Critique Reinforced a Change in Direction

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I recently went to a portfolio review hosted by Richard Kelly. Not only was it valuable to hear critique of my own images but the overall evening was insightful. The experience of seeing the work of other photographers while listening to the critique of their work motivated me in an unexpected way.

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Sue Abramson was the artist doing the reviews. Prior to her individual review of the each photographers work, she gave a presentation of her book “A Woodlands Journal”. Her imagery was captivating. But most impressive to me was her commitment to the subject for 4 decades. It reinforced how much I just bounce around with my camera.

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I was torn between the styles of presentation of her review. The projected digital images allowed the entire group to see in a theater setting. However, all of the bumps associated with electronic presentation were there.

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I do enjoy looking at a print & this method of review allowed a broader critique of the images as well as the perspective of examining the story/style. The downside was that it’s hard for a group of people to gather around a table to engage with what she was saying & demonstrating. The options for sharing our work are numerous & should be molded to the venue and the viewer.

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Most of the work of the other photogs at the review had some sort of underlying nucleus. It was inspiring to see & learn about the vision of talented local photographers who have, or are exploring, a personal style in their artistic endeavors.

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During all of her critiques it wasn’t so much the specific comments she gave that resonated with me. It was her overall perspective looking at the collections of the images of the other photographers that opened a new vista for me.

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My “portfolio of images” had no theme & is best described as eclectic without foundation. I doubt my motivation in photography will ever become focused on one genre. I believe I am destined to be a generalist. I have recognized this for a while & embrace the diversity. However, the next review session I take part in I will put together a theme of images, which I believe will result in a more valuable feedback.

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Critiquing my images Ms. Abramson encouraged me to pursue subjects I mentioned I enjoy like dance & sailboats while giving relevant critique on some of my other images. I realized that on this blog the written support is the strength of my style of story telling. While my images on any particular posting have some commonality, the visual theme usually is linked by the text. I’ve put more emphasis on prose than image continuity in an effort to improve my writing.

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As you can see by the images in this posting, the subjects of my photography are diverse. I like the challenge of some subjects. I believe it’s important to document the human condition. Often something will just catch my eye. People have so many varied activities I am motivated to capture candid moments. The beauty in the natural world is an inspiring subject. I’ve gotten better at tuning my eyes to light & shadow. I also have become comfortable with Photoshop to enhance or occasionally modify an image. I’ve even ventured into the challenges of Black & White. The title of the Scorsese film about Dylan No Direction Home resonates.

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I can not ignore the inspiration I got in my youth from photojournalism. I will still attempt to capture moments that resonate ideas. However, the ability of using photography to expand & explore creative points of view is something I will try to embrace.

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My take away from the evening motivated me to change my publishing schedule for this blog from twice a month to a more relaxed “whenever I have something to say” deadline. I had been feeling some self-inflicted pressure to do the 2-blog postings a month I’ve done since 11/15. I’m now motivated to explore a more visually dominate approach to story telling. I’ve proven to myself the writing of stories to accompany my photos in the style of “show & tell” is something I can do.

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I will be interested to see where this leads. Comments & suggestions are always welcome. After 73 blogs that began over 3 years ago using over 58 thousand words I no longer find value in a self-imposed deadline. Spelling… always a work in progress.

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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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???

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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.

 

 

Museums are good exercise for your eyes

A shortcoming with my minds eye is being attracted by form. Space in many museums offers opportunities for me to focus on forms in a wider perspective.

 

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I know I can  find inspiration at museums & galleries. As a bonus, the environments are relaxing. I always ask, “Is non-flash photography permitted?”  Some on-loan exhibits don’t permit photos. A shortcoming with my minds eye is being attracted by form. Space in many museums offers opportunities for me to focus on a wider perspective. At the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh I recognized the depth, verticals & lighting on the walls were inviting components. The panoramic cropping accents the artwork.

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At gallery exhibits of photographers I’m reminded of the responsibility of documenting history with my camera. This show at The Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh legend Tennie Harris, who chronicled 5 decades of life in the city starting in the mid 30’s, was fantastic. Visitors could watch a projected slide show or scroll thru his work on a desktop computer screen. I choose to examine the matted prints, which allowed you to observe in a single glance the diversity of his subjects. There are many things about his career that are inspiring but his nickname of “One Shot” is especially humbling.

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Not technical a museum or gallery the Mirogoj Cemetery In Zagreb Croatia has interesting similarities. It was overcast, cold & damp on the December day I visited which added to the sensual experience. The lighting in hallway of family mausoleums gave interesting depth while the arched columns balanced & framed the various lines. The grouping & number of exact tombstones in the section of those killed in the Croatian-Bosnian War in the mid 90’s hit a deep level of emotion.

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All serious photographers understand lighting. Some that have studied illumination will recognize Renaissance Masters using chiaroscuro style to give 3D modeling to subjects. Joos van Cleve’s 1528 work of “Saint Jerome In His Study” is worth examining closely. Since I’m attracted to the light from windows, this single source natural light is especially appealing. I chuckle at the unlit candle since some art of the Renaissance used oil lamps, candles & fire as key light in the painting. Fogg Museum Harvard.

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The walking tour of “The Road to Berlin” was a well though out multi-media exhibit at the WWII Museum in New Orleans. The diversity of relics, uniquely projected film, photographs, audio and personal memoirs was well worth the time. I was especially impressed with “camouflage” shadows on the floor.

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This graffiti of 1 or more US solders during the war is a very basic. It became synonymous with the American GI in Europe. Then, to use today’s description, the image went viral after the war ended. Sometime little details catch my eye.

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The use of interactive displays for visitors to read & experience is common in more modern facilities. Usually these exhibits are not conducive to getting people shots. Here, at the National Museum of African American History, I found a good perspective to get this portrait. Occasionally, primary illumination from below can make for a nice portrait.

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As you walk thru the exhibit, the paths areas are dark. Some exhibits are back-lit turning the visitors into a parade of silhouettes. The newest Smithsonian Museum has done some very good photo restoration as part of their tour.

09Often you find surprises at a museum. Made for the International Correspondents School in Scranton PA this Edison recorder is in better condition than any of the other 5 or 6 I’ve seen. Finding it at Museo Provincial in Camguey made me scratch my head. It would be interesting to find out the legacy of how this remarkable invention to record/playback sound ended up in a Cuban museum. Decades after this technology was invented I made a good part of my career recording & playing back audio WITH pictures.  Sometimes I slowed it down!

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Some places with historical significance are still used for what they were built for & are active tributes. The Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta is one of those places. I could imagine Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. at the pulpit. Unfortunately the camera can’t capture inspiration to the soul. However, sitting in those pews I had a powerful sense of purpose.

12I have admiration for capturing “The Moment” in dance. This exhibit at the August Wilson Center drew me in on many levels. The story behind the showing was inspirational. Mother & daughter Jill & Joy-Marie Thompson choreographed a tribute to historic images of influential dancers. They worked with the highly respected photographer specializing in dance Rachel Neville. The space, lighting & images with white backgrounds on walls of white are an amazing display of art, collaboration & talent. Of course…never avoid the opportunity to put red in the frame.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.