Saturday, June 30

Hear Stephen Foster?

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Evocative Southern images have an air of being made from pictures of the past. The continuity between then and now gets firmer the farther you meander below the Mason-Dixon Line.

Once a photographic image maker had to work within the laws of nature and gear. Back then explaining the way a mid-day-lit pre-bellum façade set off a bursting southern palm was extraordinarily challenging – maybe impossible. Either highlights got burnt to a crisp, or shadows were harder to penetrate that Stephen Hawkings’ latest book.

Now we can present the authentic place in a way that transcends the tyranny of gear and nature. Now we can allow facts to bleed together in ways that recreate the reality of a moment that never was .

Here’s tack sharp texture, saturated by a gentle palette which describes a sense of place. You know that should I pan down, you’ll see a white-suited gentleman tipping his Panama hat to skirted lady dressed to go shopping. Or at least you’ll not be surprised to watch them do their dance along Bay Street’s storefronts in Beaufort, South Carolina.

From this image you’ll agree with the place. But does it tell the time? Which is, after all, my point.

Friday, June 29

Spanish Moss

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Meaning-making has become a collective thing. Truth is consensus. Problem is that we now live in a world of different whirls of consensuses... Um, izzat a word?

Old fashioned - I like my truths when they come with some wrinkles and jowls. I want them tested over more than the latest news cycle. I want them dressed nicer than any given rap or rock group. And it's good when they have the patina of endurance.

There's a feeling of comfort in peering at a grand old truth nestled among bundles of swaying moss - dangling from ancient oaks. Wisdom is not a monopoly of the elderly. But cautious analysis, is frequently found in mature places. And perhaps that's where we get our understanding of elegance?

Thursday, June 28

Describing It

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We can't feel, hear, or even see everything that is. We write musical notes so that melodies can be molded. Imagine managing time without a calendar or a watch. Then there are sometimes things we can feel and yet not represent. Someone once pointed out that if we don't have a name for something... well it doesn't exist. Don't believe it? How about cyberspace? As far as our minds were concerned, was there such a thing until it was described and named? The name actually made it a thing.

So I walked around Middlebury to watch the way a Saturday morning sunrise described this place I'd never before visited. And I rounded a corner and abruptly there was this. I wanted to capture the way it felt in the sweet dewey light of dawn. But tonight as I pulled up that memory from the captures my camera gave me... I found that there were a magical quality that went beyond what the lens had caught. My camera, sharp as it is failed to replicate the aura of those moments.

But now - I've teased something more from the vista ... like a watch or a musical score... I can now better feel something that was. Can you see it? Huh? Huh? Can you see an emotion? Has my excursion beyond the photo described it to you? Is it real now?

Wednesday, June 27

Naked Image

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So a guy, calls himself, "Lurker", sends me an email. And he asks, "Okay Ted, so I see that you need to pimp up your images in PP (um, that's Post Production techniques, for those of you new to the jargon). In fact, you seem addicted. Fine. That's what you do and you do it really good. But, what do your naked images look like? Take that Middlebury, Vermont series. Can you show us a virtually untouched image... or does everything you take need assistance? I dare you. Double dare you. Show us even one naked!"

Whoa... a double dare! I mean what self respecting boy ever welched out on a double dare? Um... alright... except for adjusting the basic values in this one... and of course cropping it for composition... And adding just one teeny touch. How'z this? Huh? Huh? Huh?

Can I go naked, or what?

Tuesday, June 26


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Dick Cavett once mused on his TV talk show, "It might be said that the United States is the first known case of a civilization developing through disintegration."

Do you find you get some great thinking done in the morning shower? I guess the warmer blood steams up the dendrites to a hotter sparkle, eh? So this morning that Cavett quote got retrieved from some cranial storage spot and tumbled around with all the stuff that's going on in Western nations regarding immigration. Now... not to get into a political debate, or even a discussion... it occurred to me that civilization is a pretty heavy word. But how'ze about culture? I wonder if it isn't driven by dilution as it mixes with new paradigms? Huh? Huh? Or izzat so obvious (even without pulling Hegel off the shelf) that it's too shallow to dignify?

Anywayzzzzz.... There's a big gap between tumbling mixtures of cultures and the concept of civilization, no? Barbarism is just as likely, right? Or ... or... a gallup with the Four Horsemen Of The Apocalypse. I wonder how many cultural mixes it takes to finally get a civilization? And how many cultural dilutions it takes until people realize that no one recalls how to fix the potholes in the Appian Way?

Monday, June 25

1st Congo

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A pity, but some things have to be pictured - the visitor lacks a choice. Middlebury, Vt. is built all around its First Congregational Church which sits atop the highest hill in town. And they've built this atop that. Unfortunately I had only six hours in the area to take pictures, and no research. So from sunrise to about 1:30 in the afternoon, I drove, walked and let the hamlet's major features attract my camera's lenses. But unless you rode well out of Middlebury, the shadow of the First Congo's magnificent steeple drew down.

As many of you recall, I have often photographed the steeples of Lancaster, which meant that a novel approach to Middlebury's greatest tower was hard, particularly with such little time. So... here's the obligatory snapshot of their most prominent feature. I'd really like some suggestions. This is a conventional, "Wow!" image, but it just doesn't make me wonder. Doesn't appear to be a metaphor for anything larger. It's merely pretty.

Is that enough for anything beyond a calendar or postcard? Let me know, huh?

Sunday, June 24

Men Communicate

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Men know everything about talking in vision. There are looks we never practice, and of course unless facing a mirror, we never even see.

Joe kissed her, passed Jessica to stand before the altar, put out his hand to Greg and without uttering a word... said this.

Saturday, June 23


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Albert Camus applied two tests simultaneously to his own language: the test of expressiveness, and the test of truth to life.

I like those hurdles. Take away either and your left merely with the power to bore.

Friday, June 22

Mid Day Light

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The line read...

"The only way she had

Not to be amazed was to be dead."

And it recalled last Saturday

Nearby Middlebury, Vt.

And how its memory

Resolved a poem.

Thursday, June 21


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This was a problem. The couple stood shaded just inside of the sunny-side end of a tent with the full afternoon glare behind them upon the mountains, fields and minister. That demanded a small aperture, which in turn offered up great gobs of tack sharp detail in the searingly lit background. Of course I was stuck in my seat and lacked a fill flash. So, how to make lemonade from the dark-side of the bride and groom with extra busy detail filling in behind?

Here's my attempt at capturing the, "You May Kiss The Bride" moment. Thanks to JSimonian from the Canon Digital Forums who prodded me to remove some distracting artifacts left by the minister, I was able to distill out this excessively romantic image. So... now - Izzit good for you?

Wednesday, June 20

Burble In The Air

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There are still trails that meander through woods down to fishing holes at sunrise.

Middlebury, Vermont exudes a preposterous credibility. It's a place where you expect Norman Rockwell to scurry out from behind a bush to fidget a leaf or a twig just so. It's the land that tacky forgot. Perhaps it's the ice which preserves it through so many of the months from spoiling?

Dunno, but even in the blue shift of first light the hard scrabble brush seems romantically nostalgic. And the stark grit of big city snarl feels as far away as... it is.

Tuesday, June 19

Blooming Analysis

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Told you that we visited Middlebury, VT this past weekend for a wedding. Do any of you recall the last Bob Newhart Show? The Larry, Darrel, and Darrel one where they kept the "Harmony Inn"? Well, the wedding reception was held there - in the place where the exterior shots were taken for that Newhart show. As I ambled the garden out back I recalled a picture of a magnolia I'd taken a week before in Savannah, Georgia - over a thousand miles to the south. Perhaps you'll recall - or you can click here to review it.

Well anyway... as I looked at the fat peonies which grow all over this part of Vermont, I realized how dramatically different, yet similar the two places are. Each at this time of year sports fat fleshy flowers. But somehow in Middlebury, where there's ice and snow from November through early April, the blooms seemed even more magical. Plus there was the wedding thing going on in the background, the music, the party... And I began to wonder how to communicate all of this - the wildly different sense of place captured in the uniqueness of their blooms. Hmmmmm....

Monday, June 18

A Question About Jessica

<-Click here • Jessica & Greg were married in Middlebury, Vermont last Saturday. Jessica was an astonishingly elegant bride. I was lurking around with my camera during the event, trying not to get underfoot of the accomplished and hard working professional who was the official documenter. I've known Jess since she was maybe 12 or 13. That's when we became friends. Like her slightly older sister julia - these two had an intelligence which let them pierce their way into mature conversations virtually as equals at an early age. They were, and remain, bright, charming - and as you can see from this image, strikingly beautiful. However...

I lacked a high powered strobe, a reflector and all the rest of those things which let photographers capture a stunning woman appropriately. So, without the gear to do pre-processing, I'm forced to make up for the snaphot quality of my shots in post processing. Now... here's the question. While both of these images retain the production values of snapshots... Which captures Jess better? Why? Hulp...

Friday, June 15


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A magnolia in summer. Dixie, eh?

Might not be here tomorrow. See my message from yesterday.

Thursday, June 14

Once-Upon-A-Time Window

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It was a window that once looked out upon river boat dandies and dock tarts. Once it rattled from the steamy squeals of paddle wheelers' horns. Then pigeons glided just yards to the gaudy decks of great flat stern wheelers mounded with King Cotton hauled from this place to exotic ports and deep pockets packed with gold.

It was a window that watched once-upon-a-time - disappear.

BTW: I am off on some business to New England for a couple of days. May be away from WWW connection. We shall see if I can post between now and Sunday. If not... and you're new... enjoy last September & October's postings, K? I'd enjoy comments on those long lost images.

Happy Flag Day...

Wednesday, June 13

What We Do

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"We are not here to do what has already been done." - Robert Henri, The Spirit Of Art P.12

I believe that each color, each shape, each pixel must be an exact record of what I conceived it to be at the moment I put it there. This is not an accurate reproduction of a place, it is an authentic rendering of an idea, feeling and sense of this place.

And that is all it is a record of.

Tuesday, June 12

Izzit Worth Photographing?

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You know that I don't want to imitate nature, but I still want to find a formal unity in my images. Okay, so here's a distinct shape, a compact form and smooth colors. It's not so much the real-life feelings I'm trying to frame within my margins, nor a slavish reproduction of what's in front of my lens, nope. What I'm after is my own arrangement of formal classical elements. Here's the test... does the image communicate an authentic feeling, mood, presence? Do you sense a message?

Yeah... that's it. See there's a risk of caricature when you deal with an image like this which has been contrived for cameras. Is there any fresh way to render a novel idea of a structure which was constructed to decorate calendars? This tower is a stage set. It's perfect from evey angle. Tell me, is that even worth rendering? is there any way that the final idea can be mine in any way?

Let me know, huh?

Monday, June 11


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Our good fortune was definitely NOT Beaufort's, or that of the city's owners during the Great War Between The States. Seems that the Yankees used their superior naval power to occupy this port city early on during the tempest. The fleeing occupants left their homes for the solders to seize. Consequently all of these buildings were preserved from the burnings which General Sherman routinely ordered throughout this region thus allowing us to get a real sense of the pre-bellum splendor of a planters' town.

Here the photographic details are really not f stops or shutter speeds. Rather you should know: Temperature 97 degrees, Humidity 87% and virtually no breeze at around noon. Recall when these structures were occupied by their sizable families in the early 19th century - air conditioning meant closing the shutters and pulling the drapes against the searing summer sun.

Sunday, June 10

High Noon In Beaufort, SC

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Summer in the south sears. The light is brilliant as Democrats imagine their Presidents to be.

Noon-time shine is the stuff that chases photographers indoors. There's just no way a camera can capture details in highlights and shadows, right? Short of tripods, bracketing, and HDR tedium in post processing... well best not try to capture scenics between 11 am and maybe 4:30 p.

Problem is we were in Beaufort, SC at noon. And we had about two hours to try to get a sense of this old-South county seat that was founded in 1711. This was the heart of King Cotton until the Yankees occupied the area during the Civil War. Oh it made some comeback afterward, but the Boll Weevil ended that a few decades later. The place is reblooming now and fixing up places that haven't had major remods since the 1920s.

So, how to capture the 1920s ambiance while placing Beaufort squarely in Dixie? I decided that runny water colors were just exactly right. They gave me the chance to block some of the highs, while filling up the shadows. Or at least I imagine the effect does. Whacha think?

BTW, if you saw the movie Forrest Gump, and recall Gump being interviewed for TV just after he crossed the Mississippi River bridge - well this is a key place. It's where they sat the cameras for that shot. Immediately to my left as I took this picture is a bridge over the Beaufort River. Since they shot many of the location shots here in Beaufort, they saw no need to travel to the Midwest to get one picture. So for the movie, they changed the sign over this bridge to read "Mississippi River". Hollywood magic!

Saturday, June 9


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It is harder to draw information from words than from pictures. Clichés crack the code. They support you in turning data into information… and information into meaning. A cliché grabs from all those dark storage sites of memory and melds them together into a useful pattern.

If you visit the Sea Pines Plantation on Hilton Head Island, you’ll hear of this structure. It was created to resemble a lighthouse as a backdrop to the 18th hole of a golf course - Harbour Town Links - which attracts the PGA. And the PGA attracts TV networks. Which want harbors to look like harbors. They want a picture which tells the audience what this place is. It needs to be a shot that snaps from data to information in a blink.

So this structure’s the highest and most recognizable on Hilton Head Island. It also lets me, in one image, cut right to seaport, summer, sunrise, and for those with the right memory pockets… Hilton Head, South Carolina.

How could I not capture this cliché?

Friday, June 8

Retro Vrs. History

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Age is the mother of nostalgia, while disruption is the father of history. So? What happens when these two hook up for a night of passion? That’s what I was out to uncover in Savannah – a city where retro and history have formed a cosy rapport. To a lot of Boomers, retro is indistinguishable from history.

I wonder when the latter sucks up the former?

I’ve noticed that the history taught in our K-12 years is overwhelmingly about political figures (Quick: name the guy who financed Henry Ford’s first factory. See what I mean?). But in reality culture trumps everything. Culture rules. Culture rocks. Paris Hilton went to jail because of culture. Congress failed to pass an immigration bill because of culture. It is culture at any given moment which packs the wallop.

I think the difference between retro and history is culture. People begin to notice that the culture that weaned them barely exists. Which sparks nostalgia and creates a retro market. See how that’s working in Savannah? Huh? Huh?

Or have I got this all wrong? Comments?

Thursday, June 7

Award Winner 2007: Mr. Saxovannah

Note: Accepted as one of theworld's finest Performing Arts Images of 2007 for Canon POTN Book to be published in the Fall of 2008.

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Often it seems the guy was right who noticed that we are merely another brand, jostling for attention on a crowded shelf. Which inevitably drives some clever marketers to crank the flamboyant dial way up - which I guess also explains the market for Wunder-Bras and warmly appealing bearded guys in orange who saxophone a haunting shriek of Amazing Grace.

Hey… it’s a plan. Right?

Wednesday, June 6

Energy Tree

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The renowned photographic teacher Craig Tanner in a recent podcast mused, "We are drawn toward the highest energy." Hmmmm.... Or maybe some draw the highest energy within their frames? Are all ideas energy? Is the vice versa? Let me try that differently. Are good ideas disruptive? And is that what generates energy?

Much of what draws the serious lens is upsetting to the status quo. Which is the role of innovation, right? As I do the galleries here in Hilton Head and Savannah - I see a tide of stereotypical art. An hour ago I saw a mass of excellently rendered shots of the Savannah mansions for sale at a shop. The photographer captured wonderful palettes, warm lighting, tack sharp detail... and yet this high craft produced mind numbing goo. It's as if he froze the scenes in mirrors - and simply reversed them. I could sense no part of the guy's mind in the interpretations.

Do you recall garage bands that sounded just like pop-hits? They weren't artists, they were impersonators - or live recording/playback rip-off-ers. Most photographers are not artists... their images never pass through a bath of energy. They are visual stenographers.

I agree that Craig Tanner's pictures, at least as posted at Light Diary seem drawn to the highest energy. But I don't agree that most people's photographs capture high… or even any energy. They are not art, they are, even when originals, reproductions – copies of a moment.

Yesterday I confronted something foreign to me. This tree must be so commonplace to denizens of the deep south. So, how to show them, as well as people like me, that there is something unusual about this tall guy? So how to tap the energy here and make it spark out at you. How to make it shimmy and snake upward toward a commonplace sky?

So here’s my way of sucking the highest energy out of someone else’s humdrum. Does it work?

Tuesday, June 5


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Bluffton is a tiny town in the southeast of South Carolina. Residents are determined to turn it into an artsy/antique stop for upscale traffic flowing from Hilton Head to Savannah, GA.

Civilization, like tree rings, happens in layers. So does jungle. Oddly they both build over the present. We dig down under most cities and we find the debris of those who came there before us. Dig down farther though, and we find jungle. Jungle was here before us… and in many spots on earth… it came after us.

Look at how the builders of this house - once a home - took care. Oddly, the colors have survived the materials they packaged.

Not far from this place Bluffton people are remodeling and building anew. A block away they are constructing an entire main street soon to be filled with shops with facades that will capture a retro charm of the 1920s and 30s.

But here at this crumbling place soon a decision will be made, either by developers or by jungle. One thing though: in the Low Country so close to the coastal swamps, developer decisions will only - for a geological moment - distract the jungle.

Monday, June 4


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The photographers I envy can pour whole buckets of meaning into each image.

See, we’re vacationing in Dixie. Tropical Storm Barry came north as we drove south. Imagine: you’re riding along and a forest-fire-fighting tanker plane dumps overhead. “FWOOSH!” And imagine that it doesn’t stop. “FUH-WOOOOSH! FWOOSH! FWOOSH! FWOOSH! FWOOSH! FWOOSH! FWOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!……………..

Now swirl in tractor trailers sporting mud flaps which cover their spray less effectively than Britney Spears' skirts cover crotch. Sheeesh! Hours of that make you long to curl fetal.

You know how I felt when we got here? Here... Look at this image.... THAT'S how I felt when we got here. Yeah… Sometimes it’s insufficient to say, “Hey! It rained.”

Sunday, June 3

Pepsi Tanks

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Pity how much detail is lost in this image when it was compressed for the web. The sky is super detailed at 19X13". And Emporia can use every bit of detail it can get. It's a place you can spend a couple of weeks in - overnight.
What I liked were the world class sized tanks of Pepsi. Guess you gotta' store it somewhere for all of those soda fountains, eh?
There are those who say that the sweet light of morning can make anything look compelling... enticing... inviting. Dunno about that. Considering Emporia at sunrise, you decide. You want to visit?

Saturday, June 2

Richmond Birds

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Just off of Shockoe Slip in Richmond, VA there's a rehabed wharehouse filled with a store called, These Four Walls. It's strewn with guys like these. As charming as they are I wonder where in China they're made? There are lots of cool shops across America filled full with charming Oriental clutter. Why are empty spaces an insult to women? Okay... sounds sexist, but it's, like, true - right? Clear coffee table? Vacant room corner? Bare ledge? Every woman I know will feel drawn to plop down silk flowers, another lamp, a decorative book, some shells, or a piece of mass produced sculpture like this.

Now I don't find that offensive or even annoying. Nope, once I see it... hey... I like it well enough. But an open space just doesn't tractor beam me to scour shops like These Four Walls. What feminine instinct creates this lucrative Chinese market? Ideas anyone?

Friday, June 1

Emporia, Virginia

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Surprise! Found a wireless service in an Emporia room.

We drove for hours due south. Stopped here, just eight miles before the North Carolina border. Emporia seems to be a place where people stop between. It's a muddle of motels, franchise food, and gas stations. It's rumored to be one of those vicious speed traps which pepper rural America in places between places. On our way tomorrow, we'll drive carefully out of Emporia to I-95, about a rock's toss from this room here between.