leaf meditations, part two

yep, this one's color...because among other things, it's about color - here's the story: we were all waiting for the light to change shortly after sunrise one morning during our workshop, and most of us started to wander around looking for other interesting opportunities...i quickly gathered these leaves, which to me represented the spectrum of leaf colors around us at the time, and asked if anyone wanted to shoot them. i took each leaf and dropped it on a nearby rock, then tweaked the arrangement a bit. so it's random, but it's not. one student gasped, "you're going to stoop to that?!" "you bet. why not? let's make art! " i replied. interestingly, a number of students gathered 'round, some made their own tweaks to the arrangement, and shot away. seems to me, though, that i bumped up against some preconceived notions of what "nature" photographers are, eh? Guy Tal seems to have come across the same issue, which he describes in a recent blog post.  i'm fine with anyone who wants to "document reality" as their approach. whatever works, i say, but a little stretch every now and then can't hurt, can it? btw, ever see paul caponigro's meditations in silver? still life images meticulously and subtly crafted and photographed that will take your breath away!

leaf meditations, part one

maple leaf
falling down
showing front
showing back

- Ryokan

been spending some time going through images from my recent trip to colorado, trying to decide what to do with some of my foliage images, and the other night came across some passages about seeing in a steve hagen book i've been reading. much to my delight, he used watching falling leaves as an example of just seeing. when we see reality, he says, we are completely beyond the realm of words and concepts. can just watching leaves fall do that? i'm for it.

a couple of things.

first, i think i'm turning Black and White. i really think so. as you may have noticed, i've been creating more work in B&W than in color for some time now. I've actually started to see in B&W - at least for now by generating B&W jpgs in camera. what does this mean? now i can view what an image will look like in BW right away, so i can judge the image on the tonal structure and composition and not be as "distracted" by color. it's always about seeing differently, eh? stay tuned.

second, got to love dunes...they're so, so...life-like! just add some low angle light, and let the fun begin. you want subtle, got it. high drama? yep. grand vistas? check. intimate worlds? bien sur.  i've just added significantly to my gallery "impermanence" where you can find my dune images. all shots from my recent trip to the Great Sand Dunes NP in Colorado. love to hear what you think.

crestone zen

just returned from the Telluride Photo Festival, which was exhilarating and exhausting. got to meet a number of photographers i have admired for years, was introduced to the iLCP (help them however you can!) and had a blast helping Bill Ellzey with his 4 day workshop. we then drove back to his home in Crestone, where we visited the Crestone Mountain Zen Center and shared some tea with Koyo Welch-roshi. 

this is a snap from my iphone. over the next few weeks, i hope to post images from my trip - Yosemite, Mono Lake, Arches, Telluride and Sand Dunes NP. whew!

stretching, part 4

what happens when you find yourself mulling over the concept of photographers being "professional noticers", reading Kirk Tuck's blog and gardening all within a few hours? you finish pruning the old seed stalks from your aloe, and instead of throwing them in the compost as always, you notice that they're actually quite graceful. you then decide that maybe you could play with doing some portraits of them, which is something you've never really done before, but why not? grabbed some black foam core, my relatively new Contax/Phase digital back, put on some Radio Paradise, and headed out to the back deck. secured the background to the back of a chair, gathered my various clippings and had a blast. i tried some in full sun, playing with the shadow in relation to the stalk. then i setup at the edge of the shade created by the neighbor's trees. the breeze was variable, which was fantastic - i would position the setup and then wait for a light pattern i liked as the tree branches swayed, creating different shadows. i would move the setup around on the deck as the sun moved, which gave me tons of new opportunities. i found myself just standing there watching until the right breeze/pattern came along, just as i would wait for the right light/shadow combination if i were "in the field". at the end of two afternoon sessions, i had about 200 shots. this image caught my eye after a quick review. for some reason, i just got a kick out of the grace and at the same time, tension of the composition. yes, i re-took the shot with the base level, but you know what? i think it adds to the subtle tension of a balancing stalk. you? nice stretch.

liberating fog

spent the day at point reyes with fellow photog Robert Hecht a couple of weeks ago, and as is typical of the california coast in summer, yep, it was foggy. i wound up shooting a number of fences - they were weathered and covered in lichens, etc., so were pretty interesting to me, and certainly reflected the essence of the place. but as i was reviewing the images from the day back home, this one struck me. i took it early in the day, and though i would spent the rest of the day noticing details, this represented a letting go - of sun, shadow, blue water, detail, sharpness - everything one typically, if not secretly, wants on a day in a beautiful place. this photo represents none of those things - in fact, when i was processing it, i found myself pushing levers here and there to try to get back some sharpness that was actually never there in the first place! my eye wandered in the foggy background searching for shapes that i could identify. finally i gave up, and began to enjoy the simple feeling of the fog in my face and the simple beauty of the place. nice.

at altitude

aahhhh...there remains something very magical and satisfying about my first trip of the season to tuolomne meadows and tioga pass. yes, after 20 or so years of making the pilgrimage, there's the occasional notice of a stray thought that reflects some form of dissatisfaction (clear blue skies, again !?) or the feeling of the need to see something "new" to "make" the trip. usually a result of something i brought with me. then, a moment arrives, the mind quiets and all else is forgotten; when time starts again, it's somehow different, well, i'm different. i'm there...

yep, just got back. it was bliss: cold, windy, snowy, cloudy, sunny, and radiant. this image was taken in the morning at an ice-covered tairn, between the meadows and the pass. 28 degrees at 8:30am. the 11th of june. nice.

imagining reality

i shouldn't have been surprised, but i was. most of my recent work has been monochromatic, which is why i was caught off-guard. a friend was visiting, and commented how much she appreciated some color work on the wall. then she sheepishly asked, "is it real? i mean, the color." a couple things. nobody ever asks me if any of my black and white images are "real", which is perhaps why i was caught off guard. i guess the "reality comparison gene" doesn't kick in unless there's color...and i'm always fascinated by this question, as it starts me thinking more deeply about how we perceive reality. and then, of course, i start noticing... shortly after, JPC reminded us that "color is an event"; that color doesn't exist "out there" - it exists within us as we observe and perceive objects and light. then i came across a recent article in Tricycle magazine talked about our mental conscious-ness, and how our thoughts cannot perceive anything directly (only our senses do) - they "only impute generalities and unclear abstractions", but our thoughts create our reality. hmmm. the upshot? what we think of as "reality" is just a facet of our imagination. nice. does this mean that the color you see in a photograph says much more about your own mind than, say, mine? is it up to your own imagination to decide if it's "real"?

stretching, part 3

this stretching moment brought to you by the wonderful italians...so, we're headed to italy, and of course, i'm excited. i get to take pictures in italy, the home of my ancestors, as well as my favorite food! but i'm also a bit nervous. heck, i don't know how to shoot in the city! think about it. the vast majority of my images include neither people nor cars nor buildings - that's a lot of time energy and effort focused on avoiding those kinds of things...yikes. to make matters a bit worse, i'm pretty much a classic introvert. the idea of walking up to people to take their picture or wandering around town with a big DSLR and a 70-200 around my neck, is not my idea of being "discreet". so i figured this would be a real test of my ability to stay in the moment and trust that images would reveal themselves. to make matters more interesting, since i was going to be out of my comfort zone anyway, i decided to bring along a new camera (normally NOT the thing to do). i purchased the new panasonic gf-1 with the 20 mm 1.7 pancake lens, and that was all i brought. risky business. in the end, it solved my "discreet" problem, enabled me to have a camera always ready, and forced me to look at the world differently for 2 whole weeks. a real vacation. nice stretch.

warm days, cool nights in Telluride

looks like i'll be assisting one of the most talented and fun photogs i know, Bill Ellzey, during his workshop this fall at the Telluride Photo Festival, September 20-26. i first met bill in Pagatonia, where i learned a ton, had a blast, and came home with more than a few "keepers". not sayin' that listening to him talk Lightroom or or giving tips on how to setup your camera like working pros do wasn't helpful, but watching him work the subject was a real marvel...i can't wait to see him on his home turf. hope to see you there - i'll be the one chasing him up some hill with his coffee...if you're interested in learning more, don't hesitate to ping me!

crack of dune surprise

got home the other night from garapata beach and asilomar, where i had been shooting the surf from the week of storms we've had, to see an email reminder that the Black and White Spider Awards ceremony was going live online in a couple of hours. i had entered way back in may, and had forgotten all about it. i had just assumed that it was over sometime last year, and since i hadn't been notified of anything, well, you know how it is, life goes on...i was curious, of course, but went back to watching the game. later, i checked the winners, and didn't see my name anywhere. started looking at the various nominee lists, and saw one of my images! and then another. pretty sweet, even though i didn't get the big awards. given that i'm not what you would call an active player in the "art world", i was nonetheless pretty impressed with the judges, so i entered. "crack of dune" (above) made the list, as did "high drama two" from my "impermance" collection. nice surprise. took the edge off my team losing. The images are posted in the winners gallery here. (abstract: professional and nature: professional)

Dalwhinnie sunset

i was sitting on the porch of a friend's new home the other evening with a glass of scotch and my iphone. a few swirls, the setting sun, and more than a few snaps yielded a number of fun images. i got to thinking about the honesty they reflect - filtering is what the brain does best, isn't it? we put all sorts of filters in front of our lives in an attempt to make our reality, what, more comfortable? more to our liking? on top of all that, we also put filters on our photography - to manipulate the supposed "reality" that we are capturing. most of us can't tell when a photo has been subtly filtered by technology, can we? yup, i think i like the honesty of the scotch filter on reality...hmmm, maybe i should try a different kind and see how that compares. could be fun, no?

focus, or lack thereof...

i started the summer with the intention of finishing two smallish projects - a folio from Joshua Tree and an update to my "Berkshire Zen" portfolio. as you can easily see, i'm not quite there yet. somehow i got caught up in the swirl that is life, and the next thing i knew, it was October. granted, the LensWork and B&W "events" used up a few cycles, as did replacing my Mac, which, after 4 years, decided to give me a few hints of its impending departure, and finally, after a few weeks of occasional panics for both of us, it died in its sleep. research and purchase of a new monitor also cost me a couple of weeks, but now, i'm all calibrated and ready to go! I'm getting ready to head up to Yosemite for a few days, but when i get back, i'll get right back to finishing those projects, i promise...

Before the Mountain Digital

hey, just made an eBook version of Before the Mountain available for download. yes, it doesn't look like the Blurb cover. the Blurb version is no more. it was just too darned difficult to get a reasonable result. the eBook is an "all white" version of the printed book, which has a black background on the cover. i am making the download available at no cost, and simply ask that if readers like it, they make whatever donation they think is reasonable via Paypal. seems pretty fair to me. re: the printed version of the book, i will be announcing pricing shortly - as i will be using PhotoBook Press, i will be giving some thought as to how best to package and distribute the book for those interested. am thinking of including a print along with the signed copy. i am guessing for now that the price will be around $200. what do you think?

Summer in the Berkshires

i've posted a similar shot taken last winter, and couldn't resist re-visiting the old barrel this summer. as i sat on the back porch working, i would glance at it on and off all day. the weather was weird, even for New England - thunderstorms almost everyday for the two weeks i was there. the unsettled weather did, of course, make for interested light patterns, and it finally came together one evening, just as the sun was setting behind a neighbor's tree and i was shuttling to and from the grill...at first, i wanted to post a version taken from the same perspective as the winter shot, but i liked this better. 2 seasons down, 2 to go!

When it rains....

so, while i was on the east coast for a family visit, i received a wonderful note from Maureen at LensWork magazine telling me that i had been selected for their upcoming sept/oct issue! I had submitted for their consideration the entire portfolio contained in my book. if you have ever seen this magazine, you would instantly know why it is not something you recycle after reading. you save these precious little photographic and duotone printing wonders...they are indeed beautiful. LensWork also expressed interest in some of my color work from the same trip as well as a larger version of the video posted below. it has been gratifying and humbling to work with them to prep my portfolio for the issue. as an aside, Brooks indicated that, to his dismay, in the history of the publication, no one had ever submitted a body of work based on Torres del Paine. unbelievable. and lucky for me, eh?

how long does it take?

good question. seems like forever. OK, here's the story. maybe more of a rant than a story, but hey, it's cheap therapy...so you want to self publish a book of your photos? lesson one: if you're a photographer, it will NEVER look as good as your prints. get over it, the sooner, the better. "book people" will tell you how great it looks, but you know better... done with that? great. next, assume the following: color management, maybe. ok, maybe for the book, but don't ask about the cover. some form of human eyeball looking at your pages roll off the digital press? not likely. that's your job, once you get the book. will your pages be trimmed precisely? maybe. obvious errors will be corrected once you get the book in your hands and mention that you didn't design the extra white stripe down the middle of your 2 page spread...thought metamerism was a fading issue because folks like Epson have been working so hard at it? well, it lives and breathes on these presses. want to print black and white? sigh. that was my first mistake. if you like a lovely green tone to your images under certain lighting, have at it. stick to color images for now. i'll save your layout software options for another post. having said all that, for around 75 bucks, maybe less, you can get a decent-looking 68 page 13x11 inch book, which ain't bad for a one-off. you'll just have to be patient, figure out how not to push the technology too far, spend time on the various forums, and be willing to send defective books back and sometimes start over again. or you can take a look at a place like PhotoBook Press. yes, the books are more expensive. yes, actual people will tell you how to optimize your images for their press. want proofs, no problem. worried about pressing the button and not being able to get your book back to fix the obvious typos you just discovered? don't. they assemble, they proof. you approve a PDF. nice.

me, i'm doing both, mostly because i started at one place, and moved to another(the first is BLURB, btw) what happened to "High Drama"? well, it changed. cover, type, layout, images, length. went through 4 revs with Blurb, and now one with PBP. should get my first book from them in a couple of weeks. then i will rev my Blurb title to reflect what works, so the 2 books are at least close in most respects(not size or cover art(!)

nope, haven't been out shooting in awhile, but will next week. oh, in between, i've been putting together an eBook version. stay tuned. and thanks for listening.

B&W magazine and me

i was a bit surprised. yeah right. when i was told via email that i was selected as a B&W magazine Spotlight Award winner for this year's portfolio competition, you bet i was surprised. and pleased. I'll be in issue 71, which i assume is sometime late fall. The editors chose images from my "unsui" portfolio of mostly Patagonian cloud images, and from my portfolio of images taken along the shore of Laguna Amarga. the images on the site and in the magazine are obviously rendered as "straight" black and white images. i will, however, be offering the unsui images as toned platinum inkjet prints as an option...

Stretching, part 2

i've had the pleasure recently of striking up a friendship with Whitney Vosburgh. so far, we've made two visits together to Hakone Gardens, a wonderful Japanese garden in Saratoga, Ca. Whitney's style is about as different from mine as you can get - the image above is an example from our first visit, when i tried to see differently, and shoot completely (mostly) out of focus. yes, i have been asked why i just didn't blur the shot in photoshop...and my answer after exploring the differences with Whitney, is that shooting this way forces you to see differently - to see in terms of color, shape, and light. it really is different when you don't have a myriad of details to trick the mind into thinking that the shot is more interesting or more importantly, more emotionally appealing, than it really is. this is one of my first tries - i have more, and will post one or two on my main site in the next few weeks. for me, exploring this new way of lookings was a wonderful stretch, and is much harder(for me) than it first seems. hint: all "out of focus" is not created equal! you have to actually focus. what a trip.

Before the Mountain, the Video

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i recently had the pleasure of having the authors of "Art and Fear",David Bayles and Ted Orland, take a look at the images from Patagonia i am using for my book. they were incredibly generous with their feedback and encouragement, and at one point David thought it would be interesting to see the images in a video. i thought about it for a while, then figured, "why not?" so i went to work, et voila, here's my first effort. what do you think?