A place for me to share my recent work, random musings on photography and reflect on my thoughts, experiences, ideas and revelations.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Before and After

I spent some time this past Friday morning shooting on the Torrence Creek Greenway with CNPA member and photography buddy Don Brown. The ever-changing palette of wildflowers on the greenway never ceases to amaze me. Every week throughout the year brings something new, while some old friends say good-bye for the season. Just lately we've started seeing some of the late summer flowers - goldenrod and milkweed primarily, but if you look closely you can always find little patches of treasure that most people walk by. I think what amuses me the most is that I can be standing knee-deep in a patch of flowers, camera on tripod pointed right at a flower, and someone will walk by and ask what I am shooting! They don't even notice that there are wildflowers there!

These two images are actually portraits of the same type of flower at different stages of its life cycle. They are both of a plant called Yellow Goatsbeard, aka Jack-Go-To-Bed-At-Noon. The yellow flower is the Goatsbeard as it initially blooms, while the puffball is the flower after it goes to seed. Both were found in the same patch mere feet from each other. They look a little like Dandelion but much prettier.

While I was shooting the puffball version I found myself thinking about what it was that was moving me. The flower was telling me "soft" and a little voice in my ear was telling me to "Shoot 'Soft.'" I took a number of frames at different apertures to try and get the right mix of "soft" and sharpness. The stopped-down versions are nice but have a bit of harshness to them because all the background starts to become prominent. This frame was taken at f8 and I feel it strikes the right balance between "sharp enough" and "soft."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why People Photograph II

I just finished reading issue #83 of Lenswork, which is a tribute to Bill Jay who passed away earlier this year. The issue is a compilation of Jay's End Notes column which has been one of my favorite reasons to subscribe to the magazine. I admit to being one of those folks who would read End Notes first.

Needless to say, a magazine devoted solely to writings of Bill Jay has a number of gems, but this one made me stop and re-read a number of times, as it echoes my own thoughts on why I love to do what I do:

There are some things you know but you don’t know that you know them – and then you do.

An earnest psychologist friend, for years puzzled by my devotion to photography, recently asked, “Why do you photograph?” The question held no trace of disapproval; it was a sincere desire to understand my motive for what to him seemed like an inconsequential act. I prattled on for some time, increasingly self-aware that my words were empty, not untruthful, merely similarly inconsequential. I felt uneasy.

Then I went out photographing. At the first sight of a potential picture my spirits lifted and I knew what I should/could have said if he had been with me:

“Look,” I would say, “This is life. It is everywhere, and it is here for the taking. I am alive and I know this, now, in a more profound way than when I am doing anything else. These sights are ephemeral, fleeting treasures that have been offered to me and to me alone. No other person in the history of the world, anywhere in all of time and space, has been granted this gift to be here and in my place. And I am privileged, through the camera, to take this moment away with me. That is why I photograph.”

Bill Jay

The photo is a recent gift I found on the Torrence Creek Greenway, about 1/4 mile from my house.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bubba Jumps the Falls

Kathy & I spent this past weekend in the Brevard area, scouting locations for an upcoming outing I am leading in October for our CNPA chapter. While at Hooker Falls in Dupont State Forest I was hoping to shoot some stock photos of people cooling off in the falls on a hot summer day. One of the shots a got was this action sequence of some very ill-advised behavior. I thought about asking for a model release but decided he probably would not have taken kindly to my asking, although he (or his next of kin) might someday want a copy of the photo.

I'm guessing there won't be much swimming going on in October!

Photos combined using Lightroom's Print Module and outputting them as a single file.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


I've about convinced myself that the time I spend cloning dust spots would just about pay for a camera with automatic dust removal.

Now I just have to convince The Boss....

She'll probably tell me to clean my sensor more often.

Image is a combination of 5 photographs of a tree that I shot during our visit to Hilton Head this past February. It was shot in different kinds of light with different sky backgrounds. I'm trying to figure out what to do with it.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Staying Close to Home

I've written a number of times about the merits of photographing in one's "back yard." For me this often involves photographing in my "front yard" which is the Torrence Creek Greenway. I have an entrance across the street from my house, which is not exactly my "front yard" but is not much farther away than my mail box.

To many Greenway users, the plants and wildflowers are just something to walk past or for their dogs to pee on. They don't really pay them much attention. The few people who even notice me and my camera generally assume I'm photographing the deer, and wonder where they are.

In reality, the changing seasons and the constantly evolving variety of grasses, plants and wildflowers are fascinating. I love finding these gifts and going home and figuring out what they are. Most recently I have been taken by these Crimsoneyed Rosemallow. They're a type of Hibiscus typically found near the coast. What they are doing in little ole Huntersville, NC is beyond me, but they are quite beautious.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Why People Photograph

I’m a lover of quotes, although I don’t spend nearly enough time digging them up, and I certainly don’t do a good job of remembering them. But I find knowledge and comfort in them.

In keeping with the theme of my previous post, I am reading books in an attempt to learn about photography history. The book I just finished, although I’m not sure my reading did the content justice as it is written in a style that requires a lot more concentration than I was able to give it, is “Why People Photograph, Selected Essays and Reviews” by Robert Adams. Published in 1994, some of the technology references are out of date, but the book is not about technology. The book covers topics from random thoughts on photographic subjects, to examples of success using real-life stories of successful photographers to the author’s personal experience and philosophies about photography and life in general.

In the chapter titled “In The Nineteenth Century West” Adams is discussing the photographic exploration of the western United States in the 1800’s and contrasting it with the present day noise, pollution and overdevelopment that is rampant everywhere, but is especially notable when looking at early views of the country such as those of Timothy O’Sullivan and William Henry Jackson and comparing them with the views we see today. He talks about how the change in our mode of transportation from wagon to automobile, and the speed at which we experience the passing countryside, impacts our perception of the size of the space through which we pass.

Adams says:

“To put it another way, if we consider the difference between William Henry Jackson packing in his cameras by mule, and the person stepping from his car to take a picture with an Instamatic, it becomes clear how some of our space has vanished. If the time it takes to cross space is a way by which we define it, then to arrive at a view of space “in no time” is to have denied its reality.”

And the line that grabbed my attention and made me stop and think:

“Little wonder that we, car-addicted, find the old pictures of openness – pictures usually without any blur, and made by what seems a ritual of patience – wonderful. They restore to us knowledge of a place we seek but lose in the rush of our search. Though to enjoy even the pictures, much less the space itself, requires that we be still longer than is our custom.

How many times, in this age of Twitter and cell phone cameras and 7-step bracketed HDR exposures do we go blasting through the countryside in search of some iconic trophy shot, completely ignoring the beauty of the scene through which we pass, only to arrive at our supposed destination to grab what’s there and move on to the next stop on our checklist? How many of us ignore the beauty in our own back yard while we go rushing off to some iconized destination to set up our tripod right next to 49 of our closest friends?

A few days ago I made an offer to our local CNPA chapter to come out and spend time on the Torrence Creek Greenway that runs through my neighborhood and has an access trail literally across the street from my house. A few of the folks who would otherwise have attended were out of town, and it was a Friday so a lot of people were working, but only one other person showed up. My good friend and shooting buddy John Schornak and I spent a couple of hours in one spot, shooting the beauty in my back yard, in an area about ¼ mile from my house. Did we come back with iconic shots? Probably not, but we had a good time and it gave us a chance to spend some time in nature. Undiscouraged, I plan to make the offer again soon.

This past weekend a few of us spent a day on the Blue Ridge Parkway near Linville Falls. We were there the entire day, some of us from sunrise until after sunset. Some of us didn’t even go to the falls, but we got some wonderful shots from right beside the road or, in the case of the image accompanying this post, right next to the parking lot in the picnic area! I have a whole database of sunrise and sunset locations in that area. Linville Falls is one of the most beautiful natural landmarks in North Carolina, but for me the beauty of the day was to enjoy where I was, what I was doing and let nature speak to me, not running around, dodging tourists and other photographers to try and capture the same images as everyone else.

So the next time you get ready to head out the door for that trophy destination, think about the “place we seek but lose in the rush of our search” and instead seek out that place where we can “be still longer than is our custom.”