Cormorants and Flowers
I’ve been working on putting together the DARK COAST series for a few months and it’s nearing completion. I had made a decision to approach it as a series which would have an end, a closure to the portfolio, as opposed to making it an endless compilation of like-work.
Most of the images that were shot for this series were made in a relatively short time of 4-6 months, but it is covering the locale that I have already been shooting for 3 years and am therefore very familiar with. The last month or 2, I’ve been working on editing the series, designing a Blurb book, creating a postcard as a mailer to galleries, figuring out the sizing/pricing/edition sizes and the rest of what comes with organizing this into a cohesive and strong body of work.
I am reminded as to how difficult editing a project down can be. I initially had 60-70 images that I felt were strong enough to be included, but kept taking my time with it and trimming it down to what will be around 30-35 images in the series to be printed as limited editions – the book will include most of the original 60-70.
Usually, I’d have a tendency to rush through some of this project, especially the making of the Blurb book, but again, I’ve been forcing myself to slow down and take my time with it. Initially, I had chosen this image and design for the cover. Not so much because it’s my favorite or the strongest image, but more because I thought it worked well as a cover shot and tied the book to the local La Jolla area with a recognizable landmark. But as the weeks went by, I found that I wasn’t loving this cover and I had chosen an image that I didn’t even feel was in the top 20 – in fact, I had contemplated cutting this image altogether from the collection! How could I choose this as my cover?! Today, I redesigned the cover with a different image and am now totally content with it. Not only did I choose one of my top favorites from the series, but it’s probably even more recognizable of a local landmark. This project is definitely proving as a valuable lesson in patience.
So, I can see the light at the end of the tunnel until this series is complete. Finalizing final prints for each image that made the final cut, figuring out the galleries to send mailers, putting the final touches on the book, and always brainstorming as to new and creative ways to market the photographs to possible buyers. And when I say – almost complete – that really means – ready to go out into the world – which, of course requires still much more work and concerted efforts to make happen! But it feels good. And that is why I am diggin’ this new approach to producing a series of work with an end as opposed to more greatest individual hits. With a project, you can visualize the process and the end result, then go out and make it, and at some point see the fruits of your labor and step away feeling satisfied, moving on to the next project.
Of course, I am already thinking of the next works and already have some images that I’m excited to share! These will probably be the basis to the next series, but for now – take a peek at DARK COAST and let me know whatcha think. And if you want to support emerging artists, buy the book – or - a print for your collection. And for those photogs that are used to working towards making the individual greatest hits, consider creating a series that you can focus on and that has a start and finish – it can really be rewarding and act as a learning lesson in many valuable ways that you may not find when you’re always going from one shot to the next.
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.
THE WALL – MORPH. LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA 2009
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!
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.