• No More Ansel Excuses

    Image: "Cow at the Homestead" copyright Mary Lee Dereske

    I've heard it before, and I bet you have too. It's usually a photographer explaining to a non-photographer (or sometimes another photographer), "If Ansel Adams were alive today, he'd use Photoshop."

    Or this: "Using Photoshop is just the same as what Ansel Adams did in the darkroom, burning and dodging and cropping."

    Those two sentences and their ilk? They're what I call the "Ansel Excuse." And frankly, I think it's a copout and time to quit using it.

    Ansel Adams was a master at his work during the film days. As was Jerry Uelsmann. And Dorothea Lange. And Evelyn Cameron. They told their stories and expressed their vision with the tools they chose to use. For them it was a camera, a darkroom, a travelogue, a diary. I am not sure, but I doubt any of them said "If Rembrandt were alive today, he'd choose to use a camera." They stood proudly by their work.

    Does it matter if Ansel would have used Photoshop, or any of the plethora of image processing software available today? 

    Isn't it much better if photographers look only at their own work and proudly say "This is what I've created. This is my vision of the world. I hope you enjoy it."?

    I think so. Create what you want, using whatever methods you wish, and stand by it proudly and say 

    "This is my vision of the world. I hope you enjoy it."


  • Birdsong App: Harmful Imposters

    Image: "First Born" copyright Mary Lee Dereske

    Most of us have seen beautiful images of tropical and migratory songbirds. Photographers work hard, and often use insanely expensive equipment to make the mages. The majority of bird photographers are responsible and well educated bird watching enthusiast. 

    So I was surprised to read this article on and find out that some photographers are harming birds with smartphone apps! I think it is important enough to reprint most of the article here:

    "Birdwatchers who play back birdsongs on their smartphones to attract wild birds can stop the winged creatures from performing important tasks like feeding their young, experts warn. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) says it is receiving more reports of people playing birdsong recordings so they can photograph birds or observe them up close.

    "It is selfish and shows no respect to the bird. People should never use playback to attract a species during its breeding season," said southern Wales RSPB spokesman Tony Whitehead.

    Bird expert Chris Thain told the BBC that people would be "devastated" if they realized how much harm the use of the apps can cause to wildlife.

    There you have it. Use birdsong smartphone apps wisely! And while you're at it, follow and read the weekly diary of our planet Earth.


    (Sunrise, 12-31-2017, Placitas, New Mexico copyright by Mary Lee Dereske)

    I can't even begin to list the number of web sites that tout, promote, explain, extol, and wildly encourage photographers to take on a 365 day challenge.

    So I won't (thank GOD I hear you say!).

    I WILL cut to the chase and explain what a 365 day challenge means. It is quite simply making an image every single day for a year. And it all goes back to something we've all heard since time began: PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT.

    So here it is, December 31, 2017, and you might be toying with the idea of a 365 day challenge. Some questions to ask yourself:

    • WHY do I want to do a challenge? Is it to improve my photography, to explore a theme, or because it's "what photographers do"? Know your reason and motivation and you will suceed.
    • HOW am I going to accomplish this? Smartphone? Or my "good camera"? Maybe you even want to use an instant film camera.
    • WHAT am I going to do with my photos? Post them on social media everyday and share? Or use them as part of a bigger project, like a book or documentary?
    • WHEN am I going to start? January 1 is an arbritrary date. Maybe your birthdate or other special date is more meaningful to you.
    • HOW OFTEN am I going to take photos? Maybe a 365 challenge to you is taking one day a week for an entire year to make images.

    WHATEVER you decide, remember the rules, constraints, opportunities and theme of a challenge are totally up to you. And whatever that is, that is the RIGHT challenge to have!

    Here's to a new day of photography for everyone!