One of the things I like about living in north-central Pennsylvania is our four distinct seasons. And while I don’t particularly like the coldest weather we get here, I do like the visuals of leafless trees and the landscape covered in snow. This type of scene elicits a mood within me that tends to be rather sentimental, nostalgic, or cozy. The cold air outdoors can be countered by a fresh cup of Pike Place coffee or hot chocolate (a bit of peppermint Schnapps helps too). Maybe a favorite blanket, a fireplace, a comfortable chair come to mind as well.
So it’s not really the landscape itself which has a mood, it’s our response to a scene which is projected onto the landscape that elicits our feelings. When I am creating images outside in the winter I am working mostly by gut instinct. A combination of conscious and subconscious responses to the visual environment effected by the feeling of cold, the sounds around me, maybe the smell of a distant fire. I cannot, of course, put all of these sensations into my image, but they impact the creative process.
When the images are brought into my studio and viewed on a computer screen away from the conditions in which they were made, I can evaluate them at a different level. Without all of the sensory stimuli which were associated with the making of the images in the field, I can look at them with fresh eyes. Elements like contrast, tonality, texture, composition, visual impact, and even just how much I like the image, can be evaluated more consciously. My goal in this part of the process is to be authentic to my visual experience in the field and my aesthetic response to that image in the studio.
The image below was made a short walk from my studio. I was drawn to the texture of the trees and to the way they surrounded the small red building. The evergreen trees provide a visual color balance to the red and a color harmony with the blues in the shadowy parts of the woods. Strong diagonal lines throughout the image lead from the the upper left to the lower right and so to the red building as well. Most of this analysis takes place in the studio and not in the field, at least not consciously. But I am sure that the studio analysis of the image impacts my subconscious responses going forward when I am working in the moment.
For many in America, the Bald Eagle is the symbol of freedom and strength. These magnificent birds represent both qualities well. They are also however symbols of what happens when Americans stand up to the greed and short-sightedness that causes great environmental harm. Once Endangered, these birds have made a great comeback. They represent a resolute attitude by those who understand that we live on a planet where our actions have consequences. When I see these majestic birds in my own backyard, it gives me hope and a sense of determination to fight so that this experience may be had by our children.
This image is available as archival 7×10″ and 10×14″ Limited Edition prints from my gallery on-line.
I sometimes feel transported back in time by the simplicity of the rural landscape around me. I can imagine that it is the middle of the Nineteenth Century with no wires, no automobiles, no cell towers. On a wintry day with snow on the ground, the landscape becomes even more stark. Working with the most modern of photographic tools, I still felt compelled to create a monochromatic piece suggestive of old glass-plate days and wonky lenses.
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.
At the beginning of each year I make the decision as to which images will be added to my collection of works to be offered at shows and on-line. Recently, I began evaluating work I did years back and have added images to the grouping of images to bring back to light. This year, one of the images I have selected is an award-winning piece which also hung in the Smithsonian Natural History Museum in Washington, DC. As part of a special exhibit associated with selected pieces from the Nature’s Best Windland Smith Rice International Awards, my image made at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Kempton, PA hung among some magnificent works. The image also appeared in the special awards issue of Nature’s Best magazine.
I made this image at sunrise on a day with heavy fog in the valley and using a telephoto zoom lens, isolated the geometry which I felt made for the strongest composition. The rising sun lit up the fog and turned it golden in color which was recorded on my choice of Fujichrome Slide Film.
The image will be offered initially as a 10×14 inch print matted to 16×20 through my website http://www.paulgrecianphoto.com where it may be purchased directly, and will begin to be available at shows starting in March (check my Events listings also on my website).
The Smithsonian exhibit of the images was brilliantly done with large reproductions, a great venue, and much excitement. The presenter of awards that evening was one of the masters of nature photography, Art Wolf.
I am still having trouble driving around here in Pennsylvania without getting distracted by the wonderful fall display this year. I like each part of the color transformation starting with the earliest changes and ending with just color accents on the trees. I can’t safely pull over everytime I feel inspired while on the road. Working at Ricketts Glen State Park however doesn’t pose that problem.
This image was made after a heavy rain which really got the water flowing fast and furious. But the image is designed to also emphasize the stone stairway on the left. Pathways have been a theme of mine for many years. In this case the stair path also provides a visual alternative to following the flow of water and balances the fallen tree trunk on the lower right. What I especially like is that the stairs give me a way into the image and a mental place from which to explore the entire scene.
I have been working with a Micro-Four-thirds camera system made by Olympus for some time now and have been pleased with my results. Importantly, I also find that there are certain types of image making and certain kinds of locations where a small profile camera system allows me to stay active and flexible.
My show year still has six events on the calendar including a Sugarloaf show this weekend in Oaks, PA. Go to my website for my full show schedule and additional galleries of work – http://www.paulgrecianphoto.com
During the past 9 months I have been working on a series of images depicting the lives of a group of barn cats residing on a small Pennsylvania farm. There have always been cats in my life and I have found their behavior and beauty a tempting subject for years. I approached this project from a fully visual perspective but can not help be enthralled by their behavioral interactions with each other. I have also become very appreciative of how hard their lives can be even when they are provided supplemental food.
In many ways these cats are living like other wildlife; they are dealing with the elements, sickness, and even predators. I find myself viewing them now as I would have any animal I studied while earning my degree in Psycho-Biology (Animal Behavior). This cat project has become very personal as I have come to know these animals as individuals. Even in what seems like a rather short period of time working with the cats I have seen some come and go, empathized with there feelings of lose and cold, and rejoiced in the new births.
This is a project that will continue over time as the group is a dynamic and fascinating subject for me. I am currently showing a selection of images from this project at Artist’ Gallery in Lambertville, NJ. I will also have several from the series at my regularly scheduled art show events. See my full schedule at http://www.paulgrecianphoto.com.