Topic: Aerial (11 posts) Page 2 of 3

12 Days Out

This is the second post I am writing about recovering from surgery and thinking about pictures. The first, 11 Days Out is here.

In 2012 and 2013 I extensively photographed  the forty miles of sand dunes in the southern California dessert called the Imperial Sand Dunes, nearby Yuma, Arizona. I hiked them, drove over them in a jeep, photographed them from the perimeter road, shot them from the air several times and even rented an ATV one day to be able to get further in to these massive dunes that can be as high as 300 feet.

As is my practice, I made prints into portfolios from the two trips I made to photograph the dunes. They sit in my studio now printed on 22 x 17 inch Canson Baryta Photographique paper. Each portfolio combines aerials with ground based work.They look good and present the extended shoots well. But there is a major flaw in this work and one I am guilty of in other bodies of work where I make pictures over years and several trips (my Wheat work comes to mind). Working this way, printing in response to new work made lends no perspective or focus to the work, it is just a compiling of what I think are the best pictures made. Making separate portfolios from different years becomes an artificial construct and succeeds in only separating and diminishing the work. So, I've decided to change that.

I've been working to consolidate, edit tightly and make one new portfolio of finished work from both years. Note the added benefit of now being at least 3 years from it. MUCH better to have some distance. Here are a few that will be included

It's shame that I need this forced down time to concentrate on this work. But I know once I get back on my feet I'm going to be shot from a cannon, on to new projects and never looking back. Perhaps this is what advanced years in a field gives you: the knowledge of how bad you're going to be at something based upon having been there so many times before. At any rate, still being on crutches forces me to slow down and focus on the Dunes work and I am thankful for that, for it is good work.

A little on the technical side here. In earlier digital days, now 10 years ago or so, the cameras weren't good enough for what I wanted my pictures to do. The file size was too small to allow larger prints of high quality. I would step the file size up using Genuine Fractals but is was a poor substitute for the larger file sizes of today. Since about when I made the Dunes pictures the first year in 2012, all that has changed. I can go back to these confident in their inherent quality and can make large prints that hold well, keep sharp, have excellent dynamic range, superb color rendition and don't get noisy. This is the maturing of the medium and it is a very good thing.

BTW: these pictures are simply remarkable (you've heard such modesty from me before, no doubt), rich and subtle and bold and refined. Notice how the color is different in each one? That's because of different days, times of days and years that I made them in. At 1.5 inches across on your smart phone you are not doing them justice. It is the print here that really counts. Over the next few days I will start production, making them on 30 x 24 inch Epson Exhibition Fiber paper. When done they will reside in a custom case with a title page and artist statement. It will be a limited edition portfolio of approximately 20 prints.They will be available for viewing at 555 Gallery in Boston. Passionate about good prints? Me too. Come see these. I mean it. Knock your socks off.

Note ( as of mid February 2016): I've just finished printing these and they are viewable on my site at: Dunes 2012 & 2013.

Topics: Color,Southwest,Digital,Aerial

Permalink | Posted February 15, 2016

Tom's Neck 1

This is going to get a little complex but bear with me. I will split this blog into three posts as it would be too long otherwise. This is about a piece of land, some pictures made a few weeks ago, an airplane and a kayak.

Let's start here:

The Day Before I left the Vineyard This Fall

The day before I left the Vineyard this fall I put the boat on the car, drove to Edgartown, put the car on the Chappy ferry, drove to the parking area next to the Dike Bridge, unloaded the boat, put a camera in the boat and paddled out to Tom’s Neck to photograph.

First Time

First time putting a good camera and lens into the boat with me. Always before, the camera would go in a Pelican case in the hatch, sealed up. I would then put in, paddle, beach the boat,get out, open the hatch, shoot whatever, then put it all back in and paddle on. This time I wanted to shoot from the boat while it was in the water where I positioned it. This was using the kayak as the platform to photograph from.


I developed a system. Paddled and looked and headed down the Neck a couple of times before committing. Came back, got the boat about right, pulled off the spray skirt, dried my hands, picked up the camera, photographed, reversed the above and paddled on. It worked.

The Following

The following pictures were made along the ocean facing side of Tom’s Neck running north from the Dike Bridge. The bridge made famous by Ted Kennedy as it’s where Mary Jo Kopechne died in 1969, jammed and trapped in an upside down car several feet deep in the water of Poucha Pond. Ted Kennedy wasn’t able to save her that night. But he and his family sure worked hard to save his political career after that night. Safe to say that evening changed the trajectory of his career and his life. And ended young Mary Jo’s life.

At Any Rate

At any rate you are looking at a two part series. This being the short stretch of land nestling up against an inlet of water photographed from the air in a plane and from my kayak in the water two weeks later. Why? Because it is exquisite. To me, it is a garden of Eden, looking like some sort of paradise. But also because one approach informs and enriches the other. Look, photography is changing, becoming ubiquitous at a phenomenal rate and used in unimaginable ways compared to just a few years ago. Remember, when Harry Callahan made a double exposure in the 1940’s with his twin lens Rollei, one frame right side up and click the second upside down, he was doing this for the very first time in the history of photography. We are very much beyond that now.

Interested In

I am interested in nudging photography forward to the best of my humble abilities. Yes, these are conventional looking pictures at first glance. But, upon closer looking, they are different. People assume that I work solely within tradition. Not true. I work within the knowledge of tradition as it serves progress. To me, progress is seeing things differently and beautifully.

Tom’s Neck

The Tom’s Neck pictures are like that: an effort to extend traditional definition and understanding into a new way of looking at the landscape. The aerials informing the other, the ones from the kayakdeepening our take away of the aerials. Even this statement, this introduction to the pictures, is an effort to extend, to deepen and to more fully explore photography’s capabilities and extraordinariness.


Still with me? Sheesh, are we going to get to pictures here? Yes, yes, yes: we will. I promise.

So, what is all that wordage up there? It is the artist statement to the full series about to unfold. It sits at the front of the set, as a kind of title page and introduction all in one. I know it is long but the Tom's Neck pictures require a little time and thought to wade through them and explanation as to methodology and philosophy. 

So, let's carry on.

Next up and the first actual photographs are these two side by side:

These set the stage in which we are about to work. They provide context and aren't arty or pretentious, they are simple statements: this is how the pictures were made, these are the platforms the photographer used to make the following pictures. I believe the logistics count here. 

Next print in the sequence? The first real substantial photograph in the series:

Pretty straightforward, yes? Let's look at it a little as it forms a precedent for subsequent images. Only water in the foreground so I must have been standing right on the shore or, shooting from the kayak. Bingo, you know I am in the boat from the way the intro set this up. In fact a lot of the pictures in the series look like this: water, content and sky; a classic three horizontal bands landscape photograph. Before we leave it, take note of the birds nest sticking right up there. This is really an osprey nest or possibly an eagle's nest, not really intended for a seagull, but that's what was up there the day I was out photographing. 

If you had to guess what was to come next it would seem to be important to show the other approach here, to  have right up front like this an aerial, and ideally, one of the same scene so simply shown here.

And there it is. Now, I can't really make these pictures all on the same day or even in the same week, unless the sun shines on me and the photo gods are fully aligned. In fact, I made the aerials a few weeks before I made the ones from the kayak. But look carefully and you can see the birds nest that references that we are in the same place from a very different perspective. But also notice that there is much more conveyed in the aerial; in effect, it maps the future efforts on the more grounded ones, the boat ones to come. Notice, in particular, the bare tree on the right side of the frame.

There it is, up close and personal, no longer looking like a placeholder on a map but fully engaged and occupying front and center in a picture that just changed our previous format to four bands of horizontals: water, grass, trees and sky from the  previous three.

So now we're set up structurally, we have a few preliminary pictures that provide us with a framework. We know we're going to see some pictures taken from the boat and some pictures taken from the air of the same stretch of shore along Tom's Neck on Chappaquidick Island in October, 2014.

Cool. In the next post we're going to get into the main body of the series.

Stay tuned.

Topics: Color,Digital,Northeast,Aerial,Tom's Neck

Permalink | Posted October 26, 2014

Wheat Aerials 2014

After a one hour flight in this:

with its doors off:

where I was harnessed and tethered, I headed back to the motel in mid day heat to work the files, of which there were 437.

Here are a few from today's shoot in the Palouse in eastern Washington:

The yellow is Canola.

Chalking those up to being nice but a little insignificant? Think they don't hold up that well on your iPhone screen? Well, this is a crop of the barn in the lower right from a print size of 30 inches (at 245 pixels per inch):

meaning that these will be amazing. Can't wait to see them as prints.  One of the all time best aerial shoots ever for me. Calm air, wonderful clarity, temp in the mid 60's, doors off the plane, no wing strut in the way. The 206 Cessna I used cost a little more but was really worth it. 

Part of what's so wonderful about being a photographer is the opportunity it affords you to do things that are different than what most people do. You know I am all about the pictures, the results I get, but there is also the ability to have such wonderful experiences too. 

This as I took a break from pointing down at 1000 feet above the Palouse:

When I get home and begin to work the files I will post Wheat 2014 on the site.

Want to know more about photographing aerially?

Go here:

Luminous Landscape 1


Luminous Landscape 2

Thanks for reading this blog! I hope you enjoy it.

Topics: Aerials,Aerial,Digital,Color,Northwest

Permalink | Posted July 1, 2014

Deja Vu All Over Again

I've written occasionally about a picture of mine that stands out or seems special. For instance, the tennis court picture I wrote about in What Is It?.

This post uses Yogi Berra's famous line: "Deja Vu all over again" as the picture below has been haunting me since I made it.

The photograph I am writing about is this which has been obsessing me since I made a print of it.

What's so special about it?  The line of trees and their shadows running down the right center of the frame. This is from a current project called Route 2 Trilogy that is 2/3 finished. It is aerial photographs taken along Rt 2 as it traverses the state of Massachusetts from Boston out to the Berkshires and the border of New York.

Exceptional? The picture looks fairly ordinary, a suburban street (actually near Fitchburg, MA) with homes on either side, clearly made in the late fall or early spring because there are no leaves on the trees. But it is the line of trees that gets me, so black it is hard to tell whether we are looking at trees or shadows of trees. Notice that above I wrote "since I made a print of it"? That's because there was quite a bit of work done to the file in post production to emphasize the trees and their shadows. This wasn't really finalized until I made the print.

Here it is cropped:

Pretty bizarre, yes? As in tentacles. The contrast of peaceful domesticity along a tree lined street in broad daylight with these trees throwing ominous shadows just slays me. But just recently I figured out why it feels like "deja vu all over again".  I rewatched the 1999 film American Beauty  a couple of weeks ago and guess what happens at the beginning and end of the movie?

There is an aerial tracking shot of the suburban street where Kevin Spacey lives with his family and where most of the film takes place. Aha! (I really did have a genuine "aha" moment when I saw the film.) The trees have the same kind of prominence in the frame, and the structure of the picture is very much the same as mine.

I've written before about the Sam Mendes film "American Beauty" in the post My American Beauty but didn't remember this until I saw it again recently. Funny how powerful imagery can be and how we often relate to pictures on a subliminal level.

So, did I make the picture in response to a scene to a movie I first saw in 1999 or did I make my aerial photograph independently and then note its similarity as I saw the movie again? I do not know.

Love the enigma.

Topics: Aerial,Color,Digital,Northeast,Fall

Permalink | Posted February 16, 2014

What Is It?

What is it about this photograph? Known to friends as the "Tennis in the Woods" picture it stops everyone dead in their tracks when they see it. 

I thought I'd bring you into it a little.

I made the picture in November 2012 from about 1000 feet above Martha's Vineyard. We were headed back to the mainland after an extended flight, the light was failing and I had shot all I'd intended for the day. But we were flying, the window was open and I was looking down at the ground with the camera in my hands and saw this as we flew over, so I snapped the shutter. From the air you see things as quick "windows" that pass by very fast and are gone. It wasn't until I got home and started going through the almost 500 frames I'd shot that day that I noticed this one. Taken as we flew over a large and private area on the North Shore of the island called Seven Gates, it was of a tennis court in the woods. It was so small and surrounded by so many trees and, if you look carefully, there is a pickup truck driving away with its brake lights on:

What did this mean? I couldn't help beginning to play out a mystery: Was the driver leaving the scene of the crime? Had he left a body by the side of the tennis court, wrapped in plastic? Or was he a hero and rushing to someplace outside of the frame we can't see to save his sweetheart who is about to be thrown from the cliff by the villain into the waves crashing below? I don't know about you but Hitchcock movies come to mind.

To come back to reality, what is a tennis court doing there in the middle of what looks like nowhere? This is a characteristic of photography I have always loved. Because it is often steeped in a look that is realistic, we can play with unanswerable questions or build out intrigue, innuendo and enigma almost at will. 

Nothing seems to be private from the air. You are flying free to gaze in back yards and into private property. There is a recent case where Barbara Streisand sued an aerial photographer who had been hovering in a helicopter outside her house on the coast in Malibu for invasion of privacy. She lost the case as he was in free air space (Streisand Case). I wonder what will happen as more and more drones are put into use.

Look at how everything is just there for you to see. A fence? No problem. Plant trees as a screen so your pool can't be seen from the street? Nope. The concept just doesn't work when seen from up here. (This is from a new series begun this fall of photographs of MA Route 2 from east to west.)

My friend Alex MacLean is an excellent aerial photographer. He is one of those that flies his own plane and photographs too (Landslides). He had a show at the Clark Gallery in Lincoln, MA awhile ago and gave a talk. After he spoke he got a question  from a woman in the audience asking if he ever photographed on the ground. I thought his logic was impeccable. He said that he tried it but was frustrated right way. "Drive around, stop, get out of the car, take a picture, get back in the car, drive some more, get out, take a picture and on and on. Why would anyone want to subject themselves to that?"

That tennis court in the woods haunts me. I find myself thinking of being there on a cold starry night in mid winter with all those trees swaying and creaking in the wind and maybe a mouse starting to cross it, furtive and hurrying, feeling exposed and vulnerable as it pads through the center where the net sits in the summer, with an owl looking on from a limb of a nearby tree, taking flight, swooping down with its talons extended in front of it to strike and make its kill.

Topics: Aerial

Permalink | Posted December 8, 2013