What actually went through my mind as I was reviewing photos from this evening shoot at Rialto Beach was ‘I should have kept shooting’. In my defense the circumstances were challenging. The tide was doing odd things. It would recede and seem like it was going out, but then the next wave would come 2 or 3 feet higher up the beach than it had for the last five minutes. I was getting caught out by this every time and I was getting wet. So what I had was a set of images where the log rolled and was blurred, the tripod moved as it sank in the sand and on and on. It wasn’t until I got to the last image in the set that I had the one at the top of the page. In hind sight I should have stuck with it at least a little while longer. I could have taken my shoes off and rolled up my pants, or just embraced getting wet and dealt with it. Whatever I did I should have kept going.
A lesson for next time – commit to getting the image and stay with it.
Look behind you is of course part of the standard audience participation in pantomime, a particularly English form of entertainment. It is also good advice to photographers because often good things are happening all around us and taking a moment to look up, down and all around can result in you spotting other good opportunities.
That was certainly the case for the photograph above. I was on the way to the Sol Duc falls and had stopped to photograph the mossy rocks that are part way to the falls. In taking a moment to look behind me I noticed that there was interesting light in the trees behind me. I shifted my attention to the trees for a little while and was fortunate enough to get a shot that, with the application of my standard B&W preset, resulted in the image at the top of the page.
So far I like this more than my mossy rock pictures and it just goes to show that looking behind you can pay off if you make a habit of it.
When I was poking around on Bainbridge Island recently I did a quick tour of most of the interesting shops on the main drag, Winslow street. I wasn’t looking to buy anything, my bags were perilously close to the 50lb limit imposed by the airline as it was, but rather looking. Looking for inspiration, looking for things that I could use later. In Bainbridge Arts & Crafts I came across a book by Mary Randlett called Landscapes that I thought was amazing.
Mary’s photography came to the notice of the public as the person who took the last photographs of the noted poet Theodore Roethke. She then went on to photograph Roethke’s students and other Northwest artists (including one of Johsel Namkung who I’ve written about previously), their artwork and architecture. As I understand it (from one of the essays in the Landscapes book) Mary’s landscape work was ‘personal work’, photographs that she made for herself and shared with friends as christmas cards. These photographs eventually were published in the Landscapes book.
What particularly appeals to me about Mary’s work is that there is little of the grand landscape here. The feeling is much more of someone who had spent time with the landscape, enough time to let the landscape reveal itself.
To see more of Mary Randlett’s Landscape work I highly recommend the Landscapes book. The University of Washington has some of her work online in their digital collection. As always let me know if you find a good resource that I missed.
In doing research for my trip to the Olympic National Park one name that came up in a couple of places was that of Pat O’Hara. I’ve found it tough to find out about Pat. He seems to have been most active before the internet kicked into high gear and so there isn’t a big Pat O’Hara web footprint. There is some material – this page on the Nikon website gives a nice biography of Pat and gives a sense of his path to photography from his military service days in Vietnam in the 60′s escaping into photography during his R&R time to his photobooks that serve his passion for the environment and conservation. The gallery of images on this page is also a good resource giving a good overview of Pat’s work – a mix of both the grand and intimate landscape.
There is more information about Pat on the Visionary Wild website, largely because the principal there, Justin Black, seems to have coaxed Pat into teaching a workshop a year or two ago. I actually looked at this workshop which was based in the Olympic National Park with a special extension in Pat’s studio but passed on it because I had too many other commitments and thought, foolishly, that I could go to the next one. I haven’t seen another offered but would of course jump on it given the chance.
Given the relative small footprint on the web we are then left to look at Pat’s books. Fortunately many are available on amazon.com. Click here to see a list. The first of his books to arrive from amazon was ‘Olympic National Park‘ which has the perfect subtitle ‘Where the mountain meets the sea’. It’s a delightful tour through the park, especially since every image is a unique perspective that I have yet to see elsewhere, plus there is a blend as a mentioned above of grand and intimate landscapes. His work really makes me realize that there are unique images to be made in even the most well visited places if you just take the time to go beyond the postcard shot.
If you find a good source of Pat O’Hara’s work, let me know I’d love to see it.
Home again after what seems like quite a while in the Pacific Northwest. I’m still digesting what I saw and learned while I was out there, so be prepared for Pacific Northwest related posts for at least the next week or so. Just for the record my path home was car, boat, car, plane, car. Not tortuous, but it did involve a Viking Festival, which was a surprise.
Everyone deserves the opportunity to have another go, to reinterpret and reimagine their work. The more that I understand lightroom and photoshop the more possibilities there seem to be. In an interview with Michael Kenna I recently read he said that one of photography’s greatest strengths is that it is (or at least was) tied to reality. That tie is clearly broken for those that wish it to be. While I’ve yet to push reality hard, I have started to play a little. The image at the top of the page is a reworking of the image that I posted a few weeks ago based on the feedback that i received here and to fix a few things that bugged me which I didn’t know how to fix at the time. So a mulligan, a do over, let me know your thoughts.
When I was planning to go to the pacific northwest, and particularly the Olympic National Park, last year I began casting around for inspiration and to see what others had done in this area. Art Wolfe was obvious since it was his workshop that I was going on. Jay Goodrich too since he was also one of the workshop leaders but who else. That was when I came across Johsel Namkung, a photographer who some have suggested is ‘Seattle’s answer to Ansel Adams‘. I think I would disagree and suggest that Namkung has more in common with Eliot Porter than he does with Ansel Adams. When I think of Ansel Adams I think of the grand landscape captured in black and white, whereas when I think of Eliot Porter I think of more intimate images captured in color. For me Namkung’s most powerful images are color studies of shape, line and texture.
A restrospective of his work was published by Cosgrove Editions in 2012. You can browse the book here and find out more about him at johselnamkung.net. Check it out, it’s worth a look.
My recent experience at Art Wolfe’s Olympic Peninsula Workshop, while not bad per se, led me to reflect on what my ideal workshop would look like. My goals for any workshop are to have fun, make friends, learn something and if I get some photographs that I like so much the better. With that in mind here’s what i came up with.
I prefer relatively small groups
The reason for this is two fold. I want to get to know the people that I’m with for the duration of the workshop. Some of these folks often know more about the technical aspects of photography, or the software than the instructor does. Handy to know these people.
I want to get to know the instructor and allow the instructor to know me.
I feel like this can only be a good thing when it comes to learning and overcoming challenges that I’m dealing with.
Daily critiques of new work
While it can be painful, I find that daily critique of the images that the group has created is a powerful tool to improve the standard of the work that the whole group does. Which leads to the next point.
I want to feel safe enough to step outside of my comfort zoneOne of the things that workshops afford us is the opportunity to try things and quite likely fail spectacularly. I’m not likely to do this or at least share the results of my experiments if I don’t feel safe.
I don’t want to be rushed
Workshops are a funny vehicle for learning. Often you are sprinted from one location to the next without an opportunity to return and put what you’ve learned into practice. I completely understand the ‘photo tour’ aspect of many workshops and this is great if you intend on returning to select locations on your own to fully work through the photo possibilities that it offers. Otherwise I prefer at least similar locations that would allow me to refine my thinking about how to approach particular subjects.
What would help make the ideal workshop experience for you? Leave your suggestions in the comments section.
I was expecting a relatively intimate workshop (I had been under the impression that it would be 12 people) that would give us all a lot of time with Art and Libby and Jay. It turned out to be a much bigger group, ~30 participants and 4 or 5 additional instructors/assistants. Not that is a bad thing, the staff were all pretty attentive both in the classroom and in the field, although I found it difficult to keep track of peoples names, whether they were with our group or not and whether they were a participant or instructor. We didn’t spend too much time in the classroom because the weather was ‘perfect’ for photography, it was overcast the first day, overcast and rainy the second, but then cleared so that we got broken cloud cover for a sunset at Second beach. Very cool the way the weather worked out perfectly.
One of the reasons that I took the workshop was to get a better sense of photographing in forests and there was no shortage of opportunity to photograph in the forest. Our first stop was Marymere falls and then on to the Sol Duc. Being in dense old growth forest I was overwhelmed by the clutter and so it wasn’t until I was in the Hoh Rainforest the following day that I actually started seeing potential shots. But then however I was battling a couple of technical challenges that I hadn’t expected – it was raining, hello rainforest – which meant that I had to clean off the front element frequently otherwise my shots would be obliterated because of raindrops. The second issue that I was frankly surprised by was fogging. I was using a polarizer to take the sheen off the green and found that the front element would fog under the polarizer and so I had that to contend with too. Most if not all of the shots of the forest I ended up with are marred by one or other of these issues.
While I may not have any photographs from the forest that I liked, I did begin to ‘see’ potential photographs which was a significant step forward for me. I’m looking forward to going back for more!