seeing in black and white

I love the rich monochromatic creations of the old master photographers; their work has an unsurpassed quality, their techniques continue to be replicated across generations. But in a modern world where color is so so readily available why do black and white images continue to excite? The fact is that restricting a view to black and white provides certain advantages. Removing the distraction of color results in texture, contrast and composition becoming more pronounced, enhancing the underlying character of the image. Monochrome images also present an alternative and often interestingly new view of our familiar world, in fact many photographers are so enamored that color is not an option for them.

One of the more abstract skills in photography is the ability to 'see' in black and white. Scenes with high contrast/bold lines may make it a little easier to imagine a monochromatic result but as the human eye/brain is more sensitive to certain colors (red, orange, yellow) others can produce results that are much harder to predict. The advent of digital images and processing presents the modern photographer with infinitely more flexibility than those who shoot film (with film type & speed fixed for each roll, filters planned and added in advance) but nonetheless creating interest in black and white from what we see in color remains a challenge.

That is not to say that B&W images should be valued in any way above their colorful counterparts but the next time you view such work do so with an appreciation of the effort and skill involved to reach that result.

I would be interested to hear the views of  fellow photographers - do you have any tips & tricks to share on your process for producing black & white artwork?

see my artwork at the Darkroom Gallery

As mentioned elsewhere my image 'Lady of the Woods' is now on display at the juried ‘Trees’ exhibition hosted by the Darkroom Gallery in Essex Junction, Vermont.

The gallery is displaying all finalists through 28 October 2018, with an artist's reception on the 13th October at 4pm.

I would highly recommend a visit if you are in the area. Click HERE for a link to the Darkroom Gallery

Click on image to open full size in a lightbox

the story behind - 'Hestitant Step'

This is a story of a marriage between 'lady' luck and 'master' planning. The intent of the image below was simple - to capture an interesting rock jutting out of the lake, with a long exposure softening distracting details in both water and sky.

Unfortunately, as I set up I found the rock occupied by a group of boys using the rock as a jumping point. No problem - I set up and fired off some test shots to ensure settings were optimal prior to the installation of a 10 stop ND filter.

Then it was a matter of waiting............, and once the boys drifted off to their next exciting adventure I had the rock to myself.

It was only after reviewing the images at home that I realized that I had captured a young lad as he was hesitant, seemingly pondering the jump ahead. Whether the timing was dumb luck or an innate sense I can't say, but I feel that merging both fast and slow images produces a result that is far greater than the sum of each individually.

BTW - each time I look at this I see a face in the rock, almost squinting toward the boy. If you see the same please contact me and let me know that I'm not going crazy (or at least not alone....)

The Hesitant Step

 

 

beach stroll

Following are images captured on a Maine beach during a short family vacation. The light that day was terrible - a scorching sun beating down from a cloudless sky. Great for lazing in the sun but challenging for photographers.

Nonetheless, I was up for the challenge and found a stroll down the beach looking for images both relaxed and rewarding. You never know what you might find, so keep that camera ready!

click on images to enlarge

 

 

a visual perspective

Who do you take photographs for? While this may sound like a simple question it is often one of the most difficult to answer. Many shoot with a goal of capturing meaningful moments to share or archive, or perhaps to fill a directive from a client.  My own passion led me to seek out subjects of interest or beauty but after early results being questioned I found myself following a subconscious goal of creating work to please others rather than myself.

A subsequent change in mindset now allows me the freedom to create artwork to my own liking, to experiment and to display as I see fit. Do I care what others think of my work? - ABSOLUTELY. However I feel that it is more important to remain authentic and true to myself,  and am content with viewers forming their own opinion. Strangely it is only after changing to this mindset that I started gaining the recognition and validation from others that I sought for so many years prior.

So my question to you is - who do you take photographs for? - for the appreciation of others or to satisfy your own creative desires?

Let me know, I would love to hear your feedback and personal experiences

Update Sept 2018

I have just come across a blog entry from an admired artist, requesting critique of an exquisite image. A concern expressed by the artist was that although he enjoys the image and is encouraged to create more he feels that such artwork rarely sells. A viewpoint returned from a 2nd respected artist indicates that although the image may not sell, it is ART, and something to be proud of.

This goes back to my original question/dilemma - are we taking pictures for the benefit of others, or creating art that satisfies perhaps a smaller audience, but most importantly OURSELVES?

Rocks in a calm tide

photography for fun

AKA - images from a fun trip to North Dakota....

As a fine art photographer, it is easy to become overly focused on a final result and perhaps a fear of producing work that inadequately reflects our vision. I think it is good to step back from time to time and reflect on what attracted us to  photography in the first place - not just for the one image that captures both imagination and heart but the joy in the process of creating images purely for the fun in doing so.

Family vacation is a perfect time where this lighter approach can be followed.  Although temptation surrounds us spending time with family and friends at this time is paramount - planned photographic trips are replaced with opportunistic captures as we explore new environments, the pleasure derived from planning and executing a vision replaced with spontaneity and an acute awareness of the world around us at each moment in time.

Such a time was spent during a recent trip to visit our son in North Dakota. Traveling with only the bare essentials the camera joined us on every adventure, capturing both memories and scenes of interest as discovered. An added bonus to me is that my son, Sam, has become interested in the art which enabled us to spend quality time shooting together.

While resulting images may not be exhibition quality they perhaps more importantly, capture a wealth of memories and added an extra element of fun during the visit. Following is a selection of opportunities encountered during our visit. Feel free to feed back comments or your own thoughts - I'd love to hear from you!

Click on the images below to view full-sized, then hover over for narrative.

 

 

 

 

inspiration or replication?

I have come across posts from a couple of photographers recently which suggest that we should avoid viewing the work of other artists in order to develop our own creativity. That's an interesting concept - this would certainly prevent us from being overly influenced by work we appreciate, but without access to artwork that inspires then I think we are limiting our own growth potential.

I do see cases where photographers have (subconsciously?) fallen into the trap of replicating rather than being inspired by the work of their heroes, but I think there needs to be a balance. My feeling is that we need to appreciate the work of a variety of great artists and draw inspiration from each in order to better evolve our own style. Working in isolation may work for some but I believe this can only work after having already built a solid foundation to build on.

Returning to growth; a second article referred to viewing one's own work over a period of a year. A suggestion is made that if you have grown as an artist in that period there is a good chance that you find your dated work less appealing than when first produced. If this is the benchmark then I certainly feel that I have grown in that period, not only on the technical side but on the style of work I produce . The question in my mind is how did that growth come about? Was natural progression demanding a more discerning viewpoint, did it come from being inspired by the viewing of other great artwork, or was it a bit of both?

What are YOUR thoughts? Would your own creative voice have developed if blind to the work of others, or would it be perhaps more unique?  

 

highlights magazine

In conjunction with Exhibitions Without Walls (EWW) I have created an interactive online magazine that highlights my work. The magazine can be viewed by clicking on the image below.

Again, I need to give many thanks to EWW and Ed Wedman in particular.

interview with Exhibitions Without Walls

I am honored to have been recognized for an online interview with Exhibitions Without Walls, an international organization that promotes photographers and digital artists.

I would recommend frequenting this site in general as it continues to unearth rising artists and bring to you great work that may not be seen otherwise.

My interview can be found via the following link;

Interview with Exhibitions Without Walls

In truth the questions really made me reflect on my approach to photography and feel that I have come out of that with a new and refreshing perspective.

Many thanks to Ed Wedman and EWW in general for discovering my work and providing this opportunity.

the story behind - larger than life

These images of the late Leonard Cohen hold a deep emotional tie for me. All were captured during a weekend trip to Montreal; one of those weekends you plan to get away from your everyday life and see other cultures.

Adding to our Montreal 'todo' list my wife had suggested visiting the Museum of Contemporary Art, where they were exhibiting 'A Crack in Everything' - a tribute to Leonard Cohen on the first anniversary of his death. I knew little about Cohen as I entered the museum (other than perhaps his writing of the song 'Hallelujah') but the exhibit and his life story left me deeply moved. Understanding how his battle against depression, lost love, and outlook on life shaped his words formed a deep impression. I could see why this son, poet and songwriter of Montreal was so revered and missed.

It was on a visit to another Montreal museum on the following day that I came across this towering mural. The 9-story painting covers over 1,000 square meters of a high rise building, inspired by a photograph captured by Cohen's daughter, Lorca. The weather that day was an unforgiving mix of snow and freezing rain which I feel casts a fitting and somber mood to the scene.  

These images for me act as a reminder that life is not about sitting at home but getting out there, exploring and finding new inspirations - whether that be from beauty in the world we see or the story of some old guy that speaks to your inner soul.

In parting I'd like to finish with some of my favorite poetic lyrics from one of Leonard's songs - 'Dance Me to the End of Love';

"Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love"

-Leonard Cohen

Rest in peace Leonard - larger than life, even in death.....

 

 

 

time for reflection

When traveling I like to dedicate time to exploring opportunities that may not be available in rural Vermont. In truth I just love spending time with the camera and the discovery of new and interesting elements.
Such an opportunity arose during a recent weekend trip, where a glass building caught my eye. With an exterior of mirrored windows the building offered an array of reflected imagery, the content changing with each step and through time as lighting and weather conditions evolved. 

Had I not captured an image of note I would have been happy with the quiet time spent exploring and observing the developing scenes. That said I am pleased with the results, a few of my favorites being displayed below.

I'd love comments on how you feel about the images in general, and whether any in particular catch your eye.

Thanks!

the story behind - from pain comes gain

It was not my intent to take these images that day, nor was the idea of heading to the beach at noon under clear blue skies. Unfortunately fate had thwarted plans for an early morning/later afternoon session as my son had broken his leg just days earlier slipping on a wet rock. However, at the prompting of my wife to take a break from patient care I thought I'd at least scout ideas in the hope of a chance to return before our vacation ended.

As I approached the beach I couldn't believe the conditions; a thick sea fog enveloped the beach with the glow of the sun producing a beautiful ethereal glow on those waiting it out..Foreseeing the fog lifting I rushed the length of the beach capturing what I could, some of which I present above.

So my gain comes from my son's unfortunate accident, but it just goes to prove that we never know what is around the next bend so we best be prepared

a new site, a new mentor

It has been a long time coming but I finally decided to go whole hog and invest more time and $$$ into creating something a bit more friendly and worthy of my work.

A LOT of credit for this has to go to Ed Wedman, co-founder of the wonderful organization Exhibitions Without Walls. EWW is an international organization dedicated to helping photographers and artists develop professionally. I would encourage all to check out EWW via the following URL;

Exhibitions Without Walls

Ed provided encouragement and the drive to get this moving, and I am deeply indebted to him

So.... a new site and a new blog to boot. Check back for updates.

alan