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. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

I've been going to the ocean every day that the weather and tide has allowed (I prefer to be there at low tide when the sand is easy to walk on, and the beach is widest.)  I plan to ride my mountain bike there tomorrow...the sand is perfect for it, and bikes are a common sight.  But, making interesting photographs isn't simple.  Despite the daily variations of the sky, sea, and surf, image worthy moments can't be expected as often as I would like.  Storms help, as does moonlight, fog, and large areas of glistening wet sand, however those are hardly frequent occurences.  But, now that the weather isn't so bitchin' wicked hot, I don't feel reluctant to pack the camera and tripod just in case.  This photograph was made at the same time the one of mostly sky and clouds below was taken.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

This is what it's all about here.  The ocean is an easy 20 minutes away, and completely fees, no parking stickers, plenty of parking in the off season, and beaches that are never too crowded in or out of season. It's odd for me, as a New Yorker, to see people in bathing suits on the beach in early October, and it's likely that that will continue for yet another month to a lesser extent.  It's also kinda fun to be there in the middle of a weekday without guilt or penalty!  lol!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

I wish all bridges were available for foot traffic.  I realize the high ones might be tempting for ending it all, but that's what fences help prevent.  In New York, I always wanted the Tappan Zee bridge to have a pedestrian way like the Newburgh Beacon, and the George Washington ones do.  The view of the Hudson looking south as I drove across the TZ every day was often spectacular with sunlit water, and magical cloud forms. It's a similar deal here in Florida with some bridges offering the pedestrian safe passage and others not.  Frustrating sometimes.  The photograph below was made from a very low bridge that has a walkway on both sides.  For those who know this area, it is on the highway that leads to Amelia Island and the resorts there.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

At last I've figured out how to use my new-to-me Epson 750 Pro Scanner.  It's been a multi-day chore, but I'm thrilled to have finally accomplished it.  What is posted below is from the first roll of film I've exposed in Florida since moving here.  It's a place I've visited before, but never been happy with what I photographed.  The slight sepia color is a Photo Shop Elements 11 emulation of the kind of toning I will eventually do in the darkroom to a paper print.  What's interesting, though, is that Spanish moss is actually gray and looks very much like it does in an untoned black and white print.  I may have to think about that before committing the image to tone or not to tone!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

I am really getting sick of the weather in Florida.  I'm a northeasterner, and by now in New York the temperatures are at least twenty degrees cooler than in Jacksonville.  And the humidity...well...the words for that are not suitable for this blog.  BUT....I am told I will really enjoy being here in the later autumn and winter when it's frigid, and icy/snowy at 'home'.  Really?  And this yech is the penance I have to pay for that to happen?   *&%*&^)*&*^%!!!!!!!!'s a photograph from last winter that I don't think I ever posted before.  It just makes me feel better to look at it.  It's......cold!!!  

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Here it is September, and I'm not any more able to post a new image than I was in July.  But....I found a couple of photographs I made a long time ago that are important to me as additional reminders of  'home' that I miss very much.  They are of the Hudson River at dawn a bunch of years ago near the Croton-on-Hudson apartment I lived in for 11 years.  Had I been home looking out the front window that Tuesday morning a dozen years ago, I would have seen the jet headed for the WTC flying low along the river.  I don't know what I would have thought of it at that moment, but shortly thereafter, I'd have been horrified as the nightmare events of that day would have just begun to be made known to all of us.  These two photographs still call up to me that tragedy even though they are utterly innocent of that particular day.  On tomorrow's anniversary, I'm no closer to being 'over it' now than I was then.  I continue to mourn and grieve.  So profoundly sad!

Monday, July 15, 2013

I often come across blogs that are undertaken with great promise and ambition only to wither after a little while as the burden of creating interesting posts becomes onerous.  The last entry might be two years old, and there's not much likelihood of there ever being another.  This blog, however, will begin a period of hibernation for a different reason.  We are in the throes of moving house and home a thousand miles to the south, and all of what I use for photography is now in boxes and awaits reemergence there sometime in late summer or early autumn.  It's depressing to leave this region that I have deeply loved for decades having learned its rhythms and vocabulary.  But, where we're going isn't Siberia, and the upside is that I have a vast new territory to discover.  Check back here again in September, and see what's going on.  Oh, and by the way, I will have a LOT of time for making photographs then having just retired from more than 40 years of teaching.  I may make a new post every week!  ;-)))

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Last week's post did not include this roll of film that was developed later, but exposed at the same time.  I like this as much as what I posted then, but I don't yet have an opinion about which I'll print.  Some images are very, very personal, and don't connect with other viewers at all.  If I were presenting this (or any other photograph) on an actual website rather than a blog, I'd have to make a critical assessment of its worthiness.  But here, it's okay to present the wheat with the chaff, and see how it looks after a while. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

I've passed this lovely little pond in the town where I work for the past 28 years without ever stopping.  I am always drawn to it, and usually slow down to look, but have never had the time to stop.  However, I am retiring this week and will not pass this way again, so I finally did stop, and made some photographs.  The two below are ordered and then chaotic.  Choose either or neither.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

One of the good things about using the 4x5 view camera is that if there are only one or two good photographs in front of you, you can just make the one or two.  At least with the Pentax 67 the roll only allows 10 exposures.  Having made them, though, there was only one image I was happy with which is presented below.  This little tree continues to thrive despite its precarious lake edge perch.  I made the photograph just as the sun was about to rise above the stand of trees directly behind this little guy. 

Sunday, June 9, 2013

I see it's been a while since I've posted here. At last, today I got up before dawn, went out with the camera, and exposed a roll at sunrise.  I'm about to develop it, and I'll post what I hope will be at least two good images from the ten negatives when I see them.  But, while futzing around in the darkroom, I found a print I must have made in the very late nineties.  It's on RC paper that I haven't used since then, and the place the photograph was taken is Blue Mountain Reservation in Westchester County where I used to live.  I still like the image, although I did crop it a bit in keeping with the way I currently 'see'.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

I've been too busy for photography these past six weeks.  But, on Friday, though tired after work, I couldn't resist the fog and muted light as I passed Croton Point Park on the drive home.  The weather has been fairly mild, so I had the Pentax kit and 'pod in the trunk, and wandered down to  the Hudson to see if it were worth putting film in the camera.  I think it was.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Near my home there are two lakes that I pass every day.   Round Lake is the one that's most accessible, and where I've taken the most photographs.  Walton Lake is much more difficult to photograph because there is no road shoulder to stop on, and the only two places one can park are a great distance away from the most interesting subjects.  But, last weekend I was seduced by fog and the puddled ice, and hiked here with the camera.  I've long wanted to photograph this tree, and did once in a way I wasn't happy with, but fog allowed it to be isolated from the background, and me to be happy to make this image.  It seems so lonely and fragile, but I'm sure it's happy where it is, and will thrive and grow for decades.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

When Mannes and Godowsky developed color film in the 1920's and '30's, they must have been inspired by spring and fall; certainly not by the drear of winter in the northeast.  Except on bright sunny days, nature wears a monochrome mantle for nearly half a year.  Snow restricts the palette even more, and it's very difficult to generate an interesting photograph without other elements like water, ice, and sky.  A long drive in the country yesterday didn't result in seeing anything worth stopping the car for until coming to this little stream that snaked and meandered through a sparse grove of trees. It's not uncommon for streams to wind like this, but it is uncommon for them to do so over such a small distance.  Just right for the 135mm lens! 

Friday, February 1, 2013

In winter, the Hudson River is not only dynamic in its tides and currents, but also in the tremendous power of its ice.  Standing on the river's western shore in Cornwall, I was astonished at the roar it made as it floated on the south flowing current, crashing into enormous masses of previously shattered ice.  I imagined it to be a model of what tectonic plates must be like as they fracture the earth's crust in their inexorable movement.  In several months, the ice will be gone, but the rocks it has rearranged, the piers and landings it has damaged, and the newly carved scars in the banks of the river will remain. 

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Once again I found myself at Round Lake with the camera last week.  If you saw the lake today, you'd see ice fisherman sitting on their stools, some with what look like porta-potties for shelter, and others just sitting with their ice augers beside them and fishing poles in hand.  We've had a spell of intense arctic air, and the temperatures are at or below 0 degrees Farenheit at night.  Now the ice is thick and will last a long time.  It also has a thin coat of snow, so the once interesting surface is a sheet of flat, white stuff void of detail and visual interest.

But, last week, when this photograph was taken, the lake hadn't made much of a commitment to  solidity, and anyone venturing out on it would have gotten very wet, very quickly.  I've no idea how these radiating breaks in the ice occur, but they give ample warning to humans, at least, to stay on shore. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Monroe, NY is barely a blip on the map. It's a  commuter town about 50+ miles from NYC.  There isn't a lot of visual appeal here....a small business district that some moron thought would be more attractive if 'modernized'.  So charming, but elderly storefronts were demolished, and contemporary facades were substituted.  There's simply zero character left save one stroke of genius.  The Goose Pond!!  It is a very popular park as well as true haven for geese! They flock here in great numbers littering the ground with their 'presence'!!

One foggy morning recently, which is a rarity in itself, found me near this mile and a half path for walkers and joggers that circumscribes the banks of the pond.  It was foggy, and icy, and tempting enough for me to get out the gear and go for a walk until I chose this to photograph.

Update:  Yesterday, February 4th. all these trees were cut down, chopped up, and carted away.  I was so sad to see that happen.  It just seems that the town fathers in Monroe can't abide charm and beauty, and do whatever they can to expunge it. 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

As I've noted before, fog is a rarity in this area, especially fog that lingers for more than a few hours in the morning.  But on a Saturday, when I can go out with the camera, fog that lasts well into the day is too good to ignore.  I drove around for quite a while looking for something like these two subjects.  And, in some remote part of my mind I knew I'd find something worthwhile to photograph in this place which is a dairy farm not very far from where I live. But, before arriving where these were made, I got myself lost on rural roads that were beautiful in their own right if not particularly photogenic. Both of these photographs were made at Belleville Farm in Orange County, New York.

What's unseen in the top picture, are the hundreds and hundreds of Canada geese sitting in the field just behind the tree.  Had I done something to roust them into flight,  they would have darkened the sky yet more than it was.  But....I didn't do that!