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Craig Pindell

Investing In Perfection

     Most photographers I know don't usually collect other photographers work. Not that they don't care about the images that other photographers create, they just don't usually buy photos - that money can be spent on film instead! 

      I have only purchased about a half a dozen photos from other photographers.  I have many more photos that I have traded for.  When I attend workshops, I watch during the critique sessions to see if the other attendees show photographs that I would be willing to trade for.  It seems to be the perfect opportunity for a trade.  The prints are usually created just for that critique session, and are usually the best work. 

      Also, I get to see the prints in person and up close, before I trade, just as the other party gets to look closely at my work before they commit to a trade. Some of my favorite collected photos have been acquired this way, and all it cost me was a print that I am proud of and wanted to share. 

      To be realistic, these prints are from participants, and the quality is not likely to be on par with an original Ansel Adams or Edward Weston.  If the participants had that skill, they would be teaching, not attending. By the way, I have tried twice to trade prints with the workshop instructors, it does not go well.  Instructors see the offer as an insult, so if I were you, I wouldn't try it. 

      This brings me to the most important photograph I own.  I didn't take this photo. I didn't trade for this photo. I paid full price for this photo from a well known photographer, and it was not cheap- but it is an expenditure I have never regretted.


Corn Lily by John Sexton

Corn Lily, Eastern Sierra Nevada, California, USA, 1977

By: John Sexton


     I first saw a print of this image when I attended the Southwest Landscape Workshop, where John Sexton and Ray McSavany were the instructors.  For me, this was one of the most beautiful images I had seen up to that point. Honestly, it is still one of the most beautiful images I have seen.  I have been fortunate enough to see original prints from Ansel Adams, from Edward, Brett, and Kim Weston, from Bruce Barnbaum, from Jay Dusard, from Jerry Uelsmann, From Bernice Abbott, and many other fantastic photographers. To me, this image is still the best. 

     This image has the full range of tones, and is printed to show off that range.  It is well focused, it is beautifully mounted, matted, and is signed and dated.  It is professionally perfect in every way. Because it is a fantastic photograph, it makes our home better, in my opinion.  But the real value for me is less obvious that the overwhelming beauty.   

      I ordered this photo when I was at John's home attending the Expressive Black and White Print workshop. The second or third night of the workshop, John was showing some of his prints, and this image was in the group.  As soon as I saw it, I decided to buy it.  Two years later, I attended the Beyond the Expressive Black and White Print workshop, and one of the printing demos was the printing of this photograph, and the true value of my investment became clear. 

     I am a able to compare the prints I make to this print.  Does my print have the range?  Does my print have the luminosity?  Is my the best it can be?  Is there any detail I could improve?  Watching this print come to life in John's darkroom lets me understand the building process for this image.  By knowing that history, I have been able to improve my printing, without my photographs looking like John Sexton copies.

     My test print wall is in the same room as this photograph. I think that serious darkroom printers should have a space to hang prints where they can spend time evaluating their work. Ideally this room would have gallery lighting, and lots of space around the image / images. That is not always available. I have a wall in a sitting room in our home that is reserved for my photos.  Currently I can test up to 5 images at a time.

Craig Pindell Test Print Wall

     Having the Corn Lily photograph hanging close to the test print photos allows me to compare the images in similar light at different times of the day.

     Investing in the photograph you feel is the example of perfection of the art will improve your work and lift you and your work to another level.


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