What I did this Summer

01 7D2L1093 copy.1More than anytime during the recent past I spent a lot of this summer reflecting. The slower pace of summer at Chautauqua provides a space where introspective motivation is easy. The passing of time is a partner with the changes in our lives. They bring both dark & bright moments that alter my perspective on my life & the world around me.

02This summer, volunteering for the Bemus Point Stow Ferry didn’t include any trips across the narrows. Dry-docked for repairs I was able to document some of the work necessary for it to pass safety inspection. I did become a 3rd grade apprentice grinder working on the deck. As a “Steel-town Boy” I got a taste of the type of work my hometown is known for. I have confidence that the Ferry will be back in the water continuing her 3rd century of service to Chautauqua Lake. I am proud to be able to help keep this historic icon operating as well as accepting a position on the Board of Directors.

03 05Wip copy copyI know to many good bird photographers to say I am one. However, when I’m sitting on my front porch watching a Northern Flicker pose I will take advantage of the opportunity. The Kingfisher that occasionally sits on the mast of my sailboat continues to eluded my camera.

04Golf is a perfect sport for my 100-400 lens. During the Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy’s tournament I was able to get a very high percentage of images I was happy with. Knowing the basics of the game, recognizing where good foreground/background locations were as well as having very nice weather allowed me to enjoy a very pleasant day on the links. I thought about picking up my clubs this summer but didn’t. I’m doubtful playing golf will become anything more than a minor part of my retirement. So much for stereotypes.

05Often the voices of nature can complement the serenity of the outdoors in a way that is uniquely familiar. The shoreline of ponds isn’t fully complete unless you hear the voices of frogs. I find it a great exercise for my eyes to find them in the weeds or the shallows of the water. It isn’t often I can get close enough to get a good image but if they are going to make it easy by sitting on a log I will make an attempt to grab a shot.

06I enjoy portraiture but for me it is difficult with people I know. That doesn’t mean I will stop trying. Since I have known Barb Koerner all of my life I can’t begin to explain the many deep qualities this portrait captures. Much of what the image means to me is totally unseen by the camera. It is my personal knowledge of the “sense of place” that is an untold story of this wonderful woman. Other than my family, this may be my best capture of someone I know. OBTW the pie was homemade from fresh hand picked blueberries!

07 7D2L1156 copy copyRecognizing your tastes helps define your motivation. I like boats. I enjoy old school as part of my life. I appreciate the craftsmanship of people that create & preserve things with wood. Knowing that, I stalked some participants in a local wooden boat show. This classic Chris Craft arriving from the north had beautiful early am sun that highlighted the high gloss of the wood. The strong sunlight also painted the contrasting green trees in the background giving a nice balanced hue to the image. If only I could have been about 5 degrees higher to have isolated the bow flag against the water. I always look for ways to make something better.

08 7D2L0735 copy copyDriving the back roads of Chautauqua County I spotted this farm on wash-day. My photographer’s instinct immediately thought leading lines. I realized that unless I invaded the family’s property I really couldn’t explore the full potential of this setting. Since I was on my way somewhere I just took this generic wide shot. It serves as a seed for future opportunities.

09 7D2L0848 copy copyEven though I’m less than satisfied with images of musicians I have taken, there is still a lure I can’t resist. I also believe many of the best shots I’ve seen include the interaction of 2 or more musicians. However, the smaller mandolin fit nicely into a tight single frame. The mustache, goatee, sunglasses & hat gave this musician character worthy of an attempt of musical portraiture. The Blue Heron Music Festival did a good job of providing entertaining music that didn’t overwhelm the audience with the volume.

daf01_8 copy copyThe life cycle of monarch butterflies is almost as amazing as watching them dancing in the wind. Thinking about their journeys as these frail creatures migrate across much of North America, I am in awe of their capacity. Splashing the landscape with color they intensify the beauty of flowers. They remind me not to ignore the simple pleasure of each & every day.

Motivated by a New Opportunity

01I don’t consider myself a competitive person. However, I enjoy the challenge of capturing compelling images of others in sporting events. Mud on the Mountain at Seven Springs seemed like it would offer a variety of new opportunities for my mind’s eye.

02 copyThe weather was cooperative & the runners were enthusiastic subjects. Unfortunately, I had not done enough planning to know where the Mud Pit or other messy locations were & missed one of my primary goals of photographing tight muddy faces.

03A wide perspective the scale of the challenge, an important part of the story. It sets up the impact of tight shots. Atop the Laurel Highlands, I found this migration of competitors that reminded me of images from the Klondike Gold Rush. It’s a different environment & perspective from climbers in single file hiking up a snow-covered pass. In my mind, the push of human endurance was a common element. I also imagined the stark contrast when the terrain was snow covered with skiers speeding in the opposite direction.

04This is my favorite tight action shot of the event. I had spotted her with the war-paint mask as a flight of runners was preparing to start. I immediately noticed attitude & knew if I saw her on the mountain she would have emotion & character on her face. I had found a good position with minimal distractions in the background as runners exited wading thru a lake. She was one of the 1st runners thru after I was in position. Her determination is profoundly obvious.

05In addition to the 7.7-mile run/hike up & down the mountain, there were 30 obstacles. I had zero experience with this type of event from a visual perspective. I wanted to explore perspectives. Although there were “elite runners” competing to win, I believe most of the athletes had a personal goal or focused on just finishing. I did see teamwork as well as athletes helping others beside them. I recognized Mud on the Mountain was as a true personal sporting challenge where collaboration met compettion.

06I’m not sure when or why the Halloween tradition of costumes seeped into many large events. These are not the typical outfits of the competitors. However, they do stand out! Full disclosure, I knew they were a trio of characters but I really had no idea who they were from. When they told me they were from Super Mario I felt foolish for my lack of gaming pop-culture.  My gamer engagement ended at Pac Man. If you don’t know ask.

06a copyI had walked around this climbing challenge 360 degrees before I found a position where the background was clear of distractions. Each runner found a unique way up, over & down. I had good framing with the lines of the wooden structure & the blue sky. Now all I needed was somebody to insert something other than their butt into the frame. Until I sorted the images I had no ideas she had stuck out her tongue when I pressed the shutter. It certainly wasn’t a reaction I anticipated. I knew the elements were in place for a good shot & her expression made it a winner.

6b copyEven though I never made it to the muddy challenges, this shot comes close to what I had seen in my mind’s eye. In this image, there are many stories on the face of this athlete. I find it interesting how the curving contrasting double necklines & the hint of the Batman logo set up his face while the horizontal orange headband divides my attention. A bad hair day can be a strong element. This is another one of my favorite portraits.

6cI believe it is rewarding to put challenges in front of you & attempt to go over them. It can be physical challenges like this event or exploring your creative skills outside of your comfort zone. That is what motivated me to go to this event with my camera. I might go again but if I do I will make sure I do the necessary planning to get to the muddier parts of the course. I can’t speak for any of the competitors that were on the mountain on that glorious spring day, but from my perspective, this runner is a good example of what this event is about. Giving your best attempt at doing what you set out to do.

 

 

 

Motivated by Sand in my Shoes

When I was a teenager my grandmother told me I had sand in my shoes. As I got older I began to understand her idiom describing my enjoyment of travel & discovery.01a copy
During my career, I was fortunate to travel many places locally, nationally & internationally. I experienced different environments, saw a wide diversity of lifestyles & discovered a lot about the world. As a perk to that travel, I earned a lot of frequent flyer miles enabling my family to experience some wonderful vacations.01ab
One place that left me in awe of the natural world was Yosemite National Park. Our experiences with Park Rangers & other National Parks motivates us to add these places to any itinerary we plan. Ken Burns described them as “America’s Best Idea”. I can’t disagree. Preserving these amazing places for all to enjoy is a testament to our respect for the planet we live on. As a photographer, it was overwhelming & almost too easy. Everywhere I pointed my camera I framed a dramatic image.

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I discovered that before traveling learning some history of the place & you will add to your enjoyment. London can be overwhelming with history & with iconic visuals. Having read the 1000 plus page “condensed biography” of Sir Winston Churchill I admired the man for his leadership, writing & persistence. In this picture of his statue, you don’t see his face but his form is easily recognizable as he keeps a vigil on Parliament.

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Eastern Europe was never on my radar as a place to visit. However, my daughter was doing a Fulbright in Zagreb Croatia & we decided to visit & share her experience. It had been 20 years since Communist Yugoslavia broke up however much of the culture had not changed. In many ways, it was like stepping back in time & reminded me of photos of Pittsburgh in the 1950’s. The trolleys were a big influence in this perception as were the clothes worn by older people. I noticed a tremendous difference in the appearance of those under 30 & those over 40.

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I try not to limit my curiosity to places I’ve never been. I’ve experienced new views without going far from home. As I’ve become more involved in photography I enjoy looking at something I’ve seen many times & discover a new context. The rivers, valleys & hills of Pittsburgh provide spectacular vistas. Now, when I wander in my hometown I look more for details or perspectives I haven’t seen before like this image of Alcoa Headquarters.. Also, it’s inspiring to see work of photographers from the Pittsburgh, New Kensington & Chautauqua Camera Clubs I belong to. If you have more than just a passing interest in photography I highly recommend joining a camera club near you.

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If you travel enough you encounter problems. Hurricane Sandy did that while I was in the UK for work. Fortunately, I had my camera & took advantage of an unplanned opportunity to wander around Birmingham. It reinforced the idea that having no plans can lead to serendipitous experiences. Not only did I discover a system of canals but also I went to Symphony Hall & enjoyed the afternoon performance of works by Dvorak.06 copy
I enjoy meeting friendly & interesting people. A camera over my shoulder has provided a conversation starter many times. Since the human condition is one of my favorite subjects I usually ask if I can take casual portraits. On a “Honey Trail,” my daughter discovered in her research of Montenegro we got lost. We ended up in the backyard of this very friendly wine maker. Fortunately, Jessica spoke some of the language & we elevated our conversation above pantomime. Another thing I enjoy about meeting people is that local knowledge is valuable.008
For some reason, Sedona AZ was basically unknown to me. So when we went there on a 1500 mile tour of the Southwest I experienced the beauty with fresh eyes. At the time I only had a point & shoot camera. However, the basics of a good photograph don’t really depend on the gear. That being said, I will be going back at some time with my DSLR.09
Later in that same trip out west, we rode the narrow gage RR from Durango to Silverton CO. Built in 1882 we climbed up into the Rockies along the Animas River where around every turn we saw a more spectacular view that the previous one. I highly recommend this relaxing scenic trip. However, I suggest buying a package where you go up by train and return by bus. The same views in reverse on a 3.5 hr trip can lose its appeal.

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I like to say you’ve never really visited a place unless you’ve been in or on the water. Not only does this perspective provide a chance for a better view, it is also an excuse to be on a sailboat. One thing I noticed immediately about the skyline of Seattle is that there are almost zero signs/names/logos on buildings. Photographer’s eyes notice what is missing.

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One night while wandering in New Orleans I cranked up the ISO on the camera & was searching for some unique Street Photography. The ambient light from buildings, signs & the streetlights created pools of light where amusing stories can be captured. On this shot, I masked the digital noise with an oil paint effect, which I think adds to the narrative.

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I am torn by a short trip where all the clothes I need can fit into 1 bag vs traveling for longer periods & face the universal dilemma all travelers’ experience. A road trip is on my agenda & a few other international adventures are in the planning stages. Since my last major trip to Cuba, I think I have stepped up my photo abilities. We shall see!