Thursday, December 18, 2014

Trying To Catch A Storm ~

Well, there we were again, out on the Oregon coast, seeing if we could catch a little storm action to photograph. You'd think we'd get plenty of opportunities for that up here. But as luck would have it and fate would be, the "Pineapple Express" actually rolled into northern California (thus drenching my poor brother Jim down there) leaving us with just the usual drizzle and occasional sun breaks up here in the wild north. But who's to complain? We had a wonderful time. That's an iPhone shot on the beach at Cape Kiwanda. Photo tip of the day: always go with a companion who owns a red jacket (in this case, my lovely wife Nancy, a real trooper), and have them stay a few steps ahead of you. It's better than buying a new lens!

I'm a native son of the left coast, and have tramped its shores from Coronado Bay to the Puget Sound. My wife and I take particular delight in the winter and early spring out here; the light is moody and unpredictable (like me, before I've had my coffee) and every scene invites a quiet moment of contemplation. And I certainly don't mind the rain. This old tree standing guard over an unnamed creek is at Cape Lookout, taken with my Fuji mirrorless.

It's almost Christmas, the crowds are gone, the weather is perfect, and that camera in your hand is the best damn camera in the world. You've run out of excuses.

And so have I. It's time to storm the beach.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thinking About the Black & White Portrait ~

I'm mainly a people and portrait kind of guy. It's what initially drew me to photography and sustains my fascination even today. The studio I apprenticed at back in '73 had, among many other cameras, a big and beautiful 5 x 7 view camera with a delicious Carl Zeiss lens. As a newbie I certainly didn't appreciate it then as much as I do now in retrospect, but boy, the portraits it made (and which was my job initially to print) were stunning, as you can imagine. It was a more static, classical style which I still view as timelessly beautiful.

Over the years, portrait styles evolved as tastes changed and new equipment and technologies came along. Back in the day, a hand-help camera in the studio was considered as taboo as drinking on the job (although, now as I think about it....) My influences then were the likes of Yousef Karsh, Irving Penn, Richard Avedon, and so many others, their books at my side.

And these days I'm more than likely, as I rely on my digital cameras, to step away from the studio and shoot in color. What, then, continues to be the fascination with the black & white portrait? It's hardly an anachronism. It remains a relevant art form, capable still of producing penetrating and personal images. Maybe it's just me, but I sometimes see a great deal more texture, tonal values, and intimacy in them. And maybe we don't see it just as we did with the great films and the high-silver papers, but it's there nonetheless. My studio mate Whitney often shoots in black and white, forsaking even an original color file, and consistently produces timeless and beautiful portraits of children as well as adults.
So I'll keep at it, and hope you do too. Even though, without a darkroom to lock yourself in, it's tougher to drink on the job.

I'm just saying.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Heading Out For The Day ~

I didn't post a blog last week, and will blame it on Thanksgiving. Sorry about the interruption, but the turkey was great, the wine was plentiful, and the self-loathing for over-indulging lingered for a delicious few days. But then on Monday my friend Keri sent out a text that she was going to grab her camera and go wandering and was looking for some co-conspirators.  And that, mes amis, is my favorite outdoor activity. Like me, she is a recent convert to a mirrorless camera, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 (how do they even come up with those names?) and I am still wrapping my head and hands around the Fuji X-e2.  Wandering around the railroad tracks and warehouses of the inner SE of Portland provided some really fine colors and compositions. With our fellow co-conspirator Chaz we had a very creative and challenging (and cold!) afternoon.  My favorite shot of the day was the warehouse wall you see above. The colors and lines put me in an O'Keeffe-ish frame of mind. Does anyone else see a desert pueblo, or is it just me?

Sometimes the best photography happens when you're not thinking about it. Call up a friend, grab a camera, and just go. Anywhere. If it's a nice sunny day, don't worry; you can wait it out until the really good weather returns. The cloudiest, coldest, rainiest, windiest days are the ones made just for us. They are where the real surprises lay hidden.

A little turkey and wine wouldn't hurt, either.