Revisiting Motivation

I’ve taken shots that caught me eye with no real idea why I snapped the shutter. Examining these shots I’ve not looked at for a few years was an interesting self-critique.  The close ups, details & perspectives are examples of my evolution with a still camera giving me clues to understanding my personal vision.

01By reviewing this shot I realized the fractal forms on this rooftop is what originally grabbed my eye. Recognizing my attraction to the pattern of the subject created an inspiration to explore the world of “Digital Art” Although this isn’t a genre I wish to spend much time with I did realize more about my initial attraction to the subject. This modification retains the strong structure while the added color & highlights have added a dimension non-existent in the original.

02 Bubbles.2I’ve always liked this shot as just a snapshot. The abstract quality disappears when your mind interprets what you see. The ½ sphere shapes are clues to realizing you are looking at bubbles on the surface of water. My latent photojournalist ethics of Photoshop no longer keep me from modifying an image. Enhancing the red & blue reflections added a separation creating a subtle juxtaposition while emphasizing the forms.

03How close is to close? Originally I was looking at the bees as the subject. But, as I was slowly approaching this nest to get my shot I was fascinated with the detail of the hive. Realizing that I didn’t want to be close for an extended amount of time I recognized a medium close up showing the bees & the contours of the structure they created was a more interesting image than just isolating the hole with the bees.  I’m slowly realizing a wider shot can be better story. I admire the collective ability & dedication of these sometime annoying creatures.

04 old oakUnless you are aware of the Fibonacci Equation or The Golden Spiral, this image of a 600 year old oak log is not all that interesting. Wandering thru the boatyard at Mystic Seaport the form in this cutaway screamed at me. If you take the time to look you can see some amazing things created by nature.

05 iron workHuman beings can also do some amazing things. The smelting of metals is ancient. Centuries ago the structural strength of iron was formed into security for doors & windows. Past generations have enjoyed the artistic as well as the pragmatic function of this medium. I suppose that somewhere a 3D printer is in the process of producing 21st century wrought iron railing. I’m not usually a fan of symmetry but this work is an exception because of the seemingly soft details on a hard material.

06North MeadowThe most challenging previsualization for me to grasp is with my wide-angle zoom. A close-up/wide shot is not something my mind’s eye can easily envision. This is one of the few times I did indeed make the most out of the optics. Lying on the ground in the North Meadow of Yosemite I was thrilled to find this back-lit flower & create an image I had seen in my mind. I was also pleasantly surprised to see the distant mountains softly out of focus since I was shooting at f16.

07 coat of arms montenegroThis 2-headed eagle is a symbol of Montenegro on their flag & coat of arms. We mostly think of crests like this being from centuries ago. It is an ancient visual representing  power & dominance. This version was formally approved by this Balkan nation in 2007. The 2 eagles holding religious symbols in their talons symbolize the close connections between church & state. The detail of the work enhances the power of the image.

08 rails londonAs a visual metaphor, train tracks have a history as an example of A Vanishing Point as well as Leading Lines. In my mind, the curving merger of 2 primary tracks is not as cliche. My initial reaction was the foreground flora interfered with this somewhat distinct view of a common subject. However, the color & the organic structure are a juxtaposition to steel rails which I now feel are an important part of the image.

09 Blood ChainI have seen a lot of rust which has interesting texture with deep brown blended with dark orange. This “Blood Rust” chain I saw really caught my attention. Could it be minerals in the rocks or salt from the ocean or a combination of both created this uncommon color in the old chain? Or is it because of the chemical make up of the steel that gives it a unique hue? It was with further examination I understood it was the hue that drew me to snap the shutter.

10 grasshopper

In my opinion, the challenge of getting a close-up or macro shots of insects usually is not worth the effort. When I saw the grasshopper on the stark background I was motivated to try.  It was also convenient that I had my 100-400 on the camera.It also is a reinforcement of the need to look down at the ground for interesting subjects & angles.

11

I was on a location scout for a possible documentary about a historic Federal style home. It would have been a nice project but never moved forward. Initially, I was just looking for window lighting & backdrops for interviews. Then I noticed the wallpaper.  Alice in Wonderland gave a clue to the last time this room had been redecorated becoming a visual part of the historic story of this home. Details can be enlightening.

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.

02
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.

03
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.

04
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.

05 birminham
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.

09a
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.

0010
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.

11 copy
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!

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.