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ANDY ROONEY / People Who Remember Us


If you want to be remembered, give the gift of taking pictures. Teach someone how to use a camera and document their world and you will surely change it. Thousands of people may not remember you for this, but tens of thousands may enjoy the result. So many young people explode creatively when someone puts a camera in their hands and extends a little bit of photographic knowledge. It doesn’t take much. You, my amateur friend, may not think you’re up to it, but, I assure you, there’s a young person in your life waiting for you to share your….

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W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM / There are Three Rules


As someone who makes a living sharing the dos and don’ts of his craft, I always love it when someone points out the futility of it. W. Somerset Maugham has used his wry sense of humor to help us understand that we all need to find out own way. No one can tell you how to avoid the required mistakes that take you to the next level. He has decided to help us along with an example of beautiful word play. There are three rules for taking a great photograph, too.. On second thought, maybe it’s best if I just….

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WAYNE GRETSKY / Missed Shots


Sports analogies are everywhere and a little too obvious, but, as a photography writer, it’s a little difficult to walk away from the world’s greatest hockey player commenting on the implications of what happens when you don’t shoot. Wayne Gretsky is the leading scorer in the history of the National Hockey League. I know very little about hockey, but I know how he did it; he missed a lot of shots and he kept shooting. I heard the Director of Photography at National Geographic say that if you get one good picture on every roll of thirty-six you’re the world’s….

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Henry Ford


I can think of only a few photographs I’ve taken that I love that were somebody else’s idea. I recognize the self-centeredness of that comment, but I believe that if it’s really going to work it’s almost always going to come from inside you. If someone asks—or hires—you to take a photograph and they come to you with their idea of what it should look like, politely do your best to execute it and then put your spin on the situation. Take your picture. After all, it’s really why you’re there. They asked you to take the picture because you’re….

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RING LARDNER / Shut Up


One of photography’s greatest gifts to the family photographer is the ability to step back from the moment and see humor in the insignificant aggravations of daily life. Spilled milk can be a good photograph; a crying baby is a good photograph. Bored children on the trans-continental family vacation death march is always going to be a wonderful photograph. When you have your photographer’s eye on the look-out for moments that express your ability to laugh at yourself, you’ve done everyone around you—and mostly you— a great service. I clearly remember MY father’s reaction to the millionth asking of “Are….

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ALAN SHEPARD / Let’s Light It


Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. (November 18, 1923 – July 21, 1998) was an American naval aviator, test pilot, and NASA astronaut who in 1961 became the second person, and the first American, to travel into space. Considered by many to be the smartest of the original Mercury seven astronauts, he always had a quip or a quick line for reporters and the guys in the control room. “When reporters asked Shepard what he thought about as he sat atop the Redstone rocket waiting for liftoff, he replied, ‘The fact that every part of this ship was built by the low….

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GROUNDHOG DAY / What if there is no tomorrow?


If you’ve never seen the movie you could pick worse days to watch it. It’s a Frank Capra-esque look at one man lost in a time loop, dealing with the realization that he’s going to live the same day over and over and over again until the end of time. There are benefits to be sure—his bad luck with women turns around—but in the long run it’s a Twilight Zone episode come true. Groundhog Day has been considered a story of self improvement which emphasizes the need to look inside oneself and realize that the only satisfaction in life comes….

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MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR. / Only Light Can Do That


Appreciate with me, this Martin Luther King Day, the incredible, symbolic power of light. We are blessed to have embraced and be embraced by an art form whose medium in the minds of many drives out darkness and hate. Light is a source of good as we regularly prove with our cameras. I know it’s a stretch—Dr. King obviously wasn’t talking about amateur photography here. But there is little doubt that he would have appreciated the possibility for community involvement and service the camera represents. Let’s all agree to be a force for good, peace, kindness and happiness with whatever….

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PRINCESS ANNE / You are a Pest


Princess Anne, born 1950, is the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip. It’s a little bit difficult to be down on her for disliking photographers having been stalked by paparazzi virtually all of her life. And then there was that ugly Princess Diana affair. You can’t blame her (Ironically, her uncle— now divorced from the Queen’s sister— was Lord Tony Snowden, perhaps Britain’s most famous photographer and a notorious cad. Her experience with photographers was not always positive.) Being a pest comes with the territory. That glaring, one-eyed monster we hold between our face and our subjects can….

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FRIEDRICH NIETZSCHE / The Essence of Art is Gratitude


Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) was a German philosopher, poet, composer, and cultural critic. He wrote critical essays and books on religion, morality, contemporary culture, philosophy, and science. Unknowingly, the privilege to make something beautiful with our cameras—even if the finished product isn’t bound for the wall of an art museum—may be at the heart of why we do it. What a wonderful gift it is to extend ourselves to the world with even our most modest art. And ironically, it’s something many of us never consider—even in a lifetime of photography. Because of Nietzsche’s evocative style and his….

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GROUCHO MARX / Someone Fetch a Child of Five


It’s easy to make photography too complicated. There’s all the technical stuff whipped up around subjects that move and won’t cooperate in low light. But I’ve met several kids of five and younger lately that just don’t worry about it and push the button when they see something that catches their eye. If you have a chance, loan your camera to a child of five and watch what happens. You’re going to get something interesting. (The camera may be sticky when you get it back however, but the very best cameras are the one’s with personality. It’s going to be….

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STEVEN WRIGHT / Everyone has a photographic memory


Steven Wright is an American comedian known for a slow, deadpan delivery of one-liners with an absurd twist. For example: Everywhere is within walking distance if you have the time. A lot of people are afraid of heights. Not me, I’m afraid of widths. Cross country skiing is great if you live in a small country. You can’t have everything. Where would you put it? They’re completely absurd with a dash of truth. Having a camera’s not enough Wright has brilliantly suggested. You have to have a willing receptor. You have to have something to absorb the thought. You need….

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MAHATMA GANDHI / An Ounce of Practice


I suspect that Mahatma Gandhi would have been okay with me twisting his words into a photography lesson. I have to assume he loved photography—there are thousands of different photographs of him on the internet. He certainly wasn’t avoiding it. (He was good friends with Margaret Bourke-White of Life Magazine; she interviewed and photographed him a few hours before he was assassinated.) Ironically, in the year 2000 Time Magazine named Gandhi runner-up to Albert Einstein as Man of the Century. As far as I can tell Einstein, was also photographed tens of thousands of times. I love them both for….

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STEVE MARTIN / Talking About Music


I recently read Steve Martin’s wonderful memoir, Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, about his early comedy days. For years, before he was a house-hold name, he was a young nobody alone on the road performing his act in virtually every comedy club in the country. Making people laugh for a living is a late night activity with lots of down time everyday all day. He spent his time in art galleries—several hundred of them. For a man obsessed with stringing words together (he’s a regular contributor to The New Yorker) he is well aware of the limitations of talking….

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HENRY DAVID THOREAU / It’s Not What You Look at that Matters


In 1845, Henry David Thoreau embarked on a two-year experiment in simple living. He built a hut next to Walden Pond near Concord, Massachusetts and lived each moment for itself as best he could. His writing during this period has inspired almost two centuries of people yearning to connect with the real person they felt they were born to be. He had keen powers of observation and no camera. He knew that it was how you reacted to the incoming world and not the world itself that really mattered. In one of the most famous pieces of writing by an….

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ROCKY AND BULLWINKLE: That Trick Never Works


As a child watching cartoons, it was always a source of frustration—and delight, of course—that Bullwinkle never understood the magic trick had surpassed everyones expectations. We can all stand back and laugh now, but when an unexpected photograph reveals itself, many of us are as blind as my favorite moose and squirrel. Keep your eyes open. You have more lions popping out of hats in your life than you think you do. You, like Bullwinkle, thinks it’s something going wrong. It’s actually something going magically right. Rocky & Bullwinkle was a 1950’s American cartoon show and the brain child of….

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HENRY MILLER / The Moment One Gives Close Attention


Henry Miller was an American writer, painter and musician. He must have felt the awesome, indescribably magnificent world flowing through him on so many levels. But I love that he’s chosen a blade of grass as the humble example of what happens when we apply the powerful attention we all have within us. As photographers and human beings, stopping to simply notice may be the first step toward feeling connected—and connected is all any of us really want to be. Henry Miller (1891-1980) was known for breaking with existing literary forms and developing a new sort of “novel” that is….

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OSCAR WILDE / The True Mystery of the World


Oscar Fingal O’Flahertie Wills Wilde (1854-1900) was an Irish writer, playwright and poet. His incredible charm, flamboyant dress and glittering conversation made him one of the most well-known personalities of his generation, particularly in London society. His ability to simultaneously entertain and educate with the twist of a phrase was legend. It’s difficult to imagine a more memorable dinner party guest. Any good photographer can relate to his idea that what we see is actually more mysterious than what we can’t see. What’s on the surface is just a tease—little visual clues to help us unravel the wonderful world around….

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E. B. WHITE / Be Obscure Clearly


It’s a bit intimidating to write about E. B. White; he’s one of the reasons I write photo tips. In fact, E. B. White is one of the reasons many real writers are writers. His simple, heartfelt style was the result of constant and pain-staking self-editing—all in the interest of clarity and brevity. He used lots of short words. He was a fixture at The New Yorker for decades but is probably most famous for two books—the classic children’s novel, Charlotte’s Web—a book about a life-saving spider that can spell— and The Elements of Style, the book many people consider….

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Mark Twain


Leave it to Mark Twain to come up with the ultimately wise photo tip— did he even own a camera?  For those of us in the photography education business it’s a bit intimidating being out photo-tipped by a 19th century writer, but he’s difficult to argue with. A focused imagination may be the greatest of all photography skills.  Seeing a picture in your mind’s eye before you push the button is something only people in command of the medium can do.  Vision and imagination will always be linked in a chicken and egg sort of way.     Samuel Langhorne….

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Horace Mann


I think I can confidently speak for most of my fellow alumni from the Horace Mann Elementary School in Fargo, North Dakota when I say that I couldn’t pick Horace Mann out of a police lineup if I tried. The school was right down the street and I attended for seven years, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a picture of him. I couldn’t resist doing a little research and giving him the credit he is due. When we spend a little time each day weaving a habit, he said, we finally end up with something precious and unbreakable…..

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RACHEL CARSON / One Way to Open Your Eyes


  Rachel Carson was a diminutive woman who wielded her love of nature and her ability to eloquently express it like a mighty weapon. Her most famous book, Silent Spring, documents the human species negative effect on the planet, specifically through the use of pesticides. It’s often credited with starting the modern environmental movement. Her amazing ability to blend words and her sense of wonder for the natural world often puts her near the very top on any list of great nature writers. A biologist by training, she never lost her childlike appreciation for the seemingly most insignificant natural miracle…..

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HARRY HOUDINI / My Brain is the Key


Contrary to popular belief, Harry Houdini was not the greatest magician of all time. There were better sleight-of-hand artists and stage illusionists that made Houdini look like just one of the guys. He did, however, appreciate a perfectly executed idea and for that his name has become synonymous with mystery and and the ability to escape from any form of restraint or shackle. Would we now, one hundred years later, even have a concept of what an escape artist was, if it were not for the life of Erik Weisz, better known as Houdini? Probably not. After years of floundering….

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HELEN KELLER / The Most Beautiful Things


  I couldn’t resist the wonderful irony of letting a blind woman tell photographers how to see. Great photographs begin inside you—they’re an extension of your feelings and emotions. The optics in your eyes and cameras are essential, but without the active involvement of your heart you have snapshots. The best and most beautiful things in your world can be expressed with your camera, but not seen by your camera. —Nick Kelsh Helen Keller (1880-1968) became blind and deaf at the age of nineteen months—the result of an undiagnosed disease. With the help of a wonderful mentor, she eventually learned….

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ABRAHAM LINCOLN / Stand Firm


Historians may beg to differ but President Lincoln would have been a wonderful photographer—I love calling him President Lincoln—he’s been MY president since I was in the fifth grade. It’s unlikely that any man or woman will ever embody the role of leadership this world demands like our sixteenth. I’d love to believe he’s really mine, but I must share him with the world. Had you been lucky enough to see him in person, he was geekiness personified—six-foot-four and one-hundred and sixty-five pounds when he died. A great public speaker whose opening line always met with a wave of uncomfortable….

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DR. SEUSS / The Answers are Simple


Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904-1991) was an American cartoonist and author best known for his children’s books written under the pen name Dr. Seuss. His most celebrated books include Green Eggs and Ham, The Cat in the Hat, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas—a Kelsh family favorite. (On a personal note: As the father of three boys, I think I can safely say that I have read various Dr. Seuss books out loud over 300 times. At least 150 of those were The Cat in the Hat.) Seuss often started with complicated challenges and reduced them to the simplicity that sometimes….

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WINSTON CHURCHILL: Short Words are the Best


He was a painter, too, you know. A great world leader and an incredible writer, Winston Churchill certainly knew how to communicate visually. Surely, he would have been able to navigate his way around a subject with a camera.  His “V” for victory fingers are a 20th century icon—it doesn’t get much more visual than that. And here is this great communicator telling us to keep things simple and trust the tried and true. Eliminate the extraneous elements that don’t add anything but distracting fluff. The simple old good stuff still goes right to the center of what we love….

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LUCILLE BALL / I’m Not Funny


I love pictures of funny people showing a sensitive side. This studio portrait of the star of I Love Lucy beautifully captures the depth of feeling and power behind what it must have taken to make it in a man’s world. Lucille Ball was one of the biggest stars in the history of television. By all accounts she was funny, but courage seems to have contributed, too. Having some talent is just step one—some have more than others. But all of the people at the top had the willingness to jump in and start swimming. Lucy’s comment about bravery can….

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AMELIA EARHART / I am aware of the hazards…


  As though she’s attempting to comfort the crowds of adoring people who cared about her, Amelia Earhart wants them to know that the desire by humans to accomplish the risky and dangerous is reason enough to proceed. Understanding the hazards is a calculation she’s already made; it’s the wanting and deciding to do it that holds the meaning for this brave, young woman. Few photographers ever face the possibility of actually dying for a photograph. Not so, pioneer aviators; we all pick our poison. But wanting to be a good photographer because you want to is all you need…..

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W. SOMERSET MAUGHAM / There are Three Rules


As someone who makes a living sharing the dos and don’ts of his craft, I always love it when someone points out the futility of it. W. Somerset Maugham has used his wry sense of humor to help us understand that we all need to find out own way. No one can tell you how to avoid the required mistakes that take you to the next level. He has decided to help us along with an example of beautiful word play. There are three rules for taking a great photograph, too.. On second thought, maybe it’s best if I just….

Learn More

WAYNE GRETSKY / Missed Shots


Sports analogies are everywhere and a little too obvious, but, as a photography writer, it’s a little difficult to walk away from the world’s greatest hockey player commenting on the implications of what happens when you don’t shoot. Wayne Gretsky is the leading scorer in the history of the National Hockey League. I know very little about hockey, but I know how he did it; he missed a lot of shots and he kept shooting. I heard the Director of Photography at National Geographic say that if you get one good picture on every roll of thirty-six you’re the world’s….

Learn More

HENRY FORD—If I’d Asked People What They Wanted


I can think of only a few photographs I’ve taken that I love that were somebody else’s idea. I recognize the self-centeredness of that comment, but I believe that if it’s really going to work it’s almost always going to come from inside you. If someone asks—or hires—you to take a photograph and they come to you with their idea of what it should look like, politely do your best to execute it and then put your spin on the situation. Take your picture. After all, it’s really why you’re there. They asked you to take the picture because you’re the one with….

Learn More

RING LARDNER—Shut Up, He Explained


One of photography’s greatest gifts to the family photographer is the ability to step back from the moment and see humor in the insignificant aggravations of daily life. Spilled milk can be a good photograph; a crying baby is a good photograph. Bored children on the trans-continental family vacation death march is always going to be a wonderful photograph. When you have your photographer’s eye on the look-out for moments that express your ability to laugh at yourself, you’ve done everyone around you—and mostly you— a great service. I clearly remember MY father’s reaction to the millionth asking of “Are….

Learn More

ANDY ROONEY—People Who Remember Us


If you want to be remembered, give the gift of taking pictures. Teach someone how to use a camera and document their world and you will surely change it. Thousands of people may not remember you for this, but tens of thousands may enjoy the result.

Learn More

HELEN KELLER—The Most Beautiful Things


I couldn’t resist the wonderful irony of letting a blind woman tell photographers how to see. Great photographs begin inside you—they’re an extension of your feelings and emotions. The optics in your eyes and cameras are essential, but without the active involvement of your heart you have snapshots.

Learn More

ABRAHAM LINCOLN—Stand Firm


As far as I know there is no historical reference to Lincoln ever stepping behind a camera. It’s likely that he did; he loved inventive machines and would have been incapable of ignoring the miraculous upside-down image on the back of a 19th-century camera. But as a photographer, Father Abraham would have brought a lot to the party.

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