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Entries in civilized ku, manmade landscape (1280)

diptych # 102 / civilized ku # 2811-14 / ku #1292-93 ~ the other colors of autumn / singing in the rain

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alternative fall colors ~ Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack PARK / Saratoga, NY • click to embiggen
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cat's work ~ Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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in the gloaming ~ Glens Falls, NY • click to embiggen
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autumn rain ~ Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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pre autumn rain ~ Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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autumn color ~ near Keeseville, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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leaves on driveway ~ Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
Every year, at this time of the year, I am reminded of Robert Adams' statement, "... cliché, the ten thousandth camera-club imitation of a picture by Ansel Adams." This regurgitated thought is always instigated by my viewing of the ten thousandth camera-club / calendar-art imitation of a picture of the 'spectacular' colors of autumn.

TO BE PERFECTLY CLEAR, I have no problem whatsoever with those picture makers who traverse the landscape, hither and yon, in search of a picture-perfect romanticized leafy landscape picturing opportunity. If such picturing endeavors turn them on, more power to them in their pursuit of picture making arousal. However, that's just not my idea of a picturing aphrodisiac.

One of the guiding principles of my picture making has been - at least since my epiphany, circa 1979, which came from my involvement in the production of the seminal book, The New Color Photography - can best be summarized by the statement, again by Robert Adams:

One standard, then, for the evaluation of art is the degree to which it gives us a fresh intimation of Form. For a picture to be beautiful it does not have to be shocking, but it must in some significant respect be unlike what has preceded it (this is why an artist cannot afford to be ignorant of the tradition within his medium).

IMO, it is nigh unto impossible to make a picture which is "in some significant respect ... unlike what has preceded it" inasmuch as there is some truth to the notion that everything which can be pictured has been pictured. That is to write, if one heeds Adams statement that "an artist cannot afford to be ignorant of the tradition within his medium" by learning about, in our case, the history and traditions of medium of photography, it becomes very apparent that in a broad referential sense, everything has indeed been pictured.

Which, of course, is not to write that, literally, every thing has been pictured but that, in a general sense, there is very little, if any thing at all, which has not served as the referent (or the implied/meaning) in a picture. Which, of course, does not mean that those same referents (and meanings) can not been seen in a new light, both literally and figuratively.

And that's the challenge ... seeing in a way - your personal way - that, if not significantly different from what came before, without resorting to cheap tricks and/or outright imitation.

FYI, I have my very own personal cliche for fall color picturing which, IMO, is rather different from the standard cliche ... picturing, in situ, the foliage in the rain or near-rain conditions and as seen in the everyday world / environment. IMO, picturing in such conditions produces truly intense / saturated (the leaves are in fact, saturated with moisture) colors - that is color without all those nasty bright sun highlights.

Posted on Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 11:15AM by Registered Commentergravitas et nugalis in , , | CommentsPost a Comment

diptych # 100-101 / ku # 1291 / civilized ku # 2810 ~ more recently seen and pictures / autumn color

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Essex Inn - outside/inside ~ Essex, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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Erie Canal ~ near where life is worth living, NY • click to embiggen
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church steeple ~ near where life is worth living, NY • click to embiggen
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Whiteface Mountain ~ Wilmington, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen

diptych # 96-99 ~ recently seen and pictured

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looking out / in • concave / convex ~ Phonicia, NY - in the Catskill Park / Saratoga, NY • click to embiggen
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green/red/yellow, ~ Lake Placid / Newcomb, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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night light ~ Au Sable Forks / Clintonville, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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cool/warm • hard/soft ~ Plattsburgh, NY / Newcomb, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen

Posted on Thursday, October 9, 2014 at 10:57AM by Registered Commentergravitas et nugalis in , | Comments2 Comments

diptych # 95 / civilized ku # 2809 / ku # 1286-90 ~ autumn rambling

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roadside bog ~ Trout Pond Rd / Clintonville, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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Lake Champlain views ~ Essex, NY / Peru, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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garage / shed ~ Whalenberg, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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autumn color ~ Peru, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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autumn color ~ Peru, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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autumn color ~ Peru, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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autumn color / vine ~ Clintonville, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
A sampling a pictures made over the past few weeks as I have rambled about The Park.

diptych # 94 ~specificity and detail / illustration and illumination

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places to sit ~ Hoboken, NJ • Rist Camp / Newcomb, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
In the past, I have written extensively regarding the ability of a picture to illustrate and illuminate by means of the visual referent and the (implied) meaning to be had/found in a picture. IMO, good pictures are those which manage to convey both, presenting a viewer with both something to see and something to think about and, perchance, to feel.

Re: the illustrated - In some pictures, the something-to-see (the illustrated) is usually rather obvious. It comes in the form of the actual visual reference to the real world which the picture depicts, aka: the referent. The referent is very often a spectacular rendition of a familiar / spectacular subject and a viewer's reaction to it is most often both immediate and visceral.

In other pictures, the something-to-see, while visually obvious, may not be "spectacular" but, in fact, rather mundane. To my eye and sensibilities, what rescues such pictures from obscurity is an interesting presentation - that is to write, a sophisticated 2-dimentional arrangement of color, shapes and form within the the pictures frame - of the mundane referent (in other words, my kind of picture).

For those who do not grasp the subtle qualities of the presentation, the these pictures of so-called mundane subject matter are most often greeted by a viewer with disinterest. For them, if a picture ain't got that immediate swing, it don't mean a thing.

In either case, spectacular or mundane, a good picture needs more than just its visual specificity and detail.

Re: the illuminated - Let me start with a quote ...

I stared at the two of them, as though the moment had been caught inside a cropped photograph whose meaning lay outside the borders of the camera’s lens. Dave Robicheaux, fictional police officer - from a mystery novel by James Lee Burke.

... and move on to anecdote.

I am putting together a new body of work drawn from my archive of past picturing endeavors. The tentative title of the work is places to sit and the diptych in this entry is composed of 2 pictures from the series.

After pulling approximately 50 pictures of places to sit and arranging them on my monitor, I asked the wife to sit down and take a look with the objective of discerning what the pictures were about. Her first answer was to state the obvious - "chairs". My response was that was part of it but there was more. Her next response was "chairs and light". My response to that was that their was still more and that she should stop reacting to the obvious visual referent(s) and to consider things that were not visually depicted. In a very real sense, to consider meaning which lay outside the border of the camera's lens.

After some thought, the wife responded with a question,"Are these pictures from places we have visited together?"

Bingo. She got it. And by getting it, she opened the door to quite a few thoughts / feelings / emotions of places and pleasures associated with those places to sit. In other words, the pictures became more than just the illustrated picture referents. There was also a moment of illumination - enlightenment from the knowledge that the pictures were more than just what met the eye.

"OK.", you might venture. "I was never in those places to sit so I have no memories thereof. To me, they're just pictures of places to sit. What's the connection to me?"

Well, it's really rather simple. Think of how many places to sit you have experienced. The number of such places is probably incalculable. Nevertheless, I'll bet the farm on the fact that were/are many places to sit in your life which were memorable. Places to sit which, if you viewed a picture of the supporting platform (chair, bench, sofa, etc.), memories associated with that sitting would come flooding back.

So, while the pictures of our (the wife and I) places to sit will not instigate thoughts / memories of our specific sitting experience, in the best of cases they might cause you to free associate with/on the general concept of places to sit and the experiences which inevitably accompany sitting. Which, in turn, might lead you to memories of your own places to sit experiences and, ultimately, to understand and appreciate the significance that places to sit have played in your own life. It might even give you cause to consider the concept of the importance of choosing a place to sit.

In any event, if you really want to learn how to read a picture (any good picture), that is, to get beyond the visually obvious, you must learn to get beyond the specifics of a given picture and consider the general concept which the picture's specificity suggests.

And, IMO, that's one of the medium and its apparatus' unique characteristics. Despite it's native capability of rendering the real world with the utmost (amongst the visual arts) detail and specificity, the medium and its apparatus are also empowered with the capability of engendering meaning well beyond the limits seemingly imposed by its visual specificity and detail.

Posted on Tuesday, October 7, 2014 at 11:18AM by Registered Commentergravitas et nugalis in , | CommentsPost a Comment

civilized ku # 2808 / diptych # 93 ~ for some, it seems like speaking in tongues

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leaves on porch ~ Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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flora ~ Main Street / Golf Course • Saratoga, NY - • click to embiggen
In light of the fact that my previous entry, wherein I presented an article from my former writing, was something of a hit, I offer another article for your reading pleasure and contemplation. I will undoubtedly present more of the same since the articles help define my approach to the medium and its apparatus.

Enjoy and, as always, comments and feedback are appreciated.

Developing a "Field Strategy," or, Pass the Chiaroscuro, Please

Text and Photography Copyright Mark Hobson. All rights reserved.

In the photographic world, the word "field" generally has a single meaning for most, as in, I do most of my shooting in the field, or, these are some of the techniques I use when I am shooting in the field, or, I have a 4×5 field camera. Many are also familiar with the same word when used as, "He is outstanding in his field" (photography), which, of course, is distinctly different from the more agrarian usage, "he is out standing in his field" (of wildflowers, maybe).

Well, I’m not here to discuss any of those usages. I’m interested in dissecting the one that describes, according to Webster, the area visible through the lens of an optical instrument, or, more specifically, that same area/field when it is made visible on the surface of a two-dimensional photographic print. And to drive home an even finer point, the notion of field strategy as an alternative to what most would call composition.

In the "school of photography" that is most commonly practiced by ...ers, there are many commonly accepted and easily visually recognized "rules" of composition - rule of thirds, S curves, focal point/center of interest, leading lines, etc., etc., and etc. If you want to know more about rules, say goodbye to your family and friends and do a "photo composition" search on the google machine. You should get about 1,390,764 (give or take) results. It’s no wonder that many of you are confused about what constitutes "good" composition.

But, one thing that I know for sure about composition is that most of you are confused/bewildered about my techniques and subsequent results. Let me try to explain, not in an attempt to convince that my way is right, or that my photos deserve more "respect", but rather, to inform those who are here to learn that there are other ways of seeing (both in the field and on the print).

The key to the way I see lies in developing an MO that emphasizes an extreme awareness of the primary quality of the final product of my photographic labors - the 2-dimensional photographic print. I do not see the print as a transparent window to the"real world. Nothing about the print is real except the print itself. What lies on the flat-as-a-pancake surface (field) of the print is an image that is a relic or a trace of something that once was, or, as Gary Winogrand stated, "... what something looks like when it is photographed." In photography, that something must make the transition from 3-dimensional reality to a new reality that exists in a 2-dimensional state - the flat surface or visual field of the photographic print.

So, back to that word "field" again. I tend to see the world as a visual "field." I am not sure if this is preternatural or the result of years of photographic seeing. I do think that it has something to do with the way my brain assimilates and integrates what lies in my peripheral vision with what is in my primary field of view. The writer John McPhee described something similar to this about NBA great Bill Bradley (A Sense of Where You Are, Farrar, Strauss & Giroux). Bradley’s extraordinary perception of what was in his peripheral vision, a sense that he deliberately developed, was what caused many of his teammates to sport bloody lips and broken noses that resulted from being the unsuspecting recipients of many an improbable and unexpected pass. As far as I am aware, my vision is normal in all other respects.

What this visual idiosyncrasy seems to make me sensitive to or aware of is relationships - of tones, textures, colors, and shapes somewhat independently of the objects and space that they help describe - and how they create a unified visual "whole" within my field of vision and on the flat, 2-dimensional plane of the photographic print. I "see" the space that objects in my photograph occupy and the spaces between and around them as shapes arranged across a visual field.

As an example, in a scene that contains a red ball and a blue box on a green lawn, I see red juxtaposed with blue and green almost more than I see a ball and a box and grass. I see a circle, a rectangle and a plane of texture almost more than i see a ball, a box and grass. And, I am keenly aware of their relationships to each other and how they integrate into a visual whole. My vision emphasizes holistic visual fields as opposed to discrete individual details within the field. This personal visual phenomenon is also how I see photographic prints.

The result for me (and many others - see the work of Eggleston, Meyerowitz, Shore, et al) is a decided slant towards the creation and appreciation of non-hierarchical "composition" in my photography. To my eye, subject and its visual essence are indivisible. Every tone, texture, color and shape is used for its expressive potential as well as its structural function. In manner similar to Abstract Expressionist painting, the space-shapes and objects in my photographs are like interlocking pieces of a jig-saw puzzle which come together as a continuous visual plane, but unlike that style of painting, my photographs are also like a window through which the observer can recognize familiar notions of navigable space and discernible subject matter.

This deliberate, delicately adjusted, almost invisible equilibrium between form and content (abstraction and reality) creates a visual structure where conspicuous design is not instantaneously apparent. Since the subject matter has not been bullied into exaggerated angles (according to the rules) or supersaturated colors, most find the photographs lacking a "compelling" quality (I often hear on ... that my photographs are "interesting but not "compelling"). Many see the photos as altogether missing an obvious subject and composition. (again, I hear "no strong COI, FP" etc., or, the ever-popular, "I don’t know what this photo is about").

OK, but to my eye, the visual texture or energy of my photographs comes from an optical blend of individual components, delineated with utmost specificity, that are presented in a manner calculated to emphasize the subject’s cumulative, rather than individual, visual appearance.

To put it in a compositional nutshell or my idea of a field strategy, I co-opt visual sections of the 3-dimensional world to function both as representations of recognizable things and as carefully arranged and chromatically co-ordinated 2-dimensional shapes, which come together as a unified, decorative "composition" or "whole" that emphasizes cumulative appearance and impression.

In the field (as in "out in the field") I have found that there is nothing better than a view camera’s ground glass (or its equivalent - the focusing screen of an slr/tlr without a prism or a lcd screen) as an "aid" for developing/implementing a field strategy approach to photography. If you "see" the image on the ground glass/screen in its 2-dimensional aspect, "relationships" become much more obvious and visible than they are through the "real-time" vision of a pentaprism. I find that prism view finders visually transmit 3-dimensional information in a manner that a direct view of a flat ground glass or focusing screen does not. The projected image on a ground glass is already making it’s way to a 2-dimensional representation.

To wit, by looking at the image on a flat plane, I see the scene not as the real thing, but as the photographic transformation of the thing - two very different mental and visual constructs. "Really."

And while we’re on the subject of the formal organization of 2-dimensional space, I would be deficient in my duties as the resident ... "Agent Provocateur" if I didn’t use this opportunity to fire another shot across the bow in the ongoing "home-school" vs "educated" battle for the heart and minds of the photographic public. The formal organization of 2-dimensional space (a formal characteristic that photography shares with painting) is much appreciated and highly regarded quality by the mucho-maligned "Art World" crowd. They are looking for something more subtle and intellectually/emotionally challenging than the standard, by-the-book type of composition. For those of you that feel backed into a corner by this statement, remember, this is just a matter of "taste". And besides, relax, you definitely have the upper hand in the audience-appreciation consolation race.

civilized ku # 2806 / diptych # 92 / triptych # 18 ~ into the chasm

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Bailey / Hugo ~ Au Sable Chasm, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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start / finish ~ Au Sable Chasm, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
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in the chasm ~ Au Sable Chasm, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
It's a little early for Indian Summer - sunny, clear, and warm (70˚F+) - but yesterday's weather sure seemed like it, making it a perfect day for a visit to Au Sable Chasm.

Au Sable Chasm is just 10 miles down the road from Au Sable Forks. The chasm has been a tourist attraction since it opened for business - it is privately owned - in 1870, which makes the place one of the earliest and oldest tourist attractions in the US. The chasm canyon - it's a canyon, not a gorge - itself is approximately 2 miles long and up to 150ft deep.

The Au Sable River flows through the chasm - the chasm begins at Rainbow Falls - and in some places, as it winds its way through the canyon, the river is 60ft deep. At times the water flow is heavy and swift (after rains) and at other times rather gentle and placid. In either case, there is a set of rapids located in the lower third of the river, all of which can be traversed by rubber raft or, if you are especially adventurous, in an inner tube.

In any event, Hugo and his friend Bailey, who had a day off from school, thought the chasm was "really awesome". They especially enjoyed exploring along the lower canyon walls looking in nooks and crannies for fossils and other things (in particular, centipedes). The featured find, in their opinions, was a grotto filled with cairns.

Needless to write, a good time was had by all.

diptych # 91 ~ 3 signs of autumn

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dead plants / dead trees + tamarackk ~ Au Sable Forks / Newcomb, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
According to David Letterman, there are 3 signs that autumn is here:

1. the temperature is dropping
2. leaves are dropping
3. bombs are dropping on yet another Arab country

Sounds right to me.