Lens Guides

Introducing the new technical editor of Sigma’s Photo World, Jack Howard! (Part II)

Who am I? Part 2

I’m a writer!

That self-portrait in my first post, (and the variation on the Sigma Home page right now,) was shot just last week at Rutgers Gardens, in New Brunswick, NJ. I first visited this amazing geometric stand of trees back in the early ‘90s when I was studying History, English and American Studies at RU, and from my first visit, I’ve wanted to make cool photos in this spot, and I’ve revisited it many times through the years as a photo subject. There is just something about this stand of trees that draws me in.

And yes, you read right. I focused on writing-intensive disciplines at school, and was awarded a writing-intensive degree. My field photography skills have been learned on the road, from practice–on the job, as well as on self-assignments–trial and error, tips and tricks from countless magazines and how-to books, by asking and responding to questions on message boards, and from so many helpful photographers I’ve met along the way.

It was always in the back of my head that I eventually wanted to be a writer/photographer or photographer/writer.  I spent the first few years out of school pursuing writing-related jobs and opportunities, with the idea that being able to take a decent photo would be a bonus. But as it turns out, things didn’t quite happen like that right out of the gate. My writing pursuits were slow to yield results, and I began looking more seriously towards photography.

And then sometime back in late 1996 or early 1997 I first heard about and then saw an early version of Adobe Photoshop. Shortly thereafter I enrolled in a 6 course Desktop Publishing mini program at my local community college. There were a number of other computer programs we were taught, including Illustrator, Pagemill, and Quark Express, but I spent as much time as I possibly could in class, and in lab time, playing and experimenting with Photoshop. This honestly was a turning point in my life. I jumped fully into learning as much about photography and Photoshop as I possibly could. I was taking classes at the community college, waiting tables and cooking in a restaurant down the Jersey Shore, and working a few days a week doing some work for the local weekly paper. And then writing got put on the back burner as I focused on building up my photographic skills both in the field, and in the digital darkroom.

Who am I? Part 3

I’m a photographer/writer and a writer/photographer!

From the gig at the local weekly, I then moved to the Image Desk of the local daily newspaper, The Asbury Park Press. After six months or so, I transitioned to a staff photographer position. And shortly thereafter my first piece combining my writing and photography was published for the weekly entertainment standalone, The Islander. It was an photo essay on a population of double-crested cormorants at a local lake, alongside an essay talking about this bird’s bounce-back and expansion following a population decline. This essay was awarded 3rd place in the New Jersey Press Photographer’s Association November, 2000 clip contest.

Over the next few years at the Press as a staff photographer, I shot tons of different stories day in and day out. Nothing hones your skills as a photographer quite like being a staffer for a paper shooting somewhere between three to five assignments daily for five days a week!  All the while, I kept coming up with more combination writing/photo essays on various local subjects I could work on.  At this same time, I was beginning to write a lot on the subject of photography on a couple of photo forums.

Writing and participating in a handful of photo forums continued after I left the Press in late 2003 to pursue a freelance photography path, shooting for clients including The New York Times, The Star Ledger, The Home News Tribune, and many other papers on a regular basis. Through the PopPhoto forums, where I remained active, I became friendly with Mason Resnick, which eventually resulted in me joining the staff of that magazine and website–but not until Mason had left to work for the Adorama Learning Center.

At Pop I wrote tons of tests and reviews of cameras and other gear. In many ways, it was an amazing place to work–for a while, anyways. I can’t tell you how many cameras I reviewed, or how many gigabytes of test targets I captured, and how many lenses I got to play with while I was there!

A small sampling of my published work, both photos and photo/written pieces, for various newspapers and magazines. Check out the Sigma advert next to the HDRI boxer shot from Photo District News in the right of the frame from this past fall that was, unbeknownst to anyone at the time, a possible hint of what I’d be doing now!

One story I worked on there, a how-to on High Dynamic Range Imaging, lit a fire in me for this technique. Not only was this a wildly popular story on PopPhoto.com, it also led to a couple of book deals: first a quick-turned eBook for O’Reilly, and then the paperbound Practical HDRI, High Dynamic Range Imaging for Photographers which was first published by Rocky Nook in 2008.

When I first held the bound copy of this book in my hands, it was an amazing feeling: Wow! All the words and pictures in this book were created by me. I did this! Knowing I was wholly responsible for both the words and images in this project is a proud accomplishment.

Who am I? I am photographer and a writer, and a writer and a photographer!

My photos from this stand of trees in Rutgers Gardens have also been featured on the cover of the second edition of my book, “Practical HDRI, High Dynamic Range Imaging Using Adobe Photoshop CS5 and Other Tools” (top) and in a recent What the Duck comic strip!

After Pop, I blogged and podcasted for the Adorama Learning Center for a while, again crossing paths with my friend, Mason Resnick.  This brings us up to now. There’s now a second edition of Practical HDRI on the bookshelves, and I’m working with Sigma to help inform and inspire our great fans and followers (and of course to make new friends, fans, and followers, too!)

A recent Amazon reviewer had this to say about my writing style: “Mr. Howard writes in an easy, smooth and concise form yet really explains some of the most technical and complicated procedures in photography.” I was flattered and honored to read these words! This succinctly encapsulates my goals with my writings on photography: to illuminate and inform, to help my readers grow on their photographic journey.

I’ve been on board with Sigma for the past few weeks, and if you’ve been paying attention to our Facebook feed, I’ve been the voice behind many of the recent mini-critiques of fan photos. I am very impressed with the creativity our our Facebook fans! Keep sharing your fantastic images–we love to see what people are making with our creative tools!

I’ve also been searching Vimeo for great video projects created with Sigma tools, and we’ve discovered and shared some amazing ones so far on our Facebook page, and I’m always on the lookout for more. If you’ve made (or viewed) a great video, please let us know.

Let’s share the inspiration!

Got a question relating to Sigma gear or field technique for a particular type of shoot? Email it to me at PhotoWorld@Sigmaphoto.com, and we’ll do our best to answer it! Know of a great photo project created with Sigma cameras, lenses or strobes? Send us a link! We can’t guarantee we’ll be able to cover every single email we receive in the blog, but we’ll  always try to be informative and enlightening!

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