Monday, May 18

Skeptical Lady

Yep, she's skeptical, but not cynical.

There's a difference you know. The Skeptic is looking for sufficient proof, the cynic can never find enough proof. I'm a skeptic... Like her.

She's from Mityana, Uganda. So are her friends. I hope she liked me as much as I enjoyed meeting her. Either way, it was an important moment for me.

I like my Canon 7d with that EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens clicked on. With the image stabilizer it's easily hand-held and sharper than the razor I used this morning. I've always admired platinum prints. They have a glowing presence that captures imagination like epoxy. Look at the tonal range platinum creates. Haunting, huh? 

I processed this to print LARGE! It's about three feet on the horizontal edge. And so crisp you can see me in those catchlights in her eyes. Click on this image and let me know what you think... Or feel. 

Saturday, May 16

3 Farmers' Daughters

Girl Scouts of Uganda. In the village of Mityana. Beautiful farmers' daughters gather with their families at twilight. In the middle of rich farmland, the town's in the south central part of the country about 50 miles west of Kampala.

Almost all of Uganda's elevated well above sea level, So even though the town's about 25 miles north of the equator it's almost 4,000 feet high so it's 3,500 folks may need blankets and coats at night and tee shirts during the day. The village is a central place, equidistant from its circle of farms and their families. I've written before... Ugandans are physically fit and attractive people. The kids are charming and anxious to be photographed. 

Once again I framed these girls through my 7D's EFS 70-300mm late on an August Saturday. Have you ever used Polaroid large-format film? Its colors actually felt thick. Amazingly, AlienSkin's Exposure 7 can mimic my memories. It's as if Eposure's's poured a syrup of glowing colors, like molasses, over a waffle.

Thursday, May 7

God Is Love Realty and Take Away

Mityana Road, Kampala, Uganda Wakiso, Central Region

This is a cool compound along the Mityana Road, Kampala, in Uganda's Wakiso, Central Region. That's a carpet of yellow cobbed-corn there on the center right. The produce store on the left's selling fresh veggies. Behind it is a take-out restaurant. And off to the right a tavern. See the silver cistern water tank there on the left side roof. Clean fresh water's a challenge throughout the country but there's wonderful rainfall in this lush green country, so a water-catcher like that's a gem.

I lack sufficient knowledge about the country to know why rain catching cisterns aren't more common throughout the Uganda. Instead, struggling against dangerously polluted bogs, ditches, streams and rivers, tens of thousands of people walk miles each day to fill then carry large yellow plastic water tanks to and from municipal wells. And yet it rains almost every day, and much more often during the semi annual rainy seasons characterized by sustained deluges. 

Isn't the color of the real estate building striking? Bold, primary painted commercial buildings pop up  about each tenth of a mile or even more often along the highway. Many are painted by national companies to serve as sort of billboards, their colors... red, yellow, blue...and etc. are synonymous with the company logos. They add powerful energy to trips. 

When I grabbed the original of this image, it was like an artist's sketch. I knew I wanted to develop it much like a painter. Which I've done now, months later, here in my studio. So much of Uganda feels the way scenes must have felt to the impressionists of the early 20th century. 

Impressionism is an interesting word eh? What artist is not fueled by impressions? What else is there?

Geek Stuff: Captured the base with my Canon EOS 7D through its EFM 17-16mm zoom glass. Then brought my concept to life in PS4 coupled with AleinSkin's Exposure 7 to ignite the dynamic range and finally used the powerful overlay tools in AlienSkin's SnapArt's oil brushes.

Wednesday, May 6

Amsterdam Ways...

Amsterdam, Holland (or is that The Netherlands?)

This port city easily dates back to Rome and before but its street are littered with people pumping pedals on bikes without gears, or walking around these tiny byways. Amsterdam is young. 
Oh... I grabbed this with my Canon 7D through its 17-185mm glass focused out to 50mm. Then I determinedly teased out the ghosts with AlienSkin's super powerful Exposure 7's stand-alone system, not this time in Photoshop. Increasingly, Exposure7's becoming my goto process allowing me to express so many individual feelings. And to find Amsterdam's spirits in hues that exist only in my imagination. 

It's the power that Exposure 7 puts into the artist's hands rather than its presets. Plus it gives me a options that, while possible in Photoshop, it's eat creative time like a black hole. In this case, I'd purposely (pre-processing) grabbed the image through a distorted plastic glass, and used the distortion to isolate the center. Then I created different layers of fabrication including the shift in the dynamic range in Exposure. 

I am able now to execute a process that finds my imagination's image. This is a powerful application with a major learning curve. 

Friday, May 1

Baltimore • 4/27/15

Baltimore, its feelings snapped open like a box of nails. One night last week it insurrected. Is that a verb? To insurrect?

For a decade I commuted there where a very large number of people watch TV nightly to see places they can never go. Economists call that the demonstration effect. It's a force that might in an instant twist everything we know into an unrecognizable shape.

There's a micro-thin line between riot and insurrection.

For 60 years our War On Poverty has strictly applied the stick of zero tolerance against lawlessness while the carrot of aspirational jobs and career ladders has gone flaccid at best. Baltimore's a symptom of that squeeze without escape. It is more insurrection against the policy than a riot of opportunity.

This is a montage of AP photojournalists'  images. I'm not reselling them, just emoting through them utilizing PS4, Topaz Adjust, and AlienSkin's Exposure 7.

Friday, April 24

Blog Sites?

Maybe I'll break down and lease me a website service? But which one? It'd be cool if this image expanded to fill the top of this page. So much research exists to show that on every printed page, the visitor's eyes go first to pictures, secondly to their captions, next to headlines, and lastly toward body copy like this. 

So I'm leaning to the conclusion that a page dominated by a strong image will grab eyeballs to that graphic and then immediately to the text below as its caption. Thus with no distracting headline the process of image to copy is reeely improved. Here, with that weakly sized image up there falling way short of page dominance, visitors have so much less to pique their imagination and to drive it downward for answers. 

In other words, is not an artist's best blog platform. Which brings me back to the impetus to think about a leased website service, one that's affordable and whose learning curve won't distract me from spontaneously using it.

Expanded significantly, that image up there is full of questions, right? Don't you want some explanation? Which is the challenge of conceptual art, it needs to be filled in with meaning. OK, I understand that it's the viewer, not the artist who carries the responsibility to give art meaning. Still, I want to give my interpretation for whatever it's worth. What I felt, and concluded when I took, then processed this image.

So two questions for you...

(1) Any recommendations from you re. the perfect blog service for photographers (including costs, or at least directions where I can discover them easily) which will allow me to curate a gallery of ideas led by an image? And,
(2) What's your emotional reaction to that image up there at the top of this posting? Does it ignite a question (s) that either you can enjoy answering, or a question re. the meaning of this image tat will stimulate me and everyone else who stops by, toward a thoughtful answer? 


Thursday, April 23

Along The Tracks

A young boy's imagination sometimes lurks in that gritty battleground between absurdity and terror.

Found this lad who'd happily ordered up his face paint at a fair near Lancaster's Amtrak main line. I caught him with my Canon 7D through its EF-S 10-22mm (f3.5-4.5) glass at 18mm . The trickiest part of grabbing this shot was making the kid stop giggling. 

Tuesday, April 21


Spring morning. Buddies. Hanging in the park. Doing whatever. Nice guys, no drama at 11... Not quite yet. Here're boys who haven't learned to slide on attitude with their sneaks.

On the other side of adolescence they'll remember this summer's sun, and how they didn't need to do anything, but could still do everything.

What'll it be today? Something forgettably memorable. And this summer's blur will be there somewhere in memory storage. Like a rhinestone, they'll pull it out decades from now to peer at the glow of a long-ago summer's that's all around this park bench with their best buddies ever.
I caught the boys with my Canon 7D's EFS 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM Lens cranked out to about 150mm. The stabilizer on this glass keeps it sharp enough to prick balloons. Sharp enough to slice off a hunk of boy-memory. Sharp enough to capture buddies who touch in a shared personal space... Remember? 

Saturday, April 18

Lost To Archeology

You know when you see those "artist reconstructions" of ancient cities how they know so much about street scenes? Someone gave me a book with pictures of Egyptian and Roman ruins. And there are plastic overlay pages that show "how it looked" before time rubble-zed the things.

The last time I was in Italy I noticed how the hills and mountains were bare, little growth beyond some bushes and grassy weeds. So I asked someone whether trees would not grow in the volcanic soil. "Well actually Ted, that sort of soil's usually quite rich for agriculture. The trees though, have been gone for millennia, harvested by the early Romans for fire and building."

So, if so  much of the various structures was actually wood, how now do the artists know what the majority of buildings looked like? Even the excavations in Pompeii fail to reveal much wood since the heated ashes burnt most away.

The thing is that archeologists don't really have much idea what wooden structures and decorations, much less their painted colors, looked like. Example, take this Moravian church in Lancaster County about six or seven miles into the country beyond my home. It's maybe a century or two old at the most. Already time's sanded away a lot of the detail and without significant restoration, this spire's days are numbered. How will anyone a couple thousand years from now guess at this wooden decoration? The glass oculus? Oh sure, this image will survive so they'll not have to guess, right?

What is the reasonable life expectancy of this picture? Given Moore's Law, does anyone expect that there will be reading devices that could reconstruct these pixels even a quarter century from now? Once, perhaps in Roman or Greek times, artists might have left low tech drawings and paintings behind on media which might have let some ideas hold on. Today, not so much, right?

How much of what you can see when you go out of your door into the wild... How much of that will be imaginable to anyone a couple centuries from now? A couple of millennia? Even when the archeologists dig up its ruins, how much will they puzzle back together... And how much, like this wooden spire, will be wiped from all memory?

OTH, what's it matter?

Monday, April 6

34 Main St. • Killarney, Ireland

How to mute Killarney?

It's a tourist town of about 12,000 permanent Irish residents, yet it seems to have more hotels than people. The city streets evoke Disneyland - or Disneyland evokes them. Their colors make for squinting.

And then there's the smooshing together of decoration, both around, on, and inside the store fronts. Killarney shops are shameless as showgirls in their efforts to grab attention. Blocks are eye-exhausting as Vegas in their palettes. Of course Vegas boasts performance architecture that's imploded, what? Weekly? Daily? Vegas won't tolerate history, or even nostalgia, much less antique.

Killarney, OTH, has a patina-of-shabby that seems as carefully adhered to its surfaces as the layers of paint which are probably  inches thick. And see how at first this image seems as if the camera was canted? but look closely, the lens was straight as a nun in a gay bar, but it's the shops themselves that are bent by age.

Now see this late afternoon sidewalk? While the blinds in the upstairs window boast mid-last-century dust, the sidewalks are surgery-table clean. Killarney's kept like a retro set for WWII soldiers, back when the photographs were black and white, but the memories were full-on chrome.

Killarney works at being a memory. But one that's hard to mute.

Geek Stuff: Shot with my Canon 7D, worked with PS the processed with Alien Skin Exposure's Kodachrome II to tease out the rich antique late-afternoon reds and memories that my grandparents and my mother brought to America.

Friday, April 3

Radical Chromectomy

Because we can. 

You know, fine art photography's a lot like Everest. Why climb it? Because we can. 

Once upon a time an amateur fine-art photographer lacked the budget to do much creative color work. It was not just expensive, it was tedious. And with the fumes, the process was even a tad dangerous. It was always unpredictable and it ended in unreproducible results. Today full jacket chrome is ordinary as a mini-skirt in Spring. No, that's even too rare... It's ordinary as boy with lust in his heart when he spots a mini-skirt in Spring, right? 

So we're challenged with the emotional goo that chrome pours all over every image. The challenge is multiplied by a zillion. Hence the allure of B&W image making. Here, look at this 1949 Ford Anglia Bristol van that a Killarney shop's got in the middle of its floorspace. It glows with colored feeling. 

OK, and now, instead of finding ways to add chrome to our B&W darkroom-world, we can perform radical chromectomy. Like this...

Okay, have I added by subtracting? Or have I subtracted by adding the chromectomy? How much emotion is ripped away in B&W? Or... are these dramatically different messages, each as complex? But how can something be made differently complex by taking a scalpel to it? Hmmmm... 

Gotta' think on this :-) Should the age of mono-chrome be over? Or is mono really a surrender to the complex challenge of the colors of life? A retreat? 


Saturday, March 7

Invisible Stuff

This is invisible. Neuroscientists proved that our mind's a lazy piece of meat. It does what it must, the rest... fuggedabouddit.... The brain doesn't put itself out. For example, on your way to work, or to visit a relative, you only tend to see what's out of place. The ordinary, the usual, the banal... The brain says, "Ho-hum" and never sends that information to the processor. Which is why we see... really see... through fresh eyes when we travel down new roads. 

Oh, and even then we tend to filter away the commonplace. "ZAP!" I've transported you to say, Istanbul, and out of your hotel window there's a distant view of the Great Blue Mosque. "Magic," you mutter as it shimmers under a morning sun. And you never see the dumpsters or even the parking lot where they're sitting below. 

Nor will you see, really see, a turret atop a tiled roof in the next block that's accessorized with trash, sat-dishes, pipes, and wires snarling patternlessly. Actually the brain not only filters out the common, but also the pointlessly ugly. 

Ugly rarely gets gallery wall space, or storage room in those lazy pieces of meat between our ears. Why use up the energy to record then retain this sort of thing? And yet the common and the ugly fill the majority of every space between pockets of beauty.  It makes me wonder what else our efficiency-censors delete. What ideas we won't consider because the facts are... invisible. 

Saturday, February 14

Tough Art!

This sits in Istanbul's Hagia Sophia. Well actually it sits atop a marble jar brought, along with its twin, to Istanbul in the 15th century by Murad III. It probably sat outside for more than half a century before that in the ancient Roman city of Pergamon on the Western tip of Greece.

It's a jaw-dropper... A huge thing, some six or seven feet tall: an urn carved from a solid block of marble that was used in lustration ceremonies.

"Say what?"

Yeah, I had to look that up. Seems they filled these things with oil to create magic circles around infants during naming ceremonies. The belief was that evil was banned from the circle while goodness flowed in. A lot like baptismal ceremonies. You could get a big guy into this thing, with room to move around. Well, not that there was any need to cram a man into it, I'm just saying.

Now it sits in the Hagia Sophia where it's been indoors for another 500 years or so, protected from the weather... First in the Sultan's great mosque, and now that it's been converted into a museum, it's part of the collection of ancient Muslim and early Christian artifacts which the Turkish people maintain for all of us.

Recently Tom Dills asked some questions about the permanency of art, or at least our photographs. He mused about photographer and editor Bruce Jenson's essays on the topic. Bruce has often wondered about the eventual fate of this stuff we do... Well, the stuff that he does and by extension, what we do. Simply put, both Bruce and Tom wonder what happens to the photographs and art we've created when we die.

Which led me to wonder about the Lustration Urns of Pergamon. Did the designers/carvers of these things expect that a millennium or so after they stopped chiseling away stone that people would still wonder at their beauty? Or was the respect their work generated in its spiritual usage sufficient psychic reward. I guess that someone gave them some sort of direct economic payment for their efforts. And I also guess that, like artists always, the sheckles they got felt like too few.

Do you think it's the scale of these urns or their marble, that guaranteed them some sort of lifespan longer than their creator's? If they'd built them out of pixels, I wonder if they'd survive the winds of technology much less fashion, caprice, war, weather, and the tantrums of human taste. Understand, our photographic art is stored in the least permanent form ever imagined. Recently I tossed dozens of 78 RPM classical records of my father's that were created in the 1920s. I have no way of accessing their contents. I'll soon follow them to the trash with dozens of audio recording tapes which need reel-to-reel playback machines. And a lot of Super 8 and VHS family movies will follow them. Do you imagine that your carefully preserved images residing on virtual clouds somewhere will be any more accessible than the stuff you may now have on 8 Trac Tapes, cassettes,or even on CDs and DVDs?

Emily Dickinson had the advantage of "recording" her thoughts on paper, so that they were easily accessed so she could be "discovered" after her death. Imagine if she'd dropped them onto floppy discs?

Forget the "quality" of the work, what's "permanent" art demand? Not merely high levels of imagination and creativity, but some impermeable strata that can withstand time's vandals. Oh, and it probably should be big... like this lustration urn... Huge enough... to get noticed, right?

Thursday, February 12

The Best Might Accomplish Nothing

 Recently someone asked about a journalism degree. And I replied that journalism is an activity, accomplishment is what it documents. The activity’s incidental… Secondary… Unessential. But in other circumstances, the activity is necessary… inseparable… ONE with the accomplishment.

In this case here, I’m the photojournalist… This guy is a master glass blower at Ireland’s legendary Waterford Crystal. Which means he’s among the world’s best, perhaps one of history’s best, at accomplishing with his mastery of process. Something a journalist cannot do.

Not only won’t journalists admit this: Most don’t know it.