Thursday, June 25, 2015

When Is Too Much Post-Processing Too Much?

From The Past - Mojave, California
I had a discussion recently with a friend about post-processing photographs. We talked about what is an appropriate amount and where the line of "too much" is.

We have different opinions on this subject, but we're also not that far apart, either. He likes his photographs to look "natural"--they look like the scene as he remembered it looking. I like mine to look like film, as if they were organically created with traditional photographic processes.

But where is the line that, when crossed, the photographer has gone too far with his or her editing? Does such a line exist? What happens when the line gets crossed? When is too much, well, too much?
Vintage Abandoned Ranch - Rosamond, California
In my post Five Essential Elements of Photographic Vision I said, "Some people prefer photographs with little or no manipulation. That's fine if it fits the vision. But if the vivid and imaginative conception requires editing, then by all means edit! It is art, and the artist is who determines what the right amount of post-processing is for each image."

I took a relativist approach in that post. The line of too much post-processing is different for each person. My friend and myself place the line in two different places (although, really, they're not that far away from each other). Some other people place the line in wildly different places.

Is there some universally accepted place that we can say the line goes? No, but there is an old saying: "Moderation is a wise ideal."
Retro Living - Johannesburg, California
I see a lot of people who I believe under-edit their photographs, and I think their photography could be better if they'd post-process a little more. Then I see some people who I believe over-edit, and I think that their photography is no longer photography, but some kind of digital cartooning. But does what I think matter?

What I think both matters and doesn't matter. It matters in that photography is nonverbal communication, and the interpretation of the photograph by the viewer is a part of the process. It doesn't matter in that the artist's vision ultimately trumps whatever the viewer thinks about the photograph.

So post-process as little or as much as you'd like. You just need to make sure that the finished photograph falls within your personal photographic vision, whatever that may be. Who cares about lines anyway?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Shadow Photographs

Wall Shadows - Rosamond, California
Sometimes I notice a theme with images that I've captured. For one reason or another, I find that I've gravitated toward a certain subject more than others. One that I've noticed is shadows.

The photographs in this post all have shadows as the main subject (or at least a major element). Many different cameras were used, and it doesn't really matter which ones. Photographic vision is important, not cameras. They are in no particular order.
Window Shadow - Victorville, California
Shadow Floor - Victorville, California
Shadows of Abandonment - Mojave, California
Window, Three Shadows - Mojave, California
Knob - Mojave, California
Razor Fence - Boron, California

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Film Is Better Than Digital

Backyard Feed - Palo Verde, Arizona
Captured using a Canon T70 SLR and Ilford Delta 400 film. 
In yesterday's post I said, "Film is still superior to digital with regard to pure image quality." Several of the "big" photography blogs have published articles recently stating the exact opposite of that. They have claimed that film is dead and digital is much better.

Who is telling the truth? Is film better or is digital better? 

One thing I can say with certainty is that digital is more convenient. In the long term it's probably cheaper, too, as the cost of film and development adds up over time.

But what about the image?
Purple Beretta - Tehachapi, California
This is a digital image, and it's not too hard to figure that out just by looking at it.

One thing that I despise about digital photography is that it sometimes looks digitized. I remember about 10 or 12 years ago I could easily pick out a digital image. Place two prints in front of me, one captured with film and one captured with a digital sensor, and I could tell you which was which. Digital pictures looked digitized.

Camera sensors have improved by leaps and bounds since then, but sometimes digital images still look digital. Film looks organic. I can still sometimes tell just by looking whether an image was captured using film or digital, although it is so much more difficult than it used to be.

I've heard some use the analogy of MP3 vs. vinyl. Digital music is cleaner but vinyl is warmer and richer. It's similar with circuitry vs. vacuum tubes in amplifiers. Or electronic drums vs. real drums. I think there's some truth in those analogies, but they fall short for me because I'm not a musician, and because we're talking about visual art and not audible art.
Abandoned Boles-Aero Trailer - Mojave, California
Is this image film or digital? Can you tell?
What I find about film that is superior to digital is that film looks organic--it looks to my mind how a photograph should--while digital sometimes doesn't. There is something about the silver grain and film tonality that is "right" and there are sometimes aspects within a digital image that are "wrong"--all of which are extraordinarily subtle.

With all of that said, 99% of my photography is digital nowadays. I occasionally shoot film, but digital is so much more convenient that I trade the look of film for the look of digital. I then use software in post-processing (Alien Skin Exposure 7) to mask the digitalness (is that a word?) of the photograph and make it appear more analogue. I'm not always successful and I still occasionally cringe when I can tell a photograph of mine is digital.

So, yes, film is better than digital. It's not easier or cheaper, but the image looks better when captured with film. Even if it is incredibly difficult to tell. Does it matter? Not really. For the most part, we're talking about tiny, almost imperceptible differences.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Sigma Merrill Cameras- Digital Film?

Abandoned Homestead - Tehachapi, California
Talking about the Sigma DP2 Merrill I wrote, "The DP2M at ISO 100 can reach the fine grain of Agfa Pan 25 and Ilford Delta 100 films, including the Ilford Delta 100 in medium format." I also said, "The DP2M retains a large amount of fine details within highly saturated images. It is possible to replicate the look of saturated transparency films with images captured on this camera!"

I've been asked more than once now to expound on this. Are Sigma Merrill cameras really the digital equivalent of film? Can Sigma's Foveon sensor really deliver film-like results?

The answer to those questions is not easy because there are a lot of different films out there. There are many choices for both color and black-and-white. Each one has different advantages and disadvantages. Each one has a different look. So right off the bat I can say that Sigma Merrill cameras do not replicate exactly any one film.

But that does not mean that the cameras aren't "close enough" to some different films to draw comparisons.

Color
From The Past - Mojave, California
Sigma Merrill cameras are known for their rich colors, something that digital cameras struggle with in general. Digital cameras tend to over-saturate easily, and by over-saturate I mean that there is not enough color depth to retain fine details in highly saturated areas in an image. At low ISO, the Foveon sensor is able to retain details in highly saturated images much better than Bayer sensors.

Fuji Velvia 50 is the comparison everyone wants to see, because this film is the absolute best for saturated colors. The colors are just so vibrant, and fine details are very well retained. The grain is incredibly fine, and if paired with a sharp lens, there isn't anything that can touch it. Not even Sigma Merrill cameras. At ISO 100, however, the Foveon sensor is close enough to Fuji Velvia 50 (in 35mm format, anyway) that you may find it acceptable as a digital doppelgänger.
Rusted Bolt - Loraine, California
A closer comparison would be Kodak Ektachrome E100VS. This is basically Kodak's version of Velvia 50. E100VS doesn't quite have the same fine grain as Velvia 50, and the colors are not quite as vibrant (but pretty close). The Merrill cameras get pretty darn close to E100VS, in my opinion.

Now these two films have different hue casts (Fuji is "cooler" and Kodak is "warmer"), and either one could be easily replicated by manipulating the white balance on the Sigma images.

There are many other 35mm color films that could be compared, and perhaps even replicated with the Sigma cameras. The comparisons could go on and on and on. The larger point here is that film still blows the socks off of digital when it comes to pure image quality, but, at low ISO, the Sigma Merrill cameras close the gap.

Black & White
On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
The two films that I mentioned in the quote at the top are Agfa Pan 25 and Ilford Delta 100. At ISO 100, the digital noise and fine details of the Sigma Merrill are a pretty close approximation of the silver grain found on those films. Perhaps not quite as fine as Agfa Pan 25 in 35mm format, but definitely as fine as Ilford Delta 100. In fact, even in medium format, there is not a significant difference between Sigma Merrill cameras and Ilford Delta 100.

One area where the Sigma Merrill cameras cannot touch most black-and-white films is dynamic range. I've found that the dynamic range weak point in Foveon sensor cameras is in the shadows. The cameras actually retains details in highlights very well, but not in shadows. By overexposing a little (as much as one stop) and recovering in post processing, the dynamic range can be increased. However, it still does not quite match the dynamic range of black-and-white film.
Abandoned Boles-Areo Trailer - Mojave, California
One can get a more "gritty" look by using higher ISO films because the grains of silver are larger. Increasing the ISO on Sigma Merrill cameras replicates this, although you cannot go much beyond ISO 400 before image quality degrades to an unusable level. With some effort in post-processing, ISO 800 is usable and gritty, but it does take some work to make it look good.

On a side note, the way the Foveon sensor works is that it has three layers: one that captures red, one that captures green and one that captures blue. Since the entire images is captured with each color, one can adjust the color channels to simulate black-and-white filters without degrading image quality. Want a red filter effect? Simply use the red color channel.

Interestingly enough, you can actually use colored filters meant for black-and-white film on Sigma Merrill cameras. And Sigma DSLRs can be easily converted to infrared by taking out the easy-to-remove IR filter (but not the Merrill cameras).

Conclusion
Copy Machine - Mojave, California
With film, there are a whole host of reasons to choose one over another, including contrast, hue, tones, grain, saturation, sensitivity, etc. With digital, much of that can be easily replicated and adjusted. There's software that will quickly make an image look like it was captured with any number of different films. But there are some things that even clever software cannot do.

Even the best software cannot keep fine details in highly saturated areas if the files are not capable. HDR might give the dynamic range of black-and-white film, but not without some trade-offs. You can decrease digital noise to replicate fine grain, but at the expense of sharpness.

Film is still superior to digital with regard to pure image quality. Sigma Merrill cameras bring digital a little bit closer, but it is still not equal.
Web of Neglect - Mojave, California
So why do so many choose digital over film if film is better? Because digital is so much more convenient. Sigma Merrill cameras are certainly not as convenient as most digital cameras, but at the same time most digital cameras can't match the image quality from the Foveon sensor at low ISO.

Each of these images were captured using a Sigma DP2 Merrill camera. I made no test shots. I did not do any side-by-side comparisons of images. Instead, I relied on over 15 years experience using film, including those mentioned in this post and many that were not mentioned, as well as about a year using a Sigma Merrill camera.

Test shots in controlled environments can be useful. However, there is nothing like real-world experience. There is nothing like working knowledge, which can never be replaced by controlled work in a lab.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Defending The Use of Photoshop In Photography

Broken Souls - Newberry Springs, California
"You Photoshopped this picture, didn't you?" I hear that question sometimes. Maybe it is phrased differently, but the idea is the same: your photography is not grounded in reality.

It's an accusation, really. Are you a photographer or digital artist? True photography, after all, is not manipulated. Photographs never lie.

But photographs do lie. All of them. No photograph tells the truth. None. Ever.

Every photograph is biased in one way or another. Camera choice. Lens choice. Film choice. Camera settings. Vantage point. Composition. Aperture. Shutter speed. ISO. Focus. The list goes on and on of all of the ways that photographs are biased even before any post-processing is applied.

Reality is a tricky thing. Albert Einstein said, "Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one." Reality is whatever you want it be.

I've noticed lately that a lot of photographers are defending their use of Photoshop by saying something to the effect of, "Cameras are not capable of capturing a scene accurately and so I use Photoshop to make the pictures more accurate." I disagree with that argument.

I don't disagree that cameras are not capable of capturing a scene as good as the eye and brain can. I don't disagree that Photoshop can be used to make a picture more accurate. What I disagree with is the idea that photographs must be accurate. It is asking a photograph to be something it is not capable of. Photographs are not truthful and they cannot be truthful.

French painter Rene Magritte was frustrated by this same thing. In 1929 he made The Treachery of Images, which is a painting of a pipe with the words "this is not a pipe" printed on it. And that was truth: a painting of a pipe is not an actual pipe. Just like my photograph of saguaros are not actual cacti.
Ce N'est Pas Un Cactus - Goodyear, Arizona
All photographs lie and reality is an illusion. It is much better to embrace that than to fight against it. It is better to openly accept it and enjoy the freedom of it than to pretend that photographs are not biased.

Those critics (most of which are amateur, armchair critics) who look down their nose at photographers who use Photoshop do so because they don't understand all of this. They've never thought deeper than "this looks real" or "this doesn't look real" and they never imagine that there might be more to it than that. They don't bother to find the meaning.

I'm not really a big fan of extensive post-processing. Moderation is a wise ideal. But a photograph should not be judged by the amount of post-processing that it was given. A photograph should be judged by whether or not it is good. The problem is that many critics don't really know what makes a great photograph, well, great.

Photographers should not be ashamed that they use Photoshop. I don't know if it's better to attempt to educate the critics on this, or, when asked, simply answer, "Yes, I do." Either way, it is the critic's problem and not the artist's problem.

In my case, I don't use Photoshop at all. I don't even own it. So I can truthfully answer, "No, I didn't Photoshop that photograph." Perhaps that is misleading, because I do post-process. Then again, all photographs are misleading, so does it matter what I say? Not really.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

7 Reasons Why I Don't Watermark My Photographs

Red Field, Green Field - Tehachapi, California
This photograph of mine was stolen, but, thankfully, I was able to rectify the situation.
I've had some of my photographs stolen. When you put your images out on the web, anyone can easily steal them and use them illegally. All it takes is a couple of clicks and someone has taken possession of property that they have no rights to. 

Several friends and family members asked why I don't watermark my photographs to help prevent things like that from happening. Even the guy who stole Red Field, Green Field said that a watermark might have prevented him from using it without permission (actually, he was trying to say that it was my fault that he stole my picture).
Forgotten Highway 58 - Mojave, California
This image of mine was also stolen and, unfortunately, the situation remains unresolved.

So why don't I watermark my photographs?

1. Watermarks are a distraction to the photograph. Can you imagine a great painting with "Copyright 2014" written in bold letters across it? Or a great song with the words "This song cannot be used without permission" spoken right in the middle? That would be silly.

My photographs are my art. Watermarks take your attention away from that art. I want you to see my art and not be distracted by a copyright notice. Watermarks ruin the experience for the viewer.

2. Watermarks don't stop anyone from illegally using your photographs. Unless it is plastered in big letters right across the center, watermarks are easily cropped out or clone-stamped out. It is not all that difficult to remove watermarks from photographs, and there is free software that can help one do it. If someone is going to steal a photograph, they're going to do it whether a watermark is on it or not.

3. Watermarks make no difference to the law. The law does not change with the addition of a watermark. I own the copyright to my photograph simply because I created it. It matters not if I place a copyright notice on the image or not. It is illegal to use my photographs without my permission, period.

4. Bottom-feeders don't pay attention to the law. They don't care if they are breaking the law or not. They could care less about copyrights. They don't give one thought to the creator. They think about themselves only. Watermarks mean nothing to them.

5. Most people and businesses do indeed care about copyrights and the law, and will go about things the right way. The majority of businesses are honest and ethical, and if they want to use my photographs they'll contact me and get permission first. Watermarks do not make any difference to them, because they're already following the law and doing things the right way.

6. Watermarking photographs takes time. I already spend too much time post-processing my images, and I don't want to spend any more time in front of a computer than I have to. I'd much rather spend that time with my family or out photographing.

7. If I were to watermark my photographs, I would have to create two versions of each image: one with the watermark and one without. Doubling the digital storage necessary for my photography costs real money and complicates the filing system.

To put this simply, watermarking photographs takes time and money, accomplishes nothing, and makes one's photographs look worse. That's why I don't watermark my images.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Photography Is Communication

Broken Angels - Bodfish, California
Photography is a form of non-verbal communication. The stronger the communication, the stronger the photograph. If you want great images you need to be a great communicator through those images.

If the communication is confused or unorganized, no one will find the conversation interesting. Only strong communication will captivate an audience.

In order to be successful, one must communicate as clearly and deliberately as possible. Everything that is unnecessary to the photograph's intended message is removed by the photographer. If it isn't important to the point of the photograph, it is not included in the frame.
When All Is Lost - Mojave, California
Like the structure of a sentence, everything is placed in an organized fashion to facilitate the viewer through an image. Photographers will use whatever they can, including lines, contrast, shapes, space, focus, color, etc., to guide the viewer's eyes to where the photographer wants them to go. The photographer is thoughtful and careful with his or her compositions.

Great photographs are like musical compositions. A conductor leads a symphony, giving direction, clarity and unity to the musicians. All you would hear is chaotic noise if the conductor wasn't doing his job. The photographer, through the careful and thoughtful use of his or her camera, guides the viewer through the scene. Instead of chaos that nobody wants to view, the great photographer has orchestrated great art.

How is this done? It requires photographic vision. The photographer must have a vivid and imaginative conception. He or she then makes that conception a photographic reality. The stronger the vision is, the stronger the non-verbal communication will be through the image.

Monday, June 8, 2015

5 Elements of Successful Black & White Photographs

Broken Souls - Newberry Springs, California
I love black & white photography. More often than not I prefer monochrome over color. I think it has a timeless fine-art feel. It is also naturally abstract (after all, no one sees the world in shades of grey).

Someone recently told me that black & white is overdone. I actually believe the opposite is true. I think that people don't convert their color images to black & white often enough. In my opinion, if color isn't essential to the point of an image than it should be made monochrome.

Black & white photographs work different than color, so you have to think about the entire process differently. Below are five elements of successful black & white photographs.

Form
Kitchen Faucet Handle - Mojave, California
Shapes and forms are more obvious in monochrome. Without color, there is less to distract the viewer's attention from the subject of a scene. The forms within the image become the focal point. What the viewer sees are the designs.

Look for ways to emphasize the most interesting aspects of the shape of the subject that is within the scene. Make the composition of the shapes intriguing.

Pattern
Circular Abstract - Atolia, California

Often subtle patterns get lost in color photographs. This is because the color draws the viewer's attention away from the pattern. The viewer might glance right past it.

With black & white, as long as the tones are far enough apart, patterns become obvious. Monochrome images allow the viewer to better see the shapes formed by the pattern in the scene.

Texture
Window, Three Shadows - Mojave, California
Even more than pattern, texture often gets lost in color images. Our minds interpret the scene based on many things, including past experiences--other things we've seen. When we see something (such as a color photograph) our minds are biased and will determine what we see and what we ignore.

Because black & white is abstract by nature, our mind's bias is more removed, and we are able to notice the fine texture more easily. In monochrome, texture is more prominent.

Contrast
The Sound of Silence - Mojave, California

Because there is not color to differentiate between elements within a scene, contrasting shades of grey are essential to successful monochrome images. Contrast is when a lighter area and darker area touch each other in a photograph.

What you must ensure is that the main subject has sufficient contrast to draw the viewer's eyes to it. You must also ensure that there is not another high-contrast element within the scene to distract the viewer's attention away from where you want it to go.

Light
On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
Light is the key element that holds the four above elements--form, pattern, texture and contrast--together. Light significantly effects all of those things. What this means is that good black & white photography requires good light.

What "good light" is depends on the scene and how you want your image to look. What is good light for one image may not be for another. You may want even light. You may want light from one side. You may want soft light. You may want harsh light. Each photograph and each situation must be judged individually. It is the photographer's job to determine what is the best light for each image, and to wait until that light exists or artificially create it.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Photograph What No One Else Is Thinking About

On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
I came across a quote from legendary photographer Rene Burri. I was really struck by it. I think there's a lot of truth to it. He said:
"Everybody now has a cell phone and can take snaps, which is great--even children. But my advice for young photographers--what I think young photographers should do--is to go and cover things that nobody else is thinking about. Put your nose into things. Use the third eye of the camera and don't be completely dependent on Photoshop or the way other people want you to cast the world."
There are a lot of good nuggets in there. I lot of photograph truth is found in those words. And, even though it is addressed to "young photographers" the messages can apply to anyone of any age.

First, it's very true that everyone has a camera and everyone is taking pictures. My seven-year-old daughter likes to take pictures and her photograph's are sometimes pretty good. Just because you snap pictures--and even if some of them are decent--does not make you a photographer. There is more to it than that. Photography begins in the heart and mind of the photographer. Snapshots are thoughtless.

Second, if you want to stand out from the billions of people capturing images, you need to photograph things that others are not. Not even including amateurs, most photography genres are oversaturated. You have to be absolute top-notch (and good at marketing) to stand out. But if you are the only one (or one of a few) that are capturing something, you have a much better chance at getting noticed.
Broken Souls - Newberry Springs, California
Another way to think about this is found in a quote by Arthur Schopenhauer: "Thus, the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees."

Next, if you want to really photograph something, you've got to put your nose into it. You've got to do the things that others are not. Richard Steinheimer used to say that photography is often about being in places that other people are not willing to go.

When Rene Burri talks about "the third eye of the camera" he's speaking of photographic vision. You've got to develop this in order to craft great photographs. Some people depend on post-processing tricks to try to make their boring photographs interesting. This will only take you so far. Eventually people will realize that your photographs don't really say anything.

Finally, you've got to be true to yourself. You can't photograph what you think others want to see. You can't make your style what you think others will want. That doesn't work. You need your unique voice and perspective. That's what people want to see--the photographs that only you could create.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Urbex Images - First Friday Flickr Favorites

The Urban Exploration Photography Blog has a Flickr group called Urbex Images. Back in January I began featuring some of my favorite images from the group photo pool in a weekly post called Flickr Friday Favorites. This was great except that those posts take a lot of time to put together. So after a couple of months I reduced it to every-other-week. Starting now it's going to be a once-per-month feature published on the first Friday of each month. This post is the very first First Friday Flickr Favorites.

There are many wonderful photographers that add great photographs to the Urbex Images group pool. There are so many great sites being explored and many wonderful photographs being made of those places. I wish that I could show more.


I always ask for and receive permission to use the images you see. Some photographers don't want other people using their images without permission (myself included), so it is important for me to do that. This time around I only heard back from about half of those I sent messages to. There are many more photographs that I would have loved to show.

The five images below are by talented photographers. I encourage you to click on their names to see the rest of their great work. They each have a lot of interesting exposures to see!

Enjoy!
Pruning the Family Tree by Ron Pinkerton
The foreground tree adds perspective, context and interest to the scene behind. There is color 
contrast
with the yellow tree and the blue sky. The lighting is great--this is a great example of light painting.
BNS_Boardroom_Pontypool by Robert Smith
Simplicity. Balance. Repeated lines. The center is subtly brighter than the edges to draw in your eyes.
Stuck UFO by Rainer Schund
I love the repeated circles. It's a moody scene with some subtle atmosphere. 
the last hope has vanished by potosi6088m
This is such an interesting image. It's "mirrored" (meaning it looks the same on both sides of the frame).

I love the tones. The lighting is great. There's tons of details to keep the eyes busy.
let me ride by Szydlak likes Abandoned Places
I like the careful use of lighting. Great job of "layering" the scene. There are lines that lead to the wheelchair.
There's a story that leaves more questions than answers.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

If Your Photographs Aren't Good Enough, You're Not Close Enough

Web of Neglect - Mojave, California
"If your photographs aren't good enough, you're not close enough." --Robert Capa
Robert Capa's famous quote has been repeated over and over. I've heard it myself probably a hundred times. And while he was most likely speaking specifically about war photographs, I think his principal can be applied to all genres of photography, including urban exploration, and it is every bit as relevant today as it was the moment it was first uttered.

The quote is simple enough. It could be summarized with two words: get closer. But I think we could look at it a little deeper.

Photography has a lot in common with sculpting. A sculptor chisels away everything that doesn't belong until all that is left is the finished sculpture. It's about subtraction. Remove everything that doesn't belong to reveal what was hiding there all along, which no one had noticed except the artist.
Window, Three Shadows - Mojave, California
Photography is about subtraction, too. You must take everything out of the frame that doesn't belong until the finished composition is all that's left. Less is more. Reveal what no one else noticed because of all the unnecessary clutter that got in the way.

The best way to chisel away the unnecessary clutter and get to that composition that is art is to get closer. Your feet are photographic tools. Use them to move closer so as to subtract all that doesn't belong.

The closer you get your lens to the subject the better your photographs will be. They'll be cleaner, simpler and clearer. So, if you are not happy with your images, move in a little closer to refine your compositions.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Abandonment: Mojave Home - Mojave, California

Mojave Home, Abandoned - Mojave, California
Captured in November of '13.
Back in November of 2013 I photographed an abandoned home near Mojave, California. Actually, there were three homes on the property--a main house and two small homes, one of which was used as a workshop--and a large shed. The main house, one of the small homes (the one that was used as a workshop), and the shed were locked up. The camera of choice was a Sigma DP2 Merrill.

The place was interesting, although largely inaccessible (the interiors, anyway). I captured several images through windows. The one small house that was open was quite intriguing. It had a bathroom but no kitchen. I think a poor migrant family lived in the one-room place. A bunch of clues were left behind, including an old photo album and kid items. Whoever lived here disappeared quickly, as it seemed like they left everything behind.
Divine Window - Mojave, California
Captured in November of '13.
Fast-forward to April of this year. I returned to this site to capture it again. I wanted to see if anything had changed. What was different?

The main house was still locked up and it looked untouched. The small home that had been locked up was now open. This is how I discovered that it had been used as a workshop. I'm not sure if it was always a workshop, or if it had once been a home that was later converted. From the outside it looks like a small house typical of this area.
Window, Three Shadows - Mojave, California
The other small home--the one that was open on the last visit--was still pretty much the same, although it was obvious that someone had visited the site and moved things around. Someone had assembled the word "fame" in one of the windows.

The only camera I brought along with me was a Nokia Lumia 1020. Yes, my cell phone! It's a good camera that I've used many times before. I didn't have time to post-process these images the way that I normally would (using Alien Skin Exposure software on my computer at home), so I edited them using an app on my phone (an app that came with the phone called Creative Studio). Overall I'm pleased with the results, and it goes to show that you don't need any special gear to create successful images.
Messy Shed - Mojave, California
A Child's Seat - Mojave, California
A Face In The Mask - Mojave, California
No One's Listening - Mojave, California
No Memories Recorded - Mojave, California
Fame - Mojave, California