With just over a week left in Southern California before being homeless for a month and relocating back to Maui, I find myself revisiting some of the spots around San Diego and La Jolla that I have shot over the past 3 1/2 years. Not that there is much time! My sweetheart and I are not only moving, but we’re getting married! Either one of these events unfolding in a relatively short window would be a lot, but putting them together has made everything quite exciting – to say the least. Like now, for example – I’m pretty sure there are about 127 things that I should be doing to move forward with all of this, but here I sit, adding a blog entry. Well, that’s how I roll. And I’m gonna make more efforts to add blogs along the way – I am really curious what will happen with my shooting and aesthetic returning to beautiful Maui after being away for nearly 5 years. Will my year long stretch of seeing the landscape in black and white revert back to color? Will I shoot both? Who knows?! We’ll see..
I have been opening up my photographic skill-set to a whole new area – people and off camera lighting. Talk about feeling like a total and complete rookie again – Wow! But, it has been fun and feeling green with a camera has been an interesting feeling – and I have managed to put together a number of images that I am quite happy with…but, more of that later.
This image is of Coronado Bridge in San Diego. Shooting from this location can feel a bit sketchy at times – I remember the first time I came here alone and it was getting dark and there were a bunch of shady characters lurking about, and here I am with 10k of photography equipment on my back! This is usually the type of scenario that gets me to visualizing full-on Jackie Chan scenes unfolding in my head – 10 bad guys chasing me around while I use my tripod to catapult from this pier to that and otherwise defend myself with dance-like precision and fluidity. Last night, it was a little earlier in the evening and there were families and kids running around while dad’s were fishing from the end of the pier, so no dramatic action scenes going on – just a quiet observer enjoying the path of life, with a bridge ahead leading from one destination to the next.
This turned out to be the final cover for the book, but unfortunately, I am not overly thrilled about the results. This is the 2nd time I’ve put time and energy into making a book with Blurb, and both times I felt disappointed when I finally received the much anticipated finished product. So, instead of sharing with you my excitement of this new book, I’ll instead give you a little review of the product and my perspective on Blurb so you can know what to expect if you plan on using their services to self-publish a book.
First of all, I do think that self-publishing like this is getting better and better and I strongly suspect it will eventually allow for “bookstore quality” books without having to spend 10-15k to publish a run of books. Eventually, you’ll be able to make individual books made-to-order that are as good as the coffee table books we pay 50+ dollars for at Borders, but regardless of what they say, these are not yet “bookstore quality.”
The first Blurb book I made, Time Exposed, took quite a number of hours to do. I’d say I spent at least 30 hours on it. This time was spent getting the picture files sorted out, sized and ready. Figuring out which images to include, a layout that flows in a sensible manner, finding and/or writing text to include, and then laying it all out with the software provided by Blurb – it ends up being a lot of work! After weeks of this, couple hours here and a few hours there, it was ready to publish. The book was printed and delivered fairly quickly, around a week, and I was very excited to flip through the 158 pages. But right out of the packaging, I was already disappointed with the cover. The cover image, which I had done with the “image wrap” style, simply did not look very good. The image was Cosmic Life and the deep rich blues in the upper corners were choked and transitioned poorly into black (which no blacks exist in the image!). I mean, I personally don’t agree with – you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. Hell yes, you can! Not to mention there was a scratch on the back cover! You can certainly come to some conclusions simply by the cover and this wasn’t looking good. It didn’t get any better from there. Immediately upon opening the book, I noticed the paper quality was anything but the “bookstore quality” that they claim in their product. It felt thin and cheap, and just by turning the pages, dents in the paper were forming. Not good. To top it all off – the colors were a bit inconsistent throughout. After spending so much time on this, to say I was disappointed was an understatement. Sure, I should have slept on it and let myself settle down some, but I didn’t. Instead, I wrote an email to Blurb and it probably wasn’t the nicest letter.
Blurb responded promptly and I must say, they do seem to have good customer service. They began a new book and I sent that one in to be replaced, mainly due to the scratched cover. I was hoping for some kind of miracle, but the 2nd one was much of the same without the scratch. I didn’t announce the book to anyone and figured it would just sit on my bookshelf.
With a little time, my feelings settled and I forgot how frustrated I was over the book. Then, Blurb announced a Premium paper upgrade (that you pay extra for), and I thought – Wow, that could make a big difference. With Christmas around the corner, I ordered one and had it delivered to my parents. Now, I guess this is all relative and I’ll surely be more critical of the final product than anyone else because I put in the time and want it perfect, but my parents absolutely loved it and still mention it from time to time.
Months later and skipping up to this latest work – I’m 75% of the way finished with a series of black and whites and I’m thinking – a Blurb book might be worth another try. Better paper, black and white images so you can’t mess that up, right? I’ll do a smaller 8×10 book so it won’t cost as much… So, I get started on it. This time, I consciously try to stay patient and not rush it to get published. I work on it a couple hours here and a few hours there for over 2 months! Definitely, a good amount of time gets invested in this. In my mind, I’m hoping to use this book to help market this series of works, almost as a portfolio. I spend much time making sure the images are sharpened correctly. I make full pages in Photoshop with the images and text and simply plug-in full bleed pages as opposed to using their software, just to have total control as to how each page will turn out.
I finally send the book to the publisher and there’s no turning back then. Once again, Blurb is quite quick with getting the book printed and delivered and I have it in a week. This time, I go with the book cover instead of the Image wrap, because that was sucky last time. I kept the book to 80 pages in the 8×10″ size so it would be a little more affordable, in hopes to actually sell some books. Again, the book is packaged well and this time, I am quite happy when I unwrap the book. The cover looks amazing! Shiny and perfect and the image looks great! So far so good. I open the book and the feel of the paper is better – I’d call it getting quite close to what you expect from “bookstore quality”, but not quite there yet. Even as a still-new book, the pages are a bit wavy when you lay it flat on a table. No $50+ book from Borders does that!
It’s new…it has “Premium Paper” which costs more…it’s called “Bookstore Quality”, but it still is wavy??? Oh, and this problem tends to get worse with time.
The front cover turned out great this time! If only the whole book had been done this well…
The printing seems to have the most problems in the blacks and darker areas, and in the more extreme transition zones. It’s hard to see here in this picture, but the pointed out area is highly choked and it really ruins the image. Over 1/2 the images in the book either have this sort of choking, or lightly colored (!?) blue and purple rainbows (!?!?).
Again, this has bad choking, colored rainbows, and a much darker vignette than the image should have.
I want to like Blurb as a company. I like what they are trying to do, but I guess I just have to come to terms with the fact that the quality isn’t there yet. This sort of self publishing absolutely does not produce “bookstore quality” books and that’s a bummer. I wish it did because I would absolutely love to have a quality book out there in the world for people to view. Even if it were more expensive and I wouldn’t make any money on, which is generally the case with Blurb books. My first Time Exposed book costs me over $90 to make a 158 page book!! and the quality isn’t there. This Dark Coast book costs over $35 and it’s a small book of poor quality! What do I do with that!? I suppose my parents might be able to overlook the poor quality and enjoy it…
I had hoped to enter Blurb’s 2nd annual book competition with this book. It seems to be a reputable contest with many big name sponsors, but I don’t see how I can enter this. I had hoped to use this book as a tool to help market this series of images, but I certainly won’t be doing that either. Instead, I will most likely take both books off Blurb’s storefront, remove the announcement of the books from my facebook page and website, and start saving my $15k to do a real book the right way! And in the meantime, control the work I put out with excellent quality fine art prints.
So, if you are looking to make a book as a gift or for mom and dad, then you’ll probably be happy with Blurb. If you are thinking that you are gonna make a fine quality book of your work to sell, market, or show in public, then I’d recommend not wasting your time with this sort of publishing and start saving your fun-tickets to do it right. Unless of course, you have a better idea – then, please share it with me.
Cormorants and Flowers
I’ve been working on putting together the DARK COAST series for a few months and it’s nearing completion. I had made a decision to approach it as a series which would have an end, a closure to the portfolio, as opposed to making it an endless compilation of like-work.
Most of the images that were shot for this series were made in a relatively short time of 4-6 months, but it is covering the locale that I have already been shooting for 3 years and am therefore very familiar with. The last month or 2, I’ve been working on editing the series, designing a Blurb book, creating a postcard as a mailer to galleries, figuring out the sizing/pricing/edition sizes and the rest of what comes with organizing this into a cohesive and strong body of work.
I am reminded as to how difficult editing a project down can be. I initially had 60-70 images that I felt were strong enough to be included, but kept taking my time with it and trimming it down to what will be around 30-35 images in the series to be printed as limited editions – the book will include most of the original 60-70.
Usually, I’d have a tendency to rush through some of this project, especially the making of the Blurb book, but again, I’ve been forcing myself to slow down and take my time with it. Initially, I had chosen this image and design for the cover. Not so much because it’s my favorite or the strongest image, but more because I thought it worked well as a cover shot and tied the book to the local La Jolla area with a recognizable landmark. But as the weeks went by, I found that I wasn’t loving this cover and I had chosen an image that I didn’t even feel was in the top 20 – in fact, I had contemplated cutting this image altogether from the collection! How could I choose this as my cover?! Today, I redesigned the cover with a different image and am now totally content with it. Not only did I choose one of my top favorites from the series, but it’s probably even more recognizable of a local landmark. This project is definitely proving as a valuable lesson in patience.
So, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel until this series is complete. Finalizing final prints for each image that made the final cut, figuring out the galleries to send mailers, putting the final touches on the book, and always brainstorming as to new and creative ways to market the photographs to possible buyers. And when I say – almost complete – that really means – ready to go out into the world – which, of course requires still much more work and concerted efforts to make happen! But it feels good. And that is why I am diggin’ this new approach to producing a series of work with an end as opposed to more greatest individual hits. With a project, you can visualize the process and the end result, then go out and make it, and at some point see the fruits of your labor and step away feeling satisfied, moving on to the next project.
Of course, I am already thinking of the next works and already have some images that I’m excited to share! These will probably be the basis to the next series, but for now – take a peek at DARK COAST and let me know whatcha think. And if you want to support emerging artists, buy the book – or - a print for your collection. And for those photogs that are used to working towards making the individual greatest hits, consider creating a series that you can focus on and that has a start and finish – it can really be rewarding and act as a learning lesson in many valuable ways that you may not find when you’re always going from one shot to the next.
I have presented the beginnings of several new projects that I have been working on for sometime in the Archive section of scottreither.com One of which is entitled Morph. This is one of the images from this growing collection where the common thread will be people, cars, planes, and other everyday moving objects captured in a longer exposure causing them to blur and Morph into something else – visually in the images anyway! Keep an eye out for many new images Coming Soon!
While out exploring for photo opportunities recently, I found myself on Coronado Island at sunset. I had been down by the border and was hoping to get something there but to no avail, so I wasn’t quite ready to go home empty handed. Walking along the boardwalk, I tried a number of different compositions, mostly toward the Coronado Bridge with the beautiful evening light. I’ve tried shooting that bridge now a number of times and can’t seem to get something I really like of it…even with the sweet light of this eve. C’est la vie!
Although the light was most dramatic over the bridge, I decided to head around and look for a unique vantage on the cityscape. A couple hundred yards down the path, I came to this large puddle, leftovers from the recent rains, and without thinking, immediately laid out flat on the pavement to get this perspective. The camera had to be very low, just a few inches off the ground, so I couldn’t use a tripod. A beanbag would have been helpful, but I didn’t have that and it was too cold to take off my sweater and use that! So, I adjusted my settings to 1/25 at f/4 using a 400 iso. Using my elbows propped to the ground and holding my breath, with the help of the lens’ image stabilization, I was able to achieve a sharp image.
I like the feel of this image. The city in the background, the symmetry of the lampposts, it all seems to create a futuristic feel. The figure in the image completes the scene and adds some needed life. When you take out the figure, the scene feels too sterile.
Follow your bliss
and the universe
will open doors for you
where there were only walls.