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?

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A Different Kind of Froggin’

It’s not for everyone, but Missouri’s official frogging season officially kicks off on June 30. If you’re not up to hunting them for your supper, why not hunt them for a photo session instead?

Our state is home to heaps of frogs, which can make beautiful—and sometimes comical—little subjects. According to the Missouri Department of Conservation, we’ve got a whopping 26 species and subspecies of toads and frogs. Gray Tree Frogs, Peepers, and Plains Leopard Frogs are just a few of the froggies you can find all over Missouri.

Traditional froggers target the big bullfrogs, but if you want to snap the critters’ portraits instead of gobble their legs, you can expand your hunt to a much wider variety. Temperature dictates where you’ll find frogs in and around water. This time of year, you’ll want to look in shallow water where they call, breed, and lay eggs.

Photography for the Frogs!

Smile Pretty for the Camera!

Tips for photographing frogs:

  • Walk slowly, stop frequently, and keep your distance so as not to startle.
  • Look for frogs scoping out prey out on the edges of ponds and lakes.
  • Use a long-zoom lens.
  • Set lens on smallest f-stop for maximum depth of field.
  • Set ISO as high as possible.

What We Are Really Remodeling for Photographers

A lot can change in 40 years. It boggles my mind to think of all we have now that we didn’t have 40 years ago: the personal computer, cell phones, air bags, microwaves, and, one of our personal favorites, digital cameras. Since Lawrence Photo opened in 1973, the Berlin wall fell, apartheid ended, our ozone layer sprouted a leak, and reality TV was introduced. Let’s not forget Harry Potter and the Simpsons. We’ve seen a lot.

After 40 years in the camera and photo processing business, let’s just say our little shop is pretty comfortable with change. In fact, we’re so comfortable that right now we’re the ones creating it. (Thank you to everyone for excusing our dust while we remodel!) I hope you’ll like the new look and feel of our space once the dust is cleared, but I also want to point out that the real change has been taking place under the surface of all that hammering, sawing, and painting. That is, with the purchase of new technology and equipment, we’ve been quietly preparing to give you a whole lot more options for what to do with those beautiful pictures sitting on your SD cards.

You’ll still be able to upload files to our website for photo processing, but I’d like to invite you to come in with your SD card when our remodel is complete later this month. Get a firsthand look at the amazing things you’re going to be able to do locally with your photographs. Let’s talk about your ideas. How big do you want to go? Where do you want to display the finished product? What kind of gifts would you like to create? Let’s open up photo files together and get a look at what’s possible. Because while we’ve always been happy to change with the changing times, there’s one distinct exception: Our 1973 corner-store mentality is here for the long haul. We still like to get to know customers, like to see what you create, like to hear your stories, and like being able to personally help you take your craft to the next level.

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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!

Recycling Vintage Photographs

Oil paints, pastel chalks, watercolors, clay, vintage photographs—one of these things is not like the others. Right? Wrong. Vintage photographs are more and more being used as a medium for creating new works of art. Of course, any photograph can be used in this way, but there’s something particularly riveting about a vintage black-and-white photograph re-imagined as a new work of art:

Vintage Photograph as Work of Art

Chilean mixed-media artist Jose Romussi creates works from vintage photographs and thread.

Have you ever considered creating new artworks from your own piles of old family photographs? For many people, this would have been an unthinkable offense before the advent of photo restoration services. But with the ability to restore vintage photos as well as produce multiple prints of them, you now have infinite freedom to experiment with unique ways to display them. You can use their original beauty without worrying about ruining your original copies.

Vintage Photographs Re-Imagined

American Artist Mary Daniel Hobson tore the edges of these vintage photographs before bottling them into a triptych.
She explains that the torn edges symbolize the fragmentary nature of memory.

Delicate Vintage Photographs

And you thought a vintage photo was delicate:
British Artist Louise Richardson transferred vintage images to feathers.

Hey, it’s a photograph. It can be reproduced ad nauseum. Which means you can experiment ad nauseum. Which means you can let your imagination run wild. Which means your box of old black-and-white snapshots is a little like a new box of crayons to a kid. What will 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?