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Exposure Review 2018

Dear Reader,

Just over 2 weeks ago I decided to participate in the Exposure Review.  This is an event, part of the Exposure Festival, where a minimum of 4 people from the photography community spend 20 minutes each in one on one conversations with photographers.  Yesterday was an interesting day.  I had 5 conversations with reviewers and spoke with a number of participants.

Before I go further it may be helpful to share with you the names of the reviewers I met, and the portfolio I presented.  Each photo has 2 numbers.  The first is the order in which it was presented.  The second is the number of stars on the Sean scale.  Photos can have a maximum of 5 stars, and as I have written before a 5 is rare.  The one photo without a score is the one that precipitated my signing up.  Number 13 is and was a problem for me.  On one hand I find it captivating.  On the other hand, I feared it was too banal, and that I had stripped so much from the image I was on the verge of Malevich’s “White on White” (1918).

My general take these days on art in general, and photography in particular is that if the supporting essay makes more sense than the piece (whatever that is), then the expression of the idea is the essay and not the piece.  While were on this small digression, I also believe it is good to see the original, when possible, rather than the copy in book or article.  Invariably, the scale of a piece is important.

Unlike many of the people I spoke with, I was not particularly interested in finding marketing opportunities.  My objective was to get some thoughts on where I can take some of my visual ideas.

Reviewers (They all deserve better introductions than I am providing here)

  • Caroline Loewen – curator interested in cultural geography, memory, cultural and natural landscapes
  • Costas Costoulas – co-founder of Resolve Photo, photography advocate, gallery curator
  • Greg Garla – commercial and fine art photography
  • Su Ying Strang – artist, arts advocate, director of The New Gallery
  • Natasha Chaykowski – writer, curator and art historian
  • Thank you reviewers for you time and comments.

Portfolio Presented on my laptop as a Lightroom Slideshow

1 – 5 2 – 5 3 – 5 4 – 5 5 – 4
6 – 4 7 – 4 8 – 4 9 – 4 10 – 4
11 – 4 12 – 5 13 – ? 14 – 4 15 – 4
16 – 4 17 – 5 18 – 4 19 – 5 20 – 4
21 – 5 placeholder placeholder placeholder placeholder

As in all conversations there is what was said, and what I took away.  I can’t remember the first. So, here are the headlines from what I took away.

People / Works To works to check

  • Andreas Gursky;  “Rhine II “; 1999; last sold for approximately $US 4.2 Million.  Compare to photo 13 above.  I had vaguely heard the name but did not know his work. 3 people suggested I have look at this piece in particular.
  • Wanda Koop; Winnipeg  painter new name to me
  • David Hockney; I have enjoyed his work for years
  • Edward Rucsha; painter; I have seen his text work (sometimes I get it sometimes I don’t) before but did not know it was him.  More investigation required.  An initial check suggests that there is a point of reference from the 80’s.
  • Alfred Stieglitz; one of the pillars of photography.  I know some his work. 2 people suggested I have a look at his series “Equivalents”.  This series is new to me.
  • An ACAD student suggested Josef Hoflehner; some of his images are familiar.  I didn’t know it was him.


  • Colour Pallete
  • Composition
  • Painterly
  • Form
  • Not everyone agreed with my 5’s but that is at it should be.
  • Technical Execution

Things to Think About

  • In an age of visual saturation, how do you engage the viewer for more than a 10 second glance. I have some ideas that resonated with 2 reviewers.  No, I cannot share those ideas yet.
  • Are you making a nice photo, a photo to sell, or exploring an idea.  There is nothing wrong with any of those possibilities.  The key though, is to be clear on the objective.  PS if you have seen my work, then you probably recognize that the first and third options are the most likely possibilities for me 😊. The nice photo is a slippery slope, to cliché.
  • Strip out everything but what is of interest.  Explore subtlety, minimalism,  whitespace, image flatness.  This requires intent, because anything in the image becomes very present. While we’re at it what about texture.  Is it there, and do you or don’t you want it there?  I knew 5, 6, 9 were 4’s, and now I can articulate why they didn’t make the grade.  There is either too much,  not enough, or they’re on the verge of  the old Microsoft screen saver (oh horror).
  • Explore what is disquieting (see 13 above).
  • There were too many photos and too many ideas in the portfolio.  Think about the subject, viewer, photographer triangle.
  • What are cultural landscapes?
  • What is the Dusseldorf school of photography?
  • I am part of an historical continuum.  I knew this but I am out of touch.  It was nice to hear that my garden path is contemporary.

Cheers, Sean

Mini Wheats

Dear Reader,

Not so long ago or once upon a time our son would only eat about 5 things,  cheerios, bananas, bacon, crunchy fruit, milk, and mini wheats.  On Saturday, Keith and I took the long way to Red Deer through the foothills northish of Cochrane.

At other times, I have referred to the large round hay bales that dot the prairie landscape, as sentinels of the land.  The snow fell heavy last week.  Saturday, those bales were all frosted and looked like mini wheats. Keith has a couple of posts, and photos from the drive.

Cheers, Sean

Happy Accident

Dear Reader,

Here is another photo that may make you question my sanity or at least perspective.  I have kept coming back to it since it was first captured last weekend.   The more I looked at it, the more I enjoyed it.

It is the result, in part, of negligence.  I thought the shutter speed and aperture settings for the sunset photo earlier in the morning were a little strange.  When I got home from that morning’s ramble, I realized that the photo below had been captured at an ISO setting of 1000. That is a substantially higher than I normally use.  I think the grain works.

What do you think  of the photo?

The second photo is one of the sunrise photos from that day that survived the digital cutting room floor.  I like just the hint of sun rising to light the day.

Cheers, Sean

PS Coming soon – a visit to the Exposure Festival.

Nearly Pink

Dear Reader,

Last week was the week of Blue Mondays.  As I was feeling, bored, flat and disengaged, I went exploring.  In the end  I re-discovered some work by one of the greats of photography, Harry Callahan.  The work of Chris Malloy (Calgary photographer) led me to the Patrick Joust (Baltimore Photographer) and Illsfoto (Instagram).  Joust photographs Baltimore at night.  The photos are gorgeous but Baltimore looks painful.  Illsfoto led me to some Instagram ideas, which will have to wait for another day. The work of all 3 of these photographers have at least some of their roots in the work of Callahan.

Sunday morning, I was up at a really silly hour for a dawn drive.  By the time I was driving towards home, Black Diamond was the busiest I had ever seen it.  People were headed to church, and I was headed for breakfast.

I  found a new location or two.  Even though the photos are technically flawd, they are worth sharing, as a lesson in mindfullness.   Though I know to check the focus after each change in settings, and to stabalize the tripod, I was not as mindful as I should have been.  The photos suffered. The pink lasted seconds before clouds and haze erased them.

Cheers, Sean

No Pink Here

Dear Reader,

Well, I am still working on my list of digital maintenance tasks.  The task I had not previously mentioned is the one that occupied much of last week’s spare time.  My current computer is beginning to hold up orange danger signs, saying “Warning, Warning, dead electrontics graveyard soon. ” It has been a very good machine and paid for itself years ago.  This meant I had a research project.  I ended up purchasing a Dell XPS 15.  When it arrived, It looked great and I started loading my suite of tools onto it.  Loading software is only a little more interesting than watching dust collect. Things did not go well.

In the course of doing my research I realized that given the heat issues with some XPSs I should purchase the premium support plan.  Dell also offered me a really good price for the plan.   This was a good decision as the first computer sent to was deemed faulty by Dell.  A new one at no charge to me is on its way.  Yea Dell.

Last night I had visions of a Chinook arch forming over the Rockies, and pink peaks at dawn.  This morning I got out of the house before 6:45. I was at a nearby Starbucks way before it opened and had to forego my morning hit.  My standard hit is a quad grande Americano 3/4 full, no cream no sugar, just black starter fluid.  I drove to my planned location without coffee until reached an Okotokes A&W.  The coffee didn’t kill me.  No Chinook arch.  No pink peaks.  On the drive home I did though, in dawn’s grey light, capture the photo below.

Cheers, Sean


Happy New Year, Hope and Beauty

Dear Reader,

And so the year comes to an end, not with a whimper but a bang (apologies to TS Eliiot).

I have thoroughly enjoyed having a 2 week stay cation.  I have had the opportunity to go on a number of photo rambles, some alone and some with company.  All were a treat.  I am particularly pleased with some photos. Other are like Air Canada (so what), and I will not burden you with those.  I have also started to think again about the emotional and communicative elements of photography.  Two days ago, I read the following article by Colin Dutton:  He proposes an exercise of describing photos you find strong, in a way that communicates some of the heart, content. and nuances of the image.  I accept the challenge, and it is one that I will take up once I return.  I have read Blake, and recent signs from the universe suggest it is time to re-visit at least some of his poems with now older eyes.

Yes, I will be leaving this blog for a week or two for two reasons.  The first, is that I will be returning to work, and that will require my focus and concentration in the immediate future.  As well I have some very dry and boring webmaster tasks to undertake.  The site needs to be secured, there are some anti-spam referral tools to find and install, and I need to obtain some new domain names to protect my name.

I initially planned to spread the following collections over a number of posts. Instead, I present them to you all together.

  • Collection 1. I love winter light on the prairies.  Earth and sky are at time indistinguishable. In that frozen sleep, there is both hope and beauty.
  • Collection 2. The best of the Mossleigh ramble.
  • Collection 3. On a cold winter’s night, the snow laden skies, make the night even lonelier.  That same blanket both hides and reveals details that could otherwise be missed.  For another take on that ramble I invite you to read Keith’s blog post
  • Collection 4 (one photo). Electricity Ghosts Light the Night
  • Collection 5. The first photo is the original and the second has had considerable post-processing. I believe the second is truer to the night.

Collection 1

Collection 2

Collection 3

Collection 4

Collection 5

I hope the coming year meets all your needs and at least some of your wants.
Cheers, Sean

The Backside is a 5

Dear Reader,

Yesterday was at times a silly happy one.  It was partially planned and partially an example of chance favouring the prepared mind.  In other words, I went for a drive and dumb luck happened. Fortunately I was alone.  A passenger would have been  driven nuts by my behaviour. There were U turns in the middle of empty roads, stops at the side of the road for no apparent reason, reversal of vehicle and thought on country lanes, and general meandering.  The destination was Mossleigh, where I had a simple lunch with a glass of wine in an old railway car at Aspen Crossing.

At my first stop I captured what may be a familiar site to some of you (first photo).  But, the other side was my first 5 star photo (second photo) of the day.  Just in case you are wondering, all the photos of the next 2 or 3 days have had minimal, if any post-processing.

Cheers, Sean




High Key South of Glenmore

Dear Reader,

Yesterday was a good day photographicaly.  Keith and I had great amble and babble along some of the trails in South Glenmore Park yesterday.  My objective was to try my hand at white on white.  I am happy with the result. I do though think I need another iteration of adjusting the colour.  That said I hope you enjoy them.

Keith`s take on the ramble can be found here:


Cheers, Sean