Vacation

Tomorrow, my daughter and I head off to a friend’s place for a week. It’s something we do every year–hang out, play games, have fun. This year’ll be much the same, but we might toss a road-trip or two into the mix. We’ll be only a few minutes drive from a relatively large city (well, New Hampshire’s largest, anyway), and I’d love to run around it with my camera.

Speaking of cameras, here’s a photograph I posted recently over on Instagram…

I’ve been using Instagram a lot lately, mostly because I’ve been really using my shitty, smartphone camera a lot. In fact, it’s kind of become my favorite way to shoot. Part of that’s down to convenience–it’s always with me, fast to use, and doesn’t attract the attention that my “real” camera does.

Mostly, though, I’ve found that I can actually take a pretty good shot with it, if I pay attention. It doesn’t work for everything I want to do, but it does for enough that I find myself shooting most every day.

 

And on that note, I’m off.

Cards and Photos

Do you like photographs? Do you like greeting cards? Do you want to give me money? If you answered “yes” to all three of these questions, then you should take a look at my Zazzle* store, which I’ve imaginatively titled: Jeff Clough Designs.

Not roadkill. Not dystopian.

For now, this store contains a collection of 15 greeting cards, the fronts of which are adorned with photos from a collection that I’d describe as…

“Some of my more ‘accessible’ photography. With subjects ranging from flowers to architecture, these pictures represent my take on traditional compositions.”

That’s really just a fancy way of saying…

“I think these photographs would make good greeting cards.”

When what I really mean is…

“I usually take photographs of roadkill and other things that remind us we’re in a late-stage-capitalist dystopia, but fuck it! Here are some flowers!”

I’ve also added these photographs to a new gallery, which you can see over on my Photography page.

In the future, I plan to add more photographs and possibly more products, but I’m not quite sure what direction I want to go in.

When I do figure that out, I’ll let you know.

*If you are unfamiliar with Zazzle, the idea is this: they provide all the products, printing, billing, shipping, and customer service; I provide the design (including the photo). When you order one of these cards from them, they are the ones who bill you, produce the physical object, and send it your way. They get most of the money, I get a “royalty,” and I don’t have to crack open a bottle of Jack Daniels or a few dozen amyls in some doomed-to-fail attempt to roll my own e-commerce system.

Artist’s Statement (Or, the Duality of Man)

What do you know, it’s an update! I’d be sorry about the gap between posts, but we’ve had an absolutely gorgeous week weather-wise and I don’t regret a single one of the many hours I spent outside and away from boxes which beep at me. Anyway, there are a few quick bits I want to get out of the way before I get settled into what will assuredly be a long, nonsensical rant.

First, I now have a “proper” gallery for my photography. It’s sparse, poorly-organized, but it looks halfway-decent and you should check it out.

Second, I’m using Instagram pretty hard. I’ve put some of my “real” work up there, but mainly it’s a place to experiment with my phone’s camera and have fun.

Lastly, I’m getting a number of my more “traditional” or “accessible” photographs together and will soon be offering them for sale in one form or another. I can’t really give you any specific details right now, but that whole project should be ready in another week or so.

And therein lies a tale…

Something I’ve been lead to believe is that, as an artist intending to show or sell your work, you are expected to write something called an “artist’s statement.” This would be a paragraph of text crafted to explain your motivation, vision, or goal as an artist. One (hopefully) brief manifesto which answers the question: “Why are you an artist?”

Related to this, I’m further told that each piece of art you present should also come with a statement, necessarily related to your overall statement, but specific to the work. It answers the question: “What is this piece about?”

There is, I am assured, no way out of writing these statements.

And I assure you, there appears to be no way for me to write these statements without sounding like a pretentious douche or a total fraud.

Every time I put my hands on the keyboard to knock out something which sounds even vaguely like I know what the hell I’m doing, I flash back to that scene in Full Metal Jacket:

Pogue Colonel: You write “Born to Kill” on your helmet and you wear a peace button. What’s that supposed to be, some kind of sick joke?
Private Joker: No, sir.
Pogue Colonel: You’d better get your head and your ass wired together, or I will take a giant shit on you.
Private Joker: Yes, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Now answer my question or you’ll be standing tall before the man.
Private Joker: I think I was trying to suggest something about the duality of man, sir.
Pogue Colonel: The what?
Private Joker: The duality of man. The Jungian thing, sir.
Pogue Colonel: Whose side are you on, son?

I can’t even begin to count the number of times this scene has cropped up over the years, in conversations with the various artistically-inclined folks I’ve counted as friends. We use it as a joke, the very archetype of an on-the-spot, talking-out-of-your-ass explanation for the inexplicable.

Someone asks you to explain your work and you’ve got no idea what to say? Mumble something about “the duality of man,” look bored or disgusted with them, and you shut down the conversation without revealing yourself for the imposter you believe you are.

If I was being honest, I’d say that the photographs I’ve taken thus far are motivated by one (or more) of three different impulses:

  1. I saw something pretty.
  2. I wanted to experiment with my camera in order to hone my skills.
  3. I just needed to take it.

I’m pretty sure numbers 1 and 2 aren’t what most people typically think of when they think about art at all. But as for number 3? How can I give you an answer when I don’t even have one for myself?

Q: Why did I crawl up under an overpass, through four-inch-deep piles of dried bird shit, risking an out-of-control slide into high-speed traffic just to take a photograph of some steel beams and graffiti?

A: Because, at that moment, no other choice in the world made sense.

Yet still, I’ve persisted. I’ve taken a few stabs at both a “general” artist’s statement (you can find one sorry attempt over on my Photography page, but I hate it so, so very much that I expect to replace it soon), as well as a few token efforts at describing just what the hell I was going for when I took a particular photograph.

I wonder if it’s always going to feel like this, or if it’ll get better once I know what I’m doing.

The Big, Free Light in the Sky

I mentioned I’ve been walking a lot, and taking my camera with me, but I can’t recall writing about why it is that I’ve taken fully 90 percent of my photographs outside.

In a word: light.

Since photography is nothing more or less than capturing light, pretty much everything you do with a camera is down to the number and qualities of the photons around you. And if you’re both a beginning photographer and poor, you’ll quickly discover that the cheapest and more readily-available source of good lighting is the Day Star hovering in the sky.

I live my life by the weather, now.

My phone says it’s going to be bleak and rainy? That’s a writing and desk day. Butt in the chair, crank out or clean up words on the screen, and keep the coffee brewing.

When the forecast says partly cloudy and 70 degrees, though? That’s when I steal an hour or two and head into the great, big studio we call “outdoors.”

Because, unfortunately, that’s really the only way I can manage to shoot anything and not have it look like desaturated ass.

The light in my home is truly abysmal, with windows in all the wrong places, and far too few lamps to do anything about it. About my best hope to get a good photo indoors is to wait until after dark, set up in my kitchen, and do long exposure light painting with a flashlight.

That’s…less than ideal.

Don’t get me wrong, I like going outside to shoot. It’d just be nice if it was more an option as opposed to a requirement.

There’s hope, yet, though. It looks like next month I’ll be able to start building up a decent lighting kit that I can set up and break down with relative ease. I’ll be starting with a one-light setup, but I’m picking my lights and accessories (like stands and batteries) with the plan to expanding it to a three-point system and beyond.

With any luck–and a lot of saving my pennies–I’ll have a passable studio set up by the time winter hits and my desire to go outside hits its annual low.

Processing Photos Never Ends

I’m finally, almost caught up on my photo edits. Six hours spent in Lightroom and Photoshop this weekend took me up to my most recent shoot, and those shouldn’t take too long to get through.

Tagging, selecting, cropping, color correction, tweaks…I think I finally have a workflow that works, but I still know so little about all of this that I’m sure it’ll need to be adjusted.

So. Many. Hours.

If I didn’t know better, I’d blame my backlog and seemingly-slow pace on the fact that I’ve only just started taking photography seriously. I do know better, though. By which I mean, I’ve listened to and read the complaints of so many others photographers with this exact same problem that it’s pretty much just something I need to accept.

It’s a universal symptom–if you’re a photographer, you always have a pile of pictures to process.

And the pile never gets any smaller.

What’s more, it never really takes any less time to get through it, because as you get better at spotting and making improvements, you make more of them. Yeah, maybe after a few hundred photos you’ll be able to crop and correct your white balance in record time, but now you’ll be tweaking the contrast, and oh! Now you notice your saturation is a little off. And ah ha! You finally figured out what your histogram means by “highlight clipping” and why it’s bad.

It never ends.

Never.

That’s why I’m mostly leaving the edits for literal “rainy days,” and trying to set aside Thursday afternoons to take up the slack when I need to.

I figure if I’m only about 500 photos behind, I’ll consider it a victory.