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I can hear you

Shot this last night on my iPhone while waiting for a piano lesson. Felt a need to shoot a photo. 

Have you ever felt that? A feeling you can’t go on without taking a photo?
Looking around, I noticed these sound absorbers on the wall. What an interesting pattern they made. The nice thing about smartphones is that a camera and post-processing abilities are always available. 

Really like the minimalist and abstract qualities this picture has. Something interesting is always around us if we only seek it…and always have a camera. 

A Contrast of Processes

What’s your thoughts on monochrome photography?

When I first worked in black-and-white in college if loved the feel the images gave. This was back in 1982. That was when I first really learned how to develop Tri-X Pan and print my photographs. I loved the control of printing my own photos. I could produce the image that I imagined in my head.

There was one drawback to darkroom work. I didn’t like it. Processing  film was torture. I am very cognizant of time. Spending minutes on end in a darkened room agitating the developing tanks was a miserable time.

Printing photos was OK, but the ever-present struggle against dust and lint on the negative was frustrating. No matter how careful I’d be, there always something to blemish my print. Being a college student on a limited budget meant the waste of photo paper was a burden on the wallet.

Sending black-and-white film out for processing and printing was unsatisfying. The pictures never came out as I imagined the shot in my head. Still, monochrome photos captivate me and technology is enabling me to produce the photos I “see” in my mind.

I’ve been working in Lightroom lately and learning how to make high-contrast monochrome photos.

The lead photo is a replica of Michelangelo’s “La Pieta” that’s at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Gainesville, Virginia. Thought the smoothness of the sculpture and the textured brick wall behind would work well.

The second photo I shot a couple of months ago. The sign stood on the corner of Route 15 and Logmill Road in Haymarket, Virginia. I loved the homemade nature of the sign, the “no trespassing” sign below, and the clouds.

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I’ll never be an Ansel Adams, but I’m pleased with the results, but I still have a lot more to learn.

What do you think?

 

Searching for a photo

There are days when one has to hunt for a photograph to take. Today was that day. It’s cold and drizzly. Not what one  thinks would be a good opportunity to find a photo.

However, there’s always beauty if one looks for it. Outside, the tree branches are full of water droplets. The rain darkens the bark, and the sky is gray. Recipe for a monochrome photo.

Grab the gear and out the door. Sometimes the search takes time. Other times, it’s just out the front door. Today was the latter.

Favorite childhood reading spot

Growing up in Conway, New Hampshire, my wife had a favorite reading spot. It was below the town’s covered bridge over the Saco River. She would spend hours there reading a book and swimming. This is a special place for her.

This past summer we went to Conway for a vacation. No trip there is complete without a stop at the Saco River. It was raining the day we were there, so we went underneath the bridge.

The texture of the wooden beams and granite stone meant this photo had to be monochrome. There are times when, to me, a photo works best as a black-and-white.

Lines and Squiggles

One of the aspects of photography I appreciate so much is how photos appear right before us. They seem to beg the photographer to take their best side.

Shot this photo this afternoon when my wife and I went to have lunch with a dear couple. Parking the car, I saw this view. The lines of the benches and the squiggles in the railing caught my attention. I’m developing the habit of keeping my camera with me, so inspiration wasn’t going to leave me.

The photo came out better that I hoped. With the emphasis being on the lines and squiggles, it seemed best to go monochrome. Wanted to make it easier for the viewer to see the geometric shapes relate with one another. Color obscures the appreciation of shapes. Read where Elliott Erwitt once said, “Color is descriptive. Black and white is interpretive.”

Erwitt’s quote sound about right, don’t you think?

 

My top photos for 2016

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Lists of all sorts dominate the year’s end. This is a good chance to review my favorite photos from 2016. It’s been a productive year, and one where my photographic skills grew and developed. The passion for photography, and for making the best image possible, rekindled within me.

The one thing I learned is that many of the photos I liked the best were “whim” photos. An opportunity to snap a picture appeared, and I had a camera with me.

Though this is a list of my 10 favorite photos of 2016, they aren’t in order. Too hard to choose, so I have them alphabetical by title.

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  1. Antioch Baptist Church – Visited the folks in far western Kentucky in April. One day I went to La Center to take pictures. It’s a town with a lot of character. Growing up, and whenever I was in the area, I remember seeing this sign. Love the contrast in the photo.

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  1. Ballard County Co-op in La Center, Kentucky – Old buildings have character, especially when they are weathered. How could I pass on it? Besides, it was behind me when I shot the Antioch Baptist Church photo.

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  1. Christmas Angel – This is a whim shot. I had finished decorating the house for Christmas a couple of days earlier. Sitting on the front stoop, the light from the Angel caught my eye. Being too lazy to get my tripod, I used a trick I once learned from a Nikon professional. When shooting in low light without a tripod, put the camera on fast shooting speed and take three or four photos with one shutter release. If there’s any camera shake, it will appear in the photo where you pressed the shutter release and when you released. The middle photos should be fine because if you hold still.

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  1. D. Baker Upholstering in Conway, New Hampshire – One of these days this building is going to roll over on itself. It’s across the street from the Conway Public Library in New Hampshire. What’s not to love in this photo? Texture, contrast, whimsy.

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  1. Holy Trinity Catholic Church – This photograph is proof that it pays to be ready. Not only did I have my camera with me that night, but the tripod was in the back of the car.

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  1. Red and Windows – The downtown area of Paducah, Kentucky, is full of old buildings with character. This is above the old Finkel’s Department Store. Love the textured and faded red paint. A local told me the paint on this nearly 100-year-old building is original.

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  1. Tree on Matthew Hill – Sometimes when I come home from work I pass this tree near the Manassas Battlefield National Park. Sort of reminds me of the children’s game “One of These Things is not Like the Other.” Again, the contrast and simplicity drew me.

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  1. Waterfall Woods lichen – One day I decided to go for a walk in the woods near my house. There was trail, but I had never taken it. Thought I where it came out. Unfortunately, I came out on a local road more than two miles from my house.

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  1. Waterford, Virginia, red – This was on the side of a barn in the village of Waterford. Love the simple colors, contrast and texture.

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  1. White Lake in Tamworth, New Hampshire – Shot this photo during the summer vacation to New Hampshire. It exudes the peacefulness and solitude of the Mount Washington Valley.

Keeping the list to 10 was hard because it would have kept out the 11th because of the alphabet.

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  1. @4410 – Another whim photograph. This is on the side of a local music store. This light on the sign caught my attention while my wife was inside taking her piano lesson.

Here are my 11 favorite photos. Wait, a 12th photo started out this blog. It’s of a Paducah Beauty School. Hope you enjoyed them. Which is your favorite?

Monochrome or Color

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Sometimes the decision on whether or not to make a photograph monochrome or keep it in color is easy. Then there times when it’s hard. These two photos of the same arch is a good example.

I shot is Aug. 27, 2011, in Old Town Alexandria. It’s a former church that now houses the Washington-Alexandria Architecture Center at 618 Prince Street.

I originally converted it into black-and-white. The starkness of the structure and texture of the bricks seemed best suited  in that format. There is quite a contrast between the lights and the dark. It seemed a perfect fit.

Then today, I looked at an untouched version of the same photo. The subtle colors of the weathered bricks are marvelous. Maybe this photo should be in color.

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The light-colored impost of the arch still grabs my eyes. Now, the colors of the bricks come out and truly add to the beauty of the photograph.

I love both versions. If hard-pressed to choose one I’d go with the monochrome. Black-and-white photographs always capture my attention. On the other hand, the world is in color that always adds to the world’s beauty.

Which do you prefer?

The journey begins

Good Friday in 1983 fell on April 1 that year. That day I went to a local soup kitchen in Bloomington, Indiana, to complete a project for the introductory photojournalism class taught by Will Counts. The project was to produce a photograph documenting the economic condition of Indiana during the recession of 1983.

The soup kitchen was on the other side of town. Despite having to walk there, I arrived

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Ralph Collins, Good Friday 1983

 

before the kitchen staff began serving lunch. Because of the sensitive nature of documenting people’s economic state, I made sure to get the permission of the staff and of anyone whom I shot a photograph.

 

One of my subjects was a taxi driver who brought his family to the kitchen. The free soup meals helped him to stretch his food budget.

The most memorable person whom I photographed was Ralph Collins. He walked by with his vegetable soup lunch and declared that he was full of the Holy Spirit. A fellow classmate, Gloria, shot his photograph first. Mr. Collins also agreed to my request for a photograph.

A week later the graduate teaching assistants revealed their selections of the best photographs that illustrated the theme. My graduate teaching assistant—whose name I’ve sadly forgotten—revealed my photograph of Mr. Collins, much to my shock. She handwrote an assessment of the photo that is still on the back of the original print:

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Russell,

This is a touching photograph. The image is very much alive…good work. There is a true sense of depression in this photo.

A

The teaching assistant passed out certificates to all the winners, establishing them as members of the “Counts, Cartier-Bresson” photographic fraternity.

So the journey began.