Monthly Archives August 2008

As I sit here in the early morning hours, I can’t tell you what a challenge it’s been choosing the winner, and runners up for contest part of my Worldwide PhotoWalk.

I was so impressed with the winning entries from around the world, and honestly, you could make a case for nearly any one of them being the winner, because what I was looking at was a collection of 237 local winners from around the world. These photographers images were already good enough that their local leader had chosen them as their best shot from their city, and now I was looking at nothing but winning shots. It’s harder than you’d think.

I’ve been a judge for many photo and design contests over the years, including my stint for years as one of the judges for the Photoshop World Guru Awards, and I had to lean on some of what I learned in that role. One thing that always stood out to me was now a particular image would “hit” everyone at the same time. For example, when we judge the Gurus, we sit in a darkened room and bring up the images on a projector screen one by one (with the entrant’s name hidden from view). As an image would appear on screen, usually you heard silence. Every few images you’d hear one of the judges say, “I like that one!” or “That’s a nice shot” but mostly it was silent. Then, an image would come up, and almost simultaneously, the whole room would go, “oooooohhhhh.”

It wasn’t always the sharpest image, or the one that was technically perfect, but it was always a photo that had some sort of emotional impact. Whether it was color, or texture, or composition, or whatever it was, it had it enough that the whole room was moved at the exact same moment to say, “ooooohhhh!”

So, when I was going through these images, I waited to hear my own “ooooohhh.” They’re all great photos, but I wanted the ones that made me personally go, “ooohhhh.” Each time I saw one of those, I marked it as a potential runner up. I could only choose 10 runners up (each of which wins a copy of Lighroom 2), and of course, I marked more than 10, so I then had to back through those and find out which ones moved me the most.

Then it came down to choosing just one image from that group to be the Grand Prize Best of Show. I thought from the very beginning that one single image would literally stand out from the crowd, but unfortunately it just wasn’t that easy. As I said, you could make a case for any of them, and I knew that no matter what I chose that, because this is such a subjective thing, that other photographers would say, “He chose that one?” because I’ve done that same thing about the winning choice in other competitions I’ve seen. But at the end of the day, I had to make a pick.

So, how did I make that pick? I asked myself this, “If I could only choose one of these 10 runner’s up to have framed and hang on my wall, which one would it be?”

For my Grand Prize winner, (drum roll, please) I chose Suhaimi Abdullah’s shot from the Singapore walk, of a bird flying overhead an industrial-looking street. To me, everything from its composition to its colors told a story. It looked almost surreal, and at the same time, totally believable because we’ve all been in a concrete jungle and have been suddenly reminded of nature and it’s inclusion (or exclusion), and I thought this image just portrayed that beautifully. In the end; I just couldn’t stop looking at it, and it is the one I’d want hanging in my home or office. For whatever reason, it just spoke to me.


So, congratulations to Suhaimi, who takes home the Adobe Creative Suite Premium, Lightroom 2, a $500 B&H Photo Gift certificate, a Wacom tablet, the Peachpit Book Bundle, and MPIX prize package, and more!

Here are my comments about the 10 finalists (who each won a full copy of Lightroom 2; courtesy of Adobe Systems):


(1) Hakon Senderland’s photo of the guards in Oslo, Norway (above)
I really like the reflection in the car’s window; the motion of the guards, and particuarly the way one is looking at the camera. I loved the dark moody sky, and the way all the colors in the photo worked so well together. I also like the fact that you could see past the reflection into the car itself. Just a very clever shot.



First, did David duChemin’s post rock yesterday or what??!!! Take a moment to read some of the comments people posted about it yesterday, and you can see how his words of advice resonated with and inspired so many photographers. Thank you David—that was awesome!

Now, onto the news:

  • Apparently the rumors of a Nikon D90 aren’t a rumor anymore, as USA Today ran a story on it last night. Apparently it has the larger 3inch LCD screen, 12 megapixels, LiveView, lower noise, built-in sensor cleaning, but the focus of the article was that it is the first DSLR that actually shoots video, too! Here’s a link to the USA Today article, and to Nikon USA’s info on the new D90 (which sells for $999 U.S.—body only).
  • Canon also has big news; they released their successor to the 40D, the new 15 megapixel Canon EOS 50D. I would tell you about it here, but just click on the comments and read Alessandro Rosa’s excellent news update on the features (Thanks, Alessandro!). :)
  • Most of the Worldwide PhotoWalk cities have picked their local winners, and now it’s up to me to choose the grand prize winner (hopefully by tomorrow). In the meantime, you’ve just got to check out some of the flickr groups from around the world to see some of the amazing shots taken during this event. There are just some flat out beautiful and intriguing shots!!! Here’s a link to the list of groups. Take a moment to check some out—it’ll make your day!
  • OK, it’s the week before Photoshop World, and I want to remind you of five things:
  1. It’s not too late to register, and we’d love to have you join us in Vegas next week (here’s the link)
  2. If you can’t make the full conference, don’t forget to come out for the Expo (which is open to the public for two days), and click here to get your free Expo pass.
  3. If you’re going to the party at The House of Blues, my band, “Big Electric Cat” will be playing a live set (see fake ticket above), so come prepared to dance and shake various and sundry body parts. Remember, “There ain’t no school like the old school!”
  4. I’m going to be doing a live demo of my “Westcott Scott Kelby Studio Kit” (which uses the Spiderlite TD-5s with the new brighter fluorescent bulbs), in the Westcott booth, and I’m doing a lighting demo at the B&H Photo booth as well (I should have times by tomorrow).
  5. I’ll be signing copies of my new just hot off the press “Lightroom 2 Book for Digital Photographers” at the official NAPP bookstore, but there’s only a limited amount of copies available there, so I hope I get to sign one for you!
  • Sly Arena over at did a pretty cool post called “10 Tips for your first Photoshop World” (here’s the link), and my buddy Matt Kloskowski did a post called “The Insider’s Guide to Photoshop World” with some great advice for attendees on getting the most from the show (here’s that link).
  • One more bit of PhotoWalk news: here’s some final stats:
  1. We had 8.324 photographers register for local walks
  2. 47 Counties had participating cities
  3. 44 States in the US had photowalks
  4. For a total of 236 cities
  • Hey, where’s Joe McNally today? He’s out in Santa Fe, New Mexico on location with our video production crew taping another online class for Kelby Training. I cannot wait to see it! Also, this week we released another class from Photoshop World instructor and digital video guru Richard Harrington. This one’s called “Going Deeper Into Apple Motion.” Here’s the link.

OK, folks. That’s it for today. Have a “legendary” Thursday, and we’ll see you back here tomorrow for some tasty Friday fish nuggets.


Our friends at MPIX (the only photo lab we use a NAPP headquarters) just took the wraps of their totally redesigned site. I’ve just been through their redesigned site and it’s way more than just a new look. The new site is much more visual, even easier to use, has much more functionality all the way around, and it makes the process of uploading, managing, and buying prints just crazy easy. (It’s such a big improvement, they’re calling it MPIX 2.0. I think it’s more like 3.0, or at least MPIX CS3).

Anyway, they’ve got an online tour of the new site you can take, and on the last page they have this little slogan that so nails what they do, that I think it oughta be their official slogan, in huge letters, right on their home page! It reads:

“Shoot today. Upload tonight. We ship tomorrow.”

I thought that pretty much nailed it (If I were MPIX, I’d have that flying on a flag outside the building!). Anyway, if you haven’t checked out their new site, click here to jump over there (don’t forget to take the tour if you’re new to MPIX).

One last thing; One of things I use MPIX pretty often for, is sending large prints, or specialty prints like metallic or stretched canvas prints as gifts, delivered right to their door. I just sent my brother’s girlfriend a huge print, and a canvas just this week, shipped straight from MPIX to her house. They shipped them same day (because I got the order in early), and they ship everything packaged flat—not rolled up. I totally love that. Anyway, I can’t recommend them enough (and if you have any doubts, go read the comments photographers who use MPIX posted after I wrote about them back in March. Here’ the link).


If my childhood exposure to Star Trek taught me anything it’s that you can’t mess with the time/space continuum without seriously screwing things up for everyone. Still, the reckless part of me would love to go back and have a heart-to-heart with the fourteen year-old version of myself as I fell in love with photography and began what has been a 23-year passion. Last weekend thousands of photographers converged around the world to walk and shoot, most of them hobbyists still aflame with an enthusiasm for their craft that would humble many professionals. It reminded me of those early days, made me a little nostalgic.

Still, if I could go back, give the young me some encouragement and direction, these are the things that I suspect would be foremost in our conversation. We’d probably also have an awkward chat about dating, but that’s between us.

1. Learn your craft.
In the early days you’re laying a foundation on which the rest of your photographic pursuit will be built. So dig in now. Now is the time to geek out to the limits of your ability, but make it well-directed geekery. Learn the ins-and-outs of exposure, learn to handle your camera like it’s part of your body, learn to read a histogram, and learn to competently post-process your images. Shoot, and shoot, and shoot some more. Go to the library and expose yourself to as many of the past masters of photography that you can. Get online and look at thousands of photographs. Soak in them. Immerse yourself. Read books, watch videos. Study your craft intentionally.

2. Find a mentor.
Find someone you respect, someone honest enough to productively critique your images, but kind enough not to discourage you along the way. We all take thousands and thousands of lousy photographs, it’s the dirt you have to dig through to get to the jewels. It’s the shots that work, the ones you love, that matter. The others are just the path to getting there. If we gave up the moment we took some lousy photographs, none of us would get where we’re going. A good mentor will help you navigate that. Look for gentle critics, not fans. A good mentor, or a series of them, is a priceless asset.

3. Don’t compare yourself.
Especially to the so-called pros. Being a pro doesn’t mean you’re better. It means you get paid. Being a hobbyist doesn’t mean you’re not good enough. I intentionally avoided doing this professionally for years, scared that doing it as a career would kill the passion. Eventually I found the stories I wanted to shoot so badly that I changed my mind. But in the in-between years I was no less a photographer for my lack of a pay-check. The goal of photography is not the transformation from hobbyist to professional. That may be your goal, but photography itself, the craft, has no such aspirations. It’s about expression and vision and you can do that no matter how you make a living. In fact, the hobbyist may be able to do that with fewer obstacles than the pros.

Comparing yourself to others is wasted energy and it generally only fuels the voice in your head that tells you one of two things, both of them harmful to your vision and your soul. The first message is, “that guy’s work is so much better than mine, I can’t possibly shoot that well. I will never be that good.” The second is its evil twin, “that guy’s a hack, I’m way better than that. Why is his work in National Geographic? I could shoot that stuff blindfolded.” Both comparisons will stall you in your creative tracks. And you’ll be missing the point. The point is not where you are on the ladder, it’s how true you are to your vision and whether your craft is equal to the task. It’s a journey. Compare yourself to others and you’ll miss the joy this craft can bring.

4. Become visually literate.
Photography is a unique visual language. Learning it is like learning French. It has nouns, verbs, grammar and syntax. The more fluent you are the more subtly and powerfully you can use your language skills to communicate. Composition is not something that accidentally happens as you go about making photographs, it’s the language through which photography speaks. Master composition. Learn about balance and tension, light, gesture, colour. Learn how elements relate within the frame, and with the frame, to tell your story. But learn it. I strongly recommend reading Michael Freeman’s The Photographer’s Eye.

5. Chase your vision.
At the beginning and end of photography is vision. Jonathan Swift said, “Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” It’s a personal way of seeing, it makes you see ordinary things in a new way and go, “A-HA!” and the camera allows you to interpret that moment and make others go “A-ha!” too. There’s a great deal to be said for the craft of photography, but unless you have something to say, it’s like learning a language with nothing to say and no one to talk to. Author Anne Lammot says that to be great, art must point at something. What you decide to point at – whether it’s the ugliness of injustice or the beauty of Vermont in the fall. is your vision. How you point at it is your craft. The more unique your vision, and the more practiced your craft, the more powerful your art.

Of course, if I were saying this to a fourteen year-old version of myself he’d be staring at me with his eyes glazed over by now, he’d probably respond with, “but I just want to make photographs.” And that’s ok too. That’s where it all starts and ends. The need to express yourself in increasingly clearer ways .The advice, that just smooths the path, takes out some of the unnecessary bumps and discouragements as you learn to put the world into the impossible constraints of the frame.

-David duChemin


My original goal was to try and sell 100 books, which would have meant $4,499 would go directly to the building of the orphanage, but I just got the final tally from yesterday sales and you guys bought 236 books, which raised $10,617.64 to help build the orphanage. Amazing!!!!

I’m humbled by your generosity and compassion, and I was so touched by some of the comments you guys posted yesterday, like:

  • I am getting it shipped to Scotland, which took the price up to $65.99 – but it is worth it (and that is before I have even read the book!!)
  • I already have the book on order with Kelby Training so I've mailed a check directly to CMCC today.
  • I don't use Lightroom (yet!) but I've ordered a copy anyway.
  • Well, I just bought the book and I don't even have Lightroom.
  • I have already had a copy on backorder but I ordered another one for such a great cause. It will make a great present for someone!
  • I just canceled an already running order (for a lower price) for this book and ordered it here.
  • For the last month I've been thinking of pre-ordering this book. But for some reason, due to circumstances the purchase never materialized. Now I know why.
  • Now, I've ordered the Lr 2.0 book and feel a bit guilty that I'm receiving this autographed title while you donate all your proceeds to this cause, so I also made out a little check to CMCC to help a little bit – it's not much, but I know the generous and kind nature of NAPP members, I'm sure they'll all add up.
  • I was the photowalk leader in Fresno, CA so I will be getting a copy of the book but purchased another one so that I can help Scott support this effort.
  • I've been waiting FOREVER for you to release this book! I'm glad I waited until now to buy it.
  • Just ordered the book! Already have another one ordered, so I figure someone is getting a nice gift.
  • I just ordered two copies. I'm going to keep one for myself, and give the other as a gift
  • Oh, and I ordered your new Lightroom book today. I don’t use Lightroom but I figured if you are willing to donate the entire proceeds to this worthy cause, it was the least I could do.

Those are the words of some remarkably caring and giving people. Saying “thanks” is so inadequate for what you all did yesterday, but it’s the only word I have, so….Thanks. Yesterday you made a big difference in the life of some children who really needed us to help. Bless you all.