BrickHouse Photo School

Tips, Tricks and Reviews for Photo Hobbyists

Archive for May 2009

Books for Your Library: ‘American Music’

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Photo books are a great addition to any library. As photographers, we are constantly searching for new ideas and are always interested in seeing concepts-done-well. Here’s a suggestion to add to your library …

Annie Leibovitz is a photography icon. She is one of the most celebrated photographers in the world for her unique and captivating way of photographing popular culture.
Her book, “American Music,” is a perfect example of her ability to document the American experience. The book focuses on, as the name implies, music in the American society. From jazz and blues to punk and hip-hop and everything in between, Leibovitz brings viewers and intimate look at the music and musicians who are part of the American experience.

Leibovitz has a unique way of bringing out the “natural” in her subjects. Even when the shot is overly-posed, she has a unique way of relaxing her subjects so that their “real” personality is expressed.

If you’re a fan of both music and photography, then this book is a definite must-have for your bookshelf or coffee table.

Written by jeremyparce

May 6, 2009 at 5:28 am

Places to Go on the Web – Great Photo Sites Issue 17

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I love photography. Not only do I love to take photographs, I love to talk, teach, and explore photography. I also like to look at great photographs to get ideas on how I can be a better photographer.
If you have any interest in digital photography, then a visit to some of these sites is worth your time. Looking at great photos will help make your own photos better because you can get ideas, tips and see what and how others are photographing their subjects. As your cruise Cyberspace, spend a few minutes looking at these Websites:

Donald Weber:  Toronto-native photographer Donald Weber’s documentary work is both beautiful and captivating. He currently resides in Russia where the bulk of his work has focused. Weber didn’t start out in photography, however. The award-winning photographer began his career as an architect in the Netherlands.

Mikhael Subotzky: This Johannesburg-based documentary photographer was born in 1981 in Cape Town, South Africa. His work has been featured in major galleries and museums around the world. His recent prizes include the 2008 ICP Infinity Award, the 2007 KLM Paul Huf Award and the 2006 F25 Award for Concerned Photography.

Connie Bransilver: Conservationist and photographer Connie Bransilver’s work has spanned the seven continents. She is an internationally-known nature photographer, author and speaker.

Great Ads Use Great Photography Part III

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I love advertising/commercial photography. It’s one of the most creative forms of photography there is and in today’s marketplace, advertising photographers have to be in fifth-gear all the time. While you may not be an ad shooter and may not even aspire to be, you can get some great ideas looking at the work. Here’s a look at some of my favorites.

virginradio1Product: Virgin Radio
Advertising Agency: zig
Photographer: Michael Graf
Tagline: Give your radio a reason to live

directv1Client: DirecTV Broadcast – This is for the first sport event DirecTV broadcast on HD, the Barcelona vs Real Madrid match in Ecuador.
Advertising Agency: La Facultad, Quito, Ecuador
Photographer: Ramiro Salazar

hondagoldwing1Product: Honda Goldwing
Advertising Agency: Reichl und Partner, Vienna, Austria
Photographer: Tim McPherson
Tagline: The new Goldwing. And what’s your favorite toy?

Books for Your Library: ‘Seen Behind the Scene’

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Photo books are a great addition to any library. As photographers, we are constantly searching for new ideas and are always interested in seeing concepts-done-well. Here’s a suggestion to add to your library …

Mary Ellen Mark has the ideal job for those who love both still photography and movies. Since the 1960s, she has worked on more than 100 film sets as a special stills photographer, making thousands of documentary photographs of life behind the scenes rather than the posed and polished photographs used for marketing.
Her book, “Seen Behind the Scene,” is a collection of the best of those images. Her photography has taken her to the set of Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now,” to “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” She has also photographed behind the set of “Tootsie,” “Gandhi,” and “Showgirls.”

She continues to work documenting life behind the scenes. She has worked on “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” and worked on “Moulin Rouge.”

Her work also documents the rising power of “celebrity.” In her early career, she had full access to actors on the set. Now, with actors surrounded by an entourage of publicists, agents and assistants and a schedule that is airtight, her portrait work has become increasingly more difficult.

Q&A: Answering Viewer Questions

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I have received several e-mails asking various photography-related questions since the beginning of this Website. Here’s a few of the more common questions and my best answer. Thanks for submitting and I hope this helps.

Question 1: Which is better? Nikon or Canon?
This is one of those great debate topics some photographers like to get into with one another. It’s probably akin to the great Ford-Chevy, Toyota-Honda, Yankees-Mets (Yankees, no doubt) arguments heard at any watering hole in the U.S. So here’s the lowdown truth: Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Pentax and Sigma all make good products. It’s up to YOU to decide what you want from your camera and how much you want to pay. Are you a student who aspires to go pro? Then may I suggest starting out with a Nikon or Camera body and start building a collection of quality lenses. Are you a hobbyist who wants a great camera without breaking the bank? Olympus, Pentax and Sigma may be the way to go. It’s all about assessing your NEEDS and your WANTS then factor in how much you want to pay.

Question 2: Should I Consider a Career in Photography?
The short answer is, unfortunately, a resounding NO. It’s a tough market out there and it’s only going to get tighter.
If you’re a student, let me make a few suggestions. First, major in field in which you stand a better chance of finding employment. Computers aren’t going out of style anytime soon and neither is the folks who program, install, troubleshoot, repair and network them. Also, the healthcare field is booming. Registered nurses, respiratory therapists and X-ray technicians (sorry, I’m old … radiologic technicians) are great careers where you can make very good money.

You can ALWAYS take photography classes to help build your knowledge and experience but by majoring in another field, you’ll have a pretty good safety net for the fallback.

Here’s another tip: Schools that specialize in art education, while they offer killer classes and great opportunities, are VERY EXPENSIVE.
Here’s a scenario to ponder: If you enroll in a community college in your hometown and major in one of the allied health fields, you can expect to pay an average of $3,000 per year for school if you live and eat at home. For a two-year degree, that’s $6,000, but let’s be real generous and say $10,000 to cover everything. Once you graduate, say with a degree in respiratory therapy, your average starting salary will be in the $30,000/year range.

Now, tuition at a particular school of design I am well acquainted with, for ONE YEAR, is about $33,000. It’s a 4-year program leaving you with a bill of $132,000 and who knows if you’ll get a job.

If you’re serious about a career in photography, that’s great and by all means pursue it. But unless you’re living off a trust fund or mommy and daddy are willing to foot the bill, then be wise and have a safety net in place. I’m pretty sure you’ll be glad you did. And here’s a rule of thumb: If you’re making more money from your photography than you are your day job, then consider making the switch to full-time pro.

Question 3: Should I Spend More Money on the Camera Body or the Lenses?
This is another one of those age-old questions. OK, probably not “age-old” but at least one that gets batted around quite often.
My opinion? Spend more on glass. Lenses aren’t going out of style. A good piece of glass is a good piece of glass and I have lenses made in the 1960s that are still needle-sharp today. Camera bodies, especially now in the digital age, come and go out of style. More megapixels, better buffers, better sensors, are always going to outdate your current camera body. A good lens, however, isn’t very likely to become outdated after you purchase it.

Question 4: Manufacturer Lens or Third-Party Lens?
This one, for me, is a tough one. As a rule, I always say go with the manufacturers lenses. Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Olympus all make great lenses.

On the other hand, I’ve been quite pleased with the Sigma lenses I’ve used. The pro-level lenses are very nice and I can’t complain about any Sigma lens I’ve ever shot with.
So, I’ll adapt my philosophy to this: Manufacturer or Sigma.

Question 5: Do I REALLY Need to Know About Shutter Speed and F-Stops?
Well, the short answer here is “it depends.” Are you just interested in making snapshots? If so, set the camera on automatic mode and go have yourself a ball. If you’re interested in getting more polished or “professional-looking” images, then yeah, you need to know a thing-or-two about how a camera works and what all the settings do.

The good news is, it’s easy to learn. Photography is about more than shutter speeds and f-values. It’s about composing images and being creative. Once you learn the mechanics of photography, you can easily learn to apply them to make images that shine.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Thanks for your questions. If you happen to have a question I can kinda-sorta answer, drop me an e-mail at I hope to hear from you soon!

Written by jeremyparce

May 2, 2009 at 5:15 am

Picture Perfect!: National Park Foundation Announces 2008 Winners of the Share the Experience Photo Contest

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I will often publish media releases related to photography on this blog in order to help keep you informed. These media releases are created by the respective companies. I edit the releases for space as needed.

The National Park Foundation (NPF) recently announced the 2008 winners of the Share the Experience Photo Contest, the official photo contest of America’s national parks and federal lands, sponsored by NPF in partnership with Olympus and the federal land management agencies. The photo contest encourages Americans to explore and experience the best of our country and share the experience with all Americans when they enter their souvenir photos online.

“We’ve been hosting this contest for nearly a decade and it has become an important way that we connect Americans to their parks and federal lands,” said Vin Cipolla, Vice Chairman of the National Park Foundation. “We’re proud to be working with Olympus and all the federal agencies to inspire Americans to discover our nation’s most treasured places.”

The winners of the 2008 Share the Experience Photo Contest are:

Grand Prize Winning Photo: Bosque Del Apache National Wildlife Refuge

Photographer: Mark Cromwell, Enid, OK

Grand Prize image by Mark Cromwell of Enid, OK.

Grand Prize image by Mark Cromwell of Enid, OK.

Mark Cromwell (60) has spent much of his life exploring the backcountry of America’s protected lands. His winning photo was taken during a bird-watching trek with his wife. Of his photo, Mark said, “The day I took this shot we were up before dawn to catch the morning light. A few cranes settled in shallow water in front of me and it was serendipity!” As the Grand Prize winner, Mark’s photo will grace the cover of the 2010 America the Beautiful – National Parks and Federal Recreation Lands Pass. He will also receive a trip to a National Park of his choice and an Olympus E-3 digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera kit.

Second Place Winning Photo: Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Photographer: Dan Sorenson, Glendale, AZ
Dan Sorensen (31) became passionate about photography at a young age with the support of his parents and a few disposable cameras. Of his winning photo Dan said, “A group of our friends rented a houseboat on Lake Powell. This photo was taken just as the sun was just about to dip behind the western walls of the canyon. My friends were frying up some striped bass around a campfire and breaking out acoustic guitars. Me, I was taking pictures.” As the second place winner, Dan will receive an Olympus E-520 DSLR kit.

Third Place Winning Photo: Rocky Mountain National Park
Photographer: Eric Feder, Aurora, CO
A retired school teacher, Eric Feder (42) and his wife have enjoyed traveling and taking pictures throughout the country. Of his winning photo of Rocky Mountain National Park, Eric said, “My photo is one of many I took as a bull elk was testing the waters. After the elk had drunk its fill, the magic was over, but the experience was ours to share.” As the third place winner, Eric will receive an Olympus SP-570 UZ.

Fourth Place Winning Photo: Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Photographer: Kuang-Yu Jen, San Francisco, CA
Kuang-Yu Jen (31) says her interest in photography stems from her appreciation of the natural world. Of her winning photo, Kuang-Yu said, “I had been trying to find some time to get away from the city to do some nature photography so I picked up my gear and headed across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Headlands. The sun, the clouds, and the light came together perfectly and allowed me to capture this spectacular moment.” As the fourth place winner, Kuang-Yu will receive an Olympus Stylus 1030 SW.

To view the 2008 winning photos and honorable mentions visit

Sponsored by Olympus Imaging America Inc. and the National Park Foundation in partnership with the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Reclamation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service, the Share the Experience Photo Contest showcases the more than 500 million acres of Federal Lands and draws entries from all across the United States.

The 2009 Share the Experience Photo Contest will launch on May 4, 2009.

Places to Go on the Web – Great Photo Sites Issue 16

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I love photography. Not only do I love to take photographs, I love to talk, teach, and explore photography. I also like to look at great photographs to get ideas on how I can be a better photographer.
If you have any interest in digital photography, then a visit to some of these sites is worth your time. Looking at great photos will help make your own photos better because you can get ideas, tips and see what and how others are photographing their subjects. As your cruise Cyberspace, spend a few minutes looking at these Websites:

Roy Toft: If you enjoy wildlife photography, the Roy Toft’s galleries are sure to please. Toft’s images focus on not just the wildlife specimen, but the characteristics that make the subject unique. His images have been featured in National Geographic, Audubon, and Discover magazine. In addition to his photography, Toft conducts photographic workshops in the area of wildlife imaging.

Shen Wei: Shen Wei’s project “Almost Naked” employs a great use of composition to convey emotion. In his artistic statement for the project, Wei says, “growing up in Mainland China, I was brought up strictly and conservatively, any untraditional and unconventional ideas of life-style can sometimes lead to misconceptions. I was numbed about the ideas of intimacy, sexuality and love. Since I moved to the United States, my needs for self-expression has grown. However, my curiosity about how others deal with their identity in what is a fairly open society like America has increased. As a result I started to photograph people and life in America. The goal of my projects are to raise the question about human nature, about emotions, feelings, desire, instinct and identity, to reveal things that you can feel it, that are unexplainable but yet still solid. I am fascinated with exploring the complexity of emotional nakedness and psychological connection/disconnection, as it is often expressed not specifically but explicitly.”

Carlos and Jason Sanchez: The Sanchez brothers have a unique way of photographing the world. The Montreal-based photographers have worked on numerous projects utilizing their unique – and sometimes shocking – use of composition.