Jul 24 2015

Criticism, Praise and Advice

2015-7-10 Spiral Jetty 1g 1000

Spiral Jetty

Sometimes it seems that everyone is either an expert or a critic! Show your work to 10 people and you may well end up with 10 different opinions about your image. Why? Because everyone has an opinion.

So who should you listen to when it comes to your images? Family, friends, art experts, gallery owners, curators, MFA’s, other successful photographers? Who?

My suggestion is that you ignore all criticism, praise and advice and listen only to yourself. Why? Because other people’s comments about your image reflects their tastes, their ideas and their Vision. So no matter how well intentioned or how much of an “expert” they are, their advice is going to miss the mark when it comes to your Vision.

We all know how damaging harsh criticism can be; it can discourage, demotivate and cause you to doubt your potential. But even constructive criticism delivered in a kind and gentle way can mislead you and take you off track. That’s because others don’t know your Vision of the image, only you know that.

I was once told that I should not center “The Angel Gabriel.” At first this advice caused me to doubt my Vision and I actually tried to re-crop the image off center. It was a disaster because that was not how I saw the image. Right or wrong, for better or for worse, centered was the way I see Gabriel.

2006-5-20 The Angel Gabriel - Final 12-4-2011 1000

Strangely enough, I also find that praise can be disruptive to Vision. Praise sounds so sweet and we so want to believe it, but it can take us off track. There are many images that I’ve pursued but did not love simply because they generated praise. Praise is addictive and hard to ignore, but you must for the same reasons you should ignore criticism. 

There was a time in my photographic life that I would ask people what they thought about my work. Why? Because I didn’t know where I was going and I mistakenly thought I could find the answers by asking others. I could not.

There’s an infinite number of voices out there and even if you had the time to listen to all of them, that would not help you find your Vision. That can only come from a great deal of hard work and solitary introspection. There is no other way.

So how do I view criticism, praise and advice? I try to be appreciative of the person’s sincere intentions but take their advice with a grain of salt and do my best to not let it sway my own opinion of my work (for good or for bad). Only I know my Vision and how closely I hit or miss the mark, and for that reason I believe that my opinion is the only one that matters.

When I see people asking for advice on their images, it suggests to me that they may not have found their Vision. And when you have not found your Vision, you are uncertain and need advice and reassurance from others.

Find your Vision and ignore criticism, praise and advice. 


P.S. If you need help finding your Vision, here is the story of how I went about finding mine.


Jul 24 2015

Canon 5DSr Noise Issues

2015-7-10 Overshadowed 1b LARGEOvershadowed

I’ve returned from my first outing with my new Canon 5DSr and wanted to report back on what I thought of my first images.

The image above was shot at 1/80 of a second and I was impressed with the quality. I was able to blow it up much larger than images from the 5D Mk III and have it hold its detail. I am happy with the quality of this image.

The next image is from the Spiral Jetty on the Great Salt Lake, this image was shot at 240 seconds:

2015-7-10 Spiral Jetty 1g LARGE
Spiral Jetty

The quality of this image was very disappointing. I opened the RAW file and it was so noisy that I didn’t think that I could salvage this image. By using the dust and scratch filter in Photoshop and by adding grain, I was able to make this image “acceptable.”

I suspected the noise came from the long exposure and I was in fact worried about this going in. The larger number of pixels packed into the same area means that the pixels are smaller and more prone to noise, especially during long exposures. But I didn’t expect this poor of a result.

I then found the same image that I had shot at 120 seconds and compared a blown up section of the two:

Spiral Jetty 240 sec

240 seconds

Spiral Jetty 120 sec

120 seconds


The noise at 120 seconds is reasonable while at 240 seconds the noise is completely unacceptable. I only have a few shots to judge this by, but all of my longer exposures have this noise and so I’m sorry to report that my first results with the 5DSr are disappointing from a long exposure perspective.

I will do some formal testing to see how exposure times affects noise levels. As I learn more, I’ll let you know what I find.  And if you know something about this issue, please share it with everyone.



Jul 10 2015

Canon 5DSr – First Impressions in the Field



2012-10-27 Monolith No. 50 - Final 10-31-2012 1000(Monolith No. 50 – NOT created with the Canon 5DSr!)

I’m on the road in Utah and Nevada with my 5DSr and I wanted to report in with some first impressions. Unfortunately I cannot post any images until I return home.

The new camera looks, feels and handles like the 5D Mk III and so I was able to get up to speed relatively quickly. That was nice. However to take full advantage of the many new features, I will have to spend some time going through the menus. As always, the number of features is overwhelming.




There are two new features that immediately caught my eye and got me excited for long exposure work, they are:

Delay After Mirror Lockup: You can set the shutter to trigger after the mirror has flipped up and settled down, making sure the vibrations are gone before the shutter opens. I have mine set to 1/2 second.

This means that mirror lockup can now be a one button press just like a regular shutter! I cannot tell you the number of times I had forgotten to turn off the old two-button mirror lockup and then pressed the shutter once thinking I was taking a picture, when I was not. This new feature will help avoid that mistake.

Bulb Timer: You can now set the length of your bulb exposure in the camera! No more using your watch (and forgetting where you started) and I can now ditch the digital kitchen timer that was always going off in my camera bag just as I was going through security.

Now let me combine these two features and show you why I think this is so great for long exposures. I can now press the shutter button once and the following occurs:

  1. The mirror flips up and settles down
  2. A half second later the shutter opens
  3. The shutter stays open for as long as I’ve programmed it for
  4. The shutter closes by itself

I can still choose to shoot with a cable release, but now if I forget to bring one, lose or break it, I can still shoot long exposures. I had this problem on Easter Island when both of my cable releases went bad and I was really in a pickle.

These new features means that I no longer “need” a remote shutter release (although I still choose to use one for convenience) but the important thing is that I’ll never be stranded like that again.

One issue Canon did not address is the light entering into the camera through the eyepiece which caused internal reflections on the left and right sides of the 5D Mk III images. I had suggested to Canon that they put a small shutter on the viewfinder that automatically triggered during long exposures…but they didn’t.

To address this I had been using a hat to cover the camera during exposure, but in wind this didn’t work too well. So I build a “flap” that mounted to the hot shoe:



Unfortunately the flap doesn’t seal well enough around my Hoodman HoodEYE eyecup and so I ended up using the hat trick again. I’ll need to work on this contraption some more.

Note: Many people point out to me that Canon provides a small viewfinder block that you can slip into the eyepiece. Unfortunately this block does not work with the Hoodman HoodEYE installed and the eyecup is required to get an accurate long exposure meter reading.


Summary: I purchased the 5DSr so that I could print my images larger and so it was an unexpected treat to find some new features that makes long exposure work easier. I like these new features very much!

I’ll not know what the images look like until I get home. I’m curious how the new 50mp sensor does with noise during long exposures since I found the Mk III to be noisier than the Mk II.



Jul 3 2015

Blizzard – The Story Behind the Image

2007-3-8 Blizzard - Final 7-7-2011 1000Blizzard – Washington DC

“Blizzard” is a favorite image of mine and yet it’s never been very popular. I often wonder about this; is the image only special to me because of my experience creating it or is it because seeing it on an electronic screen just doesn’t do it justice? 

Here is the story behind the image:

It was springtime and I was headed to Washington, DC with appropriate spring clothing and my photo gear. I was anxious to create some new images, however once I arrived a late snowstorm rolled in and my “appropriate clothing” soon became inappropriate. In fact, calling it a snowstorm is an understatement, it was a blizzard.

It was 20 degrees but hadn’t started snowing and so I decided to go out to photograph. Here’s a self-portrait I created that evening:

2007-3-8 Self Portrait at 20 Degrees - Final 3-20-2007 1000Self Portrait at 20 Degrees – Washington, DC

As I arrived at the National Mall it started snowing heavily and soon I was the only one on the Mall. It was eerie feeling so isolated in the middle of a city and it being so quiet that the only sounds I could hear were the crunch of my shoes and sound of snowflakes hitting my face.

I was so poorly dressed for the weather, wearing only a hoodie with no hat or gloves, that my hands were soon frozen and I feared frostbite. But as I prepared to return, I saw this scene and just had to have it. However the image was easier envisioned than executed as my hands were numb and failed to respond. It was painfully difficult to work the camera controls, but I was able to get this shot which I called “Blizzard.”  

I started walking the several miles back to my hotel but soon realized that I could not make it without thawing out my hands and warming up. Unfortunately it was late and I couldn’t find anything open. But then I saw what appeared to be a government building with a large lit lobby and security guard. I decided to go in and hoped they would take pity on my situation and allow me to warm up for a few minutes.

I entered the lobby of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and fortunately the guard who was to my right was preoccupied, so I went to the lobby on the left to shake off the snow and recover. But after only a few minutes the security guard discovered me, and apparently thinking I was a homeless person, headed my way with a loud “Hey! What are you doing in here!”  It wasn’t really a question, but an accusation.

The guard was a very large woman and it was clear that I was no match for her! I tried to explain my plight but she would hear nothing of it and I was physically escorted back into the hostile world by the scruff of my neck. Fortunately those few minutes of stolen warmth were enough to sustain me and I did reach my hotel without permanent damage to my shutter finger!

I’m glad I stuck it out because I was able to create an image that I love, and I always tell myself that if I come home with just one good image, that my trip was successful. 

“Blizzard” is a subtle image and viewing it on a monitor just doesn’t do it justice. As I write this blog I’m looking at a print and wishing that you could see it. I’ve printed it on Premier Platinum Rag which is a semi-gloss stock that you use matte inks with, which makes the blacks very flat and gives the highlights the most wonderful platinum sheen.

No matter how good an image looks on screen…it’s a revelation to hold a real print in your hands.


P.S. In a very small way I felt the indignity of being homeless. Here I was, harming no one and simply trying to stave off frostbite when I was treated like a thief and interloper. I know there’s always two sides to every situation, but this experience made me think about the plight of the homeless.

Jul 3 2015

Las Vegas Presentation – July 10, 2015 – Change of Location

2007-5-25 Skull on Stove - Final 7-16-2007 1000


If you are planning on attending my Las Vegas presentation on Friday, July 10th, please note that we’ve changed the location:

Nevada Camera Club in Las Vegas

Date:             Friday, July 10th, 2015

Time:            7 pm

Location:     Nellis Masonic Lodge #46

Address:      2200 West Mesquite Ave., Las Vegas NV 89106

Jun 24 2015

For Sale: My Canon 5D Mark II

Canon 5D Mark II for Sale


I’m selling my Canon 5D Mark II which includes only what you see in the picture above:

  • Camera Body (no lens)
  • Body cap
  • Strap
  • Battery
  • Charger 
  • Hoodman Eye Loupe
  • Pocket Manual

The camera works perfectly and cosmetically is in excellent condition. I purchased it new and it’s the camera I’ve used to create many of the images on my website. For the last couple of years it was the backup to my Mark III and so recently was only lightly used.

Why am I selling it? Because my primary camera is now the 5DSr and my Mark III is my backup camera.

There are two things about the Mark II that I preferred over the Mark III: First the menu system is much simpler and second, the noise seems to be lower.

Many will ask what the shutter count is, but unfortunately Canon does not allow the user to obtain that information. There are third party apps that may be able to access that info, but I’m not comfortable using them.

Price? Research this for yourself and let’s talk. 

I’d love this camera to go to someone I know and wants to go full frame. I’ll make the right person a very fair deal.


P.S. I’d prefer to keep this in the US due to shipping costs, but we can discuss this if you’re really interested.

Jun 19 2015

Here I Come Salt Lake City and Las Vegas!

2006-8-5 Isolated - Final 12-2-2007 1000(Isolated – Chuzenji-ko, Japan)

Hello Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, I’m coming to speak!

What will I be speaking about? Black and White and Vision, of course.

If you live in the area, I’d love to meet you!


Nevada Camera Club in Las Vegas

Date:             Friday, July 10th, 2015

Time:            7 pm

Location:     Nellis Masonic Lodge #46

Address:      2200 West Mesquite Ave., Las Vegas NV 89106


Wasatch Camera Club in Salt Lake City

Date:           Thursday, July 16th, 2015

Time:           6:30 pm

Location:     Salt Lake Public Library

Address:      210 East 400 South, Salt Lake City, UT – 801-524-8200


My presentation is 75 minutes long and I’ll showing lots of images, telling lots of stories (some of which are even true) and talking about a lot of things including:

  • Vision
  • Passion
  • Why B&W Appeals to Me
  • What I Look for in a B&W Image
  • My Conversion from Photographer to Artist
  • Copying Ansel Adams
  • My Vision Epiphany
  • What is Fine Art?
  • The Role of Equipment and Processes
  • Listening to Other’s Advice
  • Asking Others for Advice
  • Simplify
  • Photographic Rules
  • Cole’s Rule of Thirds
  • Photographic Celibacy
  • How Long do Projects Take?
  • Some Before and After Images
  • My Six Photoshop Tools
  • Always Stop!
  • Comparing and Competing
  • How I Choose a Project
  • Be Open to New Possibilities
  • How I Found My Vision
  • Why do I create?
  • How to Make Money From Your Photography
  • And Many Stories From My Portfolios.

Whew…all this in 75 minutes!

And at the end, I’ll be giving away three prints.

I do hope that I’ll get a chance to meet you.



Jun 11 2015

Plate of Leaves – Before and After

2005-10-2 Plate of Leaves - Final 4-20-2007 1000(Plate of Leaves)

It was a rainy day up in the Colorado mountains and I decided to shoot indoors. I collected some seeds and leaves and placed them on this great wooden plate that I had purchased for such an occasion. I was shooting on the kitchen table using available light, which was the kitchen ceiling lamp.

So how did the image look to my camera?

Plate of Leaves Before and After(click on the image to enlarge and compare)

I think the color image is rather boring and unremarkable. At first glance and without Vision, you might be tempted to throw it out. But I had a Vision of what it was to be.

A lot of this image’s “look” was obtained in the black and white conversion process, where I play with the color sliders to bring out or hide details. Click on the image above and look at the leaf just left of center, see how the veins have been brought out? The green slider had a lot of affect on this image.

For me, the step of converting the image to black and white is a critical part of fulfilling my Vision. That’s why I never accept the default b&w conversion or simply desaturate the image. I know what I want the image to look like, Photoshop does not.

Then after I had done as much as I could with the b&w conversion, I dodged and burned to bring out the contrast and highlights. I worked with a very small brush and worked every leaf, seed and nut individually. Sometimes it’s tempting to use a global tool such as the contrast adjuster, but that affects everything in the image equally and it rarely can produce a look equal to good dodging and burning.

The challenge was to take that boring color image and transform it into the black and white image that’s in my head.

For me, a black and white image is so much more interesting than a color one! 


P.S. There’s something else interesting about the before and after image…it’s the sharpness. Did you notice that the b&w version seems so much sharper than the color image? It’s what I call “apparent sharpness” and it comes from contrast. This image has not been sharpened.

Jun 4 2015

Are You Signed Up For My Newsletter?

2009-1-14 Opposition - Final 2-1-2009 1000Opposition – La Jolla Cove – 2009

Are you signed up for my newsletter? If not, you’re missing out!

Why do I have a newsletter when I have this blog? My blog is where I talk a lot, my newsletter is where I show a lot.

My newsletter is where I introduce new images (three new introduced in the current edition) and I always have a Free Print Drawing (not everyone reads to the bottom and they miss that!).

And signing up for my newsletter will not overwhelm your inbox (I know how irritating that can be).  I typically send out about five issues per year.

Interested? You can sign up here: http://www.colethompsonphotography.com/NewsletterSignup.htm

Thank you for your support!


Jun 1 2015

Exhibition Print Sale

2006-5-20 The Angel Gabriel - Final 12-4-2011 1000

My annual Exhibition Print Sale has just been announced in my current newsletter:  6/1/2015 Newsletter

Each year I sell my gently used exhibition prints at a discount. These prints are in various conditions but the image and front matte are always in excellent shape. However the backs may have exhibition tags, framing marks and the unmatted prints may have pin holes in the corners. But nothing that will show once matted or framed.

The prints I have for sale are listed in the newsletter and as always it is first come, first served.

This sale ends June 30th, 2015.

There is a $20 shipping charge per order, regardless of how many prints you order. Payment is via PayPal or personal check.

To order, simply email me (Cole@ColeThompsonPhotography.com) with your selection and address and I’ll confirm if I still have the print and then get your selection on its way! 

Lastly, if you do not find your favorite print available on sale, I will extend a 40% discount on any matted print featured on my website.