A Wine Filled Year book cover

As these things happen, ideas get modified. You put something out, you collaborate with people, they make suggestions. Sometimes, your ideas are solid, and your vision is complete, and you know it’s great, so you consider the suggestions, weigh them against your vision, and change nothing. Other times, one idea leads to another, then another, and so on, and the vision gets tweaked. At a certain point, you have to stop tweaking. The deadline is here, you know it’s a great project and you release it. The reason The Hobbit became three movies, rather than two, is that Peter Jackson had just way too much time to keep tweaking and poking at the story. I think it suffered somewhat for that, though the end product was pretty good.

A Wine Filled Year went through a tweaking process, though primarily in the title. The core of the vision still feels nearly perfect. At the start, when I first conceived the idea, I called it Year of Wine. I wasn’t in love with that, but it captured the basic idea. Then it became Wine for a Year, and remained thus for more than a year, because that has a nice sound to it. Then it came time to work on the Hungarian title. That started as … now I don’t remember exactly, but a literal translation, “A bor egy éve,” or something along those lines. Then a friend suggested, “Egy évem a borokkal,” or “My Year with Wines.” That had a nice ring to it, and when I shopped it around to other Hungarian friends, there were minor changes suggested, not enough to make a huge difference, until one of the winemakers I’ve worked with came in from a completely different direction, suggesting “Borral töltött év,” or “With Wine Filled Year.” It has the huge advantage of meaning both a year spent with wine, and a year literally filled up with wine, and it carries a slightly tarnished feeling that the author may have been drunk for a year. (He was not, though there were many occasions on which he perhaps tasted a glass or two too many.)

I was sticking with Wine for a Year as my English title until my graphic designer, working on the cover, making at least 15 versions (that I saw) of it, had the epiphany to make the English the same as the Hungarian. Thus the title has become A Wine Filled Year. Yes, grammatically, it needs a hyphen, and the grammarian in me feels stung every time I ignore the hyphen key when typing the title, but for graphic purposes, it just looks better on the cover without punctuation. It’s the same reason my working name is Brian H Neely, rather than Brian H. Neely – it just looks better, cleaner. (The middle initial is necessary, because among the 111 Brian Neelys in the US are 2 photographers, and there has been confusion before. I don’t think the other one is still active, but his work shows up in searches.)

A Wine Filled Year/Borral töltött év will be released on April 9th, with a pre-release sale beginning March 11th on my Etsy page – www.etsy.com/shop/PhotosFromTheWorld. You’ll have the opportunity to buy the book with no shipping charges (for international shipping!) and bundle it with an 8×10″ (20×25 cm) print at reduced cost.

But enough chatter (and be sure to visit my designer’s page at www.andrewsipe.com):

A Wine Filled Year

A Wine Filled Year

Posted in A Wine Filled Year, Business, Food and Drink, Process, Wine for a Year, Year of Wine | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Making a Book Is Hard

I’ve talked a lot about my Wine for a Year project. I’ve posted a good number of pictures about it. I had thought I might do a book, so I wrote an intro to the project. And then, when I discovered that I had missed my window for a month-long exhibition, and the best I could get was a one-day exhibit, I decided I definitely needed to make it a book. As it turns out, making a book is incredibly challenging, and requires a great deal more help than I’ve ever asked for.

What I’ve learned so far is that while a book project can come together in three months, you’d do better to give yourself six, or a year. You have to make a layout idea, then you have to find a publisher, arrange cover art, arrange translations (assuming a two-language book), come up with a title, workshop that title, especially in the second language, work with the publisher on the layout, pay for the publishing (if it’s a small publisher and you’re not hugely famous already), get an ISBN, and advertise. And this is from my haphazard approach to everything. If you’re obsessive, or a planner…well, if you’re a planner, you’re already 10 steps ahead of me.

I picked up a full-time job, which actually helps in some ways. First, now I can pay for the book. If I make enough sales, I make the money back, and with even more sales, I might clear a small profit (except that doesn’t really include paying my own wages). Second, I have to concentrate my time much better. I get up at 5 am (instead of my usual, luxurious, 5:30) and check emails, work on whatever the most recent task is, and do those three other things that need doing.

Today’s big task, for example, is the Hungarian version of the title. I need to nail that sucker down, so I can get my cover artist the final, so he can send me the cover art, so I can get an ISBN, which I need to do before the book layout is finished, because it has to go on the title page. And the title hinges on one word. Do I include the Hungarian word for “one,” which also serves as an indefinite article, or do I leave it out? The difference is “Egy borral töltött év,” versus, “Borral töltött év.” The literal translation is “A with wine filled year,” versus, “With wine filled year,” though Hungarians will read either one as “Wine-Filled Year.” In the one with the article, it could be viewed as “with a single wine” or the reader could assume that I’m going for the collective noun. In the no-article version, it’s clear that it’s the collective noun. And it feels like it flows better, at least, to my deeply inexpert ears.

I also owe my publisher an email about something or other. I have to go back and find the email he wrote me, slam it through 1 x 10100‘s translator app, try to figure out what the translation actually means (’cause it’s always extremely weird) and then reply to him and a friend who’s working as my interpreter. It’s convoluted, and a pain in the ass. And I should wrap this up, so I can go do that.

So, the lesson is that for the next book, I should start working on the book long before I have the photography finished, especially if I have a defined time limit, due to the impending next move to an exotic locale.

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Wine for a Year: Grape Effects

I don’t know how much to say about this one…it’s always hard to talk about abstract pieces. I don’t want to tell you what you should feel or think about it. So I’ll just give you the technical data, and let you find your own meaning in it.

It’s a macro (obviously), shot completely “wrong.” Usually, you stop down your lens (close the aperture as much as you can) to get very deep depth of field when shooting macros. You want as much of the picture in focus as you can get, and with macros, even with your lens stopped down, you don’t keep focus very deep into a scene. As I was setting up the shot, though, I liked the fuzzy look of the grapes, so in addition to shooting a straight picture, using my smallest aperture and having all the grapes in focus, I shot one almost completely unfocused.

Abstract Grapes

Posted in Abstraction, Detail, Food and Drink, Wine for a Year | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Beautiful: Diagonal Rail

You wouldn’t know it to watch me cook, or to look at my stacks of books, piles of papers, or by the clothes I wear, but I love minimalistic photos. I like having a single important element, and making my viewers engage with that element.

This is one such piece. Not that it matters at all in looking at the picture, but it was shot at Stirling Castle, in Scotland. Stirling overlooks Bannockburn, a key battleground in the First Scottish War of Independence on June 24th, 1314 (and had I but known that a couple weeks ago, this could have been a 700th anniversary post). Old, old buildings and objects move me. I love the sense that I’m walking on floors where famous dead people once walked, or looking at instruments used by famous dead people, or even not-famous dead people – it makes me feel connected to history, whether it’s physical history, or the history of thought, creativity, science, anything. Maybe I should do a week of old stuff, or a book, or a new project entirely.

Anyway, Stirling Castle, and the hill it sits on, had been a center of contention for more than 1000 years before Bannockburn, and probably for even longer. The crag it sits on dominates the landscape, and from it, even on a windy, stormy day at the end of December, you can see for miles. Nothing moves across the plain below in secret. Nothing. The English occupied it, and the Scots wanted to take it back, because it would give them dominance over the narrow stretch of land that opens into the Scottish Highlands.

Not that any of that is at all related to this photo. As I walked around Stirling Castle, taking pictures of this and that, I saw this beautiful, simple, geometric scene, and took a picture.

Stair Rail

And if you want to find it at Houzz.com, click here: http://www.houzz.com/photos/13821516/Stair-Rail-16×16-fine-art-color-photograph-contemporary-originals-and-limited-editions

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Photo from the World: Moonrise over Port Ellen

You cannot, as a landscape photographer, ever title a piece “Moonrise …” without wondering if it lives up to Ansel Adams’ snapshot entitled “Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico.” Adams? A snapshot?! That’s right. He’s blasting down the highway, sees the scene, jumps out, throws the camera (an 8×10″ behemoth, wherein the negatives are 8×10″ or 20×25 cm) on the tripod, and discovers he doesn’t have the light meter handy. He does some quick math, ’cause he’s a freakin’ genius, and works out that with the 250 candle power light of the moon, his exposure should be 1/20 sec at f/8. He sets his f-stop to f/32 and exposes for “about a second.” He turned the film holder around to make a second exposure, and the light shifted, wrecking the picture he’d seen. One frame, from a guy who’d once shot 32 of the 8×10″ negatives to capture exactly the right look on a dune ridge. The resulting picture is one of the most magical ever made.

The situation for this one is a little different. My wife and I watched sunset at the Lighthouse of Port Ellen, across Kilnaughton Bay from Port Ellen itself, and as we drove back, were entranced by the beauty of the rising moon. I didn’t have a tripod with me, so when she suggested pulling over to take a picture, I at first decided not to shoot while she took a picture, ’cause I knew I’d never get the picture I wanted. What did I want? A perfectly exposed photo at my camera’s slowest speed, probably a minute long, something impossible to do without a tripod. And speeding up the ISO, and using a larger aperture, would make a noisy, grainy, ugly picture that I would hate.

But as I looked across the scene, I figured I’d go ahead and take a snapshot. It was pretty enough, and maybe I could put it on my Facebook page. And naturally, as often happens when I listen to my wife, the picture was stunning almost straight out of the camera. I have gone back and forth with myself over the quality of the color in it, but I’ve decided that the slightly melancholy, slightly off, low-contrast look of the odd blue and yellow mix is right. I’ve done a lot to bring down the highlights (so the moon is only a little too bright) and to bring up the shadows (so the houses are only a little too dark), and otherwise haven’t messed with the contrast of the scene too much. I don’t like making a scene with much less contrast than this, because it looks muddy to me and dims the colors too much, and if I went with more contrast, the houses would go almost black. And so this simple snapshot becomes one of my favorite photos.

Port Ellen by Moonlight


You can find the image on my Houzz.com page here: http://www.houzz.com/photos/13823033/Moonrise-Port-Ellen-16×24-fine-art-color-photograph-traditional-originals-and-limited-editions 

Posted in History, Photo from the World, Places We Live, Scenic, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment