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Let the Game Come to You

night-boat

I mentioned in the previous post working with a different aesthetic and how liberating it has been.  Really, I have been taking a whole new approach to making my images, the different aesthetic is really just a part of it.  In the past, I would generally pre-visualize a scene, then go and work to create it.  Or, I would scout out a location and figure out the light (and color) that I hope to get and then go, usually a number of times, until I was able to capture the image and the feel that I was after.  For a landscape photographer, this is probably a general work style – find a dynamic scene and return time and time again until you’ve captured the essence of it.  But that’s not what I’ve been doing the last months.  Now, I am leaving the house with minimal gear, all fitting in a smaller camera bag slung around my shoulder and a tripod, and no predetermined ideas about what I may or may not shoot.  I am trying to go out clean and to allow myself to be open to whatever may inspire me photographically.  My success rate has been really unbelievable!  How inspiring this has been!  And surely there are many photographers who approach their work this way naturally and are thinking, “yeah, so what”, but for me it has been a big change.  Perhaps for the first time as a photographer, I feel I am really being present and allowing the process of making images to simply unfold, and the results have showed with images coming more naturally than ever before.

flight-pathstudy2

Along with all this, which I feel is really just a natural procession of my work as a photographer, comes many new images and beginnings of studies.  (This is another difference in my new approach – instead of just going out looking to make individual greatest hits, I am taking a subject that I am drawn to and photographing it in many ways and working with a mindset as to “study” a subject.  Quite a different process as before.)  Which leads me to this series of flight and boat paths at night.  

I love to photograph at night for many reasons, the primary one being that I love the capture of time in a still image.  Obviously, capturing extended time at night is a little easier than during the day because it is dark!  As I have been heading out lately under the dark night skies, my attention has been drawn to the incoming flights that fly directly overhead the seaside park by my house, and the fishing boats in the bay with their lights on to attract their catch.  

night-boats-and-sea

Working with these images, new ideas have formed and new studies are already on their way, having been spawned through the study of capturing the trails of light from planes and boats, neither of which I would have thought were much of a photographic subject had I thought about it.  And maybe that’s the point to all this blabber – that thinking about what you are going to shoot is not always the best method.  You hear coaches tell athletes,”Let the game come to you.”  What exactly do they mean?  The player has practiced practiced practiced and when game time comes, it’s time to stop thinking and just play – naturally, without thinking.  Let the game come to you and flow naturally with it.  That’s what the best players are able to do, and I suppose that is what I am talking about here.  If you already take this approach to your work, good for you.  If not, try it.  Go out with your gear and have no thoughts or ideas about what subject you may photograph.  Pick an area of interest and allow your attention to go where it may.  You’ll know when to pull out the camera and let the game come to you. 

flight-path-and-seashore

 

 

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Working with a Different Aesthetic

Cliff Birds. Study 1

CLIFF BIRDS.  STUDY 1.  LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA 2009

If you follow my work at all, then you will have noticed that recently the work has taken on a different aesthetic.  Although, my primary focus over the last several years has been based in bold color and often, the panoramic format, there has been quite a number of things that has led me to seeing and shooting differently as of late…and I must say, it has been a thrill!

Early on my photographic path, and as I embarked on landscape photography specifically, the works that were influencing me were color.  Art Wolfe’s book Edge of the Earth Corner of the Sky was a big influence and still one of my personal favorite collections of photography.  Many of those images touched me strongly and his use of capturing time resonated with me.  Around this same time, I found panoramic photography and began educating myself on this aesthetic.  One of the initial ideas of the panoramic that really resonated with me was – it is the most natural photographic formats to view with the human eyes, it is how we see.  Sounds good, right?  We do see wide.  It was with this thought that I wanted to learn to capture the landscape in a wide panoramic format, and so I purchased a Linhof 617 and began to work at it.

The learning curve was steep for me, and I found some months of time and many shooting attempts passing by before I made what I felt was a successful image with the wide 3-to-1 format.  You have to see the world different and the composition contains so much area, it becomes quite difficult to make every element make sense.  I pressed on.  It was probably two years before I began to feel somewhat comfortable and probably a third before I felt anything resembling confidence with the format.  In the back of my head, I always wondered what it must feel like to find the perfect format (for me), where the work came more naturally.  It was obvious that most other landscape photographers had found their ideal formats and weren’t going through these same struggles, right?  I mean, whether it was Kenna and his Hassleblads, Wolfe with his 35mm, Fokos with his large format 8×10, it seemed that most weren’t going through these difficulties.  To make matters worse, I was trying to mingle the panoramic format with the 6×7 medium format AND 35mm/DSLR formats, all making for a lot of confusion.  Of course hindsight being 20/20, I now clearly see that for a developing photographer, this is madness!   

I began working in photography galleries where the work was primarily hyper-color.  Fuji Velvia and beyond.  I spent several years talking with people about these works and the surreal colors and it clearly had an influence on my work.  I shot only Fuji Velvia and chased after sweet light and moments of glorious color.  Now, several years later, my thoughts and feelings regarding color, and specifically the hyper-colors in photographs, have somewhat changed.  Not due to any one moment of epiphany but rather to a culmination of many things.  Primarily, I began to see that, with the digital age in full swing, that people get hung up on the colors that I was accustomed to making.  Whether it was done naturally with film did not matter, most people simply couldn’t allow themselves to view a bright colored piece and have the communication with it that I would hope because they couldn’t get past the color!

I think this is what happens – People think, hey, this isn’t how I see the world…I don’t see color like that in my everyday life, so it must be false…it must be Photoshopped and enhanced.  With my work, I never really did try and create photographs to look exactly like the way you might with your eyes, I more tried to create images that would evoke a feeling or a line of thought.  As an artist trying to communicate to the viewer, and to see the viewer continually not having this communication, seemingly due to this hang-up regarding color, was troubling at first, but led me to explore this topic deeper.

Amazingly, I never saw these same reactions from the viewer with black and white images.  It is crazy to me, since we see the world in color, not black and white!  Nonetheless, people seem more open and able to simply view the black and whites and I seldom saw these same hang-ups.  Even when the black and white was heavily manipulated with a time exposure and dodging and burning vs. the color image that is very natural and straight out of the camera, 95% of the time, viewers would have no issue with the black and white and question the color!

Over time, my aesthetic was naturally becoming more simple.  I was working harder to leave more out of the compositions.  I was also working harder to leave more gear at home and to simplify my entire process with less gear, and therefore less decisions.  With all of this mentioned and many other factors, I have, of late, been finding myself going out with one camera and one aesthetic – the black and white in a square box.  I haven’t been shooting with anyone else in mind, but trying to solely focus on what I find intriguing in an image.  This aspect of the photograph has remained constant – the capture of time in a still photograph is what I find most intriguing.  Whether it’s a simple landscape with the movement of the ocean, people moving around a breakwall, or birds moving throughout the exposure, it’s this study of time that I am most drawn to capture.  I can’t say I’m abandoning color, or the panoramic format, but this recent work has felt so liberating and has come so naturally to me.  I have felt the way I always suspected of other photographers but never had fully experienced, totally at peace and at ease with the format and the aesthetic.  The work has come more easily, more naturally, and whether it communicates to any viewer is completely unknown, but I can say – I don’t much care.  Just the making of them has been pleasure enough.

wall-morphTHE WALL – MORPH.  LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA 2009

Three Birds

Note to self:  This is why you always bring a camera with you…even if you are just going for a short walk with your sweetheart and your cute little nieces.  That EPIC sunset you missed a few days ago won’t quickly be forgotten…although, this evening was beautiful!

 

Beginning to Morph

I have presented the beginnings of several new projects that I have been working on for sometime in the Archive section of scottreither.com One of which is entitled Morph. This is one of the images from this growing collection where the common thread will be people, cars, planes, and other everyday moving objects captured in a longer exposure causing them to blur and Morph into something else – visually in the images anyway! Keep an eye out for many new images Coming Soon!

Reflecting

 

the-stranger

While out exploring for photo opportunities recently, I found myself on Coronado Island at sunset.  I had been down by the border and was hoping to get something there but to no avail, so I wasn’t quite ready to go home empty handed.  Walking along the boardwalk, I tried a number of different compositions, mostly toward the Coronado Bridge with the beautiful evening light.  I’ve tried shooting that bridge now a number of times and can’t seem to get something I really like of it…even with the sweet light of this eve.  C’est la vie!

Although the light was most dramatic over the bridge, I decided to head around and look for a unique vantage on the cityscape.  A couple hundred yards down the path, I came to this large puddle, leftovers from the recent rains, and without thinking, immediately laid out flat on the pavement to get this perspective.  The camera had to be very low, just a few inches off the ground, so I couldn’t use a tripod.  A beanbag would have been helpful, but I didn’t have that and it was too cold to take off my sweater and use that!  So, I adjusted my settings to 1/25 at f/4 using a 400 iso.  Using my elbows propped to the ground and holding my breath, with the help of the lens’ image stabilization, I was able to achieve a sharp image.

I like the feel of this image.  The city in the background, the symmetry of the lampposts, it all seems to create a futuristic feel.  The figure in the image completes the scene and adds some needed life.  When you take out the figure, the scene feels too sterile.

Tree in the Fog

 

tree-in-fogweb1

You become things, you become an atmosphere, and if you become it, which means you incorporate it within you, you can also give it back. You can put this feeling into a picture. A painter can do it. And a musician can do it and I think a photographer can do that too and that I would call the dreaming with open eyes.  -ernst haas

 

Windy Windansea

Follow your bliss

and the universe

will open doors for you

where there were only walls.

-joseph campbell

19 Hours in NYC

 

 

 

 

 

 

My first visit to the Big Apple was a quick 19 hours, though I didn’t let that stop me from getting some shots.  The first stop was under the Brooklyn Bridge for the late afternoon and sunset light.  Unfortunately, I got off two frames before being escorted off the “State Park” premises.  Apparently, I didn’t look like the typical tourist taking snapshots with a tripod, Lowepro pack full of gear, and a digi SLR and Horseman 617(!!) hanging from my person.  When the Ranger asked me the purpose of my shooting, I figured “Art” would be a safe reply.  I was wrong.  Without the proper permits, nothing more than cheesy snapshots.  Wow, these New Yorkers are hardcore!

I was on “Top of the Rock” at 10pm and again at 8am.  The morning was much better.  Again, difficult to shoot (especially at night!) since tripods are not allowed.  Also, it took me awhile to figure out to get to the very top to have views that are not through the protective-glass.  For the morning shot, I was there first thing and used a bean bag to help with the camera.  That method worked alright, but I would have liked a mini-tripod or gorillapod (which I haven’t yet used, but will look to add one to the camera bag after this trip.)

I stayed at the Renaissance Hotel at Times Square, which was convenient for getting to “the Rock” and walking around shooting.  I did do a number of long exposures and had no trouble using the tripod around town, though I was a bit paranoid that I’d get arrested or something!  Next visit, I’ll probably look to get the required permit and save the stress.

All in all, I’d call my 19 hours in New York a shooting success.  The above images were some of my favorite from the digi and I still have a number of film images that I like.  A project that I had been brainstorming for a couple of years about a collection of New York images is even more clear in my mind now and I can’t wait to get back and spend a good amount of time manifesting it sometime in the future.  The trip also acted as a useful lesson that not all successful images necessarily come from endless hours/days/weeks of pursuit, but more from the internal spark of inspiration and passion.  New York definitely lit me up.

Umbrella for Two

umbrella

Umbrella for Two, La Jolla, California 2007

With the cooler days of a Southern California winter before us, La Jolla has once again become a quiet little village. Yes, the locals like to call La Jolla a village for some reason, and of course quiet is being used relatively.  Personally, when I think of a village, I think of some quaint little mountain setting in Italy, or perhaps Nepal, where there are a couple of hundred residents living and working together.  You can trade some yak cheese for some rice wine or meet for bocce ball with the elderly men in the afternoon.  In fact, Webster calls a village:  ”a small community or group of houses in a rural area, larger than a hamlet and usually smaller than a town, and sometimes (as in parts of the U.S.) incorporated as a municipality.”  Oohh, now a hamlet sounds charming indeed…not sure I’ve ever been to a hamlet, but do look forward to it.  Anyways, I’m pretty sure that we are a lot larger than a hamlet and this certainly can’t be called rural.  In reality, this is a town.

So, starting over more accurately…with the cooler days of a Southern California winter before us, La Jolla has once again become a quiet little town.  Not a very good time of year for local businesses, but it is nice for those of us who live here in the village town.  Photographically, I much prefer going out shooting when there aren’t a million people around.  I suppose the portrait photographer would feel different, but for me, photographing has always been my solitary time.  It’s my time to look within, and by doing so I can see a little more clearly.  I like to go for long walks with the camera and an ipod.  It still amazes me sometimes when I’m composing an image, totally in my own world, with headphones on, and someone comes up and taps on my shoulder, usually causing me a startle.  I see their lips moving, but I can’t hear them, but I’m sure I know what they are saying already: “What are you photographing?”  Although I am trying to open myself up more to these moments and to not be so shut off, I can’t help but to feel that this is at the same time an impropriety…isn’t it?  I mean, aren’t headphones plugged into the skull universal for: Closed for outside business, will reopen later.  And how in the world do you describe what you are photographing?!  ”Well, uh, I’m photographing those 2 beach chairs and the umbrella.”  and then follows, “Why” or “are you a professional”.

The photograph is the answer.  The photographer is unable to answer on the scene as to why they are shooting what they are shooting.  The photograph is the answer.  When I came across this scene on one of my walks, it told me a story that I liked.  A story that I wanted to tell.  A story about a Southern California beach town that’s gone quiet for the winter.  A place where the locals still prefer village to town, and maybe that in itself says something about the community.  Anyways, a village ain’t a bad place to live.

Serenity Now!

Serenity     Maui, Hawaii 2004

For those of you who don’t shoot film, have never seen a slide transparency on the lightbox, and think of a photograph as a file in the computer’s hard drive, you really don’t know what you’re missing.  Don’t get me wrong, I love much of what the digi present and future offers, but there is, without question, something much more satisfying in capturing a great photograph on a piece of film that you can touch and hold and place down on the light table and view the light coming through.

Like most photographers, I started shooting with 35mm color negatives.  I didn’t know any better.  That changed when I saw a slide show in Kathmandu in 2001 that brought me to tears.  It was then that I began to shoot positive slide film.

But it was the move from 35mm to the much larger (over 12 times larger!) 6x17cm format when I became truly hooked!  Sure the images were much more difficult to capture…completely and totally different from 35mm.  Exposing a big piece of film is a whole new craft and the learning curve was steep at the beginning.  The amount of wasted film, time and money spent creating underexposed and unusable film was disheartening, and only concerted determination and perseverance got me through those times.

And when, perhaps I thought I’d never be able to create a great photograph with this big film and it’s wide 3-to-1 ratio format of space to fill, I created this image – Serenity.  Initially, I named it Serenity because of the feel that it gives the viewer, but looking back, the making of this image brought me a serenity in finally having created one successful image.  It’s like that one shot amongst many in a round of golf that gets you to come back and play again.  You can forget the 104 horrible-to-mediocre shots that you hit everywhere but where you intended  because you had that one shot.  That one shot that felt great where you hit the “sweet spot” and it was effortless.  Clouds part, angels sing.

Now, I had that shot.  I had that one that would bring me out again, that would allow me to overlook all the bad ones that I had made.  And unlike a shot in golf that is just a memory, or a digi file in your computer that’s foundation is invisible, this shot is one that I can hold and touch and look at…and how it shines when the light comes through it!  Serenity.