Hi...my name is Ted

At this point it is appropriate for you to respond, in unison, ”Hi Ted!”

My story is simple. I am an addict. My problem isn’t drugs or sex or any of those widely recognized and oft celebrated addictions. My behavior is controlled by my addiction to the sound of a shutter. That wonderful release that happens when I press the button and hear that climactic sound as the parts of a focal plane shutter slap against the edges of the shutter frame. For a short time I am at peace having satisfied the dragon in my soul. But I know, it won’t be long before I need to push that button again.

My problem started years ago with Brownies (Kodak not fudge). It didn’t seem bad. Snap a few pictures and send the film off to the lab. What harm could come of that simple indulgence. But, things escalated in the 90’s and my problem started to get worse. At first I thought, there is nothing wrong with pushing the shutter release and capturing a few one megapixel images. What harm would it do? No one gets hurt. But lately, I often find myself on some street corner firing the shutter at 11 frames a second to capture 40 megapixel images. Where does this stop? What will happen to me when the size of my compact flash is bigger than my hard drive?? 

For those of you who doubt the seriousness of my problem, please recognize that my habit has all of the characteristics of other addictive diseases. I have a compulsive need to continue my behavior. I plan my life in anticipation of the reward I get by pressing the shutter release and hearing the sound that gives me the satisfaction of knowing an image has passed to the sensor. I exhibit “seeking behaviors.” I am consumed by long hours of planning things like sun angles and vantage points just to come to that one special moment when I get to press that RELEASE (they call it that for reason) and hear the wonderful slap.

My habit has cost me thousands of dollars that could have used to buy far more important things like Twinkies or FaceBook stock. It consumes huge blocks of my time and I am sure that carrying around 30 pounds of gear on one shoulder is taking a toll on my body. 

I tried to quit but it isn’t easy. How do you resist the face of Ashton Kutcher enticing me with a new, brightly colored camera that makes that incredible sound. Speaking to my physician hasn’t helped either. Once she stops laughing, she wants to know how much it would cost to get some eight by tens of her kids.

I need help. And, I don’t think I am the only one with this problem. First, I need to come up with some clever name for this recovery support group. It needs to have commercial appeal so that we can raise funds by appealing to those around us who are sick of us sticking a lens in their face. Money will help us fund research into therapeutic approaches to our addiction. There may be reason to hope. The recent literature describes cameras that are mirrorless and only emit a barely audible shutter sound. Maybe they will help me get this monkey off my back.

 That’s my story. Now, who was responsible for bringing the milk and cookies for tonight’s meeting??? 

Images with Meaning

It seems right that the first entry on my upgraded web site should address my version of what makes a great image.

If you are a real photographer each week you look at hundreds, maybe thousands,  of images taken by someone else. You soon realize that only a few capture your interest. I estimate that I see only ten to twenty images in a week that I feel are truly great images. Once I started to recognize these standout images, I began to look closer to figure out why these images captured my imagination. What made these images different? 

There are two, sequential levels of "interests" that i use when I evaluate an image. The first level is a technical evaluation. Does the image meet certain technical standards that are widely recognized as the necessary foundation of a good image.

My eye starts with looking at the overall exposure of an image. A good image uses light to draw the attention to the subject of the image. More importantly, a good image doesn't have areas that pull my eye away from the subject. Too often I see large bright areas in poorly exposed images that demand my visual attention without adding anything to the image. I have ruined many of my images by including a brightly lit window in the background.

Focus is equally important. Is the subject of the image in focus? That seems simple but it takes thought and planning to get the focus on an image correct. Seldom is the subject of a photograph in the center of an image where most cameras capture most of the focus information. Grabbing the focus and then composing the image takes practice. 

Just as significantly, what is out of focus is just as important as what is in focus. Great images use the blurry bokeh (the quality of the out of focus area) to draw the attention to the subject. A photographer spends as much time thinking about the background as he/she does thinking about the main subject. Sometimes backgrounds are significantly blurred to provide a smooth, colored, non-distracting layer. Just as frequently a crisp, in focus background gives context to the images meaning.

The third technical evaluation I use is composition. If exposure and focus are acceptable, then I look at the composition of an image. There are rules. The rule of thirds is important. It is rare that a good image has the subject at its center. It does happen. There are great images with the subject centered but there is usually some other aspect of the image that dictates this departure from the "rules." 

Apparent horizons should be either high or low in an image and not cut the image in the middle. Horizons also need to be level. An un-level horizon is incredibly distracting. 

Rules are made to be broken. True. But the rules of composition come from an understanding how people respond to the visual stimulation. Breaking the rules of composition seldom leads to a great image. Creating a great image is accomplished by using the rules to make an image that makes the viewer respond.

Once I am satisfied that an image passes a review of these technical standards (exposure, focus and composition), i look for a very subjective component that I like to call the "story." The image has to suggest a story to me. It has to capture an instant in some scene that I can create in my mind. The story is dramatically different for everyone who views the image. But great images catalyze the imagination. Great images pull me into a story that I make up about what happened before or what will happen after the shutter closes. Simple, well-crafted images that suggest long stories or several stories are always the ones that cause me to take more than just a cursory glance.

I have lots of images in my portfolio and some are presented here on my site. But only a few of my images meet the standards i have set for myself. I am proud of my images but my goal is to replace those that don't appeal to the eye and suggest a meaningful story.


Many of you may recognize that my web site has been a combination of images and stories. I archived my previous stories and have begun anew with the redesign of this new web site. I hope you will continue to follow me. There will be new stories and images soon so, as they say, stay tuned.