Be Water My Friend

I was reminded of the Bruce Lee quote ‘Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless like water if you put water in the cup it becomes the cup and water can flow or it can crash’ last week. I was in California and had expectations of what I was going to photograph. I believe that it was Ansel Adams spoke about previsualization, having a sense of what the image is going to be before you make the exposure. I think that Ansel was probably previsualizing as he stood in front of what he was going to photograph. I on the other hand was guilty of previsualizing from thousands of miles away.

As I stood looking at the pounding surf, 3 feet above a normal low tide, that hid the rocks that I had imagined photographing for the previous 2 years it would have been a natural reaction to be frustrated. I’m not sure why I wasn’t but I just let it go, enjoyed the magnificence of the fury of the Pacific Ocean, and then moved on to photograph other things. I don’t think that anticipating and being prepared to get a specific shot is a bad thing but it is bad not to be flexible enough to recognize other opportunities that come your way. While they might not be what you’d prepared for they could be equally, or more, enjoyable.

Beware The Sleepers!

Nixon_141209_6325

I was photographing along the California coast last week, something that I’d wanted to do for a while but had never managed to connect the dots and make happen. Unfortunately I didn’t pick a good week for the trip, given that Northern California was experiencing the worst storm they’d had in 5 years. I was hoping to tick off one of my photographic goals and get some good photographs at Bowling Ball beach. Unfortunately that didn’t happen. I did learn a lot and got a few images that I thought were okay given the circumstances.

One of the things that threw me a little was the unpredictability of the waves on the coast. Normally I like to get close to the foreground element with a wide angle lens which often puts me in the water. Not a big deal, I’ve been around the ocean my entire life I know how the game works and respect the ocean like I would a wild animal. You have to pay attention at all times otherwise you may get bit! Here on the East Coast the waves seem to be generally predictable this was also true on the California coast in that every 5 th of 6 th wave would be huge and where there was rocks or beach for the previous few waves there would be a foot or more of water. It was quite unsettling and I eventually retreated to the relative safety of the cliffs and a long lens.

I thought that this was something related to the storm and an unusual storm surge until I spotted I sign that described ‘Sleepers’ – waves that were much larger that the previous ones which could easily knock you off your feet and cause you to be swept out to sea. Reading the sign you could easily think that it was a little alarmist but have experienced the waves up close and personal there’s definitely cause for concern when photographing at the beach in this area.

Friday Inspiration: Carleton Watkins

20140610-212556-77156632.jpg

I can’t remember where I first read about Carleton Watkins, perhaps it was this article in the Smithsonian magazine.  For someone like me, who thought that photography started with Ansel Adams, it was something of a revelation to read about and see Watkin’s photographs of the American west and particularly of Yosemite Valley.  While many of his photographs are stereograms the views of Yosemite are quite familiar.  It was his series of photographs of Yosemite Valley in the 1860s that helped influence Congress’s decision to make the valley a National Park in 1864.

There’s an exhibition of Watkin’s photographs at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University until August 17.  To find out more about the exhibition see here.  Unfortunately I’m in the wrong part of the country to be able to get to the exhibition but I did get the related book and have been enjoying looking at the photographs.

Recognizing many of the views made famous through the work of Ansel Adams in the Yosemite Valley made me think about what Ansel Adams brought to the table.  Perhaps not his vision but his superior control of the medium and printing abilities?

Check out the video below for more details on the exhibition at the Cantor Arts Center.

A Trip to the Desert

Nixon_140115_3940-Edit

I’m just back from a short trip to the Palm Springs area. It was a fun trip that allowed me to spend some time photographing in and around Joshua Tree National Park. I flew to Los Angeles and drove the 120 or so miles out into the desert to Palm Springs. What struck me as I entered the Palm Springs area were the vast numbers of wind turbines, rather than the one or two that I see dotted around here in the North East.

As striking as the valley of wind turbines was, I found it quite difficult to find a place to take a photograph that I felt captured the shear number of them. Those that are bolder than I would surely have used one of the access roads that the maintenance people use to service these things to get in amongst them. However, after driving around for a few days I eventually figured out that the railway station parking lot had a pretty good view and so I spent some time one of the evenings photographing from there and got the image above, which for now I quite like.

I’m still working through the rest of my images from the trip, but I’ll be sure to post more here as I find ones that I like. As always comments welcomed and appreciated.

Friday Inspiration: Mitch Dobrowner

dobrowner_mitch_05

I was simple stunned when I first saw Mitch Dobrowner’s photographs of storms in Lenswork – the image above only scratches the surface of this unique body of work. It’s been interesting to follow the increase in awareness of Dobrowner’s storm photographs over the last few years which has included everything from stories in Wired magazine, National Geographic Magazine and coverage on CNN and ABC. A book of the storm photographs was published by Aperture in Sept. of 2013.

Listen to Mitch describe his work and see him in action below in the video below and click on the link to hear his artists talk at the photo-eye gallery.

Artist Talk by Mitch Dobrowner at photo-eye Gallery from photo-eye on Vimeo.

Friday Inspiration: Wolfgang Bloch

Wolfgang Bloch

I’m always on the look out for how artists represent the ocean and in that search recently came across Wolfgang Bloch‘s work on the web and in his book ‘Wolfgang Bloch: The Colors of Coincidence‘. Wolfgang is a California based painter who has an interesting approach – he uses juxtaposition of materials as the substrate for his paintings which are often two solid fields of color with a breaking wave at the meeting of those fields. His work is subtle and quiet and looking at it I can easily imagine being along on a stormy beach looking out to sea. Check out more of his work here: www.wolfgangbloch.com and listen to Wolfgang talking about his work below.