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Weber has been the closest thing to a mentor that I’ve had in the photography business. He’s given me a number of tips that have helped a difficult journey easier
For example, in the beginning, when someone would make me an offer for licensing an image, I’d always call him up and ask what a reasonable amount of money would be for such-and-such. The person always had the line: you’ll get publicity from it. That was almost never the case. Don’t settle for less than $100 he’d say. You are really screwing another photographer by doing that. Of course the world has been changed by the digital revolution, and you can usually find someone to sell you or give away their work.
Early on, when I was doing a lot of negative scanning, he came by and saw that I was using a squeeze bulb thing to blow dust off the negs. This confounded him. Why wasn’t I using canned air?
I told him that I used to use canned air but it was getting too expensive. From there on, whenever he’d make a trip to B&H he’d pick up a can of air for me. And on my birthday, he’d get me a few cans of air. That’s the sort of big heart he has. I suppose in the beginning, he respected me because the idea of someone jumping from the corporate ocean liner into the leaking row boat in the middle of this big ocean was something to admire.
When he saw that I liked espresso coffee but that I was wasting money at Starbucks – he went out and bought me a $50 espresso maker which I’m still using.
Now you might know that I had gone back to smoking cigarettes, and on the first of July, this year, the mayor raised taxes again so that the price for a pack in New York was nearing the $14 mark. The government in general has decided to take the place of organized crime and give the okay to bad habits so long as we paid a big chunk of the cost to them. That’s how things are going. As a matter of fact – California has a proposition to legalize marijuana for anyone over 21. Finally. The idea would be to tax it, and control it, and for California to make money off it. That’s one of those things I’ve been waiting for since the 60′s.
Well anyway, I gave up smoking cigarettes and switched to cigars. I can’t say it was for health reasons, but at least you don’t inhale them which is a good thing. And then I found that I could buy boxes of cigars online from North Carolina and that they weren’t taxed at all – at least as far as I could tell. So the cigar that might cost $10 in New York would cost me $3 if I bought a box of 25 online from NC. I ordered lots of samples, and settled in on H. Upmanns (semi-corona size). Matt is what you’d call a cigar aficionado and seemed to know everything about cigars.
Funny, that the subject had never really come up in all the years I knew him, except that during the summer and spring I would get a phone call from him, saying he was in my territory (Central Park) on a bench smoking a cigar. We don’t see each other all that often, and I had never actually seen him smoke a cigar. Later, when we were talking about it he confessed that he really only smokes maybe one or two cigars a month – but that they are very good ones.
Well, we got into the habit of my taking a cab to the west side, maybe every two or hree weeks, having dinner, and then going to smoke cigars by the Hudson. A nice habit. I need these sorts of habits. It’s just part of my personality. Maybe someday they’ll just find the nicotine gene or something. The last time we met, two weeks back, he had gone to a store on the west side and asked the proprietor for a suggestion for me, knowing what I liked in a cigar, and we met and each smoked a small Siglo I.
It was a great smoke with an easy draw, and mild without being tasteless. So I ordered a box and have been happily smoking them all week.
Another great tip from the mentor. As far as photography goes, my style is nothing like Matt’s, but he has some rules that he sticks to, and that have rubbed off on me. But that isn’t the point. I also don’t shoot like Ansel Adams, but he was my on paper mentor when I was learning black and white photography.
Some of Matts ideas, as far as street photography goes:
- you shouldn’t hold the camera in your right hand with the strap around your wrist as some street photographers do. I had done that off and on, but by the time we met, I was back to my normal way of shooting which was to simply have the camera hanging around my neck. The reason he was against this method of holding the camera in your hand was that it made you more suspicious looking. And I think he’s right. For street shooting, you don’t want to do anything that makes you stand out from the crowd. What tourist holds the camera with the strap wrapped around their hand – ready to pounce on you.
- If you are working with people as forms, try and get at least two, or even better three, of the same idea in the frame. I know what he means. Again, I was doing this sort of thing before I met Matt but when you find someone who’s work you admire, and see that they’re after the same thing, it does give you confidence in yourself.
- “shooting from the hip.” He admitted there were times when there was just no other way to get the shot, but unless you had to, it was always better to put the camera to your eye. And in my own case, I lived by this, though if I was using an LCD in live mode, I didn’t put the camera to my eye but I used the LCD in the same way. The idea is, no matter how good you are at shooting from the hip, you’ll always have more control over what’s in the frame if you are actually looking through the viewfinder. And I agree. Those two edicts really did rub off on me.
Oh, and speaking about Live View – I looked at a bunch of videos of the 60D, and read more about it and from what I can tell, you still can’t focus in live view the way you can while using the viewfinder view. I suspect the swivel will be excellent for video, which you still can’t focus while shooting (I don’t think) but the swivel is always good for shooting video.
Matt mentoring has not only been related to photography, but how to live. How small pleasures can make life bearable. pleasures in life.
p.s. Sorry Matt for being so hard to get in touch with lately. That’s something that I need to work on in the future.