Inspired by Unseen Forces

Sailboats photographs represent forces, which cannot be seen. Wind, physics & the power of the water are all part the story.

Sailboat photographs represent forces, which cannot be seen. Wind, physics & the power of the water are all part the story.

01Even when this beautiful mono-hull is tethered to a buoy I see a balance with nature. The sloping bow & stern exhibit grace. Her wooden mast, deck and trim speak to the character of her design. Dragonfly, which is moored at Chautauqua Institution, is the most elegant sailboat on the lake. Motivated by patience someday I will get pictures when she is under sail.

02The sailboat in this image is only about 1% of the photograph yet dominates the story. My elevated position eliminates the horizon line going thru the boat or the sails. Having recently sailed on that class of boat I recognize the forward mast with the bowsprit as a “Friendship Schooner” As it sails thru a field of lobster traps, it is helpful to know the design of the boat was as a ‘working lobster boat”. It is wide for stability & the mast position allows for more workspace on deck. Acadia National Park

02aAlthough outriggers & catamaran designs go back over 500 years, when the Hobie Cat was introduced in the early 60’s it dramatically created opportunities for more recreational sailors. The design allows for less weight & more speed. The colorful sails give it an eye-catching personality. The diversity of sailboat designs & rigging is a testimony to the understanding of nautical engineers who built them for a specific use. Chautauqua Lake

03Since most of my sailboat photos are from water level, multiple horizontal lines from water to land & land to sky bother me. Here, the line of the hillside meeting the water isn’t objectionable because the land then fills the frame with a contrasting background to the sails. This line also provides a point of reference to the power of the wind pushing the boat onto its starboard side. Also, the cut in the steep hillside parallels the mast. This is a poor transfer of a Kodachrome slide from the early 80’s. The image quality is poor but it is one of my favorites. Somewhere in the Virgin Islands

altIn this capture, there are 3 horizon lines interfering with the boat. The bridge, the land & the water. However, the peninsula of land disappears behind the support structure opening the left edge of the frame to the Pacific. Also, the geometric forms of the suspension cables somewhat clone the cut of the sails. The boat, which really caught my eye from about 2 miles away, is a former Americas Cup competitor USA 76. Now that I know she is there my next trip to SFO will include a day sail from Pier 39

05When I saw this boat sailing away from me headed toward Long Point in deep water, I knew the captain would be doing a tack close to shore that would bring her straight to me. Subject & location knowledge is helpful. I was patient & got another chance for a pleasing background. One interesting virtue of sailboat photography is that you can find opportunities around all 360 degrees of the subject. Chautauqua Lake.

06People always provide interesting layers. However, shots of the crew on sailboats eliminates the entire form of the sails. Here, just the corner clew of the sail gives a hint of that form & the energy. Enhancing that feeling of force is the heeling position of the boat & the crew hiked out over the side to add stability. Shooting towards the stern you see the name of the boat & the class. I’ve learned to live with the horizon lines instead of considering a drone camera. CLYC Chautauqua Lake

07 copyShooting towards the bow I now get faces of the crew practicing race tactics. I love how she has the main sheet in one hand & the other is extended. It reminds me of the position of a bull rider. The background is petty good & there is enough of the jib & main sails to represent the wind. ISO 2000 278mm 1/1250 & f16. More important than the tech-info is the person driving the boat I am in. Here Lori got me right where I need to be. Community Sailing Foundation Lakewood NY

07aThe story of this image resonates with people who sail. The wooden block & boom speak to the character of the craft. The cut of the sail with the clouds in the background whisper of the sounds of the wind pushing your boat thru the water. The contrasting angle of the lines to the boom gives hint to the physics of navigating the boat. Lake Champlain.

07bMy enthusiasm for sailing overrides my enjoyment of taking pictures of sailboats. By no means am I an expert in either. However, given the choice, I’d much rather have my hands on the wheel of a sailboat, not the camera.  Dreams do come true. I plan on adding to my portfolio of sailing in the near future. Sydney Australia.

A cure for cabin fever

My dad called this time of year cabin fever.

Since I am not a fan of winter I have little motivation in outside activities when the weather is cold. However, my camera inspires me to get out of the house.

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Opportunities the weather provides inspired me to put on a few layers & head outside in an attempt to capture the environment. One thing about cold weather I do enjoy is it makes me feel alive. My senses are more attuned to the world around me because so many routine things are different. The iconic Bell Tower of Chautauqua Institution shrouded in winter fog is the result of a few degrees of temperature difference between the air & the frozen lake. The atmosphere muffled the voice of the clocks bells while the frozen lake reflected their chimes. The overcast sky reinforced a mood of solitude.

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A challenge of doing photography in the snow is choosing subjects where the weather is either a primary or supporting character in the frame. In some cases the overall lack of color enhances the scene. I have been envisioning options on how the Allegheny Observatory, with its unique shape, could be shot. Initially I thought the domed shape would be emphasized, as other subjects were almost monochrome. However the tree, still with some leaves on it, provided a complementary form & with hint of chroma.

03

Living just North of the 40th meridian, snow is not uncommon but it isn’t a constant element of winter. In my minds eye this snow-covered house takes me to a place further north where snows of winter are constant till the spring thaw. It also conjures a place of warmth to escape the cold. When you can capture the environment you can influence the viewers mood.

04 I love Pittsburgh’s many quirks. This is s favorite. Having cleared the public street of snow, the effort of a persons labor is “claimed” as a parking place by simply putting a chair in the space. While some may see this as taking something that doesn’t belong to them, most respect the work of others & don’t park there. That is pure Pittsburgh.

05

I gave up fishing almost 50 years ago & have never contemplated ice fishing. In search of some interesting shots & talking to the fishermen about their sport I took a stroll on a bay I normally enjoy from my boat. What struck me after I left the shore was the sense of community the huts created. I also noticed that just like the diversity of boats used for fishing in the summer their was a wide variety of tents or shelters. I really enjoyed walking around this neighborhood.

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Not surprising ice fishing is something for a father & son to enjoy together. This dad hadn’t been ice fishing since he was in Cub Scouts. With his sons in Cub Scouts he decided it would be a good way to spend time together. They were having a grand time.

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The reward of this fisherman is more than what is on the end of his line. He is with friends who have been close for much of their lives. The camaraderie is more important than the catch. The device in the lower right of the frame is a sonar device, showing the depth of the water & movement of the fish. Just like any hobby or sport, toys make the activity more engaging. When I asked why they choose this particular spot I was told they had studied contours of the lake bottom on the internet and got GPS coordinates before coming onto the ice.

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For some, the solitude of nature & escaping the routine of daily life is reason enough to drill a hole in the ice & drop a line in the cold water. On this day with bright sunshine I set my exposure at 1 stop brighter using a center weighted weighted zone. When I had first read about this technique it seemed counter-productive until I better understood the process of how the camera interprets the scene.

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About a mile away from the village of fishermen I saw a familiar yet out of place shape. With the same sail rigging as kite-boarding on water you can snow board on ice. I would love to have a young back & knees to try kite-boarding but I have no desire to try the winter version of this sport. Water is soft…ice is hard.

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My first impression when I saw this person on a bike was why? But after watching him for a while with fat boy tires on his bike I said why not? He was paired with the novice kite-snow-boarder providing support & advice. This enabled him to keep up with his friend as the wind blew him away.

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The beauty of Nature can mask the dangers. Over 1 dozen barges broke away from their moorings on the Ohio River & came to rest on the Emsworth Dam. The powerful flow of the water holds these 300 ton steel flatboats against the structure. This then provides a place for ice to build up creating problems to the locks, which are critical to the movement of river traffic. When I see things like this my mind immediately goes to the workers who are responsible for solving the problem. Largely taken for granted The Army Corps of Engineers provides an important service to all of us. BE SAFE!

Looking Back for Tomorrows Goals

Although we begin a new year my 1st posting of ‘18 will look back & evaluate how my perspective of photography has evolved.

 

01

I begin 2018 looking back & evaluating how my perspective of photography has evolved. Any capture by a camera immediately becomes a document of history. This image of my grandfather relaxing on the porch in Stow connects me with a man I barley knew but am deeply indebted to. It reinforced the connections a photograph can create. Operating the Bemus Point Stow Ferry I ran into a son of one of my fathers fishing pals Dr. Robert Schmalz Jr. He shared this image which was taken before I was born.

02

A highlights of ‘17 was this image taking 3rd place in The Eddie Adams Show. It’s an honor to have any connection with this influential photojournalist. From the moment I snapped the shutter in Sarajevo in 2014, I knew I captured the character of the subjects. To have it recognized in a juried competition was very satisfying. The endless diversity of people & the human condition on streets are subjects that still motivate me.

03

I’ve got comfortable with the ethics of editing my images that don’t touch on journalism or documentary. I still have the goal of capturing what my eyes see. HDR, can assist in adding details our eyes see but camera sensors can’t. I still believe over-saturated HDR  lacks an “actuality aesthetic”. Other images I’ve edited made me realize there is a 2nd opportunity to tell a story. A wildly over-exposed shot became a B/W image I’m happy with. A slightly out of focus image was manipulated into a frame capturing the moment I was after. OBTW I realize it’s in focus or not but I also remember Bresson said… “Sharpness is a bourgeois concept.”

04 split dancer

Although I doubted I would take my enthusiasm for photography into the world of printing, I did. I learned printing, matting & framing require different perspectives. The image on the left was cropped for the web. To get a well-proportioned print & ensure a solid presentation hanging on a wall I went back & included more of the original shot on the right. Is it an improvement? It depends on if you are looking at the print hanging on the wall or the screen of your desktop. Obviously my PS work has improved.

05

I enjoy spectacular landscape photography & I enjoy the opportunity to experience impressive vistas. However, I’ve discovered I don’t have the kind of dedication to this particular genre to take it to another level. I will still wander with my camera, however I will try to improve my photography skills with other subjects.

06

Part of my family’s history,as well as my own, is connected to Chautauqua Lake. When I saw the Steamship Replica the Chautauqua Belle along the port side of The Bemus Point Stow Ferry I was transported to an earlier time when few other vessels on the water had mechanical power. In the months ahead I may try some Photoshop wizardry on this shot. Too bad I’m not really a wizard.

07

It has been almost 1 year since my trip to Cuba. The process of sorting/editing my images was a terrific opportunity for reflection on my abilities. It encouraged me to look forward to what I will do with photography. I’m hoping to cultivate connections for a showing of 15 or so of my portraits of Cuban People. A recent review I got from Lens Culture said my work “had incredible humanism in the portraits of Cuban people.” I liked that. The reviewer also said that, after looking at my blog, a book is something I should start working on. I don’t think that is going to happen.

07a

My own opinion of my sailing images is they are just slightly better than mediocre. That however will not stop me from pursuing this challenging subject I really enjoy. I’m in the planning stages of a trip to Newport RI to catch the 65 foot Volvo Racing beasts in May. Anybody care to join me???

08

I also would like to further develop a portfolio of dance photography. Dancers have balance, form, color, The Moment, texture & space. What better subject for a camera. They blend emotions & athleticism into statuesque animation for our eyes.  Any connections in this area would also be appreciated. Happy New Year.

 

 

What I did This Summer

Summer 2017 had a variety of motivations where I explored new challenges & improved on some go-to subjects & techniques.

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Do teachers still use this prompt for students to write about? Summer 2017 had a variety of motivations where I explored new challenges & improved on some go-to subjects & techniques. I took a Master Photography Class & spent a few days with the Chautauqua Ballet. The original shot of Sarah Lapointe was completely over exposed. However, I loved her candid form so I decided to try & salvage it via B&W. Previous attempts at creating a dynamic monochrome image were frustrating & I was unhappy with the results. Their was a high learning curve & numerous hours spent on this image but I’ve developed a better understanding of how to get to where I want in the realm of B&W.

02
One of my favorite subjects is our daughter because she does so many visually interesting things. Always challenging herself, she competed in a decathlon in Burlington VT.  I’ve become comfortable working with Photoshop & using it to alter the reality of the moment. I have come to concede that with the exception of photojournalism or documentary, PS is a tool that allows the image to be enhanced & improved. Prior to desaturation & blurring I considered the background distracting of the primary subject.

03
At the 2 day competition I was successful at being in positions to capturing solid images of all 10 events. I got some good shots of women pole-vaulting & was moving onto another event when I looked at the sky. As an exhibition jumper was attempting a new personal best I realized the clouds might provide an opportunity to capture an image similar to ones that inspired me back in 1971. He achieved a new personal best & I captured the image that was in my minds eye.

04
Since I believe you never have really visited a place unless you have been in or on the water, we went sailing on Lake Champlain. While it is impossible to show the grace & beauty of this 35 foot Friendship Sloop while on-board I did see this CU of the clew of the mainsail as the boom strained against the main-sheet & wooden block.

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Back on the waters of Lake Chautauqua I captured the elegant contours of sailboats racing near Chautauqua Institute. Always looking to improve the image I would love to have been higher so as to eliminate the horizon line of the trees going thru the sails.

06
During my photography class the instructor, Marta Rial, in critiquing some of my images suggested I shoot a bit wider. Normally I would have zoomed in to include just the dog and the walker. But her advice proved to be valuable as the leading space of the woman gives weight to the small dog,

07
At an exhibit of birds of prey where hawks were tethered to posts I had the opportunity to get within a few feet of these beautiful birds. The advice of shooting wider was completely ignored. The details and the colors revealed in this CU make it one of my favorite images of a bird even though it is in captivity.

07a
I have a folder of images I have shot called “people taking pictures”. When I saw this person moving in to get a close shot of the owl I wondered if she had any idea she was well within striking range of the hawk behind her. I’m glad her dress didn’t have any patterns that resembled a mouse. Again, the wider shot showing the relativity of the hawk behind her gave a stronger story.

07b
My dominant motivation in taking a photograph is the subject. I realize that form, line, texture & color are also important elements of an image but I struggle to get inspiration from them. Here it was impossible to ignore the forms created by the lines of the shadows & the windows. I like the juxtaposition & the position of the graffiti infused with the hard lines of the structure.

07c
Flowers are subjects that provide opportunities to capture color & form. Usually I am less than satisfied with my attempts. But, I shot about 2 dozen images of Day Lilies after a morning rain & I found 1 shot I liked. I’m not sure if the accents of the raindrops were missing if I would like this as well.

07d
The staggered flower boxes on my shed/wood-shop are wonderful accents to see in person. A photo of them is less appealing. I’m not a fan of collage but I decided to give it a shot. I think the concept may work better if each image was in a separate frame & hung on a wall. Making the frame out of similar color wood as the shed would also be helpful. That might be a project for the wood-shop next season.

07d1
Having nothing connected to photography, I have been watching the Bemus Point Stow Ferry cross Chautauqua Lake my entire life. At the end of last summer I got my Joint Pilot & Engineers license, which allows me to pilot the Ferry. This summer I volunteered to be part of a tradition that has been going on since 1811. Life is good.

More Ballet

I recently took a Master Photography class with Martha Rial at Chautauqua Institution. The class was an inspiring motivation which concentrated on a photojournalism approach to telling a story. I did my assignment with the resident Chautauqua Summer Ballet, which is the Charlotte Ballet.

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I recently took a Master Photography class with Martha Rial at Chautauqua Institution. The class was an inspiring motivation which concentrated on a photojournalism approach to telling a story. I did my assignment with the resident Chautauqua Summer Ballet, which is the Charlotte Ballet. Martha reviewed some of my images & suggested I shoot wider to tell more of the story & zoom with my feet. My interpretation was to work with 85,40 & 26 prime lenses. I knew the background & lighting were going to be far from pristine but I accepted that as part of photojournalism guidelines.

02
In Cuba I had a few hours to shoot ballet.  At The Chautauqua School of Dance I had 3 days of opportunities & everybody spoke English. However, listening to dancers learning a new work in class, their jargon was as foreign as Spanish. They rehearsed with Chautauqua Orchestra & performed a tribute to the retiring artistic director on the newly rebuilt stage/amphitheater. I had GREAT collaboration with the staff & the dancers. The “story” for my assignment evolved into an understated look at change & how the show goes on.

03.3
I had some satisfaction/success in Cuba with low shots & I explored that perspective even further by being closer & wider. Including the background dancers mirroring the primary subject adds another layer to the image I find absorbing. Instead of fighting a losing battle with lights I tried to be “in the moment” as Martha suggested & ignored the florescent lights. For me, the best part of the 5 day class was the interactive critique.

04
I was impressed with Mark Diamonds style of choreographing the routines. He spoke in a soft voice forcing quiet with students & capturing their attention. The pace the dancers were taught & coached was faster than I expected. During the condensed summer season the turn-around between performances is sometimes less than a week. Collaboration within the company was reflective of their professionalism & attempts of perfection.

05
For dancers it is all about the form & the purity of the line. As a photographer I want to capture those elements but I also want lighting & background to enhance them. Since I had no control of either of those elements I needed to react to the activity as it was happening. In this shot I captured the dancer with an interesting positioning of students in the background. At least the fluorescent lamps were close in color & relatively even.

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Sarah Hayes Harkins is a principle dancer in the Charlotte Ballet. She has been with the company for over 9 years.  When I saw her massaging her quads with a roller I immediately recognized the similarities to the way other athletes train & condition their muscles. Dancers have a remarkable harmony between the power & tone in their legs, shoulders back, arms & even their neck. If you think ballerinas are delicate think again. They are superbly conditioned athletes.

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I’m not sure if he would agree but I think I captured the moment of his leap. I even had some better lighting as they rehearsed on the stage. For my class we were to do minimal cropping & for most of the images in my presentation I did as I was told. However, for my blog & other presentations I find cropping to emphasize the subject is a very powerful technique. During class we discussed where the line is photojournalism shouldn’t cross with respect to editing. I got a better perspective of when I would enhance an image with Photoshop. I now need to work on better use of PS tools.

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Although wider shots fit the adage of showing the whole dancer, every now & then I’d see a frame that wasn’t head to toe.  I never thought just one extended arm in the frame would be a good shot until I saw this. Sarah Lapointe has her focus on the mirror as she examines her form. Capturing an expression in relationship to a pose can be dramatic. Her concentration & expression are clues to her personality. For my blog posting of this shot I stepped over the line of photojournalism by eliminating background distractions and inserting a gradient. I recognize my PS skills need improvement. However, this is closer to the style of image that motives me to shoot dancers.

09
I spent time further exploring the added dimension of the mirror. This shot was a major improvement from the mirror shot in my last blog post from Cuba. One of the great things about photographing the dancers is that they almost never made eye contact with me. I was as close to being a fly on the wall as I have ever experienced.

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The low angle adds emphasis to the height of the dancers. The symmetry of their form & line fills the frame. Given the results of shooting low & wide, if I get the opportunity to shoot more dance I will search for methods to be low on the ground that don’t aggravate my old knees.

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I anticipated this classic pose during afternoon rehearsal. As they were rehearsing with a live orchestra I found myself guided by the music as to when to expect moments like this. I have become more comfortable with square framing in post-production. When I snapped the shutter I knew I would crop it into a square. I also found off angle positions to be more interesting than straight on from the center of the stage.

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This is definitely not part of the dancers routine. However, this shot makes the dancers more human & adds depth to the story. Even as they leave the stage after a grueling rehearsal they are still in step. I was satisfied with the presentation I did for my class. I felt improvement in my ability to capture “the moment” of the dancers. I would highly recommend a workshop to photogs that want to expand their skills. This class was not as intensive as most & it was also far less expensive.