Sunday, January 29, 2012

reflections on a windy Sunday

post #70 
      Here I am, thinking again.  Wondering.  Decided to seek out some of my favorite photos from 2011 to see whether they move me.  And, if so, why.  Recently I've been reading about Grey Villet, whose photos about Mildred and Richard Loving -- whose case before the Supreme Court in 1966 struck down the law banning interracial marriage -- move me.  I want to go all the way to New York City to see them at the International Center for Photography (ICP).  I have until May 20 to figure out how to do so. 
      I am also wondering about whether I have some visible theme in the images of mine I really like.  So today's post is a start on sharing some of the 2011 photos I feel particularly connected to, starting with portraits, defined very broadly.... 

         .....such as the hound who watched the sorghum making, in September:

First, two photos from February 14, 2011, I Love Mountains day in Frankfort, Kentucky:

one of my favorite 2011 photos!  I hope I will see these guys again this year so I can get their names and give them a copy of this photo.

Wendell Berry, who had spent the past several days as part of a group in the governor's office, in protest.  Wendell, please forgive me, but this happens to be a very good photo....

In January, my sister Haven and her husband Robert took me to a redwood forest.  Wow!  Great red hat, Haven.

family friends welcoming my daughter's upcoming "big" event...It took 4 photo tries to get everyone with all eyes open, with grins and hands in place!  I thank each of you!

Not every 9 year old boy likes to have his photo taken, and Malick is no exception.  So I am honored to have gotten this photo.

England in July: a native
My sister in England: our visits overlapped!!

     The following is a photo that may look planned, but in reality it was pure serendipity.  I was in the basement of our son's home, making a photo of the framed hands (by John Flavell) which said son had purchased and moved to Denver, so I wanted John to be able to see where it was hanging.  My granddaughter showed up, sat down and started playing with the keys -- wearing straps crossing her back!  She is 2 1/2 in this photo, and she knows where the high notes are, and the low notes, and she can also push the right buttons to hear the songs the piano plays; then she listens intently.  Can anyone hear the music?

In May, holding on to mom, who is my first cousin once removed....

   The last photo for today is from 2010, but what better occasion to include it than when I am reviewing my favorite portraits.  This is definitely one of them.  Holding her guitar is a happiness for her, and being outside, sitting on my car, after giving a writing workshop at Natural Bridge State Park, is also a happiness.  Thanks, George Ella, for the happiness of our friendship, even when I am taking your photo! 

George Ella Lyon
      Next week, more favorites. I hope everyone else can do something this week they love doing, no matter how large or small it is.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

sharing photos with photographer friends

post #69
       No snow here to speak of yet. Or to show.  Every year I am determined to learn how to make photos that get the texture of the snow right and get the colors right, but snow is tricky.  This year I did take a photo in my son's yard over Christmas, focusing on the pink flamingo and its shadow.  It turns out the snow that is in the sun looks pretty good -- for me.  Maybe that is all the chance to try that I will get this year! 
      By the way, I am fascinated by shadows.  I suspect it has something to do with their being one of the wonders that light creates.  (note: my self-portrait in post #66....)

     Recently the person who helped me so much 14 years ago when I started out on the work for Counting on the Woods emailed me some of his current work.  J. Michael Phelps, whom I call Chad, the husband of a close friend of mine, told me then which slide film to use, which tripod to get, and some other basics.  So it has been a treat to see what he is doing now and interesting to realize what I see about his work now that I couldn't see then....  
      I'm sharing two of Chad's photos here today along with the info he sent me about one of them in response to my questions.

from Chad's email: "The "stars" are created by the leaves of the shutter. ( same as a "sunstar" but are the REFLECTIONS ) One must stop down to ~ f/22 to obtain this image. Try it !! Sometimes the "star" is better if the sun is partially obscured by something; a branch etc. The problem that often arises when trying this is FLARE. Some lens are better than others in reducing the flare. Zoom lenses are the worst!! (and added filters increase the flare)"

     Chad is particularly interested in making panoramas.  And he is "drawn to water".  I like the feeling this photo gives that it is the roots that are holding the dunes in place. (note: Chad always uses a tripod, and he makes his panoramas using Photoshop C5.Thanks, Chad, for all I have learned from you.

      One last photo for today, from me, made when we did have a bit of snow earlier this month.  It put me in mind of a feast enjoyed on a white tablecloth!  Sorry to have missed being there in time. 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

how to be a rural photographer and learn about art

post #68
       I take it for granted that rural artists are there for each other.  While alone time is important for doing our craft, it is also essential that we interact, share ideas, and have support.  I am getting involved with FEAT (Eastern Kentucky Foothills Eco-Agri Tourism) in a five county area, allowing me to meet other artists in the region and improve my skills -- including a better web page as soon as I can!  In rural northeastern Kentucky, regional training in presentation, web design, and sales strategies can make a huge difference.
      But for the twelve years I have been doing photography, I have relied on such opportunities as museum visits, lectures at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, and obituaries (!) to help me learn more about what I like in a photo and why I like it.  (How to do what I like on purpose takes constant trial and error.)
      So my plan today is to tell about a few of these learning occasions, as I call them.
      The current exhibit at the Kentucky Folk Art Center, in Morehead, KY, is "Krause & Spellman: scenes from a lost america" (until March 31.)  These artists are a couple, each painting with a distinct style.  Their canvases feel photographic to me, however -- views of lives lived in a specific places.  I enjoyed the vivid colors and the variety of the faces.  This couple has a lot of work to share, and that's what it takes to build a body of work!
       Last spring the KFAC hosted a wonderful traveling photography exhibit called "This Great Nation Will Endure: photographs of the Great Depression from the Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum."  WOW.  The greats were represented -- Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, Walker Evans, Marion Post Wolcott, among others -- and it was thrilling to experience them all in one room.  (Note: the link to this exhibit is not direct.  Click on the first listing that comes up, and make sure you are seeing it at not greater than 100%.)
      Farther from home is a favorite museum of mine, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) with their rich photographic collection.  The exhibit I saw this fall featured a single female photographer who died in her early twenties  -- Francesca Woodman.  Her work was totally different than something I would do, and she worked mainly in black and white instead of color, which is my preference.  Even so it was riveting to see what her choices were and how skillful she was.  And what a hard worker.  The exhibit continues until February 20. 
     As for an obituary example, the most recent one is for Eve Arnold.  It is embarrassing that she had to die before I learned about her work.  And she was 99!  I look forward now to finding some of her dozen or so books in the library.  She was small in size but had a large impact, including in 1957 being one of the first women members of Magnum, the premium  international photo agency.  Here is one link, and here the NYTimes obit.
     Since I have been spending time recently thinking about my photo goals for 2012, I particularly like this quote of hers: “Themes recur again and again in my work.  I have been poor and I wanted to document poverty; I had lost a child and I was obsessed with birth; I was interested in politics and I wanted to know how it affected our lives; I am a woman and I wanted to know about women.”   
     I haven't lost a child, but, as Quakers would phrase it, her words speak to my condition.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The privilege of living in Appalachia

post #67
      We've been having some unusual and weird warm January days, but they do beat a snowstorm for providing access to the woods.  Yesterday's late afternoon walk has ended up being my focus for today's post.  After all, with the weeks of essay sections and such that I shared, it has been a long time since I have posted new photos from our place.  
      I planned simply to walk, so wore my boots and, just in case, carried only my Canon Rebel and one lens (70-300 IS), but not a tripod.  However, there was no wind, with clear skies but no direct sun back in the cliff and waterfall area.  Everything was so peaceful.  I couldn't keep myself from making do and making photos.  
      Since I didn't have the lens with me which I would use to make an overview photo, here is an image in another season from an earlier visit, to give the feel of the place:
For location purposes, notice the two large round holes in the cliff, one covered by a tree top.
      What I decided yesterday was to see these falls from a different perspective.  I ended up walking in places where the path doesn't go -- which made me feel like a galumphing destruction machine.  I am a lot larger than your average squirrel or skunk; I left marks in the wet slopes just getting to this new viewing spot and finding places to sit so I could use my elbows as a tripod.  There were tender plants to consider as well.  My logical mind does know nature is resilient given half a chance and, compared to mountaintop removal mining, I know my footprint is not much, but my feeling huge made me feel my damage was huge.  On the other hand, I loved being there in the slippery, decaying leaves, watching the woods at rest and the evening starting its cover, with only the sound of falling water and a pileated woodpecker for company.  
forest floor, where, every spring, wildflowers take over

moss and roots on rock
rocks, roots and rhododendrons

a whale of a rock, looking toward the big cliff and the falls
the two holes near the top of the cliff

how many trees.... (as per my essay last month)
tender greens in January woods!
A last remaining pile of snow, at the foot of the falls.  I was amazed to see it.  Does anyone else also see a sleeping sheep in its form?
whale rock, the snow in back (not looking as good as in the previous photo)
the bit of snow again, not my best photo...sorry...but I hope this cliff view gives the perspective.

On the way back, another unexpected sight -- the moon one night before full
Here I am focusing on the sycamore...
and now focusing on the moon, a minute later, as I try out ways to make a moon photo!


Sunday, January 1, 2012

two news -- a year and a day

post #66
      I'm so happy to be taking up this blog after a week away, despite all the fun of being with my beloved family over Christmas, represented by this photo of the present received by the 11 month old family member:

      I am grateful for humor -- whether ahead or behind!

     Then, even though this post is my first in 2012, there remain a few bits left hanging from before.  For example, I have yet to share a photo of myself .... but now is the season to bring out one I took about a year ago, on the bank of our pond:

      And I didn't get to say much about the cactus photo on the last post.  I don't know where that bloom came from, since the plant is small and it hasn't yet bloomed again.  It was hard to portray what I had in my mind's amazed eye, but I couldn't miss the opportunity to try.  I did surround the pot with greens, which I don't usually do since I prefer working with views that are as natural -- or "found" -- as possible.  That is what seems to grab me the most intensely.  In that vein, I wanted to show the size of the plant relative to the bloom.  Probably not every photographer would care about that aspect.

    Last month I shared a table with a younger photographer at a Christmas market, and we discovered we like to take photos of many of the same things.  What a treat for me to meet her!  Go, Bobbie!  It reminded me that one photographic goal I still have -- besides learning more about what I am doing -- is to find someone who would like to share the use of my big printer in exchange for helping me learn all the things it can do.  Rural artists have distance challenges, to put it mildly.  Working alone is part of what is important and wonderful, but sometimes there are gaping holes. I am so grateful that my monthly writers group provides so much of the creative support I need, for example, even though they don't know about printers and even if I have to drive 70 miles one way to Lexington to take part. 
      So, one last sharing from 2011 before I sign off.  The 2011 National Book Award for poetry went to one of the women writers in Lexington, Nikky Finney.  Her acclaimed acceptance speech this fall says so much so well.  I am giving the link here in hopes everyone can take ten minutes to see and hear her on YouTube.  Bravo, Nikky, and thanks, thanks, thanks.
       I hope good health and strong dreams are part of this new year for each of you.