Maine on My Mind

This past Saturday (April 12) was the reception for my two-person show with Michael Schweigart at Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville, NJ. I was pleased with the response to my work for this show as it represents a different side of my style. The images I included were more subdued and even monochromatic. Several pieces are actually black & white with a sepia toning as the only color. In some ways the work is more textual and minimalist than other work I’ve shown at the gallery. It’s not so much a departure from my usual offerings as much as an emphasis on this aspect of my work.

 

Two collectors in front of my work at AG

Two collectors in front of my work at AG

There’s a Past to Every Image

Although anyone viewing my work today would gather that nature is the primary inspiration for my work, they wouldn’t likely discern that there was also a scientific background behind it. When speaking with patrons at the various shows I participate in, I often allude to my degree in Psychology/Biology. The formal education I received in college certainly informs my image making today. I understand that nothing in nature exists in isolation, that there is an interconnection between everything, and a long biological history to the landscape and it’s inhabitants.

These truths are represented in many ways in my work. I pay special attention to contexts, subject backgrounds, color interactions, behaviors, animal postures, and generally, the entire ecology of the scene. I can also however, totally isolate a subject from its natural context and really emphasize its purely sensual attributes. In fact in some ways, the very act of isolating a nature subject from it’s surroundings gives it a rather abstract feeling.

In addition to my college career, I spent 15 years working as a biologist in the information industry. In that professional role, I was working with the scientific literature in order to make it accessible to researchers around the world. In high school, I started working at the Academy of Natural Sciences (now part of Drexel University), in Philadelphia. There I worked with live animals, various fossil collections, and in the Malacology (shells) Department. I gained a special appreciation for the enormous variety of life that has, and still does inhabit the earth.

All of these experiences have shaped my thoughts and aesthetics when making an image. The process though is on going. Each new experience, each new bit of learning, each new person I meet, all impact me and the work I create.

It has been 30 years this year since I presented my senior thesis, but the influence of that time is still strong.

Yes, I really did a project on cannabalism

Yes, I really did a project on cannabalism

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More Reds of Winter

I seem to be especially conscious of red this winter and more specifically, sources of red other than cardinals. In this case, the red is from wild rose hips (?). Encased in ice, these round dots of red created an amazing contrast to the otherwise monochromatic brush.

This is an image I made while the freezing rain was still falling and so I had to be conscious of the potential harm to gear. For this reason I opted to use an Olympus OM-D EM-5 camera with the Olympus 60mm macro lens. Both camera and lens are weather-proof according to Olympus, and I have come to believe it!

Image

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Not Just Cardinals are Red!

One of my favorite winter subjects are cardinals in snow or ice. The contrast of a male Northern Cardinal against a white backdrop is strong and dramatic. I am especially fond of birds as subjects anyway, so the fact that I’m drawn to these red beauties in winter is no surprise to people who know my work. However, cardinals are in some ways just a convenient carrier of the crimson color which I want in my otherwise monochromatic images. There are other sources of red though!

During our recent ice storm (not to be confused with are more recent 20″ snow storm), I incorporated red sumac into images predominately involving ice. The contrast here is also very effective and the sumac allowed me to compose with more red  in the image than I typically am able when  only dealing with cardinals.

Here I am working with a Nikon D800 and a Nikon AFS 28-300mm lens for compositional freedom.

 

(c) 2014 Paul Grecian

(c) 2014 Paul Grecian

 

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Iced

Winter I believe, is the most unique of the seasons visually. Winter has a mood that is just totally different from Spring, Summer, or Fall. There is a starkness of course, but also a more spiritual essence. Maybe its the harshness of the season, the historical struggle associated with it that makes us look upon it with awe. Most of us survive winters quite effectively now which may make it easier to look upon it with a sense of beauty rather than dread.

We are still dealing with one of the harsher winters we’ have had in this part of Pennsylvania, and this past ice storm has impacted both family and friends (who are still without power!). I don’t mind saying though that this ice event has transformed the landscape in a way that I find as beautiful as any natural event I’ve ever witnessed.

I sometimes find subjects of great beauty the most difficult from which to create compelling imagery. I may be more satisfied by creating beauty from “ordinary” subjects. How does one interpret great beauty without representing the obvious. And when the whole landscape is encased in crystal, how do you allow yourself enough time in any one location when the rest of the world is calling you to it?

All I can do is try to relax, breath, stay in the moment, and dig deep within  to determine what it is that I find so thrilling about light coming through ice, shaped around trees, and refracting every color of the rainbow! Alright, that sounds impossible……….maybe it is?

(c) 2014 Paul Grecian

(c) 2014 Paul Grecian

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Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Deer are odd creatures, they seem to revolve around two competing emotions – fear and curiosity. Invariably, when ever I come across deer they either immediately run or remain immobile, unable to decide whether to get away or stay to find out what I am. Of course their fear may generate conflicting urges to run or remain still hoping they are not seen. But I often experience them wanting to come closer to me or pick up my scent. Fawns seem to be especially curious, maybe they just don’t know any better.  Maybe deer are just trying to be energy efficient. After all, why expend the fuel to run away from me if I’m not a threat, especially if they are busily munching some delicious vegetation!

Whatever their motivation, they seem to live in fits and starts. When I came across this deer the other day, it’s first response seemed to be curiosity. But then it started eyeing its escape route. I placed my tripod down and began the focusing process (always a challenge in the snow). The snow created an interesting atmosphere to the scene so I wanted to include as much of it as I could given the constraint of 1000mm focal length (500mm w/1.4 TC and 1.5 FOV multiplier of a Nikon D7100 camera).

The image is very different without the snow. The vertical snow pellets falling throughout the image add a graphic component but also contrast with my horizontal framing of the scene. The snow on the deer’s head and back elicit feelings of compassion and a sense of cold, even survival. I am conflicted though, because snow can also elicit feelings of joy and childhood memories. Well, if the image really does all that, then all the better, right?

(c) 2014 Paul Grecian

(c) 2014 Paul Grecian

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Deep Freeze

I drove my daughter to school today because it was minus 1 degrees Fahrenheit outside. That’s about as cold as it gets in Bucks County, PA and a lot colder than normal. I don’t much like the cold, not this cold anyway. But I have it easy, heated car, heated home, and I can dress for the weather as needed. Not everyone can claim the same benefits and certainly animals need to find their own way to survive.

I feel that this image satisfies a number of visual interests of mine (e.g., texture, contrast, tonality) but also speaks to the idea of survival. Birds of course rely on their feathers for insulation and protection. Here is a lost feather against ice and snow where it blends in visually, but also creates an interesting contrast between cold (ice nd snow) and warm (feather insulation).

I made the image with low directional light from a setting sun on a lakeshore. This lighting both gave a bit of warm contrast to the cool toned shadows and emphasized the textural aspects of the snow/ice and the feather.  I composed to create a bit of diagonal movement in the line of the shaft.

(c) Paul Grecian - Photography

(c) Paul Grecian – Photography

Fall Flight

Sometimes you experience an event year after year and marvel at the spender of it. This is how I feel about the sight of Canada Geese flying past fall colored trees. For years I had visualized an image made of these large black and white birds against blurred yellow, orange and red leaves. By panning the camera on a tripod during the flight and in the direction of the path the geese took, I knew I could make such an image. It requires a slower than typical shutter speed and some very smooth action on my part to keep the birds in relatively the same space in the picture frame.

It is a bit tricky really, too slow a shutter will blur the vertical wing beat into oblivion. Not slow enough a shutter will make it appear as if the birds stopped flying in mid air.  Success also requires that I make the image as parallel to the birds as possible to maximize the background blur. I found a location within an area I frequent where I could make several attempts with small groups of birds as they left for their morning excursions. This type of image doesn’t work on a sunny day, too much contrast with highlights and shadows creating strange geometries.

It is also best done I think with longer lenses in order to narrow depth of field and really isolate the birds. This does necessitate the birds being in the same plane of focus. however, so stopping the lens aperture down a stop or two can be helpful. I used a Canon camera with Canon EF 500mm f4.0 and Canon TC1.4.

(c) Paul Grecian

(c) Paul Grecian

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Reflecting on Fall

I asked a friend recently what her favorite season was, she answered – “fall.” In fact she had her seasons rated 1 thru 4 with great confidence. I’m a bit more complicated maybe. I like fall visually, the colors thrill me. But i think my favorite season emotionally is spring. I like the beginnings of things more than the ends. Fall makes me feel more like the end of something is coming.

Fall is a thrilling time for a visual person though and I welcome it even with its shorter days and with the knowledge that winter is close. When I have the opportunity to work with all that fall color, the only thing that can make things better is a reflection.  The best way to achieve a reflection of fall colors is in water. Water bodies display the colors which they reflect back to us in  shades which are slightly deeper. So if there are brightly colored leaves on those trees, the water reflection will be quite spectacular.

In this image below which was made in the Delaware Water Gap in PA during an especially magnificent fall, I composed tightly to just emphasize the reflection. The image takes on a rather impressionistic feel with just the reflection of color and line. I then cropped the image to a panoramic 7×14 (2:1 ratio) and inverted it so that the trees are “right-side up.” Inverting the image emphasizes the impressionistic elements I feel.

The image was made with a Canon 5D and a Canon EF 28-300mm L lens. I no longer have either the camera or the lens, but for several years this was my favorite landscape outfit.

(c) Paul Grecian - www.paulgrecianphoto.com

(c) Paul Grecian – http://www.paulgrecianphoto.com

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One more night…………….

I’ve occasionally been printing in a more panoramic format of 7×14 inches in the last year. Certain images I’ve made with this 2:1 proportion represent the feeling of the experience more closely than my typical 3:2 ratio. This image made during my last clear night in Acadia National Park is an example of one I feel is best suited to the 2:1 ratio.

I’ve always enjoyed a deep black in my prints, especially when they involved a silhouette. The star filled sky allows for the clear outline of the various trees to be seen, something that is critical for a silhouette image. I’ve also composed to include a slight dip in the line of trees to keep the “horizon” from being boringly straight. I especially enjoy that many stars can be seen through the rather empty tree canopy where leaves are absent.

For this image I used a Nikon D800 with Nikkor 16-35mm f4 ED lens. I exposed the image for approx. 30 seconds, wide open at an ISO of 3200.

(c) 2013 Paul Grecian

(c) 2013 Paul Grecian

 

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Copyright Notice

All images are copyright of Paul Grecian. No image may be linked to or downloaded without expressed written consent and rights authorization. Images are available for purchase for publication and in print form. Please contact me through www.paulgrecianphoto.com for more information.

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