Showing posts with label Creativity. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Creativity. Show all posts

Friday, August 12, 2022

Remembering Galen Rowell

Discovering The Possibilities

I had a casual interest in photography as a young adult. When I was growing up, my family had a black and white television. I got my most vivid view of the world through photographs published in magazines.

Cameras fascinated me. I was always a fan of gadgets, and cameras seemed like marvels of precision and craftsmanship. They also had the almost magical power to capture moments for later review. I dreamt of buying a nice camera one day and using it to take pictures of seashores, sunsets, and lighthouses. I subscribed to photography magazines and read them eagerly each month.

But the dream had to wait. I didn't have the expertise or the financial resources to pursue photography seriously. The camera ads in the magazines were more confusing than helpful. The myriad of choices seemed overwhelming.

I took snapshots with point and shoot camera. I recorded family events and short trips, and dropped the film off at the drugstore to be processed. The prints were reminders of places and events, but with rare exceptions, there weren't artistically impressive.

a photo of pfeiffer beach big sur california at sunset
Pfeiffer Beach Sunset - Big Sur, California

One day, while visiting a museum, I happened upon an exhibition of photographs from the Tongas, a rain forest in Alaska's panhandle. It was a surprisingly moving experience. The photos were beautifully colored and highly detailed. It was hard to imagine that such images actually came out of a camera.

The photographer was the late Galen Rowell. Rowell was a seasoned climber and wilderness enthusiast. He traveled the world capturing images of remote and surprising places for National Geographic and similar magazines.

These were impressive locales, but the magic of Rowell's photos was in their vivid colors, stunning detail, and surprising juxtapositions, like dramatic skies and rugged foregrounds. Rowell liked photographing in what he called "last light," a post-sunset glow of dim but saturated colors.

I found these qualities fascinating. I was immediately obsessed with this style of photography. I wanted to figure out how he had captured these breathtaking images and hoped that one day I would be able to make photographs of my own using a similar approach.

I drove to my local Borders, bought a few books about photography, and started studying. I bought a reasonably priced Nikon with a serviceable zoom lens, along with twenty rolls of the film that Galen preferred, and I got to work. Every week, I was shooting, experimenting, making mistakes, trying again, and learning all the time.

Sadly, I never had the chance to meet Mr. Rowell. He died in a plane crash on August 11, 2002. That was twenty years ago as of the writing of this post. Coincidentally, I am now the age that Rowell was when he passed away.

Inspiration is one of the most wonderful things that can happen to a human being. A magical moment can change the trajectory of our lives, taking us in directions that we never thought possible, leading us to places and experiences that we could never have imagined.

The Tongas exhibition set my photographic journey into motion. Seeing Galen Rowell's dramatic images printed in all of their finely-detailed glory was more than an inspiration. It was an awakening. It introduced me to possibilities in image making that I would never have imagined possible and to a fascination with the art of photography.

Fujifilm GFX 100S
Lens:         GF 30mm f/3.5

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2022 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Floral Abstract In Central Park

A Bouquet Of Bokeh

When engineering meets impressionism, or it's good to be shallow? ;-)

an abstract color photography of flowers in central park new york with shallow depth of field

Sony a7R IV
Lens:        Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 GM @ f/1.8

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2020 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Creative License in Black and White

Fact or Fiction

Black and White photography imposes successive distortions on the natural world. First, we compress three dimensions into two. Then we convert all of the colors into shades of gray.

This photograph utilizes a third level of distortion, the compression of time. I left the camera's shutter open for several seconds in order to render the moving water in a dreamlike blur.

a photo in black and white of ocean waves passing over rocks

It's tempting to think of photographs as accurate depictions of what was visible at a given place and time. We rely on photographs to document important events and occasions. Most people wouldn't think of traveling without a camera and snapping happy memories along the way.

But cameras can alter the appearance of reality in extreme ways. The water that I photographed wasn't gray. The water was blue, and the weather was clear and pleasant. My eyes didn't see a misty blur. Rather, I saw a succession of individual waves. What you see in this photograph looks very different than what I saw while I was standing there creating it.

Photographs aren't always documentaries. Sometimes they are works of fiction. Photographers use the tools of their craft to create moods, imply drama, and inspire an emotional response. 

I could have created a photograph of blue water with well-defined waves, and I'm sure that it would have been appealing. But I wanted to express something different with this photograph, a sense of mystery and adventure. I hope that you'll enjoy this experiment in creative license.

Camera:    Nikon D810

Lens:        Nikon AF-S Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright 2015 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Discovering the Magic of the Familiar

Exploring Photo Opportunities Close To Home

Someone once said: "You can make good photographs anywhere.  You can even make good photographs in New Jersey."

I laughed when I head this quote. It seems like yet another good-natured Jersey joke, but it also contains valuable wisdom for photographers and artists in all genres. 

We don't need to visit exotic, far-away places in order to make appealing images. We can find worthwhile photographic opportunities near home no matter where we live - even if we live in New Jersey (as I did for many years). 

Working close to home has notable advantages.

It affords us the ability to visit locations again and again. If a subject doesn't work well in the morning, we can come back and photograph it again in the evening. If not in summer, try again in the winter or spring. If the flowers aren't blooming or the trees haven't changed color yet, we can try again next week. We can shoot familiar locations in all sorts of weather conditions.

Plus don't forget that shooting locally is cheaper than flying, and you don't have to take off your belt and shoes.

a photo of barnegat light lighthouse new jersey shore long beach island
Barnegat Light - Long Beach Island - New Jersey

This photo of Barnegat Lighthouse is a great example. I visited the lighthouse many times over the course of several years before I worked out the exact combination of camera, lens, light, and weather that I'd need to capture my vision. On many days, the light was a complete bust. Either I'd gotten there too late, or it was blocked by haze or clouds in the western sky. In fact, I had driven to the lighthouse one day before taking this photo and came away with nothing. But the next day everything finally came together.

Luckily, nobody had stolen the red picnic table in the meantime.  ;-)

a photo of sunset over marshland at sandy hook new jersey shore
Marshland At Sunset - Sandy Hook National Recreation Area

An even less likely candidate for an artistic image is this marshland at Sandy Hook. A hazy summer sky blocked most of the 'good' light on this particular day, but somehow it produced a dramatic and colorful sunset. The marsh waters reflected the color of the sky.

Note that no color filters were used to capture this shot. I didn't add any red or purple - that's the color of the sky captured directly onto a nice big piece of film.

I had made frequent trips to Sandy Hook throughout the year (braving swarms of aggressive mosquitoes and midges in the warmer months). I kept track of what the light was doing in a number of locations. On the day that the magic happened, I was ready. I knew instinctively where to go to get the shot.

a photo of the chapel at fort hancock sandy hook national recreation area
Chapel - Fort Hancock - Sandy Hook National Recreation Area

The chapel at Fort Hancock isn't a particularly impressive structure, but one day the setting sun gave it a warm glow. I took special steps to match the exposure of the white building with the darker grass.

a photo of an officers house at fort hancock sandy hook new jersey
Officer's Row House - Fort Hancock - New Jersey

If I were to select one image that summarizes everything that I've learned about photography over the years, this photo of an Officer's House at Fort Hancock would be on my short list. I won't go into great detail, but an awful lot of work and planning (and luck!) went into creating this shot.

For instance, this side of the building receives direct sunlight only two weeks out of the year. I knew the kind of shot that I wanted to make, but I had to wait for the planet to get into position before I could take it. That requires scouting, planning, and a measure of tenacity.

The exposure required techniques that I developed over years of practice. I used my view camera to eliminate distortion of the architectural details. The placement of the building, tree, and horizon line illustrate key elements of my compositional philosophy.

Finally, as for the windswept clouds and the con trails that match the slope of the roof precisely - let's just say that I've learned to recognize when the Good Lord is being kind to me, and I do everything in my power to avoid wasting those opportunities.

My sincere advice to any aspiring photographer would be to take your camera out and shoot something close to home. Then go back and shoot it again and again until you hit on just the right combination of elements. Familiar places can produce spectacular images when we photograph them at the right moment and under the right conditions.

            Ebony SV45TE view camera

            Nikon NIKKOR-SW 90mm f/4.5
            Schneider APO-Symmar-L 150mm f/5.6

            Fujifilm Velvia 100

(No digital cameras were harmed during the making of this post.)

Wishing you great light and meaningful moments!

Copyright © 2012 Daniel R. South
All Rights Reserved