My friend Stan had the great idea of going to Longwood Gardens to stimulate our senses with a breath of color having endured this winter of endless cold and snow. So, here is a splash of color to compliment my recent series of B&W images. Don’t worry, I have more B&W images to come. I even have one from Longwood!
Fuji X-E2 – Fuji 60mm Macro at f/22
Processing inspired by Kathleen Clemons. Nik Color Efex Pro, Glamor Glow, Soft Focus, Darken Lighten Center, and Viveza
As Stephen said in his comment to my last post, you can’t plan on great conditions when you’re on a schedule leading a photo tour. You’re at the mercy of what is given you. As I see it, that is not necessarily a bad thing. Let me share a story. I was leading a workshop, a short weekend type. It was during the fall and the colors that year were stunning! We had not spent more than 3 hours together when a participant came to me and said they were going home. I asked why, was it something I had done? She replied, “no, its just I’m not finding what I came for.” Perplexed, I suggested, maybe you will find something better! But you see, she had an assignment for the photo club and was focused on that. The conditions and the area I picked that morning might not have been good for what she was looking for but they were great for many other things. She was simply not open to finding another right answer. I found that to be sad.
Fast forward to the Alabama Hills. We arrived late in the day during the scouting portion of our last tour. When I go to the Alabama Hills, I’m thinking about the rock formations and hoping for great clouds. When we arrived, there were no clouds. No problem, I turned around and saw this great situation brewing around Mount Whitney. Another right answer! I could have said, “I’m not finding what I came for” but instead I found something else! Its all about attitude. If you don’t think you’ll find something, you probably won’t.
The Alabama Hills are one of my favorite places to photograph. Clouds make for great opportunities there and we sure had it working for us on this particular day.
Recently I featured a terrific post written by my tour partner Dan Sniffin about his ideas with regard to photo celibacy which Cole Thompson tries to live by. Dan’s article was written before we spent the week with Cole and the group. The tour started with a wonderful lecture by Cole titled “Why B&W.” In it he spoke not only about B&W but also more about his ideas on photo celibacy. But what happened after the talk was quite powerful. I asked the group to respond to Cole’s ideas specifically about celibacy. What did they think? It was one of the most stimulating discussions I’ve been part of. Some agreed, others challenged Cole with good honest questions. Some spoke about the need for a basic understanding of technique. We spoke about technique versus vision. We spoke about the value of others opinions. We spoke about rules and guidelines and much more. It was a stimulating hour of discussion! I’m not sure we resolved anything but we carried the spirit of the discussion with us throughout the week. In fact, I am still pondering on the matter and would like to continue the discussion here.
I am reading a book suggested by Chuck Kimmerle titled “Why People Photograph” by Robert Adams. These quotes resonated in lieu of our discussion.
“I really didn’t have much to teach. I didn’t even believe in it. I felt so strongly that everybody had to find their own way. And nobody can teach you your own way…. in terms of art, the only real answer that I know of is to do it. If you don’t’ do it you don’t know what might happen” Harry Callahan,1991
“Can photography be taught? If this mean the history and techniques of the medium, I think it can….. If, however, teaching photography means bringing students to find their own individual photographic visions, I think it is impossible. We would be pretending to offer the students, in Wililam Stafford’s phrase, “a wilderness with a map.” We can give beginners directions about how to use a compass, we can tell them stories about our exploration of different but possibly analogous geographies, and we can bless them with our caring, but we cannot know the unknown and thus make sure a path to real discovery.” Robert Adams
“Even now I don’t like to discuss work that isn’t finished, because until it is revised over the span of a year or several years there are crucial parts that are present only in my minds eye, pieces intended but not yet realized…… ”Art is made by the alone for the alone.”" Robert Adams with inserted quote by Luis Barragan.
“I knew I didn’t want to study at length contemporaries’ pictures, fearing that their work might come close to mine and blur my vision.” Robert Adams
What do you think? Are vision and technique connected? Can you achieve your vision without some guidelines about good composition? Can vision be taught? Does looking at others work influence yours?
With regard to the blog image from the Alabama Hills. Yes, the recent tour was focused on B&W and my folder of images is 99% B&W, however, that did not stop me from processing this one in color! Why color versus B&W? I wish I had a good answer, sometimes color just makes more sense and I run with my gut feeling. In the dunes, I can’t imagine anything but B&W yet I’ve seen some wonderful images that are color. So color or B&W becomes a creative choice, there is no right or wrong.
The “S” curve in nature is a very powerful graphic element. I was thrilled to find this one in the dunes.
During our recent tour with Cole Thompson, he was kind enough to show us some of his post processing techniques. Learning how he uses the Dodge and Burn tool was an eye opener for me. I used these tools and new ideas to lighten and darken key areas in this image. The key when using these tools is to work on all three tonal ranges, shadow, mid-tone and highlights. There is a drop down dialogue box that shows all three on the tool properties bar at the top. Before, I would use just one and that approach does not work nearly as well. It is also important to use a brush at just 2 or 3% opacity. Even though you don’t feel like you’re doing much when lightening a dark area when working on the highlights, trust me, there are pixels that are indeed being affected. The same holds true when darkening a light area. There are shadow and mid-tone pixels there.
I am drawn to the dunes. I love being out there, especially in the morning. I walk about a mile to a spot that I hope will be great for first light and wait. Then the sun crests the horizon and the show begins. And I can’t help but gasp with amazement each and every time. It is awesome! I apologize to anyone who is near me as I let out a verbal and loud, WOW, you’ve got to be kidding me?! And then I get to work, looking for intimate scenes where the sun is creating shadow and light that makes my heart sing. I am happy, I am at peace, I am where I should be, drawn to the dunes.
Dancing in the Dunes
Sun Painted Sand
My Heart Sings
I am thrilled to announce that I will be co-leading a special seminar/workshop with National Geographic Photographer Jonathan Kingston and special guest lecturers and former National Geographic photographers, Dewitt Jones and Rikki Cooke. We expect this workshop to fill quickly, so don’t hesitate to get a deposit in to hold your spot! Come on, Hawaii in December?!?! This is gonna be fun! I have a link on my WORKSHOP page or you can find all of the details here on Jonathan’s site.
About the blog image. As we made our way into Death Valley, it was sleeting! Yes, sleeting at 2,000 feet above the valley floor. We pulled over for this shot as we could see rain falling in the valley. It was a simple hand held grab shot with my Fuji X-E2. I really didn’t think much of it, however, with the focus of the tour being B&W, I decided to play and was happy I did.
Thank you the kind response to my last post about connecting. Seems like it resonated with many.
The other day Tony Sweet emailed a picture of his Mom. He made the image with his iPhone while taking his iMom to the eye doctor or iDoc as he calls her.
Tony made a blog post about his thoughts on his image here.
These are my thoughts. Great photography creates an emotional response. This is a classic photograph that underscores the idea that it is not about the camera but rather about connection. Connection to subject, be it a person or a sand dune for that matter. This image is full of connection. Full of joy, silliness and fun. And that is clearly felt by the photographer and now by me, the viewer. Thus, Tony has created a very successful image, no matter the camera, because of the connection. I love this picture and can’t stop looking at it. Tony emailed me this morning and simply said, “I’m still giggling”. Me too!
To further cement my thoughts. Our special guest instructor for the Eastern Sierra tour last week was the amazing Cole Thompson. One of his most successful images is “The Angel Gabriel” Cole has given me permission to use it and his words below. Yes, the image is special but read the story and tell me that connection was not part of its success.
The Angel Gabriel – Newport Beach, CA – 2006
- This is the Angel Gabriel. I met him on the Newport Beach pier as he was eating French Fries out of a trash can.
- He was homeless and hungry. I asked him if he would help me with a photograph and in return, I would buy him lunch.
- The pier was very crowded and I wanted to take a 30 second exposure so that everyone would disappear except Gabriel.
- We tried a few shots and then Gabriel wanted to hold his bible. The image worked and the only
- people you can see besides Gabriel are those “ghosts” who lingered long enough for the camera.
- Gabriel and I then went into a restaurant to share a meal; he ordered steak with mushrooms and onions. When it came,
- he ate it with his hands. I discovered he was Romanian and so am I, so we talked about Romania. He was simple,
- kind and a pleasure to talk with. I asked Gabriel how I might contact him, in case I sold some of the photographs and
- wanted to share the money with him. He said I should give the money to someone who could really use it; that he had
- everything that he needed.
- Then the Angel Gabriel walked away, content and carrying his only two possessions: a Bible and a bed roll.
Now, with the idea of connection clearly in mind, pay attention to how you feel and respond to the images below.
This is a favorite image of Nancy Rotenberg. My regular blog readers will know who she is and what she meant to me. Now that you know who she is, does it affect your reaction?
The more you connect with your subject, the more those who view your image will too.
If you’re finding value in this site, might I ask that you share with your social communities? Thank you!
Recently, I received an email from Victor Alcantara in Germany. He happened upon my website and was drawn to my images wanting to use them in a slideshow for a recorded piano performance he would share on YouTube. He had put together a rough draft using the small jpeg’s from my site and wanted permission to use them. (How refreshing that he would ask!) I offered larger files in exchange for a copy of his and his partners CD which is excellent. I wanted to share the final version of the YouTube video. I think you’ll find it relaxing and well done, and you’ll recognize most of the images too!
The blog image is another made in the Mesquite Dunes in Death Valley. I’ll have more to say about the tour with Cole Thompson as I post more images over the next few weeks. For now, suffice it to say, I’ve not been this motivated or inspired in awhile. Cole was just tremendous!