Sunday, June 10, 2018

Solitary Tree

What creates a sense of belonging and purpose in a life?  It is a combination of faith, family, and function.  If we have faith in God, mankind, and ourselves we can see the good when ugliness is all around us.  Family is the deep roots that bind us together and gives us our identity.  Function is what we do to provide and contribute that gives us our purpose in life.  We all move through different stages in life and after have experiencing them I can now reflect on them.  When we are young we are surrounded by family and friends which forms our roots.  The working years define us by our dedication and self discipline to stay the course to be a provider and contribute to society.  Faith comes when the storm clouds appear in our lives or that of someone else.  As we transition through life some of these things diminish or disappear.  Family passes on or moves away which is all normal, but requires an adjustment.  After the working years purpose and function becomes more difficult to define and obtain.  Faith increases as time passes because there comes a point in life where investing in this life has less return than it once did.  I know this may appear to be ramblings of obscure personal thoughts, but these are things that I learn from what I photograph.  This image I made two days ago represents some of the feelings I have expressed.  This solitary cypress tree rooted in a vast area of water is in its natural environment.  Its branches provide nesting for osprey and fulfills an important purpose.  The deep roots anchor the tree during extreme winds of hurricanes.   The tree produces seeds that fall in the water and drift away to establish new trees in another location.  The cycle of life is all around us in nature if we look for it.     Ps. 127 1-5

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Preparing for a Photo Trip

I made this image in February in Big Bend N.P.  The sun was setting and we were standing on a high overlooking of the Rio Grande River.  The river divides the U.S. and Mexico.  In this photo Mexico is on the left and the U.S. on the right.  It takes a lot of work and planning when going on far away photography trips.  Many things I take for granted when photographing at home are now thrown into the mix of the decision process.  Equipment and gear management can be problematic when living on the road for a few weeks.  Many of these trips require backpacking and tent camping to be in a remote location at the best time of day when the light is right for photography.  In my planning I need to consider my maximum amount of equipment with the least amount of weight for my trip.  Often times it comes down to if I am going solo or have my wife as my hiking companion as to how much equipment I will take.  In my film days I would hike with a 4x5 view camera that required bulky film holders and a heavy tripod.  On my day hikes I would try to estimate how many sheets of film I might expose that day and try to pack my gear to match the trail and the terrain I was in.  Carrying a limited amount of film require that I didn't duplicate exposures and waited until the light was at its best.  With my digital equipment the concerns are different.  The equipment is much lighter but the gear and accessories can be more numerous.  The biggest concern is keeping everything powered up and maintaining battery life. I usually buy several batteries that I keep as spares but still find myself searching for a receptacle in a campground or public washroom to plug in my charger.  The amount of accessories that I bring along seems to always be increasing.  The various power cords for electronic equipment is in a constant state of change and with each new piece of equipment comes a new cord with a different connector.  This can be a source of frustration especially when a power adapter or a certain type of cord is left at home.  Other things like filters, memory cards, cellphone, laptops, and other devices can add to the complication of trying to travel light.   We are preparing for a two week, three state trip next week to the Northwest U.S.  As I go through my equipment I set it out on a table and pair everything up so I am certain not to forget a vital component.  These trips are always fun but it takes a lot energy before, during, and after the trip.  I will celebrate my 69th birthday while on this trip and realize the limitation of age is coming into play in my life but the desire to explore is endless. 

Monday, June 4, 2018

Why I am starting to dislike Photography

I have been photographing for most of my life.  It is a passion that started in my teen years and I have pursued it my entire life.  Recently I am feeling disconnected from the passion that has burned inside of me for photography.  Technology is the blame for much of the frustrating I am feeling towards the medium.  With the advancement of computers and related technologies it is becoming apparent that we no longer  have full control over our lives anymore.  We are forced to let the monster of technology dictate our lives.  I have fears that this is just the start of this self imposed restricted life we have created.  The advancement of AI is just around the corner and we will forced into living habits that rob us of our individual freedoms .  As we race to embrace these new technologies we willingly give up our freedoms.  Soon we will be in driverless cars forced to do as the programed car wishes and not what we desire.  To a generation born into this technology they will not question the new forced restrictions imposed on their lives.  It is the only world they have ever know and any new change in regulating their lives will not be questioned.  I rarely use a cellphone, and when I travel I have no fears of being without a way to communicate.  It was the way I have lived most of my life before this technology and I have no feeling of anxiety of being out in the world without a cellphone.  Today most people can't live five minutes without their phones and think of it as a birth right.  I believe that most of the young people that were born with this technology were to have it suddenly removed would go through a horrible withdrawal period equal to a powerful drug.  So why am I so down on technology that I have embraced for the past couple of decades?  Well when it comes to photography it has diminished what a photographer is and the work they produce.  As the internet grows and becomes more noisy, so fades the recognized talents of a skilled photographer.  My past enjoyment of viewing original prints of a talented photographer was that I can see some of the person in their work, much like viewing works of a great painter.  Now as viewers of photography we focus more on the technique and software applied than the skill and eye of the photographer.  Social media is a demon that sucks the creative life out of most aspiring photographers.  It is an unnatural environment where superficial highs and lows are created by complete strangers with likes and dislikes.  To an inspiring artist there is little value investing in these sites and quickly become a giant waste of time.  Viewing the "Fine Print" in a gallery setting sadly is becoming a thing of the past.  We now quickly become saturated with countless images online all gussied up to catch our eye.  Sunsets that are too brilliant, waterfalls too beautiful, colorful landscapes too surreal to be believed.  Images today are more about viewing the technology that was used to create the images than the photographer and the subject photographed.  I can remember viewing images created by some of the early masters of black and white photography and how I was captivated by an image and felt an emotional response to the image.  Many of these photographers had a lasting impression on my life.  It is doubtful if my first exposure to these works were on a computer monitor that they would have as much of an impact in my life.  Time passes and things change and what I value is personal to me and has little influence on others.  Yet I feel a certain sadness for those coming behind me because of the loss of freedom in live their lives. To be truly your own person without being tethered to the power of technology I fear is no longer possible.  I will continue to photograph and in doing so I will be true to myself and not be overwhelmed by presence of the technology that controls so much of todays medium of photography.

Friday, May 25, 2018

Cypress Forest

I finally had a chance to get out on the lake for a few hours yesterday to do some kayaking and photography.  It has been several months since I have been out there.  This past winter has been extremely windy and it has been hard to find a day that the lake was calm.  When I photograph from my kayak I have to take several photographs of the same subject in order to get the proper composition because I am always moving and drifting around.  I also need to be very aware of my surrounding when focused on photographing because I can easily float into a overhanging trees limbs or come close to a good sized alligator lurking in the weeds nearby.  In this image I would drift from left to right as I passed by this stand of cypress trees.  In each attempt I keyed on getting the bow of the broken limb of the large tree perfectly framed so it did not merge with the tree or the other limbs.  Getting good results while photographing from a small boat can be tiring and time consuming.  There are many days that I make these trips and return home without making a single photograph.  While this can be frustrating, it is all part of the process and has to be accepted.  

Friday, May 18, 2018

Wild Monkeys

We spend some time at Silver Springs Florida State Park this week camping and kayaking.  Florida is starting its rainy season and this week has had periods of hard rain each day.  Silver Springs in a magical place where over 50 million gallons of fresh clear water springs up from the ground each day forming a river.  We made three trips down the river in our kayaks and each time we were soaked by the rain showers.  The plus side of the wet week was that we had the area to ourselves and got to see plenty of animals along the stream.  One encounter we had was with the wild Rhesus monkeys.  Silver Springs was once the movie location for the early Tarzan movies with Johnny Weissmuller as Tarzan.  It is said that these monkeys that now populate the area are from the the early Tarzan movies that were made there.  As we drifted along in our kayaks we could see a caravan of monkeys with dozens of babies moving along the shore.  They would stop out of curiosity and look us over.  I rested my kayak against a tree and photographed a few as they moved by.  I noticed that two large males stood guard at the front of my kayak as the babies and their Mothers moved passed.  This monkey sat a couple of feet from my boat and put on a display of showing his teeth and giving me a stare as to warn me not to come closer.  I have never considered myself a wildlife photographer but I have to admit that there is an exciting aspect of coming in close contact with wild animals. 

Friday, April 20, 2018

Sermon on the Mount

I was recently searching through some old folders of my images that I have stored on my external hard drive.  I came across this image and was surprised that I haven't seen it since the day I took nearly ten years ago.  I am certain that I must have many more interesting images lost in the numerous folders on the six or seven external hard drives I have sitting on my desk.  The photographic image that is stored digitally is prone to being lost in the many folders created and to storage equipment that has become outdated.  I have hundreds of DVDs with many images that I have made over the years but my new Mac computer no longer has a DVD drive.  Cellphones are the camera most used by young people today.  Pictures are taken and uploaded to social media sites that have a lifecycle of a few moments and then are lost in a place we call cyber space.  The printed photograph is fast become a thing of the past.  Think how important the recorded document has been to learning about past civilizations.  In our current digital culture we are the most recorded and documented people to have ever lived, but the future generations may not find much preserved documentation of our time because of they way we store it.  The family photo album has been lost to our desire to store everything digitally.  When I look at the few old photographs of my grandparents taken in the early nineteen hundreds I have a great appreciation that they were made and survived the many years.  I find value in the printed image and make it a practice to print the images that inspire me photographically, as well as print the small family photos for future generations to have a recored document of their family history.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Terlingua Cemetery

This image is from a series I have been working on with nighttime photography.  This image is comprised of two images blended together in Photoshop.  With the first image I use a light painting technique to light the crosses and grave sites.  This exposure was around five minutes giving me enough time to navigate around with my flashlight and paint in the areas of the scene I wanted lit.  It was a full moon night and the stars were not visible.  I made a separate night sky exposure of just the open sky on a later date when the sky had plenty of stars.  The first exposure on the full moon night gave plenty of detailed to the distance mountains, giving depth to the image.  Making these kind of images takes some planning.  I usually scout out the location in the daytime to plan my composition and lighting for when I am there in the dark.  Once I am at the location at night I first make a test exposure at a high ISO to see the composition and make any adjustments that are needed.  I use a Sony mirrorless camera and with the live view and manual focus features, it makes determining my focus point fairly easy.  Night photography can be fun with some proper planning and being carful when moving around in the dark.  If you have any questions about this technique contact me and I will try to answer your questions.