Surviving The Coronavirus Pandemic

So, things are getting a little intense.  We are in the midst of a world wide Pandemic.  The Governments are taking measures never before seen.   Watching the news brings new developments every day, sometimes every hour, and it can increase feelings of anxiety for even the most stalwart among us.  My advise?  Stay informed but don’t be obsessive.  Don’t spend too much time watching the news - it will make you crazy.  With social media you will hear about anything you need to know.  

Why not use this time to do all of the things you haven’t been able to get around to doing?  

Give the house a good cleaning; 

Sit down at the dinner table with your family (or those you are self quarantining with) put down the phones - turn off the TV and really talk and listen to each other; 

Play some board games with the kids; 

Bake some cookies; 

Play with all of those art supplies you have stashed; 

Plan a garden; 

Check in with your senior family members - when was the last time you called your parents or grandparents?  

If, like me, you are a photographer, I am sure your list would also include: 

Cleaning up all those images on your hard drive; 

Prepping images for future exhibits (after all we won’t be quarantined forever); 

Update your website; and in my case; 

Create some new work.  

I currently have images hanging in three different exhibits.  Exhibits no one will likely get to see due to the coronavirus quarantining and business closures.  So, I decided I will post them on facebook.  At least one of the venues will be holding an online exhibit. The other two can be viewed on the NJ Photography Forum website.   And, I will post that information as well on my facebook page.  It is just another way to use social media to get your work out there.

We all have those nagging to do lists that we never seem to have the time to get to, well, now is the time.  Use your time creatively and productively and you will find that you aren’t as anxious about what is happening out in the world.  It is going to happen whether we worry about it or not.  I mean, do your part, stay home, wash your hands, etc. but try to also look on the bright side and write a list of what you are grateful for, we can change our circumstances when we change the way we look at them.  

Yes, this is certainly a challenging time - but we are resilient.  Be positive, Be kind, Be happy, Be aware, Stay well and remember - this too shall pass.

The Art of Still Life Photography

Recently I was asked to share my thoughts on why I thought Still Life was important and my process for creating it.  It was an interesting process to go through so I thought I would share what I came up with:

Still Life is typically described as the depiction of inanimate subject matter, usually a grouping of objects artistically arranged.  This type of art has been around since the 16th century and has been practiced by all of the famous and not so famous artists.  As a still life photographer, this type of art is a huge influence in my work.  The light of the Dutch Master paintings, so ethereal; the simplicity of the cubist movement; the interpretation of the impressionists.  All of these play a role in one way or another in my images.

Mastering the light is the single most important skill I need as a photographer.  After all, the term Photography means ‘painting with light’.  Still life photography is the best way to learn this skill.  The same is true for composition techniques.  Creativity and inspiration play a big part in this type of photographic art.  Photographic art is work that has had thought, technical and artistic abilities applied it.  I take my time to get the correct lighting.  Hours, sometimes days are spent creating the perfect composition.  Form, light and shadow; composition and harmony; texture, balance and color all come together to create my still life photographs.

My pieces will usually begin with an inspiration whether from a painting I may have seen or an interesting piece that I pick up in an antique store.  It can take weeks for the idea to come together.  What is the story I want to tell?  What type of setting do I want to use?  What kind of background?  What will be the ‘star’ of the image and what other items do I need to support it?  How about the light:  Natural, studio or even light painting?  Do I need reflectors or detractors?  All of these questions and more are answered through the process of creating an image.  I like to tell stories of interesting objects from the past.  An old wooden cutting board becomes a base, perhaps that old metal strainer is added with some fruit or vegetables, what about that scale that looks like it has seen better days?  Everything has a history and each history has a story.  I try to bring that story to light with my photography.

Setting up the composition, finding the right light and taking the photograph is just the beginning of my process.  Once the image has been taken, it is then onto the post processing.  In the age of digital photography, that means I now take the image into my computer - the digital darkroom, if you will.  Here I will fine tune my exposure, I may crop the image, clean up anything that is distracting such as dust particles, etc.  Then I may add a texture.  This is simply another image that is added on top of the original photograph and made transparent so that certain parts of it will add character to the original.  I may add a grungy vignette to draw the eye more to the center.  Then I will add a painting filter to the photograph.  I do not have a heavy hand here, just a slight suggestion to help give the image a little more interest.  I like to print my images on cold press paper as it has a nice texture to it that I feel works nicely with my type of photographs.   Lastly, I will hunt out just the right frame.  I will search antique centers, flea markets and thrift shops for interesting frames.  Sometimes the frames are just perfect the way they are, sometimes they need a little help, a coat of paint or some gilding.  The final product is what I consider to be my photographic art.  Yes, it can be a lot of work, but anything worthwhile usually is.      

So there you have it - art gives us something beautiful to look at, it can take us places we may never have gone before.  The true challenge for any artist is to make your art your own, and this is how I make mine.

Photo Manipulation - Yay or Nay?

As photographers we are living in an exciting time.  We are no longer limited by what our cameras can capture on film.  With all of the digital imaging software available you can take your images to a whole new level.  Photo manipulation has been around since the beginning of photography, double exposure and dodging and burning were essentially manipulating images.  Of course today we can take it so much further.  There are whole courses designed to teach you just that.  Photo Artistry has become an accepted art form and you are only limited by your imagination.

I still think you have to begin with a good composition and image.  No amount of manipulation can mask a bad image so don’t even waste your time there.

I am curating an exhibit for the New Jersey Photography Forum Exhibition Committee and I have chosen the theme of Impressionistic Photography.  This covers a wide range of techniques.  I wanted to give our committee a chance to shake off convention and play around with their photography.  We have such a diverse and talented group and I am excited to see what everyone comes up with.

So, with that in mind, I have been playing around with my own images.  It has been a very long wet summer here in the Northeast and as a result we are having less than remarkable fall colors.  During a recent outing designed to find some fall images I was very disappointed.  The only color that was prominent was yellow.  So, when mother nature gives you lemons, you make lemonade right?  

Following is an image I took during my quest for a fall landscape.  The road is in one of our many parks in the Delaware Water Gap area.  I did take some artistic license on this image to make it what I saw in my mind’s eye, if not in my camera’s viewfinder.  I cropped it, warmed it up a bit, removed  the telephone pole, wires and some bare branches, copied and pasted some color that was there to add more and then I added a color pencil sketch from Topaz Impressions filter.  On top of that I added two different textures to give it some more interest.

For comparison I am adding the original shot along with the finished manipulated image.

As you can see from the original the color was pretty unremarkable on its own, but with a little imagination and some processing software magic I ended up with an image that reflected what I wanted to see, warmer color, more color and the feeling of a beautiful autumnal road.  If I were a plein air painter this is how I would have painted the scene.  So, artistic license in photography is a great big yay for me.  How about you?  Go on and play a little - you know you want to……

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