Athletic Artists

Integrating movement & emotion with music is how dancers turn their athleticism into art.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Led by Light
Choreography & Costumes by Maria Caruso
Music by Zoe Keating
L to R – Principal Artists Kaylin Treese & Bethany Schimonsky

The foundation of my interest in dance goes back to the 1st time I saw West Side Story on TV circa 1966. Over the years my primary exposure to this art form was via cinema. Later, musical theater gave another venue to experience talented artists in live story telling. On stage or on camera, dance is a very powerful & memorable component of entertainment.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Intimate Liaisons
Choreography & Costumes Maria Caruso
Music by Kronos Quartet
Top to Bottom Principal Artists Kaylin Treese & Nicole Ivan

In ‘02 I saw the Alvin Ailey Company perform their signature work Revelations. The overwhelming emotional power of that performance impacted me in a way no other production has ever done. It motivated me to explore the world of dance beyond the supporting role it had in film & musicals.

Christina Lindhout Verb Ballet Cleveland

Even though dance is best suited to the stage or the screen, as I got back into photography I realized that still images of dancers are dramatically powerful & beautiful.  I also recognized that capturing those decisive moments was extremely challenging.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
  Mother’s Prism
Choreography & Costumes by Maria Caruso
Music by Arnald Olafur & Dustin O’Halloran
Principal Ambassador Artist Amanda Fisher

To try to learn more about what I considered good dance photos I looked at thousands of images to establish ground rules for pictures I liked. Lighting, form within the frame, costume, environment, foreground, background, expressions & occasionally shadows were important. I also was determined to always be head to toe. Recent dance films or shows feel the need to cut away from the dancing. Show me see the dancers dancing!

Christina Lindhout Verb Ballet Cleveland

In reviewing so many images I soon discovered that not unlike accomplished sports figures, the dancers muscle tone/tension highlighted an athleticism that in my mind’s eye had been subtle. The lighting & costumes are the most critical factors in capturing this detail revealing the unseen elements of power & strength. The images I liked best made great use of theatrical, studio or natural light & fashion.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Led by Light
Choreography & Costumes by Maria Caruso
Music by Zoe Keating
L to R – Principal Artists Bethany Schimonsky & Kaylin Treese

I recognized that unlike those that compete in sports, dancers are athletes that create art with their athleticism. For me, this was a new perspective of how their talents are perceived.  Blending this with the ability to layer emotions onto their movements elevates the viewer’s connection to the drama. Capturing that moment on a still camera is an ongoing challenge I find rewarding.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Vespers
Choreography and Costumes by Maria Caruso
Music by Aix Em Klemm
From Left to Right – Company Artist Derrick Izumi and Founding Director Maria Caruso

Head to toe is usually the best way to see the complete visual story. The space around the dancers is critical to emphasizing the form. I also prefer an odd number of dancers providing asymmetrical balance. However, two dancers can provide a balance I like. Also, I can crop tighter than head to toe to create a better image. I made those rules so I can break them!

Christina Lindhout Verb Ballet Cleveland

With almost any image, red can be a dramatic addition if not overwhelming. Beyond that my “fashion” opinion is shallow. I quickly recognized that for me controlled lighting had the most impact on images that inspired me. Moving into a position for strong backlight helped to provide the silhouetted form of her legs.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Life Force
Choreography and Costume by Maria Caruso
Music by Garth Stevenson
Founding Director Maria Caruso

One of my biggest peeves is the unavoidable horizons in photos of stage performances. While stage lighting is often less than perfect from a photography perspective I recognized that environment & look is part of the visual story. Also, don’t sweat things you can’t control. In my mind’s eye the black stripe across the lower third of this image adds strength to the base of the picture. The consistency of the lighting in this performance was a big plus.

Christina Lindhout Verb Ballet Cleveland

During my initial exploration of dance photography the leaps & jumps with the dancer suspended in midair caught my eyes. While this type of image is indeed sensational, I found that it could easily become unimaginative. I do like non-traditional locations of dancers. Photos showcasing the talent of these artists outside of the rehearsal studio & off the stage add drama.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Really?!
Choreography and Costumes by Maria Caruso
Music by Quixotic
Principal Artist Nicole Ivan

As I am learning, it is crucial to the dancers that all of the details of their lines are precise. I am extremely grateful for the critique & education that Maria Caruso Founding Director of Bodigraphy has given me. I have photographer eyes & she is helping me understand dancer’s eyes. Having respect of the dancers perspective & approval of my images is critical. Details are extremely important!

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Rehearsal of Billboards
Choreography and Costume by Maria Caruso
Principal Artist Nicole Jamison

In addition to her personal review of my images Maria Caruso has allowed me to shoot a rehearsal at her studio & a live performance. Without getting to geeky…the low light sensitivity of the camera sensors along with a new software programs are wonderful tools.  Since I got camera geeky I will get history geeky. Bodiography’s studio is Gene Kelley’s old studio!

Christina Lindhout Verb Ballet Cleveland

In my quest for doing more/better dance photography I signed up for a workshop entitled Dancing in the Dark. I looked forward to an opportunity for some control of lighting & more direct input to the dancers posing & movement. Unfortunately I was disappointed with the way the lighting was handled & less than thrilled with the locations. On the positive side Christina Lindhout of Verb Ballet was a very easy model to work with. I appreciated the way she could very subtlety change her form while understanding what myself & others photogs were trying to capture.

Bodiography Contemporary Ballet
Rehearsal of Mother’s Prism
Choreography and Costumes by Maria Caruso
From Top to Bottom – Principal Artist Kaylin Treese and Principal Ambassador Artist Melissa Tyler

I’m extremely grateful for the support & opportunities Maria Caruso Founding Director of Bodiographics has provided. It is likely in the near future I will do a photography workshop with a recognized dance photographer. (Work I enjoy the most is predominately from Eastern Europe & naturally St. Petersburg Russia.)

My heartfelt thanks to Amanda, Bethany, Christina, Derrick, Kaylin, Maria, Melissa, Nicole & all the talented dancers at Bodiography Contemporary Ballet. I believe everyone dreams they could do what you do!

Serendipitous Motivation

However, that night I stumbled on influence from a different direction that literally caught my eye & turned my neck.

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I’m taking a pause from posting about Cuba. At the end of last year I went to see the work of Xzya Cruz Bacani being displayed at the Manchester Craftsman Guild & to listen to her lecture. The subject of her images Modern Slavery resonated with the deep-down photojournalist in me. Her work & the perspective she provided were haunting.

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However, that night I stumbled on influence from a different direction that literally caught my eye & turned my neck. In earlier posts I’ve mentioned how architecture & woodworking grab my eye. Entering the Manchester Craftsman Guild  an alcove with a wooden accent built into a brick semicircle did just that. In one glance I saw customized shelves, entryway, utility, separation & focus blended into one compact area. If I ever tried to describe a union of form & function this would be a strong example. The synergy of structure, materials & openness was as harmonious as anything I have seen.

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Ms Gubser, the executive assistant at MCG, noticed my wide-open eyes. She told me about the woodworker & invited me to look at more of the craftsman’s work in the boardroom.

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After seeing more finely crafted pieces, in a wonderful serendipitous moment, she introduced me to the artist who had also come to the lecture.

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Meeting Tadao Arimoto & discussing his work was delightful. After humbly listening to my praise of his work he invited me to his workshop. This was an inspirational encounter I never saw coming. Since my wood-shop was closed for the winter I was excited to get some sawdust on my shoes.

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Tadao came to Pittsburgh in 1976. His path to the medium of wood to fashion his designs began 4 years earlier in his native Japan. He had studied at the International Design Institute in Kyoto. As a young man, he felt the career path as an industrial designer was uninspiring. Then he saw a wooden bench in a storeroom window that “made his heart pop out.” He found out it was created by Shigeru Ueki a respected abstract sculptor who worked with wood. Tadao contacted him & Shigeru befriended him.

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Collaboration can be a powerful motivator. Shigeru, had been a founder of the respected Modern Art Discussion Group with other Japanese artists. He gave inspiration to a young Tadao to learn the craft of sculpting wood & exposed him to other artistic perspectives. Today Tadao is still influenced by sculpture but also is aware of the long perspective of nature & the wood he works with. The life span of a tree is extended in the art he creates. For over 40 years, his hands have molded a 2nd life into the wood he uses. One of the joys of his work is that every week he learns something new.

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His design process for custom work begins with understanding the place it will occupy & then making multiple hand sketches of his concepts & ideas. Then CAD drawings are presented to the client giving a perspective that is easier to visualize. With approval & consensus of the final design, Tadao then creates another hand drawing he will use as a guide while crafting the piece.

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He describes some of his work as Visually Quiet. A blend of sketch artist, craftsman & sculptor, his minds eye is focused on the functional & the aesthetic environment his work will occupy. The soft conflict of his description resonates in his work. Looking at examples of his finished pieces on his website it is easy to see the blend of purpose with beauty.

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Of particular interest to me was the shop environment filled with sawdust creating an orange earth tone hue. I wanted to capture the interaction of the tools, wood, hands & the designer. These images show a glimpse of his personal culmination of inspiration & craft.

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Tadao takes his design & creates a second life-cycle of the tree the wood came from. In sculpting his forms he infuses his ideas onto the grain of the lumber with his touch, & experience. His hands respect the longevity of the medium they work with.

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Often imperfections become an accent adding character to the narrative.

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The work-space of a craftsman can tell you a lot about the artisan. A woodworking shop is a constant shifting balance of space for working & keeping tools close. Raw wood was leaning against the walls. Shelves were piled with hardwoods. Work-in-progress was sitting beside hefty machinery. I was enveloped by the ordered chaos & a diversity of tools. The dominant feature in the shop however was Tadao’s resonating smile.

Stone and Iron Garden

01 Organic Garden
Rocks & stonework inspire me. I noticed a sculpture garden with ironwork designed around jaw-dropping stone objects. I envisioned flora in bloom contrasting stone & dull ironwork as a good time to stroll thru this unique garden with my camera. However, on an overcast Spring mourning I realized the few early flowers, bare trees & a backdrop of grass would highlight the tone of the artwork.
02 Rock Table
The artist, Vince Freeman, has an eclectic assortment of man-made materials to choose from including bricks, pre-formed ornamental pieces & discarded rusted relics of. The stone table is the centerpiece of the patio. The finely detailed ornamental pagoda on the edge of the brickwork offers a pleasing juxtaposition to the natural rock table.
03 Stone Crucifix
The crucifix may be one of the strongest images in our culture. Artists in many mediums have used their talents to create custom representations. I don’t think I have ever seen one as unique as this.
04 The Tong Family
Before I talked with the artist I knew we shared a similar trait. We keep old tools because someday we might do something with them. In his case he actually does. I only hang them in my woodshed. By simply heating & bending these old devices his creation of Papa Tong, Mamma Tong and Baby Tong brought a smile to my face.
05 Iron Bird copy
The color palette of this shot is narrow. The rusted Iron Bird blends nicely with a dominant gray scale & the diffused grass adds an element of life. Originally I thought this might be an interesting BW. However the more I experimented in post the more I liked the color.

06 Bug with Character

When I landscape with stone, I often see a specific place for a specific rock. I never have looked at a rock and seen a face. The choice of this stone & the perfectly positioned eyes give character to an inanimate object. All of us can learn to see things differently. For me his work is kindling for different perspectives.

V Freeman

Soft spoken and easy to talk to, Vince quickly struck me, as is the type of person who gets things done. His squared shoulders on top of his large strong frame give him an advantage when blending Iron and Stone. I enjoy how he has interpreted & created sculpture using natural and discarded man-made materials.

Glass Gallery

This blog posting goes back to one of the earliest visual inspirations I remember.  In my childhood home we had a stained glass window that  caught my eyes.  That window now hangs in my home.   Early tabletop video experience taught me to look, light & shoot glass with many different perspectives and angles. I had my bare eyes, 3 lenses, & my “over 60 reading glasses”. So with 5 sets of eyes I began to examine the fascinating work of world-class artists.Lifeforms 04 072

In advance, I confirmed it was OK to photograph the artwork at the Pittsburgh Glass Center. My first impression was the consistent color temp of the light. The gallery had almost no exposure to outside windows; traditional white walls & the lights were mounted high enough for flexibility in focusing. The 55 pieces on display made the room seem small but not crowded. I was double cautious making physical moves.

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This piece “Cupped Up” by Sam McMillen is a bird I am fortunate enough to see frequently. The perfect shape & coloring of the head of the solid sculpted glass caught my attention.

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A roommate majoring in architecture introduced me to the beauty & function of this structure. (Thanks Pete for opening my eyes to space in form & function). I tweaked “Half & Half” a Pâte de verre work by Rachel Mary Elliott to emphasize the perfection of the Sacred Geometry of a mollusk still inspiring artists after 500 million years. Speaking of opening up your eyes, I found this website about Monet very interesting especially since his paintings are some of my favorites.

 

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All glass models in Lifeforms compettion are mandated to be of specific species made in the spirit of the Blaschka’s. This is a flame-worked glass replica of an almost microscopic mineral skeleton called “Radiolari” by Lisa Demagall. Of all of the spectacular pieces I saw this one I would love to spend a day with in a controlled studio.

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The background was the motivator of this shot. “India Blue Peacock” by Karen Willenbrink-Johnsen was one of the few sculptures far enough away from a wall allowing me to separate the intensity of lights. Her blown, sculpted glass with powder drawings was magnificent but this photo does not show the peacocks signature train of colors. Sometimes life is like that.Lifeforms 05 073_HDR

This is my first attempt at incorporating HDR filters.   I don’t believe this flame-worked glass entitled “Lovely” has been overly enhanced so the artist Bronwen Heilman would object. When I compare it to the original, the subtle effects emphasize positive aspects of the original without creating surreal changes.

If UV photography is different perspective you would like to explore this website a variety of simulations of the spectrum of light unseen by the human eye.

Frozen Music

Music is a fluid & linear art for the ear. Live performances add emotion, theatrical visuals & a communal experience. Capturing a musical performance is better suited for moving pictures with sound. Stills only capture a glimpse of a musician or document memories. Maybe my ears override my eyes & this is why it is a genre I’m not very good at. I would appreciate tips from anybody that is both a photographer & a musician.

b Crew Butchers

While I enjoy a spectrum of music I never have been big on going to concerts. This performance of the “b Crew Butchers”, co-workers, enjoy making music as a diversion from traveling making live-TV. Poolside of SB 50 was indeed a good venue. It also shows what I consider most performance videos miss…the two-shot. Most films I see  use to many CU’s of hands & individual musicians. I enjoy a deeper visual story with interaction of the performers & occasionally with the audience.

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Street musicians are a wonderful part of the urban environment. At the 16th St Mall in DEN I could always count on interesting “relativity” shots. The constant flow of pedestrians is an interesting thing to watch. Here I was able to combine music, street photography & people on their phones. A three-fer! At first the coffee woman was not part of how the crop. After exploring options, I decided the face-less individual was indicative of the rhythm of the street. And, you gotta love pinky cup.

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This is another DEN “relativity” shot. I wonder if after making a withdrawal people feed the violin case? An element of street photography I look for are signs and their juxtaposition with the environment.

Ladies Night

One of my most recent explorations was to hear a group called Ladies Night featuring an all female horn section. The James Street Gastropub & Speakeasy has a name to long, and a performance venue in the basement to small. However the sound system was GREAT. The sightlines/lighting/clutter for photography were terrible but the musicians and the mix for the room were spot-on.  If the women couldn’t play the “All Female Horn Section” might just be a gimmick. They can play! The entire band is tight & balance songs with emotion that fills the room.  I would love to listen/see to them in a bigger venue where they could let loose.  I sensed that this horn section could really wail.  I would also love to get a 3 shot of all the ladies.  I did a little post on this shot.  Trying to balance that line of altering vs improving.

Geno Delafose

It was later in my life when I discovered Zydeco. As soon as I heard it I needed to experience it live. With roots in the bayou, it was easy to discover a home in MSY called Rock n Bowl. Unfortunately it took me 20 years after I found out about it to go there. The city of New Orleans is rich with music & Rock ‘n’ Bowl should be a part of any music lovers trip.   If there is any doubt about the happiness of Zydeco just look at the smile on Geno Delafose. There is much room for improvement in my photography but the smile is all I need to trigger the memory of this 2nd gen accordionist. You can find out more about Gino at http://www.genodelafosemusic.com/

NO shadow

NOLA SBXLVII The Musco lights creating this shadow of the violin player were on Jackson Square for one of the many “satellite remotes” CBS had for the game. I have always liked the qualities back-light has on a subject & it appears the musician is savvy enough to find the spotlight. Over the years I’ve learned when there is strong hard light look to include shadow as part of the image.

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Since this post is titled Frozen Music a snap of a statue somehow seemed appropriate.

 

 

 

Full Fram Perfection

Perfection, I believe, is an impossible objective. However I think it is a worthy goal. When I hold a camera to my eye I can’t help but imagining capturing a full frame image that is perfect. No cropping, no post-production and no change in the light on the subject. That moment when all elements come together in a cohesive story worthy of 1,000 words. Compromise is a reality everybody striving for perfection must accept. However, subjective critique of your own work should not just look at the negative or how it could be better. You must examine all that you like about the shot and weigh that against the flaws.

All of the images in this post are untouched. They are what I consider to be my best attempts at “full frame” perfection…so far.

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Kayaking on Lake Skadar in Montenegro with my daughter was part of a grand trip. In my opinion I never truly visit a place unless you get on or in the water. During our exploring we sailed, swam & kayaked. Taking photos from a kayak presents numerous challenges & limited opportunities. I don’t need to see her face, nor do I wish the sky were a perfect blue. Her journey ahead has challenges she is more than prepared for.
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Sailing in Seattle on the 70 footer Obsession was nice enough but the twilight & the reflection were an added bonus. The cityscape of this port town is almost void of signage on the buildings. I’m glad urban ordinances prevent the owners/builders from turning this great view into another opportunity for marketing. Could it be better…yes. Mt Ranier is off to the right of frame but their was clutter from the shipyards that distracted so I cropped with the zoom to eliminate the distraction.
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Although this shot was almost deleted, something made me keep examining it. I was using my new long zoom, 100-400, for the first time & pushing my skills at full tight to try & get a tight shot of the athlete’s expression. (That was a humbling failure for the most part.) At first glance this is somewhat abstract. However, it shows aspects of the sport that clearly define what is happening. The blurred feet in the air pointing up & the strong hands holding the bent pole capture a moment unique to this sport. I will do a future post about pole-vaulting.
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I am a huge fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. Maybe not a great man but an architect that has inspired me since a field trip to Falling Water in Junior HS. We were traveling in Wisconsin in late May & I insisted on going to Taliesin which was the home of FLW & later a school for Architects. Although I was compelled by the structures, the tour & the history, I couldn’t help but also be inspired by the landscape & the farming. Somehow, the natural setting along with the man-made trellis, plowed field and orderly orchard gave me a different insight into FLW’s use of space & style of design. I can’t fully articulate what it is about his work I enjoy especially since I am not fond of hard horizontal & vertical lines associated with buildings. Taliesin West in AZ is on my bucket list for my next trip into the SW.
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I had to connect in VIE on a return trip from SJJ & (on purpose) had a 12 hour layover in Vienna. They have a quick/easy/cheap train from the airport & I hopped on to do a “down & dirty wander” around this historic center of European power. All to often I was distracted by barkers dressed in period-piece costume inviting me to concerts of Mozart, Strauss and Hayden. In my mind I kept saying…you’re here for your eyes not your ears. In one of the many parks I found this emotional statue with a wonderful floral background. The diversity of art in this city goes well beyond the music. I hope to someday go back & spend more time to enjoy the music & capture more of what Old Europe has to offer.IMG_9229 copy
Wandering thru a market in Zagreb was a wonderful opportunity for street photography. The colorful produce was a backdrop for the diversity of characters involved in the hustle of commerce. This solitary vendor appears to have sadness etched into his face but in his eyes I see a peaceful serenity. Knowing the quality of his product he has a subdued confidence a buyer will choose his apples. The cane on the edge of the frame is not to far from his folded callous hands. Although his rugged coat helps keep him warm he keeps his head uncovered defying the harshness of the world. When I first spotted him I was drawn to the character of his face and stoic expression. However, as I waited for the passing crowd to give me a window to snap a portrait, I realized the more complete story was wider and included his environment.

I found this video from PBS. It’s only 3:02 & a very choppy edit style, but I found it an interesting look at the perspective of a photographer with 6 decades of experience.

Forms of Water

The diverse forms of water provide different opportunities for subjects, activities & enjoyment near lakes streams & oceans.  During the filming of CHASING THE RIVER I encountered ice, fog & flowing water demonstration the beauty of this basic force of nature.  In video the characteristics of this life-sustaining element are more powerful.  However, a still can capture the subtle singular interaction nature has with our lives.

CTR ice

Ice CTR

Winter has never been my favorite season.  But the lower position of the sun, bare trees, lack of haze and juxtaposition with other seasons can make compelling subjects.  In this shot notice how the form of the liquids previous state & the sculpting of the wind in its current frozen condition.  I considered B/W but felt the subtle grad in the blues along with almost zero saturation gives more impact to the sensory emotion of temperature.  This still was grabbed from Varicam 720…slightly less than 1 mp…cropped to even lower 480X360.  1n 2004 HD video opened up quality for me I never dreamed video could reproduce.  I am still amazed that now cell phone camera have more resolution that early HD cameras.  OBTW eary 1080 is just over 2 mp.

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Bridge CTR

In this shot from CTR, the water is reflective & creates an interesting perspective on a cloudless afternoon in February.  Sometimes it is luck, other times knowing the angle of the light in conjunction with the position of the camera is the key to getting the shot.  A few degrees difference in where you stand & the angle of the light can be dramatic.  Water is transparent when still, opaque when moving & from the right position it is a mirror.  In the 12 months shooting CTR I was constantly inspired by the variety of attributes stream and tributaries created.

We often take water for granted.  For to many people in the world that is not the case.  This link features the work of Drop by Drop photogs using their craft to tell stories of help to provide 3rd world societies with safe drinking water.

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Potomac Fog

At first I was unsure as to the intrigue of this scene.  In early Fall I stood on the banks of the Potomac and took in the sensory serenity the fog & the river created.   The components of light & subjects were folded together.  I realized I was seeing reflected light off the water bouncing thru moisture, the opposite shore was creeping out of the vapor & the partially submerged rocks were cloaked in a soft mist.  A variety of strong emotions were emerging from a simple temperature difference between the air and the water.  I’m glad I had my first cup-a-joe so I was awake enough to enjoy these subtle textures of the mourning.

 

Reflected Fog

Reflected Fog

Walking to work Sunday morning the sun had just risen.  This familiar building caught my attention.  I hadn’t had my first cup-a-joe so my mind was not fully engaged & I couldn’t quite understand what I was seeing.  I grabbed a few shots & forgot about it.  A few days later I was reviewing shots on my computer & did a forensic examination of the light.  The sun was rising above the city to my back left.  The fog was floating about 30 feet above the Ohio but not where I was walking.  The early light was reflecting off the Trimont windows down at me.  The building with its reflected golden light was distorted by the soft fog I was looking thru creating a halo effect.  An optical game of billiards.

My daughter took my suggestion about buying art from different places she lives/visits.  She told me she didn’t have a shot of Pittsburgh for her apartment and that it would be a good Christmas gift.  She introduced me to the work of David DiCello.  Although I believe photography post-production & HDR are over done, I found his finished images to be an exception.  His work with subtly enhance the image.  He doesn’t transform them into a fantasy world the eye will never see.  Plus he has a passion about photographing one of the most visually stunning cities I have ever seen.  OK, I’m biased because I’ve lived here my entire life.