Archive for the 'tips and process' Category

23
Nov
14

Cuba, part two of three

When faced with all new sights, sounds, and scents, it is easy to be overwhelmed and lose our way creating images. During my time in Cuba I had the immense good fortune to be traveling with world class photographers including my friend and mentor, Sam Abell. Perhaps the living, breathing presence of the words I hear when I’m out photographing (find your setting, your backdrop, and let the life unfold, come into it), allowed me to be more settled than I normally would be in such an exciting situation. Perhaps I was afraid that I would create just mediocre images? But in nearly each moment, I was composed….and waiting. Cuba unfolded before me offering color and gesture, movement and stillness, and in the best moments, metaphors for the fullness and poignancy of life.

My stated goal at the beginning of the trip was to make one meaningful image. I did that…for myself. It’s up to the audience to decide if my vision translates into something of value. Was I walking in the footsteps of Walker Evans? I think so. He found value in the everyday, in the mundane, in the quiet moments of life.

 

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.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 1.57.41 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 1.59.10 PM

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

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 1.59.44 PM

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!)

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.00.23 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.00.52 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.01.01 PM

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).

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.01.37 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.05.04 PM

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.)

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.06.00 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.06.44 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.07.11 PM

 

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.08.33 PM

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!

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.09.10 PM Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.09.46 PM

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.

Screen Shot 2014-03-29 at 2.11.10 PM

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!

 

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!

31
Aug
13

Whidbey Island Sojourn

The subject today: photography. The location: Whidbey Island. I’m delighted to be posting a gallery of images made during my three weeks at Pacific Northwest Art School assisting Arthur Meyerson and Sam Abell.

The surroundings are always inspiring, but the work and engagement from our students, along with the masterful imagery from Arthur and Sam, energizes my creative fire. So off I went to the Island County Fair and to haunt the shoreline. Some evenings I walked through town, some I walked the prairie. I just wanted to be open to light, color, and gesture…layers, refinement, and the concepts of eternity and impermanence. As always, the full expression of my intent is my personal benchmark for a successful photo. I realize that this is an entirely personal, subjective judgement. But it is the one most fully in alignment with my philosophy of living.

I’m so happy to announce that I will be teaching and assisting again next year for Pacific Northwest Art School, beginning August 4th for my four day class and then rolling into the next two weeks for Sam and Arthur! Stay tuned to the blog about other teaching venues and more opportunities for study, both in the US and abroad. Thanks for checking the blog….I hope you enjoy the images. Comments most welcome, as always!

 

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

 

 

09
Jun
13

a Lensbaby walkabout, Obidos!

In preparation for my upcoming class (July…Pacific Northwest Arts School), I popped my lensbaby on and had a great walkabout. My intent was to create images of intimate subjects as well as medium and wide landscape shots. It was great fun with a non-focused focus.  Ha.

All the photographs were made in Obidos, Portugal. Obidos is a lovely village near the coast, about an hour and a half north of Lisbon. It was probably settled hundreds of years before the Romans occupied the area. The walls of the fortress/village went up around 700 A.D., and were strengthened under King Dinis I. In July the whole town turns into a medieval festival.  I was glad to be there on a quieter day. The best part? Walking and creating with two dear friends visiting me in Portugal! Thank you, Riley and Karen!

Browse the images in the slideshow mode. I’ve added some of the thoughts I had while making the images. As always, comments most welcome.

And a reminder…there is still space left in Arthur Meyerson’s second week….and Robert Stahl has space in his September workshop. You couldn’t go wrong with either of these gifted, caring teachers. I have the great pleasure to be assisting Sam Abell and Arthur Meyerson again in August. A special thanks to Lisa and Karen for the fantastic program they have developed at PNWAS!!!

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)!

14
Dec
12

Love must be as much a light as it is a flame. ~ H. D. Thoreau

Offer your light.

Offer your light.

This is a season to reflect upon the Light that has been offered to us all. All faiths, all paths, through all time. As I have come to understand it, the only appropriate response, in gratitude, is to offer your own light to others.

My photographs create a way for me to express my gratitude for all the guidance and inspiration that I have been given and then pass along my experience to those who are interested. The amazing thing is this: in the act of creativity I am blessed layer upon layer.

I experience the moment of inspiration (a divine spark) and then get to prolong that experience by discovering more layers in what I’m seeing/feeling. This experience grows exponentially when I can share it with others. I am always amazed (and continually grateful) that people write to me to talk about the photos and the inspiration or insight that they have received. This gives me the opportunity to speak about the guides, teachers and mentors that I have in my life.

They share their light, unceasing. And it is glorious.

Honor and share your own. It is just as glorious.

 

23
Nov
12

essence

Readers of this blog will know that my favorite quote is from Antoine de St. Exupery:  “What is essential is invisible to the eye; one must see with the heart.”

While visiting the home of Ana Batista and Orlando Vicente in Portugal, this feeling, this belief was vibrating in me while I watched the horses work.

The epicenter of the Lusitano culture is the Ribatejo in Portugal. We were in the heart of it, watching and participating in the most important aspect of this culture. Working with bulls over hundreds and hundreds of years guided the breeders to create horses of amazing functionality, and brilliant, courageous…. but calm temperaments. We saw all of these attributes in action, along with the finesse and ability of their riders! This was the soul of the Ribatejo.  500 years of diligence, respect for the essence of the horse, and clarity of vision has created spectacularly bred horses. They enjoy what they are doing and perform with elegance and spirit.

As the light faded I had to shift my tactics for shooting. Slowing the shutter and feeling the movement was exactly what was needed. Though I was photographing, not riding, I did feel part of the moment, not just an observer. It was sublime.

The results? Of course it is entirely subjective, but I am pleased. Pleased because the images bring the feeling, the experience, right back to me.  I hope I’ve communicated a little of it to you, my reader. Thanks for stopping by. And if you REALLY love the images, come with me on the next trip in Portugal. Zip me an email and I’ll send you an amazing itinerary. Lastly, for my photo friends, these images were created with a slow shutter, panning, and a FLYPAPER TEXTURES layer or two in Photoshop using mostly the overlay blending mode. It’s fun, creative, and super simple. Push my button….just over there on the right side of the panel….and you can see all the fabulous things that Jill and Paul are doing over at Flypaper.

18
Jul
12

Lots of news this week for Meditation for Two and my photographs! I’m thrilled and very grateful for a super publisher!

Trafalgar Square Books Blog

Tribuna Equestre is an online television channel dedicated to all things equestrian in South America. The “Masters Series” features prominent riding masters, including Dominique Barbier, who co-authored MEDITATION FOR TWO with photographer and writer Keron Psillas. The episode featuring Dominique Barbier was filmed in Cotia, near Sao Paulo, Brazil. You can see the introductory interview with Dominique, where he discusses his passion for keeping equestrian art alive and promoting nonviolent methods of training dressage horses throughout the world, as well as his book MEDITATION FOR TWO, in the video clip below (the interview begins about two minutes in and is subtitled).

Keron was so generous as to share some of the wonderful photos she captured during their day filming the episode. “We always have fun playing in the shadows at the end of the day!” she says. Watch for Keron’s article on revered dressage master Luis Valenca in the…

View original post 43 more words

24
Nov
11

“He does not weep who does not see”

I made my journey to Auschwitz and Birkenau knowing fully that it would be sorrowful and perhaps impossible to photograph through tears and stunned disbelief. All these emotions swirled through me and rendered my whole being mute. Not just my voice, my entire being. I couldn’t formulate a thought, much less express one; verbally or photographically. Then, I raised my camera as I was stumbling along, stopped to make a photograph, and began to come back to myself. Gradually, I understood that this act of creation was more than an act of self-preservation, it was a way to look deeper. With this intent, the overwhelming sorrow lessened just enough for me to regain some composure and begin to walk purposefully, to see, purposefully.

The lasting impressions from both Terezin and Auschwitz/Birkenau are of silence and permeating cold. I created the photos below with this awareness.  In the photographs I’ve chosen for this post, as an idea to portray a silent conversation, I have blended images from Terezin with images from Auschwitz/Birkenau. Most of the people that were sent from Terezin on the dreaded transports perished in Birkenau.

I hope my viewers will keep this in mind: the photos are an artistic expression of what I saw and felt. They are not indictments, religious commentary or judgement. My intent is to simply reflect my personal experience in a place that has infinite layers of horror, grief, loss, and teaching. My intent is not to create offense or add sorrow. If you are troubled by the imagery, write to me. I want to hear your thoughts.

I’ll close with a quote from Longfellow: “Therefore trust to thy heart, and to what the world calls illusions.” As all the places I visited retain only the faintest trace of the living, I had to rely on a deeper sensibility to gain a small foothold in the incalculable darkness. I hope that the images I offer will resonate with you. It is simply my heart speaking.

17
Oct
11

Vineyard Harvest, stretching creatively

Which do you prefer? Black & White or Color? Why? This is an ongoing discussion among photographers of all levels and the best answer I have ever heard is this: Which would you hang on your wall and live with every day? There are a few color photographs that I could live with day in and day out, but there are many black and white images that I’d be happy to see each day. Why? I think there is an intimacy and quiet that exudes from a good black and white photograph that allows the viewer to rest in the image. It invites you to stay for a while not by blaring color and clamoring for your attention, but by its essence and structure, dignity even. Good color photographs have all these qualities of course. But what makes the difference?

I am a firm believer in color photography as fine art (I’m not a black & white elitist), and I most often choose to work in color.  So as an exercise I developed these images in both to see if there was a clear favorite. The processing is very different, but retaining the qualities of luminosity and subtlety were my guides for both. I’d be delighted to have you join the conversation.

I am also trying to expand my abilities by choosing to photograph people. I don’t often do this unless there happens to be a rider on a horse. As I am leaving for the Czech Republic in November to continue my work on a personal project I thought it would be a good idea to spend the next couple of weeks photographing as many people as possible.  I am nervous about this self-assignment, but determined to master the fear and settle in to make the best images I can. I’ll process those images in color and black and white. It will be interesting to see which has the most impact….but quiet impact with, I hope, a timeless message.

 

 

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

14
Oct
11

Rhythm and Harvest

Autumn has always been my favorite time of year. This year for the first time I’m in California during the grape harvest. Instead of watching the maples and oaks of Eastern forests clothe themselves in ruby and gold, I’ve been watching the grapes ripen. Tasting a few dew-covered purple sugar gems has been the morning’s highlight. Watching the leaves change color and listening to the local growers discuss the intermittent rain, the sugar content of the grapes, and whether the skins are still firm, has deepened my appreciation of the tenuous nature of all farming, of living close to the earth. I know nothing about their harvesting, but I’m enjoying language and rhythms of the grapes.

Learning the language and feeling the rhythm. Hmm.  I think this may be a metaphor for living a good life. As we learn the language of our endeavor, be it photography, classical dressage, grape growing, or any other pursuit, we broaden our awareness and deepen our knowledge. It makes us fuller, more interesting humans. Now layer in the rhythm of life. We have all felt it when we are with the rhythm…..and maybe felt it a little stronger when we are out of rhythm. I’ve been practicing my ability to stop and appreciate when I am in it and stop and breathe when I am not.

Harvest (of any task or effort or sowing) has it’s own rhythm. Previously I have thought that it was an endpoint, a gathering of fruit from labor. Now I am seeing that the gathering clears the way for new effort. And that effort is most likely a result of your harvest, whether it has been a success or failure.

This fall has seen the release of my first book. It is very gratifying, but it is also a time to re-double the labor to ensure that the work that has gone into getting it this far will only be the platform for a greater bounty. So I have to immerse myself in the language and rhythm of promotion and publicity. (This is the real (read: unglamorous) life of a photographer.)

And along with this effort I am launching into the second phase of my personal project in the Czech Republic. I’ve written before on this blog about how I prepare for taking a photographic journey. My process remains the same. I read literature of the place and that place in time that I want to photograph. I listen to music and recorded books in the language of the destination. I slip into the feel and sound of my journey long before I arrive. I do not look at imagery as I want to see things new. To be successful at this I’ve learned that I must begin the process with an empty mind, an empty cup. There’s no room for expansion when your mind/cup is already full. No room to reap the sounds, smells, scenes when you have preconceived notions about your destination.

I’ll spend the next several weeks in hyper-drive to prepare for my trip and sow the seeds for greater promotion for Meditation for Two. But I’ll stop every so often and remember the dew on grapes, their luscious sweetness, the bite of the skins and crunch of the seeds, and the sounds of birdcalls in the early morning of the vineyard. Next time I see the vineyard the grapes will be gone and the vines will be pruned. The earth will rest for a time before offering new growth. This rhythm is eternal. Stepping into this rhythm and harvesting the memory of the light and softness, the delicious fullness of earth’s bounty, has expanded my world.

A note about the images: I used my favorite Fly Paper Textures to illustrate the juiciness and softness of the mornings here in the vineyard.

17
Sep
11

The Most Interesting Man in the World, an appreciation

You may think you know the most interesting man in the world. You don’t. I do.  Some know him as El Don, The Great American. I know him as Arthur “Danger” Meyerson.

Workshops have an energy (when they are good) that keeps you in a state of flow and good humor. Such was the case this week with Arthur Meyerson in Coupeville. Once again, Pacific Northwest Art School was the venue for learning, friendship, and photographic exploration.  A great mix of alumni and new students bonded on the first day and set the tone for the rest of the week.

At their best, workshops provide students and teachers a platform to push their boundaries.  To a person, each student this week allowed Arthur to guide, encourage, and challenge them to expand their vision and make images beyond their established styles and skill levels.  A lot of good work was produced, but most importantly, each student embraced the challenge and worked to create interesting images.

As the assistant it was my great pleasure to watch this unfold, to get to know new students, reconnect with alumni, and of course, enjoy the fabulous imagery and storytelling from Arthur. The encouragement I received for my own work from the class and from Arthur is deeply appreciated. It will keep me enthusiastic as I jump back into all the travel and work that keeps me in a state of “busy-ness” and often keeps me from feeling creative and engaged.

So what’s the point of this love fest? It’s simple: Find your own.  The camaraderie and collective vision that arises in a workshop will energize your own work and keep your spirits buoyed during creative down-time. The new skills and the expansion of your vision will give you confidence and a platform to launch new (and often, better) work.

Arthur says: “I don’t always do workshops, but when I do, I do it with Keron Psillas.” Arthur, it was an honor and a great pleasure.

Stay thirsty my friends.

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.

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.

 

 

02
Dec
10

alternative processes

I’m having fun with new processing these days. My shooting time is limited, but I try to make a conscious effort to “see things new” (thank you, Ernst Haas, for this wisdom). Looking around at other photographer’s work I became intrigued with what Tony Sweet was doing with textures. One facet of Tony’s genius is his ability to see a photograph in the field, but take that vision deeper to the end product. With such a feast of options in processing these days, having that kind of clarity is fabulous. My sense is that Tony has taught himself to see in layers and possibilities simultaneously.

Taking that inspiration, I purchased the collections available from Fly Paper Textures. They were fabulous to deal with through several downloading issues (not their issue, my server’s) and coupled with the quality of the product, I highly recommend them. I do not receive a percentage of sales from them….but if you log onto Tony’s site he might have a discount code.  He often does for Nik and Topaz, among others.

No matter our chosen profession, we all compete in a market that is filled with talented people that work hard. In my own niche for horse and farm photography, there are great people in the field that have been working a lot longer than I. So I would like to be able to offer something that no one else does, or at least for a little while. Here’s where the textures come in.  I’ve posted a gallery of before and after images. I’m just getting into this whole process and with any new idea I think that some of the glow will diminish after some time passes. But for right now I enjoy these images and the depth that I hope I’ve added with some subtlety. And can anyone answer why subtle is spelled like it is instead of suttle?  Strange.

Comments, as always, welcome and deeply appreciated.

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.

25
Nov
10

Gratitude

This is a quick post….with more to come tonight.  The link I’m sharing is all about gratitude and synchronicity.  I was thinking of all the wonderful teaching that I have had over the last five years and how to express my thoughts about it when I clicked on my favorite blog and found a photo that has meant more to me than almost any other.  It’s from my teacher, Sam Abell, and was taken during his first formal assignment for National Geographic. So my blog post is about another blog post, written by another grateful photographer from a cast of many thousands.  Enjoy.

http://lens.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/24/close-your-eyes-and-see-with-your-heart/

16
Nov
10

storing memory

I am writing from California while looking at the late afternoon sun falling over the vineyards.  It is warm and golden with the sweet sounds of birds in the olive trees. After a long summer the grass has turned green again following late October rains.  It is a peaceful place for a pause before I begin the rest of my journey to the East. It reminds me of my favorite story, Frederick The Mouse. I’m storing the memory of the warmth and light and scent. This way I can use it to sustain me over the winter and as a guidepost for my return.

After four years I have left Seattle. Work and family cares are calling me to the East Coast for a time so I am driving across the country. I’ll be taking a southerly route and making notes of all the places that I’ll want to visit and photograph on a return trip. Driving south from the Oregon/California border was torturous at times because I could not stop. The light in the olive groves on the fresh green grass was arresting.  The patterning, the color, the softness in the atmosphere….thinking of it all now brings the pain back of not being able to photograph it.  I think I will have many bittersweet moments like that on this trip. As a photographer I know well the law that demands we “photograph it now”. We can never duplicate the light we see or the emotion generated by a scene when we first discover it. It’s a life lesson isn’t it:  Carpe Diem….do not procrastinate…etc. But as it can not be helped, I will make the notes and plan to return.

Here are a few images from my trip to Florida last week. Photographing for Cindy, Simone, and Rosemary was a joy and one that I actually KNOW can be repeated. I’m looking forward to being in Florida again in February. I’ll harvest again the scent of the ocean, the call of the gulls and the chirps of the pipers while the atmosphere displays the orange, pink, purple and blue hues that announce the arrival and departure of the sun.

27
Oct
10

Thoughts on a birthday…finding direction

I’m spending a lot of time on planes now.  For the most part I don’t mind it, and sometimes I rather enjoy it. Last night I flew from the East Coast to Seattle. Six hours of time without a (good) book to read allowed me to write in my journal.  I’ve just completed a journey through parts of Holland, Germany and the Czech Republic. My mind has been occupied with sorting all the experiences I had…trying to create some cohesion in the face of such wide disparity.  No success so far.

I thumbed through the older pages in my journal to see if there was a clue about my journey hidden away and I came across something I had written several months ago:  “We walk in the light cast by our searching soul.”

This is a time of change for me (time zones, homes, artistic direction). Birthdays are good markers for reflecting on what has come before…and to clarify our goals and desires for the coming year.  My trip to Europe amplified so many questions for me. What direction will I take? Will I find answers to questions that have haunted me for years…questions of the nature of humanity and our propensity for destruction that exists as the twin to our capacity for love? Can I create even more solitude in my life and how do I balance that with working to create a more public face for my photography?

Though I have learned that change is the best way to move forward it can still be difficult. Often we can find direction in observing where we’ve been and how it’s led us to where we are. The path might surprise you. The unexpected turn can seem perfectly aligned when viewed from a distance. Embrace change, it’s our only constant.

Re-reading that one sentence gave me hope and a bit of added strength.  When darkness envelops, even the tiniest spark of light offers warm, courage, and a direction, even if for only a few steps.  We all have that spark within.  So my birthday wish is that we all nurture our sparks so that they become flames and the flames create beacons.  Those beacons will light our way and could ease the path for many others.

Shine your light.

And perhaps more eloquently:
“Make the most of yourself by fanning the tiny, inner sparks of possibility into flames of achievement.”  ~ Golda Meir

Light streaming through the windows of St. Vitus' Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic

 

27
Sep
10

Thinking of layers

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

This quote mirrors my thought that “we photograph as we are”.  As I am preparing to depart for a long trip through Eastern Europe, I am thinking about who I am and how that will manifest in my photographs. Because of my long interest in the history of World War II and the resulting human and cultural destruction, I will be visiting a number of areas that were filled with violence and hate.  This energy is the opposite of what I try to photograph.  So who will I be, and what photographs will I make in these locations?  The short answer:  I don’t know.  The deeper thought: I suspect that I will excavate a few layers in my seeing and in my soul.

In preparation for the trip, I’ve been doing some housecleaning of my files.  I came across two images from last fall….images I failed to appreciate at the time so they were marked for deletion. Looking at them now I find that I am enjoying the motion and the layers in the images.  The concept is not new, but I like the way the abstract nature brings forward the structure that underlies the scene.  In the second image I can sense a bit of the style of the brushwork in Cezanne’s series from Mont Sainte Victoire. Recognizing this prompted me to look again at an image of a reflection from later in that same fall. In the reflected image I had immediately recognized the resemblance….why hadn’t I seen it in the earlier images?

My thought is that we see things differently as we grow, age, change, mature….or perhaps, excavate layers.  I’m looking forward to fall as it is my favorite season.  This fall promises to be memorable.  The quote that opened the blog post has especially poignant meaning when viewed through the lens of history, especially the history of human conflict and war. I hope you’ll check the blog for images and the archaeology of my trip.

25
Sep
10

Photographers and philosophers…follow this link

http://powelltribune.com/index.php/content/view/3700/58/

Clicking on the link above will take you to an article written about Sam Abell in the Powell Tribune.  It’s worth the time to read the entire article.  I promise.

18
Sep
10

Way out West, fraternity and collaboration

“The greatness of a craft consists firstly in how it brings comradeship to men.” ~Antoine de St. Exupery

The last 30 days have been a whirlwind of teaching, travel, and photography.  It was my great pleasure (as it is each year) to assist Sam Abell on Whidbey Island at the Pacific Northwest Art School in Coupeville.  The class this year was built around creating a book of Whidbey Island.  Books are dear to Sam and dear to me. For this reason we were excited to offer the class the opportunity to develop an essay on a topic of their choosing about Whidbey Island. The assembly of these essays created our book.  It will soon be available on Blurb for all the students. By all reports, the workshop was a great success and we will be doing the same thing again next year with a few minor adjustments.

Following the workshop I flew immediately to California to photograph participants in a clinic at Debra and Dominique Barbier’s farm in Healdsburg.  Thirty or more people enjoyed participating in the first ever formal clinic at Batbier Farm…..riding their horses, learning from both Dominique and Debra, hearing Dominique’s Meditation for Two lecture, and enjoying great food, conversation, and wine.  The group, though diverse, came together easily because of the common love of the horse and their dedication to classical teaching and the compassionate training of the horse.

After a few days back in Seattle I was off to the East Coast to visit family and collaborate with Linda Bertschinger of Classicus Farm on her new book: Alchemy, Transforming Your Horse in Lightness.   After 30 hours non-stop work, we declared the book designed and well on its way to completion.  It was a pleasure to put in this time as the book is a gentle recitation of Linda’s experiences with different horses, each illustrating a pillar of classical training.  I will have an announcement on this blog when it is available.  (Soon!)

And then I was off to Wyoming.  I was a sheer delight to accompany Sam Abell and make a pilgrimage of sorts to a little town in Wyoming, prior to giving a lecture at Northwest College in Powell, Wyoming.  Our good friend, Anthony Polvere, had arranged for the talk after we all met the previous year at the workshop on Whidbey Island.  The talk was the finest I’ve heard Sam give in the last five years.  The students of Northwest College and the citizens of Powell, Cody, Billings, and points in between, were given a talk that illustrated Sam’s practice and philosophy of photography.  Even more importantly, they walked away having witnessed a man that has examined life, a life in photography and from photography, a life writ large but lived humbly.  It’s a stunning combination: inspiring, uplifting, whole.   And then….off we went to Yellowstone National Park with the photography faculty from Northwest College!  There was such great fun, laughter, joy, remarkable story-telling, in short, camaraderie.  With the majesty of Yellowstone as our backdrop and great cowboy songs for our soundtrack, we toured, photographed, and enjoyed much of the Park.

And now I am just back from Santa Fe, having photographed participants there in a clinic with Dominique.  The very talented Lynn Clifford was the organizer of the clinic and our gracious hostess.  Again, a diverse group met for three days, enjoyed each other’s company, and shared their lives and experience with one another….all from their love of the horse.

In thinking about this whirlwind 30 days, the experience of fraternity and the spirit of collaboration are the thoughts that keep rising up. Friendship built on common interest, but friendship that respects each other’s vision and tradition creates an easy but deep and lasting bond.  The experience of collaboration, whether creating a book, editing a slideshow, shooting a video, or just exploring somewhere new, provides a foundation for each person to offer their insight and their strengths to the completion of a project.  With this collaboration, the project has a greater chance of having more depth and lasting meaning.

I have seen this with other book projects, I have experienced it with my own, and I have been honored to collaborate with and assist Sam and other teachers and photographers in many different ways.  So for photographers, horsemen and horsewomen, and all the readers of my blog, I say this: find a collaborator or teacher, join a group of friends and make new ones, and navigate to a place of joy and meaning.

“Friendship is borne from an identity of spiritual goals ~ From common navigation toward a star.”  A. de S. E.

Here’s a gallery, including friends and collaborators, from recent travels.

 

25
Aug
10

A really big announcement and a wrap up from Whidbey Island

I’m delighted to tell all my readers that Meditation for Two is going to be published in Germany, Switzerland, and Brazil!  I’m so excited and deeply gratified.  All the thanks goes to Dominique for without his tremendous success with Dressage for the New Age (published in 5 countries and in its third edition in the US) this would not have happened.  I’m working now on finalizing a publisher in France and the US and hope to announce the details quickly.  The message here:  Dreams do come true.  Of course, the book is still available on Blurb.com (and would make a GREAT gift at Christmas for Zen-leaning equestrian enthusiasts).

I’m hard at work completing the book project that the class from the Pacific Northwest Arts School created during their week-long course with Sam Abell.  The book title is Portrait of Whidbey Island. I had the great pleasure to assist this class for the fourth year in a row and am already looking ahead to a reunion next August.  The level of engagement on behalf of the students was extraordinary and surpassed only by the generosity and quality of Sam’s instruction. His alumni know that the discussions during the week will be thought provoking and erudite. That is why they return each year. New students are treated to original thought and genuine care about their work and progress. Sam is unparalleled as an instructor. It is my great honor to have assisted him on so many occasions.  In addition to the week-long course in Coupeville, area residents had the opportunity to hear Sam speak. The Life of A Photograph was the topic, to be followed next year with the second half of the lecture, The Photographic Life.  I’m certain that every person present last week will return and bring a friend.  It was THAT good.  Thank you, Lisa, Karen, and Sue, for all your hard work and dedication.  PNAS adds so much to the quality of life on Whidbey Island.

As soon as I finished on Whidbey Island last Friday night I zipped down to Healdsburg, CA, to photograph the clinic at Dominique’s farm.  This was the first time a formal clinic was held there and it was incredibly well-attended.  The organization, Shanna, Meredith, Beth, and Linda’s help, and of course Debra and Dominique’s instruction made for fun-filled days that were packed with information and philosophy…all with the benefit of the horse as the focus.  Riders and auditors alike went away with a renewed dedication to communicate with and learn from their horses. If you are a rider you’ll want to attend the next clinic at their home in January 2011….the 5th thru the 11th.  Reserve your spot quickly as space is limited and the August clinic was over-subscribed.

Here are recent images of several of my favorite equestrian subjects.  Enjoy!

07
Jun
10

Departures

I’ve just returned from a long trip to Brazil that was hard work, thought-provoking, and often just plain good fun. But the circumstances just prior and after the trip have kept me thinking about the deeper meaning of travel. I’ll explain:

Our destination is usually what we’re thinking of when preparing for a trip.  The excitement, the planning, the packing and preparation all combine to keep us looking forward….ahead to our destination.  This is especially true when traveling to a new location or an exotic locale.  But this time, all I could think about was the act of leaving and how that had impacted me and changed the nature of my travel.

Leaving West Virginia to go to New Jersey and then to Brazil to work was a heart-rending experience this time.  I left the hospital, my Grandmother’s bedside, with the doctors telling me I would not see her again. She had been in a coma for 5 days and I had spent the last several nights with her, doing whatever I could to comfort her, and I hoped, ease her passage.  I was also leaving my mother to walk the rest of this journey by herself.  I had no choice, but that only made me feel worse.  And so my departure this time was filled with sadness and introspection.

I began to think about what “home” means to me. I live on two coasts these days with a lot of travel in between to other destinations.  So I’m never really sure where “home” is.  I refer to home as the “other” place that I live depending on where I am at the time.  Several years ago, while living in Europe for a spell, I came to know Paris as my home.  I also experience that going home feeling when I visit and work in California at Barbier Farm or Hope Township, New Jersey.  I know a bit of “home” in the southwest corner of Dartmoor National Park in a little place called Lydia Bridge, on a tree filled hillside in Hunting Valley, Ohio, and on Borgo Pinti in Florence, Italy. And now, having spent several weeks in Brazil, I find myself longing for the home that I discovered just outside of Sao Paolo.

I’ve been lucky in my travel these last ten years.  Often I’ve been able to stay longer than the usual week or so in whatever my destination has been, and I’ve made good friends that I look forward to seeing again.  As I’m writing this I am beginning to understand that I have been able to give myself the comfort of home no matter where I am on the planet, that it is the world we create for ourselves that resonates and lasts.  I’ve learned that departures can be devastating and still the right thing. I’ve learned that the best part of home is a smile and a hug from a loved one. And I’ve learned that those things are waiting for me wherever I go.

When I returned from a walk across Spain in 2001, I was asked repeatedly, “what did you discover?” It took a long time for me to answer that question appropriately. I discovered that the world is a vast and wondrous place, made intimate by the connections we share with others.

Next time I’m departing I’ll remember that I’m always headed home.

15
Mar
10

Mirroring

It’s been too long since I’ve been able to put up a blog post.  My apologies.  I’ve been thinking about it nearly every day though and until yesterday I hadn’t a clear idea of what I wanted to say.

One of my favorite concepts in relationship (any kind of relationship….friend, child, parent, employer, among many) is mirroring.  That is, when you are engaged with someone in a conversation you might consider that you are talking to yourself, or that the issues that arise between you are really your own issues.  Bear with me,  this does relate to photography. If you find yourself, like me, in a bit of  a rut or just working on too many other projects to clear some time for introspection, try this idea:  Reach out to a friend working on a project and listen to what they are doing, what they might need, or some area of struggle for them.  Chances are, if you have listened deeply and begin to create a response from the heart, those words will be meant for you as well.  In the middle of my conversation with my marvelous friend Honey, I heard myself saying to her just exactly what I needed to hear as well.  It was one of those great AHA moments.

What were the words?  “When you are clear in yourself about the value of your work, then you will speak with authority about it and the Universe will bring opportunities to demonstrate an appropriate response.”

So now I’m going to listen to that and FINISH my proposal for private shoots with horses and farms.  In April, May, and June, I’ll be traveling to photograph horses and farms in the Chicago area and in New Jersey.  I’m excited to begin this new endeavor and will post some of the results upon completion.  Until then, here are a couple of photographs that pop into my mind when thinking of mirroring.  Mirroring is not simply reflection…..for me, it is seeing something that reflects a state of mind or contemplation, and even communication.

23
Feb
10

lunch with a friend and the business of photography

I had lunch today with Tim Grey, friend, author of many great books on image editing, creator of wonderful instructional DVD’s, and the Ask Tim Grey newsletter.  As always, it was great fun catching up and exchanging stories, but the crux of the conversation was this:  How does a freelance photographer/writer/educator make their way in today’s economy?  Most of the professionals I know have income streams in several areas.  These almost always include workshops, lectures, and product sales, either of their own, or a percentage of sales with sponsors whose products they use.  But our conversation kept drilling down to how best to allocate time.  As a former owner of a business (over 100 employees) I confronted this issue daily.  When we were terribly busy in the plant I would jump in to add my labor to make a deadline ~ but was it the best use of my time?  Tim’s confronting the same issues….as am I now, as a photographer.  Where is the balance between self promotion, shooting, teaching, keywording, stock submissions or making prints/books/dvds.

After thinking about the two photographers I know personally that are still thriving in this economy, I think the answer must be that more time is needed in self promotion.  Alain Briot and Tony Sweet have maintained their workshops, their product sales, and private teaching in a continually contracting market.  How did they do it?  Continual self promotion and of course, huge amounts of hard work…..all geared to offering a product (their knowledge) that has real value.  When I applied this thought to my own work as I am clearly not a photoshop Dream Team member (Tim) or a landscape photography master (Alain) or a Nikon Legend (Tony), I had to distill what it is that I know that may have value for someone else.  So here’s my self promotion:

I know books.  I know bookbinding, a fair amount about book design, I know about printing, both offset and fine art inkjet, and I know about publishing and distribution.  All of this came from nearly 20 years in the printing and binding industries in the Mid-Atlantic states and with several years now of producing fine art prints and books for consulting clients and for myself.   I have created a book in collaboration with Dominique Barbier of which I am very proud.  It is titled MEDITATION FOR TWO and is available on Dominique’s website.  From this book I have received several commissions for shoots and am anticipating that this market will grow as the book garners a wider distribution.   But I have also received inquiries about helping people put together their own books and assisting them through the process from concept to distribution.  I’m writing all this to illustrate how one endeavor can create avenues of work and further recognition.  Next time, when you are thinking about a project, try to envision the other areas that it could impact your work and hopefully, your income stream.  If the project is created from deep knowledge and love of your subject, coupled with a precise plan for getting the work seen, your likelihood of success is virtually assured.

Here’s an illustration of the front and back covers…and a few shots from inside.

07
Feb
10

serendipity: aka photographer’s luck

“We live only to discover beauty. All else is a form of waiting.” Kahlil Gibran

Last weekend I went to Healdsburg to photograph a client.  Because this was the first time I was photographing a person for a job I had more than the usual nervousness.  As the insecurity and senseless internal dialogue was brewing I knew I had to do something to get out of that energy if I was going to create successful photographs.  For me, a successful photograph includes many elements, but the foremost is the satisfaction of the client.  Readers of this blog will know that I am familiar with the location and have photographed horses at Barbier Farms many times.  I am always a little anxious about seeing things new in a setting that is somewhat limited and thoroughly known.  So I slowed my breathing and switched the internal dialogue from the static channel to the compassionate, grateful channel.  I met the client with a smile, listened to her desires for the photographs, suggested a few settings and started to work.

I know that everything I am saying is simple, perhaps even simplistic.  But it is too easy to forget and get caught up in thinking about what comes next or what if this or what if that….rather than just being still and taking in all the information that is being sent.  My client and friend, Candida, was giving me her thoughts about the movements that she wanted photographed….the light was changing rapidly….the dogs were playing…activity in the barn was picking up as it was feeding time…..other clients were coming to the barn for lessons….and through all of this, remembering to smile kept me centered and calm.  Soon there was a flow to the shoot akin to the gentle pace of deep water moving.  It was undisturbed and developed a quiet energy as we progressed.  By this time the light was getting  a little higher and stronger than I wanted and I let some doubt creep in….just as I silenced that thought and asked Candida to move to another area,  I caught the reflected light off the horse’s mane onto my friend’s face.  We were able to play with that for quite a few minutes and I enjoyed a bit of photographer’s luck.

The shoot was a tremendous gift for me as it brought more fullness to my resolve to create calm and expanded awareness in the midst of a great deal of activity.  Further, I think that my ability to project that created ease for my client, and certainly for the horses as they are so aware of all that is happening on the physical, emotional, and etheric levels.  I am looking forward to the next challenge of this kind and seeing what gift is in store, what serendipity arises.  It’s all around us.  We just have to remember to find and to feel our smile.

23
Jan
10

on shepherds and breathing life into art

Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse.
Winston Churchill   

Family and close friends know that I am an ardent admirer of Winston Churchill.  Aside from his magnificent careers in politics and literature and that little matter of holding the candle for the free world for a time, Mr. Churchill was  a prolific and accomplished painter.  He had the ability to stop whatever he was doing and totally focus on his painting when he felt the need to step back from his tremendous burdens.  It was a comfort and a tonic to him his entire adult life.  Photography and writing give me that gift….now I’m going to add some bubbles. 

I’ve written about the impact that painting has on my photography and the way it opens my eyes and heart to see things new.  The visual history and legacies that have been left to us by artists since time began can inform and help to shape new work.  While reading a poem by Pablo Neruda, I saw an illustration today that I liked very much.  It has triggered my desire expand my thinking when I am photographing to consider subjects for other uses; for example textures as overlays, or patterns to give structure…and images, like poetry, as allusions.  This is not revolutionary, but it will help me to widen my field of view and express something that is new to me.   With Uelsmann and Caponigro and other masters in the field as shepherds, I’ll breathe some more life into my own journey. 

These are my first attempts to see with the idea of joining elements.

17
Jan
10

the editing process

I am engaged by photographs that elicit an emotional response.  I want my own photographs to meet that standard and yet I realize that it is totally subjective.  What one viewer finds sorrowful or joyful will likely be different from another’s view.  But still, if we (as the photographer) are moved by a scene, a moment, or an event then it is likely that our audience will catch on to something that pulls them in.   So the question for me, when helping clients or friends edit their work, is this: Am I engaged?  Am I taking some extra time to really see the photograph or is it a ‘one look’ photo, a photo that might be graphically stunning but is one-dimensional? What are you trying to communicate as a photographer?  Anything? What is your point of view?  Do you have one?  Or is it simply a picture of  a pretty scene, thing, event?  What does the photograph say about you, the photographer?  Are there clues or is the mystery part of the appeal?  In short, to paraphrase Sam Abell: Is it involving? 

Of all the challenges to creating a successful or engaging photograph, among them lighting, technique, composition, setting, and gesture, the communication of feeling is for me the most important. Here is a small gallery with a wide array of subjects for you to critique. 

A note about Sam: Over 1,000 people attended the opening of his new show, Amazonia, at the University of Oregon on Saturday, January 16th.  Sam, along with the wonderful Danish photographer, Torben Nissen, spent months in the headwaters of the Amazon and came back with compelling, thoughtful images that tell the story of one of earth’s most precious resources.  I hope you’ll get to see the show.




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