Yeah, you’re right, I’ve been incredibly remiss in keeping this blog even remotely up to date.  My excuses are legion, some of them even remotely, if coincidentally, connected to some obscure portion of the truth.  The bottom line is my mind has been elsewhere, like in the future… my future.  I came here sure this was the “last hurrah.”  I would use this time to teach, give back stuff that had been pounded into my thick skull of all of those years and miles and then fade to black behind a podium or tripod.

Now I’m not so sure.  But that is a discussion for another post.

Meantime, the Fall Semester started this past week and I was gleefully not there since I am on sabbatical for this semester.  But that doesn’t mean I’ve not been busy.  I gave a two part workshop through George’s Camera on shooting and producing video for still photographers.  That was fun and pretty well received but it did mean writing it from scratch which took a little time… and took me down some fun side paths along memory lane.

In August I conducted what has become my annual workshop to the Ancient Bristlecone Pines in California’s White Mountains.  The heavy snows pushed us into August and still the road to Patriarch’s Grove was blocked with a large snow drift.  The weather was overcast and dreary for most of it but that sort of turned the world into a gigantic light tent.  And there were occasional breaks in the clouds creating beautiful pools of light amid the gray.  It was too heavily overcast for good night shooting and it poured one evening so painting with light was not a topic we could pursue.  However this time I did make a sort of quasi-documentary, part show-and-tell for the participants, etc., a somewhat schizophrenic little number you can find on YouTube at this URL

I also have several other projects going on, one of them my “official” project to turn in as part of my sabbatical agreement.  It is a research project exploring the critical issue of just where the world of professional photography is headed in the next few years.  This is really important for our program if we are going to assert that we are preparing students for that “Real” world.  I believe I already know the answer but am now waiting the return of surveys and questionnaires so I can put some statistics to it for my presentation.

The truth is I think it will fall completely on deaf ears here.  The state, technically bankrupt, is trying to shore up the 4 year schools and is putting a full court press on us to increase class sizes and to increase “completions” which to them means a student spending two years then leaving with a degree and a transfer to one of the state’s 4 yr universities.  Of course students who want to enter the world of professional photography have no such interests or needs so that puts us in the cross-hairs (right alongside other vocational programs such as Cosmetology.

Nevertheless I’m hoping it might be of value SOMEWHERE so will try to publish it and might even serialize” it here.  I think the insight is valuable and would hate to see it go to waste as I expect it to do here.  More enrollment is the admin mantra but less money for teachers is making the obvious come true.  Why, when the state says we (education) have money again.  I’ll give you a hint.  We have two NEW Dean positions: one is the “Dean of Student Equity” whatever the Hell that is supposed to be, and we have a Dean for a strong workforce.  In my most demented state I could not have made that up…

Our unhappy solution to the unremitting push for more students per class has been to betray our long standing belief that online is NOT the proper way to teach photography and embrace that online world as best we can.  The only thing we have to show for that is now larger caps on our classes.  Admin is essentially clueless about what it takes in terms of time and technology to give engaging visual lectures and critique 40 students’ work online.  And they don’t care.  When I turn in the final research paper report, along with recommendations for some curriculum and program changes my best guess is they will have a heart attack and then simply turn it down.  Already I had one interim VP tell me we should quit this and simply start our own school.  If that didn’t tell us all we needed to know then we simply were not listening.

And you know what?  She was right… but it is not a practical solution for anyone.  Back in the day, The Darkroom, my business in Denver, was headed that way.  We had 26 courses and 22 instructors and were working on State Accreditation.  But I was younger then… boy was I ever.  Now I’m so “long in the tooth” that my incisors leave drag marks in the dirt.  For years I wanted to start a proper school for serious photographers but now I’ll leave that for a younger generation.  Besides, their world will be far different than mine ever was.  And even more to the point, I have another project that has my focus at the moment.

My “fun” project has been to create a proposal for a 10-episode series for cable TV modeled after Carl Sagan’s original series “Cosmos” but on photography and light.  It is, on one level a course in photography.  But on the other it is an examination of the science behind the art, exploring what IS our only tool, “light,” where does this miraculous “paint” for us come from, and how do photographers in different genres manipulate it to achieve their own unique visions for their work.  It will bring the worlds of astronomy, physics, chemistry, history, art, etc. into focus and show how they are all connected and fundamental to the creation of serious photography.

A script for the first episode has now garnered attention from several photo equipment manufacturers for sponsorship and product placement so we are well underway.  I’m hoping to get the first Episode, also our “pilot” shot before I start back with classes in late January.  I’m now a member of the Discovery Networks producers community and know that their normal fee for programming laid alongside our production budget shows a potential profit of about 37% on investment.  Now with the fundamental documents created and copyrighted it is time to turn attention to just that: funding.

The work for the online courses re-awakened my interest in video and film production with a vengeance, a sleeping tiger came roaring back to life.  I had forgotten how much I had grown to love adding elements of motion, sound… and TIME to my imagery.

And in my spare time…. being bored and all…

I spoke with the lead music professor at City about compositions for the series.  That led to an idea I had kicked around years ago but set aside for lack of any interested co-author: the creation of a combined visual and music piece where the two elements complement each other and are equal partners in the finished piece.  To be clear, NOT a case where the visuals illustrate the music such as in a music video or where the music brings richness to the visuals such as in a movie, but a piece of original music and original visual conceived TOGETHER around some theme.

I’m excited by that too.

And… I REALLY need to go visit my friend Jim, in Santa Fe.  I’m hoping that after this next week I’ll have all of the projects to a point where I can take a week off to do that.  Then back to the grindstone.

I’m going to have to go back to the classroom in Spring to take a vacation!

Meantime I’ll try to be better at keeping you all up on such goin’s on.  I said from the first post this was a sort of travel piece taking readers along on my travels whether defined as normal “travel” or virtual travels in cerebral and visceral realms.  The cool thing, for me, is that these projects may take me into ALL of those definitions.


About ndking

Commercial Photographer and Professor of Photography at San Diego City College
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