Saturday, February 25, 2012

Putting it all together

I'm sad that the Journey of Recognition course is over!  I've enjoyed every moment of the assignments and I will miss the regular connection with Kat and with others who are taking these steps to self discovery with a camera.  I've discovered some personal signposts on the road to finding my unique photographic eye.  For the final review I've just re-read my photo-journal entries and I see that I have taken some steps along this road.

A big step for me was recognizing that the subject mater of my photographs is irrelevant.  I can point my camera at just about anything and find something that I like to look at. I recognize now that anything I have an emotional or visual connection with is worthwhile.  For me the connection with my subject is the touchstone for all my journeys with the camera.  Once I see something that I connect with I can either absorb it into my visual memory bank or capture it with my camera.  If I have my camera with me I now know how important it is to take the time to get deep into the subject, to take the 150 images to find two or three that really resonate for me.

I've loved reading the words of other photographers.  Some of them have helped me clarify my own process.  Kathy Lieb said that taking photos helps us connect with our world.  This is so true.  23 June quoted an artist I'd never heard of before, Alvaro Castanet, who does incredible abstracted water colours.  He says that you start a painting at the moment you look at the subject.  I totally get it and it applies to photography too.  Beverly at Lavender Blue talks about the relaxed calm feeling or the surge of excitement when you click the shutter.  I feel this sometimes too and it tells me that I am being true to my own vision, being in the flow.

This is what I love; this is why I take photographs.  I've also been re-inspired to translate some of the images into water colours to get even deeper into them.

So, what next?  Well, I have begun the process of learning about my camera, how to vary exposure and use different apertures and shutter speeds to get the image to show what I see.  I have a long way to go with this as there is so much to learn.  But I am glad that I have started first on the road to finding my own eye, with feeling confident about capturing the image that speaks to me.  Perhaps it will speak to others, perhaps not.  In the end it doesn't really matter.  It's the connection with the subject that is the key for me.

Thank you Kat and all my classmates for making this a true journey of inspiration.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Trends and Photography

The latest assignment is to explore trends in a particular genre of photography using websites or other resources, then take a look at my inspiration file to see if there are any elements of these current trends and analyze how they may be influencing me. What an interesting process this will be, but it will have to wait until I am back home from my road trip, since I just don’t have easy internet access.
Like some others who have already posted on this topic, I am aware of some trends that arise out of photo editing programs.  I’m thinking of textures and layers and the holga lens effect.  While I enjoy seeing texture and layers in others’ photos, I really haven’t explored them myself.  It takes some effort to master to layering in Photoshop Elements, which is the program I have, but it’s also at home and not on the laptop that I’m using while we’re on the road.
I find the holga lens very interesting with its moody fade out and darkening around the edges. I’d like to see how some of my photos look with this effect.  And I will try it once I’m home and have access to my photo editing program.  I also notice that there’s a lot of bokeh around even in TV series and I’m attracted to that and would like to be able to master this effect.
It seems to me that we’re all influenced by trends in imagery, to some extent.  We’re  surrounded by so many visuals—on TV, internet, billboards, magazines, etc.  I enjoy looking at photographs of home d├ęcor and food and I see definite trends in this genre.  Also, landscape photography has moved away from what I think of as the classic “Ansel Adams” approach, although some photographers are returning to black and white and even using the big field cameras again to recreate that look. 
There are so many approaches and I am grateful that Kat has suggested this exercise to show a possible way through the forest of trends to find my own eye. 
The blue highway at the top was taken from the car window after a storm in Nebraska. The church below is actually one in Taos that Ansel Adams photographed.  I don’t think he had any tree shadows in his, though.

This last one is from our recent trip to Tumacacori, an abandoned mission in Arizona.  I discovered the bokeh circles when I looked at it on my computer.  I have no idea how they got there, but I think they add a little mystery to the image.  Clearly I will have to find out more about creating this look. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Beneath the surface

I chose this photo from my inspiration file for today's exercise--to write about what comes up for me with this image.  I remember taking it from along the walk beside a river in the fall and loving the reflections of the autumn trees in the green river.  And it is pretty with the colours at the top that are like an abstract painting.  But if it was only the top half of the image, the surface without the depth, it wouldn't have the impact for me.

When I look at it and allow myself to be absorbed in the image, it speaks to me of dimensions, of the glimmering surface and of looking deeper.  Often in our lives we're entranced by the surface colours and the gleam.  These surface things bring pleasure, of course they do.  But without the depth of the running water and the shape and solidity of the rocks deeper down, we're just floating on the surface of life.  This photograph speaks to me of being whole, being connected to our deepest purpose--and at the same time reflecting the joy in universe and flowing with it.

In reflecting on this intuitive photo journaling process I have to say that I found it difficult.  I felt I was getting way too metaphysical or preachy.  I did feel a bit pressured to find meaning in a photograph.  This one is maybe too symbolic for the purpose.  And yet--I do know that we all have many dimensions that together make us whole.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Blue light

Our recent assignment was to do a photo shoot in a new light.  Looking at my inspiration file it became clear that the golden light of daylight and sunset was my preference so I decided to work with the blue light of very early morning. It’s not that I don’t like blue; in fact it’s probably one of my favorite colors, but it doesn’t show up often in my preferred images.  

We were camped at a lovely lake on the Colorado River so I got up well before sunrise on Thursday morning to see what I could come up with.  I walked around the lakefront for an hour or more freezing my fingers off but finding myself entranced with the silvery blue light.   I tried using my camera’s low light setting and also adjusting the exposures to see what worked best.  Some of the images were nice but too grainy for my taste.  I came up with a few that I really liked.  

During the photo session I found was really interested in the early pre-dawn light with the silhouettes.  At this point I was focusing more on landscape images. Then as the sky brightened and things became more recognizable I defaulted to my familiar macro mode. 

I found that I was more interested than usual in playing around with these images in my computer to make them have more contrast and saturation and get away from such a monochromatic look.  All of these images have been adjusted--but they’re all still very blue.

 At the end of the time (before my fingers became icicles) I was lucky enough to see a beautiful egret fly into the reeds.  This was a treat and I tried to capture him without too much success, as I don’t have much of a telephoto lens.  But as he flew away I was able to get this last image, which I’m pleased with too.  It also has undertones of blue.  

I actually like some of these photos better than the ones I took when we first arrived in the afternoon.  They have an entirely different mood.  This was an interesting exercise working in a new light and I’m going to try to push myself into other areas of unexplored light.

I'm sorry that I haven't been able to visit as many posts by other people in the class.  My internet access has been spotty so it's been tough to to get to all of them. In time I'll do so and comment as I find this is an important element of the learning.  

Monday, February 13, 2012

Seeing the image

This week's assignment in the online class has me thinking about what aspect of the photographic process inspires me most.  Kat has broken it down into nine categories from the intention to photograph through to receiving feedback.  I have to say that her analytic approach is very helpful to me because I’m not really one to analyze my process. 

Looking closely at it, I think for me the most exciting part is seeing a subject and exploring it with the camera.   Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if I actually take a photo.   

I’m remembering a trip we took to Greece way back in 1987 and seeing fields of stunning red poppies.  At that time I had a little tourist point-and-shoot camera and I wasn’t able to capture the images I saw because they were mostly out of the car window.  One memorable day we rented a motor scooter and I rode behind my husband through the flower-studded hills.  On one turn of the road the most gorgeous meadow was revealed and I managed to get him to stop so I could take a picture.  But my camera had run out of film and I didn’t get the shot.

I still have a memory of that field of poppies and last year when we traveled to Italy in June when the poppies were in bloom I was searching for it again.  I’ve never yet been able to find the image that I saw that day, although it remains in my head (or maybe my heart).  I did find a little painting done by an Italian artist that had the essence of the field and I bought a reproduction of it.   I’ve tried many times to catch the feeling of the poppy meadow and I still continue to be inspired by wild flowers in a field. 

I’m also remembering another time a couple of years ago when were exploring an old walled cemetery at a hacienda in Mexico.  An ancient woman with a long white braid and two beautiful children in traditional colorful clothing were placing bunches of flowers on a grave.  Much as I would have loved to take some photographs of them I just couldn’t interfere in that solemn moment.  Even from a distance it would have been seriously disrespectful.  But I have a memory of the solemnity and the color and the feeling of that brief time in the graveyard.  And I’m still inspired by headstones and flowers.

This photo was taken in the same graveyard and these roses and marigolds hold some of the mood of that memory.

Now that I have a digital camera I try to take it with me everywhere because I never know when I’ll see something that inspires me.  It could be the light through a leaf or the colors in a patch of moss or the sun slanting on the hills.  Lots of times when I’m out walking with the dogs I leave the camera at home because it’s too complicated to stop and take photos when it’s their time to walk and play.  And I still see things that I would like to photograph.  Sometimes I tell myself that I’ll go back and take the picture, but so far I haven’t done so. It seems to be enough just to recognize that I’ve seen the image as I walked by.

Of course I love to take the photograph and I really enjoy reviewing and cropping them and seeing how they look on my blog.  But for me the most inspiring thing about the photographic process is seeing the image and trying to find a way to capture its essence with the camera.   I know I'm in the flow when I find myself lying on the ground trying to get the light coming through the petals of the poppy.

Friday, February 10, 2012

An unfamiliar subject -- the motorhome

Our latest assignment is to do a photo shoot with an unfamiliar subject, something that we wouldn't normally photograph. Since I generally have nature as my subject I was looking for something man made.  I spent some time shooting an old house beside the service station in Grant's Pass where we were getting a little repair done on the motor home.  That was fun, but I realized that taking pictures of old houses is something I've done quite often so I decided on a really different subject for me.

So yesterday I pointed my camera at the motor home.  We've had this old vehicle for about ten years and have done quite a bit of traveling with it.  But up to now the only photos I've ever taken of it were the kind like this one where it's posed in front of some scenery on the road (here on the main street of Mount Shasta).

The idea of using the motorhome as a subject was entirely new to me.  I began with the inside, taking photos as we drove down the Interstate 5 in northern California.  I took about fifty photos and found myself drawn by reflections in the mirrors of the landscape outside and then as I got further into it,  closeups of the hardware.  I kind of like the colours in this one of the latch on the "no-draft" window, something that cars haven't had since the early 1908s.

Then this morning I really hit my stride, when I went outside to take pictures.  It was a softly overcast day with some drizzle but that didn't deter me.  This time I took 130 images.  As I moved closer and closer in I was completely absorbed by the abstract images I was seeing through my viewfinder.   It surprised me that I wasn't even seeing it as a vehicle anymore.  Just as a way to finding abstract designs.  I've realized that it actually doesn't matter what subject I select, I can find things that draw my eye.

Starting with relfections of trees in the upper window.  (Of course I would be drawn to the tree silhouettes.)

Then again I got mesmerized by reflections and abstractions.  There water droplets everywhere and the chrome reflected the colours in the poncho I was wearing.  I really like the images where you can't tell what it is you're looking at.

This one reminds me of a kind of creepy smile showing rotten teeth!

These last two are more recognizable.  The first is the door handle and the next part of the side mirror.  I like the reflections here too and the limited colour scheme.

What did I discover?  First that I love abstraction and reflections.  Also I'm drawn to limited colour palettes.  But most of all, I discovered that I can find these things in almost any subject. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Gallery influences

I didn't give this assignment as much time as I would have liked because we're getting ready for a road trip in our camper, leaving tomorrow.  But I did pop into a commercial gallery here that I haven't been to before.  It had a variety of work from big abstracts to landscapes, to cheery contemporary charming paintings to small still life paintings.  Several things drew my eye.  Big soft abstracty landscapes, some quite subtle.  I didn't like the abstracts with red and black and white but the one in softer earthy tones really spoke to me.  (This photo was taken of a concrete wall in Mexico.  I have dozens of these "wall photos" but my favorites are the ones that look like soft abstracts.)

I also like the wall size abstracts in deep earthy red,  gold, oranges and blue with lots of texture contrasted with smoother areas. These paintings made me want to head straight home and get out my big brushes.

The one that really sits in my mind though is a small still life of a yellow pitcher sitting on a shelf in a beam of sunlight.  Rich and soft and simple with colours similar to this photo of my favourite coffee cup.  This kind lighting really pleases me.  

I also liked some of the smaller paintings in acrylic of still life scenes with fruit, flowers, tablecloths etc.  Very simple subjects handled in a variety of styles.  

I admire the way painters can make things soft and blurry or sharp and hard-edged.  With the camera we don't have quite that flexibility.  Although sometimes mist and shadows can help achieve that.

I've loved going through galleries for many years so this isn't new to me but as I walked out the door I was reminded of the very best thing about seeing art in a gallery.  As soon as you step out the door your eye sees paintings everywhere.  Right around the corner was a weeping tree with buds and the shadows showing sharp against a soft coral wall.  Just beautiful.  If only I'd had my camera with me.