SILVERSWORD – REFLECTIONS ON A PHOTOGRAPH

SILVERSWORD  Maui, Hawaii 2015

The sun lowers into the ocean and the sapphire blue sky soon revises itself, deepening in shade first to lapis, then navy, and furthermore to an indigo blue with a deep purple influence.  By this time, my focus was no longer on the atmosphere above, but rather on the volcanic cinder underfoot.  My descent into the depths of the dormant volcano, the Haleakala crater of Maui, was underway.  Beginning from the summit, an elevation of over 10,000 feet, my attention was now solely focused on the few feet of area ahead, being lit by my headlamp.  Of course there was still some attention lingering with the atmosphere, but now it was focused on the cool, dry, crispness moving in and out of my lungs.  “That’s reason enough to hike on a mountain – it results in further attention to breath,” I think to myself, as I navigate my way further down the crater interior, nearly 3,000 feet below.

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BEST PLACES TO PHOTOGRAPH IN SAN FRANCISCO

You could spend an entire lifetime photographing the San Francisco Bay Area and still not capture it all.  It is one of those rare gems – packed full of scenic vistas and perspectives that can keep the passionate photographer endlessly inspired.  It certainly keeps me visually interested and coming back, year after year.  I still continue to find new vantages that compose nicely in the photographic frame.  But what if you are only coming to the city for a weekend, where do you go?  I will share with you some of my favorite locations to photograph in San Francisco.  Some of them are very iconic, some of them are a bit less widely known.  Alternatively, you could join me personally and explore my favorite spots alongside me during one of my SF photo workshops.

THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE TOWER AT SUNRISE

GOLDEN GATE SUNRISE  San Francisco, California

#1.  Battery Spencer     This spot is certainly no secret, but regardless, it is one of the most spectacular locations to photograph.  And not just in San Francisco, but perhaps the entire country!  This is called Battery Spencer.  Get up there at sunrise or sunset and be prepared to be blown away!  It feels like the Golden Gate bridge is close enough to reach out and touch, which is a very cool feeling.  If you can translate some of that feeling photographically, you are likely to make a powerful photograph.  You can use wide angle lenses all the way to longer lenses for countless perspectives.  Get creative and experiment.  For the above photograph, I was in position well before sunrise and prepared when the light started to get sweet.  The thick fog helped keep the composition simple and clean – making it all about the light, color and atmosphere.

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SPACE AND SOLITUDE – BRINGING ATTENTION TO SPACIOUSNESS

SPACE AND SOLITUDE

INTERSECT  Maui, Hawaii

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?

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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!

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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HOUSE OF INFINITY

HOUSE OF INFINITY

HOUSE OF INFINITY  Maui, Hawaii 2012

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.

HALLOWEEN IN LAHAINA

I had initially planned on being “sick and tired” for Halloween, or maybe a zombie, but as the evening neared, I had a bit of an itch to shoot some pics of the eve, so I ended up being a battered war photographer – this allowed me to carry a camera and shoot the night.   Between the many beers and shots of Fireball (yummy, delicious and dangerous!) and the fact that most of these were shot in-the-dark, I had a HELLUVA time focusing, so forgive me the blurriness.  Here are some images of friends and family from the night…

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THREE NIGHT DIVERS IN LA JOLLA

THREE NIGHT DIVERS  La Jolla, California

I was heading out 4 or 5 nights a week into the dark cool evenings of the La Jolla night and photographing with little or no light.  On this particular occasion, I was heading down the street and saw three divers having just loaded on all of their wetsuit and scuba gear, heading for the water’s edge.  I was curious to see what I might be able to capture. Continue reading