Towards the end of 2019 I decided that it was time for a fresh start on my work, so I decided to challenge myself to produce at least one quality photograph each day of the year. This blog will be an encapsulation of the experiences of the week. I’m not looking to create a ridged framework but rather a mechanism that will help me to focus my creative energies and see where they may lead.
Hopefully, there will be some of you that may want to follow along or better yet create your own challenge.
And so it begins. I will add the photos on my Home Page for the week and then start new with each new week.
Happy New Year and Stay Safe.
Saturday January 9
I plan on writing my blog on Saturday or Sunday to look back over the week. What a week it has been, the insanity that surrounds us needs to be countered with love and compassion.
For me, artful expression helps to connect with what we need.
This week saw little sun, New Years Day was clear and mild but until Friday the 8th the clouds dominated. So, I worked indoors with artificial light, something I do very little of. I enjoyed seeing what I could do with a single light and a reflector or two. The images ranged from table-top still-life to macro work. The detail in the Geranium is phenomenal!
I have to say that working in the studio is far more comfortable than working in nature, which allows for greater control. That being said, I do enjoy the rewards of meeting the challenges that nature has to offer.
I think it’s important to realize how one sees and interprets the world. Over the years the two aspects of the great world of photography that have fascinated me the most have been macro (close-up) and panorama. Panorama has only been available to me since the advent of digital stitching and I’m late to that game. Macro has been a favorite for many years. It’s great to finally be able to do both. We all see tele-photographically and then our mind assembles the multiple images together to create a wide angle view. I see panoramically even in macro, so now I’m looking at ways to do macro-panoramas. Should be interesting.
It was sunny this morning but the clouds have struck back!
One photo at a time will come down from the Home Page and be archived in 2021.
Saturday January 16
It’s been an interesting week weather-wise, mostly cloudy with a couple of sunny days.
My editing is so much better now with an upgrade to the computer and a new monitor. I’ve also added a new old lens that will be here next week that I picked up on eBay. It’s a 105mm bellows lens that will allow me to do the kind of macro work that I have always wanted to do. My newer macro lens is great but is limited to 1:1 magnification. The bellows set-up will allow for greater magnification.
Looking over my work of the past I find many avenues that I wish to further explore. Nature has always been the dominant theme but there are others that have been engaging; architecture, still-life, life style, journalism and environmental portraiture.
I’m taking advantage of the cold and less than inspiring weather to work on my portfolio and to get the juices flowing again. Spring will soon be here and I want to be one with camera so that it is not something that I have to think about and can concentrate on the image I wish to create. When I was first working professionally that was the way it was but when it’s a part time thing or there have been extended breaks from active shooting, it’s easy to get rusty.
Between working in other fields or currently working on the restoration of our home there has been plenty of ‘away’ time from the camera and that why I chose to undertake this challenge.
Sunday January 24
Adding the new lens this week was very exciting and it was great working with my bellows again. Yes, my macro lenses are easier to use but there is something about working with a bellows that is hard to describe. It goes well beyond the greater range of magnification possible, it makes you slow down and really examine what you are shooting.
When I first started with photography, I bought a used Nikon 35mm camera and started shooting, blasting away with as much film as I could afford. Soon, however, I wanted better quality to my shots. I bought the best tripod that I could afford and it served its purpose until I needed a more versatile one. By the time I was heading off to the Navy, I was shooting with a tripod when it made sense and handheld when it didn’t. The tripod was the first tool to help slow the process down so that I was thinking about the photograph in front of me and not about how many shots that I could capture.
When I found myself in the Navy Photography School, I was immediately introduced to large format cameras. We started with handheld Graphlex Speed Graphic press cameras and worked our way down in format size through medium format and finally to 35mm. It was a process that changed forever my desire for higher technical quality. After graduating from school and being assigned a duty station, I purchased a 4x5 field camera (which I wish I still had) and started down the path forged by the great photographers that were my inspiration; Edward Weston, Ansel Adams, Minor White, W. Eugene Smith, Irving Penn, Dorothea Lange, Michael Kenna to name but a few. Not that I compare myself to them, they are the standards to which I aspire. I taught myself “The Zone System” from a couple of books and proceeded to spend every waking moment exploring with my camera.
Working with the bellows and lens combination this week reminded me of the early days (post Navy) when I was student (read little money) and was heading north to Pictured Rocks NLS for a week long trip. I had the money for 14 sheets of color transparency film so every shot had to count. I sold a higher percentage of those shots from that project than any project since. I spent each day working to get the best shot at the best time of day and was set up ready to shoot long before the light was ‘right’.
Part of the reason for this blog is to get back to that work ethic of creating one good shot each day. I have to think about what I want to shoot, what the weather will let me shoot and what plan B might be like if plan A is a wash. There is an old saying among photographers as to the secret for great photographs outdoors, it is simply stated; “f/11 and be there”. Even when there isn’t the photo that one has in mind, there is almost always something to shoot. Take for instance last Sunday the 17th. It was cloudy all day until the last45 minutes or so. Anita and I went down to the railroad bridge that crosses the East Machias River and were hoping for some light. By the time the clouds cleared enough to get good light the possibility of a good scenic had already passed but there were beautiful reflections of the sky and trees in the water. Yesterday was similar, uncooperative clouds and disappointing scenes. We were just about to head home and as I was backing up the car a scene caught my eye. The photograph from yesterday is the result.
Overall I was very pleased with the work that was created this week although I still need to take more care of the details and be more aware of the possibilities.
Monday February 1
Well, January has come and gone and I have found it to be challenging to be creative every day. It’s tough when you don’t feel well and it’s 2 above zero to muster the energy to head out into the cold even though you know there are some good picture possibilities available.
I have spent many an hour in painful cold waiting for the right light but I keep reminding myself of the adage “bad weather-good pictures” and I head out even when it’s less than ideal.
We have had a mix of sun and snow this past week and I have gone out under conditions that if I was still shooting film would be fruitless, at least with color. Digital allows for so much more control than with film that one can work in less than ideal light conditions and still pull off some decent images. Color film never offered much latitude. B&W was better with careful processing and printing but the range available in digital blows the doors off of anything possible with film.
Which brings up a point that I would like to make about trends in photography. So many images that you see today are so over saturated and contrasty as to appear unreal and to my eye unappealing. It’s really easy to go too far in processing images when you are looking for that image to “pop”. Many photographers would benefit from backing off from their controls a bit and produce more realistic images. After all if you are a nature photographer it’s about capturing the beauty of nature. Yes, there is interpretation but that is best in measured amounts, in my opinion.
Sunday February 7
The month of January is now in the archive and February is moving quickly. So far, the weather has been determining what I shoot, that and energy levels (still recovering from Covid-19).
Yesterday a recent purchase from ebay arrived sooner than expected and I was able to have decent enough conditions to go out and field test my new (older) 135mm lens. I originally passed bidding on it because the owner advertised it as “vintage”, but like fine wine some of the older lenses age very well, due to their smaller size and wonderful simplicity. Yesterdays posting (6th) is one of the first shots with the 135mm.
Since I work from a tripod for the vast majority of my work, I rarely need auto-focus and in fact find it cumbersome and quite often annoying. It has its place, many photographers rely on it but it’s hardly necessary for landscape and useless in macro.
I really like the small size of the 135 and the image it produces matches closely to how I see tele-photographically. The last time that I shot with a 135 was in photo school and that was 1972, wow. I think that the newer lenses may have better contrast due to the multi-coating but they are not necessarily sharper. I’m pleased with the new addition and now it’s time to test the lens more technically and make adjustments in the camera to account for any discrepancy.
Anita (my wife) and I have been going out shooting together, it’s always better to share. I remember when I was in college and headed out on photo trips thinking how much more fun it would be if you could share the experience. I did that a lot with a friend on fishing trips but nature/landscape shoots were solo ‘til Anita and started shooting together on our trip west. Once we landed in New Mexico we spent a good bit of time shooting together and then again here in Maine over the first couple of years after we arrived. There has been a break as life has been allowed to get in the way of our shared art but we’re back at it.
Sunday February 14
Another Valentines Day. I woke to a beautiful sunrise, Valentine Red!
It has been a beautiful week with fresh snow on Monday and clear but cold right through until today. The price we pay for sunshine in February is major cold but we needed the sunshine, people were getting cranky. It is amazing how much of our good spirit relies on sunshine.
It’s happening … what you may ask … the old dreams are returning … what dreams you may ask?
When I first started into photography, my father said to me, ” photography is a big world, too big to do it all, find what you love and pursue that avenue”. The avenue within photography that I fell in love with was nature; landscape, macro, textures, details, and weather are all incorporated within that one heading. I started out on that path and then let life get in the way, meanwhile the world changed and making a living as a nature photographer became even more difficult. In order to be successful you need to be in the field a lot and unless you’re independently wealthy it is a difficult demand to meet. Difficult but not impossible. Now that I’m retired (and tired) I have more time to explore the natural world around me, going down those roads that have been passed by so many times that they have blurred into the landscape only to discover wonderful photographic possibilities that await.
I’m expanding my 35mm capabilities with new lenses but cannot afford a higher resolution camera body. My great desire is to make big prints which require big files or if one shoots film, large format. I used to shoot 4x5, in fact that was what I did most of my early professional work with. I started assembling a 4x5 digital system yesterday with the purchase of a used lens. A view camera is next along with the other necessary items; dark cloth, loupe, and back. I cannot afford new so ebay is getting a good bit of my business, there are some bargains along with quite a lot of more expensive goodies. At times, I feel like a woman who can never have enough shoes but I’m doing my best to be reasonable (which is as we all know is relative).
The view camera will provide the tools for greater control in addition to the much larger file sizes. The down side is the bulk and weight which is a real issue. Even Ansel Adams downsized from large view cameras to medium format as he got older. Me, well, I think I can still tote one along except for backpacking. When I was working with large format before, I was using a 4x5 field camera which was great but did not give me the control of a view camera, now I’m biting the big bullet and bringing out the big guns. The camera that I’m looking to purchase weighs 14 pounds just by itself now add lenses and support equipment and it won’t be easy but the results will be fabulous.
Sunday February 21
The big gun is here, a Toyo 45GX view camera along with the 210mm f/5.6 Nikkor-W lens. I can practice with it but have no intention of shooting film. I ordered a stitching back for the camera which will allow me to shoot digital with my existing equipment. It won’t be for everyday use, just those spectacular places that are worth the effort, places like Jasper Beach, Sipp Preserve, Cobscook Reversing Falls and Gulliver’s Hole in Quoddy Head State Park.
There are so many places here to photograph, almost all involve water in the scene or at least nearby. Like Michigan, this is a water wonderland with the addition of tides and sea dwelling creatures. I can walk down to the East Machias river and get beautiful shots that are ever changing by the hour, weather and season. It’s not far to the coast with the views of rocky shorelines and open water and in between are the tidal rivers with the extensive mud flats that are spectacular in their beauty and anything but flat. I feel blessed.
So far, I’ve met the basic challenge that I set out for myself; at least one quality photograph each day. As of today, I have created 52 posted images on this site to meet the requirement. Back on the first of January, I was only two weeks past the worst of Covid-19 symptoms and was still quite weak. This has been great therapy as I have gotten stronger each day even though there are lingering issues that will hopefully disappear with time. I feel the creative juices beginning to flow, some days better than others but the flow is noticeable.
Spring will be here soon although it didn’t feel that way this morning when I was at the river for sunrise and the usual two degree drop just after the sun breaks the horizon, it went from nine to seven. This afternoon it felt like Spring as we hit 39 while Anita and I went exploring the East Machias river at low tide. The Sunrise Trail that runs behind our house also skirts the river in East Machias and allows for some really nice vantage points as well as a good stretch of the legs. We really enjoy low tide and the water levels change very quickly here. Yesterday at Jasper Beach, Anita was flirting with the ocean and I kind of figured that she was going to get a wet foot or two while she was working to get the shot she wanted along the rising water’s edge and she did. I had to smile.
Sunday February 28
Wow, it’s the end of February already, back on the first of January I would not have believed that these days would have passed so quickly. Back then I was still having a hard time moving, balance was an issue as was clarity of thought. This exercise has been the best therapy that I could have engaged in. It’s been physical, it’s been mentally challenging and it has given me the focus that I have needed to help overcome the effects of Covid.
I resurrected my old Gitzo tripod, a 14 pound monster to hold my 14 pound monster of a view camera. I say resurrected because the threads to which the jamb nuts secured to had all but worn off on the large upper leg sections. The application of some JB Weld took care of that although I lost some height to the tripod in the process. I needed a ladder to use it at full extension so the loss of one section isn’t really a loss.
It has been an interesting week, lot’s of painfully cold exposure, mostly on the hands. Nikon cameras and I imagine most 35mm SLR’s and DSLR’s are not designed to be operated with gloves on. So, without a pair of expensive shooting gloves, one get to thaw the hands on the car heater once back to its’ shelter. I feel like my work is improving but needs greater attention to detail.
I’ve been doing some hand held shooting this week with some success. The photo of the Quonset hut on the 25th and the shot today at Schoodic were both shot without tripod. I love the freedom and the results are more than acceptable but for the most part I will stick to the tripod whenever possible. I shoot with the mirror up mostly and almost always with a electronic release.
I guess that’s all I have tonight. Stay Safe!
Monday March 8
Wasn’t feeling well enough yesterday to add anything to this record. Really don’t care for the term blog … anyway.
I expect some deliveries today, a 90mm Rodenstock lens for the Toyo view camera and a tool box soon to be converted to a camera case. Still waiting for the stitching back before I can actually produce a photograph but I have the 35 that I have been very busy with. I’m ready for the weather to warm a bit, tired of frozen hands. Days are getting quickly getting longer and that means warm weather is on its way.
This week was a real eye opener as far as the capabilities of digital vs film. I made some shots in conditions that I would not have even attempted when I was shooting film and they turned out fine, which means the final image was as I saw it when I snapped the shutter.
Stitching images is a great technique but it has its limitations such as moving subjects, which is the biggie. Moving clouds, flowing water, boats bobbing at their moorings all present real issues that are difficult if not impossible to over come without severe manipulation in photoshop.
Flowing water may be managed with longer exposure times, where the water has no definable texture. Still water with no wind ripples isn’t a problem but water with texture or waves is a shot killer. I’m trying to assemble in my mind the kind of shot that will be interesting enough and yet allow for panoramic or high resolution image stitching. When the light is changing rapidly the composite shots need to be taken quickly. Easy enough in pano but more time consuming in high res due to moving the camera and cocking and releasing the shutter for each exposure. I believe it will take some practice and probably a few missed shots.
We will see.
Sunday March 14
Daylight savings ugh, add to that, the adjustment of being out bid last night on a truly fine camera on ebay in last couple of seconds, double ugh.
Anita and I went to Fort O’Brien and Jasper Beach yesterday and bot came home with some really good work. We both need to do more processing but I was able to get my shot of the day posted, water vegetation on rocks in the stream flowing from the pond on the other side of the berm that the ocean has built up. I was shooting the path of the stream past the rock cliff when I looked down and saw the shimmering waves of color. So much for the stream shot, it doesn’t begin to compare to the rocks and attached vegetation that the water was flowing over. Wow!
Note to self, need to learn more about focus stacking.
I will be working with my studio camera in the field (once the stitching back gets here) and until the right field camera comes along again. The toolbox/camera case works but just barely, so I’m considering buying a camera with a case that will work and then swapping cases.
Robins are back and the Red-winged Blackbirds mad it this far this morning. New Bluebird/Swallow houses are up and waiting but the critters know when to get here even when it is forecast to get cold again.
Heading to Calais this morning to get my Covid vaccination. Hopefully it will be effective. I don’t want to have to go through the experience of the effects of Covid again.
Looking forward to working on the house and continuing with my camera.
Sunday March 21
Spring arrived (officially) yesterday. I heard a male Woodcock meeping as I went out to feed the birds and it was a glorious Spring day ending at Wallace Point in South Addison. We hadn’t been there before but certainly will be back.
Had my Covid stick last Sunday and was sick with symptoms on Monday but fine by Tuesday. Glad that’s over.
My 305mm process lens and my composing hood arrived yesterday as I close in on the final assembly of my large format digital system. Just the lens board for the 305 and the stitching back to go. Meanwhile I’m working with my older D200 as my go to pano camera. The 10 MP file size is fine for the additive effects of panoramic composite images (especially multi-row). I did one double row pano (18 images) of the East Machias River with the 105mm Micro on the D750 covering only 80 degrees and the file size ended up at 315 MP/1.05 GB. I did a couple of interior tests with the D200/50 f1.4 and the results were great and kept the file size down.
What this means is, I can shoot high-resolution photos now that don’t necessarily have to panos and Lightroom can take care of much more than I expected. There are limits and that is what I’m learning. When I have the 4x5 up and running I will have full high-res capability … can’t wait.
Still working on getting my energy back along with balance and endurance. Yesterday was a challenge, especially after a down day with a kidney stone on Friday. Hope to get past those buggers sometime.
Trying to assemble my gear in manageable packets, general shooting, telephoto, macro, pano (high-res) and large format. Manageable is difficult to obtain. Yesterday, for instance, I took the 300 along but left it in the car only to wish I had dragged it along. Meanwhile Anita was busy shooting with her Panasonic with the range of 20-1200 with great results. Maybe I’m just a gear freak but I want to print big and this is the only way I can without spending a fortune.
The weather for the week ahead is real Spring so its time to get after the house. Wish I had more energy.
Looking into ArtStorefronts for marketing. Just not ready to make the financial and time commitment. I want to sell prints and books. Books with titles like Waters Edge, Twilight, Downeast Coast, and Workboats. Right now, I’m still coming up to speed on my equipment and my technique, add the house to that and there is little time and money left over at this point. I do hope to working with ArtStorefronts by the end of the year. We shall see.
Friday April 2
I knew I was forgetting something this week, just realized what that was … my blog!
My Great Aunt Alice who lived on this earth for 104 years and her life spanned 3 centuries said that getting old ain’t for sissies, I’m beginning to understand.
Started shooting with my old D200 and my 50mm f1.4 for high-res stitching and it’s working well. The 50 is razor sharp and equates to a 75 on DX plus I’m utilizing the sweet spot of the lens. The file sizes are manageable and the resolution is great except for the very largest of prints. It’s small, lightweight and makes the ideal travel, inexpensive and yet capable system.
All and all its been a good week (plus). I’m learning more about Lightroom and my equipment capabilities and I’m experimenting more, extending my creative energies.
Spring is here even if the garden still looks asleep. The birds are singing instead of just calling and the early shrubs like Spotted-Alder are already in full flower. It won’t be long now until I am very busy. Went out this morning to get a macro shot of Spotted-Alder and did, but the shot of the day was the leaf-like ice patterns I found on the surface of a forest pool (a ditch along the trail really). You just never know what nature is going to present.
Wednesday April 7
Trying to work back to updates over the weekend so we start mid-week this week instead of the end.
I’m quite well pleased with my work lately. Instead of stressing over whether I’ll get a photograph that I’m pleased with, I simply know that I will and wah lah … I do.
Especially pleased with B&W and the control I have through proper exposure and the tools available in Lightroom. I have the kind of control that I had when I was working the zone system but much easier and quite frankly even better control and I don’t have to be in a darkroom smelling chemicals.
After working more years as a photo-tech than as a photographer, I got to the point of not wanting to deal with all the hassles of film, paper, chemistry and my favorite, dust. Do you get the impression that I like digital? There are aspects of digital that I really don’t like, such as camera bodies that depreciate faster than fruit going south. I don’t care for all the extreme manipulation that is common in digital (although there were crazy thing going on in the darkroom, like solarization and super-push processing). But that is about it. Lenses keep most of their value and I love the instant access to what was just exposed. Look at the histogram and you know you have it.
Waiting for Anita to get home and then go for a walk with the camera. Going to shoot hand held if I can but I’ll take the tripod along just in case. I do like my carbon fiber tripod for its lightweight and ease of use but its cold in the winter and vibrates in the wind. Looking at a Berlebach ash tripod for the view camera and for hi-res and pano due to the sturdiness and vibration dampening that wood offers. My old Gitzo has basically been retired. I can use for site work around the house but the leg clamping system is past repair so I won’t be toting it into the field.
Saturday April 17
It snowed last night and I was hoping for a shot of a Daffodil or two to show themselves through the snow. No such luck, the snow was too heavy and bent them to the ground. I shot it anyway but as it goes with nature you get what she gives.
The new tripod and head are here and I look forward to putting them to use although they do weigh quite a bit more than my carbon fiber unit. The extra weight and vibration dampening will be great when the wind picks up.
It has been a busy and mostly successful period since my last posting. Further exploration of the local environment and new lessons learned about my equipment, my technique and my processing. I’m seeing not only through the lens but also through the entire process from initial impression to lens choice to use of controls within the camera to use of controls within Lightroom to achieve the photograph that I see in my mind’s eye. There is a flow developing as I become more “one” with my art.
I am also breaking old habits and concepts, asking myself more questions like ‘what am I trying to say here’ and ‘what is the essence’? I feel that I am growing as an artist like I did at earlier times and that is a wonderful feeling.
I’ve decided to forgo linking with Art Storefronts and concentrate on my portfolio development (at least for this year and this project) and put external efforts into a book.
The book will be about this year, recovering from Covid, growing as an artist and celebrating the small, the local and the overlooked.
Chasing the spectacular, the grand and the phenomenal is all well and good but there is so much beauty in our own backyards it seems the real challenge to creating a beautiful photograph is revealing something extraordinary about that which is common.
There are other collections that have been wanting to get out of my head and onto the pages of a book but this will be the first.