Reflecting in the retention pond

Reflecting in the retention pond
Pentax H3
55mm f/1.8 SMC Takumar
Agfa Vista 200
2018

My new book, Vinyl Village, shows the good, the bad, and the ugly about my neighborhood, which is typical of American suburbia. When I conceived it, I’m a little ashamed to admit that I had a hit piece in mind. But the more I walked this neighborhood looking deeply at it, the more I realized that the developers and builders merely designed to an aesthetic, with certain tradeoffs, while working within some heavy constraints (such a the high-voltage power lines that cut through).

Indeed, some aspects of this neighborhood are quite lovely. They made the most of the retention ponds. Here’s one.

If you’d like a copy of Vinyl Village, it’s just $9.99. Check it out here.

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Film Photography

single frame: Reflecting in the retention pond

Homes reflecting in a retention pond, on Agfa Vista 200.

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Power tower

Power tower in color
Minolta Maxxum HTsi
35-80mm f/4-5.6 Maxxum AF Zoom
Fujifilm Superia X-tra 400
2021

The high-voltage power lines that cut through my neighborhood fascinate me. I photograph the towers a lot, usually in black and white. But here’s a color shot I made with the Minolta Maxxum HTsi, a competent AE/AF SLR. Read my review here.

You’ll see a lot more of these power towers in my new book, Vinyl Village. It’s a comprehensive look at this neighborhood as a typical American suburban subdivision. It’s just $9.99! Learn more and get a copy here.

If you’d like to get more of my photography in your inbox or reader, click here to subscribe.


Film Photography

single frame: Power tower in color

A power tower, on Fuji Superia 400.

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Photography

Why I published my new photo book on Amazon

I experimented on several fronts publishing my new photo book on Amazon.

I published my previous photo books (Exceptional Ordinary and Textures of Ireland) on Blurb, because that service is made to create, publish, and sell beautiful photo books. The print quality is very good. Their tools for creating books are so-so, as I learned when I produced Exceptional Ordinary. The layout controls were limited, and the tool was clunky to use. I made Textures of Ireland in Microsoft Word because I am highly skilled with it. Regardless of how I produced these books, they both turned out very well.

Available now – click the image to learn more and to get your copy

My big problem with Blurb is that their price for printing a single book is pretty high. To keep printing costs down, I use their least expensive option, the magazine format. Unfortunately, that limits me to the 8½x11 form factor. I’d prefer to use a form factor that fits the way I want to tell my story through photos. But other form factors have far higher printing costs at Blurb.

My first two photo books sold modestly. I think there are several reasons why, but I think their prices ($14.99 at launch) are one of those reasons. Pricing is a black art that I’m only starting to understand. But I have a theory, and it’s this: Books like these are a casual purchase, or a purchase that someone might make simply because they enjoy and want to support my work. Such a purchase needs to be priced to strike a balance: high enough to show that the book has value, but low enough not to feel expensive.

I wanted to experiment with a price of $9.99 to see if it would strike that balance, but still let me earn a couple bucks per copy. Amazon’s lower costs let me do it.

What I didn’t know was whether Amazon could print my photographs well. My Blurb books are beautiful. The photographs have good contrast and tonality. But Amazon optimized for printing books that are mostly text. Would Amazon be able to deliver good photo quality?

No, it turns out. The images are low in contrast, showing lots of middle grays but no deep blacks. Thankfully, it’s a passably good look, and it happens to suit this book’s subject matter. If you didn’t know I wasn’t fully pleased with it, you might think I meant the photos to look that way.

To be fair, I chose the least expensive paper option to keep costs down. It’s a mid-weight paper optimized for text printing. Amazon offers better papers, but they would have nudged printing costs up, threatening that $9.99 price.

As I did with my last book on Blurb, I created Vinyl Village in Microsoft Word. It’s not as flexible as a good desktop publishing tool, but for the simple layout I used it worked fine. If I had wanted a more complicated layout, I would have had to buy and learn a desktop publishing tool. Amazon doesn’t care what tool you use to make the book as long as it can output a print-ready PDF, and Word does that easily. That PDF is what you upload to Amazon.

The simple interior layout of Vinyl Village made Word a not unreasonable layout tool.

I used Adobe Photoshop to make the cover. Amazon gives you a cover template that fits your book’s form factor and thickness, and you lay out your cover on it. Again, Amazon requires a print-ready PDF of your cover file. Photoshop can output those natively.

There you have it: why I used Amazon to publish Vinyl Village. If you’d like a copy, click here for more information.

My photo essay book, Vinyl Village, is available!
Click here to learn more and get a copy!

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Photographs

Vinyl Village preview: High-voltage power lines

High-voltage power lines pass through this vinyl village, dividing the neighborhood roughly down its middle. You have to be in one of the far corners of the neighborhood not to be able to see them.

Photographs like these are in my new book, Vinyl Village, which takes a look at this neighborhood as typical of the American suburban subdivision. It looks behind the beauty as well. I’ll share some preview photos of the not-so-beautiful parts of this neighborhood over the next few days.

Meanwhile, click here to learn more and to get your copy of Vinyl Village.

Power lines
Under the lines
Power lines
Bike and power lines

My photo essay book, Vinyl Village, is available!
Click here to learn more and get a copy!

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Photographs

Vinyl Village preview: Sides and backs of houses

Because of the ways the houses in this vinyl village are arranged, you see a lot of the backs and sides of them. A private back yard is hard to come by here! I suppose seeing the sides and backs of these houses wouldn’t be so bad if the builders had invested in making them look good. They didn’t. They’re large swaths of vinyl interrupted occasionally by a random window.

Photographs like these are in my new book, Vinyl Village, which takes a look at this neighborhood as typical of the American suburban subdivision. It looks behind the beauty as well. I’ll share some preview photos of the not-so-beautiful parts of this neighborhood over the next few days.

Meanwhile, click here to learn more and to get your copy of Vinyl Village.

Lonely little window
Acres of vinyl
In the vinyl village
Back of my house

My photo essay book, Vinyl Village, is available!
Click here to learn more and get a copy!

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Photographs

Vinyl Village preview: The beauty

Driving through this vinyl village, on first glance everything does look attractive, fresh and cheerful. If you’re driving in to look at one of the homes for sale, especially within the sections, this vinyl village presents well.

Photographs like these are in my new book, Vinyl Village, which takes a look at this neighborhood as typical of the American suburban subdivision. It looks behind the beauty as well. I’ll share some preview photos of the not-so-beautiful parts of this neighborhood over the next few days.

Meanwhile, click here to learn more and to get your copy of Vinyl Village.

Flowering tree in the front yard
Along the fence
Vinyl village homes
Over the retention pond

My photo essay book, Vinyl Village, is available!
Click here to learn more and get a copy!

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