Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been hiking and photographing the Grotto Trail in the Chiricahua National Monument. I know that seems like a long time for a one-mile trail, but I’m old and quickly fall. As you’ve seen in previous photos, massive rock formations that sometimes resemble sculptures line the track. That’s another reason the hike takes me so long—I can’t pass up these shots.
As I walked through the towering erosion formations, I wondered how the grotto would look. By definition, they’re a ‘picturesque cave,’ so I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I shouldn’t have worried because, as that old proverb goes, “You’ll know it when you see it.” That’s precisely what happened. When I first peeked through a side window, I shouted, “Eureka, I’ve found it.”
It’s a cool room with light filtering in from outside. Four pillars line the room and hold up a slab of stone that fell on top. If you aren’t my size, you can crawl up inside and take a nap or play tea-time should you happen to bring your Barbie set. Because it’s open to the sky, you wouldn’t be able to take shelter from a storm like you’d be able to do in an actual cave.
After catching my breath for a minute, I started back to the parking area. I was only a few steps down the road when I turned around and shot this second image. It gives you a better idea of how the Grotto is assembled, and quite frankly, it doesn’t seem to be a secret room—just an interesting pile of rocks. You can see a larger version of The Grotto on its Web Page by clicking here.
Since today is the last Sunday of the month, this is the end of April’s Chiricahua project. I took many more pictures, but I couldn’t show you all of them in only four weeks. If only there were another way for you to see them. Oh wait, there is.
Wrote a book about it—wanna see it?—here it is.
I’ve been working on a book while talking with you to prove that I can walk and chew gum. It’s the second in my sampler photo essay series. This one is called Chiricahua National Monument, and it includes the photos I’ve shown this month, plus a couple dozen more. Chapters in the book cover the Faraway Ranch, the hiking trails, and the landscapes surrounding the park.
It isn’t listed yet, but like my last book—Snow Canyon—it will be sold exclusively on Amazon at a ridiculous price of $68.00—unless you want to order a half-dozen or more, I can get a discount for you. Otherwise, no one will pay that price. But because you’re loyal readers, I devised a way for you to read the book and see my other photos—for free. I ordered a PDF version that you can open and download using this link: Chiricahua National Monument. PDF. You’re welcome to download it, print it, and toss it in the garbage when you’re done. I hope you enjoy it.
Next week is a new month, and we’re not entirely done with Cochise County. I found some pretty things to show you outside of the park, so come back next week when we begin May’s project.
Do you remember from my first of this month’s post—Stacked Arches—where I said, “There’s enough to photograph within the park’s boundaries to fill a small picture book?” Well, there is—and I have—so I did. This short particular midweek post announces my latest book—Snow Canyon.
They haven’t released it yet; that will happen sometime next week on Amazon. It’s available in two versions. The first is a hardcover with a dust jacket. The paper I used was the best offered, so I expect the photos reproduction to be outstanding. The second variation has a soft cover and is printed on upgraded paper stock.
It’s a self-published book, like my others, so, unfortunately, its cost is prohibitive—unless you want to buy 100 copies or more. However, I wanted you—my subscribers—to enjoy it, so I’m providing a link to a free version in PDF format as a way of saying thanks for hanging out with me.
Once you download the PDF (2MB), you can read it, print it, tape it to your fridge, or line your parrot cage. It’s yours to do as you wish. Get your copy by clicking on the cover shot above or on this link: Snow Canyon—The Book.
I hope your New Years’ celebration is safe and sane. I’d like you to be around next year when we go to many exciting new places.
Now, we will return to our regularly scheduled programming.
There’s exciting news this morning coming from the international headquarters of Jim Witkowski Photography, located in beautiful downtown Congress. You may have wondered why things have been quiet around here for the last six months, or that I didn’t post many photos from our Utah trip last summer. Well, I was busy using that time to compile years of photographs into my new 84-page magazine—Utah State Route 12, and I’m pleased to announce that it’s ready for début.
The project’s theme is about the beautiful places in the Escalante Grand Staircase National Monument. The monument is so vast that it has three management areas: the western Grand Staircase Region, Kaiparowits Region, and Escalante Canyon Region on the east flank. There is only one paved highway that spans them all—Utah’s State Route 12. In this project, I wanted to show that there are beautiful marvels to see along its length, and the road is more than just a gateway to Bryce Canyon.
I plan to release my work in four versions: PDF, Magazine, Book, and eBook. I have completed the first two, which—I believe—should get the most attention, and I’m still working on the second half. It looks like they will be ready by Valentines. (Are you in the dog house and need a gift?)
PDF—this version is best for viewing on your computer, and except for bandwidth, it’s free. It’s ideal for those of you that don’t need more clutter. You can open the file and begin browsing right away or save it to your hard drive for later.
Magazine—this is a 84-page hard copy of photos and text printed on premium stock paper. I’m delighted with how well the images reproduced. The magazine’s cost is $ 22.99 (plus shipping) is admittedly pricy for a periodical, but compared to the book, it’s a bargain. Blurb handles the sales on their secure Website because they print them to demand. That means that there won’t be surplus versions lining birdcage bottoms.
Book—the large (13 x 11) coffee table book is still in progress which sounds simple, but it’s in landscape orientation, so the layouts have to be adjusted. The photos are larger than the magazine’s, and I had more space to embellish the stories. It will be available in softcover, hardback image wrap, and hardback with dust jacket. The price of the book is expected to be under $ 200.00 at most, so I think there will only ever be one edition—my own if Her Highness lets me.
EBook—this will be the last version and will be easy to do because it’s the book reformatted to fit your Kindle. That’s all handled by the computers. I don’t know what it will cost, but it will be ready next month, so keep watching my Books sections. The downside is that with this version, you won’t get the privilege of collecting dust with it.
I’m planning on releasing a new project each year as Queen Anne, and I travel. For this first project, I had to learn the software and build the templates; something that took up development time. Future projects should go from camera to print quicker. Plans for next year’s project are in progress.
You can get your free PDF version and preview the magazine by visiting their Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing them and please leave your comments here and/or on their Blurb page.
I enjoy a fine photographic print as much as anyone but in all my years, I have only ever paid for one photo print — Jody Forster’s gorgeous print of the east wall of Shiprock — taken by another photographer. Sure, artists gave me a few prints over the years (including several from Jim) and I have traded prints with a handful of photographers whose paths I’ve crossed. I have also purchased a small number of platinum/palladium contact prints on eBay for no more than $25 each. I don’t count those because the prices I paid for them effectively round to zero.
Knowing all this, it probably will not shock you when I say that it’s my belief that, in today’s art market, individually produced photographic prints generally cost too much and deliver too little in terms of value. And I say that despite having sold more than 50 prints of my photos through several galleries over the years. Unfortunately, the math just doesn’t work for me. As much as I enjoy viewing and collecting the work of other photographers, which is a lot, the fact is that I am just not willing to pay the prices that most photographers ask for their prints. Which isn’t to suggest they’re not worth those prices, of course, only that they’re not worth those prices to me.
Fortunately, there is another way to view and collect the work of many photographers besides buying prints. It’s a better, more cost-effective way that is potentially even more artistically successful too. I believe that photography books (or ‘Photobooks’ as they’ve become known in some online photographic circles) are a better option than individual photographic prints and very much the way of the future. At least for serious photography, that is, because we all know the way of the future for general photography is to view photos as jpegs on a computer monitor or Smartphone screen and skip printing them on paper entirely.
In fact, I’m so convinced that I’m correct about this that I’ve voted with my wallet and purchased several hundred photobooks over the past decade, averaging roughly one book a week over the last few years that my finances allowed me to actively collect them. Mind you, it wasn’t always this way for me.
When I was just getting started with photography in the mid-70s and continuing through last decade, I didn’t pay much attention to photobooks, because I generally found the image quality reproduced there abysmal compared to a proper photographic print, made using wet chemicals in a dark room. This was especially true of the handful of books that contained color photos, which were then still a new medium in the fine-art photography world.
However, this started to change for me around the end of the last millennium, when my parents gave me a signed copy of Christopher Burkett’s Intimations of Paradise as a 40th birthday present. Burkett’s landscape photography was sublime, as was the photo quality reproduced in his book. Surely much of the credit for this belongs to Burkett himself: after all, he had worked for many years as a press operator before becoming a professional landscape photographer, during which time he surely learned a thing or two about how to reproduce photos well using the offset printing process. But regardless of where the magic in his photos originated, the results were visually stunning and very much a revelation to me. That’s because, until that moment, I didn’t know that photos printed in a photobook — and color ones, at that — could look so good!
Of course, by then, I already knew that photos printed using paper and ink instead of paper and gelatin could look great because I had made them myself at home from my medium, and large-format film transparencies for a few years. Between the prints I was making myself and those I had started buying buy off the shelf (in the form of photobooks), I quickly came to realize that photographic prints made digitally using paper and ink were the future … well, my future at any rate, where traditional prints were clearly doomed to become the past, and very quickly so at that.
More than 15 years have passed since my eyes were first opened and not surprisingly, what I believed true then is proving even truer today, as the two technologies (inkjet printing and book publishing) have moved-in together and are now happily cohabitating. While photobooks printed on a sheet-fed, offset press still have an edge over those printed on demand using a large-scale, high-volume, inkjet printer, the small differences between them matter only to those who have a very discerning eye or photographers who make their own prints and are picky about such things, such as Jim and me.
These days, the quality of a well-printed photobook is quite remarkable and their prices — even the expensive ones — are actually quite reasonable when you divide the cost of a book by the number of photos that in it. The typical $50 photobook has at least 50 photos (and often multiples of that) so the cost per photo is almost always a buck or less. And many (most?) photobooks can be purchased new for less than $50, which makes them even more of a bargain. At the other end of the scale, I have also purchased used photobooks for as little as 25 cents at garage sales and thrift stores, which makes the cost per image infinitesimally small. Tell me: When was the last time you saw an art gallery selling photographic prints for a buck apiece (or for that matter, even 50 bucks)?
The large number of photos contained in a typical photobook leads me to my next point, which is that most photobooks are projects, where the photographer presents many photos of and on a subject, then careful and thoughtful sequencing tells the viewer a story visually, or a visual story (which isn’t the same thing). When this is done well, the result is absolutely fascinating and far more so than is possible with just a single photo.
Although many photographers also use photobooks the way that musicians use “greatest hits” albums (i.e., collect their most successful/popular works from across their career into an easy to sell, easy to digest package) and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. The most successful books, artistically speaking if not also financially for the book’s publisher, are monographs that focus on a single topic. In my experience, there are very, very few single photos that are fully self-contained and able to tell a complete and compelling story without some added context, be it in the form of a written caption, an accompanying narrative text, or more supporting photos.
Collecting photobooks instead of individual prints has allowed me to broaden my photographic horizons and knowledge by a large margin, as well as affordably explore the work of emerging photographers and established photographers who are working in genres that are quite far afield from the type of photography I do myself. When they’re done well, photobooks are like mini-exhibitions. But instead of me having to go to a gallery across town or a museum across the country to see them, the mailman conveniently brings them to me! I mean, how great is that?!
If I have somehow managed to piqué your interest (it’s always possible, right?), but you don’t know where to start, might I suggest one or both of Jim’s photobooks? There’s a link to them somewhere on this page and as I own copies of both (bought with my money, in fact!), I can recommend them enthusiastically. Another source I use for new photobooks is the daily email I get from the Photo-Eye Gallery/Bookstore in Santa Fé. It features several photobooks each day. Better still, it offers a sample tour of most of the books featured, so it’s a quick and easy way to familiarize one’s self with both new and old photobooks. The sign-up page for it is here: http://www.photoeye.com/EmailNewsletter/index.cfm .