Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Scotland in Black and White--New Book

Scotland in Black and White: 90 Photos
Here's the cover of the new book.

My newest book, Scotland in Black and White: 90 Photos, is just about ready to go on the market. It’s my first attempt at a “photo book” and it’s been an interesting project. In this post I’ll tell you the story of the book. [Except for the first and last photos in this post, all the photos are ones which didn't make my cut for the book.]
Mountains in Glen Ogle

Kilchurn Castle on Loch Awe

Bridge in Callander

First, though, why a book of black and white photos? Photography as we know it began in 1839 by Daguerre in France and Talbot in England. And through all its iterations it was a black and white medium until the early 1900s when color processes were developed. In 1960, when I took my first photography class at Montclair High School in southern California, I learned photo processing in black and white (film developing, printing, and enlarging). Color processing was too complicated and too expensive for learners—it was the medium of certain professionals—portraitists, fashion, etc. Even though I now shoot almost exclusively in color, black and white photography still holds special meaning for me and many others.
Mountains of Glen Coe

Nets at Pittenweem Harbour

Part of Scotland's remaining fishing fleet.

What is it about monochrome that makes it special? On the practical side, black and white can have advantages for the photographer. It can mitigate bad lighting—lighting that might ruin or distract in a color photograph can actually save the photo when converted or taken in black and white. Black and white photography also is more versatile—it suits any type of photograph (portrait, landscape, architectural, etc.). Shooting (or thinking) in black and white can help a photographer focus more on composition without being distracted by color.
Crieff church in fog


Path near Pitlochry

Beyond the practical, aesthetically black and white has certain benefits over color. The black and white image has a more “timeless” quality that makes it difficult to date. This is often expressed by viewers as black and white photography has a more classic or artsy feel or look. It’s also said that black and white images will distance subject matter from reality making viewers look more closely. Black and white photography can also change the perspective of the viewer so that it highlights shape, form, pattern, and subtlety of tones. Black and white images can amplify the use of negative space—the areas of an image that has nothing in it. In many cases, all this adds up to a better connection with the audience. Ansel Adams is certainly good proof of that; although he has produced fine color photos, it is his black and white images that everyone knows.
Old Man of Hoy in the Orkney Islands

Boat on Loch Sheil

That’s a little about the why of Scotland in Black and White, but what about the how? For me, this project was both exciting and frustration. This book was far more creative than our golf books or travel story books. While I enjoyed writing the other books, they were plodding projects—research, organize, write. For this book my first job was selecting photos which could represent my feelings about Scotland and tell the Scottish story. Then I had to make sure those photos would look good enough in black and white. There were many images I wanted to use that simply did not work in black and white. For all the images I tried I had to take the color digital image and using Adobe Photoshop CC, Nik Silver Efex 2, or Elements 15, convert it to a black and white image. I ended up with about 160 images that I thought would be effective in a book. Next, I had to narrow that down to 90 pictures which I could use to tell the Scottish story—an arbitrary number based on size and price of the finished project. 
St Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, Orkney

Round kirkyard near Ballater. Round so the Devil would have no corner to hide in.

With photos selected and converted, the next step was to decide what commentary to put with each image. I didn’t want to say the same thing over and over, so I had to find history to go with some image subjects, stories suggested by others, and technical details for some. With all that done I thought I was on the home stretch. Think again.
Highland castle

Mt Etive

When I started the publishing process with Create Space, the Amazon publishing arm I’ve used for my other books, I found that producing the kind of photo book I wanted was very different from my other books. Trying to match up photo to commentary on opposing pages was quite a task. Anytime I’d add a line of text all the photos in the book would shift (sometimes several pages). Once, I added something and found that all the photos below with their commentary had reversed position and all had to be reset. Since I had written the book using Apple’s Pages program, I had to convert it to a word document—something I had done with all my other books quite easily. When I did it with this book, two-thirds of the pictures randomly reordered themselves. 
Sample two-page layout from the digital proof of the book.

I now am at the point where I have proofs of the book and it’s ready to publish in one format—using standard print paper. The images are acceptable, but they can be better. I have now decided to quadruple the printing cost of the book and put the photos on glossy paper to give them more depth. Amazon will raise the price of the book, but I won’t—I’m doing this because I love the project and not for the profit.  The finished book will soon be available on and for about $35.50US plus shipping. A special signed and numbered limited edition (100 copies) will be available only from me for $25 plus shipping. The limited edition will have an extra photo mounted in the front of the book. Let me know by phone (503-266-6577), email (, or in person if you’re interested in one of the special editions which will be available soon [numbers 1 and 2 have already been spoken for]. 

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Death Valley and Beyond, Part 2

As we continue with our Cali/Nevada explorations we find one of the more unusual features of Death Valley—sand dunes. The Oregon coast has a great expanse of sand dunes between North Bend and Florence. 
Anne with the team at Pistol River

I’m very familiar with these dunes because I used to train and run my sled dog team around and over those dunes, but the Mesquite Flat Sand Dunes in the north end of Death Valley seem very strange. Called tawny dunes which rise as high as 150 feet and located near Stovepipe Wells, these dunes are like a small Sahara in the valley. 

In the early morning it was easy to find tracks from the night before.

The sand is quartz and feldspar which have been broken down from larger pieces of the nearby Cottonwood mountains. Also in the northern part of the park and near the Mesquite Sand Dunes parking area is an area known as the Devil’s Cornfield. 

Here Arrowweed grows tall in the desert salt flats with the soil mounding around their base making them look even taller. Thus they resemble corn stalks from which only the Devil could harvest corn.
Before leaving the valley we visited a portion of a major jeep trail called the Titus Canyon Road. From the highway which runs from Stovepipe Wells to Beatty, NV, the one-way jeep trail covers 26 miles of badlands, desert, and canyon only accessible by Four Wheel Drive vehicles. 

The approach and road to Titus Canyon.

But from the Stovepipe Wells area there is a three mile two-way access road with parking at the canyon entrance. 

Found some lovely quartz in the canyon walls.

Anne and I walked a little less than a mile of the tightest canyon section, called The Narrows. The road, a wide walking path for us, winds through varied colored rock walls and formations with different scenes around every corner. 
Leaving Death Valley via the road to Beatty, 
Looking back toward the dunes and Stovepipe Wells.

Corkscrew Mountain on the way to Beatty.

we stopped as we have before at the ghost town of Rhyolite (one of several in or near the valley—Ballarat, Leadfield, Panamint City). Rhyolite is the largest and at its peak between 1905-1911 had over 10,000 population with two churches, 50 saloons, 18 stores, and 19 lodgings. 
The ghost town just seems to demand black and white photos.

Today, there are remains of a few commercial buildings, one hotel/saloon, a house made out of glass bottles, and a couple of derelict residences. We’ve visited several times and can see very small changes in the condition of buildings, but the desert will eventually claim it all. 
Besides Death Valley, during our Las Vegas stay we ventured out to the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on our way to Valley of Fire State Park. The Lake Mead Recreation Area was created in 1964 as the first national recreation area and contains 1.5 million acres. 

Called “America’s first playground,” the Northshore Road gives very little access to the lake itself—I was expecting scenes like I see of Lake Powell in Arizona. What we got was a nice drive through badlands and red stone outcroppings on our way to the east entrance of the Valley of Fire.
Nevada’s first state park, Valley of Fire, is about an hour north of Las Vegas via freeway (or closer to two hours away via Northshore Road). Dedicated in 1935, the 46,000 acre park is in the greater Mojave Desert region. 

Named for the bright red Aztec Sandstone outcroppings, the park has been used often as a major movie location. Once used by the Ancient Pueblo People, known as the Anasazi, their Rock Art (petroglyphs) remains a major attraction. 

We saw some of the petroglyphs on this trip first behind The Cabins—three shelters built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s and used as shelters by travelers on the Arrowhead Trail which ran between Salt Lake City and Los Angeles via Las Vegas. Next we took the Mouse’s Tank Trail (aka Petroglyph Canyon), a trail named for a local outlaw who used the canyon as a hideout in the 1890s. 
Beginning of Petroglyph Canyon.

The 3/4 mile trail leads to “the tank”—a natural basin where water collects. The canyon is filled with native petroglyphs. Our final stop was at Atlatl Rock which is a rock monolith with numerous panels of native rock art--
Atlatl Rock

A panel of petroglyphs like this is often called an Indian newspaper.

—including those depicting the use of an atlatl, a notched stick that aids in throwing small spears or arrows. You can see atlatl throwers on the main panel, but all around the rock are numerous groupings of petroglyphs.
Anne at the picnic area at Atlatl Rock.

     After the 70-85ยบ temperatures of Las Vegas, Death Valley, and Valley of Fire, it was quite a change to come home to even the tiny bit of snow we got in Canby. Oh well, back to reality.

NEXT: About my new book.