Capturing my Imagination

 

Five Rivers is a parcel of 450 acres managed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.

After years of driving past the place, always a little curious (not too curious) some months ago my wife and I finally took the side road that leads there and spent a while getting acquainted with the center dscf1470_wm.

Last week, though the temperature hovered near 30, I returned with a camera in search of inspiration.

If you believe, as I do, that the ‘devil is in the details,’ than no matter how cold and grey, snow and ice covered, or bleak a natural setting may appear, there’s always something there – the closer you look.

On this walk, with a dreary light reflected off so much whiteness I was forced to stare down at to maintain my footing, my eyes grew tired quickly (sacrifice for my art!) and I found myself looking for patches of darkness to relieve them. I found those in the trees, and brush

Note: If you find yourself here on an icy afternoon – the facility has cramponsdscf1472_wm to offer some surefootedness, but did I take them up on it? Perish …!

As I walked around the lake (manmade, I believe) things began to present themselves to me.

Almost immediately, there’s a bench sheltered from the storm. I immediately named the photo “Rest” although no rest would be required on this short outing – and it was certainly too soon upon just setting out.

dscf1496_wmShortly I arrived at this rusted relic, which I felt had a floral quality in its handle design. It was also growing like sort a flower out of the bank of the lake. I imagine it was part of some old waterworks there though its haphazard state of de-installation suggests it’s no longer in use.

I was struck by the bark on several trees at Five Rivers, perhaps because it was the closest thing to color I came up this chilly afternoon.

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dscf1522_wm Perhaps because as I’ve mentioned in an earlier post (LINK) I’m always looking for texture.

I also spotted a stump, which was weathering nicely.

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dscf1502_wmThese needles also did it for me. Can’t tell you why.

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Approaching this particularly treacherous walkway (Just as bridges and overpasses freeze first and harder than the surrounding road surfaces, elevated wooden decks are potentially more hazardous than the dirt and gravel paths they connect) I was struck with a surfeit of paths..

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Just as I would walk over the elevated path, aquatic life might travel the waterway below, as small mammals might opt for the log crossing. Just a thought.
And while my icy path provided the opportunity for a hardier freeze, it also permitted me to travel through the undisturbed rustling of the dried winter grasses and weeds. It was here that I took my favorite photo of the trip

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Here’s where my walk got really interesting.

Focused on the minutia, I wasn’t paying much attention to my broader surroundings. And … wait for it, walking around a small man-made lake possibly with several foot bridges intersecting it, I found myself slightly turned around (if it was darker, and I was a drinking man, I’d say o.k. I was ‘lost’)

Just in the nick, I spotted this.dscf1526_wmand Although the direction it was pointing in was vague, I took an overgrown path up and eventually found my way back to my car stopping only to study this sundial and wonder, as I often do when faced with acts of unnecessary cruelty and random bits of vandalism …

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Why?

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INSPIRATION

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If you’re anywhere near the Capitol District in NY and might appreciate stellar photos of many of rock and roll’s greatest talents get to the Albany Institute of History & Art before Feb. 12, 2017.

Photographers don’t exist in a vacuum. At least they shouldn’t.

If you’re photographing weddings, well you’d better look at the work of other photographers. You probably already do, for some combination of education, marketing, and inspiration. When I do, I sometimes notice creative poses, beautiful lighting ideas, or simply shots worth admiring – the sorts I work to get and keep my eyes open for.

If you’re photographing buildings or landscapes – the same applies. I enjoy looking at other photographers’ work because I enjoy what these subject look like on the page – not just my own.

Some of the earliest I recall admiring were in books of photographs of ‘old New York” that captured the light and shadow of industry and architecture at places like Grand Central Terminal

Instagram is a platform I guess is well-suited for this, though I’m not much of a user. Some folks probably use Pinterest the same way.

For me its often the social post and blogs of other photographers I turn to for inspiration particularly Fine Art Photographer Leanne Cole, in Australia, a true inspiration whose tastes seem to run much like my own from architecture to abandoned spaces to nature, landscapes – and of course portraiture.

Last week I read a piece called ‘The Dark Art of Concert Photography” by Sarah Arnold on the SmugMug site. (SmugMug is a gallery and ecommerce site for photographers. I use it mainly for weddings portrait shoots at jonathanment.com)

Republished from August 2016, it’s a sort of instructional for aspiring live music shooters.

Having spent many a hot and sweaty night during the years I actively published the Urban Rag Zine either in the photographer’s pit or pressed against the barricades when there was none, I read it with some – albeit – nostalgic interest.

I would have to cull through a lot of years of photos, from negatives through the digital archives to find anything worthy of blowing up to poster size. This is not the case however for Patrick Harbron, whose “Rock & Roll Icons” exhibit hangs in Albany for two more weeks.

Whether its his shots of Ray Charles, for which Harbron wishes he could remember what he said to make the icon laugh, an extensive display of a young Bruce Springsteen, coverage of the Rolling Stones, KISS, ACDC, The Police, Bob Marley, John Mellencamp, or Deborah Harry (pictured in the ad for the exhibit) he really seems to have captured everyone active beginning in the late 1970s (Particularly if they toured through Toronto).

For music fans unsure about a spending time with a collection of photos, understand that these are simply beautiful to look at. You can hear the music in some of them. There also a soundtrack of rock playing in the background a few guitars from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and other items on display to lure you out

For photographers, there’s even a bit on the craft, from lenses to lighting and even Harbron’s old camera ‘bag,’ a nearly indestructible roller-skate box his caption explained could double as a sort of short step stool.

There’s also a bit of backstage insight, like references to Van Halen’s contract for photographers – retaining rights for the band “forever and until the end of time …” throughout the entire universe,” Harbron said he never signed it.

Mixed among the admirable insight is a fair amount of music history and career context surrounding some of the photos. Just what I’d expect in a setting such as an institute of history and art!

No doubt we’ve all seen some of Harbron’s work already, in print or on album covers, but not like this.

Many images can be viewed at the rock and roll icons link above, but it’s simply not the same as the large exquisite prints you’ll find in Albany – or wherever this exhibit might visit in its next incarnation.

I escaped completely into this exhibit – and maybe, even got a little inspired.

 

 

 

I operate the Ment Media Group. You can also like Jonathan Ment Photography on Facebook, subscribe to the photography blog and follow on Twitter

 

Talking about Texture

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I probably date myself in this post – so read it and share it quickly, before I come to my senses and delete it.

 

My interest in texture began  during the early years publishing an indie-music ‘fanzine’ “(the) Urban Rag.

Clarification needed, I believe. The texture I’m referring to here as two-dimensional would I feel be more accurately be called a ‘pattern,’ whether repeating or random. However I believe over the past 30 years convention has redefined texture in relation to photos and more specifically Photoshop.

Here’s an excellent explanation from a site called SFGATE.

 

“Texture and pattern are terms that describe various decorative elements, such as upholstery fabrics, curtains, walls and even types of tile. While it may be difficult to tell which is which from afar, hands-on access clues you in right away. A pattern is a visual element that repeats, such as plaid or stripes, whereas texture can be felt, such as the surface of a brick or a piece of burlap. … Texture can be seen as well as felt; it has some level of dimension to it.

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The Zine “Urban Rag,” was named through a mashup (before mashups existed) of “Urban Blight,” a band active at the time and who’s set list was hanging from a speaker in my home – and Rag, common derogatory slang for a newspaper. I didn’t know at the time I’d later work for a string of sub-urban newspapers – but I’ll save that for another time

With humble apologies, I admit the website is about as lame and primitive as you’ll ever see – but it is a time-capsule.

The Urban Rag was initially assembled in my pre-Desktop Publishing days meaning there was variably wax, or glue and glue sticks and bits of paper and cut out headlines and printed images – basically the layout was a collage. (Credit due to a contemporary zine called “Crashing Waves.” Who’s ‘digest’ size and general approach I emulated.)

We also used these sheets of transferrable letters that had various fonts and sizes that you rubbed on to the sheet you were creating – sort of high-tech ransom note approach. These rub on letters and symbols are still available, or available again, but I moved away from them as the process grew more computerized.

By the end of the process, the master – from which we made copies for circulation/distribution truly had texture. Parts it were thick with layers, had uneven edges and were made up of different materials. But the end result was flat, two-dimensional and for many years reduced to black and white or shades of grey on colored stock

My partner in this venture, Gary, had access to a copy machine (like so many zine publishers) and the early issues were photocopied in a (church) office after hours. We looked for creative backgrounds on which to layout each page. I’m sure it was he who came up with this first.

We’d take two and three-dimensional items and objects, photocopy them, then layout the reviews on the photocopies.

We used remnants of wrapping paper, seconds of screen from a window, the dimpled lens from a drop ceiling light figure – you name it.

In 2013 ago I posted a series of photos from a bridge construction project. These stand on their own as part of that digital exhibit, but the purpose for many of the photos was to collect textures for use in Photoshop.

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These shots and others are part of my texture bank. They’re on the shelf if and in case I need them for some future photo (or publishing) project or exercise.

Much in the way things change as you look at them more closely – new details emerge, this texture bank offers a wide range of possibilities. In the photo copying days this was achieved through enlarging or reducing what we were copying. Computers have made this a bit easier to be sure – though less ‘organic.’

tex4If you take photos for fun, pleasure (or even profit) and think creative/artistic editing is in your future (with scissors or Photoshop) If you’re not already doing it – I encourage you to begin capturing and collecting these sorts of images for your texture bank – or savings account.

 

~ Jonathan

 

 

 

 

I operate the Ment Media Group. You can subscribe to the photography blog and follow on Twitter

Getting the Shot: Part 2 No Two Snowflakes Are Alike

dscf1211_wmWith the election season behind us, thankfully, and only the uncertain future ahead many folks it seems have returned to talking about the weather. It’s cold, it’s hot, it’s raining. It’s not.

Political memes have given way to shots of snow covered back yards and decks, and it’s these shots that make me laugh.

It’s as though everyone is telling everyone else – look, it snowed. The proof is in the photo.

dscf1215_wmSo many of these shots include the snow-covered barbecue, patio table or deck rail.

Perhaps is unconscious.

Cabin fever expressed through a visual declaration of external in-hospitability?

“Look, there’s my deck. I could probably go out there, but I’d have to shovel.”

Perhaps, and more likely, it’s merely the slipper-clad-coffee-cup-wielding-cell phone-camera-clutching masses keeping warm and dry while commiserating.

Christmas wasn’t white, except on the ski slopes in our part of the Catskills. (Nor Chanukah!) My snow tires are barely getting a workout … so far … knock on wood … dare I mention it … glad I’m not superstitious … jinx buy me a — Pepsi! (Got ya!) But we have had a fair bit of winter precipitation of late. Flurries, what seems like most days, a few all-out snowstorms with measurable inches.

dscf1168_wmBut course nothing can save the snow from the repeated temperate afternoons, leaving most roads thankfully clear and snow lumps in a sad shrunken state.

The change comes quick. From winter wonderland wow to mud covered cleanup mode. Getting the shot means getting out there as soon as you know it might be waiting.

Now, I will confess to liking my Acorn slippers so much that they’re fairly worn out and due for replacement. And – I’ve taken my share of shots from the safety of the porch. But sometimes – the boots must go on.

Like after an ice storm, when every twig glistens within it’s shroud of frozen precipitation, I always admire the scenery when the snow clings just so. Rarely, however to I take off the lens cap and capture it.dscf1177_wm

Here are a few shots I did venture out for, earlier in this early part of winter.

Some I’ve taken before, meaning I’ve shot the same subject over and over before like a waterfall waiting for the shot.

Others are new to me-principally, such as the snow-covered branches for which I rarely get out in time to photograph.

There’s a narrow window of opportunity for these sorts of photos. Too early, and the snow is still flying. Too late and it’s melted away.

“Getting the Shot: Part 1″

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Several months ago a prospective client approached me with a few questions.

OK, that’s what I’m here for. Ask away.

“Do you do scenic photography?” he asked.

“Sure, what do you have mind,” I replied.

“Like nature photography,” he said, “Scenery.”

“Did you want a piece of property photographed? Or did you want me to accompany you on a hike through the woods.”

“We’d like a shot of the falls,” he said. “Like this one,” he added pointing to the image on a brochure.

Now, I wasn’t going to go too far down that path. It would probably have been pointless.

It had been a dry summer. There wasn’t much water trickling over the falls. The time of year was wrong. If there was water and the time of year was right, it would have been tough to duplicate the light.

“I think you can buy prints of that photograph. Or ones a lot like it,” I said.

Every photographer knows, you can return to the same spot at the same time of day, at the same time of year and ‘the shot’ will be different. You keep taking them, waiting for “the one.”

I’m reminded of butterflies on a ring bearer’s shoulders. Private moments willingly exposed to my camera, looks of surprise or exaltation on people’s faces and the combination of joy and pride in parent’s eyes.

Except perhaps in commercial photography, such as real estate and catalog work, the camera records. The photographer is there to decide what. But the ‘what’ is generally beyond our control.

When I’ve done product photography, I’ve been able to control every aspect from position and light to angle. At the high end, real estate is filmed or photographed with measures taken to control both artificial and natural light. But in live events, or nature, we are there to pick, point, prepare and press the button.

I was reminded of this last week when Associated Press Photographer Burhan Ozbilici captured those frightful images of a gunman’s assassination of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey, Andrey Karlov.

“I’m a journalist,” wrote Ozbilici in an essay for the AP. “I have to do my work. I could run away without making any photos, but I wouldn’t have a proper answer if people later asked me – why didn’t you take pictures?”

I disagree. Fear for one’s life would be answer. There are others.

But I admire the path he took. The photos are chilling. They look like stills from a movie set. The horror on the faces of onlookers is real.

Ironically, the Ankara art gallery in which the photos of the murder were taken, was exhibiting a collection of photographs, and Ozbilici was apparently in attendance as a spectator.

This speaks to another point.

Capturing ‘the shot,’ means being prepared. Presumably off duty, this AP photographer still had a camera at the ready. It’s why news photographers (and videographers) keep gear in the trunks of their cars – in case they happen upon the next big accident or fire close to the moment of impact, so to speak.

If you’ve ever watched the nightly news and wondered why the reporter is still standing outside the yellow police tape for the 11 o’clock report, ask yourself if they’re overcompensating for not getting ‘the shot’ of the flames ripping through the roof earlier in the day.

It’s like a shot of the scorched earth where the conflagration occurred, or a splatter of blood where the ambassador’s body previously laid. Those both tell a story, but not in the way being there in the moment does.

Personally, enjoy photographing the occasional waterfall. But I’m pretty sure, if it’s that shot the guy wanted, prints are available – and the photographer selling them deserves to the sale.