Reflecting on winter…

and its stark, magical beauty.

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The job of the color photographer is to provide some level of abstraction that can take the image out of the daily.

Joel Sternfeld

One of the things that I love about winter is the light. Certainly we have many days when it’s overcast and you wonder if you will ever again see a color other than gray but then just before you put the camera away, you turn around…

A gentle, soft wash of color glowing on an open stretch of water and repeated in the sky low towards the horizon as the day draws to an end.

This for me is the time for color photography. I photographed many aspects of this scene, quickly before the light was lost. In one, a heron stood at the water’s edge patiently waiting for something to catch his eye. In another, a wide-angle shot of the water and bank. And then there were the shots of pure reflection, taken of trees upside down with their blankets of snow still clinging to them.

The winter months seem to have a different quality to the light, perhaps in part due to the reflective quality of the white snow.

This is the time I most often see alpen glow on the mountains opposite to the sunrise or sunset. If you’ve never experienced this, it’s a sight to see with intense pinks and oranges lighting up the mountain tops.

Winter landscape photography is more challenging due to the working temperatures and access but I can’t get enough of it’s constantly changing beauty.

I don’t long for spring and will find continue to find joy in every winter day…

Capturing artistry…

what does it take?

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Music, in performance, is a type of sculpture. The air in the performance is sculpted into something.

Frank Zappa

After many days of gray skies and rain I took to my archives in search of some light.

This image with musicians Nicholas Crosa and Pansy Chang of Pink Martini was taken at an outdoor concert in the early evening.

Their music is a joy to listen to and the visuals of them playing together is in itself like watching a ballet.

I rarely use a flash preferring instead to compose using whatever light is available; in this particular case the stage lighting was soft and dramatic and the slight noise added by using a higher ISO of 800 was negligible..

Minimal lighting creates lost and found edges that leaves so much more to the imagination than illuminating every detail would have.

Artistry for me goes beyond simply mastering a skill and takes it to that level where you no longer have to think about the technical details but can fully immerse yourself in capturing the moment.

Moments are not guaranteed to come on a daily basis and that is why one needs to shoot every day, under all conditions so that you’re ready and not fumbling with settings when you see something that moves you. Having your camera set on auto would not have captured this moment.

The duo of components that I am always looking for and that bring me the greatest joy when captured are movement and light; they are rather like a tango; intertwined and passionate.

Her arm, so gracefully extended, wrist slightly cocked; his smile, soft and gentle. The light just touching part of their faces…their duet pure artistry.

And the music?

Perfection…

Ten years ago it wouldn’t have occurred to me…

to find beauty in something so simple.

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Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.

Leonardo da Vinci

This winter more so than others I have been drawn to high key, white on white imagery that just seems to showcase the season so well.

There is a complexity to snow that you might not notice if you only look at it as something to be endured.

It can be hard and crystalline or soft and undulating. It can form pristine flakes or pelt the ground with fertilizer sized pellets called graupel or grail.

Years ago I would not have had the confidence to post an image of such simplicity but to me, in this stage of my journey, this image brings me such a feeling of satisfaction.

I believe that a connection to subject matter is integral to being able to fully express that one moment.

In a busy, imagery fueled world, I find myself drawn to that which doesn’t share every detail but leaves a story just on the fringes of it.

What do you believe? Where do you find beauty?

Ground control to Major Tom…

commencing countdown engines on.

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As you get older, the questions come down to about two or three. How long? And what do I do with the time I’ve got left?

David Bowie

The image is a little fuzzy, scanned from a badly faded photograph that I took back in August of 1983, but the memories are vivid from when David Bowie played at the biggest rock concert ever to hit Alberta, Canada. It was a hot summer afternoon in Edmonton at the Commonwealth Stadium in front of a crowd of 60,000 people. David Bowie, Peter Gabriel, and The Tubes…

This was back in the day of no cell phones, no instant videos posted to social media, and when you went to a concert you gambled on being searched and your gear confiscated. Being young and invincible I assumed that my bag would be searched and took the risk of hiding my camera on my body.

It was an amazing performance: Ashes to Ashes, Let’s Dance, Fame, and Space Oddity to name a few.

And what do I do with the time I’ve got left? I guess you release another album just days before your death. A brilliant one at that. A truly inspirational man of many talents who left behind a huge body of work to inspire us.

His words echo in my head…and the stars look very different today.

 

On composition and snowboarding…

and how light affects them both.

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How the visual world appears is important to me. I’m always aware of the light. I’m always aware of what I would call the ‘deep composition.’ Photography in the field is a process of creation, of thought and technique. But ultimately, it’s an act of imaginatively seeing from within yourself.

Sam Abell

I’ve been thinking a lot about composition lately. I am going to use snowboarding here as an analogy to one of its components. Being winter in the Northwest I have encountered a lot of flat light which makes riding with your feet strapped onto a waxed board down a mountain just a little more challenging. Even when there is just a hint of light one can see the curves take shape and it becomes far easier to pick a line.

And so it is for photography; just that bit of light allows the eye to move through an image highlighting a curve here, marking a shadow there. When the light is not available composition takes on a different tone and I find myself relying more on a braille approach where I move around framing the shot using visual clues until it just feels right.

Years ago one of my mentors told me to learn the rules first, then break them. It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me at first but it does get you into the habit of looking at the whole image instead of just whatever it is that you perceive to be the main subject.

Composition can be aided by so many factors: color, light, lines, vanishing points to name a few. It is an interesting process to look at other mediums in addition to photography and see what draws you in.

There is a lot of emphasis placed on finding your style and developing something that you become known for and I think that this spans across the different mediums, not just photography. Composition and how you see things can play a huge role in this.

January is a great time to look back on the year’s body of work and see what is working and what is not. Think back on those times when someone returns from a trip and you get invited to see the slide show or to look at the photographs and… there are hundreds of them. Nothing has been culled and more than likely, nothing has been edited. This for me is the quintessential difference in being a photographer and being someone who owns a camera.

It’s the start of a brand new year which makes it the perfect time to see where you are at and more importantly where you want to be.

One picture is worth a thousand words…is your voice being heard?

What does your style of photography…

say about you?

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A person with normal eyesight would have nothing to know in the way of ‘impressionism’ unless he were in a blinding light or in the dusk or dark.

John Singer Sargent

Some comments exchanged recently made me want to think more about this particular style of photography and why it brings me such a level of satisfaction when I can capture the image in a single frame with none of the filters applied after the fact that are becoming increasingly more popular with the mainstream public on their mobile devices. I recently read where people were using other people’s images, applying these filters, and then passing them off as their own which is still derivative and theft of a copyright image.

It’s no secret, I like to keep editing to a bare minimum and because I shoot in raw format, there is the need for some digital darkroom and for that I use Lightroom and sometimes Nikon Silver Efex for my monochromatic images. Raw format retains ALL of the information captured by the sensor and does not compress and discard data like a jpeg does. Being a control freak when it comes to my art, I want to make every decision on each image.

Although I have been photographing since I was a teenager, I began studying the more technical aspects of photography when I discovered just how much it would cost to have my glass artwork photographed for entry into juried exhibits. I rapidly began spending more and more time behind the lens instead of in front of the kiln and it was truly like falling in love all over again.

There is no end to how-to sites and videos to learn everything there is to know about using your camera. In part that is why when I started my blog I tended to focus more on the inspiration and creativity vs. the actual how-to. For myself, I have always had a self-imposed rule that I am not allowed to upgrade camera bodies or add lenses until I have utilized everything that camera and lens combination has to offer. I will often take this a little further and practice changing settings and lenses ‘blind’ which has held me in good stead when I’m out at night shooting.

I soon found myself wanting more out of my images. I didn’t want to simply freeze moments of time so I began to play. I would dial in settings that would intentionally blow out highlights or cause blur. I would use a neutral density filter and take long exposures. It was then that I began to feel like I was capturing the world as I wanted to see it. Let me say though that I do not dislike documentary style photography, it just isn’t me. Even in my macro shots I want a substantial amount of bokeh and lost and found edges in order to be happy.

The words of my eye doctor frequently echo in my head. When running those tests asking better this or that, the first or the second, I invariably chose the selection that was not the sharpest. She would laugh and say “you really don’t like to see things clearly do you.” Little did she know just how accurate her statement was.

My thoughts on this are, if you’re happy with your images keep shooting them but if you feel bored or vaguely unsatisfied and don’t rush home excited to edit those images I would say it is time to break out of the rut and try something that you would not ordinarily do.

It’s a new year, a great time to make a fresh start and bring some passion back into your imagery. What’s the worse that could happen? Darn, you might have to delete some images…

Thank you for spending time with me each week and my wish for each of you is an inspired 2016!

As the new year draws closer…

this would be a great time to reflect on your own artistic journey.

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If I’d had some set idea of the finish line, don’t you think that I would have crossed it years ago?

Bill Gates

Going into my second year of weekly blogging I debated about doing the next year in monochromatic but ultimately decided that I don’t like limitations. In my mind, each image clearly dictates its final presentation and rarely do I ever consider publishing a color version and a black and white version at the same time.

My favorite color images are typically the ones that just share a hint of color. I seem to almost physically recoil from images that are too saturated or multi-colored. I suspect it is just an individual thing with how our brains work and how we process information.

I see color very clearly and when color matching for paint or some such thing, I don’t need to carry a color swatch but visualize it and match it from the image in my head. Likewise I rarely measure and can tell just from looking if things will fit, and if they are straight. I clearly missed my calling and should have worked for a moving company!

Numbers on the other hand are for me utterly confusing with the exception of how they relate to photography. Those combinations I find soothing, perhaps because they have such a strong visual result.

As this year draws to a close and sharing from my own personal experience; if you desire to be a photographer or any kind of artist for that matter I can’t stress enough the importance of daily practise. Not only will your creativity increase but because you will become so familiar with your tools, when the opportunity arises for that special image you will be confident in your ability to capture it and bring it to life as you see it.

This will go a long way in helping you to develop your own personal style. I love to look back on images from years ago and visually see where the biggest changes occurred.

A question to ask yourself…do you feel confident in your abilities? If the answer is no, now is the perfect time to make a change and invest in yourself.

May 2016 be filled with joy and inspiration! Where will the new year take you?