Monday, February 2, 2015

You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby! (Lessons Learned Editing)

Like many photographers my age, I began my photographic journey shooting slide film.  Remember those specific characteristics of various films and having to make your choices before loading the camera for 24-36 precious exposures? Fuji Velvia with its vivid greens, Provia, Kodak E100S-with its vibrant blues, E100SW- with its warm tones, Scala Black and White, and Agfachrome 1000- with its beautiful gritty grain…
I shot slides for close to 10 years before moving into the digital age.  The slides I shot filled 17 3-inch binders which have been untouched on the shelf since 2003!  Needing the space in my office, I decided to go through them, edit and purge!  What I thought would be a chore turned out to be an amazing experience.  I observed how my vision developed as I progressed from book to book while trying to keep my emotions apart from my decisions to keep or toss. 
My first discovery was how much I missed the sensory part of editing, feeling the slide pages in my hands and holding the loupe to my eye over a light table.  There is something mysterious about peeking through a loupe at dark slides and being surprised by what you see illuminated within that 2x2 inch cardboard frame!

As I progressed through my binders I discovered how much I bracketed my shots while learning the valuable lesson of "exposure." Slide film has a very narrow exposure latitude and one had to 'nail' the correct exposure so as not to blow out highlights or block up the shadows.  I could see how unsure I was of exposure concepts at the beginning of my photo learning curve by the number of bracketed shots I made for each subject, and how I later mastered it with fewer and fewer bracketed shots. And remember in camera dupes?  I had many of those for particular subjects I thought were worth it.  (Guess what? They weren't!)
Continuing my editing process, I realized my love for abstracts, reflections, shadows and motion goes all the way back to the start of my photographic journey.  To this day, I look for these subjects and while many of the ideas are the same, my conceptual vision has matured since then.
I could see my progress in learning to see and capture light.
I saw (and tossed) my first dreadful attempts in accomplishing successful landscapes and saw how I literally followed all of 'the rules of composition' daring not to break any of them! Slide page by slide page, I could see and feel my struggle with mastering wide angle lenses and the broad based landscape, which took me far from my comfort zone of long lenses and subject isolation. Images marked on the slide mount as "keepers" back then are far from what I would choose as "keepers" today. Many of my early landscape shots made me ask myself "What was I thinking when I took this shot?"  They looked like snapshots, and had no impact at all!  I also realized that to this day, I am still challenged by consistently composing the perfect scenic!
The "historical keepers" were saved without question for posterity and consisted of places long gone and of the legendary musicians I captured over years of attending the New Orleans Jazzfest.  I kept all of those shots whether good, soft, or badly composed. 
Wondering in what year an image was made, I realized that in film days we did not have the convenience of metadata informing us of time, date, etc which we take for granted today.  All we had to rely on was the month/year stamp on cardboard frames and any notes we thought to write on the slide mounts.  I realized the value of journaling and making notes in the field- which I do religiously today- since many of my slide shots were taken in obscure places which I do not remember.  On the other hand, there were certain images of places and subjects which I could remember with all of my senses as I peered at them through the loupe.  Funny how that goes…
Then there were the surprise slides made of family, friends and pets.  None of those slides were purged- too many good memories and sentimental moments.  Those will definitely get scanned someday soon.
I shot a lot back then.  I was learning. (and I still am!) I realized the importance of shooting as often as I can to grow photographically, to get everything 'right' in the camera, to be selective when shooting, and to explore a subject completely before moving on.
If you have a library of your photographic roots, I highly recommend going through them soon and discover how far you have come.  You might also gain some much needed room in your workspace!

Monday, September 29, 2014

My Perspective: Literal and Interpretive

You find yourself in a familiar place to photograph.  The challenge is to see this place in a different way so the images you create are not identical to those you shot before.How do you accomplish that task?  Based on the following quote, from author Toba Beta "No perspective, no perception. / New perspective, new perception."

I gave myself an assignment.

This was my 3rd visit to the abandoned diamond mining town of Kolmanskop in Namibia.  As I was photographing this amazing place this time, I resisted photographing the same scenes I have shot in the past and kept 3 words in my head as I framed each shot:

'Perspective,' 'Detail,' and 'Different.'

Simply defined, 'perspective' means 'point of view.'  Because of my short stature, I have always had a different point of view than those of average height, but I wanted to stretch my literal point of view even further as I roamed in and around the sand-filled buildings of Kolmanskop.  

By focusing on the details and lighting in each room and building, I positioned myself at different visual angles to capture images which would hopefully offer viewers a new perspective and perception of this amazing place.

When I began editing this batch of photos, I prepared them as a color collection to post on the web-site to share.  Then I decided to continue the creative process by stretching my interpretive point of view. 

After I created the gallery of color images, (which can be seen here: 2014 Kolmanskop- Color )- I selected the shots which I felt met my criteria of "perspective, detail, and different" and rendered them in black and white to further represent the essence and the haunting mystery of this abandoned place.

My gallery of my interpretive perspective can be seen here: 2014 Kolmanskop- Black and White

As I look at each gallery, I am torn as to which collection I prefer. While I like many of the images in my black and white rendition of Kolmanskop, I think I favor the gallery of color images as a collection.  This surprised me because it seems strange to me that an old spot, reeking of nostalgia, looks better in color!  Maybe it's because of the combination of the colors and textures.

If you like these galleries of Kolmanskop, be sure to check out my gallery of classic images of Kolmanskop from previous visits.

"I never saw an ugly thing in my life: for let the form of an object be what it may - light, shade, and perspective will always make it beautiful." - John Constable- painter

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Etosha National Park- Namibia

When traveling to Namibia, one cannot miss visiting Etosha National Park for excellent wildlife game viewing experiences.  The park was officially made a game reserve in 1907 and is one of Southern Africa's finest and most important Game Reserves.There are 150 species of mammals in the park, including the endangered black rhino.

During the drier months, the many waterholes located through the park are quite a draw to herds of animals in need of water.  (The Dry Season is from June to November- which includes the date range of the 2014 Strabo Photo Tour led by Brenda Tharp and Me)

'Etosha' means "Great White Place" in reference to the huge salt pan located (mostly) within the park's boundaries.  The salt pan is so big, it is actually visible from space! There are several lodges located in Etosha National Park. 

We will be spending 2 nights at Okaukuejo Rest Camp situated near the western edge of the Etosha Pan.

After sunset, the waterhole is illuminated by floodlights in order to allow wildlife observation at night.  One can stay out all night long watching and enjoying the animals, if so inclined. Rhinos, elephants, giraffes, and lions are some of the species who frequent here, and it is considered by many to be the best place in Africa to see the endangered black rhino.  
(It's always worth remembering that the best waterholes to visit can change on a daily and even hourly basis, and that often it comes down to the 'luck of the draw' as far as what we will see.)

You can see a collection of my most recent images from Etosha National Park HERE. 

I hope you will consider joining Brenda and me on our photo tour to Namibia in August 2014.  We have a varied itinerary of many different and exciting photo opportunities.  For information and details about our Strabo Namibia Photo Tour, please click HERE.


Monday, December 23, 2013

What does 'The Best' Actually Mean?

As 2013 comes to a close, I have been seeing many posts on my Facebook newsfeed by other photographers who have posted their "best" of 2013.

I am in awe of the 'best' photos represented by my fellow photographers and I decided to re-visit my 2013 photos to share my 'best' of the year.
As I began to look through the multitude of images of varied subject matter from this past year, I had to take pause and ask myself: "What does 'best' really mean?"
The first thought that came to mind was: 'the best' means a technically sound image with perfect composition and impact- after all, these are the criteria used for judging photo competitions.  While I have many images that are technically sound, tack sharp, and worthy of competition entry, they are not what I consider 'the best' of my collection. 
There are so many wonderful memories of things I have seen and of the places I have been which come flooding back to me when viewing images I have made.  To me, so much of an image is about the experience of being in that place and witnessing what I try to capture with my lens- sometimes technically successfully, and sometimes not. It's difficult for me to separate all of the emotions I feel when making an image from the resulting photograph. 
So many of my 'best' are fleeting moments in time.  A great number of these 'bests' have never been shared with anyone else, but are the ones which I often  revisit and just smile...  Those magical moments and the awe and wonder of subjects discovered for the first time, special times with friends and family, and those moments which excited me as I saw them come together through the viewfinder. 
This is what "the best" means to me, and I invite you to view a gallery of MY 'BEST' PHOTOGRAPHIC MOMENTS AND DISCOVERIES OF 2013 -while keeping in mind the experience and discovery behind each image.
Wishing you only 'BESTS' in 2014 and beyond...

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Himba People of Namibia

This is the fifth posting in a sequence of blogs highlighting the many places in Namibia which will be visited on the Strabo 2014 Namibia Photo Tour led by Brenda Tharp and myself.  The images featured in my Namibia blogs are from my most recent and previous visits to Namibia and feature the places included in the itinerary for 2014.
The next stop on our 2014 Strabo Namibia Photo Tour will be to the town of Opuwo which is the capital of the Kunene Region in north-western Namibia.  The mingling of ethnic groups on the streets of Opuwo is a sight you will always remember!  It is here where we will have the opportunity to photograph the Himba people.  We will be spending two nights at the Opuwo Country Hotel which is situated on the outskirts of the town on a hilltop which overlooks breathtaking mountains and valleys. 
Himba Woman and Goat Herd
The Himba are semi-nomadic people and are indigenous to the northern Kunene Region of Namibia.  They live with their extended family in a kraal- which is a fenced circle of individual family huts surrounding a central livestock enclosure and a sacred fire.  Their livestock are a symbol of their wealth and so these people will travel with their herds to find adequate grazing and water to keep the herds healthy and producing new offspring.
Himba Wealth

Himba Woman in Late Afternoon Light
During our time in Opuwo, we will have the opportunity to visit two different authentic Himba villages (kralls) and photograph the people who live there.  One session will take place in the morning as their daily village activities begin.  During this session we will learn about their fascinating culture and beliefs from our personal Himba guide.  The second session of the day will be in the late afternoon and on into the "golden hour" which enhances the red skin tones which are unique to these women.
The Himba are beautiful and friendly people.  The women of this culture are best known for covering themselves with 'otjize'- a mixture of butterfat and red powdered ochre.  The women perform the ritual of bathing in this mixture on a daily basis, resulting in their iconic deep red skin color.  We are usually able to enter a hut and watch this bathing process.  Although you will have to use a very high ISO, the light streaming in from the doorway allows us to create some very special images of these beautiful women.
Mixing Ochre                              Bathing Ritual
During the time spent in the villages, it will be time to change from our landscape photography techniques used during the first half of our trip to those suited for portraiture.  Typically, a mid-range telephoto lens (24-105mm) will be the workhorse of your Himba visit.  However, it is also nice to have a longer telephoto lens (70-200mm) handy for intimate portraits and for isolating details.
Portrait of a Himba Woman                                    Clothing Details
The Himba people are very receptive to our presence in their village and the children are a delight!  They adore having their photos taken and then seeing their likeness on the backs of our cameras!
Himba Children Delight In Seeing Themselves
Upon leaving the village and presenting the people with our thank-you gifts, the women produce some of their handmade crafts and offer them for sale.  While not obligated to buy them, it is tough to resist, knowing you are helping their existence while taking a bit of Himba culture home with you as a souvenir.
Handmade Himba Crafts
Photos of the Himba people  made on my most recent visit to Namibia can be seen HERE.
Please consider joining us on our 2014 Namibia Photo Tour.  It is a trip you will never forget!