Coffee with Craig

Covered here are a collection of questions from over time that I thought were either important, interesting or informative (and growing). If you have any questions that you think would be a good contribution, contact anytime.


Q: I understand that you offer a 30 day money back guarantee, which I think is totally generous, but why do you not cover the shipping back?
A: The reason why I do not cover the shipping back is because there are non-serious people that would take full advantage of the opportunity. Of course, there are situations where that would not apply. But otherwise, as a customer, I would appreciate the chance to experience the chosen artwork without the fear that I would get stuck with it, That just sounds funny... But I also offer any customer the opportunity to buy a poster (poster proof) to easily sample and proof the image. If the customer decides to purchase an artwork later, I credit the price of the poster(s)toward the artwork order. And it does not have to be the same photograph, FYI. Again, that's the way I would like it.

Q: I saw on the EPSON Pano Awards website [panoawards.com] that you were a 2013 judge among other big photographers like Peter Lik and Nick Rains?! Congratulations! Are you not going to be in the contest ever again?
A: Well, to quote the Terminator: "I'll Be Back!" I can not be a contestant AND and judge that year. Can you believe that! Like I might vote for my own photographs! Gheesh :)

Q: Wow, you have really added to the list of awards lately! Why so much more than other years?
A: No real strategy... One reason is that I am invited more often now or that I or my staff know more contests and events than before. Also, I observe how each photograph does with various exposure venues. This gives me a "feeling" on how well the photograph will do in the future. Some do great with the public and jury contests/awards, but are slower on the collector side... and vs-versa or combo. Also, I have great help this year that helps to initiate exposure - to bring my various photographs to the "viewing market". Through contests, showings, social media out-reaches and critic forums, I am able to bring better images to a full released status. Yes it really takes some time! Some images take up to a year or longer to release... and some don't make it still at all. As some of you know, I use these various awards, recognitions and events to create Commemorative Limited Editions. However, any editor picks and staff favorites etc. are not enough in magnitude to cause a CE to be created. I never know how well a photograph will do, but when it gets some love, we produce the CEs. It is true that these CE artworks are inherently limited in nature and likely grace images early in their journey or "career" because new photographs are coming to new efforts. Click here to learn more about Commemorative Limited Editions.

Q: What lighting recommendations would you make when purchasing an artwork from you?
A: This is a really good question. Most of the galleries are great at selling art, but usually leave you clueless on the lighting. I always joke that the value of my artworks are the same as Monet's in the dark. But it can be critical in the overall presentation of the artwork. I recommend the newer xenon "hot spots" or halogen bulbs that have a fixture that does not need a ballast. They just tie right in the existing electrical line and can even have a dimmer installed in-line. I do not think the new LED spots are quite there yet as they usually have a color cast. Halogens and xenon bulbs are warmer, crisper bulbs and show off the contrast and colors most suitably. I also recommend 50 watt bulbs placed every 20ish inches apart and about 3 feet from the wall on the ceiling (8-10 foot ceiling height). So a 60x20 inch artwork can accommodate 3-4 bulb fixture. In the case of my prints, this lighting configuration really adds punch especially to the Metallic Luster or Metallic Pearl Gloss Acrylic artworks. The changing ambient light alone will change the viewing experience of these prints. That is one of the reasons I personally chose these materials. To receive a free sample pack (USA), call or email us anytime.

Q: Are your "fused" images the same as a composite photograph?
A: Well... sort of. To me, "composite" images are usually the type of products that I think of when I see commercial or advertising materials like what a graphic artist produces. They use bits and parts of sometimes unrelated and non-photographic content along with computer programs to make a final image (that may be the founding for the photoshop stigma...) In my case, a "fusion" photograph is one where multiple exposures (usually slices of time) are captured in a single planned project. Not that all multiple exposure images work out - no matter how hard you plan. In fact, many do not. You have to set up the right time and space, have the correct gear for that project, watch weather forecasts, drive 7000 miles. Some "fused" final images can take hours long or lots of equipment changes. Its hard to change your environment in landscape photography. But sometimes your patience is rewarded with images that are beyond what the normal eye can see. Some variations of this has been around for years. Lately, however, I have seen several features in the magazines where this is becoming a popular technique known more commonly as Still Time-Lapse photography. But other possibilities exist such as a fusion of shutter speeds, filters, focuses...

Q: What is your favorite or preferred image shape [aspect ratio]?
A: Right away I would have to say panoramic 3:1. However, I really do think that each "shape" can convey or deliver a different artistic tone and statement. For instance, I am fond of the 2:3 vertical formats because they are more difficult to find in landscape photography. I am sure this is mostly due to the fact that even the thought of landscape subject photos showcase vista shots that often include the stretching horizon. But this vertical framing is very commanding or even stately - and certainly challenging to create - and often project a sense of height.

The panoramic layouts do emphasize horizontal viewing. But that is not the only aspect. The other is one of the overlooked points of panoramics - one that I am most intrigued by: the conveyance of space. Much thought goes into composition, strong subjects, lines and all the rest. Rarely does a photography class discuss the importance of this "conveyance of space". We also see most closely in a panoramic layout, and I believe this gives us a sense of space within a depth of field that other layouts are limited by. No other aspect ratio does this like panoramic framing. It also feels very natural for me to view an expanse that a great pano shot can give.



Q: Do you shoot film or digital?
A: I have used film in the past, but after going contemporary digital, I never really wanted to go back. With digital cameras I am able to have a certain control over my images that I did not have with film. Even my colleagues who are hardcore film users, often have professional labs finish off the printing if they were color. Now I feel I have miles more control. In fact, Ansel Adams was intrigued by the thought of digital cameras from the start. Not many people know this, but he expressed great favor in the future of digital cameras. Even though many people consider him a purist, Ansel Adams was actually very interested in advances of photographic technology.


Q: What was your first camera?
A: My mother gave me my first camera and said, "Have fun!" She showed me how to load it with film and off I went - me and my Kodak Instamatic 100 that took "110" or "126" film cartridges. Another camera of interest much later - my first digital camera, the Casio QV10 I believe it was called. This cracks me up because it literally produced 800 × 600 pixel images! But I wore it out completely.



Q: What is the difference between a "photographer" and an "artist". I have seen people use one or the other at times.
A: This is a good question, but it is very clear to me now as I have moved along in this field. Most people would consider themselves a photographer if they used a camera. And that is about it. What do I mean? Well that is about as far as most photographers get. They usually rely on the "outsourcing" of the rest of the workflow or process - and therefore intrinsically have limited or restricted control over the final output or product. Not to say that I do not rely on very carefully chosen resources at times. An artist, on the other hand, strives to be part of the workflow and process of his art, in this case photographs, to the final artwork. This means not only traveling, shooting and choosing (camera, camera, camera) - but processing, proofing, organizing, printing even developing supporting content such as stories and videos - and doing it again over and over until you get it to a finely tuned and personally approved work (cameras, supporting field equipment, professional printing machines, specialized software and computers to accommodate large data workloads). And that ain't cheap. And there is always something newer and more expensive!!!

Q: Do you use Photoshop? Does this make a photograph fake?
A: Yes I use software to process my photographs. And NO, this does not make them fake. There is such a stigma right now about the use of processing software, sometimes loosely called "photoshoping". Although I do not use computer software that is an all-in-one processor such as load-in-the-photograph-and-it-spits-out-a-variety-of-results to choose from. I use a selection of programs that give me the same and more control over my photographs that old darkrooming did (some of these you can almost get a degree in!). Now it is called lightrooming - same controls such as cropping, contrasting, color balancing, dodging and burning, and leveling but all the way down to the pixel! And I shoot RAW which means the information or data the camera captures must be processed. You can not print and display these types of RAW files. Now for the critics: every photograph must be processed. Yes, yes I know, there are a few master photographers out there that say that they do not use computer software - that it magically pops out of the camera ready to hang. To be fair, the only camera that actually happened with was the Polaroid cameras, but processing still occurred in-camera and developed in-hand. Many contemporary film photographers now drum scan their film images so that they can be computer processed. Even Ansel Adams did a fair amount of "old school photoshopping". I always love to tell how Ansel's photograph, "Moonrise, Hernandez", 1941 was so altered until it became the famous image that it is today. You see, Ansel loved the composition, but did not care for the certain clouds within the sky around the moon. By "dodging and burning" the image during many developments using his hands, he was able to darken the sky to a final approval. It’s really interesting to see what the untouched negative looked like before all the dodging and burning he did. What’s always amazing to me is that Ansel's prints were all done before the days of software and computers, and every area of that image was altered by actual hand and with extreme attention. His son, Michael Adams actually shows this in this video:


Q: I just looked up the epson pano award (thepanoawards.com ) for 2012, on the top 50 images, you beat out many other prestigious photographers to achieve that award. Did you have any idea before you found out, or was it a total shock to you?
A: As far as the Pano Awards - I get this question alot right now.... I am always surprised and grateful at any recognition or award. But the number one pano shot in the world for 2012? Still can't believe it. I mean just look at the top 50 - I think the artistic content for the 2012 contest was one of the best collections of talent for the Epson International Pano Awards to date! I had no idea until they called me. I even thought the call from Australia was a mistake at first! And to to have four in the top 50 (one a 1st place overall gold) is a total dream come true.

Q: What or who were your inspirations for your work?
A: I am certainly inspire-able! Recently I wrote an article on a few photographers that were my inspirations titled, "On the Shoulders of Giants - Ansel Adams, Peter Lik, Ken Duncan..." Read more here.

Q: I noticed recently that you have a section on the "Entitlements" page that comes with your artwork documents that briefly outlines a "Definition of Ownership". What exactly does this mean?
A: It reads: Definition of Ownership
Different than most artists, you own content instead of a product with a Craig Bill artwork. For example, if you decide later that your “Sapphire” 36x12 acrylic print should be a 72x24 metallic luster print, its possible as long as the previous artwork is shipped back for destruction so that the new one can be created AND as long as the Artist is reasonably able to do so. The serial number makes this possible. I initiated this originally based on the Image Security section that covers your artwork. This definition just allows more freedom and puts more control into the hands of my collectors. Here's another way I see it - buying a companies product is a vote for that company, but by allowing my collectors to control the serial number gives them a real piece of the action - or my images. Of the finite number created of a certain image, my collectors are now a part of the actual growth of that image's journey. This is not a marketing strategy, just... different. Not to worry, there will come a time that I will not be able to grant this (I expire, too), and that will leave what artworks out there as they are. I might change this later too, but if I were a collector, I would favor this. Your edition number is really yours.