Archive for the 'Editing' Category

03
Nov
14

Crafting our lives, part 2

This is a continuation of my blog from last week about creating community. Thanks for checking back.

As I have aged over these last 10 or so years, the idea of crafting my life became and has remained sharply focused. Perhaps it is perspective that is the gift of aging. This has allowed me to consider moves, changes both planned for and unexpected, with a bit of detachment. I don’t take things so personally and I hope that I offer compassion more easily than frustration or anger.

What has this to do with photography? I think that the same gift of perspective and a willingness to feel and express compassion are present in good photography. Perspective allows us to consider the whole scene as well as the details, angles, and different points of view. How then will we craft what is in front of us from what is presented to us? Life/photography is full of possibility! We see this when we detach from what is immediately presented and allow the scene or image to  sink into us. How will we greet it then? With anger, with frustration, or with compassion (even if just for ourselves) and allow the scene or situation to rest more easily as we observe, sense, and craft our response/photo?

This is a philosophical post. But it needn’t be heavy or plodding. I’ll leave you to ponder on these thoughts and just present you with some images from the late summer. Each of these was taken during a class I was teaching at the Pacific Northwest Art School or during a class that I assist each year with Arthur Meyerson. My time there each August is one of my favorite things that has been crafted into my life. (And here is the link for one of my classes there next year: The Photography of Intent) (And here is the other: The Fine Art Book)

The images are varied in subject matter, but looking at them now, with several months of detachment, allows me to see what value there is in them without emotional attachment…and yet, happily, it recalls for me the time that I spent crafting each of them. A warning: there will be a part 3 to this post! Until then, I hope you enjoy the images.

29
Mar
14

step by step to a textured image, with intent

From time to time an image will rise that speaks to me in a different way. Capturing images, in camera, with little need of editing after raw conversion, is always my goal. I create photographs by bringing all of my intention to an image that I hope will speak to the viewer in an engaging way. Having said that, I have discovered that creating composite images with textures or other photo layers can be a very satisfying process. One caveat: bad images with textures and other layers are still bad images. There is that old adage about putting a silk purse on a sow’s ear…

I posted images from the South of France just last week. Many people emailed or commented (on Facebook and this blog) with kind and generous remarks. Thank you! I’ve also been talking to several of the students that I mentor who have voiced an interest in working with textures and layers. I’m posting the step by step process here to encourage you all to have fun and give something new a try! As always, I send my gratitude to Jill and Paul and Flypaper Textures for their passion to make great products (click on the box there on the right and you’ll see all their marvelous sets of textures).

My disclaimer…I am not a photoshop instructor. There are many people who excel at this part of teaching, but I am not one of them. My intent here is to share something fun that might intrigue you.

The process:

After I have optimized my image in Lightroom 5 I will choose Photo~Edit In~Photoshop CS6 (or 4 or 5…whatever you are working in).

If I have opened my texture(s) file(s) from another source I will have a number of images open in Photoshop. For the purposes of this tutorial, lets go with the assumption that I have opened from another source rather than the plug-in (see note at end of post).

If your images are all in the same bar and you want them to appear in separate windows (you do) then click on Window ~ Arrange ~ Float all in windows.

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Now you can move your images onto each other. Click your move tool (at the top of your tool bar on right) and choose a texture to place onto an image. After you have moved it onto your image you will see that you have two layers. Perhaps your new texture layer is a different size than your image. Don’t worry. With your texture layer highlighted, choose Edit ~ Transform ~ Scale. Hold down your shift key and then resize by dragging a corner or side box to maintain your ratio. If you don’t need to maintain a ratio, simply grab one of the size boxes with your move tool and resize your texture layer to cover your image.

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After you have resized your image, click the CHECK MARK on the upper right to confirm your resizing.

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Now in your layers palette you need to choose the Blending Mode. The default is Normal. Click the drop down menu and you will see many options. I generally start with Soft Light or Overlay, depending on how I want the image to appear. Try each the options in the drop down menu and go back and forth to begin to learn the subtleties.

Perhaps you like the Overlay mode but it’s a little too strong? Move the opacity slider (just to right of Blending mode drop down box) left and fight to find the desired effect.

 

In this image I liked the effect but I knew that I wanted the bottom of the textured image to be on the top of my photograph. No problem. So I went back to Edit ~ Transform ~ Rotate 180. (make sure your texture layer is highlighted in your layer palette when you do this or your entire image will rotate!)

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Perhaps you like the effect on some of the image but want to minimize it in certain areas? I use this a lot to block out the texture layer on faces, bodies of horses, or where the shadows and vignetting can be a little too strong.  Go down to your bar at the bottom of your layers box (on right) and choose the mask overlay. It is the rectangle with the circle in the middle. This is where it gets really fun!  Now you can ‘paint’ IN or OUT the desired effect. You have infinite control here simply by choosing the OPACITY of your BRUSH.

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Next, click Command~I (with your texture layer highlighted) to completely block out your texture layer. You will see your mask turn completely black and you will see only your original image in the window. Now we can begin to reveal the texture layer WHERE we want it and in WHAT STRENGTH we want it.

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Choose your brush tool from your toolbox. I generally start with 30% opacity on a fairly large, soft brush. (on the left in the tool panel) For finer detail work you will want a smaller, harder (less diffuse) brush. But start with a big soft brush. Here’s a key concept: BLACK BLOCKS, WHITE REVEALS. So down at the bottom of the tool panel on the left I will make sure I am painting with a WHITE brush IN MY MASK to reveal the texture layer (make sure the mask box is highlighted before you start painting).

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You can work either way, Paint ONTO your image with a white brush to REVEAL your changes, or paint OUT OF your image with a black brush to BLOCK the texture. I generally REVEAL the texture, slowly building up the effect.

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You can see by my layer mask in this screen shot that I have revealed ALL of the texture (100 percent) in the image except over the church and some of the tree. In the mask, the area that is black has BLOCKED the texture from showing through.

At this point I like the image but I’m not in love with it. I decided the effect needed more intensity. So I grabbed my texture layer and DUPLICATED IT…just to see what effect it would have. You do this by grabbing your layer and dragging it down to the little folder icon with the flipped up corner at the bottom of your layers palette on the right. (as with all icons, if you hover over it with your cursor it will ‘tell you’ what it is.)

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Now I have duplicated that texture layer, which compounded the effect of the texture. When I duplicated the layer it also duplicated my mask. You can make changes here simply by highlighting the mask (clicking on it) and then using your brush to reveal more or block more of the effect. Remember you can lessen or intensify the effect of your brush by choosing your brush opacity. Or you can remove the duplicated mask altogether by clicking on it and dragging it to the trash can in the lower right corner.

I like the more intense effect, but I want more depth in the sky, more of an aged feel. So I chose TABULA in my textures to layer on top.

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I resized the texture layer (outlined above), clicked the checkmark, and then after looking at it for a moment, I dialed the opacity of the texture layer back to my desired effect. Compare the next two images.

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Notice the difference in the image itself. This is what I wanted, but I needed to fine tune some areas in the image. So I added my Layer Mask, and started to paint again with a black brush this time to BLOCK the effect. I was careful to dial back my brush opacity so I could work slowly….feel my way into how the image wanted to be. See the next two images. The first image shows my BLACK BRUSH at 56% opacity. The second image shows my BLACK BRUSH at 36% opacity. Sometimes you have to go back and forth between white and black brushes, painting in then painting out changes. Sometimes you have to throw away your layer mask and begin again!

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I simply wanted to soften the effect in the sky and already dark corners, and really soften the effect on the stone itself. I chose TABULA because I wanted to echo the texture of the old stone. I didn’t need to add too much of the texture (just looking for the tone/color) to the stone.  Then I walked away from the image! This is an important step. We can become emotionally attached to an image and a little bit ‘in-love’ with what we are doing. We need perspective, we need to cool our ardor a bit and then return to the image to check our work.

I finished with the image below…you can see a tiny difference in the layer mask on TABULA. I let a little more of the texture come through on the stone. It added more of the tone and color I wanted.

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In this image of the Chapelle Saint Sixte near Eygalieres (Provence) France I knew when I was making the image that I wanted a more somber, mysterious mood for the photograph.  The more you work with textures the easier it will become to feel your way into what the image needs. But I began with an intent. I photographed with the intent to transform the image and I carried that intent all the way through the processing.

I hope you have enjoyed this tutorial. I’ll be teaching this in my upcoming workshops (both the equine photography workshops in California and New Jersey in May as well as my workshop with the Pacific Northwest Art School on Whidbey Island in August). And to continue the self promotion, I do mentor a limited number of students each year. We have a blast and learn a lot. Zip me an email if you are interested in any of these opportunities. ( keron AT keronpsillas.com ) And if you like this post, leave a comment or share with a friend! I would truly appreciate it. Happy Shooting! ~Keron

PS…if you want more information on texturing, click on the Flypaper Textures box there on the right hand side of my blog and see what Jill and Paul are up to! There’s a wealth of information on their site and blog. And if you are interested in having a plug-in that will keep your favorite textures handy, visit Dr. Russell Brown’s site for a free one AND some great FREE Flypaper Textures. Click on THIS LINK to download your own plug-in. It’s easy and a great timesaver. Be aware though, it only works with CS6. Just scroll down to find the Green T for the textures script on his page. Have fun!

 

20
Mar
14

in the footsteps Van Gogh, Cezanne, and Bonnard

Long before I became a photographer I was a lover of art. The Impressionists were my first love and though I have expanded my list of favorites to include the renaissance and Dutch masters, modern expressionists and a number of great American painters, I continue to return to the vibrancy and searching feeling that I see in much of the Impressionist’s work.

Because of this it was a great pleasure for me to have several days in the South of France to take in the landscapes of Cezanne, Van Gogh, Bonnard, and many others. The artists were attracted to the light of Provence, but I think they must have been attracted to the shapes in the land. The fields in the valleys are covered in ancient gnarled olives and tiny, hardy grape vines. They mirror the twisted shapes of the olive trees in miniature. The miniature iris were blooming, hinting at the explosion of color to come. And the almonds were just coming out…the peach trees were in full bloom.

The weather here can be difficult; too hot, sometimes icy cold, often windy, ever changing. The wind comes from the north carrying moisture and cold, or from the south with a fierce heat, or from the East or from the West. Each of these Mistral (meaning ‘masterly’) winds has its own name. Basically, it’s windy. But the winds clear the atmosphere of dust and other matter and lend the luminous quality to the light. Think about what the light looks like on an early evening after a terrific afternoon thunderstorm. This is the light of Provence for much of the time.

I visited the Chapelle Saint Sixte (12th century) on a calm evening without a cloud in the sky. This area in and around Eygalieres was painted many times by Van Gogh. I was happy to know that I was walking the same ground as the Masters…seeing the same forms…and seeking to create my own vision of this storied landscape. But that night my vision was a darker, more nuanced one….so I created the images below.

29
Nov
13

November…not for the faint of heart!

Wow! It has been an action-packed month! On November 1st, my latest book arrived. The Alchemy of Lightness was written by Dominique Barbier and Dr. Maria Katsamanis and includes 40 of my images in large format. I helped with the editing of this book over the last several years so it is with great joy that I can say it is now available!  Click here to order your copy. It has been very well received. Thank you once again to Martha Cook, Rebecca Didier and all the team at Horse and Rider Books! You can see all their catalog of fabulous books by clicking on the button to the right!Unknown-1

Then on November 3rd, I had the great pleasure to give a lecture at InVision Photo Festival in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The talk was very well received (I was invited back!!!) in a gorgeous venue. I was a little nervous of course, but once I get started talking about my passion for photography I am difficult to stop! It was also fabulous to see old friends and students from the Banana Factory where I taught several workshops in 2009 and 2010. Thank you Janice Lipzin for the incredible opportunity! You have created a wonderful event that shows your professionalism as well as your passion.Unknown-3Unknown-2

I flew that night to Portugal to host a group of ladies for two weeks. They came to enjoy the Lusitano Festival that happens each year in Golegã. We enjoyed great weather (a welcome change) and spectacular events. Along with the horses we visited some cultural sights and then went to Pedro Torres’ barn for four days of intense training! See the link at the top of this page for a fuller description of the trip…and scroll down to see some more images.  It was so good for me to share the parts of Portugal that I have come to love. Already looking forward to next year!

After the trip was over I flew to Prague to continue work on  a personal project of mine. I’ll keep those details for another post, but I did find the PERFECT music to accompany the work I am doing. Prague is a city filled with all the arts, but especially music. Wait for it to load…it’s worth it! Alexander Shonert has very graciously given me permission to use his music for the launch of the project. More about that soon! But go to his website for more beautiful melodies and stirring performances!Unknown

And now I am back in Portugal, catching up on image editing, blog posting, and emails. I have posted a new page (see above) that outlines a Mentoring program that I began this past August. It has brought me so much satisfaction and affirmation. Throughout my career as a photographer I have been the beneficiary of the best teaching in the world. It is an absolute honor to give this back to my students. Check it out if you are interested in advancing your skills!

I wish you all a joy-filled Holiday Season! Now…almost time to switch on the snowflakes. (Readers of this blog may remember this…) From a warm, palm-tree silhouetted evening in Portugal….thank you for checking the blog!

18
Sep
13

considering the portrait

I visit the Whidbey Island County Fair each year during my week with Sam Abell at Pacific Northwest Art School. It’s a highlight for our students and a highlight for us. It is a place that is familiar, but full of surprises each time we go. This year, I fulfilled a promise that I make to myself each year. I went back to the fair after class was finished. That’s a luxury for photographers…the go-back. I am always so inspired by the work that the students produce, and this year was no exception. I was filled with ideas and creative fire, so off I went.

After photographing a number of subjects that were on my list I took a walk through the animal barns. I found this little girl, sitting in the pen with her pygmy goats, with no sign of parents or relatives nearby. I stayed for a while and made a number of images, trying to talk with her a little, offering to show her the picture on the back of my camera, but she remained in her own world. I thanked her and walked away. About twenty minutes later I decided to go back and see if she was still sitting all alone. She was. I asked her if I could make a few more pictures, to which she nodded her assent. That was the only interaction she offered the entire time.

So my thought process in making the images became this: how can I show her in the isolation and detachment that I feel? It’s not that she wasn’t animated, she was quite involved in her own story….talking on a (pinecone) cell phone, acting out the entire conversation, and alternately hugging and scolding her goats. But she was totally detached from the adults, adolescents and children walking past, some trying to talk to her, others reaching to pet her goats. It was unsettling.

Here is a small selection of images…the last being the one I chose to pull as THE portrait. Now I am undecided. I’ll come back another month from now and look at the images. Emotional detachment in the editing process is a good thing.  Emotional detachment at a fair? Well, it was certainly photographically intriguing for me.

Comments, as always, welcome and appreciated. And if you like this post (or others) how about sharing the blog with friends? Thank you!

20
Jun
13

Dreamworld

Sintra has long held a fascination for me. Years ago I read a number of books that spoke of this ancient city as a spot of initiation. Initiation into what? The greater esoteric mysteries, including the knowledge held by the Knights Templar and passed along to the Alchemists, Rosicrucians, and Freemasons. This is not a blog about the verity of any of this, but a musing on the feeling of mystery.

Any time we wander the streets of an old village or city we can try to transport ourselves to a time in the past. Some places, like the Marais in Paris or the Old Town of Prague make it easier to imagine what life may have looked like centuries ago. Sintra holds this appeal for me.

I visited the town again just a few days ago. I often take clients and friends here as one of our ‘must see’ places for their visits to Portugal. Generally I photograph lightly while hosting, but as my friends are also photographers, I was at ease with spending the extra time to make meaningful images. My intent was to reflect the mystery that I sense is present in the streets, the architecture, and the landscape. I wanted to add to that mystery a strong dream-like quality. So, lensbaby firmly affixed, off I went.

We visited my favorite spot in Portugal, the Convento dos Capuchos, where I have photographed a number of times. There are few visitors here so lingering to make images is an exercise in tranquility. The perfume of the woods, plants, herbs and stone all combine to make you feel like you are breathing a vibrating life force. Water emerges musically just as it did more than 500 years ago. It cools while it adds the feeling of movement and life to the silent surroundings.

The National Palace was a delightful surprise. In simple unaffected ways, the traditional art forms and high points in the history of the Portuguese people were displayed. Tile work of sophistication was expected because of the cultural treasure of the azulejos. But there were tiles of many different colors, mosaics recalling Moorish influence, and raised botanical tiles that are unique in all of Europe. Gardens glimpsed through mullioned windows and fairytale chimneys give the feeling of being in a time and place apart. Chandeliers in intimate reception rooms await the footfalls of liveried attendants. The intimate scale, so different from the grandeur of the Chateaux in France or Palladian Villas in Italy, invites you to imagine yourself in this court, among the travelers, discoverers, men of learning and science that attended here.

Photographically, I was enjoying a feast of subjects and impressions. I’ve created a gallery with one thought in mind: portray the mystery of this very engaging town. I started with shooting with the Lensbaby to distort and bend the light…like creating a visual tunnel to walk through. Then by further interpreting each image using various layers from Flypaper Textures, I arrived at the feeling I wanted to express in the images. This is how I followed my intent to its full expression. If you are interested in more about Flypaper Textures, scroll down through the blog, or click on the button there to the right….

One last thing about the images: at the end of the gallery you will see an image that was shot ‘straight’, but textured like the others. I’ve placed it here so that you might recognize how even a ‘good’ image can destroy the flow and mood of a set of images.  Creating the photographic essay is a process of refinement. It’s about delicious and surprising small plates, not a sumptous feast. I have a ways to go with this one, but I am loving the process!

Perhaps it was the intent of the various Mystery Schools to engender an appreciation for the unexplainable, or perhaps Sintra is just a special spot on the planet, one of those ‘points of acupuncture’ most often marked by silent dolmens or soaring cathedrals. Whatever the reason, Sintra holds a special feeling for me. I’ll continue to visit, to explore with my camera, and work to give full expression to all I experience.

Thanks for stopping by the blog. ~K

 

 

05
May
13

Another (fantastic) Sam Abell Workshop

Friends and readers of this blog know that I am indebted to Sam Abell for his mentorship and aesthetic. I have just finished assisting Sam in his private workshop in Shepherdstown with a group of great photographers. We had four days of fellowship and fine photography, kicked off by a wonderful dinner hosted and prepared by Dianne and Paul Chalfant. (to continue the alliteration…..fabulous family festivities!)

Seriously, we spent each day engaged in conversation and creation of photography on a very high level. I’m posting a sampling of great images made during our time together, but they don’t illustrate the willingness to engage and stretch creatively that each of the photographers brought to the workshop. The thing that sets a workshop above another is not the instruction or the work produced, but the enthusiasm the participants bring to their work and to the conversation. Because of that, this workshop achieved a high water mark for earnest, thoughtful work.

Sam and I thank each of you for your spirit and your work. I am energized by your devotion to your craft and am carrying that force with me into my next project now that I am back in Portugal. Soon I’ll be on Whidbey Island for Sam’s first of two workshops with the Pacific Northwest Art School. Then I will be preparing for my own workshop there! I hope you’ll think of joining me.  Later, in August, I’ll return to assist both Sam Abell and Arthur Meyerson! August is always a high point in my year. The students that come to the workshops are inspiring and marvelously creative….but they’ll have a long way to go to top our Shepherdstown Group!

10
Jan
13

playing a bit

Life must be lived as play. ~ Plato

Every once in a while I enjoy looking back at images in the archive. I thought it would be fun to play with Flypaper Textures on some old favorites. I think it’s useful to examine old images from an emotional distance. I often tell students that the best time to edit is at least a month from the time you made the images. Yes, we all have to look at them as soon as possible…but don’t throw them away for at least a month or more. When the emotional energy/heat has faded we can begin to see our images much more objectively. It doesn’t matter how far we had to climb or how long we had to wait or what light we had to battle…the image must stand on its own merit.

That may sound strange coming from me in a post about texturing and layers. After all, it is image manipulation. But here’s the caveat: a bad image will not make a great textured image. Start with a good photograph and then enhance the image in a way that amplifies a concept you are trying to communicate. When I am photographing I am always thinking about communicating what intrigued me, what made me care enough to stop and create images. Then, if the image can be enhanced with textures or layers, then I think about those qualities again. Perhaps I felt a somber mood or a mysterious brooding atmosphere. Maybe I just felt the image was going to be painterly and planned right then to add textures. Its likely that if that was the case, I photographed in order to support that intention.

Here are some old favorites re-invisioned. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Leave a comment if you want to learn more about using textures and layers. Have fun with your images (and CLICK MY BUTTON….over there on the right…for Flypaper Textures)!

28
Aug
12

Cover! Abell! Meyerson!

One of my photos from my trip to Interagro (fabulous Lusitano breeding farm in Brasil) is the cover of the September issue of Dressage Today!  I’m so tickled that they chose this image as it is a favorite of mine and the favorite horse of Dr. Paulo Gonzaga, founder of Interagro Lusitanos. Also in the issue are other images from that trip, included in a story about Dr. Hilary Clayton. And….there is an interview and photo essay that I did with Mestre Luis Valença.  So I am pretty psyched about it. Now, to grab some copies for the archive!

I have just completed my annual two week stay on Whidbey Island. I had the very great honor to be assisting Sam Abell and Arthur Meyerson in their respective workshops. As always, the students were fantastic and set the bar high for each class.  The work produced was super and in every instance each student pushed their own work forward. This is incredibly gratifying for a teacher. Each class excelled in their attitudes and willingness to create new work and to try to see in an expanded manner. So congratulations to the participants….and big gratitude to Lisa and Karen at the Pacific Northwest Art School for promoting these two Masters and their classes.  It doesn’t get any better, ANYWHERE!

29
Dec
11

What a note to end the year on!

I’ve just received a copy of the latest review for Meditation for Two…..I can hardly believe that it is as glowing as the previous one.  I had to post it and offer my thanks to Mary Daniels for her thoughtful, generous remarks. It’s going to be published in the February Issue of Dressage Today, available January 2, and on DressageToday.com.   Dressage Today????  How cool is that for an equine photographer/writer? Pinch me. Again.  (You can have your very own copy by clicking on the tab above!)

The review:

by Mary Daniels

As the title might offer a clue, this is not a how-to book about how to train horses, but one about a very personal and unique philosophy—“Because the nature of the horse demands it, this is a mystical, metaphysical book,” says Barbier. He writes about “allowing our thoughts to be happy ones, finding our smile and learning to use it through discipline, meditation, visualization and love.

“This book is a reflection about the love of horses and how much they care and want us to be better. It is my belief that were we to allow ourselves to listen, were we to allow them to speak, they would surely have offered such a book to us.”

I agree with what Psillas says in her introduction to this book. That “we ride as we are,” which is true, and “what better purpose for a life than to hold the space for beauty.” To me, horses are a thing of beauty. A joy forever as a great poet once said, and beauty is medicine.

Perhaps I am not mystically inclined enough to understand all of the text, such as the preceding idea that were they allowed to speak horses would offer such a book to us. The ones I know might just ask for a charge card to the nearest greengrocer, or a romp in the hayfield. It may be one must belong to the Inner Circle of this following to be able to absorb the more esoteric aspects of this philosophy.

But there were parts I liked very much and here are a few from Barbier: “Horses and humans: the idea of separation first and then a coming together when mutual respect and understanding are attained is too simplistic, though not to be ignored. Rather, if I can say, it is the sense of oneness first, and then how to remain in that oneness that I believe is the essence of successful and symbiotic interaction between human and horse.

“The horse must trust the student. He must accept and enjoy a comfortable position, something that does not always come naturally. In turn, the student must trust the horse, both physically and mentally. If your riding mentality is based in fear, the horse cannot believe, understand or feel comfortable with you. Panic and evasions follow. A void in the student creates a void in the horse. Horses are the mirror of your soul.”

“The attitude that we are the only or best conduit of energy is a limiting one. The horse is already here.  We must learn to be here. Our undisciplined minds and our egos cause us to live in the past or in the future and we must remind ourselves constantly of the goal of self-realization. Unlike the horse, we are so busy doing, we forget simply to be, we are so busy working, we forget to enjoy. Horses demand our presence, and this mental discipline in turn allows communication and oneness to happen. They teach us to be in and stay in the present, to share the same vibrations, the same space, the same energy. They teach us to replace organized unhappiness, unfulfilled dreams and expectation with the attachment and appreciation of the very moment. When acceptance and grace flow between horse and rider, the centaur can exist.

“An undisciplined mind is like a young green horse—full of life, scattered and uncensored. All manner of achievement is possible when the horse, like your mind, comes to the calm knowledge of self and respect of others. Together these notions bring harmony and joy. Gratitude and reverence allow us to be and feel that there is nothing we cannot do. Remember then, to say thank you. The open mind and the readiness for the path to further enlightenment will create real-life miracles.”

And my favorite: “I consider the shoulder-in the miracle movement. But I prefer to call it shoulders-in. The outside shoulder must be included in the movement, in our feeling of the movement. From the daily work for the original work-in-hand around one pillar, a technique centuries old, we need to understand why this is such a revealing movement, why it is such a powerful tool. The simplest answer is that it gives the horse a feeling of togetherness, then of independence. He learns where his legs and his body are in relation to himself and to the rider. This knowledge offers security to him and in turn, imparts an additional, undeniable mental strength, as any successful human athlete can attest,” he writes.

That said about the text, one must remark that the accompanying photos are lovely. Many of the subjects are of the Portuguese Lusitano breed, one of the world’s most striking and handsome. But there are also photographs of natural and man-made wonders, from the floral to the architectural, which make you pause and reflect.

The design of the book, by Psillas, is elegant and pleasing to the eye. “The display type of this edition of Meditation for Two is Cezanne with a nod to Dominique’s French heritage and to link and respect the arts of handwriting, photography and bookmaking, as well as the influence of the painting Masters on the history of photography,” she writes. The Old World sensibility in its creation makes this book a keepsake, a gift book bound to be appreciated by the receiver.


15
Dec
11

the importance of a message

I had such a wonderful surprise yesterday when I opened an email message from my publisher. She wrote to tell me about a great review in an important online journal for my book, Meditation For Two.  Happy as I was to read such nice comments, I realized that this was much more than a book review.

The words written by Cindy Foley were an affirmation on so many levels. First, people are searching for a deeper, more meaningful relationship with their horses. Dominique eloquently speaks to this throughout the book, and in the life he has led for the last forty years. Second, the power of the written word to reach people is magnified when you hold a book in your hands and immerse yourself in it. And third, the photographic image, when made with love and layered thoughtfully into an essay, can facilitate and amplify the connection. In Dominique’s words, it can “…create a greater molecular change”.

Cindy “got it”. I am grateful that an even greater number of readers will have the opportunity to experience the transformative nature of the book because of her generous review.  The most important thing about the book is its message; not the photographs, or design, though I am happy to have created them; not the number of books sold (though greater numbers would be super).

From the review: “The photos are misty, blurred…chosen because they speak without the need for a caption. They’re soulful, matching the words.”

If you are a photographer, consider your message. Work to find ways to incorporate your images with thought-provoking texts. I’m happy that Cindy understood why my photographs lacked captions in the book. I work hard to create images that speak by themselves or rest easily but meaningfully alongside a considered text. I believe it has made me a better photographer.

Thank you for finding and reading the blog.  Click HERE to see the entire review on Horse Journal.  You can order Meditation For Two directly from me by clicking HERE.

One last ‘message’…..my life works because I am surrounded by loving, kind people on every side. I have to take a moment and say thank you to Debra, Lisa, Chaya, and Alea for taking such wonderful care of my horse. Fol Amour is 29 now but thinks he is 5, still a stallion (and knows it), but has a good life because he is worked and cared for daily. I am on and off planes and zipping across continents, but my heart is at ease because I know he’s right where he should be. Here’s a picture of Chaya with her boy, Winston, taken just yesterday at Barbier Farms in Healdsburg, California.  Thank you, Chaya!

15
Oct
11

“…the rhythm comes back” ~ Bruce Davidson

The Widow of Montmarte, Mme Fauche ©Bruce Davidson/Magnum Photos

Wow. Sometimes the synchronicity of existence stuns me. This morning I was reading my favorite photography blog (Lens, NYTimes) and the words of Bruce Davidson jumped off the page. While speaking of making a group of photographs nearly forty years ago, he said  “What’s great about looking at your work is the emotion comes back. The emotion comes back. The rhythm of what you were photographing comes back. It’s almost like a musical score.”

I had just come in from photographing the actual harvest of the grapes and was considering an edit to yesterday’s post on rhythm. Before I jumped into the edit I decided to stop and breathe a bit and open up the NYTimes Lens blog. There it was, my thought and emotion, my INTENT reflected in Mr. Davidson’s words. To celebrate the publishing of his retrospective, (“Outside Inside,” a three-volume, boxed set — published by the master printer Gerhard Steidl.) James Estrin and Josh Haner conducted this deeply thoughtful interview at Mr. Davidson’s home.

There is no way I could/would ever compare my work to Bruce Davidson’s, but I recognize the similarity in how we work and how we feel about what we do. This is incredibly affirming to me. I’ve always been grateful for the artistry and humanity of his work, now I feel just a little closer to it. Thank you, Bruce Davidson, for the images, your humility, and your thought.

Click here to read the entire interview and see a bit of his stunning imagery. http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/28/showcase-177/ It is a bounteous harvest.

Outside Inside, ©Bruce Davidson, 2011

27
Aug
11

A few more thoughts about Sam Abell’s workshop

If we are lucky, we get to experience an event that stays with us and molds us for the rest of our lives. I have had many blessings of this nature, but this last week reminded me of the importance of that initial experience.

In the late fall of 2005, I had the good fortune to take a workshop with Sam Abell on the mid-coast of Maine. The first night of the class offered us the opportunity to hear a lecture by Sam titled “The Photographic Life”. Sam’s sonorous story-telling style had the audience rapt, but I was struck by the deep humanity in the images as well as the personal stories of a life well-lived. Since that week I have worked hard to embody Sam’s advice of making the best picture in any situation and I have been helped by the voice that I hear while composing. It comes in from over my right shoulder and says things like this: check your edges; are the elements separated?; do they exist in their own world?; is it involving?; are there layers in the image?; setting, expression, gesture.

I’ve been assisting Sam in classes and with lectures for more than five years now. This past week I encouraged a number of good friends from all over the country to come to Whidbey Island for at least the lecture, if not the entire class. A number of (very intelligent) people took me up on the invitation. I heard from them the exact remarks that I made six years ago: It was wonderful; The sensitivity and depth of emotion in the images and the stories is deeply moving; it gives us a totally new way to see images and to think about our own photography.

Thankfully there are many wonderful teachers and mentors in the world. I’ve had several in different areas of my life. I suppose what I want to say with this blog post is this: Find a mentor or teacher whose vision and life you respect and emulate them. Make your own path, but hold on to the tenets they have lived by and see where it will lead you. The photographic life is just one life among millions of choices, but as Sam said, “it is the right life for me”. Building layers of depth and breadth in my life as well as my photographs has brought me to a place of deep appreciation and offered many moments of joy.

This state of being is open to us all but if you want to ignite a fire, take a Sam Abell course or at least experience a lecture he’s offering. Next up: Sam will be appearing at the INVision Photo Festival in Bethlehem, PA ( http://www.artsquest.org/invision/ ) Prior to that he is teaching at the Santa Fe Workshops in early October. Maybe I’ll see you there.

Here’s a gallery of images I’ve made over the years on Whidbey Island and around Seattle. I vow each year during the class to spend more time photographing…this time I made it happen.  You can too.

23
Aug
11

Sam Abell Interview

First Drafts: How Sam Abell Makes a Photograph, Alex Hoyt and Ross McDermott

I’m busy finishing the book layout that was created in our week-long workshop at the Pacific Northwest Art School in Coupeville, Washington.  The layered life on Whidbey Island, as it is everywhere, became the backdrop for Sam to teach his method of photography, one of layers, of “compose and wait” and one of still life scenes that have a life or incorporate life. This interview encapsulates that teaching in a marvelous 10 minutes of a deeply considered philosophy and lifelong process of making photographs. Take the time to view it and you’ll have the outline of  our workshop and a sense of the meticulous care that Sam takes to create Life in a Still Life.

Next post:more thoughts and favorites images from Coupeville over the years of (gratefully) assisting Sam.

15
Mar
11

Middleton Place, a national treasure

It’s been a very busy time, and one marked by illness as well, so the blog has been neglected. Sorely. Here are images from a working trip to Florida, with a stop at one of my favorite gardens in South Carolina: Middleton Place. Prior to leaving West Virginia (it was a road trip) I checked the weather and the forecast promised fog!  Driving in to Walterboro near midnight I encountered HEAVY fog.  I was so excited I could barely sleep. But I was up at five the next morning for the drive on in to Middleton Place and a few happy hours of shooting ensued.  If you are interested in history, in gardening history, or simply enjoy tranquility and a gentle, restful landscape (though with a hint of Southern moss-draped mystery), I urge you to visit this jewel in the Carolina low country. http://www.middletonplace.org/ All but the last of the photographs below made with the kind permission of Middleton Place.

Of course the fog and atmosphere had me thinking about layers and textures. Some of the images I prefer ‘straight’, while others I enjoyed layering with my favorite Fly Paper Textures. What stays with me though is the experience of having been there and walked in the vague, vaporous layers of history, place, and moment.

The last photograph is a challenge.  Which of my readers can identify the scene in the last image?  Thousands of people have seen it in photographic form, hundreds certainly have studied it.  I just happened upon it on a Sunday morning when some strange otherworldly force twisted my head hard to the left and BAM! So here’s the hint: I jumped out of the car to make the image but had no time to wait.

14
Feb
11

Spring on my mind

Generally, I prefer to stay “in the moment”. But looking through my photos and finding this wild plum branch in full bloom has me looking ahead to spring. Yes, I have textured the image (with two of my favorite textures from Fly Paper…hint….see button at right!) but very lightly. Most of the softness and mottling in the image comes from a very shallow depth of field and a pretty strong backlight.  So think sunshine, warmth, and softness. Make the sun your friend, break some rules and shoot into it!

01
Feb
11

Push My Button!

I have a “button” on my blog.  It’s a first.  It’s big. I’m excited.  (Ok, maybe it’s not really big, but it feels big to me.)  The fine folks at Fly Paper Textures have asked me to pop on their link from my site.  I agreed readily and presto, there it is. Look over on the links side and you’ll see the cool textured image with the blueberries.  I’m enjoying the easy back and forth, the quid pro quo, that the internet allows.  Fly Paper Textures has been sending readers to my blog every single day since late November.  I’m delighted to be associated with them, and in turn, send them potential texturing newbies or old hands looking for new textures.  So, push my button, please!

Here’s a new image, textured, from a local landscape that I know very very well.  My goal was to create a universal image that had the feeling of a solitary journey. The little rise and bend to the left (with the tree doing the same) suggests that we don’t know what might be ahead, where each turn will lead.

Late afternoon in winter, Antietam National Battlefield, Sharpsburg, Maryland

The recipe was simple, the finishing was one of nuance. I used two textures, in overlay mode at different opacities, but then masked out some of the effect in certain areas.  I smoothed out the texture on the road a little bit and blocked out some of the darkening of the tree to bring out the ochre tones and keep the detail. This image works well cropped square or cropped in vertical format with the tree being the focal point. When making images these days I try to remember to frame them, or take alternate images, so that they can work in any format and lend themselves for stock sales. In six months or so I’ll let you know how successful my thinking is.

In the end the feeling that remains and is “enough” is the feeling of satisfaction. I saw the scene, I felt the potential, and I made the image. I am grateful.

29
Jan
11

“We see things not as they are. We see things as we are.” — Anais Nin

I am often thinking about this premise. Whether it’s a question of a family dynamic, a discussion with a collaborator, or simply reading a news item, I find myself wondering what filter I am placing on a discussion or opinion.  But lately, photographically, I’ve been working at seeing things NOT as they are.  I want to see what they could be.  I want to visualize how an image could evolve. I want to be able to see the geometrics and dimensionality of a scene and take that and layer upon it a different reality.  This is what I perceive could happen if I were a painter.  I am not a painter, but I am really enjoying the ability to use a different technology to effect a painterly image. By creating something that was suggested by a three dimensional scene and translating that into a purely personal vision, I think I am truly photographing, and seeing, as I am.

Here is my workflow for an image I made on Wednesday evening at the height of  a snowstorm:

The atmospherics of the scene are important in this image. The white vertical lines are not blown out highlights, it is snow plastered on the northwest side of the tree trunk. The image was fully focused, but the foggy nature is the blizzard effect of the heavy snowfall. I made the photograph about 5 pm with just enough light left to reveal the light and dark patterning. Image capture  with swipe technique as a raw file (1DS Mk3, 24-70 2.8L, f22, 1 second exposure, ISO 160, 1.5+ stops exposure compensation (usually needed when photographing snow), then into Lightroom 3 to adjust exposure ( a touch lighter, with a bit of added contrast from default 25% to 31%), then crop to panoramic.  The top was cropped out as the bottom of the photo is most important to me.  I was keenly aware of the far right grouping while photographing, to be sure the transition from the tree trunks into the ground was smooth, and to be certain I had separation between all the tree trunks as they dance along the back layer of the photo.

Choose Edit photo in photoshop from Lightroom (Edit a copy) to add layers of texture.  I chose two textures from FlyPaper Textures to add dreaminess and a hint of color to a black and white scene.

What you see above is the original file, out of Lightroom, cropped.  Next I opened the two Flypaper Textures, Serafina Sky and Europium from Lightroom (Edit a copy in Photoshop).

 

When I opened Serafina Sky I needed to rotate the image 180 degrees, so the clouds would be in the top of my image.  I was after a mistier look than what was in the original capture. Further, I wanted the slight blue-ish tone to add a bit of dreaminess to the straight black and white capture.  So I put the image on top of the original as a separate layer in Photoshop CS4. I changed the blending mode to Overlay and dialed the opacity back to suit me.  Then I added Europium in the same manner (separate layer, blending mode on overlay, then dial in the opacity to suit). With the Europium layer I was looking for a bit of the vignette effect and the added textures.

You will notice that the textures are SQUARE images and my image is a panoramic format.  When you lay your texture over your image, choose EDIT>Transform>Scale and drag your sides to conform to the shape of your image.  When you are satisfied (and you can move it around in the image with the move tool too) you hit the checkmark to okay the transformation and then go to your layer and work with your blending mode and opacity.

 

 

The image above is the initial image with Serafina Sky overlaid.  I pulled the opacity back to 53% and then I used an HSL layer to take the cyan to a more purple-y blue. Just slightly.  The key with each of these decisions is subtlety.  Then, to add the mistier look  (image below) I overlaid the Europium layer.  I pulled the opacity to 74%. The Europium texture is one of my favorites for adding slight vignetting and mystery.  It interacts with colors nicely and adds a touch of color in neutral images.  This is my final image.

As I mentioned above, I believe that subtlety is the key in working with this type of processing. I want the viewer to become involved with the photograph, not to say “WOW…that’s intense processing”.  I’d like my photographs to reveal a little about me, or even deepen the mystery.  As always, comments welcome and deeply appreciated.  For now, the forecast is for more snow on Tuesday.  Can’t wait!  And once again, my gratitude to Freeman Patterson and Tony Sweet for the inspiration, for lighting the path and to Fly Paper Textures for such a great product. They are tops to deal with and generous with their expertise.

 

 

26
Nov
10

21 states of mind

Here’s a long list of numbers to contemplate: 4925 (miles), 182 (gallons of gas), 21 (states), 6 (liters of Iced Tea), 4 (lemons), 1 (world’s largest cross…of this I am dubious), 1,000,000 (pictures seen and not taken).

A couple of posts ago I commented on the journey I was about to undertake and my feeling of sadness for the images I wouldn’t be able to make. The experience was far more frustrating than I imagined. So instead of simply looking for images I couldn’t make, I started to try to feel the culture and the state of mind for each state I was passing through.

Reading the billboards proclaiming “The Land of Enchantment”, “Find Yourself Here”, and “It’s Like a Whole Other Country”, gave me the first impression of uncharted territory. Then I began to notice the structures, new and old, the way we have imprinted our values on the land by erecting modest farmsteads or garish strip malls. I noticed what the states were most proud of….”Home of Garth Brooks”….”Home of Tyler Hicks”…and then I began to see evidence of history and warnings of the future. The dust bowl of the 1930’s was not hard to imagine in the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma, and all down I-5 South in California there were proclamations of a current dust bowl, created by Congress and Diane Feinstein apparently. The sign for The Chisolm Trail created images of calling cattle and weathered cowhands with dust-encrusted faces, but I was met with asphalt, a decrepit gas station, and a deep-fried menu.

Yet underlying all of these images was an eternal dynamic landscape. Altitude changes brought different vegetation and geology. The wind and water have created patterns in the land as well as patterns of habitation. The stark surreal beauty of hoodoos gave way to gently sloping hills and meadows with aging cottonwoods in the washes. Wide rivers with flood plains are still flanked by cotton fields….so many spindly dry stalks with puffy white marshmallow tops. Red clay roads are cloaked in kudzu and draping moss, the stars in the night sky and the moonlight through the pines (Thank you Ray Charles) the only relief from growing claustrophobia.

Our interaction with this earth, our home, reveals so much about us. Rolling across 21 states in four days has left my mind spinning….and working to find ways to return to each of them and discover the Enchantment, the Smiling Faces, and The South’s Warmest Welcome. I can’t wait to photograph as I am in these places.

Here’s a selection of photos from my phone, using a couple of applications from Best Camera and Hipstamatic. Fun.




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