How do you come up with ideas for new photography projects? A conscious decision? An organic development of an existing project? Or perhaps looking back through your archives and finding common themes.
Over the recent break I recently found the house in the photo above. While I was taking the photo a town worker gave me a brief history of the property. Clearly it’s abandoned and in a state of disrepair.
I see these abandoned properties everywhere, and while I’d wondered about who lived there, why did they leave and why is it now left to rot, I had never photographed them. Given my sensitivity to these abandoned properties it seems as though I should photograph them, at least until they’re out of my system.
What do you notice all the time? Perhaps that would make a good project?
Rolf Horn‘s work caught my eye when I was recently poking around on the Soulcatcher Studio website. I had been looking at the Paul Caponigro images that they have displayed there and decided to spend a few moments looking at the work of some of the other artists that they represent.
Rolf’s square black and white images, often long exposures, are reminiscent of the work of the other photographers that I enjoy – especially Michael Levin, David Fokos and of course Michael Kenna. I perhaps shouldn’t have been surprised, although I was, to find that Rolf had worked as Michael Kenna’s assistant for a while.
Like Kenna, Rolf uses medium format cameras (Hassleblad) and film for his work, producing silver gelatin prints. He is very much committed to this mode of photography, in fact if his comments regarding digital photography in this Black & White article when taken at face value are quite inflammatory – ‘thems fightin’ words’ as we would say where I grew up. In addition the Black & White magazine feature, Rolf’s photography has been featured in a number of other magazines. A full listing can be found here.
Rolf’s website is well worth exploring, there a large number of his completed bodies of work to dig into. What I find interesting is that some of the portfolios date back to the early 1990’s and so as you look through it’s interesting to track Rolf’s aesthetic evolution. His most recent work has a quiet energy that I particularly enjoy and I have to say it – his snow monkey picture (below) is one of my favorites to date.
Were getting to the time of year when people review the year just gone and plan for the year ahead. I guess I’m doing the same, although I will leave the ‘my 12 best images’ post to others.
It’s interesting to look back over the last year and see what images I consider to be my best how these compare to last years work and how they relate to one another. I started the year with the intention of making a set of color images of the coast on clear mornings. This idea began to evolve during the course of the year as I made a number of images during foggy conditions, trying to make the most of my time photographing. Even with a clear plan of what you want to achieve, being flexible enough to respond to the situations you find yourself in, can lead you in directions you hadn’t expected. Perhaps for you, as has been the case for me, these photographs will be standouts and serve as jumping off points for new projects.
With the review event as a deadline, I’m now working though my archives for a set of photographs that hang together as a cohesive set. I think that I have a reasonable nucleus of images that would work and I’m considering including the one above in the group. I believe that this was taken on the morning that I ended up in the water with my camera. As is the case with many of the photographs that I ultimately end up liking, this was a throw away shot. Not something that I tried hard for or thought too much about. I saw the wave, thought it was pretty interesting and made the photo. It took me longer to type that last sentence than it did to go through the process. I like the motion blur that I got in this image and also that the horizon is ambiguous.
I’d be interested in hearing what you have to say about it too.
I’ve been returning to the same stretch of coastline for the best part of year now, while I continue to enjoy my early morning jaunts, one of my friends suggested that I’ve gotten stuck in a rut. I would argue against that, I am after all making photographs that I particularly enjoy and I don’t feel as though I’m repeating myself. Yet, the rocks are becoming awfully familiar.
So are we all done here? That was the question that was going through my the morning that I made the photo above. It was already much lighter than I like for my photographs but the line of the rock caught my eye and I stuck around to make a few frames.
I had two surprises last week at my favorite beach for sunrise photography. I had probably been photographing for 15 mins when I noticed that there was a fire further up the beach – it was still quite dark at 5 am and so hard to miss. As I looked closer I realized that there was someone sat at the fire and so I didn’t feel a pressing need to rush over to investigate further. I did have a chance to chat later – it was someone on the first night of their vacation so excited to be at the coast that they wanted to be sure they saw the sunrise and were keeping themselves warm while they waited. As it got lighter I also realized that there was a sailboat anchored in the cove and I rushed over to take the shot above. While it’s hard to tell from this image, the sailboat was probably in about 12 inches of water and must have been on the bottom at low tide. I’m not sure what kind of boat can stand that treatment but it made a nice change.
I continue to work through the images I captured at John Paul Caponigro’s Maine Islands workshop. I have plenty to work on!
One of the topics for discussion was the use of graduated neutral density filters. With a well captured image the tools available in Lightroom and Photoshop make this type of filter redundant. However, I’m not ready to give up my filters just yet. I will usually take a number of images with and without the filters and see which I like the best. Even with the expensive ‘neutral’ filters from Singh-Ray, under the conditions I usually photograph I get a pronounced color cast. Sometimes I like it, sometimes not so much. The image above was taken without a filter and then processed in photoshop to add a digital neutral density filter.
For photography, perhaps more than anything thing else I’m involved in, having a group of people who can give you solid feedback when you ask for it, applaud when you’ve done well, and give you a kick in the pants from time to time is absolutely critical. These need not be accomplished photographers themselves but people who are going to give you a relatively unbiased opinion, who want to help you succeed and will hold you accountable. To those people in my life thank you!
As the days get longer I’m finding it increasingly difficult to get up for sunrise shoots. I’m not sure that there’s really a cure for that other than sheer dogged determination to get up and get going, something I was reminded the other day as being the hallmark of a true professional. It’s not hard to understand the motivation to get up and get going when you are often treated to glorious sunrises such as the one I was greeted with on a recent visit to what has become one of my favorite beaches. This shot and others like it are posted in prominent places around my home and every morning I don’t get up for a morning shoot they scream ‘look what you’re missing!’.
Although I do my best to make sure that I am up and out shooting on mornings when I’m likely to get ‘good light’ there are those days that I just don’t get it right. This morning was a good example of that. I had been expecting to add to my collection of photos of rocks at the waters edge but as it got lighter, or rather as it didn’t get much lighter I realized that the weather forecast of partial cloud cover must have been for somewhere else! In reality there’s no such thing as bad light, only light that’s not appropriate for your subject. With the even light that comes with cloudy mornings I turned my attention to the beach – patterns in the sand and anything else could find. I’m not sure what the story is behind this rope – how long has it been part of the beach scene?, where did it come from?, will it be uncovered the next time I visit? – but it was a willing subject on a day when I thought I was going to have to go home without making a frame.