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.

Spring Comes to Boulder

•April 28, 2015 • Leave a Comment


 
I spent half my life in Northern California, which is a beautiful place, but spring in Northern California basically means the rains stop and the hills get brown.

Not so in Colorado. After months of gray, brown and white, spring has come to Boulder and it’s glorious. Being that we’re in the foothills, spring was temporarily overshadowed by a couple of snow-storms, but now it looks like it’s here to stay. The trees have baby new leaves, and wild flowers are beginning to come up.

It’s so nice to be out on my morning walks and take it all in.


 

What More Can I Say

•April 26, 2015 • Leave a Comment


 
Growing up in New York City was the best thing for a budding photographer like me. There were fabulous exhibits everywhere. At the museum of Modern Art, I saw a wonderful Cartier-Bresson exhibit and first became acquainted with the work of Edward Weston and Andre Kertesz. There was a cooperative gallery called the Association of Heliographers where I could see work by Paul Caponigro, David Heath, Larry Clark and others. There was lots to look at and take in, but very little to read.

What I’m saying is, there were photographs and maybe a short bio of the artist, but nothing telling us what the artist was trying to accomplish. Even an exhibit of Larry Clark’s that consisted of people shooting up and getting high had no text to go with it.

That was fine with me. The photographs said it all. What more was there to say.

That was then. Everywhere I look today there is a brief or long article by the photographer telling me why they produced the photographs, what inspired them and what they are exploring. That’s okay if that’s what they want to do, but I don’t think and operate that way. Finally, I saw a contest that I could enter where they just wanted one image. I got all excited until I read further and they just don’t want one image. They also want a paragraph describing the image.

I appreciate visual art the way I appreciate music. I just want to get into it and if I have thoughts, they are inspired by what I’m seeing or hearing. Do I need to know Mozart’s motivation when listening to The Magic Flute? Do I need to know Eric Satie’s, Edward Weston’s…

If when you look at an image of mine, you need a paragraph of my motivation and what I’m trying to accomplish in order to appreciate it, then I’ve failed.

Falling Into Creativity

•April 20, 2015 • Leave a Comment


 

I come from a creative family. My father was a painter, brother is a writer, nephews are movie directors and photographers. Creativity, to one growing up in my family, was something that happened naturally. It was not something to be worried about and fostered. We couldn’t stop ourselves from being creative. If it wasn’t about creating art, it was about creating pithy puns in our conversation.

Even now I don’t think about creativity much except to be marveled by it. When I’m out wandering around a lake, mountain, creek or wherever, I just allow myself to be marveled and let creativity take care of itself. I know from experience that I usually have no clue which photographs will turn out to be boring and which will be compelling. I’m just sure that both will be there. Some days they’re mostly boring and some days the opposite.

I expect that my relationship with creativity is different from many of yours, but that doesn’t mean you can’t develop the same kind of relationship if you want to.

I examined what took place and didn’t take place when I was being creative to see what was at work, What I observed is that creativity is a lot like love. Maybe all that creativity is, is an expression of love.

A lot is written about, thought about and filmed about falling in love, but most of it seems to ignore the expression itself. Falling in love. If one is falling what can one do. The term falling means that initially things are out of our control. And control, I believe, is the big issue here.

With falling in love there are issues with intimacy acceptance and self-acceptance. These issues are in the mind and the less power we give to our minds, the more ecstatic the experience will be. So, a big part of falling in love is falling out of our minds, falling out of our fear, and just letting the feeling and momentum take us where it takes us.

What keeps us from falling into creativity is similar. Creativity involves being inspired and just like love, being inspired requires being open without a lot of desires and fears weighing on our minds. Like love, creativity requires trust — trust that things happen in their own time, and that like love, creativity will happen.

I’m talking about creativity and inspiration, not technical ability. Having the knowledge to actualize what you see into a meaningful photograph is another topic. Technical ability has to be learned, inspiration is natural to us, we just have to trust ourselves and allow it to happen.

Just like we can’t make ourselves fall in love, we can’t make ourselves be creative. That can take a huge burden off of ourselves. There is no work to be done to be creative. If anything there is un-work.

We usually have all this stuff in our minds as some form of protection from humiliation or hurt, so this un-work involves un-doing this protection. We don’t have to be fearful that a mountain will think we’re too old or too fat. A flower doesn’t care how clever and intelligent we are. Capturing that landscape won’t get you that raise you’re hoping for. So, go out and relax, have fun. Love. That’s why we do it. If you’re out in nature, love the rocks, the grasses, the trees, the streams. In the city, love the sidewalks, the cars, the pedestrians, the buildings. What else is there to do.

 
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