As part of my overall effort to make the farm into an “outdoor studio,” I’ve spent much of the year getting to know the creatures that reside here with us. Because of travel restrictions, my wife and I have made great strides to improve the farm’s landscaping and gardens. We have a nicely diverse 7 1/2 acres of field, woods, wetland, and flower beds.
Among our many projects, we wanted to create a couple areas dedicated to birds. For this purpose, I allocated a couple pieces of white-picket fencing. These I placed in a back field overlooking a grassy wetland area where birds often naturally feed. It is also an area that I can watch from my second floor studio window.
My aesthetic goal for this series is to make photographs with visual simplicity, strong geometry, and expressiveness. Birds take on a variety of postures which we translate as body language. We do this naturally with other people as we try to gage someone’s mood. And while it is certainly an exercise in anthropomorphism to suggest that a birds body position always signifies their inner feelings, it is likely to be true at least some of the time. Even if it is never true, their posture certainly speaks to us which is all that really matters.
One of my favorite winer birds is the iconic “Snowbird” – the Dark-eyed Junco. This familiar, two-toned visitor is perfect for the type of minimalist winter imagery I want to make. The red berries add vibrance to an otherwise monochromatic scene. I composed in order that the Junco’s colors were in contrast with its background and yet still harmonious to the color palette of the image overall. Titles Snowbird, this image is available now as a Limited Edition print at my on-line gallery – HERE
For this series so far, I have been working entirely without a tripod, something that is rare for me. But the freedom to respond using a handheld lens has been very beneficial. In this case I am using an Olympus 100-400mm on an Olympus E-M1 X which I am finding to be a wonderful combination. I am still not happy wearing gloves though, so despite the cold, I am working bare-handed.
Ever on the lookout for fascinating mushrooms, we discovered a nice grouping growing inside a willow tree on our property. I worked this set during sunset but was not happy with the lighting. Somehow I wanted to create an image that felt more magical, more in line with mushroom’s mythical status.
On a dark, clear night, I set up a tripod and camera to make an image that would speak to the ancient belief in the spiritual essence of mushrooms. Using a small, narrow beam flashlight, I “light painted” the mushrooms to achieve an effect that they were giving off light and guarded by legendary fairies. Lots of trial and error, but ultimately I worked out a routine that achieved my vision.
Limited Edition prints may be purchased from my gallery on line Here. As part of my “The 100” Series, the regular edition will be limited to 100 prints with an allowance for Special Editions of 10 on different substrates.
This spring our barn was selected by a pair of Black Vultures as their nesting spot. Ultimately two eggs were laid and the incubating began. We checked on their progress regularly. One egg hatched, the other never did. Black Vultures mate for life and share in rearing the little ones. They are romantic birds engaging in a variety of courtship displays including one called “billing.” Billing is a behavior where the two birds touch beaks together which appears to strengthen the pair bond.
In our side yard, we have an old snag that is kind of a perfect perching tree. We’ve had Bald Eagles, various hawks, kestrel , pileated woodpeckers, and others use it to scan the fields. The snag is also a favorite spot for the vultures to hang out. One evening I spotted the two of them at the very top of the dead tree. They were silhouetted against a featureless sky. I ran outside with a camera and long lens and began to work at creating some minimalist images. When they starting “billing,” I recomposed to make sure their bodies didn’t overlap. I exposed to emphasize the silhouette.
I held off in printing the image because I suspected I would be able to combine it with another image in future. Last week I made that image; a wonderful large moon rising over the ridge across from our farm.
Moonstruck is now available as a Limited edition print in a variety of sizes and can be ordered as a canvas print as well (contact me for the canvas). Prints are available on my website HERE
So not really, but still, is a female hummingbird not a superhero? Faster than a speeding…..well lots of things; able to to fly backwards, strong enough to migrate thousands of miles, fiercer than a barn cat.
I’ve been following the afternoon antics of a couple hummers that frequent our bee balm flowers. Since I’ve had time to observe these magnificent birds, I am also able to preset the exposure parameters, pre-visualize compositions, and set focusing to maximize success.
There’s something very magical about hummingbirds. They seem unreal. Working to create images of them and then doing so successfully, doesn’t change that feeling.
In this image I wanted to convey a strong sense of the magic of the hummingbird; her speed, her beauty, her agility.
Animals have always had symbolic meaning for people. Many cultures and individuals still consider the sighting of certain animals as highly significant events. One of the most cherished of sightings is of a bird that is thought to represent many of life’s best experiences – joy, love, peace, overcoming adversity, the fulfilling of dreams. What bird can signify so much all by itself? Well, its the amazing little hummingbird!
And no wonder, right? It’s incredible flight ability, it’s diminutive size, it’s great power and resilience to migrate enormous distances, all make for the things of myth and legend. It’s both magnificently delicate and fierce at the same time.
We have always had a few plants which attract hummingbirds to our farm. This year my wife Lin made sure we had Bee Balm as well. Beautiful red flowers are hard to resist, especially for the hummers doing their tour around the farm.
I read during afternoon coffee time on our front porch which puts me in view of the Bee Balm. I had established that the hummers visit the plant around that time. In addition to my coffee mug and Kindle, I’ll have my camera with a long telephoto lens attached. I prefocus, preset the exposure, and previsualize compositions. Hummingbirds are fast and don’t typically hang around for long. My last quick decisions have to happen on the fly (sorry), but the result was marvelous. I hope you like it too.
I am very much a morning person. In fact, I love the beginnings of things in general — the periods where the potential is the most exciting. Dewy mornings are my favorite. With sunlight refracting through the water drops and blasting in all directions, it can actually be a bit visually overwhelming. It really is exciting work. The water drops can be clinging to a leaf, a flower petal, or a spider web. In each case the form of the drop will be different, but equally gorgeous.
Getting in close to nature like this, exploring these very small landscapes, is an endless journey of esthetic pleasure. I make images that express the fulfillment I get from these unique experiences.
exploring these very small landscapes, is an endless journey of esthetic pleasure
To make this type of image I prefer an Olympus Micro-Four-thirds camera with an Olympus 60mm F2.8 macro lens. Its small, light, and importantly, easy to maneuver without hitting parts of the plant or web I’m working with. I composed this image in order to have the large round light refractions behind the web create a visual harmony with the water drops.
When I first started exploring my vision through the medium of photography, it was the genre of macro-photography that drew me in. I really enjoyed the fact that I could explore the natural world an inch-and-a-half at a time. This ability was especially meaningful as I lived in the city without much natural area around me.
My interest in macro imagery continued through my college years where my photography coursework included two semesters of independent study. In both of these semesters my projects revolved around using close-up techniques. In graduate school, I was able to take a class on macro-photography specializing in flash usage. This gave me a unique skill to balance daylight and artificial light for very small subjects, an ability that can be crucial to the success of an image.
My preference with most macro images however is to use natural light. Reflected, direct, or refracted, I find natural light the most interesting and most esthetically pleasing.
In this image of a backlit grass with crab-spider, I was vey conscious of the way the light outlined everything, creating rim light. What I found especially exciting was the light refractions associated with the silk strand that the spider was producing. The light made the very thin strand visible and created a rainbow of colors. To achieve the angle and perspective necessary to make this image, I had to work hand-held – quite the challenge. Looks to me like a spider wielding a lightsaber, maybe this is a Jedi spider?
When making any image, I am consciously and also subconsciously aware of my surroundings and how they make me feel. This means that there are many forces at work which impact the way I make an image. All of the sensations I experience in the moment play a roll in how I represent my world visually. Spring is a rather overwhelming time of year. There is so much life bursting forward! There is so much color and song and new found warmth. It all becomes part of a highly sensual, highly emotive, and highly stimulating event.
This image was made in a garden in Colonial Williamsburg, a location where my wife and I exhibit our art during the spring. We use the trip as a way to connect with our fans in Virginia and to create new works about the joyfulness of the season of regeneration.
All of the sensations I experience in the moment play a roll in how I represent my world visually.
For this image I was using a very odd lens not made for photography. It is actually a movie projector lens which I purchased from a Russian metalsmith in the Bronx who makes adapters for these types of “alternative” lenses. I incorporate the effect this lens allows me to create with my personal esthetic in order to create differently expressive images. I can see, and therefore control, the effect through the viewfinder which allows me to have a new experience while creating. That really is a main point to the art for me – new experiences.
Wanting to stay connected with you all, Lin and I have created a great way to keep in touch that we hope you will like. We have joined Patreon, a patron and fan platform that enables you to be a part of our artistic process.
Lin and I have designed a variety of Tiers with specific benefits. You can choose the package which best matches your desire to accompany us on our artistic endeavors.
Both in the studio and around the farm, you will get an insider’s look at what the lives of two full time creatives is like. Each tier comes with specific benefits for you to select among, but all come with an increased level of interaction that we have not found fully possible on other social media. It is easy to set up your patronage, change tiers, or take a break if you want to, so we hope you will come along with us on this wild journey we are on. Many fascinating artists are already on Patreon, even major institutions like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Here’s the link – Shady Grove Studios on Patreon – join now or take a look around and float us any questions. We’d love you to come visit us regularly. With you “in the studio” we will continue to make the art you want and have an exciting shared experience.
The life of a full-time artist is multifaceted. For me it is primarily about the creative process of exploring a personal vision, and means of expression through a chosen medium. But being an artist is also a life-style choice which includes every aspect of daily living. This is certainly true for my wife Lin and I who live on a small farm from which we create our art. Every aspect of our farm is geared toward the creative process. From the almost 200 year old farmhouse which contains our multiple studio spaces, to the fiber-providing alpaca, gardens for growing dye plants, the natural areas we foster, and even the barn cats, we derive most of our inspiration from this farm.
There is nothing about the current situation which keeps us from making the art we want to make. What has changed drastically is the normal marketing of our work we do at fine craft and art shows throughout the year. So far though, we are hanging in there. We are also working on new, exciting ways to stay engaged with our clients, customers, and patrons.
This picture of one of our barn cat kittens exemplifies how we all feel. A wonderful thing about animals is their ability to express for us many of the emotions we experience. This rascal enjoyed the challenge of climbing, sometimes beyond its true ability. This piece is now part of my Barn Cat Series available at my gallery online HERE.