Topic: Color (105 posts) Page 1 of 21

Washed Out

This one is to introduce the new group of pictures on the site called Washed Out (here). And to explain my rationale.

Can wrong be right, can ugly be beautiful, can accuracy be exchanged for interpretation? Something hovering around the question of attempted objectivity versus the purely subjective. 

These washed out and somewhat pink landscapes of the mountains behind Malibu, California are this photographer's effort to describe what it feels like to be driving through the canyons on a midday in midweek, with the sun at full force, no wind, the ground cover bleached out, the soil dusty and like chalk; a somewhat apocalyptic view of a place no doubt influenced by my aerially photographing wildfire damage a few days earlier up the coast in Ventura.

These are, of course, the Santa Monica Mountains.

In initially rendering these in normal colors and tonality I was struck by how they conveyed nothing of the intensity of the light and the dryness. 

I was thinking of how our eyes react when faced with going from someplace dark into a landscape blindingly bright. How the colors are bleached out and monochromatic.

But think about this for a moment. Think about how photography has changed, how its use as an art form has been so drastically redefined in recent years. How the investigation into how it sees and we see has been pushed to new boundaries. Somehow, although I still make them, the straight landscape is over, done to death and how, if the drive must be to see things new, there is nothing new. How the prevailing discipline would need to be an interpretation of surroundings, a molding of the combination of the mediums' use and the content serving the photographer's wishes. This then leads me to the photographer's intention.

One train of thought would appear that we are no longer, in higher levels of art, allowed to leave that up to the viewer to work out. That it would be necessary to drive the outcome more specifically. Hence "Washed Out".

The last point, imagine I made these into a small book, with about 25 pages of images all in this same bleached out tonality. Sit down with a glass of that nice merlot you found in Italy last year, comfortable in your favorite recliner, to look through these pictures, to study them. How fulfilling and rewarding an experience would that be? Would you become invested in the subtlety and nuance of the different images? Feel there is a rhythm, a narrative?  Doubtful. But you might believe that you are looking at a concept, a conceptual rendering, a deliberate distortion of the actual into something made for looking then thinking about what you saw to understand intention. This does get perilously close to a personal politic, doesn't it? For the quality has been sucked out of these images, denied the very basis for our determination of what is a good photograph. Of course, we see this all the time, either by ignorance or by deliberation. 

Is this simply devil's advocacy? Placing these pictures in a place of contrary perspective? This is for you to decide, for I am simply the maker. You are the determiner.

Washed Out:


Comments always welcome: nrantoul@comcast.net

Topics: Northwest,Digital,Color

Permalink | Posted April 23, 2018

Pinnacles

Pinnacles National Park is in Paicines, California, about 1 1/2 hours south of San Jose.

I just finished making prints of the park as I was there in February. These are just the tip of the iceberg and I hope to go back next winter. As it is a national park it is good to go with a pass, if you have one, as it costs $25 to get in otherwise. Also, try to go during the week when it isn't so crowded. This is a very popular park.

I focused mostly on the trails. I'd just come from several hours of photographing a series called "On the Way to Pinnacles" so was beat by the time I got there. I hiked up a trail maybe a couple of miles, photographing along the way and then came back down. 

Note: I  hand held the Sony A7R MK III while at Pinnacles, which turned out to be a mistake. I have learned this camera is a sort of hybrid, in that it is small and capable of tremendous results but that it is all too easy to screw up sharpness. Follow this twisted logic of mine, proven to be wrong. Small camera means you can use it like a point and shoot, popping frames off without much regard to settings, particularly shutter speed. I've learned that this does not work well. This is because it makes a huge file and therefore deserves great respect. I would most definitely shoot these next time with the camera on a tripod. I blew about 40% of my pictures at Pinnacles that day.

Pinnacles is just a jumble of rocks but on a very large scale. It is a fascinating place and reminds me of constructions I would make in the field behind our house in Connecticut as a kid where I grew up. In those I dug in the dirt, making ramps and roads for my trucks and loaders, moving earth and rocks. 

Pinnacles National Park, California. Highly Recommended.

Topics: Northwest,Digital,Color,New Work

Permalink | Posted April 16, 2018

Wildfire: Before and After

I've been showing pictures and writing about the effects of wildfire damage in California for a while now. I photographed the area of Santa Rosa in February 2018 after it had been heavily hit by wildfires two months earlier. 

Early on with this project, I realized I had something of a unique perspective for a non-local in that I had rented a cottage for about a month on a ridge in the hills above Santa Rosa in the winter of 2014.

So, yes, these have turned into a "before and after" project of one small area, what I photographed when living there and what it looks like now.

Let me preface that this was an exceptionally beautiful place, a small two BR cottage on a ridge with a valley to the east and a valley to the west. Often I'd wake up to something like this:

with early morning fog that would burn off by 8 am or so.

Looking west across the valley the cottage was situated right on the ridge:

with some really wonderful oak trees nearby.  These were irresistible:

Let me see if I can paint this picture. Often after returning from long days photographing and long drives (I was heavily immersed in the Tafoni pictures on the coast and Skate Park pictures that winter) I would kick back on the deck with a beer and the camera next to me on a tripod and just click off a frame or two as the sun went down. This was a paradise.

I even had the owner's dog, Din, as a companion at the place that winter:

In late February, from the air, this same property looked like this:

with the owner's house on the left and where I stayed in the cottage on on the right.

From the ground:

What do those same oaks look like now?

Evidently when the fire came through wind was so fierce the flames often scorched the trees but didn't kill them. You can see that in this last photograph. The hill behind the tree is darkened and some trees are stripped of foliage but not all of them.


Let me leave you with this as a symbol of the destruction: the property owner's fully restored VW Beetle:

Owners and dog all are well. They rode out the fire that night in an apartment down the valley in town.

Topics: Northwest,Color,Digital

Permalink | Posted April 11, 2018

Gravel

Note: I wrote this in late 2016, have edited it now-2018-and believe it is still relevant. I never published it til now.


A while ago I wrote a blog (here) about some new work I made under the pseudonym Marc S. Meyer. In it, I took us into his personality and medical issues, I interviewed his theoretical wife and described the circumstances behind his motivation to make the Gravel pictures (you can see these here). The post was about his motivation and his excitement at making them but didn't really get us inside the actual pictures.

This post will.

Landscape photography: has a bad reputation. And for good reason. So much "yawn" work out there, so many one-shot wonders, so much overdone, overcooked, over sharpened, over HDR'd and just poorly made. Is this simply an idiom that is over? A manner of making photographs done to death and steeped in such tradition, history, and genealogy that it just isn't relevant or interesting anymore? Meyer's new work of gravel pushes back against just this idea. His theory goes like this: traditional landscape photography is over (remember this is supposition), so, photographing great landscapes is not of interest anymore. Shoot something very prosaic like mounds of gravel and imbue these with the same awe, monumentality and universality and you may have an effective commentary on our collective plight. This is the present paying for past sins, isn't it?

Overfish the incredible wealth of George's Bank, the fishing grounds off the New England Coast and what have you got? No more fish. Not so good: a severely overfished resource, making for government quotas, catch limits and federal agent monitors on boats. Go down to the fish market in the harbor of Menemsha, on Martha's Vineyard where there really isn't a "fleet" anymore, and a good percentage of what is there in the cases came from far far away, maybe even another continent.

Same principle with these new pictures.  Marc doesn't believe the idiom is dead he just thinks there has been little work that's been productive or real thought put into it that he's seen in recent years. 

So, photograph nothing (or as little to nothing as you can find), invest in loading the quiver full of emotional, romantic and spiritual arrows that hit bullseyes, make beautiful prints, display them and publish them to gauge the effect. The results could be HUGE (sorry, couldn't resist, writing this as Trump headlines the news every day).

As I look at these new photographs by Meyer I am impressed with their formal rigor, yet I am struck by their light touch and the number of connections they make. Yes, this is classic picture making but it also is very new as the subject's been removed. Marc believes it makes sense to minimize content so as to allow his efforts to come through.  I find this inescapable in his pictures.  I am now looking at what he's done to something, pure and simple. Accuracy? Fidelity to the original? Literally true? No, not interested, it would seem. But still largely representational. The only analogy I can come up with is it is like being hit over the head with a felt-tipped hammer. Not such a big deal until it is. There is a metaphor in here, and it centers around the idea that we're done, its over, we have fucked it up. How did I get to that? Just look at the work (here). Utopian view of the days ahead, sweetness and light, a better world just around the corner, messiah-like predictor of wellness, opportunity and prosperity? Or an admission that there is nothing truly new, significant, monumental or pure to photograph so we have to make due with what we have.  Hard to keep an attitude of the glass half full these days, isn't it? Marc's sense would seem to be that we need to invent new definitions for things, new ways of approaching, new ways of thinking about where we live and what we do as the planet's primary species possessing the biggest brains and the capacity to destroy everything in our path. Let's be clear, this plight is unique to us, no other animals have wreaked such havoc with where we live.

Back to earth and Marc's pictures of gravel next to a supermarket in mid Massachusetts made on summer afternoons. This is, after all, what we've got. 

In having a beer a couple of weeks ago with Jamie Stringfellow, the editor of the newspaper the Martha's Vineyard Times, she made the somewhat provocative statement, as an islander, that she partly liked what the island was becoming. More year round, better food, stores staying open more through the winter months, more culture, lots to do in February as well as in July. Of course, traditional Vineyarders used to hunker down in those winter months. Want a quart of milk and live "up island" off season? 20-minute drive at least. All that's changing, along with mega homes in the thousands of square feet and a large service industry springing up to provide services for the rich and mega-rich.  And the expectation that what there is on the mainland should be on the island too, at a cost, of course. 

My point. Change is endemic to where we live, how we live and what our priorities are. We will give up to get, yesterday's priority forgotten and tomorrow's on the horizon. In relationship to our medium of photography, it's easy to predict the demise of the use of the traditional camera, the SLR or DSLR, even the mirrorless may be on the block soon as Apple and Android take over those functions. 

And, oh yes, what does the gravel pit look like now in 2018, almost two years later?

Hobby Lobby

Topics: Northeast,Color,Digital

Permalink | Posted March 25, 2018

Salt Evaporation Ponds

Above is the title page for the new portfolio of the same name. I had seen these ponds from the air on a commercial flight landing at the San Francisco Aiport several years ago and thought it would be wonderful if I could photograph them. It is a little tricky as the ponds often are in the landing path for jets coming in to land. I found that if we stayed below 1500 feet or so we were okay. So that's just what we did, flying under the big jets flight path in their approach to land.


It was dead calm, and the flight itself was smooth so the files from this shoot are exceptional. The Cargill Co. owns and works these ponds to make sea salt, the minerals in the water making different varieties. 

The full portfolio is now on the site: here.

Consistent offer. Want to see the prints? Email here

Topics: Color,Digital,Northwest,Aerial

Permalink | Posted March 17, 2018