February 2007 Archives

 

Feb., 2007

The above photo is an example of composition. What I mean is that it's very important to study a scene carefully before releasing the shutter. Most people often times go right up to scene and than shoot away without really exploring the scene. A few inches of positioning can make big differences. Believe it or not it took me close to 30 minutes to determine the best place to set the tripod. I went up the road by the river, down the road , a few feet to the right, few to the left, an inch or to here and there and so on. What I carry with me is a cardboard cutout where I can look through to help visualize the scene. You'll be surprised how a few inches of movement can change a scene like above. I also waited another hour or so for the weather, light, and clouds to best closely reflect my visualization.

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As all of us are inclined to do from time to time, we think beyond the day to day........ minutetia of events, and think of things or ideas that are sometimes hard to pin down. Meaning of life, are we alone in the universe, that sort of philosophizing.

The other day I was apparently doing this stretching of the mind ( it was on the NYC subway) and it came over me that the Art of Photography is similar to the Art of Living or more importantly defining the Art of Living.

When I pursue photography I visualize and focus on capturing a somewhat preconceived vision and definition of an image (in my minds eye). I may not know exactly all the details in the pre visualizing stage but when I see it, I know it. If conditions from the quality of light, composition, weather and subject matter all come together I can hopefully create a powerful image. When I feel I have done this or achieved my goal I feel exhilarated and a deep contentment comes over me. I don't rightly know why but it does. In my thinking of the Art of Living I realize that living is very much the same, if we can visualize and have a vision of how we see ourselves and establish that as a goal then we can focus and do the things that can hopefully achieve this vision of ourselves. Then I guess the most important thing in life is PREVISUALIZING what our lives should be, what would make us happy and provide deep contentment. After that it's like going after the image, one needs to plan in anticipation to make it happen, the timing, finding the subject matter, the conditions and so forth. It means hard work. Getting up early, out in inclement weather.....

Isn't that what life is as well? If we have a dream, or a vision, we have to pursue this by all the means necessary to do so. Oftentimes It means hard work

In noodling on this I also realized something else, if one is pursuing something worthwhile in their mind than the pursuit or journey can in itself bring together rewarding experiences, provide contentment and true happiness. Isn't that the Art of Living, experiencing life in an exhilarating pursuit of a vision of happiness?

In that pursuit one has to work hard at it. The most amazing thing though is that if it is the right vision for that person no matter how hard or frustrating the work may be , that pursuit in itself can bring peace and happiness. Just as I know when I'm pursuing that elusive image and I try and try but often times don't achieve my goal I am happy and feel worthy of the pursuit.

The journey is the destination.

I remember reading a book by Dickens, "Great Expectations". A story of a boy Pip who grew up in a rough environment , poor, without prospects for success. However through fortunes of life, serendipity, fate, destiny, or whatever you want to call it, Pip grew as a young man, into fame and fortune. However that in itself did not bring him happiness.

As in the story I don't believe fame and fortune in itself brings happiness. I've come to realize that it is the pursuit of a meaningful goal or a vision of a meaningful life ....that dream...... will bring that elusive happiness. We have to have the "right" great expectation.

 

In the Art of Living I also believe you don't always have to understand everything...........why the world is the way it is, and how it truly works.

In my pursuit of photography I have a belief.

I don't truly understand all the technical "tour de force" of how the subject of my image is carried by light waves, through the lens, aperture, shutter, in that blink of a second to be captured on this tiny bit of silver celluloid and the miracle of the photograph is achieved.

I just have faith that when I am at the right place, at the right time, in the right conditions and release that shutter at that "Decisive Moment", the magic of the photograph will happen and materialize.

I believe one's life's events can be the same. Have faith and believe that good things will happen.......you may not know exactly how or why but if you have that faith..... pursue that personal vision of who you are and the life you wish to lead, release that shutter at the "Decisive Moments" in your life's journey, you can capture that magic of Life.

 

 

 

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"Village"

The scene at the time reminded me of a Thomas Kinkaid painting. It was late afternoon and the light was beautiful in this small village in Vermont. Taken earlier this year.

 

 

 

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"Borealis"

Feb. 2007

Or northern lights. Picture taken near my cabin as I was snow shoeing in northern New Hampshire. Not sure it's a true northern light. The sun was setting and there was this incredible arc of light as you can see in the photo. Perhaps it was due to the extreme temperature (-25 degrees). The air was so crisp and clear. (taken with my 40 year old Nikon F and 50mm lens). DON"T NEED BATTERIES!

 

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I was in Northampton last week and bumped into a guy who was taking pictures. We chatted and he asked me what camera I was using and so forth. He shows me his new Canon 1ds MK II ($7,000.00 camera) and his 100-400mm F/4.5 L EF lens ($2,000.00). Plus he had a second Canondigitaldoeverything camera as well with another super zoom.

He was sitting on the stone steps in front of the stores on Main St. and shooting people across the street.

He went on about how great his camera was and the lenses he had. Mentioned MTF optical ratings and test reviews about his equipment and how it rates and all these numbers that I guess it means something, DXO scanning something or other; I don't know, he started giving me a head ache after a while. He also said he shot at a MTF chart himself and "it blew him away" with how sharp those test chart pictures were.

I said the appropriate things like "wow", really?, that's pretty cool man... and so forth. I mean like the guy spent close to 15 grand for this stuff........what else am I going to say. Then he says "I see you're still shooting film", (I had my Leica M4). He said it in a way which suggested, what was I still doing with a relic.I responded with a simple "yes I still shoot film". He kind of looked at me like he was expecting me to defend why I was still using film. I didn't say anything further. It would have been a zero sum conversation.

I asked him if I could see some of his work sometime, to which he said.."yeah, (stutter, stutter) sure. but right now I don't have anything put together, but as soon as I do, we'll hook up".

Sure.... love to see your work.

 

The last time I checked, in looking at most pictures taken by competent photographers, I really can't tell if it was taken by a 50 dollar lens (a good used 50mm prime lens) or a 5,000 dollar lens. That goes for the camera if not more so. A 50.00 dollar SLR you can pick up on E-Bay using the right film ( I checked and saw several good models from Canon and Nikon) is going to take more or less the same picture as that $7,000.00 camera.Don't let anyone tell you other wise. Sure it may have more features, bells and whistles, but all it is is a light box. It captures light, period.

Truly, have you looked at the greatest images of the last 100 years, from Ansel Adams, Robert Capa, Edward Weston , W. Eugene Smith, Henri Cartier Bresson, Louis Hynes (and many more)? I don't think you are going to tell what the price of the lens that was used by the masters. . In reading his biography I don't think Edward Weston ever used a lens that cost more than 50.00 dollars in his 50 year career.

 

Photo by Robert Capa - WWII

The above picture of a captured German SS officer is one of my favorite pictures. Taken by a world renowned photojournalist Robert Capa. (He was killed in IndoChina as he was covering the war for Magnum). He covered over 7 wars in his 30 year career. He probably shot that above image with his Leica and a normal 50 mm lens. The picture is extraordinary especially when you study the face of the SS officer, (defeated, but not conquered). Do you really think it makes any damned difference what camera or lens was used?............................... The power of the image does not come from equipment.

That's just the way it is. Anything else is equipment masturbation. A lot of people don't want to hear that, especially if they plunked down 12 to 15 grand for an outfit. Don't get me wrong, good equipment is nice to have but it's not the end all be all. Each to his own.

Shooting test charts? ............what the heck for, you just spent 15 FRIGGIN GRAND !!! it better take sharp pictures. But here's the tip, it ain't the camera or lens.......IT"S YOU.

 

Anyway's this got me thinking.

10 Ways to Look Cool as a photographer.

1. Use an old classic camera and lens. I mean like one of the old classics, made of METAL and feels like a brick in your hand. Get a Canon F, Nikon F, Leica, even an old Pentax spotmatic (and get that great 50mm takumar lens). Also get 100 rolls of film and SHOOT.

2. Don't use a newer looking camera, get one where it's USED and shows. You know, brass is showing in the corners, some dings, etc. Like it screams character. and as an aside carry a separate light meter.

3. DON"T USE ZOOMS, get your self some prime lenses. A 20mm, 35mm, 50mm, and a 85mm.

4. Get them Fast, like F/1.4 and so forth. Get that 85mm as a F/1.4, SUPERFAST. Not these new fangled zooms that are slow as molasses in winter.

5. Get right up to people if you're going to shoot them. I mean right up to them with your 35mm wide angle lens. RIGHT UP TO THEM. Like you own the situation. What are they gonna do, pull a gun out and shoot you? (well maybe). but what the hell, you'll get shot being cool. Non of this pussy footing around shooting people from across the street with your 400mm super zoom with a tele converter which turns now to a 800mm lens. What are you doing, shooting pimples on faces??

6. SHOOT FILM!!!! come on, film is cool. It's analog, it's a throwback to simpler times, it's anachronistic. I'll also tell you what son, no digital is going to capture the high lights and the subtle tonal graduation like film. Period. Enough said.

7. USE A TRIPOD!..... yeah I know what you're going to say, tripods look geeky. Like hell it does. When you carry around a tripod (especially if you use it), it tells people you are serious about your photography, that you care enough to get the very best image you possibly can. This last weekend in Boston China Town, I saw this girl carrying one camera and lens, a little camera bag, and a Bogen tripod (as big as her) strapped to her shoulder. You know what? that told me she is serious about her photography, no fooling around taking snaphots, it's get down take good pictures variety.... she's carrying around a 20lb tripod and it ain't for her health. Got my vote.

8. Carry the minimum of gear, one body, a few prime lenses, a small tripod and a exposure meter. That's it; no three bodies dangling from your neck and shoulder, camera bags, 5 to 6 six zoom lenses, strobes, laptop computer to download pics, etc. KEEP IT SIMPLE.

9. Get a good looking assistant to help you.

10. I can't think of the 10th way to look cool.....................if you think of the 10th, shoot me an e-mail. Peace.

 

(Above piece meant as a Satire, don't take it too seriously!)

p.s. meeting the guy and the conversation was real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How often do we think about the Price of Freedom?

 

 

 

A Wife shows both grief and determination as she sits beside her husband who was tortured in a Chinese prison for religious belief.

Feb. 18, 2007 - Photo taken of poster in Boston China Town.

Seeing this poster and understanding that even to this day, personal and religious freedom that we in the United States take for granted, is not readily available in China (and I'm sure other areas of the world), compelled me to put together the piece below.

 

    In early 1999 the Chinese government launched a renewed effort against various spiritual movements. In response the Falun Gong held asilent, non-violent, mass protest. Over 10,000 people participated. The illegal protest occurred outside the Communist Party headquartersin Beijing on April 25, 1999. The government was frightened both by the size of the protest and by the lack of fore- knowledge of Chinese intelligence. The government points to the size of the protest as an indication of a high level of the movements. Li Hongzhi and other Falun Gong members continue to claim that the demonstrations have always been spontaneous. They argue that the lack of heirarchy and the loose nature of member networks prevent any such organization. In the following months, practitioners were harassed while performing their group exercises throughout China. Falun Gong members were told that their phones were being monitored and that their retirement pensions would be terminated. Police broke into practitioners' homes and confiscated Falun Gong materials. Some followers have been arrested and have disappeared. The movement claims that many of its incarcerated members have died while imprisoned. Thousands of members have continued to demonstrate peacefully in about 30 Chinese cities. The group was outlawed on July 22, 1999. The government accused it of lying, cheating, threatening the government, and harming Chinese social fabric. The Chinese government has an official anti-Falun Gong website where they seek to discredit Falun Gong members, beliefs, practices, and Li Hongzhi. They have many 'statements' by Li Hongzhi that are mostlikely Chinese propaganda. Falun Gong is defined by the government as a dangerous cult, and accused of the murders and destruction of many Chinese and their families. On July 29, Chinese authorities issued an arrest warrant for Master Li. The government claims that by manipulating others through theFalun Gong, Hongzhi is responsible for many deaths of members. He is also accused of organizing demonstrations without first applying for permits. China has repeatedly asked the US to arrest and return Li Hongzhi, who fled to New York in 1996. In a violation of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which China recently signed, the government has arrested hundreds of Falun Gong practitioners and is proceeding with trials. Some have been sent directly to labor camps without trials. Others have received over a year long incarceration sentences. There are many reports of harassment and abuse, from drugging to beatings, to the kidnapping of members. A spokesperson for the Falun Gong Practitioners in North America has stated that "lawyers in China have already been told not to defend these civilians unless they agree with the government. Also, no legal representation on behalf of them from the concerned international community is allowed to be present at the trial." The U.S. House and Senate unanimously passed resolutions on November 18 and 19 which criticized the Chinese government for its crackdown of the Falun Gong. The resolutions called for the Chinese to observe the UN Declaration of Human Rights, the halting of all incarceration,torture, and persecution against the Falun Gong. The Chinese government has answered that they see the movement as not simply another harmless Ch'i gong group. It is seen as a destructive cult that harms Chinese society and its people. Chinese government has voiced that the US resolutions are a gross infringement of China's autonomy.

    The Chinese government has not backed down despite international appeal for human rights and religious tolerance. The Chinese government launched a massive media and propaganda campaign against the group. It is the most serious government crackdown since Tiananmen Square,over a decade ago. Falun Gong has received global political attention as other nations specify this incident of China's religious intolerance as grounds to limit trade and normal relations. The proliferation of Falun Gong websites and information on the internet have quickly expanded an international awareness. Also, the free access to Li Hongzhi's teachings via the internet have aided the spread of the practice, promoting a global movement.

The unknown chinese rebel who stopped 4 Chinese government tanks at Tiananmen. He kept on blocking the lead tank as it tried to go around him.

This picture became an international image of heroism.

In two days over 3,000 protesters, mostly students were killed in and around Tiananmen Square.

He was never identified.

Photo by Jeff Widener

 

Photos Below Associated Press Archives

 

This is a May 27, 1989 photo of student leader Wang Dan in Tiananmen Square Beijing calling for a city wide march. He was arrested and finally released in 1998. due to international pressures. (AP Photo/Mark Avery)

 

The bodies of dead civilians lie among mangled bicycles near Beijing's Tiananmen Square early June 4, 1989. Tanks and soldiers stormed the area overnight, bringing a violent end to student demonstrations for democratic reform in China. (AP Photo)

 

A man tries to pull a Chinese soldiers away from his comrades as thousands of Beijing citizens turned out to block thousands of troops on their way towards Tiananmen Square in this June 3, 1989 photo. (AP Photo/Mark Avery)

A student puts barricades in front of armored carrier trying to stop it.

 

 

A rickshaw driver fiercely peddles the wounded people, with the help of bystanders, to a nearby hospital Sunday, June 4, 1989. PLA soldiers again fired hundreds of rounds towards angry crowds gathered outside Tiananmen Square at noon. (AP Photo/Liu Heung Shing)

 

 

Calling for freedom and democracy, demonstrating students surround policemen near Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, Thursday afternoon on May 4, 1989. Approximately 100,000 students and workers marched toward the square demanding democratic reforms. (AP Photo/Sadayuki Mikami)

 

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"Union Square Tree"

Feb. 17, 2007

Went to NY City and walked around all day. Took the wrong subway, ended up in Brooklyn going to Coney Island, got off, went back to Manhatten, got off the 14th St stop, came up in the middle of Union Square and saw this tree bathed in the afternoon light.

 

 

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"Dune"

Jan. 2007

Cape - P Town

 

 

 

"Dune MoonRise"

Jan. 2007

Cape - P Town

 

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"Horses, Winter Squall"

Feb. 10, 2007

 

 

 

"Tractor, Winter Sunset"

Feb. 10, 2007

 

 

"Barn & Light"

Feb. 10, 2007

 

Saturday morning, got up early and went to a spot behind the W. Springfield dump, yes the dump, where they had recently capped the landfill. A spot on the road looks up at the cap and the long crab grass, the rise, and there are always birds flying around. More importantly though the sun rises behind this rise. I thought and pre visualized an image. The light was weak and the sky was covered by a light cloud cover. I took a few pictures and I'm not sure of the results. Maybe I'll post them later. Anyway's, afterwards the light didn't seem to be interesting so went in the the office to work a few hours. Afterwards I decided to go to Holyoke around the industrial canal area, I took several pictures there and then the light and clouds started to become strong and powerful. Just the conditions I love and feel alive.

The play of light and clouds were creating strong emotional feelings. I raced around the Holyoke, Hadley, Amherst valley the whole afternoon until dusk. I think several strong images were captured. I'll be posting a few more as they become developed.

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Friday night Feb 2nd, it started to snow that night, the first real snow of the year. Pretty freaky to not have snow until February, go figure.

Anyway's I was watching the snow clinging to the trees outside and it looked so beautiful so I said to myself I need to be out tomorrow morning with my camera somewhere to take advantage of the snow storm. So where to go.

I'd always wanted to take a picture of the Poet's Walk in Central Park New York City with the tall trees covered in snow and perhaps a lonely solitary figure walking down the wide promenade. I'm visualizing all this and decided to get up early to head to "the city". I get up 1:30 in the morning and it is beautiful outside here in Massachusetts. We had about 4 inches of snow and more importantly all the trees were covered in snow and ice and oh did it look like a winter fairy tale out of a story book.

So I pack up my truck with my gear, hit the road by 2Am listening to Stone Roses, and head to New York City. Boy oh Boy did I blow it, NO SNOW down there!

But was it cold! I got there around 5AM and decided to explore Central Park regardless even though I was really disappointed to not have snow. I traipsed around for several hours, got lost, went around in circles. Pretty dismal however I did take a few pictures (one of them below).

Oh well, any day out in the freezing cold....out and about with a camera with a Vision Quest beats a warm house with a roaring fire in the fireplace.......hot coffee......curled up with a good book on a Saturday early morning..........Right?

I did capture this picture in the park though............best of the dawn/morning. A long exposure as it was much darker than the picture portrays, almost completely dark at the time of the exposure. I wasn't sure when I was metering the scene how it was going to come out.

 

"Turtle Bridge" Central Park

Feb. 3, 2007

 

 

Monday morning I'm telling this to my friend Kevin Collins and he tells me he got some good shots around western Mass. Then he says why didn't you check the WebCams down in New York before heading down? They are all over the city. You would have known without driving 400 miles down and back.

Hello, Hello, Mr. Potato Head, are you in there!

 

Oh what the hell, that's nothing compared to driving to Alaska two years ago and getting a cup of coffee in Ketchican, Alaska then turning right around and heading back home to work because I was going to run out of time. (I did have a great time in British Columbia and Alberta Canada though).

I always tell people about my trip to Alaska for a cup of coffee....9,400 miles.

 

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