A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words

Our community suffered a great loss earlier this week with the unexpected passing of Joe Brauberger. Joe was a generous man and gifted photographer who taught courses not only at Lawrence but also at Ozarks Tech Community College. He loved all things photography and was quite gifted at helping others master their cameras. Joe was also the man behind the website/blog Thousand Word Photography. Today, I think it’s apropos to talk about those proverbial thousand words, the ones a picture is said to be worth.

Since sensory things are processed in the front of the brain, and visual things are processed in the back, I find it interesting that a photograph can trigger both visual and sensory experiences. For example, I have this photograph from a horribly hot Ozarks summer when I was a little kid, and it always triggers a memory of the sound of cicadas buzzing. It’s like I can hear those bugs when I see that photograph. To me, it’s like looking at the sound of the sun. Come to think of it, I can also taste the chlorine and exactly remember the sensation of sweat trickling down my forehead after I dried off from swimming. That’s what a photograph can do.

Recently a customer brought in a very large panoramic landscape shot in sepia. Its scale was impressive, but there wasn’t anything that really stood out about the subject matter. No pretty sky. No interesting architecture. No unusual shadows or lighting or curious events. Just a really wide photograph of a town that could be anywhere. The customer was so excited to have it matted and framed.

sepia toned panoramic of a city landscape

“This is a turn-of-the-century photo of my hometown,” she explained. “It’s a ghost town now, and I know it’s not much to look at, but here is where I went to high school, and here is the old county courthouse where I fell down the steps and skinned my knees, and here is the hotel that burned down when I was a kid, the one where Teddy Roosevelt once stayed. And over here is the Hanging Tree. Oh, I used to get a shiver down my spine when we drove by that thing!”

And there it was, her thousand words captured in an image. She did a literal shiver when she pointed at the tree. She cringed when she talked about her skinned knees. I asked her if she’d ever written something out to describe what was in the photograph. She looked at me like I was nuts. Of course she hadn’t. The photograph was for her own pleasure, a thing that with one look could conjure pages and pages of stories in her mind. The whole point was that she didn’t need to write them down. She felt them when she looked at the photograph.

My wish for anyone who picks up a camera is that you will find ways to tell your own stories with that camera—who you are, where you came from, what you find beautiful, where you’ve been, what matters to you in life. It’s the great pleasure of photography, telling tales without saying a word. I’m talking about images that are packed with words, that will light up your whole brain when you look at them later. What will your thousands of words be?


Contemplative Photography: Can You Live in the Present While Photographing It?

Lawrence Camera - Contemplative PhotographyJust as many writers experience life in stories (how they’re going to tell it later), many photographers experience life through the lens (how they’re going to capture it through the viewfinder). Do you ever wonder if you’re losing a piece of an experience because you’re so busy trying to capture it?

Years ago, I heard a friend describe a trail ride she took through the high desert of Arizona. While the ride itself was beautiful, it was the Australian expat cowboy leading it that really stuck with her. He spoke colorfully about traveling the world and his many extraordinary experiences, putting her in mind of what it must be like to be a National Geographic photographer. But when she said to him that he must have some amazing photographs, he shook his head and told her, “I don’t take pictures. I think you lose a part of the experience when you stop living it to try to capture it.”

What do you think of that?

When I’ve shared this story with others, I get a mixed bag of reactions. Those who are casual photographers are apt to look puzzled. After all, they’re not setting up tripods and whipping out light meters and fidgeting with lens changes and worrying over which F-stop to use. They’re quickly whipping out their iPhones or point-and-shoots and grabbing the shot as is, hardly a moment lost. And those who are beyond the novice stage tell me that it’s second nature to them figuring out how to artfully capture a moment without having to separate from it, so to speak. Plus, photo-editing software gives them extra wiggle room to be quick (and a little messy) about grabbing the shot.

Still, there are those who nod and agree, who seem to feel a little trapped by a sort of frantic need to capture it all through the lens. Certainly I’ve seen relatives of such photographers nod and smile a bit at the story. Was the Australian cowboy onto something or was he missing something? Seems to me that, for him, it was all about being fully present in each moment and every experience in an almost Buddhist manner. But there are whole books written about how to both live in the moment and photograph it. It’s called contemplative photography.

What are your thoughts: Can you be fully present for your life but still photograph it?

20 Fun Things You Can Make from Your Photographs

Gone are the days when photographs were either framed for display or sealed in a photo album. There are so many more fun things you can make with your photographs now—not just digital alterations but objects you can actual hold in your hand and, in some cases, put to functional use.  Want to know what you can custom create from your pictures?

  1. Jewelry
  2. Motivational posters
  3. Pop-art posters
  4. Jigsaw puzzles
  5. Postcards
  6. Wrapping paper
  7. Alphabet art
  8. Photo blankets
  9. Quilt squares
  10. Calendars
  11. Note cards
  12. Mouse pads
  13. Statuettes
  14. Wallpaper
  15. Ornaments
  16. Vellum lampshades
  17. Vellum folding screens
  18. Tote bags
  19. Clock faces
  20. Cake decorations

Big changes are happening right now at our store, and as part of those changes, some of these options will be available directly through us.

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Take a look at our current services to see what exciting things we can already help you create with your images and watch for more information in the coming weeks about how we can make your memories better!

A Documented Life

Some images belong on big screens and in museums. Others belong in our homes in our DVD players and photo books. But really, nearly every photographed or video-recorded image is on some level art and/or documentary, isn’t it? Our cameras allow us all to tap into our inner artists and hold the reins on how we want the world and our experience in it remembered.

video yourself 1 second a day

Have you heard of the 1 Second Every Day app? Currently available only on iPhones (but coming soon to Androids, according to the manufacturer’s website), it’s a way to document your life as a series of 1-second clips, one for each day from the time you begin using the app. You can even retroactively add clips from your phone taken before you bought the app.

The 1-second app immediately made me think of recent viral videos showing a picture per year, or in some cases per several months, of babies growing up into teenagers and beyond. The rapid age progression is kind of mesmerizing. What I think is interesting about them is that they don’t just document changes in physical appearance. They capture something of the children’s essence, and how their personalities blossom over time. How are we to know when we push play on that bald baby with dimples that he’s going to end up with a bleach-striped waterfall haircut and a little gleam of mischief in his eyes? It’s really an interesting blended use of photography and video, a wonderful rethinking of time-lapse videography.

Of course, time lapse is nothing new to videographers. It has long required significant patience, the careful selection and situating of equipment and lots of waiting, checking, and careful synthesizing. Things like the 1 Second Every Day app and the time-lapse YouTube videos are sort of the other end of the spectrum, the easy end of quickly observing evolutions in our lives. The app documents these more as collage, making me think of what the dying must see when they say their lives “flash before their eyes.” The pic-a-year videos document more of a straight-line progression. Either way, I think they open an exciting new can of worms for camera-owners everywhere. Have you tried your hand? What were the results? Our staff would love to see them!

Miniaturize It: Fun with Tilt-Shift Photography

It’s a big, big world—but you can make it look downright tiny with the right photography tools and techniques. Miniaturization of scenes using tilt-shift focus is one of those special photography effects we don’t see in our shop that often, probably because it’s a bit whimsical and not something you can do (or want to do) with just any subject. It always makes us do a double-take, making life-sized subjects appear to be small replicas of the real deal. Sometimes it’s really hard to tell if it’s a miniature or not.

Thanks to photo-editing software and apps, you don’t even need to use a tilt-shift lens to get the job done. You just need to photograph your subject from a fair distance (think top of a mountain, second story of a home, or across a river). The image below was taken by an amateur photographer using her Android camera. It was such a ho-hum photo, with a wall intruding on the left, that she was just going to delete it:

Tilt Shift Photography


Then she realized that, because it was taken at some distance, it might make for a good tilt-shift photograph. So, she edited the image in the free Snapseed app, using the app’s Tilt-Shift filter:

Tilt Shift Photography


Kind of cute, no? A boost in brightness, contrast, and color saturation tends to exaggerate the dollhouse effect and make the image seem more fantastical. (The ability to fiddle with all of those things is built right into the Tilt-Shift filter on Snapseed.)

If you have any not-so-awesome photos sitting around on your SD card or computer, why not take a look and see if you could breathe new life into them with a little tilt-shift treatment?  We’d love to see what you create!



Digital Scanning to Keep Time from Stealing Your Memories

Fess up. You have a pile of yellowing pictures somewhere in your house. Maybe they’re in a box under your bed. Maybe they’re in a file cabinet in your basement. Or are you one of those people who at least put them in a photo album a million moons ago? (Are you letting clear plastic overlay be the only thing standing between them and the ravages of time?)

There is something really lovely about being able to hold a memory in your hand. That’s what prints offer. And as I’ve written in the past, I just don’t think you can fully appreciate a photo until it’s turned into a print you can touch, pass around, display, and so on. Yet there’s a flip side to that coin: If the only version you have of an image is the print, then you risk losing that photo. Literally speaking, you could misplace it, but I’m talking in the figurative sense here. Pictures obviously tend to deteriorate over time if not handled with kid gloves (or museum curator gloves, more accurately).

Scan Photos to Digital

I think it’s so important to take the time to make digital copies of old photographs. You don’t have to sit at a scanner for days on end to do it, scanning one picture after another into digital files. It’s actually a quick and painless process, especially if you let us take care of it for you. We offer a “by-the-box” deal for photo scanning that’s become extremely popular. For $169, you can get about 1,500 photos scanned to disc. That’s about a dime per print. It’s certainly much more affordable than waiting until it’s too late and having to pay for restoration. We can also do high-resolution scans of film—both positive and negative. Let us help you make quick work of that pile we know you’re hiding in your house!

See Like a Photographer

Photograph - Tree as a Crevice

Tree Crevice

It’s a common misconception that you have to be in a stunning place to take a stunningly good picture—the ocean at sunset, a

The Eyes of a Photographer

©Milkwood Photography (www.milkwoodphotography.com)

trailer park after a tornado, war, a wedding, the Serengeti. You get the idea. The reality is that you can take an incredible picture almost anywhere. It’s about slowing down and paying attention to your surroundings. It’s about trying to see those surroundings from different perspectives, looking at patterns, shadows, colors, lighting, details, and the total uniqueness of each moment.

In the 1995 independent film Smoke, Harvey Keitel plays the part of Auggie Wren, an amateur photographer and the owner of a tiny smoke shop in Brooklyn. For 14 years, Auggie has taken one picture a day, every day, from the street corner outside his store.

“People say you have to travel to see the world,” Auggie says.

“Sometimes I think that if you just stay in one place and keep your eyes open, you’re going to see just about all that you can handle.”’

When someone tells Auggie that all of his photographs look-alike, Auggie points out the infinite changes in the light, the season, and the expressions on people’s faces. Ultimately he provides a lesson about photography that also happens to be a lesson for life itself: Slow down, be present, and pay attention to what’s special about what’s right there in front of you.

What are some of the best pictures you’ve taken of “nothing special” kinds of places?

What a Photographer Sees

What is the photographer seeing?