Friday, May 21, 2010

AR 9 - Miscellaneous

Heading down the trail yesterday was a similar situation to the walk the day before. I just wasn't into it, photographically speaking.

Then I let go. I decided to "stop trying" (I believe that's an old Native American quote). And a funny thing happened: I saw potential photos EVERYWHERE.

- small frog on the paved trail, deer in the gas pipeline cut, and unripe blackberries alongside the trail:

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It was a great exercise. I managed to eliminate any self-induced stress or pressure to make photographs. Now, these aren't the greatest photographs I've ever made, but I had a damn good time shooting them. It was fun and I felt a lot of inspiration to return and shoot more.

- cool looking plant, male northern cardinal, and crawfish mud tower:

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Be still with yourself until the object of
your attention affirms your presence.

-Minor White

Thursday, May 20, 2010

AR 8 - Dandelions and Snakes

I don't know where my head was yesterday. My thoughts were scrambled with personal issues, work issues, and the recent oppressive heat and humidity that will be with us until October. Summer weather has begun.

When I saw this bench sitting in a patch of sunlight and surrounded by dandelions, it brought me into reality and made me stop.

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I experienced a photography block of sorts. I just couldn't seem to get my thoughts into it. The bench scene helped albeit briefly and temporarily.

I frequently experience that situation and it's a great source of frustration. One of the main reasons I started this photography project is to help myself learn ways to deal with it and get my head into an uninterrupted and meaningful photographic process.

One of the methods (a hypothesis in testing, if you will; and it applies to me and my own personality) is to repeatedly practice photography. And I have been.

I guess that I will have "off" days despite it all, and yesterday was certainly an "off" day.


We resume the regular format with some snake photos. The first is a beautiful ribbon snake (a member of the garter snake genus). I frequently see these guys on the trail, but they are incredibly shy and dart away quickly.

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And of course the usual cottonmouth (water moccasin) sighting:

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Wednesday, May 19, 2010

AR 7 - The Hobbit Hole and the Butterfly

When something catches my eye and I find an attraction to a scene, it's funny what jumps into my head. When I saw this hole into the thick brush, "hobbit hole" popped into my thoughts.

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I've rambled on about attraction and finding photographs during photographic outings in the last several posts. It's a complicated subject, mainly because it is probably very different for each person.

The thing that is clear to me is that the process is more successful with 1) the right frame of mind or mood, and 2) practice. And I'm definitely getting that sort of practice during these photo-walks.


No snake photos this time - but I fulfilled a childhood dream. When I was a kid, I spent hours and hours, summer after summer chasing butterflies with a net. The ultimate butterfly for me, the one that I fantasized about catching, was a western tiger swallowtail. I never caught one despite my efforts.

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I came across one during my walk yesterday, and the timing was perfect. It didn't notice me approach because the sun was to my back. Amazingly, it didn't detect me as I closed in and photographed from different angles. It stayed for a few minutes drinking from a small bunch of flowers.

Yeh, it sounds cheesy, but it really was fulfilling. However, instead of ending up smothering in alcohol in a jar, the butterfly went free and I retained the experience in pixels.

Monday, May 17, 2010

AR 6 - New Crop of Flowers

It seems I encounter new and different flowers during each walk. This time the honeysuckle and buttercups were gone, but these white flowers were abundant.

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My thoughts were mostly not into photography during this walk. So much has been happening at work that it was difficult to pull my head away and focus on something else. This would prove very dangerous, but I'll get to that later.

Continuing from the last post:

I had a difficult time tuning into the things that were attracting my attention. The white flowers were quite obvious, and that was about the extent of my attraction.

What I'd like to point out about the process of attraction is how dependent it is upon our mood and "frame of mind". What I observed during this walk is that I hardly thought about photography and found it difficult to keep my mind off other thoughts.

When I finally forced myself to respond to my attraction to the new crop of white flowers (and this was towards the end of my 4-mile walk), I broke through the inability to focus on my goals for this photo project and engage in a photo process that was meaningful. It was a short 5-minute walk to the finish after that, but those few minutes were with my head "back in the game".

The lesson to remember is that if we set off to photograph something but cannot engage the process in a meaningful way, a simple forced shot to photograph even a somewhat boring and obvious subject can get the creative thoughts moving.


I had two too-close encounters today with water moccasins. Both involved me walking up within about two or three feet of the snake before noticing it. This guy opened its mouth in defense, showing me the white insides (thus the nickname "cotton mouth"). It didn't strike at me, but definitely warned me to come no closer. My head was elsewhere during this walk, but the snakes reminded me to be more observant.

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AR 5 - The Sinuous Trail

I enjoy looking into the woods alongside the trail, but the views down the trail are sometimes just as good. This curvy spot along the trail goes through some fairly thick brush and grabbed my attention. The intense thickness and tangle of foliage is boldly carved by the opening made for the trail. Freely walking through this green tunnel satisfies a deep desire to be outdoors and connect with nature.

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Continuing from the last post:

Over time, I've figured out how to tune into my emotions and thoughts regarding attraction. It can be a physical response (e.g. a "chill down the spine" or "raised neck hairs") and/or it can be emotional (like a nostalgic zing that takes me back decades to a happy moment, or the sight of something that slams into my head and floods my thoughts with awe).

I think I've always had those sort of responses to things that I've observed while out photographing. The difference now has been how conscious I am of those responses and how well I tune into them. It started out, years ago, with responses like "oh, that's cool!" and developed into deeper and more thoughtful responses, like "oh, that's cool! I like the feeling of being immersed in a green sea of foliage".

That next thought, the one that goes deeper, is much more meaningful. Tuning into that has allowed me to bring it to conscious thought and then act upon it, i.e. use that as a basis for the photograph. The resulting photo is about that particular thought and therefore becomes more meaningful to me.

Whether or not that thought is communicated to a viewer other than myself depends on how well I pulled off the photo :-) and that is a whole other discussion.


Today's snake was very cool and calm and allowed me to get pretty close.

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AR 4 - Scenes of the Forest

The woods are messy and seemingly chaotic. They are thick with undergrowth, vines, and a general tangle that's hard to comprehend sometimes. Small openings and pockets offer views inside the thicks, and often light makes its way through in splotches to further "messy-up" the scene.

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Continuing from the last post:

I'm attracted to the woods (or "brush" as we called it where I grew up in south Texas) where I walk, but it's a difficult subject due to the visual clutter. I pass by many scenes during each walk that grab my attention, yet I often fail to capture those scenes in a meaningful way.

Getting back to the subject of attraction, how do we identify what attracts us? What is the cause that results in us stopping to take a photo?

Generally speaking, if you take the subject-specific part (i.e. what type of subjects are of interest to us) out, then what exactly happens during the process of attraction (i.e. when you're immersed in, or in the vicinity of, a particular subject of interest, how do you go about identifying what to shoot)?

I remember when I first became interested in photography. I enjoyed landscape photography, as my general subject of interest, but the photos I made did not reflect my enthusiasm or capture the emotion that I felt while out in the field.

Years later, after thinking about the process and studying it intensely, I became aware that a lot of it has to do with how I was attracted to something and how I responded to it. What I had been doing was basically responding as an after-thought and putting very little conscious thought into what I was shooting.

Basically, it was a crude process of thinking, "oh, that's cool!", and then snapping a quick photo a bit later to capture that initial enthusiasm. To be continued....


I'm not sure what kind of snake this is, but it was a lot more colorful than the usual water moccasin (cotton-mouth) that I encounter along the trail.

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AR 3 - Buttercups and Honeysuckle

The next four posts are catch-ups to this photo project. I've not had a chance to make these blog entries in a timely manner.

In late April, the honeysuckle vines exploded with flowers and fragrance. The smell was intense; I could smell it from the parking lot across the highway. The photo features a buttercup with honeysuckle blooms in the background.

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My thoughts during the past several walks have been focused on the photographic process that involves attraction. Specifically, what causes us to be attracted to a subject to the point where it results in a photo?

This is just a small part of the whole photographic process, but it's an important one. I suppose that it's very different for each photographer, and our level of consciousness of the process varies.

I also want to talk about the process of attraction because it is one of the main reasons of this whole photo-walk/project thing that I've started. I hope to develop it and become better at finding interesting subjects.

We pass up photographic opportunities all the time. The great photos we miss most likely outnumber the few good photos that we've managed to make.

I'll cut this discussion short and continue it in the next few posts.


Here's the obligatory snake photo for this particular photo-walk :-)

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Friday, May 14, 2010

Night/Star + Landscape Article

For quite a while now, I've been working on a detailed article on my night photography. I've finished the first draft, and you can download it here:

The article is based on my experiences and covers shooting conditions, locations, gear, and post processing. I hope to update this as time goes on and I gain more experience with this type of photography.

click to read article

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Grass Snake!

I've been way too busy at work recently with an emergency. I managed to take four photo-walks since the last AR posting, but I've not had the time to edit and post any of the photos. Stay tuned...

In the meantime, here's a little grass snake I encountered while shooting wildflowers last month in Bear Creek Park.

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Been busy...

I've been really busy at work lately. What you see below is a really large flange.

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I had to be on hand to witness and somewhat monitor the fabrication of a few things. Playing field engineer is tiring and sometimes difficult. 12 to 15 hour days will wear you out in a hurry.

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