Friday, March 15, 2019

Today is the Ides of March, famous as the date Julius Caesar was assassinated on the floor of the Roman senate in 44 B.C.  I was curious to know more about the Ides and found this  answer and lots more on the Ides at Wikipedia:
"The Romans did not number days of a month from the first to the last day. Instead, they counted back from three fixed points of the month: the Nones (5th or 7th, depending on the length of the month), the Ides (13th or 15th), and the Kalends (1st of the following month). The Ides occurred near the midpoint, on the 13th for most months, but on the 15th for March, May, July, and October. The Ides were supposed to be determined by the full moon, reflecting the lunar origin of the Roman calendar. On the earliest calendar, the Ides of March would have been the first full moon of the new year.[3]"  

My Ides of March post is mostly about Edward Steichen.  The above selfie has my painting of Steichen's photograph  "Three Pears and an Apple" in the background. I discussed this painting and his photograph in an earlier post.  Now here is a summary of how Steichen created  photograph:

During the Second World War,  Steichen had the challenging job of making sharp, clear pictures from a vibrating, speeding airplane.  After the war,  he became keenly interested in learning all that could be expected from photography.  He conducted many elaborate experiments over the course of a summer relating to a method of representing volume, scale and a sense of weight.  Using apples, pears and various light sources, he determined that diffused light came closer to giving a sense of volume.  In his small greenhouse, Steichen constructed a tent of opaque blankets, put a single apple inside and cut off all direct light.  From a tiny opening not larger than a nickel, he directed light against one side of the covering blanket--no other light.  There were adjustments to compose and focus the picture and then a series of exposures that ran from six to thirty-six hours.  The most successful ones took thirty-six hours.  What he hadn't counted on is that the longest exposures lasted through the night into the next day.  The nights were cooler and everything, including the camera and the covering, contracted and expanded.  Instead of producing one meticulously  sharp image, the infinitesimal movement produced a succession of slightly different sharp images which optically fused as one.  From this experiment eventually came his legendary image "Three Pears and an Apple".  The image as reproduced in the book is amazing with its textural and three dimensional quality.  

I'm still working on making better black and white images. Below are some images from recent walks.  We had plenty of snow on the ground last week, but today we are 99% snow free.  A frog is sitting outside the pond because it's been so warm the last two days.  I told him, "enjoy, but remember there's a cold front moving in later".

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

March greetings!  Here is a ghost of myself (self-portrait) taken some winters back.  Lately I've had time to dig into my analog photo archives and found lots of inspiration for new work.  For one thing, I would like to experiment with film again.  My old Minolta just needs a new battery and some film. Yes, this will be a slower process, but I'm curious and excited to see and experience "old school" again.  I mentioned in an earlier post that I have been reading Edward Steichen's book.  I found it sometime ago at a  used book shop and just got around to reading it this winter. I mentioned this briefly in my last post.  The reproductions of his early photos are stunning and poetic.  In his earliest work, he was trying to do with photography what the Impressionists were doing with paint.  He was studying painting at the same time he was learning photography.  It really shows in his work.  I love what he has to say about photo manipulation.  Today we might say "Photoshopped".  I have always looked at Photoshop as my digital darkroom and started using it before I had a digital camera.  I would scan film prints and continue processing the image.  So, here is what Steichen had to say:

"It is rather amusing, this tendency of the wise to regard a print which has been locally manipulated as irrational photography --- this tendency which finds an aesthetic tone of expression in the word faked.  A MANIPULATED print may not be a photograph.  The personal intervention between the action of the light and the print itself may be a blemish on the purity of photography.  But whether this intervention consists merely of marking, shading and tinting in a direct print, or of stippling, painting and scratching on the negative, or of using glycerine, brush and mop on a print, faking has set in, and the results must always depend upon the photographer, upon his personality, his technical ability and his feeling...... In fact, every photograph is a fake from start to finish, a purely impersonal, unmanipulated photograph being practically impossible.  When all is said, it still remains entirely a matter of degree and ability."

Imagine if Steichen or many of the great earlier photographers were alive today.  Some, of course, would stick to a traditional darkroom, but I really believe Steichen, who was always learning the next thing  about photography all his life, would want to do the same with digital photography.

Although I haven't given up painting and collage, for the present I'm focusing on photography.  Here are two diptychs of the last full moon.

The next two are some interesting early morning light.

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Winter is passing swiftly but not altogether comfortably.  Barry and I have suffered with stubborn head colds the last several days.  There has been a lot of lounging around with a blanket and a good book, and a lot of snoozing too.  We had snow during this period which added to the impulse to hibernate.  During the slowdown, I did think a lot about the direction of my next photography project.     A name for this project came to me in the space between waking and sleeping.  The images I've created these last two weeks prompted the name, but I don't want to assign the name too soon.  More work--more work!

Oh yes, the photo above is me 2011 and recently Polaroidized with the InstaLab app.  This is probably as far as I will go with the app, but I just had to try the free version.  What it does very well is instantly make your photo look like a faded color print that might have been taken in the 1950's.  My coat in this photo is actually bright red.  I added the heart drawing because today is Valentine's Day.

And here are some of my latest from the digital darkroom:

Looking Out: Snow and Rain

Dog, Field, Pond

Dressing Room

Mellinger Cornfield

View from S. Park
Sending all good wishes!

Saturday, February 2, 2019

February and I recently learned that we have arrived at the midway point between the Winter Solstice and Spring Equinox.  The ancient word for this is Imbolc (Imbolg).  It can fall between February 2 and February 7. Imbolc, the word, comes from Old Irish meaning in the belly, a time when sheep begin to lactate, their udders fill and grass begins to grow.  We still have snow on the ground and the landscape is lovely, but I am looking forward very much to seeing signs of Spring.

One thing led to another this week and a mystery was solved.  I've been mining my library of photography books and right now I'm captivated with Edward Steichen's book in which he elaborates on his life in photography.  During the time he was just learning how to use a camera, he was also studying drawing and painting.  He considers the body of photographic work he did between 1900--1927 to be his masterworks. They were greatly influenced by his interest in painting.  Now I will back up to a painting I completed years ago after seeing a brochure advertising exhibits at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore.  I fell in love with a still life of pears and apples.  I loved the dark tones of blacks and grays.  I sketched it out on heavy art paper and painted it.  Then it was stored in a portfolio.  Later I found it and decided I really liked my work and had it framed.  I didn't sign it because it wasn't an original work, but I could have signed it with reference to the artist if I had looked to see who the artist was in the first place.  Recently I found a brochure in an old Aperture magazine offering a portfolio of twelve photogravures from Edward Steichen's "The Early Years, 1900--1927" and there was the subject of my painting, "Three Pears and an Apple" from 1921.  You will understand why I thought I was looking at a painting here.  My brochure is at least 30 years old.  Here is the offer:  12 hand-pulled dust-grain photogravures, printed on Rives BFK mold-made paper; paper size 16' x 20', image size indicated; box covered in hand-loomed Tussah Indian silk. $3,500.

And here are a few images I've been working on recently:

Hall Candlelight

Garden Shed at Dusk

Shed at Dusk and Chandelier

Shed at Dusk (longer exposure) and Chandelier

Friday, January 25, 2019

This was the month of a total lunar eclipse and the resulting "blood moon".  And, it was also referred to as a "super moon".  I did not stay up for the eclipse--I'm such an early to bed/early to rise person.  When I did get up long before daylight, there was no need to turn on the lights.  The whole house was illuminated.  In fact, I was very restless most of the night and got up a few times to look outside. I might as well have stayed up for the eclipse as much as I was popping in and out of bed.  The moon was big and bright when I set up my tripod and camera on the patio.  By the time I did that, I was frozen.  The resulting images were mostly disappointing, but I like how I processed the above.

During the last two weeks I did a major cleanup and backup of excess images on my mobile devices and laptop.  Just like cleaning up my studio gave me the physical and mental space to create new work, so has the digital studio become more light and airy.  Feel excited about the new images I've made.  Here are a few:

Afternoon Sun 

Bedroom Light

Historic house in Gjirokaster, Albania

Night and Day

Next door --afternoon light

Skopje, Republic of Macedonia

Friday, January 11, 2019

In the spirit of starting a new year, I've decided to dive deeper into my photography.  In December, I enrolled in a mini e-course called Traveling Light with Laura Valenti.  It was just what I needed and helped me come to terms with the quantity and kind of travel photos I will be taking in the future.  It is so easy to keep clicking away when visiting a new place, and then you have all the photo baggage to lug home.  I have made some improvements in the past couple of years, but only in putting limits on how many photos I will take in a day.  My goal this year is "look more, shoot less".  I've also been going through my collection of photography books and falling in love again with black and white images.  So, I will also be working more in black and white in the coming months.  One of Valenti's lessons is on the subject of perceived mistakes.  When something doesn't turn out the way you originally envisioned, put it away for awhile and then bring it into the light again.  The image on the left above is a leaf close-up.  I didn't like it at the time, but thought the texture was interesting and moved it into my "Texture" folder thinking I might blend it with another photo someday.  I found that by converting the image to B&W and burning some of the overblown areas, I"m really liking the image on its own now.

The blurry color image of this gentleman of Ljubljana, Slovenia was a throw away in my mind, but converted to B&W via the Channel Mixer in Photoshop, it seems like an intentional choice to blur it. The version on the right is an experiment using ink lines.  I love the patterns on the buildings and pavement.

This is inside a mosque in Tetova, Republic of Macedonia.  The color version simply looked blown out by daylight pouring in the window.  It did not convey the cozy nook I saw on that rainy day.  In B&W, the scene looked more as I experienced it that day.  

This is the interior of the Yedi Kale prison inside the Byzantine walls of the upper town of Thessaloniki.  On the day of our visit, the inside was open for a contemporary art exhibit.  Actually I liked these three images in color as well as this version.

That's all for now.  Have a great weekend!

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

Happy New Year 2019!  I always do a lot of reflecting as the new year approaches.  I'm still reflecting and even taking photos of me reflected.  I'm getting older but I still want to grow.  It's happening already and I feel energized for the road ahead.  One of my goals is getting control of my photography practice (especially when it comes to travel).  I have taken too many photos and a lot of times the good ones are buried in the masses.  I'm doing Laura Valenti's  Traveling Light e-course which is really helping me focus on the kinds of photos I'm most interested in taking, and also training me to put the camera away and use my five senses to really see and observe deeply.  This is especially important when traveling to a new place.  We all want to capture those iconic shots with our cameras, but maybe what we want to bring home is something more personal--at least that's how I feel.   So, I'll post some of my insights and progress here as time goes on.  Here is one more holiday reflection and two images of the beautiful table (details) that we sat around on Christmas Day.