Motivated with new tools

A mantra I’ve often said is “I Love Digital I Hate Digital!” It’s as true today as when the phrase first entered my mind. (Click on any image to see full screen.)

One street lamp 40,000 ISO

If I capture something with my camera like my eyes saw I’m quite happy. Noise/grain that accompanies low light is a side effect of the digital settings necessary to capturing dark environments. Although I accept noise as part of the feel of that environment it’s a distraction I’d be glad to eliminate.  

Nicole Ivan REALLY?! Bodiography Contemporary Ballet Choreography Maria Caruso

Images from a production of the Bodiography Contemporary Ballet motivated me to do a test drive of noise reducing software. I was very happy with how the blacks surrounding Nicole’s form became transparent. The software did indeed reduce grain but added what I describe as a “painterly look.” I kinda liked it! Since I also like what 40,000 ISO can do, I recognized this software would allow me to experiment more in low light situations.

A preset “look” look dramatically improved the spectrum of blue.

After exploring the noise filter for a trial period. I added the entire Topaz collection to my editing toolbox to see what else I might use. As learning by trial & error will do, I found interesting tools.

A light touch softened the harsh elements that had overpowered the main subject.

Finding the images that benefit most from my new digital tools is a learning curve. I realized some filters have the ability to take “so-so” shots & improve the basics of form, light, color or texture. The right tool for the right job is where decision-making is important in achieving an image that correlates with my vision when I snapped the shutter. In doing this, I contemplate the Ansel Adams quote “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” I often wonder how he would embrace digital tools.

The result of digital manipulation added to my appreciation of the strength of the form.

This result, in my mind’s eye, crossed over into a different dimension. Not a photograph but not a painting. In some respects filters made elements more natural while making others bizarre. It seems like I found some handles on mood & emotion. I soon saw a use for these tools with some specific images in my archive.

My 1st reaction was a feeling of summer. (The sails are masked from the effect.)

In previous attempts at chasing sailboats with my camera I was less than thrilled with the results. I had a few not-to-bad images but weather had an impact, as did my learning curve on my overall satisfaction. I liked the form within many of the images but they just didn’t “pop.” Using Photoshop I removed some elements I wasn’t happy with but nothing reached a level of  “Nailed It!” These images became my guinea pigs for venturing into artificial intelligence in photo software.

My next step may be trying to remove all the sponsor text on the hull & sail.

As is often the case “Less is More.” A slight use of a “designed look” diminished the visual strength of the bridge in the background while giving energy to the boat. That is more like what I envisioned.

My”old school” roots make it easy to reject this & other effects.

As with any effect, it’s easy to get ridiculous. But I did find “looks” I thought added a layer of enrichment not just change.

The elements in this image never did balance to my liking.

From what I know about AI using that term seems to be more hype/marketing than actual operation. The “looks” I felt had the most impact on improving the images fell into one category…dead painters with names like Degas, Van Gogh, Monet & Renoir.  However, with some images no amount of important artists do more than make a mediocre image more mediocre.

Over saturation is a common technique to grab eyes. I prefer a powerful subject.

Not surprisingly adding a filter does not rescue a shot that really doesn’t have much going for it. An effect just for the sake of an effect is only a crutch supporting a problem.

In the “before” image on the left, Empire Sandy lacked wind in her sails making her look flat & lifeless. Running the image on the right thru a few “looks” gave me something a bit more interesting. In this case the software added a classical feeling to a subject with historic roots. This effect works with this image.

Re-cropping to 30% of image gave better balance to elements that caught my eye.

I’ve overcome my “journalistic” concerns about altering an image. Now, reducing/removing visual distractions or enhancing details are things I routinely do in Photoshop. I especially enjoy how a simply re-crop gives a shot more emphasis.

From a sophisticated perspective I would critique this as just yukky!

I find myself in digital conflict again. Some of these clicks in Topaz software take an image into an entirely different cosmos. These images are far from a painting & my eyes don’t see a photograph. Frequently, like the image above, results scream NO! It feels disconnected from what inspired me. Occasionally, I discover a layer of emotion or mood that’s in sync with my original motivation.

LOST POND by J

My visual perception has yet to fully integrate how all the aspects of digital editing can assist with realizing that vision. I am continuing to learn the appropriate situation of what & when to dig into my digital toolbox. To ensure I don’t go to far I went back to some of my favorite shots. LOST POND is one of my few landscape captures I really like.  Could I make it better? The results…different yes better no!

I’m sure Monet himself could do better.

I love much of Monet’s work & I thought simulating his style might take the image to a higher level. Nope! The good photo, with some enhancement in Photoshop, is much better than the “Monet look”. Learning what I don’t like is valuable to me. It gives me incentive to pursue the vision of my mind’s eye with new tools, new perspectives & new failures, at my fingertips.

Laissez faire motivation

Follow where your eyes take you!

FYI click or tap an image to view it full screen. Prague was the enticing destination on my recent trip. But Portugal & Vienna were bookends of our travels. The coastal cities of Lisbon & Porto are where most of our time was spent with one-night in Sintra & a day trip to the Douro Valley.

I didn’t have specific destinations or expectations for this part of our trip so I just had a photographic laissez faire approach to where we went. I let my eyes wander & tried to capture interesting details, characteristics of the culture & people. The churches, palaces & monasteries in these old world Europe cities are spectacular but kind of blend together. Something that grabbed my eyes in Lisbon was the beautiful tile work almost everywhere you looked. I also saw lots of street art aka graffiti. As always shadows attract my interest.

The topography of these 2 port cities made many of the hills of Pittsburgh look like gentle slopes. Within the crowded streets of Lisbon are 3 funiculars/inclines, which gave welcome relief to my knees. In addition, many of the streets & sidewalks are made from tiles & stones. While they provided unique artistic character to the cities, (Yes! The sidewalks are stunning works of craftsmanship!) at the end of the day the unevenness took a toll on my feet.

I had hoped to do a sailing trip out of Porto for an afternoon, but it ended up that we just motored along the coast & up the Douro River. A nice afternoon on the water but very disappointed the sails never went up. That means look for other boats that do have sheets to the wind!

Sintra offered an opportunity to visit a variety of castles. These structures have always fascinated me. I was anxious to see them. The Palace of Pena was interesting but seemed like a set from Universal Studios. The Castle of the Moors, built over 1100 years ago, is in surprisingly good shape providing spectacular views from atop the hill. The newest of the castles, Quinta da Regaleira, built in the last days of the Portugal monarchy, is the one that got my mind’s eye really motivated. This was indeed my highlight of Portugal, a place I could spend an entire day with my camera.

Another memorable experience was a drive into the Douro valley, home of Port wine. Although I don’t drink wine, getting there was a good day trip. The drive was one of the most scenic routes I’ve taken in a while. Driving a stick shift on the back-country roads was much more fun than the anxiety of reintroducing myself to a clutch on city hills.

I had VERY briefly visited Vienna on a 12 hour layover a few years ago so I had a taste of what this old yet cosmopolitan city was like. On this trip we took the time to visit the summer palace of the Habsburg dynasty. We were told, after we bought tickets, that no photography was allowed on the tour. With a silent shutter & stealth aiming of the camera I didn’t let rules stop me. This is the room where after the Bay of Pigs & before the Cuban Missile Crisis President Kennedy met with Soviet Premier Khrushchev. That meeting didn’t go well for JFK.

 I understand & usually respect restriction on photography. Some people, many with with cell phone cameras, cause problems with the flow of tourist traffic. And don’t get me started about selfie sticks! However, if this restriction is part of the policies, let people know before purchasing tickets. I almost always check in advance if non-flash no tripod photography is allowed when I anticipate taking pictures.

Enough of that rant, the gardens outside the palace have wonderful opportunities to take pictures, fewer crowds & was a more picturesque environment. Central Vienna was indeed worth exploring but the gardens of the palace & the district of Hietzing, where the palace is located, offered a  slower simpler taste of Austria. This was a welcome change of pace. Naturally they had the prerequisite historic churches.

In life I try to experience new things. However, I also understand what I like & what I don’t like. I enjoyed seeing the wonderful lobby/entrance to the Vienna Opera House. The only way to see it was waiting in line to buy SRO tickets for Madam Butterfly. Even though I love the symphony, theater, dance & especially musical theater I had never experienced opera. My instincts for avoiding it were correct. With no offense to talented performers, crew & fans of this historic art form, I doubt I will ever go to another opera. We respectfully left after the 1st act. OBTW the interior hall of both Heinz Hall & The Benedum are more impressive.

Finally PRAGUE

St Vitus on the hill in New Town

A destination dream was a worthwhile experience with a few blemishes. Prague has been an Eastern European city I have wanted to visit for a while. It has history, architecture, culture & is almost as pristine as before WWII. I had a few preconceived ideas in my head of what I hoped to photograph & looked forward to walking in the path of historic times.

Metamorphosis

I had read about the Statue of Kafka with rotating layers. The concept created by David Cereny fascinated me in that it reflected one of his best know books, Metamorphosis, in a unique way. Once I got to the small square I realized all 360 degrees of background were distracting. So I did tight shots of the 42 ton statue making it more abstract. I’d like to try my eye at capturing some images at night when neighboring buildings might not visually interfere as much. If I still did video, I’d want to do drone work around this kinetic sculpture.

Time passing the tourists

The biggest disappointment was the size of the crowds. I didn’t anticipate the number of visitors we would need to navigate thru. It was a weekend with wonderful weather that drew throngs of visitors in Disney World proportions. This “small” crowd was staring at the Astronomical Clock originally built in 1410 with many repairs & updates over its 600 year history. I wonder if any anything built today could last even 300 years.

Strahovsky Library

We hired a personal guide who enriched walking thru historic Wenceslas Square & many other parts of the city. However her best suggestion was a private tour of the Strahovsky Library. The frescoes, the baroque, the books, the paintings on the ceilings & the globes made me feel very small. The accumulated knowledge, creativity & effort it took to create all of this cannot help but make one humble.

Some associate Prague with the flavor of unconventional bohemians. This is reflected it the literature, art & spiritual roots of this city. When a friend recommended going to a gallery to see exhibits by Dali, Warhol & Mucha I knew it would be memorable. Immersed in the work of Dali I remembered how I felt as a teenager when I discovered his surreal work. The exhibit on Warhol also was enlightening. It didn’t just repeat what I’ve seen & learned of Pittsburgh’s native art icon. The contrast of modern cast sculpture vs classic carved stone statues provide diversity that keeps your eyes & mind alert.

One of the things that enticed me to visit Prague was the Old Europe architecture. It can be an aesthetic overload. Thankful the destruction many cities experienced during WWII escaped this town on the Vltava river. Somehow the diverse styles of Baroque, Gothic & Roman including a few Moorish & Art Nouvea buildings do not conflict with each other. Sprinkled throughout are ornate details almost all modern buildings are void of. I did not see it all the city had to offer, which is a good reason to return. My ability to capture good architectural images is poor at best. However, experiencing these classic structures with my eyes was rewarding enough.

A common element in almost all tourist destinations is the sound of street musicians. On the streets & bridges of Prague they added a layer of atmosphere to the background defining a sense of place. Slowing down to listen to the soundtrack accompanying the sights was a true joy. As with much of the culture of Prague, the medley of styles was a pleasant encounter.

Never pass up the opportunity to put red in the frame,

The sense of history in Wenceslas Square was transformative. In my lifetime it has witnessed Soviet tanks & demonstrations leading to the Velvet Revolution. While I was there a gathering of activists were educating people about climate change. I’m not sure if this woman was associated with that message or not. But the saying of “never pass up an opportunity to capture red in the frame” compelled me to snap this image.

In St Giles church listening to an ensemble play Vivaldi, Mozart & Ravel I closed my eyes & drifted back in time. For me music can do that.  After a day wandering around this historic city it was one of the most memorable experiences of my time in Prague.

The one image I’m most thrilled about I was able to capture then manipulate in PS to what I had seen in my mind’s eye. As a photographer that is a very rewarding experience. I love the low light capabilities of my camera & continue to discover more techniques in PS that allow me to create the images I want. Overall Prague didn’t give me the photo opportunities I had hoped for. However, it stimulated my senses in a way that few other places have ever done.

Urban Inspiration

Walk around any city & you’ll find public art. Some statues or murals may be commissioned or you may see the work of an illicit painter’s creativity. Even some marketing signs have an artistic flair. Whatever the intent, these visual distractions can make a mundane environment more interesting.

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The symmetrical sharp shapes of these windows with multiple panels are softened with the colorful arched design that surrounds them. The static pattern of bricks has almost disappeared into the background with the outlined form of columns. The artistic accents incorporated onto the basic form of the structure add to the character of the old building while giving a hint to what is inside.

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The sides of buildings where a parking lot has been squeezed into the empty space provide an opportunity for many types of murals. Usually work done in these spaces provide vivid color to an otherwise drab wall.

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Statues of Ancient Greece represented gods while some rulers hoping to immortalize themselves had their likeness carved in stone. In this country many of our civic monuments pay tribute to important individuals. No form of art is ever static. In the recent past objects, forms & surrealistic sculptures began to appear in public spaces often representing ideas. Empty Suit by Erwin Wurm in St. Louis fascinated me. Humanity has been removed from a typical form on a pedestal & the color demands your attention.

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Not to far from Empty Suit I found a sculpture commonly know as Hollow Head or just plain Head. I later learned its official name is Eros Bendato sculpted by Igor Mitoraj. Initially I enjoyed the absurdity of the work but discovered that Eros is the Greek God of love & desire. By making me smile when I first saw it & later thinking of what the artist may have been saying, this public art did it’s job.

05 copyWhile this wall in Mostar, riddled with the bullet holes, is definitely not the work of an artist. It does speaks to me in a more powerful way than any urban environment I’ve ever been in. During the war in Bosnia Herzegovina in the 1990’s, this city, which had been a beacon of coexistence between a cultural, religious & ethnic population, was laid siege. Centuries of cooperation & tolerance eroded into an atmosphere of distrust & anger. It is a constant reminder of the the lasting scars from the savagery of war.

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Translation…I am Fidel. My trip to Cuba was 2 months after Fidel died. One of Castro’s last wishes was for no monuments to be erected in his honor to avoid a cult of personality. The few murals I saw were of faded revolutionary icons. During my 2 weeks on the island I saw very little graffiti. I found it odd that with Cuba’s rich artistic culture I did not see more art in public places. 07

The attempt to brighten up an alley in downtown Denver with a dramatic work of art seemed like a good idea. However, the alley will always be a place for garbage dumpsters. The stark reality of the graffiti tagged container defines the superiority of function over form in this environment.

08This mural alongside a parking lot in the Strip District of Pittsburgh is also an advertisement for the business inside the building. Getting your attention is a shared goal of art & marketing. Both the design & the message are simple. In my mind’s eye that harmony helps to make it effective without being offensive. It also has balanced proportion with the cars in in front of it.

09Anyone with a bit of technical knowledge about video will immediately associate the color bars in the mural with TV. The iconic Apple logo requires no further explanation. Yet again it is on a wall beside a parking lot. In this case, the enormity of it with the stark design I find irritating. I’m not a graphic designer but somehow I think Apple could have used the space with a more creative brush. Just because it looks good on a monitor doesn’t always translate to the environment people will see it.

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On Beal St. in Memphis businesses uses unique signs to get tourists attention to lure them in & spend money. A clever name or a creative sign are the norm. One sign that grabbed my eye was the Pepsi Sign. The artist credited is Mark Davey. I can’t say for certain but this seems to be his unique expression of creative promotion not a Pepsi campaign.

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It’s no surprise that in the digital era urban art now includes video sculptures. At Millennial Park in Chicago, Crown Fountain displays dynamic images along with LED lighting presentations. The 50 foot tall screen can be overpowering when it shows the faces of about 1,000 faces of people from Chicago. The images of the faces are not static. Periodically a stream of water will shoot out of the subject’s mouth. From the appropriate distance it speaks to the diversity of humanity.   Hopefully it will never be used for advertising. In my opinion mediocre art is superior to most marketing eyesores.

Inspired by New Eyes

 

01Learning new things can be part of the joy of going to a museum. I was familiar with the responsibilities of the audio person credited as the Folley Artist but never knew it was in recognition of an individual. At the Comedy Center in Jamestown, NY I learned a little bit about this man that made a very significant contribution to many forms of entertainment. Why did none of the great audio engineers I worked with never tell me that? Naturally there is a “boom shadow” in my frame. A few will understand.

02Anybody that knows me is aware I’m not a big fan of comedy. I only saw Blazing Saddles after it was listed in the top 100 films of last century. I do however understand & appreciate the role of comedy in entertainment, culture & history so going to the new Comedy Center was something I was looking forward to. A significant foundation of this museum is the contribution of George Carlin’s archive given by his daughter Kelly. The advisory board is represented by both well know active comedians as well as “seasoned” multi-disciplined performers & their families.

03All aspects of comedy from stand-up to cartoon strips & every media in between is well represented. As a child of the 60’s the TV room was one of my favorite displays. As with many of the exhibits your “personalized chip” on your wristband helps create a customized presentation to genre or comedian. Most multi-screen programs I have seen are filled with visual clutter. At the Comedy Center it is very well programed. Dave Taylor…you need to see this. The only disappointment was in the holographic presentation. With refinements it may become better. For now it seems to be a presentation medium in it’s infancy.

04I know & respect that Chautauqua County, where this is located, has a conservative population. I was curious as to how they would handle the profanity component of comedy. They choose a simple but effective solution called the “Blue Room”. If you are offended by words don’t go in. I learned of a connection between Carlin & Lenny Bruce I wasn’t aware of. In a photo of Bruce being arrested you see Carlin in the background also being arrested. In this photo from the Blue Room, notice the speaker in the parabolic dome hanging from the ceiling. It is focusing the audio for the viewers in front of the screen while reducing the “audio clutter”. VERY WELL done! The attention to visual & audio details throughout the center is some of the best I’ve ever seen.

05It is amazing that one individual can have such a significant impact in a way few could ever imagine. The seed of an idea to honor a local celebrity has grown into a world-class memorial to her craft. It began with a collection of memorabilia of one of the most significant & powerful entertainment couples in television at the Lucy & Desi Museum. Now, at the National Comedy Center a few blocks away, are archived some of the most influential, & funny, materials from generations of “A List” comedians that make us laugh by looking at our world thru different glasses.

06The ARTECHOUSE in DC was showing an “Immersive, Interactive Installation” which blended projected digital art with motion sensors. The lighting environment was superb for the primary room while the dominate images of Cherry Blossoms by Sukura Yume floated on the walls. The sensitivity of the sensors allowed visitors to interact with the floating flowers causing mostly subtle changes in the displays. The centered calligraphy display by Aoi Yamaguchi, was an intriguing component that provided a static dimension to the flowing relaxing space. The soundtrack of the room was done by Debrina.

07This young lady was demonstration the most effective way to interact with the artwork. In a position where the motion sensors could easily detect her she was slowly moving using broad gestures that resembled a yoga routine. Her connection to the art was in a very personal space. To describe the room to people of my generation it was like taking a journey on The Yellow Submarine thru a bowl of cereal made by Peter Max while listening to an 8 Track of Ravi Shankar.

08The Koi Pie 3D sculpture by Nathan Solomon & Karan Parikh was created using computer controlled machines then primed & painted with special video screen paint to display detailed projections. The real time interaction with this smaller dynamic sculpture with fine detail brought art into a more intimate space.

09Bloom by Story Lab was my favorite piece. It did not have any pre-developed background. The table was a clean canvas where only the movements of the people were used to create splashes of color. With no disrespect to the artists it was like finger painting without any of the mess. Here at ARTECHOUSE & at The National Comedy Center I found examples of why I love digital. The interaction of storytelling, technology & art can inspire even an old-school visitor.

An Ongoing Inspiration & Challenge

01 copyOn Facebook last December, a friend posted video from the Volvo  Around the World Ocean Race. The images & footage from onboard the boats really got my attention. Racing around the world takes tremendous endurance & the ability to follow it so dramatically got me hooked. When I found out Newport RI was one of 11 stops I began to plan a road trip to photograph these amazing boats.

02Last Summer I failed at connecting with Tall Ships as they were passing thru the Great Lakes. With a defined departure date from Narragansett Bay in Mid May, I was not going to miss a chance to get some shots of these unique boats. I established a connection with John Lincourt, a RI photographer with a portfolio of great sailing images. He provided me with some valuable info. Things work out better when you can talk to someone with both experience & local knowledge to develop a plan.

03Sailboats are a subject I enjoy watching as well as taking photographs of. Not only are their numerous types of boats but they offer a diversity of forms that are unique. The only other forms I can compare them to in my mind’s eye are dancers. Since I own a small sailboat & have done a bit of sailing I recognize the challenge of capturing the unseen power of the wind to guide your boat. Although photos from onboard a sailboat are OK, in my opinion the real beauty is seen from another boat or the shore.

04 7D2L9029 last saturdayOn Saturday they had an In-Port-Race. With only a very minor impact on the scoring for the competition it was really more of a dog & pony show for host cities to promote. Even in the rain crowds lined the shore & filled the fleet of spectator boats. I had decided to buy a seat on a Ferry for this event  This gave me a somewhat elevated position above the fleet of fans. On Sunday, as they started the race leg across the Atlantic to Whales, I took images from shore near Ft. Adams.

05These boats are a custom design for one thing. Sail around the world as fast as possible. If you’re not familiar with sailing take my word these things fly through the water. Slicing thru waves for 600 miles in 24 hours must be one heck of a ride! They have almost nothing in common with my lil 15 foot day-sailor other than they both float. The 3 dome shaped antennas on the stern provide a link via satellite for vital weather info as well as a uploading images & footage. With 5 fixed video cameras & an embedded photojournalist, each team gave updates from all over the worlds oceans. The technology & the effort to capture & distribute this 9-month event is unlike anything I have ever heard of. It makes video coverage of a marathon look easy.

06I knew the basics of racing sailboats having read a bit about America’s Cup & seen a few on Chautauqua. When I saw Narragansett Bay I realized this was about as perfect a venue as possible for holding a port race because of the locations for spectators to watch along Ft. Adams. I’m sure that without rain or fog it would be stunning. On the upside, the poor weather did soften the background. The decision to be on the Ferry on Saturday was indeed the right choice. Watching 2 of these monsters sail thru the crowded spectator boats was a demonstration of amazing confidence.

07It was a personal challenge to frame tight because I think the beauty is in the wide shot with the wind shaping the sails. However, having viewed many sailing images prior to my trip I understood the power of a tight shot without the complete sailing rig. This is especially true when the boat is horizontal to the camera or coming right at you.

07aRD Turn tideNaturally, on an event as big & as expensive as this, sponsorship by businesses & organizations is necessary. I’m not a fan of the NASCAR type of branding but I understand it provides the financial support to make it happen. Turn The Tide on Plastic sails under the flag of the United Nations & is sponsored by foundations seeking to raise awareness of our oceans health. It was the only boat with a woman skipper.

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A unique aspect of trying to find the best sailing shots is the diversity of perspectives. In my perfect image, the horizon should not interfere which ideally would mean a position high enough to see only water in the background. This requires either a drone…I’m not buying another toy…or shooting from a helicopter, which is a very pricey platform. Ignoring the poor weather conditions this is about as close as I came to my “dream” shot.

09This is the crew that won it all 6 weeks later. As with any world-class competition, racing sailboats requires a level of experience, dedication & daring that only a handful of individuals can muster. To do it for over 45,000 nautical miles over 9 months makes it one of the most demanding sporting events any human can undertake. In the 13 races of this event since 1973, 9 people have lost their lives. John Fisher, one of the crew on Scallywag, was knocked overboard in the middle of the Southern Pacific Ocean. RIP

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As the boats headed off across the Atlantic for a 3300-mile sprint to Wales I felt a sense of accomplishment. I was not inspired to take up or closely follow sailboat racing. However, the imagery of sailboats remains an elusive photographic goal. I learned a great deal more about this event; I had made good decisions in my planning & I had expanded my understanding of personal motivations. Most rewarding, I got a few nice shots.

Pursuit of a Passion

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Newport is a city on an island. That means 3 things. #1 Water. #2 Boats. #3 Bridge. The bridge did not interest me but the water & the boats, specifically sailboats, is something I’ve been drawn to for a long time.

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My initial attraction to this historical sailing center was America’s Cup in 1977 won by Courageous captained by Ted Turner. When I saw pictures of the 12 meter boats that raced off of Newport I was enamored with their form, beauty & grace. As a teenager, I had been on a few sailboats enjoying being on the water powered only by the wind. I also admired the way they added a nice visual element to views of Chautauqua. When the leprechauns of logistics & scheduling fell onto my calendar this past May, Newport was a road-trip destination that couldn’t be ignored.

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I found out about a layover in RI of astonishing sailboats that were racing around the world. They had a scheduled in-harbor-race the day before starting the next leg of the 9 month race. More about The Volvo in my mid-September post. These boats do not have the grace of a 12-meter, but these thoroughbreds are FAST. They easily can more than double the speed of a 12-meter. While most sailing speed increase has been with multi-hulls & hydrofoil boats, Volvo 65’s are a dramatic upgrade to a classic mono-hull design. OBTW The building on shore was a summer playhouse of Jacqueline Bouvier.

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From Connecticut north most of the towns on the Atlantic coast are not very large & all have a history with the sea. Newport is no exception. Rhode Island was established on the principles of religious freedom as well as the separation of church & state after a radical priest was banished from Boston in 1636.

05 copyNewport was an ideal summer retreat for wealthy. At the height of the industrial revolution, plantation owners from the south & affluent families from NYC were lured to there with its cool consistent breezes. Yacht racing was a pastime of this elite crowd & it became the on-the-water clubhouse home of the New York Yacht Club. From 1930 to 1983 the Americas Cup Challenge & Defense were held off the coast of this ideal sailing port.

06 copyWhile the wealthy still come to their summer cottages in Newport, many of the mansions symbolic of the Gatsby era of wealth are now museums. The grandiose architecture that identified enormous wealth is indeed impressive & well worth strolling Bellevue Ave. to see how the 1% of the previous century lived. While I may be taken back by the amount of money it took to build these get-away homes I am glad that some of the wealthy still spend big bucks on sailboats. Priorities.

07But for me this trip, this destination was about sailboats. An opportunity to purse a subject with my camera I toughly enjoy. Ft. Adams is an excellent venue to host a event that is centered around the water. It has lots of space & good views of the boats on the natural harbor of Narragansett Bay. This State Park also has hosted music festivals including one where a kid named Bob Dylan shocked the world of Folk music by picking up his electric guitar.

08When I first arrived on site the schooner Adirondack II was the 1st boat to catch my eye. Coincidentally it was the boat I had booked an afternoon sail on the day after the 7 Volvo boats departed the natural Harbor of Narragansett Bay. Always in search of the perfect image I realized that my 100-400 was the perfect lens but the backgrounds were going to be a distraction. It took me a while but soon I was concentrating on the subject while trying to ignore the distractions. I’m learning to accept the things I can’t change.

09The reduced waterline of the dual hulls of catamarans makes them inherently faster than mono hulls. Comparatively less expensive than other high-end high-speed demons the M32 class of boats has a sail area to weight ratio that makes it a very popular racer. Here in Newport sponsors & paying guests could go for a spin with a crew. I wouldn’t turn down a chance to ride on one but if I had to choose between this or a slower 12-meter it is an easy decision. I am old-school fond of mono hulls.

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I am still shocked that there are professional racing sailors. I guess if you grew up around the coast where this sport is common it is a little bit easier to understand. Like any other sport or skill it is helpful to start when you are young.

11For me the passion for a wind powered boat isn’t about speed. It is not about the competitive rush of racing. My enthusiasm of sailing is about harnessing the unseen force of the wind to control where you are going on the water. With my camera it is about the soft forms of the sails & the lines on the boat blending with the natural world as they cut thru the waves on a sunny day.

Inspired by Quality

01Each of us has unique skills, knowledge, interests & experiences that define what we like. For Dave Taylor, diverse & broad are two adjectives I would use to describe the artistic influences of his life & his home. We share an appreciation for Frank Lloyd Wright as well as interests in perspectives of mass communication. I am glad to call him a friend.

02I first met Dave working on HBO Boxing sometime in the mid 90’s. He was one of the first “next-gens” that understood the mechanics of Remote Live TV. He had recently graduated from the ASU/Walter Cronkite school. Years later I found out he indeed met “Uncle Wally” He also had the digital perspective to quickly utilize a new tool called EVS. This Hard Drive Replay device would rapidly change the formatting of Live TV Remotes. The device picked up the nickname of ELVIS. Dave could make it sing.

03Unlike many mid-life singles, he has a keen sense for integrating style with function in his home. By his own admission, he’s an UberGeek. He is designing & building a programmable home theater. As an example, ifyou want to watch Kubrick’s film 2001 Space Odyssey…he likes Stanley as I do…he has programed a 20-minute mix of music from that era.  Monitors, mounted vertically, show posters of other films from 1968.  All of this is to set the mood while enjoying a cocktail. The Prairie style columns with Frank Lloyd Wright inspired inserts are a design touch that can’t be ignored.

04 copyThe sound system is tuned for the back 2 seats & the distance from the 102-inch screen is set for immersive panoramic viewing. As music from the era fades the lighting dips & the movie begins. If you want he can also program previews from other films from that year. It is still a work in progress because he realizes it takes time to achieve quality. His vision blends technology & style creating a unique media experience.

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His antique electronic toys are classic home Audio Video. The Philco Predicta Pedestal set is wired to show DVD’s so we watched an episode of the Twilight Zone. Since Dave is about a generation younger than me I asked him what influenced his style. He quickly replied that Mad Med influenced his appreciation for an old school perspective. He also appreciates any endeavor where people create quality.

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With more forethought than many, he decided to set himself up to be energy independent. He did his research & installed a solar farm to meet his needs. The land between the house & the panels has recently been planted with fruit trees that will soon block the view of the panels. Fluent with technology, he likes his toys & he knows how to plan for his future with an overall style. It’s easy for me to respect a person like that.

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This is a look inside the type of office he works in. Dave doesn’t sit at the helm of the WWE Star-ship but he and the other EVS operators keep the wheels turning while keeping the engines from falling off. I have tremendous respect for ALL the WWE crew! They create one of the most sophisticated Live TV Remotes I’ve ever experienced! And they do it over 100 times a year. Dave easily fits into this very talented crew.

08In his spare time while traveling, he edited a 52 episode series of music Mash-Ups under the moniker of the Forensic Editor on YouTube. Our musical tastes differ but I can easily follow his storytelling approach to music, which on Jumping Jack Flash spans 45 years & 15 performances. These “for-fun” productions are video time capsules weaving music into a different dimension. If you enjoy music check out his work with this link.

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I believe one of the roots of Dave’s many talents is music. He understands how all of the components come together in a way that tiny details become important to the story or the event. In my mind, he is a digital wizard with the understanding that every tale is analog with a beginning, a middle & an end. Oh yea…he has that left-handed creative thing happening. The places I visited on my road-trip were enjoyable. However, spending a day with a friend I don’t get to see often enough really added inspiration to my journey.

The Triple Play of Motivation

01I arrived before the doors opened at The Mystic Harbor Seaport Museum & saw bird activity in a rain garden. I noticed a frequent landing area & snapped off some decent images. Watching them fly on the breeze was a prelude for seeing some old sailboats.

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The signature exhibit is the Charles W. Morgan. Like most boats large or small they don’t make pretty pictures sitting at the dock. Built in 1841 she is the last wooden whaling ship. Voyages lasted from 9 months to 5 years during her 80 years of hunting whales. The Seaport took 3 years to make her seaworthy & she sailed on her 38th voyage to New England seaports in 2013. If I hear the Morgan is going to be setting sail, a repeat of my last road trip may be in order.

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Last Summer I made an unsuccessful attempt at getting images of the replica Norwegian Longship the Draken Harald sailing on the Great Lakes. With a symmetrical bow & stern powered by a single square sail, she is a style of a boat not seen on the water for hundreds of years. After taking the Erie Canal across New York last fall she ended up at Mystic for the winter. Images of her at the dock without a sail are blah. However, the detail of the craftsmanship put into the ornamented patterns is very impressive.

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Who doesn’t enjoy the sounds of a good sea shanty? The rhythm of the songs was used onboard ships to coordinate the hauling of the many lines for the sails. They were work songs where lyrics & tempo were customized for the task. I didn’t learn if the position of shanty-man was assigned or earned by a member of the crew. If I could go back in time I think that is a job for me.

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Using nothing but hand tools, barrel makers during the 1800’s are a testament to the ability of human craftsmanship. When these barrels were full of the oil processed from the blubber of whales the ship would return home. For some ships that would be 80,000 gallons. The discovery of less expensive petroleum in Titusville, PA replaced the markets for whale oil. Trying to comprehend how close we came to the extinction of whales just because we had to fill these barrels with oil makes me question the judgment & motivation of the industry surrounding this short-sighted business.

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I would occasionally get a call from a friend about producing a video that I would make enough money to buy “that wooden sailboat I had dreamed of.” He didn’t understand that the purchase price is only a small part of the equation. My respect & thanks go to all of those that routinely do the maintenance on these gorgeous yachts. During WWII the schooner Brilliant was a submarine patrol boat. Now she is an offshore classroom for teaching seamanship.

07The Seaport Museum is really a port village with shops, working craftsmen & displays of nautical history. I was anticipating seeing their collection of figureheads. I was less than thrilled with the lighting & the room but surprised at the diversity.

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I knew Mystic was a working shipyard but taken back when I saw the current project of rehabbing the Mayflower II. This 60-year-old replica of the boat that brought pilgrims to Plymouth almost 400 years ago is big. It is 106 feet long with a displacement of 236 tons. It is a unique opportunity for the 30 plus workers who are involved in making this vessel seaworthy. Sailboat, wood & history…yea this place is a three-fer for my inspiration. Maybe I will plan a return trip in 2019 when the Mayflower sails for Plymouth to get sunrise images of her on the water.

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Accurate time is something we take for granted. Long before GPS satellites, the only way to navigate at sea was by taking settings of the sun or stars with a sextant & plugging that info into an equation. Part of that equation requires using the precise time. Making accurate clocks that could work on land like this one were easy compared to the challenge of making a chronometer that would work aboard a ship sailing long distances. An Englishman, John Harrison was a self-educated watchmaker & carpenter who solved the problem of east/west navigation in the 1770’s by making a clock accurate to within a minute over 50 days. The cost of these devices was 30% of the cost of a boat. My time wandering through sailing history by was priceless.

 

Inspired by a Road Trip

02 copy I’m a photographer motivated by subjects & stories. I’m not the type to have my camera over my shoulder always ready to capture something that catches my eye. So I planned a road trip with 4 primary photography destinations as my focus.

03 copyAs a low-no-budget project, I really didn’t want or need anything more than a place to sleep. I like the idea of supporting local businesses over chains so I stayed mostly in motels. None were absolutely terrible; all were under $100 a night. Since this was a solo trip I didn’t need to worry about Lori’s objections.

04 copyAs I took off along the Southern Tier of NY I didn’t have a tight schedule but hadn’t planned on side stops. Then, from the highway, I spotted people fly-fishing. There was a convenient exit & I pulled off. The light was good & the background was great but the deep pools with fish were near the opposite bank so I never saw faces. I was close to the Catskill Fly Fishing Museum so I made a note for possible future subject locations.

05 copyMy 1st destination was Mystic Seaport & Museum, the largest maritime museum in the US. The shipyard where Mayflower II was undergoing restoration for the 400th anniversary of the Pilgrims arrival was busy. Seeing workers using hand tools to shape the lumber precisely was inspiring to this wanna-be wood-worker. I strolled & explored the place for an entire day thoroughly enjoying myself.

06 copyFrom Mystic I spent a day with a talented, creative & inspiring friend I made during my career. I have known & respected Dave Taylor for well over 2 decades. He has a very media centered collection of antique electric toys as well as cutting-edge technology in his Mission Style influenced home.

07Although it wasn’t my main motivation for going to New England, Newport,  RI was the photography highlight of my Road-Trip. The Volvo Round the World Sailboat Race had a stopover in this historically significant sailing center of the US. The 2 days of sailing by the Volvo boats had very poor weather for photography. However, anytime I can snap a shot of a 12 Meter it is a very good day. Currently owned by Ted Turner American Eagle is for sale.

08Gatsby & ostentatious wealth are synonymous with Newport of a century ago. Touring the Vandergrift Mansion, I learned the term Gilded Age came from the title of a novel co-authored by Mark Twain. The themes of corruption & greed in the book came to represent a lifestyle & period of time that was unsustainable. By the 1930’s owners of this mansion couldn’t afford the upkeep. They stand as empty homes representing a brief period of history.  I believe that Andy Carnegie’s gift of libraries has had a more long-lasting impact demonstrating the value of philanthropy.

09The weather during the In-Harbor Race was rainy. Fortunately, I was prepared with an inexpensive but good rain cover for my camera. I had made a connection with John Lincourt a Sailboat Photographer & he said my 100-400 lens was the right tool. I purchased a seat onboard a ferry giving me an elevated position that worked out well. During this 9 month race, each of the 7 boats has an on-board photo journalist seen in yellow. Some of their work is absolutely spectacular. It is what inspired me to travel to Newport.

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The day after the Volvo boats took off across the Atlantic to Whales I did an afternoon cruise on Narragansett Bay under a clear blue sky. I realized that I would have preferred the good weather when I was shooting the race over my enjoyment on the beautiful schooner Adirondack II.

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The real motivation in New England was my daughter’s graduation. I arrived a few days before & went to her work-out to try & grab a few shots as she trained for the first USATF sanctioned Women’s Decathlon. I found a position where the background wasn’t too bad but there was very little light. ISO 5000 at 2.8 just isn’t going to give nice clear images.
12The moment of the trip was when we made eye contact just before she received her diploma. Her smile is as genuine as any face I’ve ever photographed. I just stood in the balcony waiting for her to notice me. No texting was necessary for us to connect.

13Her 4 years as a freshman proctor are over & we packed some of her stuff to bring back to Pittsburgh. She got a pass allowing me to “Pawk my Caw in Hawvawd Yawd.”

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I’m a photog that looks for subjects & stories. However, having a camera handy when you see something unique does have value. Maybe this will become part of a story on foiling sailboats. Upcoming blogs will go into more detail about my road-trip. Look for new postings on the 1st & 15th of each month.