You know, you do this as long as I have and you think: the last thing anyone needs is another picture by Neal Rantoul. You go off for a month in the winter to an area that is pleasant and warmer than home in February and you slip into a lifestyle not so different than when you are home. You've got to eat, sleep, work out, shop, pay some bills, do errands. People wish you well on your vacation but it's not really a vacation is it? Yes, you do all those everyday things and some touristy things too but you are driving and looking, on the hunt for pictures, to make "work", wherever and however you can. What a disease.
A few days ago was like that. I drove up the valley a ways to pick up a prescription and in heading out of the town Healdsburg came across a skatepark. This makes sense as Healdsburg is very affluent and would want to provide for its youth and perhaps divert them from skate boarding in other places.
Here we go:
I was the only one there. It was bright and sunny at about 10 am. For a while I just sat there looking at it, trying to figure out if I could do it. Was this a series? Was it just going to be just a few pictures? Was it nothing? Was it something? I figured it wasn't going to be anything unless I worked at it. So I started photographing it.
I had a really wonderful time photographing this over the next couple of hours. As the sun got higher the shadows changed and became shorter. This was one of the times where "it" didn't matter much. It was what I did to "it" that did matter.
I wonder if these connect with you, the reader of this mostly daily blog. If you were reading this a year ago you observed me struggling with trying to make pictures in San Diego and it wasn't going so well. This trip, this time, is going better. I am not trying to force pictures out of it so much as working to try to do the best with the opportunities presented to me.There seem to be many.
Whether these are something worth anything you and I won't really know until I get back home and start to work through them making them into prints. Right now at about 7 inches across on my laptop screen they look good. I see them as letting go of detail in the blacks, a classic altering of Zone III shadows down into Zone II's and I's. Not hard to do with histogram sliders in Aperture or Lightroom. You can see I am playing with color as well. Aaron Siskind taught us in graduate school that working with negative space could be meaningful and substantive. He used his stonewall pictures from Martha's Vineyard as examples but he could just as easily shown us the divers in NY.
Photographs above by Aaron Siskind
I can remember asking students to talk about new work they were showing in class. Often they would not know much more than we did, the ones seeing the prints for the first time. Why? Because the photographer very often doesn't know much about what they've photographed, often they've made a picture of it to find out more about it. How can someone know all about something at 1/250 of a second? They can't. This felt like that the other day shooting frame after frame in this empty sunlit skatepark in Healdsburg , CA. Starting in I knew nothing about what I was doing. I was going down a path of learning about it and my abilities with it as I was doing it. I am still learning about it as I present it here in this post to you.
While driving that day I was listening to Alexandre Desplat's soundtrack to the movie The Tree of Life, a simply remarkable piece of music. It clearly predisposed me to dig below the surface.
Something? Nothing? We will see.
Thanks for looking.