Friday, February 5, 2016

How Not to do Bird Photography in February

We went to an exhibition of bird photography a few day ago in Richmond. Very inspiring. Then the next day we went to a photo shoot in El Campo where Alcy talked with a very nice lady that travels around the country photographing birds. We had been talking about going back to the rookery at High Island as soon as the egrets and spoonbills start nesting. Well the lady told Alcy that there would be a lot of activity there already as the birds would be vying for nesting space. We decided to take a shot and drive the eighty miles or so to the rookery.

We saw one white ibis, a fist full of coots and plenty of vultures. Not a single egret or spoonbill.
The highlight of the trip was when Alcy could not find her room key as we were about to head out to the rookery. I got out my flashlight and looked under the bed, behind the bed, rechecked every available flat surface of the room, stripped the bed and even when she wasn’t looking went through her coat pockets to be sure she hadn’t over looked it. She was about to cry because she was holding up getting to the rookery and offered to take me over and then go back to resume the search. Finally I asked if she had gone to the car after she was in the room and she said she thought she might have. Sure enough the key was on the driver’s seat.
I am always leaving or losing things so a few weeks ago in recounting one of my lost item stories she told me that I should be more aware of my surroundings. Didn’t set too well because it has more to do with my advancing senility than it did with being aware of my surroundings. You can probably guess the first thing I said after we located the keys.
Needless to say the ‘bird’ shoot was a disaster. We drove into Galveston, ate lunch at El Gusto and headed back to Houston. And .to think I was considering ordering a 600mm lens for the trip.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Promoting My OTHER Blog

I have a second, very infrequently used blog, Photovisualize. It started out to be a place where I could share information that I felt was important about photography. I find that writing about photography, about photographers, about photographic concepts to be beneficial to my photography so it is not entirely altruistic. I cannot say for sure whether the blog was more for the edification of others or simply a way for me to advance my thinking on photography.

Anyway, I have let that blog sit idle too much of the time so I am going to take a new tact to see if I can reactivate the blog, or at least my interest in the blog. I will continue, hopefully more frequently, to write about photographers that I respect, about information I come across that I think is worth sharing. In addition to that I plan to post one of my photographs each week, fifty-two each year that I wish to talk about. These may or may not be a photograph taken during that or the previous week. Some may be very old photographs—some may even be a group of related photographs. (at first I will play catch up and try to fill in the missed weeks of 2016)

This will be my first photo to discuss.
It may be a few days before I get it posted.
My blogs, neither one, seem to attract a lot of subscribers, even from my closest friends. I am not entirely sure how I feel about that. I have discovered that many people read my blogs that do not subscribe, so maybe it is okay. There are just times when I wish I had a better feel for the audience—who is reading what I write.

Anyway, here is a link to Photovisualize. And a blatant appeal: I would love to have you subscribe if you are interested in the more esoteric aspects of my photographic hobby.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Weekend Catch Up

I actually have taken a few photos recently. Last week I attended a shoot with the Sugarland Meet Up at the Downtown Aquarium. Most of what I came home with was taken outside.

Saturday Alcy and I started at a photoshoot with the Sugarland Meet Up Group in El Campo, a small town about 70 miles southwest of Houston. Got back to Houston in time for a shoot with the NWHPC at Discovery Green to do the Field of Lights. Sunday I didn't take any photos but I did sit for Debi for her Portrait Project. This time she was channeling Mary Ellen Marks. Then we went to an opening at the Library in Richmond. So it was a very full weekend. Alcy has already been pushing the rookery at High Island so I am sure we are off for there shortly. No chicks yet but lots of fighting among the birds for nest areas.

El Campo...

Field of Lights...

Friday, January 29, 2016

Debi Beauregard's Portrait Project

Debi Beauregard has a photo project that she has kindly let me join into in a way—meaning I get to be the model. She is taking well respected photographers and doing portraits in somewhat their style. The most recent was Gregory Heisler.

I am not necessarily a big fan of Heisler’s work. True, he has some really outstanding portraits but most strike me as ordinarily good, what would be expected from a top tier commercial people photographer—not spectacular. Many reek ‘commercial’ and some seem gimmicked. That is understandable as the thrust of his work is commercially oriented, mostly for editorial and magazines. It is one plateau of people photography, admittedly a high plateau, and at that he does extremely well and at times transcends that level. Where I must give Heisler considerable respect is in his creative processes which at times (imo) often exceeds the finished photograph. His thought processes and the way he approaches a sitting are remarkable and worth study.  

So, the majority of his work does not blow me away like for instance the work of Arnold Newman or Karsh. He did apprentice with Newman and when he lets the background intrude can seem quite similar. For the most part he handles portraits much like I do by focusing tight on the subject—not quite as tightly as I do because he has the luxury of a studio or space where he has total or at least some control over the background. I am usually shooting in public and often must control the background by excluding it as much as possible.

What I do admire about Heisler is that what he says about photography greatly agrees with my personal photographic philosophies. I always tend to like photographers that agree with me. Who doesn’t like affirmation? I will contend that what I believe about photography applies only to me. I have given up on convincing anyone else that there is some value in beliefs that have been refined over years of following photographers that I admire. And yes, my beliefs are admittedly dated. I am not a fan of the softbox generation of portrait photographers. It’s like showing me things that I don’t want or need to see at the expense of giving me a photograph that makes my heart beat faster.

I do have Heisler’s book, 50 Portraits. The intro is by Michael Bloomberg (not impressed—who made Bloomberg an expert photographic commentator?). I sure don’t agree with Bloomberg’s comment that Heisler’s photograph of Ed Koch that hangs in city hall in New York City is one of the all-time great portraits—if nothing else the lighting is distracting and it is gimmicky (in my opinion—obviously other people disagree). What is great and greatly worthwhile about 50 Portraits is Heisler’s commentary on the photographs. Interestingly Heisler illustrates my theory that photographs are as much about the photographer as they are about the subject. In his political portraits he comes off as naked as a new born baby—but that’s another story.

There’s no kumbaya in Heisler’s writing. He doesn’t gloss over the difficulties of sticking a camera in a sitter’s face. He addresses the fear on both sides of the camera. The true value of Heisler’s work (again.. in my opinion) is his writing about the portraits. He has a phenomenal recall of each and every situation and that has great teaching value for the reader.

In addressing his own thoughts on photographing people Heisler goes back to the Robert Capa quote that if your photograph isn’t interesting is it because you are not close enough. Heisler, at times, manages to get exceedingly close but he carried Capa’s quote a step farther—he contends that if your photograph isn’t interesting it is because your light isn’t close enough. It is an interesting concept which you can see from many of his photographs he believes and practices. It is a concept that I think is worth emulating.
In studying Heisler’s lighting style, Debi and I had difficulty pinning down ‘a’ style. I think the reason for that is that there isn’t ‘a’ style. Heisler does what the ‘by the diagram crowd’ will never achieve. His lighting serves the purpose of the photograph. It is no more complicated than that.

Next Sunday we will work on the next assignment, Mary Ellen Marks.  Now, if she suggests that I get naked in a bathtub full of milk, I may just have to draw the line. It would require prune juice for proper dramatic contrast. Darn it! I just wrote the best line of the piece and then realized that was Annie Leibovitz. Well, I'll be dadgummed if I am going to toss it! 

A Social Responsibility

Since I am older than the majority of the people that browse this blog I feel oblized to, in my small way, prepare you for the age experience. Thus, please note the following examples:

Yesterday I received an email stating that my order for flowers had been shipped. What? I didn’t order flowers. Yeah I did—as a Christmas present for my sister-in-law. I had wanted to schedule the delivery for a few days after Christmas since she was going to be out of town for the holiday. Somehow I scheduled it for January 28th rather than December 28th. So we did Christmas yesterday. She was very understanding since she has known me for a very long time.

This morning as usual, I went out for breakfast. On the way I suddenly remembered that yesterday was Janet’s eightieth birthday and I had not remembered it. That really hit me hard for being so disrespectful. I was bummed out during the entire meal for being so thoughtless. It was made even more difficult as at the table next to me was a well dressed, petit elderly lady. I over heard the conversation and she will turn 91 in March. There is something extremely beautiful about women that have lived life well. After breakfast I had to stop by the grocery store because I am cooking the only thing that I cook—red beans. I was out of salt pork. Well, I wasn’t out but I was a little unsure whether or not I should use the last of the package I purchased some months ago. Yeah it was probably okay but Alcy has me a little leery of eating stuff months after it is out of date. I don’t normally give it much thought but the salt pork did smell a little funny. Now maybe that was just the way salt pork smells--I don't know because I don’t usually go around sniffing salt pork. But to make Alcy happy I’d buy a new package. At the store I wasn’t about to pay five bucks for another slab that would be half thrown away so I found a pack of diced ham. Don’t know if ham works with red beans or not but I’m going to find out. I dumped it all in.

Back at home as I was adding the ham to the pot of beans it occurred to me that I hadn’t had a birthday yet and my birthday is several days before Janet’s. Yeah, Janet’s birthday is next month. Now, let’s see if I forget it again. If I do I will try to remember that I have prechastised myself, or maybe not.

I had taken Gregory Heisler’s book 50 Portraits to breakfast and I wanted to write about it on the blog. So after taking care of the beans I sit down at the computer. Darn, I left my glasses in the car. As I headed for the door I scratched my head. Low and behold—there was my glasses. I went back to the computer thinking that I have to prepare my younger friends for what is ahead.

Now that I have performed my social obligations I can get started on my intended post. Now tell me again, what was it that I was going to post about?

ADENDUM: It is now a little after 2pm. I just walked into the kitchen to check the beans that I put on around 9am. Oh, the smell of onions in the air made my mouth water. I stirred the beans, but they seemed surprisingly hard. That shouldn't be. They have been cooking for five hours--without the crock pot plugged in. Maybe if I am up at midnight I can have a bowl of beans to learn whether or not the ham worked.

Monday, January 18, 2016

New Direction--for a day or two anyway...

Well, now that I am a “digital artist” rather than a photographer I decided that I needed a new look to my blog. Again, that is a falsehood but a better story than what actually happened. For some reason my blog background decided to get lighter. I didn’t like it and couldn’t figure out how to fix it so I selected a slightly different template that allows me to use a picture of my studio as a background. I kinda liked that so I switched—excuse me, upgraded.

Did some modeling yesterday for Debi Beauregard and think I am going to up my modeling fee—I’m good! Hope she will let me post a few when she is finished processing.

I’m still stuck with a rental while the Escape is getting its collision damage fixed. I had a girlfriend once that asked me what a co-lieสน-son was. I told her I didn’t know and ask where she heard it. She said that we just passed a billboard that said, “Don’t let a collision spoil your holiday” and she needed to know what it was so she could avoid it. Can’t get girls like that no more.

I’m posting so much to Facebook that I am forgetting what I have or have not posted to the blog. Forgetting is something I do well. Yesterday I thought I had lost my laptop because I forgot that I left it at the studio. Drove the $*#@ Fusion that I can’t see out of all the way out to Alcy’s after dark to see if I left it there. She told me I left it at the studio and she was right. Anyway here are a few that I have been playing with lately…


Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Just For Fun

Forgot this one on the previous post. No manipulation, just a straight image but I find it very humorous. I probably posted this and a couple of others from the shrimp boat pier in Galveston to Facebook with the notation that who knew that on a rainy day streams of bird poop could make such an interesting background.

Follow Me Brothers! It's a Slippery Slope But I Will Lead You to the Promised Land

Again I Play Catchup

Things have been a little hectic. Finally got the Escape in for repairs. Been enjoying playing with composites thanks to Paula Powers inspiring work. No where near where Paula is but I am working on it.

Along with compositing I am having fun with what I am calling the Chaos Filter and other software programs.



In Search of El Dorado

Blood Moon Rising

Bellville Castle
The Jester

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Things—only marginally connected and of only personal value… from 2015

I just finished my ‘journal’ for 2015. As most know it is not really a journal in the sense of a written account—it is a collection of photographs done during the year. From 2007 through 2012 I did a journal every quarter but I decided that was an extravagance I couldn’t afford and didn’t really need. I started 2013. Had the first quarter’s journal ready to go to Blurb but never sent it. I skipped 2014 completely.

This past year, I decided to do a one year long journal. That would be less expensive and might weed out some of the work that I probably should not have shown anyway.  A little tweaking and a new portrait, which Alcy has promised to do, and it will be ready for publication. It is around 240 pages and somewhere between 300 and 400 photographs.

I, of course, probably wrote more about the photographs than I should have even though it is far short of what I normally do. I have no idea whether anyone is ever interested in why I take photographs or why I photograph what I do or process them the way I do—but I put it out there anyway. Which brings up why I am bringing this up.

I was writing a blurb to put with the last photograph about rose colored glasses and I got to wondering how many of my photographer friends ever question why they take photographs, why they photograph what they do and why they process them the way they do. See, I ask myself that question dozens of times a day. Unfortunately I am constantly writing about these ‘whys’ and boring everyone to death, I’m sure. But I do not understand any other reason for taking photographs. I would have given up photography sixty years ago if the only reason for taking pictures was to ‘capture’ beauty. My world just ain’t that beautiful I guess.. Beauty is wonderful, but the capturing of beauty has already been done and done much better than I would ever be able to do it—I just need something more from photography.

I mentioned a poem to a friend today that related to a photograph that she had taken. The response I received was encouraging, heartwarming and very greatly appreciated. I frequently talk about photography being a visual language. I personally believe that photography is more akin to poetry than it is to painting. Won’t bore you with that theory all over again. You’re welcome.

I take two types of photographs: those that are not worth crap and those that resonate. It is often difficult for other people to tell the two apart. But I know which is which. The ones that resonate contain something of importance, of value to me. It may or may not be the subject matter. Maybe it is only a memory or it could be a line from a poem. After all, a dead fish in itself doesn’t mean much as a dead fish but it can have considerable meaning as a metaphor.

I use photography to explore, me, life, my beliefs, death—who I am and what I am and why I am. All favorite subjects of the poets. Am I foolish enough to believe that my photography is poetic—not at all? But then again, there are times when my photographs resonate. Then, and maybe only then, I am happy.

2016 Begins

2015 ended shooting night photos of the Pleasure Pier in Galveston and 2016 started off with birds. The egret at the ferry landing on Bolivar says it all...hunker down.


Stopped to shoot the pelicans at the dock in Galveston. Who knew that broken concrete and massive streams of bird poop could make such interesting background textures on a cold and rainy morning? 

 The 1st is Alcy's birthday and she chose to have lunch at Tookies in Seabrook. We stopped in Texas City on the way and shot some wind surfers but I didn't get anything to keep. Always shoot the shrimp boats docked on the dike. On the way out of town I did shoot a bikers bar and a few abandoned buildings.

Finshed the day at Tookies eating a chicken wings burger and no she did not eat it all. I, of course had better sense and had the No. 99 as I always do.

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Backwoods Photo Shoot

A friend, Paula Powers, does fantastic digital art. She had an idea that stemmed from memories of her grandfather and wanted to do a project that was in a way a memorial to him. Her grandfather played the violin and it would have been great to have located one that we could have borrowed for the shoot but that did not work out.

Paula wanted a backwoods, Appalachian feel to the images, so I suggested a park outside of Humble that has a collection of log buildings. Paula's friend Dennis Hahn who does reenactments volunteered to pose and did an outstanding job. Kathy, his wife, came along dressed in a fantastic coat. Although we concentrated on photographing Dennis, I couldn't resist getting at least one photo of Kathy.

I have tried several manipulations styles and I think that many of them work although I am personally partial to the pencil sketch styles.