Cloudy, 28 Degrees, Northeast Wind 5-10 mph.
I rarely say this, but today was really not that nice a day to be out in the woods. The temperature is not that bad, but with the wind and the gray skies, it’s just dreary and cold. The recent string of sunny days just makes it all the worse. The trees remain gray and black, the grass flattened and colorless. Days like this are why I think of March as one of the cruelest months of the year. You’re so primed for spring and yet it remains out of reach. Yuck.
Last night I met with a group of my artist friends. We’ve met once a month for a critique for over 15 years now. When I began, I was a painter. I’ve only been doing photography as an art form for eight years and several of those I wasn’t photographing at all.
I took the big prints that I had prepared for the gallery and I made a couple of more prints of recent work that I thought would look good on the Epson Exhibition Fiber paper. This was the first time I got to see these photographs sort of properly. We set up an easel and have a light on things and I was able to step back and see the prints for the first time.
I have to say that I liked most of what I brought. There were a couple of things that didn’t print well due to my calibration issues, but the recent stuff looked very strong—at least to me. I think I got a generally positive response, but I didn’t take in their reaction as much as I should have as I was trying to form my own response to the images.
Some of our group come to the critique for feedback and advice. Some come more to share what their doing. I’m more in the latter group. I listen to critique. I have no problem with people criticizing what I do, but I usually have my own ideas and have made my peace with them long before bringing them to the critique. If I get questions or doubts, then I try to consider them. Sometimes I come to agree. This group have a pretty good eye for art. Sometimes I go on my merry way, whether for better or worse.
An artist has to have faith in their vision. It’s their own unique view of things and that’s pretty much all we have to go on. Sometimes other people get it right away and sometimes they think it’s just strange. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It can just mean that it’s challenging, and that’s just fine with me as long as someone gets it. If not, then I guess I live with liking something that no one else does.
I’ve been lucky enough to have sold virtually everything I ever painted, but I have a painting in my basement that either no one liked or perhaps the colors are just too challenging to fit into anyone’s home. Regardless, I still like it. I have no place to hang it now, but it hung in my home before I moved here and I enjoyed it every day.
As I said—an artist has to have the courage of their convictions or they’ll be lost all the time, wondering what other people will think of what they’re doing rather than doing what they believe in.
With things so dull, today was a day for experimentation. I tried lying on the ground and shooting through the brush with shallow depth of field. I tried shooting some details in the brush, again with shallow depth of field and at odd angles. At best, they will be interesting little compositions. Hardly masterworks. They might spark something, but I doubt it.
Sometimes, after bursts of creativity or periods of sustained effort and focus on something, there just has to be a fallow period while you look for that next thing. I fully intend to continue with my branch and bark pictures, but I needed a break today and I need to go somewhere new to find new material.
I also played around with my Lensbaby selective focus lens. I forget what they call this lens but it’s sharp only in one portion of the image and increasingly blurry as you move outward. The lens is also movable. By rotating the lens to the left, for existence, the sharp area moves to the left and the blur becomes quite extreme on the right.
The lens is very simple and primitive. The apertures are literally pieces of metal with holes in them. They fit into the front of the lens with a magnet, so it’s not easy to change apertures as it would be in a conventional lens. I only had one of the apertures with me, an f4, which means I got a shallow depth of field and a lot of blur. The smaller apertures afford less blur around the perimeter.
The lens has no auto-focus and no auto-exposure either, so you focus manually, which is no big deal, and get your exposure by shooting and looking at the histogram and making adjustments. After a while you figure out that shooting light subjects such as the sky you need to stop down maybe 2/3 of a stop, while shooting medium or darker subjects you need to open up back to normal exposure.
Note that this is the opposite of what you would do with auto-exposure. It sounds clumsy, but i’s not as hard as you might think.
The f4 aperture is a little extreme, but it gives you some interesting looks by isolating your subject matter and blurring everything else. Sort of like a shallow depth of field, but round instead of planar. Some of my branch shots looked interesting. Not much else did. I might try this again with a smaller aperture—if I can find the little discs which have been floating around with disused camera gear for years now.
Finally, I put on my 70-200mm lens and tried a few compositions. This lens just doesn’t speak to me. It’s too tight for wide shots and not long enough for long shots. I don’t know if I shot anything with it except some shots of Jamie.
I’m not sure that all this lens changing and fooling around is the best thing. When I started out, I pretty much put a lens on the camera and shot whatever the lens allowed me to. Now I’m starting to carry more lenses and change around more. I find that it scatters my focus (pardon the unintended pun) and maybe I get less than if I had just carried the single lens. Two lenses might be a good maximum. Then the eye looks for the subject matter that works with the lens rather than jumping around all the time and seeing nothing.
I was, however, lucky enough to see a pair of Turkey Vultures overhead and get some shots of them. The name sounds kind of gross, but these birds are elegant fliers. They just returned from their winter migration a few days ago and I was glad to see them. They’re not as interesting in flight as the Sand Hill Cranes, but they’re much more common.
Finally, I see some birds and have the right lens on. Unfortunately, they were just passing by, so there wasn’t much going on in the way of composition opportunities—just two birds in a line against the sky. I’m also not sure about how well the camera focused. With two birds, I was aiming toward the middle of them and I don’t know if the camera focused properly. Nonetheless, I should have something to post here.
Feeling tired and a little blah, as I am right now, I hope that a change of scene and some better weather will re-energize me tomorrow. I go through a strange cyclical up and down as far as energy and focus anyway. It’s about time for a lull to hit me. I just ride it out and wait until my energy returns, but I still try every day to make interesting images.