Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving Fog

Tall Timbers in the Fog-2
The Washington DC area woke up to a dense blanket of fog on Thanksgiving.  I had made no plans to shoot that day, but with the amazingly luscious fog, I had no choice but to pack up the camera and take advantage of this beautiful event.  Sometime in the future I will post another entry on how weather affects my photography and my choices to shoot; it plays a big role.
Dock to nowhere
The photographs featured in this post all come from Southern Maryland and will likely contribute to my ongoing project of On the Water in Southern Maryland.  I am naturally drawn to water related photography, but the gift of Thanksgiving fog made my morning of shooting that much better.
Bridge into the fog
In my opinion, photography that features fog as a prominent component makes the question of color vs. black and white a non-decision.  The fog generally introduces a gradual transition in black and white tones that I want to feature without the distraction of color. 
Boat in Saint Mary's
Fog offers a number of advantages; diffuse soft light, a mood of solitude, mystery, and it evokes a sense of inquisitiveness in the subjects that are either partially obscured or causes to fade into the distance such as the photograph of the bridge.
So here is my recommendation; if you see fog, strap on the camera, and shoot!
Have fun, and make some great photography!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Minimalism Part IV – Land and Sky

Merida Valley - 2
The first two posts in this four part series focusing on minimalism in photography featured water related photographs.  In this final post I am featuring land and sky as a balance to my natural nautical affinity.
Abu Dhabi Desert Landscape (6 of 6)
I believe that landscape photography works well within the context of minimalism to the extent that the landscape is not terribly complicated.  In other words, lots of trees and other vegetation coupled with bold landscape feature introduce clutter and detract from a minimalist perspective.  The following photograph of the Arizona desert is an example of the tendency away from minimalism.
Desert Mountain Panorama on Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
The next photograph is much more minimalist with only a wind turbine blade and the hint of hills on the horizon to give context to the sky.
NREL Windmill Wing Big Sky
The next photograph is minimalist on a number of levels.  First, the fog helps blend the mountains and the sky – softening a lot of the features.  What is less obvious is what this photograph really means.  If you look closely at the mountain peak on the left you will see the snow pack.  This is Pico Bolivar, the highest point in the Venezuelan Andes mountains at over 16,000 feet above see level.  Pico Bolivar is home to three small glaciers, the last in Venezuela.  And they are shrinking rapidly.
As Andean glaciers and snow pack disappear, water will become an increasingly serious issue for Venezuela and Colombia.  Among the many functions glaciers and snow pack serve, there are two that directly affect the safety and security of Venezuela and Colombia.  First, the glaciers and snow pack retain water and distribute it for irrigation and drinking at a steady rate throughout the year.  Clearly this is important for both human/animal survival and the ability to grow crops. 
In a related matter, the water retained in the glacier and snow pack controls flooding.  In other words, moisture is captured, stored, and released gradually.  Without this storage function, severe flooding and erosion will threaten both counties.
Merida Valley - 3
I don’t want to make this entry too long, so I will leave the remaining three photographs for your enjoyment without commentary.
Plain at Boulder CO

Solomons Bridge-2

Tucson Desert Sky
I hope you enjoyed this series and would love to hear your feedback.
Have fun and go make some great photography!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Architecture for Ashley

Washington Monument and Flag
I am once again sitting in the Etihad lounge in Abu Dhabi attempting to entertain myself while waiting for my flight.  Fortunately, photography is a never ending source of recreation.
Barbados Plantation Ruins-7
While sitting here, I was presented with a request for some specific photography.  My niece, Ashley, asked to see more architectural photography.  Ashley is a budding photographer who has a creative eye and is doing some great work.  I really hope she sticks with the photography and maybe even make a career of it. 
Statue at Union Stations DC
Ashley blogs about a number of topics as one would expect of a college student, but she often writes about her photography (  I recommend you visit her blog and see some of her fine work.
Capitol Lawn
The photography featured in this post is only held together by the subject of architecture.  Had I put a bit more thought into this, I probably could have come up with a more cohesive theme and collection.  However, I board in 35 minutes, and am hustling to get this posted.
Rustic Camp on Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument
Quite honestly, I don’t even have time to talk about the locations.  Some are obvious.  Others less so.  Maybe you can take a guess.
Capitol Sunrise
So to answer Ashley’s request for some architectural photography, I offer this random collection of photography.
Lincoln - Washington - Capitol from Iwo Jima
Ashley, I hope you enjoyed the photography.
Captain Pat's Kitchen
Hirshorn Museum 6 of 6
Chicago Street
Chicago Street with Corn Cob
Have fun and go make some great photography!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Minimalism Part III – Simple Subjects

Ella's Wagon
Welcome back to the third in a four part series of posts addressing minimalism in photography.  In the first installment, I talked about a definition of minimalism applied to photography.  In the second installment I tried to further define minimalism by contrasting to its opposite.
Bukha Fort Oman - 4
In this post I will look at one case of minimalism as I have defined it – a composition with simple (or no) subjects.  I’m sure you get the idea of a simple subject, and most of these photographs are reasonably good examples of this, but what about a photograph without a subject?  Is it possible?  Take a look at the next photograph and make your own conclusion.
NREL Atrium Light
I will admit that it is possible to make the argument that the light is the subject.  However, we perceive light in two ways; directly (from the source) or by reflection.  In this case, you have the source (1/3 bright white circle at the top center) and the reflection (the balance of the composition.  In this case, both the source of the light and the reflection are nearly formless.  So what is the subject?
The subject in the next photograph is much clearer.  The camel emerging from the fog is clearly the subject of this photograph.  But with the fog obscuring nearly everything other than the camel and the rails to either side, we are left with in a rarified atmosphere with little left to focus on than the camel.
In the Lead
The next photograph are of the columns of the Jefferson Memorial in Washington DC.  By introducing a blur to the photograph (Lensbaby Composer) and keeping the spacing between the columns tight, the result is a greatly simplified subject.
Jefferson Memorial-3
The next photograph comes from Machu Pichu, Peru.  The leading lines of the terrace lead the eye to a small building on the edge of the mountain…like the camel emerging from the fog.  Again, the fog offers a great way to simplify the composition, remove distracting background elements, and leave the composition with a very simple subject.
Machu Pichu - 39
Finally, the last shot of paragliding in the Venezuelan Andes is a perfect example of a simple and isolated subject.
Parapente in Merida - 3
Up next; the fourth and final minimalism entry.  The final entry will feature sky and mountains as examples of minimalism.
Have fun, and go make some great photography!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekend Adventures in Abu Dhabi – Camel Races, Traditional Dance, and Balloons

What are you looking at
I just completed an absolutely wonderful weekend in Abu Dhabi.  For the first time, my wife traveled to Abu Dhabi with me which made the experiences sweeter and more memorable.  I spent the weekend with close friends which makes the shared experiences more special.  And of course, the photography opportunities were unbeatable.
Al Wathba Finish
This entry will be light on commentary.  My intent is to quickly post a few photographs from this past weekend with a promise return to these events and give them the attention they deserve. 
There were three principal photographic events this weekend:  1) the Camel Races in Al Wathba (the firest set of photographs.  Al Wathba is located about mid way between the city of Abu Dhabi and Al Ain), 2) Traditional dance from the UAE, 3) and a sunrise balloon ride over the desert in Nahel (in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi near Al Ain).
Waiting for the Start
Enjoy the photography.  I promise to share more along with the stories behind the photography.  I will also return to the series of minimalist photography entries soon.
Traditional Dance:
Boy Performer
Rifle Spinner
The Balloon Ride:
Preparing to Launch
Balloons and Flames
Desert Garden
Sand Waves
Desert Tracks
Sunrise in Nahel
I hope you enjoyed these photographs from our weekend desert extravaganza in the United Arab Emirates.  We had a terrific time, and as you can tell from the photography, the experience was completely unforgettable. 
At this rate of praise, I should be looking for a job with the tourism authority in the UAE!  I keep hinting about companies or organizations showing me a little love for honestly speaking well of them, but to date, nada.  Fortunately, I don’t expect it, this is all done for the love of it!
Have fun and, and go make some great photography!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Minimalism Part II – More Water Photographs

Umbrella in the Water - Abu Dhabi
Welcome back to the second installment of my four part series addressing minimalist photography.  Like the first entry, this post will feature photographs having water as a principal part of the composition.
Waterfalls at FDR Memorial-3
When engaged in a mental wrestling match such as this – understanding minimalist photography - it is frequently helpful to consider the extremes.  As we proceed along a range of minimalism to its opposite – maximalism (yes, I am fully aware this is not a word…but you understand it!) it may be helpful to consider some analogies that help translate the concept to photographic terms.  For instance consider the application to interior design: minimalism equals lots of open and white spaces.  Maximalism could be represented by the ubiquitous clutter and ornamentation of the Victorian age.

In music, minimalism may be represented by a single sustained note played on a piano, while maximalism of piano arrangements might be considered Ravel’s Gaspard or the 3rd Rachmanninof Concerto.
Pelicans at Cumana Fish Plant - 4
From these examples, we can begin to get a grasp on the extremes of photography – at one end might be a photograph of a completely white wall (sounds a bit boring, but none the less possible), and the opposite a photograph completely muddled with details, clutter, disorder, inconsonant colors, harsh lines, and an overall sense of chaos.
Ocean Beach view of a fisherman and Ledge Light
The obvious next questions are 1) by adding color, form, hue and tone to our completely minimalist white composition, at what point does it become interesting and yet remain minimalist? and 2) if we find the chaos of a maximalist composition equally unappealing as a white canvas, how much of the chaos must we discard to arrive at an pleasing composition?
Janice in her kayak
I don’t have the answers to these questions and don’t believe it would be possible to establish a universal standard.  That is why we call it art rather than science.
Have fun, and go make some great photography!