Sunday, December 30, 2012

Our Woods

As recently as the Thursday before Christmas we had no snow, then it started. We had a first storm with a lot of wet heavy snow, that was followed by one with even more soft fluffy snow, followed by yet more soft snow. I've shoveled more snow in the last 10 days than all of last winter which admittedly wasn't much of a winter. It was still snowing lightly this morning and we cleaned up the latest 3". Finally this afternoon the sun broke through and I decided to break out my snowshoes. Snowshoeing is hard work too, especially breaking trail, but it is way more fun than shoveling.

I checked the depth in the back field using my hiking pole. I always take one pole when snowshoeing. If you trip and fall it makes getting back up easier. The snow in the field behind the house is now 26" deep. I continued on into our woods. We don't own much woods, 1½ to 2 acres worth, but it's nice having your own woods to hang out in. Walking through I spotted this young beech with the sun shining from behind. Arrayed in golden leaves and a mantle of snow it was ready to have its portrait taken. Shot with a Canon G11.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

I really should have saved yesterday's photo for today but this one will do. I made this photo yesterday too. It is the same sugar shack I ran a photo of a short time ago.

Between the horror of the school shooting in Connecticut and then yesterday's shooting of firemen responding to a fire in Webster, NY along with all the other turmoil in the world this is a Christmas of very mixed feelings. On one local blog that I follow some comments expressed the view that evil is in firmly charge and that good has lost. I confess to feeling some dismay at the state of the world myself.

I do not believe in a God who magically impregnates women any more than I believe there is a real Santa Claus living at the North Pole. We know for a fact that the designation of Dec. 25th as the birth of Jesus (not even his real name) was an arbitrary decision made several hundred years after the fact and that has only a one in 365 chance of being the right date, but it is what the various traditions symbolize that is important, (re)birth and renewal.

 There are not a lot of things I 'believe', things that I accept without proof, but one thing I do believe it is that the triumph of good is inevitable, it is programmed into creation by whatever power brought forth the universe and sustains it moment to moment. I believe that system and human nature are 'rigged' for good in the end. At this point in the year when the ancients saw the day shrinking and figuratively dying, it begins to lengthen again, to rise anew. They created holidays to mark the rebirth of the sun, the beginning of a new cycle of nature. That is what we celebrate, that no matter what we humans do, good or evil, the cycle goes on, life begins anew.

When I was out photographing yesterday in the silence that is winter I could feel the new beginning that the Christmas story stands for. Some of those in despair are sure that there is a 'war on Christmas' but, as I see it, they are too caught up in the details of the story to sense the message behind it. There probably wasn't really a stable or a star, those are symbols in a parable to remind us that hope comes from humility and often seems to shine in the far off distance. The Wise Men symbolize those who seek in spite of difficulties and those who would deceive them. I find my truth in nature. I hope that my photos bring your some sense of what I find there. Happy Holidays whatever belief you choose to follow. May you have a wonderful new year.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Snowy Christmas Eve Morning

I had an early appointment this morning and drove into town through a snowy landscape that brought "Over the river and through the woods" to mind. Where I grew up we attended a one room country school and walked 1½ miles each way. This morning's drive took me back to winter mornings walking to school wrapped in the exquisite silence of winter with snow flakes fluttering down.

We seem to spend all our time surrounded with man made sound these days; TV, radio, even wearing MP3 players to constantly blast us with music while we do other things. I could not help but remember the joy of no sound at all on those winter mornings, snowflakes landing so softly that nothing disturbed the silence. I hope that you all make time for some silence this season, an opportunity to commune with nature and experience peace.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Season's Greetings

I wondered if we would have a white Christmas. The local weather forecast as late as Wednesday said it was doubtful but it started snowing Thursday evening and hasn't quit. It will be very white. At the rate it's snowing we'll certainly have more than a foot (may be there already) and the NOAA site says it will continue for another 12 hours. We're warm and have lots of food in the fridge. I hope everyone else has the same good fortune.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Along with getting ready for company over the holidays I'm still working at scanning old negatives. Many memories come flooding back in the process along with an acute sense of how the world has changed over the last 3-4 decades, an awareness made even more poignant by the massacre of school children and teachers in a Connecticut elementary school. When I stood on the Thousand Island Bridge about 40 years ago to make this photo I never imagined I would see such events unfold on the evening news.

After such things (and there have been far too many in recent years) I have often wished that I had some sort of time machine so that I could go back to the day before such events and warn the authorities to take preventative action. Alas they would not be likely to believe me. I would be dismissed as some kind of nut case.

I find some solace in looking back at images I made in better times. The irony (it seems there is always irony) is that I didn't think those were better times when I made the image. If I tried to walk up the bridge with camera in hand these days I'd be arrested as a terrorist plotter. The line of the fence, the broken windmill and the abandoned farm buildings still speak to me across the decades reminding me that all things change and the more they change, the more they stay the same. Life does go on.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Image Quality

A friend has been looking at mirrorless cameras with an eye toward getting one that he could easily carry around. He is insistent that he wants one that is capable of the same or better image quality as his Nikon D80. In our conversation he mentioned some photographs he had missed back in film days because he didn't have his SLR with him and that he bought a small rangefinder camera but the image quality wasn't up to his SLR so he only used it once. He doesn't want to do the same again with digital.

That reminded me of Jay Maisel who has an incredible eye, not just for the obvious photograph but for finding top notch images in the mundane. Somewhere, on one of my old hard drives, I have a video of him talking to another photographer at lunch in NYC and the other photographer says that he passes up photos where the light is too dim or "not right", images that won't be high quality. Jay's response was "To hell with quality. I just want to get the picture". It must work. He is probably the most highly successful stock and assignment photographer ever.

Technical image quality is only one aspect of a photograph and not necessarily the most important one, often in fact it is not all that important. What is important is the emotion, the way the scene feels and how well that comes through to the viewer. The real challenge of photography is determining what is most important about the scene before you and how to best convey that with the least distraction by other elements in the photo.

The last couple of days I've been scanning and playing with some 35mm images I shot back in the early '70s but never got around to printing. I had no darkroom at the time but could develop film in a daylight tank so I simply filed the negatives away to print 'someday'. Someday arrived for this roll. It was undoubtedly shot with a Miranda Sensomat, the only camera I had at the time, and the 50mm lens that came with the camera. It was made on Plus-X Pan and would have been developed in D-76, my stock developer back then.

My personal favorite from the roll is the Winter Corn Field. Why? I like the arrangement of the bands of trees & brush, the small hill rising in the background, the sweep of the rows of corn stubble and the tractor tracks cutting across them in the snow. I like the dark sky. Overall it reminds me of photos and engravings from the 20s and thirties, the sort of images my grandmother hung on her living room wall. To that end I toned it, a way to heighten that feeling. Is it sharp? Not especially. It is quite grainy. I shot that scene about 40 years ago and don't remember doing it but I look at the scan and know exactly what I saw and why I shot the scene. The feeling is there. My challenge today is to interpret the negative in such a way as to convey those emotional qualities and I don't believe that absolute sharpness and clarity are necessary.

Following Jay's advice, I believe it is better to get the image with the equipment you have or can afford, under whatever conditions you encounter than to pass it up waiting for a better camera, better light, whatever. This roll of film that I'm playing with is not the only one that I shot and never printed because I didn't have the resources at the time so I'll likely find others in the future but I have the negatives and that's what counts.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Goofing Off Again

I haven't been diligent about posting to the blog. I have excuses. I haven't been shooting a lot of photos, I've been working on genealogy... I could think of a few more, all true but none of that gets posts on a blog. For your delectation this post I will give you a pair of "industrial" images. The first (above) is a roadside sugar shack from 50-100 years past. What makes me sure it was a sugar shack is the roof vent arrangement, characteristic of even contemporary small maple syrup operations that are common around here. This particular structure is just down the road, around a corner and over the hill from our house and it is the sort of structure that appeals to me so you'll likely see more photos of it from time to time.

The second is a contemporary industrial scene in Endicott, NY where our daughter lives. We went there for Thanksgiving and I took a photography break one afternoon. The area has little to offer a landscape photographer who (like me) prefers wild places. On the other hand some of the industrial buildings are a modern counterpoint to the technology represented by the sugar shack.
In keeping with the subject matter I did some processing of the Sugar Shack in PostWorkShop3 to give it a look of texture and age. The modern industrial image was processed in Photoshop CS6 with an eye to keeping it clean and crisp. The venting systems are what attracted me to both, a link between the old and the new. The Sugar Shack was made with a Canon G11 and the modern industrial image with a Canon 7D.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Getting Organized

I've been working at getting my studio in shape because I'm holding 'open studio' under the St. Lawrence County Arts Council's annual Studio Tour. Today was the 1st day with only four visitors, not counting the Arts Council's representative who dropped in to take pictures and drop off some newsletters to pass out to my visitors. It continues tomorrow and Monday (Veterans Day), 10am to 4pm. If you happen to show up at 4 or a bit after, I won't throw you out. My studio is now in my home so I don't to pack up and go anywhere after 4.

You can find me at 134 Russell Tpke. which is a left turn off Rt. 56 going from Hannawa Falls to Colton. The sign says Brown's Bridge but the road changes name after you cross the Parishville Town line, just keep going all the way up the hill to the brick house at the top of the hill.

After the open studio I will be rearranging the studio to accommodate portrait photography. If you would like to schedule a  sitting just comment "I'm interested in a sitting". I screen all comments so it won't appear here.

The photo was taken from my driveway a while back looking east as a rain storm passed and the sun was setting. Note the double rainbow on right. It went all the way over but was very faint for most of the arc. The picture is stitched from 3 handheld frames.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Our Woods

I mentioned a few days ago that when doing the layered effects in Photoshop and PostWorkShop the visual effect was largely lost when the image was sized down for presentation on the web. It is necessary to redo the same procedure on the size I intend to present it othrewise it simply appears to be a slightly fuzzy photo, the result of resizing mushing the pixels together and mangling the texture I had created in my layering process. This image has been processed to be seen at the size you will see if you click on the image above so be sure to check it out at that size.

It uses the same procedure I used on the prior one and I originally did it as a 16X20 print but I redid it to show here. Obviously the details on the 16X20 version and this one don't match exactly but it is closer than simply shrinking the big image. I like the effect of the texture. It looks sort of like a colored engraving to me.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Winds of Autumn

We're having a lot of wind here, both last night and today. I went out this morning and took a few photos including this one  looking across the meadow toward our small piece of woods. In just the couple of hours since shooting the original image the wind has knocked about half the leaves off the yellow/orange tree that is left of center.

It is a bit hard to tell in the small version here, even if you click on it to see it full size, but I have digitally modified it in both Photoshop and PostWorkShop. I used  the Topaz Simply filter in Photoshop to reduce detail and then layered over that  a version that I had modified in PostWorkShop with both watercolor and drawing layers. The full effect is visible on the large file which would print out at least 10"x15" but in reducing the image size for web use much of the effect is lost. To give an idea a cropped detail is below.

I find that when doing a lot of these special effects they only work well when reproduced at the size that the effect was originally applied to. If you shrink or stretch the size the effect loses its visual impact. I like this combination though. The overall visual effect matches what I visualized when I was shooting the photo.

Canon 7d with an 18-135mm EFs lens on a monopod.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Fall Color

Although dull color was forecast because of the dry summer the Adirondacks enjoyed some of the best autumn color I've seen in years, at least in the areas I frequent which are the NW corner of the park and the High Peaks area. I did two day trips in the last week. I'd like to have gotten out daily and covered ore of the park but gas prices are ridiculous so I stuck to areas I was familiar with.

The photo above is a waterfall adjacent the Wilmington Notch NYS Campground. It has no name that I'm aware of and the state does not promote it as It is a relatively dangerous place. The rock you see in the foreground is a point of land sticking out over the river that drops off at least 30 feet on three sides to the rocks and river below. You don't want to fall but it provides the best view of the falls if you can take the adrenaline that comes with standing there. The edge of the rock was only about 3-4 feet in front of me as I shot the two vertical frames that I stitched together to make this image. I've stood closer in the past but I bruised my left shin climbing Indian Pass on my last lean-to cleanup trip and it was still sore so I wasn't feeling steady enough to get too close and I thought the rock made a good foreground anyway (a juicy rationalization?). Whatever, that was as close as I dared get yesterday.

There is an album of 64 Adirondack Autumn photos on my Zenfolio galleries*. They were all made, as this one was, with a Canon 7D. Before anyone asks, yes the colors were that intense. Most have not had any added saturation. I did increase the local contrast with the "Clarity" control in Lightroom on many of them and that does heighten the impression of intensity but for the most part the saturation is what came out of the default conversion from RAW. It almost looks like it was shot with Kodachrome.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Autumn in the Adirondacks

I just completed an "Open Studio" event as a guest at the Paul Smiths Visitor Interpretive Center. I drove down to the VIC from home each day and back after. Each day the leaves got more colorful and they are about at their peak color right now. The photo above was made on the way home this evening in a light rain. The forecast is for rain all night and most of tomorrow. I hope it doesn't knock down too many leaves. I'd like to be able to go shooting on Tuesday.

The color is quite impressive this year, the best I've seen in at least 4-5 years and it is a bit of a surprise. They forecast dull colors because we had such a dry summer but we've had rain recently and apparently just in time to make great color. I'm most impressed with the reds. They are very intense and there is a broad range all the way from deep burgundy to lighter reds and orange-reds. Also there is a high  ratio of reds to oranges and yellows compared to past years.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Waiting (impatiently) for Fall Color

I went back the the Adirondacks on Friday looking for fall color. I had seen a posting on the Adirondack Mountain Club's Facebook page that it was at 50-60%. A friend and I did a loop around Whiteface (Gabriels>Bloomingdale>Franklin Falls>Wilmington>Lake Placid>Saranac Lake) and didn't see nearly that amount of color anywhere. Maybe 20% some places but we didn't get any real autumn color shots. The Heart Lake area must be a cold pocket where leaves turn early.

We explored the flume in Wilmington Notch. I had been there several times before but Ron hadn't. He was the one who spotted this rock and I thought it was a good candidate for B&W. The water was running over it, falling off three sides and also through a horizontal crack under it creating a two layer cascade on the downstream side. Be sure to click on the image to see the larger version.

I did get some color photos although not autumn color. We stopped by Moose pond en-route from Bloomingdale to Franklin Falls. I took a short walk down the trail that goes around the lake (going left from the boat launch area) and made this image.
It is characteristic of Adirondack trails and the light was perfect. The only editing other than some minor dodging and burning was to stitch two vertical frames to get the square composition. My 18-135mm wouldn't take in all the height and width I wanted so rather than switch to a wider angle lens I shot two and combined them. I saw this as a square image anyway. I've often wished that some camera maker would make a compact camera with a large square sensor. A digital Mamiya 6 (36MP) would be awesome. I wouldn't need or want face recognition or any of those other bells & whistles they are loading up cameras with these days. I don't use most of the "features" on my 7D. I suppose GPS would be nice but I rarely forget where I've taken a picture. Anyway, as you can see, there wasn't a lot of fall color.

I'll be demonstrating photo editing at the Paul Smith's VIC next Friday and Sunday 10am to 4pm and 10am to noon on Saturday as part of the Adirondack Artist's Studio Tour they are hosting. If you are in the area, drop by and say hello.

All photos were made with a Canon 7D and an 18-135mm lens. They are copyrighted. Please do not copy or re-post without permission. Prints are available. Email me for details.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Day of Chores & History

In between my photo outings I have chores like mowing the grass which is what I did yesterday afternoon and this morning. We did a bit of exploring after lunch today going to Russell, the place that our road is named for. Since moving to the new house I've learned that the road (Russell Turnpike) that passes in front of our home was one of the first three roads built in this area.  The other two went from other areas to Russell.

The road out front went from Lake Champlain near Westport to Russell from where there was access to the St. Lawrence river. It was called the Northwest Bay Road then and transited many sections of current road that are familiar to me on my excursions to photograph in the Adirondacks. During the War of 1812 (during which my twice great grandfather Stephen was in the Vermont militia) this road was used by the military to get from Lake Champlain to the St. Lawrence and there was an armory in Russell.

GG Grandpa moved to this area after his service in the war and it is an odd feeling to realize that his first visit to the area probably involved a march past where I now live and took him over sections of road through landscapes that I now photograph. It is doubly strange because a maternal grandfather  (James) spent time in the Adirondacks as a tourist in the early 1900s and I have photographs he took of Barnum Pond, one of the places  Stephen would have passed on his military travels and one I too have photographed numerous times including this one.

The photo above is not from the route of the Northwest Bay Rd. but isn't very far afield. It was made in Wilmington which is a bit North of Lake Placid, one of the communities that was on the route. It is another image from my latest excursion. Made with a Canon 7D and 18-135mm lens, 1/10th sec. @ f/29. I did the B&W conversion in Lightroom 4 and toned it in Photoshop CS6.

Addendum: Sept. 13 - I did some web searches this morning and found a map of the Westport to Hopkinton portion of the original road. That is the route that I usually take when I go to the mountains to photograph. Without knowing it and without intending to I have been following in Stephen's footsteps.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Life in the Past Lane

I read the funnies daily and "Shoe" is one of my favorite cartoon strips. A few days ago the setting was Roz' diner where an old bird was reminiscing about the past and Cosmo asked Roz what he was going on about to which she replied "He's living life in the past lane". I know some people like that, people I used to work with before retiring. Whenever we get together they inevitably end up talking about the past.

I don't spend a lot of time thinking or talking about the past. We all do of course but I try to minimize it. A lot of my past wasn't all that great and I'd rather focus on the future anyway. Today though I realized there's more than one past lane. Besides the reminiscing lane there is a subliminal lane of memories that affect our future actions based on the past kind of like programming. It came up as I was moving some pottery items, pyrometric cones and bisque ware from our old house. I had been pondering whether I should sell my wheel and kiln and not pursue pottery any more. I haven't done it in years and lately had harbored doubts about my ability to do it again but seeing and handling the pots I threw 20 some years ago reassured me that I could do it again. So, to borrow a motto from the Obama campaign, FORWARD! It may take until next spring to get it organized but my pottery will rise again.

I will continue photography of course. The photo is of a beaver pond in Wilmington, NY. I found it on a trail I hadn't ever explored before under what I consider typical autumn Adirondack light. Canon 7D on a tripod, 18-135mm EFS lens, 1/8th sec. @ f/22.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Turtlehead With Spider

A friend told me that there were some Cardinal Flowers in bloom on the Stone Valley Trails which are just at the bottom of the hill from our new house. I've been so  busy with the move, painting, sorting, moving, throwing out, etc. that I hadn't been down to the trails since moving. Yesterday in the evening I rectified that with a short hike. I did find some Cardinal Flowers but I also found several Turtlehead plants including this one with a spider lurking on the underside of one of the leaves. While I was setting up to photograph another a bee landed on it but just then a breeze came up and set the plant swaying from side to side. By the time it stopped the bee had gone. Rotten luck. I like getting photos of flowers while bees are gathering nectar. On the Turtleheads though you'd have to catch the bee when it first lands. They go right down inside the bloom and out of sight to get the nectar.

Canon 7D processed mainly in Lightroom 4 with some additional sharpening in Photoshop CS 5.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Van Gogh Exhibit

We went up to Ottawa today to see the Van Gogh exhibit that continues through Sept. 3rd. I saw the announcement when it went up in May and vowed to go but just now got around to it. Van Gogh is among my favorite artists, not the top but right up there. I couldn't help, while standing in line to get tickets and then to see the work, but think about his struggles. He sold only two paintings in his lifetime, and those sold for a pittance. He survived because his brother supported him.

The exhibit was excellent and I recommend it if you can manage to go. Ottawa is only two hours North of me and is the closest large city to where I live. I really ought to make an effort to get up there more often. Unfortunately the "open border" between the US and Canada isn't as open these days but if you have all your papers it's still manageable. I do miss the way it used to be though with lighter handed officialdom and no guns.

The photo is one of a handful I made with a Canon G11. Art galleries aren't fond of people taking photographs so I didn't take the 7D. It has been manipulated in Lightroom, Photoshop and Postworkshop.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Childwold Church Again

I've been meaning to go back to photograph this church again and this evening I did. When I first stumbled upon it coming home from an earlier trip to the mountains I didn't have my wide angle lens or my tripod with me. I wanted the wide angle lens for some interior photos and the tripod to do some HDR images. Earlier plans to go back were delayed by some storm damage that has now been repaired.

This is the last of the images from this evening. I started around 5:45 and did the interior shots then went to eat and came back around sunset to get this view. Some may dismiss it as cliche but I wanted to highlight the side windows and the architecture. I thought shooting after the outside light was lower than the interior light was the best way to do that and I'm happy with the result.

Canon 7D, five frame HDR. I cloned out some electrical wires and picnic tables in the far side yard. As always you are free to copy the image for your computer desktop. An other uses require my permission.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Another View

Another of the photos I made yesterday of Mossy Cascade falls, a detail of the center section. The clouds were moving fast and I managed to catch a moment when the sunlight was on the center.  Canon 7D again (the only camera I took yesterday) and the 18-135mm EFS lens.

Kirk Tuck posted a link on his blog today that is worth watching even at an hour and 20 minutes . I may have to watch it a second time. There are some interesting observations and thoughts about the state of art today and where it is going in the future.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Mossy Cascade Revisited

After weeks of work cleaning out the old house and having a three day sale of "stuff" I needed a day off and went down to the Adirondacks for some R&R. I hadn't been back to Mossy Cascade in Keene Valley since hurricane Irene had created all the flooding last year and had massively altered the Cascade Mt. waterfall. I wondered how Mossy Cascade had fared.

On the way I stopped at the farmers market at the Keene airfield where I ran into someone I had met when doing craft fairs around home. He gave me the low down on the farmers market which I might do next year. There were some very high quality crafts there along with the produce.

At Mossy Cascade the falls themselves are unchanged by the flooding but the creek bed below the falls did experience some significant erosion. The trail to the falls from where it departs from the Hopkins Mt. trail is a bit trickier than it used to be with probably 50% of the old path washed out. It never was a great trail anyway but it's a bit more difficult now. The blessing is that it is a short trail.

The above photo is the 'standard' view, the one everyone takes although I shot three vertical frames with the Canon 7D with the 18-135 lens at 18mm, then merged them into a large (25MP) square composition. I took a few other views that I hadn't tried before.

Heading back I noticed a sign "ART IN THE BARN" on a small bridge that goes to a private road. The sign said it was open 9-4 and since it was 3:30 I indulged my curiosity. It was a nice little gallery. There were some excellent pastels of local scenes that I recognized.

Coming home on the Santa Clara Rd. I drove through a downpour while in sunshine. It was a strange feeling to be running the wipers in sunshine and the rain was coming down so hard that it bounced off the pavement making the road disappear in a grey ribbon of mist. It was a very good day to be in the mountains.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Darkroom Goodbye

No photo to offer my readers today, just thoughts. I spent the day clearing out the bathroom/darkroom in our old house. I haven't actually made any prints in it for probably 7 or 8 years. It had become more of  a store room during that time gathering all sorts of non-photographic "stuff". All the same it was a bit depressing to pack up the enlarger along with all the other paraphernalia. My darkrooms have always been makeshift affairs. In college I covered all the windows of our apartment with black plastic and worked at night to produce news photos for a local chain of papers. I finally quit when after 2½ years I figured out that I was netting all of 40¢ per hour between travel, shooting and printing minus expenses.

This latest darkroom was in a former (and now renewed) bathroom in an upstairs apartment that we chose not to rent out. I had at last acquired some decent equipment (a couple of pieces were better than decent) just about the time digital came on the scene. Although I still occasionally shoot B&W medium format film, I scan it and print digitally these days. In my estimation there is no reason whatever to shoot color film any more except perhaps to burn through any you have stashed in your freezer. The best color film scan can't match a good RAW file, it's not even close.

In spite of that, shutting down the darkroom formally was a bit of a downer for me. I have a lot of pleasant memories of working late into the night in my make-do darkrooms. For those who have never done it (and there seem to be a lot of you now) darkroom work has a very different quality than editing photos in the computer. Lest anyone feel ire at that, I'm using the word "quality" to mean a difference in kind rather than implying that one or the other is of greater value. I spent most my time in darkroom work doing it alone or in the company of my wife who assisted me with it in college. Printing in the darkroom was a withdrawal from the world to a darkened space, almost like retreating to a cave to meditate on and perfect the images. And once your got it right for any given photo, your job was to repeat it as many times as you needed to make the required number of prints, each exposed, dodged and burned to match the others as closely as possible.

No typing a number into a dialog and clicking the "Print" button to run off a batch while you grab a cola. Instead we had a direct and visceral communion with each print, handling each sheet of paper, pulling it from its light tight box and wrapper, placing it in the easel, making the exposure, watching it appear in the developer, following it through the wash and drying process. I was doing a lot of split filter printing on multi-contrast paper with separate dodging and burning to each of the two exposures for each print.

Perhaps those years in the darkroom are why I am sometimes uncomfortable with the relative ease of editing and printing digitally, a nagging feeling that I am relying too much on the software, the keyboard/mouse/stylus creating a barrier to the tactile relationship with each print that was intrinsic to the wet darkroom. Those of you who began photography after the digital revolution or who never printed your own work will never be thus troubled but for those with a past of chemical stained clothes and fingers there is a  lingering sense that we are somehow cheating when we print digitally, a sense that it isn't really us and our skill producing the final image.

Friday, July 27, 2012

An Old Friend

I have been driving by and frequently photographing this tree for years. I think its days are numbered though. Most of the leaves you see in the photo are a vine that is using the tree for support. The actual number of leaves on the tree is down significantly from last year and I'm wondering if it will leave out at all next year.The roots get the energy to carry a tree through the winter from photosynthesis in the leaves through the summer. With this few leaves the tree may be winter killed.

Despite all the times I've photographed it, pondered its persistence in spite of being "challenged", and generally appreciated it aesthetically, today was the first time I attempted to identify it. I took my tree guides with me and as near as I can tell it is a Black Walnut although there is a chance it might be a Butternut. I could only go by the leaves and they are both sparse and somewhat stunted so they might not exactly fit the standard shown in my tree identification books.

As a result of our move I soon won't be going by it frequently if at all. I'll miss it like an old friend and wish our parting could have come with it in better health.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Acres of Sky

Our new place has an open meadow in back of the house that gives some great views of the sky. We were surrounded by trees at the old place which was nice because we were in town and the trees gave a sense of privacy to the one acre lot. Here I'm enjoying watching the sky, especially around sunset and the twilight just after sunset as in this view. The former owners used to brush hog the field but I like it as a natural meadow with wildflowers. I mowed the meandering path to the woods. I'll leave the rest. If something starts to grow back there that I don't want I'll cut it individually rather than mow everything as a preventative measure. Come August 11 I plan to park a lawn chair out in the meadow with the back reclined as far as it will go so that I can go out at night and watch the Perseids. I hope it will be clear that night.

Canon 7D. Three vertical frames stitched.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

French Pond Rd. Again

Two photos for your pleasure. I've featured this house before, a detail of the front porch, back on May 24th. I liked this view of it as I was driving down the road this afternoon. There is a barn across the road that is falling/being torn down and I made the second photo of that.
Both were made using my Canon 7D with the 18-135mm lens. Conversion to B&W was done in Nik SE Pro 2 (top image) and in Lightroom 4 (bottom image). To share the photos with others, as always refer them to this page. Copying and re-posting elsewhere without permission is prohibited not to mention bad manners.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

New Work, Old Subject

I took a day to go to the mountains yesterday. My day did not go as planned but I've learned over the years not to plan too firmly and to roll with whatever happens. Besides, any day in the mountains is a good day for me. From our new house I usually would take a different route than I used to (shorter from here) but I was going to town anyway and from there it was about the same either way so I decided to revisit old haunts. Above is Mountain Pond on Rt. 30, a place I used to stop almost every time I went to the Adirondacks. The light was very nice on this group of shoreline rocks so here it is.

The woods are very dry. The DEC has issued a "high fire danger" warning. I noted that water levels on several ponds/lakes were down as much as a foot. Quite a change from my lean-to adoption trip when the water levels were a little high.

I decided to revisit Cascade Mt. Falls. A friend and I went there last year to make a series of photos one of which I posted on the blog and others that I put on Flickr. After that visit torrential rains from hurricane Irene flooded a lot of areas in the Adirondacks and caused landslides along some mountainside brooks including the one by Cascade Lakes. I wanted to see how the falls had changed. Answer: Dramatically!
There was a large slide on the mountainside above the falls where the brook used to run among trees. All the debris coming down the mountainside stripped the trees and vegetation that had bordered the falls leaving this wide bare swath of rock.

The damage was even more dramatic below. There used to be a shallow pool a the base of the falls which was made by an old dam that once captured the water for a hotel that was on the bit of land between Cascade Lakes. The slide took out the remains of the dam and carved a deep ravine where a shallow brook once ran through the woods below the falls. The amount and size of rocks that the slide moved is mind boggling. It will be a long time before this spot is as "scenic" as it once was.

Both photos were made with a Canon 7D and an 18-135mm lens. The falls are a three (horizontal) frame stitch. I discovered I didn't have my wide angle lens when I set up to make that photo so I had to improvise..

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

New B&W eBook From Guy Tal

Guy Tal has come out with a new ebook on digital B&W. I was privileged to get a chance to review it before the release (today) and was impressed by its thoroughness. I have a lot of respect for Guy's vision and skill and in this 59 page ebook he lets us in on his working methods for B&W.

I should start by saying this is a book for those who are serious about B&W and their art. If you are looking for a guide with 10 quick and easy tips for better B&W, this book is not for you. If you are into using Lightroom and Photoshop to do conversions and want to step it up to the next level by studying how one of the best does it, you want this book. Although it is brief it isn't light reading and I'm sure you will learn something that benefits your work even if you are already an advanced digital photographer. The insight into his thought process and methods alone are worth studying. I recommend it highly.

The ebook can be purchased at

or you can use the link in the left hand column to reach his ebook page.
The photo above is a page from the beginning of the book.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Pulling Weeds

Yesterday, while looking at a friend's flower garden, I found myself pulling her weeds. As a long time gardener it is a habit but as I think about it it is more than that. Many years ago I learned that when confronted with and feeling overwhelmed by problems and situations I found the best remedy is to pick one or more small things that you can actually do something about and focus on getting that done. The key of course is to recognize the things you can actually effect from those you can't. The benefit is that by focusing on what you can do, you both channel your attention away from the things you can't change and you shorten the list of things that are stressing you out.

Pulling weeds is that kind of activity. What needs to be done is simple and direct, identify the plants that don't belong and remove them. When you get done there is the reinforcement of seeing a weed free garden. Any simple chore will do the same if you approach it with focus. So can creative activities like photography. By really looking at the world around you, thinking about it in photographic terms, you step away from stresses and gain power, the power of creating something of beauty and value that you can share with others.

The photo was taken with my smart phone with processing in PostWorkShop3 and Photoshop CS5.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Yes, My Grapes Are Sour

A while back I entered Outdoor Photographer's 3rd Annual Great Outdoors  Photo Contest. I have received an email announcing the winners. I wasn't a winner or even an honorable mention. No surprise there. They had thousands of entries and they were good photos. So what's the sour grapes about? All the winners and honorable mentions were western landscapes. All of them. Every one. A look at the finalists reveals that all but (maybe) 7 are western landscapes. Even the maybe 7, one shot of tulips, several seashores and a couple of others, aren't clearly not western. Come on people. There are great landscapes all over this country. One reason I rarely buy or read OP anymore is that they seem stuck on a particular idea of outdoors and it usually involves the western US. Open request to OP: If you are going to publish outdoor images, could you show a little less bias toward one region?

The photo above was made in Northern NY about 20 miles from the Canadian border (as the crow flies). It was made with a Canon 10D and a 28-135mm lens on an overcast May evening after a rain.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Back to the River

I drove down to Clayton today to see the tall ship Fair Jeanne. There was also a tug boat at the dock and that became the subject of today's photo. It was a grungy working ship but there were some visually interesting details. The Fair Jeanne was a nice ship but more modern than the Lynx which I toured and later cruised on last year. I confess to being partial to the old wooden tall ships. It's purely a matter of aesthetics. Steel hulls and decking look out of place with tall ship rigging, at least to me they do.

The ships were there for a festival weekend that had way too many people for my taste and loud boat races that made wakes that rocked the 100 foot plus tall ship. The promos said there were food and wine booths but the only food booth I saw was pet treats. I did buy a bottle of North Country Red from the Thousand Island Winery booth.

I did find some images on the Fair Jeanne. The one I like best from there is also a detail, a photo of a brass cleat and some rope on the afterdeck.
 Both photos made with a Canon 7D and an 18-135mm lens.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

This waterfall is on a side loop off the trail I take to do my leanto cleanup trips and I usually take that loop on the way out just because it's a neat place. I swam here once many years ago but the water was frigid. I didn't stay in the water very long. Just upstream behind the trees on the right is Rocky Falls leanto. The water was too high to get to it without wading on Thursday and I wasn't in a wading mood.

Since moving I go to the High Peaks by a different route and consequently am seeing different things along the way. On my way home I spotted a sign along the road that said "Historic Church" with an arrow pointing down a side road. I turned around and drove a short distance down the side road where I found this. As I was shooting the photo a woman came out from the building in back and asked if I would like to see inside. Of course I did. One of my personal projects is photos of unusual Adirondack churches. The woman was (is) Anabel Proffitt, the summer pastor and a professor at a seminary in Pennsylvania. She lives in the cabin behind the church during the summer. If you happen to be in the Childwold area go and check out this church. Rev. Proffitt will be happy to give you the tour.
Waterfall photo was made with a Canon G12 and the church photo with a Canon 7D. Both converted to B&W using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2.

Friday, June 08, 2012

I began my 19th/20th/?? season as a leanto adopter in the High Peaks of the Adirondacks yesterday. I've lost track of how many years I've been doing it. I was shooting for 20 years but I'm not sure I'm there yet. I had a pleasant hike in to Scott Clearing. The brooks were running a little high and the crossing by the leanto was a bit tricky. I made it without falling in like I did last year though and finished my work there without incident.

On my way out I hadn't gone too far when I met two young men (late teens/early twenties) who asked where I was coming form. I told them and then they asked if I knew where the turn off for Street & Nye (two of the High Peaks) was. I replied that I did and that it was "back that way" indicating the direction they had come from. "Where?" one of them asked. "Just after you passed Heart Lake". The one who had asked then said "That must be two miles". "At least" I said, "probably closer to 3." They then wanted to know where this trail went. I told them either Wallface Mt. or Indian Pass. They looked at one another blankly, I said something to the effect of have a good day and left them there. I wondered after if I should have offered more advice. It was clear from their sagging, half empty day packs that they were ill equipped to spend a night in the woods and there was no way they could reach their objectives in the time remaining. It was almost noon and they didn't even know how to find the mountains they intended to climb but I've resolved not to give unsolicited advice so I said no more.

When I got back to Saranac Lake I got a sub and took it to the lake in the middle of town where I made the above photo. I was attracted to the reflection and really wanted to photograph just that but my lens wasn't long enough. I shot this photo and went to change the lens. Before I finished a couple of guys decided to race back and forth in a motor boat and ruined the reflections. Looking off from the park in another direction I found the photo below in which I removed all color except the red in the chairs, their reflections and the two floats. Red was the only color that mattered. The others were just a distraction.
Both made with a Canon 7D, the first with an 18-135mm and the second with an old Tamron 70-300mm. I wonder if I should have offered advice to those guys. I wonder if they got out of the woods before dark.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Adirondack Marsh

Another photo from my last ramble in the Adirondacks, a marsh along Rt. 56 between Colton and Sevey's Corners. I learned several years ago the difference between a marsh, a bog and a swamp. This is a marsh because it has open areas of water as well as hummocks of marsh grass. A bog has spongy vegetation, grasses, mosses, pitcher plants and other plants that like 'wet feet' but not open water. A Swamp has trees in a wet area. You can find all three in the Adirondacks but swamps are most likely the result of beaver dams in my experience. I like bogs for macro photographs of plants but marshes and swamps offer interesting reflections on the open water.

Canon 7D, ISO 400, 160th @ f/11 handheld.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

I'm Still Here

It has been almost a month since I last posted anything. I've been busy painting and moving. We have more to do but the pace is slowing so I hope to get back to more frequent photography and posting. This photo was made along French Pond Rd. I took a day to go to the mountains last week and used the French Pond Rd. to bypass a construction site on Rt. 56. I spotted this house on my way down to the ADKs but the light was wrong. Coming back it was better so I stopped and made several photos. I thought it needed to be a B&W. After some initial processing in Lightroom 4 the conversion was done in NIK Silver Efex Pro 2. Canon 7D, ISO 200, 1/60th @ f/11.

Friday, April 27, 2012


I've been goofing off on posting. We bought a new house and I've been busy painting and getting ready to move. We did take a weekend off to visit Longwood Gardens in PA and I have posted some photos at Posts to the blog will continue to be spotty (spottier than usual that is) until after the move. That's all for now folks. Gotta go paint woodwork.

Please do not re-post without attribution and the photos are all copyrighted.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

New Toy

We're planning on visiting Longwood Gardens in a little over a week and I wanted to be sure I was prepared for what ever lighting there is. I'd seen LED ring lights on ebay and decided to buy one. Most have limited brightness settings based on turning on & off banks of the the LEDs either left or right. I wanted one with continuous stepless dimming. I bought one made by JJC in China (most of the LED lights on the market are made in China, come on USA) and it arrived today. It operates on 4 AA batteries and mounts to the front of the lens in the same way Cokin filters do with a flat adapter ring that fits a slot on the back of the ring light. It cost $38.90 with shipping. I had to supply the batteries.

I wanted continuous dimming so that it could be used as a fill light when photographing flowers in bright sun or as a primary source when the light is low. The above isn't bright sun (obviously) but our windowsill this evening. It was shot with the ring light at its brightest setting. The camera was set at ISO 400 and the exposure was 1/100th at f/11 handheld. The DOF could have been a bit deeper but it is just my first experiment and I think this light is going to be very handy.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Limited. Get it before it's gone!

Rising Mist, Lake Abenaki

I photographed this scene back in 2004 while on my way to Lake George for a 9AM meeting at ADK Headquarters. I've shown it digitally several times and it is currently on my Zenfolio site but I made an physical print, actually two prints, for the first time today. I had proposed a print swap with a fellow photographer and this is the image he chose.  I printed it 9"x18" (image area) on Epson Fine Art Watercolor paper.

There was a discussion today on Guy Tal's blog about limited editions.  I wrote a piece about that back in 1997 on The Circle of Confusion, a B&W photography website I used to have. There are a few pieces of that site still camped out somewhere in webland. You can find them by doing a Google search on my name and "sharelessons".

So what's the connection with the photo and the title? I don't do limited editions. I  number and date my fine prints on the back as well as sign them front and back. So far in eight years there are two (count them, 2) signed prints of "Rising Mist, Lake Abenaki" in existence. My friend gets print #1 in exchange for one of his photos that I admired. I don't intend to set an artificial limit on the number of times I will print & sign this photo before I die but I doubt it will be very many. This is the first time I've been asked to print it. In any case there is only one print #2. If you want, you can own it, the only #2 copy of this photo that will ever exist. The price is $150 matted to 16"x24" with 100% cotton museum board. Shipping & handling is $25. International shipping may be higher. Contact me at Jim dot Bullard at Gmail dot com.

If you are interested in the limited edition discussion and why I don't do them, you can read Guy's blog here and my old 1997 article on the subject is reproduced below. It was written in film days but mostly still applies, if anything more so. With darkroom prints there was a finite number of times I wanted to dodge and burn the same image.

Thoughts on Limited Editions

I have mixed feelings about limited edition prints. I was trained in fine art where the "print" is the product of a printmaking process (intaglio, lithograph, woodcut, etc.) and is considered an original work or it is a reproduction of an original work (watercolor, oil painting etc.) and is considered to be a "print". Printmakers prints are often limited in part by the process. A lithograph drawing on a stone will produce only so many prints before the drawing deteriorates and won't produce a good print anymore. Other printmaking processes have some limits based on the durability of the plate, screen or whatever. A well cared for negative has no such practical limit.

Painters often multiply their markets by having photomechanical prints made from their original paintings. The prints can be sold for significantly less than the original painting and in large numbers. These reproduction prints are sometimes promoted by limiting the edition to an arbitrary number because there is a notion that a limited edition print is worth more by virtue of its "guaranteed" rarity. Original photographs, however, are not reproductions.
Some photographers market their prints in limited editions to increase their value in the market place. Ansel Adams did not produce limited editions because he believed "the negative is the score and the print is the performance." Ansel had started out to be a concert pianist, thus the musical analogy. He believed that each print was an individual performance with no two exactly alike and it would be just as absurd to limit the times it could be printed as it would be to say that a Mozart concerto could only be performed 500 times then it had to be retired and never performed again. I can sympathize with that idea. I have negatives that I would not print the same way today that I did 20 years ago.
David Vestal, writing in PHOTO TECHNIQUES magazine, tackled the issue of limited editions in his monthly column by conducting a survey of several hundred photographers he knew. He got a remarkable 2/3 return of his survey forms so I think his findings are significant. He found that those photographers who do not do limited editions produce an average of 6 prints of each of their images while edition sizes for those who print in limited editions were over 100. He concluded that rather than insuring rarity of the print, the "limited edition" actually resulted in a larger number of prints than might have otherwise been produced.
I've had some people suggest to me that I needn't actually print X number of prints to have a limited edition, I need only decide the maximum number of prints I will print (if I get enough orders) and print them as they are sold. This seems rather dishonest to me. If I decide that a given image will printed in an edition of 100, then print only 10 (reserving the other 90 until after the 10 are sold) and only 7 sell, I will never print the other 90. The first print then is not, in fact, 1 of 100. It is 1 of 10 and I will have mislabeled those 10 prints.
So far I have done only two limited editions. Both were promotional pieces which were given away, not sold. If after I am dead and gone they are valued higher than my unnumbered prints it will be a testament to the gullibility of the collectors who buy them. I do not put anywhere near the care into the printing of 50 to 75 identical prints that I do to a print for exhibition.
The art market encourages artists to produce limited editions because many buyers of art are convinced that limited editions are more valuable therefore they command higher prices. Like any other artist I am tempted by anything that will allow me to get more for my work. One does not easily make a living as a fine artist (I don't) and even though I think that it is artificial and downright silly for people to pay more for limited editions it has some appeal. Maybe I should make it into my gimmick (gimmicks sell art too) by using a "limited edition protest numbering system". Something like "#155 of 12". Before I do that I have to decide whether to number them all the same or randomly. For now I'll just produce the best prints I can and hope that I can attract buyers to whom quality work is the primary criteria.

Addendum Dec. 21, 1997

Since adding the above to my web site I have had some e-mail objections to the thoughts I expressed. My intentions in writing it were to crystallize my own thoughts and feelings on the subject which had been simmering for several years and had the heat turned up by David Vestal's column ("Rare or Well Done", Jan/Feb 1997 issue of PHOTO Techniques). I have revisited his article and reviewed the objections which can be categorized as follows:
  • I shouldn't object to something that is done for the benefit of the gallery and the artist. Limited editions increase both prices and sales.
  • Galleries promotion of limited editions help educate the public to art thereby expanding the market. A lot of people get into buying art through investing in limited editions.
  • Most editions are actually only in the range of 25 to 50 and it's an exceptional photo that sells more than 10-15. Most artists only print a few then print the rest of the edition as needed to satisfy sales so there is usually greater rarity than the edition numbers indicate.
The survey that David Vestal did of 215 photographers (the survey was sent to 300 so that's a very significant response. Ask any statistician) showed edition sizes anywhere from 5 to 150. The majority were in the 5 to 50 range with the statistical average number being 32.71 prints. The average prints per negative for those photographers who were not printing "limited editions" was 6.9. He calculated that meant that (on average) there were 4.74 "limited edition" prints for every unlimited print out there. The above math makes a mockery of the use of the word "limited" in reference to editions and it becomes very evident that the motivation is to sell more prints. This is further borne out by the response I received which told me that 10-15 is the actual usual limit of sales even though the edition sizes normally run 30 to 50. Even 10 to 15 actual prints (are the unprinted ones 'virtual' prints?) is 2-3 times the average number of non-limited edition prints.
What bothers me is that increasing the price and volume of work sold by convincing the public they are getting greater rarity than they would get buying an unlimited print is a form of fraud. Those participating are actually doing so in order to INCREASE the number of prints they will make and sell and even covering their bets by setting an edition size 2-3 times what they actually expect to sell. Basically it's the old "tell them what they want to hear and they'll buy the product" pitch. I find it very disingenuous to characterize this as a way to 'educate' the public to appreciate art. I think the art buying public deserves better.
As for the last I still feel it isn't honest to label a print "1 of 30" when I've really only printed 5 and may or may not ever print the other 25 'virtual' prints. While there is an increase in rarity over what is stated in the edition limit, rarity in and of itself is no guarantee of future value and it remains a false statement. I don't like doing business on falsehoods and certainly not art.
After mulling all this over I have decided that in future the prints I make for sale will be ordinally numbered and dated (for the benefit of those who care how many there really are) but without reference an edition size. The ordinal numbering will be on the back of the print (also the mount label if I sell it mounted). I can live with that.

Saturday, April 07, 2012

I went wandering in the mountains yesterday, a tour by car, no hiking. I wanted to find the trailhead for McKensie Mt. for a hike later this year. It turns out the trailhead isn't marked. You have to know where it is and the trail register box is part way up the trail. I did learn where to look so I'm all set when I decide to climb it.

I shot two rolls of medium format B&W and about the same number of digital photos. I thought I might send the film off to be processed but I checked several places online when I came home and found that it now costs $8-15/roll just for developing, no prints. I don't want prints and I have the tanks to develop my own but my chemicals are old so I guess I'll be buying some new chemicals. I'll have to mail order them. No one locally carries them anymore.

The photo is a common view of Whiteface from the road between Lake Placid and Wilmington. Made with my Canon 7D and a polarizer.

P.S. I highly recommend David duChemin's post to his blog today. Link below.

Friday, March 30, 2012

What is Photography About?

I saw a post on the web today, I think it was on Google+, that was praising the new Nikon D800. As an illustration of how good it was the author posted a photo of a bird accompanied by a blow up of just the bird's eye with a red arrow added pointing to a darker spot on the dark eye and the words "That's me". To me it was just a darker spot but he was sure it was his reflection in the bird's eye.

Apparently this photographer feels that the test of a good camera is its ability to render detail within detail. If he's right that you can see a reflection of him in the eye of the bird he photographed that is indeed a technological wonder, but it doesn't mean it is a meaningful image. I would even go so far as to say "Who cares?". Most photographs today are shrunk down to 800-1000 pixels on the long side and posted to the web. I'd guess that the percentage of photos that are actually printed is in the single digits and most of them are still too small to see such detail. The average person can't distinguish things smaller than 1/100th of an inch. You'd need a magnifying glass and a 30x40 print to find that reflection.

Fortunately I read something else on the web today, a post to the Lenswork Daily blog by Brooks Jensen, in which he quoted an email he received from Doug Ethridge. The quote ended saying that our hope is to create "an image that is not of something, but about something". Shooting images so detailed that you can see the reflection of the photographer in the eye of a bird produces photos of without necessarily telling us anything of significance about the subject. Focusing on your subject involves more than focusing your lens.

The photo above is from last fall (October 26th) when the local landscape was brown, but not as totally brown as now. A patch of winterberry in a bog along the Hatch Rd. not far from Potsdam International Airport, a name regarded by some with amusement but it does get occasional flights from Canada. Made with a Canon 7d. BTW on the 40x60 print you can see aphids on the berries (just kidding).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


I'm laid up with a case of bronchitis. We had a week of summer like weather and now we're back in much chillier weather. Everything is brown except for the shoots of spring bulbs. The world around here is not particularly photogenic. Spring is a time of renewal and I've been looking through old photos, deciding which to enter in a competition and I asked for input from some friends. The photo above is one I was considering and one friend commented that it might be stronger in B&W so I decided to try it.
I played with the tonal relationships and applied a warm tone using Photoshop's duotone settings. My friend likes the monochrome version better, my wife likes the color version better. To me they are different images and about different things. The monochrome version is narrower in my opinion, it's about the flowing water and the rest is subsidiary. The color version is richer, both literally because of the color but also in terms of what it is about. The warmth of the rock brings it forward and the green of the foliage is appealing as is the tinge of yellow/orange on the tops of the trees from the lowering sun. The green may be particularly appealing at this time of year when the actual world outside is anything but. The color version is more a presentation of an overall experience and the monochrome more a metaphor.

I like them both but I am more partial to the color version right now. In a different mood, at a different time, I might be more partial to the B&W version more focused as it is on the flow of the water. Right now I'm looking forward to more of the world around me being green and warm. Meantime neither version will go into the competition.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Time for Pondering

The snow in the photo has melted, we got another 4-5 inches and now that has also melted. We're hoping that we've seen the last and it will be spring but I'm not placing any bets on it. Looking back over photos from prior years we've had substantial snow storms as late as mid-April.

I watched a video on the web today in which it was suggested that if one wants to make really good landscape photos you have to go to where the really good landscapes are, the National parks, specifically the western parks, Arches, Yosemite, etc. If you aren't happy with your photos you can't expect to make interesting landscape images near where you live they said, partly because there aren't any great landscapes there and partly because you are too familiar with it. You need to go where the landscape will excite you.

The mention of Arches National Park brought to mind a remark by a photographer/potter friend who said to me "If I see another photograph of Delicate Arch, I think I'll puke." The advice above also struck me as the opposite of the classic advice to writers, "Write what you know."  The only National Park I've ever been to is the one in downtown Philadelphia, PA. The one with the Liberty Bell, Carpenter's Hall and other landmarks of the founding of the country. Not that I wouldn't like to go to some of the National Parks that have grand landscapes and I hope to but I've always felt that I could make excellent landscape photos of the landscape I know, partly because it is familiar and partly because I'm there when it is photogenic.

The photo above for example is simply a group of evergreens on the border between a farm field and woodlot. It is along a road about 15 minutes from my house that I have driven many times and never photographed before. The morning I made this image there had been a wet snowfall that stuck to the trees, in particular the evergreens, and this tableau, looking much like a family posed for a group photo, caught my eye.

I'm a firm believer that the potential for good and often even great (not that I think the above is "great" but I'm quite happy with it) photos is everywhere, that everything can be a great subject under the right lighting and conditions. The trick is twofold. You have to be sensitive to it, constantly looking deeply at the world around you, and you have to be there when the scene presents itself. Excitement is an attitude you cultivate, not something external. There's an old saying 'if you eat steak every day, sometimes beans taste fine'. You can get bored with grandeur too if you allow yourself to adopt that attitude. To make better photos take more interest in your subject matter, whatever it is, approach it with passion and your photos will reflect it. I should add to that you must have the skills to create an image that communicates what you saw and some degree of how it felt to be there.

There can be creative danger in going to iconic landscapes, danger that you will fall into the trap of remaking images of the hundreds or thousands of photographers that went to those sites before. I hope when I do go to one or more of the great parks that I will be inspired to make some photos that are not mere copycat images, but I am convinced that if I can't make interesting photos where I live, the grandeur of a western park will not be sufficient to make my photos great. I believe that it is possible to make as bad or uninteresting a photo of Yosemite as it is of a local farmers woodlot.

Friday, February 24, 2012


After having almost no snow all winter we were dusted by about ¾" Wednesday night. The Adirondacks (South of us) got 3-4 inches and I decided it was time to go wandering and photographing again. It's a strange addiction that I have, this need to go rambling about in the woods and mountains photographing the moods of nature. An addiction it is though and perhaps my camera, like the fisherman's pole, is really just an excuse to be there, taking it all in. Excuse or not, I hope that my images will be pleasant reminder of my wanderings if and when age renders me no longer able to go such places. In the meantime I hope that they are a revealing window for those currently not able (for whatever reason) to experience these places.

Although the snow stopped in the morning on Thursday at home, it continued off and on all day down South in the mountains. The view above was made during a brief break in passing snow squalls. A thin spot in the clouds allowed a faint bit of sunlight to strike the snow that had accumulated on the evergreens of this island group making them the brightest spots in a relatively dark landscape. If it were a clear day you would see Whiteface Mt. in the background. Yesterday however, it was totally obscured by the low hanging clouds.

As a bit of balance against my asocial nature I'll add an urban photo taken on the main street in Saranac Lake, as urban as the Adirondacks get anyway and as urban as I like it. I don't often photograph people but lately I'd been seeing scenes that are representative of "the human condition", the moods of our particular subset of nature (see also the photo in the prior post). I spotted that tree against the red and green building as I pulled out of a parking lot. I had to drive quite a way up the street before finding a parking place to walk back to shoot it. Snow was coming down fat, wet, and hard. I arrived back at the vantage point for the photo just in time to catch this lady between the tree and lamppost. After she passed I shot another frame with no one in it, the way I envisioned the photo when I first decided to park the truck and go back, but that one doesn't work as well. It's nice but without the lady it seems empty. It was purely a stroke of luck that she was wearing a red coat and carrying a green bag, echoing the building she is passing.