardens as photographic subjects, and I hit the mother load when we noticed a garden on the web as we looked for something to do in Bellingham before we hit the hotel. The Big Rock Sculpture Garden more than lived up to its name.

This 2.5 acre garden sits in a quiet suburb of Bellingham, seemingly unknown amidst a typical community. It was founded by three members of the Drake Family in 1981, and subsequently bought and preserved by the city in 1993. After our visit, I believe it can serve as a model for cities throughout the nation. The garden is subtly Japanese, but not overly so; it really highlights vegetation over flowers, with more than 100 varieties of Maples. While there is the attention to detail that is found in most Japanese gardens, the real focus is on the 37 sculptures of varied artistic intent spread around the site.

These sculptures are so enhanced by their settings in the garden that I can't imagine any sculptor in the world who wound not be delighted to be included in the collection. This in what is a city park, with just an open gate, run by volunteers, with no admission fee, open year round. To say that I was flabbergasted is an understatement. The garden is beautiful as just a garden, and then you throw in the sculptures and it is elevated to a higher level. I can only hope that these few images do it some justice. These are just 6 of the 37 sculptures on permanent display.


                                                        "UNITY" : FINAL VERSION

                            "UNITY" AND FRIEND : FINAL VERSION

The conjunction of art and garden can sometimes be confusing, since "big rocks" are a standard feature of the Japanese esthetic. Two images of the sculpture "Unity" by Russ Beardsley and Cameron Scott are a case in point. Like a miniature Stonehenge, some granite and marble stones are balanced along a path in the garden. Yet there is another big rock very near the foot of the sculpture, and for the life of me I couldn't decide whether it was part of the sculpture or not. Most of the other sculptures are not as ambiguous, although some of them that are very subtle "land art" types start to fade into garden art rather than art in the garden. But most are enhanced by their garden settings.

                                                        "LIPCHITIZIANA" : FINAL VERSION

This blue totem, "Lipchitziana", by Sebastian (one name) stands in contrast with the surrounding greenery.

                                                        "UNTITLED BY SCULPTOR" : FINAL VERSION

"Untitled" by Pat Kuchner, in stainless steel, stands apart and focuses your attention on the garden through its hole. Located at the beginning of the garden route, it thoroughly confused me since its nameplate was located across the garden path near a nice big rock. Was this Big Rock Garden  going to be devoted to naming Big Rocks?

                                                        "TURN #1" : FINAL VERSION

                                                        "TURN #2 : FINAL VERSION

This large wooden sculpture resembled something you might find in a playground, and it is a tribute to Bellingham parenting that it is not abused by children who want to play on the construction. It is entitled "Turn" by Lee Imonen, and these two views show how it is transformed from a drunken staircase to a drunken dinosaur by the simple act of walking a few steps.

                                                        "STABILE" : FINAL VERSION

"Stabile", a metal construction by Jan Zach, asserts its place in the forest in a much more direct manner. It seems to move even while it is standing still.

                                                        "TREE OF LIFE" : FINAL VERSION

Muter still is "Tree of Life" by Michael Jacobsen, which really is another "big rock" which proudly stands on its pedestal, only showing its sculptural  origins in the bronze bite taken out of its top.

                            FENCE DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

Some of the garden's details approach sculpture as well. This is the top of a fence which borders the garden and tries to nicely delineate its boundary from the suburban surroundings.

These final sets of images are my effort to express some of the beauty of the gardens as gardens alone. This is mostly done with specimen Maple trees and with engaging varieties of vegetation. These contrasts express themselves beautifully in both color and black and white, depending on your taste. I would point out that as usual the contrasts in the black and white versions can be played up far beyond what would be seen as realistic in a color image. There are few constraints once you accept the abstraction of black and white. You could even reverse the luminosity of different colors with no one being "the wiser."


                                                        LEAF NECKLACE : FINAL VERSION

                                                       LEAF NECKLACE B&W : FINAL VERSION




                            AMONG THE GIANTS : FINAL VERSION

                           AMONG THE GIANTS B&W : FINAL VERSION

In this final image, I used the panorama format to highlight the beautiful shape of the maple. The black and white version allows for subtly more contrast between the leaves and the surroundings.




I hope you have enjoyed this brief tour of the Big Rock Sculpture Garden. I would encourage you to use the web to head off the beaten track in your travels. You could be pleasantly surprised.




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 29 Oct 2021 19:00:00 GMT

                            SOOKE POTHOLES PANORAMA : FINAL VERSION

This week I'd like to wrap up the coverage of my foray into British Columbia that I started last week. Fran and I had a wonderful time in a small town called Sooke, about 35 miles west of Victoria on Vancouver Island. It was wonderful getting out and seeing something new beyond Portland and our usual vacation spots. Vacation imagery holds many rewards but also contains the seeds of a few problems. Sensory overload of new opportunities is balanced by the twin problems of taking the same shots you have already seen on Instagram, and the feeling that you are just skimming the surface, which is of course true. One also wants to actually experience the place, as opposed to just covering it, since you are not currently on assignment for National Geographic. Also traveling with your significant other usually precludes getting up at dawn, etc., which one would do as a "proper landscape photographer." With these qualifications in mind, I'd like to again suggest a few tactics that will allow you to bag some keepers on your next trip.


                                                       SOOKE POTHOLES TRAIL #1 : FINAL VERSION

These first two images, and the majority of the rest of this week's photos, were taken on a beautiful hike in the woods along the Sooke River about ten miles north of town. The river, which will eventually meets the Pacific at Sooke Bay, runs through a series of small waterfalls and rapids into pools (Potholes) that supposedly function as swimming holes in the summer. Swimming or not, it's a beautiful trail, even in a light rain that kept most people away. Sometimes, as in the first image, the river widens the channel, while often it is more gorge-like when it meets granite deposits. The second image shows what you can get on the way to the overlook, which is frequently more interesting than the overlook itself.

                                                       POTHOLE ISLAND : FINAL VERSION

One strategy for finding new imagery is to frame the scene in a different way; a horizontal, vertical, or square crop will emphasize different aspects of the same scene. This island is at the center of the first image in this series - here it is the center of attention in a vertical image. Everyone has a different way of looking at the world, and I tend to the more distinct detail at the risk of losing the context. But remember, you are foremost making these images for yourself, and don't need to make any excuses for your particular vision. You aren't selling them, and your only obligation is making the best images out of the ones you see, even if most people might ignore that scene.

                                                        GRANITE AND LICHEN : FINAL VERSION

Feel free to ignore the actual river in pursuit of subjects, since I wasn't going to risk life and limb in the rain on those slippery rocks to view the water in that narrow channel.

                                                        POTHOLE PORTRAIT : FINAL VERSION

But sometimes a pothole is clearly a pothole, and deserves respect as such. It's important to get as much detail in the original capture, (exposing to the right of the histogram without clipping the highlights) so that you can deepen the exposure in post processing to keep water detail while brightening up the deeper tones of the forest to reveal details like the changing vegetation and the red leaves on the rocks.

                                                        SOOKE POTHOLE TRAIL #2 : FINAL VERSION

Try to not forget the forest for the trees, or whatever. Yes, only I might remember that this image was taken on the Sooke Pothole Trail, but does that really matter? Can't it just say "Pacific Northwest" without being any more specific? And do I need a passport to show the image even though I needed one to take it?

                                                       SOOKE POTHOLE TRAIL #2 B&W : FINAL VERSION

Remove the color and you get a different interpretation of the same scene. This is another way to find new images in new places. Black and white has taken away any early Fall ambience in favor of more detail in the leaves of the forest.


This version of the scene was the original, standard horizontal view. The first image in this essay was a second version, a panorama. Just because you create a panorama doesn't mean it has to appear as a panorama. The first image subtly expands the scope further up into the forest. This allows me to widen the scene without using a wide angle lens.

                                                                     POTHOLE PANORAMA : FINAL VERSION

When you are out in the field try to experiment with different techniques when confronting a scene. I happen to like this vertical panorama, which puts the pothole into it's context in the forest while ignoring the horizontal context of the river. It reminds me of the Japanese screens which I admire, which encompass the whole without fiddling with perspective.


                            FERRY SIGHTING #1 : FINAL VERSION

Another solution for vacation imagery is to experiment with a subject normally not available in your usual environment. This image is not going to be a cover shot on a yachting magazine, but I could practice my timing in taking a moving subject, which is not usually in my wheelhouse. After some post processing, it's a credible effort, with a nice reflection in the water and shadows on the sails.

                            LIGHTHOUSES CAN BE CUTE TOO : FINAL VERSION

By removing most scale indications in this view of this lighthouse, I have further confounded any sense of scale in this image. The actual lighthouse looked so small on its island that it looked like it belonged on a miniature golf course. For a lighthouse, it is small, maybe two stories tall - notice the rail around the red top. The surprise I felt was only when I realized that it was an actual lighthouse and not some whimsical lawn ornament.

                            A FOREST OF MASTS : FINAL VERSION

These masts caught my eye, even if the overall view of the boats at the marina was too confusing. It's not an image for every one, but it is to my taste. The near silhouette further simplifies the scene.

                            FERRY SCULPTURE : FINAL VERSION

These four images show that you do not have to abandon your point of view even if you are on vacation. I was willing to capture imagery on a beautiful ferry ride that might not appeal to most of the people on that ferry. That's okay. It's my imagery, and it's your imagery that you take on your vacation.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 22 Oct 2021 19:00:00 GMT


        Fran and I spent a delightful ten days across the border in Canada, visiting Vancouver and then taking the ferry to Vancouver Island to stay a week at the town of Sooke, about 35 miles West of Victoria. Just like on the Oregon Coast the week before, it was absolutely fantastic to take out the camera again and have some new landscapes to explore. I always say that a photographer does his best work in his home region, but there's no doubt that a new place can get your juices flowing. While the coast of British Columbia is really just another string of beautiful Pacific beaches, as we started to explore different areas there were some locations that spoke to me.


The real difference on this coast was the absence of people and most of the typical tourist trappings found along 101 in Oregon. While Sooke is 5 times as big as Cannon Beach, most people live in neighborhoods inland that most tourists will never see. Most tourists seem to go to resort areas isolated to certain parts of the beach, and while I admit it is October, I couldn't find one Sooke t-shirt anywhere in town. We had most places to ourselves. Since Sooke is only 35 minutes from Victoria, it is slowly becoming an exurb instead of a beach town; yet with only one road along this coast, traffic jams resemble those on Hawaii. Then you get to your destination, and no one is there. The two images above show how different the ocean can behave, depending on the exposure of the beach. French Beach faces Southwest on Strait of Juan de Fuca, while Gordon Beach faces South. In general, both face the Olympic Peninsula, but Gordon Beach is so calm that it hosts a thriving kelp forest offshore, While French Beach's rocky shore generates a rare clacking sound (at least to us) as the waves retreat from the shore.


The land in the distance is Washington State, but this is clearly the ocean. Every beach is covered with enough rocks and driftwood to remind you that these locations are no place to storm watch - there is just not enough room. You probably have noticed my wide angle crops and monochrome pallet, which suit the locations and the light, which was not that dramatic. The scenes are mostly monochromatic anyway - substitute shades of blue and grey for black and white. Unless the foreground is really picturesque or the sky is so overwhelming that it would be a crime to crop any of it, a 1:2 horizontal crop expresses the coast very well.



Black and white allows me to to concentrate on light and shadow. We are now on a spit Fran found in a residential area seemingly known only to local fishermen. Sooke Bay is protected from the ocean and will eventually lead inland to the Sooke River. This sky is very dull, but I can focus on the sunlight on the water without showing its source, and can render the dark green forest as a black silhouette.


A few minutes later the sky opened up to reveal a preview of fall cover, which will probably peak in another few weeks. This fisherman was the only one without waders, since he can probably stand in the water. I took a few shots of these guys, standing stomach deep in the water, but they were too far away for it to make any sense or get any detail.

                                                        SOOKE BAY KELP : FINAL VERSION

I had a wonderful time taking sea/horizon/cloud shots, but part of the trick of getting something new from these shoreline environments is to constantly search for something different. This could be orientation, like this vertical that concentrates on a bit of the spit even fishermen won't walk on, and tries to make something out of a rare spray of color in the blue/green environment.

                            PACIFIC SHORE : FINAL VERSION

Here the seagull came to lend a hand to my composition, and while by no means a "nature" shot, you can see how even a seagull's behind can add some atmosphere, and a vertical orientation, to this headland image. The sun had come out, so I left the water and sky blue and the trees green.

                                                        WHIFFEN SPIT : FINAL VERSION

Now we will adjourn to Whiffen Spit, another long arm of land that divided Sooke Bay into an even more calm area. We found it by accident looking for a restaurant that no longer existed, but found a mile-long spit that we shared with most of the town's dog walkers. The spit was just wide enough to accommodate a wide path and two shore fronts. There was plenty of vegetation, but enough driftwood to assure that this spit was definitely underwater during a storm. This image looked out to sea.

                                                       SPIT SHRUB : FINAL VERSION

Looking towards the inner bay, I found this burning bush and driftwood to highlight. Just because you are on the beach it does not stop you from looking at other things.

                                                       WHIFFEN SPIT MOSS : FINAL VERSION

                            WHITE BERRIES, WHIFFEN SPIT : FINAL VERSION

                                                        SPITFIRE FLOWER : FINAL VERSION

                                                       SPITFIRE FLOWER B&W : FINAL VERSION

Here are several examples of the foliage found on this narrow spit. I just found them beautiful and a welcome respite from water and sky. The flower image really shows off the different strengths of color and black and white - the colors are beautiful, and while the black and white loses the subtle yellows, it really shows off the structure of the flower.

                            BAY CLOUD : FINAL VERSION

                            BEACH ROCK DETAIL #1 :FINAL VERSION

                             BEACH ROCKS #2 : FINAL VERSION

When all else fails when you are looking for an image, don't neglect just looking at your feet - you will be delighted with what you might find. One cloud reflected in the bay, the incredibly varied shapes and colors of beach rocks, and a composition literally found while I was sitting on a log proves my point. The fact that they do not shout "Sooke" in particular is not the point.





These three images come from a park almost in the center of Sooke, which somehow the city does not trumpet but even ignores. Maybe it's another example of how un-touristy Sooke is. We were standing in a small park with a bandstand, which looked like it maybe hosted a farmer's market at best, when we noticed an unmarked trail off to the left. Suddenly we we on a wooden switch-back boardwalk which plummeted at least 100 feet down to the water and then continued as a boardwalk/dock out into the bay. It was as if Portland kept Laurelhurst Park or Mt. Tabor Park off the tourist map. Macgregor was Sooke's first mayor; Sooke was only incorporated in 2000.

                            THE PORTAL : FINAL VERSION

                            THE PORTAL B&W : FINAL VERSION

Finally, in the spirit that we each see what we see, and shouldn't hide it under a bush, I offer two versions of a curious piece of driftwood that I came across on Whiffen Spit. Since the black and white is more abstract I think I like it better, but to each his own. Enough people on both Instagram and 500 Pixels are Trekkies, so they presumably recognized the resemblance to the time-travel portal on the "The City on the Edge of Forever", and these images received far more "likes" than I anticipated. You never know where you will find your inspiration, or your audience, so you might as well just go for it.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 15 Oct 2021 19:00:00 GMT


It was a real pleasure spending a week with Fran in Florence, on the Oregon Coast. She found a wonderful house to rent, a short drive to the beach, whose only problem was the 28 steps up  from the car to the living room; I found that counting them relieved some of the misery. We had mostly wonderful weather, which means it did not rain horizontally, and explored a lot of the nearby beaches on the Central Oregon Coast. A crowded beach meant we had to share it with ten other people - most of the time we were nearly alone. The image above was taken on a typical day at the beach closest to home, which was situated at the North end of the Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area,  a forty-mile long stretch of North America's largest sand dune formations. I learned on this trip that the dune grass was introduced in the early 1900's to try to control the dunes, and remains the only thing that really keeps them at bay. Our local Freddie's, a mile from our house, was backed by a four-story sand dune beyond the store.

                           PATH TO THE BEACH : FINAL VERSION

This section of the Coast presents a different beach experience. Even in sections that are not totally dune-bound, the path to the beach is rarely straight forward. This was the first path we were supposed to take, nixed by Fran before I had the chance to sprain my ankle; we discovered an easier path at an adjacent resort we were "checking out" for the rest of the week. Small bodies of water, ranging up to real lakes, frequently are trapped inland of the dunes.


Heceta Head Beach, north of our house, was one of the few parts of the nearby coast that was easily accessible. It's a cove protected by two headlands, typical of the Coast, which are cliffs that project into the ocean and divide the miles of coastline into separate stretches of sand. The Northern headland sports Heceta Head Lighthouse, reputed to be the most photographed lighthouse on the Oregon Coast.

                           HECETA SQUIGGLE : FINAL VERSION

I noticed this s-curve in the surf while walking up to the lighthouse, and thought it was a nice minimalist view of the cove. You can decide which version works better.

                             HECETA SQUIGGLE  B&W : FINAL VERSION

You could make a serious argument that both versions are monochromatic, since the color version contains only blue, white, and brown. The black and white version highlights the surf a little better, but the only "subject" that feels dissed in the seagull at the bottom left corner, who gets completely lost without his black silhouette against the blue water. He certainly would opt for the color version.


Although I was a total failure as a "proper landscape photographer" since I never was up for dawn, I did try some experiments on the coast, especially on the beaches that were uncharacteristically flat and endless. Here I focused on this log while with the aid of my tripod and a 10-stop neutral density filter I slowed the shutter speed to 8 seconds on a sunny day. The surf is now rendered as a milky substance instead of the separate waves of reality, while the lump of a log, which refused to move, is rendered as sharp as the original 1/30 of a second version. If I stuck around till twilight, the speed would turn into several minutes, and the sea would be one glassy surface.


This abstract was achieved through experimentation without any technological hocus-pocus. Faced again with a pretty featureless beach, I simply moved the camera sideways while taking the ordinary correct exposure. As my first experiment in ICM (intentional camera movement) I consider it a success. The waves and beach puddle are rendered as out of focus brush lines, which highlights the color bands since there is nothing else left to focus on. Don't be afraid to experiment, since pixels are free, and you needn't show anyone anything anyway, unless you write a blog. By the way, this is the best exposure out of ten, for what it's worth.

                           COAST SKY #1 : FINAL VERSION

Sometimes the only thing to do is to photograph the sky, even if there is no suitable landscape around. On the Oregon Coast, you don't neglect interesting cloud formations, since a completely gray sky will probably return tomorrow.


Never miss a chance at a reflection, so this pair of sea stacks back at Heceta Head Beach is now four sea stacks. I like the color version which shows off the sea bird preferences on the rocks, because of the white guano, which could be mistaken for highlights in a black and white rendering.


Here I used a slightly slower shutter speed, but still hand-held, to emphasize the pretty strong wind which was fortunately at our backs. Like that downhill hike, you will inevitably have to climb back up and face into the wind, but here I can try to show the shifting sand in a still photograph. the incoming fog bank adds some mystery, and our lone companion on the beach adds a sense of scale. You also might notice my frequent employment of the 1:2 horizontal crop to emphasize the panoramic view. For a guy who is strongly oriented towards the vertical or to the square crop, I'm finding that I enjoy going wider when I go horizontal. Coastal imagery encourages this horizontal crop, since you can frequently lop off large sections of blue sky or brown sand, or both, to focus on the real subject, the wide expanse of the shoreline. Now I find myself somewhat disappointed when I can't lop off sections of my carefully framed images because the sky and/or the foreground is too interesting, and I am left with the original horizontal 2:3 out of camera frame!


In this case the vertical extent of the cliffs would not allow a wider view without a wide angle lens which I don't like and don't have. Sometimes you can really see the limits of the beach and are just happy you aren't there when the waves are actually eroding the cliffs. This section of beach was at the bottom of a half-mile long "crowded" trail called the "Hobbit Trail", where we shared the beach with about a dozen other people. I know it's now fall, but I don' think this trail would really be crowded even if you had hundreds of people on this beach.

                                                        HOBBIT TRAIL : FINAL VERSION

Now you can see why some wag named this trail down to the beach the "Hobbit Trail." Another illustration of why the Oregon Coast is not really a boardwalk lover's dream; we require a little work before you get to the beach.

                                                       FLORENCE NORTH COAST JETTY PARK B&W : FINAL VERSION

I will take my verticals where I can find them on the Coast, and when the sun and a passing seagull cooperate, I'll be there. This is the North jetty at the entrance to Florence harbor, which shows that even a half-mile long pair of man-made spits can be pretty wild place when they are on the Oregon Coast. Black and white allows me to tame the sun and more realistically render the foreground as a near silhouette without the viewer wondering why I've underexposed the shot. And the seagull gets to show off without the distracting blue sky.

                            FLORENCE NORTH COAST JETTY PARK #2 : FINAL VERSION

Looking the other way on the same jetty reveals its winding shape, emphasized by this square crop. You can appreciate the hundreds of tons of rock  brought here by the Army Corps of Engineers, all a year ahead of schedule and under budget, according to the historical plaque!



Some of the best man-made highlights of the Oregon Coast are the bridges that allow Route 101 to span the few rivers that cut through to the Pacific. C.B. McCullough designed most of these spans, and most are still there, but his bridge at Alsea Bay was replaced by this modern design reminiscent of Portland's Fremont bridge in 1992 by Walter Hart. The Siuslaw Bridge from 1936 is said to be Art Deco, but I find it to be romantically vaguely Egyptian in character. It is also a rare drawbridge on the Oregon Coast. The modern bridge at Alsea also kept some of McCullough's fanciful towers at the bridge's two approach segments as an homage to McCullough.


These Plovers are quite cute, and can run fast, but do not seem to like to fly, which restricts your god-given right to watch Rover play in the surf at some times during the year on this section of the Coast. We couldn't have dogs think that they could actually catch a bird, and subsequently ruin their self-esteem, would we?


Sometimes you look down and find a natural feature that defies at least my uniformed explanation. What would cause this formation of God's potato chips to form in the sand. I used my characteristic square crop, but believe me, these stretched on for dozens of feet, and then just stopped.


We did get to see one sunset, but it was characteristically through some interesting cloud formations, which leads to some interesting sunlight reflections in the surf and on the beach. No standard red ball diving into the ocean for us.

                             FRAN AT THE JETTY B&W : FINAL VERSION

Finally, a view of the most important subject on the Coast. Black and white shows off the Reba McEntire stripe in Fran's hair.














(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 08 Oct 2021 19:00:00 GMT

                           SAN JUAN LIGHTHOUSE B&W : FINAL VERSION

This week I'd like to continue the discussion I started last week concerning the benefits of putting your work in front of other people to see if their reactions have anything to do with your expectations. I have been experimenting with a photographic alter-ego, a throwback who has never seemed to have taken a color photo, in order to gauge the reactions of other photographers to my work. So for most of this year the people I have met on the website 500 Pixels have commented on my photographs, all of which have been presented in black and white. I have benefited most from two aspects of this project. One is that I almost never can predict what will bring out the most positive reactions from my fellow black and white aficianados. The other, more important thing that I have learned is that I have had so much fun converting a lot of my images into black and white. These range from images that I had thought might work in black and white to those that I thought didn't have a prayer of working without color. As usual, I was often dead wrong. Sometimes I realized to my surprise that an image worked so well in black and white that the original color image was completely superfluous.

The image above of a lighthouse on the Western edge of San Juan Island was taken about four years ago on a wonderful week-long-vacation where I must have taken several hundred images each day. The historical average of "keepers" is only about 1%, so it's not like I anticipate a winner each time I snap the shutter. After all, in order to keep trying, you must convince yourself that it is all in the process, and of course it is. The initial snap is just the beginning, and I caution you to avoid throwing things away unless they are completely useless - I have often found interesting images months, even years after I initially loaded them on my computer. Which is not to say that they don't need some massaging in Lightroom to achieve some goal which you might not have even had when you made the initial capture. Let's look at the stages of this image, which much to my surprise achieved the second highest "score" than any of my images have ever achieved on 500 Pixels. Last week I put in the website, having converted it to black and white, with no feeling that anyone would salute. I think I have sold only one coaster of it's color cousin, so it has never found any traction in the booth.


This is the original image. I was intrigued by the sky, and placed the lonely lighthouse way on the edge of the frame to emphasize its loneliness as well as to avoid some ramshackle structures to the right of the lighthouse. Upon reflection, I felt that I had gone overboard on the out of center placement, and that it was a little too much like a postcard for me. But the public loves lighthouses, so I felt it was worth trying to get something out of this image. In any case, lighthouses are like waterfalls - photographers just cannot resist picking up their cameras.

                             CROP TO A SQUARE  

First things first was to crop the image to a square, both to prepare it for its future as a coaster, and to eliminate most of that loneliness to the left. The Lighthouse still looks plenty lonely, and larger, in the square crop, and its placement in the frame does not seem so arbitrary. I will now show you some of the next stages in a typical workflow, where I try to make the image the best it can be, or at least the best I can make it. Some of these will be fairly subtle, but bear with me.

                            RAISE WHITE POINT

This will only affect the lighter parts of the image - any lighter shades, especially white, will become whiter, without affecting the overall exposure. So the clouds, and especially the lighthouse, will become lighter in relationship to the darker tones.

                            ADD GRADUATED FILTER

Because the sky is often the lightest part of any landscape image, photographers will often add a graduated filter, sort of like a progressive sun glass lens, which will darken the upper part of an image but gradually not affect the rest of the image. We used to do this with glass filters attached to the lens; now my software can do it after the fact. The sky has gotten darker, and the clouds pop out a little better.

                            LIGHTEN SHADOWS

The last thing to do (again, as far as I was concerned) was to lighten the shadow areas, mostly to gain some detail back in the rocks below the lighthouse. This is subtle, and I left the naturally black areas in deep shadow as black. Typical HDR renditions would show all of these details, which makes the photo look unrealistic, because our brains are used to seeing some areas as very dark. 

This is the culmination of my efforts to make more out of the initial snapshot. I've left out some of the usual steps in my workflow since they were either unimportant for this image, or that they would be impossible for you to perceive at this size. The image was correctly exposed, so exposure changes were unimportant. The same went for white balance adjustments, since there was no color casts. Customary corrections like sharpening are not shown because they are not perceptible at this enlargement size, although they would be necessary  if the image was seen at 8" x 8" instead of on your computer. I've succeeded at making the image closer to my original perceptions, balanced the sky and the foreground, increased the "whiteness" of the lighthouse, and brought out some additional details in the sky and the rocks. The most important change, for better or worse, remains the crop, which shows how important the frame is for an image. In order to make any additional changes it is necessary to journey into abstraction so that the image is relieved to some extent from its origins in the natural environment.

                            STRAIGHT DESATURATION

The easiest way to predict what your image would look like in black and white is to just desaturate all of the colors, removing all of the color information in the file. Beware that this will almost always leave you with a dull, washed-out sea of grey that would cause you to reject the process. More importantly, as we will see, removing the color information will not allow you to use the original color differences to change the black and white rendition of those colors. In the real world, a lot of our perceived contrast is based on color contrast - which is lost if we uniformly desaturate the colors without keeping this information. Thus the red roof of the lighthouse might end up as the same grey as the blue sky and contrast would be lost. So a far better black and white conversion utilizes the software algorithm to render each of the colors a little differently; while the first rendition might no be a revelation, we will then be able to change the luminosity, the shade of grey, of different parts of the image based on the colors we can no longer see. 

                            ALGORITHM BLACK AND WHITE CONVERSION

Okay, in this case, not that different. The red roof is lighter; the green tower roof is a little darker. You could be excused if you don't care. Wait.


                          MOVE BLACK POINT     

My initial effort to increase the apparent contrast by only adjusting the darker portions of the image; in this case not much happens because most of the image is actually pretty light. Only the rocks, the shadow side of the lighthouse, and those roofs are affected. You see that the struggle for contrast is answered in different ways for different images. We move from "global" changes which affect the entire image progressively to more and more specific changes which affect tiny parts of the image. The problem is how to restrict those changes, either by original luminosity, original color, or just painting them in to specific areas. "Painting" is always available, but has to be really subtle so as not to be noticeable by the viewer. Remember, if the viewer is aware of the changes beyond shear appreciation of the image, you've lost the battle. That is why I usually head first for the graduated tools, designed either as a line across the image or as a circular spotlight of a certain size. The important thing is that these are gradual, moving in power from 100% to 0%, so they are more subtle. There is no "right" way to do something, although there are certainly more efficient ways to accomplish the same goals. I want to make the lighthouse stand out more from its surroundings. It is already about as white as it can be - any more would make it glow. The solution seems to be to darken the surroundings without affecting the lighthouse. I could do this with a series of graduated filters all around the lighthouse, but why don't we go back to the color information, since most of the original photograph was blue?

                            LOWER THE BLUE TONES

Well, will you look at that. All of the blue tones - the sky, the sea - in other words, most of the image - have been darkened without affecting the rocks, the clouds, and most importantly, the lighthouse. I've made the lighthouse "whiter" by rendering everything else darker. The clouds also stand out more, but the most fun for me, and this is subtle, is that for the first time you are aware of the reflection of the lighthouse in the water in the foreground. Oh, the places you will go!

This is pretty much the final black and white version. At larger sizes you would notice sharpening; also you would notice subtle differences in lowering of the purple and aqua tones to create a smoother "curve" of color tones which tend to reduce artifacts which might result from drastic shifts in only one color.

I hope you can see and appreciate the vast differences I've made in this image. That doesn't mean that you have to agree. You might think that I've gone too far, that you can see my brain's gears moving. Or you might wonder why I haven't lightened the rocks a little more, or removed the "distractions" that remain, like those highlights on the waves, which might strike you as sensor dust, or those two seagulls in the water on the left, which will only resolve as birds at larger enlargements. Some  photographers would also "turn on" the lighthouse light, which is going a little too far in my opinion. I know people who would introduce a nice too large full moon in the upper left corner to "balance" the image - to each his own. I might agree that the leaning tower of clothesline on right is not adding anything to the image. Sometimes you've just got to call it a day.

The important thing, at least for me, is that the image is now all about the original subject, the lighthouse. And I think that most would agree that the abstraction of black and white allows for more manipulation than a color rendition because we accept those changes as realistic even though we know the sky is not really black. An equivalent deep blue sky would just look a little silly.

So that is the story of one image. The very positive reception on 500 Pixels will probably lead me to print the black and white in lieu of the color version in the future. It struck a chord, with more than half of the "likes" coming from people who had never "liked" any of my images before.  While I know people like lighthouses,I don't think that accounts for most of it. The Instagram response was not as overwhelming, but the black and white version did get a more positive response than the original color version had a year before - this is very unusual on Instagram. So I would encourage those out there with the means to do it to try processing your own work, and to pursue different versions of the same image. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised at how only a few minutes on the computer will transform your image beyond what you might enjoy at first glance. Remember that your image has been interpreted in the past, either by a JPEG algorithm in your camera, or even worse by a disinterested one-hour photo guy wondering about lunch and proud that he has at least not cut into your negative again. I swear that you can do better, even if you do not know what you are doing. Lightroom is non-destructive - you are not touching the original file - and like most software, is available for a free trial. Try it, you might like to be more in control of the your image's final destiny.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 10 Sep 2021 19:00:00 GMT

                                                                WATERFALL MIST : FINAL VERSION

This week I'd like to discuss the dilemma of judging your own work. It seems obvious to me that my own opinion is the most important, but the pressures of trying to market my work for sale lead to a constant effort to try to understand what the public likes. Now I don't mean "the public" as a global groundswell that will lead to fame and a large bank account. I am only concerned here with trying to reach "my public", the people who actually have proven to be receptive to my work. Even for an "anti-marketer like me, it would be nice to know that I'm at least having a positive impact on the people who like my work.  Readers of this blog, for instance. What directions of my work intrigue you? That doesn't mean that if you demand cats, I will deliver cats, because I won't, but the insights might be useful. I have been extremely lucky in the past ten years in that I have seen which examples of my work actually reach a receptive public, since I meet them each weekend in my booth. Not everyone will purchase my art -in fact, even most people who like it will not open their wallets. But it is interesting to be able to actually understand why people react well to some examples of my work more than others. When you sit in a booth all day, it's nice to exhibit work that promotes a discussion, if not a sale.


                                                    VANISHING POINT : FINAL VERSION

Now I'm not such a dimwit as to not understand that I am selling photographs at a craft market in Portland, Oregon. Saturday Market is the oldest craft market in the country, but it is not primarily an art market - two dimensional wall art is in fact the hardest thing to sell at the market, which is half jewelry, and mostly other craft staples that Fran calls "market crack" like pottery, which she just shakes her head when I wonder why I can't compete with them for sales. But mostly I feel that I just compete with the dozen or so other photographers who exhibit at the market. My work is my own, but it just so happens that i was an architect, and that I love Portland, and that I've lived here thirty years, so it stands to reason that my work might appeal to an audience that is visiting our fair city. What I take some pride in is that my Portland photographs actually appeal more to Portlanders than tourists per se, so that a print is usually a gift for the visitor rather than something the visitor might be expected to pick up on their own. People who live here can see and appreciate that my take on local subjects frequently is pretty unusual if not unique. So I naturally fell into a niche of "artistic" local photography that is actually a good fit for a market that is the second most popular tourist attraction in the entire state. While I understand that it would be nice to think that a fine image of Paris would sell as well, I'm not that naive. And since my coasters allow me to experiment with many images, it's usually pretty easy to at least respond to public demand, even if I've never been able to predict it with any accuracy.

                                    REFLECTIONS ON BURNSIDE : FINAL VERSION

So I know how to sell coasters, but efforts to sell larger prints are still a constant struggle to find the images that people must have, despite the high prices I must charge to sell them in the beautiful, large versions they profess to want. Since the most popular of my images accounts for only 6% of my sales, it is not as easy to figure out which images to invest in as it is for some of my colleagues. I know that only a few of their images account for the vast majority of their sales; they could leave everything else at home. So they fill out their booths to look legitimate, while I fill my booth with a host of images that just might sell, maybe, someday. Yet these "billboards" are the things that attract most people into my booth in the first place. Frustration, anyone?

                                   HUG POINT : FINAL VERSION

In an effort to acquire some useful marketing information, I finally joined a photographic community online this year that I had resisted in the past. I was not trying to sell anything, since this website, 500 Pixels, is marketed as by photographers for photographers. Since it is almost impossible to sell photography to other photographers, all marketing pressure was gone. I was just trying to see what might appeal to a different, "knowledgeable" audience. And 500 pixels is a space for mostly very good photography of a standard much higher than Instagram, although there is some overlap. It is basically still a place where people can go to see great imagery, even though I have discovered some serious quirks in the algorithm  that rival Instagram's. I still believe that if you want to find very nice imagery on a certain topic, just type it in the search bar and you will find something to aspire to, whether it' s Paris, or football, or tulips. In an effort to further stack the deck, I invented a new persona on the site with my curation of my own work. 500 pixels doesn't really lend itself to comments as much as Instagram, but I decided to only show Black and White images. As far as 500 pixels was concerned, I might be still using my father's Leica film camera, since color has never appeared - or else I used a Hasselblad, since so many of my images were in the square format, and they don't know from coasters.

                                                               HIGH-KEY ARCH : FINAL VERSION

So how is the old codger doing on 500 Pixels? What has this new audience revealed, or obscured, or confused me in their taste for my imagery? I must say that is has been revealing, but mostly just another form of confusion. I usually have no clue on whether any particular image will "find" an audience, much less grow one, and am frequently surprised as heck as I review my feed. While the algorithm is no less obscure than Instagram's, it does have a certain "permanence" that can be insightful. I have put over 200 images on 500 Pixels, and they are all still there on my "Profile" for anyone to find. The thing is that they are all still on my feed as well, along with all of the images of everyone I have followed. They do not disappear, and you better like the imagery of anyone you follow, since unlike Instagram, it still appears every day they throw something out there. Like I soon learned on Instagram, be careful who you follow. But it is different than Instagram in that you can "like" anything you want without it affecting your feed. It is more like the "permanent record" your teachers threatened you with in Junior High. You will only see what you want to until you explore, and even if you like something, or even comment, you will not be followed around by that momentary opinion. 500 Pixels actually seems to function more as a sounding board. There is a lot of information on the public's reaction to your image, but not as much search for followers or even likes as there is on Instagram. Or maybe I'm just naive, since I couldn't even figure out how many followers I have until I started researching the site for this essay. It turns out I have only 21, which is less than any other person I have ever even checked out  on the site, much less followed. These are just photographers, not celebrities, but some people have followers numbering in the thousands, so it's not like I'm catching on like wildfire.

                                    MASONRY QUILT B&W : FINAL VERSION

But it has been interesting. Just like on Instagram, I'm not really concerned with followers, but more on seeing who has actually liked my work, and what they are like, since their profile is now readily available for my inspection. 500 pixel people are usually very fine photographers, and it is very endearing when someone from Uzbekistan, much less a fine photographer, finds one of my images even worthy of a "like." Of course this is a self-selected group with a penchant for black and white imagery, but at least I can be surprised at what that group will react to or what they will ignore. For you see on 500 Pixels each of my images is constantly tracked, forever, on its impact, long after even I have forgotten submitting it to the site. Or maybe I just don't know how to find that info, although I can get lost in my "statistics" which appear if I hit that button. And it's always changing, so that even with my paltry following, I can see that a certain image received another tow likes last week, months after I posted it.

                                                               TURBINE HALL : FINAL VERSION

This constant quantification is enough to make even a life-long baseball fan cry, except it applies to everyone else too. The easiest way to see new work each day is to hit the popular button, which takes you through a feed of thousands of photos rated every few seconds(!) by their "pulse" on the site, which is determined by that pesky algorithm, but which is most certainly determined by how many people have clicked on, liked , or even commented on that image today. You can even watch the order change while you are on the popular feed. The rating starts at 99.9 or so, and I have never wasted enough time to get below 95, and by then I've seen hundreds of photos. By the way, I've never hit higher than 94.6, and only higher than 90 a few times, so most people fortunately have much more time to waste than I do, since most of my images are rated "popular", even though they usually settle in the mid-80's. So I don't even know how my fans find me.

                                    CRATER LAKE #3 B&W : FINAL VERSION

So what is popular? Exactly what you might think. These are photographers, but they are still human beings. Don't think cats, for heaven sakes, but don't think too hard either. If you want to see the most beautiful photographs of very beautiful women every day, there you go. And just like Instagram, it's a constant challenge to present the most provocative imagery without nudity, even though that option is available with a double click. These are beautiful images, and you begin to recognize the photographers as well as the models. I hope that Ivan from Moscow has a good relationship with his muse Anna, since I see another beautiful image of her everyday. Shockingly, at least for me, the second most popular form of imagery seems to be bird photos; if you can get a bird eating, whether it's an eagle or a chickadee, you will be rated above 95. My black and white imagery  of the city has no chance whatsoever. It reminds me of the point in my evenings at Last Thursday when the "Fire Girls" came out to do flaming hula-hooping, and I knew it was time to start packing up my photography.

                                    OREGON COAST SUNSET B&W : FINAL VERSION

While I can't compete with models or birds, it has been enlightening to see how this group of black and white purists respond to my imagery. Unfortunately it seems to have nothing whatsoever to do with what has been successful at the Market. What is even weirder is that certain images do not follow any fate I might have projected for them. While I could predict that Portland imagery might not get as big an audience in the wilder world, it has been hard top fathom what "my public" will find more or less interesting. All of the images above have gotten far more attention on line than in reality, especially when you consider that there color counterparts would get far more interest. The first image, Waterfall Mist, as Oregon an image as you could hope to find, is the most popular image in the year I have been on 500 Pixels; I have never sold a print of this at the Market. Some of the others, like Turbine Hall, or High-Key Arch, obviously will do better with a national or international audience.


Another big success on line, with no real sales at the Market. I know it doesn't make any sense. I think it might have something to do with a 500 Pixel prejudice in favor of panoramic images, which seem to do well in general.

                                     TIES UP IN WILMINGTON : FINAL VERSION

Okay, so this was an anticipated fluke. This photographer's photograph, very popular on 500 Pixels has about as little chance of sales at the Market as just about anything I could think of putting up on the wall.

                                                               EDINBURGH PASSAGE : FINAL VERSION

Another image that wouldn't get a second glance by most dedicated customers, but almost broke 90 on 500 Pixels. It is evocative, but I don't think even most natives of Edinburgh would "get" it without close inspection. I can only figure that I should try to include more humans in my imagery, since several shots like this one have stirred some on-line interest.

                                   INDUSTRIAL ARCHAEOLOGY : FINAL VERSION

Now I admit to being totally flummoxed. Of course I like this image - I don't exhibit anything I am not proud of. What shocked me about its online success was that neither the color version or this new black and white version has ever even provoked any response by anyone. How can I interpret this input, beyond wishing for a more "sophisticated" clientele? What does this mean?

                                    FOUNTAIN FUN : FINAL VERSION

I have never had much success with this image, even though I display it more out of spite than anything else. It's one of my images that should sell, god-dammit, even though it doesn't. It is the second-most popular image of mine on 500 Pixels. Again, it contains human beings, and it is high contrast, which helps when you are competing with thousands of images, much less women and birds.

So what do I know? Not much. This experiment hasn't really led to any profound revelations. I have sold art all around the world, from my little booth under the Burnside Bridge, and still don't have much of an understanding of my public. I'm beginning to conclude that I need to have even more of the strength of my convictions.  I need to show what I want to show, my public be damned, since I don't seem to understand them anyway. But I will say that it has been an awful amount of fun to adopt another photographic persona for awhile. The most important thing I've discovered is that some of my best images actually work much better as black and whites, as I have converted them to promote my monochromatic alter ego. That has kept me going, even when I contemplate rebellion, abandonment or heart attacks among my 500 Pixel fans if color should ever appear on my feed.

My lack of marketing skill, even when I'm marketing, has certainly kept me humble. To conclude, you might ask which image has received my lowest score on 500 Pixels since I started this experiment? It is only that image, albeit in color, that constitutes my biggest seller at 6% of my all-time revenues:


                                                                GO BY TRAIN B&W : FINAL VERSION

The public has spoken! A score of 40, approximately 25 points less than any other image! It's enough to make this grown man cry, or at least have a drink. Fran has been wondering why I don't take up Scotch like most of my troubled British detectives, although I know she would be aghast if I ever did.








(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 03 Sep 2021 19:00:00 GMT


Its been said at least a million times that photography is all about light -good light, bad light, light painting, natural light, artificial light - but what about photography under the conditions of little or no light? What about taking photographs when we ordinarily wouldn't consider it - under the cover of night? From the dawn of photographic history, photographers have tried to extend the time and lighting conditions that allowed them to create images after the sun went down.

                                             PAY ATTENTION, BLOODY FOREIGNERS! : FINAL VERSION

There are several problems with taking photos with little or no light. Focusing the image can be a problem, where the absence of contrast makes it hard to find the edges that are necessary for properly resolving focus, whether manually or with autofocus. Low light levels frequently require shutter speeds slow enough to either blur moving subjects, or even worse, to reveal camera shake caused by our own failure to hold the camera steady for longer than we usually do when hitting the shutter button. Finally, even successfully taken low-light photographs can suffer either from a general murkiness, or from excessive contrast between light and dark areas of the image. Either circumstance will lead to the absence of the detail in the shadows that we were after in the first place.

                                    DARTMOUTH CASTLE AT NIGHT: FINAL VERSION

My readers know that I am a fan of high contrast images, so that night-time contrast does not scare me off. But we still have to deal with it, either by raising our ISO sensor levels and introducing more noise into our images, or bringing along our annoying tripods to eliminate camera shake by allowing the slow shutter speeds that our hands will not allow. But we also have to deal with the differences between our eye/brain connection and the different way our cameras can register light, especially when it is darker than daylight. Our eyes can perceive many more light levels in the low tones than our camera sensors can, and our brains are better able to deal with the idea that highlights, especially artificial light, are expected to be very bright. Our sensors respond in several different ways. In an effort to not blow out the highlights, they reduce the exposure of the darker areas to just black. Conversely, and even more weirdly, in an effort to render the world in our average 18% gray, the images can sometimes appear not to be taken at night at all.


                                                                LIVING ROOM STAIRS : FINAL VERSION

So we find ourselves in the quandary of fooling both our cameras and ourselves, which makes these night-time sessions problematic. I have found that the only real answer is to increase the experimental quotient, with lower expectations than under ordinary conditions. This is also usually a solitary activity, since the spouse doesn't even understand what you are doing out there, and the shutter speeds that sometimes exceed minutes will render them speechless. Urban night-time photography introduces the realistic concern of being out in the dark alone with thousands of dollars of equipment. I have found the answer in making it a winter activity, since at least night is earlier, and there are more people around. Of course you have to be more social, since the public is naturally interested in your idiosyncratic activity, and it is cold. But cold and jovial are much better than warm and paranoid. The image above was taken at a photo meet-up with dozens of photographers spending an hour milling around Pioneer Courthouse Square.

                                    TWILIGHT : FINAL VERSION

Urban landscapes lend themselves to night-time shooting because of the miracle of artificial light. While modern cameras can shoot at candlelight, or by a campfire, it was the introduction of electric light early on in the history of photography that allowed enough ambient light to light urban areas, even without focusing on the light sources themselves. Urban areas were suddenly not so dark as humans had come to accept, even if we were a long way from worrying about "light pollution."  The photo above, although labeled "Twilight" to take advantage of young vampire afficianados, was really taken at the end of what photographers call "blue hour", that magical period, usually about an hour at least in our geographical position, where the sun has gone done, but the sky is not yet black, and Mr. Edison has turned on the lights in the city. I'm depending on the ancient source of night-time light, the full moon, to provide a focus point through the trees. The camera has rendered the sky a lot lighter than reality, so I am really relying on the street lights to allow me to see my camera and not trip over the curb.

                                    STUMPTOWN EVENINGS : FINAL VERSION

Another example of "blue hour". All of the tourists have left for dinner after sunset, and it's pretty cold, but at least since it is February it's only about 6:00 P.M. The sun is still lighting up Mt. Hood's snow, since there is no light out there, and the camera reveals all of the varied shades of artificial city lights that our brains do a better job of averaging.

                                    STUMPTOWN NAKED CITY : FINAL VERSION

This alternate interpretation shows how our brains can be fooled by the photographic process. The black and white rendering has not only increased the contrast, and created a new moodier photo, but it has also convinced us that it is later in the evening; black and white has fooled our brains that it must be later because our "eyes" can no longer perceive color. As the sun goes down, we lose our ability to see colors far earlier than we lose our ability to differentiate between darker levels of light - this is masked by the brightness of artificial light, especially neon signs.

                                     THE SCHNITZ : FINAL VERSION

Yet sometimes the camera's eyes can reveal more than our own, because the primitive computer brain cannot adjust to reality as readily as our own. My exposure of this neon sign is so heavily based on the artificial lighting that beyond throwing everything else into blackness (there is a city behind the sign) our eyes can now perceive the actual structure and blue shade of the neon letters, which I assure you is not the reality of the sign's appearance.


                                     HUH? (LONDON) : FINAL VERSION


                                     MADE IN OREGON IN THE RAIN : FINAL VERSION

Both of these images show how the camera can be fooled by both the brightness and color of neon light. The neon is so powerful that it has caused a color cast that while subtle in reality has now completely clouded the images. While this heightens the mood, it is more a product of my imagination than my eyes - the night sky was not red in London or orange in Portland.


                                                                CUP AND SAUCER, 8:20 : FINAL VERSION

Here i have adjusted the ambient light temperature of this Hopper homage to set the mood and correct both the color cast allowed by the camera, and the excessive contrast cause by the natural color correction that dealt with that color cast. The original shot was unbelievably orange, because the camera reacted to the real orange tone of the restaurant's incandescent lighting which our brains are able to "ignore." Yet when I corrected for that, the straight black and white introduced "unnatural" levels of contrast that made it impossible to see what was going on either inside or outside the storefront. I then toned the image to cut this contrast, using a blue tone that said night to me instead of the usual sepia that rendered this scene as 8:20 A.M. instead of a winter night. I assure you they're still eating breakfast.


                                              "OVERTIME" : FINAL VERSION

Now it's so late, that both the camera and my eyes cannot perceive any color in this office building which has just been emptied by a bomb threat. Of course this is my black and white version, but really there was only shades of brown in reality. We had been in an adjacent museum. 

                                    POWELL'S : FINAL VERSION

Here for once I've dramatically reduced the contrast and increased the exposure so that the viewer can perceive more detail than in reality. It is much darker on this corner, but I've allowed for far more detail both inside and outside the store, while still keeping it "night." The part of the image I actually like best are the glowing Max tracks in the foreground.

                                                                EDINBURGH EVENING : FINAL VERSION

Finally we have returned to the roots of night-time imagery, where photographers revealed the "darker" side of life in the Victorian city. Except for the pedestrian's out-of-focus plastic bag, and the fact that these are not gas lights, this alley scene in Edinburgh  could be more than a century old. Nothing untoward  is going on, but my perceptions that something "might happen" have focused both my street smarts and my photographic attention. Of course I'm just a New Yorker, but you can't be too careful. And my imagination shouldn't stop you from trying tocreate your own nigh-time imagery.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 27 Aug 2021 19:00:00 GMT

I'd like you to bear with me this week as I take a deep dive into the creation of just one photograph. The news is so depressing that I have taken refuge in my art, and want to show you, in a limited way, what goes on between pushing the shutter and pushing an image out into the world. I would encourage all of you to try escaping into a hobby, a game, a book, or your own art, in order to cope with the real world outside your head. I realize that many of you have never actually tried to improve a photograph in this way, thinking it is just too hard, or too expensive, or not worth the effort. I want to assure you that all of that is not true, as is the belief that images should come straight out of camera. They never did, and all of the digital techniques I am going to show you had their direct predecessors in the darkroom. The only difference is the lack of toxic chemicals, and the substitution of a computer program cleverly called Lightroom.

I will try to show you some of the steps that led to the final version above. Although some of this might seem pretty anal, I can assure you that I left out many of the steps. In the real world, a  lot of art is composed of steps that go back and forth, or even in futile paths that contradict each other, all in the Goldilocks dream of getting it "just right." And some of the usual procedures photographers go through would not register at all at the small scale of these images, so I will mention them while skipping showing those particular stages.

My procedure, or "workflow" for the initiated, is just the way I do it - and anyone who tells you that there is a "right" way to do things is both arrogant and wrong. Everyone develops a different way of doing things, and one of the virtues of both software and art is that there is multiple ways of getting to multiple ends, none of which is wrong, only your choice. In fact, you can always change your mind, so when I label something the "final version" I'm just giving myself an excuse to move on to something else. I frequently decide enough is enough when I show Fran two different versions of an image, she gives them a good looking over, and then rolls her eyes and declares that they are exactly the same. While I "know" the last version is obviously superior, I also  know that it is time to stop.

                                            OUT OF CAMERA, ON THE FERRY

This is the original image out-of-camera, taken on the ferry back from the San Juan Islands. I'm kind of kidding myself standing outside on the deck, but not as much as the sailors, and it is a nice day since it's not yet raining. We are heading back to Seattle, and that white mountain on the right that looks no bigger that the hill to the left is in fact Mt. Baker, more than ten times as big and over sixty miles away. I hope you guys are thinking what an ordinary shot, because it is, and can only achieve some higher level with some artistic coaxing.

                                    SQUARE CROP

The first step is to improve the composition through cropping the photograph. I don't take photos for the Times, and I'm not cropping out yet another victim of Kremlin skullduggery. The original vertical framing leaves way too much sky and water, for no apparent reason - the subject is the sailboat. And I have coasters to sell, so a square crop it is.

                                   LEVEL THAT HORIZON, SAILOR!

The next change is to achieve the first goal for almost every landscape image, a level horizon. Unless you want to prove how drunk you were when you took the photo. If the horizon is not level, it better be so out-of-whack that it can show how avant-garde you are, and you will still make your viewers uncomfortable if not queasy.

                                   WHITE BALANCE

The next correction is to adjust the white balance of your image. Our eyes and brains are a lot smarter than your camera's, no matter what you might think, so you need to correct the camera's rendition of the light temperature, which might be completely wrong. If you really blow it by leaving it on automatic, you will let your camera ruin every sunset by "correcting" that awful orange glow that attracted you in the first place. And even though we are so used to seeing our interior lighting as warm that we don't notice it, you will probably be better off removing some warmth even after you reacted to the "correct" setting by wondering if everyone was pale from fever. In this case, the overwhelming blue actually fooled the camera into removing some blue, so we put it back -  and the white boat and sail is now a little whiter, although they are still too dark.

                                   LIGHTEN THE EXPOSURE

We adjust the exposure, just a little, to brighten things up.


OK , now we are entering subtle territory. I've increased just the highlights in the image, trying to lighten up just the boat, the sail, and the bright portion of the sky. Yes it is subtle, and later you will see how it can be more dramatic in black and white. I've left out some other moves, like making the dark parts of the image darker (this only affected the mast and the crew) and all of the various ways that photographers use to sharpen the photo, which are absolutely necessary for almost every image, but just won't show up at this scale.

                                   GRADUATED FILTER

Here is a move that works to highlight the subject in a way that is somewhat counter intuitive, like a lot of these adjustments. Photographers have always used filters to affect their images in camera, by placing filters over their lenses to reduce the light, or affect the colors, or with graduated filters to balance the exposure. In landscapes the sky is frequently so much lighter than the land that it is impossible to balance the exposure. Expose to get some detail in the sky like those pretty clouds, and the foreground will be much too dark. Conversely, expose for the land and you will "blow out" the sky. Your photo will now look like a Nineteenth Century shot with a blank white sky because early black and white film stocks couldn't render blue. We pull a dark veil over the upper part of the image - the graduated filters that faded to clear have now been replaced with software exposure adjustments that gradually disapeare in different parts of the image. By making the upper portion of the sky darker, we have"lightened" the light portions of the image and hopefully brought the viewer's attentions back to the boat.

                                     THE SAILBOAT : FINAL VERSION, UNTIL JUST NOW!

Now it might be tempting to further whiten up the boat and the sail, but the problem would be that a color photo can only take so much manipulation before it starts looking a little too "cooked" for my tastes. That is the problem with HDR images, where in the effort to reveal more detail and color in darker parts of a scene, the image becomes unrealistic since we "know" that the world is not lit that way. This is not a wedding photograph, where that dress better be white or the photographer might not get paid. The overall scene is so "blue", that it seems natural that there is an overall blue tint. A whiter boat and sail might look weird.

                                    THE SAILBOAT : FINAL VERSION

Or maybe not. I just changed it again. Subtle, but not as blue, and hopefully realistic. What do you think?

Now we move into black and white imagery, whose original abstraction  of the real world seems to allow for far more manipulation.

                                   ORIGINAL BLACK AND WHITE CONVERSION

When you hit the black and white conversion button in Lightroom this is what you get. It's a lot better than just desaturating the color original, because the original color information is still lurking in the black and white. This allows you to manipulate the relationship between the gray tones by only adjusting the exposure of the individual original colors, even if they are now hidden. Black and whites can just look "muddy" or "flat" because the colorful scene we remember has now been rendered into very similar grey tones. The struggle is to get back the abstract contrast in any way you can, since black and whites need contrast to shine. While you might love that blue water, you have got to admit that in some ways the original image was pretty monochromatic, almost all blue. This might actually hinder the conversion to black and white, but let's see. Right now the image is pretty flat and disappointing.

                                    BLUE FILTER

Since, everything was so "blue", adding the software equivalent of a glass blue-colored filter over the lens really doesn't help much. In fact, the lightest and bluest parts of the image have even gotten muddier. Let's regroup.

                                   WHITE POINT

The most important part of this image will be making sure that our white is white. We manipulate the lighter parts of the image by making them as white as we can without actually blowing out the highlights and losing any detail. We have now achieved a white boat, sail and sky without raising up the exposure in the darker portions of the image. But of course we have, so we now lower the black point, in search of a true black. This will make the photo pop.

                                   BLACK POINT

You might think it's subtle, but notice how the waves are back, and the trees, the mast and the crew are more defined. The whites are still white.

                                    LOWER THE EXPOSURE

Now we begin to try to highlight the whites by lowering the overall exposure. We might have gone too far, but there's other ways to get some light back in the places we really want it. We are now going to use another kind of graduated filter, whose radial shape can range from a circle to a very oblong oval. Since it is again graduated down to zero, it can be a lot less exact than actually using a "brush" to lighten only parts of the image, but it might come to that. The problem of using a brush is not that is so artistic as to require real technique, but that it must be very subtle  and built up slowly so as to avoid detection. The whole point of all of these techniques is to improve the photo without letting anyone else see what you've done.

                                   RADIAL FILTERS

What I've tried to do here is to  raise the exposure of Mt. Baker, the boat, and the sail to further highlight them. I want you to see that white boat, and try to make the sail glow. I have gone too far, but if I lower the overall exposure again, it might all blend together.

                                    NOT AS MUCH "GLOW"

I think I'm getting there. Not so much leakage of the glow around the sail and the boat. The mountain is still too bright.

                                   THE SAILBOAT B&W : FINAL IMAGE

I do believe I've got it, or at least as close as I'm going to get today. The mountain has been calmed down, and I still like the sail and the boat, at least at this size. Obviously, this is all to taste, and feel free to disagree. I always think it is a good idea to go back the next day or the next week and to see if you have perhaps gone too far, since we obviously get very involved with the process. Color versus black and white is also a matter of taste. I think it is clear that the real value of black and white is that it does allow for more manipulation than color, while emphasizing shape and detail and mood. It's colder, choppier and more dramatic, which is what I felt that day on the ferry deck, much less on that little sailboat. And I think that I've come along way from that dull sailboat tossed on crooked sea.







(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 20 Aug 2021 19:00:00 GMT
THE COASTER ECONOMY                                     MULTNOMAH FALLS : FINAL VERSION

This week I'd like to try something different. I am going to explore the business of photography, I think it might be interesting to the readers of this blog to learn of some of the trials and tribulations of an artist who tries to sell his work. I have been engaged in this pursuit for a dozen years, and it is both a source of great pride and frustration. Before I begin, I'd like to set a few ground rules:

1. I am one of the worst businessmen I know. If you want to say you are worse, you've got to prove it to me. My wife Fran has concluded her opinion of my business acumen in Star Trek terms - in marketing terms, I am "anti-marketing."

2. Selling art at Saturday Market is unlike selling anything anywhere else in the world. It has nothing to do with any other product or venue you might consider as an MBA exercise. While I have always considered any well-meaning business advice, my long-standing rule has been that until you sit in my booth for a couple of hours you really have no idea of what you are talking about - it's that different.

3. I respect and love almost all of my customers. The artist/customer relationship has always appealed to me as much "cleaner" than my years of negotiating the frequently fraught architect/client dynamic. I offer my work to the public; they either buy it or not, no hard feelings. While I will be talking about selling art in this