Category Archives: Red

Rose Hips in Snow and Fog

Rose Hips in Snow and Fog

A new-to-me vintage lens I recently acquired is over-the-top smooth and creamy in the background, while rendering the focus super sharp anywhere in the frame. It’s about 30 years old, I guess, and as good as any lens I would ever want to buy new, except that it’s not so good pointed toward the sun. While my modern Zeiss lenses have some aggressive sharpness and unbelievable coatings, there is something about this old lens that is so pleasing I can hardly contain myself. What a joy.

I bought this lens on the internet while I was traveling for my father’s funeral. In that dark time, an online vendor of used lenses was having a big sale, and I took that bait to good result. A relatively expensive lens, I might not have bought it at another time. What a weird juxtaposition.

Since I’ve had the lens, since my father’s funeral and the US election, I’ve been stumbling through the mystery of grief, which has its own rhythms and times and demands. It works without our consent or conscious knowledge — and yet it demands our cooperation in its mystery. It clobbers us, but also has some healing power. If we give it its due, maybe it gives us some insight or blessing in return. I’ve always been intrigued that an ever-recurring theme in world storytelling, mythology, religious texts, is a set of variations on the theme of the hero needing to journey underground in a dark place. Maybe my favorite is C.S. Lewis’ _The Silver Chair_, a children’s book rich in wisdom. We are compelled to go to the dark place, and there we have to keep our wits about us. We have to follow instructions (in my case my meditation and dzogchen practice). Then we gain something. It’s weird.

So this image, with this lens, is to me like the grief, somewhat, though of course I wouldn’t want to have that be your interpretation! This is of course more beautiful than the experience of grief, but that is one point; within grief there are glimpses of the beautiful world. Some murky mystery, luminous; and there is some brightness glowing. There are jewels of insight, wisdom, and growth to be found in grief, if we don’t succumb to it altogether. It has been weird for me this time, a foggy quality, something of this smooth semi-differentiated quality, not strongly articulated, a few aspects strongly etched.

I have mentioned many times in this blog my love of ukiyo-e (“floating world”); the dreamy woodcuts (and sometimes paintings) of Hokusai, Utamaro, Hiroshige, Hoitsu, Kawase, and others. I love that aesthetic in the past, and by masters who bring the tradition forward into the present, like Matt Brown. This is one of my images that feels inspired by ukiyo-e.

Luckily, I love what I do as a photographer and I don’t pine too much to time travel to ancient Japan. I love that sometimes photography can do what other mediums can’t. Both realistic rendering, and the way a good lens can draw and paint with light have their own aesthetic virtues, which sometimes can soar. I can’t do ukiyo-e woodblocks, but I can be inspired by them. I can make prints I am very happy with.

I print this image on fine textured watercolor or etching paper, or it also works well on the smooth baryta surface of my other favorite paper by Canson. If you order a print and have a paper preference, let me know.

Available for sale here…

Bee Balm Through Siberian Iris Leaves and Dew

Monarda siberian iris leaves

“People think it’s the object of attention that’s important, like an object reflected in a mirror. But it’s actually looking toward where objects are reflected that’s important, the capacity to reflect. Look at a flower. Then look at the mind that perceives the flower.”

— Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

I typed this quote in my notes in a dharma retreat the other day, a retreat with my Buddhist teacher, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, who is Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche’s son.

Besides having everything to do with meditation at a certain level, that quote also has everything to do with my approach to photography. It’s not that there is some thing out there, and I’m out to capture it. It’s about perception, resonance, our capacity to reflect and be aware — and aware of our awareness.

This image is available for sale and view at higher resolution on this page

A bit of ice from the backlog

Rose Hips after Ice Storm

Last week was pretty busy with photography. I ended up hanging a little restaurant show in Lyme, where I also took some trips to take some framed works to the Long River Studio gallery. The show, at Stella’s restaurant is a “gallery extension” show and came up at the last minute. I was busy cutting new mats and reframing pieces and even doing some printing. So this is a long way of getting to this top photo above. One of the images I re-printed last week was an older exposure of Rose Hips in Snow, and I’m very happy with the re-visioning of that image. I printed it on Canson Aquarella watercolor paper, and the texture of the paper is very nice in the softer areas of the print. That got me excited to bring to light some of the other rose hip images I’ve exposed, mostly in 2014, a year when the swamp roses had a lot of nice hips and also when we had some good ice storms and heavy rime-ice frosts on them. I hope to bring out several more of those rose hip images.

To make up for no image last week, I’m also bringing out a new-older new-ice photo, also from 2014 exposure. I liked the new-ice images from this year that I posted last time a lot, so I decided to bring forth another:
New Ice and Maple Tree Reflection

These photos are for sale as prints:

Rose Hips After Ice Storm

New Ice and Maple Tree Reflection

Bee on Globe Thistle, Mondarda, Vermont

The Bee Balm (monarda) has rather run away this summer, but I couldn’t bear to try to tame it. I’m finding that the brilliant red is providing a handy backdrop for all kinds of subjects. I think I am going to try a whole series about this bee balm running wild. I just found out that I will be exhibiting at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon NH this October through December, and I think the bee balm series might be something to try printing for it.

This image proves to me some things I already know so well: you can make a photograph in natural light once. After that any attempt to improve or recreate it are rather iffy. It seems like it should be more than possible to refine a vision, but it’s tricky.

This particular image was one of the first of about 200 images I made of this subject. Over a few day period, the bees were reliably working this globe thistle, and the red monarda backdrop wasn’t going anywhere. I tried some different lenses, tried optimizing the aperture for the blur of the background, even making some of those 40 Megapixel monsters that my micro four thirds camera can do with its sensor-shift technology (and those are good because the colors are often better and truer). Still, I think this might be among the best of the batch. Subject to revision. We’ll see.

This image is for sale and can be viewed in higher resolution on its page.

Frosted Siberian Iris Leaves over Red Maple

I’m working on printing, framing, and generally planning the show that will hang in Hanover NH on December 5 at the Howe Library. Still, I’m working with new images too, even if they won’t make the show. This one might though.

We had a hard frost on Monday, really our first hard one. It was a little late, as far as getting the frost-on-fallen-leaves subject that I’ve explored over the years. I spent a lot of time bending over with the macro lens, and here’s one harvest from that effort.

I’ve also been thinking about the theme of the show, anicca, and how that ties to photography. It’s so paradoxical, how photography makes impermanence so poignant. Photography in a superficial sense “freezes” a view of the world. Oddly, rather than solidifying the world more, this points out that reality is more like smoke than rock. It’s a river we can’t step into twice. We have a glimpse of something, a moment, form, texture, maybe color; and it’s gone. There is meaning, resonance — that can linger, but the moment is gone.

That frost is gone, and it’s raining today, the leaves marching through time toward brown mush.