Looking, Thrilling, and Photographing

•March 19, 2019 • Leave a Comment

hearing-the-call

I woke up in a such a state. All I could think of was emailing this person and calling them out. Sending the email did not quiet my and the Boulder drivers on my way to South Mesa didn’t either.

Once I arrived at South Boulder Creek, these little ice patterns in puddles caught my attention and I set about working with them. All I was concerned with was getting close to them and making compositions. Then, I saw all sorts of interesting patterns and colors in the creek. In spite of my mind, that morning I had no trouble making some images that I’m really pleased with.

How was that possible? I noticed that when I was focused on looking at things as possible photographs, all the mind chatter went unnoticed. There have been times, in my arrogance that I’ve complimented myself on my quiet mind. But that was not the case this morning. Was it just ADD?

On some more reflection, I think it’s because I love what I’m doing. I love getting excited by what I see and trying to make photographs of it. When I’m doing that, I’m not concerned with making particular images, or fame and for fortune. All I’m interested in is looking, thrilling and photographing.

appologies-to

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I Went Out To Photograph Grasses

•March 17, 2019 • Leave a Comment

cow-tree-morning

I went out to photograph grasses. On the way to my chosen spot, I came upon these cottonwoods with patches of snow on their trunks. I had seen them the day before and decided against photographing them.

This morning, however, with the sleeping cows and the rising sun, I decided to give them a try. I’m glad I did. The grasses were boring compared to them.

You never know what you will find when you go out. Stay open!

Responsibility

•March 5, 2019 • Leave a Comment

just-so-3

When working on new medical cures or developing new scientific theories, the proof of any success is being able to reproduce the results of the original experiments. You don’t have to reproduce the same results every time, just enough to make it “statistically significant” which means that your findings didn’t happen just as the result of chance or other unforseen events.

I mention this because we seem to follow the same methods when it comes to making art. What worked before should work again. “Someone made this beautiful photo of Delicate Arch at sunrise. If I go there at sunrise, I can make a beautiful photo.” Just replace Delicate Arch with Tunnel View, or Maroon Bells, or Abraham Lake… You get the point.

It takes skill to make a good photograph from these locations, but creativity? Obviously, if you can make a unique images from these known places, it does take creativity. But very few of us do. We just do the same take on the known image.

Creativity requires our ability to see things freshly and to respond to them freshly. That is what I mean here by responsibility—the ability to respond.

Most of us, myself included, go out with our camera with the intention of producing a certain kind of photograph. We’ll choose a time and location for an image we may have in our mind or just a conception of what we want to get. How much does all that intention and mental imaging keep us from just seeing what is in front of us and responding to that?

We can hold onto our mental images and find subject matter to fit them and that’s how some people create. However, if you’re like me, the mental images and desires just get in the way of really being creative—taking risks and experimenting.

My favorite time to take photographs is in the morning. My mind is fresh and quieter and I love the morning light. This morning, it finally warmed up to 5 degrees, so I thought I’d go out on South Boulder Creek and do some ice images. I expected the creek to be mostly frozen and hoped the strong sun we had yesterday would have burned off the snow. I was hoping for some interesting ice patterns and reflections.

The creek wasn’t as frozen as I had hoped and it was mostly covered with snow—no interesting ice cracks and patterns.

I wandered around on the creek breaking through the ice a couple of times and was mostly uninspired. The cold weather and my slightly wet fee were getting to me and I was wondering if I should just give up and go home.

That willingness to pack it in was all I needed. I surrendered to my failure to get what I thought I wanted. Without those desires operating, I stopped looking for particular photographs and just started looking and responding.

All of a sudden I noticed these interesting lines and patterns in the snow. Along with the rays of the rising sun and the shapes of snowy stones, there was a lot to inspire me and get my creative juices going. What fun to work with these new shapes, patterns and colors. This is what I love about taking and making photographs—this seeing things in ways I never did before and being able to play with this new seeing.

Creativity is just creativity. There’s no guarantee you or I will make great art. Hopefully sometimes we will. At least, for me it makes going out with a camera one of my favorite things to do.

Responding To Our Subjects

•February 19, 2019 • Leave a Comment

winter-meditation-2

I love taking photographs and working on photographs. I go out most mornings with my camera either locally or to the high country to wander around in some beautiful place and try to capture some of its beauty.

I’m always looking for new places to go, but most of the places I frequent I’m very familiar with, and will chose different ones based on light, season and weather.

We’ve had a lot of cold and snowy weather here recently. It makes for very striking winter images, but I’m looking for more than that and I’m still learning how I want to photograph snow.

This morning it was 14 degrees with light snow and I went to one of my favorite places on South Boulder Creek hoping for some interesting ice. There was more snow and less ice than what I was expecting and initially it was hard to find something that moved me.

Let me be clear, where I was, was absolutely beautiful, and I thoroughly enjoyed looking at the snow on the trees and the creek. However, what I was hoping to photograph was mostly beneath the ice and snow, so I had a different landscape from what I was comfortable with.

The beauty and the quiet of my location were such that it was very easy to get quiet and just look at things. I’m always looking for new ways to see things and that inner quiet is necessary so that I don’t have any pre-disposed ideas of what I’m looking for or what kinds of photos I’m trying to take. From that quiet place, seeing things differently and experimentation is natural.

Sometimes I come up empty; but this time, probably because of the natural beauty of the place and the winter quiet, I found some interesting things.

I find that that inner quiet is necessarily to really see things freshly and and photograph them freshly. We have many ways to quiet down and meditation is probably the best known way. In meditation we surrender our desires for and against and that allows our minds to quiet down.

We don’t have to meditate to surrender—we can be merely aware of what our desires are at the present moment. If we’re out taking photos, are we looking for a certain type of image? We have to be willing to drop whatever we want to get or achieve, and just fall into ourselves and allow ourselves to respond to what’s in front of us. Meditation is a formal way of doing that, but I prefer wandering by a creek on a cold snowy morning.

Integrity is About the Heart

•February 15, 2019 • 5 Comments

heart-through-it-all

As I write this, I’m listening to Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony, Pastorale, played on piano. If you’re familiar with Beethoven symphonies, you’ll know that they are grand orchestral pieces. Hearing them live played by an orchestra is extraordinary.

The piano rendition I’m listening to was transcribed by Franz Liszt and performed by Glenn Gould—both very respected in the musical community.

Hearing this piece on solo piano is definitely different from hearing it played by orchestra, but it’s beautiful and compelling in its own way.

I wonder if Beethoven were alive today what he would say about this. Would he call this a violation of his artistic integrity and refuse to have it recorded and played? Maybe he’d say, “Hey, I’m deaf. If the music captures and transforms you, who am I to argue.”

It’s easy to see analogies when they’re taken out of the immediate context which here is visual art, specifically photography.

A designer recently asked me to modify one of my images to make the mountains and reflections more gold and less orange for their client. I looked at the image and I immediately agreed without a second thought. It’s going to be in an executive’s office. If my photograph uplifts him and brings him joy, who am I to argue. Isn’t that what I want my images to do, uplift you and bring you joy. As an artist, what more can I ask for?

Would I do that in every case; probably not, but I can’t say.

I mention this because I’ve seen some postings online about integrity as an artist that I find disturbing and egotistical. The creative experience of making the image is all ours, but once we present it to the world, it’s the world’s for how they want to appreciate it. Do we show our art for just the ego gratification and validation, or do we show our art hoping that the joy that we had creating it is also transferred to those appreciating it?

There’s an Ansel Adams exhibit going around that I hope makes it to a place where you can see it. It’s of Ansel’s early work which consisted of mostly contact prints. Later on Ansel started enlarging these images and working on them more. I fully expected to find the exhibit boring, preferring Ansel’s enlarged and more dramatic interpretations.

I was shocked to find the opposite. The images are small, mostly less than 8×10, so you have to walk up to them and look at them carefully. However, they are so intimate and stunning, I was completely blown away. Did Ansel violate his artistic-integrity to be able to bring his images to a wider audience? Do you care? Most of us Ansel fans only know his work from these enlargements.

Integrity is about the heart, not the mind.

Visual Articulacy

•January 22, 2019 • Leave a Comment

leaf-art

I was walking through the parking lot at Fallen Leaf Lake when I was startled by a young teenage bear. He or she was as shocked as I was and we both stared at each other seemingly fascinated by the other till he gave in to his fear and ran off.

My friend Leah encountered the same bear and I wish you could have heard her description. Instead of only presenting the facts, like I did above, she made the encounter into a story that brought all listeners into her experience. She didn’t change any details of the encounter—she just had a wonderful articulateness in how she could describe things.

I have no such skill with words and I haven’t had much motivation to develop any. However when it comes to visual articulateness, I am very motivated.

What I love about working with a camera is its ability to capture what’s in front of you. The more you understand how your cameras and lenses work, the more you’re able to use their strengths, weaknesses and idiosyncrasies to create the photographs that you want to make.

Like my articulate friend, I’m not interested in just conveying an accurate reproduction of what’s in front of me. I want to create something that’s more than that. The details may be the same, but it’s how they’re presented that counts. That’s what I call visual articulacy.

I use and challenge my visual articulacy in a number of ways with the hope of continually improving. First is subject matter. I have zero interested in copying photographs or compositions I’ve seen before. I want my subject matter to be different or at least seen differently from how I’ve seen it photographed.

I’m very careful about my composition. I don’t consciously follow any set rules. I only want the composition to look right to my eyes.

I take care in my post processing. As far as I’m concerned, post processing is as creative an act as taking the photograph itself. I’ll look at a raw image and see something I like, so I’ll load it into Photoshop and try to bring that out. I never know what direction I’ll go in and often surprise myself. Sometimes I save more than one version of an image because I can’t make up my mind which one I like best.

This is what I mean by visual articulacy. My work is to make the image work for me and hopefully work for you, too.

In developing any articulateness, I think it’s helpful to do it a lot. In photography it can mean taking and processing a lot of photographs, or it can mean just looking a lot and seeing beyond first impressions. It’s probably a combination of both.

2018 in Review, Best Of

•December 22, 2018 • 10 Comments

What a year this has been. I’m usually not big on year end Best Ofs, but this has been such a pivotal year that I’m really into it this year end.

To start with, this year I’ve moved primarily away from landscape photography and now do mainly macros and abstracts. It was never my plan to be a macro photographer. I only wanted to make interesting and unique images. This has led me more and more to macros.

I’ve been doing close ups of grasses for a number or years, but this year I added two new portfolios. There were winters when I did a lot of photographs of ice, but the past winter was pretty warm and I ended up photographing decaying leaves in local creeks instead. These images comprise my Where Leaves Go portfolio.

I had great success working with a particular kind of grass that I can find in only few places south of Boulder. These strange angular plants combined with a slight wind comprise my Breaths portfolio.

A portfolio of my Grass images is in the August 2018 edition of Lens Work

In March of 2019 a 6 foot long backlit copy of  Magic Theater will grace the lobby of the new Psychiatric wing of Boulder Community Hospital.

In March, my Grass Managerie images will be part of a Month of Photography exhibit at the Dairy Art Center here in Boulder.

So, without more horn tooting, as of December 22, 2018, here are my favorites of the year. If I had to go back next week and pick a best of 2018 I expect the list would be a bit different. Oh well.

Here are five images from Breaths.

unknotting

 

sustained-harmony

 

public-art

 

musical-solo

 

escape-path

 

Where Leaves Go

forgetfulness

 

extraordinary

 

whistles-2

 

multiple-dwelling

 

wastrels

 

Grass Manageries

inspirations

 

free-tangles

 

signaling

 

constellation

 

in-love

Thank you for taking the time to look at them. Have a great 2019.