Topic: Digital (131 posts) Page 1 of 27

Utah Update

Since I left Utah two weeks ago you haven't heard a thing from me.

This is just a brief update to tell you what I am up to with the work I made. Job number one is to edit files, and begin to print the work. Some people like to wait a while, let the new work settle in a little, allow some perspective on what was done and I agree, this is important. But I also like to make some prints of files I know I want to see, not only a determiner whether I was on or not but to see if I was technically where I needed to be. 

This I have done. 

Life does intrude and, especially when returning from a trip like I took to Utah to photograph, all that life entails came flooding back. A little medical, some friends and family, a meeting or two, time spent online judging a grant competition (with a fast looming deadline!) and long hours at the studio working on files and making work prints.

Also, I spent a week on Martha's Vineyard with family for Thanksgiving.

Within the overall number of pictures I made, there are subsets, chapters in the overall body of work that will be from Utah. While I did make "incidental" photographs (the term I use for photographs made without any effort to make a series or any kind of narrative, pictures that stand alone), I also made separate series. These need a longer view and are far heavier lifting than just skimming through a few thousand flies to see what things look like.

Let me share with you some of what I am working on:

This is Factory Butte, a few miles west of Hanksville, Utah, at dawn. I photographed there one afternoon until the sun went down and then was back again the next morning at sunrise. If I had to give one reason for going to Utah this time it was this.

Something about this huge hunk of rock and eroded desert appeals on a deep level for me, for it is so shocking, so primitive, so large and such an anomaly.

I also find it challenging. How do you photograph just one "thing", perhaps it is a little like a still life.

I learned a long time ago, that when confronted with something truly amazing do not just make one or two photographs and hope for the best. If you can, follow though on your commitment to really work on your images, using every idea you have, perhaps over hours or even days, to return back home with the best you can. There's nothing worse than regretting what you didn't do when you are now thousands of miles away.

Are these finals? I have no idea. At this stage I make prints to just see what I've got. It will take time to finalize this work, trying different approaches, looking at all the files I shot. Already I've begun to print some in black and white, for instance. 

Next up? There is far more in this same huge valley in Utah than just Factory Butte. Stay tuned.

Topics: New Work,Digital,Colorl,West

Permalink | Posted November 28, 2018

Utah Day 8

I left Moab yesterday and drove the 3 hours up to Salt Lake City. What a boring drive! It's all I could do to stay awake.

 But in the early a.m. I drove out to

which you get to by driving on the northern access road just out of Moab to Canyonlands Park. This essentially is a peninsula above the desert valley. It is an extraordinary place and, from this vantage point, essentially like standing on the bow of a ship.

It felt like aerial photography with the advantage of not going 100 mph, giving you all the time you wanted to study and look. I loved being able to roam around this whole expanse with a long lens and pick and choose my pictures.

As I was photographing, looking through the lens, I found myself thinking of macro versus micro economics, minimal versus maximal, a world view versus a hyper-close view.

This was oddly powerful. I don't know that I have ever been accused of having a God complex but if ever that were to surface now would be the time, as though, click the shutter, there I've made another butte, click, another canyon, click, another wash, click, another spire.

Last, another thought along a different line, at what point would the image break down in terms of intelligibility? As I pushed the medium and the limit of my lens, as I reached now across miles of information, content compressed through great distance, the image would just lose its comprehensibility and break down into abstract lights and darks.

I know, "Neal, what were you smoking?" Right? I swear, I was substance free. But you'd have to be clueless to not have deeper thoughts in a place like this. Our world can feel very large here, and us, very small.

To wrap up my time in Moab I leave you with this:

with the shadow of me and the rental Jeep in the picture. I hate goodbyes, always hard when you leave what you love, but Moab continues to be a place close to my heart, something about its scale, its color, its shapes and forms, its accessibility, draws me in. Goodbye Moab, I hope to see  you again soon.

Topics: Digital,Color,Southwest

Permalink | Posted November 11, 2018

Utah Day 7

This was my last day in Moab and I used it to drive  40 miles south to the lower entrance to Canyonlands National  Park, then another 40 miles west  into the park itself. A lot of driving but some of it was very beautiful

This is also where the petroglyphs are at Newspaper Rock on the way into the Park

160 miles of driving for just a few photographs but we cannot live by photographs alone and I enjoyed the day, nevertheless.

Back in Moab I downloaded the files as usual

on to an early 2013 13 inch MacBook Pro that is everything when I travel, never having let me down and a real workhorse. It is how I write blogs while on the road, place new works on the site, teach from, edit my work in Lightroom and send files for publication, plus do all the things we need a computer for these days, including streaming.

One thing I don't do often while away is prepare files for printing, saving that for the studio when I return home and can work on a 33 inch Sharp display. 13 inches is small for deciding how a file will print, at say 17 x 22 inches. As it is really past time to replace the MacBook I have been thinking of replacing it with a 15 inch one, the idea being that it would be large enough to prepare files for printing while on trips, and therefore cut out or reduce one very large step in the workflow. I do love how small the current MacBook is, but perhaps the bigger laptop would be a better solution. Any of you out there use a 15 inch? Your thoughts on this much appreciated. Neal's email: here

After another trip at dawn to photograph the upper Canyonlands Park I will head up to Salt Lake for a couple of days. I plan to continue daily posts until Tuesday the 13th, when I fly back home.

Topics: Color,Digital,Southwest

Permalink | Posted November 10, 2018

Utah Day 6

I've referenced the last time I was in Moab in 2010 during this trip in a couple of my other posts. But I was in Moab before then too. Back when we all used film, in 1998, to make our pictures, I made a series I called "Moab, Utah". They were of the railroad tracks along a mining spur on the way south from Moab along the river close to Potash. I made the prints in my darkroom.

They are on the site: here. I also wrote about them: here.

I drove by there yesterday, now twenty years later. And thought about whether it made sense to reshoot. I chose not to. Mostly I don't do that, relying on the pictures I made to stand. Much here in the Southwest  is timeless, of course, or seems it. Or perhaps it is that rock is less susceptible to perceived change than our frenetic need to make things that are new. 

At any rate, I also was back at Thompson Springs off of I 70 the other day and found what had been where I made the first picture in that series (here).

A favorite of mine, made eight years ago. This time things had changed quite a bit:

I was told by a neighbor the roof caved in and the town deemed it a safety hazard so tore it down. 

I can't forget my first experience with things ephemeral. I was making the pictures for my MFA thesis while a student at RISD in the early 70's. My subject was cars in a junkyard. I'd made a picture of the tail fin of a 1957 Buick that I liked. A week later I went back to photograph it some more only to find out that not only the fin was gone but so was the whole car! Lesson learned.

Programming note: Please don't assume I am not susceptible to what has gone on this week: Tuesday's election, Trump's bizarre press conference, Session's firing and subsequent threat to the Mueller investigation, another shooting, this time in California, only two weeks after the last one in Pittsburgh and the wildfires in Paradise, CA. All that in the past two days! I am as influenced by all this as you are, unable to escape it even here in Moab. In many ways it seems it is the worst of times. This makes my pictures taken here in a Utopia of rock and river and blue skies seem like escape. On the other hand, maybe we need a little beauty in our lives right now. 

I hope you can find a little Utah in your day today.

Topics: black and white and color,Analog,Digital,Southwest

Permalink | Posted November 9, 2018

Utah Day 5

From downtown in Moab on the way to Arches, turn right just before the bridge and head north on Rt 128. This heads you up a canyon close to the Colorado River and eventually, a couple of hours later, to Interstate 70. From there drive west and meet up with the main drag back to Moab at RT 191. Total time: maybe six hours, more if you stop often.  What a trip.

Of course, the dilemma is what do you do if you are an artist that uses a camera? Succumb to the beauty and the temptation to photograph this glorious scenery? Part of the trap is to "acquire" pictures as proof that you were there or perhaps to share with those back home. I am as guilty of this as anyone else, yet it isn't quite what I do, is it? But it all is incredibly seductive, and this trip up the canyon is among the most seductive I have ever seen.

Will I use these? Will they end up as framed prints in a show somewhere? Not likely, for they don't do anything or say much besides where I was and it was very beautiful there. Of course, you might think that is enough. To chronicle the place, to document something so exquisite as lit up Aspen trees in autumn, all gold and shimmering in late afternoon sunlight.

Of course, if you practice photography to a larger stage than just yourself, your family and friends, this then does become a dilemma. What are you known for? And what contribution do pictures like this make to your overall body of work? Real artists don't make pictures like this, or perhaps it is safer to say, a certain kind of artist makes pictures like these. 

I used to deal with this problem when teaching in Italy in Venice. I would tell students in the first class that they had the next couple of days to make all the pretty touristy pictures they wanted but after that I didn't want to see them. Once done, then I would assign them to work in very specific ways, to search to tell a story, to make pictures as an investigation into something that caught their interest, to begin to make pictures that were specific and intentional instead of ubiquitous and generic.

Last, what if you feel you can make pictures like these from the drive up the canyon that are better than anyone else's? What if you know you can make a contribution to this way of seeing that is unique, has your own perception as a creative individual  and is motivated by your passion, commitment and hard work as well as the considerable cost of the gear you use to make pictures that are truly magnificent? Then by all means have at it but know the world is a competitive place and count me among the skeptics.

Programming note: Bringing you this blog every day is a lot of work. I get up early to work on it for a couple of hours before heading out to shoot. I am happy to do it as I know I would love to travel vicariously with someone who was making pictures daily in Moab. But, let me know you're along  for the ride, if you can. There are lots of ways to share your thoughts with me. Put a comment  on my Facebook page or on Instagram. Or shoot me an email: here.

And thanks for coming along.

Topics: Southwest,Digital,Color

Permalink | Posted November 8, 2018