We were both walking in Musser Park this morning at half past nine. My Lancaster city home's just off of the park. He was about 7m (22') away on this VERY bright morning. Which brings me to a thought. Unless we get up near dawn, or wait until just before sunset contrast is not our friend. Oh sure, we can wait for clouds or hope for overcast… But most of the time, particularly when traveling, we've got to take the light we get.
Before digital, I'd coped for decades with narrow range film which meant exposing for highlights or shadows knowing that one or the other would be detail-empty. Oh sure there were lots of soft films, and I found myself developing them for even more contrast. Add in polycontrast papers… which were a big compromise with respect to quality, and then lots of burning and dodging and.. well… I still lived with compromise. Maybe that's a metaphor for life?
But look at this image. I was able to build it from a wide-range raw capture that gave me almost two stops of latitude on either side… Or five stops of detail to dig into. The blown highlights and dark shadows were my choice, not the film's.
Last evening I visited our camera shop, Coe Camera, here in the city. They've got a great used equipment department with cabinets filled with classic 35s like Nikons, Leicas, and Canons. I hefted a terrific 4X5 Linhoff in a carry carry-all filled with a ton of stuff. Everything they take in looks as new and shiny as I remember it wooing me in the shops I used to visit to dream.
Funny, I fondled a bunch of the things, hefted the (non-auto focusing) lenses and felt not a drop of nostalgic pang. I can remember lugging a Speed Graphic with its film packs and flash to cover sports and even now, the memories aren't good. 400 ASA Tri-X, even pushed to 1,200 still demanded a big flash gun for basketball and night football and hockey and accident coverage and.. and…
My shoulders hurt just thinking about it. And all of the hours that followed in the wet darkroom. Still, the Coe folks say there's a good market for the old cameras among kids who are nostalgic for film. It's easy to be nostalgic for something you've never experienced I imagine.
Out in front of the steps leading into our historic home there's a boot scraper. You know why that was built right into our brick sidewalk maybe a hundred and fifty years back? I'm not nostalgic for the hot summer days when on returning home… you needed that thing.
Nope, not nostalgic for film and its cameras and I'm totally happy about how we can crack into what a searing sun will do to contrast today. Hmmmm…. wonder where this is all going, eh?
Lancaster, PA… USA
Here's The Geek Stuff: Canon 7D w/Canon EF70-300 f/4-5.6 IS USM, 1/1000-f/11, Bokeh as captured through my lens cranked out to 300mm. ISO800: Square cropped & processed in PS4 where I reset the dynamic range of a 9:30 AM capture under direct spring sun.
Converted color palette and grain structure with *Alien Skin Exposure 6* to Polaroid Time-Zero Film for its edgy hard contrast punch - inserted Holga light leak to "explain" main light.
They came from their strange craft… The most alien intelligence with which we shall ever live…
Heh heh… Now this is a Technicolor morning in Lancaster County, eh? Caught it and them through my tiny G10 on a bike stop feet away from that last post below. Hardly any post processing in PS4. Some AlienSkin Technicolor tonal intensity. Love the texture and sharp… sharp… sharp depth of field huh? Plus, lookit the dynamic range there. There's shadow and highlight detail throughout. That little camera's a classic masterpiece. Imagine Canon's now up to a G16… this thing's ancient. But it fits in a little pack on my bike, films in RAW and jpg. This image was just a jpg capture! Yet lookit it!
I can't even imagine what the new versions of this baby do. You know what? If you're looking for small carry everywhere camera with all the override features of your top SLR… Go and buy a good used G10. I'm telling' ya… the thing ROCKS!
Okay… couldn't resist puttering around with the image. Liked the old, faded feel that this vehicle seems to emanate. Fun huh?
About ten miles outside of Lancaster City into the southern end of Lancaster County we can really see the legendary rolling hills of central Pennsylvania. Spring's come, the seeds are in, but the trees haven't fully budded. Soon all of this will be corn, much to fill that finger pointing into the sky. Life's good, huh?
Oh… I did adjust the dynamic color range here to emulate my very favorite slide film… Agfachrome 100. It was my trusty light little Canon G10 that caught this feeling. It's all pretty magical, eh?
How magical? Here's the original sort of. In fact this image resulted from stitching together five panels in PS4, then cropping it down to this square.
The challenge this time was to create an out-of-the-camera reality in the final version at the top of this posting. I wanted to avoid any sense of "manipulation" or "augmentation". One of the real challenges was the lack of balance from that horizontal horizon. there is too much weight on the left side of the original. I needed more mass on the right. That led to two pieces of process. First a weighting of the tonal and palette range to augment the appearance of more heft on the right bottom. The secondly to grow the hill there on the south eastern quadrant.
but the weight was designed to compliment a setting for the main feature, the silo… To draw the eye, and feeling toward that finger without battling it. Of course I eventually added vignette to once again spotlight the silo.
Great fun and I'm thinking if the trick's not revealed like I now have, that it sells belief. Right?
It's when young
Way high and
Canon 7D, Canon EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens cranked all the way out and opened all the way up. PP in PS4, Topaz Adjust, and AlienSkin Oil Paint. In the middle between those two tools, there were many layers of adjustment and sniggering around with the dynamic range.
The boys climbed a large wall around Musser Park's entrance in the very heart of the city of Lancaster's historic district, maybe fifty yards from my front door. Not shabby, eh?
Dublin, Ireland. Across the river is The Immaculate Heart of Mary on City Quay in the midst of the city's Docklands. Canon 7D, Post processed in PS4 with Topaz Adjust & Alen Skin's SnapArt oil paint. Custom brushes and textures. Cross processed with beta version of customized Alien Skin Exposure 6.
Show-opening. Gallery-party. A corner-coven of sniggering women.
One waggles her fingers at the walls and smirks, "This art? Oh My-Dears! It's all so, so… motel room, n'est pas?"
••• ••• •••
Look… Here's how swanky art transforms a tacky motel room into a classy palace… um… right? See how the work's chosen to be precisely the correct size and hue? How it matches the designer bed spreads?
Sense how proudly important motel executives display their latest acquistion to a distinguished art authority… explaining how they've selected the work to balance the haute-style of the room's decor... it's spacious and high-fashion furnishings… while achieving the very latest in all-the-rage chic?
Pictures bought by the palette, square foot, and square meaning. But… but… it sells. There are lots of motel room walls that create the biggest part of today's market for… for… Well, what?
Here's the challenge… To break into this lucrative high-demand space, how to give your images both mood-ectomies, and thought-ectomies? How to sink into a subliminal compliment to bedcovers and wall paint?
You'd think that'd be easy, huh? But no. Too many artists still insist upon pursuing meaning, personality, idiosyncrasy, even… feeling.
The secret to the craft of motel room success is this… Make your work pretty and cheap. Hell, combine the two… make your work pretty cheap. You cannot be too pretty or too cheap. Follow that advice and you too will find important hotel executives bringing your work to the attention of people who'd otherwise not notice it. But remember, it will sell to those key purchasing agents who buy soap, towels, toothpaste and pillows precisely because no one will notice it!
Here, just copy unsigned work like this, and you can't miss…
Okay, guess you get the point. I hate it when my work ends up like this. Uh-huh, they are very high craft. But they look like wallpaper designs. Everything I tried failed to bring out the theme of isolation or alienation I'd hope this project would invoke. Each enhancement made them prettier and less a story or even a feeling. Leaving me with… "Oh My-Dears! It's all so, so… motel room, n'est pas?"
I should have just trashed 'em, but it's hard to toss a lot of hours of work. Sooooo… this is what blogs are for, huh? Whining? Dead-ends are… are… Sigh…. On the bright side, I can crank this stuff out like sausage and what it won't bring in mark-up, well supermarkets make it on volume, why not me?
Hmmm…. Got to wondering if I could get the attention of a gallery. Which means getting something that would get the attention of a gallery. SOMETHING? SOMETHINGS? Wuddizit that grabs attention? Hmmmm…. I've had shows. They're a LOT of work. Last time I printed and framed over a hundred images. A friend generously had three different books of my images printed. He actually layer them out… they looked terrific. Hundreds of people showed up. It filled six rooms on two floors. Very cool, yet…
As you can see on the right there, I've cadged some awards and had a bunch of images published. The result? VERY GOOD QUESTION. See, this isn't my day job. It's where I go to escape day jobs, markets, clients, life, and other people's tensions. Which means, well, it means I'm kind of uninterested in the hard work it takes to become a successful artist.
It's been a handful of years since my last show and I've grown, created a ton of additional work while wandering into new wonderings. In the past I've asked if you can be a poet, a clarinetist, a composer, or a novelist… if you never have an audience. Hell I don't even market this blog-site the way I did some years back. In fact, it's self indulgence, huh? Once it attracted a few hundred visitors a week. Then I let it whither, went away for months. Last time I looked there were maybe a couple dozen folks who wandered in.
To keep these things going you need to generate a lot of smart copy, and then grow and nurture links, visit everyone else - become a community guy. Fact is I do visit dozens of sites a week hunting new ideas and… wonderings. But to actively interact grabs hunks of time and that cranks up the opportunity cost thing. I'd rather grow the images that all of the influences trigger..
Still, it'd be cool to have a gallery or museum hang some of my newer stuff for a while and get some flesh and blood people to react face-to-face. Nice, but improbable. Marketing's work. It's what I did for years for some very big companies. Images are an escape from that. So...
1. Here's a Lancaster City poster
2. Here's a people poster
3. Here's another people poster
4. Here's an urban poster
Maybe I should get a half thousand of these printed up - mail them to galleries/museums and nail 'em to telephone poles? Maybe I should pour some Irish over ice, push back my leather chair… and watch TV?
Since 1273, followers of the legendary spiritual
poet and philosopher Rumi have whirled in Konya, Turkey as a form of
remembering God. This isn't dance in the sense we understand it anymore than
preaching is acting.
Now for the problem. When they strip away layers of
oils from works of the great masters they discover… Well… Works of the great
masters. Frequently the final layer's a version. Is it better than the others?
Hmmmmm… What's better mean?
Here's what I wanted to do with this dervish…
But here's what I'm ABLE to do with this
I'm too old. Fixed in a mindset. Within my own
constructed artsy culture… There's plenty of room for experiment but there are
also walls. Young artists in particular lack those walls. It takes no risk on
their part to do stuff that I can do but in my case it takes bravery. I guess
it's because I know that for me it means breaking rules. Those that my friends
respect. Okay… I like that first image. Hell, it's good, captures the dervish
trance-like whirl and the color of both his mind and the moment.
But that second image is explosive. Way over
processed… Way beyond a representation. It doesn't just pop… it explodes.
Fact is though that today we don't have to paint
over. We can do many versions, each as powerful as the other. None is the last…
the final… But one must be better? Right?
“It’ll be her last time,” Grandpa smiled, wiping some barn specks from the old bus.
“It’ll be like that first time,” Granny looked impish and wrapped an arm around her husband’s. “We’ll sleep in her. Remember Honey?”
“Don’t remember the sleeping,” he laughed turning his daughter’s face pink. “What I recall…”
“Daddy! The kids…” The young mother squeaked, but her children were clambering inside the thing grand-dad’d gotten to run after weeks of banging, re-tiring, and cleaning each rickety inch.
Months later… way… way… down an ancient roadway deep among the fairy chimneys its motor still puttering, the bus turned up. It’s been years since then yet they say that when the moon’s right, there’re noises back there: An old motor popping, a woman’s giggles, and the faintest laughter of a happy old man.
• • • •
The rickety bus? Found it at the weirdly intriguing South Of The Border just into South Carolina on I-95. Those ancient fairy chimneys are a five image pano grabbed in Cappadocia central to Turkey in an enchanted land, oh… and one magical summer evening that sky hung over Las Vegas. The bus was captured by my old Canon 40D, the sky in an even older Canon 20D, the fairy chimneys by my Canon 7D. But each was focused through a trusty Canon EFS 17-85mm (f4-5.6). Post processing was done of these blendings in PS4 with help from Topaz Adjust, Perfect Photo Suite 6, and of course AlienSkin's Exposure 5.
The story of the _Ghost Bussers_ though… That wafted full-form from memories of VWs, back dirt country roads, and giggling happy friends.
I carry a Canon G10 on country bike rides. It's a nosey little camera and captured this RAW image in an open barn near Manheim, Pa. Post processing happened in PS4, and the magic sauce was poured through OnOne's Perfect Effects 3 to heat my own glows.
Caught this hot-fashion kid and his grillz in my Canon 7D though its EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens. Post processed in PS4 with AleinSkin's Adjust using a modified B&W Polaroid film emulation and added a touch of custom palette. I texturized the background bokeh that the long lens created with a touch of AlienSkin's SnapArt through a kiss of customized impasto. Of course the dynamic range was enhanced using standard Photoshop devices.
Are they beautiful? Captured (if it's possible for anyone to capture these three in any real sense) along the streets of a damp, chilly, and dreary Kilkenny afternoon. The trio burst from their shells at the sight of my telephoto with the lass on the right growing a finger-beard to mock my own. Can you look at them and NOT smile? Wuddaya-think? Are they 16, 17 years old? (or 30 or 40?) From a certain age women have that mysterious power of seeming ageless in their beauty, huh?
GEEK STUFF: It was a rainy Kilkenny early-May afternoon pierced through my Canon EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens on the Canon 7D. Post in PS4. Tools? The texture's my own mix. The dynamic range was dug out with Topaz Adjust. And the palette was created through multi adjustment layers each designed in AlienSkin's Exposure 5 with a boost to the DOF through a selective application of Bokeh 2. Oh yeah. I kissed the palette a bit with AlienSkin's Exposure 5, that I manually over-rode to find my feeling inside the frame.
Brrrr…. Again my Canon 7D's EFS 17-85mm caught frozen Susquehanna river grass bent by the frigid sunrise. Processed in PS4, with mixed media and custom brushes blending AlienSkin's SnapArt 4's Oil Paint with Impasto.
• EpicEdits - The popular international community has listed me sixth on a list of the world's Undiscovered Photographers which you can visit by reading the details here! Or
• EarthMonster Illustrated, the increasingly influential fine art photography ezine named me FEATURED ARTIST in their June issue! There's an entire illustrated story which you can locate and read about if you click here. This is quite an honor, thanks Matt and everyone at EarthMonster Illustrated.
• ZOWIE! I've just been informed in late July that seven... SEVEN... of my images will be published by Canon POTN in their best of 2007 collection in the Fall of 2008! As book publication nears, I'll post the images of mine which have been selected from among worldwide submissions by a combination of a group of distinguished judges and the votes of thousands of members of POTN. This his huge! I'm snowed....
• The Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County presented a show of my work on First Friday, September 7, 2007 in The Sehner-Ellicott-von Hess House circa 1787. Click here to see the details.
If turnout is a criterion of success, It was terrific. Hundreds filled the four rooms and two hallways where I showed about forty prints of Lancaster City and County.
*** • Canon POTN has announced that three of my images have appeared in their published in the Fall of 2007. The images were accepted under: Transportation, Scenic-Travel, and Sports photography sections. Images were first judged by peer panels in each category, then submitted to the voting review of thousands of photographic artists from around the world. It is astonishingly flattering that they chose to accept three of my images. Can't wait to see the book.