Topic: Color (107 posts) Page 1 of 22

DEVASTATION

As you may know, I photographed firestorm damage in southern and northern California last winter. Now, in July, there are reports of new fires, some in the same region as before. I can't shake it.

I made up this short story. Let me know what you think. Neal's email

Dan thought he was doing better. He'd had that fight with Del last week about trying to be more present and holding up his end, spending more time with them. He knew of the fires and was worried but the day at work had been really something; the merger, the raise, the promotion. He'd picked up Sheila on time that day at school and was rushing home to feed the kids. As he drove up the valley it was quite smoky, the air thick. You could taste it. As he pulled up to the house he could see small flames in the trees on the ridge across the valley 5 miles away. That didn't look so bad, he thought. He called Del to find she was on her way up the valley too, stuck in traffic, gridlocked. He told the kids to clean up and set the table, start their homework and come down when he called that dinner was ready. He started to fix the meal, washing the broccoli in the kitchen sink and looking out the window thinking what it was he could do with $6k more each month. Oh man, that boat he saw at the show. Setting the rice boiling, and getting a beer, he turned back to the sink and glanced up and out to see something very different. As in a daze, he looked out at a raging maelstrom of fire coming right towards him from above, flashing down the hillside, the fire fanned by the high winds, flames blown horizontal. He woke up, left the water running in the sink and took the stairs three at a time yelling, "Get out, now, get out, we have to get out now!" "But Dad, I'm right in the middle of...." Kenny said. "Get out now, right now, no, leave it... out!!!!" And they're all tumbling scrambling down the stairs and out the front door, Lucy barking like she was possessed and into the truck and out the driveway and down the hill, it seeming like the fire was right on them as it was everywhere, thick smoke and the heat! Dan looked over his shoulder as they sped away to see his house fully engulfed in flames. They got down to the valley and Dan pulled over. They tumbled out, all three kids yelling at him, two crying as it began to dawn on them, their lives as they'd known them were over.  Everything was gone. There were hugs too for they realized they were lucky to be alive.

Dan realized he had nowhere to go as he dialed Del to tell her their house was gone.


Topics: Color,Digital,Aerial

Permalink | Posted July 9, 2018

Follow Through

Golf swing, baseball's at-bat or throwing to first base, tennis, almost anything in  sports: I can remember my ski coach in high school yelling at me to "follow through!" in the giant slalom. Well, it's important in making art as well.

After three years of photographing almost daily every morning before class in Spruce Pine, NC while teaching at Penland School of Crafts, I approached the subject this year with genuine doubt that I could contribute anything new. When you've grown to know an area it is harder to eke out new material. But I went most mornings, sometimes with a few students, more often on my own.

Of course, the last time I photographed in the town it was 2014. That's a lifetime in digital photography and I was working a few weeks ago with a present-day camera which upped my game. Back then it was the Nikon D800E, a breakthrough camera with some serious problems. It had a tendency to vibrate, making pictures that were blurry. 

What did I find? This was work this time, the pictures not coming so easily, the fluidity of being in a groove harder to come by. I did make some discoveries, however, and learned that I didn't know this small town as much as I thought I did. I learned that I could speak in very subtle tonalities and colors, conveying huge amounts of information, that less can be more and that it isn't always necessary to scream your point. I learned to let the pictures speak, working to impose less upon them, as most good photography doesn't need to feed the photographer so much. Although working mostly with the same focal length lens as before, I worked to utilize its attributes better rather than to minimize its shortcomings. And finally, this was photographs made under no pressure, as there is no one beating down my door to see this work, no show I am working towards, no one, in fact, knows what I did. Very freeing, this. 

If left to your own devices and mindset, free from outside influence, what is your art like? Mine becomes quieter, as I am no longer looking for the "star" image, no longer thinking that I am a career professional with a reputation to maintain. I can be a student of the medium again. This is really it, the reason we do this, photograph so obsessively, looking looking looking. Let the picture come out, let the content drive the agenda instead of imposing yourself upon it. Become that kid in you, become that person seeing these things for the first time, wondering at what is displayed in front of your camera. 

This is what I discovered in Spruce Pine, North Carolina in the end of May and early June, 2018:


Want to see more? These, of course, are just the introduction. Want to see all the Spruce Pine work? Want to see actual prints?

Easy. Email me: Neal's Email.

Topics: Color,Digital,Southeast

Permalink | Posted June 24, 2018

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