Equipment Doesn’t Matter

IMG_4667 SEP blog copy Often when people see my photos, they want to know what kind of camera I use, as if the camera is what creates a beautiful image. The driving force behind art is the artist’s vision, not the camera. The best camera is the one you have with you, whether it is a top of the line Canon or a cheap disposable.

A photography mentor once said you should be able to make a single blade of grass visually interesting…a statement which reminded me of the late Richard Burton appearing on the Mike Douglas show and reading from the phone book. His beautifully expressive voice made even the boring wonderful to listen to.

This image was made with my camera phone. It really couldn’t be a more simple image…a nondescript rock in the water. But it is the subtleties in its capture that make is compelling to me. The rain was tapering off but occasional drips left overlapping concentric circles…I moved in closer so that the trees behind me were reflected in the foreground.

This image speaks to my personal connectedness to nature. It is a meditation on simplicity and the life I strive to live, seeing beauty around every turn, in every moment. It was my favorite image of an entire vacation, beating out everything taken with the expensive gear.

Making Time for Creative Play

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I’ve been working way too many hours lately. I have come to realize that there are always reasons NOT to engage in the play that lights your fire…which for me is photography. There is always work, taking care of the house, doing things for the kids, etc. I don’t always know when time to play will materialize and sometimes, when it does materialize, I have been unfocused about how to use that time when it does show up. Thus the lack of blog entries! Last fall, in a desperate attempt to have some fun, I posted to facebook that I needed some playmates for a photo adventure. And people showed up! With props, costumes, cameras and a real sense of play. My friend Anita donned a red cape that someone else had brought, took off her shoes on a really chilly morning and ran up these stone steps. We snapped away! Our eyes lit up and we laughed all morning long! Our creative energy fed each other in a special way and we all walked away feeling nourished regardless of the photos we captured. This past couple weeks I have been remembering back to that day and reminding myself that I can’t let these activities be the tiny cracks that fill into the big requirements of life. Creative play for me IS a requirement. The dishes can sit in the sink. My heart needs adventure.

What Draws You Back Again and Again?

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I recently visited Fonthill, the concrete and tile home of anthropologist and collector Henry Chapman Mercer. The folks here are adamant about no pictures on their tours…Don’t even try to sneak a cell phone picture. And I was once accosted outside and grilled about my intentions when I was taking a photo outside while using a tripod.  When a photographer friend of mine was offering a workshop there, I HAD to go back with the camera. The place is a complete visual feast…overwhelming in all there is to look at.

In our few hours in this special place, I kept coming back to this little nook above the fireplace with the skull tucked in. When I first spotted it, the light was much too harsh to get a nice shot…but I wandered back through the room several times, waiting for the light to soften. Then there are the processing decisions…color or black and white?

What makes an image evocative and compelling to you? What draws you back again and again trying to see the same image from a new angle and with a new set of eyes?

If I can get just one good shot: The Blacksmith

It has been a long time since I have posted a photoblog…and a long time since I shot today’s photo. At Christmas time here in Pennsylvania they re-enact George Washington’s crossing of the Delaware River with his troops. Only this year, the water level was too high and moving too swiftly, so there was no re-enactment. In addition to the costumed soldiers who do the crossing, there was a man working in the old blacksmith shop. The shop was dark and too full of spectators…but there was a moment that the light started to stream through an upper window…and the crowd in front of me started to disperse, and for a full 4-5 seconds, this scene appeared. It was the only “keeper” of the day.

Validating Your Vision?

It is important for artists to take risks and put their work “out there” in some form. I haven’t pursued gallery exhibitions or had shows of my work very often because my time as a single parent/entrepreneur is very limited…but every once in a while I enter a competition to seek validation from others that my way of seeing the world is appreciated. This week, this image of a bleeding heart, grown in my garden, received a first place award in the plants category. I also took first place in the people category for an image of a homeless man which I posted to this site a few weeks ago.

Many photographers see the world at a level of detail that others often don’t comprehend. Beauty is everywhere…and I collect evidence of beauty and, in the case of the homeless man, evidence of sadness that stirs me. I can’t turn on the wipers in the car until I photograph the droplet patterns on my windshield. I can’t shovel the snow until I first take a picture of its soft drifts. At times, it is hard to STOP seeing these details and get about the business of life. But seeing is what I bring to the world and it is why I love my job as a photographer and graphic designer.

What is Simplicity?

A recent blog post by a photographer friend talked about achieving simplicity, which I believe is a meaningful thing to strive for in art. Many photographers today use a dizzying array of post-processing tools and sexy filtering software to achieve an image that may be visually described as “simple.” My immediate reaction is that is NOT what simplicity is about to me.

I avoid heavy manipulation of images because I am Thoreau-like in my lifestyle. I like minimalism of effort not just appearance. I don’t want to live tied to the computer. This snow image appealed to me because it is profoundly simple with virtually no intervention. Appealing as shot, I chose one simple crop and a tiny levels correction to remove a color cast. The snow in shade already had this blue appearance.

I have watched digital photography and tools and toys evolve to a point where you can make the incredibly ho-hum into a sublime work of art. I am simultaneously intrigued and put off. HDR imagery to me already appears cliched. To me, beauty is in the inherent simplicity of the image as shot.

Pattern and Color

While working at my home office, I spied this cardinal sitting in a tangle of branches and vines across my backyard. The bird is a great distance away and I didn’t have a long enough lens and tripod handy to make this a full frame bird shot. But several things help this image work: the monochromatic tangle, the contrasting red and attention to the rule of thirds. We can’t always use the 400mm with telextender and sit in a bird blind, but there is still enough right with the image to make it pleasing.

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