Friday, December 31, 2010

A Time to Look Back & Ahead

It was 53º in the North Country today. Our January thaw arrived before January did. The beaver pond that I walk past for my daily exercise has standing water and slush over the ice and the river is losing much of its ice. Walking is good for thinking.

I’ve been reading “Occam’s Razor” by Bill Jay. Bill has long been my favorite commentator on the state of photography and our son bought me a copy of his out-of-print book for Christmas, a series of essays. It is classic Bill Jay. He cuts to the chase and tells it like he sees it. The essay I read this morning was “Professors and Professionals” in which he describes the divide between academic art photographers, “a lazy dilettante, playing with inconsequential, irrelevant and largely superficial ideas...” and commercial photographers, “who, because of lack of intelligence, moral scruples or willful ignorance of the medium’s history and aesthetic issues, have compromised with commerce...”. His descriptions go on and explain the problems I have experienced trying to cross that divide.

I started photography at age 13, was largely self taught until high school when I enrolled in NYI’s correspondence course (still available today) followed by the ill-fated Famous Photographers course. After joining the Army I both attended and later taught in the Signal Center & School of still photography at Ft. Monmouth, NJ. Of course all that was based on commercial photography but I had an artistic bent and (perhaps naively) saw no reason that I could not apply my commercial photography skills to ‘personal work’ that could be considered to be art. After all Ansel Adams was doing that.

In art school after getting out of the Army I had my first encounter with the divide that Bill Jay described in his essay. Because I had changed my major I lost some credits and became aware that I needed to make up at least 6 semester hours in order to graduate as planned. The dean of students suggested that I get one of the professors to agree to grant me some credit based on my prior life experience and I thought that my photography background would be just the ticket so I approached the photography professor (there was only one) to ask what I would need to present for him to consider it. I hadn’t taken any photo courses from this fellow since I had already been through three schools and taught in one. He took one look at my work and informed me that I didn’t know as much about photography as his first semester students. Puzzled I asked what I was doing wrong and he said “Your work isn’t esoteric enough”.

Needless to say, since I wasn’t trying to be esoteric, I didn’t get the necessary credits to graduate from him. I did get them but that is another story. As a commercially trained photographer I was trying to clearly communicate with my photographs, not hide my meaning. Some time later I saw some of his photos in a faculty exhibit, blurred images of snowplows plowing snow in a blizzard printed in shades of grey, roughly zones 3-6, no blacks and no whites (Ansel would not have approved). They were in a gallery and were considered “ART” but had one of our students in the Army school where I taught turned in images with technical quality like that for their assignments we’d have flunked him out and sent him to infantry school instead. Therein lies the divide. Neither of us was seeing photography in the other’s terms.

In this weblog I have dealt the question “is it art?” several times, most recently in October, and I still have trouble with that divide. Bill Jay said that for his part he didn’t think that photography was art. He apparently didn’t think it was lesser or lower than art but simply a different animal. The real problem however isn’t how we define art, rather it is the gap that the two mindsets create. I finished my degree in Fine Art (ceramics, not photography) and, as this blog attests, I have continued photography. All this is the long way of saying that my New Year’s resolution is to continue to try to wrestle with the gap. That and lots of making photographs and I wish you all a happy and productive 2011.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Going Round Again

A different twist on the round images I did last year. Those were just cropped round, these are distorted in Photoshop to appear spherical. I got the idea from an email sent to me by Adorama which attributed the idea to Carol Leigh. I couldn't find it on her site but she has a lot of stuff there. I probably just didn't look hard enough because Adorama had all the instructions in their email.

The photo is of a dandelion seedhead that I photographed at Chaumont Barrens in 2009. It was cropped square and set to 8 bit mode (the filter doesn't work with 16 bit images). The trick is to distort the image twice with a 180º rotate in the middle. First you  use the distort>polar coordinates>polar to rectangular filter. Rotate the image 180º and apply the distort>polar coordinates>rectangular to polar filter.

I have mixed feelings about this sort of modification because I have so little control over it. It feels like I should have more of "a hand" in the process than to simply set an automated "accident" in motion. OTOH when I was firing Raku pottery there was always an element of accident and I didn't have any qualms about accepting the results of that process. I guess I have a prejudice against computer accidents vs kiln accidents. I need to work on that. In the end, just as with Raku, sometimes you get something nice and sometimes you just want to break/toss what comes out the other end. The advantage with pixels is that there are no broken shards left over to give evidence to your failures.

You do have a bit of control in your choice of what images are appropriate to use for this treatment and I've played a bit with applying other filters before or midway through the spherizing process described above. Of the ones I've tried "Pinch" seems to help sometimes.

Addendum: I've been playing with this process to see what works best. The one below is definitely one of the best so far.

Monday, December 13, 2010

An Oldie but a Goodie

I made this photo back in 2005 and posted it to a website that I had at the time. A woman in Maryland promptly bought a large print of it. It comes up again because another person just commissioned a print after seeing it on a note card at the local gallery where I have some work.  It is an nice image and has special memories for me as it was made during a pleasant walk in a snowstorm. The tree was one of my 'milestones' as it was exactly one mile from my house. Sadly they cut it down the following spring. I can't walk by this spot without thinking of this photo and that snowy walk in 2005. Be sure to click on the image for the larger view. The blowing snow shows up better in the large view and feel free to use it on your desktop but please do not "share" it by sending copies to others or posting it elsewhere without permission from me. If you want others to see it, send them the URL to this page.

Shameless self-promotion: Although I'd be hard put get it to you in time for the holidays I remind my readers that I sell prints. They make a nice treat for yourself any time. An 6X9" print matted to 11x14" is $35, an 8x12" print matted to 12x16" is $60 and a 12x18" matted to 18x24" is $100. Sales tax (if you live in NY) and shipping is extra.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Holiday Greeting to All Our Friends

Click on image to see a large version

Friday, December 10, 2010

Amaryllis Closeup

The fourth bloom has opened (see yesterday's post) and there is a second stalk with two more buds. This closeup of one of the blooms was made this afternoon .

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Blooms in Winter

Diane bought an Amaryllis for her windowsill at work and it bloomed this week, three blossoms and a fourth bud. We're having a very wintry patch of weather, first snow and now sub-zero cold. A bit of color on the windowsill is a pleasant reminder that this weather is temporary.

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Brisk Walk

I took a brisk walk late this afternoon, brisk in both senses, I walked briskly and it was only 25º F with a significant breeze. When I reached the  beaver pond I found it mostly frozen over and the geese finally gone. There had still been a couple dozen or more there as recently as two days ago. Much of the thin ice cover had little dots of snow on the surface giving it a speckled appearance. I shot several photos of details along the shore and patterns on the ice. Arriving back home after an hour plus of walking I showed the photos to Diane. She declared this one 'blog worthy' and so it is.

Photo made with a Canon G10 on aperture priority, ISO 400, 1/30th sec @ f/4.5.

Saturday, November 27, 2010


We were greeted with a dusting of snow on the ground when we woke this morning. When I went out to fetch the morning paper there were squirrel and bird tracks under the bird feeders and on the front walk. We have a group of Mourning Doves that  hang around our yard. They are ground feeders and they wander about in erratic patterns as if they are unsure where they want to go. This one walked under the front gate and wandered about in several circles before walking back under the gate into the yard. Some days I feel that bird, wandering about aimlessly.

The photo was taken with my Canon G10 and has been modified in Photoshop to emphasize the tracks and their pattern.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

New Blog Recommendation

Great news. Jay Maisel has started a blog. There's link to it off his website. Woo Hoo! For those who don't know he's an awesome photographer. He has a great eye and a great attitude. He is one of the few photographers I'd like to take a workshop with. Check him out and while you're there look at his "recent work" link too.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Book of Adirondack Photos By Yours Truly

I created a small (7"x7") book of B&W Adirondack scenes using Blurb. It has now been made public meaning you can preview the first 15 pages of it and purchase it directly from Blurb.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

On My Daily Walk

I've been walking every day lately and taking photos of the cloud patterns that I see. Yesterday there were some really interesting patterns and I intended to post this last night but my computer picked up a Trojan (Backdoor: Cycbot2) while surfing some education site. It took me two hours to get it off my computer which I finally did by doing a system restore. Fortunately I had just installed Lightroom 3 a day or two earlier followed by an update that Lightroom found when I first opened it. The computer set a new restore point before each install so all that I lost was the update to LR 3.2. I reinstalled that and after verifying that everything worked (and the Trojan was gone). I manually set another restore point. Note to those who write and release viruses, Trojans, etc. onto the Internet, GET A LIFE!

Both yesterday and today I was walking in late afternoon/early evening and the clouds have been quite varied. They also change appearance fairly quickly between the wind and changing light. I liked this composition best of those from yesterday.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Artist's Open Studio Tour

The local arts council sponsors an open studio event every year and I took part this weekend. My "studio", the place I do my photography, is outdoors and my digital darkroom, where I massage my images to what I visualized using Lightroom and Photoshop is a very small room in the back of my house. The former is no place to display photos and the latter is too small to accommodate more than one other person so I borrowed space from the arts council in Old Snell Hall in Potsdam.

The space is available so I've decided to rent it as a place to do my matting and framing. It will also serve as a gallery for my work. No formal hours at this point, just if you happen to catch me there or make an appointment. Email is the best bet for reaching me to make an appointment, jim.bullard at (Use the symbol in place of the word "at" and of course, no spaces). Put "Studio Visit" in the subject line so that it doesn't go to my spam file. I will be doing future Open Studio events too.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The "Art" Question Again

Fellow photo blogger Guy Tal posted a defense of photography as art to his blog yesterday. Guy is a first rate photographer and, in my opinion, an artist. For what it's worth I call myself an Artist/Craftsman/Photographer on my business cards because I think that what I do encompasses all of those, sometimes all at the same time. Like everyone who takes photos some of my images are just photos, images made to record an event, take note of something I want to remember visually. If I mean to share it with others I will apply my skills to make it really good, to 'craft' it well and then it is both craft and photograph. Others, like the one above are the result of a particular visualization of the subject which involve a specific intent in the camera and/or in what we have come to call "post production", the digital version of the darkroom.

The image above was made with a 'simplification' treatment in mind. It was shot on one of the walks I do for exercise. I wanted to emphasize the pattern of the fence and the vines but I knew that in the straight photo that would largely be lost amidst the detail of every blade of grass in focus. It was shot with a Canon G10, easy to carry on such outings but like all pocket sized digital cameras it has great depth of field even at fairly wide apertures. So I used a polygonal simplification filter to reduce the detail to the level I wanted. I did also apply some blurring to the grass beyond the fence prior to the simplifying filter.

I don't feel that applying such obvious filtration to an image is necessary to make it "Art". I consider the photo I posted on Tuesday to be art as well. Despite its straightforward appearance I did take care in composing it to include precisely the elements I wanted to communicate and I did apply post production work to it to emphasize the details I wanted the viewer to see. But the details of what I did aren't what makes it art. They are just the tools of art. What makes art is using those tools in the same way that the poet uses just the right words arranged in just the right way.

Check out Guy's blog and look at his photos while you are there <>

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

First Snow

Last Saturday we drove to Endicott to visit our daughter. From Canton to around Dekalb Jct. it had snowed during the night, just a light dusting, but it reflected the early light of dawn making the world brighter than it otherwise would have been at that hour.

This isn't my usual type of landscape. I'm often annoyed by power and phone lines that obstruct an otherwise beautiful scene. The large tower here is the 765KV line that cuts across our area and was the subject of considerable protest when it was built to carry power downstate. There are at least two other sets of lines in the photo for regional and local delivery of power. While the big tower does have an industrial/engineering sort of beauty about it I can't help thinking how serene this view would be without all the poles and wires.

Recently I've had hope for such a future. The Solar Highways project could eliminate all those wires because in addition to generating power it would become the power grid. It is projected that converting our road system to solar generation could replace not only our current electric generation (no more dammed rivers), it could also replace oil, gas and coal. If we replaced all the asphalt with solar panels it would generate more than twice the total energy we now use. Another reason I need to live to be 100, to see that day.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


This is the last I will post from last week's sky photos and I will confess that the bird was added. It actually did fly overhead  during that shoot but was against a boring patch of flat white sky with no detail or interesting bits. I took that shot and hoped the bird would fly to a more photogenic part of of the sky, most of which was quite amazing, but no... it landed in a tree. So I decided to digitally put it into this photo.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Another View, Same Sky

Another photo of the sky over the Hatch Rd. from last week.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

From Both Sides Now

I mentioned the variety in the sky in my last post. This photo was made only 12 minutes later and a short distance down the road from the photo in Friday's post. All told, in less than 20 minutes, I shot about two dozen different views that are totally or predominantly sky.

Friday, October 15, 2010

I've Looked at Clouds

Yesterday as I was driving into town on a back road the sky was amazing, a vast assortment of clouds and colors. I could point my lens in different directions and get very different scenes. This one is the only image where I also captured a single bird high up and silhouetted against the cloud. It begs to be printed very large.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Close, but No Frost

Here we are in mid-October and we've yet to have a frost. In the Adirondacks (South of here) the fall color is pretty much over, most of the leaves are down. Our foliage is just peaking and leaves are falling at in increasing rate but the geraniums in the window box and the impatiens in the planters are still in full bloom. In years past we could expect a killing frost any time after Labor Day. This year we have summer flowers and autumn leaves side by side.

Saturday, October 09, 2010

Dawn & The Art of Lean-to Maintenance

Yesterday I did my last lean-to maintainer trip of the season. I set out from home in the dark (5:30AM) and arrived at the Loj Rd. shortly before the sun rose. The dimly lit mountains stood in contrast to the color of the brightening pre-dawn sky and a small group of geese completed this image of the horizon toward the McIntye Range and Indian Pass.

The trails were quite wet, virtual streams in some places and I had made the mistake of wearing trail runners instead of my waterproof hiking boots so I ended up spending much of the day with wet feet but it was a mild day and I didn't mind. "My" lean-to is 4¼ miles toward Indian Pass (the notch right of center) from the parking lot at Adirondack Loj. I had plans to meet someone for lunch but didn't make it out until 12:30 and was another half hour getting to Saranac Lake. I returned home by the Tooley Pond Rd. in hope that autumn color had held up better at lower elevations but it was mostly gone. The canopy there was bare and the only color, mostly yellow, was in the understory.

Photo made with a Canon G10, handheld, 1/11th @ f/4.5, ISO 200.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Free Speech or harassment?

This week the Supreme Court takes up the “free speech” case of Rev. Fred Phelps who, with members of his church have protested at over 200 veteran’s funerals. The supposedly Rev. Phelps believes that U.S. deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq are God's punishment for the nation's tolerance of homosexuality. Based on that belief, he and his congregation demonstrate at funerals of veterans with signs that say "Thank God for dead soldiers," "You're Going to Hell," "God Hates the USA/Thank God for 9/11" and worse. Needless to say the demonstrations are distressing to members of the veterans families who are grieving the loss of a loved one, one whose life was forfeited as an result of patriotism. Rev. (and I use the title advisedly) Phelps and his followers defend their protests on the grounds that it is free speech protected by the Bill of Rights. In my view it is harassment pure and simple, however should the Supreme Court decide that it is protected free speech I propose that for every funeral Fred Phelps and his followers thus disrupt, a group of protesters should stand outside his church during services carrying signs saying vile and offensive things about the pastor and his parishioners. After all the Bible does say “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” and turn about is fair play. It won’t happen of course. Why? Because the vast majority of folks in this country are far more Christian in their behavior than Fred Phelps and his followers, even most who don’t count themselves as Christians.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Back to the 'Dacks

With a forecast of heavy rains and wind from the storm working its way up the East coast, I decided to take another photo excursion to the Adirondacks yesterday before the weather knocks the leaves off the trees. Ironically the best photos I got yesterday really don't incorporate much autumn color. I got all the way to Keene Valley and ended up exploring some new (to me) views of Roaring Brook Falls. The one above is of the lower cascade and was taken from a rubble bank at the base of the falls.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Adirondack Autumn Color

Yesterday I went South into the mountains again in search of fall color. At the Plains of Abraham outside Lake Placid I met Carl Heilman who was running a photography workshop. He and I cross paths once in a blue moon but it has been more years than usual since we last bumped into one another. He is well known in this region for his panoramic photos of the ADKs, often from mountaintops. Check out his site (link from his name above).

I made my own panorama of the scene there yesterday. The yellow in the foreground is mustard in bloom which I presume the farmer grows for green manure. The small mountain at the far left is Mt. Jo with the McIntyre Range behind disappearing into the clouds. The notch just right of center is Indian Pass with Nye and Street Mts. to the right of that.

There is still quite a lot of green foliage so the fall color will last for a while yet. If you haven't gotten out to enjoy it (with or without your camera) you still have time to plan some 'leaf peeping'. The photo below was made next to the bridge in Santa Clara.

Friday, September 24, 2010

First Full Day of Autumn

I went in search of some autumn color today and found this on the Mountain Pond Rd. The color on the trees in the Adirondacks vary by location. Most areas are about 25-30% but a few spots are already nearing peak. I estimate that the color will explode around the middle to the end of next week. Remember that if you click on the image you will see a larger version. The color is somewhat muted above because of the blog software shrinking the image.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Another Mountain Pond Photo

When I posted the last photo I debated between that one and this one which was shot only a few feet from the other. Here I was looking down at the shoreline of the pond. I liked the red stems contrasting with the green leaves.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Early Color

I drove to Saranac Lake yesterday, just a quick trip to pick up something I'd ordered at an outfitter, and stopped by Mountain Pond on the way. Long time readers know that Mountain Pond is a frequent stop for me. It is a relatively small body of water but between the changes in season, weather and time of day it is different every time I go there. Yesterday what caught my eye was this bit of early autumn color.

Grand views are hard to come by in the Adirondacks. It consists mainly of trees and dense undergrowth with the occasional small opening through which you can see a mountain or waterfall. Move a few feet one way or the other and your view is obscured. We all like to photograph the grand views of course and all those trees and shrubs are frustrating when they get in the way but often they are worthy of attention too.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Making a Digital Pseudo-mat

I've been lax on doing any technical posts so I decided to explain how I make the photos on this blog look like matted prints. You need to start by downloading and installing a Photoshop plugin called Extensis Photo Bevel 2.0 Solo. A quick Google search will find it and it's free. If you are working in Corel Paint Shop Pro it should work there too or in any photo editing software that is compatible with Photoshop plugins.

For this example I'll be using a photo from my recent Shelburne Museum trip. It is a shot of two animal sculptures. I initially thought they were dogs (and they may be) but now I notice they have prominent whiskers and pointy ears. OTOH they have pointy noses too so maybe they are dogs. In any case the first step is to resize them to whatever you want for the web. Most photos I post here are 800 pixels on the long side but for this exercise I've gone with 500 pixels by 400 pixels to fit the space better. Be sure to sharpen the image after resizing. Every time you resize you lose sharpness.

Now add a border using Image>Canvas Size... The width you add now will represent the beveled edge of the mat. I generally add 12 pixels horizontally and 12 vertically for 6 pixels per side. Be sure the box by "Relative" is checked in the canvas size dialog. In the example below I've added a slightly grey border because I'm making a white mat.

Now we are going to make the "bevel cut" on the mat. Go to your Filters and open the Extensis Photo Bevel Solo dialog. It looks like this...

When I did that screen capture I had already applied my desired settings. The default settings were for a round bevel shape 25 pixels wide. I changed it to Flat bevel 6 pixels wide (half the added canvas size). I left the other settings at default. If you chose to add more to the canvas size to make the mat look thicker, you should set the width here to half whatever you added. The direction determines how the shadow is cast. For a recess like a mat opening the light has to be from above. You could make it from the upper right if you wish. I generally leave the light direction at the default. Click on Apply and you will get this...

 Note that the top and left are darker and the bottom and right are lighter creating the illusion of a recess. Now we need the mat width which is nothing more than another Image>Canvas Size... command. Use your judgment. I generally go with 288 (it has to be an even number to be even on both sides) but if you like wider or narrower mats feel free to experiment. As I said I was going for a white mat so remember to change the color on the canvas size dialog.

At this point I have to confess that I added to the canvass one more time after the 288x288 addition. I added a 2x2 pixel middle grey border. * Blogger ads its own cell outline several pixels outside the image so you are seeing a double outline in all these images but in an application or web presentation which did not automatically show an outline the mat would disappear into the white background of the white page. If you aren't adding a frame it is a good idea to have a one pixel/side border to separate the image from the background unless you know that the background will be a contrasting color/tone.

* I later changed the background color of the blog to a middle grey so this is no longer evident but it is something to remember if you will be placing your image against a background of the same tone & hue that you chose for the pseudo-mat.

That is your basic pseudo-mat. You can fancy it up if you want by adding a texture. Set your magic selection tool to "0" tolerance and select the surface of your mat then apply a texture with the texture filter. I often use the canvas or sandstone textures. Keep it subtle though, very low relief and scale about 50%. You can also chose to do a pseudo-metal frame like my recent postings have. It is nothing more than another Image>Canvas Size... using black for the color and add around 40-50 pixels to the canvas. So there you go. Have fun. You don't even have to change blades in the mat cutter to get a clean cut.

Final image with sandstone texture (50% scale - relief 1) and a 40 pixel "black frame".

Thursday, September 09, 2010

Shelburne Again

Our daughter was visiting this week and we took her over to see the Shelburne Museum. She hadn't been there before and I wanted to see the Ansel Adams exhibit one more time. I've posted a new album of photos on my Picasaweb pages. The above was taken on the ferry ride back as the sun was setting behind the Adirondack mountains.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

St. Lawrence Seaway Day

I live near the St. Lawrence Seaway and in years past I hung out at the locks several times each summer watching ships go through. After 9/11 they moved the fences back so far it became a lot less fun and I haven't been there in 3 or 4 years. Our daughter is visiting and wanted to go so we went today. There was no traffic when we arrived but a tall ship was due at 2:15 so we went to a late lunch and then went back to Eisenhower Lock to wait, and wait. Finally we checked the schedule and the ships had been delayed. The tall ship was now due at 3:15. At 3:15 it was finally on the horizon so we waited again and got to see it enter the lock. The light unfortunately was behind the ship, glaring off the water and that made for difficult photography. I knew of an unofficial observation spot down river and we drove there next where I got this photo of the Europa from the Netherlands.

Later: A second photo of the Europa sailing away in more flattering light.

Thursday, September 02, 2010

An Opportunity to "Have It All"...

... If you are an Adobe imaging junkie that is. David duChemin is having a drawing for the full Adobe Creative Suite on his blog. If that is something you aspire to, head on over to the Pixelated Image and check it out. David gets around more than I do, taking photos all over the world and he publishes some informative ebooks that are very inexpensive.

As long as I'm back here so early I'll toss another photo at y'all from yesterday's paddle. This one is from the Black Pond side of the road to the right after you enter Black Pond through the channel. It is an amazing sheet of moss that hangs over the rock at the pond's edge.

Another good blog (I follow it) is Guy Tal's. His is often philosophical. In yesterday's post he talks about the difficulty of expressing his intent in words. I know that feeling only too well. My hope is that my feelings toward my subject come through in the photos because, as the lyric in Cat Stevens' Foreigner Suite goes "There are no words that I can use, because the meanings are left for you to choose."

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

A Mountain Day

I went canoeing today on the waters around Keese Mill, NY. I first headed toward Lower St. Regis Lake from the Keese Mill dam. When I got to the lake I decided to turn back since the wind had come up and paddling on a large body of water in wind is no fun. But there was a large rock just off shore and something told me to paddle around that rock before turning back. On the far side of the rock I found this feather floating on the surface of the lake. The wind made it hard to position myself to get a photo but I got this one after several tries.

Photographing from a canoe requires a photojournalist approach, shoot a lot and hope you get a few good ones. The problem is that you can't use a tripod so you may have movement from hand holding the camera, plus the canoe is moving and if you are photographing something on the water, it is probably moving too. Use the highest shutter speed you can and take lots of "insurance shots". I shot this with my Canon G10 which I had on a wrist strap (another recommended insurance). When not actually shooting the camera rode in a Pelican case (yet more insurance).

Saturday, August 28, 2010

V.I.C. Again

Another example of beauty in decay. This abstract is a detail of a dead tree trunk. The bark is gone and the patterns are trails left by insects that lived under the bark and weathering that has occurred since the bark fell off.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Another from Paul Smiths V.I.C.

A group of lily pads in varying degrees of health and decay. Some nature photographers only photograph 'perfect' examples of flowers, plants, etc. I look for interesting color, pattern and texture. I believe that everything can be beautiful if seen in in the right light (both literally and figuratively) and that it is my job as a photographer to see the innate beauty of my subject matter. My task then is to use my skills to show that beauty to others.

Adam & Eve, the mythical first humans, did not leave Eden. Rather, in learning to see the world in terms of good vs evil we humans are too often inclined to focus on the negative in life and overlook what beauty there is in everything. Eden is all around us. As natural creatures in a natural world it sustains our very existence. My role as a nature photographer is remind others of that.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

A Photo Outing

I went to the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center this morning to do a bit of photography. I had not been there in a while. The state budget shortfall threatened to close both V.I.C.s this spring but a deal was reached and they are still open. It is a good place to walk, run (two runners were there while I was wandering the trails), view nature, ski or snowshoe in winter, just a good place to relax and get in touch with Mother Earth. I shot some mushroom photos and various other things but my favorite image from the outing is the Pickerelweed leaves and their reflections that I found on the Shinglemill Trail. They seem to float in the reflection of the sky and clouds, not anchored to anything, halfway between heaven and Earth.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

You Never Know

No, I didn't win the lottery (I wish I had). The title refers to a post earlier this year in which I worried about the lack of bees around my crab apple tree. It was loaded with blooms but compared to the prior spring there were hardly any bees working the blossoms and I feared that they might not produce apples. My worry was for naught. The tree has more apples this year than any year in the past and I thought last year would be hard for it to beat. The tub above is a plastic pot from a tree we bought a couple of years ago and is the equivalent of a 4 or 5 gallon pail. This is the second time I've filled it and so far I've only picked standing on the ground. There are probably 3 or 4 times this on the ground as drops and many more times that still on the tree at stepladder height. I don't need anywhere near that many but it pleases me to see the tree produce so well. When I planted it, it was just a whip. The deer will enjoy them I'm sure. This batch is destined to become jelly.

Monday, August 16, 2010

More on the Alleged Ansel Adams Negatives

It appears that Uncle Earl Brooks will finally be getting his due. Some of his photos will be included in an exhibit alongside those of Ansel Adams and his assistants according to this article in Mercury News. If the link doesn't work for you,  copy and paste the following to the address line of your browser:

Friday, August 13, 2010

Revisiting My Youth

When I was a kid this gorge was just over the hill behind our house. My brother and I discovered it when I was about 8 and he was 10. We made several trips down into it before our mother learned what we were doing. To her credit, although she wasn't thrilled by the idea she didn't stop us from clambering down its banks to play in the brook and explore its wonders. This is one of the waterfalls we enjoyed. I took this photo on Tuesday when I revisited the gorge (Inman Gulf is its proper name). It is as amazing a place as I remembered.

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

More Black & White

The Ansel Adams exhibit put me in a B&W mood. I did nothing but B&W for years, until digital came along, and I think that a B&W image is more expressive in many ways. Take this image for example. The sky wasn't really that dark nor was the yellow mustard really that much brighter in tone than the surrounding field but those were the elements of the scene that attracted my eye and the things I wanted to emphasize. If I were to push the tonality of a color image this far it would look fake, but in B&W it works because we don't expect B&W images to look "real" in the same way we do with color. By manipulating the tones in the B&W I was able to 'point' to exactly the parts of the image I really wanted to show you.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Speaking of Ansel Adams...

The Shelburne Museum in Shelburne, VT currently has an exhibit of Ansel Adams and Edward Burtynsky photographs. There are over 60 of Ansel's prints on display. We went to see the show on Friday and it is awesome. I liked the Burtynsky photos better than I thought I might. He photographs industrial sites. I found his photos of abandoned marble quarries very appealing. Photography of any kind is not allowed in the gallery of course but there are lots of other things to photograph at the museum. The photo above is the staircase in the lighthouse. The original color version and 63 other photos can be seen in a Picasaweb album here.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


The media is all a-twitter over the supposed "lost Ansel Adams negatives" that were found ten years ago in an LA garage sale. The expert panel report is here. Click on the link at lower left to view it. Having read it all and looked at the images I would deem it unlikely that they are some of Ansel's negatives. The experts engage in an unwarranted amount of speculation and circular reasoning. The handwriting expert says the handwriting on the envelopes is that of Virginia Adams even though it is known that she did not assist him in his studio. They speculate that she helped out in salvaging his negatives after the fire that destroyed a third of his negatives. That conclusion is in conflict with the family's denial that it is her writing based on several misspellings of place names  for which she would have known the proper spelling. Other members of the panel then proceed to make affirmative findings based on the handwriting analysis (it could be one of his and was in an envelop bearing her handwriting so it is one of his). The art expert is the most honest of the bunch saying at the outset that there is no way that it can be definitively stated that these are Ansel Adams negatives but then goes on to proclaim it highly probable.

What bothers me mostly is that Ansel is known to have been meticulous about his negatives. The speculation that he took a batch to Southern CA, deposited them in a warehouse then somehow forgot to retrieve them is a major stretch. They also make reference to the size being "unique" to him but the 6½x8½ Korona he used during that period was a production camera, not a custom sized one. A meteorologist on the team asserts that the 2 photos which they conclude "are identical" (despite being different views) were definitely taken on the same day based on the clouds and the snow on distant mountainsides. I see ordinary clouds that occur frequently and snow that is so far away (miles) that it is difficult to determine anything based on it. The supposition and speculation goes on throughout the report. All this so this guy who bought the negatives in an LA garage sale can sell "Ansel Adams" prints for big bucks.

Of course they aren't Ansel Adams prints and wouldn't be even if it could be proved conclusively that they were Ansel's negatives. They are prints by someone else from a negative that might maybe possibly have been made by Ansel and the real value of an AA original is not the negative anyway but the print that Ansel himself printed from his negatives. It smells like a hustle to me. They may be in for a lawsuit since Ansel left all rights to reproduction of his work to the Ansel Adams Trust and they 1) deny that it is his work and 2) have not given permission for prints to be marketed as Ansel Adams work even if the negatives could be proven to be Ansel's negatives. It's the same principle as you can't buy software, then duplicate the CD and sell copies. The guy may own the negatives but unless he also holds the copyright he can't print and distribute them.

Ironically there are genuine Ansel Adams negatives in the public domain, those he made under contract for the Park Service, and anyone can order prints from them at <> with absolute certainty that they are getting a print from a genuine Ansel Adams negative. They are quite reasonable too. Where the prints from these questionable negatives run from $1500 to $7500, prints from the genuine Adams negatives in the National Archives site can be had for $19.95 to $49.95. Why would any sensible collector pay such outrageous prices for a print of dubious attribution and provenance?

P.S. You can own an original Jim Bullard matted print for $35 including postage (within the continental US ). That is for a print on 8.5x11 paper, image size 9.75 on the long side with the aspect ratio depending on image. Square images are 8" square. I absolutely guarantee that they are genuine Jim Bullard photos. Email me (jim_dot_bullard_at_gmail_dot_com) for the price of larger sizes.

Addendum: I knew it... <>. The Jeffrey Pine photo she has is virtually the same as the alleged lost Ansel Adams and one of the waterfall photos she has (in the video) looks just like one of those Mr. Norsigian is selling on his website. Way to go Uncle Earl Brooks.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Lower Cascade

As promised, the lower cascade of Split Rock Falls. This is a two frame stitched panorama that was made from the other side of the river and downstream from yesterday's photo. I was above the lower cascade at the base of the cliff on the right for that photo. This photo is 34"X12" (image area) printed full size.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

In Search of a Waterfall

Inspired by some waterfall photos in the latest copy of Lenswork I went to the Adirondacks to re-shoot a waterfall that I have photographed before. The river at the bottom of the hill from our house and the one running through Potsdam have both been running a bit higher than is normal for July so I figured there would be more water in the mountains too but apparently the streams that flow East out of the mountains are not running higher than normal like their West flowing cousins are. They were significantly lower than I had hoped. Because my original objective required a substantial hike and the streams were low I changed my plan and drove down to Split Rock Falls which is right next to the road. I figured if I was going to be disappointed, at least it wouldn't be after a long walk. The water was low but as you can see above, I was not disappointed. I spent about 3 hours (a good part of it waiting for clouds to cover the sun) and explored more thoroughly than previous trips. I found a trail on the opposite shore which gave me another view of the lower falls. Perhaps I'll post that one tomorrow.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Digging the Garden, Pulling the weeds...

A garden day. I'm past 64 but I'm still doing the garden and still not keeping up with the weeds. It's my own fault. I keep expanding the garden so there is more to care for. This photo is a Nasturtium that is in a hanging pot on one of the porch posts. It was trailing over the side and I was attracted to the stems and blooms curling up toward the light. I enlisted Diane to assist by holding a black background behind it.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Anniversary & Project

Seventeen years ago today I finished climbing the 46 Adirondack High Peaks on Esther & Whiteface. The weather that day was not as nice as when I shot the above summit photo on the 15th anniversary. Three years from today I plan to redo the hike as a 20 year commemoration.

Yesterday we laid bamboo flooring in our bedroom. I started by hand nailing it. I had Diane drilling pilot holes so we wouldn't split the tongues on the bamboo. I hand nailed and set the nails with a nail set but that took way too long. After 4-5 courses I went to the hardware store and rented a pneumatic flooring nailer to hook up to my compressor. That went a lot faster but it needed to because the nailer was reserved for tomorrow and had to be returned by 5:30. Because of the way they are configured a flooring nailer can't do the first 2-3 courses or the last 3-4 courses. I finished what I could do with it just in time to return it before the store closed then I came home to finish the remainder by hand. I got it all done and cleaned up all my mess and tools at 8PM, a very tired carpenter. It looks nice though.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Summer Bounty

We have some volunteer black raspberry canes growing by the end of the driveway. Recently they have been providing me with topping for my breakfast cereal and this morning I took a couple of photos of the berries thinking I'd use that in my blog post. When I got back to the porch though Diane had put out some seed for the resident chipmunks and I shot a whole series of photos of 3 who took turns coming for seed. I had to be careful not to startle them and the resulting image had to be cropped significantly since the lens wouldn't zoom far enough. This is roughly half the frame, shot with a Canon G10 on autofocus, aperture priority.

I decided after posting the chipmunk with his (her?) bounty that I would post the berry photo too. The berries are ripening so fast I'm going to have to start freezing them because I can't use them as fast as I'm picking them.

Friday, June 25, 2010

While Riding My Bike

I went for a ride on my bicycle this afternoon. I got rained on slightly. Just a couple of sprinkles. That has become something of a family joke. Two summers ago it seemed like every time I went out to ride my bike I got caught in the rain. It rained on me the last time I went out so maybe the pattern is back this summer.

While riding out of town towards Southville I spotted this tractor parked along the road by a patch of woods. It's a cliche subject but I'm a sucker for anything red and I can always blame it on being a visual omnivore with a large appetite. :-) Anyway I went back later and shot several pictures of the tractor and digitally modified this one in Photoshop.

Addendum - Sat. June 26th:  I went for another bike ride and got rained on again.