In The Book!

Today was the official ceremony for the international Bird Photographer of the Year competition. The ceremony was held in Bristol, England around 2:00 PM (EDT). This is considered the premier bird photography competition in the world which this year garnered almost 20,000 submissions.

A while ago I shared that I had been Short-Listed to be Bird Photographer of the year for each of three images I submitted. The Short List represents about the top 10% of submissions, but even a smaller percentage of photographers, so it’s a big honor to be on the list.

I can now share that I have received a Commendation in this years awards and so happily, I am in the 2022 Collection of Bird Photographer of the Year. A coffee-table book which publishes all of the selected work for this collection is now being shipped. This 7th collection of the top photographer’s images represents just over 1% of all the images submitted from around the world.

The image above is the one that is included in the 2022 Collection. Made right here on Shady Grove Farm as part of a winter bird project of mine; it will also be available as a Limited Edition print from my website – HERE.

Optimism and a “Wish”

I do feel that I am an optimist at heart. Not that I don’t worry about things, life, money, career, loved ones; but I generally think about the future in anticipation, not fear. One of the symbols of a hopeful, optimist belief, is the crescent moon. I’ve always been drawn to the moon in this form, not really knowing why. Partly, it may be due to pure aesthetics, but I am also someone who really enjoys the beginnings of things (my optimism at play I think).

This image, which I have titled “Wish” is a bit of a contradiction. It was made as a day was ending but the crescent moon speaks to new beginnings. I however, have always thought of night as a hopeful time, the preparation for a new day. So for me, there is no contradiction in this image. I chose “Wish” as a title as it speaks to my wishing for a bright new day to come with all the wonder of yet another beginning.

I made this image on our farm facing a back field which is separated from our property by a line of trees. I had to work quickly as I saw from our back window that the light was fading quickly. I selected an Olympus camera for it’s wonderful image stabilization ability as I knew I wouldn’t have time to set up a tripod; mounted an Olympus 12-100mm lens (equivalent to a 24-200mm in 35mm) for compositional versatility, and ran. Working handheld and zoomed to the longest telephoto setting, I pushed the stabilization capability to its limit. But it worked.

“Wish” is available now as a limited edition pigment giclee from my website HERE

Black and White and Red All Over

When I was a kid, there was this popular joke – “What is black and white, and read all over?” Of course the answer is a newspaper. But visually, I also see black and white and “red all over” to be an exciting combination (no joke). Sure “read” and “red” are not the same, just homonyms, but it’s the thought that counts. In film days, there wasn’t an accessible way to create this relationship unless the scene really only had those three colors in them. In the digital darkroom however, creativity is queen.

I made the accompanying image in the fall of 2020. The pandemic was still in full swing; my shows all cancelled. Being outdoors became an even more important component of maintaining my creativity and mental well-being. Being outdoors allows me to be more introspective. And, introspection about all that was happening, it’s ramifications for us personally and for me creatively, was what I needed.

On this overcast, fall day, there was no one else at the local nature reserve near me. There was a feeling of isolation that seemed consistent with the overall isolation we were all experiencing. Yet, I was also experiencing a renewed activity. When I saw this large Maple providing what appeared as an umbrella of protection to a bench, I found it comforting. I found myself thinking that this would be a fine place to sit and look out over the lake, and then look within.

Back in the studio, looking at the image, I reduced the scene to three colors. This change made the scene rather surreal, but also seemingly appropriate to how I felt. Almost two years later, I now look at the image without the same level of trepidation I had then, but I like it just as much.

I am initially offering the print as a 10″x14″ which is matted to 16″x20″ available through my on-line gallery here. It is titled “Risorgimento.”

Resorgimento

Artists……..so many hats!

As a full time independent artist, I wear a lot of hats (most of the time, I mean that metaphorically). This time of year the number of “hats” that I wear becomes especially evident. My primary job as an artist is to create, job one as they say. But as an Indi-artist, I have so much more on my plate (oops, wrong metaphor). This time of year especially, I am also a bookkeeper; IT guy; shipping and ordering manager (I even get Uline catalogs addressed to Paul Grecian, Shipping Manager), Marketing dept. (social media, newsletters, emails, blogging, etc.); art dealer (I do represent my own work after all and sell it directly to my audience); Planner (show schedules don’t happen on their own); the list could go on.

Being an independent artist, that is an artist whose sales do not primarily happen through a dealer, manager, and/or consultant, means doing all the creative work and running all aspects of a full-time business. It’s a lot of hats. Most of the time I feel I can wear them one at a time. This time of year a show schedule needs to happen (selection, applications), supplies need ordering (mat board, frames, paper, ink, etc.), images need processing, backing up, adding to my stock agency, tax numbers need putting together, and I can’t lose touch with my audience. Sometimes, hats have to be worn at the same time in a multi-tasking frenzy that hopefully sorts itself out by the first show (whenever that turns out to be because well, pandemic).

So if you ever see me walking around with a baseball cap, fedora, and who knows what else on my head, at the same time, just nod your hello to me; I know the hats are there.

Close-up Photographer of the Year (CUPOTY 03) – Shortlisted image #3

Having had three images Shortlisted in this international competition was very rewarding. The first two images I shared were in the Insects category, this one was in the Intimate Landscape category. I have been working on a body of images exploring the esthetics of shape and line for some time. Over the last few winters, ice formations have caught my attention especially. Being able to create on our own property (a small 7+ acre farm with a creek running through), has been a great asset.

I find composing the complex geometry of ice very exciting, but also challenging. I am drawn to the abstractness of the formations, but organizing those abstract forms into a thing that is new, is the goal. This is not a picture of ice as much as it is of triangular shapes, curved line, circles. This type of imagery is what gets me out of the studio….

Close-up Photographer of the Year (CUPOTY 03) – Shortlisted image #2

The second of my three images which achieved Short-listing in this international competition was also made on our farm property. Another of my “backyard” images. Made earlier this year in March, it was a warm early spring day. Colonies of ants on our walkway had become very active, congregating in large numbers. As the sun was setting, I became fascinated by a large group of ants and grabbed my Olympus camera and Laowa 50mm f2.8 macro lens.

With the sun behind the ants, light reflected off their exoskeletons, and out-of-focus highlights became glowing circles. I held the camera on the ground at very close range trying not to have my hand touch the ants. Using the rear LCD to compose and focus, I watched as the ants battled each other in a way that reminded me of a Game of Thrones episode. It was intense and fierce. I wanted to convey a sense of extreme fighting by creating a layered composition with the heap of ant bodies in the middle layer. It was such a melee that I felt the image needed a few individuals clearly isolated in order to make sense of it all. I used a shallow depth of field and selective focusing to achieve the isolation of the ants on the right. The stone on which the fighting was happening was elevated above the ground level so that I was able to compose from a position at ant eye-level. This made for a more intense view.

I felt this image was quite unique and was very pleased that it received recognition in this prestigious competition.

Close-up Photographer of the Year 03 – Short-listed image #2

Close-up Photographer of the Year – Shortlisted Image #1

Close-up Photographer of the Year (CUPOTY), is an international competition now in its third year. It has drawn some of the best image makers in the world, and the results have been marvelous. This year’s competition – CUPOTY 03, set a new standard with around 10,000 submissions! The Shortlisted images were announced this past Wednesday. Being Shortlisted is the goal of every image maker entering this prestigious event. A Shortlisted image is one that is recognized to be in the top echelon of the genre. You can see the Shortlisted images on the CUPOTY website – HERE. Throughout several categories you will find stunning imagery with artistic merit as well as craftsmanship.

I was very pleased to be recognized in this year’s competition by having three images make the shortlist; two in the Insects category and one in the Intimate Landscapes category (I have also made the Shortlist in CUPOTY 02, and CUPOTY Color, both last year). I’d like to tell you about each one of this year’s Shortlisted images (I’ll do it in separate posts).

The first image is of a leafhopper on the stem of a plant with Dahlia flowers in the background. It is an image about color and form more than anything else. I didn’t make the image to inform about what a leafhopper looks like. Rather I wanted to use the brilliant colors of the leafhopper as a foundation for an image which is about the impact it had on me. The repetition of color between the insect and its background was exciting. I composed the solid green line of the stem, broken by the colorful form of the leafhopper, against the brilliant Dahlia flower reds because that combination elicited the greatest response in me. Ultimately, my goal is to have an esthetic experience, and this image fulfilled that goal. I am especially interested in esthetic experiences that can take place in everyday settings, in this case the gardens of our farm. Through this imagery I hope that others will find these everyday esthetic experiences in their own spaces.

I used an Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera with an Olympus 60mm M Zuiko lens at f8 and 1/100th sec. at ISO 800. I use Olympus often for close-up/macro work because its small size allows me to get into niches where a larger camera-lens combination would be awkward. The system is great for this type of work.

Close-up Photographer of the Year – CUPOTY 03, Shortlisted image

Pennsylvania in Fall

I don’t travel much, never have. This has been the case partly because it’s expensive, partly because it requires time, and mostly because I’ve never felt the need or great desire. I’ve always preferred to get to know my surroundings as well as I could, deeply, thoroughly. I always found great satisfaction in achieving familiarity with the area in which I lived. The more I have explored my local area, the greater the esthetic and emotional relationship I have developed with it. As a result, I think my work has been more authentic, more honest, and better.

My work has never been about location. I have always strived to create images that have a universal message, unconstrained by geography. And while many locations have tell-tale signs that give away something about where they were made, I try not to have that information be what is important.

Pennsylvania is a beautiful state, it is where I’ve lived most of my life (a short stint in Delaware being the only exception). It is a state with a good deal of natural area, especially woods. So come fall, I believe Pennsylvania can hold its own for color and splendor against any state.

This image was made near Ricketts Glen State Park, a favorite location of mine. I drove past this stand of Birch and two miles on had to turn around and give it some attention. As soon as I past it my mind began to work out images so that there was no choice. I was working that day with some light gear, an Olympus OM-D E-M5 with the Olympus 12-40mm f2.8. This is my choice of format when I really don’t want the tools to get in the way.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Three Wheelbarrows of Concepts

This image really pulls together a variety of thoughts for me. There have been three overarching themes to my creative thinking: mindfulness, wabi-sabi, and everyday esthetics. You can even think of them as being three different wheel-barrels of concepts because each is filled with so much to think about.

For me it all comes down to experiencing the everyday visual world with an openness to seeing beauty and then creating with authenticity. My challenge is to not predetermine what I should create, or judge before I allow myself to explore.

With an openness to the world, I don’t know what images I will make, what pictures will result. And, in many ways that makes the process so much more exciting. As with most of my work in the last year and a half, this image was made on our farm (in this case, by the milk house).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ch-ch-ch-Changes

It is not uncommon for artists who work in any medium, to reconsider, reimagine, reevaluate, and/or rework, an older art piece. I’ve had time over the last year to fully explore images in my oeuvre. I think this kind of self-reflection is important for artists. Evaluating previous work gives an artist a way of tracking their growth. But it also allows for making changes that better represent their present esthetic, take advantage of new skills, new philosophies, changes in experience. And frankly, it’s just plain fun to do.

The image accompanying this post was made with an earlier digital camera and before I had established a work flow that I was really comfortable with. Move forward to the present and I have developed a number of new skills which allow for me to develop this image to my evolved tastes and address technical challenges more fully. Most importantly, I have a stronger style, and more developed sense of likes. Also, I have years more time looking at art, the world, and my own work. I see things differently both figuratively and literally.

One of the things about this image that really jumped out at me this time is how much the grasses on the left mirror the shape and form of the dragonfly on the right. Was that something I realized subconsciously when I originally made the image? Maybe. But now it’s very apparent to me and has really enhanced my appreciation for the picture. It is only one example of many in which I have made a new discovery in my own work.