It powders all the wood…

spindly

It sifts from leaden sieves,
It powders all the wood,
It fills with alabaster wool
The wrinkles of the road.

It makes an even face
Of mountain and of plain, —
Unbroken forehead from the east
Unto the east again.

It reaches to the fence,
It wraps it, rail by rail,
Till it is lost in fleeces;
It flings a crystal veil.

Emily Dickinson

dirty-window-shot

 

wintry-scene-almonte

Advertisements

A look back in Black and White…

Life looks different in black and white, doesn’t it? I thought it might be interesting to review my year 2016 through some of my black and white photos.

As a photographer, I really wouldn’t want to be limited to making photographs in just colour or just black and white. I love them both equally. Each makes me feel and see quite differently, and I need and benefit from both ways in my life.

Colour brings out the joy for me. I relate to the tones of an image as much as or even more than the shapes, lines and subject. I am drawn toward colour combinations that thrill me and make me happy — jewel tones, pure colours, colour duets, complementary colours, analogous colours, for example, even if the subject is subtle or moody.

As Andri Cauldwell observes: “To see in color is a delight for the eye but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul.”

It has been said many times that black and white distills a subject to its essence, and I find that to be very true. What is central to the photograph I tend to see much more clearly, without being seduced by colour. While it’s a quieter, more restrained way of communicating, it can definitely pack a powerful punch.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Some favourite places in New York City…

In my previous post, I talked about and pictured a favourite building in New York — the Flatiron Building.

Here are a few other favourite places. On this trip, the rain prevented me from going to Central Park — the best park in the world in my opinion —  but I’ve made images there on at least two other occasions.

Union Square Park, which is down around 14th street, was designed by Frederick Olmsted and Calvert Vaux, the same two who designed Central Park. You can see the same design philosophy at work on a much smaller scale. I find it fascinating to read about  how they so consciously used trees and plants, paths, tunnels, bridges, berms and ledges, and water features to affect people’s experience of a park.

Grand Central Terminal is another place I’ve photographed before — but I keep going back there because there’s so many beautiful details to shoot and so many ways to shoot it. And this time I was there on Thanksgiving Day, one of the busiest travel days of the year, so it was bursting at the seams with people. It’s an incomparable place to people-watch. I could do it for hours. Actually, I think I have.

I’ve been very fortunate to have had some exceptional meals in New York — some mind-blowingly amazing meals in fact. The most unbelievable ever was at Eleven Madison Park, where we went to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday some years back. My sister and I thought such a milestone birthday was deserving of a special meal — and I’m sure it will be the only Michelin three-star restaurant I will ever eat at in my life, so I treasure the memory and the event it marked.

Another great meal was at Mario Batali’s Casa Mono on one of my last trips, which was so busy that we could only get a reservation at 10:00 pm. But so worth the wait. I didn’t eat there this year, but I did go back to take a picture of the place, which is in Gramercy Park, a favourite neighbourhood to walk around in.

Of course, I have many more favourite places, including the Metropolitan Opera — where this year I had the good fortune to see world-famous soprano Anna Netrebko perform in Manon Lescaut. Sadly, I did not get a good picture of that amazing place and experience. It will have to live on in my mind only.

couple-grand-central-bw

My friend, the Flatiron…

flatiron-2016bw

I found myself agape, admiring a skyscraper — the Flatiron building, to be particular, ploughing up through the traffic of Broadway and Fifth Avenue in the afternoon light.

H.G. Wells

I’ve written about it before and I’ve shot it before. But there I was again. Drawn like a magnet to the Flatiron Building in New York City. It was a sunny day this time and the particular angle of the sun behind the building made it a challenge to capture.

I was a bit blinded by the light, actually. And I didn’t have a tripod or any filters either to help the situation technically. Still, I like how this image turned out. It captures a feeling I have for the building.

Like many innovative buildings, the Flatiron was not universally well received.  Architectural Record thought it was awkward, and criticized the large number of windows (the horror!). The New York Times called it a “monstrosity,” The New York Tribune describing it as a “stingy piece of pie,” the Municipal Journal & Public Works called it “New York’s latest freak in the shape of sky scrapers” and the Municipal Art Society went as far to say it was “unfit to be in the Center of the City.” But popular sentiment eventually won over the critics and now this is one of the most beloved buildings in the city.

I am by no means alone in my fascination with the Flatiron. This building has been the focus of esteemed photographers like Berenice Abbott, Alfred Stieglitz and Edward Steichen and it has been painted by Albert Gleizes, Paul Cornoyer and other American artists. It has appeared in the writings of O’Henry and scores of television shows and motion pictures.  Even before its completion in the early 1900s the Flatiron Building was one of the most recognizable and most reproduced architectural images in the United States.

It was so good to be back to hang out with the Flatiron, and I know this good friend will be waiting for me to enjoy on my next trip to New York.

 

 

Being taken by New York in black and white…

 

fire-escapes

Shawna Lemay wrote recently in her rich gift of a blog, Transactions with Beauty: “There is a point one reaches in one’s creative endeavors that … you find yourself covering familiar ground, repeating, circling back to familiar themes and concerns.”

I had just returned from New York City and I was going through my images. I definitely recognized myself in those words. Yes, that is me, for sure.

I’ve gone to New York City three times now since 2013 with more on my agenda than seeing the sights and experiencing some of the best music and art a city can offer. (Which I love to do, by the way.)

But I also strive to come back with images — not just snapshots — that encapsulate what thrills me about New York. And I do find myself considering the same subjects and themes over and over. (See my previous posts — I did a 7 part series in 2013.)

When I look at my gallery called New York City in Black and White, which contains images from more than one trip, I see that I am drawn to arches, windows, reflections, symmetrical and geometrical architectural shapes, buskers, young lovers, and silhouettes and shadows, just as a few examples. I am also fascinated by the contrasts between old and new and the built and natural environment.

(And whatever else I’m doing, I have to find time to shoot the Flatiron Building, my all-time favourite building. In a previous post, I talk about my obsession with it.)

But even as I tend to return to the same preoccupations with my photography, either consciously or unconsciously, I find that something has changed in the way I see. More and more I am struck by a “flash of perception” that hits me fast and furiously and it is a distinct frisson of excitement that compels me to turn my camera in a certain direction. Something I see feels fresh and new to me. Most of my very favourite images have come about this way.

I’ve noticed too that my memories associated with where I was and how I was feeling when I made these photos are much sharper and longer lasting than when I was merely documenting a scene, or even recording a nice memory. The image can bring me right back to the time it was taken with all the details intact.

I know that less and less I want my photography to be about looking at the world and saying to myself: Ah, that’s interesting or beautiful, I should take a picture of that.

It is the times when I am “taken by a picture” — even if I don’t quite know why — which always mean the most to me.

the-smooch-2016-edition

 

street-corner-shadows

Above board…

boats black and white

The expression “above board,” meaning honest, originated in the days when pirates would hide most of their crew below decks in order to lure some unsuspecting victim. Those who did the reverse, by displaying all their crew openly on deck, were obviously honest.

Hold it in your hands…

I’m running out of ways to creatively say some version of “print yer damn work!” But seriously, print yer damn work. Live with it. Study it. Hold it in your hands. Give it away. Experience the joy of seeing it matted and framed and hung on walls.

David Duchemin

I often find that David Duchemin has something to say in his blog posts and writings that serves as a friendly kick in the pants.

Like Duchemin, I think there’s great merit in getting our images off our hard drives and into some kind of tangible form. I’ve been making photobooks for a few years now and experimenting with many different brands and formats.

For me, this is a great way to print my work and see how various images look together. I find grouping the images in books keeps them more organized than making small individual prints. I now have an interesting collection of books that records my progress in photography and helps me follow my interests and obsessions over time.

I just finished my latest photo book and this time I included some favourite quotes as well. The software I used allows you to print proofs of the pages, so I put them together in a bit of a digital slide show.

But there’s nothing like holding the actual book in your hands. I look forward to receiving it in a few weeks.

Recently, I also started having my images printed, matted and framed. It took me forever to figure out which ones to select and how to display them. Finally, I settled on a set of black and whites from my New York series. I’m such a big fan of black and white prints and these complement some of the other prints I own that have been done by other photographers. I also thought long and hard about which ones would “spark joy” and maintain my interest over time. I found a wonderful printer in Toronto and had them printed on white rag paper.

I was so pleased with these that I’ve since printed a few more.  I’m on my way to creating a gallery wall.

What about you? How do you enjoy your photography in tangible form?

my images framed on wall

Light, lines and moments…

girl in the lightlr

I tell my students that photographs can be reduced to light, lines, and moments. Everything else is derivative.The more I study photographs from the past century — the incredibly short lifespan of our art so far — the more convinced I am that everything’s been photographed, that our challenge now is to manipulate light, lines, and moments in the frame in a way that expresses our unique view of those so oft-photographed subjects.

David Duchemin

I often find myself resonating with the writings of photographer David Duchemin in his books and on his blog, but this quote in particular really hit home.

Don’t you find yourself thinking sometimes that everything has been photographed — and way better than you can do it — so what’s the point exactly?

Well, as Duchemin says, it has. So I find it incredibly helpful to think in terms of light, lines and moments when I have my camera with me and we’re meditating together on what we see.

It is a rare, rare thing when they all come together — light, lines and the moment — but once in a blue moon they might — and you have yourself an image that speaks louder than any words.

This image is one of those for me. When I was photographing at the Bethesda Terrace in Central Park, a young woman busker in a medieval-type dress with a tousle-haired toddler pulling at her skirts moved into the archway facing the staircase to start singing.

She had the voice of an angel. I think she was singing Gregorian chant because the words were not intelligible to me, but that didn’t matter. It was a moment when time stopped. I raised my camera to my eye and clicked.

This image, which is now framed on my wall, brings it all back every time I raise my eyes to look at it.

My little town…

almonte post office2

Almonte’s old post office, designed by the same architect as Canada’s Parliament Buildings in Ottawa

When I was away this winter living on our sailboat Windsong II, I thought about what kinds of photographs I wanted to make when I returned to Canada.

And it occurred to me that there was so much beauty right around me — in my little town of Almonte, Ontario — that I really didn’t need to go far to find delightful subject matter.

And so out I went recently with my friend Sona to show her my little town….

My friend enjoys the falls down at the foot of Mill Street

Here’s what she saw with her iPhone 6.

sona pano

And then I went out just this past weekend with my camera and came back with these…

vines

I love the vines on this house in all seasons.

 

View from the Riverwalk as night falls

I love Almonte in colour, I love it in black and white, in the light of day, in the golden hour, in the blue hour. So many different moods and sides…I’m hoping to capture many more of them this summer!