black and white photography

Breathe

Some days you need to take time for yourself. A breather, a pause, a respite. Smell nature. Feel sand between your toes. Sit under a tree and listen to the leaves. Do whatever gives you peace. If you don't recharge your batteries, they die. If you don't renew yourself, well, I think you know my meaning. We all need to walk away for a day, a week, a few hours. Do whatever it takes to find your center. Keep yourself fresh so the light can shine from within you. 

I've been on a slow recharge for a few days. Yesterday, late afternoon was spent listening to trees and feeling the breeze around Lake Arthur. I needed to find my quiet. As I was leaving, this scene got my attention. It was the congruity of nature. Rock and trees, leaves and branches, light and dark all working together in harmony and peace. Mission accomplished.

Rock face at Moraine State Park / Lake Arthur

Rock face at Moraine State Park / Lake Arthur

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day 2018. It's time to get out there and hug a tree.

I'm only a little sarcastic. Seriously, we have one planet and need to take care of it at a grassroots level because it's painfully apparent politicians aren't willing or capable of caring. I suppose there's too much money coming in from the other side. But I digress. 

It's a beautiful day in Pittsburgh, and I hope everyone will celebrate the land where we live. Make a picture of and for Mother Nature. Trees, flowers, the rivers or the multitude of creatures great and small that share our rock. Breathe in the springtime air. We all deserve it. We all need it. 

I made the picture "Roots" during a visit to Vermont. The Widelux was the perfect choice to include the exposed roots of the mighty tree, as well as the trunk and branches stretching into the sky. While the scene was alive with color, I decided black and white would be more striking. I wanted to record the scene in it's most basic graphic form to emphasize the struggle of nature against all the odds. Here was a tree thriving as it clings to life on the side of a mountain. I bowed to the awesomeness of its lifelong travail. 

Today, and every day, find your bit of awesomeness out there. Honor the earth. It's the only one we have. 

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Go out and see

When out I'm looking for pictures. I call it "shadow boxing," searching for images, exercising my eye, my vision and all other senses. I'm not looking for masterpieces; I'm just putting pieces together that work. Light and shadow, sticks and stones, color, you name it I'm looking for it. Just like a professional boxer still hits the heavy bag, a photographer needs to hit the streets and trails to keep sharp. And, as Jay Maisel has said if you're always carrying a camera you never have to go out to take pictures. It's a part of you.

Another thing I do is usually travel with just one lens. My carry camera of choice these days is a Fuji X100F. It has a fixed lens equivalent to a 35mm, perfect for street photography. 

Using one lens over and over will ingrain that view in your mind, so it becomes muscle memory. Then, when you come across a scene, you will frame it before you ever pick up the camera. 

In the photo, Stick & Stone, I was carrying a Leica M6 with a 35mm Summicron on a walk through McConnell's Mills when I noticed beautiful natural arrangement. To make it compositionally work, I had to step carefully out on a few exposed rocks along the river's edge. Please note, this action is not advisable or encouraged as the rocks are extremely slippery and dangerous. Many people have drowned from slipping off stones into the water and getting caught by an undertow. I knew the risk, but I also saw the reward in my mind's eye. I was also young and more foolish. OK, young at least. But with just one camera to worry about I had pretty good balance and a friend was with me in case I needed a hand.

Throughout my career, I've tried to use as little gear as possible in personal work and on assignments. I may own a wide range of equipment and pack it all for jobs, but I'll only carry a few extra lenses in my shoulder bag. I've said many times; focal lengths between 28mm and 90mm will handle most assignments. That opinion isn't just mine. Henri Cartier-Bresson told his Magnum colleagues they should not use any lens outside that basic kit. Who will argue with HCB?

Of course, there will always be exceptions to the rule depending on the demands of the job and especially today with the proliferation of high-quality zoom lenses. But while zooms are convenient, they can make photographers lazy. It's too easy to rack the zoom in and out to fill the frame forgetting the primary idea of focal length is to change the perspective. When I use a zoom, I look first at the focal length then through the camera because I've already decided what view I want to deliver. I'll move closer or further back to fill the frame with the zoom God gave me, my feet. 

It doesn't matter what device you use other than your eyeballs. Just go out and see.

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Hoarfrost

As I looked out the window this morning, it reminded me of a scene from long ago in Michigan. The overnight storm blanketed the area with four inches of fresh snow; it was just as lovely as the hoarfrost I saw in Michigan many decades past. 

For those unfamiliar, according to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, "Hoarfrost is formed by direct condensation of water vapor to ice at temperatures below freezing and occurs when the air is brought to its frost point by cooling." 

Hoarfrost doesn't happen often, but when it does the show is spectacular, especially if you experience it on a bright clear morning. I'm still waiting to see it in the sunshine. But, knowing my preference, I would probably photograph it with Tri-X, as I did here.

When presented with something as fleeting and fragile as hoarfrost it's best to have an idea where you want to photograph. I knew this location. I scouted it and filed it away in my mind to return to when the conditions were right. Location scouting is an essential part of the job. As a photographer, you need to find your locations. Don't be lazy and rely on crowdsourcing. Do your legwork. Get out there and drive around, walk about and look. Build a location notebook. Don't make other people's pictures by using sites others suggest. Find your places and make your photos. 

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