Effortless Beauty

•February 18, 2015 • Leave a Comment

During Boulder Open Studios this past fall, a couple of visitors mentioned that my images were “contemplative photographs” and asked me if I studied contemplative photography. I told them that that was the first and then second time I’d heard of contemplative photography, but I was very happy because they seemed to really “get” my photos. For me, taking and working on photographs, has always been about having a quiet mind. I’ve blogged about this in the past, but haven’t gotten much response and felt, as a photographer, I was alone in this.

So, I was heartened to know that there are other “contemplative photographers” and even courses in it.

I was very excited to get my hands on Effortless Beauty, a recent book by contemplative photographer and teacher Julie DuBose.

Julie, in beautiful and clear text, walks us through allowing our minds to become quiet, allowing ourselves to be taken in and moved by things we notice and creating meaningful photographs from our experiences.

The book is filled with beautiful, simple and quiet photographs that very well illustrate the state of mind and goal of the contemplative photographer.

I think it all comes down to what are you interested in. Are you interested in making images like some you saw online? Are you interested in making images that will impress your friends? Are you interested in making images that you can sell? Or, are you interested in taking your camera, being quiet and just looking and seeing? In that quiet space you will notice things that a busy mind would not have let you notice before. Some of these things when photographed properly will make profound and moving images. By approaching creating photographs this way, you will find that developing a style that is strictly your own is an effortless outgrowth of your photographing. You may not get famous, or rich, but you will have a great experience and fall in love with the process.

There is a very small chapter toward the end of the book where Julie and I approach things differently. For Julie, the process of seeing and creating occurs when we’re out with a camera and taking a photo. She says that post-processing should only consist of actualizing what the seeing experience was. Anything else should be discarded.

I don’t work that way. Maybe I should be called a contemplative post-processor as well as a contemplative photographer. Seeing doesn’t have to stop with the camera − and one’s experience when seeing and taking a photograph no matter how profound was only an experience in time and that moment is already gone when you’re at the computer. One can be quiet at the computer and experience discovery and excitement once more as one takes the raw material of the digital image and creates a beautiful photograph from it.

That said, I wouldn’t want to touch any of Julie’s photographs in Effortless Beauty with Photoshop. They are great as they are.

Effortless Beauty is available at Amazon, but even better give Julie all the money and purchase it at http://www.effortlessbeautybook.com/.

My Favorites of 2014

•December 29, 2014 • 10 Comments

I believe that 2014 was a great year for me photographically.  I’m very pleased and excited with the images that I was able to produce this year.  I’m always nervous when I have to prepare these best/favorites pages, because I’m not necessarily objective about which are truly the best images. I just know about the ones I have strong feelings for.  
For now I’m happy with them.  I appreciate your feedback on how they may move or not move you.

Thank you for taking the time to look at them.  Click on any image to bring up a page with a larger version.

Morning in Eldorado Canyon. One of my favorite places in the world.

Reflections and foam in South Boulder Creek running through Eldorado Canyon.

We had a lot of rain this summer and fall. The grasses were amazing

Another grass abstract.

Morning sun illuminating the walls of Eldorado Canyon.

Those same walls reflected in South Boulder Creek.

I got back into photographing trees. These at Sawhill Ponds.

I also tried my hand with pond grasses at Sawhill and Walden Ponds.

I do think my best work, however, was of the local grasses.

I love these little buds.

I’d never seen grasses like this before. They were fun to work with..

I call this Oh My after one of the comments for it on my facebook page.

It’s starting getting quite cold here and I’m getting back into doing ice photos.

I’m always a sucker for trees.

One more of reflections of the amazingly colored walls of Eldorado Canyon in South Boulder Creek.

Just Slow Down and See

•November 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

We live in such a Me-centered world. Everyone is “Going for it”, “Having it all”, and “Creating Success and Prosperity”.

What a bunch of arrogant schmucks we are. We humans, especially we white anglos, have a lot of power and can do a lot with it. We don’t have to look far to see the positive and unfortunately negative consequences of our power and arrogance.

However this fantasy of “Having it all” and “Creating our success and prosperity” is even over the top for us.

I think we fortunate humans who try to make art — artists and artist wannabees — realize how little is actually under our egoic control.

We can’t just be creative because we want to be, turning it on and off at will. Creativity is actually a result of surrender. Creativity occurs when we allow it to occur by letting all our other desires fade to the background.

I’m not talking about something unknown to us here. I make a living as a programmer, one of the most left-brain professions one could have, and yet every programmer I talk to nods their head and knows what I’m talking about when I talk about mulling over a difficult problem all day and how the solution automatically comes to me when I’ve left work and I’m walking to my car.

Being an arrogant, white anglo myself I am constantly humbled and consequently immensely grateful to have the very good fortune to have creativity come to me whether invited or uninvited.

This was made acutely aware to me on Thanksgiving morning. I drove out to Eldorado Canyon that morning under a beautiful sunrise. I wanted to be there post-sunrise to catch the beautiful reflections of the canyon in South Boulder Creek. When I arrived at “Eldo”, the Sun was up but already going behind some clouds. I wandered along the creek “trying” to make photos, but without the beautiful golden reflections I didn’t feel very inspired. When it was clear there would be no sun for some time, I gave up and put my attention on the trees. Again I didn’t feel I was getting much but I would try to make photographs of things that looked interesting to me.

I wandered around for awhile not being very satisfied with anything, and finally gave up and went home. As I was taking my camera off of the tripod, I noticed that I had mistakenly set my camera to take tiffs instead of raw captures. Not only did I not take any good photos, I’d have even fewer options to work with them now. At least they weren’t jpegs.

This is the arrogant knowledgeable photographer speaking: “I know what I want. I know what I’m looking for,” and so forth.

Well, whether I deserved it or not, the Creativity Gods sure paid me a visit this morning. I’m very conscious of not wanting to copy another photographer or even just copy myself so apparently being thrown out of my comfort zone really worked. I realized that I composed these images, set the lens opening and shutter speed but beyond that I can’t take any credit for these photographs. They really happened in spite of myself.

I Don’t Suffer for my Art

•August 24, 2014 • 4 Comments

In my late teens and early 20s my joy was wandering New York streets with a camera or two and snapping photos of people on the street. One day I found myself concentrating on photographing people’s hard times, and I quickly stopped myself. In a crowded dirty city like New York, suffering was all around us and I felt that it was too easy to make sad photographs that would move people. I said to myself that suffering wasn’t all of my reality. There is also joy and excitement in my life and I should express that in my photographs.

Many years later those thoughts still motivate me. I want my images to uplift you, make you happy and bring you peace.

These memories come up today because I’m seeing so much of contemporary “Art” photography not only focusing on people’s suffering, but being self portraits of the individual photographer’s suffering. I’m not immune to suffering. I tried to kill myself at three by running in front of a car. Suffering among us is very real, but I think that glorifying one’s own suffering is a selfish act of self indulgence that at best makes me laugh, but really makes me sad.

There’s so much real suffering in the world, in Gaza, in Africa, in Ukraine and even in the richest country in the world, my United States. Lets get some perspective here!

Bye Bye Blog

•July 9, 2014 • 2 Comments

I less and less interested in talking about photography these days and more and more interested in looking at and taking photographs. So, I think it’s time to give this blog
a rest. As a parting post, I’ll show some of the new directions that I’m experimenting with.

You can keep up with my photographic work on my Dan Baumbach Photography Facebook page.

Who knows, now maybe I’ll be inspired to write something.

Thank you for taking the time to look at this.

– Dan


•March 16, 2014 • Leave a Comment

There’s a wonderful blog post by my friend Miriam Louisa Simons on how disappointment is her greatest teacher. Here is a link to it. Here in the US, we don’t like to spend time on disappointment, unless it’s to feel sorry for ourselves. We’re a very success oriented culture. However, giving in to disappointment and not fighting it stops us in our automatic tracks and allows us to see more clearly. This can be a great opening. As artists it is opening that allows us to be inspired to greater expression and joy.

I try not to have any goals in mind when I go out hiking with my camera because the more I’m looking for a certain kind of image, the more I’m missing what’s in front of me.

However I’m human, and I usually pick a hiking location based on the morning sky, the weather and what kinds of photographs I might be able to make there.

This morning I was going up to Red Rock Lake in the Colorado high country. We’ve had alternating spring days and snow storms here in Boulder and I had no idea what I would find there. I figured being at this beautiful lake framed by snow-capped peaks would be enough.

It was 46 degrees and dry when I left this morning. Three quarters into my trip it was 28 degrees and snowing. I was dressed warmly enough, but as the snow was sticking to the road I was uncomfortable taking my two-wheel drive car into the mountains in a snowstorm. I finally turned around. Driving back down to Boulder I tried to think of alternate places to hike, but nothing appealed to me. With a storm in the west to the back of me, I witnessed a beautiful sunrise as I drove east down the mountain. I looked for a place I could pull off the road and make a photograph with it, but found nothing.

I finally decided to stop at a local park on St. Vrain Creek that had been seriously damaged from last fall’s flooding. I’d been there before and didn’t find much to photograph, but at least I could get out of the car and walk around. I missed the sunrise, but as I turned the corner the approaching storm and the rising sun made a more compelling photo than most sunrises. I stopped at a pullout and captured the photo at the top.

I got to my local park and got out of the car. It’s amazing how these little creeks cut such wide swaths of damage with their flooding. I walked through the storm debris and started to notice these patterns in the sand made by the flooding. This is something that would never have caught my eye before. Normally, I’d see it and just walk on it as I made my way. However this time the patterns and color changes caught my attention. There was nothing else to grab it.

I started to try a photograph of some interesting lines and in a short time I was obsessed going from pattern to pattern and seeing more and more. Miriam’s blog about disappointment being her greatest teacher came to mind. If I had made it up to Red Rock Lake, I don’t expect I would have gotten any images as exciting as these.

Knowing What’s Come Before Us

•February 23, 2014 • Leave a Comment

When I was first starting to look at being an artist/photographer, I was extremely fortunate to develop a friendship with and be mentored by Stephen Shore. Stephen is quite well known now, but when we first connected I was 15 and Stephen was 16. I learned a lot from Stephen about different photographers, photographic art, print quality, cameras and more.

One thing that has stuck in my mind to this day was Stephen’s saying that as artists, it incumbent upon us to know what’s come before. We should know the history of photography up to what’s being done today. We may be influenced by what’s come before us, but we should not copy it, whether consciously or inadvertently.

Stephen and I were both street shooters, so I learned about Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Frank, Andre Kertesz and others. With digital photography and the internet, it’s very hard to know all of what’s being done in our field, but the blatant imitation that I keep seeing is disturbing.

What’s more disturbing is that I see jurors not following Stephen’s directive. I find it mind-boggling when blatant imitators constantly win contests. Recently when looking at a distinguished juror’s nature photograph selections I was disturbed to find a photo of the Namib desert. The photo was very striking, like most Namib desert photos I’ve seen, but photographers have been photographing the Namib desert for quite some time. Was this image uniquely different from so many of the others? The same goes for slot canyons. I’m not saying that these locations might not be absolutely fascinating from a viewer’s (let alone a photographer’s) viewpoint. I’m just asking if these images are saying anything that hasn’t been said before.

There are so many great images out there that we’ve never seen. Let’s see more of them.


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