Monday, January 24, 2011

Dreaming Awake

Fade to White
My Garden

"I love art because it doesn't have any rules."
--Harry Callahan

It was born a humble, quickly forgotten photograph; just some shiny little green leaves hanging by a thread in the sunshine. They caught my eye and so I captured them. I captured them and stored them with the hordes of other photographs of mine that languish in that place between mildly interesting and hey, I like that shot now.

Fast forward to recently, years later. I was trolling through said hordes for a candidate [victim] for a little darkroom experiment I wanted to try. I was thinking about how I sometimes dream in negative images, rather than positives. I'm sure we probably all do, those of use who remember our dreams a lot. Instead of attaching some deep emotional meaning to them, I often wonder if maybe dreams are one of the passageways - rabbit holes - for our creative inspiration, so I try hard to remember mine.

I'm always so captivated by creativity - where it comes from, how other beings channel it, what it means to them and ultimately, to us. Artists like Jerry Uelsmann take those surreal, negative images I sometimes see in my dreams to a whole new dimension, painstakingly using many layers of different image's negatives to create a single print. They're an inspiring sight to see.

But back to my negative.

It's more than a little peculiar to think about an image in negative. What I mean is that it's often hard to pre-visualize, especially for those of us who live in a more realism-based theme of photography. The negative of a color image, after all, is all about contrast and tonality and nothing about color. For a color/saturation junkie, that's just...well, peculiar. But it's good to let go in life. It's good to push outside the edges of what can seem like comfort food to our eyes.

And so, on a recent sleepless night when I was prowling the darkroom of Lightroom, all fired up for something new but clueless what or where it would be, these little leaves found me. And suddenly, I simply saw them in reverse; I saw them as negatives. Just like that. It's funny where this stuff comes from.

Dreaming awake is still dreaming. I like it.

The Birth Photo

Nikon D100, Nikkor 24-120 VR, spot metering in bright sunlight a long time ago

Monday, January 3, 2011

A New Year

Brown Pelican
Wiggins Pass, Florida
January 01, 2011
"We are all the same age inside."
--Gertrude Stein

Morning came early for me New Year's Day. After a long stretch of even longer workdays, I had an entire day to myself. No work, no functions to attend...just me and my kayak. The tide was especially low, so I had time to enjoy a wonderful cup of coffee and a slow start - a perfect way to begin the day.

There haven't been many spare moments for "fun" photography lately, which is ok, because any kind of a moment behind the lens is a good moment. Still, I was looking forward to water and mangroves - and maybe I'd get lucky with a bird or two.

But it was to be a short trip...or rather, shorter than usual. Wind, currents and way too many power boats made me long for home. The birds were scarce - perhaps they knew it was a major holiday, too? And so, it ended up being me, a few pelicans, a coupla terns and an even fewer "peeps" on the quickly disappearing sandbar in the Pass. Surrounded by a good cross chop, I could only stab at the shutter as the boat - and I - rocked in the waves.

One of the first books I ever read on my Kindle device was about the first team of Special Forces dropped into Afghanistan after 9/11. It was a harrowing story about fighting alongside the Afghan army, riding tiny mountain horses with their knees pressed to their chins, and battling acres of Taliban soldiers with handfuls of poorly-armed me. The book talked about the kind of shooting technique used by the Afghan soldiers called the "spray and pray". They would simply blindly point their rifles and pull the trigger with no particular attention to aim or precision, hoping something would hit something else.

Reading that description back then, I thought about how similar my own "shooting" technique is. In the kayak, I often simply point and, well....shoot. Shoot and pray something takes. My camera has a setting for what I call "machine gun" mode. It let's me fire off several shots (or FPS - frames per second) by simply holding down the shutter. As I rocked there in the waves in front of that little band of birds, that's exactly what I did...shot and prayed. And then I packed it in, and headed home.

Some days are like that. You have to shift your priorities, tweak your hopes and expectations, and be grateful for the blessings the day delivers: water, mangroves, and a safe arrival back at the dock.

Nikon D2x, Nikkor 80-400 VR @ 400mm, strong tides and a brand new year