I’m looking forward to this weekend. I will be exhibiting with the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen at Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.
There will be new work! I have been creating images with a couple unique themes. I am excited about both new bodies of work. The first set of imagery is being done with a variety of antique lenses and plays with light and color as reflected off of the flowers that grow in meadows near my studio. The second set of imagery is being done with macro lenses and deals with light refraction off of water drops on plant leaves and petals. In future posts I will be speaking about these new bodies of work in more detail.
The image below is part of the first new body of work and was made with an antique Meyer Optik Gorlitz 135mm f3.5 lens (Exakta mount) that I purchased on eBay from an overseas seller. The lens, when used correctly, can render background elements with a very soft, etherial feeling. The out-of-focus highlights expand into spherical shapes that I find very pleasing. I used the lens on a Fuji XT-10 camera body with an adaptor that allows it to be used on the camera. Exposure is done in manual mode as is focusing, but the Fuji has a wonderful electronic viewfinder which allows me to precisely select the area I want to be sharp.
A big part of the visual impact of an image is the focal point. The focal point is the specific location that the viewer is lead to by the photographer. That point may be achieved through selective focus, light contrast, color, or some compositional device. Sometimes, the focal “point” may be a focal plane, a slice of the image that is somehow accentuated and made therefore, most important.
I like the visual impact of altering the plane-of-focus in an image beyond the normal parallel and instead creating a plane that is rather diagonal. It imparts a bit of an altered state feeling. It can also impart a bit of a dreaminess. This dreamy state is partially due to the defusing of an area of the image that is usually part of the normal depth of field. I like too, that the result is a simplification of the scene so that the specific slice I want to draw attention to is the only area in focus.
To achieve my desired result, I use a Lensbaby adapter which allows me to use Nikon lenses on Micro-Four-Thirds cameras. In the image below I used a Nikon 28mm manual focus lens (quite old) on a Panasonic G2 camera and set the plane of focus off to the side and down. It was a spring evening after a rain and the woods were vibrant green and smelled wonderful.
One of my goals when selecting new photographic tools is to be able to do things that my current tools don’t allow or make too difficult. Last year I purchased a Nikon Coolpix P900 because I felt that its crazy 83x optical zoom lens which ranges from an equivalent 24-2000mm would allow me to compose almost any image I wanted. It also was said to have a pretty good image stabilization function which I knew would be necessary with 2000mm!
No camera can fill every niche, and the more any one camera claims to allow me to do, the lower the image quality tends to be. So I went into this purchase expecting the limitations of such a camera. Having worked with it just a bit now, I have confirmed my suspicions regarding its limitations but also what I hoped it to be – a go to camera when an image idea comes to me and there is no time or access to setting up “better” gear.
One of those “in the moment” ideas came to me during a recent evening and the Nikon P900 was the tool I selected to try to make the image I was visualizing. The moon was slowly coming over a ridge lined with trees. I wanted to compose a frame filling image of the moon with the silhouetted trees in front in a very flat, two-dimensional way. I ran inside for the camera and started composing. At 800 ISO I was able to get sufficient shutter speed to hand hold 2000mm I thought. But for extra security I found a post to lean on and stabilized myself further.
I took the meter reading off the moon to maximize my shutter speed and because I wanted the sky to go black. The image became a round, golden ball with some crater detail and bare winter trees silhouetted. Its the image I visualized in my head.
Prints in two sizes are available on my website – Here
After being asked “what camera I use” I am most often asked “do you manipulate your images?” I don’t mind answering either question, but neither is straightforward. I use and have used a broad variety of gear, so my answer to “what camera” never pleases anyone. The harder question concerns “manipulation.” At a couple recent shows, a show judge and a customer asked me if I manipulated my images. The problem I have is that I do not believe most people know what they mean when they ask about manipulation. I have also discovered that those who do have a sense of what manipulation means to them, have differing ideas.
As a result, I always ask the questioner what they mean by “manipulation”. Some will answer honestly that they don’t know, in which case I just explain what I do in some detail. However, the show judge I mentioned above told me his definition of manipulation involved putting things into the image that were not in the original scene. That is not a practice I engage in. In the case of the customer who asked me about manipulation, I asked him “how I would measure manipulation?” His answer was that I would measure it “in hours.” I told him that I have a very straightforward workflow process and “hours” are never involved. However, I may stare at an image for days before I decide on how it should ultimately be developed to match the feeling I had while in the field.
Ironically, both the adding of elements to a photograph that were not in the original scene, and the working of a print for hours have been around since the beginning of photography. These practices were common and often discussed in their time as well. To my way of thinking, all of photography is fundamentally a manipulation. Working with a three-dimensional subject in which light is bouncing off in every direction and converting it into a two-dimensional print in which no light is emanating is a pretty big manipulation. Take away color as in black and white prints, add perspective, contrast, exposure, focus, and the myriad other creative decisions artistic photographers make in the creation of even rather “straight” images, and the answer to the “manipulation” question is never a yes or no reply.
My “formal” education in photography started in High School where I took my first class in black & white image making. It was a basic course but stoked the flames. In college, I continued my exploration of black & white photography while majoring in Psycho-Biology. In all, I had 4 semesters of photography in college which allowed me to both learn and experiment with the medium.
After my undergraduate career, I moved to color slide film. With nature as my primary theme, I learned to deal with the added complexity color can bring to an image and the unforgiving attributes of slide film. But, color excited me, most editors wanted color (specifically slide film), and I understood the importance of color both biologically and emotionally.
Within the last couple years however, I have found myself gravitating back to black & white work for certain scenes or feelings where color either detracts or is unimportant to the image. These images have a somewhat different mood than even my more monochromatic color images. I have now dedicated one of my printers to just black & white work and am finding myself thinking in both color and B&W more often.
The image below is a good example of where I feel B&W is especially effective. It allows for the image to be mostly about texture and geometry. There is no color aspect to draw you to one part of the image over the other. The bird is for me the visual center and being the only animal in the image, the visual subject. In a color image, I think it would be lost (at least in this image).
I’m really appreciating being able to get back to making photographs. Earlier this week I saw fog again when I awoke and took off, straight to my favorite lake! There were Canada Geese in large numbers and a distant Bald Eagle perched on the opposite shore high in a tree.
Even when working at a location I’ve been to a thousand times, I need to take time to absorb what I’m seeing and feeling. What moved me to start the process was the mist rising off the water against a winter woodland and a large stone in the foreground.
In the field, I used a Canon 5D Mark II camera and a Canon 70-200mm f2.8 L IS II lens on a Gitzo tripod with a Really Right Stuff head. I like to work with the mirror locked up and a 2 second self-timer. This image was made in color and converted to black & white. I developed the image further using levels, curves, shadows/highlights, and some sharpening. When all was finished I applied sepia toning to emphasize the mood.
The Chase Center in Wilmington, DE is a great venue for a show and no one puts together a better show than the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen! I’ll be exhibiting and selling my work this weekend at the Chase Center and looking forward to seeing current collectors and meeting new ones as well.
The Audubon Art and Craft Festival was well attended and a fun event. I missed having a couple of friends there who had previously participated but was pleased to find other familiar faces I haven’t seen in a while. Such is the nature of these types of shows. The weather could not have been better and the new location for the show worked out well.
The magazine This Week in the Poconos did a cover feature about the show accompanied by my image which I’ve titled simply- Blue Bird. It is an image I made here in Pennsylvania some years back and one which is part of many private home art collections.
This weekend I will be participating in the Audubon Art and Craft Festival (http://www.audubonfestival.com/) in Hawley, PA. This is a fun show with a nature oriented theme. There are live animal shows and a variety of some fine craft and artworks. Held around Lake Wallenpaupack, it’s also just a nice day out.
Great Blue Herons are wonderful birds and a favorite subject of mine. These two images are titled after the yoga poses that this bird is “obviously” holding (Warrior III on left and Downward-facing Dog on right). Both images were made at Lake Galena in Bucks County, PA . I used a Canon EOS 1D Mark III camera with Canon EF 500mm f4.0 L IS and Canon TC 1.4 (700mm optic equivalent). To hold this system stable and yet still have mobility, I use a Foba Superball tripod- head and Wimberley Sidekick.
I have selected a new image to accompany Downward-facing Dog, an image of a Great Blue Heron stretching in a posture that reminded me of the famous yoga pose of the same name. This new print, which is of an image made the same morning as Downward-facing Dog, is of the same bird in yet another yoga-like posture – Warrior III. Warrior III is a more difficult position to achieve, at least for me, though this heron seemingly does it with little difficulty.
As you have probably guessed, the new print will be titled – Warrior III. Like Downward-facing Dog, I use the reflection to create a Zen-like symmetry in the image and the overcast lighting (acting like a huge softbox) to eliminate shadow and harsh reflections. My composition does not reveal any real horizon line so the bird and it’s reflection almost seem to be floating in air. The tree limb that breaks the water’s surface and a few water bubbles are all that “ground” the bird to a terrestrial sphere.