Topic: New Work (38 posts) Page 1 of 8

Martha's Vineyard Fall 2019

I am at the end of 1 1/2 weeks on Martha's Vineyard. House guests, great food, a three day Nor'easter, some work on the place and a few efforts at making pictures, as I have been on my own for the past four days. Back to the mainland tomorrow.

If you remember, last spring while here, I worked at Philbin Beach, where a stream was running down into the ocean, especially after it rained. 

Some New Work

That stream this time, six months later, was not running down to the sea, but I found another one today, closer towards the clay cliffs:

Very often, after a storm, there is calm and today was exceptionally wind free. In contrast, this is what the south shore of the island looked like just a few days ago:

It was wild. The wind was coming from on shore so it whipped the water right off the top of the breaking waves.

There is a walkway to the beach from the parking lot at Philbin that is irresistible:

This isn't a camera review, but I did want to mention that I have been photographing with the Sony A7r mk IV this time here on the island and I am finding it really wonderful to work with. This is a far more mature and refined tool than the two previous versions. Mostly I am using the  24-105mm f4 lens.

The produce pictures are from the Farmer's Market in West Tisbury, the last market of the season.

I know, I am not breaking any new ground here but I am keeping my hand in and getting familiar with this new tool.

Edgartown

Trump made an appearance one morning at Lucy Vincent's Beach. No opinion, just the letters "Trump".

My friend Gail Hill was down from Toronto. Gail's a wonderful artist:

who greets you each morning on the Vineyard saying, "another perfect day in paradise."

And, you know, she's right.

I will miss the Vineyard until I return in the spring.

Topics: New England,Digital,Color,New Work

Permalink | Posted October 14, 2019

Wheat Two 2019

This is the second in a series of posts about some new pictures I made in Washington in June.

They are here.

By Day 3 I was in a groove. Get up and go shoot. Simple enough. I made good work over the next couple of days.

I was there to make pictures of the rolling wheat fields and that's exactly what I was getting at the end of each day.

The type of rental car is important as I spend all day in it, schlepping equipment in and out of it in an endless succession of setups and tear downs, day in and day out. This time it was a Kia Soul, a little box of a car that was perfect: great visibility, fun to drive and no fear about getting stuck or centered on back farm roads:

By Day 4 I was feeling as though I had begun to accomplish what I was there for.

I wasn't finished or completed by any means but I could afford to try some different approaches and stretch the principles a little. Hence this; the "Wheat Suite" as I call it, the effort to distill the work by photographing one area extensively

In this sub group there are 14 pictures, all made from the same vantage point. 

We play such a "selectivity" game as landscape photographers. What we choose to include in the frame verses what we exclude makes all the difference. Using a couple of longer lenses I varied how much was in and how much was out, longer for more        distance with more compression of the visual space. For much of my career I never used longer focal length lenses. Most view camera work doesn't use anything very long. It wasn't until I started working digitally in about 2006 that they came into play.  I was working on the Cabela's project (here) and I needed more reach to get at the taxidermy displays.

This one was a long reach across the store's showroom floor, compressing the mannequins into the same space as the taxidermy mountain in the background. This picture is one of the reasons I find photography so rewarding. 

By Day 4 I also started working with other subjects in the Palouse. This is rare as I usually stay mostly on topic. But some things just hit me and the acute islolation

of something like this corrugated barn, with the light modeling it so perfectly just stood out.  

Next up? We will continue with this series looking at the remaining days I had left to photograph and I will include some of the aerials I made on Day 5.

Your comments always welcome: Neal's Email

Topics: Wheat,West,Color,Digital,New Work

Permalink | Posted August 27, 2019

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

Permalink | Posted May 27, 2019

Going to Paradise-Day 1

Flight from Boston to San Francisco uneventful. Stayed in the Bay Area with my sister in El Cerrito then drove north to Paradise through the flat agricultural Central Valley filled with row after row of fruit and nut trees. Everything looking tinder dry and brown as I drove up the ridge into town. 

Initially, I wasn't sure I was seeing the effects of the fire, not until I noticed trunks of trees that were charred. Because of high winds a firestorm may be moving so fast it can leave trees singed but still standing. This is the case in Paradise, the site of California's worst fire on record. 

The Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history to date. The fire started on November 8, 2018, in Butte County, in Northern California. After exhibiting extreme fire behavior, an urban firestorm formed in the densely populated foothill town of Paradise.The fire caused at least 86 civilian fatalities, with 3 persons still missing, injured 12 civilians, two prison inmate firefighters, and three other firefighters. It covered an area of 153,336 acres , and destroyed 18,804 structures, with most of the damage occurring within the first four hours. As of November 19, insured damage was estimated to be $7.5–10 billion. The fire reached 100 percent containment after seventeen days on November 25, 2018.*

*Source: Wikipedia

First Impression

As I approached town, it quickly was clear where I was, as almost everything had burned.

The central street of the town sits along the top of a ridge and as I drove up the town's main street called Skyway the devastation is everywhere.

The Happy Garden Chinese Restaurant

A motel

Here I was just scouting, trying to grasp the extant of the damage, thinking what it must have been like, having to flee, Skyway Road backed up with vehicles,  homeowners and businesses alike, everyone evacuating, leaving everything behind, raging fires on either side. Some were trapped in their cars, gridlocked, some abandoned their vehicles and escaped on foot, nowhere to go and nowhere to escape. Imagine. The fire raging around you, looking like night in the middle of the day, your own town, propane tanks exploding, plastic signs melting, embers flying over you, the air thick with smoke. And the wind, fanning the fire, urging it on to the next and then the next, the fire raging through the town, consuming everything in its path. A nightmare.

Paradise, California, a town that doesn't really exist anymore.

I will be back again later this morning and am flying today to make aerials out of Chico Airport, the closest to Paradise. 

Topics: West,Color,Digital,New Work

Permalink | Posted January 3, 2019

What if?

What if a photographic artist went back to a place where he made work before? What if he was working within the overall definition of "landscape photography"? What if he took the opportunity to make the final prints a divergent opinion from what he had done before? 

That's what I am working on, as a recently turned 72-year old career photographic artist with close to a thousand separate printed portfolios of work made over my career. Another way to pose this is: what would be the point of going back to Utah to make the same pictures you made before?

Spoiler alert: I am looking at the trip through a different lens.


We all know we can do anything we like. We all know we have the freedom to express ourselves however we choose, the only penalty being how our work will be received. I am working on these files to  alter the subject more, to apply a more individualized set of controls, to interpret and direct more, rather than hang on to a factualized record of time and place.

I also made some panoramics, something I don't do often. Let me share with you how I do them and why.

Of course, there are two ways to make these. One, to simply crop a wide angle image top and bottom. The other is to shoot multiple frames, usually from left to right and then bring those files into Lightroom, Photoshop or another software to merge them all together. This has advantages and disadvantages but for me is the only way to go. A downside is that this then ends up being a very big file (this one is 830 mb, for instance). This takes some serious grunt and time for the computer to work through. But the fidelity and ability to make this a very large print is unsurpassed. I have one in my studio from Iceland that is 86 inches long!

Another approach I  am working on is to minimize the photograph in content and skew its colors to divorce it from reality. This is tricky as the work can be easily dismissed as gimmicky and contrived:

I have some history of doing this. Last winter's "Washed Out" from Malibu, CA made pictures that were distinctly not pretty (here). BTW: Washed Out are from the same canyons in Malibu that burned due to recent fires.

And finally, as I was at Thompson Spring a couple of times this trip, revisiting the site where I made the series

 Thompson Spring (2010)

I noticed the loudest and most prominent aspect in this almost ghost town was the train going right through at high speed.

So the RR line became a fascination:

Which, of course, I followed until the road ran out.

(I know, hard to see on your phone so small is the evidence of the RR track going though. This is a little easier in a 22 inch print.)

That's what I am working on so far and links you to my current thinking as well. This is a process that takes time, thought and perspective. And finally, and this is big, I am relying upon literally decades of experience as I sift through this new work. Past efforts are at play here, as I reference these pictures to ones made in Utah before and a broad array of my work, both from earlier analog days to current digital practice. I also have no interest in being repetitive. The very best part of having done this so long, I really know what I am doing. As well, the adjustment and configuring tools are so amazing these days that I find it a miraculous world of possibility and opportunity to explore, interpret and invent. Are you an artist or a documentarian? If the former, you really have amazing freedom of expression. Use it.

Topics: Southwest,New Work,Utah

Permalink | Posted December 2, 2018