Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sometimes It All Just Comes Together

The bridge in fog, Crissy Field, San Francisco, California.
©2013 David W. Sumner

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Daily Dose: September 11, 2013

A public ballet of sorts.
Photo: ©2013 David W. Sumner

Friday, August 23, 2013

Daily Dose: August 23, 2013

Actress, model Natalie Morace. 
Kodak E100SW (Ektachrome)
©2013 David W. Sumner

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

"A Sense of Place" at Pier 24

I visited Pier 24 today to see the current exhibition "A Sense of Place."

As always with any photo exhibition there was a lot of work I didn't care for, but there was in this case more I did like than not.

I found even the work of Robert Adams on view interesting. Usually I consider Robert Adams' work pointless, but the images at Pier 24 represent earlier work, from the 1960s, and demonstrates a substance and sense of composition that doesn't exist in his better known work of a New Topographics style.

There is one room, gallery #15, devoted to Lee Friedlander's series "America By Car." This was my first time seeing so many of these images together in one space and I have to say this presentation is quite impressive. It's in this context of viewing a significant number of the images as a series that the project makes sense. Friedlander's vision, complex sense of composition and always present sense of humor comes through clearly in this well curated exhibit.

In contrast was the work of Stephen Shore in gallery #20. Here three photographs stand out as having meaningful content among a random arrangement of sterile, mundane, color snapshots. With the exception of those three images gallery #20 is visually numbing, the vernacular taken to the point of agonizing boredom.

The other grouping worth noting is the selection of photographs from the Sack Photographic Trust. It includes many 19th century travel images of the classic sort plus a variety of images spanning the 20th Century some of which are stunningly poignant.

The exhibitions at Pier 24 are never disappointing and "A Sense of Place" is no exception. It's on view through May 1, 2014. The catalog has yet to be printed, but is expected to to be available with in a month and should sell for around $10.00.

Photo courtesy of

Sunday, July 21, 2013

App Happy ...

I’ve been having a lot of fun with a variety of image making apps on my iPod Touch.

The presets, filters and effects available in the apps are quite amazing and have opened up a door to low-res, spontaneous creativity I hadn’t considered before.

Of course I can take and post a heavily tweaked image on the fly while walking through the Financial District, but there is so much more potential here. I can take any photo I’ve ever made, create a jpeg file, email it to myself, pick it up on the iPod Touch, run it through various filters and presets in one or more of these apps, then email the new version to myself, open it on my desk top computer, re-size it and make a pretty nice print.

These are wonderful little tools that have allowed me to go beyond my straight forward approach to making photographs and into another world of “image” making. The new versions of my photos become impressions and expressions of a feeling or sense of the moment that is often totally unrelated to the actual moment the original photo was made. They become illustrations of something completely different.

(I’m currently working with EyeEm, Instagram, Starmatic, FxCamera for stills and Fast Camera and 8mm for video. All these apps are free and can be downloaded from the iTunes store in minutes.)

Photo: ©2013 David W. Sumner

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Daily Dose: July 15, 2013

8th Avenue, during the Sunday, Inner Sunset Farmers' Market.
San Francisco, California. ©2013 David W. Sumner

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Old Film Never Dies

I was in the basement a couple days ago, digging onto the file cabinet that houses all my transparencies from the '80s and '90s, when I came across an exposed roll of Tri-x labeled 2/6/97. It was the last few feet of a 100 foot reel I had bulk loaded back when I was working at a lab downtown.

I quit working at the lab before having that last roll processed and I just never got around to doing anything with it, until this week. I had no idea what, if any, images would be on the film. So with nothing to lose I souped it in Diafine and was more than surprised with the results. Not only were there images, but the density of the negs was right on the money, with good contrast too.

The really funny thing is that about a week ago I had been thinking of some images I shot in the West Portal MUNI station way back when. I was in the station recently and noticed it hadn't changed much at all since I shot those pictures.

You can imagine my surprise when I pulled that roll of 16 year old film out of the tank to see those very images. There they were as if I had shot them yesterday.

It's interesting how memory works, or doesn't work. For some reason I remembered these images all these years without ever seeing prints or even the negatives. I just remembered making them and what I was looking at as I pressed the shutter. There are images I have made just earlier this year that I look at and have to ask my self, "Where the hell was I when I shot that?"

That's just how it works, I guess.

Photo: ©1997 David W. Sumner

Sunday, July 7, 2013

A Daily Dose: July 7, 2013

Abandoned buildings on the Presidio, San Francisco, California.
©2013 David W. Sumner

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Daily Dose: July 6, 2013

Readers Bookstore cafe, Fort Mason, San Francisco, California.
©2013 David W. Sumner

Friday, June 28, 2013

A Daily Dose: June 28, 2013

Valencia Street, San Francisco, California.
©2013 David W. Sumner

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

A Daily Dose: June 26, 2013

A store front on Valencia Street, San Francisco, California.
©2013 David W. Sumner

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Daily Dose: June 25, 2013

This image is from a project I've been working on for most of this year. Its working title is, "Through the Bus Window."

I've spent the last 22 years living in San Francisco without a car. I ride the streetcars and buses where ever I need to go. There's a lot to see out the windows of the buses and streetcars. 

I realized this year that mostly what I see through the windows of the public transit vehicles is a population of individuals who go about their daily lives, moving through the streets, going from place to place, expending great amounts of energy to keep themselves and their families sheltered and clothed and fed. They work, they shop, they care for their kids and their elders. They're on the streets, in the buses and streetcars, taking care of business. They are the working class. They are the glue that holds our society together.

The next time you ride a bus take a look and let me know what you see.

Photo: ©2013 David W. Sumner

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Monday, June 17, 2013

A Daily Dose: June 17, 2013

Bus stop on Market Street, San Francisco, California.
©2013 David W. Sumner

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Daily Dose: June 15, 2013

Entrance to the Metro, Market Street, San Francisco, California.
©2013 David W. Sumner

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Daily Dose: June 12, 2013

On Treasure Island, San Francisco, California.
©2013 David W. Sumner

Monday, June 10, 2013

A Daily Dose: June 10, 2013

Mission & 2nd St., San Francisco, California.
©2013 David W. Sumner

Sunday, June 9, 2013

A Daily Dose: June 9, 2013

Post Street near Montgomery, San Francisco, California.
©2013 David W. Sumner

Saturday, June 8, 2013

A Daily Dose: June 8, 2013

Stockton & Post streets, San Francisco, California.
©2013 David W. Sumner

Friday, June 7, 2013

A Daily Dose: June 7, 2013

052813B-35: Post & Stockton, Union Square, San Francisco, California
©2013 David W. Sumner

Here's one of those images that you never see coming. It wasn't until I scanned this neg and was spotting it that I realized the two figures dead center were near doubles of two very famous photographers.

Of course, a second look and I knew the resemblance was minor, but it's enough for a double take and enough to make me wonder if I experienced some subconscious moment in which I thought, "There they are, snap the shutter now!"

I think those subconscious moments happen often. It's the intuition a photographer develops after long years of practice. It's being instinctively aware of important elements coming together without actually looking at them and understanding the timing of the movement and knowing when to come into it, sensing that split second and adding your "click" to the concerto.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

A Daily Dose: June 6, 2013

Store window, Post Street, San Francisco, California.
©2013 David W. Sumner

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

A Daily Dose: June 4, 2013

Santa Monica, California. 
©2013 David W. Sumner

Monday, June 3, 2013

A Daily Dose: 6.3.13

The Getty Center, Los Angeles, California.
©2013 David W. Sumner

Sunday, June 2, 2013

2013 Summer Workshop

Creating Order out of Chaos 
Saturday, June 29, 2013
This workshop has been postponed until August. Watch for a new date to be posted in July.

David's 2013 Summer workshop concentrates on the most fundamental aspect of picture making - composition.

"Ultimately the composition of a photograph depends upon a series of complex decisions made by the photographer often in a fraction of a second." - DWS

Having guided students through the initial steps toward defining one's personal vision and the process of identifying and understanding the fundamental nature of light, David will now focus those lessons on the creating of dynamic and powerful compositions.

This June 29th workshop will explore the classic rules of composition and demonstrate why those rules can be and are so often broken.

David will take participants through the process of defining essential elements such as line, form and tonal value as well as the concepts of visual tension, negative space and balance and how all of these work together to create a visual harmony resulting in a dynamic image successfully expressing the photographer's vision.

Other topics discussed in the course of this workshop will include :

color vs. black & white
lens attributes
post processing/printing

Date: Saturday, June 29th, 11:00am - 5:00pm

Fee: $70.00

Location: San Francisco Financial District (Meet on the bottom floor of the Crocker Galleria on Post St. at Montgomery, at 11:00am)


Instruction & discussion: 11:00 - 12:00

Gallery visit: 12:15 - 1:30

Break: 1:30 - 2:00

Photographing & problem solving: 2:00 - 4:00

Discussion & wrap up: 4:00 - 5:00

Be sure to bring a camera: digital, film, SLR or point & shoot and some sort of note taking device. (Pack a lunch for the break or there are limited options for lunch in the Financial District on Saturdays.)

To register email David at:

A Daily Dose: 6.2.13

Sears, Santa Monica, California.
©2013 David W. Sumner

Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Daily Dose: 6.1.13

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California.
©2013 David W. Sumner

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Daily Dose: 5.30.13

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica, California. 
©2013 David W. Sumner

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Daily Dose: 5.29.13

It's interesting the things you see while walking the streets with a camera. You do tend to see things most other people probably never notice. That's one of the big attractions to photography for me: seeing the usually unnoticed and thus becoming better aware of the world I live in.

When I saw this store window on Powell Street in the process of being dressed I realized that it is indeed rare to see a commercial space in this state of transition. Window dressing seldom takes place during business hours. I was also struck by how these mannequins were so much more life like in their features than most clothes dummies. I made a couple exposures of the scene aware of the reflection of the posters in the H&M windows across the street and at the same time trying to eliminate my own reflection all together.

The very next day I'm reading Brad Evans' blog and what do I see...the very same window and mannequins in vivid color with the ghostly reflection of the photographer in a subtle overlay. It's no surprise that another photographer who often works the streets of downtown San Francisco should see the same scene and be moved to photograph it. But I found it fascinating how we treated the situation so differently. 

I see things in Brad's image that also appear in mine but through Brad's perspective I see a dimension of awareness not conveyed in my image. That's to be expected because we are each unique in our vision and approach to making pictures. That's why we continue to got out there looking. And that's the beauty and power of photography.

Photo: ©2013 David W. Sumner

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A Daily Dose: 5.28.13

 Metro entrance, Market Street, San Francisco, California. 
©2013 David W. Sumner

Monday, May 27, 2013

A Daily Dose: 5.27.13

A Daily Dose is a new feature to my photography blog.

Each day, if everything goes as planned, I will post a new image here on Photography News & Notes.

For years I have been doing this on my Flickr page, but in light of the recent changes at Flickr I have decided to use platforms that will better serve my needs and remain flexible enough to accommodate those needs as they change.

Starting today, with this post, my daily image upload will appear here. Sometimes it will be accompanied by an extended caption or a regular blog entry. More often it will have a simple caption and possibly some technical information included.

I will continue to use 500px as an online portfolio so you will be able to see an ever growing and larger group of my images there.

You can also follow more of what's going on at BogCrow Studio by dropping in on the new BigCrow Studio tumblr blog. There you can follow the everyday workings of how Anna and I go about our creative pursuits.

I think this move will certainly motivate me to communicate more via these media and hopefully be in closer touch with all of you. Remember, comments are always welcome and intelligent discussion encouraged, so make comments, ask questions, start a dialog.

I'm looking forward to seeing you here.

Photo: Market Street, San Francisco, California. ©2013 David W. Sumner

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Where is Winogrand?

I visited the Garry Winogrand exhibition at SFMOMA four times and I found less in the exhibition each time I went to see it. But I think its biggest problem is that so much of it was work Winogrand never saw or more likely would have never wanted the public to see.

I think a lot of his photography was for no one but himself. I don't believe he would ever have intended much of that work to be put on public view.

I also think curators are failing to understand that he used photography to serve many purposes in his life. It will take considerable effort to distill his images into the work of "Garry Winogrand, Photographer" and put the rest of his images into an archive for the biographers and psychoanalysts to use in their research. No one has attempted that yet. Admirers and groupies are still trying to figure out how much of a pedestal they can prop him up on.

Even Rubinfien admitted that in the course of putting together the SFMOMA exhibition he realized that Winogrand's best work was done in the 50s & 60s. The amount of work he did is simply too overwhelming to get a clear picture of who Winogrand actually was as a photographer. But I think a hint of it creeps through in the current exhibition. Sadly that hint is given in only about five or six images in the show, but it's enough to make me think of Winogrand's photography as more of an archaeology project than anything else.

There's a lot of crap to dig through to get to the true and the meaningful. I keep thinking it's like an accordion player on Fisherman's Wharf who goes home to his baby grand and works on writing a symphony. That symphony may be performed only a few times and the sheet music ends up lost in the piles sheet music for accordion. Or the poet who writes romance novels for a living. Winogrand could make good pictures, good compositions, moving images. But he was also an unhappy middle aged divorced man who got his kicks taking sneaky pictures of women and girls. Miroslav Tichý was made famous for that simply because that's all he did.

This is a tough one. I'm still wondering where is Winogrand the photographer in all this. He's in there some where. We just can't see him yet.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Back to My Old Ways

After about twenty years of using chromogenic B&W film to avoid having to mix chemistry at home, I have taken to processing my own B&W film again.

I wanted to use silver based films again to bring back a little texture to my images and to be able to take advantage of the differences in emulsions that exists among the films available today.

The process is fast and the chemistry is reusable over a long period of time so it has a lesser environmental impact than the developers I used twenty years ago. It’s also extremely economical as are the films I’m using. They are much cheaper per roll than the C41 processed film I was shooting on a daily basis. So I’m saving quite a bit of money and bringing my photography more in line with my current yet ever evolving tastes. 

Photo: ©2013 David W. Sumner

Friday, April 19, 2013

The Future of Your Seeing

The looking you do today influences the future of your seeing.

It hardly needs to be said that photography, as a visual medium, takes a lot of practice to be able translate one's vision to a two dimensional surface. And defining that vision can take a life time. But being aware of what shapes that vision as one develops as a photographer is vital to achieving that goal.

Everything we look at or watch or see a fleeting glimpse of will in some way shape our personal vision:  the way we look at the world, the way we see the world. As I've often said, looking and seeing are different things. Looking can lead to seeing and looking certainly shapes the way we see and this is key to developing a consistent vision.

The more we look the greater the chance of seeing. And the more things we look at the greater the potential for developing that deeper vision.

Photography benefits from a photographer's experience looking at not just photographs, but looking closely at paintings, drawings, typography, theatre, sculpture, every sort of visual media in addition to every aspect of one's physical surroundings.

I've spent a lot of time throughout my life in museums and galleries looking at paintings and all forms and types of art. Having a great many friends who are visual artists, writers and musicians has had a tremendous influence on how I look at the world. All this has shaped and influenced the way I see. Remember: seeing is the thoughtful interpretation of the act of looking.

The image above owes a great deal to the work of Edward Hopper and Ed Ruscha, two artists, among many others, who have shaped my visual language. But, this has happened only because I have spent time looking knowing that eventually I will begin to see.

Photo: ©2013 David W. Sumner

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Feel the Light

As you come to know light you develop a 'feel' for its presence. You begin to know intuitively when light is performing, really putting on a show.

Sometimes the performance is subtle and full of nuance, but you are aware of all that and you begin to photograph.

Photo & text: @2013 David W. Sumner

Monday, April 1, 2013

Off the Shelf

I just finished reading a few interviews with Tod Papageorge. And I must say, though I tried to see some merit in his endless references to poetry and his philosophy regarding photography, I found none.

In some cases he parroted Winogrand to such an extent I wondered if there is any substance uniquely his to be found. Indeed it is the current Winogrand retrospective at SFMOMA that set me on this effort to study more about Papageorge. While they were close friends and may well have shared the same view point and philosophy regarding photography, I see no worth while similarity or reasonable comparison beyond that.

I admit I haven't seen a great number of Papageorge's images but those I have seen have not inspired me to seek out others. He seems to have done well running Yale's photography program and inspired several students through harsh criticism on to notable careers in photography, but when asked ( Kolby Yarnell, New York Times Magazine Nov. 25, 2007) why he only recently started publishing books of his work, his response was, "Nobody called." I hope this wasn't a tactic he taught his students: Make your photographs then sit back and wait for ecstatic waves of recognition to pour over you.

I must say I'm not impressed.

Photo: ©2013 David W. Sumner

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Workshop March 23rd, 2013

This workshop has 
SOLD OUT - 3/19/13

"The Best Light is the Available Light" - Saturday, March 23, 2013

Photography is dependent on light. It is the job of the photographer to understand light as the essential resource in creating dynamic imagery and how to best utilize every aspect of this resource to communicate his or her personal vision.

David's March 2013 workshop will show how your personal vision can grow through an understanding of available light and how you can shape it to create your unique imagery.

The workshop will answer the most commonly asked questions about light, including:

- Is the available light always the best light?

- Is available light the same thing as ambient light?

- How do I create a powerful image with available light alone?

David will guide participants through a practical understanding of ambient light, natural light, enhanced light and modified light.

As a participant, you will learn how to take command of the available light to create successful photographs in almost any situation.

Date: Saturday, March 23rd, 11:00am - 5:00pm

Fee: $70.00

Location: Golden Gate Park (Meet at the Music Concourse to the left of the Band Shell at 11:00am)


Instruction & discussion: 11:00 - 1:00

Break: 1:00 - 1:30

Photographing & problem solving: 1:30 - 4:00

Discussion & wrap up: 4:00 - 5:00

Be sure to bring a camera: digital, film, SLR or point & shoot and some sort of note taking device. (Pack a lunch for the break or there is often food available at the trucks or in the de Young Cafe.)

To register email David at:

(PayPal currently unavailable)      

Friday, February 8, 2013

Exploring Color Once Again

My personal vision is rooted in a close up, wide perspective of contrast, values of gray and line. Every so often I venture into color photography just to try to better understand my relationship to it. I will probably do this periodically for the rest of my career.

Most recently after listening to several interviews with William Klein and having several discussions about the work of Saul Leiter, I have again become excited about working with color. I'm not sure I will ever develop my own unique style of color photography but I'm gaining a better idea of where on the spectrum of color photography I'm most comfortable.

As I've said in the past, I work best in color when I make color the subject of the photograph. Looking at the work of Klein and Leiter I'm understand that the use of longer lenses than I would normally use is key to isolating color as subject. So lately I've been shooting color transparency film using 50mm and 135mm lenses.

Cafe window on Valencia Street, San Francisco. ©2013 David W. Sumner

Another interesting approach to color I have been exploring is using the various photo sharing camera apps made for the iPhone. These apps come with a variety of filters that recreate vintage "looks" to the final image. Some look like old Polaroids others like faded family Christmas snaps. Some combinations of these filters can achieve very interesting color palettes. For me the most interesting are those giving the low resolution images I make with my iPod Touch a similar look to early color processes such as the Autochrome.

The Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco. 
iPod Touch photo in Eye-Em App
©2013 David W. Sumner

It's all great fun and good visual/photographic exercise. For a while I'll be posting more color work to my Flickr page, but I do hear that dominant, black & white side of my vision clearly calling.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

More Basics

Consider the the simplicity and comfort of the familiar.

Photo: ©2011 David W. Sumner

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

When Does it Become a Project? Part 2

I never set out to shoot a "project." I never try to think of a concept that I can turn into a project.

I have created only a few projects and in every case they developed out of an unplanned exploration of a subject. The more I work at photographing a particular subject the more potential I see in it, the more it attracts me. Eventually I see a pattern or structure developing in the work or I don't. If what's there still intrigues me I figure I'm on the verge of greeting a project.

Photographing Alcatraz over a period of four years developed in that way as has my eleven years of photographing in Golden Gate Park. Most recently it has been my flag imagery that has taken the shape of a project. It's finished now and still it has not provided a satisfying resolution to the conflicting notions of what the flag represents. The times we live in are too complex for such a symbol to stand for a single truth or any truth.

It may be easy for some photographers to say I want to do a project on this or that then figure out how to do it. But for me a project emerges out of my practice of a deeper seeing. It's not always apparent. I'm often not aware of how deeply I'm seeing something until I start looking back at the images and begin to see the pattern emerge and define itself.

Part 1: Here

Photo: ©2012 David W. Sumner