Full credit to CCR for the title! It is so true, except for one small detail - it’s not out my backdoor, but my good friends Doug and Shannon Williamson’s backdoor in SE Calgary. After visiting the latest Esker Foundation’s latest exhibit (go see it!) and celebrating Doug’s birthday with a great meal at Model Milk, I woke up the next morning to some great light illuminating the many angles of roofs, doors, fences, and steeples.
[Olympus E-M5, Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8]
Laura and I travelled to Phoenix last week with my parents. We took part of our last day before flying home, to travel into the desert northeast of the city. We headed into Tonto National Forest on the N. Bush Highway a few miles past Saguaro Lake, which is a body of water created by the Stewart Mountain Dam. This was actually not the road I intended on travelling and so I turned the car around and headed back. As we past the dam we noticed a lot of smoke ahead, so I pulled over to have a look. The bushes along the Salt River had caught fire somehow and were burning quite intensely. Whenever the flames engulfed another tree or bush the flames would leap skyward sending smoke hundreds of feet high. The temperature was around 30°C and so felt rather warm for someone who had just come from a weeks worth of at least -30°C, and it felt already like the desert was on fire, just not literally. It was a spectacular sight and I quickly made some images before the rangers started clearing out those of us watching the spectacle.
I visited the Esker Foundation in Inglewood, Calgary yesterday to view the latest exhibits. I made this close-up image of their very unique floating “Nest” that is used as a meeting room.
[Olympus E-M5, Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm]
The water tower in Red Deer received a shiny new coat of paint from top to bottom last summer. Now that winter is in full force again (currently -29°C), I haven’t been getting out making too many images, but just a few days ago, I was early for a lunch meeting and I noticed these very bright mountain ash berries contrasting rather nicely with the fine looking green of our water tower. I used up my few minutes I had at my disposal and froze my fingers nearly off, but hey, I got a nice image!
[Sigma DP1M w/ Ricoh GW-3 adapter]
“Song of the Skies” is the title used for a 1986 “Camera Canada” magazine article featuring nine fabulous sky images by Alfred Upton, which I have gone back to over and over again through the years. To quote from this article and from “Moments of Beauty”, a catalogue of a 65 year retrospective exhibition in 1987:
“One of Upton’s long term goals has been to capture the drama of clouds in a photographic symphony. As a result of this challenge, he has spent many hours watching the skies for the precise moment when the movement of clouds was most expressive. Gathering storms, promising sunsets and cloud-filled summer skies would send him scurrying to an appropriate vantage point, often preselected. The dramatic results were further heightened by clever darkroom techniques in printing, choice of paper and toning. The dramatic results, in symphonic terms, were [his images titled] “Prelude”, “Crescendo”, “Allegro”, “Adagio”, “Animato”, and “Furioso”, a series of skycapes taken between 1935 and 1982. His ability to do justice to this subject matter prompted one admirer to refer to him as “king of clouds”.
My eyes are virtually always scanning the skies for the same drama that Mr. Upton was, and his images have been and continue to be an inspiration to me. Mr. Upton would usually show where a cloud is travelling as opposed to it being simply a storm cloud by including at least something of the surface of the earth to give the clouds both scale and context. His images are like poetry to me.
Alfred Upton has shown me that patience and perseverance will reward me with expressive skies, but also he has shown me how to interpret and present these skies espressivo.
This morning I worked on a couple of images from this past fall that I made in the abandoned town of Bulwark on a pleasant and cloudy morning. The look I’m after is that of Kodachrome, if anyone can remember that! Accurate and pure tones with realistic contrast. Not easy to accomplish with most modern digital cameras these days pushing the contrast up even when set to “Standard” colours and saturation.
[Sigma DP1 Merrill]
Storm clouds rolling over Red Deer County last fall. I made this along one of my favourite backroads that winds through some hilly country a bit east of Red Deer.
[Sigma DP3 Merrill]
While visiting with my wifes family over the Christmas holidays, I managed to sneak out for a few minutes just as the sun was setting one afternoon. I found these aspen trees inundated by fresh snow. All that was really necessary was to move my point of view around a bit to get the right balance. As it was getting dark out the light was very flat so just a hint of texture shows in the snow.
[Sigma DP3 Merrill]
I need to post this image especially for my friend Gary Kuiken. We had been talking about what sort of elements make a good image, more specifically if any were essential. A certain blog came up in our conversation that shows image after image that are essentially the same. An early morning sun, usually off-center, a ditch with grasses and a fence. Apparently the photographer thinks that these are essential elements as virtually every image on the blog has the same basic elements in it. I literally laughed out loud when I realized what I had done here!
I think a bit different and have no set list of requirements I feel are necessary to make an image successful. I rely more on balance vs. unbalance, texture vs. smooth, wavy vs.straight, dark vs. light, empty vs. full, follow the rule of thirds vs. nothing lining up with this rule, elements that touch vs. elements comfortably separated. Are you getting the idea? A couple more, complementary colours vs. analogous colours, patterns vs. abstraction, simple vs. complex, loud palette vs. soft palette. Now obviously not every image is going to have one of these contrasts. It may just have a subtle suggestion of one, and many times it might have a mix of a few different ones. Maybe a loud patterned palette with some element landing smack dab on the rule of thirds line vs. an empty soft palette of abstracted separation. This list could go on and on! Many of these differences and contrasts go through my head all at the same time, and quite honestly I don’t realize how I managed an images’ composition until later when viewing it on my computer. I can get into the “zone” when I’m out sometimes where instinct takes over and I just keep busy working out my next image with very little thought. Maybe it’s not so good, but it’s the way I operate. A lot of the time, if I overthink an image, and it’s creation, it tends to look contrived or predictable. Following a pattern or style all the time becomes boring. Some people claim they can see my “style”. I honestly haven’t got a clue as to what it could be!!
I will let the elements fall where they may, either being “essential” or otherwise. I just can’t imagine what sort of element could be considered as essential.
[top - Olympus E-M5, Panasonic 45-175mm, bottom - Sigma DP2 Merrill]
Here are just seven of the 83 wind turbines installed as the Halkirk Wind Project about 120km east of Red Deer between the towns of Halkirk and Castor. My Uncle Elmer toured me around the farm this past fall. There are unending possibilities for lining up the towers and their blades. This time however, I decided to eliminate the massive blades completely on the front tower and let the stark shape of the tower itself dominate the prairie sky.
[Olympus E-M5, Olympus M.Zuiko 9-18mm]