Bokeh World, Pop-Up Show, and Cuba

Trioplan 50 photo by Tamara Skudies.

One of my favorite projects this spring has been supporting my client Meyer-Optik’s Kickstarter for the Trioplan f2.9/50. The Kickstarter seeks to return the legendary camera lens with incredible soap bubble bokeh, as seen above.

This lens has a rich history dating back 100 years, so as a photography nerd I love the project. Apparently, so does the market as we have raised almost $600,000 from 900 backers with less than seven days remaining in the campaign!

As part of our efforts we ran a photo quest challenge on photography social network 500 Pixels called Bokeh World. The theme celebrated the lens’s soap bubble bokeh. To participate, 500 Pixels users were encouraged to incorporate bokeh into their photography with the three best pics winning new Trioplan f2.9/50 and f2.8/100 lenses.

The Bokeh World contest received an overwhelming response. More than 35,000 photos were submitted! It was pretty hard whittling down that selection to just three winners. Here is my favorite, Lilia Alvarado’s Life Is a Carnival. What an incredible photograph!


The Trioplan 50 Kickstarter continues through next Wednesday. I hope you decide to back it.

Pop-Up Photo Show this Saturday

The Pacific Ocean at Night

For those of you in the DC area, I am co-hosting my first photography pop-up show at Broadway Galleries in Alexandria, VA this Saturday. The event will be held from 4 to 6 pm, and will feature some really big prints of some of my more well received night photos.

Refreshments will be served, so have a snack and a bite. If you come, you’ll have the opportunity to provide feedback and tell me which types of photos you like most. Or just come and talk shop with me. I hope to see you then!


Image by mokastet.

Now that Obama has formally established relations with Cuba again, artists and photographers are flocking to the Caribbean island. Just look at the big deal National Geographic made last week about being on the first U.S. cruise to Cuba in 60 years.

The hype and fury comes with good reason. In five years Cuba will not be the same, especially after U.S. interests invade and establish businesses.

Well, guess what? I’m going to Cuba this June as part of a larger project with six DC Focused photographers. We’ll be announcing our project after Memorial Day so stay tuned!

What’s new in your creative world?

Show and Demonstrate, Forget the Tell

Sometimes marketing reminds me of rap with brands bragging about themselves and their wares. As we move into the visual age of marketing, there will be little tolerance for those who posture and pontificate, telling people what to experience rather than showing them.

Marketers need to show people what a product or experience does for them. Increasingly customers only pay attention to stories told with visual media and through their actual product experience.

Consider last weekend’s holiday. I can’t tell people to remember deceased veterans on memorial day. I have to show them that the ultimate sacrifice was made by real people, the losses their families have suffered, the great freedom they have provided us, etc.


The above photographs from Memorial Day both received several thousand views via my personal networks. Why? They were dramatic and timely, showing the Korean and Vietname memorials late at night with flowers lining them. The flowers with their patriotic plastic wrap highlighted the very real pain and remembrance of loved ones. Tens of thousands of men and women who died in action in those wars were remembered decades later.

Want to go corporate? Here are a few Instagram examples of brands (I was inspired by Thomas Hawk to search here) that nail it:

Whether it was clothes, food, or industrial wind turbines, each of these Instagram photos captured an experience of the brands’ respective products. You could see what its like to wear these clothes, take that first bite, or feel the wind create energy.

Show me, don’t tell me is a basic storytelling maxim. Good fiction writers (and I am not saying I am one of them) focus on revealing a story. A reader sees how each experience and event evolves the narrative. Emotion is not told, it is felt.

During the initial wave of social media, marketers were able to get away with simply telling their story. While telling was brand centric, but it was new and different, even unfiltered. So it worked for a short while.

With visual storytelling entering the online media mix in force, revealing stories and experiences is essential. Head-to-head, text-based marketing doesn’t stand a chance, particularly when it is focused on pontificating. Usefulness, entertaining, and yes, perhaps simply turning the eyeglass around to present information from the customer’s perspective are necessary methods now.

And what about those who tell people what their company thinks customers should do through text based updates, instead of showing them?

I’m afraid it’s about to get much tougher. The issue isn’t simply a lack of visualization. It is also the storytelling method.

What do you think?

Writing with Negative Space

In graphic design and visual arts, artists use negative space to emphasize their subject. The same could be said of words, in particular stories where you leave enough to the reader’s imagination so they can enjoy the novel, essay, short story, or whatever it might be.

I received this nugget of knowledge at WorldCon last August. Stina Leicht mentioned applying the negative space principle to words during a panel on how to write yourself out of a corner.

Some writers will be quick to say negative space represents the show, don’t tell meme that is driven into every writer’s head who ever attends any sort of workshop. I’m not so sure I agree, though.

While no one wants to read a ton of drivel and boring details from the writer’s perspective, I’ve seen enough authors tell and get away with it. Great writers, in fact, like Philip Roth, J.R.R. Tolkein, and Kim Stanley Robinson. Some go as far as to say the show, don’t tell rule is the great lie of writing workshops.

In reality, “show, don’t tell” seeks to eliminate weak writing. Telling often fails to captivate, and leaves nothing to the imagination. “She was pretty,” for example.

Instead, we show. “Johnna’s brown eyes held my gaze gently. Her full lips curled into a small smile as auburn locks moved slowly backward toward her ears. I tried, but could not stop looking at her.”

However, note the absence of detail there. I did not show you what color or style her clothes were, what her body looked like, what her hands were doing, etc., etc. No, that is the reader’s purview. You assume she is pretty because of the narrator’s reaction, but she may not be.

Over-showing, in my opinion, does as much damage as flat-out telling. Like the straight forward tell, it robs the reader of negative space to imagine.

In considering tellers, the celebrated ones unveiled their stories in straight forward terms. I am stuck by their uncanny ability to do so in an interesting manner. For example, Kim Stanley Robinson gives us whole chapters dictating the scientific laws of the 2312 world through how-to manuals. It’s insane, but delicious, tickling your mind! When you finally understand who is narrating those chapters, your mouth drops open.

Robinson succeeds because he fuels the imagination with negative space instead of robbing the reader of an imaginary journey. It’s the art of grabbing enough to draw, while hiding details so the reader can fill them in with their own opinions, hopes, views and beliefs. A story that grabs the reader engages them in a form of mental interaction, even if they are observing through straight-forward telling.

That is the power of negative space in conjunction with a well-delivered written image.

Personally, I can develop my own expository style further, continuing to move away from tell to show. However, I don’t think a complete yield is the full answer, rather a commitment to tickle the reader’s imagination.

What do you think?