Thoughts on Photography

ALWAYS Stuck at 1,600 Subscribers — Am I Stuck in a Twilight Zone Episode?

ALWAYS Stuck at 1,600 Subscribers — Am I Stuck in a Twilight Zone Episode?

I am really at odds with the mysterious process of wordpress’s subscribers’s database, IN WHICH, everytime I FINALLY REACH 1,600 subscribers (by email), MAGICALLY, a couple, or a handful of subscribers, unsubscribe…LIKE, WTF!!!!

This has been going on for months.


Is wordpress just f’ing with me?

Is this some sort of game their AI is playing with me?

OR, am I really that much of a dislikeable, unskilled, charlatan, and my Photography Blog(s) are like Cryptonite to people who land on my blog post pages?

Honestly, I have no idea, but it is getting a little bit tiring that every time I seem to make some headway with subscribers, some necromancer-magic ensues, and my subscribers disappear into nothingness.

Maybe after being a Photographist, of one kind or another, for 41 years, I really don’t have any clue about how to make an interesting compostion…aaaaahhhhhhhhhhh………….that must be it.

Title: “Glass Portrait on Abstract Expressionism Painting, a Painted and Photographic Still Life”.

New Edit: Copyright 2018 Nawfal Johnson

All Rights Reserved

Penang, Malaysia


“Aye pheobos apollo, wherefore doth thee not just shooteth me down with thy silv’r boweth and arrows. I wilt neith’r beest authentic, n’r tallent’d because i turneth so many hence from me.”


Why would anyone waste time unsubscribing from blogs?

I don’t know about any of you, but I DON’T go out of my way to unsubscribe anyone…there is no point. I subscribe to people who I thought I would find interesting. EVEN IF I DON’T normally visit many of my subscribing blogs, I may sometimes find interesting posts from ANY of my fellow Bloggers–THUS, I keep my subscriptions and don’t normally waste time going thru my many blog subscriptions with the sole purpose of unsubscribing.

Take Inventory of Photography Equipment, FIVE Times, the night before a photo-gig .


I am typically O.C.. I check things twice, or three times, if not more.

On the rare occasion, I slack off a little, thinking I can let my guard down, and trust that I checked EVERYTHING carefully.


I have been photographing food this week.

I DON’T usually need my studio lights for my art photography work. However, since I’m using artificial studio lighting to photograph the food samples, I remind myself that I need to be mindful of all the equipment I need. Studio lighting has parts and pieces. You need all of those parts and pieces to use the lighting properly, or to better effect.

Here’s the question:

So what happens if you FORGET to take a part or piece of studio lighting equipment?

The Answer:

Sometimes, you are completely screwed!

Yesterday, I had thought my O.C. was in proper working order. It wasn’t. The lights I use, which use the BOWENS system for attaching light modifiers, to the light modifier connector, which is on the strobe housing, was incomplete—I was missing a very important connecting ring.


In all the O.C.’ness of things, I had an O.C.-catastrophic-failure! I failed to notice, two or three times in taking equipment inventory, that I was missing my light modifier-metal-O’Ring-Connector!

“GREAT-FARCKING-GRIEF !” I screamed in my head. NOT wanting the client to know that I was in panic mode, I calmly, well, not so calmly, thrashed around in my lights’ bag, and that god-Damned connector was really missing.

The god of O.C.’ness totally F’ed me over!

So, with too many thoughts racing around in my scrambled brain, I went over to my light and softly whispered, “Please DON’T fuck with me any more today….please!

I set up my light hoping the client was not catching on that I was ad-lib’ing things from that point onward.

I preferred, I mean, I would have MUCH PREFERRED using a big soft-box for the job, but that wasn’t going to happen!

The Solution:

So, I bare-bulbed the light, and threw a big translucent cloth in front of the light, to soften the light before hitting the subject.

Over all, I created more trouble and stress for myself. But in the end, things worked out fine, with no-one any much wiser…except me, who will need to O.C., inventory my photography equipment bags FIVE times the night before an assignment.


This was by far, NOT THE WORST PHOTOGRAPHY NIGHTMARE BLUNDER, of my photo-gig-life!

LMAO! Photo-Gig Blunders are downright depressing, humiliating, scary, embarrassing, and career-damaging, IF you don’t ADAPT AND IMPROVISE QUICKLY, and find an almost instant workable solution, to cover your Photo-Gig Blunder, you will have big troubles. You don’t want to stand there like the proverbial, “Deer in the Headlights”.

As, Balista, the WARRIOR OF ROME, would say, “Don’t think, just act!” (from , Dr. Harry Sidebottom’s EPIC story, WARRIOR OF ROME Series).

Yes, at that point, when Photo Blunders hit you, you best hit back right away, with a preformulated solution that solves the problem, even if it isn’t a great solution, as long as it works.

You can save face, and possibly, your photo-reputation, if you can come up with a workable solution quickly.

I certainly know the pain of photo-gig failures. You may too. I won’t mention my worst photo-gig blunder…at least not in this blog post. I’ll save that story for another photo-lesson.

√ It is often best to learn from other Photographers’ failures, blunders, DISASTERS, and then hopefully you don’t make the same mistakes.


"GOLDDOOR PADLOCK in ORANGE."  Photographed at the Burmese Buddhist Temple, Pulau Tikus, Penang, Malaysia. Copyright 2013 Nawfal Johnson ~ All Rights Reserved.

Photographed at the Burmese Buddhist Temple, Pulau Tikus, Penang, Malaysia.
Copyright 2013 Nawfal Johnson ~ All Rights Reserved.

Liberated, Orange Dead-Bolt Free from Old GOLDDOOR, Rusty Padlock

I deleted my facebook account.

I’m liberated.

Well, I’m free from facebook, at least.

Recently, it became public fact that b i g  b r o t h e r  had total access to facebook.

I believe in the US Constitution:  I know of at least two of my ancestral great grandfathers, and one ancestral great-uncle, who sacrificed and fought in the American Revolution (1775 to 1783):  to me, that is a big deal – it means that my ancestors fought and bled for the very freedoms that are being trashed today by the current political system…this is NOT right.

Facebook is hypocritical, and any other of the major social media and email corporations, who tell you in their Policy statements that your privacy is important to them, yet, they have given free access to b i g    b r o t h e r to   s n o o p   on everyone.   That is a direct violation of yours and mine inalienable rights protected (not so protected any more though) in the Bill of Rights.  This lack of privacy is a direct violation of the 4 th Amendment.

fourth amendment: an overview

The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.” Ultimately, these words endeavor to protect two fundamental liberty interests – the right to privacy and freedom from arbitrary invasions.  [ Source: ]

This is NOT a post on constitutional law – I’m not qualified to cover the topic.  However, I do know that when there is NO probable cause, and there is NO warrant, then there is NO access to your ‘stuff’ – and this SHOULD include digital and online ‘stuff’ too.

Therefore, I no longer wish to be part of a website, facebook, who so blatantly disregards our inalienable rights of privacy.

I only hope that my friends from facebook can continue and wish to visit my blogs to see my new photography because they won’t see it at facebook any more.

“Fake” friends – you know, those people you added to your friends-list.  These are the people that don’t bother to reciprocate your interest in their work, and they never comment and like your work – yeah, those people.  I’m happy to be free of those people.

I fully believe in proper manners and proper and authentic reciprocation.  If I truly like someone’s work, I will “like” it, and perhaps I may make a comment about why I like a person’s work.  However, a one-way relationship gets stale very quickly, so don’t expect a one-way relationship to last very long with me – I simply don’t appreciate it and will not continue those types of negative relationships.

Thanks for visiting my site.  If you like my work, then please hit the “Like” button, and you can subscribe to my blog also – don’t forget that option.

Persistence & Your Vision

Applying Makeup, by Nawfal Johnson Nur.

Applying Makeup, by Nawfal Johnson Nur.

Green, Blue and Orange Paint Dripping, by Nawfal Johnson Nur.

Green, Blue and Orange Paint Dripping, by Nawfal Johnson Nur.

Fingers, Knife, Lemon, Shadow, by Nawfal Johnson Nur.

Fingers, Knife, Lemon, Shadow, by Nawfal Johnson Nur.

Lonely Street with Cat & Shadow at Nighttime, Penang, Malaysia, Ah Quee St, by Nawfal Johnson Nur.

Lonely Street with Cat & Shadow at Nighttime, Penang, Malaysia, Ah Quee St, by Nawfal Johnson Nur.

Clouds Photography, Penang, Malaysia, by Nawfal Johnson Nur.

Clouds Photography, Penang, Malaysia, by Nawfal Johnson Nur.

Hindu Temple Priest, Penang, Malaysia by Nawfal Johnson Nur.

Hindu Temple Priest, Penang, Malaysia by Nawfal Johnson Nur.

Energy and persistence conquer all things.
Benjamin Franklin

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak.
Thomas Carlyle

Film editing is now something almost everyone can do at a simple level and enjoy it, but to take it to a higher level requires the same dedication and persistence that any art form does.
Walter Murch
Paralyze resistance with persistence.
Woody Hayes

Persistence & Your Vision

No one is going to know your photographic vision better than you do.  You may have really stellar photographs, yet, you find resistance from people in the industry, or from outside the industry, or both. 

Do not believe that “they”, meaning anyone else, are the end-all Socratic experts on photography and because “they” do not APPRECIATE your Vision that it is not worthy of notice or appreciation.  Joel Meyerowitz said that when he showed Garry Winogrand his Street Photography, where everything in the frame was the subject, Garry did not like it, he DIDN’T GET IT.  When Joel showed Museum of Modern Art photography curator John Szarkowski, his new work, and told him that Garry didn’t like it and didn’t get it, thinking that the subjects were not close enough, John said, “Well, Garry doesn’t know everything there is to know about Photography.”

Just because someone, or some publication, does not respond to your photography does not mean that everyone will respond the same way.  Just because a magazine art buyer does not select your photography, does not mean that your photography does not have vision, purpose, or value.  If this happens, it means that person does not fit your photography.  It means that maybe, the other person “Does NOT get it.”  It means that they were NOT the right people to approach because of the type or style of photography they adhere to and like.  It does not mean that many other people will have the same reaction, or, non-reaction. 

Just Be Persistent!

I’m at a point in my life where I don’t give a damn anymore if someone does not like my work, or if they do not find it interesting, or if they ignore it for whatever reason.  I know that there are others who do like my work; who do find it interesting; who do want to pursue my work because they appreciate its value and the process and skill it took to achieve the results shown in my work.  

Life is short, and the older you get, it seems like there is less time for you to deal with, especially when it comes to dealing with B.S., ridiculous things! [ Said Captain Obvious!  🙂  ].  Therefore, I no longer waste my precious time on people who don’t appreciate my work – why should I, and that’s not a question, it’s what I adhere to.

As “they” say, there’s no sense in beating a dead cockroach!  If you know a certain magazine, organization, group of people, or person “Do not get your work,” then fine, move on and find those who do appreciate your work. 

  • Do not waste your precious time; however, be persistent in finding those who do appreciate it – they are out there!  You will eventually, find your audience. 

  • People who appreciate your work will be willing to give your work the time-of-day.  They will also be willing to give it praise when they see fit to do that; and, they will also be willing to give you constructive advice that is valuable to you improving your craft.  You MUST find these people, and when you do, APPRECIATE THEM because they are rare gems.


"TWO RUSTY BOLTS Go into a Bar, and the Sociopathic one demands of his Minion."  Yeah, so what, strange title for an art photograph.  But, I can name it whatever I want, so there, alright!


“Most times, we look at objects for their utilitarian purpose. But as photographers, we regard them for their momentary visual appearance.” – Catherine Jo Morgan

Yes, I too see things for their momentary visual appearance and decide if it will make an interesting photograph to me.

The fact that an object attracts my eye is not surprising to me.  What surprises me is that another person will have no appreciation for such mundane objects and totally disregard them, either in real life, or as represented and interpreted in photographs.  They, the close-minded, I fear, just don’t get it.

Seriously Impressed with NIKON D3100 Low-Light Capabilities



Photo Details:

LOW Light capabilities of the NIKON D3100.
1/15 sec. @ f/2.8 @ ISO3200, and taken inside with shades closed on cloudy day, in a dark room – NO Flash.

I have not written much lately – just haven’t felt like it.

However, I wanted to share this photo with you (whoever is so kind to visit my blog), to show how capable the NIKON D3100 camera is.

I have never been one to buy into the price of a camera equals the “Photography Skill Level” marketing B%&^-Sh%$ that the camera companies have forced down consumers’s throats.

Not very many things irk me too much, but when I hear this such-and-such camera model is ‘entry-level’ and that one is ‘pro-level’, I kind of want to write notes to people at the camera companies and give my 2-cents worth.  WHEN did the price of a camera designate the skill level of a particular photographer?  I must have missed something…somewhere…

In my mind, someone with a Canon 5D Mark II or Nikon D3x can take ‘crap-photos’ just as easily as someone with a lower cost camera.  The photograph quality is based on the skill of the photographer behind the camera, not exclusively the camera.  In fact, a Pro or Pro/Am Photographer should respectively be able to make a really decent photograph with almost any camera that is placed in their hands.

The biggest differences between the various levels of cameras, based on price, are probably better durability, sometimes weight, and a few extra bells-and-whistles.  Of course, if you plan to shoot in really rough terrain or a war-zone, then by all means, go for something with a metal body.

If photographers are labeled based on the type of camera they like, or wish to use, then damn-it-all:  I guess after taking photographs since I was 12 years old (approx), which has been 33 years now, I guess I have demoted myself to an ‘entry-level’ photographer.  That kind of sucks!  Oh Well.  I don’t mind it too much:  I know who I am and what I am capable of (skill-wise) as a photographer.

I like my NIKON D3100 a lot – Most of the time I shoot in the MIGHTY-‘M’ Mode anyway.  I also use a CANON 420EX Speedlite triggered remotely with my NIKON – AND I KNOW THAT HAS GOT TO BE SOME KIND OF MAJOR SIN!

And, I still use my CANON POWERSHOT A620 for candid street photography.  It’s old, 6 or 7 years old, but it still works GREAT!

But, what do I know…

Do I sound a wee tad-bit cranky today?

Well, here is another shot I took with my D3100 – a tricky photograph to say the least.  Sometimes, the shots that seem straightforward are nothing but difficult to make.  To get this shot so that the flames (which are blue) to show up properly, you really need to have a near exact combination of ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed, White Balance, Color Gel and acceptable Background Material.  And, a steady hand to hold the lighter.

HONEST Brand Lighter - Double Flame Still Life

HONEST Brand Lighter - Double Flame Still Life

Dorothea Lange’s Equipment

Dorothea Lange’s Photography Equipment.

In an interview by Suzanne B. Riess, Dorothea Lange is asked what equipment she uses.  As I suspected anyway, she was using larger format film cameras, but I, so far, have not discovered what particular brands she was using.  I don’t really think it mattered – just look at Lange’s photographs.

Lange brought a wonderful perspective and eye to the photographic arts.  She, I’m sure, could have caught wonderful photographs using brand x, y or z.  This same fact holds true today.  If you have a good eye, and fine technical skill, then you can make good and interesting photographs using whatever equipment you grab.

The following excerpt is from Riess’s interview with Lange:

Riess:  Do you think there is a point to questioning you about cameras and filters and lights and papers and technical subjects?
Lange:  There must be some reason for the question because you get
it all the time.  I myself, when I meet a photographer, have some curiosity about what equipment he would use by preference. That isn’t to say that he uses that camera always, because there are other reasons for using small cameras or using only big cameras.  I find that my mind runs to about three different types of instrument and if I can go equipped to work—if it’s practical–! would take three basic cameras. I’m not a one-camera person.  And those three would be a view camera, a 4×5; if I could manage it, I would make it an 8×10.  [End of Interview Session]

[The making of a documentary photographer : oral history transcript / and related material, 1960-1968]

There are certain statements made by famous photographers that still hold true today, and here is one of those statements about making good photographs.  Obviously, it isn’t so much about the brand of equipment you use, BUT HOW YOU USE IT, that matters:

Robert Capa once said, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”

All you need to do is look at the photographs at Contact Press and you will see that these images are up-close and personal (in most cases, the photographers being close to the scenes using wider lenses) – and these images have a lot of dynamic and emotional impact!

Changes of Development and The Times

Changes of development are applied to control the total contrast range of the negative, but a side effect is that the ‘local contrast’ within low and middle values is affected.  Most surfaces include lighter and darker components that we perceive as texture, and while these textural variations may all lie within a range of one or two zones, they will be reinforced or weakened by modified development.”
~ Ansel Adams ~

That bit of advice would have been extremely significant to the film photographers, ‘back in the day.’  Nowadays, I reckon that most digital photographers wouldn’t have ‘clue-one’ about what Adams is talking about.  And why should digital photographers even care: With a touch of a button or two, the digital brains of the new technology takes instant-fantastic’o-well-exposed snap-shots.  Hardly any thinking required.

Oh well, it is fruitless to fight the future.  It is so much easier to go with the flow.

Yes, indeed.  There are a lot ( a ‘gajahbillion‘ ) of happy snap-shooters out there.  Are there a huge number of photographers taking technically great photographs that are unique and interesting:  probably not…I don’t see it.  Seems like the more digital cameras there are out there in the market the more sameness there is.

One thing that seems certain is that with all the photo-sharing sites out there, vainglory is at an all time high.  I wonder if anyone is worried about that, considering it was one of the eight original sins, but then it was all lumped into ‘pride’, so the eight became seven (at least that is what I learned from a show on the History Channel).  Everyone seems to love their photos to be oooo’ed and awww’ed over at these sites.

I’m just wondering…what is the point?  Ego?  Vainglory?  Pride?  Or, is it just a matter of self-advertisement, self-promotion.  Or, all of the above.

Do you hear it?  Listen…The hamster wheel of progress goes on, doesn’t it, but at what expense?  Is there an expense?

I think it is just one of those days…

Being the Unseen Photographer: Lessons from Dorothea Lange.

Dorothea Lange Taylor (b.1895 – d. 1965), was an incredible documentary photographer best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA), and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, she did work for the War Relocation Authority (WRA).. (Source:

I’m currently reading an interview Dorothea did with Suzanne Riess, conducted during the later part of Dorothea’s life, as she struggled with cancer. The interview was done for the Regional Oral History Office, University of California, Berkeley. The interviews took place between October 1960 and August 1961.

Before delving into this interview manuscript, I knew very little about Dorothea Lange, but as I read more and more of the interaction between her and the Interviewer, I see that she was thoughtful, high-spirited with her ideas and opinions, and she had a strong foundation under her feet, growing up in Hoboken and overcoming many difficult obstacles in her life.

When discussing her grandmother and family, who were German immigrants, she said: “In fact I always had a kind of a feeling of ‘What kind of people could these people have been that they came on a ship and then plomped themselves down, right there?’ I mean they didn’t have the gumption to go to Cincinnati or Milwaukee or Chicago. They just stayed right there in Hoboken. They must have been dying to go back! Well, they were pretty spirited people, and they didn’t.” (“Dorothea Lange: THE MAKING OF A DOCUMENTARY PHOTOGRAPHER” [1968], p.3).

I thought that was highly entertaining as I am also of German immigrant ancestry. It was my Grandmother’s family (my mother’s mother), who were Germans, but they were Germans from Russia: Bessarabian Germans. They came to America and entered through the immigration station in Galveston, TX. My Grandmother was 2-years old when her family immigrated to America, and they ended up “plomping” down in St. Francis, Kansas, and then later moved to Lincoln, Nebraska – a far cry from Hoboken.

The main point of this entry, however, is regarding an observation Dorothea Lange made about a skill she acquired as a child and how it helped her later on as a Photographer.

She mentioned that there were two nights a week that she had to walk home alone from her mother’s workplace. Dorothea’s father abandoned the family, so Dorothea’s mother supported the family. She worked as librarian at the New York Public Library on East Broadway in New York. After school, Dorothea went to the library and read books; she called the Library her ‘day home‘.

She was supposed to be studying in the staff room while her mother was working, but instead, she said she read all the books. Makes sense, you’re in a library with a world of knowledge at your fingertips. Forget about the homework and get to the interesting works of literature, right! ;^)

It appears that it was during this time of her life that she took a keen interest in “observing” – especially the people and the neighborhoods that surrounded the library and the route to her home. She said that she was the only “gentile” in a Jewish school: “I could look into all these lives. All of a tradition and a race alien to myself, completely alien, but I watched…I’m aware that I just looked at everything. I can remember the smell of the cooking too, the way they lived. Oh, I had good looks at that, but never set foot myself. Something like a photographic observer. I can see it.” (Id. at 15).

On those two days of the week when her mother worked evenings, Dorothea had to walk home and traverse the wild and dangerous streets of New York by herself, to get back to her home in Hoboken – a rather tough journey for a grade schooler.

In her words, here is her recollection of her journey home, and a skill she learned that no doubt helped make her the great Documentary Photographer that she became:

I went home generally about five o’clock. Now the scenery changes, because I had to walk from Chatham Square to the Christopher Street Ferry, and that’s a walk along the Bowery. And that Bowery suddenly ended at City Hall. There I walked across the park over to Barclay or Christopher Street where that was still another neighborhood.

But there were three worlds there that I had a very intimate acquaintance with, and that Bowery part (I remember how afraid I was each time, never without fear), I thought of it recently when I was in Asia, quite often, because in Asia there are places where you have to look where you step because the sidewalks are unspeakably filthy and you never take it for granted where you walk. Well, on the Bowery I knew how to step over drunken men. I had to do it, you know, and I don’t mean that the streets were littered with drunken men, but it was a very common affair. I knew how to keep an expression of face that would draw no attention, so no one would look at me. I have used that my whole life in photographing. I can turn it on and off. If I don’t want anybody to see me I can make the kind of a face so eyes go off me. Do you know what I mean? There’s a self-protective thing you can do. I learned that as a child in the Bowery. So none of these drunks’ eyes would light on me. I was never obviously there. And you can see what equipment that was for anyone who later found herself doing the kind of work I do, or maybe it took me into it.” (Id. at 15 and 16).

And then she goes on and says that she did all of this as a physically disabled kid: A result of having Polio as a child. She always walked with a limp.

Dorothea Lange was a really amazing person. I find it totally fascinating her keen sense of observation and the skill of being “Unseen” helped her tremendously, later on, as a Documentary Photographer. It became, as she recalled, “equipment” so she could more easily enter the lives of strangers and photograph them.

Dancer,smallerAs I read more of the interview with Dorothea Lange, I may mention other interesting points that can help us to become better Photographers. Perhaps being more understanding, more compassionate and more observing without being seen, are the true keys to great Documentary and Street Photography.

I know I can learn a lot from Dorothea Lange’s wisdoms on photography. The closest thing I see myself doing in regard to being ‘unseen‘ is when taking performing arts photography. I know from experience, that it is best to stay as inconspicuous as possible – that’s when the best shots develop.


Photography by Nawfal Nur