Saturday, December 31, 2011

Looking Ahead-Hitting Home Runs

I'm not much of a New Year's resolution kind a guy. I have enough projects to keep me busy for another 100 years. So, I don't dwell on such things. Some are bigger than others. My big job today, this last day of 2011 was making a huge batch of homemade chili.

Mission accomplished! And let me tell you, I pureed some jalepano peppers, spread them on cream cheese inside crescent rolls and baked them......oh my! So good with chili. My goodness, I get easily sidetracked.

Over the holiday season I had the pleasure of touching bases with several good friends. Many of which are peers in the field photography. Conversations rolled all over the place, with topics ranging from family, the stagnant economy, upcoming shoots, and my favorite, why we do what we do. That spiritual connection we have being photographers.

One of the things I cherish about my photo friends is we don't compete with each other. We do our own thing, exploring, creating, learning. Granted, our images are often in the same edit pool or assignment desk in which clients make choices, but in conversation we share ideas, bitch about stuff, and in the end marvel that we are doing what we do. In fact, when I'm unavailable for an assignment, I suggest these folks to the editor because it does both the client and these talented shooters good. And, they do the same for me.

I've always found it tough going around people I sense are hiding something from me. They give off the vibe they have something on you, then refuse to, share. Its such a waste. They fail to realize that blurting out ideas can allow those ideas to percolate and genuine thoughts from others can add depth. I see this both professionally and in some of the workshops I teach.

So, if I were to make any suggestions for rising & aspiring shooters looking ahead to 2012 it would be to put yourself on pace to hit a few home runs. Share ideas and images. Take on a visual project and push it to a conclusion. Talk to others about it. Share it. There are tons of good places on the internet to share these projects. Investigate a subject/theme and reap the benefits of all those lessons that will reward you on so many levels. It will make you a better photographer and a wiser person. And, invariably, you will find new themes within the one your are developing. I swear on every story I shoot, I find several mor
e within it worth pursuing. Its a win-win.

In a day where it feels like everything that can be photographed, has been photographed, its time to go hunting. I find new moments revealed at the click of my shutter all the time. Ya just gotta get out there with your lens.

A good example: I teach a series of workshops called 72HOURS at the Minneapolis Photo Center (MPC). I choose a different theme and for three days we go out and shoot that theme. In the end, produce a book of those efforts. Last Spring we did one called 72HOURS Stone-Steel-People. We went all over Minneapolis/St. Paul searching for subject matter that related to this topic. Many of the subjects we photographed we photograp
hed with fresh eyes because we were following a theme. Without that theme, the story line, we quite possibly on any other day, would've walked right past those moments.

Using the theme as a visual vehicle, we gave ourselves permission to create because they had relevance based on our theme. You can see where I'm going with this can't you? There's lots of photographic material out there! Attaching a theme steers you in a direction.

Consider following a theme. It is a great way to kick off your new photographic year. Don't be fooled that its a trivial way to create. Its not. You can pick a simple theme or one more involved.

Along with the several I have on tap already, I'm determined to spend more time photographing Gaea here in Minneapolis whose face intrigues me to no end. She is someone I really want to photograph. Its a theme. Its one of my plans. And, she's right here in the neighborhood. I have no economic reasons to photograph her. I feel a calling to do so.

Minor White once said when referring to making photographs, "Listen to the Messages." This is an obvious message to me and I will pursue it as I can.

Grab that camera and lens and hit some home runs with your efforts. Its like that party you didn't want to go to and once you got there, had buckets of fun.

Happy New Year!

layne & gang

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Winter Blues-NO WAY!

When asked what's my favorite time of year to photograph, I usually say winter. Oh man, the looks I got! I've had to think about that response once the words left my lips, but when narrowing it down, I know why I make this claim.

Its the quiet, less people around, fresh tracks in the snow, shorter days (so I don't have to work
18 hour days) that are so appealing. So maybe its more accurate if I say winter & wilderness. The same nuances seem to apply to both. I'm comfortable there.

I love the peacefulness of winter. The sounds outside are different, the light is different too. And the unique challenges that accompany winter activities keeps many inside. All I can say is this; If you are prepared to be outside in the cold, you'll have a rewarding experience in a season that so many put on hold.

One prime example for a winter excuse is a wonderful workshop coming up in March in the Canadian Rockies at Banff National Park. See the flyer below. The idea of photographing winter at it's peak, the ice fully formed, the longer days of late February and warmer temps, puts you in position to photograph one of the most legendary winter locations in North America. Contact the Mentor Series for more information.

Mentor Series Photo Workshops

What keeps folks from embracing winter? The cold!

How you dress is the key to staying warm and enjoying yourself. Remember, cotton kills. Stay away from cotton. And think layers. Dress in layers. In cold, the moment you feel a sweat coming on, take a layer off. When you stop, pull that layer back on, it'll hold in the heat. Wearing clothing with a wicking layer, from your long johns to your jacket are key to staying warm for the active shooter. Always have a hat and wear it! Most of your body heat escapes from your noggin, so keep it warm. Again, when you start cookin' take it off, but keep it handy.

And in my opinion, the most overlooked piece of clothing is that all important wind layer. A warm fleece or down jacket is warm until that wind cuts through you like a hawk. Pulling that all important wind layer will keep you snug and toasty. When it comes to your hands, mittens are far warmer than gloves. I wear a thin pair of poly gloves inside my mittens so I can pull them off, snap off a few frames, and slide my hands back inside those warm mittens.

For my wind layer, I wear something that is also water resistant or waterproof. Living in Minnesota and doing a lot of work in the arctic, the conditions of the snow are very cold. So, the snow just glides off my gear. But, in places like the Rockies, especially in Spring, the snow can be wet and cling to you. Remember, STAY DRY. This is key to a safe and enjoyable trip outdoors in winter.

Batteries....oh my, the big worry isn't it for shooters? If I'm on assignment and gone for days, I carry several spares. But, I also carry those little "heat packets" you buy at the store and once opened stay warm for eight hours. I'll keep one wrapped around my spare each day just in case my in-camera battery dies. And, if I have a warm place to sleep at night, I recharge.

Bringing gear in from the cold. If you are staying out all day in the cold and then return to a warm cabin at the end of the day, be careful with your gear. That temp change will cause rapid
condensation on your very electronic equipment. I keep mine inside my bag, under my big jacket and allow it to slowly warm to room temp. Often times this takes several hours so be patient. If you plan on any addt'l night shooting once you've come in, just leave the gear outside and out of the wind.

What is there to photograph in winter? The subject matter is as endless as any other season.
Take a look at some of these images to kick start the mind. Get out and shoot. Winter can offer the photographer a collection of imagery that sets them apart from most shooters. Explore, take risks with light and lens. The air is crisp and clean and the magic of that temporary fossil called ice, offers the artist endless options in a sea of translucence.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Holiday Photography Sale

When you look around our home and my office, it's filled with photographs. Not mine, but important images captured by other photographers. I still lose myself in these images and continue to collect more.

I adore these photographs. I'm such a fan of the medium. And, I'm never angry that others captured such great photographs. I'm so jealous..... that I missed the experience they witnessed. Being there has always been my favorite part of creating photographs. Sharing them is a close second.

There's basically two types of photographers; those who with huge egos and a competitive spirit, and those comfortable within themselves, sharing info, ideas, and their art. This is not to say both personality types aren't producing extraordinary works, they are. Its just different styles.

Recently, a local Minneapolis fundraising event for the Minneapolis Photo Center auctioned off artwork from photographers all around the nation who donated their works. I donated my BISON STAMPEDE photograph and thankfully it sold for a handsome amount. I found myself bidding on local shooter Douglas Beasley's photograph of a White Horse & Clouds taken in the Badlands. I loved the image! I'm called to the badlands annually and am consistently rewarded with spiritually filled visual moments. But with Doug's print, dog-gone-it, I was outbid.

While my works appear in several galleries, we also sell prints right out of our office. I rarely advertise for sales, because with so much work, and the constant renewal of recently created images, I have no idea where to start. I dunno, maybe its because I'd rather shoot than print and frame? It seems to work out naturally, and I guess I adhere to the concept of "if it ain't broken, don't fix it."

This last year, for whatever reason, we saw a small collection of images sell more than others. We have no idea why these particular photographs caught on? Many of these images have been around for a long time, so why now?  I can't predict this sort of thing, but we can respond to it.

We've decided to offer a sale of these images for the remainder of this holiday season.

All prints will be printed as acid free, fine art archival giclee' prints on radiant white Somerset Velvet watercolor museum quality 505 gsm weight paper. Please allow at least one week for printing. Please email us with any questions.


layne & gang

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Snap-Volume One

A brief continuation from the last post, this idea of shooting instinctively has been such a pleasure that the idea of spitting out a book quickly emerged.

Thus, SNAP-VOLUME ONE has been published. You can find it on the website. Here's the link;

The simplicity of merely aiming the iPhone at the subject, the visual that called out, is immensely
gratifying. While this style of photography can work in certain visual arena's, it works well in this one.

I think this spells out one of the early reasons I was attracted to photography. There was always something magical about it. Remember (you old folks) the first time you saw a print develop in the tray? It blew my mind. I knew at that moment, I was hooked.

Shooting with the iPhone has brought joy back to shooting subject matter that I might not use my Nikon's for. This iPhone shooting combined with the Hipstamatic app, generates a unique visual flavor that I adore. The grunge borders, the garage band feel, all lend itself to images that look like snapshots. And, for this subject matter, that's a perfect fit.

While I could never substitute the iPhone for my regular camera gear, its a treat to play with and the creative forces that come with it are no different than a classically trained guitarist picking up a ukelele and having fun. It still takes a connection with the medium to make it resonate, but it can be done.

Don't be afraid to experiment and express yourself anyway you can.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011


Part of the joy in creating photographs is aligning a technique to match the mood. Are cameras costing thousands of dollars the answer for achieving visual success? Is having every focal length known to man inside your visual tool bag going to make you more creative? Of course not. Remember that old saying "It isn't the tools, it's the carpenter." Photography is no different. When it works, its magical.

In my last two workshops, we've spent considerable time playing with a variety of basic photographic processes and post processing techniques to reach a visual goal. Its been fun, inspiring and amazingly simple. One of the biggest surprises was using the Hipstamatic iPhone app. So easy to use and its off the wall look really brought out the qualities in the subjects appeal.

For example, this old truck along the Gunflint Trail in N.E. Minnesota. This area is the gateway to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area, and an area that remains relatively unchanged over time. The scene was a perfect fit with the iPhone Hipstamatic app, then converted to B/W using Nik Software's Silver Efex Pro 2. The photograph seemed to be a marriage with this style. From an iPhone!

Below, a forest scene with it's rows of planted tree's usually attracts a photographers eye. But, in most cases unless there is fantastic light, fog, or some amazing light quality, we keep on driving. But we hiked in, pulled out our $8 flashlights and went back to the woods just before darkness set in and painted with light during long exposures. A simple, organized scene using a slice of light gave it enhanced interest when the patterns were interrupted.

Photo gadgets have never been my thing. Yet, in my photo arsenal (which is very small) I've carried around filters specifically used for creating infared images. These filters are so dark you cannot see through them and the exposures are 20 seconds even in the brightest light. So, there are some complications that need attention when using them. There are easier ways. In today's digital world you can take those old digital cameras to a dealer who can convert your camera to shoot only digital infared! Pretty slick.

This was a scene that was pretty, but basic. It was easy to frame up a cute shot of an old church that has been shot a million times. Yet, adding the infared look seemed to breath a little extra life into the photograph. It took us someplace else visually. The image became dramatic, healthy and interesting.

In another situation, I taught a environmental nude workshop locally and we searched for locations where the idea of creating dream like scenario's could be accomplished. Finding a local creek played the significant role in this, but the post processing, softening, adding contrast and over exposing areas of the photograph really brought the concept to life. A simple prop like the long piece of silky material contributed in ways we didn't expect.....but did plan for. It was marvelous.

Think out of the box. Try new things, alternative processes, old techniques. There's a good chance your work will jump to new levels of visual communication and match the concept floating around inside your head.

To catch a fun interview about photography during one of our recent workshops at the
North House Folk School in Grand Marais, Minnesota listen the fun at WTIP Radio in Grand Marais on the Roadhouse Show.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thirty Minutes

We've all been there. Wondering silently in our head, why am I not inspired to get up off my ass and create photographs?

The responses are too many to address here. Why does a relationship end? Why didn't the Vikings make the play-offs? Why is the Minnesota Govt. currently shut-down? Short answer, it's complicated.

I had gone with my wife and two of our three kids to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, (BWCA) last week. I love this place. We camped on Saganaga, famous for it's wind and border personality. Its my first visit since my last book, PADDLE NORTH came out last Fall and more than a year since I've been inside the wilderness there. It felt good to return. I felt like I was going home. The familiarity of the surroundings was comforting, like visiting old friends.

Yet, I felt no compulsion to raise my lens. I enjoyed the swimming, fishing, and cooking fancy dinners with family. I was not on assignment. There was no pressure to bring home strong images and work the 15 plus hours of daylight. This was family time and I cherish this time with my wife and kids.

After about four days of camp activities and the current windy conditions, I found myself alone in camp. Everyone else was off taking in a mid-day nap. Too windy to fish alone, too hot to make a fire or gather firewood, I quickly got bored. I really didn't need to go and photograph, but suddenly the urge to explore was ignited.

I didn't want to work....and good photography is more hard work than simply "being there." So, I grabbed a camera and one lens, my 105mm macro lens. I thought I'd go explore the close-up world around our island.

I followed the normal trails that lead campers around campsites and then ventured beyond. Within minutes I found ripe blueberries. But, the ripe blueberries were always bunched together with unripened ones. And, I loved the color of those berries still a few days from picking, with that exquisite pink color. I dropped to my belly and found a bunch to photograph.

Amazing. I had lost myself in a patch of blueberries and felt a soothing transition taking hold. This is what I needed. To get away and photograph. After the blueberries, I moved along to a grove of red pines, attractive in their placement, with a look like they had been planted. But, it was nature's design. Looking for close-ups, the bark patterns of red pine take on a Van Gogh canvas. I found heart shapes, a monk, a ghost, and pine needles stuck in the gaps. My entire world was within a six square inch area.

The dead, still standing had lost their bark but the grooves of insect highways were revealed. I spent some time investigating, looking for the right composition to photograph, but it never happened. It made me think of something Ansel Adams once said that has always stuck with me.
Adams was photographing a mountain scene in the Sierra's. He set up his 8x10 view camera, picked a lens, focused but didn't like it. He chose another location, another lens, didn't like it either. In the end, no photos. He stated, "Sometimes a subject just won't bend to visualization." Wow, well said. I too moved on.

My attention moved back towards the ground. The juniper berries were ripe too and when pinched, smelled like gin. Now, I wanted a beer. I know, that makes no sense but it triggered that
reaction. And, then more blueberries. Feeling satisfied with the images I made earlier, I succumbed to picking. I went on a tear, keeping focused on the ripe berries, scanning the ground for specific colors. It reminded me of agate hunting. Once you develop the eye, its easy to spot them.

Hunched over for at least 15 minutes picking berries and loading berries into my ball cap, I raised up and stretched. Then, I laughed. I recalled a black bear I was photographing on Stockton Island in the Apostle Islands when shooting my book, JEWELS ON THE WATER-LAKE SUPERIOR'S APOSTLE ISLANDS. This bear was 30 yards away was munching down blueberries....just like I was. The bear was so intent on eating it never raised it's head or realized I was right in it's tongue landing path. I kept shooting and the bear kept coming closer and closer. Finally, I got worried it would see my shoes next and freak out. Then I would freak out. So, I made a noise loud enough to get his attention. He saw me, got spooked and ran off. I was concentrating hard in my berry picking, I laughed that I could've done the same thing. We're all animals aren't we? And, sometimes not the sharpest knife in the drawer!

Thirty minutes. That's all it took for me to enter a new world. I felt invigorated and refreshed. Great images don't have to happen when on assignment, on a workshop or personal project. But, they have to happen when you go out and shoot. Its the old saying, "F/8 and be there."

Pleasure came from the spiritual connection the lens offered me. This visual instrument, allowed me, like a pianist tickling the keys for joy, a moment to reconnect with the land. Isn't it always this way? Less is more. It need not be complicated to be rewarding.

If you feel you need such an escape, and want to find the coals to relight your visual fires, I am teaching a photography workshop in the BWCA in mid-August. Jason Zabokrtsky's outfitting company ( is running this session. Jason is an amazing guide, outfitter and enthusiastic photographer in his own right. He's perfect for this adventure. Please feel free to contact Jason with any thoughts or questions about this special wilderness workshop. His number is 218-343-7951. His website is;

Thursday, April 21, 2011


The past several weeks have been hectic and I have been delinquent in keeping up with entries on the blog. New entries are coming, but priorities surface and demands shift the focus of time. Thanks for the patience.

Last evening I caught the News and learned two photojournalists, Tim Hetherington and Chris Hondros were killed in Libya while covering stories. Condolences to their families and each and every family, everywhere, who have lost loved ones in theses senseless conflicts.

For reasons unexplained, it just made less sense to me today than usual.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Multiple Exposure


There's not a photographer out there that hasn't experienced the pain of waking well before dawn, trek by headlamp, and huddle for hours breaking off the morning chill waiting for that magical first light only to find dozens, even hundreds, of people with the same idea milling about. It can break your spirit. Paying the price of early rise and careful planning no longer assures us shooters of having a destination all to ourselves.

I've run into this nightmare numerous times and one of the techniques I like to incorporate to ease the pain of crowds in my frame is utilizing the MULTIPLE EXPOSURE capability in my NIKON cameras. The process is pretty simple and actually diminishes the unsightly look of crowds.

Recently, while teaching a workshop in Vietnam/Cambodia for the MENTOR SERIES WORLDWIDE PHOTO TREKS, we woke at 4:30 a.m. to ensure a primo spot to photograph the temples of Angkor Watt at first light. We got there a good hour before dawn and already people had beaten us to the punch. It seemed hopeless we'd capture images of this World Heritage site without throngs of tourists in each and every frame.

I felt robbed. I wanted of a clean photograph of this wonderful historical site. I wanted it to myself. But, that ain't gonna happen in such popular destinations like Angkor Watt. So, let's turn our attention to making the situation work for us with the built in tools inside our visual instruments.

NIKON's Multiple Exposure selection allows us to shoot up to 10 frames (in most models - 3 frames in others) to overlap on a single photograph. It can be a wonderful creative tool in any number of visual situations.

At Angkor Watt, I chose to make 8 multiple exposures of the entrance to the temples. Crowds were pouring out of the temple entrance like water out of a faucet. Each time I tripped the cable release, with the camera on a tripod, I allowed a period of several seconds to pass before I tripped the shutter for each of the eight exposures. By the time I had completed the photograph, more than a minute had passed. I had eight frames overlapping one another giving me ghosts of the people moving about. The crowds, ugly in their original positions, now blended together, overlapped, created new colors, and gave my image a softness that brought the attention back to the temple and not the crowds.

Use this technique to add motion to your photographs. An example; You find a waterfall you want to photograph during mid-day light. Its impossible to get a shutter speed slow enough to give you that "cotton candy" effect you want. So, simply choose 5,6,7 or 8 multiple exposures. You'll find your image now has motion in the noon day sun! Using a tripod and cable release is a must in these situations. And, the beauty of Nikon's internal brain, it calculates all the exposures for you. It allows you to just be creative.

Ok, let's quickly look at a few other methods to bring home our vision in overcrowded locations. When I see there's no hope for clean images, I do one of two things. I move in tighter, like the detail of the carving in the wall, or utilize an alternative process to bring home the flavor of a scene. This can be done with a fish-eye, B/W, sepia, filtered, lensbaby, flash, night, ect., anything to make the photograph unique.

Don't get frustrated or give up when faced with unsightly crowds that pollute your scene. Find a way to make it work. Sometimes, you simply use the crowd as part of the shot. After all, its real. Be creative. Don't be discouraged by obstacles when your travels take you inspiring locations.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Secrets of Rejection

WHAT? Who wants to talk about rejection?

Ok, I hear you thinking..."He's lost it, gone over the edge, flown the coup, not the sharpest knife in the drawer"...... Ha!

The truth? In this business of editorial photography, the marketing of ideas to magazines and publishers is riddled with rejection. You learn early on its not a personal thing. There are so many reasons why a project is rejected. It could be that the topic had been visited within five years and the editors didn't want a new take on that topic just yet. It could be the subject is timeless and the publication needs something more newsworthy. Its all a timing thing. If you take rejection personally, as if your ideas don't have merit, you will needlessly suffer. If your ideas are sound and fresh, don't give up. More often than not, the hardest part of this job is finding a home for good ideas.

"An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory."
Ralph Waldo Emerson

I love this quote by Emerson. A gifted writer, his words carry meaning through many layers and are most appropriate here. As mentioned in the previous post, I am going to walk through the process of developing a book idea here. I am thoroughly convinced this idea has merit. I've presented the concept to numerous peers and friends and the feedback has been positive. And, I know outright, I'm setting my self up for rejection.

So, let's dive into the deep end and see if we can swim.

I've never entertained the thought of doing a book for kids. Over a decade ago I wrote and photographed an article for the National Wildlife Federation's kids' magazine, RANGER RICK. It was on a subject I knew very well. Wolves and wolf research. I had wonderful images from numerous assignments and thought to myself, "the writing will be snap." I submitted the photographs and story. The photographs were accepted and the story was rejected. I was torn up. My first story for kids was rejected? How dumb could I be? Unable to write a simple article for little kids.

Bob Dunne, my editor called me to talk about it. He was so gracious and calming. He began the conversation with a story about a famous author who also penned a story for Ranger Rick. His story too, was rejected. Bob went on to say that writing for kids is very difficult. We can't write in adult language. We need to simplify our ideas. And, for adults used to writing for adults, this can be more difficult than we appreciate. We worked on the story together and the works were published. I learned firsthand one of the secrets of rejection.

This brings us to; CROIX AND THE MAGIC BURL.

A combination of many personal experiences forced this book idea to the surface. I'm a parent with three kids and my interests both personally and professionally exist in the natural world. Years and years of covering assignments on conservation and environmental topics have gifted me a wealth of insight into the wilds. My photographic collection has ample visuals to illustrate a variety of topics. But, still I never had an idea for a kids book. Until, I started turning bowls as a hobby. One afternoon in Northern Minnesota looking at a birch burl on a downed tree, the light bulb clicked on.

For woodworkers, the burl is a magical thing. Its grain patterns and irregular shapes are unique. Many think the burl is a diseased part of a tree when in fact, it is not. I see it more akin to the making of a pearl. Its a treasure created by nature. A burl holds a certain spiritual power with woodworkers and that feeling caught my attention. Perhaps the burl could be a vehicle to use in teaching kids about the value of trees in the forest?

The idea was born. Once an idea is recognizable, its easy to develop. The most difficult part for me was the science issue. I see the world in pretty factual terms. I became concerned if I made the magic burl a talking voice with a personality, could I keep both the imagination of fantasy and reality in tune? As I let my own walls down, the idea of a talking burl in the forest communicating with a young girl begin to really make sense. What a wonderful way to introduce the life of the forest, the value or trees, to kids. Certainly, in today's explosion of learning to "go green" understanding the value of the forest at such a young age in terms they can appreciate can benefit us all.

So, I'm off and running. The first major decision was how the photographs would be used. Again, drawing on personal experiences, I love those kids books that are illustrations, paintings, watercolors, etchings, ect. In fact, one of my favorite kids book is Betsy Bowen's woodcut's of northern life in her epic ANTLER BEAR CANOE book. Betsy teaches the alphabet through the use of her marvelous woodcuts illustrating a slice of life in the North for each letter. Stunning. Her woodcuts reached my soul instantly.

It was my opinion, and some have contested me on this, that I would convert my photographs to watercolors in photoshop. I gave this considerable attention. Of the images I shared with peers and friends, most agreed they like this approach. My gut feelings were that for a kids book, photographs were too defined. The clarity of a photograph made things quite exacting. In converting the photographs to watercolors, I felt reality was softened and there was more room for personal imagination to blossom i the minds of kids. Let them put themselves in those locations without such photographic definition.

Above are examples of the very first drafted pages. After these, the story and pages developed quite nicely. I'm thrilled with all the wonderful lessons Croix learned from the old burl. Her grasp on the value of the forest and the wilderness life surrounding it will surprise readers of the many uses the forest provides. It is my wishes of course, these lessons from the old burl will translate into conservation values and the need to protect and manage our forests for the future. We'll see those other lessons as this blog topic continues. The design, text and images will be refined as we inch forward. Right now, its getting the idea down so we can see and feel it.

I encourage any comments you wish to share on this.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Create Your Own Book

I think its safe to say that every photographer dreams of having a book containing their creations. Its kind of the ultimate portfolio expressing a personalized vision. And, let's face it, the true rewards for a shooter don't come from money (although it helps). A shooters real passion comes from discovering the world around them with a lens. Whether a photog's outlet is a gallery exhibition, a blog, or a book, the realized joy is sharing the work.

I've been fortunate to have five published book titles under my belt on subject matter I feel passionate about. And certainly, that sense of worth is amplified when a publisher agrees to publish your work. But, the publishing industry is a state of flux these days. It scares me to think it might go away. I honestly don't believe the public is ready to give up on books. The iPad and Kindle have their place, but holding a book, looking at exquisitely reproduced photographs in a book, will always find a home on my bookshelves. And I know I'm not alone.

However, as the publishing industry finds it foothold in today's horrible economic climate and the volume of published titles dropping, there are alternatives for publishing a book. Technology has gifted writers, artists, poets, and photographers the opportunity to publish their work with minimal investment. You can publish a 80-page color hardcover book of photographs for example, for under fifty dollars. I'm not fooling. I can see you are shocked. But, it's true.

I've done several of these self-published books now. I initially set out to test the waters and more succinctly, the quality. Always a major consideration in such an endeavor. It wasn't until I had seen fellow shooter Dave Black's Book "THE WAY I SEE IT" ( It was so beautifully done and printed so well. Instantly, I was hooked.

So, for my first book test, ( 47º NORTH-Grand Marais & Beyond, I pulled together a collection of images from my favorite Minnesota town, Grand Marais. Grand Marais is a gem all in itself. It benefits from its mother figure, Lake Superior, and its population of around 1,500 fine folks. Its the foothills entrance to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness and its summer population swells in numbers just like the mosquitos. Its the kind of town you fall in love with instantly. But, from a book publishing perspective, its too tiny to tickle the fancy of a publisher's investment. Can enough books be sold to warrant the expenditure? Its a tough sell to any sized publisher.

The availability of self-publishing, now a reality and easy to do, can become the vehicle to create a book on areas like Grand Marais that probably will never attract a big publishing effort. I combed through my files, located a collection of images that I felt reflected the area surrounding 47º North, limited the text, used wonderful quotes about photography, and splashed images together to form a collective mood of the Grand Marais area. Its been very popular and I'm thrilled with the quality of the book. And, customers can purchase the book directly online and preview the entire book with Blurb's slick website even before buying the book.

Ok, your asking, and I can hear you .....what is the downside? I said it was cheap, under $50. Yes, that is cheap to publish your own book. But, when you go to the bookstore and buy any book for $50 you are expecting it to be big and thick and full of surprises. You just published your own book for under $50. Cool. But, if you want to sell it, what price do you put on it? Hmm, that $50 at the bookstore gave me pretty good buying power. But, if I want to make any money on this book and it cost me $50 to publish it, will anyone buy it for say, $75? Good question. This is the downside to self publishing. Its basically, Books On Demand.

Books on demand is not a fatalistic approach to self-publishing. Its just a different way. In the case of 47º NORTH, there is never going to be a book like this unless someone self-publishes it. It will be more expensive, yes. I think I make about $5/book. But, my reasons for doing this (remember the first paragraph) was to share the images of an area so close to my heart. I'm not alone. I know many others cherish this area and its a treat to have such a collection of images tell the story of 47º NORTH. If lots of 47º NORTH sell, I make a few bucks.

The benefits of self-publishing are far reaching too. Let's not dwell on the downside. Creating your own title, and I have been using, and there are many others like My, MPix, ect,, the idea that only a few books are ordered at a time, save on paper being used, warehouse space taken up, shipping and transportation costs, and so on. You want a book-you order it and two weeks later its on your door step. How cool is that?

I bring this concept of self-publishing up for a reason. Over the course of the next month or so, I am going to create a Children's book on this blog. I'll show pages, images, and the reasoning behind the theme. And, I'll publish it. But, my end goal may surprise you with the publishing of this book called; CROIX AND THE MAGIC BURL.