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.”
I find myself drawn to ice in a way that is similar to my attraction to art-glass. There are many elements to ice that make it fun to work with. The natural forms it develops as a result of melting, wind, and other physical forces, is wonderful. The way ice reflects, refracts, and otherwise transforms light, is a never ending inspiration.
When exploring icicles visually, I look at form and light, but also background. Backgrounds are key to me in much of my work and as icicles are transparent, or at least translucent, the background becomes an even bigger consideration.
In this image I found myself annoyed by a distraction in the background. I had become very attracted to the form of two icicles hanging from our milk house roof, but there was a car in the way. Since I could approach these icicles closely, my first thought was to use a macro lens, but that stupid car…….
Then I thought about turning that problematic background into an esthetic solution. I changed lenses to a long telephoto and backed up. With my Olympus 100-400mm set at 400mm (equiv. of 800mm), I was able to isolate the icicles and also diffuse the background to just tones of color. The 800mm equivalent focal length allowed me to select the background precisely, and draw it forward into the image. The blue-gray color is from the body of a Toyota Odyssey, and the red is from the taillight.
It’s still winter, even though we hit 72F yesterday. In fact this whole winter has been crazy mild. We’ve had way above average temps, and very little snow — except in the form of geese! Several times in the last few weeks large flocks of these magnificent birds have dropped into the fields behind our farm. It has been such a wonderful display. Big, white birds flying in unison, sometimes against the dark hillside made for an exhilarating experience.
Over the last five years, most of my work has been done on our farm. The arrival of the Snow Geese has added a new element to my series done right here on our 7 1/2 acres. Although I have done several series on large flocks of blackbirds, the snow geese afforded me the opportunity to create an interesting contrast. I composed this piece to emphasize a strong yin and yang relationship — with white geese against the dark hillside balancing the dark trees against the light sky. It is important too that some of the white geese cross the dark trees which creates a unifying element in the image.
I am offering this image as a Limited Edition print as part of my “100” Series. Only 100 prints will be made across all sizes. Order it now on my website here.
As an indie artist I feel it is important to maintain an authenticity in my work that speaks honestly to who I am. In the art world in which I exist, there are many players. It is both a smart business move and my absolute desire to distinguish myself as an artist. When I’m comfortable and confident in the work I am doing I have also been more successful in the art I create.
For me, this image only ever had one interpretation. An independent, self assured, non-conformist who would do it’s own thing regardless of the social pressures put upon it. The title “Be Yourself” came to me quickly. Notice the bird doesn’t completely isolate itself from it’s social system, but neither does it feel compelled to always be a part of the group. It is still close enough to be a part of the picture, but also able to be it’s own…….well, bird.
Like many images I have been making recently, this one was made on our farm. Tall electrical poles and long wires run along the creek at the back of our property. I often watch how various birds use this seating area and how they interact with each other. My university background in Psycho-biology (Animal Behavior) still informs my work. I was initially absorbed with pondering this individualist soul. Rock Doves are very social animals as can be seen by the tight group behavior on the top wire. So what was up with this rebel bird?
After a short while I began to see the scene for its simple geometry. I began composing in my head……….then ran to the studio to grab some gear. I’d need a long lens but one that would give me compositional freedom…..a zoom lens then! Since the sky was overcast, I knew I’d need to over expose the image. I wanted a stark, blank sky anyway so that worked out. Ultimately I printed the image as a black and white on a matte finish paper which gives the piece the character of a pencil drawing.
Its a fun piece, one that I have been offering at shows only since the beginning of June. The response has been interesting eliciting a variety of feelings about it. Some see the individual bird as I do, others as an outcast. Some just feel sorry for the poor thing. It may be a bit of a Rorschach Test type of image. We relate to the bird on the lower wire in our own unique personal-history, life-experience kinda way.
Archival pigment giclee prints are available matted and framed on my website HERE.
Driving back from a show in Virginia last month, we passed by a section of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. It was snowing which made the scene along the river appear to be in a fog. The snow obscured the details of distant hills, and generally gave a soft feeling to the landscape. I made some mental notes about returning under similar conditions with a qualified camera.
After a few more miles I couldn’t stand it any longer and pulled over the first chance I got. I always bring a camera with me to shows in order to make new booth images for future show submissions, and to do some PR images for web use. So I got out of the van with that “show” camera in hand and figured I would do what I could. The camera is an Olympus Stylus 1, a small sensor camera with a very good lens and full manual control capability. I am a strong believer that strong images are made by artists not cameras, so I worked to create an image that conveyed the feelings I had looking out over the river.
I like the feeling of dimension in this piece. My eye travels first to the island on the left then to the distant island on the right, then toward the middle island and the distant hill. I converted the image to black and white as color was not relevant to my visualization, and added a subtle sepia toning. I think the image has a rather timeless quality to it and am quite happy with it. My 11×14 test print is very pleasing and so this image is available on my website HERE.
There are many unfortunate terms used to describe the work and tools of photographers. They come from within the medium itself which makes them even more disturbing. I find the vocabulary especially problematic for photographers who work with the medium as an art form. A making of fine photographs requires a number of decisions about how a particular subject or scene is to be rendered in order to communicate what the photographer-artist wants to convey. The image thus created reflects a complex, although sometimes rather quickly considered, set of thoughts. Words like “shot” and “capture” fall well short of describing the process involved in the making of the art photograph.
As an artist, I am not “capturing” an image. The image does not exist out in the world only to be found and collected by the photographer. Images do not exist in any form in nature. Images are the unique creations of an individual artist and brought into being through their imagination and craftsmanship. I believe that what Jerrold Levinson (American Philosopher) wrote concerning the making of musical works applies to photographic works as well – that “they do not exist prior to the composer’s compositional activity, but are brought into existence by that activity“.
Knowing why we do something can give us insight into what we are doing presently and motivate our choices going forward. I came across one explanation of why artists create the work they do which I find apropos. Artists, it is suggested, create works that help them fill in for something that is missing in their lives. I can see that explanation of motivation being true with certain works I make. There have been times when I felt the need for more beauty, peacefulness, or simplicity around me. There are many stressors in life, and creating imagery that balances those stressors by emphasizing peace and simplicity seems like a logical explanation. These works then are expressions of that desire.
One piece that I come back to often when feeling a desire to unwind is titled A Ripple, A Blade of Grass. It is an image of grasses reflected in pond water in Acadia National Park . A minimalist image, it really only consists of lines against a monochromatic background. I find it both soothing and engaging though. The simplicity of it is calming, yet there are lines that create triangles (due to the grasses reflection in the water), a shape that imparts a sense of action. Also, the ripples in the water have created zig-zag patterns that serve as visual contrast to the straight lines and add a sense of tension through the implied motion. I applied a sepia tonality to the piece to lower the visual harshness of a stark black and white.
This type of imagery is not easy to make because as a result of it being minimalist, every element that is included becomes more important to the piece. Finding the right balance in a minimalist work is part of the challenge however, and for that I am often working from a gut feeling.
I’ve been looking back at images I made in the last few years. It’s an annual practice that I enjoy at the beginning of each new year and is an important part of deciding which images will be introduced as new prints.
In moving some things around, also an annual process, I came across a box of slides from 1991. Yeah, I can’t believe how long ago that was now either. This image however was not representative of my style then. It is more abstract than my work was then. It is a much more subjective image. In the last several years however, my work has become increasingly subjective — more about form, texture, color, and minimalist. In some ways I feel my work has become more about mood and more expressive.
It’s not that I haven’t created expressive imagery before, it’s just that I’m making and exhibiting more of it now. I find it very exciting and freeing. I’m creating work that is both authentic and in the moment. I’m expressing my personal aesthetic without concern to ultimate use and really enjoying it.
I’m busy with last preparations for my first fall show of the year which is also at a new venue for me – Wheaton Village in Millville, NJ. The Festival of Fine Craft at Wheaton Village has a great history and excellent reputation. I am excited about being a part of the show this year. Wheaton Village Fine Craft Show
In some ways I enjoy the subtlety of late fall more than the peak color period. I find a certain quietness about the limited color palate and less abundant screaming vibrance of November woods. It is then that I respond to the nuanced beauty of fall. A single leaf that didn’t quite make it to the ground but instead is woven between the blades of tall lake-front grasses. I seek these type of situations especially on overcast days when the light is even and soft. To enhance that mood further I worked with a long telephoto lens which allows close-focusing and limited background detail. My composition is designed to emphasize the diagonal “movement” of the grass blades to contrast with the tension of the vertical movement of the Maple leaf momentarily halted but still under the strain of gravity.
For this image I used a Nikon D300 camera with a Nikkor 200-400mm f4.0 lens on a Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff bullhead. Like much of my work, this image was made at Lake Galena in Bucks County, PA.