27 February 2007

Can't see the forest for the trees

Sorry about the long silence. I was away for a few days without access to my computer, and this week I seem to have hit one of those bottlenecks that come up every so often in my life where all the things I committed to weeks ago (unaware they were all going to pile up on me in one week) converge. It's days like today when I sometimes feel I can't see the forest for the trees. I'm so focused on all the tasks on my to-do list that I need to get done that I forget why I'm doing it all. I need to step back and get some perspective.

However, the fact remains that on top of three other deadlines that are hitting me in the next few days, I just was reminded by a friend that she'd arranged for me to mount a solo photo exhibit in March at a local cafe in Vancouver. That means I now suddenly need to have 8-12 photos framed and ready to hang by Sunday or Monday! Eek! I knew it was coming up in March or April, but I was vague about the actual dates, and wasn't sure it was really a firm commitment I'd made. I guess it was. Oh well. Here come some late nights... And I probably won't be posting again here for another week. But hope to get back to some more regularity after that.

17 February 2007

Working in Black & White

Rocks at Lynn CanyonI don't often shoot in black & white, but there are certain subjects which I enjoy exploring mono­chromatically -- specifically those where the texture and form are more important than anything else about the image. Rocks in riverbeds are one such subject.

I went for a hike with a friend last summer up at Lynn Canyon, in North Vancouver. We hiked down to the water, downstream from where it flows spectacularly under the suspension bridge. There I experimented with taking photos in monochrome on my camera which has a setting for that. I've read since that it's better to shoot in color and turn the images into monochrome after the fact in Photoshop, but I'm not sure I agree with that 100%. It is true, you might decide that you want a color image after all, and if you'd taken it in monochrome to begin with, there's no way to get the colors back. But I think that if you learn how to see in monochrome, a skill which the immediate feedback in monochrome on a digital camera will help develop, you will take better black & white photos. I can't claim to have honed this skill yet, as I don't shoot in B&W often enough. But now that it is so easy to change on the fly with my Canon 5D, I think I'll be doing more of it.

15 February 2007

Beauty in Decay

Farnham Mill, Cheshire, MAThis is a photo of the old Farnham Mill in Cheshire, Massachu­setts, built circa 1885. A lot of New England towns were mill towns, and the skeletons of their former industry are sprinkled along rivers and country roads. Some have been refurbished and turned into cute little malls with touristy shops. Others have been left to decay and return to the dust from whence they came. This one belongs to someone who appears to be involved in the arts and non-profit organizations in the Berkshires, so maybe she has some plans for it up her sleeves. (It'a amazing what you can find out with a clever Google search!)

In spite of its poor condition, actually because of it, I find this shell of a building quite photogenic. I'm not the only one who does. I discovered that local Berkshire photographer Thom Smith has photographed it and calls it his favorite mill. I saw his photo of it in an exhibit he had at the Berkshire Medical Center when I was there in December. I credit him with the identification of the name of the mill. It's interesting how different photographers can take such very different photos of the same subject. Thom had the advantage of more saturated colors due to the season of the year, but I had the barren trees to reinforce the theme of deadness and decay. I'll leave you to decide which one you like best.

11 February 2007

Gannet domestic violence

Now you see the real reason why gannets build their nests just beyond pecking distance from each other! This one seemed a bit angry that its space was encroached upon. Or maybe it was a couple having a marital spat. See how the others are looking on to see what all the fuss is about.

On Friday I just dropped off two framed enlargement prints of two photos which I've featured here on the blog ("Jesus of the Hoops" and "Faith of a Child") for the annual Regent Community art exhibit at the Lookout Gallery at Regent College. The exhibit opens next Wednesday.

I also am psyched that I finally bought a mat cutter for myself, a Logan 750 SimplexPlus. I took a matting and framing course last year, but have not until now been able to really do the whole process myself at home.

09 February 2007

More gannets, and still more gannets!

Austral­asian gannets space their nests evenly apart, just beyond pecking distance from one another. It was quite a sight to behold -- hundreds of gannets sitting on nests on this cliff ledge. I had a pretty good view of it looking down from above where the trail climbed to a point higher up on the bluff. This was taken with a 70mm focal length.

05 February 2007

Watery flower

That title reminds me of the ever-changing anagram sign in the Fawlty Towers TV series. You gotta see it.

Anyway, I never did get a satisfactory answer on what this New Zealand flower is. It might be some sort of orchid-like gladiolus hybrid (Gladiolus callianthus crossed with something else).

02 February 2007

Gannet in flight

I'm waiting for the ID of another New Zealand flower photo I wanted to post tonight, so instead I'll go back to gannets. I will let you in on a little secret. The sky was totally grey and boring on the day I shot this. So the sky in this photo is painted in with Photoshop using the gradient tool. Not bad, eh? You'd be hard-pressed to find any artifacts from the editing. I used the smudge tool to touch up the edges where the sky met the bird in a couple of places where it was obvious (where the bird's color contrasted least with the sky color, i.e., around his tail and at the back of his head/neck).

My photographer friend Paul Butzi says you can learn about the world through doing photography, and that's one of the main reasons he does photography. I learned some things about gannets by photographing them that day at Muriwai Beach, though to really learn more about them, I'd need to spend days around them photographing them. And I also think one needs to supplement the photography with something else, some sort of research into what other people have learned about them and how they have classified them. For example, I'd really like to know what those white feathers are called at the trailing edge of his wings, near the root of the wing (inside where the black feathers start). I'm sure there's a name for them. There seems to be a name for everything biological. I wanted to describe to you how that was one of the edge spots that I edited with Photoshop, but I didn't know the word to use. I could look it up in one of my birding books, but they are all still packed away from my move. If anyone happens to know the word, please post it here in the comments. I did a quick search in Google, but this chart I found doesn't seem to give me the answer that I think must exist.

01 February 2007

A rose by any other name...still has aphids

Click on the photo to view the full-size version so you can see the little critter below the largest drop of water near the center of the photo. This was taken with a 200mm lens and a macro filter.

This could be from anywhere, but it happens to be New Zealand. My Kiwi friend (who is also a photographer and a very wise person) pointed out, after seeing the photos I'd taken during the first couple of weeks of my trip, that most of the time I was focused on small things that could have been anywhere, and I wasn't really taking in my environment. I wasn't seeing. She was right, as I learned on another occasion when I was looking left and right for her in a field up ahead of me and she was right in front of me! I did shift my gaze during the remainder of the trip, to look up and around me at the trees and the landscape. But I still am primarily a close-up photographer, I discovered. I love the details, the things other people often don't see. You've probably figured that out by now if you've been following this blog for a while.


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