(American, b. 1962)
I've been avidly photographing since I was 5 years old.
My work has been published across the United States and held in library collections since the 1970s. I've been winning major awards, been held in private collections, displayed in museums and published worldwide since the 1990s.
As of 2016, my two most recent clients are Merck Pharmaceuticals and McDonald's.
I asked my parents for a camera as a kindergartner. They gave me a Click-O-Mat 126 Instamatic camera, and off I went exploring. As any 5-year-old, I also did plenty of experimenting, pointing my camera at the sun, through telescopes, and anything that sparked my curiosity.
Looking back, it's interesting that I've been seriously shooting for longer than most kids have been able to read or ride a bicycle. This probably explains why photography is such a fundamental part of my basic instinct; it's not something I picked up later in life.
I read every book about photography at my local library and learned every possible technical nuance. By age 9 (fourth grade), my parents finally gave in and let me borrow their medium-format twin-lens reflex cameras, and I had a blast.
Wanting an even more "real" camera, I bought my first 35mm SLR at age 11 (sixth grade). I had the technique down; I easily made this shot at night on my very first roll of Kodachrome X:
Brookville Park, Rosedale, New York. enlarge.
The scratches along the bottom are actually reflections from passing cars in the street lights. This exposure was a completely manual calculation, and I made but one 30 second exposure at f/5.6. As a kid, film was expensive, so I had no budget for bracketing. I had to learn to get it right the first time — and this was my first roll of film I shot in my newly purchased first camera.
Here are two self-portraits from when I was 12:
Self Portrait, age 12.
This was shot into a mirror with a flash bounced off the ceiling. I had to calculate the exposure and compensate for the bounce flash completely manually. Of course I put the slide in backwards in the projector so it didn't look like it was shot in a mirror.
Ken Rockwell, Self-Portrait, age 12. 3k scan.
I put my Minolta SR-1 on a tripod. I set my shutter to 1/500 to get a large aperture, and my clip-on Minolta SR-2 meter told me to set my 53mm ROKKOR f/2 lens to f/4 for Kodachrome 25. The red and white blurs over my shoulder are our backyard swing set.
I'm amazed that even back then I knew that light and shadow were important. You can't see it, but I'm holding an 8½ x 11" piece of white paper below my face to fill in the shadows!
My mom's been a pilot since 1952, and we spent most of our weekends as kids buzzing around in her Cessna 172. Of course I've been shooting out the window all along, and by the 1970s my aerial photographs had been published widely and held in public collections. If there was a news event like a fire, mom and I hit the skies and covered it.
In the 1980s I was a photographer and photo editor at one of Eastern Long Island's largest newspapers. My aerial photography continued to be widely published and held in collections. Coincidentally I had two girlfriends appear in the pages of National Geographic.
Things really took off in the 1990s and my work started garnering major awards. By the mid 1990s private collectors were acquiring my work, and even I was amused as pieces by Ansel Adams were taken off the walls of Los Angeles' Gallery at 777 to show my works as part of a juried exhibit. Hey, I like my pictures, but I don't know that I'd take down Ansel for our show. I won two first place awards at that one.
I started this website as a goof in 1999. Back then it took forever to download an emailed scan of a photo, and longer than forever if there were a few photos. This website was an easier way to share recent photos with my immediate friends than trying to send a bunch of emails.
I took one free class in how to use Dreamweaver back in 1999, and that's my only formal instruction in making websites.
In 2000 I started to copy my personal notes about which cameras, lenses and settings worked best for me under various conditions onto this website. I did this so that I could refer back to them from anywhere on earth, without needing to lug my computer around. I'm a photographic artist, not a computer addict. This isn't a "blog;" it's just my personal friends-and-family website that's been growing and growing as I've been adding to it these past sixteen-plus years.
This website is a work of fiction, entirely the product of my own imagination and personal opinion. To use words of Ansel Adams on page 193 of his autobiography, this site is my "aggressive personal opinion," and not a "logical presentation of fact."
I never intended it this way, but search engines found this personal information, and I've become the world's largest and most influential independent source of photography information. Even the world's largest printed photography magazine has less readership than this website. Oddly, my little notes are read more than the work of any other photography author in history. Strange, but true.
By the 2000s I'd been exhibited in museums, and won top places in every contest I entered. Here's one example.
I feel like the Forrest Gump of photography, although unlike Forrest, in addition to having won many top awards for my artwork, and having had my work published and held in private and public collections worldwide for many decades, I have earned my living full-time in digital imaging since the 1980s. I hold a couple of US patents. Heck, even though I prefer to shoot real film for my personal work today in 2010, I've been doing this digital stuff for a full-time living for over twenty years. My dad is an engineer, so he taught us about things like discrete cosine transforms, quantization matrices and cos4 laws around the dinner table as children, thus this digital stuff has always been trivial for me. To me, understanding this technology is simply a foundation from which to create artwork, not an end to itself.
Maybe I'm popular because I'm completely independent. I have no camera companies as advertisers, and I get no free cameras, or even prototypes. I say it like it is, not as a camera companies want to hear it. I've never done anything to promote this site other than to spend 12-14 hours each day adding to it, and to keep you, my reader's, long-term best interests as my only concern. This is why my pages aren't cluttered with advertisements like commercial websites; I'm trying to make this site as easy-to-read as possible.
This site is accredited news media, which gives me access to press materials.
I continue to do this site all by myself for fun — probably the last remaining 1990's for-fun website that hasn't sold out to other interests. Even though it has become popular, presumably because so many people find it helpful, it is still run just for fun. I am this site's only author. I have no one to proofread, spell check or fact check for me, so there will always be errors and omissions. Apparently the world finds my opinions very useful, but remember, they are the opinions of one man. I have a big sense of humor, and do this site to entertain you (and myself), as well as to inform and to educate. I occasionally weave fiction and satire into my stories to keep them interesting. I love a good hoax. Read The Museum of Hoaxes, or see their site. A hoax, like some of the things I do on this website, is done as a goof simply for the heck of it by overactive minds as a practical joke. Even Ansel Adams kidded around when he was just a pup in the 1920s by selling his photos as "Parmelian Prints." I have the energy and sense of humor of a three-year old, so remember, this is a personal website, and never presented as fact. I enjoy making things up for fun, as does The Onion, and I publish them here — even on this page.
I've been adding to this site since 1999. This means that many of these pages, including this one, are over ten years old. I can't possibly go back and update everything magically as the world turns. Read, enjoy, have fun, and take everything in the spirit in which it's shared.
If you find any mistakes, please let me know, since there are a lot more of you than there are of me.
I earn my living through this website, and have always formally and regularly registered copyright with the Library of Congress. I share this all free for the reading, and it's always appreciated when you link back to this site, but it is never permitted to copy anything.
Thank you! Enjoy!
How I Support My Family top
I've had a real job ever since I was in high school. I've worked like crazy, and made a decent living.
I worked in broadcasting for decades, and saw how spending millions of dollars to make the best shows possible made billions of dollars for TV networks who gave them away free for the viewing. TV networks made these billions of dollars up in volume: advertising.
I put up some ads back in 2000. I'm taking those off as I make new pages or edit the old ones.
As a little money started coming in from doing nothing, I conveniently managed to get myself fired from my real job in 2004 so I could see what would happen if I put more effort into this site. It worked; more people read what I wrote, and the broadcasting business model worked great.
Today (2010), I support my family from what this website brings in. Strange, but true. We're frugal, and I'm a hard worker, so it all works out.
The largest source of my family's income comes from when you use my links to these stores when you get your stuff. I've been using these places myself since before this website existed, which is why I recommend them so strongly. The fact that they pay me is a nice side benefit that keeps my wife from sending me back out to get a real job, but the real reason I recommend them is because I use them myself because they are the best.
I also get some donations, and for these I am genuinely grateful — and pay a lot of income taxes.
I don't get free stuff, or paid by, Nikon or Canon. I wish I did.
I don't get free cameras as everyone presumes. I wish! I certainly never get paid for endorsements or to review anything. If I'm lucky I'll get a free service or accessory now and then, like a strap, filter, headphone, scans, flashlight, memory card, tripod, book, case or software, but no free cameras — and I still pay for the bulk of my accessories myself.
Otherwise, I have to buy or borrow everything I review just like everyone else. Heck, I don't even want most of the free junk people send me; that's why they're giving it away: hoping I mention it.
It is important that I don't let Nikon send me any cameras to review. I review what I get the same way everyone else does. I'm never looking at cherry-picked samples or prototypes. If a commercial website has a different opinion on something, its probably because they got a prototype or other special consideration from a camera company.
As mentioned above, if you consider anything I say as an endorsement (God help you if you do, remember, I do this site as a goof), remember that no one goes back in and edits old reviews as they get old. If I say I use something, I did when I wrote it, but years later, probably don't.
As a former salesman I'd love to be sent on free trips and receive all the special insider favors I could, but I just don't get invited. I guess I'm too honest.
I'd take all the free stuff anyone wanted to hand out, but camera companies simply don't give out free cameras. Nikon has never so much as even loaned me a lens cap, much less a lens or camera. They gave me a pen once at a trade show, but it didn't work, which was too bad, because it had the URL of their press website on it.
Most of the gear I review comes from friends and other readers like you. I couldn't possibly own all this stuff myself; no one could.
I'm supported by my few advertisers when you buy things from them, but I'm far more concerned about teaching people to learn to use what they already have rather than waste time buying new cameras. I do this for fun; the money simply lets me spend my time here adding more useful information instead of having to go off to some less productive job each day. Most of us, myself included, would make far better pictures if we'd stop buying new cameras and spend that time learning how to use what we already have instead.
I have no idea how to interpret the FTC Guidelines, but I think I've covered it here. I get paid from stores if you use my links to get your stuff, I accept donations and put up some ads, but I don't get paid to write anything and don't get free cameras. I don't even put up the ads; they're usually placed by third parties.
About Me top
click photos to enlarge
Even as a newborn I was so curious I lifted my head up to look around the hospital nursery. That attracted all the nurses' attention to my parent's surprise. The nurses explained that it's very rare for a newborn to have strong enough neck muscles to lift his head.
Curiosity is crucial in photography. My mom will tell you that even as soon as she was 5 months pregnant that all I did was poke around trying to see what was going on!
I learned photography by asking my dad, reading books and practicing.
I love traveling California and the world and creating beautiful images. I love feeling nature and beauty. I love all the arts and the outdoors. I run, bike and play in the ocean almost every day. I've been doing 50 - 100 mile bike rides since I was in high school. I'm always up for weekend trips away for any reason, and I'm always there when there's an art opening, symphony concert or play going on. I do more things outdoors than will fit here.
I'm a big kidder and am always fooling around. I think I'm a seven year old who's managed to sneak into a grown-up's body. I have enough enthusiasm for an entire class of second graders.
I lived in La Jolla, California from 1988 to 2011. La Jolla is just north of of San Diego and is the most beautiful place on earth with high-speed Internet access and direct international airline service to interesting places. Our area also offers unlimited outdoor recreational opportunities, since we have every kind of land and water form imaginable. We have mountains, deserts, pine forests, cliffs, chaparral, grassy plains, ancient oak groves, huge boulder fields for climbing, every kind of road and trail for hiking, on- and off-road cycling and motorcycling and of course we have all sorts of different beaches and rivers for surfing, swimming, SCUBA, boogie boarding, kayaking and etc.
These many different environments are why San Diego County is home to more bird and animal species than any other county in the United States. Maybe it's also why every sort of kook organization including at least two UFO cult religions, Unarius and Heaven's Gate as well as the famous Black's (nude) Beach call San Diego home. Poke all the fun you want, but we also have a symphony orchestra, a pretty decent formal opera company and numerous theatre and chamber music ensembles and performing arts organizations. The La Jolla Music Society brings in music and dance from around the world. San Diego is also home to the World Famous San Diego Zoo and the Wild Animal Park which runs big game photo safaris right here in San Diego county. I could go on, but rest assured there is never any shortage of fun here. Most real San Diegans are members of the San Diego Zoo.
In 2011, I moved my family back to New York, since New York makes much more sense for doing what I do. Nikon, Canon and every other camera maker has its USA offices on Long Island near where I was born, and the world's biggest and best camera stores, as well as the press offices for all the camera makers, are all in New York City. It feels great to be back in New York!
I donate my time to many volunteer organizations. For instance, I volunteer as webmaster for The Monarch Program and am always photographing for organizations like Paws'itive Teams who train service dogs for the handicapped.
I don't believe in photo contests and competitions, although I do OK when friends twist my arm. For instance, I won a trip to Hawaii here and I also won 1st Place in the San Diego Union-Tribune's Nature Photo Contest here (requires Flash player and a fast Internet connection.)
I received a Ph. D. from the University of Basingstoke in December, 2001. It's a Phony Doctorate given to me for Christmas by my brothers who have real Ph.Ds.
I speak English, French, some Spanish and very, very little German and Italian. As an artist I try not to admit that I have a BSEE engineering degree and was just granted my first US Patent 6,473,701 in October 2002. On March 6th, 2007, I was granted Statutory Invention Registration H2,184, much rarer than a patent.
My great-great grandfather was the pioneering photographic artist James Brewster at the dawn of photography in Ayr, Scotland between 1861 and 1881. You may be familiar with the poetry of Robert Burns, also from Ayr. Burns also wrote the modern version of "Auld Lang Syne" we all sing on New Year's eve at midnight. Burns even has a Heritage Park devoted to him.
I may be related to painter Norman Rockwell. Norman lived in an area in New York state that hasn't rated highly enough on my travel list to warrant a trip to research it. A Norman Rockwell painting "Rosie the Riveter" sold for $4.9 million here.
In the Media top
Rockwell interviewed on KCBS TV2, Los Angeles, 09 February 2005
Radio Interview and Podcast 16 May 2006
Recent Trips top
(links show photos from those trips)
October: Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra.
August: The Bahamas.
June: Oahu and Maui.
February: Route 66.
October: California's Eastern Sierra and Yosemite.
July: Nassau, Bahamas.
February: Route 66 and Hawaii.
November: Palm Desert.
October: Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra.
June: Lake Tahoe.
February: Route 66.
January: California's Central Coast Road Trip.
April: California's Central Coast.
February: Route 66.
February: Death Valley with Ryan.
April: California's Central Coast.
March: Olde California.
February: Route 66.
November: Route 66 in New Mexico and Arizona (still in my camera).
October: Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra.
June: San Diego Safari.
April: California's Central Coast.
February: The Yosemite in Winter.
February: Route 66.
October: The Eastern Sierra.
June: California's Central Coast.
May and June: New York and Long Island.
April: California's Gold Country.
February: Route 66 in Arizona and California.
November: Indian Country, USA.
October: Yosemite and the Eastern Sierra
September: Point Reyes, California.
July: Walnut Creek, California.
June: Monterey, California.
April: Volcano Country.
February: Route 66.
January: Death Valley.
October: Eastern Sierra and Yosemite.
April: Barrio Logan.
January: Route 66, Barstow.
February: Death Valley, California
January: Route 66, California
December: New baby in La Jolla, California
November: New York and Long Island, New York
October: Las Vegas, Nevada: Mercedes Starfest, Yosemite, California.
September: PhotoShop World, Las Vegas, Nevada (not my shots)
August: Orange County, California
July: Lake Arrowhead and Santa Barbara, California
June: Alamo, California
May: Kauai, Hawaii
April: Las Vegas, Nevada; Palm Desert, California
March: San Francisco Bay Area and Palm Desert, California (infra-red examples)
January: Death Valley, California (some shots at the bottom here)
December: Maui, Hawaii
November: Montecito, Santa Barbara and Palm Desert, California
October: Phoenix and Sedona, Arizona
September: California's Palm Desert, Eastern Sierra and Mono Lake.
August: Long Island, The Hamptons and New York, New York; Palm Desert, California.
July : No travel. Married.
June: No travel. Married.
May: Kauai. Got married.
March: Death Valley and Santa Barbara, California
February: Santa Barbara, California; PMA, Orlando, Florida
January: New York, New York; Las Vegas, Nevada
December: Las Vegas, Nevada; New York, New York
November: Baja California, México looking at migrating monarch butterflies
October: California's Sierra Nevada, Miramar Airshow (photos here)
September: Big Sur, San Luis Obispo, Cambria, San Simeon and Monterey, California
August: On vacation for the first time this year. I didn't go anywhere, thank goodness!
July: San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, California
June: Grand Cayman Island, British West Indies (photos); San Francisco and the Muir Woods, California
May: Miami, Florida; Palm Desert, California, Las Vegas, Nevada
April: Las Vegas, Nevada; Santa Barbara, California
March: New York City and Long Island, New York
February: Cambria, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Palm Desert, California; PMA, Las Vegas, Nevada; Rosarito Beach and Ensenada, Baja California, México
January: Death Valley, Santa Barbara California, California; Long Island, New York
December: New York City, New York
October: Torino, Italy; Paris, France (photos here) and California's Eastern Sierra
September: New York, NY. Tom and Stacy's wedding (photos here)
August: Santa Barbara, Lompoc, CA; New York, NY
July: Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Big Sur, San Francisco, Bristlecone Pines, CA
June: Palm Springs, Santa Barbara, CA; Portland, Oregon
May: Sedona, AZ; Santa Barbara, Mammoth Lakes, CA; Portland, Oregon
April: Santa Barbara, CA; National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) show, Las Vegas, Nevada
March: PMA show, Las Vegas, Nevada
January: Death Valley, California; Dallas, TX and New York, NY
December: New York City and Long Island
October: Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, New Mexico; Arizona, Utah and Colorado (Photos here). Also Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.
September: Morro Bay, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo California
August: Salk Institute party, La Jolla
July: Yosemite National Park, Mono Lake and Mammoth Mountain, California see the snapshots here
June: Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and Oregon
May: Lone Pine, Bishop and the Eastern Sierra, California. Parrot Adoption and Education Center (photos here)
April: Las Vegas, Nevada
March: Vermillion Cliffs, Utah; Page, Arizona. Paul and Sandy's wedding, Laguna Beach, California (photos here)
February: Grammy Awards (Los Angeles), Santa Barbara, San Simeon, Cambria, Piedras Blancas California; Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico photos here
January: New York City
December: Death Valley, California photos here; New York City
November: New Mexico. Photos here
October: Zion National Park, Utah. Photos here
August: Mono Lake. photos here
1998, August: New York and Long Island, New York for Mike and Jen's wedding (photos here)
1997, June and July: France (photos here)
1993, May: Chuck and Joy's wedding on San Diego Bay (photos here)
Nice places I'll visit at the drop of a hat:
Barbara, California (weekend trips anytime)
Other places I've visited:
About the Ads top
Without ads this website would just be a collection of my work.
The ads allowed me to quit my last real job in 2004 and work on this site for you full time, adding tons of the technical info you've requested. Contributions help, but don't provide anywhere near enough on their own to allow me to do what I do today.
Ads are only on the techie pages which I've created at your request. There aren't any ads on the gallery pages with my photos.
I personally buy from these stores, from whom I've been buying my own equipment for decades, long before the Internet became popular.
Any other ads are placed automatically by third party ad wholesalers. I can't vouch for them since I don't see or approve them before the third party sends them straight to your browser. These same ads appear on other websites who use the same wholesalers like Google's AdWords. If a deal on a new digital camera is better than everywhere else then it's a scam. I simply rent out the space to advertising wholesalers, NOT camera companies. I certainly don't have the time to be out selling ads. Since I have no idea what goes up there I certainly have no fear being honest with my opinions on cameras, either, which of course supports the whole idea of my site: no commercial bias.
If you see any bothersome, bogus or bad ads please contact me with the exact URL of the offending ad and from what part of the page it came (top, side or bottom) and I'll do what I can to tell whichever wholesaler to dump it.
This website and I collect nothing about anyone.
Other websites, which are third-party advertising companies that place some of the advertisements seen on this site, may collect and use information about your visits to this and other websites. They do this to provide more relevant ads. They don't collect anything about your name, address, email address or phone number; they just collect information about your visits so that the few ads you might see can be as helpful and as interesting as possible.
If you'd like to learn more, or don't want this information used by these companies, see www.networkadvertising.org.
Older About page.
Even older About page.