Topic: Digital (147 posts) Page 1 of 30

Heaven on Earth?

Three weeks on the island of Martha's Vineyard in May. 

Is Martha's Vineyard heaven on earth?

Not in early May.

Let me explain.

My family's home is in Chilmark, close to the western end of the island. Rural, some farms, the fishing village of Menemsha, the cliffs at Gay Head at Aquinnah close by and a couple of world class beaches.

What's not to like?

In early May, the weather. When I arrived, it was cold, wet and windy. Nothing was green, the trees were bare. Only by the middle of the month do things start to pick up and then there were only a few days that were almost warm. I find the island tough when the weather is bad. Surrounded by such beauty without being able to be in it beats you down.

I photographed right through it all, no big surprise, and got into some sets and subsets of things both new and visited before. One was is a stream running across the south beach and into the ocean, runoff from the marsh at Moshup Trail.

Patterns in the sand from the water and reflections on the surface. Remarkable. 

Are these something? I don't really know yet as I will need to work the files and make a few prints to be able to tell.

Being compulsive means I trekked up there six different days, a considerable hike a mile or so down the beach at Philbin to get to it. I tried photographing this with a tripod and without, used a PC lens to get the planes more parallel, went on diferent days with a long lens and a wide lens and with  Sony and Nikon cameras, with flat light and contrasty days. I learned to go after it had rained as two or three days of no rain and the stream trickled off to almost nothing.

I went up in a plane this past week for an hour flight with good light and the leaves just coming out on the trees.  We went up about 3 pm, late for me, but one of the pilots I work with flies over from Nantucket.  In the morning it was far too windy so we waited and the wind calmed somewhat.

Note: these are not finished files, but pretty much as they come out of the camera as RAWS.

We flew from the Aquinnah end of the island over to Noman's Land, a small restricted-access island a couple of miles off the south shore. The island was used for bombing practice by the military for many years and there is unexploded ordnance scattered around, hence the prominent"No Trespassing " signs.

I first made aerials here ten years ago and, in fact, it was the first of the Massachusetts islands I made pictures of.

Why go again? The technology has changed. The files I am making now are leaps above the files I made back then. Higher resolution, greater dynamic range and a color engine far more subtle and nuanced. In optics, the 70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor lens I use now for aerials is two generations improved from ten years ago and it shows. These are excellent files.

What else? I tried to mimic the series of the fishing village Menemsha I had made last year but couldn't pull it off. Perhaps someone else could work to make good pictures here offseason. But for me it seemed disrespectful and cruel. Menemsha is not a pretty sight in early May in the rain and the wind and the cold.

There are a couple of trees I photograph each time I go to the island. They are in Chilmark and are old friends.

As we are now in production for the next show at the Harvard Ed Portal opening in late June, the new Martha's Vineyard pictures will have to be put aside for now.

But let me make this statement and challenge: the body of photographs of mine from Martha's Vineyard over a long career begun in the late 60's is significant and important and should be looked at by curators and/or editors for increased exposure. Not only does the work encompass a survey of some of the massive changes to the island over the past 50 years it also tracks the evolving aesthetic, comprehension and refinement of this career artist. What better place to work over a whole career than an island? 20 or so miles of land surrounded by water means finite content, a place that is a microcosm divorced from much of the rest of the world but also part of it.

Any takers?

Topics: Color,Black and White,New Work,Digital,Northeast

Permalink | Posted May 27, 2019

Salton Sea 2 Part 2

Continuing and finishing a look at the Salton Sea 2 series made in 2012. 

The Salton Sea, a simply incredible place, as if from another planet. The soil crunching under my feet and turning to powder at my step.

The "sun behind the pole" trick used here with some slight band of color where there's water in the background.

The first photograph in the series with a preponderance of color, some kind of fetid and polluted pond that stunk. The lens is now taking a larger role here. Push a wide angle lens down and verticals bow out.

Back to our original structural device... long, blacked-out rectangular windows and here just a hint of the pond through the building, in color. This is one of those where the actual the print (at 22 inches across) makes a huge difference. Everything is probably too small here to see the subtlety.

Moving on we turn to the right and find another expanse of what looks like devastation:

and 180 degrees:

showing the mountains in the far distance.

This photograph brings us to another abandoned structure, shot square onto the   pointed edge of the building, a clear divergence from all the others which were made as parallel plane photographs. Another pond coming up, seen through the window, is shown full frame next.

I think of this image as being the most brutal, as this pond filled with some unimaginable liquid that looks viscous, fills the frame.

Then next to the series only vertical, back to where we started from

Then to the last two images in the series, when exhibited put side by side to each other, the same file printed twice:

with the black and white image conforming to the rule that says water is color, over there on the far right of the frame, a judgement call on my part and not without controversy as some feel the print should be all black and white.

I didn't so much mind breaking my own convention as I wanted to try to prove the efficacy of the device I used. 

By showing these two in this way I wanted to present the series as yes, from the otherworldy Salton Sea and its altered reality but also to drive the point home that I was using this work as a vehicle to make a statement about contemporary photography and how the rules ordering the use of color and black and white are no longer in effect. Photography has advanced in maturity to a "no rules" system where anything goes, much as all art has. So much of present-day photography either ignores precedent or its maker is unaware of what was made before or doesn't care.

On a more personal level, although often thought of as a conventional landscape photographer, I am not. In this case, I sought to use this place as a canvas. My palette is black and white and color. I've chosen to make my painting."Take em or make em", we say. Let your photographs come out the way the tools and technology choose or impose your own ideas and construct in your work.  Salton Sea is not a conventional landscape series of photographs for I am using where I was as a vehicle or platform for what I chose to do to it. 

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

Permalink | Posted May 17, 2019

Salton Sea 2 Part 1

I've produced a few bodies of work from the Salton Sea in Southern California. I'd suggest researching it if you don't know what it is. It is unlike anyplace I have ever been.

At any rate, my series from it, called Salton Sea 2 was made in 2013 while I was living in Yuma, AZ  for much of the winter. 

The full series is on the site: here

Let's start here:

#1

A defining photograph and a straight conversion from the color RAW file to black and white. This series is made with the Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 lens. We will see its signature look later in the series. This is a "walk around" group of pictures, in that the sequence of the photographs is dictated by the path I took through this abandoned and desolate landscape. Note the sheer brilliance of the light. Bright sun and a cloudless sky were important as this helped to convey an otherworldliness to the photographs. What a severe photograph this is and so expansive, pulling back to a distant horizon in the dried out lake bed of the Salton Sea.

In post-production three months later I had a few decisions to make. What size prints would I make, what paper to print on, how contrasty the prints should be, but what really took time was the work to make these photographs reside as both black and white and color simultaneously. Gimmick? Too tricky? Perhaps, but let's not get ahead of ourselves. 

#2:

I have moved to the left and made a similar picture in structure to the first, although I have gotten a little closer. This time the lens flared in the upper left corner.  I am okay with that. I like the dark rectangles created by the busted out windows and doors. BTW: We will not see any life, any movement, anything living at all in the series. The Salton Sea is death.

#3

The same building now from in front, 180 degrees turned, sun at my back now but still working in the same language of these rectangles of blacks contained in shadowed areas. This is the first picture in the series that really shows us the extent of decay in the landscape. Next, we go to something different.

#4

So, what's this, now? Rantoul gone off his meds? Well, maybe but this picture will establish a rule and we will adhere to that structure throughout the series until the last two pictures. Water, where it exists, will come through in color. Why? To drive home just how twisted this place is, to emphasize the polluted and fetid nature of what water we do come across, and to shock. Note: I did not alter the color of what water there was or push its saturation levels in the Salton Sea series.

We should stop here as this will be a multi-part examination of the Salton Sea pictures. But let me finish Part 1 by writing a little more of my rational. 

Looking at the history of the medium as an artistic expression we see that in earlier years there was only black and white, then by the late 1920s, Kodak introduced color. Art was still made in black and white for many years thereafter, color was more for illustration and advertising. Along comes Stephen Shore (and Eliot Porter a little earlier) in the mid 70's and rocks the art world by making art in color with an 8 x 10 view camera in a manner similar to what Walker Evans had done in an earlier generation.  Now, we had two tracks, art in black and white and art in color, defined as distinct vehicles of expression. Never to mix, nor would black and white and color be shown together or even be in the same portfolio box together. There were color photographers and black and white photographers, color exhibitions and black and white exhibitions. You get the idea. Now, all that has changed.  We see both interchangeably. So, this series and another one called Grain Silo from the previous year use color selectively within the sequence of photographs. The tactic is to draw attention to the history by showing how so much has changed and to reference how we perceive photographs in the two manners, black and white and color. I believe that photography is, among other things, largely a comparative medium, one thing drawing attention to another and this is a device to do just that.

Next up? Salton Sea 2 Part 2

Topics: Color,Black and White,desert pictures,Digital,West

Permalink | Posted May 14, 2019

Snow

The third chapter in the book called Trees, Sand and Snow published in 2017.

The series is on the site here.

 Introduction to the chapter:

Snow
I was a little shaken by the power of the two groups of pictures I’d made on Martha’s Vineyard that day. When back home in Cambridge, a few hours away from the island, I did what I have done so many times before: I worked the files. This simply means getting the pictures I made into the computer, working on them with a few types of software and printing them. The room I do this on at my home looks out on my condo’s tiny back yard and over a fence into my neighbor‘s, which is larger. One afternoon a few days before Christmas, as I was working on the photographs I’d shot from Squibnocket, I looked up from the computer monitor to see that it was snowing. This was the first snow of the season and, as it was cold, it was coming down in small light flakes.
I always love the first snow in New England, the clean smell of the air, the quiet it brings. As the snow started to stick and accumulate I started thinking about where I might go photograph that afternoon. I am still in a place where I am so appreciative of having this freedom to just get the camera and go whenever I want. I’ve been retired from teaching for 5 years. At any rate, I headed just a mile or so away to the City of Cambridge’s skate park, a new park for the city and built under the elevated Rt 93 as it comes down into Boston, across the river. I’d been photographing the park for some time, both with people using it and not. I knew this day with the snow sticking no one would be there.
I arrived and the snow was slowly building up to cover everything and make the form, steps, ramps and curves disappear under its blanket. But not yet.
I started to work, much in the way I had photographed the laid bare sand at Squibnocket two weeks before. Just as I did then, I photographed the overall and then moved in to look at the small. Here I had to be careful and plan my approach so as to not find my footprints in my pictures. Pristine and pure, the skate park was becoming increasingly obscured by the snow falling. Time again played a part in the making of these pictures, the contrast of the exposed beach being covered over by the rising sea and the skate park disappearing under the blanket of snow. Just as the ocean had receded to show the sand below the snow was drifting down from above to cover the skate park that afternoon in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Time is a big concept in photography because often we freeze it in a fraction of a second to stop time and motion or spread it over a period of seconds or minutes to blur or make our pictures spread through time.

In conclusion, these three chapters called Trees, Sand & Snow exist due to time’s prevailing place in all things we do in this life on this planet. Reaching 70 years old, looking back at my career as a teacher, an artist and a father, the pictures I made on Martha’s Vineyard and Cambridge stand for me as symbols of, quite simply, the character of time through life.

Once again we start out with a wide perspective on a place:

Then move in to find hard concrete covered with the softest of light powdery snow, the metaphor of the uncovered sand two weeks before on the Vineyard inescapable, time doing its thing once again.

The shortest time period of all three bodies of work, all soon to be obliterated as the snow continued to fall, water in this different state but not so unlike the water covering the sand on the beach that day as the tide rose.

So, to finish these three posts: I had never made a book or, in fact, a portfolio of photographs quite like this, three disparate series of pictures connected by something like the way time was effecting each. Furthermore, it was up to me to write explaining  what it was that I was doing, for I wasn't confident the reader would find the connections I was making without some help.  Writing and photographs, not my favorite combination, for I much prefer the photographs standing on their own. But turning 70 years old gave me a little license to stretch my work and push it towards something less known. 

I am most curious about how this work is received by you, my readers. Let me know, here.

And thanks for reading and subscribing.

A word about the status of the book. The bad news is the first edition is now sold out. The good news is that we are about to go into a second printing, with a couple of edits as improvements. We can take your orders via email to: Book Orders. The book will be signed and numbered. It will be $36.00 plus shipping.

Topics: New England,Color,Digital,Northeast

Permalink | Posted May 5, 2019

Sand

The second chapter in the 2017 book called Trees, Sand and Snow.

The full series is: here.


The chapter starts with this introduction:

Sand
The same morning I’d driven to Chappaquiddick to make the “Trees” pictures I rode the ferry back to Edgartown and drove up island to the beach in Chilmark on the south shore called Squibnocket. The access to the beach is from a parking lot that sits right above it. Chilmark has two town beaches on the south shore, this one and Vincent’s Beach, famous for being nude at one end and one of the most beautiful beaches along the New England seacoast.

I wasn’t at Squibnocket to make pictures, but to give it a look, to visit an old friend, to watch the waves coming in and out and as a way to complete the sense that I was on the island, here for just the day before and this one in early December.

But things were different this day as the tide was unusually low, there was no wind and much of the sand was exposed, with small rivulets of water working their way down to the ocean at dead low tide, lower than I’d ever seen it.
Then ensued an internal battle with myself. After getting out of the car and standing above the beach looking down, seeing how special this really was, acknowledging that this beach laid bare was exceptionally beautiful and rare, I went back to the car, determining that this was too much, too cliched, too overdone as a topic for me to play a part. But then, in doubt, I went back to my perch to look down again and realized I’d be a fool not to have at this, to at least try to photograph this unusual exposing of a beach I’d been visiting since I was one year old.

So I did. I got my camera, headed down the stairs to the beach below and started photographing. As has happened so many times before, a world opened up for me.
These things, this way of photographing in series, forming a narrative, has a beginning and an ending too. Generally it is important to set the stage, to show something of the overall, then to move in to show details and make pictures that make analogies to bigger things by being of small parts of the whole. There were planal considerations to work with too, for all of what I photographed at the beach that day was at my feet, spread out in a wide expansive “ground” of sand and rocks and water. Although looking timeless, the characteristic of all that was before me, this world of incredible beauty and richness would soon be covered up by the ocean itself weighed on me as I worked. In fact, by the time I was finishing much of what I had photographed only an hour two earlier, was gone.

In this second chapter we have a different sense of the temporary, an extremely short life span of a tidal cycle compared to one of a time we can dream of but not witness, the life of the stunted oak trees back at Wasque. One, a beach on Martha’s Vineyard, laid bare due to the effects of the moon and sun’s gravitational pull on our planet and the other, a stand of trees nearing the end of their lives early due to erosion. One, measured by the span of a few hours and the other, by decades or perhaps centuries, we don’t know.

You can understand my reservation at making these pictures. As cliched as sunsets, cemeteries and babies. But I plunged right in.

But what a powerful metaphor this was. This sand laid bare by an exceptionally low tide in December. From the trees that would fall into the sea someday to this incredible beauty swept away in an hour or two.

Of course, writing this now over two years later my perspective has shifted. With that distance, are these pictures as emotionally charged now as they were back then? Are they no longer loaded with the back story of the rising tide, impermanence, the sense of impending loss? As it turns out, yes they are. 

I wonder if you feel it too?

Next up: the third and final chapter from the Trees, Sand and Snow book called, Snow.

Topics: New England,Color,Digital,Northeast

Permalink | Posted May 3, 2019