Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Grandfathers...

Santa Barbara California is one of those places that is almost magical. It's also a dream place for a photograpgher. It is the home location of the Brooks Institute of Photography, which is no doubt one of the finest photography schools in the country. I took a tour of the campus and was really intrigued by the whole idea. A school dedicated really to teaching one thing. It sort of reminded me of the Xmen and the school that they had for mutants. :) I wandered around the Brooks campus and I found myself thinking that it would be nice to be involved with a school like that.

Anyway, also in Santa Barbara are the Botanical Gardens, where this photo was taken. It was overcast, it rained while I was there, and I still loved it. People laugh at me when I tell them that I could spend a week there just watching the light and taking photographs as it changes. I figure that if I can spend six months photographing a University that covers three city blocks (long story), I ought to be able to spend at least a week in someplace like this.

The Redwoods were amazing to me. They are one of the hardest things that I have ever photographed simply because it is so hard to capture the majesty of it all. They seem to me like old Grandfathers. Old and wise. When I walked through the forest they seemed to smile down and say, "Welcome, we've been waiting for you."

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

This is the place...

Over one hundred and sixty years ago, Brigham Young waltzed into the the Salt Lake Valley, stuck his cane in the ground and said, "This is the place", and people have been here ever since.

Actually, it wasn't quite like that. What really happened was that the "Mormons" were persecuted and driven for their faith, endured mobs, murders, raping and any number of untold horrors. Their Prophet, Joseph Smith, was slaughtered. And finally, as a climax to the madness they were driven out of their beautiful and beloved city of Nauvoo that sat on the banks of the Mississippi River. They had no alternative but to move again. So they bid farewell to a people that hated them, and a government that had done basically nothing to protect their rights and freedoms. They decided to head West.

Brigham Young assumed the role as leader and directed the amazing and monumental trek of the Mormon people westward to the desert valley of the Great Salt Lake. After months of careful preparation and then trekking across the vast plains, they arrived at the mouth of what is called emigration canyon today. Brigham was sick in one of his wagons, and the driver pulled around so that he could sit up and look out at the valley. After sitting for some time and gazing out at the valley, he replied, "This is the right place" and bid the driver to continue on.

What followed was the struggle of a people to carve an existence out of a harsh desert climate that was totally different then anything that they knew or had previously experienced. Here they would build Zion. Here they would live their faith, free from persecution, free from the influences of the wicked world around them. And here, they would be free.

Their isolation was short lived, but their pioneer spirit and their faith shaped the Great Salt Lake Valley as well as the surrounding areas, and their legacy still lives on today in uncounted ways.

I suppose that each one of us longs for a frontier. Our own frontier. Our own challenge. When we are young, each one of us wishes to "fight the good fight", and come away victorious. Some people have put it to sleep, but it's still there inside. A spark of our better self.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Meet Charlotte....

I have a wedding to shoot tomorrow. So I went down and picked up a new 42" umbrella and I thought I better try everything out and make sure I was ready to roll. So I called my sister Charlotte and asked if she would help me for a while. When I picked her up, she wanted to know what I was doing. I told her that we were going to go find a park. "Why?" she asked. "Well, we are going to take pictures." She instantly said that she didn't want to take pictures because she wasn't dressed for pictures, or something like that. "Don't worry, we'll delete them all. This is just to test the equipment" I said. We goofed off with various shots for a while and in the end, she ended up liking several of the shots. I think this was my favorite. The funny thing is that it is broad lighting, but it looks good.

I have not shot a wedding in several months, so I am a bit apprehensive about it all. I met with the bride and groom today over at the site and it is a really nice place. There should be opportunity to get some really nice shots. I haven't studied my posing videos at all this time and I think that I am just going to take it as it comes and hope that it flows together. I think the key is to get people to be comfortable and act natural. Then the magic can happen.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Paired Magic...

I few months ago I was in Seattle on business and while I was there I drove down along the edge of Pudget Sound. I am finding that quite often there are little wild spots that are nestled in the middle of the city. They seem to abound with wildlife, calm, and serenity in the midst of so much civilized madness. So I try and seek them out now when I am traveling. While there, I discovered this little park that had a walking trail curving around and through it. It was small, but very undeveloped, with fallen trees and rough bushes all over it. I was sitting off the edge of the path trying to take some picture and I saw something out of the corner of my eye. On looking closer I discovered that it was a raccoon. I moved closer and found out there was two of them! They climbed a tree nearby and played around up there for probably a half an hour in plain view. I got my long lens and moved right under the tree to take pictures. They watched me, and eventually they got sick of the spotlight, came down, and scampered off. It seemed almost as though they had posed for me, and I felt like it was one of those magic moments.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Whoa! Look out there...

I was visiting with my brother-in-law recently and he wanted me to go out and take some action pictures of them on their bikes. First, they put me on a bike and had me go out riding with them. After almost killing myself, I decided that I would be content to stand behind my camera and lens for a while. I got some great shots, this was one of them.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Film lives on...

This is a great example of why I still shoot film sometimes, and why I pack a 4x5 view camera with all the stuff that has to go with it through airports, etc. A couple of weeks ago I was taking pictures of the Saint Mary's cathedral in Minnesota and a lady came in and told me that I ought to take a shot of the window. I looked at it and decided that I would have to come back when the sun was on that side of the building. So I came back the next morning and tried to take this shot with my super expensive Nikon D3. I could not get it. The shattered light was coming in the window, refracting off of the inside of the lens, and creating all kinds of funny light spots and flares in the image. So technically, it was a lens problem. Perhaps a fixed focal lens would have done it where my zoom wouldn't. Anyway, in frustration I went back to the car and got my old Graphix 4x5 press camera that is 50+ years old. I had taken five film holders with me for a total of ten shots, and I had used all but three of them on other shots. So I set up my camera, tried to compose the shot in an already dark room, and took three shots. I figured I needed around 60 seconds and I had no watch with me, so I used the timer on my D3 to time the first thirty seconds and then just counted off the other thirty. It was certainly not a very precise operation at all. The whole time I was trying to hurry because I was supposed to be driving to the airport. The final image that you see here was shot on Velvia 100 at F16 for about 60 seconds. I then scanned the slide on my Epson 4990 and voila! Thanks to the kind lady that gave me the suggestion.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Yes...I shoot color. :)

In case your starting to wonder, of course I shoot color. Sometimes I really like the dramatic effect that comes with black & white images, but mostly I prefer color. This image was sort of magical. The lighting, the path, the stairs. I was walking through some landscape gardens at the University of Georgia and I was struck by this scene. I first tried to take the shot without my tripod and I ended up going to the hotel, getting my tripod, and coming back. This exposure was 30 seconds long. Truthfully, this shot is quite different from what you would have actually seen. It was taken at about 11:00 PM and I was originally fixated on the stairs. By the time I was done, the shot had changed dramatically.

Just a minute...

Excuse me while I gloat for a minute over this picture. This is Ashley Postell and Kristina Baskett of the University of Utah Utes. Two of the best gymnasts for the 2008 team. Ashley Postell is possibly the best gymnast that the U has ever had on their roster. Ms. Postell is carrying the 2008 second place trophy right after they finished the competition. I feel pretty lucky for getting this shot considering that I didn't have any press pass or anything. With the awards and everything, it just turned out cool.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Brighter lights...

Well, yesterday's post and photos were a bit on the dark side. I am happy with them, because I wanted to capture a certain feeling that I felt at the time, and I think that they do capture that feeling, so they were a success.

But sometimes, we need happy things. I recently attended the NCAA Women's Gymnastics Championships. I had purchased my new Nikon D3 right before that event. Quite simply put, this camera rocks!. To be able to shoot at 6400 ISO with less noise then I previously had at 1600 ISO with my D200 is absolutely amazing. This opens up all sorts of possibilities. I sort of let myself be completely absorbed by the event and I took about 10,000 images spanned over three days. A little ridicules really, but I looked at it like a sports photography training event and I had a blast the whole time. The sheer amount of energy at a national event like that is amazing. It made me want to consider being a serious sports photographer.

I'm a big fan of the University of Utah, and they were not in the first session, so I busied myself shooting the other teams. Then I left during the break, found an outlet and charged my battery. When I came back for the second session, walked in to the arena and saw my good old home team down there practicing on the floor, I was elated. It's difficult to describe it, but it was really nice. It just felt good. I went up to the usher that I had talked with earlier and said "Yeah, that's my team."

Incidentally, it was while I was talking to an usher at this event that I found out about the cemetery that I went and photographed the following day. Funny how things work. If your at events, make contact and conversation with the ushers. They are usually bored, and they might cut you some slack later on if you need it.

Friday, May 9, 2008 we go....

After dismissing it for some time, and having numerous events that push me this way, I have finally decided to make a move more towards serious photography. Currently, I consider most of my images mediocre, with a few superb images. I hope to learn and increase my existing skills. That's part of why I am starting this Blog. This day, May 9th 2008, represents the official start of what I would like to call Spirit Photography. I might change the name still, but it is sort of like me going public. I hope to slowly do more and more photography as time moves forward and I become better. It's the perfect day to start this as five and nine are magic numbers.

Photography to me is about capturing the essence of what you feel at the time. It is about capturing the spirit and feeling of a person, place or thing. It is about displaying the obvious, but more importantly it is also about revealing what lies beneath the surface. My goal is to produce images that invoke powerful feelings in the person that views them.

To kick this thing off, I am going to post some photographs from my recent trip to Georgia.

While I was there, I was deeply moved at the Confederate feelings that still exist today. As I was walking through a cemetery, I was moved by the graves with confederate flags on them, but I was also deeply moved by the very old graves that had stakes and chains coming out of them. Quite simply, they are slave graves. As I wandered around the cemetery, I was moved to try and capture the dismal past of that era. The war, the slavery, the horrible tragedy and victory of the whole affair. Victory for the slaves and yet tragedy for the South and States Rights as they saw it and might still see it.