Last week brought some welcome rain to Point Reyes. We’ve been suffering from a drought that has all of us carefully watching our water usage. This rain freshened the air, brought the birds out and created lots of smiles on main street! I broke away from the studio to explore the Nicasio Reservoir. No, the water level didn’t rise appreciably, but the sky was filled with beautiful post-storm clouds and the light was gorgeous. Here’s one of the photographs I made using the panorama feature on my new Sony A7R camera. Click the image to see a larger version.
In the 1990s my wife and I lived in the village of Olema. A half mile from our home, on Olema Hill, is the northern terminus of the Bolinas Ridge Trail. The trail rises steeply past beautiful northern overlooks of the valley below. I’ve spent many happy afternoons hiking there with my camera. When I think of a view that says “summer hills and Marin County,” I think of a photograph I made there on a June afternoon in 1998.
One day, around the summer solstice in 1998, the evening light beckoned me. I gathered my photo gear and drove up Olema Hill to the trailhead. A short hike up to my favorite spot, a rocky out-cropping, provided the panoramic view I sought. Spread out before my camera’s lens was the valley, bordered by Tomales Bay and the Inverness Ridge to the west and the lush knuckle-like folds of Black Mountain to the east. The light was gorgeous and I was in my favorite spot! As the sun dropped lower it back-lit the undulating hills, adding drama and dimension to the scene before me. I made several exposures with my view camera. Later after proofing the film in my darkroom, I identified negative #17 as the most evocative of these exposures. This piece of film was beautiful. It captured many of the feelings I have about the splendor of these rolling hills we live among. I titled my new image Tomales Bay and Black Mountain.
Making a print that expressed the beauty of this moment turned out to be daunting. Over the years, I’ve worked hard in my darkroom, laboring to express the beauty I saw that day. I made several good ones, which collectors acquired, but many more went into the recycle bin. After a while I gave up trying to make that print and stopped showing it in my gallery.
Flash forward to 2012. That year I re-tooled, changing my printing methods from the wet darkroom to digital pigment prints made in a fully lit room. I began scanning my original film negatives. As I became more experienced with the new technology I discovered that these new scans were yielding much more expressive prints than were possible in the darkroom. My spirits were buoyed when I revisited the scan of Tomales Bay and Black Mountain. The scan revealed subtleties in the film never before visible. Finally I was able to make the print I always wanted, true to the lighting I saw and the feelings I had on that summer evening in 1998.
Recently, one of my clients requested a large triptych for her new home. The design required we work from one of my existing singular images and divide it into three large vertical panels that would be framed separately. In searching through possible candidates, we settled on Tomales Bay & Black Mountain. There was no question that it was the strongest option. It worked fabulously as each panel has a strong element of interest, yet together it flowed as one piece of art. Her version hangs proudly in her Manhattan home. This week, I made the first version for display in my gallery. This one is in a single large 30×40″ frame, with a triple window cut in the mat. I call the triptych Olema Hill Triptych, but it’s also known as Tomales Bay & Black Mountain Triptych.
Although the single image version is still one of my favorites, personally, I prefer the triptych view – – it makes it feel more expansive and draws me to look at each panel in detail while still retaining a sense of the overall image. As always, I welcome your comments. Please let me know which of these versions is your favorite and why.
This last Monday afternoon I found my mind wandering as I worked on a catalog of my photographs. I became drowsy and decided It was time to either take a nap, or go for a walk. I remembered the trail to Shell Beach and gathered my camera gear to head out for a stroll.
Just north of the village of Inverness is a beautiful forested trail. It winds down a hill to Shell Beach, an intimate and sheltered cove favored by the natives. Sunlight filters through the dense canopy, spot-lighting fern stands and other foliage in this rain/fog forest. In May, I had photographed the beach on a couple of early mornings, re-discovering its charms after a decade’s absence. Now I’d returned for a quiet walk, this time, in the afternoon. I brought my camera along in case the forest light was enticing. It was. Here are a few photographs I made with my IR-converted Panasonic camera as I walked up and down the trail to Shell Beach. Click on the images to access the larger versions.
From time to time I’m moved to hold a sale of my framed inventory photographs. Due to the nature of my work, I periodically outgrow the space I need to exhibit and store my photography. Currently-hung work must come off the gallery walls to make space for the new creations. Because of this, many fine pieces must go into storage and then remain invisible to visitors of my gallery. Out of sight… out of mind. so, I’m announcing a deep-discount sale because I want these photographs to find homes, and I must clear the gallery walls to show my new works. It makes no sense for me to dilly-dally with the discount. Hence, I offer a 50% discount so we all can get something we want.
My assistant and I spent the week photographing my inventory of framed photographs, including the ones currently hanging on my gallery walls. We built a web gallery of the 40+ artworks and have put the pre-sale access here: 50% OFF SALE. If you’re one of the lucky readers who subscribe to my email newsletter or this web blog, you now have advance access to this sale. Whatever is left will be moved down to my gallery and offered to the general public during a 4-day event holiday event: May 23-26, Memorial Day Weekend. You can come to the gallery then to see what’s left, or you can act now to secure your favorite from the online preview.
The photographs come from several exhibitions of my work over the last few years. There’s a variety of styles including classic landscapes, barn interiors, infrared and macro abstract work. Here are just a few of the 40+ photographs included in the sale:
(Click any of these to see its enlarged version)
There’s been much talk lately about the demise of the photographic print and the rise of its would-be replacement, the electronically presented digital image. Some will tell you that the battle is already over and that soon there will be no printing and no prints. After all, they say, we already view most of our photographs on laptops, tablets, or, lordy-me, our smart phone screens. I’ll admit that back-lit, digital photographs viewed on today’s lcd screens are stunning, but I’m not ready to write the obit for the traditional photographic print.
Although the trans-illuminated image and the photographic print each inform and communicate, they affect us in fundamentally different ways. The electronic image is powerful but transitory, depending on electrical charges to exist. It’s elusive, like a dream that’s gone when we awaken. On the other hand, the photographic print is tangible and persistent. We can feel it’s solidity, sense it’s presence. It is there when we want it, accessible as long as there is light. Each serves different purposes–one represents art, the other is art.
Prints are a feast for our senses, whether framed, jewel-like, behind glass, or available to hold and touch from their folders and boxes. I love the way they feel in my hands, their weight and texture. I even enjoy their signature scents. It’s good that they’re still there when I walk in a room and look up at the wall. I also like knowing that I am looking at the image the way the artist wanted me to see it. I just feel more connected to prints than I do to the digital images that appear and disappear on my computer screen.
Nevertheless, digital images on my lcd screen are indispensable to my work. I use digital imaging both for the creation and representation of my artwork. I know that these electronic images are not the actual art, but rather the processing tools for the finished pieces, my prints. And it is deeply satisfying to express my feelings and thoughts using this technology to create real and enduring artifacts. I keep clear the distinction between digital image and print, not confusing one for the other.
I love the fact that these digital images do become tangible–appearing in a book, a folio, or a frame–for us to see, hold and touch. And, over time, the enduring presence of a tangible print on our wall, will grow with us in a way that a fleeting image can’t.
So, the next time you reach into your wallet to fish out that precious photo of someone you love, be glad that we still have and can make photographs on paper. It’s a tradition that isn’t going to go away anytime soon!
MUSINGS ON THE CREATIVE PROCESS
Finding Your Photograph:
Going Deeper by Slowing Down
I believe that the creation of an expressive photograph is born from a dance between the rational and the intuitive. Each faculty is fundamental to and inseparable from the creative effort. Both the heart and the mind must participate if the photograph is to have enduring value… to express something deeper than the mere surface of things.
I know from first-hand experience that making an expressive photograph through sheer will-power alone is not easy. I’ve learned that my ability to discover and express what I see and feel works best when I let go of my willfulness and preconceived ideas. I set aside a specific time for creative connections to occur. I try to slow down to connect more deeply with what I see. It may be difficult to let go during this time, but I know that if I do, the creative rewards can be richly fulfilling.
To create, I need time to wander, with no pressing family or work obligations. I’ll set off slowly, exploring my back yard, or perhaps I’ll walk around the neighborhood, or amble around at a nearby natural location. This is not a time for multi-tasking, so I don’t try to do any cardio-vascular working out at this time! I empty my mind, forgetting any ideas of what I might or should photograph. Sometimes I’ll leave my camera behind, and “photograph” with my eyes, making a mental note to return with camera if something beckons. This working without my camera can open up new ideas. I see things I never noticed when I had my camera glued to my forehead. When I do carry my camera, I keep it tucked away in the bag, and resist making any photographs, unless something calls out — strongly. When that happens it’s a little like falling in love… creative juices begin to flow. My response comes more from my heart than my brain.
Everything slows down. I approach the object of my interest with care and respect. I become fascinated, drawn. I become involved, sensing that my participation is being requested. I offer my undivided attention. I approach slowly, moving up for a closer look. Still no camera, I simply use my eyes, moving my body into various positions checking the changing shapes, perspectives and relationships of things to each other as I move side to side, close and away. It is during this time that I will decide whether I will make a photograph.
I rarely make a photograph based on the very first way I see something. There’s something about spending the time, delighting in seeing the various aspects, a prelude to deciding on a composition. This is where I really get to see! Something of me, my connection to this scene, has a chance to arise as I explore in this way. And this is where art has a chance to occur– A collaboration of the scene and my reaction to it that I hope will become embedded and expressed in my photograph. When the process works, these feelings and thoughts will also come across to the viewer of the image.
Now it’s time to take out the camera
Catching the moon before the sun goes down
Last night, I went with two other photographers to photograph the moon as it rose above the hills east of the Nicasio village square. In a break from my normal routine, I had agreed to take my students out two full days before the day of the 100% – illumined moon. In the past, it had been my custom to teach the moon workshop just one day before full. Going out a day earlier meant that the moon would clear the tall hills behind St. Mary’s Church before the sunlight disappeared from the foreground. With the small class, I was able to find some time to capture some images of this strikingly photogenic moon and place. Click on the images for enlarged versions.
For those who like to know some of the technical details, I used my Sony Nex-7 with its kit zoom lens (18-55 focal length). Also, because a student needed to borrow my tripod, I did something that I never recommend: I shot hand-held with SteadyShot turned on!
Wetlands Barn Interiors folio released
Last night’s moon photo session was a welcome celebration as I had just finished printing the first signed, numbered copies of my new Wetlands Barn Interiors folio. This 12-print fine art collection had taken up many hours over the last several weeks. There’s special discounting available for you until May 15th, more info, and ordering page at the link above. Also, I’ve put together a free downloadable PDF Folio version for your preview. It too links back to the main folio page. Enjoy!