Class Lighting Demo: 02/25/2018

On Monday night we did a demo in the studio to prepare students in the Introduction to Lighting Class on their first product assignment, shooting something that is solid with texture or detail.  I had decided to try two things: first was to ask students to bring in some objects I could tackle “cold” so everyone could see a thought process going on and secondly to light the same set-up in two ways starting with a typical studio multi-light approach and then to also do it as a “painting with light” effort.

Two of the students brought in items, one was an old wood plane and the other a woven fan designed for fanning a fire into life.  Very different items with virtually no relationship to one another so naturally to add some sport to the shoot I decided to shoot them together.  The surface textures were totally different from the woven rough fibers of the fan to the old metal furniture on the plane and its wooden handles oiled and polished from years of use.

In the chaos of my pre-class day I had left my camera at home so had to borrow one from the school checkout room.  When I went to get it the students went ahead and placed the two items together on the surface I had made so when I got back I thought, well, if we can do something with this, it will be interesting…

To make the comparison of approaches more meaningful I put the camera on a camera stand and locked it down so both shots would be essentially identical in composition.  The lens is a Canon 90mm tilt-shift design, so I also was able to describe those types of lenses for the class.  Then it was time to set up and make the shot.

 Since I often start set ups like this with an overhead softbox or light-bank then pick out details with snoots and grids I decided to try to do this whole shot with just the standard 7” silver bowl reflectors on the studio’s grid mounted PHotogenics™ which, aimed from sides and back, worked fine for picking out details but did not create an acceptable fill so I broke down and used a small softbox for fill.

Below is the light plot for this first shot.


Here first is the file out of the camera but with RAW tweaks in ACR™.

Plane and Fan single version from camera.jpg

And here is the finished, cropped and edited shot after a pass through PhotoShop™.  There was a slightly mottled texture in the background I liked but decided I’d take it down to black so that in the near future I can use this shot to show how to drop in a different background and dropping that solid black will be a lot easier.

Plane and Fan Demo v1

Now it was time to do the painting with light version.  I put away the grid-mounted mono-lights and ised a single head with a snoot from a Norman 2000 power pack set.  This allowed me to demo the use of the powerpack lights and also gave me a light I could easily move around the set-up to custom light it with that narrow beam of light.  I thought about using continuous light but decided to keep the class focused, at this point, on using the electronic flash units for their projects.

As I moved around the set-up from side to side but always to the rear,I had a student fire the camera when I had lit an area I liked.  Starting from the screen left side I moved around, shooting from various angles to pick out details and allowing some skimmed light to spill around the front for fill.  To maintain the sense of texture I never fired a shot where the light was aimed at the front of the set-up, only from top, sides, and back.

In all I took about 20 shots to make sure I had it covered but I only used 11 of them for the final assembly.  Assembly is normally easy but our new computers have had a complete re-install of the software and all of my saved templates and actions were over-written plus the workspace was completely at a default setting as was the screen display.  I confess it was confusing and irritating but there were students watching the procedure so rather than just bring it all home I determined to complete it, one way or the other, while they were watching.

So here is the final assemblage after cropping.

Plane and Fan PWL combined 01.jpg

But in looking at it, it now really was starting to have a rich, old timey look to it so I decided to push that.  The modified first version is somewhat desaturated with a warm overtone to it.

Plane and Fan PWL combined desat

Then I completely desaturated it and applied a slightly warm duotone effect to it.

Plane and Fan PWL combined v3 duotone

Personally I prefer the middle one, the one with a slight desaturization.  But a client could decide for themselves which they like. 

Next time we’ll be tackling transparent and translucent products.




Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Dear God, not again…

Normally this would be a post for my other blog where I indulge in various rants about topics of philosophical or political nature.  But I’m also a teacher and things that happen in the educational arena are also in my scope of interest.  The shooting on Valentine’s Day at the High School in Florida is certainly an event in the educational arena conspicuous for its violence and horror.  Because many of my fellow academicians know that I support the 2nd Amendment conceptually, they have now wagged their degree wrapped fingers in my face screaming some version of “So how can you still defend any right to own a gun since they are obviously evil and of value only to crazies like this kid who wish to kill their comrades and peers?”

Let me start by saying this post is really designed to help start a discussion.  I make no claim to having the final answer.  I just am absolutely sure none of the knee jerk solutions I hear by pundits or, even less well thought out tropes and memes on Facebook appear to me dispositive or even helpful either.  I confess, I do deeply wish I thought the situation could be reduced to such simple and simplistic thinking since it would be so easy to solve and so logical even I might end up supporting some movement to attack the weapon as if it were actually the sentient actor in these cases.  But I don’t.

I do completely understand the knee-jerk response to such emotionally charged events.  I was stunned at the news.  Kids getting killed at all but especially in such a fashion is never, ever, acceptable.  And we cannot ever allow ourselves as individuals or as a culture to become so jaded that we start to just accept it as “the way it is.” But if a real and lasting solution is to be found, it has got to come from reason not emotion.

Several years ago (2012) in response to another horrific shooting I wrote, in the other blog, my response relative to the 2nd amendment including recommendations for action.  I still stand by that post and suggest you read it for a base line understanding of my thinking at least on a philosophical, conceptual level vis-à-vis the “gun” part of the equation.  Here is a link to that post:

Yes, that post and this one are long ones.  But is this situation, in your mind, sufficiently important to hear out some ideas that go beyond the insipid one-liners?  If not then this cannot, by definition, be all that imporitant to you other than as a chance to show the choir how much you care.  I predict within a little bit there will be one of those “I care more than you do” ribbons dedicated to this issue.  Meantime…

In that post I noted my esperiences growing up in the country with guns readily available and not ever having a gun of mine demand of me that I pick it up and go out to murder anyone.  I know, from my farming and ranching history, lots of people with lots of guns and don’t know a single one who has had one of their guns demand some evil rampage of them.  If you have read that post as suggested there is no reason to re-write the details of that history here.  Suffice it to say I do not think the solution is wrapped up in the guns, per se.

The other side is also high centered on mental health.  I agree that mental health is an issue and one very poorly handled in this country.  But the investigations into these major shootings reveal that thinking these shooters are just certifiably crazy and slipped through the cracks is not supported by the data.  Among the young, and far more common among adults than we’d like to admit, is the presence of bullying and emotional abuse too often leading to serious depression and suicide. I do not wish to downplay the seriousness of that especially when young lives are self-ended… those are tragedies beyond explanation or acceptance.  But it is a different issue than the one facing us for this discussion.

While it is true that over 70% of the shooters have been diagnosed (some post mortem) as “depressed” it is also true that well over 3 million American Adults are considered clinically depressed.  So roughly .00000667% of those depressed people have become the perpetrators of these mass shootings.  The math does not support the contention.  So if it isn’t evil demon-possessed guns or clinical depression that is completely at fault, what might it be?  Remember Holmes’s dictum, “When you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”

Mental health issues do not stop at the door of depression.  There are other conditions that, in my opinion, are far more at play but just as often ignored… perhaps more so when we try to avoid such serious issues when potentially applied to friends or family.  If we are serious about stopping gun violence we have to also realize, as Senator Marco Rubio suggested, that we must address the other word in that phrase: “violence.”  And the other mental health-related conditions, I would suggest, which allow that violence to happen and appear to run rampant are those of the sociopath and psychopath.

Those mental conditions per se are not new.  Individuals devoid of any empathy for fellow humans or an internal behavioral standard that held their disdain and sometimes hatred for others in check have been around forever.  Some became famous, or infamous if you will, as hired mercenaries and contract killers from the old west to the gangster ridden streets of the early parts of this century.  But there was a difference that is important to put into the discussion:  Billie the Kid never shot a school teacher;  Bonnie and Clyde did not randomly shoot up schools or churches: Machine-Gun Kelly did not target children or innocent bystanders.  They generally did not kill for the sheer pleasure of killing alone.  They avoided collateral damage when possible and killed under orders or directives based on real or perceived wrongs committed against them or their bosses, but only targeted those they saw as responsible.  Accidents happened but they were not the intention.  And it is the intent we need to focus on.

For me, starting with Columbine it has been different.  There had been a few other shootings but that was the first one to really catch my attention, perhaps because I was within a couple of blocks of the event when it happened and my good friend and then CFO for my production company had a nephew that survived when his best friend did not.  I was working on contract with the Denver Police and was privy to much of the after-action data.  The amazing thing is that those kids were so awful at what they were doing, the death toll was not much, much higher.  But what was learned from that episode has been true of every following one:

  • The perpetrator may have been mentally disturbed but was not crazy and indeed was often fairly or highly intelligent.
  • The perpetrators all felt aggrieved in some way by the institution they attacked but expanded that sense of victimhood to well beyond those who actually might have treated them poorly to include guilt by even location based association.
  • The perpetrator planned the event in detail and replayed it over and over, sometimes with elaborate contingency plans including stashed weapons or ammo.
  • Their more common plan was once on site to kill as many as possible as fast as possible then move to the next target-rich area.
  • Most of the time, unless circumstances clearly allowed it, the perpetrator did not expect to survive and in many cases did not want to.
  • The perpetrator left a very visible trail of their planning and preparations often very public. They were not shy about describing their wrath and desire to kill those they held responsible for whatever situation they focused on.  In written notes and letters and on social media their screeds and “manifestoes” were open and available.
  • The perpetrator’s unsocial and antisocial actions and writings formed a history, were known by others, and in a few cases had initiated law enforcement interaction such as home visits or discussions with parents, but NONE of it resulted in preventative action or counseling. This latest one, for example, was in counseling for antisocial behavior but just quit and no follow up was done.
  • The people closest to the perpetrators, including the parents, all saw the signs but no one took any action to stop or even just dissuade them from the plan. Many said they simply didn’t believe it.  The father of one of the Columbine shooters observed the pipe bombs under construction in his garage and said nothing!  Did he think it was a shop project?

Do you see a pattern here?  It is certainly an obvious one.  At least it is obvious to those of us who grew up in a very different culture filled with ethics, values, parental presence and oversight, and an overall environment that refused the victimhood status and accepted complete personal responsibility for our actions.  We were brought up to believe that all – ALL – behaviors had consequences.  Good behavior brought good consequences; bad behavior brought bad consequences.  Period.  Right results came from right thinking.  No excuses and no escape from that existed in the system.  No one supported the idea of actually beating a child but misbehavior was dealt with swiftly and predictably.  A swat on the butt was not seen as a beating but a lesson.  The consequences for bad behavior were not meant to be pleasant but to make one reconsider doing it again.

Right resulted only from right actions.  The ends did not and could not justify the means because you could not logically or ethically achieve good results from bad means.  You could build a beautiful house held together by glorious decoration and strong paint but it would not last and not withstand the storms that would inevitably come its way.

But in this latter half of the 20th century and now into the 21st, we have worked hard to create a culture where actions can be done without responsibility and, more importantly, without consequence.  And by an unfortunate coincidence of technology, we have done that in concert with the most incredibly successful desensitizing and alienation efforts aided and fostered and honed by some of the very technology to which we are becoming addicted.

It started with TV.  McCluhan was famous for his quote “The Media is the Message.”  But he is less well known for a comment of far greater importance.  He noted, in the 50s as TV was gaining traction, that previously all means of information dissemination was a complement to reality.   It expanded or explained or informed but by itself was NOT the reality it revealed.  But television, he held, was rapidly becoming a replacement for reality.

That concept was not lost on the military who proved its accuracy in training programs using video games to desensitize combat troops to help overcome a natural disinclination in most humans against taking another human life.  Once that targeted human is sufficiently dehumanized and demonized, it becomes a lot easier to kill it.

Where once only posters and articles dehumanized the enemy, now on a reality- replacing screen, hordes of them could be thrown at the viewer who felt no angst at mowing them down because, at first, they were not real, the blood and gore was simulated… but then a change started to happen and they were not human “like us”… and then it didn’t matter.  They were simply the “enemy” who has wronged us in some way.

Meantime TV taught kids that the same actor could be “killed” week after week and still come back.  In fact there were several celebrated court cases of young kids killing a friend and expecting them to pop back up like the TV characters had done.  When individuals are still in the pre-adult stage of intellectual development they may not be able to actually process all that is necessary to differentiate between fantasy and reality (true in all things from love to mayhem) and when a pattern of acceptance is set from childhood through adolescence, then as adults all bets are off.

Without constant vigilance by parent oversight to reign that in with continual “teaching” of values and ethics, without the concentrated efforts to establish in that child an internally consistent standard of behavior that conforms to cultural understandings of good and bad, the child’s brain and system will develop along whatever pathway is available and easy.

No one, kid or adult, likes things to be hard; we all gravitate toward the easier solutions and actions.  When a child’s self-serving nature is unconstrained by parents teaching empathy, consideration, and respect of others, and without demonstrating an unpleasant consequence for infractions, the child-becoming-an-adult will follow the easiest path.

And if that easier path is one offered by gangs or TV or video games, if that life is consumed by the social alienation of the cell phone as babysitter where real, human friends are less and less important than pretend friend counts on social media, then why on earth would we not expect horrendous aberrations to appear with increasing frequency?

Mutual respect is lost in a quest for convenience.  Simple but internally registering examples of that started, I believe, with the relaxation of school dress codes.  We were taught as kids that one way we showed respect for events (including performers, etc.) was how we dressed to attend them.  Remember the old cliché of “Sunday, Go-To-Meeting” clothes?  You put on your best clothes to show respect.  Even in our farming/ranching community, we could wear jeans to school but they had to be clean AND PRESSED (and slacks were preferred).  It was a sign of respect for education.

A week ago I went to a major concert and was stunned by the lack of respect displayed through clothing.  I know, it seems like a small thing to those habituated to shorts and flipflops.  But it carries an internal message along with the external one.  The event, to many, was not worth spending extra effort at even getting cleaned and dressed.  So what does that say about one’s valuation of it?  Nothing good.

So I believe the prime mover in these horrific events is a society-wide issue of values and ethics, common courtesy and mutual respect that have been lost, all in the interests of “progress and enlightenment” which I believe has achieved nothing of the sort.  Removing consequences and cultural norm, carrying tolerance to the point of cowardice, is neither progressive nor enlightening.  But it does open the gate wide for unguided child development and leads not to a lessening but an increase in antisocial and violent behavior.  Nevertheless, there is also the issue of choice of tools to carry out those unrestrained violent impulses we have failed to derail.

When an immature mind is seeking to perform an event, good or bad, it seeks for the easiest tools with which to carry out the intended deeds.  My referenced previous post demonstrated that in the culture I was raised, we all had guns and had ready access to them.  But our parenting, training, teaching, and consequent ethics and values were completely different and held us in check.  Today we face a world of our own making, one of well intentioned negligence to core issues, one of almost institutionalized irresponsibility and unaccountability for ourselves and our actions.  One where it is always someone ELSE’s fault that we are failing at one thing or another and never, ever, God Forbid, our own fault or a consequence of our own behavior.  While many feel the rage, a few with less restraint than others, feel justified in taking out that rage on those they see as the source of the problem.  They feel helpless, trapped, out of options and solutions.  And they just want to eliminate, i.e. kill as many of those people who have or by association have, done them wrong.

Our society is experiencing what I believe is a great and systemic sickness, an ethics killing disease, a values killing virus, a morals destroying assault on our hearts, minds, and souls wrapped up in the most benign, well intentioned sled load of claptrap to ever roll down our roads.  It flows in large part from the “Do your own thing” thing of my generation.  First it was “Do your own thing but do no harm to others.”  That morphed into Do your own thing and let the others get out of the way.”  That morphed into “Do your own thing but thou shalt not offend anyone else.”  And that has morphed into a place where those who imagine themselves offended now call the shots.

That, of course, means we cannot call out bad behavior because it will make the actor feel bad.  I’m sorry, I think bad actors NEED to feel bad and feel the heat of peer and social derision and contempt for it.  If you grow up in the world of participation trophies and goodies to your entitled self then of course you are going to be mad when you are impacted by the real world and your failure is seen as what it is – a failure – and you are held accountable for it.  If you want adulation get a dog.  If you want to live in a “fair” world never leave your home and hope your mom lives forever.

I think we have let things get so out of control socially and ethically that any complete solution will have to involve compromise by all.  We’ve not proven ourselves to be good at that in the last 30-50 years but it is time to get real and get busy.  We have to address both sides of the “Gun Violence” equation and event history.  We have to address both the issues of guns and the issues of violence or we are just stuffing more goods into that legislative sack than it can hold.

Lets take “guns” first since it is the first word in the phrase.  I still stand by my comments and suggestions for a national training and licensing system found in the referenced post from 2012.  Because it solves all of the issues of background checks, plus issues of competency, plus allows for all citizens to own and carry firearms once the conditions are met I feel it is nearly perfect since it has something to please and something to infuriate all parties.  Now THAT is a good start at a compromise.

But I’ve no illusion it is the complete answer since violence can be carried out in so many ways and on so many levels, addressing guns alone is not a complete answer no matter how good it may feel to many.  Unfortunately, tackling the violence side of the equation will be much more difficult since it means a change in ethical direction of a non-consequence society to one with very well defined and inescapable consequences including consequences for trying to escape the requirements of parenthood.

And that puts our modern society in a horrible bind, caught square between a highly valued, constitutionally enumerated right and another equally valued right, that of individual and, by extension, social right of self-defense.  For all of you wanting an easy, simple answer, I hope you are beginning to see there is no such thing.  There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer.  Guns per se are not the issue as demonstrated by a place like Switzerland where ownership of private arms including military arms is common but shooting sprees tend not to happen.  The difference: the culture and that culture’s values and ethics.  Similarly, we are not Australia, or Scandinavia, or Canada and solutions that may or may not, in the end, prove workable for those cultures will likely not work for ours.  If this is a uniquely American problem, then we need to look for an equally unique American solution.

Chicago and Detroit have the toughest gun laws in the country and the highest homicide by gun rates.  The difference?  Again, I think it is a cultural difference.  But what about normal, common, American locations such as this last incident in Florida, or in Colorado?   How are we, as a society, to protect ourselves against these individuals who seem bent on killing our children?  And how can we do it without overdue violence to our Constitution and founding values?

As I said, I think society as a collection of individuals has a right to defend itself against a threat, especially a threat to its children.  Regardless of what sets these perpetrators into action, there is one more common denominator to add to the list above; most of them chose an AR15 rifle.  Why is that?

Killing a single individual is easy.  Killing a bunch of them is more problematic especially for those will little or poor training in such an activity.  They want to inflict the greatest amount of fear, death and destruction possible in the time they have before being killed by responding law enforcement.

What to do… what to do… what to USE?  AH… again TV has provided an answer:  a real machine gun would be better but they are heavy, hard to use, and illegal.  A real assault rifle like an M16 or full -auto AK47 would do but they too are illegal and very, very, very expensive.  There are other weapons that are more powerful and in trained hands could do a lot more damage than these shooters have managed but they lack the instantly recognizable looks; the scary quality of that silhouette strikes fear far beyond the weapon’s actual abilities to do damage more than other options.  The school shooter is about fear and the AR15 is, to most, a scary looking weapon, so he has gained some points just carrying it even if he never fires the thing.

But a debate about the actual merits of the weapon are simply irrelevant.  What IS relevant is that seems to have become the weapon of choice.  The gun owners’ argument that other weapons share its capabilities is pointless because those are not weapons chosen; the AR15 is.  The NRA argues that the AR15 is a hunting weapon.  Oh get serious.  The rifling, the sights, the grip, the magazines are all designed for combat against human targets.  The civilian version of the round, the .223 is inherently less accurate than the varmint hunters’ choice .222 especially in a platform far better designed for very flat long range shooting. Even better for varmint shooting at long ranges is the 220 Swift and .22-250.  Better still is the 243.  In recommending the .222 I’m showing my ages as that is really no longer the choice of long range varmint shooters and ammo is getting harder to get. the .223 is a cheap and common round but in the AR configuration is still not primarily a hunter design but a combat weapon.

So lets start with this specific weapon, the civilian AR15 and its variants.  Step number one is is an overarching one to enact the legislation I suggested in that previous post requiring training and registration for all firearms ownership and then, for those who pass that, they can carry anytime anywhere.  That totally eliminates the issue of a well regulated militia.

And it has a good by-product.  To make crime go down the best way is to make it an extremely hazardous occupation and make the law so that when someone decides to step outside the law’s constraints they have also just stepped outside its protection and are fair game or in the old English Law sense, “OUTLAW.”  Surrounded by a well trained, competent, and armed citizenry crime takes on a whole new persona.

Step two is to enact a tariff on the AR15 that puts it WAY out of the hands of normal folks.  And expand enforcement with high fee punishments to those who seek to circumvent the law by constructing their own AR from parts.  The tariff is part of the purchase price and also a fee for currently owned ARs

What about currently owned AR15s?  Simple, to sweeten the pot, make the owners an offer they can’t refuse.  If they claim it is for hunting offer them a swap for a far better .22-250 or .220 Swift hunting rifle (which is less expensive anyway, $600-$800 compared to the AR15 $1,200 – $1,800).  If they claim it is for home defense, then offer them the swap of a tactical shotgun ($500 – $700) which is better for that purpose anyway.  And what about the turned in rifles?  Give them to the military to convert or use for training.  The cost of those swaps is much cheaper than they now pay for new M16s.

And lets face it, if our military turns against us, 5.56 rounds just bounce off of tanks no matter how many magazines you have and they are of precious little use against airpower.  Sorry, find another argument…

Other than make politicians and activists pleased with themselves that they have actually done something, will even this action solve the issues?  I don’t think so.  The truth remains, sadly, that the school shooting phenomenon will not go away until it is addressed socially and psychologically.  Death comes in all sorts of packages and despite some of the idiot tropes on Facebook, a pipe bomb or two could kill as many or more than an AR15 in unskilled hands and do it faster with far more collateral damage.  And they can be made cheaply and quickly.

Here is my personal bottom line.  Violence against innocent humans is an issue not of the tools but of the psyche.  A valueless society is not a safe society.

So in my opinion, if you want to contribute to a real and lasting solution then start exploring ways to reinvest our society with ethics and values; with parents that are actually present and care.  Make society and its individuals responsible for their own actions and for taking action when it is required to derail such an event.  Eliminate turf issues between law enforcement entities and smooth the communication channels so it doesn’t matter where or to whom the alert is issued it can get acted upon quickly.  Teach kids that if they see something, SAY SOMETHING, then DO something; start imposing consequences for behaviors… and I believe this phenomenon will diminish and ultimately go away with or without the weapons issue.

In the meantime, however, here is another action I would support:





Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Great Show at City

Friday evening the Photo Program at City College’s Luxe Gallery hosted the opening of the show, “Visions.”  An all female show from a group of working professional women photographers, each showing one piece.  I was an incredible show and if you have a chance, while it is still up, do get down to see it.   We’ve had a number of well attended shows but this was one of the top ones in terms of attendees to the opening.  Simply put, it was PACKED! 

Here is a shot of the crowd in the main part of the gallery. 

visions show crowd

The shoulder to shoulder turn out for the Visions show at San Diego City College’s Luxe Gallery.  It was an incredible turn-out to support the artists and photography. (c) N. David King, shot with iPhone 6

It was great to see that many people come out to support photography and the artists in the show but it did make it hard to actually see all of the work.  I overheard several say they needed to come back when they could properly enjoy the exhibit.  The work ranged from some well thought out imagery to some well printed snap shots but the overall quality was really high – and that is saying a lot for a show with this many entries that was not a curated or juried show. 

So again, if you like and want to support photography and indicate we should be doing more shows like this, it is well worth your time to come down and see it.  The artists will appreciate it and you will enjoy the experience.  You can call the photo lab for times when it is open for viewing: 619-388-3281.

Also do note that responses are already coming in for the Bristlecone Pines trek this coming summer.  Check out the details on the link in the banner above and if this seems like something you’d enjoy doing, for instance joining other photographers to photograph in some of the truly iconic areas shot by the greats including Adams, Weston, Sexton, etc., then do sign up.

And also I want to thank all of you who purchased a copy of my book, “The Future of Professional Photography and Photo Education.”  I was never intended as a commercial project, rather one to help inform our planning at City’s Photo Program and to start a broader discussion on the topic among photographers and educators alike.  I assumed I’d get about 3 sales (it would have been 4 if my mother were still alive) so the level of sales has been truly surprising. 

Equally surprising has been the positive response.  I expected a lot more push-back since it takes on academia generally for its failure to respond to the needs and realities of our discipline and especially hammers SoCal coddled approaches to education which may prepare students for a career as a regular on Romper Room but set them up for and virtually guarantee their failure upon attempted entry into the real world of professional photography.  To be fair, there have been a few disgruntled educators whose sacred cows were shot and eaten openly in the book, but overwhelmingly, working professionals and others in the discipline have been incredibly supportive.  So thank you all.  Here is a direct link to get the book from the printer, Lulu if you’d like to check it out.

Now that the semester is underway, census date has passed, and we can settle into a more or less workable routine, I’ll try to do a better job at keeping this up to date with photos and videos of what all is happening here.




Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

DATES for 2018 Bristlecone Pines Trek!

I just confirmed the dates for the 2018 Bristlecone Pines Trek.  It will be Thursday through Sunday (as usual) July 12-15, 2018.  Click on the link in the banner above for full details and itinerary, costs, etc.


Patriarch Bones

Taken at the Patriarch’s Grove, Ancient Bristlecone Pines Forest, White Mtns, CA. B&W version of the “Bones of the Patriarch” shot several years earlier. Rhinocam 6-frame mosaic using Hasselblad-Zeiss 180mm f4 (c) N. David King

The good news is this time we have quite a jump start for planning.  However, if this years proceeds as usual, this trip will get full within a few weeks, so if you would like to join us this year, let me know as soon as possible.  That way I’ll have you on the list and can keep you up to date as we get closer and plans firm up.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Wild Week and a Quick Trip to the Salton Sea

It has been a wild week.  At City College we hosted our 2nd Annual “Photo 360” event where we sponsored almost 250 high school students interested in photography from San Diego Unified School District.  The students filled our auditorium and got to hear our new President, Dr. Shabazz deliver a really inspiring presentation to them on the value of seriously thinking about coming to City College.


Photo 360 auditorium

Off Screen Dr. Shabazz delivers a talk to a packed house of high school students at City College’s Photo Program’s “Photo 360” event for local high school students interested in photography.  

We provided several workshops with hands on demos and work in Fashion, Product, Macro, portfolio and photoshop, and even a demo in the darkrooms shooting paper negatives with a view camera and letting them make their own prints.    In addition several major photo equipment manufacturers and retailers set up tables in the gallery to let students see ther latest wares and even try some of them out during the workshops.


photo 360 vendors

Students in our gallery checking out the latest gear from vendors such as Canon, Tamron, Panasonic/Lumix, Olympus, Delkin, and our sponsor retailers, NelsonPhoto and George’s Camera.

Plus, My good friend Brooke Medicine Eagle is in town so we drove out to the Salton Sea, which she had never seen before.  Brooke and I go back to college days at the University of Denver and have remained in touch over all of the ensuing years.  She holds a Doctorate in Psychology but is a practicing healer and teacher of the Shamanic traditions and ways from not only her own Native American culture but from cultures around the world.  She is here to set up some events at Rancho La Puerta resort and Spa near Tecate.

We went first to the mud volcanoes near the south east shores of the sea.  But approaching it I could already tell the horrible tales I was hearing of the sea’s plight were true… and then some.  On a mud flat that once was a shallow lagoon stands the so-called “Three Sisters.”  I’ve shown pictures of them before, three lonely trees that had survived the horrid conditions of the sea.  Now they are nowhere near the water or even the water’s edge.  It was saddening and disheartening to see.  But as you’ll see, the worse shock lay ahead…

But back to the tale.  The mud volcanoes are surface manifestations of the incredible geo-thermal activities in the region.  Lying on the infamous San Andreas fault, the superheaded water, fleeing the magma chambers deep in the crust is forced up toward the surface through layers and layers of sediment and mud-formed tiny geysers.  It is clear that the plates are moving in their relentless quest to separate Southern California and Baja from the mainland.  The field of mud pots and “volcanoes” is also expanding and moving.  There are more of them than the last time I visited here a few years ago and they are now strung out in a longer line than before. 

It is somewhat disconcerting to know that in the dogleg area where these two plates are locked into place, tests have shown that the rock is already well past the failure point and should have collapsed and slipped years ago.  The main parts of the plates are deflected by several meters so when the rocks holding them together do finally let go it is likely to be a singularly exciting event… 

mud volcano 01

One section of the mud volcanoes, a wisp of steam blowing from the spouts of boiling mud.

Here at the mud volcanoes you can hear them bubbling and hissing away as hot steam escapes and muddy bubbles rise and burst, sending little hot mud-flows down the sides of these Lilliputian sized volcanoes.  They are neither majestic nor pretty but, to me, endlessly fascinating because of the tale they try to tell about what is happening not all that far under the surface.  The mud flows leave some interesting abstract patterns on the slopes of the miniscule mountains.

mud flow 01

Patterns in the flow of hot mud from the mud volcanoes.  At least it is not real lava!

The area has quite a number of geothermal power plants taking advantage of the constantly available hot water and steam to drive their turbines.  Nothing has to be artificially heated here, the earth takes care of that quite efficiently.  Here, seen behind a few of the mud volcanoes, is one of the nearby geothermal plants that dot the landscape.

Mud volcanoes and power plant

Steam rises from one of the Geothermal plants located around the southern end of the Salton Sea.  Seen here looking through some of the mud volcanoes in the region.

We walked around and watched some of the bubbling little pots (my timing was always just a bit off and never caught one of the bubbles forming and bursting but here is one of the little pots merrily percolating away.

mud bubble

A bubbling mud pot splattering hot mud around it.  Unfortunately I failed after several attempts to actually capture the moment of a bubble bursting.  This is a split second late and you can still see the steam cloud drifting off to screen left.

We drove slowly along the irrigation channel banks hoping to see one of the hysterical little burrowing owls.  That quest was doomed to failure but Brooke was able to see her first live Roadrunner.   Later we saw Wily E. Coyote darting into a roadside cover but they seemed to be leaving each other alone for the moment.

We then drove to Bombay Beach.  My friend Lee has been telling me how low the sea is getting and leaving this once exciting beach area high and dry but I was still totally unprepared for what I saw as we rolled up and over the dike to the site of the old pier.  Not all that long ago the water lapped against the sea wall and left but a few inches of the old pilings visible above the surface.  I’m not sure what I expected to see… but it was not this.

A beached boat used to be close enough to launch but now is stranded in permanent dry dock and useful only as a pallet for visiting taggers desperate to deface someone else’s property.  You can see how far out the water now lies.

Bombay Boat dry dock

No longer able to reach the sea, a boat sits along the edge of the old sea wall.  The actual water has retreated a couple hundred yards as the sea evaporates.

But most shocking of all was the pier itself.  It was simply stunning to me how far away the water line now was.  Here is an overview of the first view driving up to what used to be the boat ramp and then a closer composition.


Bombay Berach pier first view

The water no longer even approaches the  Bombay Beach pier as its pilings sit bleaching in the sun.



old pier high 01

Sitting high and dry far from the water if one didn’t know what this was it might be completely puzzling to a new-comer to the scene.


To put those shots above in perspective, here is a shot taken a couple of years ago that I called, in homage to Otis Redding, “Seating by the Dock of the Bay.”  You can see the water is almost covering the pilings and is right up against the sea wall.


EM Seating by the Dock001

Here is what the pier looked like not all that long ago on a spectacular sunset evening.  You can see the water is right up against the old sea wall.  This effect happens when the wind rises in the Anza Borrego desert to the west and turns the background into a seamless array of color.


It was sad and depressing, the whole place reeked of lost hopes and failures.  A few residences had tried to spiff up their places and one person used junked cars to create “The Bombay Beach Drive-In Theater” so humor has survived in a few places but I honestly do not know how.

Here finally is a shot to sum up the story.  A duo-toned grayscale image seemed like the proper rendition. 


tilapia for blog

Unless steps are taken to correct the damage, this represents to fate awaiting not just the fish but the sea itself and perhaps even the inhabitants of the sea shore enclaves as toxic dust joins the desiccating wind to sweep the area once the water is gone.


Meantime, to end back on a high note — at least for me — I received notice of a completely surprising number of sales of my book, “The Future of Professional Photography and Photo Education” and word that our president is ordering copies to give out to faculty at the Spring’s pre-semester convocation meetings.  I never expected that..

But now it is time to get the last minute preparations ready for school to restart in a week.








Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Quick Trip to Cayucos Through the Fire

My friend and colleague Lee Peterson and I had chatted for a few weeks about a trip up along the coast to his place in Cayucos since he had to get some produce from his ranch near Merced to bring down to San Diego.  But with the fires raging in the mountains near Ventura and along the coast we were waiting for what seemed like an opportune and fairly safe time to travel.  Besides although I am supposedly on sabbatical and easy to schedule, it seemed like every time we thought we had an opening I had a meeting of one kind or another I needed to attend or if I was free Lee had something come up he had to attend to.

Early Monday Lee called saying it looked clear, he was free, and could I go.  Well, yes, sort of… We got off to a late start because I had an early Doctor’s  appointment but we still were on the road a little before noon. The first portion up through L.A. was typical wall-to-wall cars but once on 101 north of L.A. we bailed off of the freeway and cut south through Malibu Canyon to the coast.  

Lee is working on a book series about the piers of the California Coast.  This trip was also designed to let him pick up some more photos for the books.  He already had many of them shot but was missing a few here and there plus wanted to add some detail shots. We stopped first at Paradise Cove near Malibu.

This is a private cove which has been through some interesting legal wrangles regarding beach access.  California law says that the beach “…seaward from the ambulatory high tide line was public.  But getting to it was another matter and in this case, the owner charged for parking ($30.00) although if you ate in his café, “The Paradise Cove Café” parking was only $6.00.  So we had lunch there.  We both had the clam chowder which was quite good was almost $20.00 per bowl.   Lee shot the pier and I thought it might be cool to take shots of him taking HIS shots… but then I realized I had brought the big digital cinema camera but  I did not bring a still camera and at this spot there was nothing I wanted to film.  I completely “spaced” the fact that I had my cell phone with me until we were leaving!

 I confess despite having just written a book about the future of photography in which cell phone technology is playing a major role I still do not naturally think of it as a real camera.  This trip would give me a chance to play with it and test the theory for myself.

We finished at the cove and then headed north along the coast.  It wasn’t long before we could see the smoke in the air and start to smell the fire and ash.  By the time we got to Ventura the smoke made it look like a heavy marine layer of fog except it had that ugly brown cast not much different than smog.  We drove north through the incredible fire devastation around Ventura. It truly was astonishing. In a number of places the fire had burned right to the highway then jumped over and burned on down to the ocean.  Rows upon rows of dead trees including many beautiful tall palm trees were burned out stumps   It burned right up to buildings but we did not see any burned homes.

But, it is still burning!  We could easily see numerous fire lines in the hills above the little towns and along the highway.  Major flames shooting up toward the sky were easily visible even in the late afternoon daylight.  The people whose homes are in the path have got to be sweating bullets as the army of fire fighters working in awful conditions has, in places, slowed the fire’s march but has not yet stopped it.

It was nearly sundown when we stopped at Gaviota beach where the smoke in the air created a very surreal pallet. I remembered my cell phone and got a shot of Lee doing HIS shot of the pier. The dense smoke turned the sun a rich vermillion color and made the whole scene somewhat surreal.  Here is a shot of him at that pier.


Lee at Gaviota Beach

Lee Peterson photographing the Gaviotta pier through the smoke filtered sunset.  Shot with my iPhone 6.  Maybe I need to be rethinking my disrespect of cell phone cameras… (c) N. David King

 On Tuesday the sky was clear, the wind was almost at a dead calm and it was beautiful out.  We had breakfast at a wonderful country kitchen in Morro Bay then headed  up north to San Simeon where Lee shot overviews and details of the pier.




Lee doing an overview of the San Simeon pier.  Shot with iPhone 6. (c) N. David King


Here is a cell phone shot of him playing with the shadow patterns from the pilings. The stories of these piers is fascinating, something I never gave much thought to but now will see them in a whole new light.


Lee with San Simeon Shadow Patterns

Lee down below the pier looking for shadow patterns and other details shot of the pier. Shot with iPhone 6 (c) N. David King

While we were there I unlimbered the Ursa to play and get some footage of the Hearst Castle from close by the pier.  It was so clear, with no haze (or smoke) that it should prove a rare opportunity to shoot from this angle.   When it was built there was no highway for everything was brought by ship.  Lee took a quick shot of me lining up the shot of the castle.


David and the bear

Here’s David and the Bear…  The Ursa has a 5″ swing-out monitor on the left side which is what I’m looking at to line up the shot.  I’m using a Canon 70-200mm f4 with a 2x teleconverter to really move in on the castle.    Photograph (c) Lee Peterson) 

On Tuesday the wind had died down which helped and it was extremely pleasant out.  We headed back down south to check in on the Elephant seals which would normally, by this time, be filling the beaches.  I thought that should make for some good stock footage.  But the beaches were almost deserted.  There were some confused males wondering where the ladies went but apparently they were having to feed further out to get ready for the long pupping time when they will not eat for a long time and might lose a couple hundred pounds.  

That evening the clear local air but the smoke layer blown out toward the horizon conspired to create an amazing sunset.  We hoped for a “green flash” but instead were rewarded with a very long delay to the sun as it fell through the smoke layer out to sea.


Lees view of sunset for blog

Sunset from Lee’s deck.  The sun s-l-o-w-l-y dropped through the smoke layer on the orizon and again painted the scene in hues out of a Turner watercolor.  (c) N. David King, shot with iPhone 6.


Wednesday morning the winds had returned.  I kept thinking how terrifying that had to be for the residents in the fire’s path.  A day’s short respite and then they were back into the fight of their lives for their homes and property.

I do not know why, since I love the place and Lee’s house is an incredibly wonderful space to relax and “chill,” but from the moment I woke up, something deep inside was screaming at me that it was time to head south.  This would be a perfect place to “hole up” to write, work on a project, or simply to recharge one’s batteries. To me it is a perfect analog to a cabin in the mountains though not as secluded.  I’d love to come up for a few weeks with nothing to do but make images, write, and get my mind and spirit back together.  But something deep inside had rippled and troubled the water of my spirit.

I KNEW it was time to head back. (Yet now, a day later, I still do not know what motivated that feeling.)

The winds, however, had returned with a vengeance, blowing down-slope from the coastal mountains out to the sea. Great plumes of back-spray crowned the breaking waves and painted them with ephemeral rainbows. But that also meant it could be regenerating the vast fires raging from  Ventura north towards… us.  Already smoke haze was eating up the view to the south. Yesterday Morro Rock was so clear it was as if you could reach out and touch it, but now it was indistinguishable and washed with the brownish varnish of smoke even though the fires were an hour away. So instead of going back the way we came through the fire zone, we turned inland and cut across country well north of the burn.

 This is normally a beautiful drive across the coastal range filled with color and even wildlife.  But not this time.  Even as we crossed the Carrizo valley everything was a dead brown. The grass that normally is long and silky was like dried straw. The oaks that ought to be blazing a yellow greeting to what passes for winter here, were also simply a dried-out desaturated brown. Everything was brown. It was not, however, the vibrant and rich earth tones of late fall, but the dead grey-brown of water starved trees, grass, and scrub. If the fires reached this far they would race through here like a Hellish tsunami of flame. Other than an occasional comment about the drab pallet or the increasing smoke filled haze looking south, we passed through the area quickly and quietly.

The remaining trip back was uneventful though there was, as usual, a glut of cars on the L.A. freeways since we were unlucky enough to have hit the early rush hour coming down I-5.  There was no help for it… just sit back, listen to the satellite channel filled with Buffet, Fogelberg, Taylor, even some Cat Stevens.  But it was hard not to think that while we were headed home to safety, a lot of people in the areas we have just been through, had no homes, no safety, and even some still with property unscorched were facing the night not knowing if tomorrow’s dawn would see it still in existence or just a smoking and charred ruin.

It is really hard not to feel awfully blessed and incredibly lucky by comparison. 

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My New Book on the Future of Professional Photography

Well I have just received the approval copies of my new book, “The Future of Professional Photography and Photo Education” and sent back my approval to the printer for distribution.  I’m generally pleased with the results of what I expect will be a most controversial bit of writing.  What was intended as a 50-60 page research paper to satisfy the requirements for my sabbatical for Fall semester 2017 grew into a 216 page book as I grew more and more fascinated by the research into the material and the incredibly complex world in which it lived.

The world of professional photography was already in the ongoing midst of a paradigm shift flowing from digital technology that was changing the whole photo environment.  Photographers who failed to realize that the thing in their hands that looked like a camera was actually a computer with a lens hung on it, had no clue as to the speed of increasing computational power effecting their primary tool much less the all-encompassing power of the World Wide Web and internet to effect distribution and exposure both for them and for their clients.  Some are STILL pretending it is just a fad.

After all, the previous 100 years had seen minimal changes even in materials beyond some new chemical compounding and brands while the core process flow remained essentially unchanged.  Even though a very few visionaries such as Ansel Adams foresaw the digital world, most did not and it blindsided them when it hit.

But now, we are seeing the starting upswing of the ‘toe’ of the soon-to-be very steep curve representing an additional paradigm shift on top of the first one.  It is admittedly a lot to grasp; moreover it has been far easier for most to simply ignore or deny such a revision in process is really changing their world. But closing our eyes does not slow down the onrushing storm.

Let me insert quickly that this material may have little influence on the “fine art” side of photography and only a minimal impact on those who like to call themselves “professionals” because they have, now and then over the years, sold a print or two and perhaps shot something for a friend of a friend or managed to get a shot or two published somewhere but do not, and have not truly made a living solely by providing their creative photographic services to clients in various industries.  The good news for them is that they may, in fact, be in the enviable position of being able to sit back, watch the convulsions roiling in the real commercial world, and be thankful for dodging that bullet.

Maybe… Maybe not…

This project started for me with the “gut” feeling that our professional world was changing out from under us so I requested the sabbatical leave to allow me time to research and write about it in the hopes that the results might reveal some preparation and improvements in our photo program to keep it relevant.  And perhaps I was wrong.  Perhaps my “gut” was over-reacting to the new technologies I kept reading about.  Perhaps my firm belief in “Complexity Theory” and the effect on large complex systems was inappropriate to this discipline and we were all doing just fine with no reason to worry, much less contemplate drastic changes.  Perhaps all of those “dots” I saw either did not exist or even if they did, did not actually connect in a way to influence our world. This research would let me either put the worry to bed or, if it had some foundation, start the discussion to look for solutions and plans.

I initiated the project with this diagram (below) representing the major influences I saw impacting the world of Professional Photography and my growing – and finally overwhelming — confidence that we in that profession were facing a “perfect storm” of disruptive influences – especially from technology, the internet, and the educational system itself — that would combine and coalesce to change our world in dramatic, game-changing ways in the very near future.


Map of influences for web use

Chart of Influences on Professional Photography and Photo Education (c) N. David King


Worse, I was becoming convinced that we who were actively trying to prepare our students to enter that world were not even close to being ready for it and, worse yet, that academia in general was largely in denial about the issues rushing headlong toward us.

The research was fascinating and did take me in some unexpected directions.  A few issues and emerging technologies I had previously thought of as about to have a major impact  turned out to be far less influential and, at the same time, some that had been completely off of my radar turned out to be the source of what I now feel will be major disruptions to our photo-related world.

The “controversial” part implied above comes not from the core data per se, but from the bureaucratic bog that modern education has become.  Changes to our program of the type I suggest, while I think of them as essential to maintaining the relevance of our professional photo programs going into the future, are akin to trying to turn an aircraft carrier in a bathtub; even if the will is there, the available space is not.  As important to them as any little issues from our program, has been that despite the political rhetoric of economic well being our state is still technically bankrupt, the problem for a college or district is that the economics do not add up. Politicians and academic sycophants talk a good line but the proof is in the money available for educational use… and that has been very limited, at least in terms of what actually reaches down into the classroom.

Consequently, with classes cancelled early, faculties crushed by budgetary restrictions feeding their paranoia to maintain and improve falling enrollments to try to save their own positions, various related programs have moved more and more into their little fiefdoms and adopted ever-stronger siege mentalities, claiming, in displays of ignorance gone to seed, that they may own some specific process, technology, or data stream.  Programs that ought to be cooperative and providing their cross fertilization of information and insight have become, like the sad political world in which most of them operate, increasingly divided and polarized.

Many of those  wandering our hallowed halls have developed vested interests in the status quo and so will be displeased by any suggestions that indicate that happy stable world is about to disintegrate and needs replacing rapidly and substantively.  What I see as an incredible opportunity to explore exciting new artistic options and competitive advantages, some will see as threatening to a safe and secure, if narrow, world in which they work or teach.

But progress and the future is going to continue its march, as it always has, utterly indifferent to our wishes and individual needs.  I believe our options are to prepare for it or be crushed by it.  As Will Rogers wrote: “Even if you are on the right track, if you just sit there you will be run over.”  If we lack the money and the will from above, then we folks down in the trenches have but two options: accept the impending irrelevancy or get creative in finding viable solutions.   We claim to be creative types.  It is time to put that claim to the test of reality.

I believe the conclusions in the book, barring unforeseen events or technologies coming out of the blue to change everything, have a very good chance of being accurate and that the recommendations are positive and doable, if deeply difficult.   So, while I expect some major skeptical, if not out-and-out derisive pushback to the conclusions and recommendations, my core goal is not to win a debate but to start a dialogue, a discussion designed to review the potential that ANY of the myriad influences I cited in the book, may be in play because each of them, never mind all of them operating in concert (along with some I most likely missed entirely), will force some level of change in our discipline and in our teaching of it.

The book is available online and direct from the printer, Lulu printing, at this URL:

To get this discussion underway as quickly as possible if you have any interest in the world of professional photography and/or photo education, I encourage you to get a copy (they are cheap – $16.98), use it to help focus and guide your own research and inquiry, and then lets get this discussion underway while there is still time.

Once my approval goes through LuLu’s system and a global publication database (their site says up to 6 wks), then it will also be available on Amazon and other outlets, but ordering it directly from the printer is faster and can be done now.

I’ve already seen a couple of small typos I missed but do not want to delay the distribution further.  If successful with this printing, perhaps a second edition can fix those and also bring newer developments into the discussion.

What should be clear after reading it is that, whether or not you agree about the directions we are headed that I posit in the book,  what is inescapable is that we ARE MOVING into some new and uncharted water, first in the work to be required of us as working professional/commercial photographers, and, consequently in the education programs charged with preparing students to enter that new world.

What will be at stake is nothing less than our value as educators for those coming to us to help them prepare for their careers.


Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments