Architect…

as a verb.

DSC_1817-Edit-2It is the life of the crystal, the architect of the flake, the fire of the frost, the soul of the sunbeam.This crisp winter air is full of it.

John Burroughs

I watched an inspiring speech by Mathew McConaughey this week, thank you LH for posting it, that talked about being the architects of our own lives. To not do the things that put our souls in jeopardy. To find out who we are not in order to then learn who we are.

Timing…sometimes that’s the critical element that allows a message to really sink in and for me the timing was right to hear words about simplifying my life.

Every time I pick up a camera I choose very deliberately what will be within that framework so why then is it so difficult to use that same process in life?

We are each as individual as the snowflake pictured above. We each value and follow different paths in search of that which brings happiness and contentment. If we were to compare those snapshots of our lives each would look entirely different.

Following along the lines of last week’s blog post of a self-portrait, I am going to spend more time treating my life as a photograph, carefully framing its elements, removing those that no longer suit, and filling it with those things that feed my soul.

Architect as a verb…that works for me.

Transient imagery…

from the battle of the seasons.

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You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.

Pablo Neruda

The battle of the seasons continues here in the NorthWest part of the country. We’ve had a good volume of snow interlaced with copious amounts of rain.

Ice layers the less travelled roads turning my Jeep into a luge as I attempt to exit my property. It isn’t for the faint of heart and chains have become my closest ally.

I will not complain though because the opportunities for photographic images are everywhere and they are exactly the type of images that make my heart beat a little faster.

Transient imagery…

Those beautiful moments whose time is measured not in hours but in minutes.

A  reminder to appreciate every moment that we’re given.

My day went to the dogs…

and was filled with great moments.

dsc_3039-2Life rarely presents fully finished photographs. An image evolves, often from a single strand of visual interest – a distant horizon, a moment of light, a held expression.

Sam Abell

Yesterday was one of those perfect photographic days that for me was so centering.

It started out with a photo shoot of one of my absolute favorite subjects…dogs. The energy was great, the dogs exuded canine joy, and there was even a little break in the constant rain that couldn’t have been better timed.

As the sun began to sink lower on the horizon, cirrus clouds appeared and I had another treat following my theme for the day…parhelia or sundogs.

Jumping in my Jeep I headed off to see what might develop as the hexagonal ice plates drifted high in the sky, nearly horizontal to the horizon.

As I watched, a circumzenithal arc appeared above the sundogs, lasting only for a brief moment. I shot from several different angles and in today’s shot thought that I’d throw out that you don’t always have to have a straight horizon, sometimes it’s fun to deliberately tilt the camera, Dutch tilt, more often used in cinematography.

Life is about moments and today was filled with them.

Where will you find yours this week-end?

Social media platforms…

how much do you really “like” them?

DSC_5660Whether via social media or in person, building your relationships is a long-term process, and the ultimate goal is to strengthen your network one person at a time.

Raymond Arroyo

A conversation that took place the other night got me thinking about engagement and the rather overwhelming choices of platforms on which we could spend our time.

Their value certainly can’t be dismissed as we try to build our own brand as artists but for me it comes down to balance.

I’ll be the first to admit that marketing is not and never has been my strong point. I admire those who have the skill and determination to amass thousands and millions of “followers” generating “likes” at anything that gets posted, be it of quality or mediocrity.

The reality for me and I suspect for many of my followers is a daily struggle of managing time. Without detailing the obvious time commitments of family and relationships, many others spring to mind.

As a photographer I need to be photographing and sunset doesn’t put an end to that for me as I am passionate about long exposure night shots. There is the inevitable shot selection and editing. From there I update my website at least on a weekly basis: adding, subtracting, and tightening. A year and a half ago I started this blog and I post once a week. Fortunately words come easily to me and I love the opportunity to share inspiration and encouragement. Worrying about hitting the peak time for posting to the widest audience possible in order to garner those “likes” is just not something that I can devote time to. I’m happy to just keep my commitment of a weekly post.

My images have a physical presence in town with matted and framed, only matted, and greeting cards that needs to be kept fresh and replenished. I owe that to the business that has the faith in me to carry my work. I make a special effort to attend any openings where the opportunity to engage in face to face conversations about my work could occur. If you want to feel a real sense of connection , a feeling that your work is meaningful, take time to connect face to face with the people who buy your work.

My FB page is more to maintain the connection to family, friends, and groups of interest that I don’t have time to spend with because of all of the above. Instagram, Twitter,  Periscope…hats off if you can keep it all going, I cannot.

I’m grateful to have had some of my images shared by hundreds and liked by thousands but that’s not an everyday experience and when it does happen it feels like a hint of validation especially when it occurs amongst my peers.

Does this make my work any less valuable when this doesn’t happen? No, I don’t believe so and neither should you if you don’t garner the likes and shares that you think that you should. I follow some incredibly brilliant photographers whose “likes” on posted images do not come anywhere close to being a barometer of the quality of their work. Studies on hitting the “like” button indicate a variety of reasons that people do so and many of those reasons are not based on the quality of the post.

I’m grateful for the “likes” from my wordpress followers. I’m grateful for the “likes” from my FB friends. I truly value the comments that are made because I realize how inundated people are by social media and when someone takes that extra moment to share a thought…believe me it is valued.

Remember that word association game where someone gives you a word and you say the first thing that springs to mind?

I’d love to play it now.

Artist.

Rollercoaster.

Searching for inspiration…

might be as easy as looking back..

DSC_4957-2Nature always wears the colors of the spirit.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you’re ever at a loss for inspiration or direction I recommend spending some time thinking back on early childhood memories.

When I was very young I had one of those charts put out by The National Weather Service showing examples of different types of clouds. I find it as fascinating today as I did back then and over the past few years I have been slowly making my own cloud chart.

I woke up on this morning to a sky filled with what we grew up calling a mackerel sky. It was always an indication that the weather was about to change.

With these clouds came the chance that I might get one of the shots that I have been looking for…iridescent clouds. Conditions have to be just right for these to form; tiny ice crystals or water droplets causing light to be diffracted high up in these cirrocumulus clouds.

These were especially colorful as they moved in waves across the sky close to the sun’s edges and I remembered to take time not only to photograph them but simply lay back and enjoy them as they blew by.

Check! Next up on my list…mammatus.

On inspiration…

whose work are you inspired by?

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A photographic portrait is a picture of someone who knows he is being photographed, and what he does with this knowledge is as much a part of the photograph as what he’s wearing or how he looks.

Richard Avedon

Why don’t you take pictures of people? 

I sometimes get criticized, and perhaps that’s too strong of a word, maybe admonished is better, for not photographing people but that just isn’t where my passion lies. I find it challenging to break through the veneers that most of us wear and lose patience with the process of trying to capture that. Put a dog in front of me though and time stands still.

I find this a little ironic considering how much I admire the work of Richard Avedon and how his minimalist style always managed to reveal so much character.

I think an important part of growing as an artist is not just learning the technical skills behind it but figuring out what really moves you. I like to look at other art forms in addition to photography and see which ones resonate with me and why.

This information can begin to affect your shooting style.

This information can be taken and developed into something of your own.

There is a distinction to be made between outright copying a style and making it your own. Derivative work, changing just one or two things like perhaps the color or a slight perspective change, does not make it your own; I think one needs to consciously go beyond that.

I tend to shoot more black and white than I do color but occasionally when I find myself drawn to color it is usually because there is something in that scene that reminds me of that wonderful painter, Wolf Kahn. I fell in love with his landscapes the moment that I saw the first one.

Alfred Stieglitz, will always be my first love. His painterly style of photography inspires me to this day.

Michael Kenna’s photography has such simplicity and clarity to it. It reminds me to pay attention to composition first and foremost.

Photography today has changed so much in that now almost everyone is walking around with a camera and we are inundated with imagery. Now more than ever I think it is important to ruthlessly edit our own work and be more conscious of how and why we are taking a photograph.

Is there someone who inspires you?  I would love to hear who that is and why…

Watercolors…

wet on wet, with just  hint of masking.

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The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real.

Lucian Freud

Staring out from my kitchen window at the rain falling down; waiting for a break in the weather. I was in the mood to shoot something, when my eyes fell upon the orchids sitting on the window ledge.

I thought about the different ways that I could shoot this. Set up my tripod and macro lens? Color or mono? Move them or shoot them in place? With the raindrops clinging to the window screen and the odd ray of sun trying to break through I opted for my 55-300 zoom.

I picked it up and began to play with the composition. Loving the bright bokeh created in part by the drops of rain I wanted to make sure that I had lots of it in the final image and that it was sharper than the orchids.

Playing with the focus I set it to manual and moved around, in and out, backwards and forwards, until I got the look that I wanted.

Post processing programs abound that can, with the aid of filters and other manipulations morph any photo into something completely different from what was originally shot but it is still my personal preference to create the image in the camera and not in photoshop. If I want an infrared look I shoot infrared. If I want a double exposure, I shoot it in the camera. For those times when I want to do a composite, I layer them in the camera taking care to position the elements as I shoot them. An example of this was my eclipse shot from an earlier blog post. While shooting each phase I kept a mental picture of where I wanted the next moon to be knowing that I would combine them into one raw image before exporting it out of my camera. I indicated that this photo was created using the image overlay feature in the Nikon D7000.

Could it have been done in PS? Certainly and more seamlessly no doubt but I enjoyed the challenge of this and it makes me feel more involved in the image.

I frequently see shots that have been manipulated and I think that in those cases it should be noted as HDR, composite, etc. I don’t think that it takes anything away from the image, that is an art form in itself, but I do think it adds to a general feeling of mistrust.

Image manipulation is not new to the digital darkroom. In 2012 the Metropolitan Museum of Art had an exhibit titled Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop with images created as early as the 1840’s.

I can only imagine what we might be seeing in photography in as little as 5 or 10 years. It is a medium that is evolving at lightning speed.

I had a passing thought about my love of abstract and soft images. When I was in grade one I was taken to the eye doctor who discovered just how bad my vision was. So bad and deteriorating so rapidly that I had to use drops every night that were intended to slow the progression.

Many years later my eye doctor commented on how I never liked to have my sight corrected to its full capability but preferred to be under corrected.

I wonder if that played a role in developing how I like to shoot?

Or maybe I just don’t like to see the world as it really is…

The next time you pick up your camera spend some time exploring how you could not just take that next photograph but make that next photograph!