Head in the clouds

During the last 10 years of my career the amount of air travel was a big motivator for retirement. In the past 2 years I’ve only made 2 trips by plane. However, I do miss the occasional inspiring view from above. I see a few photogs doing nice work with drones but I have zero motivation to buy one.

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Shadows are always a part of the story in a photograph. Sometimes the shade of the subject is all that is needed in the frame. I like the context this image can add to a story as either a beginning an end or even a transition.

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Moments of solace when looking out the window were one of the few benefits of becoming A Million Miler. Not only is this a nice moment in time it is a nice moment in space. The winglet silhouette & the edge light on the wing define the perspective. The position of the Cheshire moon in relationship to all of the other components especially the town below provides depth. The glow of the sunset on the horizon of the entire atmosphere is almost impossible to see from the ground.

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A perk of all the travel was upgrades. The title of this is Coming Home in 4F! My brothers & sisters flying every week will understand. Some travelers may prefer the more visually dramatic approach into PIT that brings them over downtown. I preferred coming in from the West where the view allowed you to see the more a more rural environment. Seeing the waning of winter as spring is on the cusp, is always a wonderful sight.

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I never had any desire to pilot a plane. However, I thought it would be neat to drive one around on the tarmac.

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On the 54th Floor in DTW the fireworks from a barge on the river below me provided a very unique vantage point. Sparkling explosions displayed almost at eye level was something I never expected to see. Being able to add foreground building on the side of the frame & having Windsor Canada, as background provided a wonderful balance.

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Being able to work with talented professionals was a big thrill of my career. Flying with Cherokee Helicopters for a Kenny Chesney Concert was fantastic!!! His craft was designed for stability & he had the eye of a photographer. The best shots were when I pointed the camera & he flew the helicopter. The client was happy with the shots we got.  However, the best shot didn’t fit the format of the show. On a test flight in the early afternoon Cherokee came down the Monongahela, over the Ft. Pitt Bridge & dropped down to approach Heinz field. The rivers around Point Park were filled with boats.

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Inspired by the work of David Burnett & Leni Riefenstahl I saw an opportunity at a track & field event to float a person in the air. It also happened to be a personal best pole vault for the athlete. I consider this an example of preparing to be lucky. OBTW I respect the art of her work but can’t condone her collaboration with The Third Reich. Your reputation is elevated or, in Leni’s case, destroyed by those you associate with.

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Miami sure has changed since I first saw it on the Jackie Gleason Show. Unfortunately this aerial image now creates a sense of significant concern when I look at it. With the seas rising & the potential of more powerful storms the risk & the downside to everything in this image is a nightmare. We must listen to the power of nature.09 copy
8 years after Katrina the Louisiana lowlands coast appears recovered from what the storm had done. On final to MSY from about 8K feet I couldn’t help but reflect on the big picture of how powerful nature can be. Seeing the world from the window of a silver tube provided me with a view that reinforced my perspective on the importance of doing my best to respect the environment. We have impacted the climate & we must take responsibility to do better. OBTW later on in that trip human error caused the lights to go out in the Super Bowl. We can’t control everything!

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This is one of my favorite pictures where the sky is a subject. The simplicity of a fragile bubble floating with the contrails of a plane miles above dissecting it is a perfect example of chance. The dual reflections are of the sun by the peak of the Washington Monument. Photo credit Jessica Kuntz. Her view of the world is one I respect.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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,

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Pole Vault Photographs

My daughter transitioned from gymnastics in high school to pole vault in college. I worked a few T/F events for TV but knew little about the sport other than the obvious. Photographing any sporting event is an exciting challenge. Add to that my daughter’s involvement & I was motivated to explore PV with my camera. One of the most rewarding aspects of being a parent is when your children inspire you.

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I was fortunate enough to visit my daughter during practice. Even though the gym was not visually inspiring, I got a feel for perspectives & positions. A friend/teammate of hers competed in the ’10 D3 Outdoor Nationals at Baldwin Wallace so we went to watch. The PV pit had a hill to the south so spectators & photographers were near the height of the bar. Afternoon sun was back left & theBG was a stand of pines. Even though this was my first attempt at photographing PV, I realized this position for capturing action around the bar was about as perfect as possible. Sometimes life is like that. The truth of Ansel Adams simple quote “A good photograph is knowing where to stand” was never more accurate.

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Athletes compete to win but in individual events a competitor getting a new personal best is considered a victory. As a photographer my goal is to document athletes & the sport not to capture the winning moment. In the previous shot it can be assumed that the bar was cleared because of her position at the apogee of her vault. In this shot the alignment of the body is still in assent and at a nice diagonal of the frame. Her success is unknown. I especially like the ponytail.

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Each sport has particular moments for compelling shots. In PV I broke it down to 8 components. The concentration at the start, running down the track, planting the pole, take off, assent to the bar, clearing…or not, the fall & reaction are where I try to capture the athletes. This shot is of Jan Shur at SUNY Fredonia moments before she exploded into her approach. At the time of this photo she was the world record holder. While elite athletes provide inspiring physical actions, I find their concentration & reactions to be the images my eyes linger on.

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Oh how I wish I took this shot of my daughter. This is the moment right after the plant & the beginning of take off. Most critical to this picture is the position of where her coach/photographer, Patrick Barragan, was standing. I am sure his knowledge of the sport was also an asset. The original shot was wider. I cropped it to emphasize the transfer of the power of the athlete to the pole. THANKS Patrick!

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Two frustrating elements of indoor PV are zero control over light (higher ISO/more grain) and cluttered backgrounds/foregrounds. Although I always try to position myself where I can get the best perspective, I sometimes will find a place where the back/foreground provides a pleasing aspect or, in the worst case, the least offensive. In this shot the American Flag, always a compelling element, created a terrific background even though the stripes are not plum to the PV bar.
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This shot was taken on the descent. I will leave it up to your eyes to decide if the reaction is of success or failure. Speaking of failure…PV & High Jump are 2 sporting events that almost always end in failure. After an athlete “wins” the event they have the opportunity to continue for an attempt at new personal best or event/track/national or world record. Only when they fail to make the height in 3 consecutive vaults is the event final.

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.