Monday, September 19, 2016

Inventor and/or Creator

It is interesting reflecting on the difference between say an inventor who creates new products: light bulbs, record player, camera bags, and a creator, who paints, writes, photographs. They are all creative, but are they all inventors?

Are they the same, see a need and try to solve it? I see myself as inventing a soft gadget bag for photographers, and shooting pictures for a photo assignment. As a photographer I was always trying to think up as many ways as possible to capture the scene. Change lenses, from the front, move to the side, look down, look up, be creative.

But cinematographer Joseph Walker invented the zoom lens to help him be more creative. At the Summer Olympics photographers were using remote cameras in creative ways.

It strikes me as interesting how many photographers have invented products from studio strobes to camera bags. I just published my story on how I invented a soft should bag for photographers who wanted something to work out of, not simply to store their gear.

Calling the book Branded Professional: By a Photographer for Photographers, it is an eBook. Everyone reads eBooks, right? Can be downloaded onto your smartphone, tablet or computer.

It starts with a need. Photographers knew they needed something, but how to make it? Home sewing machine didn't work, modifying a gas-mask bag didn't match photo gear. I was lucky to be at the right place at the right time when the Philadelphia Inquirer was willing to buy 22 bags. Industrial sewing shop was interested in sewing 25 bags, I thought I buy some extra bags to sell to friends.

Been reading Walker's 1984 autobiography, The Light on Her Face, and seeing all the products he invented. He solved a problem with fading out from a scene, finding a better way to sound proof noisy cameras, zoom lens, etc. It helped him be a better cameraman, and he was able license the ideas to manufactures.

The Inquirer went on strike and I just saw it as a part-time business.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

In 1990 Photo Retailers Vote on Favorite Products

It's finally time to throw some things away, going through a pile of clippings, photos and notes saved from my days as an entrepreneur. I stumble over the November 1990 issue of the trade publication, Photo Trade News. (It no longer exists.)

But back in 1990 all the camera store owners got a free copy once a month telling them of new products and the status of the industry.This was back in the film days and the dealers were voting on their favorite product.

The article ledes off with "35mm SLR retail under $400" and the winner is a Minolta Maxxum 5000I, Canon EOS 700 and Pentax SF-10. PDF then goes to those SLRs between $400 and $1000 which includes Nikon N8008, Minolta Maxxum 7000I and Canon EOS 10S.

The review moves to accessories grouping top three photo albusm, frames and carrying cases. Camera bag is a carrying case?

The top brands for dealers were Tamarac 605, Coast Oasis and the Domke F2 Original. With the brief description: "professional photographer Jim Domke designed the F2 and tailored it to the specifications of his colleagues. It continues to be an all-time favorite."

Made the first F2 in 1976 and here it is being picked in 1990! I don't know if the dealers are simply slow or it proves it was a steady seller. Don't see any mention of the Nikon F. Actually for the high end SLR, the dealers pick Nikon F4 "that continues the tradition of the F3" and Canon EOS 1. For Canon it was the new lens mount "as more EF lenses are introduced."

Working on an eBook: Professionally Branded: By a photographer for photographers. Which I hope to release on Kindle by late August. It has been a chance to reflect on how making the bag to work from, get the roll of film quickly, change lenses and not fight the camera bag.

Today you can still rank cameras at different price points, but they are all digital. There isn't a need for the "single-use camera" the smart phone fills that need. Accessories in 1990 were Cokin Filters, now we have Photoshop, Snapseed and Instagram. Minolta pioneered auto-focus auto-exposure camera stores liked the "creative expansion cards" that popped into the camera to help photographers shoot better sports, bracket or customize shots. This is back in the old film days!

First Kodak SLR launched around 1994 for $25,000. Nothing for the camera store, They were interested in "shutter camera" for under $150, or the "35mm shutter camera" for over $150. A new category was added, the "bridge" camera. Defined as a "new concept camera with 35-135mm zoom lens." With an anti-red-eye flash system and infrared remote control. Olympus, Ricoh and Chinon brands were featured.

Those were the days. My book Professionally Branded shares how business needs to find a niche, and get branded. I'd like to thank all the photographers who helped make this possible. Sharing ideas at trade shows and snail mail.
Advertisment: 1989 taken by passerby who was handed a camera by David Burnett in Buenos Aires, Argentina, covering Pope John Paul.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Instagram is weather art!?

Back before the internet, when the newspaper was the main way to find out what was happening. They needed photos to get readers attention, just like the website. Sort of.

The front page of the main section was always covered with wire photos, pictures taken from around the world by the Associated Press or United Press International. Even if the main local story was the real estate property tax increase, there was a national or international story with a a photo for the front page.

But the second section front page was only local news. It HAD to have a picture to attract readers into reading the stories. Often the photo editor didn't find out till 2 p.m.'s news meeting what stories were going to run in the next day's paper. The make-up editor wanted to know what photos were available to go with the stories. But maybe there were no photos!

This is when the photo editor rushed back and everyone in the photo department had to get out and find a photo and make the 7 p.m. deadline, That was the deadline for prepress, all articles and and photos finished. To layout the page the editor needed to know whether it was a horizontal or vertical photo ASAP. To play it safe many make-up editors would start laying out the page, which story on top, how many stories on the page and just putting a large square box in the center for the "weather art."

The newspaper was depending on the staff to find a local photo and make the deadline.

There are stories of photographers at the Topeka Capital Journal coming from different directions and ending up at the same playground. At the Philadelphia Inquirer there was a story of one photographer who simply had a stuffed squirrel in his trunk and then simply stuck it somewhere to reflect on the season or the weather. Story goes that he was trying to show how cold it was and put his squirrel on the edge of a metal drum that workers used to burn trash and get warm. Well the drum was hot and fell into the flames, the whole staff mourned.

Tourist in Colorado, by J.G.Domke
Photos that stood alone, no story, just a caption. Often, reflecting on the weather. How hot the day was, extreme cold, beautiful fall weather, warm spring day, flowers blooming, stormy weather, etc.

Instead of weather art, they could just be interesting, funny signs, or people working. Akira Suwa found that his best "weather art" were found when he wasn't working, the best way to find something was to run an errand. He was interested to stereo music and some of his best photos were found as he drove to the stereo store to look at a new speaker or turntable.

Today Instagram has become the "weather art." and old newspaper photographers like Ira Block have thousands of people who follow the photos he posts. Having worked for several newspapers he moved on to traveling the world doing a variety of stories for National Geographic where you have to find "weather art" everyday. His Instagram site, irablockphoto, has 251,000 followers!

The great thing is that you can capture things 24/7 that you find interesting with your smartphone, some of Block's images may be taken with his iPhone, but many are taken with his professional camera. But all shared on Instagram. Chronicling the day, weather art.

Following the tradition I still take weather art on Instagram too. Check out JimDomke.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Various traits make up being a photographer

Native American protest Bureau of Indian Affairs
Having met a lot of photographers at various trade shows, photographers stopping at the Domke Bag booth looking to meet their equipment needs. I occurs to me that photography is unique in the variety of photographers taking photos, compared to say painters or even writers. 

Youth tries being old, with aging body.
I see one type of photographer who is like the chief/cook preparing a meal. This could be the studio photographer or the still life photographer, who has an image form in their mind and then goes out to create it. This is also how in the film days you shot the photo, then developed it, maybe modified the developer, then had to make a print and like Eugene Smith and Ansel Adams manipulate the light to make the print. Ready to serve. 

Photography appeals to others who simply want to make the subject look good, portrait photographers are like beauticians. Recording how people want to look. Posed, lean forward to hide the saging skin under the chin, spot out wrinkles, etc. They are like the painter. Artists. 

I always thought of myself as a tour guide, as a journalist, guiding viewers at an event. Showing what was important and worth seeing. Looking for outstanding features that need to be notices.

It is interesting how the newspaper reporter realize how everyone forgets what they read yesterday, and are only interested in today's news. I always felt like a librarian who was recording events for future generations to use for research. Chronicle a moment and better understand life.

Hoping the images will motivate the viewer to action, I was very idealistic. In high school wondering what career to take I had considered becoming a pastor, a missionary. 

Photography is my way to reaching out and trying to guide people.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Newsphotographer or Photojournalist: Is there a difference?

Thinking back to how I once viewed the power of visual images. It was the Sixties and "new journalism" was the fad. Long stories in Esquire, Rolling Stone, New Yorker Magazine, etc., thought it was something Tom Wolf called "New Journalism." When writers told what the subject was wearing, color of their socks, what they were doing, how they were sitting, etc. etc. 
News Photo

Wouldn't it be easier to simply show it? I thought this was photojournalism. Words nd pictures working together to show what was happening. 

Stumbled upon reference to Newsday's Director of Photography, Harvey Weber, viewing journalism as showing the beginning, middle and end. The newspaper photographer showing up and simply captured a moment. Didn't tell the whole story.

But with words and photos work together to tell the story. What is photojournalism? I see it as a part, you can't tell the whole story with just words or just with photos. You need to combine both.

For many this is still strange. They only see photos as decoration to the word story. Rather than imagine, see it. Look at a picture and have the words fill in the gaps. Tell about what happened before and who the people are in the photo. This means the photo editor needs to pick a photo that fits with the story, not the most beautiful photo or most eye-catching shot.

Speaking at a Photo Expo in New York with John Durniak I thought photojournalism was dead as color photography made the photo simply a tool to attract readers to read the story. In black and white you could study the face of the people, see where they were, freeze the moment. Not distracted by COLOR

With color, photos were decoration. Posed with fill-in flash so the blue sky was darker. Editors didn't mind, they saw it as a way to pull readers into reading the story. Not telling the story. 

I could say the newsphotographer was someone who covered events:Auto accidents, fires, press conference, demonstrations, events, but the photojournalist was someone getting a photo of people doing things. One photo or several photos that tied in with the words to tell the whole story. 

''John Durniak was one of the first to realize the potential of the 35-millimeter camera,'' said Carl Mydans, one of the first photographers hired by Life, who later worked for Time, ''and he affected most of us who were photojournalists in how we looked upon reporting with a camera. We were storytellers with a camera, and that was his continual direction to us: 'Don't forget what you are. You are reporters, telling stories in pictures.' ' 

Monday, October 12, 2015

Freelance writer/photographer 2015

Writer/photographer? Is this what I once called a photojournalist? No a photojournalist simply tells the story visually and writes captions. This is an advertisement in U.S. News and World Report looking for help creating content for a "Best Places to Live" by the "digital products, real estate department.?
Reporter Jim Wood interviews Jimmy Breslin - 1973/SF Examiner

I immediately thought, or hoped, they were going to do a series, show real estate, the homes for sale like the Wall Street Journal. Thinking it may be like the stories I did for the Inquirer Sunday magazine showing the homes and how they reflect on the people that live in them. Using words and pictures.

With Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex coming in after New York for number of Fortune 500 corporations, it has three of the top ten fastest growing communities in the country.

For just $250, U.S. News and World Report wants "strong writers who feel comfortable and confident with a camera."

Back in 1969, I spent the summer in my home state of Colorado attending seminars at the Creative Eye in Aspen, Colorado. They gave me free tuition in trade for managing the darkroom, but to get money for room and board I walked into the local weekly newspaper office. The Aspen Times publisher said reporters took photos, but they didn't like developing the film and printing. He'd pay be $40/week to be a darkroom tech AND print any photos I wanted to submit.

After the summer I returned to the School of Journalism at the University of Missouri, and the Aspen Times won first place at the Colorado Press Association's yearly competition, the two reporters refused to take photos, forcing the Aspen Times to hire a photographer.

Working at the San Francisco Examiner I was upset with the Newspaper Guild prevented me as a staff photographer from writing stories to go with my photos. They were out to save jobs, but I had to sell the reporter on doing the story. (A story I thought would make great photos, and never interested the writer.) News photographers usually simply wait for reporters to write the story then turn in a photo assignment.

Fran Ortiz had freelanced for Life magazine, and one of the photographers I admired most on the staff. He later helped the Guild negotiate a contract with the paper and in his 2007 obit was remembered by colleagues for having been "held down from jumping over the table" when the Examiner wanted to let reporters also take photos.

So I was struck when I read Paul Theroux's interview in the Wall Street Journal promoting his new travel book, Deep South. They asked him why he didn't take the photos. Instead getting award-winning professional photojournalist, Steve McCurry, to take pictures for the book.

He responded, "people who take pictures lose their capacity for close observation...taking a picture is a way of forgetting."

What? You often remember the photo of a family event and forget the event. Seeing a photo brings back memories.

But I think while a photographer concentrates on capturing the moment, they miss the smell and sounds, words help. Words can record what people say, confirm when and were the event took place. Words fill in the gaps. Together they tell the whole story.

Publishers and word people often see the photo as functioning like a headline, to pull viewers into reading their prose. A decoration, not the story.

Many think their words need to create the scene in the readers head and the photo is too literal, dampens the readers imagination! This is what Tom Wolfs "new journalism," wanted the writer to describe what they saw, what the people were wearing, what they were thinking, etc.

In the 21st Century the reader doesn't have time to read about John Doe's uncombed hair and worn jeans, when he can see it.

I'm a journalist. I grew up with LIFE magazine and felt reporting advanced when words and pictures told the whole story.

Words and pictures go together. Done right they tell the entire story so the reader knows what it was like to be there and understand how it effected the people who were there and how it affects the community.

Certainly when the reporter is taking photos, they are unable to take notes or ask questions. If they are asking questions they might be missing a picture.

I like coming up with my own story ideas. Having owned a business I enjoyed doing profiles on successful business owners for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. At first I thought I'd take a photo first and help the business owner relax before sitting down and interviewing them. But in talking they'd  tell me something I thought I could use for the story. So I'd stop shooting and start taking notes. It didn't work.

At the Star-Telegram covering a story with Barry Schlacter I listened to the interview and thought he missed following up on one angle. I asked if I could ask a question, then after the interview Barry told me how much he appreciated be asking the question because it gave him time to review his notes.

The best way I found was to do the interview first, then after all the questions have been asked. Try to get the owner to pose for a picture. This worked better, but we were both in a hurry to get it done. I took fewer photos, usually only one setting, just trying to get a good happy expression.

But as a photographer, a photojournalist, I look around for different angles, left, right, looking up, looking down, tight shots, change lenses, get them thinking, gesturing, smiling, etc. Then editing my "notes" down to find the best shot that tells the story:what, where and who was in the story.

For best results you can't do both.

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

100th Anniversary of the National Parks

President Theodore Roosevelt went West and wanted to preserve what he saw. Maybe seeing how the Niagara Falls in New York had been exploited. He wanted to preserve nature. Keep it unchanged.

So on the 100th anniversary of the National Parks I think of Edward Abbey who wrote Desert Solitaire about working at the Arches National Park and how happy he felt that few people came to visit. Let nature stay the way it is. Abbey thought the National Park Service should preserve and that meant fewer people. Dirt roads, two-lane roads, no electricity, just let things be the way they are.

Colorado view from I-25 of  E. Spanish Peak by JGDomke

Texas scene at Enchanted Rock near Fredericksburg, TX by JG Domke
There are lots of other great views, so why bring people to the National Parks, make roads, pave trails, restrooms, and trash. Shouldn't they be closed off instead and preserved?

With the coming 100th anniversary in 2016, CBS highlighted federal parks with a profile on a Colorado photographer, John Fielder, who came out with a collection of photos duplicating scenes taken in in the 19th century by W. H. Jackson.
Having been raised in Colorado I took the Rockies for granted. I liked camping, but saw the damage mining had done and was outraged by the growing cloud of pollution rising over Denver. 

Agreeing with James Michener in his Centenial novel in 1976 concluded that Colorado had too little water, so the state needed to limit their population.

Colorado is a nice place to visit, but there is more water in Texas and I moved out of Colorado to save it.

Growing up in Colorado made me love the west, nature and be an environmentalist. I remember driving around Leadville, Colo., in the Fifties and seeing all the abandon mining equipment. The dredge sitting in the creek where they had crushed all the rocks looking for gold. It was an industrial construction site. NOT BEAUTIFUL. 

Returning today it is amazing how they have restored, the stream, Landscaped it to look natural. Thanks to tourists and skiers. They removed the rotting mining equipment. I was amazed how Colorado is focused on restricting the size of buildings, limiting their size and trying to keep the 100 year old shops that are now gift shops and boutiques. 

Too bad in Texas that the boom towns for drilling haven't become tourist locations. Chico the birthplace of the Hilton hotel chain, seems like a ghost town with huge buildings sitting empty. An early Hilton hotel in Marlin, Texas, was where Texans vacationed in the Twenties and Thirties. They came for the spring water. Business tried to profit from it. Today, nobody even knows it exists. They go to Colorado.
Leadville? No Thurber Texas
It was a rush for gold and silver in Colorado, but in Texas it was cattle and oil. Thurber alongside I-20 has a museum telling how it was the largest town west of Fort Worth and the first to have electric lights, an Opera House, etc. But it was a company town and the union shut it down. They wee making more money from oil in Ranger, it was cheaper not to give in to the union and close the coal mine down, and shut down the brick factory. Roads didn't need to be paved in brick. 

Old mining towns in Colorado now offer boutique beer, gourmet restaurants, craftsmen, and artist boutiques, along with great scenery. Do we thank National Parks?

All photos by J.G. Domke, photojournalist, covering life in America.