What is SPR Images?

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SPR Images is an evolving website, built mostly as a way to show the photographic work I've been doing for years and to make some of it available to others in the form of framed prints. My name is Stephen Peter Robeck (thus the initials) and this is me. I started using SPR years ago as a way to sign notes and emails to people who knew who I was, and then as a way to sign photographs without having to write my whole name because my handwriting isn't very good.

This is actually my second website. The first was a basic WordPress site that used a basic them with an OK gallery function.

How I Learned About Photography

Here’s a compressed résumé-like timeline with relevant details. In addition, I’ve been happily married for 37 years and helped raise our delightful daughter, now age 31. I’m also the IT guy, network administrator and general fix-it man in our household.

Late 1950’s - 1960’s: As a photo hobbyist, worked with film cameras (my first camera was a Kodak Brownie) and basic darkroom techniques. Also became an avid reader of monographs and other books about a variety of photographers. Those that most got my attention include W. Eugene Smith, Dorothea Lange, Margaret Bourke-White, Jerry Uelsmann, Eliot Porter, Edward Weston and Ansel Adams.

Early 1970’s: While continuing my personal creative camera and darkroom work, gained valuable commercial photography experience working for interesting clients like:

  • Tobey Publishing (all photographs for two books on bicycle and motorcycle touring)
  • Eastern Mountain Sports (all product photography for EMS’ catalogs)
  • Time-Life Films (photographed all interiors and exteriors of the storied Harold Lloyd estate in Beverly Hills, CA

Late 1970’s: Ran the filmography department at ComCorps in Washington, D.C., a company that used advanced optical techniques to create motion pictures from still images. Clients included IBM, Sports Illustrated, Jeep, Chanel and many more. ComCorps’ founder, Jeff Whatley, a giant in his understanding of optics, color and photographic processes, was a very valuable mentor.

Early 1980's: Developed film and television projects at RKO Pictures, with a focus on international co-productions with the Royal Shakespeare Company, Broadway producers and others. All this was exciting but not a business I enjoyed or felt I was particularly good at.

Late 1980’s – 1990’s: Joined and eventually led a creative agency, Equity Marketing, in implementing entertainment-based promotional programs for clients like Burger King, Taco Bell, Arby’s, Pizza Hut, Wendy’s, Pepsi and many more. A major part of our role in this work was to manage the creative representation of film and TV characters from the likes of Disney, Fox, Warner Bros., Paramount, Sony, etc. My love for wilderness backpacking grew in the mid 1990’s, and this brought photography (film) back to the fore, even while business demanded much of my time. My first panographs were taken during a trip to Glacier National park in 1994.

2000’s: After retiring from my business career in 1998, I began to learn digital darkroom technique in earnest, mostly by reading and doing, and found that my earlier work with traditional photography was valuable and useful experience. Cameras work the same way, and color is still color. To further my knowledge, I participated in several seminars and workshops with leaders in the world of digital photography and fine-art photographic printing:

  • Will Crockett: This workshop was a great introduction to the arcane world of color management in computer systems, critical in achieving a screen/print match.
  • Stephen Johnson: Working with this well-known landscape photographer and digital pioneer in two multi-day workshops helped me learn the basics of “painting with light” to selectively control hue, shading, saturation and perceived depth.
  • John Paul Caponigro and Mac Holbert: JP (son of Paul Caponigro) is a great teacher and accomplished artist, and Mac Holbert was one of the founders of Nash Editions (source of the term “giclée”). They taught an intensive five-day course in fine-art image editing and printing at the Brooks Institute here in Santa Barbara. This was a watershed experience for me, and I came away with a much deeper understanding of little-known digital tools (these guys are geniuses, really) as well as further grounding in color and compositional theory.

2010’s: Recently I have become much more active in the Santa Barbara creative community. As a member of the Santa Barbara Art Association and the Channel City Camera Club, I have had four gallery exhibits as a featured artist and have participated in several group shows. It goes without saying that my cameras are regular companions no matter where I go. Some of my favorite photographic artists today include Richard Misrach, Hiroshi Sugimoto, Greg Crewdson and Cindy Sherman.

My Creative Motivation

Some people think photography, especially digital photography, is a less worthy art form than, say, painting. Both are used to create two-dimensional images, though with very different tools and techniques.

What I Photograph and Why

And blah.

Photographic and Creative Techniques

More blah blah.

Why Digital Photography Is Great

When I was first starting out, photography was all about black & white because that's all we could work with in our home darkrooms. Color was something very mysterious and unapproachable except in Kodachrome slides and drugstore prints, and these were expensive. Larger prints were only available from custom labs and were very expensive. But over the last fifteen years the photograpy world has totally changed. With the advent of good-quality digital cameras and the virtual darkroom they made possible, color (and black & white became easily and affordably in the grasp of anyone who wanted to try. Of course this also put a premium on understanding how to control color, first in terms of having computer monitors and printers color managed so what you see on the screen is what the printer produces, but also in terms of how to use color creatively.

But then the hardest part was to really understand how all the pieces of the puzzle fit together, and for a while this was a moving target. Different computer operating systems had different ways of managing color, and sometimes they would change their rules without letting their partners know well enough in advance. For years this was a problem among Adobe (maker of Photoshop), Epson (maker of professional-grade printers) and Apple.