Monday, April 21, 2014

I returned to Kingsley Plantation on Saturday to continue my essay on the slave cabins.  It was a relatively pleasant day, but there was strong sun.  I got quite sweaty during the hour or two I photographed and couldn't help remembering that slaves spent all day working in those conditions, and later in the season, far, far worse.  When I needed to, I stood in shade.  When they needed to, they couldn't.

Here's a passage by Solomon Northup who wrote Twelve Years a Slave in 1853.  He had been born a free man living in upstate New York until captured by slavers and sent south to be sold into bondage.  He had been a farmer and musician:  "Alas, had it not been for my beloved violin, I scarcely know how I could have endured the long years of bondage...it was my companion – the friend of my bosom – trumpeting loudly when I was joyful, and uttering its soft melodious consolations when I was sad. Often, at midnight when sleep had fled affrighted from the cabin and my soul was disturbed and troubled with the contemplation of my fate, it would sing me a song of peace."  It was difficult to copy the text so filled were my eyes with tears.  






Friday, April 18, 2014

My previous post offered two photographs taken at Washington Oaks SP.  The park has two parts: inland, where the arbored path was photographed and the beach where this photograph was made.  I was trying, without success, to photograph pelicans as they course up the beach from the south.  I did register them on film, but not well enough to keep.  But, this odd little breach in the small dune got my attention.  I detest those who, despite signs requesting them not to, walk and climb on the precarious dunes that are so very fragile.  Maybe this photograph will serve to show the consequence of ignoring the plea to stay off!  A reminder that hydrogen and stupid are the most common elements in the universe!



Monday, April 14, 2014

I met a couple of friends last week at Washington Oaks State Park.  We three had our cameras and took the path in the first picture that we each photographed.  For those with an interest in such things, I used a 45mm lens which is the equivalent of a 24mm lens on a 35mm film or digital camera.

After lunch, I returned by myself intent on making a photograph of the gnarly trees that line one side of the road to the beach.  I'm not happy with it because the palmettos were so pervasive I couldn't do the twisty trees justice, but without a machete and money for bail and a huge fine, there was nothing I could do. Perhaps there's a way to poison palmettos in the park???  ;-)





Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Here's another from 2001 at Tremen Glen.  I would have photographed it differently this year.  I'd have been more aware of the shape of negative space and the quiet links between male and female elements of this scene.  But, that said, I'm not displeased with what I was beginning to be visually aware of back then.  Waiting for the ultimate insight into the ultimate composition of the ultimate subject suggests that one's lifetime body of work will be one single photograph.  Not my goal!!



Monday, March 31, 2014

I spend a lot of time looking at the photographs of other people whom I admire.  I sometimes wish I were able to easily visit visually interesting places that are very different from here. The photographers I like a lot travel all over the place, but also find their own backyards worth recording.  I am trying to do that too, as I have and continue to do with Kingsley Plantation.  But, looking back over old negatives is almost like taking a trip to make pictures that I couldn't have made from here, or from our house in New York.  This one is a detail of one of the many falls at Tremen Glenn in the Finger Lakes region of New York.  I may have posted it here a long time ago, but even so, it's been redesigned by cropping, and toning in the way I've been doing for the past few years and is very different than originally printed.  



Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Here is another in this ongoing project.  When Kingsley plantation was active, there would not have been any growth behind this cabin.  No trees, no Spanish Moss, no understory.  It's testament to the felicitous conditions for vegetation that a veritable jungle has erupted since the plantation was in use.  Beyond this cabin were more than 900 acres of cleared, arable land.



Monday, March 24, 2014

Just can't help it, and it has nothing to do with photography, but v/v current events in Russia/Ukraine....Putin on the Blitz!  Sorry.  It won't happen again. (Lies, all lies, yes it will happen again he said to his evil half!)

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Kingsley Plantation will probably hold my photographic interest for a long time to come.  Worthy bodies of work are not accumulated quickly, so I expect to be visiting it quite often.  Having posted a group of mostly abstract images of the cabins I want to offer some context regarding their place.  Only 60 cleared acres remain of the original 1000 arable acres.  The cabins are sited on those, and immediately behind them, there is a riot of dense, jungle-like abundance.  The first of these two pictures includes a tree that may or may not be ancient enough to have shaded the cabin behind it.  But, the other portrays the dense growth that was not there when the plantation was an active farm. 





Friday, March 21, 2014

If you've been visiting here for a while, you'll be aware that I have struggled to find subjects that I felt a resonance with other than the beach.  Kingsley Plantation, however, has been a wonderful find.  The slave cabins assume a sculptural quality when their planes and angles interact with strong sunlight.  I went back again yesterday, and spent a long time shooting two rolls of film (20 exposures altogether).  I don't use a zoom lens, and don't rattle off 150 digital attempts that get sorted out in Lightroom later.  For just one frame, I may move the tripod three or four times after having examined the subject from as many viewpoints as possible.  Here are three more from this most recent visit.










Sunday, March 16, 2014

Having lived in the north until last August, slavery was something I studied in high school and in a 'black history' course I took in college.  I had no visceral sense of it at all.  But living in the south now, I've sometimes encountered relics and reminders of institutionalized racism.  My stepson goes to a high school that was once a segregated 'black' school that is now a magnet school of the arts. But, the greatest impact of any echoes of the pre-civil rights south are the relics of slavery.  The photographs here are of slave cabins on the Kingsley Plantation, an estate managed by the National Park Service that has preserved the main house, many outbuildings, and the ruins of cabins lived in by 60 to 80 enslaved Africans who worked the farm.  They are made of tabby, a locally manufactured building material made of whole and ground oyster shells, then coated with a lime putty also derived from the shells.  Here's a link to a Wikipedia article about tabby and these particular cabins.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tabby_%28cement%29

I want to add this link as well to the history of this plantation.  It is a very unusual story, and is perhaps unique in the kind of life its enslaved population lived.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kingsley_Plantation










Friday, March 14, 2014

Did you know that lab rats giggle when tickled?  Did you know that cows have 'best friends'?  Did you know that monkeys fake laughter with their fellow monkeys when their fellow monkey's chatter bores them?  Well...so much for the primitive notion that lesser creatures than humans are 'dumb'.  Only the most mean spirited and ignorant fail to notice how 'human' our animal cousins really are.  They laugh and play, love and mourn, rejoice and suffer.  We are soooo close.  But, what of plants?  This, and many other trees that are chosen to be photographed, are isolates.  They have had no choice.  They grow where their seeds take root.  Given the as yet undiscovered languages and society of animals, is there also an as yet undetected language and society of plants?  Do they have spirits that inhabit the ether and commune in ways we can't really imagine?   Our human ancestor's were animists and believed that spirits inhabited all living things plant and animal.  Were they right?  Did we lose that sense with the establishment of monotheistic religions?

I was driving to Jekyll Island when I noticed this lonely palm in the midst of a vast salt marsh.  I stopped and photographed it with a wide angle and telephoto lens.  This is the fruit of the latter that I otherwise rarely use (300mm on the Pentax 67).  As with many other lonely trees, I hope what I've imaginecd could exist and actually does, and this guy has buddies even though they aren't close. 




Wednesday, March 12, 2014

As is typical on barrier islands, the sea and the weather take their toll in fallen trees and erosion.  This nearly post-apocalyptic looking beach is on the ocean side of Jekyll Island, Georgia.  That these two trees remained rooted in the sandy soil is remarkable as their supine brothers litter the shore all around them.  Further in from the ocean, similar trees survive and bend away from the persistent wind coming from the sea.  If I return here in another decade, even those may have endured a similar fate.


Monday, March 3, 2014

At least once every year I hit a dry spell that's frustrating and disappointing.  Sometimes it's due to circumstances I can't control like our recent move to Jacksonville, Florida.  Or, it's due to pressures of work that interfere with the openhearted approach to making a photograph that I need to do anything worthwhile (no longer an excuse as retirement has set in!).  Now, it's due to a persistent frustration with my new-to-me Florida environment that just isn't stimulating my creative impulses.  I have lived in the northeast all my life thus far, and have thrived on the rich variety of seasonal changes that are so inspiring.  That variety presents itself with changes of color that offer seasonally different tonal values, changes in the intensity of natural light that are a seasonal feature of a northern latitude, and flora that grows less densely than the near jungle effect that is so locally prevalent (see Clyde Butcher's work here:  http://www.clydebutcher.com/  ).  But, the ocean is still a wonderful resource and I will continue to look to it for inspiration.  I may change my approach, and do some long exposure work with the view camera, or travel farther away for features on the shore that may be appealing. 

I will, of course, get through this, but I hope the breakthrough happens soon.  Sigh.....lol!

Monday, January 27, 2014

 In this part of Florida, overcast days are rare, and when they do occur, the overcast doesn't necessarily last throughout.  Yesterday was one of those, and in the late afternoon, the cloud cover broke up and patches of open sky appeared.   But, what is memorable happened after this photograph was made.  I was driving west on the two lane road that would take me to the interstate.  Suddenly I saw two suns, each of the same brightness, and on the same horizontal plane.  I almost drove off the road.  As I don't use an iphone, nor carry a digital point-and-shoot, there was no reason to stop and make a record of it.  After a few moments, the 'false' sun began to fade and become a prismatic display of rainbow colors.  And, just a bit later, it was gone for good.  Reading up on line about "two suns", there were many photographs of the phenomenon, but other than to observe that they are a function of refracted light in certain clouds, little is understood about their genesis.  And, apparently, the horizontal version is extremely rare.  I was really lucky, though I can't prove it!  LOL!!



Thursday, January 23, 2014

Serious composers are sometimes amused and surprised when theorists offer analyses of their music.  The creative process is essentially intuitive albeit informed by a great deal of prior study and experience.  So, when reading an essay by another about something they've written, they may be fascinated by what details and relationships are uncovered and explained.  For me, making photographs is intuitive, but not ignorant of all I've absorbed about composition, exposure, perspective, rules of odds and thirds, etc, and years of experience that help me to try to dismiss the cliched and trite.  The images below subscribe to my preference for interesting objects as they relate to something else, in this case to the flow of ocean water as it surged in and crept out. 





 



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

This photograph may seem to be an odd departure from the style of most of my images, but it really isn't.  It's just design of a more abstract nature.  The fallen trees at Big Talbot Island SP are the victims of erosion, but they have legions of their fellows still standing.  And, in late afternoon, the cast shadows of both fallen and standing trees are everywhere on the sand at low tide.  The gnarly mess on the ground is a kind of clay that is pocked with little depressions of unknown origin to me. 
The footprints, however, are mine.



Friday, January 17, 2014

Big Talbot Island SP is a sometime mecca for photographers.   As weather and storms lash at the sandy soil, trees closest to the beach are undermined and topple onto it.  The forest is being eroded in this way so that it's rare to ever see things as they were a month or two ago.   But, on yesterday's visit, I photographed the ocean as well as some of the debris on shore.  The tide was out, and this little island was revealed at its lowest ebb.  After an hour and a half or so, it was submerged again as the tide came creeping back. The second photograph is of a piece of fallen tree that was just to the right of the little island. 






Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I am having trouble finding subjects that interest me away from the ocean.  I've burned film in the backyard, and made some images nearby, but I'm not finding as much as I'd hoped to.  As most trees here do not lose their leaves, and are clustered together more like a jungle than a forest, they haven't offered much. Fog would help, but it's more rare than I expected. So, back to the beach I went yesterday, and returned with this photograph of the Jacksonville fishing pier that is the only structure that extends into the ocean for miles.  There are far away jetties, but none close to me.  The other photograph is of shore birds who, curiously, stayed close by while I was there.  I don't know if this guy expected a treat, but his comfort with me was very nice to experience.





Monday, December 30, 2013

"Diamonds in your own backyard" is a refrain from a kind of parable my father taught me when I was very young.  If you care to look deeply, there will always be something close to home that can fascinate you and motivate you to make a photograph.  I have an entire portfolio of photographs I made of the view behind our house in New  York.  I am trying to learn the different language of the view behind the house in Florida.  I have watched this errant branch for months, but decided to make a photograph of it when it had turned color and was a significantly different value than it had been up till then. 



Tuesday, December 24, 2013

After a long drive on secondary roads from Atlanta, Georgia, to Jacksonville, Florida, I decided to go a little further to the coast while in Georgia.  Cumberland and Jekyl Islands are barrier islands that are tourist meccas.  They're beautiful, and the beaches are pristine.  But, I was tired and realized how similar they were to those near Amelia Island which is close to where I live, so I didn't visit this time.  I did cross this bridge, though, but stopped before I did to make this photograph.  It's a very graceful and elegant structure that has visual elements of gossamer filigree despite its solid design and engineering.  




Friday, December 20, 2013

While I have to wait to build a new darkroom here, I've been having fun scanning negatives and 'playing' with them in Photoshop Elements 11.  That play always directly emulates what I can do chemically and with light.  Photoshop makes things convenient, comparatively easy and immediate, but not unique.  It's not that Photoshop is limited, it's that I choose to impose limits on it to do only what will translate directly to darkroom possibilities.  For this image I would use a higher grade filter...maybe even a 4, and give the paper a very minimal pre-exposure (called flashing) to not let highlights burn out.  There would be considerable dodging and burning, but also bleaching.  That's a technique I learned from reading Bruce Barnbaum's book, and have learned to do well.  Using a Q-Tip soaked in potassium ferricyanide and fixer, I can brighten areas that are rather sketchy to dodge.  Then I'd tone with thiocarbamide after a very light over all bleach in pot ferri, and, after a half hour's rinse, further tone in selenium 1:4 for three minutes or so.  It's surprising how similar to this PS'd scan the print would look, and I get to rehearse what to do sitting at a desk with my laptop.  Fun!




Monday, December 16, 2013

In a break from my recent ocean images, I thought I'd present something very close to home...behind the house, in fact!  The flare is very deliberate, and is one of the reasons I made the photograph in the first place.  "The Rules" mitigate against this, but sometimes breaking them is worth it.  And, I'm really pleased the lens handled this situation as well as it did. 



Friday, December 13, 2013

Unlike almost any other place on earth, the seashore renews itself every twelve hours or so.  Within the grasp of tidal cleansing or adding, footprints, sand castles, toys, dead fish and shells are beached or washed away.  Shore birds rely on finely tuned senses to snatch a tiny meal wherever they can find one.  Some scavenge, some hunt, and some do both, but their energy in pursuit of breakfast, lunch, and dinner is amazing...perhaps a zero sum game, yet always interesting to observe.  Here are six, or really on reflection, twelve!




Sunday, December 8, 2013

I 'captured' this image last evening as it was running away into the night.  I aimed my photon retractor at it, forced it to stop mid-retreat, and be stuffed into the sealed box I had mounted on my tripod.  I could sense its analog anxiety as I rewound it's prison medium and brought it to the waiting chemical baths that would disclose its secrets.  Beyond resistance, though, it docilely succumbed to the temperate 70 degree liquids that passed over it.  Perhaps grudgingly, who can know, it revealed the latent negative image that I had not been certain of until it emerged from the final wash.  But, dried and separated from its fellow negatives, it now underwent transformation!  The scanner's photons made their peaceful passage that made positive pixels prevail. The image felt a quiver of pleasure as its newborn pixels were massaged just a little bit in photoshop.  So, this is the result of its capture, the middle passage, and ultimate residence here.
 



Thursday, December 5, 2013

With all the time I've spent at the beach, almost none has been in the evening.  I took my stepson to his late afternoon lacrosse practice, and took myself to this nearby fishing pier that is the only one on this part of the coast that I know of.  Lacrosse practice or not, I'll be returning more often.  The pastels of evening are too gorgeous to miss, and offer a rare argument to me in favor of making a color photograph.  I despise saturated, hyper-chromatic, high dynamic range imagery, but the gentle, muted, sweet colors of evening suggest a very different mood.  Sadly, I am not gifted with normal color perception, so I rarely try to do work in that medium.  What's presented here is the next best thing I can offer.







Wednesday, December 4, 2013

It's been a challenge to adapt to this new environment, but I'm developing a bond with certain areas that are visually very exciting a good deal of the time.  As I've written in recent posts, the ocean and ocean side are constantly changing subjects that I'm drawn to almost every day.  I visited this place (Little Talbot Island SP) for the first time on Monday, December 2nd.  The tide was fully out, and the expanse of beach was enormous.  This photograph records afternoon sun on the still retreating water that carved these extraordinary sand ripples.  Several hours later, there would  be no trace of them. 



Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Over geologic time the earth's landmasses shift, quake, erupt, erode, break apart and reconnect, freeze, thaw, heave and settle.  Few of us will witness any of these changes, because all but the most violent and immediate take place infinitely slowly.  Not so the ocean!  It's easy to walk past a field and barely notice it.  If it's covered with snow, it will likely remain visually static as long as the temperature permits, and if not, will change only imperceptibly from day to day as the season progresses.  But, the ocean is never the same.  It can be as mercurial as a pampered prima donna, or phlegmatic as a classical FM radio midnight DJ within a day.  It is impossible to ignore, and why would anyone want to?  The three photographs below were made during three successive days.  It's no wonder I can't get enough of the shore...










Saturday, November 23, 2013

North Florida is quite different from the southern part of the state.  I suppose people headed to Miami on I 95 think they've arrived at last when they cross the border from Georgia, but they're mistaken.  They actually have most of another day's drive to get where they're going.  The Jacksonville area may be subtropical, but it gets quite cold for a number of weeks in winter, and during this autumn has been very comfortable a lot of the time.  It's amusing to witness natives "freezing" when the air is in the 50's, but, in time, my blood will have adapted to this place, and I'll be whining about the "cold" too!!  Nonetheless, on November 22nd, I was really hot after a quarter mile hike to beach access at Big Talbot SP, and couldn't help thinking of 'home' where the high was in the upper 40's.

There are fewer iconic locales in this area than in other parts of the state, but this is one of the few that's celebrated.  Big Talbot Island State Park is famous for the driftwood and fallen trees that litter its beach.  This photograph doesn't do justice to fallen timbers, but they will be represented here soon.  I can't wait to return!!!



Thursday, November 21, 2013

Am I living the 'salt life'?   I just can't get enough of the coast.   The rhythms of the surf are hypnotic both when relatively calm, and when wind whipped and roiling!  As some of the recent posts here can attest, there is interesting light at all times of day whether in full sun or overcast.  The ocean's tidal pulse is fascinating in its gentler moments, and truly compelling in its surging power during and after storms.  Sometimes, there is less to photograph than to just savor and enjoy.  It's easy to walk on wet sand and let thoughts come and go as they will while always mindful of the ocean alongside.  In most places that I'm aware of on the Atlantic coast, dunes are protected and sea oats are illegal to pull or disturb.  Nesting areas for turtles and birds are also given sanctuary from the inquisitive and acquisitive passer-by.  In the 'off' season, the seaside is just a wonderful place to be!




Saturday, November 16, 2013

There are a number of photographers I admire who have specialized in photographs of the ocean and seashore.  Many others have ocean and seaside portfolios as well, but two of my favorites are Nana Sousa Dias, from Portugal, and Chip Hooper from California.  Their work does not duplicate each other's imagery, but does help one to recognize the enormity of the subject and how infinitely varied it can be.  As my life now is so proximate to the Atlantic Ocean, I'm finding it irresistible to drive there before dawn, and photograph whatever I see that isn't too much like what I saw yesterday.  And that newness is easy to experience.  I'm looking forward to eventual fog, wildly compelling clouds, big surf and glistening sand, and that will come in time.  Meanwhile, the jetty at Vilano Beach has been interesting at both low and high tide.  The sea was wind driven and churning and it was an exciting place to be!





Monday, November 11, 2013

Retirement from a formal, everyday-go-to-work career is a life altering event.  It's been five months since I've had to get up at 4:30 AM to prepare, and then drive 50 miles to where I taught for 28 years.  I certainly don't miss the commute, nor the bullshit aspects of the job (that most people have to endure, as well), although I do miss the teaching.  Nor, is it easy to quickly make the transition to creating one's own schedule.  It's very tempting to waste time in indolence and unseemly wallowings, but I'm trying not to.  What I'm not able to abandon, it seems, is the physical clock that tells me to stop sleeping at a very, very early hour.  So, I'm trying to get it in gear before dawn to go where golden hour light illuminates a subject or place that appeals to me visually.  The photograph below is a consequence of a quick change of plan when I realized I wouldn't get to the ocean and be able to set up the camera in time for sunrise.  I remembered this salt-marsh where I had parked once before a long time ago.  I was able to rapidly prepare just as the sun was about to greet the horizon.  After that, for about 15 minutes, there was nothing to witness that wasn't magic!





Leaving the marsh, I drove to Vilano Beach.  The sun was glarey and too high for an easy exposure, but there were clouds.  A few came to my rescue and I was able to make this photograph using the jetty rocks as foreground. Fortuitously, there was water on the nearground rock and the sun brought it to life very successfully.  For any who are interested, this was made with my 45mm lens which must be incredibly well coated to not have flared in direct sun.  Lucky me! lol!!





And finally, this photograph was made just to the left of the one above.  I might not have taken it if it were not for the birds which, I believe, were pelicans.  They are beautiful in flight, and continue to fascinate me as I had never seen them in life until I moved to Florida.



Tuesday, November 5, 2013


A nor'easter has been in progress for  most of today,  Knowing it was coming, I drove to Vilano Beach before dawn at the recommendation of a friend.  Happily there was no rain involved then, though there was a  lot of it later in spots.  I did get wet doing this, but only to just below my wallet and shorts pockets.  Even the camera bag came within inches of getting drenched, but I was very lucky and the day was saved. 









Monday, November 4, 2013

Being new to this southern region, I'm having to forge new relationships with the flora of Florida.  I deeply miss the maple trees, and grand pin oaks, day lilies, and other plantings that can't grow here because of the heat.  But, I'm encountering some that I've not seen before, like cypress trees (and cypress knees), loblolly bay trees, and Spanish moss.  I've been told not to handle it, and avoid nasty bugs that get on your skin, but handling it wasn't my ambition in the first place, so I'll have no trouble following that advice.  These two images were taken in a small park near the St. John's River just off San Jose Boulevard.  Finally now, (the beginning of November) the sun is a bit more oblique, and shadows are longer in the morning and afternoon which favor my photographic biases.  I'm told that there will even be reliable morning fog in December.  I'll revisit this place again when those changes are in place. 





Saturday, October 26, 2013

Where I now live makes getting to the beach at dawn or sunset very easy.  That time of day offers the photographer a 'golden hour' with the warmest light, and it often is truly golden.  For monochrome it's a beautiful time as well, because the sun is oblique so that shadows and raking light reveal textures that just aren't visible at other times.   The two below were made on Friday morning, October 25th just after sunrise.  I began to expose the two rolls I used before the sun had actually broken the horizon, and had finished them both (ten negatives each) by about 8 AM.







Tuesday, October 22, 2013

I'm not finding it particularly easy to adapt to this area visually.  Until the weather changes considerably, and fog, and mist, and some of the other glories of autumn show up (fall color is minimal here, dammit!!) , it will continue to be a rough slog for me, I think.  But, the ocean and beaches are different.  Even when they're not appealing to the camera, they are an appealing place to be in their own right.  For photography, it would be good to be there when there is a lot of silver light on wet sand, or dramatic clouds, or angry  surf.  Last Sunday, I visited the beach near Marineland where there are interesting formations of coquina* that I didn't succeed in photographing well, but at least I thought that the two below of the path to the beach, and the lone rock made the trip worthwhile.

*" Also known as coquina, from the Spanish for cockleshell, Anastasia limestone is composed primarily of shell and coral fragments, fossils and sand. Small fossils are clearly visible in the rock faces, most commonly the shells of small clams and oysters or pieces of a large snail called Busycon."   from the Nature Conservancy's Blowing Rocks Preserve website.