VISITING THE LOUVRE AND THE MONA LISA NO ONE SEES

MONA LISA AT THE LOUVREParis Journals, Part 3

We made our way into the vast interior of the Louvre within an hour of the museum opening the doors to the public that day, and still we were swallowed up and taken by the herd of visitors.  We figured we better try and b-line it to the Mona Lisa and then to Venus de Milo, in order to at least witness those two pieces before the masses made it impossible.  The museum strategically places these pieces deep into the maze of corridors.  By the time we made it to Mona Lisa, the large room was already thick with visitors.  Over the next 10 minutes, I was struck, sadly, by an obvious and ugly new truth about our civilization.

  • •We are totally and completely addicted to our devices.  And worse, we are seemingly attempting to experience life through the screen of a device and the resultant images and videos.

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STREET ART IN PARIS

PARIS-BLOG-2AThe Paris Journals, Part 2

Artist John Fekner defines street art as “all art on the street that’s not graffiti”, so please, when I say “Street Art”, do not visualize graffiti or worse, tagging (which I detest), that is not what we are talking about.  We are talking about very talented artists offering their creative works to the world on the most visible and popular canvas – the street.  The street art in Paris was one of the highlights to our time there.  In fact, between the artwork we viewed in the Louvre, the Pompidou Centre, Versailles, and elsewhere, the art on the street was perhaps the most exciting to me!  Yeah, I said it.  Of course, the Mona Lisa is a piece of art of great importance and the Venus de Milo is admittedly beautiful, but there is something wonderfully exciting about coming around the corner of a Parisian street and seeing a stenciled painting like the one above by Nick Walker.

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WHAT IS THE BEST THING TO DO IN PARIS?

PARIS-BLOG-1D

The Paris Journals, Part 1

The only proper response to this question, “What is the best thing to do in Paris?” has to be simply “Being in Paris.”  The place is magical and if you are focused on doing more than being, you might miss the wonder and romance that is laced throughout the timeworn streets, cathedrals and countless cafe’s.  This became clear to Becca and I within the first few days of our two week stay in Paris, and we both agreed that it didn’t much matter what we did – being there, roaming aimlessly, and taking it all in was plenty enough to keep our senses enthusiastic and our hearts filled with passion and curiosity.  We’re in Paris! 

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DARK COAST – A POEM BY MELISSA EGBERT

I realized today that a piece of writing that my sister had done for me several years back for the portfolio Dark Coast isn’t currently visible anywhere.  Unacceptable!  I can’t believe I hadn’t realized this before!  She wrote me this beautiful piece and I included it in a Blurb book that I had made.  I wasn’t overly pleased with the Blurb book quality so never did much with it, and the poem ended up kinda forgotten about.  Sorry, Moose! 

Without further ado…I’d like to present a piece by Melissa Egbert!


DARK COAST

My constant journey leads me to the edge of the shallow seas.  Time passes with each fluid motion of the water and I wait, for someone or something to capture a moment of beautiful illumination.

The dark coast, where birds settle on the guardrails of the pier, erected by ancient pylons, surrounded by crashing waves of salty water brought from the furthest reaches of the Pacific Ocean.  Waves, gentle and anxious, rhythmically invade the coast, then retreat from the sinking sands back into the flood.

I wander the coastline feeling the ocean air as the breeze cools my skin, tasting the salt on my lips.  I’ve wandered too close to the sea and it tries to pull me in, trapping my feet in the soft sand.  The ocean slips away and in that moment, I feel connected to the transforming world around me.  The world transformed by light and water.  But the moment escapes me like sandcrabs playing and skipping out of my fingers.

As I journey toward the sun, setting in it’s night haven, the clouds have surrendered the last of their offering to the earth, and given way to a silent calm.  I walk the coast, ever nearer to the water, until it surrounds me, moving my body to the sway and rhythms it commands.  I feel the serenity of the world pour through me.

The light is leaving but the water remains.

Written by MELISSA EGBERT

HIKING HALEAKALA CRATER AT SUNSET

One of my favorite things is to hike down Sliding Sands Trail in the Haleakala National Park, the night before the full moon, during sunset time.  It gives me a chance to get down inside the crater, one of my favorite places on the planet, during the time of optimal-sweet light.  With or without camera, I recognize this as an incredible life-experience – one that I always try and make time for, at least a few times a year.  Last night, I was able to share this experience with a Maui photo workshop participant who was looking for an adventurous photographic expedition during his island vacation to Maui.  It so happened that on this particular day, the moonrise was the most dramatic of the year!  With the sun perfectly opposite the moon, the light and size of the moon appeared to be 14% larger and 30% brighter than normal!  It only made sense for us to venture into the crater from atop the 10,023 foot peak, and put ourselves in an epic and otherworldly place (inside a volcanic crater) for this special moonrise!  As good fortune would have it, we were graced with an insane sunset and the light was so sweet.

The Big Island was clearly visible, seemingly close enough to touch, as the large and brilliant moon arose above it.  Me – as much as I was ooh’ing and aah’ing the moonrise to the right of this scene, I couldn’t resist focusing my photographic efforts on the sweet, brilliant, and colorful light that presented itself to my lens in this composition.  Here, in Hawaii, being much closer to the equator, this period of sweet-light does not last long.  It is fleeting.  Ephemeral.  You put yourself in in the right place, at the right time, and hope for the best.  Last night, I found myself at the right place at the right time – very cool to be able to share the experience with another passionate photographer!

WHY NOT TO PRESENT THE SAME PHOTOGRAPH IN BOTH COLOR AND BLACK AND WHITE

STRANGER.  San Diego, California

As I was scrolling through my Google + stream this morning.  I came across a post by a longtime, established, and relatively renowned photographer with an image posted two ways – both in color and black and white, with the question,

“Which one do your prefer?”

“I’d prefer for you, the photographer, to be decisive and choose which one works best!  I’d prefer not to see photographs in both color and black and white.”  I wanted to holler back.  But I didn’t.  I suppose I didn’t want to ruffle anyone’s feathers.  With that said, I think it’s a worthy topic to look at and discuss, and this is my forum – so it’s fine.  If I ruffle feathers from here – so be it.

So, what’s my issue here?

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FINDING COMPOSITIONS IN THE LANDSCAPE

While working with a Maui Photo Workshop participant recently, I was asked a good question: how do you find your compositions?  It hasn’t been a common question among my students, even while discussing the many facets to composing mindful and compelling images, but I think it is a good question.  Of course, there is no one way I find my compositions, but there are a number of ways that seem recurrent.  Here are 5 ways I find my compositions.

The Jungle.  Maui, Hawaii

1.  I go where I feel compelled.  I explore.
Oftentimes when I go out shooting, I head out with no particular destination in mind, and with no image in my mind’s eye.  In these cases, I go where I feel compelled.  I often say that landscape photography is all about putting yourself in the right place, at the right time, with the right frame of mind.  So, where is the “right place”?  Anywhere you feel compelled to photograph, and where you can visually arrange the elements into a compelling image.  It’s enjoyable to work this way – to go out without expectations or pre-visualizations, guided by your feelings and intuitions, and see what happens.


Pier.  La Jolla, California

2.  I go to the same spots over and over.  I study the scene.
This is another common approach that I take with many of my compositions, and has led to many of my most successful photographs.  Once you find a composition that has promise, resonates with you, and is a place that you enjoy spending time, go back time and time again.  I have spoke about the importance to studying the subject HERE.  Whether working near home or while traveling, this is a strong approach toward making successful and compelling images.  Not only does your chances for dynamic light, exciting tidal conditions, or some other interesting element increase, but your relationship with the subject deepens and often comes through the final image, making it more expressive.


Surrendering.  Maui, Hawaii

3.  I allow the elements within the frame to dictate.  I am present and aware.
With landscape photography, it’s best to be present and aware to the conditions around you.  When you bring your awareness to the movement of the oceans water, the breeze passing through the trees overhead, the clouds moving through the sky, or the rain in the distance, you will often find that a composition becomes clear.  You can work backwards from there.  For example, with Surrendering, I noticed how the waves would come ashore, reverse back and collide with the next breaking wave, causing a unique vertical splash in one area.  After noticing this within the scene before me, I worked through composing the scene, making an optimal and creative exposure, and then waited for that one extra element that would set the entire scene off – in this case it was the color in the clouds from sunset.


Hoodoo Storm.  Near Bryce Canyon, Utah

4.  I allow the weather to dictate where I go.  I remain flexible while exploring.
Sometimes when you are out exploring to see where you may feel compelled to shoot or heading to a scene that you have shot many times before, the weather is playing a factor and you can’t ignore it.  Perhaps you have one thing in mind but it’s down-pouring there, so you have to adjust.  Such was the case when I made Hoodoo Storm.  I was at Bryce Canyon and was planning on shooting through the sunset light, when a thunderstorm moved in and unleashed a lot of rain.  I jumped in the car and headed west, hoping to get to the edge of the storm.  30 minutes later, I made my way out of the rain, found a promising hill to hike up from the road, and discovered a compelling composition directly before me as the sun-setting light lit the underbelly of the clouds, resulting in a dynamic and compelling image.


Moonset.  Bandon, Oregon

5.  I research and study the landscape before visiting.  I use technology to assist.
Although the 4 methods above are my primary approaches to finding my compositions, I do tend to add an element of research online, especially before traveling to a new locale.  Google Maps might be one of the most exciting online tools for photographers in researching a shoot to a new locale.  Before my last trip to Oregon and Washington, for example, I studied the entire coastline of the two states to determine the sea-stacks I might be most drawn to.  Then, I used Google Images to get a visual feel of the surroundings.  From there, I was able to pinpoint one particular sea-stack along Oregon’s central coast that I was very drawn to, and a couple months later I was able to commit several days to photographing it, resulting in a series of images titled Rock Study.

MASTER BLAH BLAH BLAH

I was gearing up for a recent workshop and reviewing notes from the participant and saw that she had done a number of photo workshops in the past.  I was familiar with one of the photographers listed.  It had been awhile since I’d checked out his website, so in one of my many daily distractions, I headed over to see what was new.   The first thing I noticed was the steady dose of “Master” that was dropped all over the website.  Master this, Master that.  Learn from the Master.  Buy the best book ever by the Master.  Background of a Master.  Initially, I thought it was kinda funny.  Then, kinda embarrassing.  Who does that?

When I think of a Master, I think of a Kung Fu Master who can be challenged by 20 men and overcome them all with one hand behind his back.  Or, a Zen Master who is awakened and fiercely present, burning so bright that those in his company taste nirvana.  Li Mu Bai from Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon was a badass Master!  Fo’ real!!  He certainly didn’t need to go around calling himself Master.  Everyone else recognized him as Master and referred to him accordingly.  He had reached a level of such mastery that it spilled into all aspects of his life and rendered him egoless.  Awake.

That’s what I think of when I think of “Master” – where such mastery in one area spills into all the other areas of one’s life and the result is a certain level of heightened awareness, egoless-ness, and inter-connectedness.  And, let us not forget – humility!  Is a Master really a Master if he/she is obviously ego-based?  Ego-driven?  And going around saying, “I am Master.  Bow down before me.”  Not in my world.  Not in my eyes.

Of course, I do think there are Master photographers.  Michael Kenna is a Master.  Christopher Burkett is a Master.  Edward Burtynsky is a Master.  David Fokos is a Master.  And you know what?  You won’t find the use of the word “Master” anywhere on their websites!!  Let us not forget, “Masters” do not have to announce themselves to the world and convince us of their mastery.

PAINTED FOREST – THE RAINBOW EUCALYTPUS TREES – VISION TO EXPRESSION

PAINTED FOREST  Maui, Hawaii 2013

A number of years ago, I decided I wanted to make a successful image or two of the Rainbow Eucalyptus trees.  I am aware of a few small groves of these trees here on Maui, and I had my sights on one of them in particular.  These trees are extraordinary.  Beautiful.  Perhaps the most stunning tree on the planet!  Well, no matter – one of the most stunning anyways.  Really, they look as if they were hand-painted by Salvador Dali himself!

As a subject to a successful landscape photograph, this can be very easy to bugger up.  How?  The most common mistake would be to include too much in the scene, allowing these other elements to take away from the trees.  Another aspect that I was hyper-aware of is that these trees have been photographed once or twice before.  Okay, many times before.  I didn’t want to just go out and do the norm, the expected.  I wanted to do something special, something different.  So, I waited.  I resisted doing the norm and getting the standard shot to include into my portfolio, desiring something more expressive and personal.

A couple of years ago, the vision became clear in my mind’s eye.  I visualized a way to capture these trees in a way that was different, personal and of-my-own-style, while bringing the viewers attention solely to the beauty of the trees.  I’d shoot them at night! – while introducing my own light source.  Now, with the image clearer in my mind, it was just a matter of doing the work.

On a few separate occasions, I recruited a friend to journey to the other side of the island, in the dark of night, to assist me in my attempts to bring vision to expression.  On each of those occasions, I came close to my vision.  Sometimes very close, making it difficult to decide whether the images were worthy of releasing into my portfolio and to the world, or if I should work harder and try again.  Each time, after living with the images for some weeks, I ultimately determined that they did not live up to the vision I had.  The work was not done.

My energy waned some, and nearly a year passed before I returned to give it another go, but the idea and vision stayed with me, and I trusted that it was simply a matter of time before it would happen.  Early 2013, while driving home from a shoot, I get to thinking about the trees.  It’s nighttime. I’m in the neighborhood. I’m feeling motivated.  But, I’m alone.  The thinking-mind tries to start talking me out of it:  It’s totally dark.  The shoot will be too tough with no assistance.  What if zombies get me.  And on it went.  As I approached the trees, I was still 50/50 whether to stop or B-line it home: I am kinda hungry.  I still have an-hour drive home.  A glass of wine would be awesome right now.  As the trees neared, the will to shoot won and I pulled the truck over, geared up, and headed out to shoot the trees in the dark of night.

For the next 90 minutes, I worked through the process of making the images, with a goal of making two successful photographs.  From my earlier experiences, I already had a good idea of the look that I was after, and how to achieve it with my painting-with-light techniques.  Nearby cows roaming about in the surrounding fields sure did sound like zombies coming to get me, but I stayed focused and remained mindful to the myriad aspects that would make this work, or not.  Once I felt that I had successfully captured good strong foundations in-camera, I headed home, anxious to see if they would translate to print.

I am happy to say that they do translate well to print, and do represent my initial vision very well!

RAINBOW TREES  Maui, Hawaii 2013

I often speak with my Maui photo workshop students about how to make personal-expressive work, and working through “the process”.  It is important – recognize the path as a process and do the work.  Allowing yourself to have a vision in your mind, and then working backwards from there is an exciting way to work!  Vision to expression.  Working this way, the process of making photographs is very rewarding and the path is a joyful one.

As the world of photography and image making is proliferating, so is the behavior of seeing-and-repeating.  In recognizing and bringing awareness to this, continually look to create work that is more personal, more expressive, and more communicative.  Pass on the obvious photographs and delve deeper.  Ask continually:  What am I feeling?  What am I wanting to communicate?  What do I want to express?  It has been very exciting working with workshop students in regards to this, and bringing it to the forefront of our attention.  Activating the right-brain and bringing balance to the overactive thinking-mind.  It is important to remember – artwork is feeling based, and it resonates (or not) with people on a feeling level.  The more you can approach the work from a personal feeling based place, the more likely you are to communicate that.  The more you are able to communicate that, the more compelling your photography is bound to be.

I look forward to delving even deeper into this with workshop participants in a La Jolla photo workshop I have just announced for August!

PHOTOGRAPHING LAVA ENTERING THE OCEAN AND THE VOLCANO IN HAWAII

THE BEING BEHIND  Big Island, Hawaii 2013

It has been on my wishlist for quite a long time to view and photograph the lava flowing into the ocean on Hawaii’s Big Island, but for the past few years, the flow has not really been doing much.  A couple of months ago, it finally broke through and is now providing surface activity and ocean entry where visitors can get close and witness this amazing spectacle.  From the National Park side, it is a 6-8 mile hike each way across lava fields, which pretty much rules that option out.  From the Kalapana side, it is approximately 2 miles hike each way, but this side is private property and there is a certain amount of state and landowner control, preventing people from simply walking in on their own to view the lava.  So what is one to do?  Here on Maui, I heard through the “coconut wireless” about a travel company called Poke-A-Stick Tours, that took people out to the lava.  I called and spoke with Cheryl, owner/guide/host extraordinaire, and planned a couple of days with her afternoon sunset hikes out to the lava flow.

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