Sunday, May 31, 2009

Busted my ass processing photos, and am still just half done. Have to finish them Sunday night. Blurgh....

Friday, May 29, 2009

Oh, Mr Belpit, your legs are so swollen!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Exhausted beyond words. Good -- freakin' -- NIGHT!! Zzzzz...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I have a paid photography gig immediately after work Wednesday! Yay! Now if only I could get several a week... I need a business partner.
Drove all over Western WA Monday, from Port Townsend through Port Angeles, Forks, the beaches, Aberdeen, & back up I-5 to home. SOO tired!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Might be heading to Forks today, for Karrin's enjoyment -- and the Pacific beaches for my own. Nervous about such a big trip.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Back from the cabin. Got tons of photos of Ski to Sea cyclists passing, and of Mt. Baker. BTW, the ice cream in Glacier rocks. #skitosea

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Heading out to the Snowline cabin past Glacier, right on the Ski to Sea route! Will be back Sunday evening. #skitosea
Very frustrated that I missed the Ski to Sea parade. I was asked to photograph a particular float and was excited about it. Ugh.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

A long holiday weekend is coming up and I have no special plans. Sucks. :-(

Monday, May 18, 2009

Wow. I got asked to do another interview, right after the first! Here it is:

Exposed! A second interview with Dave Ward Photography

Hot on the heels of my first interview, I was asked for another interview. This interview was conducted by Dani.

In the position you now hold, what do you do on a typical day?

As an independent, part-time professional photographer, I'm currently very free to focus on whatever I choose from day-to-day. I work a "day job" during weekdays, so both shoots and development/post-production all take place on evenings and weekends.

On the evening of a shoot, prep time is usually fairly quick -- 30-45 minutes to set up lights, change backgrounds, swap new batteries into the main flash, make sure memory cards are cleared and ready, etc. Once the model arrives, she may or may not take more prep time for her hair and makeup, and then we get right down to shooting. Most shoots last between 30 minutes and 2 hours, but have been as short as 15 minutes or as long as an entire day. Once the model leaves, I break down the lights and other equipment, and download the shots to the hard drive. Post-production usually takes several days, sometimes a week or more. I create rough JPEGs of all shots in Adobe Lightroom and select the shots I will finish from those. To create the finished shots, I usually return to the RAW file and process it in Photoshop. Photomatic Pro has also just entered my workflow in the last few weeks when a bit of HDR is called for. Finished shots are uploaded to my flickr account (except when prohibited by the client) and sent to the client. The best shots are also uploaded to my Facebook, MySpace and Model Mayhem accounts, and added to my professional website's online portfolio at my own domain.

What are the most interesting aspects of your job?

Developing my "eye" is very interesting, and I'm always fascinated by anything that shows me that I see the world differently.

And although it's cliché, the people are definitely the most interesting. When I went from photographing alleys and plants to photographing people, I was a very asocial person -- introverted and a bit hermit-like. I'm still mostly like that, but photographing people has forced me to become more social that I ever dreamed I would be. I've made some wonderful contacts and even real friends through this work, and have learned how to "come out of my shell."

What part of your work do you consider dull or repetitious?

While shooting is always exciting and fascinating (I often break into a sweat and get an adrenaline rush), developing and post-production can be mind-numbing sometimes. When I was a little kid my father taught me how to develop black and white film and then make prints from the negatives. Seeing an image "bloom" under the red safelight never lost its magic, but my workflow is entirely digital now and digital developing doesn't have the same excitement and magic. It's made up for by the incredible control and precision we have when working digitally. But the sense of "magic" you get from seeing the image materialize in the chemical tray isn't there.

What percentage of your time must you devote to this activity?

I'm not full-time professional yet -- I still work a day job -- so the percentage is nowhere near what I hope it will eventually be. I'm also devoted to my girlfriend, so I keep plenty of time for "us." It's very easy to get on the computer and spend an entire evening working on images, but I try not to let it take over too much of what spare time I have. It's hard to guess what percentage I spend, but it's currently rather small, as I set photography on the back burner for the last few months and am only just now starting to arrange some new shoots and get things moving again. Late last year, when I was shooting more normally and regularly, I was probably spending 25% of my time on photography, which is a great deal considering that about 45% of my time is already spent on my day-job and commuting. During the last few months I've spent less than 10% of my time on photography. That will be changing quickly.

What specific field do you work in?

Commercial fashion and high fashion, and editorial/art photography.

Are there any specific courses a student might take that would be particularly beneficial in this field?

I never had formal training -- I learned from my father when I was a kid, and then learned the rest on my own. However I can say that while I neglected photography during my school & college years, I was a very prolific and passionate art student. I did tons of drawings with pencil, ink, colored pencils, airbrush and other media, and worked as a newspaper illustrator and cartoonist in the early 1990s. All those years of art trained my eye and taught me composition, use of tone, subject selection, and other basic skills. When I got back into photography in the early 2000s, those skills were already well developed. The basic skills of art are the same for all the visual arts.

What entry level jobs qualify one for this field?

I work as an independent photographer, but if you want to get hired for a photography job you can start out by serving as an assistant for another working photographer. Get to know the local photographers who shoot weddings, and let them know you would like to be their assistant for a shoot. You'll probably wind up doing very simple jobs like carrying equipment, holding reflectors and baffles, or herding bridesmaids, but once you assist at just one shoot, you've got resumé fodder and you've got your foot in the door.

What aspects of a career in this field do you consider particularly good? Particularly bad?

Photography is a very rewarding creative outlet and you get to meet and work with fantastic people. The feedback you get on your work can be fantastic. And for an independent photographer, it's just amazing when you get an email completely out of the blue from somebody you've never heard of who wants to license a photo for an ad campaign, annual report or brochure.

On the downside, photography is not a steady field. If you shoot weddings and high school portraits, you'll have some busy spells and long stretches of nothing -- and the thin wallet that comes with those times; the business is a constant toggle between boom and bust. If you work for a studio as an employed photographer, the threat of layoffs and downsizing is always a possibility. If you shoot stock photography, well, stock is an incredibly bloated market so it's extremely hard to make a living in that field. And if you're a photojournalist, the work might be steady, but newspapers are currently in a long, continuing slump that has been happening for years and will certainly continue. Photojournalists also have to fear downsizing, plus the hard fact that the newspaper market is in a long contraction. Photography is a hard business, and is not stable, reliable work.

What special advice would you give to a young person entering this field?

Shoot a lot (always in RAW mode!) and save all of it. Your morgue file is valuable; you never knew when you might be able to sell a shot you took years ago. Don't expect fame and glory; do the work because you are passionately driven to do it, not because you think it will make you wealthy. And always shoot photos that are pleasing to yourself; if you are shooting to please others and not yourself, it will show through. Be authentic, and don't take pictures that you don't love.

What inspires you to do photography?

The need for a creative outlet.

When I was 8 years old (1977) I discovered that I could draw better than most kids, and I focused my creative energy on drawing from then until the mid-1990s. I worked for a while as a newspaper illustrator and cartoonist. In the mid-90s, my physical energy was starting to sag. I also realized around that time that although I was good enough at drawing to impress most people, I wasn't good enough to have the kind of career in drawing that I wanted -- an illustrator or professional cartoonist. But more pressing, I just didn't have the physical energy that it takes to keep drawing at the prolific rate I always had. I more or less gave up drawing in the mid-90s, and didn't have any creative outlet for years. In the early 2000s I got my first digital camera, and rediscovered photography. At first I just took the type of personal "life-documenting" snapshots that everybody takes. Gradually realized that the fact that I no longer had to pay for film and wasn't limited to rolls of 12, 24 or 36 shots meant I was liberated to experiment without feeling like I was wasting anything; I could literally afford to waste shots. So I began paying attention to composition, tones, visual texture and so on. In the fall of 2004 I discovered the website, which was at that time a small startup website operating out of Vancouver, B.C. I posted a batch of photos on flickr at the end of October, and started receiving feedback. I just plunged headfirst into serious photography at that point, and photography replaced drawing as my creative outlet.

I always needed a creative outlet like a boiling pot with a lid needs a steam vent. I don't know how I survived the years after I stopped drawing and before I rediscovered photography!

Photography is not something I want to do -- now it's something I have to do.

What is your favorite subject to shoot? I know this chances from time to time, but what is it right now?

I mostly work with models. I used to shoot a lot of subjects and would swing through various interests in phases, but once you find your specialty -- the thing that you really excel at -- the other subjects naturally fall to the back burner and become "hobby subjects" while your specialty becomes the center of your serious efforts.

A have a lot of really fantastic models. Ruby Hardt is one; she's an alternative fashion model who focuses on rockabilly styled clothing and has a brilliant smile like a spotlight. "Miss Cat" is another; it's a shame she isn't pursuing modeling more seriously, as she's a classic mainstream beauty and the camera loves her. But my "primo" model -- my most perfect creative collaborator -- is Bridgette Colette; she always brings a whole list of fantastic ideas to every shoot, and nails each and every one of them easily and beautifully. We also seem to work together on a near telepathic level, as she does what I'm about to ask just before I say it.

How do you decide which shot to use out of the entire selection from a photo shoot?

It can be a big task, since I typically shoot hundreds of photos in a session. First I create what I call JPEG "rough mixes" from the RAW files in Adobe Lightroom. Then I open all the shots from a particular pose or scene in Preview (the standard image viewing application on the Macintosh) and start flipping through them. I'll select the best shots that way. Often I'll narrow it down to two or three shots, and then just flip back and forth between those shots until I start seeing little imperfections in one of the shots. Once I choose the shot I want to finish, I usually label it (under File > Label on the Mac). I often choose the shots I'll finish, and then start processing the selections, so labeling helps me remember which ones were best.

How do you know when a piece is finished?

I wish there was a simple answer I could explain, but when you're working on a photo, there is a certain feeling you get when it's finished. It's a feeling of satisfaction and completion; if you have ever done a jigsaw puzzle, then it's the same feeling you get when you put the last piece in and step back and look at the finished puzzle. You have to learn to pay attention to that feeling. Don't stop working on the photo until it "clicks" as finished, but also don't keep working on it once you get that feeling.

Describe what you think your style is.

Much of my commercial photography can be summed up fairly in the word "clean." There are a lot of qualities I try to put into my photos, but at least regarding the commercial work, the word "clean" sums up a trait my work has that makes it stand apart from most others.

On the other hand, my art photography is often dirty, gritty, visually a bit messy -- multiple textures stacked up with different lighting modes, one ore more vignettes, and often even a layer of dust that I scanned from some old mistreated negatives I took when I was a kid. I can spend hours essentially destroying a photo with grit, grime and garbage -- but destroying it in a way that I think and hope makes it uniquely beautiful and compelling. I can understand the pictoralists like Anne Brigman who poured chemicals on their finished prints and then smeared and scratched them with their hands to make them look like paintings. In art you sometimes are at your most creative when you appear to be "destroying" your work.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

My first photography interview, now on Facebook, with photos!

The first interview of Dave Ward Photography

My photographer friend Alisha has to interview a few photographers as part of her photography courses, and she asked me to be an interview subject. I accepted, so here is the first interview of Dave Ward Photography. 1. Do you have any formal training? No, but I'm not untrained. When I was about 8 years old my father, who had been doing photography since the late 1950s, took me into his darkroom and taught me how to develop b&w film and then make prints from the negatives. I learned the joys of Dektol D-76 and watching the image appear under the red light, and I learned the not-as-joyful experience of winding exposed film into the developing wheel in pitch black darkness. My eye for photography was developed during years and years of art training in school. I never took photography very seriously when I was younger, and instead did a lot of drawing, eventually becoming a newspaper illustrator in the early-90s. The art classes in high school and college taught me how to "see" a good image, and how to work with composition, tones, etc. The principals of visual art are the same in all fields, so when I got back into photography in the early-2000s (and finially took it seriously) those skills were already in place. 2. What part of your job do you consider dull or repetitious? Shooting is never boring. But processing photos (I work all-digital now) can be very tiresome. While it's exciting watching the image "bloom" in the chemical dray in a dark room, it's usually not as exciting tweaking every setting while developing RAW into 16-bit Photoshop files, or while doing tone mapping for HDR work. The developing & post-production phases in digital photography are far more controlled and precise than in analog (film) photography, but the gain in control is balanced by the fact that it's less exciting and less "magical." 3. What would you say is the most important step in developing or refreshing your creative thinking? First: Right from the start, learn how to be inspired and excited. In my experience, developing your "eye" makes this easy. Once you learn to see the beauty that others walk right past and take for granted, you'll find inspiration and creative stimuli everywhere. I remember walking through Whatcom Falls Park with somebody and being stunned by the leaves overhead; the sun was shining above, so looking up at the leaves you saw this luminous green glow coming through them. It was just stunningly beautiful. I tried to show the other person, but the response was completely blasé. I felt a little sad realizing that most people don't have a developed eye and can't see everyday beauty like that. Second: In the book Shambhala Chögyam Trungpa writes about a phenomenon called "the coccoon." People like to stay in the places, pattern and mindsets they are familiar with. The familiar feels safe, so we surround ourself with familiar, comfortable things, creating a "coccoon" that we feel safe in. It feels cozy, so it's easy to think of it as a good, nice thing. But you have to break out of the coccoon if you want to be a mature and beautiful butterfly. Trungpa was writing about personal psychological growth, but this applies perfectly to creativity as well. You have to deliberately CHOOSE to get out of your little ruts in life, whether it's going grocery shopping somewhere you don't usually go, cooking a new recipe you haven't tried, or simply taking a different route to work. Next time you're driving or walking and pass a street, ask yourself "Have I ever been down that street?" and if you haven't, turn down it. Even the tiniest little adventure can refresh your thinking and recharge your creative batteries. 4. What does Photography mean to you? Whether it's drawing or music or photography or writing, I approach all arts authentically: I create for myself, and hope that it will also appeal to others. So photography is my expressive and creative outlet, even when I'm doing simple commercial shots. When I was in school, drawing -- pencil, pen and ink, Prismacolor pencils, even airbrush -- was my creative outlet. I also was writing and recording music a lot at the time as a second outlet. But in the early 90s my energy started declining, and drawing became to much work and too time-consuming. The music, too, went on the back-burner. I gave up drawing in the mid-90s, and only occasionally draw since then. For years in the late-90s I had no creative outlet. I became very frustrated for years. Then in the early 2000s I got my first digital camera. For the first few years I just took personal "life documenting" photos like everybody else. But in 2003 I started paying more attention to composition and treating photography more like an art, and I started expressing myself creatively with photos. In the fall of 2004 I found the upstart website and quickly got deeply involved in the photography community there. That was when I truly started pursuing photography. The creative outlet I had once had in drawing was finally replaced. 5. What are the biggest professional challenges you face? I have full-blown Attention Deficit Disorder, which is a lot more serious and challenging than most people can imagine. My own self-confidence is also not especially strong. So I'm practically crippled in terms of both self-promotion/advertising, and in terms of the business acumen which is absolutely necessary for a successful career as an independent photographer. I the last year I have come to realize and accept that I will be a failure in photography (at least in terms of a career) unless and until I find a business partner who will do the promotion and handle the business aspect -- organizing and planning, tracking expenses, etc. 6. How do you go about promoting your work? As I mentioned, I'm practically incapable of real self-promotion. I'm too terrified to submit my art for inclusion in a show or display in any gallery -- or even in a coffee shop. Instead I post all of my finished photos online on, and also cross-post the best ones under my facebook and myspace accounts. I do have a website,, and recently redesigned the entire site. I do have business cards, and the footer of all my emails and online communications includes the name "Dave Ward Photography" and the address of my web page. Unfortunately, that is the extent of my self-promotion. I'm good at creating promotional materials -- my "day job" is graphic design, and I have a background in advertising design specifically -- but I'm just not able to work up the confidence to promote my own work. 7. What has been your greatest accomplishment with your work? There are two measures of accomplishment or success in arts: commercial/professional accomplishment, and artistic accomplishment. Artistically, my greatest accomplishments are my "Apothecary Women" series which depict women holding old pharmacy bottles with the photos processed to appear very old and worn, and a few high-fashion shots I've done in the last couple years. My greatest professional accomplishments are the twenty-something photos I have licensed to the Washington State tourism campaign, and a license I sold last year to use one of my photos to advertise heating pumps in Denmark and Europe. 8. Who are your influences? My two single biggest influences are the photo-secessionist member, Anne Brigman -- the greatest of the pictoralists, in my opinion -- and a brilliant photographer-friend of mine in Australia named Kate O'Brien. Brigman's photos are very painterly fine-art. Kate's work is surreal, witty, gorgeous and absolutely unique. I've also been influenced by Art Nouveau poster master Alphonse Mucha and 60s pop artist Roy Lichtenstein. I also have to mention a brilliant Danish photographer Lasse Hoile, whose melancholy, moody style is also very inspiring and influential to me. 9. What was your funniest, scariest, most bizarre, or most touching story from a photo shoot? The model I have the best working relationship with is Bridgette Colette. Our creative sense and our artistic goals just line up perfectly, and we work together almost telepathically when shooting. She lived in Marysville, which is a full hour from my studio in Bellingham. In November 2008 we did our first shoot. I drove to Marysville to pick her up, drove us back to Bellingham to do the shoot, and when it was over I drove her back home and then finally drove myself back home. Four hours on the road just for the benefit of shooting with her -- but it was VERY much worth it. A month later I was planning a Christmas shoot and had a model lined up, but that model got very sick just a few days before the shoot. Bridgette agreed to step in for the shoot, and also pitched several other ideas, so we set up a big shoot only a few days before Christmas. The day of the shoot, it snowed. I drove to Marysville, finding the roads icy and dangerous. It was nasty, but I *had* to do this shoot with this fantastic model. The drive with her back to my studio was a little more challenging; snow was falling hard, and the roads were getting worse and worse. We shot in the studio for several hours, and got in the car to drive her back home around 8:30pm. Now it was dark, and the roads were horrible. The one-hour drive to Marysville stretched into nearly two hours, but Bridgette and I talked the entire way there, making it enjoyable despite the nasty conditions. Once I dropped her off, I headed back north to Bellingham. That drive was a whole different affair. A new snowstorm was hitting hard, and now the lanes were completely covered, and much more slippery. Worse, there was a lot of blowing snow. For several miles north of Burlington, I was stuck in a genuine whiteout. All I could see was thick, swirling whiteness at the hood of my car. I could not see the ground, nor even the headlight beams. The only thing guiding me for a while was two little red dots — the taillights of the car in front of me. I just hoped that they knew what they were doing and steered to keep those red dots in front of me. It was all I could do. I couldn't pull over and stop because I couldn't even tell where the edge of the road was. It was the most intense, stressful, exhausting drive I've ever done. But to shoot with Bridgette, it was absolutely, unquestionably worth it! 10. What other thoughts would you like to share? Don't get so caught up in being "artistic" that you lose sight of commercial value in your work. And conversely, don't get so caught up in being "marketable" that you start making your photography in order to please other people. It's a balancing act. Also, shoot in RAW mode, keep every original RAW image on a hard drive (a RAW "morgue file"), use a gray card (!!!), and pay attention to the tonal dynamics in the photos -- too many photographers have flat images because they don't pay attention to the full range of brights and darks. And finally, please, for the love of God, don't get caught up in photo fads like the current one with tastelessly exaggerated HDR effects.

Friday, May 15, 2009

We took turns chucking puppy in the bay so he could swim out. Eventually he'll lose his water anxiety. Beautiful evening.
Off work at 5:30. Thinking of taking girl and pooch to the bay and chucking one of them in the water. Probably the pooch. I <3 them both.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Swine flu will make your head explode like in that movie "Scanners"

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Stayed overnight at the cabin in woods, went up Mt. Baker this afternoon, now back home to make baked potatoes. Beautiful weekend!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Going out to the cabin by Mount Baker for the weekend! It will be the closest I've been to a day of vacation in about three years.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Do you know anybody who needs some professional or personal photography work? I need work--don't even have cash for food or bills. HELP?

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Crisis time! Suddenly I have no money to get food or pay bills for two weeks. Do you want some photos done? Know anybody who does? HELP!

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Annoyed with stupid assholes who tell lies in desperate attempts to cause trouble. May they choke in their sleep.

Monday, May 04, 2009

May the fourth be with you! #starwarsday
Exhausted. I did not get a weekend. Not at all. Desperately need to relax, but no--back to work starting today. I'll be a wreck all week.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

I'm a grown-up; I use Facebook.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Photographers -- check out the HDR Manifesto

The HDR Manifesto

<a title="The HDR Manifesto, by daveward" href="<a href=""><img">"><img</a> src="<a href=""">"</a> width="500" height="375"></a> <b>----- The HDR Manifesto -----</b> High Dynamic Response (HDR) photography has become a widespread phenomenon lately. But two things have gotten lost in this hot new photo fad: the purpose of HDR, and the taste and restraint that come naturally to mature artists. The camera lens can never really equal the human eye. When we look at something directly in front of us, our eye adjusts depending on what we are looking at, allowing us to see details in the dark shadows as well as in the bright highlights. But cameras capture a static image, meaning details in the darkest or lightest areas have to be sacrificed. The intent of HDR processing is to reveal the details in darkness and bright spots which our eye will see in reality, but which the camera can not capture by traditional methods. Tasteful, restrained use of HDR gives photos depth, detail, and intensity. But now you seldom see a restrained use of HDR because it has become fashionable to apply intense, exaggerated HDR to photographs. The "coolness" of the exaggerated HDR effect is often serving to obscure lousy photography. You don't have to browse for long before you'll find photos with intense HDR that get a lot of praise, but which, without the HDR effect to make it look "awesome", would be a technically very poor image. Many viewers are willing to overlook things like poor composition and lack of imagination if there's an exaggerated HDR effect slathered thickly over it to tart it up, like far too much makeup on a fundamentally unattractive girl. Occasionally an exaggerated, intense HDR effect can be nice. In the case of this car photo I think it works. (And make no mistake -- the above photo is an exaggerated HDR effect, not restrained.) But in general, I intend to usually apply HDR only in tasteful, restrained moderation, with the original purpose of HDR in mind. Exaggerated HDR is the "Magic Eye" of the late-00's. It's the new pet rock, the new Macarena, the new Furby. And hopefully it will go away as quickly as they did, leaving the use of HDR safely in the hands of those with better artistic sense.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Having an exotic dinner -- poulet frite au Kentucky. Yum!
Had to leave puppy home alone when I went to work. I hate doing that. Poor li'l guy. :-(