Lori Carey Photography

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Light and Shadow - Mesquite Dunes

Light and Shadow - Mesquite Dunes
Light and Shadow

I like to browse through my photo archives once in a while. It's a great way to remember some of the adventures I've taken, rediscover images that I've forgotten about, and once in a while find a hidden gem. I was searching for another image a few days ago and stumbled across the folder of photos I took on my very first visit to Death Valley. I didn't have my Jeep then and did the tourist thing, visiting places that were easily accessible from the road and rushing around to see as much as I could in one visit. The park rangers told me to make sure to visit the sand dunes at sunset. Death Valley is HUGE and distances are deceiving. We got there later than I wanted, just as the sun was setting. I was appalled to see how many photographers were scattered throughout the dunes and it was too late for me to hike out any distance to find a place to myself.

But I was in love with the way the light from the sun's low angle played with the shapes of the dunes. It was like a grand symphony of light and shadow and I did my best to capture a few shots before the light faded away.

I wasn't pleased with the images when I got back home. I didn't want people in my shots and the muted color tones weren't what I had envisioned. It was 2005 and I had just started the transition to shooting digital. I had much to learn about post-processing. The debate was raging over how much post was "ethical" and having shot film for many years I decided I would take the side of the purists...nothing beyond setting a black and a white point, maybe a little curves adjustment for some "pop" and perhaps some dodging and burning. That didn't cut it on these photos and they were filed away and forgotten.

When I saw them again the other day I finally saw what I had originally envisioned when I took them. I have to laugh that it took me eight years to realize that these were always meant to be in black and white, but I'm glad that I can finally show what captured my soul that day. This is one of the early experiences that made me fall in love with the desert.

Photographers at Mesquite Flats Sand Dunes in Death Valley National Park, California
Photographers at Mesquite Dunes

Purchase a print of "Light and Shadow"

Purchase a panoramic print of "Photographers at Mesquite Dunes"

Saturday, November 23, 2013

This morning

Potted Ivy Still Life

Just popping in for a minute to drop off an image that I made this morning. It's one I've wanted to make for a while, every time I look at that wall in my dining room when the morning light looks a certain way. I think I'm going to hang a print right next to the real thing.

If you love this image as much as I do you can purchase a print here.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


DIES  DIMETIOR  UMBRIS I measure out the days by the shadows  Trona Pinnacles

I measure out the days by the shadows.

This time of year everyone's talk turns to time...how quickly the year has gone by, how soon the holidays will be upon us, how little time is left to accomplish all of the goals we set for ourselves at the beginning of the year.

Whenever I see a perfectly placed shadow like the one in the image above I can't help but think about ancient shadow clocks and marking the passage of time by the stars. I think of how the first thing I did after leaving the corporate world was to stop wearing a watch. There are still deadlines and appointments and schedules that need monitoring in my day to day life, but when I'm out there the day flows at its own pace and I easily settle in to Mother Nature's rhythm.

Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Intimate landscape photography can't be rushed or forced (although these days it seems it is quite acceptable to fake but that is a story for another day). Certainly it's important to schedule shoots around things like key astrological events, but merely showing up on time doesn't guarantee that all circumstances will be perfect for the image we are seeking. When I commented to a photographer whose work I greatly respect and admire that my seascape project had slowed down while I wait for the right weather and right frame of mind he told me that he believes that civilization should occur at a geological pace. Wise and appropriate words from someone who doesn't photograph landscapes or nature but still understands.

In the mean time I'm happy to sit and watch the light change and the shadows fall until the time is right.

Rock formation, moon and shadow, Trona Pinnacles

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Do You "Like" Me?

Image set by Lori Carey used in DrivingLine article

Too often I see photographers, especially emerging pros and amateurs, tie their sense of self worth to social media and use it to gauge how good their work is. They get obsessed with how many likes, shares and comments they get, as if it is an indicator of how good their photography is. They are the ones always begging asking people to like and comment on their posts. They get frustrated when they feel that people aren't paying enough attention to them and they will leave one social media network for another where there work gets more attention.

If they have a lot of followers they think it means that they are a great photographer, when in reality it may just mean that they were included in many shared circles of people who...share circles. In fact, some of the most talented photographers on social media networks have a small number of followers and receive very little interaction on their posts simply because they don't play the circle/ShareMe game. I see this especially on GooglePlus, where overly-saturated highly processed imagery is by far the favorite of the landscape crowd and there is proportionately little attention paid to any landscape photographer who does not follow the formula. Of course my opinions are based mainly on the interactions I see on GooglePlus because that is where I hang my social media hat, but I can't imagine that it is much different on any other social media network. The demographics of each social media network are very different, an image that does well on one will not necessarily do well on another. Relying on social media likes as a measure of your talent is a head fake.

Some photographers excel at being professional Sharers. They post throughout the day and their posts frequently have nothing to do with their photography. They find the right formula to get a lot of interaction on their posts and develop a "cult" following. Many then get frustrated when their high number of followers doesn't translate into overnight success as a photographer with a multitude of clients banging on their door.

While some photographers confuse their popularity with talent, there are others who get frustrated and depressed that they aren't receiving the attention they feel their (very real) talent deserves. They may not be as skilled in navigating the social media environment, they may not have the time to devote to it, they may think they can post-and-run and devoted followers will flock to them, or their style of photography may not be popular with social media (there is little correlation between photography displayed in high end galleries and photography that is popular on social media networks). Or perhaps they may not be as good as they think they are.

Being popular on social media and being a good photographer are simply not the same thing.

Social media is a great way to "get your name out there" and get eyes on your work, it's necessary for SEO purposes and it can be a great way to network with others in the field. But I think that too many photographers get too obsessed over follower counts and number of likes as a measure of their talent and as some kind of measure of success. Just because Jane Photographer has one million followers and Joe ShutterSpeed only has 1500, it does not mean that Jane is a better photographer than Joe. There are many factors that account for social media popularity. Jane might be more popular because of her half-naked selfies and know nothing about working with clients. Joe might just be too busy working with clients to post on a regular basis. Jane may have done a better job cultivating her tribe while Joe might be more introverted. And a given social media network might not be where Joe's target market is best found. Developing a following on social media is a skill that has very little to do with the quality of one's photography.

Some photographers truly do deserve the attention they get on social media because they are wonderfully talented.
Others learn the hard way that millions of followers do not automatically translate into paying clients knocking on the door.

The prompt for this post was the image above, a set of my photos that Nitto Tire posted on their Facebook page to promote my DrivingLine article 6 Hot Off Road Vehicle Trends. Nitto posted it yesterday and as of this morning it has 17,843 likes, 826 shares and 119 comments. I'm going to post the image on GooglePlus this morning and link it to this post to show the drastic difference in responses. While it's easy to say that the Facebook is a better place for photographers to post (I hear that all the time but refuse to post on Facebook because of their onerous Terms of Service), one needs to understand that Nitto Tire has a much larger following than I do and that it has a completely different audience than I do on G+. When I did the shoot I did it for Nitto's audience. It's very important for a photographer to understand that. In fact it's probably the most important thing for a photographer to understand when shooting for a client.

Of course I'm happy to see that level of interaction on their post and it does get more eyes on my work, but what I'm really happy about is that I helped my client get that level of response because that is what they hired me for.

I won't get a tenth of the number of likes and share on G+ that Nitto is getting for the exact same image, but what I can be confident of is that based on the interaction of their Facebook post, my client got their money's worth from this shoot.

That is why I don't let myself get obsessed about follower counts and number of likes.