Wet Screen, Orange and Scarlet Begonias

Wet Screen, Orange and Scarlet Begonias

This image is a mix of what for me are normal: “found” compositions, and then also something a bit rarer, a set up, a still life. I guess really it’s a still life.

The weather had been a very fine rain overnight, more like a heavy mist. I of course went out with my camera and made a lot of macro photos with the fine droplets on the new summer growth. I think some of them are good. Having finished that work, we were going to go on an errand, but I saw this wet screen on my back porch. I was working on installing some screen doors, and this screen was loose, leaned against the house, and more wet from the fine rain than I could have made it. It occurred to me to move it over by the planters with the orange and scarlet begonias, and I grabbed the full frame camera, still with it’s vintage macro lens attached. I thought the series of images were quite beautiful, but I was in a rush. Surely I could do better if I tried this with more consideration when I wasn’t rushed.

I tried it a few more sessions, wetting the screen with a hose those times. Besides never quite getting the quality of wetness that the fine rain produced, somehow the more contrived attempts weren’t quite as good as the images from the original session.

Of course it’s the case in nature, that the situation, the light, the feel of the moment is unique to each exposure, but you’d be tempted to think that if you set a situation up, you’d have more control. There’s something about that initial flash of connection and insight though, that seems hard to duplicate.

Here is another one. Last year I had a vintage lens I was testing out, an old Olympus OM short tele. I didn’t end up keeping it; it wasn’t quite as sharp as I would like across the frame (though it was sharp in the center even at full-wide aperture), but it did have a unique and pleasing quality of bokeh, it’s out of focus rendering quality. Again, I was in a bit of a hurry, on my way to a meeting. But as I drove past this patch of blue chicory flowers by the side of the road, I had to pull over and try a few exposures with the soft blur quality. I got this one:
roadside chicory, car, vermont

This year I have a couple more vintage bokeh lenses that should be better than that one I culled. Lenses that also draw a beautiful out of focus quality, while also being razor sharp. I’ve been down to that spot a few times now, a year later, trying to surpass my initial hurried attempt. I’ve taken time, because the situation has so much potential. It’s possible that I’ve pulled it off, but I’m not sure yet.

The wet screen and begonias image is a bit of a shame to put on the web, because it needs to be pretty big. The subtle detail and texture of the screen and the water on it gets lost, with a high resolution full frame beautiful file reduced down to a computer screen. It needs to be seen as a big print.

Vermont Farmer’s Market: Flower Decisions

Vermont Farmer's Market, Clematis,Peony,Columbine

As a bit of a counterpoint to last week’s image, which is bright and luminous, this is a similar subject but darker and denser: completely different feel. This was made with the same lens at the same aperture, an ancient Zeiss Contax G 90 Sonnar, wide open.

These days I would have tended to bring a different lens in my bag. In my current style for something like a farmer’s market, I would choose one of my less aggressively sharp and contrasty lenses. However, encouraged by the alternate character revealed in that fuschia greenhouse photo, I brought this as my only long lens and used it wide open.

A farmer’s market is funny, like life: there is a lot going on and it’s hard to sort it out. I always feel like it might be a ripe situation for photography, and it often is, but it really requires some careful looking. One slice of it might be a good photo, but then there is a lot of chaos and potential for everything to change quite quickly. Of course, like life, that change works in our favor. Without it, we would be stuck.

Famous Purple Raincoat; Fuchsias in Spring Greenhouse

Pink Fuchsias, Purple Raincoat, Greenhouse

As much as I try to know my gear and what it will do, this image was a delightful surprise.

I think of my lenses — almost all prime (not zoom) and manual focus, often vintage — in two broad categories: Zeissy or Anti-Zeiss. As I may have mentioned before the Zeissy lenses are aggressively sharp and contrasty, often generally at the expense of smooth rendering. I’ve been surprised before, as in the success of this image of lights in a botanic garden at night. But generally the Zeissy lenses are not what I think of when I want something smooth and dreamy.

I was out on errands, and my bag had only these sharp and aggressively contrasty lenses in it. On this rainy dreamy day, I found myself in the soft light of a greenhouse and wanted a rather dreamier rendering. I tried a lens I’ve had for about four months, and I thought I knew it. It’s an old Zeiss Contax G film-era lens, which, in my experience, is one of the sharpest and most aggressively contrasty lenses I own. I decided to try it at wide aperture and hope for the best. The viewfinder looked good.

When I looked at the file, I was surprised at the smooth dreamy rendering. In fact, I liked the image so much I decided to go back to this and other greenhouses with some of my “bokeh” smooth lenses to get an even better image. I may have managed that; maybe not. I think for what I wanted of this image, this old lens pulled through surprisingly well!

Exactly one year ago: newly plowed corn field, dappled light and low clouds

Newly Plowed Cornfield Vermont Black and White

I had been thinking about this image for a couple of weeks. I actually wake up sometimes with them in my mind. Sometimes I can’t sleep in the night because I get such strong flashes in my mind, like I’m making the exposures. Sometimes I have dreams that are like slideshows, streams of my photos. Anyway, I thought about this photo very vividly and then realized it was made just this week, last year.

There are so many things about it I like, but better to let you come to your own relationship with it.

This is an example of my work being informed by my past — my work in silver images with large format film. But I have to say that this panorama with a modern Zeiss lens, stitched from high resolution images from a very good modern sensor, is better than anything I could have made before. I will print it pretty big, and it will shine that way, but there is enough resolution that I could print it really big. If you like it and have a large wall, let me know.

This print is available for sale here.

Catching up!

I’ve been posting to the blog about show openings and such, and I’m behind on the new photos. The cheese and crackers is all very fun. I had a great time at the Athenaeum show opening in Boston, and the reception in Thetford Vermont (come meet me if you are local!) will be fun too. But there is quite a backlog of new material, as usual.

I won’t get philosophical or any of the somewhat usual ruminations, just point out a couple from one day in the field.

I know of a little ravine that has water falling over the edge, and in the winter it freezes and freezes. It’s a bit slower a flow than a real “waterfall.” I think a waterfall is disruptive to this kind of ice formation, though of course it has its own charm.

I headed out at 9 in the morning, with a lot of my gear, some almonds, half a chocolate bar, and a thermos of tea. That tea was very very good, more appreciated than when I have it at my desk. I was glad to have the tea, because I worked through three Sony batteries and didn’t finish making exposures until about 5 PM. It was rather chilly, though already late winter.

The light in that ravine is generally soft, with some strong beams at times. It’s workable, and very nice.

I tend to think of my lens selection as “Zeissy” or “Anti-Zeiss.” This day was very Zeissy.

frozen waterfall vermont

Then looking down:

frozen waterfall vermont

frozen waterfall vermont

Boston Athenaeum Exhibit is Wonderful!

On Wednesday evening, April 5, I really enjoyed the opening of the Exhibition in which some of my photos play a part: “New England on Paper: Contemporary Art in the Boston Athenæum’s Prints & Photographs Collections

Here is a virtual tour of the show on the Athenaeum web site, but you should really see it in person if you are in Boston.

A Little Show Through Spring 2017 at Pompanoosuc Mills

Art Show at Pompanoosuc Mills

Last Friday I installed 8 pieces for a little show in the Pompanoosuc Mills showroom in East Thetford Vermont, as a sort of annex show for the Long River Gallery . I didn’t know about the green walls before I showed up, but as luck would have it, it works out. The lighting is good, the space is huge, the furniture is beautiful. I framed up two new pieces, shown above and some tried and true images.

Light on One Morning Glory,”
Light on One Morning Glory
is printed on Canson Aquarelle Watercolor paper. I love how the sharp, dappled morning glory flower pops from the bokeh-blur background, which melts into the texture of the watercolor paper. I placed it in a spot where it’s easy to get right up to it to see the interplay of color and the paper texture.

The other new one is “Beets in Ice, which was a little tricky to get just right as a print.
still life beets in ice
There is a lot going on in this simple still life poem of tones, and balancing the light with the velvet of the shadows was the tricky part. It’s printed on Canson Etching Edition paper, with some nice texture, but less than the watercolor.

The big one in that setting is “One Cow, Thirteen Hay Bales,” a panorama in a 40 inch Ash frame.
One Cow, Thirteen Hay Bales Infrared Photo
This has always been one of my favorites. An infrared panorama, it gives a sense of space, and not just space in the physical sense, but spaciousness of mind. To me it triggers the sense that there is room between thoughts, that everything doesn’t need to be so dense and solid in our experience.

Two prints in Show at Pompanoosuc Mills
These are two “classic” prints of mine, exposed in Iceland on my last trip there. Though I’m not usually a purveyor of horse photos, I love the play of tones, and the emotional warmth of the two friends in the photo “Two Horses, Iceland
Two Horses, Iceland

Horizontal Staircase, Iceland ” is a kind of strange poem, exposed with the infrared camera, and toned the way I used to split-tone prints on silver chloride paper with selenium toner, in the darkroom days

Horizontal Staircase, Iceland

Pickerel Weed and Mist

This single large print, Pickerelweed, Mist Breaking Up, Post Pond is also one of my favorites, printed on Canson Rag Photographique. There is just a bit of papery texture blending with the subtle tones.
Pickerelweed, Mist Breaking Up, Post Pond

All by itself, “Spring Cornfield, Hay Field, Clouds Hartland Vermont” holds the space quiet well. If you’re there, walk up close. For that matter, walk up close to any of them! I try to match paper texture to the print character, and the details are worth seeing in the print.

Spring Cornfield, Hay Field, Clouds Hartland Vermont

This print will be hanging through the spring and summer in a show at the Boston Athenaeum: New England on Paper: Contemporary Art in the Boston Athenæum’s Prints & Photographs Collection

The final photo is another from iceland, Black Sheep, White Sheep, Curved Road

Black Sheep, White Sheep, Curved Road, Iceland