Topic: New Work (36 posts) Page 1 of 8

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

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

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: West,Digital,Colorl,New Work

Permalink | Posted November 28, 2018

Utah Day 3

Yesterday was remarkable. I left Moab early and drove about an hour to Thompson Springs to revisit a town I'd photographed in 2010. Little had changed. The series is here.

From there I drove east on 70 to Green River which I will write about later then on to Hanksville, and then west to Factory Butte, where I spent the rest of the day.

Something from another planet. Factory Butte is close to a wasteland of epic proportions. In fact, it is an"Authorized Play Area" allowing all sorts motorized vehicles to do whatever they like to it.

I had photographed here before. It is safe to say that this one place was the key motivator for me to come on this Utah trip in the first place.

Factory Butte itself is difficult to describe. Thanks to the miracle of photography I can let the pictures show you.

I will stop here as it is getting lighter out and I want to be back at Factory Butte for early morning light.

Topics: Color,New Work,Digital,Southwest

Permalink | Posted November 6, 2018