In my last post, I mentioned having a workshop on the next day with big waves – and it did not disappoint! Jackie and I had worked together the last two years and this year we decided to do a two day photo workshop, allowing us more time to get to some of the further out spots of Maui and the Hana side. The first day, Jaws was breaking BIG – like, 40+ feet – so after a quick sunrise shoot at Ho’okipa Point, we made our way down the road to Pe’ahi.
Over the course of the next 90 minutes, we both shot many frames of these incredible surfers riding these beautiful epic waves.
If you close your eyes and visualize your living room and the various elements within the room, what do you see? A sofa, a coffee table, an entertainment center, a TV, art, and probably quite a number of other elements. Now, let me ask you – which element is the largest in the room?
If you are like most people, your response might be – the sofa, the TV, or the entertainment center. If you think a bit more cleverly, you might say – the walls. What most people don’t recognize is, there is much more “space” than anything else, by far. Physicists tell us that 99.999% of the universe is space – no-thingness. Oddly, science can be so much more bizarre than science fiction! If you removed all the empty space from the entire human race, leaving only electrons and the other subatomic particles, all seven billion human bodies would fit in the space of a sugar cube. That’s just mind boggling stuff, right? But that gives you a sense of how much space there is in relation to form – yet we rarely bring our attention to the space.
With the living room exercise, it points out how we as people are living primarily form-based. That is to say, our attention is always going from one form to the next to the next – whether it be the external forms of the world, or the hyper-active thought-forms continuously flowing through our minds seemingly on auto-pilot. We are form-conscious beings, but is this our natural state? Isn’t it odd that 99.999% of everything is space yet we hardly bring our attention to it?
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!
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.
We had our first big winter surf of the year hit the north shores of the islands and here on Maui this week, which inspired me to pack up and get out shooting. I headed first up to Honolua Bay and explored some possible compositions, while watching the many surfers position for the double-overhead waves that were consistently rolling in. After checking out a few less-than-inspiring possibilities and feeling a bit crowded with the many spectators, I decided to head south a bit – away from the larger sets that were hitting the north shores. I stopped at a nearby pullout, jumped the guard rail and headed down a steep slope to the lava rock shoreline and was immediately sparked with some possible compositions. I stood and watched as a large set came in and definitely knew I could do some work here, so I headed back up the slope to the truck to retrieve my gear. Over the course of the next hour and until the light had left me in darkness, I shot 32gb worth of images with a couple different compositions. I kept my exposure times to around 1-4 seconds in order to maintain enough clarity in these 5-8 foot faces, but while adding enough motion to create a more intense dynamic. With this type of imagery, you really have to shoot shoot shoot, which kinda goes against my style of waiting for the sweet moment and getting the shot in fewer frames. With that said, you do what you gotta do to get the shot you’re feeling at the time, and in the end, I’m happy with a couple of captures from the night – enough so that I think they may have to be part of my portfolio-in-the-works titled Boundary.
The lesson here – work with your conditions and with your feelings. It was very dynamic with these big waves crashing against the rocks and making huge splashes 25 feet into the air. You could feel the impact and were covered by sea spray. I could have made a 2-minute long exposure and created a more peaceful and meditative feeling image, but that wouldn’t have translated true to my feelings, and to the conditions presented to me. So, next time you head out to make images, don’t think about it. Quiet the mind. Explore around until you find a place that you’re responding to, on an inner/feeling level, not on a mind/thinking level, and then get in touch with your feelings and with the conditions being presented to you. Then, photograph accordingly. With this approach, your images will become stronger and more feeling-based, and you will enjoy your time in nature much more than when you’re in-the-head.
The St. Joseph Church in Kaupo, Maui, Hawaii is the oldest church on Maui and was established in 1862.
This image essentially took me over two years to successfully complete and was seen in my mind’s eye long before I could show it to you here in a photograph. There is only a small window of time each year in which the Milky Way is in an optimal position above this old church. Kaupo is over 2 hours drive from my house in Lahaina and is located in the most rustic part of Maui where there isn’t even a proper road. The final challenge was with the painting-of-light that I used to illuminate the church. Using a small flashlight it was much too easy to give too little, too much, or not even-enough light which resulted in many failed attempts before capturing this powerful and ethereal scene.
GRAND CENTRAL TERMINAL New York City, New York 2012
Becca and I had a blast visiting NYC last week! We roamed Manhattan and took in many of the sights, museums, games (NBA) and restaurants – and I even managed to find time to make some images! Before the trip and during my online research regarding photographing NYC, I found many photographers talking about how strict NYC is regarding tripod use, and wanted to talk about that some here.
Last week I received an email informing me that I was a finalist in an outdoor photography contest, and that they needed the high-resolution image file along with some other information. Included in this, was the question: why is nature important? Of course I know why nature is important to me, but I pondered the question further as I was driving up Haleakala to go backpacking overnight at Holua camp, inside the crater. I was having this overnight getaway primarily for what nature offers me, peace and solitude. As I made the couple hour drive to the trail head, I listened to Eckhart Tolle’s Stillness Speaks, and my thoughts went back to this question when Eckhart spoke about nature, as one of his topics. Here are some of his thoughts, that resonated deeply with me:
“We depend on nature for not only our physical survival, we also need nature to show us the way home, the way out of the prison of our own minds. We got lost in doing, thinking, remembering, anticipating – lost in a maze of complexity and a world of problems. We have forgotten what rocks, plants and animals still know. We have forgotten how to be. To be still. To be ourselves. To be where life is – here and now.
“Whenever you bring your attention to anything natural, anything that has come into existence without human intervention, you step out of the prison of conceptualized thinking and to some extent, participate in the state of connectedness with being in which everything natural still exists. To bring your attention to a stone, a tree, or an animal does not mean to think about it, but simply to perceive it, to hold it in your awareness. Something of its essence then transmits itself to you. You can sense how still it is, and in doing so, the same stillness arises within you. You sense how deeply it rests in being, completely at one with what it is, and where it is. In realizing this, you too come to a place of rest deep within yourself.”
Henri Cartier-Bresson (Aug. 22, 1908 – Aug. 3, 2004), was a master photojournalist and street photographer who whose work continues to have a strong influence on photographers today. His work is most commonly referred to as “The Decisive Moment”, the title of a book he published in 1948, containing a portfolio of 126 images from both the East and the West, and a lengthy preface where he states, “There is nothing in this world that does not have a decisive moment.”
Cartier-Bresson spent over thirty years photographing for Life and countless other journals. He traveled without bounds, capturing images from some of the most turbulent locations of the 20th century – the Spanish civil war, the liberation of Paris in 1944, the 1968 student rebellion in Paris, the fall of the Kuomintang in China to the communists, the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi, the Berlin Wall, and the deserts of Egypt. Yet, some of his most famous photographs are of seemingly ordinary moments capturing daily life, the fleeting moments that are here and then gone.
Behind the Gare St. Lazare, 1932.
As far as I am concerned, taking photographs is a means of understanding which cannot be separated from other means of visual expression. It is a way of shouting, of freeing oneself, not of proving or asserting one’s own originality. It is a way of life. – Henri Cartier-Bresson
Cartier-Bresson exclusively used Leica 35mm rangefinder cameras and mostly one lens, the normal 50mm lens, to capture most of his iconic images. He’d use black tape to make the silver body more conspicuous, and was strongly against the use of flash. He composed his images in-camera and did not crop, making prints of the entire frame and insisting that they include a millimetre or so of the unexposed clear negative around the image, resulting in a black border. He said: “I’ve never been interested in the process of photography, never, never. Right from the beginning. For me, photography with a small camera like the Leica is an instant drawing.” Therefore, he never printed any of his own work, and chose instead to work with a printer to develop and produce his photographs.
Reality offers us such wealth that we must cut some of it out on the spot, simplify. The question is, do we always cut out what we should? While we’re working, we must be conscious of what we’re doing. Sometimes we have the feeling that we’ve taken a great photo, and yet we continue to unfold. We must avoid however, snapping away, shooting quickly and without thought, overloading ourselves with unnecessary images that clutter our memory and diminish the clarity of the whole. – Henri Cartier-Bresson