Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"The Negative is the Score, the Print the Performance"

Isn't that a fabulous quote from photographer Ansel Adams? Adam's of course was revealing the process of creating a photograph. But, this wonderful thought is applicable to so many aspects in our busy lives. It is also an appropriate phrase for producing a book. I've been asked numerous times how a book like this is put together.

Wow, that's a loaded question.

There's a lot that goes into creating a book that is never seen. And, that's a good thing. Being on this side of the fence and seeing all that goes into the process of gathering materials, research, trips, camera, lens & digital costs, preproduction, postproduction, design, editing, ect. is overwhelming at times. All I can say is the price you pay for most books is truly a bargain.

Producing a book is akin to a musician creating an album. Think of all the musicians, song writers, sound engineers, promotion people, concerts, instruments, all combining to put out an album. And, when in the hands of dedicated people who love their respective jobs, a fine product is born. I feel this comfort and dedication with those I work with at Borealis Books, a publishing division of the Minnesota Historical Society Press.

For photographing a book on canoe country we are rapidly closing out the season for visual coverage as fall leaves continue to drop and snow has landed in the northern reaches of the State. I'm comfortable with the summer coverage but like most shooters I know, I wish I could be everywhere all the time. I feel I am always missing great images because I am not there when wonderful moments happen.

Its just the way it is. We can't be everywhere all the time.

So, we pick our spots and work within the economic timetable allowed. I try to peek under every stone and obtain visual coverage of everything I feel is significant whenever possible. The most frustrating part of creating images for a book like this is leaving the area knowing there will be be situations we want to experience and capture with our lenses. It stresses me to miss

Basically, all books begin with an idea. Writer Greg Breining and I have chatted about a book on canoe country for years. The same was true with our recent book on the culture on ice fishing, "A HARD WATER WORLD." There are lots of books on the how-to aspects of ice fishing. Greg and I were more interested in the cultural nature of the sport. Report on the wild and whacky, those dedicated folks who live in the boreal ring of ice and why do they do it. The book has been a wonderful success and we're using that same approach with this book on canoe country.

First, we look for publications on the subject of canoeing already out there. We needed to come up with an idea that was fresh and would not compete with existing titles. We've broken down the theme into chapters that will explore the myriad of life in canoe country. For example, we'll look at things like mood, history, seasons, and ecology. And, we've kept the effort close to home. This will be a regional book. Can you imagine the costs and time necessary for a book on canoeing with a national scope? You'd need to travel so many places spending what would seem like seconds in one area only to move on to another in order to finish all the locations where people love to paddle. Coverage would be thin and much lost in missing those experiences in such famed and historical areas like the Adirondacks, Arkansas, and Alaska to name a few. There's not a publisher out there who could afford to produce such a book. It makes more sense to stay regional. We are blessed in our region with the likes of the famed Boundary Waters Canoe Area (BWCA) and Quetico Provincial Park. The rich voyageur history and over a quarter million annual visitors make this area a compelling reason to do a book.

Coverage? Another loaded question. What do you cover when examining a region like this? One could take on any number of pursuits. It could be focused simply on plant life or fishing, old resorts, camping, wilderness, ect. A tremendous amount of time could be spent investigating all of these topics and each could actually prove to be a book all on its own. Our approach is an overview of personal experiences, usage, history and mood. It will blend a fine mix of informational and emotional themes.

Most books projects I've worked on there's been a strong connection with the writer and myself. We seek to have words and images form a marriage. We want different personalities and perspectives merging without repetition. We seek fresh insights coming from both words and images. This effort has been a bit different than others. I've not heard from writer Greg Breining all summer on what he's covering. This of course might make me a bit nervous since this is my key season for creating visuals. However, Greg and I have worked together enough on varied projects around the planet for two decades that we carry a sixth sense between us. Still, we are excited when we see each others work melt together to carry a topic to new heights. We still enjoy learning from each others work. And ultimately, this is our goal for readers.

I've still got some time left before the lakes freeze over and I plan on shooting addt'l images
during the seasonal transition. Rest assured we'll not forget winter. We'll have a chapter on dogsledding in this book too. After all, we use our frozen canoe country in very exciting and richly rewarding fashion too.

In the meantime, a glance back at a few treasures in canoe country.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Winter Visits Today

Today, I awoke to our first snow of the season. Its October 12th. Yikes.
Fear not, its only a temporary peek at life in the Northland. It'll all be gone tomorrow.

What it did for me was kick-start my excitement towards the new season. And my anxiety.
I have this photograph dancing in my mind that I have not exposed yet. I want to capture a canoer on the water paddling in an all out near white-out snowfall. Its glued to my brain and I can't get it out.

Timing is everything.

You need to be at the right place at the right time. I'll keep seeking the right time. In the meantime, I couldn't resist going out this morning and playing with lens and light with the first flakes of the year.