Sunday, May 25

Sense Of Place

< - Click here
for image 1
<- Click below
for image 2

Took a ride today to an historic little town. Actually there are twin towns on either side of a river important to America's past... and they're in a spot that's virtually legend. Got there at about 2:30 in the afternoon with a searing sun from the west. Yuck, the worst light... a photographer's nightmare. But... how to capture a sense of place and overcome the explosive contrast? Here's my take... Well, here are my takes.... And your reaction is?


Okay.... here are the virgin pix I took yesterday afternoon in max sun. Take #1 above is my "straight" or Organic set of enhancements. Take #2 express my feelings of the place.

Saturday, May 24

Kerouac #2

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Are your images bullied by principles that make breakthroughs unlikely? Um….who's making you do that?

Frankly, I’m not recommending anyone go out and buy Jack Kerouac’s books. I think it was Truman Capote who said about the guy, “That’s not writing, it’s typing.” There’s a lot of monotony between food stops along Kerouac’s obsessive road wanderings. I read him for some nourishment but too much of the filler is the literary equivalent of greasy junk food - without the seasoning.

But I like it that he trashed the rules of fiction writing in mid-Fifties America. So I'm scratching at his stuff to find things that make me go, “Uh-huh! I know what that looks like. I can imagine thatas an image. Let me think at that in color, shape, form, composition, and… and… texture. So here’s the second feeling that Kerouac’s given my imaging. It’s not Organic. It is enhanced.

Feelings and ideas are like that, right?


Now for something new to me. Last weekend I found a Sunpack eBox Portable Photo Studio in a remainder bin at an electronics store. The box was pretty beaten up but they assured me that should it not work, I could return the thing. For less than thirty dollars, Hey! why not find out if it had a bunch of new image ideas inside, huh?

So armed with that Kerouac quote up there... I unpacked the thing. See in #1 how flat the black carrier lies? Those pockets on the outside hold two high intensity lights with built in tripods, an additional little camera tripod that's really a bit rickety for my 20D and a power strip (not included). You can see how it unfolds on my desk and you can judge its size by the soda bottle I've sat next to it.

Anyway... that is how I composed my toy soldiers. I wish it had a background that wasn't so wrinkled. Popping images out of that background for further enhancement is difficult, but for macro close ups... it looks cool, huh?

Thursday, May 22

For Miss Natalie

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Long ago Mr. Jones sent her to Miss Natalie.

Then never called again.

For decades Miss Natalie groomed her...

And since Miss Natalie's death, I've fed her there in the window's gusty light...

Awaiting Mr. Jones.

She keeps her faithful watch, perhaps for each of them?

And here's the virgin image...

Sunday, May 18

Finding The Voice Of Your Instincts
• An Essay

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With art, the idea is to look through the image to the meaning on the other side. Okay, so how do you do that kind of photographic based image? There are a cornucopia of digital enhancements available to us which make the creative process more exciting. But first, some words about processing.

All pictures are processed: life is too.

Image makers debate the role of enhancement, meaning processing. Yet every film ever made along with every digital processor… all of them process images. If the film photographer is very pure it’s possible to restrict the processing to “just” the stuff that’s done by the engineers who dreamt up a film’s chemical composition, plus the purest chemical mix needed to develop and preserve the paper image. But even this most restricted effort is still processing and there are a colossal number of wet-darkroom diddles that can take things way farther between opening the film canister and showing a print.

There's an organic photographic school that hates digital post processing since that movement grows out of a nostalgia for film photography. When it comes to photography, they want all engineering to end at say… 1988? Which is peculiar since there’s a lot more processing going on twixt lens and virgin image in the film world than in the digital.

Photography has always been an adventure.

And fine art photography explores the space inside of us just as surely as our lenses aim at the outside world. The digital photographic process allow us to explore deeper than film ever did.

They allow us to find the voice of our instincts.

Look, as I’ve written in an earlier essay, pre-processing has always gone on. We choose a lens, camera format, point of view, depth of field, blur, filter, lighting, even set, makeup and model. Is that manipulation? Nope… enhancement.

I’ve already discussed the post processing extremes of the film development chain. And now there are the tools of digital post processing.

An artist creates a pane out of a plane.

We make images on a two dimensional surface yet behind it lies more dimensions than Paris Hilton has shoes. The artistic moment occurs when the image plane that attracted us begins to shimmer and reveal, like a pane of glass, the artist’s ideas, answers, hopes, fantasies, dreams, questions, opinions and feelings.

But before we can do that we have to seek out all of those things ourselves. Then reveal them to first us, then to others as eloquently as our craft (technical & aesthetic) will permit. The viewer and the artist take a plane ride… through that pane… into…

Ultimately intelligence is the master processor of art.

But it is a two part thing. What lurks behind the plane is first what the artist has found inside of his or her self… and secondly what the viewer makes of what the artist has revealed. Art is a process of connecting beliefs and understandings in ways that resonate with meaning. Look, we all live in a bubble with walls created from our morality, ethics, tastes, education, loves, politics, hates, and DNA mix. We live in cultures, and simultaneously build our own inside of the larger ones. Our bubble walls are transparent, but colored and foggy so that the things that come through are shaped to our beliefs.

We are conclusions seeking confirmation.

Still, even though those walls constrain us, there are folks who’d want to impose rules that keep us from fully understanding even our own bubble-space. They create rules which hobble our ability to express ourselves.

There are two kinds of rules.

(1) Some rules are tools.
(2) Some rules are barriers.

Know the difference.

For example, drop a banana and it plops to the floor. That’s an example of rule (1)…. Gravity. If we understand gravity we can use it to do things, imagine things, grow. But suppose someone insists that (2) because of gravity we should never show floating bananas. That’s a barrier.

Organic photographers insist that photographic images should pass the reality test. The final image should not contradict any known principles of behavior. All shadows must have balancing light sources, colors must come from nature, things must be as they “could” and “should” be found.

Artists employ the (1)-rules to deconstruct the (2)-rules. Which can be disturbing. There is no (1)-rule which says that the conjectures and assertions beyond the image pane need not disturb.

Post processing enhancements now allow us to peer at the virgin image on a monitor, study it, and then find a way to poke through it. Good images are at least semi transparent. Great images are more like the clearest crystal. They are tickets to a pane ride into both the imaginations of the artist and the viewer.

Okay, so are there principles for employing the full range of pre and post processing enhancements to turn the film plane into a pane? I think so, and I'll discuss them in my next essay.

Ultimately they leave us wondering. And wonder is a very good thing.

Here's the virgin image from up top...

Friday, May 16

April Sail #10

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Now for the last in this series. My friend Steve is the guy who chartered our yacht and who contracted Jeremy to instruct him toward his sailing certification. He was my host for the weekend.

So through all of these images I've practiced to find the way to build him the most compelling image for his office. It comes down to this portrait of Steve At The Helm.

Huh? Wuddaya think?


Here's the virgin image from the FlashCard.

Tuesday, May 13

April Sail #9

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Jeremy Hopkins spends his life at the helm.Across oceans, through inland waterways, lakes and rivers - he rides the bridge and regardless of how things pitch, his muscles compensate to craft and sea. Confidence wrapped in experience.

I've been diddling with the things that make up an epic image. Think this one's getting there? Lemme lnow, K?


Here's the virgin picture from my Flash Card

Saturday, May 10

Kerouac #1

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After too many years I finally bought a copy of Jack Kerouac's classic little book, "On The Road". The novel was the first voice of the Beat Generation of the 1950s and 60s. It's described as pretty much of a free stream of thought which he pounded out in a few days on a typewriter fed from one large reel of paper. Wanderlust drove this guy. So he hopped trains, hitched rides, and hiked around America. Mostly it's a series of visceral snap shots each a metaphor for that mid-century moment in time. It's a useful book for photographers but... unlike the child-like adoration heaped on the thing by reviewers and teachers... I found much of it slow dealing with largely vapid people bored with success all about them. People driven to poke holes into reality to find - not something better - just different.

These are not people with ambition, but rather people with restless leg syndrome. Still, Kerouac's ability to toss off wonder-filled lines like the title of this image is exactly the fuel which the photographic artist thrives upon. These thoughts haunt us, and make me want to somehow express them visually... Here's one of my expressions from the tracks that neatly divide the City of Fort Lauderdale Florida. Somewhere up there in that unseen distance are Atlanta, Washington, Baltimore, Philly, and New York City. Somewhere, way... way.. way... far away.

It wasn't a destination that Kerouac sought... rather he was after the process of getting there. And that's the profundity of his drive I suppose... after all isn't life about... getting there? He was driven by the wonder of the trip not the destination. BTW, he died quite young.

Here's the virgin picture from my FlashCard.

Friday, May 9

April Sailing #8

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Okay... I tried this pointing thing before, right? Which you can find if you click here And Jeremy is a teacher, right? Teachers point. Especially when they have things to point at. Now Steve is hoping for the BIG picture to put in his office. As much as I liked that earlier image, the grouping here is really powerful, don't you think?

So? Have I found that six foot on a side office image? Huh? Huh?

**** **** *** ****
Here's the original...

Wednesday, May 7


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Hmmm.... yesterday's post is bothering me. Well, actually some of my friends are bothering me. They, er, sorta... dislike yesterday's post. So here's today's post....

Tuesday, May 6

April Sailing #7

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This image took a while... Days actually. I've worked on it... gone away.... worked on it... gone away. There's an evocative moment here where the Chesapeake meets suburbia. There's something abrupt about this place. The people who live along its banks are likely to have nothing to do with the sea. This area is so close to cities where people's incomes are generated by the throb of suburbia, commerce, industry, and professional services. In Europe and Asia homes along the sea belong to sailors and their families. They belong to those who eke their living from water. And somehow their designs reflect that fact. They are ocean homes. Here the homes could be found in most of suburbia. It is as if America ends abruptly at the water's edge.

But the water is their playground. While others with a view of mountains might hike, hunt or camp. Here they sail, motor launch, or sport fish. What I see is a watery backyard - very wet fields. It is decorative rather than functional water. That's what I tried to capture and I worked on it... went away... worked on it... and... here....


If you are interested, here's the original out of the camera....

Friday, May 2


Got my MacBookPro back from Apple repair today. Yeah, it was yet another Seagate drive that crashed destroying all data upon it. When I bought the first machine the Seagate drive was 120 G, the second time that drive was replaced after spectacular crashes Apple gave me a new MacBookPro with 150G hard drive. That's the one that crashed this week and the replacement drive is NOT a Seagate!!! It is a 200G Hitachi (Yea!). The new 200G drives are no longer maed by Seagate. Looking at the results when I Google (Seagate +MacBook Pro +malfunction) well the evidence is grim. The Seagate drive seems to have a design fault.

But even so, I must be the unluckiest user in the world having three of those things crash on me since last October. Of course I lost all of my data including two graphic files that you can see here... one of the Pigeon Point lighthouse and the other of the way-cool Muscle Worker. Sigh... These jpgs are all that remain. I work in a very large space at 270dpi. It is not unusual when a finished file approaches a gig in size. I do that so I can eventually have the option of printing the image VERY LARGE. That will never happen now with those files. No way I will try to recreate them. Sigh.

Apple has been very supportive during all of these problems. Their repairs have taken two or three days at most (except for the new machine they swapped me for the old one... that had to come from China and took about a week). The biggest problem is in rebuilding all of the data. I hope I can do it over the course of this weekend.

So, while I am less bummed now that I have the machine back with a new and larger drive, I remain semi-bummed by the work I have to do, the data I lost, and the fact that I cannot really ever trust this machine again.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, May 1

April Sailing #4

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Ever heard of N.C. Wyeth? He was the patriarch of the Wyeth artists, the father of Andrew, grand dad of Jamie. A lot of his egg tempera paintings had sea subjects. last weekend's sail caused me to recollect on his brilliant palettes and rigorous action compositions of sailors and pirates who handled the oceans like you or I deal with a country road.

Nothing nailed the way Jeremy so casually dealt with the pitched and rolling deck without reaching for support as this moment when he pointed out to Steve the 'tell-tails' dancing on the mainsail. Life sure is easy when you know how to handle it, huh?


And the original photograph? Here it is. So, wuddaya think?