I create images mostly as an intuitive process. I react in the moment to a stimulus that attracts me and then work to make a picture that satisfies my response. I know when I’ve been successful when there’s almost a feeling of relief. Then I keep exploring to discover what else about my visual experience needs satisfying. Sometimes during the process, I talk to myself to achieve the result I want (it actually helps calm me down so that I can be analytical about camera settings).
Because I work intuitively (after 40 years of making images), I don’t do any real analysis of the images while in the field. Back in the studio however, I can spend as much time staring at the images as I please, or need. On a screen I can evaluate what about the images, and my intuition, worked. Then I determine what steps are needed in the development of the images to fully realize the emotion I was feeling.
I typically don’t venture out with any preconceived ideas about particular images I want to make. Generally, my motivation to go out is based on situational elements like, it’s cloudy, the leaves are colorful, I have time to explore.
Below is an analysis that I went through in the studio while developing this image.
Bringing this image into Lightroom and doing some basic developing of color, contrast, and shadow/highlights adjustments, I can then evaluate the image overall. After looking at it for a while, I can judge whether the image is balanced. Since we tend to look at images from left-to-right (the same way we read), I begin there. The left side (1) is heavy with trees, so the visual weight there needs to be balanced on the right. The red sumac leaves (2) progress lower left to upper right, drawing the eye in that direction, good. At point (3), the green leaves are brighter and encompass a larger part of the image, which also drives the viewer to the right. Lastly, the distant trees (4), draw the eye to the upper right, good again. Overall, I feel the image is well balanced and pleasing. This process of analysis serves as a kind of feedback loop which enhances my intuition next time in the field.
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.
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.
I am drawn to reflections. The reflections can be of color or objects, doesn’t matter. During the fall though I seem to be more attuned to reflections than other seasons. It’s not surprising, fall is when the most vibrant colors are found in this part of the country. On a bright sunny day when the light is hitting trees decked out in their fall oranges, reds, and yellows, those colors make for crazy backgrounds when reflected into pond, lake, and creek waters. These reflections form the backdrop for the point of focus in my images. The areas of focus are often considered the most important elements in an image, but for me in an image dealing with background colors, the subject is really as much about the color as what is in focus.
In this image of rush grasses in front of lake reflections, the lines and colors are both equally important to me. The goal was to isolate the lines with limited depth of field to smooth out the reflection as much as possible. For greatest versatility in composing, I chose a Canon 28-300mm L lens and worked with a full frame Canon 5D on a tripod. I could work all day with this combination which allowed me to simplify the process and concentrate on what excited me visually. This image was made in the Delaware Water Gap, PA.
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.
My 9 days at the Kutztown Folk Festival starts this Saturday (http://www.kutztownfestival.com/ ). This summer staple is always a fun time and draws an audience from around the region which can number over 100,000!
There will be a lot of early mornings in my future and 9-days of smelling funnel cake, but the opportunity to meet new customers, and see some previous ones as well, makes it all worth while.
One of the newer pieces that I will have at the show is this image – “House Finch”. It has become an image that I particularly like as it has many of the elements that I try to bring to my work. Much of my imagery that is about birds includes a good deal of habitat, some painterly selective focus, and soft light. The bird is relatively small in the frame but the composition still make it the clear point of interest. The photograph was made with a Canon EOS 1D Mark III camera with a Canon EF 500mm f4.0 L IS lens and a Canon TC1.4X on a Gitzo Tripod with a Foba Superball head and Wimberley Sidekick attached.
This weekend I will be a featured artist at the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen show Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen show at the Lancaster Convention Center in Lancaster, PA. As a featured artist at this show, I was interviewed today by Lancaster Newspapers, Inc. The interview should appear in the Friday Entertainment section of the paper.
The Convention Center is a new venue for this fine Guild show and will allow a clean floor plan for patrons to enjoy all the great, original work to be purchased.
The image below is one I made in the White Mountains of New Hampshire during a fall trip. Somewhat ironically, I am shipping a framed print back to New Hampshire for a client who is making it a gift.
There is still plenty of time to get over to the Artists’ Gallery in Lambertville, NJ and take in A Sense of Place. This two-person show featuring the oil paintings of Materese Roche and photography by myself, continues through to September 4.
One of the images that I introduced at this show is of a wooded area where I made prominent one particular tree. What drew me to this tree was the placement of it’s few remaining brightly colored fall leaves. I composed the image so that the remaining leaves almost suggest the flickering of a flame. The early morning light was dim so that I could add a sense of mystery to the woods by exposing for the highlights. The tight composition I created emphasizes the tree and specifically adds symmetry to the image.
I made this image that I have entitled Monogahela Wood, in the Monogahela Forest of West Virginia during a trip with a friend. West Virginia is a beautiful state and one I certainly would like to get back to.
January is a time for me to print new pieces which will now appear at both art/fine craft shows and at the Artists’ Gallery (Lambertville, NJ). The image below is a new work that I’ve titled Autumn Meander. It is an image I made here in Bucks County, PA this past fall and continues with a theme I’ve been developing – Paths.
It is available on archival canvas at a size of 24×36 (ready to hang) for $495.00. It is a wonderful piece in this size and really allows you to lose yourself down the path. It does need to be seen in person!
I’ve been preparing for 3 shows, a gallery exhibit and a fund-raiser, all starting next week. But to my surprise, fall in Bucks County, PA has turned quite beautiful. I felt a walk was in order to take it all in. So I packed a bag, not with a change of cloth and toothbrush, but with a camera, a few lenses and a couple Cliff Bars. Arriving in the dark at a favorite haunt, I watched the moon set over a distant ridge and spoke with a bird watcher about how great the hawk migration has been this year. In time I could see the vibrance of maple, oak, and sycamore leaves as the sun lit them from behind.
To the trails I went and began to work. It was very affecting. I responded quickly to the dramatic light, vivid reds, yellows and oranges, but also to the geometry I could create by purposeful composition and perspective. Wide angle thru short telephoto focal lengths allowed me to make images that conveyed the grandeur of an otherwise ordinary fall day. Five hours later, I was pretty spent, but was pretty pleased I made it out.