More About the Author
I love the photographic image, all sorts of images. I love the challenge of making fine images, and the process of creating and editing them. I have been doing this for 49 years.
I was born in Glasgow, Scotland and moved to Canada at age 8, being raised in Edmonton. I wanted to be a physicist and that's how I started at university. I wasn't a very good one, barely graduating - I was spending all my time photographing for the university student newspaper and yearbook and making team and student residence group photos.
Eventually I settled on medicine (mum got her wish after all - hated it that she was right). After radically bringing up my marks I went to medical school at U of Alberta, graduating class of 76. I continued to photograph and even in residency, had a darkroom - no running water, but functional none the less.
Over the years I amassed a large collection of books of photographs and even during periods of not photographing, I continued to study great photographs. With the help of Fred Picker's Zone VI manual, I became a good printer, and from a weekend course on photographic appreciation, learned a lot more about what makes fine images.
I now live in Calgary, Alberta, Canada, 60 miles from the Rocky Mountains, 200 miles from the Alberta Badlands.
About six years ago I started writing about photography, first with my own blog, and then for outbackphoto.com and then luminous-landscape.com
The latter publication led to the owner of Rockynook Publishing contacting me to suggest taking my series of articles and expand it into a book. I was already having some success being published, first in Black and White Photography (U.K.) with an article on my badlands photographs, and then a portfolio of my industrial work in Lenswork 57. I've also been in B&W, Focus and Outdoor Photography (U.K.)
I have always enjoyed writing. For years I had a patient newsletter in which I would explain diseases and tests and whatnot and seemed to have some talent for explaining things clearly.
In my blog, although sometimes writing about technical matters, my first love was the art in photography, commenting on subjects like where to point the camera and how to compose, which images to select and how to assess one's work.
Although it is true that I earn my living as a family doctor, I spend almost as much time doing, thinking about and writing on photography.
I'm told I have a good eye. I have an understanding of how composition works rather than knowing a list of rules and I can explain it to you.
I have gone through most if not all of the problems that photographers can face in 40 years, failures, rejections, discouragement, dislike of one's own work, and for the most part I have come out the other side, and think I can help you through that journey.
Perhaps most importantly, I write from the point of view of someone who cares only about the final image, not about efficiency or maximum output, a failing in nearly all the books written by commercial photographers. Should you want to edit 2000 images of the same girl in the same red dress, then read those books, but if you have one image you care about and want to make it the best you can, then I think I can help, right from before you even discover the scene until you make the last edit to your image.
I have written 3 books so far.
My first is:
"Take Your Photography To The Next Level"
This book is about the art of photography - there isn't a single f stop or shutter speed in the whole book. It takes you from seeing to working the scene, onto composing and through the mental struggles we get up to, and to selecting our best work. Finally it gives you a frame work upon which to judge your work, not because having a rating is of the slightest value other than to point out how you might go about improving your work. I use 30 years of my work as examples and to illustrate points. The basic premise is "Practicing what you are good at is human nature, but not terribly effective. Identifying our weaknesses and working on them may be painful, but even modest improvements usually make huge differences to our work.
This is a book for all photographers who care about their craft or art. It won't explain how to use your new camera, but it might help you aim it in a good direction.
This book has been translated into German, Italian, Swedish, Polish and two different versions of Chinese.
My second book is:
"From Camera To Computer"
We considered calling this "A Look Over My Shoulder" and rejected it. When it came time to translate it into German, we went with the "Over My Shoulder", albeit in German, and the book has sold 10X as well.
The idea of the book is to take the theoretical knowledge of the first book and apply it to working the scene in a series of example sittuations. I show you my failures on the way to success, and then show how I go about editing the captured image(s) to make the final photograph. There is a short Photoshop primer at the back of the book explaining how to use the small fraction of Photoshop that I use to edit my images. All but a few of the images were not in the first book. This is the field manual to the text book of my first book.
The third book is:
"Why Photographs Work"
Sarkowski's "looking At Photographs" was an important book for my development as a photogapher, and I felt there was a place for a modern equivalent, explaining why photographs work, with the emphasis on image rather than process, recent rather than historical and including colour. I felt I could not write faithfully about why a photograph is successful when it is one of my own images - perhaps I could write about what I did to try and make it successful, but that's not the same, so STEP 1 was to use images of other photographers. I decided to limit it to photographers who are living.
I proposed the idea to my publisher and Rockynook was very enthusiastic, so I bit the bullet and started selecting images I'd like to write about, then tracked down the photographers and asked for their participation. I had little to offer except some exposure, hardly a carrot for the more famous on my 'want' list. I was blown away by the positive response to my request. From an anticipated 40 photographs and photographers the book soon expanded to 50, and as you will note, eventually 52.
Some of the photographers are extremely famous, from Pete Turner to John Sexton, From Beth Moon to Elizabeth Opalenik. Also included are some names you likely have never heard of (yet), simply because I thought their photographs wonderful. Photographers have come from six different countries and involve a large variety of subjects and processes, a number of the images pushing even my comfort zone in terms of subject and style, yet still wonderful. There are still lifes and landscapes, nudes and flowers, people and architecture, wildlife and abstract.
There are 52 wonderful photographs, each on its own page. There are essays on why I think each image works. Each photographer has donated their image, and their time and writing, without payment. They explain what made them take the image and briefly, how. There are short biographies by the photographers, including their major influences. At the end of the book is a list of other photographers you might want to check out, suggested by some of our 52 photographers.
As I write this, I have only seen the book as a pdf but it's coming, within the month(I'm writing this 24 Oct. 2010). It's going to be beautiful, affordable, and I think helpful, for both photographers and lovers of photography.