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This blog is intended to showcase my pictures or those of other photographers who have moved beyond the pretty picture and for whom photography is more than entertainment - photography that aims at being true, not at being beautiful because what is true is most often beautiful..

>>>> Comments, commentary and lively discussions, re: my writings or any topic germane to the medium and its apparatus, are vigorously encouraged.

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In Situ ~ la, la, how the life goes onLife without the APADoorsKitchen SinkRain2014 • Year in ReviewPlace To SitART ~ conveys / transports / reflectsDecay & DisgustSingle WomenPicture WindowsTangles ~ fields of visual energy (10 picture preview) • The Light + BW mini-galleryKitchen Life (gallery) • The Forks ~ there's no place like home (gallery)


civilized ku # 3084 ~ local hero

The Northern Vermont Wildcats '04 Premier Elite hockey team won the Montreal AAA Spring Showdown Tournament this weekend past. In the Championship game Hugo had 2 points including the game winning goal. He was/is a happy dude.


civilized ku # 3083 ~ aboutness

2nd Ave traffic ~ Manhattan, NYC, NY • click to embiggen

A recent essay on Conscientious Photography Magazine addresses the topic,Why does it always have to be about something? iMo, it's a good question and a topic on which I have ruminated and festered for years. More accurately, I would think if fair to write that I have ruminated and festered on the topic of meaning to be had in a picture. Upon reflection, it seems to me that meaning has a connection to aboutness in a picture but that, in fact, they are not same thing.

As Colberg writes in his essay, a picture at its most basic level is simply about what is visually depicted. On the other hand, what a picture is about has been stretched to the breaking point by the new breed of photo curators / artists who write / speak about aboutness using gratuitous amounts of pretentious art speak which, most often, is employed in the cause of trying to create meaning for rather mediocre pictures. Or, as Colberg puts it' "if a group of stellar pictures are “about” something, that’s very different than a group of mediocre pictures that are only being held together by aboutness. And the latter is something you see a lot."

What Colberg is pining for is:

... not so much the idea of pictures being about something or not. I’m really more interested in photographs being given the starring role, and not any of the mumbo jumbo surrounding it, their aboutness being maybe the most prominent aspects. I want to get the task to unpack what might be going on, instead of having it handed ... As long as a group of pictures add up to something, without necessarily being about this or that right away – that’s great.

Bravo. I could not agree more.

When I view a picture, the first thing I notice is what the picture looks like with a emphatic emphasis on its graphic qualities - the arrangement of shapes, colors, tones (highlight and shadow) on its 2-dimentional surface as well as its photographic qualities, re: color and tonal range. The perusal / recognition of these qualities (or lack thereof) is rather instantaneous - no longer than a second or two - and then I move on to a picture's content - that which it depicts, aka: the referent.

It is at that point that I start to deal with the idea of what the picture is about. Is it about just what the depicted referent looks like? Is about something more than just what is pictured? Is it about both?

iMo, the best pictures are about both. Both what is illustrated and what illumination it brings to the fore about what is illustrated. Say like, if it's a picture of ant, does it depict (illustrate) merely what an ant looks like (end of story) or does it also tell me something (illuminate) about the idea of ant-ness? And, does it do both in a visually interesting manner?

FYI, above picture made by sticking hand (w camera) out of car sunroof while driving.

civilized ku # 3082 / comparison ~ channeling Stephen Shore

kids V2 ~ Whitehall, NY - just outside the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
Stephen Shore ~ from the book UNCOMMON PLACES • click to embiggen
comparison • click to embiggen

Relative to yesterday's entry and the recent entry, digital / pre-digital color, I thought I would share a comparison between how a RAW converter / processor sees a RAW file and what the same file looks like after I tweak the a and b channels in the RAW converter / processor. iMo, an amazing difference / good clean color. Take particular note of the "restaurant" word mural and the weathered wood window frames - both are rendered with very clean / accurate color.

Also thought I would share my picturing experience, re: kids - Whitehall, NY ... after stopping in Whitehall to see the Skene Manor I wanted to make a picture of the Manor from the village in order to present its dominating presence up on the hill. First I made a few pictures from a vantage point across the street by the mailbox (as seen beyond the kids). Then standing in the street. And finally, between 2 corner buildings which framed the scene.

Turning around after walking to that last vantage point, a vision of a Stephen Shore picture immediately came to mind. I also knew, at that moment, that I would be presenting an 8×10-proportion picture as a short of homage to Mr. Shore. He was, after all, one of my early picture making inspirations. Or, more accurately, early on après my get-beyond-the-pretty-picture epiphany.

civilized ku # 3079-81 ~ 200+ nautical miles from the ocean

kids ~ Whitehall, NY - just outside the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
plaque ~ Whitehall, NY - just outside the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen
Skene Manor ~ Whitehall, NY - just outside the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen

During our return from Marlborough, Mass. on Sunday, we stopped in the small village of Whitehall, NY (pop. 2,617). A town located just outside of the Adirondack PARK - by about 400 feet - near the Vermont border that is on the down side of prosperity.

Strange as it might seem, the village claims to be the birthplace of the United States Navy. Strange because the village is over 200 nautical miles form the Atlantic Ocean.

However, in 1776, Congress ordered that a fleet of ships be built. Materials, supplies, carpenters, soldiers, and sailors descended upon Skenesborough Harbor (later named Whitehall), located at the lower reaches of Lake Champlain on the Champlain Canal. The first US naval fleet was constructed that summer.

The fleet of thirteen ships, led by no other than Benedict Arnold, joined three other American vessels to form a 16-vessel naval fleet which faced the 30-vessel British fleet in the Battle of Valcour Island (northern Lake Champlain) on October 11, 1776.

Although the Americans were defeated, the Americans inflicted enough damage on the British fleet to delay their attacks on Crown Point and Fort Ticonderoga and to retreat to winter camp in Canada. This allowed the Americans time to adequately prepare for the 1777 Battle of Saratoga in which the British were defeated, considered by many to be the turning point of the American Revolution.

In another who-would've-guessed-it bit of history, Whitehall was also home to quite a number of silk mills. Bringing a good deal of prosperity to the village, the mills flourished from 1848 until the mid-twentieth century at which time the advent of synthetic fibers severely reduced the demand for silk.

Who would've thought - the birthplace of the U.S. Navy and the silk trade in a tiny Adirondack village?

civilized ku # 3078 ~ the perfect refrigerator ...

hotel room refrigerator ~ Marlborough, Mass. • click to embiggen
....everything one needs for a long youth hockey tournament weekend.


civilized ku # 3077 / diptych # 212 ~ digital / pre-digital color

camera strap ~ Manhattan, NYC, NY • click to embiggen
stuff in bowls ~ Manhattan, NYC, NY / Au Sable Forks, NY - in the Adirondack PARK • click to embiggen

Without getting into a highly technical comparison of film vs. digital image capture, this entry addresses what is most commonly referred to as the primary difference, as seen in prints, between digital and film output. Namely, the excessively vibrant / saturated color exhibited in much of the output from digital sensors/cameras.

While different image processing engines from different camera manufacturers do have their own unique color signature, the exaggerated color vibrancy / saturation seen in prints generated from digital output is rarely the result of a camera's processing engine (with the exception of in-camera generated jpegs). In virtually all cases, the cause of the problem can be found in how a image file is processed after the file is out of the camera and into the hands of the picture maker.

All RAW processing software and photo editing software - Photoshop, LR, and the like - is capable of producing clean well-balanced natural color much like that obtained using a traditional color negative film from KODAK (iMo, the gold standard of natural color). However, the # 1 tool for producing such results is also the # 1 tool for screwing things up...


Rather than trying to create an online primer on the use of CURVES, let me just mention a few do's and don't's, re: color image file processing (if your goal is natural color):

1) never shoot jpegs, always shoot RAW.
2) use a RAW processor which allows for WB fine tuning - that is, after setting a good WB point, an ability to fine tune at least the red / green component of that WB setting (independent of using CURVES).
3) in a RAW processor or PS/LR, never, ever, use the RGB curve to adjust contrast. Adjust contrast in the LAB colorspace L (lightness) channel to avoid the inevitable color saturation which results from bending the RGB curve.
4) never use sliders to adjust contrast, brightness or color. Use CURVES.
5) use a RAW processing program which allows adjustments to be made in LAB colorspace.
6) proper use of CURVES in individual color channels (RGB and LAB) will minimize the use of H&S sliders for anything other than very minor tweaks (a good thing). I use the LAB a channel (red/green) and b channel (yellow/blue) for my primary hue and saturation adjustments.
7) learn at least some basics about LAB colorspace.
8) avoid over-sharpening like the plague.
9) come to grips with the idea that not every picture requires a full tonal range (10-250ish).

These basic do's and don't's are not the end-all and be-all of natural color P's & Q's. However, it's pretty difficult to obtain clean well-balnaced natural color without nothing and understanding them.

FYI, off to Marlborbough, Massachusetts. Will post tomorrow.

civilized ku # 3075-76 / diptych # 211 ~ there and back again

view from hotel window ~ Concord, NH • click to embiggen
Apple Store ~ Montreal, QC, CA • click to embiggen
umbrellas ~ Manhattan, NYC, NY • click to embiggen

From 1 week ago Friday past to this past Sunday (10 days), I have spent 3 days in Concord, NH, 2 days in Manhattan , NYC and 2 days in Montreal, QC, CA. Needless to write, I haven't had much time for posting entries. However, I have had time to think.

Much of my thinking has been on topics, photography wise, instigated by 2 primary factors - 1) "...Many contemporary photographers lament the “lifelessness” of digital images. We look at the picture, admire its vibrant colors and sharp lines, and still can’t help but feel nostalgic for the photographs of the old, pre-digital age." (Pavel Kosenko, author, LIFELIKE:A Book on Color), and 2) my recent acquisition (in NYC) of the book, SAUL LEITER: Early Color. And, to my way of thinking, items 1 and 2 are very closely related inasmuch as one is nostalgic for pre-digital age color and the other is a tour de force of pre-digital age color.

Pavel Kosenko's nostalgic lament is somewhat understandable to me inasmuch as I still believe that some of the pre-digital C prints I made were indeed beautiful, color space / tonal wise. That standard / benchmark of representational color and tonal value is still the one I aim to replicate in today's digital era. In doing so, I am very much de-digitalizing my digital picture files and have been doing so since my early digital picture making days.

My issue with the current standard / benchmark (for so many) of tack sharp, noise (aka grain) free and somewhat over-vibrant color is, to my eye and sensibilities, rather plastic or not lifelike as in the sense of not real or sincere. While many who ascribe to that picturing M.O. would state that they are trying to make "realistic" pictures, in fact (again, to my eye and sensibilities) they are making pictures which appear to be hyperreal as in the sense of something fake and artificial which comes to be more definitive of the real than reality itself.

You know, like the Nexus 6 replicants manufactured by the Tyrell Corporation which were made to be more human than human.

Inasmuch as Kosenko seems to think that replicating the look of analog film is the answer to introducing "life" to color pictures - he advocates for a RAW developer that is at its heart an effect app-like program with many presets for various types of analog films - I would disagree with his rational / nostalgic longings for "photographs of the pre-digital age".

Are pre-digital photographs more real (or less real) than digital era photographs? I think not. Are they more pleasant to the eye than the current crop digital picturing 'perfection'? iMo, unquestionably so. They are, to my eye and sensibilities, 'softer' and more gentle to behold.

Perhaps that is what I am experimenting with adding 'grain' (monochromatic digital noise) to my pictures - like those in this entry's diptych.

civilized ku # 3074 ~ is photography a mirror or a window Pt.2?

Sunday morning ~ Old Montreal, QC, CA • click to embiggen

Or, is it both?

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