Cuba is all about the music

In Cuba, everywhere you turn, infectious Latin rhythms can be heard. The music is one of the best things about Cuba. I am impressed with the way the Cubans take their less than adequate instruments and make amazing music with them. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a high quality guitar being play on any of my trips. I do hope the renewed relations will eventually bring quality instruments to the Cubans. These talented musicians deserve them! I can’t help but make a photography point here. What a great example they are in cementing the idea that it is not the gear that makes a great image, its the person behind the gear. In this case, better quality instruments will stay in tune better, sound so much richer and be easier to play. That still does not take away from my point. You can feel the soul of these musicians as they play, regardless of the quality of the instrument.

As a guitar player, I am particularly drawn to fellow players, but of course I am a former trumpet player too! You’ll notice in one picture a yellow guitar pick. On this trip, I brought 100 picks and gave them to any and every guitar player I ran into. I also brought 6 sets of strings. The reaction to these simple gifts was heart warming. So glad I did this and would suggest you do too, if you travel to Cuba.

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A Gentle Reminder

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Recently, I was with a group photographing a location I’ve been to a few times. I was not inspired to photograph what we all came shoot which was fine, I was enjoying the company and just being there. And then, while waiting at the stop light to cross the street, I looked down and found todays blog image.

I’m enjoying Jay Maisel’s book, Light Gesture & Color, where he is confirming things I too have learned along the way.  Things like, always have a camera with you and its all about the light! There is not good or bad light, there is just light. Jay shows some wonderful examples of “bad noonday light.”  And then he speaks about a wall that he painted and how it transformed when the light hits it in a particular way. This is exactly what happened here. I was standing on the sidewalk on a cover of some sort. Probably access to wires underneath. I’ve stood on or driven over this type of thing many times, but this time because of the late day low angle of the sun, it took on a completely different possibility. I snapped three quick images and then the light changed. Yes, the sunlight and the street light!

Jay tells his students to just go out and shoot. Essentially asking them to put away their expectations and simply be aware, aware of what is calling them to be photographed. This is my gentle reminder to you as well. While it is wonderful to travel to exotic destinations and plan or even pre-visualize the great images we will make, great images are right before us. We just need to be open to seeing them. So, as you are out, have a camera with you, be observant and open to whatever gifts are presented and stop worrying about the light. It is what it is, its up to you to use it properly.

By the way and not that it matters, this is an iPhone 6+ image.

 

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Fire in the Sky

_DSF0393-Edit-EditThis is the scene that greeted us as we arrived for a morning shoot in Death Valley. This was one of the first images I made after running down the hill to where the water rivulets were. This was made well before the sun rose over the ridge behind us. It was nearly dark as we stumbled down the hill. I’ve chosen to keep the foreground dark as this is what I remember seeing. The intense color is what caught my eye and what I wanted to portray here.

Posted in Death Valley Tagged |

Dune Abstract

Another favorite abstract from Mesquite Flat Dunes. If you’d like to see more of my Death Valley work, check out my dedicated folio here.

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Posted in Abstract, B&W, Death Valley Tagged , , , |

Death Valley in Their Eyes

With the positive feedback I received when I shared participant images from the Cuba tour, I figured, lets do it again! Here is a group of images from the participants on the recent Death Valley – Valley of Fire tour. Again, click on any of the highlighted links to view more of their work.  Enjoy!

Jo Johnson – In my life, I sometimes have a difficult time making choices. When I look at this image, with the white clouds mixed with rays of light and darker looming elements, it gives me great comfort in knowing that sometimes even Mother Nature has a difficult time making decisions.

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Dan Sniffin – I learned from Galen Rowell many years ago that placing a lighter subject in front of a darker background would create the feeling of depth and a third dimension. It’s a technique I’ve used repeatedly whenever the opportunity presents itself.

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Felice Willat - I’m choosing this image because of its simplicity, complementary colors and because it has foreground, middle ground and background.  The peek-a-boo rocks separate the soft dunes and the late afternoon darkened mountains.

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 Carla Francis – I love the anticipation of a beautiful sunrise in a new location. We arrived in partial darkness at the Salt Flats in Death Valley to shoot the rivulets. Wow, the colors were absolutely stunning! It was a very spiritual experience for me.

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Howard Grill -  “Our group was very fortunate in having it rain a day or two before we arrived in Death Valley or I would not have been able to make this photo.  Perhaps more importantly, we had workshop instructors that knew where to take us in order to take advantage of the prior rain shower, as this site was totally invisible from the road.

One of the nice things about looking at photos I have taken is that they seem to transport me back to where I took them, with very clear memories of being at the specific location.  In addition to the memory of being with a really fantastic group of talented and creative people the other thing this photo makes me remember is the sound of the salt crunching under my hiking boots as I walked.  I had never walked on salt before.”
 
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 Jim Milligan –  When I finished with processing, I found myself staring at the image for a period of time and it reminded me of how short mans presence is on this earth. The valley has weathered for millions of years yet it survives in some form. The wall, will disappear and mans presence will vanish, but the valley will live.

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Terry Schroeder – Contrasts.  Not just black and white, but straight and curved, rugged and delicate, short lived and almost timeless as well.  Great fun to try and capture all that in one image.

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 Donnie Fulks –  I attended this tour led by John, Dan and Chuck to work on my BW photography skills. I did capture many BW images that I am fond of, so mission accomplished. There was, however,  one sunrise in Death Valley after a recent rain that had glowing clouds and reflections in the normally arid salt flats that screamed color to me. This is one of several from that morning.

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 Bob Hansen  – I found the dunes incredibly beautiful, alluring and almost sensual, with a sense they were alive. While the dunes are often presented with the extreme contrast of lights and shadows this image gives a feel of the contrasts but also the softness of the sand and the fragility of these wonderful shapes.

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 Kathy Conway – There is something deeply satisfying, for me, about the “Last Shot” – the simplicity, the sense of a day’s work well done,  the solitude of the setting amidst a beautifully complex sky.

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 Cynthia Leeder –  I really like this one because I like how it worked out.  I like that they are walking in unison, carrying their tripods and gear off to discover their next picture.  I like the action of it.  I like the setting.  I like the light.  I like the complimentary colors of their shirts.  I just like it.

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Posted in Death Valley Tagged , , |

Life Reflected in the Valley of Death

On this morning, Death Valley was alive, no sign of death anywhere. Quite the opposite in fact. Signs of life everywhere, causing me to dance a happy dance. And dance I did!

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Posted in Death Valley, Landscape Tagged |

Love Affair with the Dunes – Topaz B&W sale

I’ll admit, I have a love affair with the dunes. On our recent tour, we took the group out twice. A few of us found this particular scene and knew it would be a winner. (click to enlarge) 

 

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If you’re interested in this type of dune photography, I would suggest you bring a long lens. For this I used my Nikon 70-200 and 1.7x teleconverter. Next time, I hope to have the new Fuji super zoom which will give me even more reach. If you have a 100-400 or something similar, that would be a great choice.

Starting tomorrow, Topaz will be offering a $20 discount on their excellent B&W Effects.  For the rest of the month it will be just $39.99.  Click this link and use the code MARBW

Posted in B&W Tagged , , , , , , |

Taking What is Given

Yesterday, we received about 10 inches of snow. After shoveling a path for the dog, I announced to my wife that I wanted to go make some images. She thought I was going to walk into the woods behind our house. Umm… no, I had other plans. So against her better judgement, I got in my car and headed to a couple of favorite places. It was wonderful!  I love the silence when its snowing.  I love the simplicity it brings. I loved being out, alone, drinking in the beauty of what mother nature had just given me. It was great fun. I feel renewed!  Here are a few from the shoot. Oh, at the mill, yup, there was another photographer. We laughed, and then I went to 5 guys for lunch. I was the only one there, their first customer…. thats how bad the roads were. Sorry hun, but it was fun!

Am I ready for spring? You bet, but I’m not going to pass up the gift that was given yesterday just because I was bummed we were getting snow!


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Posted in Abstract Tagged , , , , |

Cuba Through Their Eyes

It is an honor to associate with the photographers who come on a tour or workshop. I am inspired by their vision and talent. As such, I asked the participants who traveled with Tony Sweet and me on our recent trip to Cuba to share a favorite image from the trip. I wanted you to see Cuba through their eyes and introduce you to their excellent work. If you see a highlighted link, please click on it to see more of their work.

Carla Geyer - Cheryl and I stumbled into this potter’s workshop and we were entranced. The artist sitting at his wheel smiled at us and continued his work. We were in no hurry, so we took our time and looked around. Then a large and somewhat rude German tourist group bustled in; Cheryl and I sat down and decided to wait them out! Our patience did not go unrewarded. The artist took his time to talk with us: to tell us about the 6 generations of artists before him, to introduce us to his son and grandson, to show us his kiln and tools. Such generosity of spirit.

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Gayle Biggs –  “Giggles” – She did not speak English and I did not speak Spanish.  We communicated with giggles!

 

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Greg Hockel –  Hope springs eternal…..

 

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Pam Davis – I love this image because it was the first day back in Havana with the lighthouse in the background and the light on this man he never seemed to notice me as I snapped multiple images of him cutting up his bait.  I feel like I could have watched for hours, my only regret is that I did not try to interact.  I was afraid of changing the mood even when I was done creating images.

 

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Linda Harding -  (Linda’s website will be live shortly, check back later this month)  I loved the intimacy of Cuba.  The people….their connection with one another.  I loved their gifts for art, music, and the stamina  to get up and keep going everyday, even when that going is tough.  So, I share the image of  early morning in the streets of Cuba.  I was in awe of the magic of this country.

 

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Mark Stevens –  Three Hands (Mark has a number of excellent blog post from this trip)

I really enjoyed the music on this trip to Cuba. Maybe it was better or maybe I was more relaxed because I was not trying to photograph everything.
Cuba is a sensory overload for a photographer like me. I know all about slowing down and seeing when it comes to photography, but it took me three tours to slow down and enjoy more of the other beauty of Cuba.
 
This image was shot in very low light with a Canon 6D and a 35mm f2 lens. Even at high ISO I could not get a shutter speed of more than 1/40 th sec.
The musicians were playing in this formation, but I had to combine three of the less blurry images into one composite.
The image was processed in PS CS6 using Nik Software and Topaz Impression.
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Posted in Cuba Tagged |

Left Behind

During our scouting for tours, we drive roads just to see what else might be available. On this particular journey, we happened upon an abandoned hotel. Chuck Kimmerle went to look inside and I decided to follow. I couldn’t stand the thought of what might be. Chuck and I made an image of this abandoned wheelchair.  The composition seemed obvious and thus I suspect our images look very much the same. Sorry Chuck…. (click to make bigger)

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Posted in B&W, Chuck Kimmerle Tagged , , |