Reality counts

The plant world is waking up.  New growth is emerging as last year’s growth makes room.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is the time of year I don’t understand black-and-white photographers.  How can they ignore the eruption of life in color?  Sure, the method works for telling a story or making a point or drawing attention to details of a scene, but it’s not how the world looks.  If color isn’t important to observing and appreciating the world, why is it here?

Color returns

Well, it seems to be returning to Wisconsin with the longer days and somewhat warmer temperatures.  Right now my hope is that thinking strongly about it arriving will make it show up faster.  In the meantime I’m going through my Lightroom catalog to see springs past just to get the image juices flowing.

Every year at this time there’s a sea of color in Carlsbad, CA as the Flower Fields open.  You can read more about the reason this is here and see some images by clicking here.  My images below pre-date my digital days – these are all Kodachrome slides I’ve digitized and processed.

This is a place you almost need to spend a couple of days wandering through.  Not that it’s so large but because it can be overwhelming to the eyes.  Your choice of compositions abound – macro, panoramic, landscapes, portraits, wedding, kids, etc.  It just takes patience to find the image you want and wait for the lighting that makes it shine.

California is under a severe drought – I hope this place hasn’t been affected.  It’s one of the treasures of southern California if you’re a flower photographer!

What does spring look like where you are?

Anyone hungry?

After trying the photography gig for a few years I realized it just wasn’t going to be a business that would satisfy me.  As we heard in school from actual revenue-generating photographers, there’s more time spent away from your camera than with it if you want to build a successful business.  It just wasn’t me.  Instead, I returned to the world I’d left previously.  And guess what, they need photographers, too!

In addition to my regular day job I now have the opportunity to practice food photography.  There are multiple needs for nice food shots – brochures, websites, magazine articles, product information cards, etc. – and it can get real expensive to contract with someone to do it in a studio.  Not to mention the hassle of taking everything there for the session.  Instead, we’ve set up a small tabletop unit to use for recording samples that are made, beauty shots for marketing and just any time someone wants to record one of their projects.

So, all that lighting training and experience isn’t going to waste.  Here are some recent “models” we’ve had some fun with.  Let me know what you think of these landscapes!


Season changing texture

The robins are back, intently watching the snow-free lawns for signs of worms and bugs awaking from their winter sleep.  In spite of the brisk cool breeze and today’s sleet, spring does appear to be on the way.  This weekend we visited a couple of the garden spots in Milwaukee to see what’s shaping up for the new season.

The Botanical Gardens are still dormant but there are several pieces of statuary on the grounds that caught my eye.  The sun was hitting two of the pieces just right to give a range of tones.  The irregular nature of the carvings, the rough surfaces, and the angle of the sun gave me a sense of painting rather than sculpture.  So I processed the images to accentuate that feeling.

These are actually photographic images of concrete sculpture, even though you’d swear there are brush stokes on the surface.  The right light can make or break an image.

The garden conservatories in Milwaukee are housed in three domes, each with a different environment.  With nothing but clear blue sky behind, I thought the skeleton of such a structure was interesting, especially where you take the color out.

But what is a day exploring gardens like without a little color?  One dome is full of tropical plants and the low sun was giving some great shadows.  Here’s the heart of the garden in fully glory.

How’s your spring shaping up?


Our brain is very good at pattern recognition, most likely an evolutionary advantage we’ve improved over the millennia.  Wander around the woods long enough and something “unnatural” will catch your eye, a pattern that just doesn’t fit the surroundings.  Straight lines, perfect curves, sudden color changes – these are elements that stand out.  Usually they are the result of man’s incursion into the natural world, bringing an almost inorganic insistence on order and efficiency.

Even when the shortest distance between two points is not a straight line the resulting pattern jumps out from the surrounding area, revealing repetitive acts of movement.

Lest we conclude that only man leaves an imprint where ever his influence is found, look closely at the natural world and you’ll discover there are other creatures who leave their mark.

One admonition you see given people entering the wild world is to take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints.  The assumption is passing through the wild in this way will result in such a minimal impact that the natural world will remain essentially unchanged.  Yet this world is always undergoing change.  A wilderness area off-limits to any human will be different this year than last.  Animals are habitual creatures as well, and follow the same lines of movement through the forest and prairie.  All life generates paths, moving from where they are to where they want to be.  The challenge is to do so in such a way that followers will find the adventure and novel experiences that led us down our paths.

The trend I see in outdoor photography these days is seeking the spot no one has visited, or photographing the scene no one has seen.  I look at some of these images and wonder what effort must have gone into that person reaching that location.  And should they be there in the first place if it resulted in damaging an ecology that hasn’t been touched by man.  Our species is exploratory, as evidenced by our residence in every ecology on the planet.  Exploration is good for the soul – seeing what’s around the next curve or over the distant hill – and images from “out there” help people respect the diversity of the world.  Still, one person leads to another, which in this day leads to hundreds and thousands.  Our desire to “see” suddenly ends up destroying that which we want to see.

Would I leave places unreachable?  Possibly, although with enough money and ambition we know anyone can reach anywhere.  Regulate access more stringently?  Again, this opens up the opportunity for elitism, where only those with connections get to enter.  The system in many national parks seems to work, although there are continued complaints about loving them to death.

I don’t know – it’s a hard question even for an outdoor photographer.  With high resolution satellites, and now drones, there’s almost no reason for anyone to go anywhere in order to photograph a location.  Yet what would a photograph be without the person behind the camera?  That someone stood there, saw the scene, composed the image and pushed the shutter release must add to the sense of the photograph in some way, differentiating it from just another aerial shot.  Yet to achieve that you need boots on the ground and a path to reach the scene.

Northern Lights video

I made a short “video” from a series of images made of the northern lights.  Can’t post a video here but you can see it on my website:

While doing this our eyes were fully acclimatized to the dark and we could see some of the brighter parts of the display, but it was only after piecing together these long exposure images we were able to fully appreciate the rippling and movement in the atmospheric display.

Now I want to travel much farther north and see this up close and overhead!