My Worship

•February 7, 2016 • 4 Comments

Lets start out right with it! I don’t worship art!

I said it. I’m a heretic in this crowd. I love making art. I love looking at, reading and listening to art, but I don’t believe art will save the world.

Making art and experiencing art takes us out of ourselves. Out of our Me’s and what we think we need to make ME happy. In that respect it temporarily removes us from what actually is causing us pain and discomfort. It might even get us in touch with that place where happiness exists.

Yes, real happiness is our true nature and sometimes, with some luck, art can help us touch that place.

There are teachers throughout time who have pointed us to this place and there are writings that try to get us to recognize it.

It’s these teachers and teachings that I revere.

You might say making art is my spiritual work. When I am out with a camera or even working at my computer and things are just flowing. I am in that place.

I worship that place.

2015 Favorites

•December 29, 2015 • 9 Comments

I wasn’t planning on doing a favorites of 2015 post. First, because I’m of the opinion that feeling good or bad over an arbitrary time period is a waste of time. I live my life and create art as best as I can and I assume that my intentions are ultimately realized.

Second, and probably more important, is that I am notoriously bad at choosing photos that I think are good. My favorites are usually what I shot last week. Picking some images objectively takes a much longer time.

Here is an image I shot at the end of may.

I only decided that it may have some merit last month, yet now it’s on my favorites list.

I was feeling pretty negative about my recent images and I decided to give them a look over to see if my opinions were valid. To my pleasant surprise, there were many that I really liked. So, I decided to make a favorites list after all.

I shot mostly abstracts in 2015. I started experimenting with using flash, initially to balance the foreground with a rising sun, but then started using flash with show shutter speeds giving a mixture sharp and blurred. The image below is a good example of this.

I don’t make new years resolutions, but for what it’s worth, I’d like to do more landscapes in 2016. Here’s one of the few landscapes that made my list.

You can see all of my 2015 favorites here.

If you want to keep up with what I’m doing, I have a Dan Baumbach Photography page on Facebook.

SpongeWorthy

•August 2, 2015 • 2 Comments

Boulder Open Studios is in two months and I’m starting to get ready. That means going through the last years images in the SpongeWorthy directory. The term SpongeWorthy comes from a hilarious old Seinfield episode. If you’re not familiar with it, Google it. It will be worth your time.

The photographs that I deem “worthy” end up there. I’m very aware how unobjective I am about my recent images, so I’m not sure I’ll include any I’ve made in the past month or so. But it’s been a real eye-opener to look through my photos made last Winter and Spring. If I’m not sure, I always check with my wife who unfortunately usually agrees with me about the mediocrity of an image.

What’s really interesting is how clueless I am about most images when I’m doing them.

I look at the last year’s photos in Adobe Bridge sorted by date. I start with late Fall and I see grass turning brown. I see brown strands against snow and I see ice. So many images. So many I was excited about. I don’t know how many mornings I spent photographing the golden reflections of Eldorado Canyon in South Boulder Creek. I finally find one image that I’ll use.

Then there are the grasses against the snow. There are a few I like of these. Definitely this one and this one.

I spend most of my energies these days shooting abstracts, but sometimes what is in front of me is just so compelling, I just have to photograph it. That was the case with this photo. I usually avoid sunrises too, but how could I resist this.

Sometimes a new image affects me so strongly that I immediately want to print it and display it. From past experience I try to avoid this but gave in for this one. I’ve had a 24×36 inch print of this on my living room wall for a month now and I’m still not disillusioned.

When I find an image that I think will look good as a print, I first make an 11×14 print of it. Prints look so much better to me than jpegs on a screen. If the photograph holds up as a smaller print, I’ll make any necessary adjustments to make the print look the way I want it to and make a 24 inch wide print. A few special images will get printed 30 and 36 inches wide.

Instead of always fighting wind, I’ve been trying to be more amenable to it and using it in my images. Most of the times it doesn’t work, but on rare occasions something really moves me. This image has passed the 11×14 test. The next step is 24 inches.

You can click on any of these images to see a larger version.

Hunger

•May 25, 2015 • 1 Comment


 
One afternoon this week I found myself in a particularly good mood. When I asked myself why, the answer was; “I got a bunch of new likes for my Facebook page.” How embarrassing!

But that’s the way it is for many of us artists. Look at the sad hungry lives of so many in the entertainment business. I’m not like that… I hope I’m not.

It’s actually quite funny. I have an absolutely amazing life. I’ve been married to my best friend for 32 years. We live in one of the most beautiful areas in the country. Before moving to Boulder, we lived in another beautiful place in California. I have a good job that pays me well, and I’m able to spend countless hours taking and working on photographs.

But there’s this hunger…

Before returning to photography I had a software business. I was pretty successful and was able to live in beautiful and expensive California. But I never really felt that successful because the hunger was still there.

This hunger is really an addiction: a socially acceptable one, but still an addiction. You see so many people famous for power, wealth, talent, looks and you see it’s never enough for them. They always want more.

Is there a cure for this addiction? Like all addictions, the first step is abstinence. The second step, fill your life with what’s really satisfying — Love. Love of lovers, partners, friends, creating art and ultimately seeing ourselves of the source of that love.

Does the hunger go away? It’s still there with me, but I’m able to live with it because I know it’s insatiatable and trying to satisfy it won’t work. Like my increasing age, thinning hair and other things, life still goes on, beautifully so. I have an amazing life. Not the one I dreamed of, but one that’s so much better.

A couple of years before his untimely death, I did a workshop with Galen Rowell. Galen was a fantastic photographer, wonderful teacher and person. He was totally open and willing to share everything he knew with us. From the looks of it, Galen was making a comfortable living selling stock, doing workshops and writing. One day we were there, Galen was informed that one of the photos in his gallery had sold. He was so happy. Even Galen who seemed to lack for nothing wanted that validation. Oh well…

The V Word

•May 17, 2015 • Leave a Comment


 

I start my day. I have my camera on a tripod over my shoulder and I’m wandering around South Mesa. I look at this. I look at that. I feel a little holding in my body and as I let it go, I feel the fear and contraction leave me. I become more relaxed and more focused. Now the day really begins.

Outdoor photography seems to be for many people a macho sport. We read about all the challenges the photographer had to deal with to get his shot. Even the expression “getting the shot” has a macho feeling of accomplishment to it. Even more macho is the expression “nailing it”.

Being creative and expressing that creativity through photography is a very different experience for me. It’s all about vulnerability. There, I’ve said it. I’ve called myself vulnerable. The next thing I write about is expressing my feminine side.

But all kidding aside, being creative is all about being vulnerable. With me, being vulnerable starts with letting go of being afraid. On trails in the foothills and the mountains there’s always a possibility of an encounter with a bear or mountain lion, but I’m not talking about that kind of fear. That fear, or rather wariness, is just part of being in the mountains, and in a way it’s also part of being vulnerable.

I’m talking about more emotional fear, but I really don’t want to talk about fear here. I want to talk about vulnerability. For me being vulnerable is no different from being open.

One of the reason that nature appeals to us so much is it allows us to drop a lot of our social defenses. We aren’t being judged by the mountains. The creek doesn’t think you’re a wimp for not wanting to get your feet wet. We can totally be ourselves in nature.

In that vulnerable openness, with everything around so much more alive and vibrant, how can we not be inspired and be creative. In that vulnerable state, love arises and what better place to experience and express love than nature. As I walk along, I’m loving the grass. I’m loving the flowers. I’m loving the trees. I’m loving the creek. What better subject matter for a photograph than something you love. One might not generally find a flooded creek so compelling, but, when one is in love with what one sees, one sees art in places not seen before. With some skill and luck perhaps we can capture that love and share it with others in a photograph.

So, you tough guys can go to Half Dome, or the Maroon Bells, or Delicate Arch to do your art. I’ll just wander around some unknown mountain path and be vulnerable and in love.


 

Photography, A Game of Chance

•May 9, 2015 • Leave a Comment


 

There’s a light rain, I’m walking around this still pond, looking. I notice a beautiful reflection of a tree against a very interesting variegated gray sky. I set up my camera, then I focus, set the exposure and before I can click the shutter, a bunch of loud squawking Canadian geese plop down and swim into my frame — completely destroying the reflection. I know my shutter speed is too slow to stop the action of the geese or the ripples they create in the water. I expose a few frames anyway to see what I get.

One of the frames is the above photo, probably my best image of the morning. I normally exert more control over creating my images; but even when I’ve accounted for light, composition, lens opening, and shutter speed, there’s always an element of chance for me with photography. I never really know how it will all turn out.

I expect with other art forms, the artist has more control from beginning to end because they’re not dependent on nature and pieces of machinery to create their art. They can always paint over what they don’t like in their painting, rewrite what they don’t like, but with photography you’re stuck with the image you’ve captured. Nowadays with Photoshop you can do a lot more to change your original image to your liking, making it more like painting, but I don’t like to work that way. I like sticking to what I’ve captured.

I try to choose a location I think will have what I want to photograph. I try to go when I think the light will be good and I try to have the right equipment with me to properly capture what I want to capture. The rest is up to nature and she has her own desires. The light can change. The weather can change. I may initially curse the changes but it just creates more chances to see things creatively.

Then there’s the equipment. When I was shooting film, no matter how much I used a particular emulsion, I never really knew how the color would turn out. Sometimes I was pleasantly surprised and sometimes horrified. I remember photographing 4×5 images of some rocks with a nice subtle green lichen. I was shooting Astia. In the resulting transparencies there was no green at all in the lichens, but a pasty yellow.

One reason I love digital capture is the incredible accuracy of the color. However with looking through a little viewfinder, composing and determining depth of field, I’m never really sure how the image will turn out. Even when the images looks good on my monitor, I always have to make a print to really judge it.

In general, I’m not a gambling man, but with photography I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love looking at a day’s shoot on the computer and seeing what turned out and what didn’t. Taking photographs is always an adventure with me and the fact that I rely somewhat on chance or luck keeps me humble. I’m always more open and creative when I’m not overly sure of my self.

The photograph below was taken in a little creek. I photographed it with a shutter speed that I knew would give me a little blur. I have a number of different captures of it, some with blurs of bubbles moving by and some that are pretty sharp. This one really spoke to me.

There are times I’ve tried similar things and I ended up with just a blurry mess. Such is photography for me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
 

Inspiration Addiction

•May 2, 2015 • Leave a Comment


 
I’m walking around Walden Ponds, here in Boulder. It’s not quite sunrise and nothing’s clicking. I walk and look and walk and look some more, intently afraid I’ll miss something, but I don’t see anything that grabs me. Wait, there’s some mist on the pond to the south. Hurry there. By the time I get there a lot of it has dissipated. But wait, what about that tree. I try a couple of compositions, but don’t feel satisfied. I head back in my original direction. Negativity starts to creep in. Why did I choose this location? Why am I so uninspired?

Something about the pond to my right interests me. I try different compositions to capture the reflected sunrise along with the trees, and… I’m gone. My negativity stops and I start seeing interesting photographs everywhere I look and I’m doing my best to capture it all. I wander around for another hour and a half, till the sun is too high and I’ve exhausted every idea — completely unaware of my earlier fears and doubts.

And so passes another morning out taking photographs.

They don’t always start out the same, but they usually end the same. I’m happy, I’m quiet and I’m thoroughly inspired. This is how I start most mornings. When I’m finished, I usually head off to work or go home — so full that I don’t care if any of my photos turn out. I’ve had such a good time.

There are some photographers who like to have everything planned and designed in their heads before even picking up a camera, but I can’t work like that. I usually have some idea in my mind of what I want to photograph, and with that and how the weather looks I pick a morning location or I may have a longer trip planned in advance. However, when I get to the location and take out my camera, everything is up for grabs. I rely on inspiration to take over and I never know what I’ll actually be photographing. Sometimes skies, sometimes grasses, sometimes trees and sometimes actually landscapes.

The wonderful thing about inspiration is that it’s all self-generated. I am alone. No one is telling me how good or bad a photographer I am. I’m just standing there in wonder with what’s around me. I’m trying to somehow imprint some of that wonder onto my CMOS sensor. I may think about f stop or shutter speed, focal length or composition, but it’s all in service to capturing that wonder and not in service of making money or gratifying my ego.

Some of you may question why I need a camera or even leave my house to experience this inspiration. That’s a very good question.

 
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