A Walk in the Park II

With the remnants of the latest winter storm inching to the East and another one the horizon I grab my satchel, a peanut butter sandwich and my camera to wander off into the park to escape the mind numbing computer hum of my studio and inside itchiness an outdoor person gets when confined indoors for too long.  It hasn't completely stopped raining, which makes me unabashedly smile for I need a good rain soaking.  Today I decide to head North into the Presidio Park, a 1500 acre park founded by the Spanish in 1776.  The only rule, and I use that loosely, I have when I go wandering is to always take the smallest, muddiest path possible and in a city park this size those trails abound at all corners.  This past year they finished a wonderful trail that skirts the Western edge of the park, with sweeping views of the Pacific and the Headlands. 

And with the rain there is not a sole out here.  I take my time, stopping often to sit and watch.  Sometimes it's enjoyable to not participate, to simply watch nature around you and not interfere, even with camera.  In these moments my mind wanders to a past time where this existed before we came.  John Mcphee, in his book Assembling California, talks about this area extensively.  Several thousand years ago the western coast, at this spot, extended several miles further West from where it exists today.  The San Francisco Bay, famously called The Gate, was a lowland river valley, and underneath the present day Golden Gate Bridge was a canyon of sorts with a large river meandering under it on it's way to the ocean.  Geologic time scales fascinate me.  In Zion NP a few years back I listened to a Geologist describe the geology of the park and at one point he said that the park, at this very moment, is geologically evolving at the same rate it always has.  I like that.  To me, it makes it a bit more real than mistakingly visualizing the processes as some distant single event, rather than a constant progression.  The rain starts to let up and the sun peaks out, so I gather my satchel and half eaten sandwich and continue on.  This park has a duality that is instantly apparent, for within the natural setting lies the very real history of human occupation for this place.  The name Presidio meaning a fortified military base.  After California's annexation, the U.S. Army took up station, expanded operations and after they officially left in 1994 had left behind a myriad of buildings, coastal fortifications and parade grounds that showcase a hundred plus years of changing architectural styles.  At the end of this coastal trail is one of those coastal concrete batteries.  And that's the oddity of this park, for every back forest trail there is another ancient building that speaks of a time long forgotten. 

I find it fascinating.  I much prefer the untouched High Sierra, or deep desert, but this is a different fascination.  It shows a history that is tangible and without direct explanation.  As I wander through this varied landscape I'm left to wonder why a particular building was placed where it is, or what function it served.  It's full sunshine now and I wander to the parks interior, a mass jungle of Eucalyptus forests, which by the way were planted by the Army.  Naturally, most of this area was large sand dunes with scrub grasses and a few hearty trees.  After traversing the park I head back towards home, back to the hum of productivity.  On the horizon dark clouds are forming, the next storm.  I smile, I think I'll come back out tomorrow and get my proper soaking. 


Even Starbucks Has To...

We came across this NY Times article about a Starbucks in Seattle that at first glance isn't a Starbucks.  Even if you rarely, if ever, step inside one I bet you can conjour up what they look, feel and smell like.  That cookie cutter image, spread across the globe, is one thing that has built their brand and reputation.  You know exactly what you're getting when you go into one and I bet you can even recite their trademarked drink sizes, but even Starbucks has felt the econ pinch.  Well, this new Starbucks is a prototype for a possible brand shift in the direction of perceived local-ism.  I feel like 'local' is fast becoming the 'organic' word of the 21st century, which like true organic products can offer a real positive shift in how we make purchasing choices.  I'm 100% for buying as much locally as possible, but I'm getting away from myself.  The point I'm trying to make here is even a corporate giant like Starbucks has to reevaluate their brand, develop new strategies and maybe offer a decent cup of coffee.  Don't become stale in your own business.

Cheers All...


Matt Rainwaters

I'd like to switch gears a bit and talk about a wonderful photographer named Matt Rainwaters (website).  A landscape guy at heart (like me), he's not only one of the coolest people I've ever known he is also a dear and close friend.  We've spent some serious shooting time in some very remote areas of the country and he never ceases to amaze me.  He recently, give or take a few years, set up shop in Austin Texas shooting editorial assignment work which has a cool distinct Kerouac like feel.  He has a blog updated weekly and I highly recommend you peek through his beardfolio portfolio and his landscape work under his exhibited portfolio.  And yes, his blond afro logo is his actual hair!  Thanks mate for being you!

Cheers All...


Pull Marketing

I wrote last week about starting a twitter account, I know revolutionary right, along with half a million other businesses.  But it's all part of a serious new system we're implementing here called pull/engagement marketing.  I didn't coin these terms but am very excited about where they're taking us.  This is all about building a following behind your work, your expertise, your brand.  Because lets face it, the 1-2% return rate on sending out mass promo emails doesn't seem to return the same amount you put into it.  I'm not suggesting you stop pushing promo pieces onto your prospective clients, but maybe you do it in a way to get them interested in not just your images but also you as a person and you as a brand.  How many times have you talked with someone who seems to be rolling in work about their marketing strategy, only to have them give you a blank stare or a sheepish grin and say they haven't marketed a day in their life.  I don't know about you but this drives me crazy, especially because I've put my time in cold calling, cold emailing, etc etc.  But now I think these seemingly lucky photographers actually have the best marketing you can have, they have their potential clients coming to them.  How does that happen?  It happens through referrals, providing consistent results, building a solid brand thats trusted, by being a professional, and by targeting the very people they want to work for.  The twitters, blogs, forums, linkedin's are all brilliant platforms for you to engage with potential customers, to talk about your work, to answer questions and to build your brand into a powerhouse or predictability.  So yeah, I'm liking the twitter.  twitter.com/scottmansfield

Cheers All!



Hey, it's The Wife here, I've hijacked the blog today..or rather, I'm 'guest blogging', for a dose of craft&design crossover.  Scott's Flora prints Etsy shop has been nominated for a Poppy.  What is a Poppy you ask? A well known and well respected design blog out of Vancouver called Poppytalk has created The Poppies...an award of sorts...but really it's an opportunity to get to know some new talent in different areas of handmade goodness.  Scott's Flora images are bright, fun, and affordable...and there are even poppies :)

If you have a moment please vote for Scott HERE...and check out his Flora print shop HERE.


Photographic Vision

The photographic vision and process are dynamic.  It's not like painting where the medium dries, photographs, or more importantly the negative, essentially never dries.  That's what makes it such a dynamic art form, or sometimes such a complete headache.  If ever there were a medium for an indecisive person to not approach, it would be photography.  The negative can be re-printed over and over again, and if it happens to be in the form of a digital file it can printed indefinitely.  I'll often work an image for hours before attaining the look, feel and emotion I'm searching for.  Regardless of the amount of time I initially spend with an image after I've created it, I will go back to it to double check my work, perhaps tweaking this or that, perhaps not.  Sometimes mocking my past work as unfinished, muddy and lacking direction.  This may happen a few days after the first initial workings, or a few years.  And although some disagree with this approach for integrity reasons, which I think is silly, it is the beauty of photography that this is the case.  Visions change, techniques change and new ideas emerge.  I posted the image below a little over a week ago, it was an image I shot a few miles from my house in San Francisco.  Even as I was posting it I wasn't fully content, but forgot about it over the past week.  I came back to it this morning and really pumped up the local contrast, brightened the center and toned down the corners.  I also let parts of the seastacks go past zone IX, which I'm beginning to be okay with.  For years I was fanatical about having detail throughout every tone.



 I'm quite pleased with this result and perhaps I shouldn't be too hasty to get an image out to the public, but give it a chance to stew in the creative juices for awhile.  Give me a chance to feel out where it should go and what it should be.

Cheers All!


Calendars Calendars

It's a new fresh year.  I know, it's been a new year for 21 days, but these things take time.  In collaboration with the wonderful and amazing designers at i4designs we've built these wonderful desktop calendars that are filled with my flora themed images, and I'd like to share some of them with you!  The first ten people to email me (scott@scottmansfield.com) their favorite landscape image on my website (www.scottmansfield.com) will receive a free calendar!   



The E-Myth

One of my clients gave me a book called "The E Myth, Why Most Small Businesses Don't Work and What to Do About It" by Michael Gerber.  I'm definitely not a connoisseur of business literature but I ended up reading it in about a night.  I know I must be late to the game on most of his ideas, as it says on the cover more than a million copies sold, but to me they are eye opening.  What I took away was the foundation of most small business failure resides in the owner approaching the business undertaking as a technician and not an entrepreneur, as the expert in the 'thing' being sold.  It's good to be an expert if you are working for someone else, but as a small business owner you need that kind of dedication to the running of the business as well.  The technician gets in over their head and soon doesn't know which was is up.  He strongly advises to not only understand and use the different hats you must wear, but also approach the organization of your business from a strict by-the-book protocol, that you the owner invent and implement.  Treat your business as a model that could be copied a thousand times in a thousand different locations worldwide.  It's important to have predictable service and goods, the customer needs to have trust that what they are getting is the same as before.  I now see that business trust is predictability. 

I am however having a bit of a problem coming from the perspective of an artist/business owner.  I fully appreciate the multiple hats I must wear, but the foundation of my business is my creativity, and that ladies and gentlemen cannot be franchised.  Perhaps though, my organization can.  If the underpinnings of my business are run in a predictable manner, it would leave me in a better position in the future to have office staff to operate that end of it, leaving me more time to do the thing I love the most; making images.

Your thoughts would be wonderful to hear; are any of you having a difficult time being a small business owner, having to juggle the myriad of positions you hold.  Drop me a line, I'd love to talk one on one about it!

Cheers to you all...


Now I've Done It

Well I went ahead and did it.  What you ask, I've joined the masses and have myself a Twitter account.  Well, it's good for business, and strangely fun I must admit.  Many thanks to my dear loving wife for giving me the complete Twit breakdown.  She runs two:
slimartsgirl - her personal musings
photogwife - being the wife of a photographer is a 24 hour job, here are her thoughts on it

And for my newly discovered online personality, there isn't a lot on there yet, but there will be!

scottmansfield - thoughts, ideas, notes, musings, links and tid-bits

And now it's off to the twitter to mention this post, it's a never ending updating cycle,
Cheers to you all!!!


Around the Neighborhood

I sometimes get stuck in the mindset that I need to travel away from where I live to get into the zone of shooting decent landscape.  For myself, traveling abroad forces spontaneity of having to work with whatever mother nature throws my way, in many cases I won't have a second chance to get a particular scene.  At home, one can casually watch the weather and wait, and for me waiting equals boredom.  I need that uncertainty of todays conditions, that restriction of choice forcing me to make creative moves to work with the scene in its here and now.  But, my desire to shoot far outweighs my ability to travel as much as I'd like and thus I've been shooting a lot more within the vicinity of my home.

This week I had several rolls to develop, but still had a half shot roll buried in my camera back and unwilling to burn the un-shot film I headed off for the day to capture a few scenes on the last few frames of the roll.  My first stop was a little redwood grove just North of the city called Muir Woods.  It can get a bit crowded on the floor of the grove, so if you're willing to put in a little leg time you can get up and away from the crowds.  An old growth redwood forest is a magnificent symphony of interdependent species, each supporting the next in their individual quest to live, mature and eventually die in support of the next wave of plants and animals.


After a good long hike I ventured back toward the city, but still had a few frames to get off.  In the furtherest reach of the Northwestern most part of the peninsula there are several offshore seastacks called Seal Rock.  And surprisingly I've never photographed them, and giving my love of the seastack formations it's a little surprising I hadn't.  I perched myself up on a cliff side and photographed a few 5 minute exposures.

It was wonderful spending the day shooting within 30 miles of my home.  The limited film, and the need to finish it, gave me that spontaneity I crave.  It just goes to show you, it's good to look around your neighborhood for inspirations.