We interrupt this blog

Recently I almost lost my dad. Nearly half-orphaned I was. Me. At close to 50.

No matter what your age, if you get along at all with your ‘rents, losing them is traumatic and I’ve been spoiled by very healthy ones so this disaster really made me mental.

Not to mention I’m really far away now and couldn’t be there at all to aid and comfort.

He’s home now, but boy is there ever a long road ahead and a huge pile of bills.

So. Partially because my dad is a curmudgeon about the internet, I’m using it to help him. (See that, the internet can be used for good, dad!)

Well, you’re going to help him. At least I hope so. After all, how many casseroles can mom and dad eat?

Please consider giving a few dollars towards his Recovery Fund.

I know, I know. You’ve got a million other things to do and a million other things to spend your money on.

But how many of those things will make me cry? Go on. Make me cry. I dare you.

For those who missed the URL it’s here – Dick Smith’s Medical Fund

And if you want to share this post – reblog it, tweet it, facebook or instagram it. Feel free. That will also make me cry.

Spring Cleaning

I don’t know about other photographers, but usually once I evaluate and process a batch of photographs I close the door and rarely look at them again. What I picked and processed was pretty much the worthy shots, but recently someone on Google+ (oh I wish I could remember who) mentioned that she has hundreds of images in her hard drive that have never seen the light of day and should be shared. It got me to thinking, but it’s my new project that has me digging into my archives. I’ve surprised myself by finding some decent images that got overlooked, rejected or ignored. They may not be the most amazing photos I’ve taken, but looking at them with fresh perspective has been interesting. This forest scene for example. I labored over it when I took the picture and loved the leading lines of the logs, but didn’t have the skill to process it well. Going over it again took just a few minutes and I knew exactly what tools and techniques would get this off the reject pile.

Dodge Your Sorrows (Fox State Forest 2012)

With digital it’s really easy to take a lot of shots of almost the exact same image. Ditto for taking a lot of shots at a particular location just for the sake of documentation, not really for any artistic reason. I find myself doing some of that, but mostly I take a lot of nearly identical images when I’m doing macro or microscapes. Adjusting the focus point, removing debris, recomposing the background, managing the depth of field – there are many reasons, but it ends up just being a lot of images to sort through and frankly sometimes I get weary of it. Evaluating and comparing each frame is time consuming and sometimes my patience just runs out before I give enough attention to the collection as a whole.

You go your way (Martha’s Brook/Sam’s Trail Preserve 2013)

Another reason some images fall through the cracks is because when I shoot a lot I get distracted and caught up in a new batch of work before devoting enough concentration to yesterday’s. It’s the oooh, shiny! syndrome I think. Slowing down and really appreciating and thinking about each batch of images is something I don’t do enough. Finding the story within the pictures and putting it together.

Sometimes I reject a photo because I can’t process it the way I want. It’s amazing how many new features and capabilities arrive with each version of Lightroom. Things like lens correction, better spot removal and the new radial filter (two of which I used to make that wall and trail shot work the way I want). It’s not salvaging a picture that I’m talking about, but creating a final image in line with my vision. A bad shot is a bad shot no matter what I do with it, but sometimes there’s a quality that needs enhancing or minimizing that I just can’t do. There are a couple of reasons for this.

One is not understanding how to effectively use the tools that I do have to get what I want. I’ve learned so much in the last few years that going back through my work has been kind of fun. Looking at an old image with new tricks in mind has really helped me identify what I originally liked about the scene I shot and how to emphasize that with processing. These days creation doesn’t stop in the field.

Another thing I find myself doing is confining myself to certain tools in post processing and not branching out and trying different things to see how it affects the final image. Take the clarity slider. I don’t abuse it much in either direction, but lately with my ice photos I noticed that if I really crank it, the picture is better. Ditto with going in the other direction, some photos just need that softness to bring out the best in them. Being stuck in a rut can lead to repetition that contributes to that sameness factor that can make looking at, developing and playing with pictures very boring.

Occasionally though it’s just being down on myself. Whether a location failed to capture my fancy or I failed to capture what I fancied, I can often be disappointed with photos once I take a look at them on the computer.  It’s even worse if I’ve taken a lot of time in the field on the shot. This negativity sometimes causes me to overlook what I did capture, no matter how technically good it is.

It’s the whole didn’t meet my expectations thing, too. You can psyche yourself out of a location while you’re there, but also after the fact if you didn’t get the shot or shots you envisioned. Take this little waterfall as an example. It’s not the most perfectly lovely, symmetrical and pristine waterfall ever, but it is what it is. Because there were prettier flows on this brook, I put this on the reject pile even though it’s a lovely and intimate view of a classic New Hampshire cascade. Plus ferns!!

Songs for the Deaf (Martha’s Brook/Sam’s Trail Preserve 2013)

And as if I need more reasons to reject photographs. What about ‘Oh I’ve taken better shots like this’? Is it a valid way to purge photos? Does it help me grow as a photographer? Improve? I don’t know. Sometimes I’m out to just document my surroundings, not create Great Art. So because I’ve taken more compelling or interesting trail photos, I toss this one onto the reject heap and forget about it. Does it deserve to be there any more than it deserves to be labeled Great Art? And if it doesn’t deserve the latter, does it need to be on the reject heap? Obviously it depends on the photographer and her goals, but for me, I need to freakin’ loosen up.

Merry go bye (Russel Abbott State Forest 2012)

Yes I need to be discerning and separate the good from the bad and hopefully even skim off a few great shots now and again, but I reject far more than I pick for publication or sharing. If it’s for a good reason, I can stand by that decision, but I think revisiting older work has validity. Especially if your processing tools have improved a lot, or your skill with them has. So I guess Spring Cleaning is a good habit to get into.

Love at first light (Mt. Uncanoonuc 2013)

Passion’s Ebb

It’s as much a part of being a photographer as clicking the shutter – the ebb.  Maybe not exactly an ebb, but a slack tide kind of time.  The time between the rushing. When things are still.  Calm.  I used to resent my ‘photographic funks’, but now I sort of relish them.  I think it was when I stopped beating myself up about them that it happened – the allowing.  The forgiveness.  It used to be a belief of mine that if you were really passionate about something, the passion was constant.  Now, I’m not using the word really as in very, I’m using it as in genuine.  As in I genuinely believed that if a person had a genuine passion for something the level of that passion stayed the same.


(damn I wish I was English sometimes…they have all the great slang.  Oh sorry.)

Ahem.  Bullshit.  (now that’s American!)

Passion waxes and wanes.  It’s natural.  It’s normal.  Because your enthusiasm for something has gone off the raging boil and into a mellow simmer does not mean you’ve lost it.  It doesn’t mean you’re not dedicated.  It doesn’t mean you’re weak.  It doesn’t mean you lack depth.  It doesn’t mean you’re a poseur.  It means you’re human.

And human passion fluctuates.  Can you imagine being a raging photographer all the time?  Going out every day to shoot shoot shoot.  Filling 16 and 32gb cards.  Constant uploading, downloading, processing,  printing.  Ugh.  Yah.  I get it now why passions wax and wane.  Boring.  Uninspiring.  Monotonous.  Burdensome.

When shit I love becomes a chore, I know it’s time to hang it up for a while.  It’s like when you binged on your favorite snack when you were a kid and got your first taste of spending your own money.  How fast did that once favorite treat become totally gross and like you’d never want to see it again, ever?

You think that would have taught me.  But it didn’t and I used to beat myself up about my periodic low points in photography.  This was especially true when I worked in a photo store (remember them???).  I thought that I should be carrying a torch.  I actually felt bad if I didn’t have a roll of film or two every week to analyze and frustrate myself over.  Like I had to show everyone who walked in the store how life-fulfilling and soul-kindlingly awesome photography was and how every minute of every day should be spent in the pursuit of this most amazing art form.

Yah right.

Now I go with the flow of my own impulses and if something doesn’t feel right, I don’t push it.  I won’t get anything good going out with that attitude anyway.  I know that now.  Part of my downtime includes a bit of a disconnect with the online photography community as well.  I get overloaded and saturated with images and images and more images to the point where I can’t appreciate any of them anymore.  Where’s the fun in that?

And isn’t that the point?  That your passion be fun?  I mean, life is too short for agony over art anymore.  Passion and enthusiasm and the desire to explore and create images should be bubbly and fizzy inside.  It should tickle your brain and load endorphins into your system, not feel like you’re trying to carry 10 suitcases though the airport without wheels or handles.

So…what do I do with my passion’s ebb?  Lately I’ve been reading a lot more than my usual book a week or so.  McGrath.  Highsmith.  Dickens. Shelley.  Rice.  Stoker.  I’ve started a new exercise program to do on the days I don’t go out for my cardio workout.   And when my mind turns to photography, it’s to concepts and things I want to try and places I want to go.  I joined about two dozen other people on a botanist-led tour through one of my favorite micro-environments – the Atlantic White Cedar Swamp and lo – I turned into a photographer for a second!

Winter Cedars

So the next time you find yourself in a photographic funk, don’t sweat it.  Don’t let it get you down.  Use the time to indulge your other passions.  You do have them, right?  Remember the other stuff you loved before you just had to have that bright, shiny DSLR?  Go do that stuff.  Have fun.  Feel fizzy.  And when your photographic tide returns, you’ll be renewed and just dying to go out and make the images you’ve been dreaming of in the passion’s ebb.

What’s Your Major?

Recently I participated in a discussion that stemmed from a person wondering about the composition of a very famous photo by a very famous photographer; Henri Cartier-Bresson.  Specifically the person wanted to understand why this image is composed so amazingly well.

It got me to thinking about photography and the importance of concentration in the sense of a Major in College.  Cartier-Bresson had a very specific concentration and didn’t experiment wildly with either his subject matter or his equipment.  Instead he applied his passion to what amounts to one genre and that, combined with his instinctive artistic sensibility, makes his work compelling, cohesive and unique.

Often when I look at someone’s photo stream or gallery, I don’t see much cohesion. Mostly this applies to amateurs, not people making a living with this.  Many photo-enthusiasts seem to sprawl all over the place, never picking a major.  They spend a lot of time experimenting not only with subject matter, but equipment as well.  They might get a really good photo now and again, but not many.  That’s especially sad if the person has been at it for years. To me, as someone looking at what they’ve produced, it is obvious they haven’t mastered anything and don’t look as if they intend to.

That’s one thing I also look for; intent, craft, vision – progress.  A specialized style and body of work that shows me they can direct their passion into one channel and really develop expertise.  Speaking for myself, I think I’ve improved.  My focus lately is woodlands and attempting to capture intimate portraits of the forest and what I find so magical about being in one. Does that make my photos repetitive and boring?  I hope not, but then again, I don’t really care.  I value my concentration not only for what it produces for images, but for the process itself – it builds muscle memory and good instincts.

By instinct in this case, I mean an instant sense of what will make a good photograph.  I don’t claim to know the circumstances under which Mr. Cartier-Bresson made the image above, but I bet he didn’t overthink it.  I bet he didn’t stop forever at the top of those stairs and manipulate the camera in every conceivable way before deciding on this composition.  I bet it was instinctive.  Even if he asked a bicyclist to work with him to make the shot, it was Cartier-Bresson’s knowledge that if he put such a person in that spot it would be amazing.  He knew it would be especially good if the rider were blurred.  The sense of motion we already get from the swirling steps is almost enough to make the image outstanding, but that bit of activity, of life, really makes it amazing and irreplaceable.  Even if this shot wasn’t especially difficult, planned or set up, Cartier-Bresson never-the-less worked on it.  His photography career and the hours he put in at his Major produced it.  That was the work.  And it paid off every time he picked up a camera.

Experimenting and practicing within a specific sphere of photography allows you to build a library of facts, techniques, outcomes and lessons that help you make better decisions in the field.  By making better decisions you get better results.  By developing good habits you save time and have less frustrating experiences.  Eventually habits become instinct.  For me, having a foundation of good habits and instinct leaves me more brain power to devote to the finer points of composition, light, perspective, depth-of-field and other technical choices.  More keepers is what it comes down to.  Expertise is a nice thing to have.

As a novice it’s natural to try lots of things. The world of photography is new and exciting and when I look at my pictures from that time, I smile indulgently at myself.  It’s an important time though.  We learn the rules and try to play by them, hopefully realizing in the process why they are rules and why they work.  I’m talking the rule of thirds, the golden ratio, leading lines and ideas like that.  Once understood and applied, they help whatever artistic sensibility you have become more substantive and less theoretical.  After looking at shots you’ve taken where you forgot the rules and have crappy photos, it doesn’t take long for the rules to become habit and hopefully instinct.

That said, I don’t think you can really excel unless you pick a major.  Ok, I’ll let you have a minor, too, but diluting the craft over lots and lots of genres won’t help you become an expert in any.  If you want to be a landscape photographer, do it.  Do it more often than you take pictures of your kids.  If you want to be a macro photographer, do it more than you take pictures of buildings.  If you want to be a street photographer, do it more than you take pictures of your vegetable garden.  At first quantity matters more than quality and it’s the application of the former that will build the latter.

Like that old Carnegie Hall joke, the secret is practice, practice, practice.  But not just snapping away at anything that moves, you have to devote yourself to what you love and be faithful.  The rules of photography always apply, but they apply differently depending on the subject and the particular way you want to show it.  The end result, if you have any talent, is that you’ll build a body of work that shows you are a subject matter expert.

I know it’s hard to stop taking pictures of all and sundry, but you really have to.  Especially if you’ve got a life, too, and can’t spend 10 hours a day taking photos.  If you’re stuck on picking your major, here are a few ideas on how to decide.  Go through your photos and rate them.  If you’ve already rated them, look at what rated highest and lowest.  Did you have fun taking those?  Did you love the process?  Another way is to look on sharing sites and see which of your photos are most favorited or commented on.  Which ones made Explore?  Again, did they move you?  Was making them a good time?  Are they a cohesive group?  Another way is to look at your worst pictures.  Are those the ones you were really excited about?  Why did they fail?  Do you want to get better at taking those kinds of pictures?

There are lots of ways to choose your major and once you have it’s vital not only to practice, but to look at the work of the experts.  There is no shortage of photo web sites, fora, blogs and sharing communities.  Find some photographers who take the kinds of pictures you want to take and follow them. Study their work.  Study their processes.  Pick apart their EXIF data and equipment lists.  Read their articles.  Comment on their work and see if you can get a dialog going.  Attend one of their workshops if they offer them.  Podcasts, webinars, tutorials – it’s amazing what’s available now.  Just don’t go overboard.  Too much information and too many conflicting approaches will only muddy the waters.  Instead, pick a point or two and take them into the field, specifically applying them during your session.  See if the ideas work for you.  Did you get more keepers from that session or not?  Lather, rinse, repeat.

And I do mean repeat.  Develop that muscle memory.  Develop good habits and instincts.  Find your passion.  Declare your Major.

Are we blind?

So I’ve been taking a lot of pictures lately. Every week for the past couple of years pretty much.  Lately I’ve seen an improvement in my work and it’s gratifying.  Not that I’m trying to toot my own horn or anything so arrogant, it’s just something I’ve noticed.  Pretty much at the same time I’ve also noticed that some people just never seem to get better and I wonder why they are photographers at all.

For me at least, photography is about improving the way I see.  Observationally as well as critically.  Both can apply to what’s around you and the decision making process of producing a photograph, and to photos after they’ve been captured and you’re deciding what to do with them.  As an extension, I also include looking at other people’s work.  If you’re like me you participate in online forums and follow people on flickr and other hosting sites.  There’s one of these that I’ve been a part of for quite a few years, participating off and on since my film days.  Lately I’ve noticed that some of the other folks just haven’t improved.  The photos they submit in threads are at best nice snaps and sometimes downright terrible.  Some of them have been photographing in this way for years and it makes me wonder, why do they bother?  Can’t they see?

Some of the blame I think has to be that on most forums people are either discouraged from or afraid to give really harsh criticism.  I’m guilty, too, because I don’t want to make people feel bad, I don’t want to be a jerk, I don’t want to get bounced out of a forum and I don’t want the backlash that comes (flamewar).  Even in “critique” forums I tread lightly, offering what I hope are constructive ideas with a dash of praise.  Strangely I don’t offer much up to other’s review because I know how confining it can be distanced from the photographer and the situation when the image was made.  So how the hell can I be so chickenshit and yet claim to have improved?  Well, let me show you an example using the same subject.

This is Tucker falls in early December 2009.  At the time I was pretty proud of this and my technique.  It’s an OK shot, but I can see a lot wrong with it now.  The highlights are blown in the water and in the trees.  The colors are flat and the foreground is pretty dull.  I can’t remember if I used a polarizer or not, but I stopped the lens down to an extreme (f20) so I doubt I used one.  The poor thing could stand a bit of contrast and curves adjustment.  Also it’s a jpeg file so is somewhat limited as to processing options.  I do like the touch of sun on the tree trunks just above the water, but I didn’t do anything with it.  Probably because I didn’t ‘see’ it.  Oh and dig my crooked horizon (that oak on the left doesn’t really tilt like that).  Sigh – you gotta start somewhere, right?

Let’s move to a shot I took yesterday at the same location.  Granted it’s a different season, but I don’t think that matters.

Now that’s an improvement.  No blown highlights in the water, just a very few in the center of the trees above.  The composition is much more compelling with those logs lined up that way.  The colors POP like they did to my eyes…spring greens and muted sun.  Some of that is processing, but for me that’s part of my skill as a photographer.  Aligning a RAW file with my vision and intent are no less important than framing, composing and exposing the thing in the first place.  Also I used a polarizer to minimize reflection and glare and didn’t choke the lens down, instead keeping it in its sweet spot for maximum sharpness (f14 this time).

Is it the most amazing picture ever?  Nah.  Will this stand as one of my best photos a year from now?  Maybe, maybe not, but I hope I will have made another step toward being a better photographer in that time.  That will include continuing to evaluate my previous work and finding ways to advance my skills.  It will include studying other people’s work and discovering new ways to view scenes or process images.  It will include taking risks and trying out new things (future post alert!).  It will include failing and crappy pictures, too.  If I’m lucky and diligent, hopefully fewer of those, but I’m sure I’ll still take them.

So what do you think?  Am I nuts?  Am I still taking shitty pictures?  Has there been any discernable growth?  I’m not fishing for compliments, really.  It’s tough to stand outside your own head sometimes.  So go ahead.  Dogpile!

10 Things I Love About Photography

I have a cold.  And when I have a cold I get cranky.  Inspired by a silly blog post about the 10 things someone hates about photography (and it was a stretch…color management?  really?  You hate color management?  You need a life, buddy.) I decided to do 10 things I love about photography.

  1. It feeds my solitary nature.  I’ve never been uncomfortable with just myself for company.  Sure, I love getting together with other photographers, it’s fun and I look forward to our meets every time, but photography is basically a lone occupation.  If you can’t hack being alone, photography is probably not for you.

  2. Fuels my appreciation for the outdoors.  My mom taught me that nature is glorious and wonderful and I’m so glad she did.  When I escape the sound of humanity, I feel better.  When I find some creature or scene to spend time with, I feel wonder and joy.  What’s better than that?
  3. Allows me to see what’s hidden in plain sight.  One of the reasons I do microscapes and macros is to see what goes unseen.  What other medium could do this?
  4. The sound of my OM-3 shutter release.  Sexy!
  5. My E-30.  Yes, even I am susceptible to Gear Acquisition Syndrome, but I shot with an OM-1 for 10 years without buying anything else.  Finding a well of satisfaction with your gear is something everyone should do.  And not just about cameras – other stuff too.  I’ve got a couple of cars one 23 years old, the other 13 and I love both, neither are going anywhere for a long time.  So technology changes, that’s the nature of it.  Learn when to say enough is enough.
  6. My OM 90mm f2 – I first lusted after this lens in the late 80s, but no way could I afford one.  Around 2000 I finally bought one and every time I use it, I fall in love all over again.  Probably the last lens I’d part with.  Sorry 12-60.
  7. Documents the impermanence of things.  The world changes so fast that a person can get dizzy.  Seeing how things used to be is a good place-holder for progress.  Showing how things were brings perspective that not everything lasts.
  8. Solidifies memories.  I have a REALLY bad memory.  To the point where stuff disappears. Whole events, years, decades, people just gone.  I think it’s something physical.  But when I have pictures things solidify in my brain and I retain some memories, flickering alone in the emptiness of my past.
  9. Makes me happy.  When I’ve nailed it I get this lovely glowing feeling of satisfaction.  Even when it’s an accident.  When other people say they like something I’ve done, that’s pretty cool, too.
  10. It’s completely up to me.  I shoot when I want to.  I stop when I don’t.  The trick is to not force it.  When I do, I take crappy pictures and who needs that?  Am I taking up too much time with photography?  I dial it back.  The fate of the world does not hinge on whether I get the shot or not.  If I think I’m being obnoxious on vacation or on a hike, I ask my companions and act accordingly.  No big deal.

So there negative guy.  This is why I keep doing what I do.  It’s why I always have.  It’s why I always will.

The Intimidation Factor

Finally we’ve decided on where we’re going on vacation in May.  We’ve booked the airline flights and have a general idea of where we’ll go when we land.  Unfortunately it’s only one week, but we’ve had great vacations before with only a week.  So, where are we off to?

Eastern Sierras!  Mono Lake!  Mountains…desert…wide open spaces.  I can’t wait.

Pretty much all our vacations are out west.  Montana (four times).  Washington (twice).  Colorado (once).  California (half-dozen times or so, I lose count).  Utah (once).  Oregon (once).  Arizona (once).  The farthest east we’ve done is a week with friends in Marathon key and when we drove around Lake Superior.  Oh and Cape Cod.  There’s just something about the west that we love.  Certainly a lot of it is just the country itself.  The week we spent in Death Valley is probably my favorite vacation so far, followed by Utah and Colorado.  Our time in California is usually spent around Monterey, Big Sur and Paso Robles.  We’re big wine nuts and go to our favorite wineries every couple of years or so to taste new stuff, see what’s going on and pat the dogs.  Between tastings we do some hiking and exploring around and generally have a great time.

Photographically I’m not always on.  Some vacations I just blow it.  Like in Utah.  Overall I’m REALLY not happy with my output from that time.  I think it was because I hadn’t been doing a lot of photography and I lost my instincts.  Also, I fought the light and tried to shoot like it was perfect.  Resulting in really crappy photos.  Ditto the Lake Superior jaunt.  Crap piled upon crap.   My Colorado trip in the mid-90s produced some good work, but Montana was hit or miss.  In Washington, I did much better.    Unfortunately I was also suffering from Achilles tendinitis in both ankles and couldn’t hike at all.  Luckily I was healthy for our last trip to Big Sur and I got some terrific shots in Pinnacles, too.  But I’m not consistent.   Overall I can’t say I’m thrilled with my vacation photography at all.

So that’s why I’m intimidated as hell by the prospect of Mono lake.  And the Sierras.  And the desert.  I’ve been to each of those types of places before and have shot well from time to time, but this time I’m highly aware of myself as a photographer and am conscious of the fact that I have a tendency to fold under pressure.

The fact that I can’t be a total selfish ass is also part of the equation.  My husband is extremely patient and has never once given me a hard time about dragging him to weird places, getting up before the sun, stopping every five seconds to take yet another photo of yet another flower or being asked to hold a lens/filter/tripod/lens cap again.  Not once.  That’s one of the reasons I adore him and one of the reasons I restrain myself photographically.  We’re on VACATION.  It’s not an assignment for National Geographic.  I have to be really mindful of that.  He knows a lot of what we do is driven by my photography, but I never allow it to take over completely.

And back to intimidation.  Mono Lake.  Uttered by photographers with reverential tones of awe, it is definitely a place I can’t screw up.  I know it’s ridiculous to feel pressure, but I do.  And my trip is still over a month away.  And I have skills.  I just worry I’ll get overwhelmed and forget everything I know.  I’ve done it before.  But I’ve also done well on vacation and have to keep my head on straight so that I add this trip to my good list.

Anyway, that’s what’s been on my mind lately.  Today it’s snowing again so my spring shooting will have to wait some more.  I haven’t picked up the camera in a week and it feels weird.  No wonder I can only think about California and all that awaits.  Hopefully it’s just a phase and I’ll go out there feeling serene, confident and at ease with myself.

The Road Not Taken

You know that old saying, hindsight is 20/20?  Some days it smacks me right in the head.  The other day after a lovely few hours in the woods I thought to myself that I should have been a forester or something.  Hubby comes back to say that it doesn’t pay much.  In money, no it doesn’t, but in joy it probably would make me rich.

I stood on a little bridge to take this shot and I stood there quite a long time.  It’s not deep enough to lose the sounds of humanity entirely, but it’s far enough to drown them out a bit.  The brook.  The wind in the trees.  Birds.  It was peaceful and exhilarating at the same time.


Enjoy the Silence

We’re at the tail end of winter and I swear I can feel the forest on edge.  It doesn’t look it, but stuff is happening and it won’t be contained for long.


Winter colors (yellow birch)

Hidden Track

In some of our local forest preserves are stands of unlogged forest, often called virgin forest.  So far I’ve been in two of them and some of the trees literally stop my breath.  One enormous beech (I think it was a beech) drew me off the trail and I stood by it in awe.  Thinking about what it had “witnessed” and how I wish it could talk.  Just for a minute.  Like the Ents.  Unfortunately my photos aren’t close to doing justice to the grand beauty…maybe when it’s crowned with all its leafy glory.  I did find these stupendous hemlocks though.  Practically broke my neck tripping on my showshoes while gazing up at these towering trees.


The Three Graces

It’s so hard to do justice to these massive beings…well, maybe not beings, but they inspire awe in me even if they are only plants.  Often I stop and just touch them to feel the vibrations as they sway in the wind.  I know, I’m nuts, but see…that’s what makes me think I should be working in the woods.  Maybe that would take the joy away, but I still wonder…what if?

Photography Resolutions – checking in

A while back I said I’d report on my progress from time to time.  It’s part of my attempt to be more aware of the state of my photography and where I want to take it.  Now if I can only remember what they were.  Oh right, here they are –

1. Improve composition; read a book or two, podcasts, tutorials, essays etc.
2. Strive for more distinctive images
3. Maintain post-processing workflow discipline

Hm.  Will you look at that.

Yes I have read a few articles that deal with composition, but I haven’t done anything really serious about it.  No books have been bought.  Mostly because I’m still not working full time and what with the internet being free and all…  But I am on the trail of a full time job and when that lands (positive thinking all around!) I will buy a book or two.  That being said, I have been more conscious of the rules of composition when I’m out in the field.  Hardly ever in the past did I deliberately think about composition in my head.  It’s always been very gut-level for me.  I walk around, frame, pace, line up, but never do I recite mantras to myself.  Now I sort of do.  One I keep in mind is relationships…creating relationships between objects in my image.  Here’s one –

Pratt Cemetery

In this one I deliberately set opposing geometries together.  Vertical aspect, horizontal wall in foreground, vertical trees in background, that first horizontal row of nearly square headstones, going from short to tall, the tall monument on the left reinforcing the vertical nature of the shot.  All sort of clashes, but also flows really well.  I did it deliberately.  Oh sure I tried other compositions, but none worked so well.  I even left out the rather terrific gate because it broke up the flow too drastically.  It blocked the flow.  Out it went.

On to the next one.  Have I striven for distinctive images?  Yes and no.  In my mind, this means shooting a more typical view in a different way.  Lately I haven’t been presented with much that’s typical so my images remain my own take on the world I see.  The only one that approaches anything near this is this shot of Mt. Monadnock –

Winter Monadnock

No, it isn’t that great a photograph.  The view to the mountain was difficult and narrow.  I had to climb on the top of an escarpment to get clear of the trees in the immediate foreground.  The lighting wasn’t particularly helpful either, so I decided to try to make the mountain look small by using a lot of sky.  If they sky hadn’t been interesting, I wouldn’t have, but I think as a snapshot, this works.  Are there other shots of  mountains taken this way, I’m sure there are, but most people wouldn’t even try I don’t think.  Maybe I’m foolish to have, but I think even a snapshotty image adds to the impression of a place.

And how is my post-processing work-flow these days?  Pretty good actually.  Using specific folders, tags, labels, ratings and keywords has made it much easier to find stuff even though I haven’t shot much yet.  So far, so good.

So there you have it.  An update.  Crossing my fingers that the weather cooperates for one last major winter shoot this weekend.  I’ll be trying to manage #1 and 2 more fully and hopefully #3 will be habit by now and will fall into place automatically.

Attitude of Gratitude

I’m a little dizzy from the time on the front page.  Wow.  Thanks to the folks at WordPress for the honor.  I had no idea and came back from an afternoon away from the computer to a ton of views and comments.  Thanks to everyone who had something kind to say about my work.  It’s very gratifying.  Even more are the host of new subscribers.  Thanks, peeps.  I’ll try to live up to my end of the bargain and post interesting or useful things.  In addition to the Black and White 201 post, another is taking shape in my brain and I’ll start to write it today.  Light and landscape photography is the general idea.

I did something that I hadn’t intended to do just yet, but since I maintain a totally separate Twitter account that has nothing to do with photography, I thought I might as well set one up for Wicked Dark.  So to follow me if you want to – @WickedDarkPhoto or go to This Link.  It doesn’t look too fancy yet, mostly because I’m on TweetDeck most of the time.  I do a lot of photo-related browsing so will post interesting stuff I come across.  Expect the unexpected.

My next intended shoot day is Saturday which ought to be a ton of fun.  I’m going out with at least two of my local photo buds and we always have a grand time.  It should be especially silly since it will be my first time on snowshoes.  There’s probably 3 feet of it so I’ll need ’em.

Anyway, that’s it for now.  Thanks to all commenters, I really appreciate it.  So much of the internet is a black hole and so it’s good to get an echo now and again.  Also thanks to all you new subscribers.  I’ll try to be worthy.

And what’s a post without a picture, so here’s some kayaks in the snow.