Richard Lishner Photography: Blog en-us (C) Richard Lishner Photography (Richard Lishner Photography) Sat, 13 Apr 2024 01:55:00 GMT Sat, 13 Apr 2024 01:55:00 GMT Richard Lishner Photography: Blog 80 120 ANOTHER LAURELHURST EXPERIMENT


This week I returned to Laurelhurst Park for another round of experiments as I took out the tripod to increase my muscle memory so that i can increase my confidence in dealing with the recalcitrant "helper." It pays to do this once in awhile in order to check both your camera gear and your brain to see if anything has become rusty. Last week I was thwarted in taking any really long exposures since when I reached into my bag to take out my 10-stop filter I discovered that  couldn't get the quite exquisite packaging open. Harumph!

I returned home and with the help of some pliers and elbow grease I released the filter from its case. So I returned today to try my hands at longer exposures.  These three images will hopefully show you what you can achieve when you slow down your camera so much that a passerby might wonder what the hell you are doing. If you in fact slow it down enough then that person will not appear in the photo even if he walks right in front of your camera. These experiments can be fun but you must give up any hope of rushing anything.

Dealing with the tripod is absolutely necessary since we are taking exposures that last multiple seconds instead of fractions of a second that we are used to. No human being can hold a camera still even for "one Mississippi"; properly executed, with the right filters, a tripod can take a shot so long that you are tempted to bring a book along while you wait. A ten-stop filter blocks so much light from reaching your lens that you will only achieve a similar "correct" exposure if you increase your exposure times by ten stops or so. Each "stop" is letting in twice as much light, so you are compensating  for the filter by increasing your exposure time by somewhere around 1000 times. The filter is so dark that once you put  it on you can no longer see anything in your viewfinder - you must lock in your composition, determine a "correct" exposure, then put on the filter and blindly increase your exposure time the equivalent of 10 stops. Believe me, a ten second exposure seems just short of an eternity. Once the camera finally "clicks" you can then see what you have wrought, which does not look much like the reality around you. This is a real Goldilocks procedure, since you really do not know what you are going to get. It's just a matter of seeing what happened and speeding up or down a little and waiting another very long time again.

We are going to this trouble because we are trying to make images that reveal something beyond what is available to our own eyes at the scene. Just like a  camera equipped with a strobe flash can "stop" a speeding bullet, with our tripod and filter we are slowing down time so that the scene appears differently than it does in real life. This in no way ensures a good image, but it can open our eyes to viewing a scene in a different way. This works exceeding well when we can combine stationary objects with parts of a scene that are moving in front of our camera. The moving objects are "smoothed out" because our exposures were long enough to miss the movement. This is the key to making waterfalls appear silky, or even removing ripples in a pond like the one at Laurelhurst.


I've tried to explain all of this, but it might easier to just show you what happens. The first image was of a tranquil scene at Laurelhurst Pond. After some post-processing, I achieved a pleasant image that is sharp and properly exposed. Notice the sharp leaves and the ripples in the pond that some might say "ruin" the mirror image of the trees in the water. I might not agree, and you don't have to either. The first image was captured in 1/60th of a second, which of course a human being cannot really understand since it is much faster than we can snap our fingers. Think of the difference between Gold and Silver at the Olympics. The second image  was taken with a ten-second exposure. After some more post-processing, the exposure is roughly the same, but the image is completely different, and the mood has certainly shifted. We don't quite know what we are looking at even though the tripod has not moved from the spot in front of my body. The water is completely still - it could be a sheet of glass. But the wind - there was no wind - has reduced the sharpness of the trees enough so that we seem to be looking at a dream of Laurelhurst Park instead of the reality in front of the camera.

                                               ANOTHER DREAM OF A FRIDAY IN THE PARK

Here is another example. This exposure lasted 15 seconds, but there was a little less of a breeze, so that the vegetation appears acceptably sharp. Yet the water and the mirror images are very different than what we expect to find when we look above the waterline. We seem to be painting a scene as opposed to capturing a snapshot. Once again we can see how far from reality the statement that "the camera doesn't lie" can be from the truth of the matter. Our images are our interpretation of the subject at hand, and some of the techniques we can use can remove our imagery from "reality" while revealing an inner truth that our mind saw even if our camera didn't. I encourage you to expand your horizons beyond what is plainly in front of your face.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Sat, 13 Apr 2024 01:55:27 GMT

This week I returned to Laurelhurst Park in Southeast Portland to enjoy a few hours on a nice Spring day and to have fun experimenting with my camera. It's been a while since I went out deliberately to try techniques that went beyond simply trying to make the best images I could in a particular situation. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but trying out new techniques (at least new to me) can stretch your photographic muscles in new ways, even if you find that they really are not your cup of tea.

                INITIAL SNAPSHOT

I also wanted to crack out my tripod, just to see if I or it had lost its way since I had not used it in months. A tripod is the bane of every photographer who has ever used one. It is also the one tool that I guarantee will improve your photography more than any other I can recommend. A tripod will allow you to properly expose a photograph under conditions that will not allow photography at all without it. All of the "rules" we learn about shooting in less than optimum conditions, ie. almost all of the time, are thrown out the window once your recalcitrant servant is holding your camera firmly in place. While there are certainly times where a tripod is not necessary, not allowed, or just a hindrance, I believe that in almost every circumstance your image would have benefited if you had just had the patience to bring that blasted tripod along. I know that my most arresting images, the ones where viewers feel that I must have had access to a camera that I have never used and never could afford, were simply taken on a tripod. It's that important. But you must take it out, and optimally you should do so more often than not, since muscle memory goes a long way in recalling ways of dealing with the blasted thing.

Now of course your tripod doesn't have anything to do with your compositional choices. That is why I recommend that you walk around a bit before you unpack it, so you can explore possibilities before it completely slows you down. This first image is an example of that, whatever you might think of it. I was intrigued by the branches over the water, and the contrast within the pond. It would have taken me ten minutes to unpack the tripod and set it up. This shot, taken at 1/90th of a second, was clearly within my ability to hand-hold the camera, and any exposure problems were inherent in the range of light within the image itself. I feel that the improvements in the processed image are clearly justified - white balance adjustments, lowering overall exposure to bring out the colors, the usual sharpening - and bring out what originally made me pick up the camera. I used a linear gradient to further reduce the brightness of the sky, a frequent problem in woodland scenes, even if you are shooting in the artificial woodland of a park. The result is a much richer scene, from the blacker branches to the vegetation. Notice the dogwood on the right, which you can now actually see. We'll be focusing more on that tree in a moment.

                                      SLOWER THAN NORMAL

While observers might have wondered what the hell I was doing shooting overhanging tree branches, they certainly began to give up on my interest in the water itself. Of course they weren't focusing on the reflections in the water like I was, and didn't realize that I was perfectly willing to crop away most of the scene that I it looked like I was shooting. Now the tripod came to the fore. This image is a small portion of the shot, which was shot at f27 and 1/8th of a second, settings which I would normally avoid like the plague. I wanted to restrict the light coming into the camera so that I could reduce the ripples in the water, leaving me with a slow speed that I could never realistically hand hold. Experiments like this are exercises in improvisation, since you almost can never tell what you are actually getting on site. All you can be assured of is that the scene you are viewing  is divorced in some way from what is appearing on your camera's screen, and that it's probably worth experimenting further.

                                      REALLY SLOWING DOWN

So I slowed down the shutter speed even further, by putting on my polarizer filter that loses 2-3 stops no matter how much I actually "polarize" the scene. Think of it as sunglasses for your camera, and you can see that in addition to cutting down on the glare, it reduces light levels. Now you can see that if you really want to smooth the water, it really helps to shoot a 1 1/2 second exposure, which feels like eternity, and is only possible on a tripod. In order to reduce the possibility of camera shake of any kind, I set my camera for a 2 second delay before it took the shot. Eternity squared. I then took out my electronic shutter release, which I couldn't believe still worked, and took the exposure without touching the camera at all. You still don't have to like the results, but rest assured that without the tripod this image would not exist at all.

                                              WHAT MY CAMERA SAW

Images do not have to look "weird" to benefit from the tripod. My eye was caught by the beautiful contrast of the dogwood and the background greenery across the pond. In order to keep this contrast, I had to shoot this at 1/20th of a second, way slower than n=my dumb camera wanted to, and a lot slower than I could comfortably hold myself. A "correct" exposure would raise the light levels enough to make you wonder why you took the shot in first place.

                                              WHAT I SAW

A little post-processing  helped of course. I lowered the black point to make the darker areas darker, and then raised the shadows to reveal some detail below the tree to give its base some context. I used a linear gradient to darken the sky a little further, and then put a "spotlight" on our tree by using a circular gradient to raise the exposure of the tree without affecting the rest of the image. I believe that my moves improved the image without moving it into "unrealistic" territory. Feel free to disagree.


Now we have moved left and recorded what can only be called a pretty boring image. It's not even in focus, since yours truly forgot to return to auto focus after I created a panorama that you'll see in a moment. It should be immediately deleted, but I took it as an opportunity to experiment. I tried ICM (intentional camera movement) to really put it out of focus. This is another experiment that tries to create an abstract image out of nothing by intentionally moving the camera during the exposure, usually along an axis suggested by the actual scene. It pays to lengthen the shutter speed beyond what you might used normally since you don't really care about sharpness anyway. Of course this is very experimental.


Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, of course, but at least this isn't boring. Does its abstract quality reveal any deeper truth about a stand of Fir trees in Laurelhurst Park? Hell if I know, but you might like the image.


This is another image that didn't require the tripod, but did require a willingness to experiment while shooting without the instant gratification that usually can occur when we use our digital cameras. I am still looking across the pond, but I am shooting multiple shots that I will let the computer combine when I get back home. You must practice this technique in order to have any chance of success. You orient your camera in the opposite direction of the direction you are shooting, since the stitching software will reveal slight deviations from an exactly level movement across the scene, tripod or not. You must also decide on one focus point and then move to manual focus, so that the camera is not trying to refocus as you take multiple shots. Ditto with exposure - look around for the brightest part of the prospective scene, expose for that so you are not blowing out the highlights, and lock in the exposure to let everything else fall where it may. Once again, you must not let your stupid camera try to adjust the exposure as you move across a scene which has multiple different light levels. I have found that modest goal lead to better results. This image is a successful combination of seven different shots across the scene, overlapping by about 1/3 each time I moved the camera. While it is a "panorama" in the sense that it is much wider than what my camera lens is capable of taking, the resultant image is still in a standard 3:2 image ratio. A standard wide angle lens, after setting me back a couple of thousand dollars, would have included way too much sky and pond. I like the results I can achieve using this technique even though I know that I won't know what I have actually achieved until I have a cup of coffee while my computer thinks about what the hell I want it to do. Once again, you either like it or not, but I know that I have expanded what I can do with my camera whether you are aware of it or not. Another benefit is that the seven-shot combination contains so many pixels that more detail is present whether or not I enlarge it beyond what your walls or pocketbook can afford.

                                                                  SPRING BRANCHES AND REFLECTIONS

In the end I tried one last reflection shot. The tripod allowed me to shoot at 1/10th of a second, to reduce but not eliminate the ripples in the water. This contrasted the shaky dark reflections of the leaves with the exacting detail of the branches above. I lowered the saturation of the blues of the lake while subtly increasing the greens to achieve the balance I liked without hopefully exceeding your capacity to believe in the image.

I hope you have enjoyed another foray into Laurelhurst Park. A good travel tripod will set you back 1-200 dollars. You don't want anything bigger in this day and age since you must be able to put it in your luggage in any case. And you can experiment with intentional camera movement or panoramas, even if you only use your iPhone. I wish you luck with any experiments that you might try, even though you might not really be aware of what you have done until you get back home. Just remember that you never knew your results back in the days of film, and adjust your expectations accordingly.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 05 Apr 2024 20:44:41 GMT
THREE FROM SPRING, 2010                                                                   AN INTERPRETATION OF STEEL BRIDGE SPRING, 2010, IN 2024

This morning I looked back on three short walks I took in the Spring. As opposed to last week, when I cruised through Laurelhurst Park, I took these walks fourteen years ago, in the Spring of 2010. Through the two miracles that pixels never seem to die, and that I haven't managed to lose these files over the years, I was able to spend just a few minutes in order to show you how easy it is resurrect and improve your old photos.

                                                                  STEEL BRIDGE SPRING, 2010

I snapped this view of the Japanese Memorial Garden and the Steel Bridge as our Cherry Trees blossomed out many Springs ago. Last week at the Market repeated this scene as thousands came to view the spectacle. Unfortunately the usual Spring rains will have probably stripped most of the blossoms by this weekend. This image was lost in the archives not through any faults of its own - it had just lost out to "better" images over the years. There is nothing really wrong with the image; it took just a few moves to improve it in my mind - some of which can be characterized as even more anal than usual. I used the crop tool to move the left edge in just enough to remove that thin sliver of rock that was bothering me. I then straightened out the image a whole .02 degrees, which is of course ridiculous. Exposure and saturation modifications darkened the overall exposure while highlighting the trees, which were the whole point. The bridge was brought back to its true "colors" by lowering the black point to achieve true Steel Bridge black. There was nothing to gain in the sky, since it was as uniformly gray as usual. But the overall impression of the "after" image seems to justify my stopping to capture it more than a decade ago.

                                                                  HOORAY FOR HOLLYWOOD

Later that Spring I took a short walk in Portland's Hollywood District, which is delineated by the Hollywood Theater, a landmark movie palace whose architectural exuberance has few rivals in town. This image was again overshadowed by my efforts to include the iconic neon sign that's out of the picture, stage left. But I did respond to the overwhelming terra cotta carvings on this false facade above the marquee, which seem to extol an historic period that existed only in the architect's imagination. The overall effect can only be characterized as somewhat Oriental. The orange and green garlands of vegetation and the numerous decorated vase-like parapets are only rivaled by the row of nymphs who seem to have suddenly realized they had forgotten their blouses.

                                                                  ARCHITECTS ON SOME KIND OF DRUG

There was not much left to do here beyond the usual and necessary sharpening required by all digital captures. I opened up the shadows just a bit to reveal just a little detail in the overhangs, and very subtly increased the saturation of the greens and oranges of the decorations. I deepened the blue of the sky to what most people who aren't Portlander's might reasonably expect on such a nice day. I tried to "expand the canvas" to the right so as to include that last bit of cornice which was lost those many years ago, but my current expertise in Photoshop was found wanting; such an improvement awaits further education. I tried converting to black and white, but the subtle polychromy of the subject just revealed a bland gray rendition without much more detail, so I left it alone.


I walked past this lovingly preserved old truck in the Spring of 2010. Hopefully it still exists in someone's garage. The following variants show what you can quickly achieve on the computer years after the fact - and they are just scratching the surface on the different takes you can make of an old subject.

                                      CANDY APPLE RED

Without much ado I quickly focused on the subject at hand and immediately reached for my trusty 1:1 crop. Fortunately I just managed to get the important stuff, the vents and the "Custom" insignia, into the square crop. You might be forgiven for thinking that it's too crowded, but opening up the frame would again require that I expand the canvas and create some more pixels. Someday. More important was to lower the exposure enough to bring back the colors. In cases like this that will really enhance the color, since the actual colors are far too complex to saturate them individually. Lowering the black point also helped to delineate the joint in the body work at the hood. I will leave it to the next guy to go to the trouble of cloning out the pollen above the fender - let's get real!

                                      BLACK AND WHITE VERSION

I couldn't resist trying a black and white conversion, even though the image seemed to be all about color. I was pleased that the image now seemed even richer since I could further lower the black point without making everything too saturated. Black and white even got rid of the pollen! And before you declare the black and white "unrealistic", how do you know that the truck wasn't painted a rich black in the first place?

It's great to take a walk in the Springtime, even if the current weather is not cooperating. I encourage you all to take these walks back into your archives to see what you can find there.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 29 Mar 2024 19:00:00 GMT

                                                                  A WALK IN THE PARK, YESTERDAY OR ONE HUNDRED YEARS AGO.

This week I would like to take you on a short tour of Laurelhurst Park in Southeast Portland. The park is an outstanding example of the City Beautiful Movement which was part of what American Historians call the Progressive Era at the turn of the Twentieth Century. While the Progressive Movement was very complex, and included distasteful aspects like racism and concerns about dreaded socialism, it's very hard to be against parks. These were designed to give the teeming cities places to breathe, and to allow most of society to get a taste of Nature as a way of humanizing the new urban America. Laurelhurst Park was designed as the centerpiece of a new neighborhood on Portland's Eastside; imagine today's developers devoting such an oasis as a neighborhood amenity. It is a link to the most famous parks of New York, Central Park and Prospect Park, since it was designed by the successive firm of the Olmstead Brothers. Portland Parks Superintendent Emanuel Tillman Misch enlarged a spring-fed pond into a three acre lake for ducks., and added  over 250 trees to the 100 Conifers already on the site. After one hundred years the thirty acre parkis a tribute to the intelligence of city fathers who have preserved it even though they don't seem to have any chance of duplicating the energy and political will to follow thiws obvious model of urban renewal. The park is a short ten-minute drive from my house, and I take extra enjoyment on every visit since Jews were originally excluded from the neighborhood.

Now the beauty of the idea of an urban park is that while I will never be able to afford a house in Laurelhurst, I get to enjoy the park as often as I like. And since my taxes keep it in shape, I'd have to be out of mind to not take advantage of a world-class park. During the Pandemic, Laurelhurst Park was one of the few places beyond Fran's garden where we could venture out in the world. In this first week of Spring I tried to get some exercise there, while I also exercised my photographic muscles as well. These half-dozen images are about a third of my efforts yesterday. While none are award winners, and aren't even my best images of the park, they aren't half-bad, and will hopefully show you a little of the beauty of the park.

                                                                  LAURELHURST IN BLACK AND WHITE

This first image is an example of the typical experience of walking through the park. It's possible to walk multiple miles through the park on concentric paths through the artificial woods past fields, a lake, sculptures, and a century of trees. The lamp posts that light these paths are original. The dappled light allows for a play of light and shadow that works as well in black and white as in color. I find that I often find the monochrome treatment superior in mood even when Spring's colors might have originally caused me to pick up my camera.

                                                                  JUST ANOTHER BUNCH OF REALLY BIG TREES

This is another example of the kinds of huge trees that you can find in the park. The fact that Portlander's aren't even impressed by such giants is an indication how extraordinary an environment that the park simulates.

                                                                  LIGHT AND SHADOW

Black and white emphasizes detail over color and allows me to manipulate contrast to bring out the shadows and textures far beyond what would appear realistic in color.

                                                                  COLOR ACROSS THE PARK


But of course it is Spring, and sometimes that burst of color is what catches my eye across to the path beyond.

                                      I'M READY FOR MY CLOSE-UP, MR ZIEGFELD.

Then you come across what might be termed a specimen tree that demands attention on its own. This same tree might recede into the background within a few weeks, but right now it is the star of its neighborhood. It works just as well, if a bit differently, if we ignore the color that forced us to look.

                                       A DIFFERENT KIND OF CONTRAST

As usual, the exposure manipulation allowed in black and white allows me to bring up both the whites and the shadows to achieve more detail. You can decide for yourself if the increased contrast makes up for the loss of the original color contrast.

                                                                  BLOSSOMS AGAINST TREES

Here I tried to set off the new blossoms against the trees that surround them. You can often increase this contrast through different strategies to de-emphasize the background. Here I both de-saturated the blues of the sky and applied a pretty strong vignette that lowers the exposure of the borders of the image so that the central subject pops out even more. I'd like to think that the vertical crop relates to my love of Japanese screens that ignore most rules of Western perspective in favor of close-up details.

                                      MAGNOLIA DETAIL

One of the stars of Early Spring is the Magnolia trees, and here is a detail of the blooms on one section of a tree. In massaging a snapshot like this, I first crop to my choice of subject, then increase the blacks to allow for more detail. Lowering the overall exposure while raising the white point really brings out the colors.

                                       MAGNOLIAS BEFORE COLOR TV

Or you can again be yourself and just ignore the color all together. There are more shades of gray here than in the color version, and the background is now almost totally black. Of course most viewers will really miss the color.

I hope that you have enjoyed this brief walk through Laurelhurst Park. I think that it shows how much photographic fun is available at a simple walk in the park. I might just take another stroll there this afternoon.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 22 Mar 2024 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to discuss the idea of one path you might pursue in approaching an old photo that you discover in your archives. This is not the only path by any means, and I will once again caution you that anyone, including me, who suggests that there is "the way" to post-process your photos is either lying or just ignorant. I only suggest through three examples that this method frequently works for me, until it doesn't. The "Goldilocks" method of trying something you have not really explored, testing it, and then probably dialing it back a little, works for a lot of things in life beyond post-processing your photos.

I find that there are four stages to this process. The first, and probably most important one, is to look through your archives in search of an image that deserves a second chance. Forget about discovering something that will achieve fame and glory. After all, why would you miss such a golden nugget in the first place? Chances are that you did pick the "best" shots from that particular day years ago, but maybe, just maybe, you missed something that might be worthy of your attention. The most important part of that statement is the unspoken "today." You are looking at something years after the fact. Why wouldn't you see something that you didn't see years ago - haven't you changed since then?

So you don't look for gold, but you ignore most of the lead as well. Just admit it when you see something that might respond to your hard-earned post-processing skills. Have enough faith that if something caught your eye, it probably has a lot of room for improvement. Maybe ignoring the fact that it was you who made the original capture might help - you are just looking through a pile of "historic" photos of uncertain lineage, and there is one that caught your eye. All it takes is to acknowledge why your eye was caught, and to run with it.


My first move is to usually consult the crop tool. Frequently I find that the thing that caught my eye is lost within a frame that is just too big. This seascape is distinguished by the glow of a sun on the water, even though we don't see the sun at all. A lot of the sky, and at the same time , a lot of the silhouetted beach grass, contributes nothing extra to the image. My thought is that while I like the dark sky, and the sea grass silhouette, the image might benefit from a wider perspective. I think that the 2:1 panoramic frame focuses the attention on the central glow while it simultaneously gives it room to breathe.

I run through my usual strategies of exposure modifications, which include adding contrast by lowering blacks and raising whites, before I actually modify the exposure as a whole. Lightroom allows many ways to subdivide the image, and in this case I raised the exposure in the sky while lowering it in the water, which is actually the opposite of what I might normally do - but this reveals a lot of detail in both areas. The beach grass silhouette is reinforced by increasing the black point in that area.

What is interesting is that these changes have actually brought much more color back into what was a pretty monochromatic image. I usually try to see if what originally caught my eye in an image might benefit from a black and white conversion. While I liked the additional details, and the panoramic crop, I wondered if the image might look better without the distractions of color.

                DRAMA WITH DETAIL

This monochromatic version eliminates the color casts, adds even more detail in the sky, and brings the glow back to the sea while allowing for more detail in the surf - it is no longer blown out. I believe that these changes have lead to more realistic yet still mysterious image that warrants a closer look.


While this is a wildly different subject, I pursued a similar editing strategy in looking at the very top of Mt. Hood. I was intrigued by the wisps of wind-driven snow and the contrast between the rock and the glaciers. While I do not think the modifications have been as dramatic as the seascape, I still think that they have led to a more dramatic image. Which is not to say that you have to agree, or that on another day I might actually like the original crop or the color version better. There is no one right answer.

                MOUNTAIN TOP DREAMS

I think that the panorama focuses your attention on the mountaintop while still giving it room to breathe. More importantly, white balance changes and exposure modifications have brought out "truer" colors in both the snow and the rocks, while the sky is still an overwhelming blue. I think you can see why our intelligent but stupid cameras can be fooled by these alpine conditions. I lowered the blacks and raised the shadows on the rocks, which made them come alive.


This is why I love black and white. It reveals detail, while it ignores reality. There is even more detail in the rocks without worrying if they are the right shade of brown. We know the sky is not black, but the blue looked almost as unreal as the black. We can make even darker here - after all, we know the sky is not black, so why can't it be blacker? Most of all, how does the lack of color make you feel? I don't know about you, but his rendition lowers my temperature way below zero. It just looks way cooler and bleaker and I am much more comfortable in my study while I am looking at this version.

                                                                  WHERE WAS I? WHAT WAS THIS? I HAVEN'T A CLUE

Finally we have here an image that is almost totally graphic and already separated from reality to a very large degree. At first I didn't know what the hell it was, and I took the photograph! Now I could have ignored it as I have done for the last dozen years, but I was intrigued, because I very rarely forget why, and even if, I took a photo. Photography is my moment of zen, so I was baffled by this image. I set to work on it as if it was an out-of-body experience - what was this totem trying to tell me?

                                      POSITIVELY AGLOW

What ever it was, there was too much sky. So even though I knew that there was no future coaster here, I went for the 1:1 crop, straightened the image by looking at the flashing, which I had no idea was actually straight, and finally  carefully and anally made sure that the lower flashing hit the corner of the frame just so. Even though I still had no idea of what I was looking at, Lightroom's new "Texture" tool really brought out the texture of what I concluded was stucco. I adjusted the exposure of the sky and that mysterious cap so that it could glow a little more at the top.

                                      PORTLANDIA TOTEM, IN ENIGMATIC BLACK AND WHITE

I think you know what happened next. Often I investigate black and white because the real world has not supplied much color, or even more arbitrarily, I just don't like the colors in the image. Who says I can't change them or get rid of them as I see fit? The black and white version also allows for even more detail (grit) to be exposed, and for the relationship of colors to be changed now that they are just different tones of gray. My image, no matter what it was about, was certainly not a pretty pucky shade of tan and a line of green flashing. Black and white allows me to add some detail to cinder block wall in the foreground, and to lighten it up in relation to the formerly tan chimney to balance the parts of the image that really don't matter. And the top of the totem stands out even more from the darker sky. While you can certainly question my choice of subject here - is there a subject at all? - I find the result a very mysterious totem from some forgotten religion of "Darkest Portlandia." And I still don't know what this really is, and would be surprised if Lightroom's new AI selection tool could find the subject better than I can.

I hope you have found my quest for meaning in three old photos at least amusing if not enlightening. I encourage you to explore your own hidden mysteries that can be found lurking in you photo archives.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 15 Mar 2024 19:00:00 GMT

This week I've got another few images to show you that I have saved from the obscure reaches of my archives. But my real subject is the lengths I go through each week to prepare my very temporary gallery at Saturday Market, where I attempt to actually sell the fruits of my photographic labor. The Market opened last week, and even though I was smart enough not to go sit there in the rain, I probably will succumb to the pull of the Market this week. The Market is fifty years old this year, and even though I am a "raw rookie" in my fifteenth year, I still participate in a craft market that is pretty much unique in this country. Its existence has basically allowed me to be an artist, something which I could only dream of more than a decade ago. I make more money selling my art than probably 90% of artists in the country, even though I have never come close to "making a living." Fran's understanding and support are the real reason any of this has been possible.


Saturday Market vendors are notorious for our never ending complaining. The Market is a lot like democracy - the worst form of government except for all of the others. Trying to sell art at the Market is also a never-ending struggle, except that it is clearly the best way to sell art that I have ever been able to come close to figuring out. While the web is continually about to "explode", the only people who make money are the very early adopters and the web itself. One photographer that I respect has a theory that the web itself is designed to reduce any art on any platform to a value of zero - it's just a function of time. Even though my website is now eminently "respectable", it is really only a place to prove that I have actually have produced some art - as a market, it has almost no value whatsoever. It's real "raison d'etre" is to provide a place to post these essays for the past three years. As for the gallery system, I finally realized long ago that even if I became a "real artist" with gallery shows, there was almost no chance to make real money in that environment either. Every time I have contemplated opening my own brick and mortar gallery, other gallery owners have reacted by admitting the reality that I would be much more "legitimate" but that  I would make no more money than if I stayed at the Market.

                                                                  WHAT IF THIS NONSENSE IS ALL THAT REMAINS WHEN WE'RE GONE?

So I have, and I have run a "successful" gallery at the market for almost fifteen years. The only trouble is that my gallery's success is due to taking advantage of the artist (me) whose art is on exhibit. As for the minimum wage worker (me) who sits there all day, well, if I made minimum wage the gallery would go out of business. An interesting economic dilemma.

So I thought I would briefly discuss what goes into creating my little gallery under the Burnside Bridge. A few years ago my wife walked by one of the junk shops in our neighborhood and remarked that she couldn't believe that they had to bring everything back into the store at the end of the day. I looked at her in horror while I wondered what she thought I did every week. It is a similar feeling that I get when yet another customer wonders in June if this was the first week the Market has been open, three months into the season. Or when other customers wonder out loud if the Market pays for and erects our booths each week. In my dreams.


Every Saturday at 6:45 in the morning I arrive at my bare 10 x 10 piece of concrete under the bridge. For the next three hours I will create something that actually looks like an art gallery - as long as you ignore the idea of real walls, floors, heat, or a front door to lock. Each vendor endeavors to create an environment that will encourage the public to enjoy our art and fork over some money to take it home. There are very different levels of elaboration, and we all "suggest" ways to enhance these little galleries. After resisting entreaties to spend even more time and money on my booth, I created the somewhat bitter acronym "IAFT" (It's a Fucking Tent!)  to try to shut up my fellow vendors. In any case the average booth ends up costing several thousand dollars after you add up the tent, the walls, the tables, and all the other stuff that tries to hide the fact that it is just a tent under the bridge.

Of course you have to fill that tent with some art to sell. No matter how you figure it, that art usually represents another few thousand dollars investment, which doesn't include all of the art in your basement that you have given up trying to sell. I probably could fill another two booths with all of the art that I have created that has not found a home beyond my own. I have been struggling for over ten years with the mantra of "bring less, sell more" without much success, since the public want to see an art gallery with evidence that you are creative and successful before they will even consider buying something from you. People have so little faith in their own taste that they will not buy from a new vendor until they have seen them for a few years and figure that everyone else has bought enough to keep them in business. Most vendors, and especially photographers and potters, soon realize that their stuff has to be "perfect", it is very fragile, and that you can have a great day at the Market and bring back home almost all of the stuff that you came with. And god forbid that you leave something at home, because that's the first thing that a customer will request. At the end of the day, the only vendors who are the last to pack up are usually the potters and the photographers.

                                                                  THE TANNER SPRINGS SCULPTURE ON THE STREET, THROWING SOME SHADE

It took working in a Hardware store for a few years for me to realize that all of the stuff we use to outfit our booths has a real purpose in the world besides allowing me to create an art gallery out of nothing each week. When I go to the Market for the first time this year I fully expect to stare at half of this stuff and wonder just what it is for. I am not alone in realizing that the distance from a genius to a doofus is very short indeed. The instant you congratulate yourself for coming up with a brilliant new way to make your life easier is only a few seconds before you wonder why in the hell it took years for you to finally wise up. Let's just say that some of the stuff we use to set up our booths is really used by carpenters, plumbers, electricians and kidnappers - and is not usually available in arts supply stores.

My theory of inflation is that we each have our own personal inflation index. I do not care if McDonald's raises their prices; you certainly shouldn't care if the small masonite panels that I use for my coasters have quadrupled in price over the last few years. As a photographer, what is actually wonderful is that the market for our stuff has gotten so narrow and expensive that the few manufacturers left almost know that the market will probably not bear that many more price increases before we all just hang it up. Of course that assumes that you have enough brains to realize that your sixteen-year-old camera is much more than adequate; the professional photographers leave the latest and greatest to the hobbyists once we realize that we are actually talented enough to stop worrying about the gear. We have enough to worry about , like the printer that I'm starring at that cost $1200 dollars, and who cares, since each color ink cartridge (there are twelve) costs sixty dollars apiece. In fact, since my ink cartridges are bigger than yours (!) the price I pay for ink has gone down to merely domestic champagne. As near as I can figure, and why should you care, it costs me .015 cents per square inch for the ink on a photo print. This is the razor blade pricing model par excellence, since I have spent multiple thousands of dollars on ink since I purchased my current printer years ago. I tried to explain to the Epson guy that he was forgoing something like $5000 dollars in ink over a few years when he refused to meet Canon's price for a replacement printer, but what do I know? These printers are near miracles until they decide to not work on a random Tuesday, and waste hundreds of dollars in ink before they end their job action.

                                                                  SOMETIMES I AM JUST SO AMUSED THAT I REALLY DON'T CARE IF YOU OR I REALLY UNDERSTAND                                         WHAT'S GOING ON - I JUST WANT YOU TO NOTICE THESE MAGICAL MOMENTS TOO

Most of the other supplies I buy suffers from fact that I know that almost all of my customers that are not photographers will never even begin to see the difference between mere expensive papers and ridiculously expensive papers, and my prices will never justify these costs. What's funny is that even Pre-Covid, the panoply of photo papers at the only real photography store left in Portland included only a few that my customers could appreciate and afford. I would stare at the packages and realize that the "small" price differential was really more than four times since the more expensive papers came in packages with half the sheets, and were printable on only one side. Thus my pile of sheets that are available for coasters once the damn printer messes up the print the first time would be only good for the trash bin. While I know that the more expensive papers will show more detail in my deepest blacks, I also know that you won't see it and certainly wouldn't accept the increased cost of my prints.

And don't get me started on frames. After many years I have almost abandoned the idea of selling a beautiful print in a beautiful frame. if you talk about a terrible economic position for an artist, then framing your work is the worst thing you can get into. Customers "know" that we are ripping them off, when in fact we are literally giving the frames away. it can drive you to utter frustration, and that's before the damn frame breaks before it even gets sold. The worst sound in the Market is the sound of breaking glass - we all look around in horror to make sure it's not one of our pieces, and then we feel thankful and guilty the rest of the day when thank God that it wasn't.

You know what's the difference between a Saturday Market vendor and a whining dog? The whining dog eventually stops. Enough for today. I hope you have enjoyed these images amid my gripes, and that maybe you can have gotten an inkling of how much we enjoy showing our work each weekend, despite the problems I've only begun to outline. And lo and behold, when I leave the empty concrete slab under the bridge, maybe another group of people have some of my art to exhibit in their homes, and that makes me feel very good, if not rich.










(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 08 Mar 2024 20:00:00 GMT

                                                                  THE FLATIRON AS PART OF NEW YORK

This week I would like to return to the topic of what a photographer can do when they are confronted by a subject that has been seared into their brain long before they have ever encountered it in real life. In our visual age, we all have images in our brains that we have never actually seen. Most of these images are not historical, or scientific, but are simply famous places that we have never visited. The visual image is divorced from the experience in ways that our parents, much less our ancestors, could never have imagined. We now "know" what something looks like because these images are instantly available - and this ubiquitous nature of a particular image can sometimes make it very difficult for a photographer to find anything new to say when they actually see it for the first time.

One of these subjects is the Flatiron Building in New York City. You do not have to be an architect to be very familiar with this building. It has loomed far above the streets of its neighborhood in Manhattan for so long that the neighborhood has changed so much that one of the only things that is constant is the building itself. The real estate world finally noticed and now the neighborhood is known as the Flatiron District. The building is now 120 years old, and at twenty-two stories, was once one of the tallest buildings in the world. Even though it is now dwarfed by contemporary structures, it is the very embodiment of a "skyscraper", especially in the New York context. It was designed by Daniel Burnham, who was most famous for his urban designs in Chicago. Here in some ways he brought the prototypical Chicago skyscraper to the streets of New York, complete with a the tripartite base, shaft and top, and a variation of the usual paired large windows surrounded by muscular, but now decorative terra cotta "stone."

                                                                  NOW WE'RE IN NEW YORK - BUT WHEN?

The building caught the public's attention because not only was it the largest building that most had ever seen, but that it was in itself really a piece of urban design. Located at one of the disruptive junctions that Broadway makes with the regular street grid of Manhattan, the shape of the building was so unusual that viewers likened it to the similar shape they knew from their daily chores - the triangular cast-iron flat iron that at least the women used to iron the household clothes.

Men being men, they were attracted to the building because it created its own micro climate. In an era where a glimpse of "stocking was somewhat shocking" men would linger at lunch hour to see if the wind currents coming down the 18-story facade would hit the ground and very subtly lift a women's skirt a few inches above the pavement. This extraordinary event led to an expression of general delight - "23 Skidoo!" - that became a common idiom. The Flatiron building is located at 23rd Street. Another interpretation would say the phrase was coined by the cops as a way of getting those same men to "move along."

The FlatIron building became such a famous subject for photographers because of its striking appearance, its historic significance as an early skyscraper, and the fact that its erection coincided with a vast expansion of the photographic medium itself. Literally every famous photographer who ever visited New York over the past hundred years has contributed to its legend as a subject. Not to mention the millions of unknown photographers like myself who has tried to contribute to the "canon." One of the best photography books that I have ever read is actually totally devoted to just this fascination with the building. The author, Peter Kreitler,  realized that pictures of just this one building in New York could illustrate a good portion of the entire history of photography as an art. The constancy of the structure stands in absolute contrast with everything else - the fashions, the transportation devices, the storefronts - that the building becomes both historical and ahistorical. At least in the New York context, it has always been there. Recently the building and the neighborhood have seen hard times, but now it is in the process of being converted from offices to forty condos. When asked if he could sell these high-priced condos, the developer said that there were probably at least forty people who wanted to live in the Flatiron Building.

                                                                                FLATIRON WITH LAMP POST

So what is the enterprising photographer to do? There are 3,987 photos of the Flatiron building available on the Shutterstock stock photo web site! I think there is the real measure of maturity in the knowledge that one should at least try, even though the chances of saying something new is next to zero. The fun is in the process, the willingness to stretch your own boundaries even if others have probably already gone way beyond your own. The more context you include the better chance that your image will be of a particular time and place - although only you might only remember that particular era of taxi. The chances of encountering a particular weather condition after a century is also exceedingly rare, and even your "FlatIron in a Blizzard" will probably not be enlivened by snorting horses in the cold. The more abstract an image you pursue might lead a viewer to wonder what he was looking at, but that historical "Flatiron Memory" will probably help you with most New Yorker's if not the the tourists.

                                                                                A LAMP POST  THAT MIGHT BE AS OLD AS THE BUILDING

These four images were among my photographic efforts on one St. Patrick's Day in 2011. They probably will not be included in any future photographic opus on the building, but after finding them in my archives today, and doing a little massaging in Lightroom, I can show them to others without questioning my artistic talents.

The first image shows the most context, but it would take a pretty anal historian to declare "obviously 2011!" What I like about the image is something I have recently observed about my profession - that the strongest buildings can quietly assert themselves as part of the context of the city itself. This image is of New York, with all of its charm energy, and chaos. Oh there's the Flatiron building, looking good at the end of the street, behaving rather well with all of its ordinary neighbors. In the context of both photographic and New York history, converting to black and white removes the image a little from its time. We are so used to seeing New York in "black and white" that it can sometimes seem more real that way than in living color.

The second image removes most of the context. The shape is the subject, and the city has been reduced to one historic lamp post that seemingly harkens back to Edison himself. I tried to emphasize the subjects height by cropping to a vertical panorama, leaving out as much sky as possible. As usual in black and white, I can increase the contrast and sharpen the image far beyond what a color rendition could handle.

                                                                  LINING UP THE FLATIRON

Now I've gotten pretty abstract. Not only is the image all about the shape of the building against the sky, but I have allowed myself to ignore everything but graphics by aligning the cornice with an image frame that is totally the product of my imagination. I have chosen to frame this historic shape in this manner in order to strengthen the graphics of a building that needs very little help in this regard. While I am certainly not the first photographer who has tried this move, it certainly says "Rich"if you have encountered many of my photographs.

                                                                  GRAPHIC FLATIRON, B&W

Black and white allows Rich to have seemingly created this image at any time in the last 120 years, if you ignore a few window air conditioners. Black and white graphics also relieves the viewer of wondering about the sunshine on what is probably a nice Spring day. The image is now almost all about that cornice racing around the block.

                                                                  FLATIRON FACADE

Finally I have gotten so abstract that most people would be forgiven if they didn't know that this was the Flatiron building at all. It could be part of a New York quiz. What I love is the subtle play of the sunlight across the terra cotta masonry. Even more subtle are the oh-so-gentle bay windows which scream "Flatiron" only if you have spent as much time staring at this building as I have. Timeless, except again but for the air conditioning units, which at least give you a hint that it was taken some time while I was alive, but you already knew that. Maybe this is another answer for how to capture such a famous building -create an image which ignores the purported "subject" almost entirely.

Pretty perverse I know, but such extraordinary problems call for desperate measures. I would encourage you to also take matters into your own hands if you want to create your own images - your art is not what everyone, or even anyone else, sees -it is your little mark on the world we all share..




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 01 Mar 2024 20:00:00 GMT

                                                                  GLASS TOWER ON THE HORIZON

Last weekend Fran and I spent a couple of days in Tacoma, Washington. We stayed in a nice neighborhood that resembled our own, if you added a part of the Puget Sound a few blocks away. We enjoyed two nice meals with some old friends. And we got to spend most of a day visiting Tacoma's Museum of Glass, which I would heartily recommend to anyone anywhere near the Pacific Northwest. It is one of the few contemporary buildings which makes me proud to have been an architect.

The Museum of Glass was built as part of an urban renewal project at the turn of the century. Tacoma, long in a blue collar shadow of Seattle, endeavored to cover up yet another ill-conceived and uncompleted highway by lining it with so many civic institutions and new hotels and apartment houses as to try to render it invisible. An entire new regional campus for the University of Washington joined about a half a dozen new museums whose collections ranged from State History to Vintage Automobiles to Art - clearly something for everyone in an effort to boost civic pride and the local economy. The Museum of Glass was the crown jewel of the entire assemblage, with its glass kiln tower an instant landmark. Arthur Erickson, the Canadian architect, was in charge, and provided the drama required for a new civic landmark in a very strange site. Erickson clearly wanted to create a very opaque sculptural plinth that would be its own world, one with incredible distant views of both the water and Mt. Rainier, while ignoring its immediate surroundings. The museum is surrounded in part by a host of new condos, despite, in Fran's words, "Who wouldn't want to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars for an apartment not only next to a highway but also next to three mainline train tracks?" The series of roofs, stairs, and ramps that surround and surmount the museum resemble a similar arrangement at Seattle's new Sculpture Garden which also tries to literally ignore surrounding highways and railroad tracks by offering sculptures with views of the distant Olympic Mountains.

I visited the museum when it was almost brand new, surrounded by hundreds of architects and hosted by Erickson himself at an architectural conference many years ago, but I had always wanted to show it off to Fran. We finally went together after driving by Tacoma innumerable times while being stuck in traffic on the way to Seattle. It was another shock of "older age" to realize that it might have been almost twenty years since my first visit, but the building's design holds up. While the roofs were certainly livelier with hundreds of fellow visitors, and most of the art seemed to have moved inside, the pilgrimage around the tower still captured our attention despite being alone on a typically gloomy Northwest day.

The chimney Tower for the demonstration Glass Blowing arena is of course the highlight of both the exterior and the interior of the museum. It is composed of 2800 stainless steel panels on a computer-designed structural grid. It is absolutely compelling as a photographic subject, but it is hard to capture the entirety of the sculpture without including some of its dreary, even unsightly surroundings. While I am sure that native photographers have discovered some great viewpoints from some surrounding buildings, I adopted my usual strategy of trying to isolate the tower from its surroundings while allowing myself to not include the entire sculpture.

                                                                  THE ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

                                                                  A CONSIDERED IMAGE

This was one of my more successful snapshots. There is nice collection of angles, and a subtle glow on the aluminum panels. I left the composition alone, but used Lightroom's masking tools to individually adjust the three different ares of the image - the sky, the tower, and those foreground sheds - so that I could both raise the overall exposure while manipulating the different areas on their own. The sky was first darkened, then lightened, with out affecting the other parts. The Tower was lightened and then had its contrast ratcheted up to bring out the subtle shading of the different tiles. Each row of these diamond-shaped panels gets slightly smaller as it rises up the cone, which was designed to recall the beehive wood burners that formerly lined the waterfront. The lower sheds were also lightened, but only to reveal a little shadow detail without really drawing any attention from the tower. Lightroom's new AI selection tools were made for an image like this, for any algorithm worthy of its creation can certainly pick out the sky and the subject of a graphic image like this. For the foreground sheds, a new selection tool that allows for a selection based on a chosen luminosity range differentiated between the lighter tower and the darker sheds very well.

                                                                  A ROOFTOP JUXTAPOSITION

As I walked around the roof, I tried to find new ways to capture the tower. It was interesting to me that as an architect I was fully capable of "suspending my disbelief" at so arbitrary an object as the tower but just couldn't accept a winged roof over the elevator to the roof. I decided to include it as a speeding bullet impaling the tower.

                                                                  AN ARROW TO THE HEART

I left most of my visual pun alone, restricting my manipulations to subtly darkening the sky and lightening the tower. My major annoyance was the perfectly natural blue tinge on the tower, so I reduced it by lowering the tower's saturation almost to black and white.


The museum's actual collections try to encompass the entire range of artwork that uses glass in an almost encyclopedic range of means and intents. These include items that are traditional "craft" pieces to conceptual art that happens to be made of glass, and everything in between. The problem a photographer faces is that the combination of natural and artificial light renders a snapshot that usually bears no relation to what ou human eyes saw and our brains adjusted for. Post processing is the only way to get back to anywhere close to what we saw when we snapped the shutter.


Results like this are as shocking as they are typical. Once again the camera is either just plain stupid or merely too realistic in its depiction of color casts that our brain rejects on site. Most snapshots taken in conditions like this only reveal how complex the magic of our visual perception really is - how our brain interprets what our eyes see.


Some of the exhibits use commissioned art pieces to illustrate the various unique properties of glass as a material. This series of colored rings showed how glass's transparency did not preclude it from creating  a play of shadows as well.

                                      LIGHT AND COLOR AND SHADOW

I cropped the image, and the sculpture, to eliminate the ordinary interior environment of the ceiling and corners so as to concentrate on my own collection of the rings. As usual cropping eliminates problems like light fall-off by just getting rid of the offending parts of the image. After once again correcting the horrendous white balance I concentrated my efforts on enhancing each of the colors by individually manipulating their luminosity and saturation. to achieve the results I was looking for. By increasing both the overall exposure and deepening the shadows I could highlight the shadows the artist was interested in.

                A SCHOOL OF GLASS SALMON

Some of the art was merely breathtaking, and pretty hard to render in one photograph. This school of glass salmon numbered in the hundreds and filled up a gallery almost as big as my bungalow. The fish both reflected the room and allowed you to see through them and appreciate the entire school. Even the fishing lines that tied them to the ceiling became a work of art. My black and white rendition here avoids the color changes that occurred continuously because of reflections from a movie of a real salmon stream projected on an adjoining large wall on one side of the room. A color photograph rendered these multi-colored stripes as an additional layer of confusion that a viewer could never be expected to understand.

                                              THE TOWER'S INTERIOR REVEALED

A lot of the museum's collection, and most of the items available for purchase in the museum shop, are actually created in the museum itself. The "Hot Shop" is the museum's center of creation, an amphitheater that is analogous to a giant outdoor exhibit at an aquarium. Here a team of glass blowers perform the artistic ballet required to create these glass sculptures, ranging from trinkets to sophisticated chandeliers. Narration of their efforts, accompanied by diagrams and explanations, illustrate the processes that lead to either artistic success or to a pile of shattered glass that needs to be swept away. The Tower is really an enormous chimney, 90' tall, needed to exhaust the gasses and heat from the enormous gates to Hell that heat the raw supplies of glass to 2400 degrees and allow the artisans to melt and manipulate the glass into the finished pieces. The chimney allows the heat in the amphitheater to hover at about 90 degrees. The engineering of the tower revealed here in its interior is almost as breathtaking as the sound of the fans and the heat rising to the skylights above. This near-black and white rendition was achieved by lowering the saturation of the blues, which glowed from the skylight and provided the only real color in the interior of the tower. Drastic exposure manipulation was required to balance the overall darkness with the burnt-out highlights in the skylights.


We once again return to the roof for one final take on the Tower. As an architect I was often asked both in school and then later by clients "what the hell I was doing" which of course was a pretty existential question of what an architect was worth as a member, if not a leader, of a team of builders. I only had to hope that the results of my efforts would justify my vision of the project which I hoped exceeded my client's dreams without breaking their budget. I feel that it is a building like the Museum of Glass that answers the question without saying a word. The sense of wonder that accompanies a visit has absolutely nothing to do with program, or function, or cost - this is art, plain and simple. Even if my training allows me to have a fuller understanding of both the difficulties and the triumphs of such a work, you have got to be an absolute Philistine in every sense of the word not to be moved in some way by this piece of art designed to exhibit and shout the virtues of other pieces of art. Of course it is willfully arbitrary, and "unnecessary", and that is what makes it human.

I hope that these small two-dimensional images of mine, which fall far short of documenting the three-dimensional reality of a large building in Tacoma, might actually encourage you to visit and see for yourself. The Art of Photography is in revealing one's individual feelings on a subject as an artist, even if the subject is a work of art in itself.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 23 Feb 2024 20:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to make one last (?) trip back to 2012 to look at three images that I've overlooked all these years. After a little massaging on the computer, I am pleased with the effort and wonder why it took me so long to find something worthwhile in my archives from ten years back.

This first image shows how bloody romantic and dramatic the Oregon Coast can be. The area attracts people from all over the world who really don't have any idea of what they are getting into. Fran calls this the "Winter Beach Experience", available for your enjoyment all year round. She loves it, although I don't think the Chamber of Commerce has this in mind for a new advertisement campaign. In fact the only real difference between Summer and Winter on the Oregon Coast is that in Winter the rain tends to be horizontal in nature. The scene above is from August, and what you are looking at is the dreaded and feared "Marine Layer." This occurs when the typical morning fog refuses to dissipate, and the expected high for the day plummets 20-30 degrees.


This is my snapshot from the day, which clearly shows the disappointing weather, but does not really convey the mood. I first went for the crop tool, since the  upper portion of the sky above the seagull (which I initially thought was a piece of sensor dust) didn't add anything to the photo. There was clearly enough gray sky without it. To my eye the 2:1 panoramic crop was better suited as usual to the beach and emphasized the energy (foolishness?) of the two hikers on the beach. Keep in mind that I was out there to witness their trek. The next move was to convert to black and white, since there wasn't a shred of real color around anyway. I cleaned up the beach a bit after I spared the seagull, and then tried to deal with any exposure and contrast changes that would enhance the mood of the image. I kept this a little simpler than usual, since it is pretty easy to use Lightroom tools to "correct" an image and render it completely differently than the mood you wanted to convey. If you pay attention to the histogram, and try to make it more balanced, you will ruin the high-key look that attracted you in the first place. More sophisticated algorithms like "Dehaze" obviously are not called for here. Even using "Dehaze" in a negative manner seems like gilding the lily. I even kept sharpening to a bare minimum.


The result might still contain too much definition, but I feel that it certainly conveys the kind of day that you might encounter on the Oregon Coast on any random day of the year. At least the dog, and certain random photographers, will still have a good time.

                                                                  LEFT FIELD CORNER

These next two shots come from a delightful day in Seattle at a day game in July. The Mariners schedule a few day games each Summer to encourage an easy trip from Portland. If everything works out reasonably correctly you can leave Portland at a reasonable hour in the morning and get back before the witching hour without having to deal with any traffic on I-5. The train station is just a short walk from the ballpark, and you can have a fun day and feel so much more intelligent than most of the other thousands of fans at the game.

Safeco Field, or whatever the hell they call it these days, is a very nice rendition of the throwback ballpark style that started with Camden Yards in Baltimore. This despite the fact that it is not related to a Seattle reality or history at all. The King Dome was such a horrible place that almost anything would have been an improvement of course, but there is no denying that it can be a very nice place to spend the day. It has enough quirks and idiosyncrasies to prod your interest, and this architect can feel proud of a profession that can sometimes produce something so beyond what is simply required to make gobs of money. Of course gobs and gobs of money are being made, and I will skip my usual rant about how it is impossible to imagine how the young fan that I once was could experience all the good times I had at the ballpark when minimum wage could get you into the game. The nicest thing about this park is that the field is always accessible from the concourse, which also allows you to ramble completely around the place if the game turns less than riveting.

This detail of the corner of left field shows an architectural homage to several old ballparks like Fenway and others that keep a long fly ball in the field of play by erecting a wall for the ball and the poor outfielders to bounce off in pursuit of the highlight reel. The deliberate uncoupling of the foul line and the lower stands also allows for a crucial few feet for a ball to fall foul, or an area where a misplayed fly ball might bounce around and turn into a triple.

                                                                  EVERYTHING AS IT SHOULD BE

It didn't take much to improve this snapshot unless you are an anal architect-turned-photographer, and the you do them because you care, even if very few other people notice. "Dehaze" and sharpening tighten everything up a notch while making most of the colors a little deeper without making the exposure too dark. You can clearly critique each fan's fashion sense a little better, while the foul line and the 331 mark will now let you put off another trip to the eye doctor. My judicious and "absolutely necessary" crop has eliminated the guillotined fan above the Yankees logo, while also brilliantly allowed both the foul line and the bleacher wall to hit the bottom corners like God intended.

                                                                  ORIGINAL ROOF SNAPSHOT

The biggest architectural move at the ballpark is the incredible "non-dome", ie. the moveable roof that hovers over the stadium even if it is not closed. It is a wonder, even if it is kind of silly, and it moves! Slowly enough that it cannot respond quickly enough to a change in the weather, which makes "roof or no roof" more of a strategic decision than anything else. Be certain that sports radio will have many opinions on the day of the game, bolstered by analytics that will declare certain victory or defeat based on the location of the roof rather than the abilities of the team. Of course it is better to leave the roof off to the side of the stands so that you can watch baseball in the sun or at least under the stars as it was meant to be. But the nice thing about this roof is that even when it is "closed" it doesn't completely cover the stands, so that the some of the hoi polloi still get wet. In fact, if there's any kind of wind, the rain will blow in because the lid does not close over any exterior walls. Thus you still get to watch baseball outside, even if you are under a roof. And it moves!

                                                                  THE ROOF IS A STAR AS A BLACK AND WHITE FLYING SAUCER. RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!

My conversion to black and white really helps here, since that "blue" Seattle sky will only impress fans from Portland. Black and white, with some use of the "Dehaze" slider, crisps everything up to emphasize the structural bravado. Remember, the lid a good ten stories above my head. As usual deepening the blacks and raising the shadows reveals most of the details of the structure. A small crop of the mechanism at the top purifies the curve of the roof edge. The steel now almost glows beneath the clear white sky.

I hope you can see how easy it is to improve some of your old snapshots, even a decade after the fact. Of course your mileage, and your opinions can vary. But that is what makes the world go round.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 16 Feb 2024 20:00:00 GMT

                ACROSS THE GORGE

This week I would like to return to the Columbia River Gorge, the incredible natural area just an hour East of Portland. Fran and I spent a day there last week, which included a two-mile stroll along the waterfront, a few art galleries, some fine coffee, and a very nice dinner in an historic hotel. The fact that it was not a walk in the woods illustrates just how unique the Gorge is a part of America's public lands. The Gorge is a National Scenic Recreation Area, which includes everything from actual wilderness to small and growing cities along the same river gorge. We spent the day in Hood River, whose fame began when some athletes decided that it might be fun to surf with the aid of the wind, combining surfing with sailing. Hood River's location at the heart of the Gorge provided seemingly constant 20-30 mile-an-hour winds whipping past the small town. Formerly known for access to orchards and Mt. Hood, the small town now resembles nothing less than a simulation of Santa Fe brought to the Pacific Northwest. A short walk in downtown brings you past almost a dozen places to drink fine wine, artisan coffee, and more art galleries than the ones still open in Portland.

We spent most of our time in a new riverfront park down the hill from Downtown. The park does a very nice job in providing locals access to about a mile of waterfront with beaches and picnic areas existing somewhat unexpectedly next to a growing office/warehouse park. The new buildings in the complex include restaurants, coffee houses, and at least three new breweries. Somehow it all works, with more of an industrial than cute vibe, even though it is clearly brand new. And what other municipal park in the world enforces leash laws because "dogs and windsurfing gear don't mix."

The two images I'll show you this week were both taken right from the park path, which just goes to show you how spectacular the surrounding Gorge can be without climbing a single switchback. This first snapshot shows the view right across the river in Washington State.

                INITIAL SNAPSHOT

I have already exerted my editorial control by excluding the opposite riverbank to avoid the freeway and the train tracks on the Washington side. These small hills at the edge of the Gorge piqued my interest, and I was far enough away to reasonably ignore any signs of man besides the snow covered farms and clear cuts across the way. The mission now was to cut through the haze and add enough contrast to bring back the scene available from the path. Even though I knew that the sky would provide some more detail once I had reduced it's exposure to match the hills, there was still way to much sky, so the crop tool was the first I grabbed. The white balance was also clearly off a little. "Auto" went too far, but "Cloudy" brought back enough browns to render the scene in a much more realistic manner. Reducing the exposure of the sky by one stop did reveal the detail I had hoped for. Lightroom's new AI Selection tool which can pretty accurately select the "sky" worked very well in this case, reducing the amount of work formerly required in brushing the areas on the edge of the hills. But cropping to a panoramic 2:1 ratio seemed to be the move that the scene required.


I'm pleased with this result, which adds some pop without passing through to postcard vibrancy. The sky is clearly more dramatic and represents the reality of the day's light much better. But I was still a little troubled by the colors, so it was time to go for black and white.


While this is not for everyone, it is much more attuned to my sensibilities. Black and white allows me to add drama and detail by pushing exposure boundaries without worrying about "ruining " the colors. The result is a lot closer to what I saw and felt that day, even though the real world is in color.

The other image I found that day on the waterfront involved a lot more work. You can be the judge of how much it was worth it in the real world. The first snapshot is what I saw looking East down the river looking through the Gorge. It captures the expanse of the Gorge, even though my lens cant go wider than about 45 degrees.

                EAST UP THE GORGE

This conveys the majesty of the Gorge, but it is clearly too dark on the river and too light in the sky. The light is too blue, which is no surprise considering the blue sky, blue river, and green-blue hills. My anal brain also insisted that the river was tilted down to the left. After investigation, it was only two degrees off straight, but correcting that small tilt at least please yours truly.


As usual, correcting the white balance and lightening the foreground and darkening the sky have gone a very long way to rendering the scene in a much more realistic manner. The sky is much more detailed without edging into moody. The river and the hills all show far more levels of detail now that the blacks have been strengthened while the shadows have been lifted. And notice how trees on the right have now turned from blue to their natural brown. What still gnawed at me was the idea that there was too much sky, especially since the upper portion clearly lacked the drama of the lower clouds.

                CROPPED 2:1 PANORAMA

The 2:1 panoramic crop certainly seems to be more in the spirit of this image. Our eyes are telling us that this view is "wider" even though our brain should be insisting that I have just cropped the top third of exactly the same image. Know you know why movies are shot in a 16:9 ratio that is "cinematic"; this is just a hair under the 2:1 ratio shown here. I cannot get any wider without eliminating most of the sky, and losing even more pixels. I could print the original shot at about 8 x 12 without any computer hocus pocus. This panorama could be easily printed at 8 x 16 because that blue sky we eliminated contained few of those pixels - but how could we get a bigger print?


The answer is stitching, which uses the computer to combine multiple overlapping photos of a scene to create a wider image. In this case I took eight vertical shots across the Gorge, which combined to form this 3:1 ratio panorama. The image now contains more than 3 three times the pixels as the 2:1 crop, and I could easily print it 12" x 36" wide - and the expanse of the Gorge that is shown here almost justifies this crop. But I have found that realism in both cost and wall space argues in favor of the 2:1 crop. So what will cropping this stitch down to 2:1 get us for our trouble?

                A 2:1 CROP OF OUR 3:1 PANORAMA

There is much more detail here, even though it might not be apparent on the web. The image could now be printed at 11" x 22" because it contains almost tice as many pixels as the cropped 2:1 panorama. The trouble is that the scene has shifted to the right, and our "V" is not as prominent.

                THE GORGE RE-CENTERED AT 2:1

But this is a crop of the 3:1 panorama, so we can just take a different portion of the 3:1 to get a different 2:1 with the "V" back closer to the center. Notice that this 2:1 is actually a "wider" view than the cropped 2:1 we achieved without stitching, which allows for more trees and hill on the left side. Since the image is "wider", the central elements in the image have gotten a little smaller - but they are much larger than they would be with a conventional wide angle lens. Since the computer is doing most of the work, it certainly seems easier than shelling out $1500.00 dollars for the wide angle lens. Not to mention that if you so desire, the 169 megapixels in this file would allow you to easily create an 24" x 48" print, if you could afford the printing costs and the wall space.

                BLACK AND WHITE 2:1 PANORAMA

And for the inner Ansel Adams in all of us, just convert to black and white and step back to view a print like this, which will allow even more exposure manipulation. While I might never be able to print like Ansel, this file contains enough information that the detail can easily challenge the results that Adams could achieve with a large format negative.

I hope you have enjoyed another foray into the Gorge. I think you can see how easy it is to elevate a simple snapshot into something far more worthy of your attention.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 09 Feb 2024 20:00:00 GMT
A WALK IN THE GORGE, 2012                                                                   AN INTIMATE GORGE LANDSCAPE

Twelve years ago Fran and I took a walk in the Columbia Gorge. If I was a more organized individual, I could actually tell you exactly where it was, but at least through the power of my photo archive I went back there this morning to rescue a few more images. I'd like to show you several of these images to show how a small amount of time spent post-processing can improve an image enough that I am not embarrassed to show them to you. In this way a twelve-year-old snapshot can become a new image worthy of closer inspection.

People travel from all over the world to visit the Columbia River Gorge, an incredible collection of waterfalls, cliffs, vistas, and woodland. But since it is a slow hour drive from Portland, we tend to take it for granted - until we take time to try another hike. Then we realize how lucky we are to live so close to this treasure. On this day in July a dozen years ago the hike took us past a roaring stream with a lonely tree on a stubborn rock.

                                                                  THE LONELY TREE, 2012

The original snapshot is not bad. It captures the isolated tree on a rock that somehow usually withstands the stream flow. I didn't see the value in any cropping, but the image can be improved by adjusting the white balance and increasing the contrast. As usual in the Gorge, the overwhelming greenery tends to manufacture an overall green color shift. The thing to do is warm up the image, which reveals the browns amid the greens, and in this case brings the dark stream and it's white rapids a  little bit back to a neutral color tone. By raising the white point and lowering the black point, the overall contrast of the image is increased and the image begins to pop.

                                                                  A MORE DRAMATIC ISLAND IN THE STREAM, 2024

I then used more selective changes to refine the image. I first increased the sharpness and saturation of the tree so that it would stand out against the background of the stream. Then I backed off on the whites at the central rapids to reveal a little more detail in the water. Finally I subtly dodged and burned the dark and bright areas in the stream to further increase the contrast. The brushes used are at such a low intensity, around only 10%, that you don't even see the changes while you are brushing, Yet a "before" and "after" will reveal a truly dramatic transformation.

                                                                  VIEW FROM THE TRAIL, 2012

The Gorge is not just a feast of intimate landscapes. On most hikes the woodland will eventually open up to reveal incredible vistas with hundreds if not thousands of feet of elevation gain to admire. The trick is to figure out hikes that reveal these awesome vertical overlooks without making you climb them, unless that floats your boat. This hike overlooked a mountain across the way on the Washington side. I'm sure it has a name, but like most of the prominent points in the Gorge it is just treated as another segment of the fiord's rim. In this snapshot I tried to set up a classic landscape strategy of bringing some depth to a two dimensional image by including a foreground along with a distant subject. As usual, I was not very successful. There is not enough Rhoddie in the foreground, and the middle-ground is missing probably another thousand feet down to the river before you encounter the cliff face on the other side. The result is either a mediocre perspective,  or as I prefer to see it, another example of my tendency to create my own Asian screens. This other great tradition of the landscape arranges flat planes of subject matter with no attempt to create a three-dimensional illusion. Like in this image, the viewer sees a compressed series of planes, as if one were scanning segments of the entire scene independently of each other. My love of the telephoto lens, which increases this distance compression, also tends to move me in this direction.

                                                                  ACROSS THE COLUMBIA, 2024

No matter how you feel about my composition, there are certain things that can be improved. I warmed up the white balance and lowered the blacks and lightened the shadows to increase the detail and contrast in the mass of the green hillside. I felt there was a little too much gray sky, so I cropped some away. I then lowered the exposure of just the sky by one stop to reveal a small amount of variation in the overall gray. I used Lighroom's new "Dehaze" tool to great effect to bring up the overall contrast - the tool was obviously made for situations like this, since the mountain is probably miles away from where I am standing on the trail. Finally I tried another new tool from Lightroom , the "Texture" slider, after brushing a selection confining its effects to the shear rock cliff face on the right side of the mountain. I think that these changes vastly improve the image - it might still not be an award-winner, but it's not half-bad by any measure.

                                                                  A GORGE WITHIN THE GORGE, 2012

This final image of the day showed me that I could handle a vertical gain far larger than I thought, at least twelve years ago. That's Fran down there on the bridge, multiple switchback below my current position on the trail. Since I don't shoot for National Geographic I neglected to outfit her with a red shirt, but she still shows the scale of this gorge within the Gorge. While it took an entire Federal program to build that bridge, one can see that the Civilian Conservation Corps only barely touched the entirety of the Gorge. But that slim sliver of trail and bridge allows ordinary people  to enjoy this incredible environment without bushwhacking like the original hikers had to do for the first few thousands of years that men and women walked near this spot.

I adopted similar strategies in dealing with this snapshot as I did with the others. The change in white balance removed the green color cast and revealed the brown and grays of the river. As I tried out "Dehazing" and "Texture", I realized that good old "Clarity" and sharpening helped most on this image to bring out the mid-tone contrast. Each image responds differently to different algorithms, and the skill that you gain is knowing what works best in which situation. But the humble truth is that there is a lot of trial and error involved in post processing, along with an adherence to the Goldilocks principal of moderation in all things. Finally I used my judicial powers to remove that annoying highlight just above Fran by cloning in an adjacent part of the forest. All of the images on this day benefited from our typical Oregon weather - the last thing you want during a walk in the woods is bright sunlight which will bring on chaotic light shafts and shadows that will lead to visual anarchy. There is already enough visual chaos in a typical woodland scene, and the prime directive for the photographer is to try to bring some order to the very complicated environment.

                                                                  WAY DOWN THERE, 2024

I hope you have enjoyed this brief walk in the woods, and I encourage you to get out there, even if your neck of the woods is not as spectacular as ours. While Fran and I are twelve years older, these images show that the Gorge is eternal.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 02 Feb 2024 20:00:00 GMT

                                                                  EMPIRE STATE AGLOW

This week I would like to make another foray into my disorganized archives in search of images that I can resurrect through the power of more recent photo processing tools and my improvements in my own technique. I have found that it is well worth the effort to see if I can make something out of an image I have previously ignored or forgotten.

These three images date from 2012, a mere twelve years ago - but which increasingly seems a long, long, time ago. I was an established artist but also unemployed, with all the angst that that implies. Today I am still an established an unknown artist, but I am retired, and in some ways in a lot better economic shape. Amazingly, I am also a grandpa. It is the wider world of course that has seen much more troubling changes, including a worldwide pandemic. Twelve years ago only New Yorker's and reality television fans were aware of an absolute asshole named Donald Trump. In some ways the world seemed a lot simpler in retrospect, and certainly less depressing.

                                                                  EMPIRE STATE, 2012

This first image is a take on the Empire State Building, certainly an iconic image of New York.  I have tried to place it in context, looming above the typical landscape of Manhattan. This shows how the skyscraper can suddenly appear on an ordinary street, similar to the way that Mt. Hood can appear in a quiet Portland moment and cause us all to gasp in wonderment. My snapshot is well composed, in my opinion, but suffers from a way too wide exposure range and an exceedingly boring sky. Even if the Empire State Building is actually kind of brown, we certainly don't think of it that way. Something must be done.

                                                                  EMPIRE STATE, 2024

We are not in Kansas anymore, but this image somehow seems much more realistic even though we know that no matter how dirty New York air can be, the sky is certainly not black during the day. Converting to black and white allows for exposure variants that a color photograph would not support. New advances in Lightroom masking algorithms allow for much easier selections of portions of an image. Thus the program can now easily select the sky, allowing me to underexpose it two stops. Better noise control also enables such a drastic move. The program also recognizes that a certain skyscraper is obviously the "subject" and it's clean selection than allows me to raise it's exposure one stop - now that the building is three stops brighter than the sky, and wonderfully silver instead of brown, it positively glows above the city. Using the good old-fashioned brush tool I raised the shadows in the buildings in the foreground, revealing a little more detail. But that selection also allowed me to cut back on the highlights in that area so that the reflections of the sky in the lower windows would not distract from the skyscraper above. All in all, I am very pleased with the result.

                                                                  DIRECTOR PARK, 2012

This next image also shows the power of exposure in interpreting an image. Twelve years ago I looked down upon a new square in Downtown Portland. Director Park saved us from yet another parking structure, and sported both a fountain to illegally splash in and and a glass pergola to protect us from the rain above.  I took this snapshot from the exterior stair of a neighboring parking garage, taking advantage of a few stories of height to gain a different perspective. But the image was very sloppily composed, dull, and probably seriously underexposed as well. Upon looking through the archives, the only thing that intrigued me was that patio table seemingly caught in a spotlight. Could I make something out of that?

I leapt to a few of my usual strategies. Since I was really only interested in the central table, everything else was easily jettisoned, especially the other two tables that could compete for attention. The upper third of the photograph didn't seem to be making much of a contribution, so it was easy to crop to a square starting from the bottom. Since the color in this color photograph was nearly non-existent, it was also an easy decision to convert to black and white. Black and white allowed for a wider exposure range which enabled me to lower the blacks even further while raising the whites to highlight the table. I felt like my son the scenic designer, manipulating the spotlight to really make sure sure that the audience knew where to look, and the park was now clearly a stage set, with a lone mysterious actor shuffling in from stage left.

                                      ALL THE WORLD'S A STAGE, 2024

We leave the city for this last image. In 2012 Fran an I took a hike in the Columbia Gorge to Wachella Falls. This became one of our favorite hikes, and not only because it was beautiful. It is one of the few hikes in the Gorge with very little elevation gain, so you can saunter through the woods without having to climb a mountain disguised with switchbacks. Never take anything for granted, since this trail was one of several sections of the Gorge that was wiped out by a forest fire several years later. It is only a few years now that you can walk this way again.

                                                                 WACHELLA FALLS, 2012

I liked my composition, which highlighted one of the rather large rocks that fell over the decades from the sides of the gorge that the stream created after it plunged down the double waterfall. I felt the image only needed a few tweaks to really make it better. My first move was to subtly crop the image to remove the small portion of sky at the top edge. Woodland scenes, even those with a waterfall, work better if you eliminate or at least curb the sky, which is always much brighter than the woods and only distracts from the subject at hand. While I had been successful in not blowing out the waterfall, I then lowered it's exposure further to reveal more detail in the water.

                                                                  SUBTLE CHANGES CAN ADD UP IN 2024

I also subtly changed the white balance to warm up the scene. It's very easy in an environment like the Gorge to end up with a greenish tint to everything, so a little shift to a warmer white balance can bring out the earth tones beneath the overall green environment.

                                                                  BLACK AND WHITE CAN REVEAL DETAIL

Of course if you really want to get away from those overwhelming greens you can convert to black and white. The Gorge is part of geologic time, but this image now brings us back to the first photographs of the Gorge in the Nineteenth Century. Of course those first photographers probably couldn't get to this spot since their wasn't a recreational trail here. Native American trails were used mainly for trade or hunting, not gaze at falling water. More than nostalgia, black and white conversion as usual allows for further strengthening of exposure variations without rendering the scene in unrealistic colors. I could darken the waterfall even further without muddying the scene. And I could dodge and burn like back in the darkroom, very subtly darkening the dark areas and lightening the bright ones. This involves brushing in masks at such a low strength, around 10%, that you can't even see any changes while you are brushing them in. It is only when you look at the overall before and after that you can see what a real positive change that you have made in the image. It is almost like the image has finally popped.

I hope this might inspire you to see what you can make out of your own forgotten images. Sometimes a return to the recent past can lower the present's high blood pressure.





(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 26 Jan 2024 20:00:00 GMT

                                                                      GRAPHIC ARCHITECTURAL EXERCISE

Today as I write this essay I'm getting a little stir crazy after day six of another Winter Storm Event. At least the local news has resisted naming these infrequent storms; the UK recently gave in to this nonsense, naming storms like hurricanes to add more to the crisis atmosphere. Portland seems content to just close down, which is OK by me since I am now a "pensioner" with no real need to go out and about when I should stay at home. Our power went out for only a few hours, so I have no real reason to complain. And I did get to the grocery store for one quick trip a few days ago, so we are all set. This stay-at-home event has given me another excuse to go back into the archives, this time to see what my new software skills can do for some old friends as well as shots that have always seemed to defy my efforts at improvement. These five images are the result of those efforts which I conducted yesterday.

A short rant before we start. In my younger days I certainly did some things that I can only characterize as pretty stupid, so I am willing to be a little understanding of people who should know better. Yesterday on Instagram I saw yet another series of photos of frozen Columbia Gorge waterfalls labeled "I went there so you don't have to." I hope that was in the spirit of idiot prevention, but I'm afraid it wasn't. If you want to be a combat photographer, go for it. But if you are a landscape photographer, I'm sorry but there is no excuse for putting your live in jeopardy to get yet another image of a place under conditions that label you an idiot for having gone out there. It's one thing to walk through Manhattan in the snow, as long as you are dressed for it - it is another to brave deadly road conditions on a closed Interstate 84 driving past jackknifed big rigs to get a shot we all can find on Google. Please grow up. Rant over.

                                                                 THE WAY THE CAMERA CAPTURED IT

I took this photo about a decade ago of a new tower in the Pearl District whose shape and reflections intrigued me while I walking around the neighborhood. Yesterday I used some new software techniques to get the shot I really wanted. I know you don't really believe that this was a color photograph, but remember that this is Portland, so that the thin sliver of sky in the upper left corner, as well as all of the sky reflected in the glass facade is at best an anemic gray. The tan concrete panels are best left out of our discussion despite having gotten past someone in the architecture office. After a decade of fiddling with color controls, I finally just converted to black and white. After a minor crop and some straightening to satisfy my OCD, I took advantage of the lack of color to create a lighter, high-image that showed off the new white reflections in the facade. Lightroom's new "Dehaze" filter, which adds contrast and detail in the background better than clarity or sharpening, really brought out the detail in the facade, especially after I had raised the exposure by half a stop. These kind of manipulations would be pretty unsightly in the color version, but work well in black and white. I believe that the result is a lot closer to what I saw ten years ago than what my camera caught that day - a very graphic assemblage of lines and reflections that pleases me much more.


                                                                      THE WAY I SAW IT


Another collection of lines in the environment. This circle is an alcove in Portland's Pioneer courthouse Square, and it took such a dreary day to find it unoccupied. If you stand on the dot and whisper the brick amphitheater will broadcast your voice very clearly everyone dozens of feet away. My snapshot is clearly under-exposed, and the brickwork is pretty untidy. 

                                      SHEDDING SOME LIGHT ON A CLEANED-UP SUBJECT

Now that is more like it. I maintain my artistic credibility by keeping the circle off-center in my new square coaster crop. My raising the exposure has rejeuvenated the square and the clone tool has eliminated most of the discoloration and random litter on the site. I was not trying to take a photo of maintenance problems at the Square after all, but just an appreciation of the brickwork. I'm still a little troubled by my attempt ot eliminate the shadowy words on the dot through selective muddying and reverse "Dehazing", but improvements will probably have to wait for another round of software advances, or at least better technique from yours truly. 

                                                                  GLASS BLOCK WALL

This one has also defied my efforts for a decade. What I felt would surely be a wonderful rendition of a back-lit glass brick wall has always been a dull shot without meaning. Since the "color" was clearly not working, I converted to black and white, hoping that i could blacken the grout lines and also raise the exposure to lighten the block.

                                      TOO CLOSE

To a large degree that move was successful, but even I would have to admit that this won't make a good coaster. I'm just too close, and those bubbles in the glass block look more like graffiti. Time to pull back.

                                                                  BACK TO THE WALL

The original composition, with some very judicious straightening, was clearly more successful. I still don't know to do with image beyond selling it to Pittsburgh Glass Block, but I never said I was a stellar businessman.

                THIS IMAGE NEEDS HELP

This image is a lot more important to me. I've been here long enough that the Central Branch of the Library has now been closed for renovations for the second time in thirty years. It is one of my favorite places in Downtown, and I'm not alone. The crowds going through the front doors on any normal day were bested in Downtown only by Nordstrom's, and that's pretty good for a cultural institution. This is the corner of one of the skylights in the top public floor, and I always thought that it could be a great coaster - but I never could get the crop and the exposure I wanted.

                                      A LIBRARY SKYLIGHT

Once again, I think what I feel is a success was achieved by a few subtle moves. As usual, the move to real black and white from just low saturation color was crucial. This allowed me to actually darken the mullions, while a "Turning on the Sun" by drastically raising the exposure to achieve white instead of gray in the sky. After years of struggle I finally realized that it was only necessary, even better, to only straighten one of the axis of mullions. This allows a stable, but dynamic composition of lines to surround the book cartoon that provides the whimsy.

                                       DRINKING COFFEE IN THE SQUARE   

Finally I return to an old friend, one of the few examples of "street photography" in my portfolio. I have never been comfortable approaching strangers on the street in order to include them in my cityscapes. I think the hardest five words in any language are "May I take your photograph?" So this example of what some call "Street for Introverts" is a testament to looking around Pioneer Courthouse Square, and in my wife's words, finding about every cliche in just one non-portrait. A pretty girl in casual clothes sitting idly in the Square enjoying her coffee. I didn't have the guts to say hello, so there you go.

                                      DOCUMENTARY, OR JUST ANOTHER INTERPRETATION?

If I'm going to be a real street photographer, I'd  better go black and white. While at least I didn't try a preset that would shoot this in Tri-X film, I do admit that it feels a little bit more authentic. The black and white version allows me to reduce the Starbucks logo, ignore the blue pants and take down the henna (although I am a sucker for henna). More importantly, black and white allows me to emphasize that incredibly nubby sweater with new "texture" filter, and to increase the sharpness of the background bricks with the "Dehaze" filter. Black and white allows for a subtle vignette that would also not work in the color version. I probably still like the color version better, but only because that the henna hair  works with the red brick of the Square.

I hope my experiments might encourage you to try something new with old images, whether they are old friends or old headaches. You might be surprised.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 19 Jan 2024 20:00:00 GMT

This week I found out that in November Fran and I are invited to a destination wedding in I kid you not, Death Valley. Evidently this is a thing. I am skeptical, but supposedly there are some nice resorts in parts of the park that I didn't travel to with Benjamin  in 2015. So we will celebrate my niece's nuptials and use it as an excuse for a road trip. Fran has never been, so it will be an opportunity for me to show her one of the wildest places in the country. And since Benjamin and I visited in August, November will be child's play. It climbed to 120 degrees when we were there, and I abandoned the trip down to Badwater Basin way before we hit the bottom of the valley.

I took this invitation as a "sign" that it was time to revisit the archives and see what my recent software acquisitions, and my journey down the learning curve in their use, could do for some neglected images from that fist trip. I was pleasantly surprised at my success with these images, so let's take a look.

                A HEAT LADEN SNAPSHOT

Death Valley is more than sand dunes and colorful geology like Zabriskie Point. One of the big realizations of my first trip was that a lot of the impact of the place is that it is an incredible valley, surrounded by mountain ranges form the periphery of the park. The isolation one feels is not only due to the heat, but also because it is not exactly clear most of the time of the proper route to escape its clutches. In general, one always feels that you are only heading down , or at best keeping level, way below the surrounding moonscape. So please forgive the snapshot above, since I was probably only half-way through my dozen bottles of water that day. The dust and haze is only matched by the heat, and it's very easy to overexpose your shots all day, especially when you almost cease to care. There is no shade at all.


It is under conditions like these that Lightroom's new "Dehaze" filter really comes into its own. These mountains are not really that far away, in the great scheme of things. But the dust and heat in the air seem to disappear after utilizing this filter, which lowers exposure and increases contrast in its own unique way. As usual, the important thing is to use it very judiciously in order to avoid artifacts and other unrealistic results. What you see here is only 20% strength which certainly yields very dramatic results. I lowered the brightness of the dessert blue sky and cut the saturation  of the yellow valley floor; the result is as beautiful and foreboding as I remember our journey that day.


These other three images show what you can achieve through the art of "stitching" together multiple images to form a panorama that is unavailable in the field, no matter how wide angle a lens you bring along. These views are actually closer to what you see when you move your eyes to "take in the view" than a standard wide angle perspective. Only experience can lead to the confidence that your efforts will work out when you get back home at the computer. I have learned that modest expectations can lead to the best results, since most scenes cannot hold enough interest as the panorama gets wider and wider. These two first images are actually panoramas, but I have restricted the "wide angle" aspect ratio to just 2:1. I have found that this ratio leads to the best results on all but the kind of vistas that you might find at a place like Death Valley. Their is a "generous" feel of breadth without feeling that you have to scan the image itself because it's too wide. When you go view the very wide open shots of a Western at the movies, you are usually looking at a the "Cinematic" ratio of 16:9, which is a little shy of 2:1.


The original snapshot of the colorful scene above suffered from the same difficulties as the first image. I used On One's software's "Dynamic Contrast" filter to really enhance and sharpen the mid-tone contrast. The algorithm just makes things "pop" in subtly different ways than  you can get with other software tools. As usual, only experience will guide you in extreme moderation. You first lower the strength of the filter to a reasonable level; then you use advanced masking tools to restrict its effects to only the parts of the image that need them at all. In the black and white version I have lost all of the color contrast but have gained even more "crunch" in the textures. You decide what appeals to you more.

                GEOLOGY, NEAR AND FAR

Okay, in these last two images I have violated my usual rules and allowed myself a 3:1 ratio to take in the expanses available in Death Valley. In both cases I actually captured what would be a 5:1 ratio panorama. It is incredibly easy to go overboard out in the field when faced with such wide vistas. These 3:1 "crops" are plenty wide enough, and are already too wide for a realistic print on my or your wall. At only 16" tall, this image is already four feet wide and much more expensive than you or I can afford, even if we found a place to hang it.


What is interesting is that even though it is "all dessert",  Death Valley can provide so many different views even when you are driving along incredibly lonely roads on the way to the famous vistas on the postcards. I hope you have seen that the Park is an absolute delight, and that just stopping at a different side of the road can allow you to make the park your own. I am really looking forward to exploring it with Fran, at a balmy 90 degrees, thank you.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 12 Jan 2024 20:00:00 GMT
2023 - ART AND COMMERCE - PART TWO                                       HAWTHORNE BLUE HOUR - IN BLACK AND WHITE!

This week I would like to wish you all a happy new year, and to continue my survey of what I consider my best images of this past year. Last week I concentrated on images that I captured last year; this week I will explore the images that I "recaptured" through various post processing strategies. I feel that these transformations resulted in images closer to my intentions for both the individual images and my overall values as an artist. I will also through in some final thoughts on my commercial struggles and strategies for the future.

The season at Saturday Market was pretty dismal, and it took a lot of discipline to not feel that it was all my fault as I sat there trying to stay awake. Most of it was clearly not my fault, and my fellow vendors and the half-dozen fellow photographers still at the market did not appear to be doing appreciably better than I was. But I do have to admit that my desire to exhibit new work, and work unrelated to Portland, was wildly unsuccessful. What is interesting is that for the first time I generally controlled myself in introducing  two new formats, so that all in all I haven't invested too much money in a losing cause. Most of the negative effects of these efforts must be characterized as "opportunity" costs, since the display of these items took up space in the booth that could have been used to show other things that might have sold better. In my quest to show other images, I neglected to realize that my customers were just not interested in buying these photographs, no matter how much they seemed to admire them.

                                                       DARTMOOR ABBEY

I came up with a new format that could allow for a lower price point than my metal prints. I adapted my lamination process I use for my coasters to a larger image size, mounted on masonite panels with surplus wood panels (they hadn't sold either) to lift them off the wall. These 9" x !2" prints looked great, and the customers said so, but I spent the year looking at them and did not sell any at all. In the end, even I had to admit defeat, and I will drastically reduce how many I show in the booth. I will convert any I do actually sell into another format. While that format, a larger 11" x 17" poster , also did not show much success, it is a lot easier to produce and offers a higher profit at a lower price. We'll see.

Artistically, a lot of these "best" images were the ones that did not sell at all, so my opinion as a critic was not matched by my dismal record as a businessman. What it tells me, which is not what I want to hear, is that an image which might work very well in a blog post, or on social media, will not translate into sales in my gallery. I must once again recognize that what I might see as an advance in my art will not be reflected in my sales as an artist.


                                                                  BRITISH MUSEUM CHARM

These first four images are examples of my continued exploration of black and white conversion techniques that, at least to my eye, result in images closer to my reality than the color snapshots that they started as years before. The amount of detail and the exposure manipulations possible in black and white allow me to interpret these scenes in different ways than their originals. I have found that even a very fine color image, like the Hawthorne Bridge's beautiful colorful city lights and reflections, can work well as a black and white image with a completely different mood.


Another technique that can transform an older image is a new distinctive crop. Since a big part of photo composition is framing, adjusting the framing can result in a new way of looking at an image, even for the photographer. I first converted this image of "The Tree", the famous maple in the Japanese Garden, into black and white because I had captured it at least a week after peak color, so that it was clearly inferior to the other million photographs of the same subject exhibited around the world. But it really sang, (at least to me) when I radically cropped it into a panorama that left out almost the entire context and converted the tree into a kind of black snake crawling across the image.

                CROWN POINT PANORAMA

This image has always been a popular one. It's mine because this retired architect is really most concerned with the only man-made part of the scene. Vista House is a very glorified bathroom with one of the greatest sites of any piece of architecture in the entire world. What I enjoy is that just like the Golden Gate, the scene now seems absolutely incomplete without man's intervention - this would be "just" another beautiful  bend in the Columbia without it. I think my original square crop has now gotten even stronger as a panorama. Vista House clearly is balanced by Beacon rock across the way, the course of the river is heightened, and I finally solved the terrible forest fire cloud ridden sky by just getting rid of it entirely.

                SPACE NEEDLE DETAIL

I cropped this already tight shot of the underside of the Space Needle, removing any context in the original and furthering my intent through exposure manipulation and black and white conversion to transform a throwaway snapshot into a graphic exploration. You could forgive anyone but a Northwest resident for not knowing what the hell they were looking at.

                GRAPHIC RED UMBRELLA

Which brings to mind two other images which allowed me to "trust the graphics" to hold the image together without a compelling subject. Of course everyone loves a bright saturated red, but it is the umbrella's structure which makes this image.


And while I like yellow more than most, this example of intentional camera movement converts this ordinary beach panorama into an intriguing image. There is just enough sharpness to ensure that the viewer is looking at the beach, even though it is unclear why the waves seem to be moving horizontally instead of towards the shore. Why everything is yellow instead of blue only adds to the mystery.                                                          WHITE HOUSE RUINS, CANYON DE CHELLY

In some cases new software advances allowed me to revisit older images and make an impact. This image of the White House ruins in Canyon de Chelly was transformed through judicious use of Lightroom's new "Dehaze" tool, which finally sharpened the details decades after I took the shot. "Dehaze" was not designed at all for an image like this, but it finally did the trick after other basic sharpening techniques had failed on this image. What's funny is that another new tool, "Textures", didn't work as well at all.

                                                                NO TURNS

Black and white conversion relieved this image of most of the anarchy of the color version, but some improved masking in Lightroom allowed me to really emphasize the anarchy  that I was actually interested in. Drastic exposure changes, as well as reducing the sharpness of the background, made it possible to heighten the drama of the confusing and contradictory street signs at this one New York intersection.

                                                                  TWIN TREES

Improved Lightroom controls, or maybe just my improved technique, allowed me to achieve an interesting high key black and white image out of an ordinary confused woodland scene. The two foreground trees and their spindly branches emerge from a too-colorful snapshot. It is often intriguing to me how a black and white conversion can appear more realistic than the original color version.

                                      MOONLIT SAN JUANS

I've worked on this image for years, and I have never convinced myself that the colors were right even though my computer assured me they were. Part of the problem was that this long exposure was taken long after the sun had gone down, so that moonlight was the light and color source. Only the camera could truly reveal all of the shades of blue, even though my eyes at the time knew that the dark scene was truly blue. Better selection tools allowed me to eliminate the blue color cast on the weathered gray canning facility while leaving the blue and purple bay and sky alone. I think I'm finally almost getting there.

                                                                  THE BLUE BRIDGE

And part of the problem is adjusting memory to reality. this image was truly a find, since I had ignored it for more than fifteen years. It was only when I realized that this was the famous "Blue Bridge" in Regent's Park in London that the image came into its own. I selectively added saturation to the arched blue bridge beam that had appeared so dull on an unusually dull day, so that I, the viewer, and the duck could finally notice how special the bridge actually was, and still is.

                                                                 TWO BROTHERS ONE DAY AT THE BIG SHEA MORE THAN FIFTY YEARS AGO

The last image of the year is one of my oldest images, at least that I can find in my haphazard archives. I have had an enjoyable time this past year experimenting with scanning some of my old color slides. This image is over fifty years old. The camera that took it is a non-functional paperweight in my basement. I don't even know where I could purchase a slide projector. Shea Stadium, the pit that Met fans called home, is long gone. This "new" digital version allowed me to both darken the stadium background and lighten the human foreground, rendering details in both areas that a viewer could never see in the slide. One can only hope that these two brothers are now also grandfathers like me.

I hope you've enjoyed this tour the past two weeks through my personal best of this past year. Over the past three years my website's analytics insist that over time an average of more than 300 people eventually read these essays, which is amazing and gratifying and mysterious, since I actually know very few of my readers. As a way of saying thanks for your readership, I am offering my readers 20% off my standard prices for prints of any of these "Best of 2023" images during January and February of 2024. Since I know that you are reading this on my website, please take a look at the formats available. Please just contact me and we will work out the details. Happy new year, and thanks again for your interest.






(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 05 Jan 2024 20:00:00 GMT


The image above is emblematic of my year in 2023 - in my opinion, a year of artistic experimentation and business frustration. In this 2023 survey I will try to communicate both the "best and worst of times" by summarizing my business struggles and looking back at what I thought were my most interesting images of the year. The images, 24 in number, are a difficult selection of about 75 in the original batch. There are 8 new images, created on short walks and three longer and delightful trips during the year. The larger number of images arose from trips into my archives that featured in many of my blog posts this year. I perceive these as images from 2023 because most of the time they were not just discoveries, but to some degree completely transformed from the original captures ranging in time from 2022 to almost fifty years ago. I have so much fun discovering that I wasn't that bad in the past. This revelation, combined with the continued depressive state of our urban environment that constitutes most of my photographic world, led me to find most of jollies in the past.

This image was created on one of my short walks downtown in 2023. Although it appears to be a figment of my artistic imagination, it is a straight photographic of a very distorted and enigmatic architectural fragment. The subject is a facade of a parking garage that is doing its best to not appear as a parking garage, maybe because it hides four floors of parking at the convergence of three types of mass transit that should render its existence unnecessary. It is a rather clever assemblage of square folded metal plates that hide the fact that there is no glass between you and the cars inside. Sometimes the plates are not folded to present a more opaque appearance, injecting more than a hint of randomness. I love reflections, and this is a straight view of a segment of the facade that is reflected in a blue glass curtain wall across the street. I have carefully straightened the grid of this building and removed any context so that this scene appears much stranger than it really is, and is now all mine - which might explain why it has not "jumped" off the walls of my booth.

                                                                  TILIKUM CROSSING AS AN EGYPTIAN ARTIFACT

Not that anything else provoked many sales this year. Everyone at the market, including me, suffered this year from declining sales brought on by the decline in the ambience of Downtown Portland. The tourists, bless their hearts, both from abroad and around the rest of the country, seemed to have resumed normal life and enjoyed their trips to the Market - which is after all the second biggest tourist attraction in the state. But Portland residents still seem to be stuck in a doom loop that both recognizes and exaggerates all that is wrong with Downtown, and just don't seem to want to come anywhere near it. It doesn't help that our civic leadership wants to do almost anything else except lead, so that nothing seems to get better. We were left with a Market where visitors seemed to be having a great time, while everyone else was staying away. My sales to locals were down almost 90% this year, while tourist sales held steady. That kind of statistic is something that even I can't ignore, and was the basis for my coming back home on Saturday night with $100 dollars less on the average than I did last year last year.

The image above was created on a walk across the Tilikum Crossing. I've taken so many images of this bridge since it opened that I now search for almost anything new. This rendition focused on the symmetry of one of the four towers, and all of my post processing served to heighten the affect. Careful cropping and the panoramic vertical aspect ratio left no doubt, at least to me, of what I was after. The black and white conversion increased the abstract nature of the composition and allowed for increasing the contrast and textures beyond what a color rendition would allow before it was no longer realistic.

                                      SUN AND SHADE AND "MUD" IN ALBUQUERQUE

In looking at my sales this year, while profits held steady or improved, there just weren't enough sales. Even though for the first time my coasters were actually cheaper than my competitors, coaster sales were only 25% of the levels before the Pandemic. I think this really reflected the economic stresses felt around the world. It was almost painful to watch tourists, who used to debate whether to buy one or two sets of coasters, pick up one coaster, set it down, pick it up again, and then just leave. I almost felt worse for them than I did for myself, although I felt pretty bad when I returned to reading my book.

The image above came from our impromptu trip to New Mexico in February. Fran and I both loved the landscapes and the architecture once we gpot used to the fact that they were almost as alien to Portland and Oregon as almost anywhere in the world, much less a short flight away. Gray and rain and green were replaced by sun and blue and grit, and it took most of the week to get used to it. The image above intrigued me with both its curves of "mud" and strong, even harsh light that seemed to produce shadows in multiple directions at once.

                RARE WATER IN NEW MEXICO

A few years ago at the Market I came up with a line of what I called "Miniatures", 4x4 images on thicker wood blocks that "belonged on the wall" since most of my customers refused to believe that their coasters could easily go on their walls no matter what I did to show them that they easily could. Not that I'm complaining, since I make a bigger profit with the miniatures. I've also discovered that different images do better in that format, or at that price point, than they do as coasters. In any case sales were fine but incredibly frustrating since while they averaged one or two a week, I really would sell half a dozen or more one week , and then not sell one for a month. In my continual unsuccessful attempt to "bring less, sell more" I think you can see why this drove me to distraction.

The image above is a tranquil landscape outside of Albuquerque. What I love about has almost nothing to do with the image itself. You are looking at "Wilderness" since no people are ever allowed into this wildlife sanctuary we viewed from a Visitor Center. The mountains beyond are about ten miles away, and the biggest city in New Mexico is sitting unseen in between. The ordinary Douglas Firs in my neighbor's yard that could crush my house can only grow on the tops of those mountains, ten thousand feet up, which shows how different the climate is in New Mexico.


Most of my booth is filled with metal prints, and I believe that they are an incredible way to show off my images. I was the first photographer at the Market to try to sell them; everyone else has joined me to one extent or another. The only trouble is that they are a premium product and are perceived that way, even though they are actually much more reasonable priced than a conventionally matted and framed print of the same size. Thus I can not sell the larger metal prints that fill my booth, even though I can justify their existence as "billboards" that can drive traffic to the booth and sell smaller stuff. Thus my 8x8 metal prints consistently sell, netting a reasonable profit, while I bring fewer and fewer larger prints to the market. Changing the prices to equal or even beat my colleagues at the Market seem to have no affect at all, and they don't seem to sell any either. It's my fault that I have another whole booth of these prints in my basement; it's not my fault that my bungalow's wall space is already full and can't take another image above ground.

The image above was taken from a trail through Petroglyth National Monument outside of Albuquerque. I wouldn't go for the petroglyphs, although you will eventually learn to scope them out. This is another example of what is essentially wilderness, since there is only one trail, and you are not allowed off of it since you fellow human beings would of course destroy the very things they came to see. Thus you are left with this incredible hillside, the clouds, the heat, and Albuquerque looking incredibly tiny and insignificant in the near distance down in the valley.

                                                           ELEVATED SUNSET

One bright spot at the Market was the resurgence of sales of my posters, which had bottomed out so badly ago that I stopped exhibiting them, relegating them to packing material to protect the metal prints. This year I sold 40 of them, which is quite amazing since I still use them at the end of the day when I pack away the small metal prints. I hate to admit it, but this weird turn of events supports Fran's retail theory of "what do you have to lose?" It also calls into question any conventional theory of pricing, since  the "costs" are long forgotten. For some of the items in my booth the only real costs left are the aches in my back or the inability to display something else.

The image above, taken on the trip back from Albuquerque, delights me beyond its aesthetics because I am amazed that this view is available to human beings today for the price of a cheap air ticket. For the entirety of human history before only last century this image was beyond the imagination, much less the reality, of anyone on Earth.

                A JOURNEY BACK IN TIME


I'll leave off any more Market complaints until next week. These last two images both come from the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument, which we visited with our old friends Vinny and Steve during the Summer. These geological wonders are in the middle of nowhere in Central Oregon, and their isolation is only matched by the wonder you feel at viewing over forty million years of geology in one fell swoop. This trip's revelation was that the more neglected areas in the park had wonderful hikes and views to offer, even though the Painted Hills are always the highlight. This ridge is so amazing that no matter how many return trips you take, you still are speechless when you make the last turn and see this in front of you.

Both of these images rely on the technique of stitching together multiple images on the computer to achieve a viewing angle beyond any wide angle lens, one that comes closer to being on the site, where of course you are moving your eyes and head to "take in" the view. Experience has shown me that less is more - that the best results come from combining only three to four images. In fact the first image is only a bit wider than a conventional image, but includes just enough to show the entire central portion of the ridge. These images end up containing so many megapixels that you could make a billboard-size print - and that require a coffee break to let your computer create the stitched image.

These images are some of my best of the year, in the humble opinion of the artist who created them. You can certainly disagree. Next week we'll take a look at the older images which I transformed in 2023, making them "new" again. I hope you will enjoy them as well.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 29 Dec 2023 20:00:00 GMT

Sometimes you are just walking around, minding your own business, when something catches the corner of your eye. Since you are a photographer, you always have your camera with you, even if it is just your phone. These moments of serendipity can be quickly forgotten, especially if like me, you frequently shoot from the hip. While the compositional possibilities might have provoked your interest, that doesn't mean that you came anywhere near nailing the exposure, or even getting anywhere near it. Since I wasn't even sure there was a real subject, I certainly don't "work it" that day. The initial unloved snapshot is relegated to my archives. If it survives at all is just a matter of chance in the maelstrom of my "organization."

But walking around is not limited to the day of shooting. Once again I am suggesting that if it is just a horrible day out, and you are not on vacation, then perhaps it is time to take another walkabout in your archives to see what can catch your eye. Here are another three examples of what I found today after returning to walks I took around town six or seven(!) years ago. I have no idea if these scenes still exist, but that doesn't matter, since there they are on my hard drive, ready for resurrection.

                THE OLD SIGN

I was walking in the Pearl District back in 2017 when I passed this historical remnant on the side of a new condo. Redevelopment sometimes yields these historical artifacts as blank walls are either uncovered or saved to give new construction some historical patina. This happens frequently in the Pearl District since building sites, both new ones and historical, did not take up the whole of the block. A lot of the existing structures were very traditional masonry warehouses that were so stoutly constructed that it is easier to incorporate them into the new project than to tear them down. When you are confronted with an existing building whose wood structural posts are as thick as trees, and provide a fire rating equal to whatever steel structure you would have to replace them with, "adaptive reuse" rears its complicated head. This old dairy sign is certainly older than I am, and I'm no "spring chicken."

                REJUVENATED OLD SIGN

A few minutes of effort on the computer brightened up my subject and my day. Very judicious cropping tightened things up at the edges, removing some distractions that might have only been distracting to me. I increased the contrast in my usual manner, achieving some true blacks and more importantly bringing up the highlights to achieve a sunnier old party wall. These moves lightened the exposure without lightening the overall exposure, and the onluy saturation I changed was a little oomph to the reds which I couldn't resist. I then tried to clean things up a bit, which was pretty funny when you consider that I was making an image of a weather beaten old sign. The magical erasure brush was employed to eliminate the "crap" - telephone lines, offending tree branches and even ancient graffiti, so that the old sign could shine anew.

                                                                  AN INNOCENT FORAY INTO "STREET PHOTOGRAPHY"

It's not really hard to "Keep Portland Weird" when it seems to do just fine all by itself. This sidewalk scene appeared on a bench in the Sellwood neighborhood back in October 2017. I laughed, quickly moved on, and forgot all about it since the exposure seemed all wrong and the context was too distracting. I took another walk in my archives today and managed to correct most of the flaws of the original image. I cropped the top of the image to eliminate the black triangle. I then took advantage of Lightroom's new Artificial Intelligence Masking tool, which picked out the "subject" - our malnourished fellow - so well that it was then no trouble to "invert" the mask to selectively lower the exposure of the background. I then raised the whites of the skeleton to further increase the contrast in the scene.

                                                                  A STANDOUT KIND OF GUY

Our friend is just as dead but certainly seems a lot livelier. The image is certainly silly, or as Fran would say "whimsical." Since I live in Portland, Oregon, the image almost counts as "documentary" - it doesn't really surprise me at all.

                                                                 BARKING UP THE WRONG TREE

The last image for today comes from a walk in the neighborhood in 2018. This bark caught my eye just like it does almost every time I walk by the tree, and I took yet another inconsequential and pretty incompetent snapshot. Today I resolved to see what I could make of it.

                                       GRAPHIC BARK

You certainly do not have to fall down to your knees over the improvements, but this image is a lot closer to what I feel about the tree. The square crop eliminates most of the compositional errors of the original. It is now completely clear that the subject is the extraordinary result of the shedding of the bark to allow for a new spurt of growth for the tree, which reveals the vibrant color beneath the surface. I am no longer documenting the tree, but I think that I am asking you to consider the graphical power of this natural event. I subtly increased the saturation of the reds, reduced the yellows, and darkened the remaining bark on the left and right to reduce distractions from my subject.

As the weather turns nastier and nastier, I encourage to take some walks in your archives and find some moments from nicer days in the past that you can interpret as your individual reactions to your environment. This is the real way to make your photography really your own.




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 22 Dec 2023 20:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to explore the conumdrum we all face as photographers when we are face to face with a subject that has been shot to death.  There are different versions of this dilemma. You might have been there too many times - maybe it's just time to move on. It is one thing to be working on a project, which can be among the highest callings of a photographer, but if you are just taking the same image again and again, that is not a project. Of course it is one thing if the subject is right out your back door, but even if it means just taking a bus, it doesn't seem to be the best use of your time. As a professional, I am always willing to concede that I might someday encounter a unique lighting situation, or somehow realize that I've been doing it all wrong, but once I have "my shot", even if it is not the world's best shot, my motivation goes way down in my pursuit of that subject.

The most common problem is not overshooting on your own part. I always say that you should "work the subject" and who am I t tell you when it is time to stop? The trouble becomes much more philosophical when we show up at a world famous photo location, take a hard look around, and realize that there is probably not much more to say about the subject than the admittedly beautiful images that were a large part of the reason we went there in the first place. Sometimes the "money shot" does really say it all, or at least as much as anyone who doesn't live nearby will ever get for their efforts.

Our strange new world of cheap air travel, Iphones, and Instagram has only made this worse. In the heydey of photojournalism, most people, even the smaller subset who appreciated photography as an art, had no real chance of duplicating or even seeing an image from the other side of the world. They had never been to Paris, didn't own a camera that could easily produce a sharp image, and probably had only viewed less than a dozen images of the Eiffel Tower. Everything was so gosh darn new, and the fact of the image's existence far overshadowed its artistic aspirations.

There are now more photographs of the Eiffel Tower than you could ever view on Instagram even if you devoted your life to the pursuit. The chances you (or any one) could ever say something "new" are darn near close to zero. When artistic depression hits, it hardly seems worth the effort at all. But as Fran always tells me, you are not going to Paris to take photographs, even if someone is paying you to take photographs - that's there problem. You are there for the food, the sights, the history, the experience - your art is just something to pursue in a new highly stimulating environment. The images are for you, as part of a process that you enjoy, with no real expectation that anyone else might find them new, much less unique.

So of course you should take the "money shot",  but don't make it an obsession and certainly don't stop there if you want to try to say something "new", even if you don't really have much chance of success.  This first image above is a Portland "money shot", so famous after an appearance in National Geographic that it is known around the world by photographers as "The Tree." This particular example, taken by me in an offhand manner this past year, is really not very good. As usual I was a few weeks past prime foliage exuberance, so there was no real chance to compete with better-timed shots. The path next to the tree at the Japanese Garden is divided by a rope line so that the usual line of photographers and their tripods will not interfere with civilians. Even though I was "late" there was still quite a line. At this point in my life I am just not willing to lie on the cold concrete to capture the same image as everyone else on line.

Now don't get me wrong. If you travel across the country to visit Portland, God bless you. Please go visit the Garden, and take a look at the tree. Then come to Saturday Market and buy a photograph of the tree from one of colleagues, whose efforts no doubt are at least marginally better than anything you could achieve in one visit. And when you come to my booth, please purchase an image of "My Tree", another Japanese Maple that I love at our Chinese Garden a few blocks from the Market.

So what is a photographer to do? My short answer is to try anything, even things that almost certainly make no sense, in the effort to make a ubiquitious subject your own. Here are some explorations of my admittedly "meh" shot that I pursued yesterday through the magic of post-processing. I had fun, produced something new even if was just "putting lipstick on a pig." There are worse ways to spend an hour or so.

Since the tree was weeks past its prime, all I could do with the color version was to increase the saturation of the little remaining color with the individual orange and red color sliders. My composition was below par since I didn't lie on the floor, but I still got a feel for the romantically convoluted branches of the Maple. The "better" composition that included some space to the left of the tree is lost somewhere in Lightroom, which says more about my organizational  "abilities" than it does about my artistry.


The first thing to try is to convert to black and white. This is almost as perverse as a black and white sunset, but I'm past prime color, so what can I do? Unless you just love monochromatic green, then I have lost nothing except a touch of uninspiring orange in making this move. I now can work on improving the composition after the fact, and exploring manipulating the exposure. Maybe there is enough here to make an interesting image.


Cropping is always your friend. I converted to a 2:1 panorama to see if the tension and concentration I could achieve could make up for the context that I left out. I happen to like this version better, but you could certainly disagree. The right-hand "snake" limb is emphasized by the crop whose horizontal shape seems to mirror its movement through the frame. I've lost some curves on the left, but I don't think those are as important. What is funny is that the image has gotten a little darker, not through a change in exposure, but just because I've excluded some of the lighter portions of the sky that were cropped out at the top. If I pursued this further, I could explore increasing the exposure to lighten things back up.

                                      IS A SQUARE MORE INTENSE OR JUST BORING?

Here I went in the opposite direction, cropping to a square and seeing if the right-hand limb could carry the entire image. I do like the single dark line travelling across the frame, but I am not sure that it is enough. I really darkened the blacks and the shadows to get the graphic qualities I often find interesting, and it would be interesting to see how that worked with the other crops. It also might be fun to see if I could so manipulate the exposure to try to remove  the leaves, since I think this could resemble and aerial image of a dark river valley. But I don't think it is as nice a tree as the panoramic version.

                HIGH KEY

Finally I returned to the original crop to see what exposure manipulation could do for the image. This is about as "high key" as I think the image can take before it became a dull bland mess of a black and white. This forest, which is of course only single tree, is certainly much brighter, and you can finally appreciate some of details in the trunk. The decline in contrast is so great that in fact the lighter portions of the background now appear darker since there is  very little difference in t0ne with the light trunk. Another  point of interest is that this look was not achieved by raising the exposure at all. I used a "preset" that supposedly simulated what the image would have looked like if it had been taken with infrared film. As a simulation, it is a total failure, but the preset "raised the exposure" by brightening the yellows, greens, and oranges to 100%, so there you go. I put back some detail, since infrared usually reduces the sharpness of an image, and the result is this "high key" scene. Which only goes to show that there is no one way to get similar results with widely different software manipulations.

In the end I like the panoramic version the best, but that is just my opinion. Despite the perversity of a black and white conversion of such a colorful subject,  I feel that I did achieve something at least a little bit different. I'm perverse enough myself that I think that only another photographer might know that this was in fact yet another rendition of "The Tree".

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 15 Dec 2023 20:00:00 GMT

                                      SAN JUANS NOCTURNAL SCENE

This week I would like to discuss just three images that I discovered on yet another recent trip through my archives. These forays are usually an uncertain effort to save more images that I lose in rationalizing the organization of thousands of images from the past forty years. As they say in the Naked City, these are just a few of their stories.

The first image is a moody landscape across the cove taken from the extravagant porch of a vacation rental a few miles from Friday Harbor on San Juan Island. We stayed there for ten days, and I captured many versions of this scene. I had just purchased a new tripod, and spent many early evenings experimenting with capturing photographs that were essentially taken in the dark. The exposures allowed by the tripod allowed the camera lens to gather in so much light that the darkness of twilight could reveal shapes and colors hidden to the naked eye. In some ways these are mystery images since the photographer often does not even truly see what is in the frame, just a memory of what was there a half hour before. The tripod allows exposures of several seconds to several minutes, all of which would be impossible to hand-hold.

What is interesting is that because I didn't really see what I was "seeing", it allows for an even broader interpretation of the scene once the camera reveals what was "there." It's so hard to say what you really saw that it is hard to discount a subsequent interpretation as "unrealistic."  The moon was certainly out, the sea was very calm, and the derelict fishing plant and pier were certainly reflected in the water. But while the overall blue tint of twilight was apparent to my naked eye, the richness of the blues and the gradations of purples were only caught by the camera.

                                                                  ORIGINAL EFFORT

This is the original scene caught by the sensor. The camera has already rendered the scene lighter than reality, as shown by the brightness of the moon, complete with its reflection, which was not perceived anywhere near as bright from off the balcony. There are no lights on in the building - the lights in the windows are caused by the same setting sun that is lighting the moon above.

The first thing to do is to crop the scene to a square to get rid of the boring sky above the moon. Fortunately the square crop still allows for both the moon and its reflection to stay in the frame. In order to maintain any degree of integrity as a landscape photographer, i then straightened the horizon by following the water line at the island opposite my location.

Any post-processing beyond these initial moves are a subjective matter of interpretation. One could certainly hold the opinion that I have overemphasized the blue and purple tones, except for the fact that they were all there in the original. Their power was revealed not by the saturation slider, but by merely raising the shadows to reveal more details in the ruins. I think I successfully resisted raising the exposure too much, a natural tendency which spoils the reality of how dark the scene really was - you don't want to replace night with day. In looking at the history of my post-processing, I actually subtly lowered the overall exposure, raised the shadows and the white point, and drastically lowered the highlights to keep the moon in check. Most of the blue shift was the result of correcting the overall white balance, which operator error had allowed to be "daylight" which it obviously wasn't at the time. I then raised the brightness values of the "blues" in the scene, which of course raised the exposure since the only color thaty wasn't mostly blue was black. Lightroom's new Dehaze filter increased detail by cutting through the haze which in this scene was mostly just darkness.

                                       UPON FURTHER REFLECTION

I frequently tell my students to let things lie overnight so that you can look at your image with refreshed eyes and see where you might have gone too far. While writing this essay I decided to revisit the "after" image and to lessen the "realistic" blue tint in the one place that it bothered me - the fish house ruin. Using the masking tool, I adjusted the white balance, the exposure, and the saturation of just the warehouse to render it far closer to gray. It is still a cool gray to be sure, but it is not blue, and now looks more realistic to me, despite what the computer might think. I also added a little sharpness to the warehouse wall, which might not show up at this enlargement size. These are the only changes between the first image and the third. You can certainly disagree with my interpretation, but just remember that this image was captured essentially in the dark.

                SPACE NEEDLE DETAIL

This next photo was much more straightforward. It is another example of my tendency to capture snippets of things rather than the whole. This certainly allows me to concentrate on the details that are important to me at the risk of losing so much context that a typical viewer might not know what they are looking at. Unless you are a resident of the Pacific Northwest, you would be forgiven if you didn't immediately realize that this was a portion of the Space Needle in Seattle.


You also might be forgiven if you are not bowled over by efforts to "improve" this image in post-processing, but remember that I am an anal retired architect, and that it is my image and not yours. It was important to me, and maybe to no one else to do a few subtle things to the image. I couldn't crop to a square as is my usual wo0nt, but I could crop to eliminate those pesky violations of my inner circle at the outer borders on the upper edge. I also straightened the verticals at the center of the tower and placed them in the exact center of the image. Big deal. More to the point, I raised the whites, lowered the blacks to make the initial grays black, and then darkened the remaining shadows to make the image more graphic than realistic. I resisted the urge to convert to black and white out of maybe an undo fascination with the orange lights in the center of the tower.


I know that I really do like orange, but I converted to black and white anyway. Black and white allowed me to further deepen the real blacks and to further darken the shadows to up the graphic nature of the image. I utilized Lightroom's new "Texture" tool to bring out the joints, dirt, and discolorations in the lighter portion of the tower to return a note of realism to the image.

                                                                  AUTO EXHIBIT

A few years ago I attended an art exhibit at the Portland Art Museum that explored the art of classic auto design. While the vintage cars were certainly beautiful, the exhibit was really an excuse for auto enthusiasts and photographers to salivate over the possibility of capturing images of this incredibly sexy sheet metal. In addition to the usual classic car suspects, and the always embarrassing "forgotten years" of Mercedes models, there were cars exhibited that i had never even heard of, much less seen in the flesh.

Taking images of automobiles, classic or not is very hard. It is one of the subjects that separates artists like me from photographers who actually know what they are doing. Automobiles are such a specialty that certain photographers make an entire career of the subject, whether for advertisers or classic car owners who will pay really good money for a portrait of their automotive children. To say that a packed museum exhibition was not a good venue would be an understatement. The white balance of the museum lighting was so wrong that even a person who didn't even understand that light has "color" would realize that something was terribly wrong. It was very hard to take a photograph that didn't include other museum goers. The cars were so polished that it was even hard not to include your own reflections in the image. Overall views of any car were impossible unless you were in the market to show an image of the exhibit itself for the museum brochure. It is easy to see why there are special studios and lighting for automotive imaging, as well as trips to national parks and deserted roads for suitable backgrounds.

I tried to make the best of the situation, and this image was characteristic of what I achieved in the museum. I needed to straighten the image, crop it further to eliminate messy details at the edges of the frame, and to make some sense of the color balance - I swore the car was silver rather than the gold the camera rendered.

                                                             STRAIGHTEN UP AND FLY RIGHT

The "real" Graham is now revealed. I have never heard of Graham either. Yet you've got to love all of those vertical and horizontal vents on one small portion of a vintage nose, and while you might not agree, it certainly seems time to grab the old fedora and go for a drive with your gal. Cue up the score from Guys and Dolls!

I hope that you have enjoyed another short journey into the archives, and I encourage you to see if you can discover any forgotten gems in your own photo folder. You might be surprised at what you have overlooked and the images that can be coaxed out with your post-processing skills.





(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 08 Dec 2023 20:00:00 GMT

                RED UMBRELLA

This week I would like to discuss how to use color as a graphic element. My readers know that I am a big fan of black and white photography, which can usually bring out textures, tonal variations and other aspects of composition which can benefit from the absence of color. But what happens if color is the entire point of the image? I'm not talking about a beautiful landscape image where the photographer stereotypically placed his wife, clad with a National Geographic regulation red jacket into the scene at an intersection provided by the "rule of thirds." I love graphic images, and color is one way to certainly bring out the nature of an image without necessarily caring about the "subject." Even though photography is a realistic medium, I think you can emphasize the power of color so that the color becomes the real subject of the photograph - even if the viewer is not aware of what you are up to.

It helps considerably if you can include other graphic elements - lines, shapes, repetitive elements - that can play off the color that you have chosen to feature in your image. Silhouettes can be very powerful in this regard, since their near black rendering can provide a visual element that will subdivide the areas of color and provide an element of realism without really competing with the color you are trying to celebrate. An example is this first image, which comments on the structure of an absolutely wonderful contraption whose beauty is frequently overlooked by its emergency function to keep the rain or the sun off our heads. The graphic nature of the image is preserved because the entire field of view is the RED umbrella, with no sky or humans involved. Even though the subject is red, whose power caused me to pay attention, the image could  work with a yellow, or a blue umbrella as well, without getting involved with a discussion of color emotions as such - as long as the color was light enough to set off the black ribs. This red umbrella, back lit by the sun, didn't need any help with the saturation slider, but of course anything goes since we aren't trying to sell red umbrellas.

                                                        BEN'S WINDOW

This image was all about the color in an elaborate fan light above an entry door at Benjamin Franklin High School in Portland. Centered and cropped to a square per coaster requirements, it is converted to another semi-abstract image by a total disregard for context. In this case the pretty gray Portland sky didn't do much for me, so I upped the saturation considerably without changing the hue. The following two examples show that Lightroom can completely change the hue, or color, as long as you generally keep to the blue side of the color wheel. If you need to change it to orange or such, you've got to go to Photoshop. When you change the color, you can also affect the saturation and the brightness.

                                                       A MUCH LIGHTER BLUE - DON'T ASK ME WHERE THE BROWN CAME FROM

                                                       A ROYAL PURPLE

                                       A LONG VIEW OF A BROKEN PIER

We are heading toward realism here, but not really, since this wreck of a pier is pretty obscure even with a reflection in the waves. The blue is heightened by my not correcting the overwhelming blue color cast present in the camera's reality - our eyes and brains bring this much closer to gray, but who says I have to?

                                       GOLDEN EIGHT

Here i noticed another hint of realism surrounded by a color field of water. The Willamette was of course gray, not blue, but when I changed the white balance to "cloudy", this beautiful light gold tone appeared out of nowhere. The "real" image started out almost black and white. Such is the power of the monochrome image that this gold water is perfectly acceptable as reality even though we know it can't be true in the Portland we know and love.

                                      REALLY GOLDEN EIGHT

Oh, if that gold is not floating your boat, so to speak, then you can certainly change "cloudy"  to "shade" which will achieve the sunset glow of your dreams. The silhouette of the racing skiff gives the viewer something to focus on, but  the subject is really the color.

                                                        SAN JUAN SUNSET

Here is another silhouette, but just barely. As in astrophotography, a small sliver of the earth provides the "grounding" required for this sky study which can certainly be entered as "skyporn" on Instagram. It doesn't matter to anyone else but me and my memories that this took place in the San Juan Islands, but I can honestly say that the atmosphere provided the colors without any help from Lightroom.

                                                                  SERRA RUST

These colors are almost all my invention. I focused on only a small section of a Richard Serra Corten Steel curving wall sculpture. Corten steel naturally rusts to shades of red and orange that actually serve to protect the steel below from really rusting. I brought out the variations in color which were certainly "there" but nowhere near the levels of contrast and saturation that I gave the pretty muted sculpture. Thus working with color allowed me to comment on another artist's artwork, achieving a level of abstraction that allows me to "paint" my own abstract, without a lot in common with the reality of a ten-foot tall curving steel wall.

                                      BANANA RAYS

Even nature images can be converted into color abstracts if you allow that to be your intent. This section of a banana leaf is ripped from its context in a greenhouse to become a study in pattern and shades of green. All I had to do line up the lines, restrict the field of view, and heighten the contrast to bring out the varieties of green.

                OTHER WORLDLY BEACH

This panorama is almost totally abstract, since it is an example of both long exposure and intentional camera movement on my part at the end of a week starring out at a featureless North Carolina beach - no sea stacks here! While the viewer might recognize this as a series of waves, it is not apparent that this body of water is on our planet, not with those colors. But if you like yellow, how can you complain?

                                      THE REAL WORLD, BUT IT IS KAUAI

Finally we come to another seascape which I swear is the spitting image of reality. Of course it helps that these stripes of paradise are on a beach in Kauai. All I did was make sure the horizon was straight, even though that brought out fact that the beachfront was in fact a little hilly. I might have darkened the sky a little to bring out the clouds, but that was it. The image is all about color, even if the four or five shades of the sea can seem unreal.

                                      KAUAI IN BLACK AND WHITE, ONLY BECAUSE I CAN

I had to work much, much harder to make this black and white version come close to working at rendering this scene. I am actually pleased with the result, although it still seems to be the answer to a challenge that nobody else would take on. Although it might work as part of a black and white portfolio, most would wonder what the hell was the point. If the color moves you to say wow, then do not be afraid to communicate that with your audience. Someth=imes color is the whole point of an image.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 01 Dec 2023 20:00:00 GMT

                                                                  ORIGINAL FISH POND LANDSCAPE

This week I'd like to continue the discussion of adjusting to new software in post-processing our images. This is a two-edged sword, balancing the frustrations of having to abandon or modify habitual and comfortable ways of working with the opportunity to try and learn something new. In the real world there are no magic bullets and the results attained with new software are usually very similar to your accustomed results. But there can be some advancement, especially if you keep your expectations low. This can ease the pain of learning the quirks of new software, especially if the endless cycle of new hardware and software has forced you into new versions you didn't even ask for.

                                                                  ORIGINAL CLIFF PANORAMA

This is my recent struggle with adjusting to a new version of Lightroom that was forced on me by my new laptop which couldn't bear to deal with my perfectly adequate 15-year old Lightroom version. These two images will hopefully illustrate both the problems and opportunities of learning to do familiar things in new ways. The caveat is that of course there are many ways to achieve the same results, and that the "old" ways are usually hidden within new software. I find it somewhat amusing that the newest software still includes the cascading menus that were state of the art 25 years ago, even though young computer gurus would never even dream of using them. It is also comforting/frustrating that programs like Lightroom will even let you modify the new program to behave like the old one, if you are willing to go to the trouble of modifying the software in ways that will require consultation with a teenager.

These two images were captured in Hawaii four years ago in what seems like the "before" times. I took two walks on successive days on the Big Island, and a journey into my archives yielded these two images which I had previously ignored. the first image is of a Hawaiian's king fish pond, which were cleverly built along the coast to capture and support local fish for harvest right next to their former ocean homes. The second image illustrates how much the coast can vary on one island - these cliffs defy anyone to get close to the ocean unless you are willing to climb down what looks to be a ten-story ladder to get to the surf.

                                                                  NEW LIGHTROOM VERSION

I modified the original to achieve this preferred version using my new version of Lightroom. I cropped the original to reduce amount of foreground and sky. In doing so both the left and right borders also moved in, placing the two outer trees much closer to the edge of the frame and thus placing more attention  on the central palm. This is especially true on the right side, where the crop eliminates the black palm's crossing beyond the striped palm. I'm not sure that this is a plus, but I had to accept it to make the other changes. In the midst of four cockeyed palm trees I found the one horizon in the distance - the path on the other side of the pond - and straightened things out. Boosting the saturation in both the greens and the blues brought life to the pond and the central palm. Sharpening improved the entire image, but special exposure and texture changes on the right pond brought out its "tiger" stripes. Darkening the left palm, especially its left edge, reduced its impact on the entire image and allowed it to just serve as an edge on the left side.

                                                                  "ON ONE'S" TAKE ON THE SAME IMAGE

I then brought the image into my tried and true "plug-in" for Lightroom from a Portland software company called "On One". This software can enhance an image in very specialized ways relating to adding contrast and sharpening to specific areas of the image in ways that are not impossible, but just more difficult, than in Lightroom. Fortunately this plug-in still works with the new Lightroom version, since I am also four years behind in On One as well. The results here are pretty subtle at this level of enlargement, but I think you can see even more emphasis on the right palm's markings and  a subtle increase in the detail in the both the pond and the central palm's foliage. This kind of enhancement can be very tricky, since at low magnification it can be near impossible to see while a large enlargement can reveal ugly artifacts that don't seem to exist in smaller versions.

                                                       A NEW CROP

The small portion of sky remaining still bothered me. I tried to brush out the saturation that resulted when I saturated the pond, but I was still not convinced, and the answer became to change the aspect ratio to 4:5 from the standard 4:6. This brought even more attention to the central palm as the subject, since th was no more jungle, much less sky, at the top. The wider image also seemed to strengthen the two border trees.

                                                       "ON ONE" BLACK AND WHITE

It was time to try black and white to see if heightened contrast and detail could make up for the lack of color contrast. While I usually appreciate this bargain, in this case there were a few things I missed in the monochrome version. The extra detail in the pond made it seem much too crunchy. The right palm was certainly contrasty enough, but for once I missed the beige which seemed much lighter than the white in the black and white version. Finally the variations in the central palm foliage seemed just "dirty" in black and white.

                                                       NEW LIGHTROOM VERSION

Then I tried a black and white conversion in the new Lightroom software, and for some reason I was more taken with this version. The decline in contrast and sharpening in this version seemed to just lighten the whole image. It just goes to show you that just like "on any given Sunday" in football, a certain workflow will suddenly enhance a particular image, even though it might not be the way you usually proceed for most images.


                                                                   NEW LIGHTROOM VERSION, STAGE ONE

The cliff image presented some different problems and shows how different paths might achieve similar end products, especially when compared to the original. What should be a grand vertical panorama seems just a little too dark, way too dull, not nearly sharp enough, and even a bit crooked. I used the small bit of horizon in the distance to straighten out a very crooked cliff. I removed quite a bit of blue color cast which came off of the ocean. By cranking up the contrast by boosting both the black and white points, I revealed a lot of detail in the cliff face. Lightening the shadows also helped a lot, especially in the distant cliff faces. But the overall exposure now seemed a bit too dark.

                                                                   ON ONE GIVES IT A TRY

On One's version tied to achieve contrast and sharpening in some very different ways. It left the white and black points alone, and used a revised white balance that was much warmer to separate the rocks and the sand at the top of the cliff. Notice that the fog in the sky seems a lot more gray rather than purple. But On One's Dynamic contrast, a mid-range contrast control, still seems to have made both the sea and the sand just a little bit too crunchy for my taste.

                                                                   TAKING ADVANTAGE OF "DEHAZE"

The new Lightroom software tries to achieve similar levels of mid-tone contrast enhancement in a different way than Dynamic Contrast. I think it works better on this image. Dynamic Contrast can affect the exposure and white balance in ways that are not immediately noticeable when you are positively stimulated by the increase in perceived sharpness, but they are there. The sky has become purpler again, and the sea is maybe a little bit too saturated and crunchy. Lightroom's new (at least to me) Dehaze control tries to increase contrast in a way that can mimic and alleviate the typical loss of detail in a long distance view. It was seemingly made for a landscape image like this one. For the first time, those windmills on the horizon are coming into view, without making the foreground sand on the cliff too gritty. Real separation on the central part of the cliff is achieved without affecting the overall exposure of the image.

                                                                   ON ONE BLACK AND WHITE

In moving to black and white, my usual strategies of further increasing contrast and sharpening have also seemed to yield a dark and brooding image that is maybe more suited to Scotland than to Hawaii.

                                                                   NEW LIGHTROOM BLACK AND WHITE

Dehaze and raising the shadows have yielded a lot of detail in the cliff face without too much contrast or the storm in the sea in the first version. I seem to like this version better, although I could easily change my mind tomorrow. That is the nature of our visual perception, which can be as fickle as either computer hardware or software. It is frequently very useful to revisit an editing session to see if you've gone too far. Even Goldilocks could be mistaken on the first go-around.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 17 Nov 2023 20:00:00 GMT


This week, begging your indulgence, I'd like to present one old image that I rescued from the archives, accompanied by an extended rant about having to adapt to yet another new technological wonder I didn't really want. This photo was taken 13 years ago, when I went to take a look at a new park in Downtown Portland. Director Park is a beautiful example of many things, including design, philanthropy, one family's strong bonds, and a rare public triumph over corporate greed that used to characterize the small world of Portland's urban experiment.

This image is my first attempt to struggle with my new version of "Lightroom" that I finally purchased, much to my dismay, last week. I have been doing just fine with Lightroom 5, which is not even the newest version, Lightroom 6, that Adobe made before they decided to not sell it to anyone anymore. Like some other software companies, Adobe hit upon the idea that they wouldn't sell anything, only "rent" it. Old codgers like me naturally resisted the idea that I would now be forced to rent a new version of software when the older version still met all my needs. I succeeded in avoiding this new "tax" until I had to purchase a new laptop this year. Of course the new Apple miracle would not support the relic Lightroom software, except it did. Until it started to psychiz-out a few weeks ago, and even I had to admit that maybe this "professional" had better not wait until the whole thing came crashing down. The learning curve that I had avoided for nearly 15 years reared its ugly head, and now had to actually pay attention to all of those remarkable "improvements" that I had not seen any need for heretofore.

Of course I will get used to it, but let's just say that is hasn't been a picnic. As Fran always says, it's only "intuitive" to the idiot that designed it. Tools that I have used for a decade are now hidden four layers down, and I must say that this old dog is pretty frustrated. Not to mention that this "book learner" is now faced with the fact that books on software have gone the way of the dinosaur. God willing, if I live another ten years I will have to pay Adobe more than $1200.00 to not own their product, assuming that the price doesn't go up, which of course it will. I have had to violate the only correct economic advice I have ever taught Benjamin - to resist subscriptions or any other recurring payments at all costs! Of course the $10.00 a month  will not break me, and since it is a business expense, all of you are pitching in 3 bucks or so, but it's the principle of the thing! Why? Why? Why?

Director Park is yet another example of how well the urban design of Portland as a "miniature city", composed of a grid of very small 200' square blocks, can be adapted to create pocket parks that enliven the cityscape. Since our blocks are so small compared to most American grids, it is easier to 'leave one out" without destroying more economic growth than Portland can afford to lose. There are numerous examples of this strategy around Downtown, since it has been employed almost since the grid was first laid over a virgin Old Growth forest by the city's founders in 1850. This idea started with the original Park Blocks, was employed to set aside parks, one for men and one for women, at the center of municipal government, and then became the genesis of Portland's "Living Room," Pioneer Courthouse Square in the center of Downtown. It can even be a windfall for developers who are smart enough to listen to urban designers.The Pearl District's series of one block parks that skip along through the new district allowed eight blocks to drastically increase in value because they all now were adjacent to a new public park. Thus two dozen blocks of condo towers were now elevated in value by giving up three blocks to the neighborhood, and to the rest of the city.

Director Park exists in it's present form because of corporate greed, and the overwhelming desire to provide parking in the heart of Downtown despite Portland's efforts to sustain and expand mass transit. The "powers that be" decided that the best use of one block surface parking in the midst of some of the most valuable real estate in Portland was to erect an exceedingly ugly 10-story parking garage. No matter how the architects tried to dress up this pig, the problem of course was the appalling idea of a new parking garage in the first place. This block was adjacent to not one, but two existing 4-story underground parking structures underneath two of Portland's newest towers!

Thus began an almost typical Portland battle royale. I was one of almost 300 citizens who showed up for a public meeting with their pitchforks and testimony. I was one of the usual suspects, and one of the few architects who could engage in such a fight without threatening potential Downtown clients, since of course my outrage was only matched by my lack of business acumen. The only real contribution I made to the debate, based on my overwhelming architectural experience, was when I "innocently" pointed out that the slide of the beautiful professional rendering of the proposed building had somehow left out the title of the drawing - "Nordstrom's Parking Tower" - which let the cat out of the bag. We were giving up a block of Downtown to park cars for a department store whose front door already let in more people every day than anywhere else in town except perhaps the Central branch of the Library. The ultimate irony was that Nordstrom's downtown store, the most successful new free-standing department store in the nation, had been built adjacent to Pioneer Courthouse Square, which had replaced an ugly two-story parking garage in the center of Downtown!

Philanthropy then entered the fray when one of Portland's richest families, the Schnitzer's, engineered a deal to buy the block and donate it to the city for another one-block park, which coincidentally would stand on top of four stories of underground parking that would connect with the existing lots on the adjacent blocks. The park would be named for the other branch of the family, the Director's, complete with a fountain that honored schoolteachers like Mom.

This image and it's variants show the other main feature of the park, a four-story glass pergola that takes up half the block and supposedly answers the question of an identity for an urban hardscape of brick and stone and water, while providing some protection for visitors on most of those days when Portland "sunshine" - in other words, rain, is making an appearance. The pergola is certainly a grand architectural statement, a very well-detailed mass of overlapping glass shingles that covers nearly a half-acre without blocking the occasional sun. I don't really know how well it does block the rain, since it is four stories above the street and our rain is often accompanied by wind, but there you go. Parks throughout history have frequently contained "follies" and is this is ours, so be it. The park has always been well maintained, and "programmed" to make up for the fact that Americans have little piazza experience. It is even one of the few places in Portland where mere citizens can move the chairs around!

The photographic problems with pergola, at least for this photographer, relate to its size, its "hollowness", and its surroundings. The structure's size makes it hard to take in the whole thing without diminishing its actual stature - the usual "wide angle" problem. It is also very hard to photograph a "space" whose boundaries are so porous - open sides, and a glass roof, don't provide much spatial definition. Two dimensional images have a hard time defining three dimensional space. Photographers like myself often avoid this problem by concentrating on the details, since we know that you can only really experience the space by actually being there. But the pergola really suffers by the fact that Paris is not across the street, just some admittedly banal Portland towers and older storefronts. The surroundings of this urban space are just not that inspiring, so its openness seems to work against it, at least in photographs.


I tried to deal with this "problem" by concentrating on the glass roof itself. I took this image while walking down the stairs at the adjacent four-story above-ground parking garage(!) which provided this elevated view. I have already cropped out most of the edges of the pavement, but the surroundings are still too apparent for my taste. My solution was to mask out the surroundings and drastically reduce the exposure with brushes and gradient masks; increasing contrast and brightening up the pergola roof itself further highlighted the structure, my real subject. I also straightened the columns since I am an anal retired architect, but you will notice them too in the finished variant.


Much better, at least for me, but then my prejudice against "sickly" green struck again, so I reached for the magic of black and white. As it is, the image only contains one real color besides that green, the light wood Glulam beams, and I don't think I'll miss them too much either.


Now we have a picture! The lack of color highlights the details and the shadows on the beams. In my opinion, the dark black surroundings actually look more "realistic" in black and white than in color, since they are just another aspect of the abstraction inherent in a black and white image. Since I have removed so much of the context already, it was time to crop some more and get an even closer look at the roof.

                                      WILL GETTING EVEN CLOSER IMPROVE THE VIEW?

The square crop now makes this image all about the glass roof, with just a little touch of black space thrown in at the top for contrast and to ensure the viewer that this roof doesn't extend to infinity and beyond. What is funny is that the green tint doesn't bother me as much now that I'm closer, and the overlap of the shingles has become even more intriguing even though I still don't see they keep the water out.

                                       BLACK AND WHITE IS JUST FINE, THANK YOU.

But I still like the black and white version a little better, but maybe that's just me. It is my image, after all. Of course I now have to learn a number of "marvelous" new ways to convert my images to black and white. It is really weird to have to learn yet another version of 21st Century software in order to explore black and white imagery that dates to the 19th Century. Have a good week.






(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 10 Nov 2023 20:00:00 GMT

Discussing your art with others can be very interesting, especially if you hope that they might actually bring an example of your work home. I find that even people who profess admiration of my "eye" sometimes seem lost over my artistic intentions. Which is certainly not to say that this disconnect is their fault - it's just that either I have failed to communicate my intent, or that my way of viewing the world is even more foreign than what my viewers thought. As a retired architect, I am naturally drawn towards architecture and the city as a subject, and my training has certainly allowed me to put myself in the designer's shoes. I approach a work of architecture by trying to understand what the architect was trying to accomplish, even though centuries might have past, and that designer certainly wouldn't understand my world. I also must acknowledge that most of the time I am faced with work that is certainly beyond my capability as an architect - I'm just trying to understand it so that I can better appreciate something that I probably couldn't have accomplished myself.

                                                                            ONE OF THE CORNERS OF THE BUILDING. THAT IS A LOT OF GLASS WITHOUT ANY FUNCTION WHATSOEVER.

Two things get in the way of my communication with my viewers. One is that I am very rarely interested in documentation as a my primary goal in creating an image. I understand that I have been priviledged in being able to travel to see buildings and cities in places far beyond what my viewers have seen - but the architecture that I might be focusing on might not be something that they have ever "heard of" or even would notice in the same way if they had had the opportunity to travel to that city. Since I am not really interested in documenting a building, my images tend to ignore the entire building and concentrate on parts of the work or even details that might only interest me. To me images of an entire building are either boring and bland or are just to much trouble to obtain - no one is paying me to provide an overall shot to explain a  building in an architectural magazine. Frankly, I have neither the photographic lenses,  the training, or the budget of both time and money to procure such imagery, so I happily leave it to others. Since I don't want to document a building, I can take it on my own terms, which allows me to use another architect's art to create my own. I hope to create an impression of a whole building as a sum of the parts that have moved my eye. Of course this collage approach only works if my choices make sense to my viewers, but that is my problem, not theirs. If the viewer has not had the opportunity to actually view the building it might be even harder to communicate my take on the subject.

                                                                  AT LEASTFOUR DIFFERENT MATERIALS IN AN ARBITRARY "DIVISION" OF ONE FACADE

Even though I sometimes refer to my approach as a series of "architectural portraits", I have to admit that these portraits are frequently harder for viewers to understand than portraits of humans. No matter how foreign or ancient or weirdly dressed, we can almost always understand that we are viewing a portrait of a human being. This is true even if we are looking at a science fiction "humanoid" whose strange features can't hide the fact that they are members of the actor's union. My architectural portraits can become so abstract that my viewers no longer know what they are looking at. But most of my images do tend to show enough of the whole building that with just a little imagination the viewer can appreciate the subject as a part of the whole.

                                                                            THIS IS ALMOST UNDER CONTROL, BUT ALL THAT RIGGING SEEMS TO HAVE BEEN STOLEN FROM A TALL SHIP IN SAN FRANCISCO BAY

These images are all from an hour's walk around a fairly new building that I went to see in San Francisco on a weekday afternoon in 2009. What is interesting is that this structure, no longer "new" and separated from the present day by the Great Recession, a Worldwide Pandemic, and an urban "doom loop", is still so foreign to most viewers that they can't even decide what to think of it. That this edifice is a Federal Office building is beyond most viewer's understanding. I imagine that even most people who have lived in San Francisco ever since it was built still don't know what to make of  it. All I can say is that it was designed by a firm called Morphosis, which should give you a hint that we aren't in Kansas anymore. Thom Mayne and Michael Rotondi started the firm in 1972 and have been defying architectural conventions ever since. Since this building doesn't even have large elements that actually move while you are standing there dumbfounded, it isn't even part of the more "radical" part of the Morphosis architectural portfolio. This is the kind of building that even architects "confront" rather than just visit, and these images illustrate my personal confrontation fifteen years ago.

                                                                  BRUTE STRUCTURAL GYMNASTICS THAT NO DOUBT CONFUSED THE STRUCTURAL ENGINEERS 

Yes your tax dollars paid for this, so you have more rights to an opinion on the result. More than thirty years ago, observers as varied as architects, bureaucrats, and even Senators began to wonder why Federal architecture seemed so unimaginative and conventional that even those who didn't mind "Classical" design in our Nation's Capitol didn't see why it should be duplicated around the country by mediocre architectural firms that very few people had ever heard of, much less saw in the architectural press. There began a concerted effort to expand the range of firms who could be hired to design government buildings beyond those who had learned to how to fill out the opaque calls for references that seemed to include every criteria except for design excellence. So all bets were off, and staid federal office buildings, court houses, and even "infrastructure" were suddenly open to art beyond the usual "5% for art" that had formerly gotten people's hackles up around the country. The entire building was now a piece of art, and the public was now exposed to much more unusual architectural forms than the Classical Columns they were used to.

                                                                  ZIGS AND ZAGS AND A YELLOW TRANSPARENT BEAM THAT IS HOLDING UP AIR

If you think that this went too far, you wouldn't be alone. All I can say is that it is certainly interesting, well built, heroically detailed, maybe to a fault, and can grab your attention as you skirt the tents on Market Street. Is it overwrought? Yes. Are there parts that are more attractive than others? Yes. Does it make any sense at all? Who knows? All I know is that if you don't like one facade, just turn the corner and you'll find a completely different facade that you might find more attractive or even less understandable. In an age when most architects were at least paying lip service to designing with a recognition of the urban context of their building, Morphosis didn't even acknowledge the context of their own building. To say that it doesn't make sense is certainly a critic's right, but that doesn't even seem to be the point.


So this architectural photographer, who tries to treat a building as a collage of images, was confronted by a building that was a collage in itself. Even almost twenty years later, while I don't think that it is an example of the Emperor's new clothes, it is certainly open to question. The talent exhibited in parts of the collage seem completely disconnected from the object as a civic structure. Most of the architectural moves, while certainly picturesque, seem, to have little to do with the actual function of giving office workers a place to be bureaucrats.

                                                                  A GREEN FACADE TOPPED BY A GLASS CORNICE

And like an auto accident, it's pretty hard to turn away. Even architectural critics, who are paid to try to explain this stuff, could only come up with "Deconstructionism" to describe buildings that not only broke the rules, but seemed to have no rules at all. This collage approach, while certainly dynamic, and even more divorced from history than any radical piece of "Modern Architecture" that now populated the history books, proved as short-lived as the "Post Modern" phase that proceeded it. When you are so determined to absolve yourself of any rules beyond the fact that the building should not fall down, it becomes very hard to determine why any decision might be more correct than any other. Architecture that becomes totally arbitrary, with no relationship with function at all, becomes just as straight-jacketed in its own way as any mute rectilinear black and white glass and steel box where "form follows function." The "style" proved very hard to expand beyond the larger commissions that Morphosis continues to get to this day. These sculptural collages make Frank Gehry's sculptural buildings seem positively "conservative" in comparison.


I hope this collection of images provides some understanding of this urban event. I don't know if you will find the architecture compelling or even understandable. But as usual I tried to express my "wow" and hope to communicate it to you, even though I don't know if my "wow" is just a very complicated reaction to such a confrontational piece of art.




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 03 Nov 2023 19:00:00 GMT


                                      HAWTHORNE BLUE HOUR - ALL ABOUT COLOR

                                      OR IS IT? HAWTHORNE BLUE HOUR B&W

It's no secret that I am really a fan of black and white photography. I am not a religious fanatic about it though - I just think it can be a very useful tool in your photographic arsenal, providing a really attractive alternative interpretation for some images. While I did a small share of work in the darkroom just before the advent of digital photography, I was happy to leave the world of chemicals behind for post-processing on the computer. Part of this was due to the fact that my darkroom skills were not very good, and that I was more interested at the time in working in color, which had never really been an option before the computer age. I can remember evenings spent at U-Develop, a remarkable Portland photographic institution at the time, which had color darkroom facilities of a sort. The trouble was that no one really knew what they were doing, except for the sages behind the counter, who would cryptically suggest you "add a little magenta" after you had waited in line after yet another unsuccessful print. This was a very expensive hobby, especially when I realized that everyone else seemed to be a professional that was not worried about costs since their bosses or clients were paying for all this anyway.


                                      OLD GROWTH, NEW GROWTH IN NATURAL MONOCHROMATIC GREEN

                                      OLD GROWTH, NEW GROWTH IN ABSTRACT BLACK AND WHITE

Thus black and white was not really romantic, nostalgic, or cost effective in my environment of trying to achieve a perfect, or even just mediocre color exposure. I never really paid much attention to black and white except for some experiments with Ilford XP2, the first black and whiter film which could be developed by the minimum wage worker in the one hour kiosk. Yes, it was black and white, especially when the machine was properly calibrated, and it had zero grain, which was also revolutionary. But the one-hour guy still didn't have any capacity to really make a quality print, and since it was really "color" film, I still had to head back to the line at U-Develop.

                                       I DO MISS THE LONE RED STICK, BUT I LOVE THE BLACK WATER

Just about the time that traditionalists were declaring that "film is not dead", I discovered that even though my new digital "negatives" were in color, I could use the computer to render them in black and white. It took a number of years for the software industry, and even more time for the revolutionary home photo printers to be able to create black and white prints that were any better than embarrassing, but they eventually did. While there is another segment of true believers that still use film while no doubt listening to their long-playing records in the darkroom, most people have moved on. My prints that come out of my home printer are so much better than anything I could ever achieve in the darkroom, and to tell you the truth it is just as magical when they emerge from that printer in my well-lit study as it ever was in the tray of chemicals in the dark.


But for the most part I was still a color photographer, since I was mostly observing the real world of color and there was still quite a learning curve involved in converting a digital color photograph into black and white. There was one real reason that I started trying at all - it was that sometimes I just didn't like the colors in the real world! I am one of the few Portlanders who actually doesn't love the green of the St. Johns Bridge, so it was only naturally perverse that when I finally got around to exhibiting my image of that ubiquitous Portland symbol, I insisted on black and white. It was also fortuitous that the green, now silver bridge actually stood out against the green, now black woods in Forest Park.


So now I created black and whites when I didn't like the real colors, or when I realized that the colors were so unimportant that it didn't really matter if they were gone. But now that I had enough black and white images customers started  to ask "whether I had that one in black and white as well" so they could assemble a black and white portfolio. I started to develop my style in black and white imagery, and to see what it could do for my photography.

                                       GOTHAM CITY SHOULD BE IN BLACK AND WHITE, DON'T YOU THINK?

Over time I learned a few things about photography in general and my imagery in particular. I had always been more interested in interpretation than in documentation, and as I developed my skills in post-processing black and whites I realized the truth that the old masters had known. Black and white allowed for much more latitude for interpretation than color ever did. Colors could be wrong, or even weird, but the abstraction of no color seemed to allow you to get away with things like black skies or contrast that would be completely "unrealistic" in color. In the further reaches of interpretation bordering on abstraction, the absence of color seemed to be the one abstraction that most of the public seemed to really accept without question. I also learned that even though the world does exist "in color", a lot of it is really pretty monochromatic. The key is to see "in monochrome" rather than in "black and white." If my trips to the forest are really into a world of many shades of green, does it matter if they become shades of gray? Those coast scenes of blue skies and blue water might just as well be monochrome gray as monochrome blue. As an urban landscape photographer, a lot of my world was already in shades of gray, even in the natural world.


It was about this time that I created a secret identity for myself. I decided to start showing my work on the website 500 Pixels, which is really a very high falutin Instagram - think much better photographers and mercifully no videos. Even the very few cat photos are really good cat photos. I tell people all the time that if you want to see what a very good photo of "x" might be, search for it in 500 pix and you will quickly find an example of what you should aim for, no matter the subject. But when I decided to join, I also decided that I would only show my black and white images. I wanted to see if I could attract some attention from those who only thought in black and white. Suddenly, and very nicely, I was attracting likes from all over Central and Eastern Europe from guys who had probably never taken a color photo - they accepted me as another old codger. It took a while, but I was running out of black and whites, and my new secret identity was in danger of exposure. I began to search my archives for more images to convert to black and white to keep up the charade. It was now that I really learned something, when I began to convert images to black and white that I had thought "were all about the color." What was shocking was that there were very few great color images that could not be great black and white images. Certainly different, but not without value. It was almost always not "about the color", it was really "about the contrast." Color photos are in fact really about color contrast, and if you can preserve that contrast in the black and white interpretation, in the absence of the color wheel, then you will preserve the power of that contrast. The trick is to manipulate the different shades of gray to create contrast between colors that shout "contrast" in color but are really about the same brightness as shades of gray. The photographer must decide that the yellow must be brighter, or the blue sky should become darker, to get back the contrast.







It took about a year before I ran out of black and white photographs, and I slowly started to introduce some color imagery without provoking an international incident in Eastern Europe. But the important thing I learned for myself is that for the most part a good color image has every right to be a good monochrome image. So give it a try - there is no right answer, but you might be amazed how different, and wonderful that an image can look without color. and it's no problem if you like the color rendition better in any case.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 27 Oct 2023 19:00:00 GMT
AN UNKNOWN WATERFALL, SIX WAYS                                                                 MY INITIAL INTERPRETATION - MAYBE A BIT MOODY? OR JUST DARK?

This week I would like to take you through a short round of post-processing of one individual image. This exercise might let you explore the method to my madness, and see how you too can explore alternatives of your own images. There is nothing extraordinary involved, no secret tips or diabolical methods - just a standard set of responses to one landscape image. There is no guarantee that you will agree with my "workflow", the unromantic name photographers apply to their usual method of working with images. I prefer a more exploratory "a little of this, a little of that" which seems to better capture the spirit of fun that should accompany an artistic pursuit. When combined with the "Goldilocks Theory" that one seeks a happy medium after exploring the extremes, these post-processing journeys can yield some fascinating results. Yet there is no guarantee that you, or even I, will see an unalterable progression to the "best" rendition of an image. Art is a very subjective matter, and we can have different opinions, and even change our minds from day to day. I often follow the advice that you should sleep on the "final" image because the next day will find you realizing that you went too far. On the other hand, when I show Fran the last two versions of my latest photographic search for truth, and she declares confidently that there is no discernible difference between the two versions, maybe it is time to call it a day. Even though I know that the last one is the best, I have reached a point of diminishing returns. Until tomorrow.

                                                                THAT CERTAINLY BRIGHTENED THINGS UP - BUT WHAT THAT THING ABOVE THE WATERFALL?

It is interesting to me that this is one of the few photographs in my archives that i have so misplaced that I have no idea where and when it was first captured. It is a waterfall, it is most likely in the Pacific Northwest, but the rest of the story is a mystery. In some ways this makes this "alternative exercise" easier, since it's hard to have an emotional prejudice about the direction an image should go if you have no memory of it beyond that you must have taken it because it is in your disorganized archive. Thus the emotional desire to "get it right" is naturally very low, and I can be more open to experimentation since the stakes are not very high.

                                                                THE DARK FOREST

The first image is my initial take on the capture. I of course have lost the original file, so you'll have to take my word for it that I haven't eliminated any mass murders or surface parking lots just to the left of the image. I cropped just to eliminate some white to the right due to imprecise scanning of the original, but the basic 2/3 ratio0 has been kept. I warmed up the white balance a bit to adjust to the overwhelmingly green Northwest forest. As usual I deepened the blacks, and opened up the whites to achieve some more contrast. In order to control the bright waterfall I lowered the overall exposure. After the usual sharpening, I made a few more subtle moves to get to a pretty dark woodland interpretation that would emphasize the waterfall, the obvious subject.

                                                                 NOT NEARLY AS SCARY , BUT THEN YOU SEE THAT THING ABOVE THE WATERFALL

So far so good, but upon further reflection I immediately started to lighten things up. I went for a more neutral stance that would seek to grab much more detail at maybe the expense of mood. I needed to protect those highlights in the water, but I found that I could open up the shadows considerably without either ruining the waterfall or lightening up the scene so much that I would just get to "blah." There was a lot of detail hidden in those woods, which was great, but opening up the exposure also revealed some problems that had been nicely hidden in the murk, as well as some opportunities. The two skinny birches on the left now called for some extra attention since I could finally see that they had something to offer. But the large area of leaves on the right was now bright enough that you could see they were not really in focus, and needed much more sharpening. Worst was a large artifact resembling a huge fish that seemed to hover over the waterfall now that that area was not just black. Once you make some initial moves you frequently have to deal with unexpected results that are now revealed, and usually require a little more finicky post-processing.

                                                                THANK GOD HE'S GONE, AND THE BIRCHES AND THE LEAVES ARE SHARPER

This was pretty successful, but I then decided that maybe that entire mass of green on the right was best corrected by just cropping it out. Sometimes the best solution is to just to get rid of the problem, since one of the most powerful superpowers photographer possess is that we get to frame reality. The waterfall is now larger, but maybe it is too close to the center. I now experimented with a square crop, which my "coaster overlord" always at least suggests, but I found that I liked the longer run of the river allowed by the vertical orientation. I also liked the view up the gorge, which showed a touch of sky without competing with the waterfall. So I stayed away from the square.

                                                                    BUT MAYBE THE SOLUTION ON THE RIGHT IS TO JUST ELIMINATE THE RIGHT!

It was now time to try black and white. Woodland images are largely monochromatic anyway, with green substituting for gray, so it is a natural progression for photographers to see what black and white will reveal. This is usually a hell of a lot of detail and texture and subtlety of tones once color is stripped away. Since this scene does have a lot of detail, it responded very well to a black and white rendition. I think that my initial take most closely resembles a pen and ink drawing, since the lines are much more present than the tonal areas.

                                                                BLACK AND WHITE REVEALS DETAIL AS IT ELIMINATES COLOR

The move to black and white also allowed me to ignore the upper gorge since its warm color was gone, and brought more unwanted attention to the unsharp leaves in the foreground. The square crop thus reasserted itself, and the two birches on the left became even more important to me.

                                      THE COASTER REVEALS ITSELF IN BLACK AND WHITE

Finally, and I say that loosely, the ability of black and white to render more extreme highs and lows in exposure while appearing more realistic than color images moved me back towards a darker interpretation. Since I could allow the waterfall, the birches, and especially the river to get brighter without losing all of the details, I could conversely allow the woods to darken up again. The image is now really about the bright stream in the dark woods.

                                                                BACK TO THE FUTURE WITH A MOODIER BLACK AND WHITE

You could say that maybe this journey has been a circular one back to square one, but I for one have gained a lot of insight into the scene and feel that my later interpretations reveal more about my feelings about this woodland, stream and waterfall than my initial stabs at the subject. I hope that I have shown you that landscape photography is much more about interpretation than documentation. I happened upon a scene, went "wow!" , and it is now my job and hope that I can somehow communicate that "wow" and maybe make you feel it too.

                                                                    MY FAVORITE, BUT YOUR MILEAGE MIGHT VARY, AND THAT'S A GOOD THING




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 20 Oct 2023 19:00:00 GMT
ANOTHER WALK ACROSS THE HAWTHORNE                                                                     HAWTHORNE BRIDGE - ONE YEAR YOUNGER THAN MY BUNGALOW

This week I took another stab at just going out for a walk and taking some pictures. I've avoided this lately because it's been much too hot, but football weather is finally here, and my weather app promised a nice late afternoon. The real reason I have avoided photo walks is that my chief bailiwick has always been the urban landscape, and let's face it, Portland has not been looking its best lately. While it is not the urban Hellscape featured on Fox News, even I have trouble making graffiti-covered plywood look good in an urban landscape. Thus I have been exploring my archives for images instead of venturing out to try to find some new urban images. Since it is October, and sunny days will soon be just a distant memory, I decided to walk across the Hawthorne Bridge to get some exercise and maybe some images.

                THREE BRIDGES

It has been a weird summer in Portland. The tourists are back, which is surprising to everyone here since our reputation has suffered so much in the press. In the past two weeks I sold art to people going back to Dubai and Reykavik, which expanded the countries that now contain my art to 62 around the world, which is very gratifying and just amazing, considering that my sales record on the web is worse than dismal. All of these sales occur in my little booth under the Burnside Bridge. What has been very disappointing is that the locals refuse to come Downtown, and sales at the Market have been down across the board. My incomplete records suggest that in twelve years my art has gotten into around 4000 homes in Portland; this year my sales to locals amount to a grand total of 33 people. Clearly the local news has driven people into their homes. And while this New York boy has maybe naively felt that it was not my fate to be mugged in Portland, Oregon, even I have to admit that there are some blocks downtown that I would rather not visit even before dark. This statement is so new and depressing that I have only recently admitted that while Downtown is certainly not scary, it is certainly unpleasant. I has taken our civic leadership, such as it is, over three years to acknowledge that something is wrong; now we await a pathetic Portland Process to figure out what to about it.

                                       PEOPLE PAY GOOD MONEY TO WATCH THE FED EX TRUCKS GO BY

My solution to this urban depression is to concentrate my walks on the multitude of bridges that cross the Willamette. I can get in a good 2-3 mile walk and just touch down in Downtown before turning around. These seven images were all captured on this walk, and with a little post-processing can illustrate one late afternoon in Portland. While there are probably no award winners here, it does illustrate what is available on a random walk in the city.

                                                                  BIG PINK HOT SPOT

This image is an example of an urban micro-climate, in which a large building like Big Pink can actually change the lighting by reflecting the sun into the city. This kind of serendipity can enliven an ordinary walk; it is then my job to protect the exposure of various parts of the image to both emphasize these conditions and not to allow them to overwhelm the limits of the overall image.

                DOUBLE VISION

Sometimes I notice things and then wonder what it all means. This natural double exposure reflects the strong sun falling on a raised nameplate that almost no one ever sees unless they are walking across the bridge under the right conditions. While it intrigues me, I wonder whether it might interest anyone else.


Here I am engaged in actually trying to create as mute an image as I can possibly capture on the Hawthorne Bridge. Sun and shadow, gray planes, a few sticks and some wires. Not one sign of human habitation. I'm only as cynical as I can manage knowing that there is a market for this kind of image, especially if it is taken with film. Not for me, but someone might like this exercise in urban ennui.

                                      MY COLLECTION OF PYLONS IS DIFFERENT THAN YOURS

Then again, I always say that you are halfway there if you can keep it simple. This is just part of the floating dock at the East end of the Hawthorne. There are probably another dozen or so pylons, and a boat shed. I tried to isolate one line of pylons against the river while leaving out the shed, the bridges, and the river bank. While this kind of simplicity appeals to me, your mileage might vary. I often believe that isolating specific elements will concentrate the viewer's attention at the cost of a certain amount of context. In this case you either appreciate my collection of visual elements or wonder why I cared at all. Unless you frequent the Hawthorne Bridge, you would be hard-pressed to locate this image in Portland at all.

Go take a walk. You might be intrigued at what you will find. It doesn't really matter whether anyone else "gets It".



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 13 Oct 2023 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to take you to the Canyon de Chelly, which my family visited during our road trip around the Four Corners area in 2002. In many ways , this was the highlight of our trip, which is saying a lot when you also get to go to Bryce and the Grand Canyon, among other parks. The reason I enjoyed the canyon so much was that it was off the beaten track, unknown to me before our visit, and allowed a brief glimpse into a Native and very foreign culture.


                                                             SOME OF THE BEST FARMLAND IN ARIZONA BELOW THE RIM

The Canyon de Chelly is deep in the heart of the Navajo Nation and one of the places on the reservation that feels very far away from the modern American landscape. In typical Anglo-Saxon fashion, it's name is pronounced "de shay" which is a bowdlerization of the original Navajo through Spanish with French spelling just to confuse anyone encountering the place for the first time. This crack in the high desert, whose canyon walls protect a micro-climate about 1000 feet and a world away below the flat desert above, has been inhabited by humans for more than 4000 years. The Navajo lived here hundreds of years after the Anasazi people first came here and occupied cliff dwellings in the canyon walls. These "Old Peoples" and then the Hopi lived in the Canyon before the Navajo used the Canyon as a hiding place and refuge from the US Cavalry until they were removed to other parts of the reservation in the 1860's. In many ways one of the spiritual centers of Navajo civilization, the canyon is now a National Monument, jointly administered as a National and Navajo Nation Park. It became a National Monument in 1931, and is run as a park by the Navajo Nation.

                                                               CONTRASTING ENVIRONMENTS

                                                              THE CANYON FROM ABOVE THE RIM

Today about forty extended Navajo families still live in the Canyon. The climate at the bottom of the canyon is like an oasis in the desert, with some of the best farmland in Arizona. The only way to tour the canyon is to take a Jeep tour with a Navajo guide. I rode shotgun in front and the meeting of cultures between Navajo and New York Jew was both strange and delightful. To call it an urban/rural split is to discount two entirely different world views. We revere our history in our built environment, even if its history might be just a second compared to a tenure like the Navajo's in the Southwest. But the Navajo do not preserve any of their built environment - their houses are not inherited, but burnt to the ground when someone dies. Their entire history is preserved as oral tradition, and this New Yorker could not fathom an area where two hundred thousand people lived with no real hint that anyone you did not literally meet that day actually lived in the place. Jewish mothers are legendary, but they do not run a matriarchal society where all property and wealth runs through the mother's line. When a man marries, he joins his wife's extended family, and it is considered a little radical if your mother-in-law will even speak directly to you. My guide could only lead the jeep tours because he had had married into his wife's extended family who farmed in the canyon. When we reached the canyon rim at the end of the tour he nicely pointed out his home in the far distance; I just as nicely pretended that I could see it in the midst of nothingness. He then declared that he was in the process of moving because "it was getting too crowded" near where he lived.

                                                               THE WHITE HOUSE RUINS DWARFED BY THE CANYON

                                                         THE WHITE HOUSE IS LITERALLY PART OF THE CANYON, ABANDONED FOR 700 YEARS

The White House ruins were built and abandoned by the Anasazi people around the year 1300. Only a White cultural historian could begin to explain why we call this cliff dwelling ruin the "White House" - our Navajo guide left us to our own devices since like most of his people he will not go anywhere near a remnant of the Old People.

                                                               SPIDER ROCK CATCHING SOME RAYS

Another highlight of the Park is the 700 foot tall Spider Rock, which is estimated to be 230 million years old. Named after Spider Woman, who taught the Navajo how to knit their exquisite blankets, it suddenly rises up at one bend of the canyon. Canyon de Chelly is such a hidden gem that you can't even see this rock beyond the canyon rim since its top is still 300 feet below the surrounding high desert.                                                               TWO VIEWS OF TREES PROVIDE SHADE IN THE CANYON

I hope you have enjoyed these images of the Canyon, and I hope that you someday can find your way there yourselves.. My very limited understanding of the cultures of the Southwest has been heightened by the mystery novels of Tony Hillerman and now his daughter Anne Hillerman, who weave an incredible amount of Indian history and culture through their stories. Tony Hillerman was honored  by the Navajo for his deep understanding and portrayal of their way of life. The only way to read these novels is alongside the historic and contemporary AAA map of "Indian Country" which can guide you through this landscape where GPS etc is still hit and miss at best.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 06 Oct 2023 19:00:00 GMT

A little over twenty years ago my family took an extended road trip in the Four Corners Area of the Southwest. We hopscotched around the incredible collection of National Parks, visiting a park, skipping one or two, and then visiting another. Unfortunately we have never had the chance to make a return visit to see the parks that we skipped. I would encourage you all to make the circuit, and not to skip Bryce Canyon under any circumstances.



Bryce Canyon suddenly appears around a bend in the road as a vision from another planet, an amphitheater of mostly orange spires in the midst of the high dessert of pine forests and blue skies. These spires, known as hoodoos, come in an infinite variety of shapes usually only seen in Dr. Suess books, not in the real world. Then you come to Bryce, and are overwhelmed.



It is tempting to consider Bryce another one-hit wonder like the Grand Canyon or Crater Lake, but the remarkable thing about Bryce is that most visitors can easily explore the Canyon beyond the usual series of overlooks. You don't have to take your life in your hands on steep trails down into a river canyon like the Grand Canyon, or wait all Summer for the park's roads to open like a trip to Crater Lake. A series of short hikes can take you down into the hoodoos for a more personal experience than the beautiful, but distant one available on the rim.


                BEYOND THE RIM

It is awfully hard to take a bad photo at Bryce, but you have got to stretch your visual muscles to find a series of images that will be of "your Bryce" as apposed  to everyone else's. These images are a sample of what I saw on our one and only trip. The first image is the "money shot" of the amphitheater, featuring the hoodoo known as Thor's Hammer. This view is about as wide as my camera could go in the days before stitched digital images. My scanner allowed me to rescue these photos from my disorganized archives, and after a few minutes of post-processing they have emerged as remarkably better images than the 4 x 6 prints that came from the one-hour place.

                                                              THERE ARE OUTCROPPINGS BEYOND THE MAIN RIDGE

                                                             PATH BETWEEN THE HOODOOS

                                                              HOODOO DETAIL

Along with usual sharpening and some cropping, Bryce images benefit greatly from several Lightroom techniques. Your film's color balance was probably thrown off by all that orange, so it really helps to adjust the color balance of your newly scanned digital negatives. The light at mid-day when you are probably around the canyon is pretty harsh, so you must balance the light and shadows within the canyon as well as darkening any sky beyond the canyon rim. Sometimes the shadows within the canyon can only be balanced with brushwork since simpler graduated filters never met a hoodoo they could deal with. The Bryce Orange that is so memorable that you can get it from Benjamin Moore as a very bright paint color is so saturated in real life that it sometimes benefits from de-saturation to render it more "realistic" in a photograph.

                                                              TOWERS IN THE SKY

                                                              LARGE TREES CAN SEEM VERY SMALL IN THIS ENVIRONMENT

One thing that I have learnt in looking at images of Bryce, my own and much better ones by others, is that all that orange really sings only when you get some of the green trees in your images. This natural contrast on the color wheel seems to benefit almost any Bryce image in my humble opinion - and you can't do that twenty years later in post-processing. I have also found that attention to individual hoodoos can bring out their character beyond the overwhelming first impression that this landscape is just too weird to make any sense of - it is still just a rock after all, even if it is unlike any rock you might have ever seen. The great thing about Bryce is that a good dose of de-saturation can allow more attention to texture and detail  way before you get to black and white, which can seem both ideological and absurd in such an overwhelmingly colorful environment.


                                                              VERY HARD MUD

                                                               IT CAN STILL BE JUST AS WEIRD IN BLACK AND WHITE

I hope that you have enjoyed these images, and that you can get to Bryce Canyon someday. I sure hope to return in the future.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 29 Sep 2023 19:00:00 GMT
IT'S ALL IN THE DETAILS - CIRCA 1983                                        DUPONT CIRCLE CIRCA 1983

I'm not the most organized person, so when I went on another trip into my archives, and found some slide pages that were actually "catalogued", I was absolutely shocked. This week I will explore a number of images that date back over forty years and were all listed under "details." I think that they have less value as historic artifacts than as links to a young man who was about to become an architect, after another seven years of education and apprenticeship. these details show that my camera was already pointed at architectural details before I ever stayed up all night in architecture school. I  would bet that after forty years these small vignettes have not changed one bit, which shows in some way how the built environment can persevere if we don't go out of our way to obliterate it. To my mind they also show how delightful a walk in the city can be if you slow down and enjoy the details around you.

This first image is nothing special to most of you, but it is a view of most of my afternoons in the early 1980's. I was a waiter in a wine bar in Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. for seven years, and walked through this delightful piece of urban design most days before work. I worked here before, during , and after architecture school, somehow avoiding a pretty justified firing as a New York waiter in Washington, D.C. I survived only because I was "employee number three" after the two owners and fit in among a collection of "waitrons" that included writers, actors, opera singers, and other ne'er-do-wells. An architect was only another part of  very eclectic mix, and I could write the list of desserts on the blackboard like nobody's business. Fran occasionally filled in as a bus girl, as long as she could was allowed to be "Inga" whose only English was"more bread?"

                                                                  A WROUGHT IRON KIT OF PARTS AT AN ENTRY

I carried my first real camera, and then my first real SLR, on my walks around some of the older neighborhoods in D.C. like Dupont Circle and Georgetown, where Fran worked as a pastry chef in a fancy catering company. There were plenty of wonderful details to notice, most which seemed far too  "highfalutin" for the architecture they were attached to. They alluded to the pride of early developers, as well as the fact that both architects and craftsman had come really cheap back in the day. This ornate little entrance stair on a row house is an example of a common tactic to make yet another row house kind of special. What intrigues me is that these seven steps are exactly the same walk up as the stairs as my 1911 bungalow 3000 miles away - the dimensions and material are completely different, but I get a basement and these people probably lived above a lower-level apartment.


What caught my eye, and still makes me smile forty years later, is that this more expansive entry stair in Georgetown shows such attention to detail in its design while not caring a whit that beautiful brick steps  will probably have to be rebuilt every decade. I'm sure they are still there, although the fancy car parked next to them on the front terrace/parking space has no doubt been replaced a dozen times. Hopefully someone fixed that errant fence picket!


I seemed to be drawn to the details even when I was touring a piece of architecture with a capital "A".  Here is a detail of one of the incredible arched windows at the newly restored Union Station. I was fascinated by the grid of windows that allowed for and enlivened this early window wall. They are almost an exact match for similar monumental windows at the main building at Ellis Island in New York. I'm old enough that this building is again being restored.

                                                                   PUBLIC ART THAT MIGHT NOT PASS MUSTER TODAY

This incredible sculpture is just one of the art pieces that embellished the Depression Era government office buildings known as the "Federal Triangle" off Pennsylvania Avenue near the White House. I don't know about you, but somebody wasn't paying attention when this nearly homoerotic horse and wrangler greeted government workers every day.


Sometimes Robert Venturi and his firm could be too clever by half, but this plaza along Pennsylvania Avenue, which shows the plans of the Capitol and the White House in sight of the buildings themselves is probably the best way anyone ever actually explained and illustrated  L'Enfant's plan of the new Capital city. Amidst all of the monuments of Washington it is probably still my favorite.

                                      DETAILS FOR THE PEOPLE!

This downspout was a few feet from the garden apartment row house where Fran and I, and then Benjamin, lived in Arlington outside of D.C. This downspout shows the attention to detail that such a modest apartment complex could contain if people cared about such things as apartments for workers. This development was built to accommodate some of the first workers at the new Pentagon, a few miles away by dirt(!) road. When Fran and I and others were insulted by the "inside price" that a developer offered us to buy our new condo, we successfully created the first affordable housing project in Northern Virginia. Much to the horror of our middle class neighborhood, Fran and I, a waiter/architecture student and a pastry chef, were the richest tenants among 140 units, which still included a dozen people who had moved in forty years earlier. In doing my research, I found the original plans and realized that our courtyards, which resembled college quads, were supposed to be parking lots that the original developer had "forgotten" to build. Our new affordable rent rose from $200 to $800 a month, but we kept our apartment.

                                                                     DETAILS BY A MASTER

On to some famous architecture that I visited in those years when I was broadening my "architecture vocabulary". These two images are from two houses by Frank Lloyd Wright. One was a "modest" home built near D.C. contemporary with our apartment complex. This was an example of a "Usonian" house which Wright promised would cost only $5000 to build. Yes, it like most of its cousins ended up more likely  in the low teens, but you did get to live in small house by Frank Lloyd Wright. I would spend next thirty-five years trying to convince my clients that they deserved such attention to detail, and never got a chance to build a "window wall" of french doors like the one shown here.

                                                                 SOMETIMES A WINDOW IS NOT JUST A WINDOW

This image is a detail of one of the most famous houses in the world, Falling Water. I infamously once drove a tourist board employee to near tears when I insisted that she must be mistaken when I insisted that Falling Water was just outside of Scranton when it is really located near Pittsburgh. Yes, it is built over a waterfall, but what impressed me most was this window wall, built of a multitude of small industrial casement windows. Not only were they built into the adjacent stone wall without any frames, but he had the guts to paint them a wild red-orange! Forty years after our visit we painted our bungalow a similar shade.

I hope you have enjoyed this walk down memory lane. Remember that not only is "God in the details", but some of our the best recollections of our past can be found there.





(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 22 Sep 2023 19:00:00 GMT

Thirty-nine years ago, in 1984, Fran and I visited San Francisco for the very first time as newlyweds. This morning I explored, revisited, and attempted to improve some of the images I captured on that trip. There is an old photographic adage that every photograph over fifty years old is inherently interesting. I'm getting old, and let me tell you that these images from nearly four decades ago are pretty close to making that mark. They reveal both the timeless and the historic nature of one trip to the "city on the bay." They are not award-winners, but they are not half-bad either, and were improved immeasurably by a few minutes of post-processing forty years after the fact.

                                                                 HUSTLE AND BUSTLE AND STRANGE STREET NAMES

Like most New Yorker's I immediately fell in love with the place after I got over the fact that it was clearly insane to have overlaid the street grid I was used to over a multitude of gigantic hills. The city was so clearly spectacular, seemingly familiar in it's density, but with enough quirks that even a newcomer could appreciate its charm. We stayed in an old-fashioned hotel with an elevator so small that we each had to go up separately with our bags. Then we were puzzled by the double-hung windows that seemed upside down - until we realized that since there were no bugs, hence no screens, that you could not be allowed to open the bottom sash a dozen flights up.

                                                                 CLASSICAL FOLLIES

                                                                 AND UNIQUE NEI9GHBORHOODS

We had a wonderful time, and looking back on it I remember how just plain lucky we were even though we had planned and planned the trip out, including trips North to the Wine Country. I had been a waiter in a wine bar for longer than I had been in architecture school, so I of course had to find some obscure wineries to tour. So after too much driving we ended up in a restaurant in the country, allowed to have lunch even though the crew was already having their staff meal at the next table. Without really knowing what we were doing, we had lunch at The French Laundry, soon to be one of the most famous restaurants in America. We had already somehow managed to eat at Chez Panisse, where no matter how much I was impressed by the food i was just amazed at the open kitchen twenty feet from our table, with no drama or cursing in evidence.


Fran had to deal with some architectural pilgrimages as well, which she was rather game for - after all she had married an architect, even though she had "known" what she was getting into, according to my best professor at school. So we climbed the step streets up the hills surrounding the Coit Tower,  made famous by Armistead Maupin. We drove out to the Sea Ranch to view a resort that was just short of a cult retreat. I didn't have the guts to knock on the door and meet Charles Moore but it was still worth it. I did get to drive him back and forth to the airport a few years later, and the only famous architect that ever met turned out to be a very nice man.




All these years later a lot of water has run under the bridge in San Francisco, which is reputed to be in a "death spiral" even worse than Portland's. But i still wouldn't bet against it, since it has survived an earthquake, a boom and bust, a Great Recession, and a Pandemic since our first visit. Some of these images show how spectacular it was and still is, while others feel like historical artifacts. The street scenes are familiar, but look at those cars! The only one that I recognize as something that exists today is the old Volvo like the one that is parked around the corner from my bungalow.

                                                                  I THOUGHT YOUR PEOPLE DIDN'T TRAVEL MUCH.


The two young people pictured pretty much look the same - at least Fran does. My facial hair styling did not survive this trip, after one coffee cart barista declared that he hadn't thought that "my people" traveled that much. My Amish period was over. Fran looks the same, at least to me, but her hair is even longer. And look at those glasses - my hippy chick is still going strong!

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 15 Sep 2023 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to continue discussing how you can make your travel images a little more personal. We all have faced the "problem" of our travel photos looking like more of the same photos we have already seen multiple times on Instagram. We are in new and strange places, bombarded with visual excitement, and unsure of how to react and create imagery that will reflect our own view of the world. Last week I suggested focusing on details; this week I will try to extoll the possibilities of concentrating on the ordinary, quiet, and typical streets of the new cities that you are meeting for the first time.


In my world this is not "street" photography, in that I remain much too intimidated to actually make images of strangers. Let's call these "streetscapes" or "urban landscapes", where my landscape photography meets my preferred urban environment. Of course there is considerable overlap with architectural photography and my interest in details, but here I try to illustrate the form of the street. What is it like to walk down these streets, and how is it different from walking in Portland? Can my imagery bring the viewer in contact with an urban environment that they might have never experienced? Or remind them of what they loved and experienced themselves in Italy?



The Italian streetscape, even in Rome, contains hints that this is not our version of city life. This ubiquitous sign confused me, even though I knew that Italians still smoked way too much. Then my friend who lived in Rome took me on the ordinary route to the tram. First we had to stop for an espresso in a narrow storefront with no seats made totally out of chrome. Then it was time to go the tobacconist, which really existed to sell tram tickets as well as cigarettes. Only then would you make your way to the tram stop. There was no rush to catch your tram because you could see both the one you had just missed and the one that you could catch next - they literally came every two minutes.

                                                         THESE STREETS THEN DEVOLVE INTO ALLEYS THAT YOU SHARE WITH NEIGHBORS.

 In concentrating on the streetscape, I try to avoid the usual monumental architecture we all came to see and photograph. Of course I give those subjects a try, but I realize that it is very difficult to have a "new" take on the Vatican, for instance, especially if you are seeing it for the first time. That kind of visual exploration is probably best left to photographers who have lived in these places for a very long time. So in these images I try to stay away from the famous buildings, and even the famous parks or squares, but to try to illustrate the city with an image of an ordinary street. I hope to illustrate Italy, but not the Italy that everyone else has seen over and over. I was here, and I noticed something, and I hope to show it to you, and elicit a response. I try to do that all of the time, but in my travel images I place renewed emphasis on avoiding the obvious.


The Italian street is so different from America in that it predates the automobile by multiple centuries, and usually makes almost no attempt to accommodate the automobile in any way that might be characterized as rational. Even when it tries to include cars it runs into the anarchist strain in Italian life. The Italian way of coping with traffic that includes streetcars, taxies, Vespas, bicycles, and pedestrians that run the gamut from models to nuns is probably more closely related to the streets of the early Twentieth Century Lower East Side of New York than any street we are familiar with today. What I try to show in my studies of the smaller and quieter side of the Italian city is the way the absence of the grid teases and delights the walker, only slowly revealing what is around the bend - even if it is a major monument of global architectural history. The organic nature of these streets is further compounded by their overwhelming verticality. I grew up with the "canyons" of New York, but they are nothing like centuries-old five-story piles of stucco and stone that line "streets" that are maybe a dozen feet wide. At least you are probably not going to be pelted with the contents of a bed pan anymore, but this is not the American street of sidewalks and traffic controls. Even when you walk alone, you know that the street is for pedestrians like you since anything else will cause untold problems and might even be dangerous.

                                                                ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY, RIGHT ON THE STREET

This little covered arcade in Florence just happens to be one of the first and most important architectural artifacts of the Renaissance. It was the revolutionary front facade of the first hospital in the city state. I recognized it from my architectural history books, but I am an architect. More importantly for most pedestrians, after more than five hundred years, it still kept the rain off their heads as they walked through the neighborhood.

And then you get to Venice. Once you get over the fact that the streets are really waterways, you then discover that you will be walking on the sides of those canals on streets that lead to thousands of little bridges and then to dead ends that are someone's front door. You will get lost even if you know exactly where you are going. For me the charm is not the Grand Canal, but the little side canals and the walks that lead to the inevitable doubling back. Walking around this Venice is the only way to escape the Disneyland of the main streets and piazzas. The charm is that once you get lost you will be alone, and might experience the "real" Venice you are dreaming of, even though you might be only one hundred feet away from thousands of fellow travelers.


                                                               VIEW OF A SMALL CANAL FROM A BRIDGE - WHAT'S AROUND THE BEND?



One of the most wonderful aspects of walking in such historic environments is that sometimes you don't even know what is about to happen unless you are staring at your map instead of watching your step.

                                                                 WHEN'S THE LAST TIME YOU TRIED TO PARK NEXT PIECE OF WORLD HISTORY?

This is a small street about a block away from the piazza in front of one of the most important buildings in the architecture of Western civilization, The Pantheon from Ancient Rome. This Temple of All of the Gods is more than two thousand years old, and the piazza must slope down almost a story because the front door is still at the level of the street before those two thousand years of dust and Romans filled in the surrounding city. But from a block away it is just part of the present-day city.

                                                                 AND THEN JUST LIKE THAT, YOU ARE IN ANCIENT ROME.

I hope you have enjoyed walking down some streets in Italy. These scenes are more than twenty years old, but I am confident that they have not really changed at all. The images have all benefited from post processing since the differences in light levels along these narrow streets are similar to those found in a forest. I routinely had to really raise the shadows, while still keeping some level of "murkiness" to maintain the reality of the street. Often I found that a black and white conversion led to a more realistic image despite the lack of color. I encourage you to try your hand at imagery of the ordinary streets even when you travel to a very new urban environment.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 08 Sep 2023 19:00:00 GMT
ITALIAN DETAILS                                                                ROMAN LIGHT ENLIVENS ITALIAN FLOWERS, SHUTTERS AND STUCCO

This week i would like to illustrate how you can create a unique portfolio from your travel snapshots, even two decades after the fact. While it certainly helps if you actually shoot to a theme, this is beyond the attention span of most photographers. This is especially true when we travel to far-flung places for the first and unfortunately , maybe the last time. We are so overwhelmed by sensory overload and the unfamiliarity of our surroundings that it is sometimes pretty remarkable that we can even take different, much less unique images than all of the tourists that have proceeded us. Yet in some ways Instagram has in fact made this a little easier, in that we have mostly seen all these places already, and there is less need to take shots that are overly familiar, even if you yourself have never taken them. We have now come full circle from the days when every shot seemed to be a verification that you had actually been there - now your presence might be the only thing that distinguishes your image.

                                                              A PERFECTLY ORDINARY PALAZZO JUST LIKE THE ONE ACROSS THE STREET.

But we must not give in to just pursuing the "money shot" that everyone else has already taken. If you have enough faith in your "eye", the way you usually make sense of the world, then you can just go with the flow and try to take "your shots" no matter where you are. Chances are that you will return with images that are more representative of your take on a very wonderful but unfamiliar environment. Through the wonders of post-processing, you can even discover a theme many years after you originally captured a set of images.

                                                             AN ORDINARY HOUSE IN VENICE WITH AN EXTRAORDINARY BALCONY AND  SHUTTERS TO DIE FOR.

                                                                THIS BALCONY ENNOBLES ANY HUMAN BEING LUCKY ENOUGH TO WALK THROUGH THE DOOR.

Before the turn of the Century (how's that for feeling old?) Fran and I had the privilege to spend three weeks in Italy on the pilgrimage through mostly Rome, Florence, and Venice. Yesterday I spent an hour looking through my images of that trip for the first time in several years; I then selected few dozen prints to scan so that I could see what I could make of them after so long a time. What I discovered was that the images that had an impact, even though I had never before felt that they were "special", were those that concentrated on ordinary sights in these very special cities. While there are images from some "landmarks" I would be hard-pressed to recall the exact sites beyond the placement in each city. This week I would like to show images that focus on what struck me as the "details" of Italian life beyond the great monuments and art that we had come to see.

                                                                 EXTERIOR STAIR CENTURIES OLD AT A PAPAL PALACE.

                                                 WHILE YOU WALK UP THE STAIRS YOU CAN LEARN THE TIME, WAY BEFORE ANYONE WORE A WATCH.

These details show how impressed I was with the craftsmanship that seemed to be an inherent part of Italian life - the feeling that if it was worth doing at all, it was worth doing well. This applied to laying brick as much as creating art, which only seemed to prove that laying brick could be an art. Everyone seemed to be in an unspoken pursuit to "show off" how well they could do something, daring you to try to ignore how much they cared.


Beyond the exhibited craftsmanship was the attention to detail. There didn't seem to be anything unworthy of attempting to be "special", which struck this American weary of catalogs and standard details as absolutely wonderful. This concentration, sometimes bordering on O.C.D, made the anarchic qualities of Italy even more charming if undecipherable.


It only helped that most of these details I was seeing for the first time had existed for many hundreds of years. The textures and age of these artifacts were all the more unbelievable in that they were not in some museum but were just part of ordinary life. Even if they had once been an exhibit of wealth and power, after dozens of lifetimes they were just part of the city's daily life, available to anyone with the time to take a look.


In the end this is what struck me as the most important part of what I was seeing. The fact is that most of these details have been around so long that they have been saved and restored and preserved multiple times. They are part of Italy's cultural heritage. Subsequent generations have shown as much pride in these details as the original craftsman did in creating them many hundreds of years ago.

                                                                LOOK AT THAT GARDEN RAILING! NOT TO MENTION THE WISTERIA.

I would encourage you to take your own look back through your archives. My theme might be architectural details; yours might be food, landscapes, or faces. All that matters is that I believe you will find that these images are far more meaningful than yet another landmark, even if it takes you years to rediscover them.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 01 Sep 2023 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to explore some images from a trip I took with my family up and down the Oregon Coast during Spring Break in 1997. We had been in Oregon for almost five years, but this trip proved how we were still rookies when it came to traveling around the state. I had rigorously planned our trip, complete with reservations at campgrounds all along the coast, but we had a great time despite all of my planning, which was almost completely unnecessary or even ludicrous. The notion that we would be camping on the Coast in early Spring was clearly a crazy idea that was reinforced most every night throughout the week. We were mostly alone, sharing the campgrounds with a few sane people in RVs. Since it got dark right around 5:00 we mostly ate in the dark, especially since we could barely get a fire started even if it wasn't raining. I can't really remember ever feeling so constantly wet, and ended up staying at some cheap motels along the way to preserve our sanity.

                                                                 HEADLAND OVERLOOK

                                       SOLITARY SEA STACK ON THE BEACH

Yet we still had a great time, since we were all in this together, and the Coast is just so beautiful, even in the rain. Although come to think of it this trip inaugurated our subsequent Spring Break tradition of epic driving vacations with just Dad and Benjamin, with Fran enjoying a break at home. I also remember that this trip was the start of Benjamin's exploration  of sarcasm. We drove into yet another empty campground in the rain searching for our reserved site, Benjamin came back to the car after a reconnaissance confidently declaring that it really didn't matter since our chosen site was completely under water.



The Oregon Coast gets more and more spectacular the further South you travel even though the Northern Coast is renowned world-wide. Some of this is just because of familiarity, since the Southern Coast is really quite a trip from Portland, especially if you drive along 101 on the Coast. While this route is certainly beautiful, and promises a new beach every few miles, you just have to get used to the idea that  you'll be going 30 mph as much time as you get up to 60 mph. Distances seem to infinitely expand. The payoff is that the further South you go the emptier the beaches get, and more importantly they seem to get even more picturesque the closer you get to California.


These images were all forgotten in my archives for more than 25 years. They all were vastly improved after just a few minutes of post-processing which rescued them from the mediocrity of the one-hour photo print. It is amazing what a revised white balance, some true blacks, a little mid-tone contrast and cursory sharpening can do for an image. I also cropped with abandon, either creating panoramas out of ordinary seascapes with too much sky, or focusing on the details in too-wide landscapes. The weather also encouraged a monochrome conversion in some cases, although the changes in white balance and exposure usually reveled that the Coast, even in the rain, was a lot more colorful than the original snapshot would lead you to believe.



After 25 years I really have no real idea of the exact location of most of these images. I will say that I have always recommend that everyone try to stop for awhile at Bandon, Shore Acres, and Samuel Boardman State Park, among others. These images, and the Coast, seem timeless. After rescuing these images from my archives it occurs to me that a return trip down the Coast would be a great idea. Maybe just not at Easter.




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 25 Aug 2023 07:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to go back nearly thirty years ago to my second and last trip to Yellowstone National Park. Yellowstone is truly like no place else on Earth, and is so weird and beautiful that it is very hard to capture in photographs. As usual in my forays in my archives I have concluded that while I'm in no danger of appearing in National Geographic, I was a lot better than I thought I was way back then. A little post-processing goes a long way.

                                                                 POOLS, GEYSERS, AND FUMES, OH MY!


These images concentrate on the unique thermal pools in the park that are as compelling as they are dangerous. Crystal clear and wildly colored, they tempt closer inspection than is really safe. The real dangerous clues are the steam coming out of them, which does appear in images that cannot convey the awful smell that is present in this environment. It's like the commercial for the gas company that warns of the smell of rotten eggs, but one hundred times worse.

                                                                 A POOL IN THE FOREST ENVIRONMENT

These pools highlight my images since I felt that no matter how the park was clearly beautiful, they were the clue that something terribly wrong was going on just below the surface. They seemed to intrude on most areas of the park, even right next to Yellowstone Lake, and dominated other areas which were clearly not meant for extended hikes. I myself found the pools much more compelling than the geysers, which just seemed like intermittent fountains in comparison. To each his own.


The most important feature of Yellowstone in my opinion is its immense size and wildly varied environments. As opposed to many natural wonders that contain one or even several "money" shots, Yellowstone rewards continuous investigation. Forest fires larger than several States seemed to not really mar the park when we visited, and I'm sure that their effects are now just distant memories.


I would of course encourage you to visit or revisit Yellowstone, but more importantly I once again encourage you to visit your photo archives in order to discover how your long-ago efforts actually captured your experience. Post-processing cannot rescue "bad" photos, but in my experience it can clearly reveal the gems that were obscured by the indifferent industrial photo processing of the past. Your images deserve better, and short of returning to wonderful places like Yellowstone, it's the best way to recapture the wonder of traveling.






(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 18 Aug 2023 19:00:00 GMT

This week's excursion into my photo archives revealed two unexpected revelations about my photography. One was that I was perfectly capable of capturing standard horizontally-oriented landscape images, even though that is not my usual modus operandi. The other was that fine landscape images can be captured literally from the side of the road. I have utmost respect for my usual crew on You Tube who are "proper" landscape photographers, journeying to far-flung locations before dawn. These images all entailed a hike of less than a stroll from my car as I drove towards Wyoming more than 25 years ago. They prove, at least to yours truly, that sometimes just driving through epic landscapes is more than enough effort required to find a chance to create a fine landscape image. In fact the only thing you have to do is have enough energy to stop the car and stretch your legs.


All of these images were stuck in my archives for all of this time, the victims of desultory one-hour photo processing. I had never considered them worthy of a second glance, and their continued existence as 4x6 prints is due more to my lack of organizational energy than archival rectitude. Less than an hour of scanning and post-processing rescued them from their obscurity. While there might not be any award winners here, they are not half-bad and certainly show off parts of the West that can lift your spirits right by the side of the road, even if you can't believe anyone ever built a road so far from civilization. What is interesting is that frequently the only sign of man is actually the road you are driving on; it is not dangerous to just stop, since you haven't seen another car for the last hour.

                                      AGRICULTURAL LAND NEAR THE IDAHO WILDERNESS

The first few images show the road less traveled through Eastern Oregon, Idaho, and Wyoming on the way to the Grand Tetons. It was the first trip into the Outback since our original journey down our Oregon Trail to Portland a few years before. We looked forward to staying at a ski condominium this time instead of our little battered tent, but many days on the road were still required to get there. I think it is amazing that these views were just off the side of those roads.


                                                                SOMEONE HAS A BEEF WITH TRUCKS, HILLS, OR JUST TRAFFIC SIGNS IN GENERAL?

Most of my post-processing was my standard workflow of increasing the contrast, sharpening the image, and checking the white balance. Frequently a judicious crop to emphasize the horizontal nature of "the road" improved the image way beyond its original form. Several of the images worked better in black and white.



When we arrived at Grand Tetons National Park my forays only slightly off the road continued to achieve pretty epic views that challenged those scenes only available after hours of hiking. Sometimes the mere act of cropping away the road I was standing near was enough to elevate the image. Even the Jenny Lake reflection image was shot right off the parking lot.


My message is that the pursuit of the landscape does not require superhuman effort. If you want to take wonderful images right off the side of the road, then the first thing to do is to try to find more interesting roads.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 11 Aug 2023 19:00:00 GMT
BADLANDS, 1992                                                                BADLANDS VISTA                                                          

Thirty-one years ago my young family, soon to be characterized by our first friends in Portland as "the bold and the stupid", traveled our version of the Oregon Trail from Washington, D.C. to Portland. These images are my first impressions of our first encounter with the "real West", the Badlands of South Dakota. We had been on the road for a week or so, but Iowa and Nebraska, while certainly different, in no way prepared us for the beauty, the alien landscapes, and the shear emptiness of what was to come.

                                                                 YOU HAVE GOT TO HAND IT THIS TREE - YOU COULDN'T MAKE IT IN THIS PLACE!

                                                                 YOU CAN'T GET THERE FROM HERE

                                                                  WANDERING AROUND THE BADLANDS

We had a very limited understanding of the meaning of "The Badlands", since rural America already had impressed us as extremely different from our East Coast environments. Then we met the first place that even Native Americans and then settlers realized was not really fit for human habitation. It was a shock to our systems. We were used to small mountains and forests that lacked people mostly because they were far away, but these lunar landscapes mocked any people that might even cross them, much less civilize them. The settlers that had tried clearly lacked any sense way  beyond refusing advice from the natives who had long ago decided that the Badlands were not worth the effort.

                                       TRAILS IN THE BADLANDS ARE SOMETIMES ASPIRATIONAL

Fran immediately realized that she should have been a geologist rather than an English major. She absolutely loved what most would characterize as shear desolation. We set up our campsite, and a few days of exploration and wonder began. It took awhile to realize that our campground was the largest collection of people in the entire area. It felt less like a park than the end of the world. The first time we parked and four-year old Benjamin scampered to an overlook probably hundreds of feet high, with no pretense of a guardrail, was our first clue that we certainly "were not in Kansas anymore."

                                                                 ANOTHER TURN IN THE TRAIL TOWARDS YET ANOTHER GULLY


A few days in we experienced our first "cold front." As I was pumping gas I realized that the temperature had seemed to drop nearly ten degrees in the time it took me to fill the tank. When we got to our campground, it was mostly gone. Dozens of tents and camping equipment were scattered over a quarter a mile in all directions. Somehow our "home" held on by one tent stake, and we packed up and skedaddled to a hotel that was rumored to exist about thirty miles away. The surreal night concluded with a wonderful dinner of Indian Flatbread under a raving review on the wall of the restaurant from the New York Times.

                BADLANDS PANORAMA

We would continue on for another thousand miles, enjoying  the Grand Tetons,  Yellowstone, and Glacier before we arrived in Portland thirty-one years ago on October 1, 1992. Fran agreed that we could rent an apartment on the campus of Portland State with the proviso that she would kill me if it wasn't safe. For the next six months we introduced ourselves to Portland. Fran negotiated Psycho Safeway and  our tiny kitchen, with a view of Mt. Hood! Benjamin half-way believed that the South Park Blocks were his backyard. I reveled in the views from the terraces of the apartments on the floor above ours that never rented and were my personal retreat via a fire escape at the end of our hall. Fortunately my wife somehow convinced the bank that we could actually buy a house and our Downtown idyll ended after we moved to our 1911 Bungalow where I am writing this essay.


If you ever get a chance to visit the Badlands I heartily recommend you do so. In fact any road trip across this incredible country is not to be missed.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 04 Aug 2023 19:00:00 GMT


This week I would like to finish up my survey of our recent trip to the John Day National Monument in Central Oregon. We'll concentrate on the least visited part of the park, the "Clarno Unit", which even the park guide characterizes as in "the middle of nowhere." It is easy to see why this area is frequently overlooked, since it is close to two hours away from the Painted Hills. Despite its obscurity, we found a trip to the site rewarding, as long as you carefully plan your visit.

                                      THESE ROCKS FELL SOMETIME IN THE LAST FEW MILLION YEARS

I recommend a visit on the way to the rest of the park from Portland. It will not seem so far out of the way as a stop on the way to the main portions of the park, and can be a very nice stop on a day's drive from Portland, about four hours from the city. After an hour or two exploring, another two hours will get you to Mitchell's collection of places to stay near the Painted Hills. We stopped here on the way back home, which set up a very long drive with almost no reasonable stops all the way back to Portland. If you choose to stay in Fossil instead of Mitchell you could make this a day trip, since it's only 18 miles to Fossil.

                                                                  DETAIL OF ROCKS ON THE RIGHT PORTION OF PANORAMA BELOW.

The highlight of this area is the mile-long outcropping along a cliff edge known as "The Palisades", which could be the remains of a credible castle if that castle was a mud flow 30-40 million years old. The only way to really appreciate the extent of the ridge is from an aerial image, since the outcropping is curved and extends pretty far from the parking area/picnic shelter that is the only real evidence of the park's existence, beyond some signs and three short trails. These trails lead up to the cliff face where you can get a closer view of the cliffs and appreciate their size in a different way than the overall panoramic view from the start of the trail. The choice is similar to the view from court side or the cheap seats in the Rose Garden. There is absolutely no shade, with only a few trees near the cliff as a testament to nature's refusal to admit that the high Desert can sustain anything but sagebrush.


The Palisades need to be loved for their towers, since they lack the colors of the Painted Hills further down the road. My solution was to concentrate on several sections of the ridge, striving for larger details, before I accepted the challenge of stitching together panoramic views. Upon seeing aerial views after the fact, I now realize that the curve of the cliff introduces distortion that precludes a panoramic view of the entire Palisades. Stitching will simulate a wider view of the cliff, but since you can't see the whole thing even when you are there, it's pretty hard for your camera to capture it all.


The lack of color allows for exploration in black and white, which can seem close to perverse at the Painted Hills. As usual black and white can allow for more contrast, sharpening, and vignetting that would seem unrealistic in a color image. The white skies are very evocative of early Western imagery when film was not responsive to blue skies. Since the desert rocks are much darker than the skies, it is pretty hard to darken the skies without completely reversing the expected dark/light relationships of the natural world. These geologic vistas are other worldly as it is.

                                                                  ANOTHER PORTION OF THE PAISADES

In my visit to this area it was very hard to deal with geological time as opposed to the human concept of time. You are looking at millions of years of mud flows that occurred amid vastly different climates in the same place. Then consider that millions of years of erosion by wind and very occasional rain sculpted these mud flows into what humans could ponder for just 10,000 years or so. One of the few signs on the portion of the trail that we traversed put it succinctly - "every few feet you walk toward the Palisades constitutes the passage of a million years." The photographs you can take at these sites, depending on how you process them, could have been captured at any time during the history of the photographic medium. It's not very hard to capture an image that would be very similar to the first wet glass plate taken during the first photographic survey of these "Wonders of the West" in the late Nineteenth Century.

                                                                  NINETEENTH CENTURY VIEW, AVAILABLE TODAY!

We really enjoyed the entire John Day National Monument experience. Upon further research, I realized that the up close and personal views I had remembered at the Painted Hills were from the Painted Cove Trail a few miles beyond the "OH MY GOD" viewpoints we concentrated on this trip. I really recommend visiting this trail. The other must is a visit to Dayville, a hamlet east of Mitchell that makes Mitchell look like Paris. But a visit is required to the lone cafe, which serves a credible lunch which is concluded with a world-class collection of pies that will prompt a return trip. Do not miss this dessert in the High Desert.


A few last words on photographing this area. When you are so off the grid it is tempting to just try to get the "money shot" that you've already seen on Instagram. The only trouble is that you have already seen it. Enjoy your visit, certainly take it, but really try to find your take on the experience, which would ensure a memory unavailable on Instagram.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 28 Jul 2023 19:00:00 GMT

I took off last week to be with my son's family as they visited Fran and I in Portland. The other reason was that this week's blog post took an inordinate time to put together, as it depended on my stitching together panoramas from our visit to the Painted Hills at the end of May. Stitching together panoramas has opened an entirely new facet of my landscape photography, but there is no doubt that there is a learning curve, and that the process will tax even the most powerful computers out there. It will even increase your coffee consumption as you wait out your computer's efforts to put together such large files, which can sometimes exceed 1 Megabyte for a single image.


We will look at several examples of panoramas from this trip, discuss their creation, and seek to come to some consensus on their value versus a standard one shot image. The first thing to say is that the process is not that hard, since the computer is doing most of the work. In the field the photographer is following some simple rules. As you pick a viewpoint, take a series of images revolving around that fixed position, overlapping about a third as you pivot your camera across the desired field of view. You do not need a tripod, although it couldn't hurt, and you will have less of the natural overall angle that even a conscientious natural pivot will create. But hand held is more than OK, as you will probably be creating a wider panorama than you will actually want to view or print. I've come to believe that somewhere between 4 and 7 images are more than enough. Two important points require you to turn off your automatic functions. First determine your desired focus point, which will probably be near infinity anyway. You do not want your camera changing your focus point as you pivot around the view. The same goes for auto exposure. As you scan the anticipated field of view, pick an exposure that will not blow out the highlights on the brightest part of the panorama and then turn off auto exposure so that your dumb camera doesn't try to change the exposure across the scene. Remove your polarizing filter, since your pivot might be wide enough that your filter will disconcertingly change the sky's appearance as you change your relationship with the sun.


This is not as hard as I make it sound even when I am telling you it is easy. Which doesn't mean it is foolproof, and I would encourage two things. Always take what you would consider your best single shot of the subject in case nothing works at all. And do not hesitate to try several attempts to guard against a simple mistake. In this digital age it is somewhat disconcerting and delightful that you do not know if you have succeeded until you get home and play with the computer.

                                                                  STANDARD 3:2 CROP ONE SHOT VERTICAL IMAGE CONCENTRATES ON THE FOREGROUND INTEREST


This technique will allow a wider view than almost any wide angle lens will achieve, and probably keep your subject larger in the frame, since you are actually building up standard or even telephoto views into the panorama. You can also build up very large levels of detail since your new built-up image will contain many more pixels than one shot. As I have done more of these panoramas I have come to believe that less is more. Few subjects require such a wide view as the Painted Hills, and the wider you get the more distortion you must begin to deal with, including the realization that your horizon, which "should " be straight, is now so wide that you are beginning to see the curvature of the earth in one photograph. A subject like the spectacular cliff side of the Painted Hills is easier to deal with than a city skyline or even a woodland scene whose perimeter trees are exhibiting a noticeable "lean."


Once your computer has presented you with the stitch, it is now time to decide how much you want to use. I have found that 3:1 is about as wide as almost any scene will justify. Most compositions do not have enough interest across such a wide frame to warrant such a wide view. I find that 2:1 is usually even better, since it certainly is "wide" without being weird. It is just wide enough to get a few more crucial elements in the frame than a standard 1 1/2 : 1 view.  Sometimes a stitch can even be presented as a standard crop - the viewer will just assume you had a wider lens in your bag than you own. You will then do your own standard post-processing workflow on the created panorama, treating it as a whole.


I feel that the biggest problem with these panorama creations is how to exhibit them. That is why I feel 2:1 is the best ratio to shoot for. Any wider than that will require a very large image that is actually large in only one direction. A 24" x 36" print is a quite impressive way to fill a wall, but a 12" x 36" panorama seems smaller. A 24" tall 3:1 panorama will be 6 feet wide, and face the same exhibition problems as a too large television in most domestic spaces. Not to mention that you probably will quake at the cost to print and frame such a monster.


As you have look at some of the panoramas that I created at this very panoramic subject, your are entitled to your opinion on what this technique actually achieves over a well-composed standard view.   I myself like Panoramas #1 and #3 the best, which seem to capture the spirit of the place in a different way than their single image cousins.Sometimes the panorama change is dramatic, sometimes it's just a little different, and sometimes it seems more trouble than it is worth. But at least it seems worth a try, since most software now includes the capacity to create these compilations. The Painted Hills, like Crater Lake, the Grand Canyon, a mountain range, or a whole city skyline, would seem to be the ultimate test of this software. I encourage you to give it a try.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 21 Jul 2023 19:00:00 GMT


This week I would like to take a look at the highlight of our trip to the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument in Central Oregon. I would say that I would argue that the Painted Hills are the highlight of anyone's trip to John Day. While the other parts of the park are certainly worth a visit, it is the Painted Hills, one of the "Seven Wonders of Oregon", that makes a four-hour journey to the middle of nowhere a must for any traveler to the state.  It is one of those places, like the Grand Canyon or Crater Lake, that you just don't believe you are seeing when you catch your first glimpse. And while there might be a tendency to treat this incredible geological formation as a one-trick pony, changing lighting conditions, points of view, and seasonal variations reward repeat visits. Not to mention that upon a repeat visit, even on the next day, most will still gasp in wonder.


This first image is pretty much that standard "Oh My God, what am I looking at?" introduction to the Painted Hills, which suddenly appear without warning after yet another twist in the lonely road from Mitchell, Oregon, where we stayed for three days last month. Mitchell is home to about 150 souls, and the nearest real (small) city, Prineville, is about an hour away. This overview of the hills takes in only about a third of the formation, which is why it is very useful to take along a wide-angle lens. Photographers like myself who don't like and/or own such a lens can now use software to "stitch" together several shots to achieve a wider than wide-angle perspective on such a site. Once you get used to the technique it is not that hard, but it does hearken back to the"old days" in the sense that you don't really know what you've gotten in the field. I have not had a chance to put together some of these panoramic images that I took at the Painted Hills, so they will have to wait until next week. These images are all examples of what I could achieve in a few hours with my standard to telephoto zoom lens. It is pretty hard to get closer to the hills because they are very fragile and would quickly disappear if people were allowed to get close enough to touch what they shouldn't touch. On this trip I didn't find any of the trails that I have taken through the hills along boardwalks through the dunes, and I do not know whether I just didn't go the right way or that the park has closed them since I last visited with Benjamin many years ago. When you realize that you are looking at millions of years of sedimentary deposits that one idiot could ruin in minutes, it is easy to accept that it's OK that you are required to keep your distance.


                                                                VERTICAL WITH FOREGROUND INTEREST

The different colors come from the different chemicals present in the different rocks that were deposited at the bottom of Oregon's inland sea over the course of millions of years, and then were exposed for our viewing pleasure by volcanic shifts in the land coupled with more millions of years of erosion by the wind. If you dug down below the sagebrush for many miles around you would probably encounter similar layers of sediment - and there are several smaller hills and gullies around this famous ridge that suddenly pop up and show off their geologic colors as well.


A photographer has to hope for some luck on a trip like this beyond the privilege of getting to visit at all. Cloudy skies that interrupt the interminable desert blue will improve any image of the hills, but you can adjust by including less sky or even no sky at all. If you can arrange for one or several thunderstorms then the baked colors will really come into their own. The rare rainy Spring will sometimes yield strings of desert flowers in many of the gullies on the cliff face. I brought out the polarizer filter, which is sort of like sunglasses for your camera, to try to bring out the colors, but found that arriving at sunset was a much more fruitful strategy. The trouble with a polarizer is that it really only works when you are near 90 degrees to the sun, and you might get blotchy skies when trying to get wide angle shots that are wide enough to encompass the Hills. Skilled astro photographers can probably achieve beautiful composite images of late day on the Hills combined with amazing star scapes at night in what must be one of the darkest landscapes around. While we saw a moon rise while we there, we didn't stay around to see if the moon could like up the hills. It is very dark out there, and that ten-minute drive back to Mitchell would probably stretch to a half hour.


There are other photographic opportunities around if you stop staring at the main cliff face, although that can be hard. There are smaller outcroppings with different colors, and even the "grayer" colors can exhibit a lot of interesting patterns of gullies formed by the rare presence of water.

                                     FLOWERS AND ROCKS OF THE HIGH DESERT

As the sun goes down you can turn your attention to the High Desert surroundings and concentrate on vegetation, flowers, and the details of boulders in the environment. If you show up near sunset you will get deeper colors on the cliff face but you will have to use graduated filters on the foreground which is going near black as the sun sets behind you. You might even get your own shadow intruding on the scene the closer you get to Sunset. At least you don't have to worry about missing the show by sleeping-in in the morning, since the cliff faces West and thus is in shadow until mid-day.


The intrepid landscape photographer can thus finally avoid waking up too early. Enjoy your breakfast!

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 07 Jul 2023 19:00:00 GMT


This week I would like to concentrate on the Blue Basin, a geologic formation North of Sheep Rock in the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument. We took our longest hike in the Monument on the Island in Time Trail, about three miles in and out into the center of the basin. While it is overshadowed by the nearby Painted Hills (next week, I promise!), the Blue Basin is another area of John Day that is not to be missed.


               HINTS OF A BASIN

First, a mea culpa. I violated at least several of the rules for hiking in the High Desert, so that my enjoyment of the hike was cut short. My first mistake was to properly navigate the shorts/jeans debate - I chose wrong with long pants, violating the rule that if it might be hot, always choose to risk being cold. I didn't bring a hat, and there was absolutely no shade on the trail unless you were willing to sit down next to a big rock, which I eventually did. I forgot my water bottle, a cardinal sin. Thus large portions of this hike became an unpleasant slog. I started to even get mad at the signs, which promised 19 bridges on the trail - I stopped counting at 22, but my number was suspect. So the best part of the hike for me was the downhill portion at the end, when we emerged from the basin. A big part of being a landscape photographer is knowing what you are getting into, and I blew it.

                                     TWO DETAILS OF VOLCANIC ERRATICS  AMID THE DRY STREAM BED

Despite my problems, the outing was certainly worth it. The trail runs along and across a dry stream bed which shows evidence of water, but the kind of evidence that astronauts might someday find on Mars. When you visit a place like John Day, you know that the conditions are probably not going to be ideal. The perfect day would be cloudy and cool, just after a recent thunderstorm that would fill the creek with blue-green water coming off the cliffs of the basin. The recent rain would also bring out the colors of the red volcanic boulders that litter the stream bed. But at least there were no flash floods to worry about.

                                                                AT THE END OF THE TRAIL


Two things first. The Blue Basin is not really blue, but a shade of blue/green/gray layers that really only appear blue in contrast to the surrounding brown landscape. The only place that you will actually appreciate the "basin" is if you hike the longer and higher loop trail, where you can actually see the geological bathtub below the surrounding mountains. Since you are walking through ravine into the heart of the basin, it is kind of hard to see that you are in a depression.


                                                                MY ATTEMPT TO CAPTURE A WELCOMING STIFF BREEZE IN A STILL IMAGE

                                     AFTER SAND AND ROCKS,  SAGEBRUSH NEVER LOOKED SO GOOD

With these caveats, and the oppressive heat, the Island in Time Trail has a lot to offer. Whatever the actual color of the sedimentary layers, this is an unworldly landscape, where geology really comes alive. The time scale of erosion is so far beyond the realm of man's imagination that it is difficult to understand how many millions of years these cliffs represent. On the other hand, you are awfully glad you weren't around on the days that the little stream moved around the volcanic red boulders in the ravine. At the end of the hike I really appreciated the wind in the sudden reappearance of High Desert grass, the occasional tree, and the slightly more fertile surrounding hills. I didn't even mind an encounter with a baby rattlesnake, who was kind enough to m ake his presence known. There is nothing like that sound to get your attention at the end of a long hike.

                                                                 JOHN DAY SHADOWS AT THE END OF THE DAY AT THE END OF THE HIKE

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 30 Jun 2023 19:00:00 GMT

In the next few weeks I will explore the photographic cornucopia of one portion of Central Oregon, centered around the John Day Fossil Bed National Monument. We had the opportunity to tour the area again with friends from Brooklyn, and believe me, it was fun to watch their alternate states of wonder and culture shock in their encounter with dry-side Oregon. We were not in hipster Portland - in fact, when you visit this area of the State, it's hard to believe that you are anywhere near anyone or anywhere. We drove through half a dozen counties which had less people than a mediocre crowd at Saturday Market. What the area lacks in population it more than makes up with spectacular scenery.


                                                                THE JOHN DAY OVERLOOK IN MITCHELL

This first image shows Mt. Hood from an unusual vantage point. It is taken along the side of the road near the beginning of the "Journey Through Time Scenic Byway", which we mostly followed for about half of its 286-mile lonely route from Central to Eastern Oregon. This is the Mt. Hood the pioneers saw as they assessed how they were going to get past the last big obstacle on their trip toward the promised land of the Willamette Valley. As we drove South from the Gorge we could see Mt. Hood, Mt. Jefferson, and the Three Sisters from this road, all looming over grasslands with not much evidence of humanity except for the road we were driving on towards Mitchell, Oregon.

                                                                 SHEEP ROCK, TYPICAL VERTICAL VIEW

Mitchell is not much of a place, with about 125 residents. It is the biggest settlement for about fifty miles on Route 26. This area is really made for camping or van life. The "Gateway to the Painted Hills" has a gas station, two hotels, one brew pub and one conglomeration of five Air BnB's on one street run by the same family. It's the kind of place where the fact that your lodging exists at all takes precedence over its quality or its price. Mitchell is so small that in a very imaginative move to keep its school alive the village developed a boarding school model for its school that takes in kids from around the world. Talk about culture shock!


This week I will concentrate on our first day, where we took in one of the three parts of the National Monument, which sprawls across an area so large that it can take over an hour to drive between the three "units" of the park which stretch along the John Day River.The Sheep Rock Unit contains the Thomas Condon Visitors Center, which contains a Paleontology Museum which easily is worth a few hours itself. There you can get an overview of forty million years of fossil deposits that constitute the whole of geology after the dinosaurs met their fate at the hands of a pesky "meteor extinction event." The monument contains fossils spanning the entire Age of Mammals. In fact it contains more of these fossils than anywhere else on Earth.


Many of these images center on Sheep Rock, which looms over the visitors center. This view point is literally from the edge of the parking lot, and the big photographic problem is what you should include in the vast vista. The entire monument lends itself to the digital technique of "stitching" multiple shots into one larger panoramic  image. In this way you can take in much more area than any wide angle lens you might own. If you are successful you can begin to reproduce the real-life views you remember because you are in fact scanning the entire scene by moving your eyes or even your head while you take it all in. Most post-processing programs these days can accomplish this stitching, as long as you follow several rules. The first is to set your focus, which will probably be near infinity anyway, and then  change to manual focus. You don't want the camera shifting focus across your multiple images. The same goes for exposure - scan through your anticipated panorama, and pick an exposure that will accommodate the shifting light levels without ruining one part of the expansive scene. The only other thing to remember is to turn your camera opposite to the direction of your panorama, so if you are taking a typical landscape panorama you will be taking a series of vertical images. Since your panorama will be at least twice to three times as wide as it is vertical, this ensures that you will include enough "height" in your overtly horizontal view. All you have to do is to overlap your images by about 1/3rd, so you can give the computer enough information to stitch them together. All of this does not necessarily require a tripod as long as you are not over-caffeinated or near heat stroke.


The real value of the stitching technique, in my opinion, is not to produce an incredibly wide panorama. While places like John Day can sometimes support such a wide view, I believe that using the technique on a more modest scale like 2:1 or even to just produce a "wider" standard view is where this technique can really shine. Not only is software relieving you of spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars on a wide angle lens, but stitching together multiple near-telephoto shots ensures that your subject will not disappear into the wide angle view. You can achieve amazing levels of detail with all of the pixels your are including, and you can always get another cup of coffee while the computer does all of its magic.


If you are willing to be modest, you can achieve imagery that you cannot produce in the field - but that is absolutely "truthful" to the scene as you experienced it at the time. My camera can capture 18 megapixels but stitching can produce images with almost 1 Gigabyte of information. My lens widest field of view is equivalent to a slightly shorter than normal 42 mm, but the stitched images can stretch to the view of a 16mm wide angle lens. The modest solution is to use the technique to go just a little wider, but to achieve enormous detail that might not even register until you print a larger enlargement.


So you can use this technique even when you are capturing details, since you can include that "just a little bit more" than your telephoto can muster.


Next week we'll take in a hike in another part of the Sheep Rock Unit, into the Blue Basin. Come along and avoid the heat, the lack of shade, and the rattlesnake. Isn't a photo essay a relaxing way to partake in a forbidding but beautiful environment?


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 23 Jun 2023 19:00:00 GMT

We spent a few days in Seattle with old college friends, and all I got was a few walks in the woods, which was a wonderful way to spend our time. The fact that these woods were not out in the boonies somewhere, but were in fact almost entirely created by landscape architects, gardeners, and volunteers made them even more special in some ways. In a world where mankind seems to just muck things up, it's nice to find places where we cultivate and celebrate nature instead of paving it over.

                                                                CONTRAST IN LIGHT LEVELS BRINGS OUT THE FOREST'S CHARACTER

                                                                 SOMEHOW I DON'T THINK THE STANDARD PLANTING DISTANCES APPLIED HERE

I've consulted the dictionary to try to find the difference between a garden, versus a botanical garden, versus an arboretum. The overall category of garden is defined as a planned space set aside for the cultivation, display, and enjoyment of plants. Its singular identifier is control by design, no matter how "natural" it is made to appear. The secondary identifier is the need for enclosure, in a space set aside for unnatural nature. A botanical garden is a type of garden which is a documented collection of plants for the purpose of scientific research, conservation, and display. An arboretum is defined as a more specialized botanical collection composed almost exclusively of trees of a variety of species. In the real world of course, these categories of "gardens" are not as rigid, and can vary considerably even in the same category.

                                                                INSIDE A WEEPING WILLOW


We toured two arboretums in the past two days. One was unknown, the pride of a small Seattle exurb called Maple Valley at the edge of the Seattle metro area. It was beautiful, unexpected, and the result of fifty years of volunteer efforts by this small community. The other was the world famous University of Washington Arboretum, almost one hundred years old and so large that a four-hour visit only scratched the surface. While both of these collections did not feature planted beds of flowers, they contained enough flowering trees to satisfy most blossom fans. The major difference was that the larger garden was twice as old, so the trees were larger, and instead of having one or two examples of a species Washington Park Arboretum would have half a dozen. But what was interesting to me was that both Seattle examples seemed to me much more "designed" than Portland's Arboretum, which is much more natural even though it is clearly a collection too. In Portland I have the feeling of walking through a woodland very similar to Forest Park except that there are obviously examples of non-native species.

                                     CAPTURING COLOR IN A WOODLAND CONTEXT

In any case these "gardens", while certainly resembling natural woodlands, are as designed as Central Park, formerly a barren wasteland north of old New York. In fact, Central Park, Seattle's Washington Arboretum, and Portland's Laurelhurst Park were all designed by several generations of the Olmstead family of landscape architects, something that is readily apparent to anyone lucky enough like me to have now spent time in each one. About the only thing you can count on as "natural" is the general lay of the land, except that even that is not true - even the lakes, streams, and hills were not necessarily found there by the designers.


This small collection of images show the range of views possible in a few hours. They constitute less than 10% of what I captured on those days, and as usual all have been vastly improved with small doses of post-processing. I have attempted to study the light present in these woods, looking for the contrast that will bring some order out of the "natural" chaos of even a man-made woodland. While I tried my usual strategies of concentrating on the details, I also experimented with several more abstract takes on Paradise. I even used the sharpening and clarity tools in reverse to achieve some "painterly" images, at least for me.


To this uneducated observer the major difference between these various manifestations of paradise is that the arboretum requires a more extended time frame - your are planting trees for God's sake, and your visions might not be realized for long after you came up with the original or modified plan. In that way they resemble cathedrals which were generational undertakings whose construction lasted long after the original king's reign. In our age of short attention spans and inability plan for an all-too-apparent future, places like these arboretums both make me wonder whether we could accomplish these ambitious plans today, but also give me hope that all is not lost. These people were just as flawed and petty as we are, yet they did at least start great things. We must not give up our long-range dreams to the current crisis of the day. Your photographs can honor their efforts with your unique vision.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 16 Jun 2023 19:00:00 GMT

                                                              A VARIATION ON "THE SHOT" FROM THE BRIDGE ACROSS THE SALMON RIVER

This week I would like to return to the topic of photographic explorations of familiar stomping grounds. I believe the best way to overcome the problem of "finding something to shoot" in a place that you have explored many times is to simultaneously lower expectations, be willing to wildly experiment, and concentrate on details in the environment that you might have previously overlooked. When you have already gotten the shots that are "standard", it is time to expand your photographic possibilities. And to hone your post-processing skills. Even the "money shot" that I and several other thousand people have taken over the years relies almost as much on Lightroom as it did on my choices when I held the camera. The scene's severe exposure variations required multiple graduated filters to both bring down the brightness of the river while lightening up the forest. Then you have brush in smaller exposure variations within these areas to really make them come alive. Thus you can transform an almost unusable snapshot (no fault of your camera) to a compelling image.

                                                              IT'S SO GREEN!

We took our visiting East Coast friends for a quick day trip into the forest about forty miles East of Portland. Here they could get a short taste of Wet Oregon before we headed to the Dry Outback of Central Oregon later in the week. The Wildwood Recreation Site is 550 acres of protected land along the Salmon River in the midst of the Mt. Hood National Forest. it is adjacent to Highway 26 on the way to Mt. Hood, just past the last real town on the route, Sandy, Oregon. While the hierarchy of National Park, National Monument, National Forests, Wilderness Areas, and such can be very confusing for new visitors, it is safe to say that at the bottom lies Wildlife Preservation Reserves and Bureau of Land Management land. Only Westerners frequently encounter the Bureau of Land Management, which seems to somehow be in charge of most Federal land that has not been designated as something else. BLM land is sometimes very beautiful, but is frequently remote. So it is somewhat surprising to encounter BLM land so close to Portland. Once you have visited Wildwood a few times, it might finally occur to you that it in fact functions as a City Park for Sandy, albeit at the edge of the woods. It is exceedingly easy to pass up and pass by on the way to the mountain.

                                                              LIGHT IN THE FOREST

                                                              BLACK AND WHITE FOR EMPHASIS

Once you have happened upon it, it will easily warrant return visits. The park is mostly a "day use" area, with no individual campsites. Their are some group campsites, but they are located pretty far from the day use areas and probably mostly serve people from Sandy that are in the know. There are two main hiking trails, although these "hikes" are really only walks in the woods. One is in fact an exceedingly tame boardwalk that winds it's way through wetlands, providing about the closest view of a swamp that you can get without getting your shoes wet. The other trail that I will concentrate on today is a route that runs along the bank of the Salmon River and allows views of the river and the forest while probably amounting to less than a mile walk no matter how much you wander around. There are dozens of turn-offs with picnic tables for a protected lunch or snack off the trail. Most even come with grills, although this level of preparation is far beyond my organizational skills.

                                                              THJE RIVER THROUGH THE TREES


The Salmon River is designated as a "Wild and Scenic River" which ensures that it will always seem pretty untouched by man,  despite a few bridges across it and even a delightful aquarium-like viewing area that allows you to see under the water at one point on the trail. The trail allows for views both above the river and right alongside it, providing many places for my favored "intimate" landscapes. At least on a random Friday, there was really no danger of a random series of strangers intruding on your shots.

                                                              WE'RE JUST FRIENDS

The series of images that I have highlighted today are my attempts to capture the spirit of the Oregon Forest without documenting this particular walk in the woods. I have tried to concentrate on specific encounters along the trail that illustrate the quality of light in the woods. One hint is to avoid including the sky at almost all cost, since it's distracting brightness will only lead your viewers outside of the frame. Do not be afraid of only including parts of trees or scenes just like I advise about buildings in the urban environment. This is your view of the forest, not an entry in a documentary of Wildwood. Several examples show how black and white imagery can provide intriguing variations, since you are usually only exchanging monochromatic grays for the monochromatic greens of the natural environment. Black and white can be especially effective in back-lit scenes where it allows for more dramatic silhouettes that can be achieved realistically in a color rendition. Since you are already going "abstract" by removing color, viewers seem to allow for more lightening and darkening of parts of scenes than they might find "unrealistic" in a color image. Instead of just raising or lowering the overall exposure, subtle brushing along light and dark areas can really bring out shape and form. If you can keep these brush strokes at about 10% power, you will be amazed at the dramatic improvements in the image even when you really didn't see what you were doing while you were brushing. It is only when you do a "before and after" that you can see the power of this subtlety.

                                  OREGON FERN BAR, WITHOUT THE BEER

When all else fails, go for the details. We can find beauty in particular close-ups of an Oregon forest way before we have to go all the way to Macro photography. In fact, your iPhone is actually more useful for this type of image than your "real camera", unless you have brought along the tripod and invested several thousand more dollars than even Apple has extracted from your wallet.                                 

                                  A VINE MAPLE AT THE EDGE OF THE RIVER

                                  ANOTHER SEARCH FOR THAT FOUR-LEAF CLOVER

I hope that this little portfolio encourages you to get out of the house, even if you are going to a place that you know as well as your own backyard. There is always something new to find if you allow yourself to look.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 09 Jun 2023 19:00:00 GMT


This week I'd like to take you on a quick tour of Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden, one of Portland's crown jewels but a little off the usual tourist routes. Old friends are visiting this week, and the rhodies are near their peak, so off we went to walk through paradise. Even if you are not a rhodie groupie, Crystal Springs is a world apart. I am personally not a big fan of rhododendron bushes,but you have to understand that these specimens are so old and large that they are not bushes but trees, unlike the rhododendrons in your typical residential garden.

                                  FLORAL PORTRAIT IN WHITE AND PURPLE

On the photographic front, I'd like to discuss the "problem" of making new images in a place that you are very familiar with and have photographed over and over again. Of course you can take advantage of new weather conditions, but let's face it, you are probably going to visit on a nice sunny day in the Spring just like the times you have visited the garden before. Unless you're business or passion is floral portraits, at a certain point you will be hard-pressed to find something new to capture.

                                  FLORAL PORTRAIT IN PURPLE AND YELLOW

There are really only three answers to this problem. One is to deliberately experiment by not taking anything anywhere near the type of image you, or anyone else for that matter, would ordinarily capture in the garden. This might be interesting, but chances are that no one has tried this because it just doesn't work. The second choice is to admit that you are probably going to duplicate previous efforts, but to hope that something new might emerge. I recommend the third path which is to bring along the camera, but to seriously lighten up - in other words, use the camera as the excuse to have a wonderful walk with friends in a beautiful place, with no expectations at all of coming back with an image that will change even your world. These images I will show today are in that third category. As usual a little bout of post-processing goes a long way towards illustrating a nice day without threatening to make a new entry in photographic history.

                                   BUDS AND PETALS

In a place like Crystal Springs I've found that my best efforts are versions of floral portraits. I make no effort to show much context, because the blossoms are the draw. I am not a good enough garden photographer to get a useful image out of a whole plant, but I think it is fairly easy to produce a compelling image of one blossom. The key is to get closer, and then get closer still. The best lighting is in the shade; sometimes backlighting, carefully controlled, can also produce a dramatic image. The object is to ensure a great degree of separation between the blossom and the background in any way you can -  through exposure, saturation or a subtle vignette. once you do that, everything else falls into place.

                                   VEGETATIVE LINES AND PATTERNS

After you tire of taking floral portraits, you can move on to other aspects of the garden. Concentrating on vegetation, either leaves or trees, can sometimes yield interesting results, especially if you treat the garden as a landscape and try to forget that humans carefully produced the scenery. Water goes a long way to supplying another subject beyond flower studies.

                                                              AT THE EDGE OF THE LAKE

           YIN AND YANG

Black and white can be refreshing in garden imagery even if most viewers might find it perverse to leave out the color in some of the most colorful subjects we can come across. But if you include enough contrast, a garden silhouette can be a very nice change of pace in a series of color portraits.

                                                              FIR SILHOUETTES

I hope you have enjoyed this small collection of images I captured in the garden. I would encourage you to use photography as an excuse to get out of the house, even if you have very low expectations of the art you will create that day. Sometimes memories are more than enough.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 26 May 2023 19:00:00 GMT

I took another trip through my archives this week, and will humbly submit an additional two reasons why you should also consider such a journey through your photographic past. The first reason is to encourage you to make an attempt to improve images that you might have created more than two decades ago, because you would be amazed at how you good you actually were back then, now that you are liberated from the one-hour photo booth. The second more embarrassing reason is that you might have completely forgotten a few days from your past. Upon looking at the image above, I found it hard to believe that I had no real memory of such a place. I had to do a Google search for Jenny Lake to realize that it was located in Grand Teton National Park, and that I had spent time there during a trip to the Tetons in 1997.


Jenny Lake is one of the highlights of the park, but my memories mostly centered on some hikes we took closer to the center of the Park just North of Jackson Hole where we stayed during the trip. It's funny how our photographic memories become enmeshed in the general photo imagery that surrounds an incredible site like a national park. Recently I visited an art show in Seattle where one of my friends was exhibiting her images, and walked through about half a dozen booths of other landscape photographers in the show. These were all fine photographers, but they were showing mostly "greatest hits" imagery that I had seen ad nauseam on Instagram and even in several other booths in the show! When you say "Tetons" to a photographer two things immediately come to mind - a certain S curve of the Snake River, and the most photographed barn in the United States of America. I in fact complimented one woman who had managed to take a fine image of the mountain range without the barn, whereupon she sheepishly pointed out her standard shot with the barn, which of course sells much better.

The answer, at least to me, is to take the "hero image" because after all you are there, and probably won't be back - but try to capture your own imagery even if you are in an unfamiliar, and overwhelmingly beautiful place. Twenty-five years later you might surprise yourself. These first two images of Jenny Lake totally surprised me, and I was very pleased with the image once I massaged it in Lightroom. Like most photographs taken in the mountains, the first thing is to try to balance the exposure, bringing down the sky while brightening the foreground. Of course a reflection complicates matters, since the reflection has to "reflect" the exposure of the background. I cleaned up the lake, removing some random flotsom that had nothing to do with the image. While I do like the color version, somehow the black and white feels more heroic to me - but you hold to your own opinion.

                                                             JENNY LAKE  VISTA

This second image feels more like my usual fare, where you can insert the title of the major magazine in the clouds without ruining the composition. Since I am playing with a silhouette, the black and white seems more pure to me. I could also darken the mountain a little more than I could in the color version without losing credibility. The waves in the lake are also much more interesting to me in the black and white.


Get closer, I always say - although I have no memory of how I got closer, but maybe it was on the boat trip we probably took on the lake. In any case I actually like the color version better on this image, but not because I love the greens and the blue sky. What is interesting to me is not only increased contrast that color brings, but that the mountain's gray tones allow me to play the same dodging and burning games in what is essentially a black and white subject in a color photograph!

                                                             JENNY LAKE SHORE

This image also seems to match my usual "intimate landscape" sensibility, focusing on a tiny portion of a huge lake. I probably like the color version better, since it is hard to argue with that blue lake. The only problem is that it is much "bluer" than the sky, even though my post-processing actually "corrected" most of that difference. I do like the rocks better in the black and white, but it is a little too dull for me.

                                                             HIDDEN FALLS

After some research on  Google, I realized that this is probably my attempt to capture the beauty of "Hidden Falls", which can't  be too hidden since your non-intrepid explorer found it somewhere around Jenny Lake. I somehow did not blow out the waterfall, but as a result the rest of the photo appeared to have been taken in the evening. Raising the shadows to "infinity and beyond" allowed the forest to reappear. I lowered the waterfall exposure a bit to achieve more detail there as well. My attempts at black and white just muddied the waters.

                                                            IF YOU WANT TO CAPTURE MOUNTAINS, IT PAYS TO GO VERTICAL

Another heroic vertical to capture the magnificence of the mountains. I like both, but if you are going to play with silhouettes, perhaps black and white is the way to go. Black and white also allows me to darken the mountain edge against the clouds a lot more than the color version would support without appearing unrealistic. What is funny that I probably still had not broken my wide angle lens, which allowed me to take such wide shots that I can't capture now without stitching together multiple photographs.

                                                             SOMEWHERE NEAR JENNY LAKE, ON THE ROCKS

This final pair is probably the most "Rich" image that I discovered this week. This intimate landscape is all about the rocks, with no context at all. The black and white somehow seems richer. I love it, even though I have no memory of taking it, which is very rare for me. It could be any beautiful place in the world, but it just happens to be somewhere near Jenny Lake. I'm glad I rediscovered it, and hope you've enjoyed coming along on the journey.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 19 May 2023 19:00:00 GMT
THE BEST PHOTO STRATEGY : f/8 AND BE THERE                                                        A RAINBOW AT THE END OF THE DAY

This week I would like to illustrate a long-held belief of mine that I gleaned long ago from a forgotten famous photographer. The short answer to photographic excellence, or at least the opportunity to achieve an excellent image, was simply "f/8 and be there." In other words, don't obsess over photographic technique, just choose compromise settings to get a reasonable exposure - but most important, journey through your life with a camera and the desire to create images. "Being There" can be the most important setting on your camera and in  your mind, whether you encounter a moment of true serendipity or just notice something new on a walk through the city. These images all illustrate that just "noodling" with your camera, even if it is just your phone, can allow you to create something out of almost nothing - especially if you are willing to spend some time later improving your snapshot in Lightroom.

The first image came after a pretty bad day at the Market. When the proverbial rainbow appeared to lighten my mood, I quickly took out my phone to try to achieve "something" out of my lousy day. The most important thing about this image is that the capture of this serendipity actually did make me feel better. While it might not be an award-winning image, it reminds me to always be ready for the unexpected, even in a parking garage. A little cropping and sharpening was all that was necessary -after all it is a rainbow at the end of a long day.

                                                              A STUDY IN CURVY CARPENTRY

Sometimes it is just a matter of learning to look without caring what the subject is, or even conveying it to your viewers. This is the potential power of abstraction with a camera, which can prove very difficult since photography usually is pretty concrete. My usual solution is to just go with it, which results in images that interest me even though most people might just react with a "huh." This is a detail of a handrail on a bungalow in Northwest Portland, and is about the only thing of value that I achieved on a long walk in the neighborhood besides some exercise and a nice lunch. I did have my "real camera" with me, so I could crop with abandon - I can honestly say that the original snapshot was not about the handrail. Often the value of "looking at photographs" involves studying your own images to see what is really there. I converted to black and white to increase the contrast and to eliminate the ugly beige color of reality.


A walk through The Pearl found me once again starring at an old Packard advertisement painted on a brick wall. These days it is almost as amazing that the wall is still there as it is that the advertisement for a long forgotten product is still around. Which doesn't mean that you have to save all of the words. You might call this the swan song of the Protestant work ethic on the party wall of yet another condo.


I love finding obscure signage around town. I have long recognized the power of words, or even just random letters in an image, since they can trigger my viewers' brains into "trying to figure it out" without the anger that can result when those curving lines turn out to be just a handrail. This affirmation out of the blue is just a small portion of the rear facade of Music Millennium near Laurelhurst Park. I don't know what it is trying to sell me, but you take your good moods where you can find them.

                                                              WATER CHANNEL REFLECTIONS

The next three images came from a walk in Tanner Springs Park in the Pearl and show the value of really trying to find something new in an area that most Portland photographers, including myself, have shot the hell out of. It is awfully hard to discover something new, even for just yourself, but the attempt can enliven a visit to an old photographic subject. And at least you are not going through the motions on yet another engagement or senior photo shoot. This first image is of the water channel that runs down to the pond at the lower end of the park. I had never seen the water so "high" so it caught my attention, and the morning light allowed for the reflections that can fascinate me even when there is nothing else "there." Your mileage might vary.

                                                             ANOTHER ANGLE ON TANNER SPRINGS

The railroad rail sculpture (say that three times fast) on the East side of the park has been a frequent subject of mine. A particular constraint I place on myself is that I do not allow myself to show either the surrounding condo buildings, or the boardwalk that I am standing on, when I take these images. I feel they both distract from the power of the sculpture; the boardwalk is the only part of the park that I would instantly demolish if given the chance. So I am delighted with yet another angle that meets my requirements.

                                                             A SCULPTURAL DISCOVERY

I was even more delighted when I finally focused on the blue glass that sometimes lies between the rails and discovered  that they contained plant specimens between the sheets of glass. This is something that I had never seen before, so in this detail I left out all of the context. I guess you have to be there, but I find it interesting.

Always have your camera with you, even if it is only your phone. These last two images were taken on a flight to Albuquerque a few months back. Taken with my iPhone, they required a lot of massaging in  Lightroom, but I think they show some of my sense of wonder at the beauty of landscapes that I feel thaty sometimes have never really been seen by humans at ground level. Of course I have to crop out the edges of the window, and I don't like any intruding portions of the wing. I rely on the miracle of "resizing" software to enlarge the resulting very small files to at least snapshot territory. While I will never be able to enlarge these much more than this, I can still communicate my wonder on the web or in a book. This meandering river was in the middle of the middle of nowhere.

                                                       ALMOST SUNSET ALOFT

This final image, probably only a third of the "negative" (that pesky wing again) is a study of a sunset that only modern humans are privileged to witness. I encourage you all to try for images even when you think that there is no way you can achieve positive results. You might surprise yourself, and you are no longer wasting any film. Good hunting.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 12 May 2023 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to illustrate the power of post-processing by journeying back twenty-five years(!) to my last visit to Crater Lake. I can't believe it has been that long, and I have never felt that the photos I took there were any good at all. It's one of the few subjects that even I concede probably requires a wide-angle lens, which I didn't own then and don't own now - it just doesn't match the way I view the world. But another recent dip into my archives found that while I certainly didn't take any world-shattering images, there were a few that weren't half-bad, especially after I used some of my hard-earned Lightroom skills to bring out there hidden potential.

Fran and I have been watching a lot of basketball lately during the Playoffs, and by my estimation the most demoralizing play during a game has to be yet another offensive rebound. The soul-crushing "second-chance shot" seems to be worth much more than another two points, since by all that is good and holy it shouldn't have occurred in the first place! But my second-chance photographic shots, like the several that I will show here, occupy a much more optimistic realm. The power of digital photography allows a photographer like me, and you, the chance to improve on an effort, even twenty years after the fact. Advancements in technology, and more important, our skills in using it, allow us to get closer to our original artistic visions that fell victim to the one-hour photo booth of yesteryear. In this essay I will show you my original shots, something I rarely do out of shear embarrassment. I do that here to illustrate the difference between a snapshot and an image. Try not to be depressed by your initial effort. While making every effort to improve your output in camera, it is important to realize that most images only emerge after some work after-the-fact in the computer, or in the old days, in the darkroom. Anyone who says different is probably lying, works for the New York Times where such efforts are verbotten, or is just too ignorant to realize how they might improve their images in post-production.


The original snapshot is not horrible, but it certainly is very flat. I was actually shocked that I had achieved my minimum standard for what I consider in a Crater Lake shot, having literally seen thousands of them over the years. I hadn't remembered that I had climbed high enough on the rim to achieve the critical separation between Wizard Island and the rim of the crater beyond. Congratulating myself on my composition, I then began to deal with exposure throughout and within the image. I lowered the exposure both in the background and in the foreground rim of the trail, which had been much too  bright in the original. A viewer's eyes go directly to the lightest part of an image, and clearly that masonry isn't the most important part of this scene. While I might regret that I didn't include a little more sky, I knew that I had to darken the rear to stop your eyes from escaping from the image beyond the lake. While some might conclude that I over-saturated the final image, anyone who has actually been to Crater Lake knows that I am still way within the realistic blue hue of this natural wonder.


If you don't believe me, you might appreciate the black and white version, which achieves verisimilitude by avoiding color entirely. While working on this image I realized that the actual overwhelming blue of the lake  sets up a weird blue color cast on everything else. Lightroom tells me that the green trees on Wizard Island are in fact blue-green at best, which makes it hard to achieve a separate tone from the water. Black and white avoids this dilemma.


This alternate image errs to much on sky side of the equation. While I could "invent" more foreground water in Photoshop, that goes beyond my personal limits, as does bringing in a more "interesting" sky. To each his own. But I have no qualms about cropping to a wider panoramic aspect ratio to eliminate most of the boring sky. I struggled straightening the image, since even a portion of the lake is so wide that the curvature of the lens and the actual earth starts to distort a level line from one end of the shoreline to another - you know in your heart that the water is "level", but my corrections made it worse. I finally settled on the compromise of just leveling the water "horizon" around Wizard Island - and then realized that the right end of the island was further away than the left end, so that it would appear higher in any event.


Raising the shadows significantly brought out most of the detail on the island, while raising the overall exposure revealed the glare of the giant mirror that is Crater Lake under a cloudy sky. The blue is apparent here only in the shadows.

            BLACK AND WHITE 

The black and white version is still a little flat for me in this case. I nicely toned down the sky to give some definition to the upper edge. A subtle vignette also helped in black and white while standing out too much in color. But the contrast required everywhere else obscured all of the detail on the island. I remain flummoxed.


As I looked through my images I realized that even at Crater Lake my particular way of seeing the world encouraged an "intimate landscape", even in such an epic environment. Suddenly it didn't seem as important to show the whole lake, especially since any Oregonian probably knows what they are looking at with just a hint of blue. I loved this shot, and just tried to make it better, to bring out wonderful cliff face of the caldera.


Sharpening the digital file helped a lot. I lowered the exposure in both the background and foreground to focus attention on the cliff. Then the crags were intensified by judicious dodging and burning, where I painted in about 10% lightening on the bright parts and a corresponding darkening of the dark areas. This is so subtle that you don't really see what you are doing  while you are doing it, requiring a little faith during the process. It is only after you view the "before and after" that you realize how much co9ntrast and"pop" you've added to the image.



Well if it's texture you want you can always go to black and white. You can add even more texture and exposure gradients that would not look realistic in color once you allow yourself the abstraction of seeing the world in shades of gray.

                                                             MINIMAL CRATER LAKE : ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

At the risk of starring into the abyss of "minimalism", this image was clearly about as "Rich" I could get more than twenty five years ago. It attempts to say "Crater Lake" with as little context as possible, and in some other parts of the world this could be a cliff over the sea. This image didn't need much help at all, only discovery. I cropped it only a tiny bit to get rid of some indeterminate weird stuff at the top edge, and lowered the exposure again in a gradient from the far expanse of the lake and from the overly bright earth in the foreground.

                                                             MINIMAL IMPROVEMENTS

These minor changes did it for me. While I like the image I use for a coaster a little better, which shows more of the curve of the shore, this is not bad aa all. When I tried black and white I missed that blue too much so I created another coaster by eliminating most of the duller gray lake in the background.


                                  BLACK AND WHITE RENDITION

This would do just fine in a portfolio of black and white images, even though I personally like that glorious blue.  It's been fun showing you how you can convert snapshots into photographs with just a minimum of artistic intent - take a look at some of your old snapshots and see what you can find hidden there in plain sight.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 05 May 2023 19:00:00 GMT

An often cited truism concerning photographic images is that any photo more than fifty years old is inherently interesting due to its link to the past as "another country. While these images that I've saved from my archives are not quite fifty, it has been quite arresting for yours truly that they are over forty years old. Once again my scanner has brought some of my past back to life, and my skills at post-processing has created images that are leagues better than the original slides that have survived my pathetic attempts at "organization."

These images are all from the very late 1970's and the early 1980's, when I was "living in sin" with Fran, and working as a waiter before, during, and after my education as an architect. They illustrate the visual appetites of a young photographer who shared some of the same ways of viewing the world as I do today. This first image is only important if you love neon, or if you walked past this sign for seven years before yet another shift in the wine bar in Dupont Circle. It wouldn't surprise me either way if the drug store was still there; I do know that the real estate industry has expanded the limits of Dupont
Circle way past what I knew in the 1980's. The power of photography, at least for me, is that I can still feel like I'm walking on that street about to go to work, just like certain songs that were part of the soundtrack of the restaurant can bring me back there way beyond their musical merit.


I guess I began to realize that I was interested in becoming an  architect for two reasons. One was that I was drawn to the slick professional architecture magazines in every library that I entered. Another was that I strolled through Washington taking pictures of buildings the way that others captured flowers or people. These two images show my love of porches, readily available in Washington in most older neighborhoods. As a Southern city, Washington embraced ever more gracious porches in the age before air conditioning. This particular circular corner example shows how porches could become so large that they could be divided into several areas for outdoor living. Among my first few projects as an architect were three elaborate screen porch additions. The last porch I designed was basically a studio apartment with areas for living, resting, and a full kitchen. The porch sported 24 skylights!

             QUITE A BAY WINDOW

While I still designed porches once we moved to Portland, I had to give up my love for the masonry detailing that surrounded me in Washington. This particular exuberant example a bay window is probably from the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Talk about "eyes on the street!" When I worked a split shift at the restaurant I could walk a few blocks to the Phillips Collection, ensconced in Mr. Phillips old mansion, and take in his magnificent personal art collection and also take advantage of the nicest bathroom I had ever seen.


One of the delights of walking around neighborhoods like Georgetown in Northwest D.C., was to show how people had to "cope" with urban density. This urban townhouse hopefully had a rear garden, since the front of the house had to be devoted to rare off-street parking. Of course it you must park the car out front, it's nice to have a beautiful brick patio to drive on past the wrought iron fence, and to park your Rolls Royce to impress the hoi-polloi like me passing by your house.

                                  A HEROIC FRIEZE

                                                               VAST INTERIOR

I didn't only focus on "anonymous" architecture in Washington, since there were always monuments around that captured my attention. These two images are of the Old Pension Building, created to house the veteran's system after the Civil War. It had just been saved once again for the new National Building Museum. I think you can see from the interior view why the building need to be preserved, and why it was so hard to figure out what to do with it one hundred years after it was constructed. It was literally too big and too beautiful to demolish. The great hall is subdivided by three-story columns and is big enough to host an inaugural ball, if you should ever be so lucky. The elaborate staircases that rise up the interior contain three inch risers so as to allow veterans to climb up the stairs with crutches. The exterior view shows a tiny part of the incredible sculptural frieze that runs around the entire building that takes up an entire block of Washington. It is modeled after the Parthenon, and attempt to illustrate the entire conflict that the Union veterans had just engaged in.

                                                               AIM HIGH

Washington is a city of monuments of course, and this was my interpretation of the then new Air Force Memorial that had recently joined the monuments to the Army, the Navy, and the Marines in Washington.The gleaming stainless steel abstract "flight" is so reflective that it picks up rays of the sun, the surrounding landscape, and even itself, as you can notice as it's spiral both goes behind its supporting obelisk and is reflected on its polished surface!

                                                             BENJAMIN AND THE CAPITOL

Some monuments are both enduring and changing at the same time. This shot of the Capitol is completely unassuming unless you know "The Big Guy", my son Benjamin, striding towards the seat of government. I'm not completely irresponsible, since the road was already closed to cars. Benjamin and I usually had the run of the government buildings, and I would take him to congressional committee meetings just as readily as the Smithsonian. In this instance we are headed for Statuary Hall, the old senate Chamber, where his father would have unobtrusively maneuver an entire bag of spilled Cheerios behind a statue of the former Queen of Hawaii, one of the two statues from the fiftieth state.

                                                               REFLECTIVE STREAM

Washington, D.C. has some very beautiful natural areas both in the city and surrounding it in Maryland and Virginia. This tranquil stream could be Rock Creek Park, but I wouldn't swear to it.                                    GREAT FALLS, A LITTLE HIGH

I do know that this image is from Great Falls, to the Northwest of D.C., which can range from a trickle to a raging flood depending on the water level. Those rocky cliffs on the shore are sometimes completely underwater, which can lead visitors to be terribly disappointed that they are just looking at a river instead of a waterfall. This giant series of rapids that marks the transformation of the Potomac from a river in the mountains to a tidal estuary caused the early USA to build the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal to bypass this obstacle and provide a trade route to the interior.


Speaking of mountains, this view of the Shenandoah Mountains from Skyline Drive shows another destination that Washingtonians take to escape the infernal heat and humidity. No volcanoes, but you can clearly see why the original thirteen colonies were restricted to the Eastern Seaboard. We forget that it would take almost two hundred years before those colonies, now states in a new country,  would expand beyond these mountains. In fact Lewis and Clark had already walked to Oregon and back before there was any significant settlement to the West of this photograph.    

I hope you have enjoyed this brief excursion to my era in Washington, D.C. It's hard to believe that these images were taken so long ago, by me, and that I can show them to you. I encourage you to also revisit your photographic past.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 28 Apr 2023 19:00:00 GMT
SEVERAL IMAGES OF MAINE, 1988                                   GOD RAYS IN MAINE, 1988

I return to my archives this week to discuss several images I captured as slides way back in 1988 on a trip to Maine, centered mostly on Acadia National Park. Once again I was shocked in two ways when viewing these slides by window light for probably the first time in this century. One is how hard it was to shoot Kodachrome, notorious for its beautiful color rendition, harsh contrast, and very dark shadows. I clearly was not very skilled at such an exacting media. The other conclusion I keep arriving at is that while my photography has certainly improved over the past few decades (!), these old images contain the germs of a "Rich" photograph. It just takes a little or a lot of coaxing in Lightroom to reveal the quality hidden in the slides. Believe me. it would only be boring for you and embarrassing  for me to show you the original slides. Often a little cropping and horizon straightening would suffice, but my problems with exposure required a lot of massaging just to render something that you could even look at before you could make a judgement on the composition of an image. While I hope that I have not lost that Kodachrome vibrancy, I can say that I wasn't half bad back then, now that you and I can actually see what I was after.

In this first shot I was attracted to the color and what photographers call the "God rays" in the sky, caused by the intervening clouds. This rendition is pretty true to the original slide. I lightened the water and the coastline only a bit, since I wanted to preserve the blues and really didn't care about any of the "human" details along the coast. The sky is almost exactly the original, since no matter how subtle I was in my efforts to dodge and burn,  the rays enhancements were instantly apparent. I used 21st century noise suppression to lower the noise quite a bit, and liberally removed dust spots and such from my scan.

                                                             ROCKS IN THE WATER

These next few images are closer to my usual attention to more intimate landscapes, where I tried to focus on smaller areas of the volcanic coastline, even more rocky than Oregon's. In general, the task was to reduce the contrast of the original slide. The waves had appeared to be blown out in the slide, but now show much more detail while retaining their dynamic movement. The clouds in the sky are back, and there is at least some detail in the dark coastline. If I was to make this larger I would work some more at actually darkening the coast to draw your eye away from the two houses; a larger rendition would also reveal more of the detail in the foreground, which actually appears pretty sharp.

                                                             ROCKS IN THE WATER, BLACK AND WHITE

The black and white version accomplishes some of this, but I actually prefer the color. It appears to have too much contrast and a little dull at the same time, which doesn't quite make sense. I think cropping down even further to just the middle ground or foreground might help.

                                                             CROP ONE : GET RID OF THE BACKGROUND

                                  CROP TWO : GET RID OF THE FOREGROUND


It is pretty amazing how different framing can change an image. It just goes to show that one of the most important things a photographer can do is to decide what to include in the frame, even decades later. You can decide, and certainly debate, a=on which framing works for you.


Here I think that I have achieved some intimacy with the rocks by cropping with abandon to eliminate most of the original boredom to the left of the cliff face and dealing with the wonky horizon line by just getting rid of it. In this image some judicious dodging and burning on the cliff face revealed a lot of detail without distorting the dramatic dark granite.


More rocky excellence above the coast. It is amazing to me how cracked a rock can get without collapsing completely, but that is the difference between human time and geologic time. I'm not sure which version I prefer, not so much because of the blue sea but that I like all the shades of brown over the shades of gray. There is subtly more detail in the black and white, especially in the foreground.

                                                                GRANITE IN BLACK AND WHITE

                                  I WOULDN'T RECOMMEND SWIMMING IN THE FOG

This image, like it or not, shows the power of digitalizing slides. The original slide is almost a monochromatic red, the result of experimenting with a red filter on slide film. Don't try this at home. The minimalism can now come through in black and white. I straightened the image by assuming that the deck was level, since the horizon line doesn't really survive my exposure or the fog. This is only the left side of the original slide, since crop after crop couldn't preserve much more negative space without eliminating too much deck or shoreline. So I just converted to a square.

            WHAT HORIZON LINE?

The final three images show the power of viewing the same scene over a few days. It is Maine, so I was never so nuts as to actually swim out to the floating dock. You can certainly decide which view of the lake you enjoy most, but at least you can see how the weather and the time of day can dramatically change the appearance of even such a minimal landscape.


Except for straightening the horizon and reducing the noise in all three images, these are pretty accurate renditions of the conditions on a quiet lake in Maine over thirty years ago. I imagine, and hope, that it looks pretty much the same today.

            END OF THE DAY

It was a lot of fun to show you some of Acadia, rescued from my old slides. I encourage you to travel to Maine if you ever get a chance. Have a lobster roll for me.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 21 Apr 2023 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to journey back to my second visit to Chicago, when I took teenage Benjamin along to the AIA Convention so that he could gain some more independence and I would have someone to join me for dinner. The only rule he had to follow was that he absolutely, positively had top be back in the hotel room at 5:00 P.M. or I would kill him. Each day I would hand him a twenty and he had the run of Chicago. We had a wonderful time.

These images follow a theme that I was concerned with at the time, which basically asked the question of how a building should meet the sky. While I never worked on skyscrapers as an architect, I felt this concern was relevant in that I was very interested in how to "include" the interaction with the sky in my residential projects. As an architect in Portland, I was never going to build a flat roof if I could help it, and our grey skies seemed to allow for as many skylights as I could get past my clients' fears and their budgets. So meeting the sky with bold gestures, and inviting it into the interior spaces I was designing for my clients were very important to me. Chicago turned out to offer very valuable architectural lessons.

This first "pinnacle" is one of the most famous in the history of the skyscraper as a building type. The Chicago Tribune Building was the result of what might be the most famous architectural competition ever held in America, and the winner enraged most of the early modernist architects that had made Chicago's skyline famous since the Fire. The idea that a skyscraper would be topped by an obvious Gothic crown was blasphemy. Yet this confection so many years later seems to enliven the skyline no matter how ridiculous it seemed at the time. Part of its charm is that it is so real - the stonework and arches and details could have been done by medieval stonemasons. The building actually used tiny parts of famous buildings as decorative plaques at ground level, ranging from the Parthenon to Cologne Cathedral to a broken piece of the World Trade Center.

These next few images show how the skyline became crowded with many different historical motifs way before Mies Van de Rohe would decree that all towers would just be sliced off with a razor at the sky. And I must say that once you've seen one flat roof you have seen them all, so that I am a big believer in "romantic tops", especially those that are well proportioned and well-built.

                                                            A CLOCK TOWER BECAME A NECESSITY FOR URBAN LIFE

                                                            WHO CAN ARGUE WITH POLY CHROME MASONRY AND A DOME?

                                                             INNOVATIVE DESIGNERS COULD INVENT THEIR OWN ORNAMENT AND THROW IN SOME ART DECO PANACHE

I think this is the top of the Auditorium Building by Louis Sullivan; Frank Lloyd Wright was his main assistant until he was fired for having too many side jobs. Here it is apparent that even a flat roof can sing with enough detail and a change of windows that could come straight from an Italian Palazzo. The ornamental details appear vaguely classical but are in fact the creations of Sullivan's incredibly fantastic imagination. I feel that this kind of ornament was in fact the road not taken, lost to either no ornament at all or slavish copies of historical motifs without the craftsmanship that rendered them beautiful. Just imagine those attic offices behind those round windows.

Chicago architects of every generation seemed to delight in bringing the gray skies right inside their buildings. Not content with inventing "The Chicago Window" that lit up these early office interiors enabled by the steel structural frames, they found many excuses for featuring skylights and entire glass roofs that brought the sky right into their interiors.These are some examples that fascinated me.

                                                             O' HARE AIRPORT CONCOURSE - CUE "AMERICAN IN PARIS"

One of the earliest examples of a modern airport terminal as one big skylight, with the architecture a celebration of how the whole thing stood up. Architects were now following the lead of the early Twentieth Century engineers who had built the great station sheds that were the real main event behind the serious architectural lobbies on the streets of major cities around the world. This terminal also shows off then innovative sun-shading devices built right into the glass itself. Don't ask me what the dinosaur is doing there, except maybe as a comment on the structural skeleton of the terminal itself.

                                                            BUILDING AS SKYLIGHT

This is a detail of Helmut Jahn's Illinois Government Center which was pretty new, and pretty controversial when I visited. Round, structural to a fault, with so much glass that glare wasn't a problem so much as a feature, it never really worked as a building but it certainly caught your attention. Mies was rolling over in his grave. This black and white rendition ignores the colors, which are way too many, in favor of the exuberant structure and reflections. I'm so old that Google is now renovating this building for new offices for people who don't want to come to the office anyway.

This final pair of images come from another newer building at the time I visited. The Harold Washington Main Library was built to be as traditional as it could be, a giant masonry Library that is so solid and just plain large that it makes Portland's brick pile seem absolutely feminine and delectable in comparison. But this is Chicago, and this the Loop, and now the masonry skyscrapers, once revolutionary, are the new tradition. Richardson couldn't have made a tougher pile of bricks and stone. Even the Ornamental Metal details seem positively Medieval, and one looks over one's shoulder wary of gargoyles.

                                  SULLIVAN WOULD SHOUT FROM THE ROOFTOPS

Yet when you get to the top floor, the entire roof is revealed as a skylight invisible from the street. The only probem is that this was a "party" space instead of the reading room it deserved to be. Who knows, wiser heads might have rectified that by now.

                                   THIS IS CHICAGO, AND WE DON'T DO "DAINTY"

I hope you have enjoyed this very narrow architectural foray through Chicago, circa 2004, and I hope that we all can visit there soon. Benjamin is now thirty-five, and comes and goes wherever and whenever he wants, most likely chasing my grandson Isaac.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 14 Apr 2023 19:00:00 GMT
NEW MEXICO LANDSCAPES : PECOS NATIONAL PARK                                                                  DRY STONE WALLS ENCIRCLE THE SITE OF THE PUEBLO

This week I would like to finish my survey of images I captured during my recent trip to New Mexico. We had planned to visit several National Monuments on the way back to Albuquerque and our trip home. Two of our choices were still closed due to the remnants of Covid, still a big concern for the Native American population. After a quick survey of the map, we discovered another site, Pecos National Park, a short drive to the East out of Santa Fe.


The Park is a large slice of history that even includes one of the Western battlefield sites of the Civil War, where Union Volunteers defeated an equally small contingent of rebels with dreams of Confederate territories to the West of Texas. Who knew? But the most important aspect of the Monument is the archaeological remains of one of the largest pueblos in New Mexico. This pueblo was "discovered" by the Spanish Conquistadors in their trek of conquest through New Mexico in 1600. Seemingly located in the proverbial "Middle of Nowhere", the pueblo actually was tied to trade routes that extended all the way to both the Pacific Northwest and the Great Plains and beyond to the East. The pueblo was home to almost two thousand inhabitants who all lived in one five- story adobe "apartment building" surrounded by defensive walls located above the Pecos River in the valley below. The pueblo had been thriving for 150 years before the Spanish arrived.


In typical colonial fashion, the Spaniards ignored hundreds of years of a successful settlement as they endeavored to control and "civilize" the Pueblo. Once it became clear that there was no gold in the area, (that search would be pursued all the way to present-day Kansas), the Spanish turned to religion as the main reason to assert their control. They built a church next to the Pueblo that was significantly larger than the adobe communal dwelling itself.


The various Pueblos banded together in a secret revolt in 1680 that successfully threw the Spaniards out of New Mexico. The Native Americans, in a tell-tale assertion of their revolution, built a Kiva right smack-dab in the middle of the remains of the church. But of course it took only a dozen or so years for the Spanish to return to retake their colony. Seemingly humbled, the new church they built was much smaller, dwarfed buy the foundations of the old cathedral around it. It now also lies in ruins.


The pueblo lasted through the Mexican Revolution. The Santa Fe Trail from Missouri to Santa Fe ran right past the pueblo. But by the time the Americans arrived disease, depopulation and Comanche raids had forced the last few inhabitants to move West to join other Jemez pueblo. Native Americans who can trace their family history back to the Pecos come once a year to celebrate their old settlement.

                                     NOT YET SPRING

                                     CACTUS COLOR

Fran and I had a great time walking the path around the pueblo ruins in a stiff wind that only increased the atmosphere of the historic settlement. Archaeologists have unearthed most of their finds from the land fills that surrounded the pueblo. The only real remnants of the Native settlement are the defensive ring walls of stone that surrounded and demarcated the pueblo. They reminded me of Hadrian's Wall at the Scottish border of the Roman Empire, built one thousand years before. It took a lot of imagination to conjure up the settlement itself, except for the fact that the 19 existing Pueblos in New Mexico are still there and resemble in many ways this lost city. In the visitor's center we were confused by videos of "Mrs. Miniver" on sale, until we discovered that the English actress Greer Garson had married a Texas oil baron, moved west to New Mexico, and was instrumental in the development, expansion, and preservation of the park. For all its faults, is this a great country, or what?

                                                                A LESSON IN ADOBE

The land dwarfs the human history contained within the walls. It was so vast and empty that I had a hard time figuring out how travelers - Natives, Spanish, Mexicans, and Americans - ever actually found the settlement itself. But we were very glad we did.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 07 Apr 2023 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to return to the landscapes of New Mexico, so alien to our environment in Portland. They are even drier and higher than the High Desert of Eastern Oregon, and in some sense even more uniform. But there are a few spectacular exceptions to the overall expanse of sagebrush. One of these is a series of bluffs to the west of Albuquerque that comprise Petroglyph National Monument. Driving very slowly, you are only twenty minutes from Downtown, yet a world away. The seventeen-mile long mesa has only a few trails that cross the expanse of the park. Looking at the map, there is not much else until you get to Phoenix, four hundred miles and a good six hours to the West.


Petroglyph National Monument is a very interesting Park, with four trails through a rocky landscape that will get you reasonably close to hundreds of Petroglyphs made by Native Americans, Spanish settlers, and Americans after the Mexican War. While at first I feared that we would actually have to hike up the bluff, the sandy trails just go in a few miles into near wilderness at the base of the bluffs. It soon became apparent that access was prohibited beyond the trail not to "protect the environment" but to protect the existing petroglyphs and to ensure they would not be surrounded by modern graffiti. The desert environment consisted of blue sky, clouds, a hint of the city in the distance, and a large expanse of boulders on the Northern hillsides.


The rocks on  the surface seemed to be just the uppermost layer of an entire hillside of boulders. The Southern edge of the Monument was another series of bluffs with a sandy depression just beyond the trail. While you only lost the sounds of the interstate after walking in  about a mile, Albuquerque was always still apparent to the East. What was shocking to me was how light the city seemed to rest in the dessert environment. The entire city was really just a smudge between these Western bluffs and Sandia Peak just to the East of town. Portland seen from Mt. Tabor seemed like Chicago in comparison.




As we walked the trail it soon  became obvious that we better enjoy the landscape, since the petroglyphs were few and far between. At first we didn't see any at all, and Fran began to pine for some gauche arrows on the hillside. We couldn't even find them even when the trail side markers insisted that they were staring us in the face. We felt pretty lame until we came upon others on the trail who were finding even less "success" than we were. This wasn't as easy as the park rangers had advertised back at the Visitors Center. I started to just pay attention to "interesting " boulders, almost abandoning any effort to find any ancient graffiti.


                                                                 AN "INTERESTING ROCK" : FINAL VERSION

                                                                A NICE CRACK, BUT NO PETROGLYPHS : FINAL VERSION

But as we walked on, we began to realize that we had to "be one with the ancient artists." We had passed the first test in looking for interesting rocks, since the artists wanted to find a canvas that would stand out on a hillside of boulders. The second test became the quest for the shady side of the boulders, since the carved signs were lighter than the rocks and stood out in the shade. Finally I decided to focus on rocks that afforded both easy access and comfortable places to draw, since these were obviously not quick sketches. Once we began to think like someone who would actually make a sign on a hillside of boulders we began to actually see some, and delightfully point them out to fellow tourists.

                                                                 FINALLY SOME ART! : FINAL VERSION

A canvas in the shade. I could almost imagine carving while sitting on the ground next to the rock.

                                    MYSTERIOUS GRAPHICS : FINAL VERSION

Graphics that appealed to me without having any idea of what they might actually represent.

                                    B&W VERSION ADDS SOME TEXTURE, LOSES SOME CONTRAST

                                     THE CONQUISTADORS HAVE ARRIVED!

Spanish settlers contributed some Christian imagery.

                                                                 SNAKE ON A ROCK : FINAL VERSION

My personal favorite, a graphic snake and a cartoon-like deer sharing a rock face.


We ended up having a nice hike once we lowered our expectations, kind of like enjoying a round of golf despite your appalling score. I would recommend going in the late afternoon to get most of the canvases we found in the shade. And for heaven's sake don't try this hike on a hot Summer day. This is a very unforgiving environment indeed. We hiked only a couple of miles or so, but were so tired we immediately adjourned for an "early-bird special" dinner.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 31 Mar 2023 19:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to show you some of the landscape images I captured in New Mexico, and the difficulties photographers can have in adapting to a completely alien environment. We all get used to our own turf, and while it is exciting to encounter a new environment, it can also be disorienting. The trick is to try to react quickly, since most vacations are over far too soon. While I am familiar with the High Desert of Eastern Oregon, I was thrown by the even higher elevations of New Mexico, and the very different contrast of large population centers with deserts right on the edge of town. This first image shows a typical landscape mere miles from Albuquerque, New Mexico's largest city, with a population of almost half of the entire state. While Albuquerque is not really a large city, and it did sprawl like most Western cities, it was still surprising to find almost no human presence so quickly out of town. Since it rains only two months out of the year, vegetation, especially like Oregonians are used to, is not a real feature of the landscape until you climb high into the mountains.


Another feature of the climate that through me was the strange nature of Winter. There was none of the nastiness of Oregon's wet environment, but there wasn't any snow either. The landscape just seemed to be in a state of hibernation, waiting for Spring with no clear rush to get to it. I slowly realized that the prevalent trees at 5,000 or so feet were Cottonwoods, which were just beginning to hint that they were still alive. They were the basic street trees in the city, and also constituted most of the vegetation in their natural environment in the Bosques at the river's edge. While the postcards assured us that these forests were actually going to get green and full, the woodland in March was pretty thin.


Another feature of the urban environment was the very small impact it had on the overall natural environment. While my telephoto lens can make Mt. Hood seem right next to Portland, it is really sixty miles away. Sandia Peak, shown here, is a block fault similar to Steens Mountain, but it 's so close to Albuquerque that in the Portland context it's closer than Gresham. It took us only about 45 minutes or so, up a switchback mountain road, to get to the totally snowed-in summit from Downtown. It was only above 10,000 feet that we saw Douglas Firs, a tree that grows naturally in every Portland park worthy of a visit.


But the real key to the desert environment was the presence of water in any form possible. Most of the entire population of New Mexico, from the ancient Pueblos to the modern cities, relies on the rare appearance of a body of water. The pond shown above was part of a small nature preserve near the Rio Grande on the East side of Albuquerque. The viewing deck at the modern nature center is the only access allowed. To the West of the preserve are an independent collection of parks that extend to the Rio Grande.


This collection of turtles occupied a snag of logs about thirty feet from the viewing deck. The pond and the nearby river make up one of the only flyways for birds as they migrate through New Mexico.



A closer view of the Pond. Try to understand that almost all of Albuquerque  is between this pond and Sandia Peak to the East. While the are some rich neighborhoods to the West of the Rio Grande, it thins out fairly quickly. As usual, the black and white version allows for much more contrast while keeping to a general feeling of reality.


The Rio Grande is a very long, and very slow river. It starts in Colorado, and flows through the center of New Mexico before constituting hundreds of miles of border between Texas and Mexico. It's the only reason, along with the railroad and later Route 66, that Albuquerque exists at all. In many ways the difference between New Mexico and Arizona, with over three times the population, is due to the fact that the Colorado River has ten times the water as the Rio Grande. It is a pretty natural environment as it flows past Albuquerque, as shown in the image above. The park we walked through was refreshingly undeveloped, with no indication that there would be much traffic on the river as the weather improved. I believe there is only three bridges across the Rio Grande in Albuquerque, one carrying the main highway West to Arizona.


.This is a view of the West bank of the river. While I did crop out the row of mansions on the bluff above, it was interesting to see that they had no real access down the cliff to the river, and there didn't seem to be any trails on the other side. In general, Albuquerque seems to have a very small impact on its natural environs despite its sprawl. At about one third the size of Portland, it somehow coexists with the desert. In the next few weeks we'll visit some parks further away from any semblance of urbanity.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 24 Mar 2023 19:00:00 GMT


Hi everyone. I missed last week because Fran and I took a week to visit New Mexico for the first time. We had a wonderful time, and experienced a healthy degree of climate, culture, dining, and architectural shock. These are the kind of contrasts that can excite the senses due to the alien nature of the new environment. At the same time we were reminded of the unique nature of our environs in Portland.

                                                       IRON BALCONY AT HISTORIC ADOBE CATHEDRAL

                                                                      TWO ADOBE DETAILS AT MODERN HOTEL

New Mexico was a shock to the system. It was obviously Winter, but not the Winter we are used to - a High Desert climate, but much drier than even Eastern Oregon. The only street trees that seemed to thrive were Cottonwoods, and they were just barely beginning to bud. We kept seeing photos of green trees and people and realized that we truly had come to visit in the very slow season, and that there was zero chance of rain. I truly realized the difference when a natural science exhibit casually mentioned that the Douglas Firs we see in our neighbor's yards in Portland only appear in New Mexico on mountaintops above 10,000 feet. The weather was very pleasant, with highs about 25 degrees higher than what we had left, and there were very few people, much less tourists about. We began to actually fear ever coming here in the Summer once we realized how easy we had it.

                                                       THESE "FAKE" STRUCTURAL SUPPORTS PROVIDE GREAT SHADOW DETAILS

The combination of Native American, Hispanic, and Anglo cultures was certainly different from Portland. The contrast between the living and very old cultures of the pueblos and the oldest cities in the United States with the idea that our bungalow in Portland was built a year before New Mexico statehood in 1912 was head-spinning. As a native New Yorker it has taken me thirty years to get used to the comparative emptiness of Oregon. It took us most of the week to realize that Albuquerque and Santa Fe combined were less than half as big as the Portland Metro area, and that those two cities made up almost half of the population of the whole state!


The dining was even better than advertised. We missed meals only because we were so stuffed from the ones we had loved much earlier in the day. Even though I thought I wouldn't miss yet another choice between red or green chile for a very long time, we had some wonderful meals.

                                                        NOW THAT'S REAL ADOBE AT PECOS PUEBLO CHURCH RUINS

Yet the biggest shock of all for us was the mysterious horrors of the automotive city. Both Albuquerque and Santa Fe, in their own ways, were total creations of automotive urban design even when they actively fought against it , which was very rare. The contrast with Portland.or at least the Portland Fran and I are used to, was instantly palpable. It took us four days to realize that all of Albuquerque wasn't as ugly as we first thought, mostly because the city was so weirdly laid out, with streets and parking lots at least twice as big as they needed to be. It took me three days to realize that if I just avoided the parking lots and walked down one street and one alley that the main square of Old Town was only three blocks from our rental instead of nine. Fran and I finally found something we could call a neighborhood that resembled Portland when we deliberately ventured away from the streets we were supposed to walk on. While Santa Fe was much more walk-able, it was still not very nice at all five minutes from the Central Square. In fact even a fifteen minute walk was too much, since we were walking on the equivalent of Powell Blvd. Let's just say that they're not handing out "96 walking scores" anywhere in urban New Mexico.


As usual my reaction to an alien environment led me to concentrate on the details that could delight me while avoiding the overall ambience that sometimes repelled me. The New Mexican architectural environment seemed to be composed of four elements -mud, wood, decorative details, and a very limited color range. This limited color range even extended to interiors, with color dependent on materials for the most part.

                                                       RARE PAINTED DECORATION AT VERY DEEP WINDOW SURROUNDS, HISTORIC CATHEDRAL

                                                        THIS INCREDIBLE STONE WALL PROVIDES THE ONLY REAL COLOR AT ALBUQUERQUE MUSEUM


These first few images concentrate on mud. While some of this is authentic adobe, I soon ceased to care how "real" it was, since real adobe construction is restricted to historic structures, the very rich, or the very poor. It intrigued me how much the soft mud architecture was adaptable by skilled contemporary architects to new construction, even though I knew that there was probably wood frames or steel underneath. Even Santa Fe seemed more governed by a height limit (which I don't even know exists) than by the mud esthetic. The best contemporary architecture, exemplified by a couple of museums we visited, adapts adobe to their own ends as details without directly copying or pretending to be something they are not. Since it rains only two months a year, outdoor courtyards and flat roofs with elaborate cornices mean that this Portlander could go a week without actually "seeing" a roof. Buildings just ended, only topped by blue sky.


There was very little wood, which was shocking coming from the land of wood. Wood appeared as structural elements, real or not, or even more characteristically as decoration amid the mud. Carved wood details and elaborate trellises to combat the sun replaced any thought of wood siding, which probably cracks way before it ever rots.


                                                       RUSTIC WOOD TRELLIS AT PUEBLO COURTYARD


The decorative impulse is based on elaborate details related to actual use, like openings, floors, and supports, amid all of the mud. I've included several that caught my eye.


                                    WOOD PATIO DOOR

                                                       SANTA FE "SECURITY DOOR"

                                                       THIS VINTAGE CARVED DOOR AWAITS YOUR NEW HOME AT A GALLERY

What was interesting once I realized what was going on was the very restricted color palette. As opposed to what I have seen highlighted in books on similar desert environments like North Africa or Mexico, New Mexico seems to be almost totally composed of shades of brown. Trim can only be white (my religious color choice) or more likely blue to match the sky. Rarely orange appears to brighten the scene, and lets be honest, that just really a very lively brown. The only real color that intrudes seems to be the decorative tiles that appear as wall decoration more than on floors.

                                                        ORANGE PAINTED WOOD AT FRONT PORCH OF CONTEMPORARY NATIVE AMERICAN ART MUSEUM


I hope you have enjoyed this brief survey of New Mexico details. Next week we will take a look at the natural environment, just as alien from Oregon as the architecture.




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 17 Mar 2023 19:00:00 GMT
THIS AND THAT, TIMELESS EDITION                                                          NEWLY BUILT LLOYD'S OF LONDON - WHEN WE WERE BOTH YOUNG, 1990

This week I'd like to continue to explore my archives as a way of encouraging you to do the same. There are some marvelous things you can find ther, especially if you are as disorganized as yours truly. This poupourie has no real theme except that they caught my eye when I struggled through several dozen pages of old slides. When I say they caught my eye I really mean that I saw some element of hope, since my early struggles with my camera were exceeded only by my enthusiasm. Exposure and White Balance were often wildly off the mark. I would show you some of the original slides but for my embarrassment, even considering that slide film is a very unforgiving medium. Suffice it to say that most of these images have actually come to life only after my working on them in their newly digital form.

This first image can serve as a good example. Like all of these other images, it is more than thirty years old. No one outside of Little Rock had ever heard of Bill Clinton. This detail is of the exterior emergency stair of a ground-breaking modern tower by Richard Rogers for Lloyd's of London, taken when it was almost brand new.  This was way before it was joined by a whole host of newer and larger towers in The City, the financial center of London. For all I know it has probably now undergone a renovation, and Rogers eventually became Lord Rogers. For once my exposure wasn't that off, but my camera had been so mistaken that the original slide rendered the aluminum stair tower almost as blue as the sky.

                                                          SIR JOHN SOANE'S MUSEUM - LONDON, 1990 : FINAL VERSION

This next image is a detail from one room of Sir John Soane's house in London. The next time you fear that your hoarder tendencies might have gotten the better of you, head to London to see this place. Sir John's collection overgrew his townhouse so he bought two more adjoining houses, and even then the resulting architectural hodgepodge has to be seen to be believed. The man was a genius and crazy at the same time, and his various spatial strategies have inspired generations of architects ever since his death, when his home became a museum.


Any trip to the Mother Country always has to include a few "There will always be an England Moment", like this understated sign in Spitalfields Market in the East End, several hundred years older than Saturday Market in Portland. Sometimes stuff like this in one of our British mysteries on the telly will cause Fran to scream out "But how do they reproduce?" There is often no real answer.

                                                       IF IT AIN'T BROKE, DON'T FIX IT - CAMBRIDGE, 1990 : FINAL VERSION

In a similar vein is this detail from one of the college courtyards in Cambridge. My total lack of understanding at how one can easily make this knot is only exceeded by the idea that this is still the way that the groundskeepers will keep me off the lawn, hundreds of years after the grass was first laid in the college quad.


A typical East Anglian landscape, somewhere outside Cambridge. Yes, the image is still a bit noisy, but just pretend it was taken on some ridiculously fast color film instead of completely underexposed Kodachrome. I'm sure this place still looks exactly the same, many generations of ducks later.


But sometimes England is not "a green and pleasant land." This is the sky that greeted us in Orford, a town on the coast of the North Sea, just before a near hurricane hit - red sky take warning indeed. The original slide is nothing short of an exposure disaster.

                            DUMBARTON OAKS, WASHINGTON, 1989 : FINAL VERSION

We move back one or two years to our former home in Washington, D.C. This is a small portion of one of my personal "most beautiful places on Earth, man-made edition" - Dumbarton Oaks Garden north of Georgetown. Their is truly nothing like Springtime in Washington, especially since it might just be "The Last Nice Day" before the heat and humidity arrive.


Part of the charm of this place for a retired architect of my persuasion is that the wealth of the family, and the army of gardeners that keep the place ship-shape, allowed the original landscape architects to virtually ignore any semblance of "common sense" in many details around the garden. Notice the total lack of concern for protecting the wood of this wonderful trellis in one "room" of the garden - if needs be we will just rebuild the thing, and no one will be the wiser. The detail that I love most in the garden are the incredibly comfortable curving brick benches that violate every rule possible in brick construction - horizontal brick that will collect water and inevitably lead to it's own destruction. But until we have to rebuild them a generation from now, they are the most comfortable brick surface you have ever had the pleasure to sit on, so stop worrying about maintenance will you!

                                        YET ANOTHER DEMO, WASHINGTON, 1989 : FINAL VERSION

Let's end this essay with an unfortunately timeless image. It's somewhere in our Nation's Capital, and we are at yet another demo. We are blissfully unaware that almost thirty-five years later we not only will still be fighting the same fight, but that we will be in the process of losing it. Some things unfortunately never change.




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 03 Mar 2023 20:00:00 GMT
CAMBRIDGE, 1990                                                          IT'S JUST LIKE YOUR COLLEGE, ONLY HUNDREDS OF YEARS OLDER : FINAL VERSION

This week I would like to take you all on a trip to Cambridge and East Anglia in England. This journey is courtesy of my scanner, which has again allowed me to explore my disorganized archives and rescue some images from oblivion. These images were taken on a trip in 1990, when a "young professional" couple was foolish enough to take their 2 1/2-year old overseas. The photographer is now a pensioner, and the toddler is now a college professor, but it feels like yesterday. The scanner allows me to take slides which I can now only view by putting them up to a light bulb, and return them to the present day. The most important part of this process is that these new digital images can now be improved and transformed far beyond their artifact origins, as if they were captured yesterday instead of 33 years ago.

                                                       CAMBRIDGE SKYLINE : FINAL VERSION

A word to the wise when dealing with people like Fran and me - never invite us on a ridiculous overseas adventure. Our friends Doug and Joanne were going off to Cambridge on a six-month sabbatical and casually mentioned that we could visit them, probably never actually  believing that we would follow through. A few months later we landed in Cambridge, and crammed into their apartment, which they had rented from Stephen Hawking. Cambridge is that kind of place. We had the experience of actually living in Cambridge for a brief time, which feels very different from just visiting. We decamped for ten days in the middle of our three-week stay to tool around East Anglia, the quiet and mostly rural part of England that contains Cambridge.

                                                          MEDIEVAL STONEWORK : FINAL VERSION

Many of you might be familiar with Oxford, England's other incredible university town where Inspector Lewis solved multiple murders for decades. Oxford is absolutely wonderful, but is instantly put to shame when you arrive in Cambridge. The difference is that Oxford is a real small city, while Cambridge is a village masquerading as a small town. The University is composed of a multitude of "colleges" that date back many hundreds of years. These images show some of the characteristic "porter's gates" that divide town from gown. Most of the collegescomprise small districts of their own, and customarily back onto the River Cam. "The Backs" is where students actually do cavort on small boats in the midst of academic paradise. Minus the problem of us actually going to college, you can see why the atmosphere was idyllic.

                                      POLYCHROMATIC MASONRY, OLD SCHOOL : FINAL VERSION

Stone detailing embellishes a brick facade, including actual stripes. And how about that weather vane!

                                                          LATE TWENTIETH CENTURY MASONRY HOMAGE : FINAL VERSION

The second image above is a small addition to one of the colleges designed by one of my architectural heroes of the time, James Stirling. Sometimes derided as a dreaded and feared "Post Modernist", I felt that Stirling's best work actually was just trying to loosen up things by making an attempt to fit in, especially needed in such a historic environment as Cambridge. I think you can see the masonry traditions that tried to make this small building part of a larger architectural tradition..

The surrounding area of East Anglia is beyond the attentions of most visitors to England. It is mostly rural, very agricultural, and contains no spectacular national parks. It's kind of like England's Kansas. The topography is so flat that the sky holds most of the landscape's charm. And most of the shoreline is on the North Sea, not very conducive to a seaside holiday in early Spring. We had a wonderful time, being young and stupid, dragging a kid around with no idea where we would spend the night, much less reservations. We even weathered a minor hurricane when we actually got to the coast, facing the only winds I have ever had to make an effort to stay upright. On the beach, the sight of a surf that really couldn't make it to shore, and the gulls which could only fly backwards, only confirmed our foolishness through our amazed laughter.

                                       NOT YOUR TRADITIONAL PARISH CHURCH : FINAL VERSION

Every parish church, no matter how grand, deserves a graveyard, which build up its own grandeur over time.

                                                        CHURCHYARD : FINAL VERSION

Benjamin of course doesn't remember a thing, but he also had a great time. He melted the heart of everyone he met, and "would the young man like some more chips?" ensured that none of us would ever go hungry in every pub we stopped at. East Anglia was once one of the richest parts of England due to the wool trade, and now trifling market towns are centered around churches that are really miniature cathedrals.



A lot of the housing stock is hundreds of years old, and no longer is based on the right angle. The particular characteristic half-timber construction of of large timbers supplemented by infill of stone or stucco lends itself to "settling" into a very casual relationship with gravity. We got used to the idea that we couldn't expect floors, walls, or ceilings (sometimes all three) to be "straight" - it was like being drunk without having had a drink.

                                                       IT'S OLD AND YELLOW AND A LITTLE OUT OF KILTER : FINAL VERSION

I hope you've enjoyed these images. I assure you that they have just a passing resemblance to the original slides, which suffered from the usual amateur's limited understanding of how to "nail" an exposure. Their new digital existence allows this old goat to correct the composition and exposure errors of his youth and finally revealing what caught my eye so long ago.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 24 Feb 2023 20:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to discuss the value of taking a deep dive into a subject, especially one that presents itself as a complete surprise. It's a lot of fun to come upon a photographic opportunity without warning, and I encourage you to explore the possibilities, at least until your companion shows signs of complete boredom. As I always tell my students, when the person standing next to you starts to wonder what the hell you are showing interest in, you have achieved a certain amount of personal vision - something other artists can take a lifetime to achieve. The artistic problem you then face is how to communicate your enthusiasm to others, but at least you have something unique to say.

I didn't realize that my most recent blog post was my 100th essay, and it is with a lot of gratitude that your collective interest has encouraged me to continue to share these photographic musings each week. I look forward to more essays, and hope to introduce a way to allow you to purchase the images in each post at a discount on my revised website. I hope you will explore it, and would love it you contacted me with your thoughts on how I'm doing.

                            A MINIMALIST PRELUDE : FINAL VERSION

I just thought I would throw this one in, mostly because I'm constantly confused and bemused by all of the minimalist images of architecture that somehow include light posts. This is taken outside of the Portland Opera offices at the East end of Tilikum Crossing. While I applaud the brickwork stripes and the carefully detailed awnings, I wished that they had somehow ensured that the requisite light pole could actually be straight!

Last week I showed some images taken on a stroll across the Tilikum Crossing, the newest bridge in Portland. This week I will show some details I discovered in the new neighborhood that has emerged across the river on the west side of the bridge. This collection of towers by the river still goes by the rather uninspiring name of "South Waterfront", and arose as a way to expand the city's main hospital complex. Note to urban planners - avoid putting a hospital complex on the top of a mountain. As the hospital expanded over the last century, its future as a growing concern was threatened by the fact that no matter how ingeniously architects piled new buildings next to, around, and on top of each other, there was just no more room on Pill Hill. When the hospital started to make some some self-serving noises about moving to the suburbs, something needed to be done. The abandoned industrial waterfront below the hill, across an actual neighborhood and at least two major streets and a highway, was deemed the site for future expansion. With much fanfare and major political controversy, a 57-million dollar "aerial tram" replaced  a fleet of 37 buses that had continuously ran up the hill. This rather remarkable urban ski lift now connected Pill Hill to the neighborhood to be down by the riverfront.

                                                       EMERGENCY STAIR : FINAL VERSION

To my eye the first few hospital buildings are really pretty boring. While this emergency stair is certainly well detailed, it is the only architectural element that enlivens the entire facade

South Waterfront has now come along very nicely, with an entire host of both high-priced condo towers, and subsidized affordable housing at their feet that adjoins a number of hospital buildings that have joined the originals at the foot of the tram. There is no denying the waterfront views available to the condo residents, and over the years the incipient neighborhood has been further tied into the city. Yet it still exists in a state of unreality, with a real lack of neighborhood services that belie it's socioeconomic status. Covid certainly hasn't helped community development, since we still can't fill abandoned commercial spaces in our most established neighborhoods, much less new ones. The neighborhood finally has a better auto connection from the north, stops on the trolley line, and a pedestrian bridge over the highway underneath the tram - yet it still feels suburban at best, disconnected from the city that it adjoins. The old joke among urban planners was that the city had built two new neighborhoods for empty nesters downsizing from their suburban McMansions. Our fake SOHO north of Downtown, the Pearl District, would have enough pseudo urban energy to appeal to Democrats. The Republicans would find the suburban energy of South Waterfront more to their liking. While I don't know if this political division has really come to pass, and the price of admission to both neighborhoods is sky-high, South Waterfront is still undeveloped compared to the Pearl. While people like me realize that the Pearl will never be a real Portland neighborhood without it's own elementary school, South Waterfront still doesn't even have a real grocery store!


But it is near the west end of the Tilikum Crossing, only few blocks from the north end of South Waterfront. Once three or four other towers are built on the industrial wasteland south of the bridgehead, this connection will be complete. So my friend Al and I walked south of the bridge to see how the neighborhood was doing. It is still very much a work in progress, with contradictions galore. The waterside path is still very underdone, even though the waterfront site is one of the main points of the entire neighborhood. And the actual streets of the neighborhood seem more than a little illusionary, since even the mass transit connections are still mostly oriented to the hospital buildings. Yet there is a certain amount of energy at the tram station, which even has what might be the most developed bicycle parking lot in the country. We talked with a bicycle commuter, a woman of a certain age, who told us that the hospital workers are paid a buck or so each day that they ride their bikes to work, and get to park them in a monitored lot so secure that they can even keep their full bags on their bikes all day!

                            MYSTERIOUS FOLDED PANELS : FINAL VERSION

The thing about South Waterfront is that while I can keep abreast of the neighborhood while driving across the Ross Island Bridge, keeping track of this or that new tower, I have no idea of what is happening on the ground, four or five stories below the level of the bridge. So I discovered the subject of most of the images in this essay only on the street. The facade that is explored here is the first few stories of what is probably an office building that I know as the "Yellow Building" since the window surrounds on the upper stories are a very bright yellow.


It is only on the street that I found this interesting sculptural facade that covered the lower stories. It turned out that these folded metal panels were in fact dressing up the parking garage at the base of this building. Leave aside the larger question of why you need a four-story parking garage next to a mass transit hub in a neighborhood which itself is built on a series of underground garages - at least the architects made the effort to decorate this particular box for cars.

                            A SIMPLE FOLDED SQUARE : FINAL VERSION

I hope that this series can show how a brief exploration can yield a number of images that reveal different facets of one particular architectural detail. As I approached the facade from different angles, I began to see its simple logic - to provide light into the garage while obscuring its contents. In fact, even a retired architect could only realize that these weren't even windows until a certain angle was inspected. It was similar to the need for five different camera angles for the referees to determine pass interference.


Now you might wonder why all this attention to a parking garage facade, and that is your right. But I would encourage you to explore these images as an exercise in graphic design, divorced from their apparent subject. I try to ignore the "subject" through tight square crops, and heightened contrast that hopefully focuses on the issues that I care about. I hope that you have enjoyed this series of images enough that you also don't care anymore about their pedestrian origins. Architectural details shouldn't only be for architects - have fun looking around.

                            AS GRAPHIC AS THEY COME : FINAL VERSION


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 17 Feb 2023 20:00:00 GMT
A STROLL ACROSS TILIKUM CROSSING                                                        TILIKUM  CROSSING PYLON : FINAL VERSION

This week the weather finally became somewhat conducive to actually venturing outside and pursuing my photography. I ventured across the newest bridge in "Bridgetown", the footbridge/bicycle/bus/trolley/Max bridge named Tilikum Crossing to honor the Chinook tribes native to our region. The "Bridge of the People" is a spectacular cable-stayed bridge, the latest and greatest type of suspension bridge very suitable for relatively short spans like the one required by the Willamette. This bridge is really the Division Street bridge that Division Street never received mainly because there was never enough city on the West Side in Downtown to deserve a bridge. With the creation of the South Waterfront neighborhood, the Portland Aerial Tram going up to Pill Hill, and the general redevelopment of the river edge south of Downtown, there became a justification for a river crossing near Division Street. In a more mature society than ours of course there would have been at least a token allowance for automobiles, which share lanes in most parts of the city with Mass transit, but there is no doubt that the pedestrian experience is paramount on this bridge.

                                                       TILIKUM  CROSSING PYLON : FINAL B&W VERSION

I am a particular type of photographer, one who finds motivation problematic once I have captured an image of a particular subject that has more than satisfied me.  There is no doubt that my chosen subject matter, the city and its architecture, can be greatly affected by the weather and the light, so that continued investigation might be warranted. But what do you do when you have already created an image where you know that that subject will "never look better" than the image that you have already created. Some people like musicians will and must practice for a lifetime, but my personality would chafe under that regimen. I took Kung Fu classes for nearly twenty years, and actually became pretty good at it, especially considering my age and lack of natural athletic ability. I excelled at the spontaneity of sparring, but positively rebelled at the daily practice of forms, which seemed to me to only exist so that your teacher could always find fault even after you earned a black belt. Thus I have to usually gird myself for yet another try at a subject that is very familiar to me, unlike other photographers who seemingly could photograph the Golden Gate every day of their lives and never tire of it.

                                                       TILIKUM CROSSING # 4 : FINAL VERSION

As I often say, attitudes like mine require a delight in the process of taking photographs, rather than the results of those efforts. The expected success rate, despite low expectations borne from years of experience, is only confounded by the fact that you have already been successful, thank you very much. And while I understand that I might have not captured a particular "money shot" of a subject that I know that exists, the fact that I have seen it again and again in other people's work lessens the need to have one of my own.

Now all this goes against my other belief that you do your best work as a local, so much so that a traveling photographer has almost no chance, no matter their skill, of capturing an image that might have taken a local years to take. You might get one chance to walk across the bridge, and I could probably walk across it most days for the rest of my life. As I have matured I have begun to realize, after careful prodding by Fran, that one doesn't go to Paris to make photographs, but you have fun taking photographs while you are experiencing Paris. Or at least until someone actually pays you to go to Paris to take photographs.

                                                        TILIKUM CROSSING : A SUBTLE SILHOUETTE

So I took yet another walk across the bridge yesterday to get some exercise and see my friend Al - these images were just a happy result. One of the reasons that I write these essays is to give me an excuse to exhibit additional takes on a subject that I know have almost no chance of making it into my gallery under the Burnside Bridge, because I've already got a great image of the Tilikum Crossing there, that either sells or doesn't sell to the public.

                                                        A BRIGHTER VERSION REVEALS MORE CONCRETE VARIATION

With all of these caveats, I had a great time, and came away with several nice images. The first image actually was a departure for me, since I have never concentrated on just one of the four pillars that support the bridge. It is now a sculpture devoid of context, whose almost anal symmetry doesn't mitigate its exploration of light and shadow. I'm not sure on the color versus the black and white version

The second image is far more conventional, but I think is fairly successful as a straight image of the pair of pylons at one end of the bridge, against a pretty nice partly cloudy Portland sky.

                                                        HIGH-KEY BLACK AND WHITE

The third and fourth images are much more dramatic interpretations of the pair of pylons, in tight close-ups that try but fail to straighten the pylons up, despite the efforts of my software. When you are this close it is much harder to do this with software, which is why there is till a place for shifting lenses which I cannot really afford to even rent. On the other hand, they are much better than the originals, with at least one of the pair seemingly not falling down. What I find fascinating is how the pretty subtle differences in exposure completely transform what is pretty much the same viewpoint. I think your affinity for silhouettes will determine which is more to your taste. I'm not sure, but I do like the more uniform pylons in the darker version. The high-key black and white version shows how powerful the rare blue sky in Portland can actually introduce the idea of "color contrast" - I don' think the black and white cuts it in this particular case.



This last pair of images are both a work in progress, which might argue for another walk across the bridge. I was intrigued by the shadow of the bridge as a way of exploring its beauty. While this was a case of being there at "the right time", it will undoubtedly happen again. I am not satisfied by the contrast I achieved, even in the black and white version, and know I could probably improve on this idea someday. Of course you might not agree in the idea at all - right now I actually like the color version better, which is rare for me.

So there you have it. Take a walk with a friend, especially one who might be taking photographs too. You might actually create something new, and if it provides an excuse for getting out and about then it is worth it no matter what images you might come away with.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 10 Feb 2023 20:00:00 GMT

This week I’d like to discuss another four secret documents that I recently found in my basement. I assure you that none were top were TOP SECRET, and I am releasing them to the public with no intervention from the Justice Department - in fact the National Archives doesn’t seem the least interested in my photo archives.
These four images were lost to the ages because they were saved as color slides, a format whose display is now just a memory. My scanner has allowed me to turn them into proper digital images. I can now process them any way I want, mostly to improve the original files as images by correcting the young photographer’s  mistakes in exposure and composition.

Slide film was a very intriguing medium. It provided Twentieth Century photographers with the sharpest images possible with the best color rendition in the world. Unfortunately it also was pretty unforgivable in terms of exposure, which had to be “right on” to the point where even the best photographers in the world had to “bracket”, to take a number of different exposures of the same scene in order to find one that came close to optimum. Needless to say, ordinary people with a camera were more often than not reduced to tears when their slides came back from Kodak or wherever, usually gloriously over or under exposed.If you didn't shoot for Life or National Geographic there was little chance to see your images in print or on the wall. All you had was a tiny artifact that could be projected to a very large size in a darkened room. These viewing conditions, accompanied by your stimulating color commentary, usually led to groans no matter how good the actual images were. The actual printing of slide images was very expensive, to the point that it was not really available for most photographers. And of course it was pretty impossible to change anything after the fact.


These four images that are included in this essay are so much better than the original slides that it is not really worth comparing them. It is often an act of faith in actually scanning your slides to see if there is something there. So there existence as forgotten images is not just because disorganized people like myself can't find them - but because when you actually find them, you don't really know what you have. In contrast to color prints in a shoe box, you usually have only your younger self to blame, not the incompetent minimum wage worker in the one-hour kiosk.

These images can now be viewed in their best form - at least as well as my current post-processing skills can manage. Of course I cannot go back to move a little to the left or right, and can only crop the original frame rather than expand it. And to tell you the truth I can only discuss them as "images", since even I do not remember their exact place in the space/time continuum.

So the first image is an idealized tree, since only Google can actually identify it. It is Springtime, and it is purple, and that is about it. I couldn't tell you the actual time or place. But there is a certain charm in the lightness of the foliage in contrast to the ancient solidity of the tree's structure, which cannot be duplicated in an engineer's office.

I believe the second image is from Colonial Williamsburg, but I couldn't swear to it. I love the receding fence line, and the play between shade and shadow on the fence itself. Since I balanced the color based on the highlight portions of the fence, the obvious blue tint of the shadows is true - shadows will be blue, especially on a white fence. Think of shadows on snow, for example. The color rendition hides the noise in the sadows much better than the black and white conversion. I also love the idea of such craftsmanship on a simple picket fence bordering a dirt road, which says something about public and private expenditures. The probable fact that the builder of this fence was also the owner's property is also something to contemplate.

                                                        A WATERFALL WITHOUT A NAME IS STILL A WATERFALL : FINAL VERSION

This scene also exists out of place and time, so it's value is simply as another example of my tendency towards intimate landscape images. I cropped the left edge to get rid of a thinner and lighter portion of the forest that competed for attention with my waterfall. I was amazed that this was a rare case that my exposure was so correct that I had not actually blown out the highlights in the water. I lightened the shadows to reveal a little detail in the forest while bringing down the real blacks to deepen the colors without actually saturating them. I was also pleased with my shutter speed, which achieved both detail and milkiness in the same waterfall. This image really works better in color than black and white, since the extra detail in the black and white version does not compensate for the contrasting color of the leaves, whose light tone was not really that much different than the water. The tree complements the water rather than competing for attention.


Finally, we are "Somewhere in England", as the espionage film would say. These two views of a small but spectacular church interior show the limits of my wide angle lens. What's funny is that this is so much wider than my usual view point - but a 28mm lens, broken long ago, was not really wide enough for interior work. And yet it is already distorted, which show the limitations of such lenses. These days I could stitch a half-dozen shots together to maybe achieve a complete and vertical view of the church, but his is what I have. At least the present-day photographer knows enough to understand what "young professional" saw in this monument - those incredible fan vaults that formed the ceiling. This is almost certainly an example of an East Anglian parish church, which approached a cathedral in sumptuous if not in size. This area in England was so rich in Medieval times that these churches dwarf the rest of what are now small rural market towns. The two versions both have their charms. The color version shows off the color of the stone and especially those mysterious red dots that appear randomly in the stonework - the church seems to be getting over a case of Chicken Pox. The Black and White rendition ups the detail and contrast to really show off the ribs of the vaults. To each his own.

I will let you go now without inflicting you with a slideshow, which is now just another way of viewing your photos on Lightroom, unless you show it to a crowd on Power Point. We now have slideshows with out actual slides. My father's student gig as an aide in the Art History class, working the slide projector is as foreign to our reality as his playing both ways on both the Offensive and Defensive lines on the Dartmouth football team. I hope you have enjoyed this trip back to the past thru these four images.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 03 Feb 2023 20:00:00 GMT
THE BRIDGE                                                        THE BRIDGE, 2010 : FINAL TIMELESS SEPIA VERSI0N, ANYTIME SINCE 1883

This week I'd like to ruminate a little on the value of history and the small ways that photographic exploration can allow a photographer like myself to both appreciate and comment on the past. The value of human experience allows us to see for ourselves and to both appreciate our own small part in the present while standing in awe of a historical monument that was built long before we saw it and will probably last long after we are gone, if not forever. It's one thing to contemplate Nature, knowing that it exists without, and even despite our presence on this world. It's another when we are confronted by a work of mankind, built by people very much like ourselves, but so stupendous that we seriously question whether our own age is up to these standards. As an artist, the need to observe and record our experience of such a monument to Man's achievement is balanced by the fear that we will not have anything new, much less important, to say.

                                                      THE BRIDGE, 2010 : NOT AS TIMELESS , BUT IT STILL COULD BE FROM ANY YEAR SINCE I WAS BORN

I have just finished "The Great Bridge" an outstanding historical work by David McCullough on the incredible story of the building of the Brooklyn Bridge from 1869 -1883. I would recommend his poetic work of history to everyone, even if you don't think you could possibly understand the structural engineering involved. In that way it's a lot like "Moby Dick", which might spend a little more time on whaling than a modern reader needs to know. "The Great Bridge" is a very human story of a father and his son who achieve immortality despite death and crippling sickness. Alongside is the daughter-in-law. a woman who rose so far above her station that even the society of 1883 had to acknowledge her greatness even while they tried to ignore her example. McCullough concludes his volume by remarking that despite all of the struggles and scandals of Twain's "Gilded Age", that "in the end the bridge was beautiful."

I was born in Brooklyn in 1956, left New York for college in 1973, and did not walk across the bridge until the late summer of 2001. As a native New Yorker, forgive me for referring to the Brooklyn Bridge as just "the bridge", since in this case typical New York parochialism can be historically and artistically justified. I trained as an American historian, only to give in to logic until I pursued an even more quixotic economic journey into Architecture. So this book was right up my alley, but it stood on my bookshelf for decades. I finally picked it up a couple of months ago, searching for something  that could possibly be a little more uplifting than another tome on the War (kids, that's WWII). Part of the shock of reaching a certain age is realizing that the humble artifact you are holding is itself a piece of history, since this book was written over fifty years ago, long before David McCullough achieved fame as a "talking head" on television.. The paperback was no doubt picked up in a used bookstore in Bloomington, Indiana over forty years ago, and survived the great trek to Powell's in 1992, when I sold the twenty-seven boxes of books that couldn't possibly fit into our new apartment on the Park Blocks.

                                             THE BRIDGE, 2010 - IF I GO BACK, I WOULD STITCH SOME MORE IMAGES TO GET DOWN TO THE ROADWAY

These are a few examples of the images that I made on and off the bridge during my two walks across the bridge alone in 2001, and with Fran and Benjamin and Margaret in 2010. I somehow hope that you might feel that they look like Rich pictures, even though there have been whole volumes written solely on the art and photography of the bridge during its now 150 years on this earth. Far better artists than myself have tried to come up with their own interpretation of a monument whose iconic status resists a new image, even while it demands that you try.

The first image is a pretty standard symmetrical study which I daresay mirrors some more famous attempts that have wormed their way into my subconscious long before I strode across the bridge. It is amazing how much the light and even the position of the flag can affect the image, and this square crop for a coaster suffers from a lack of headroom. The original image was something like the vertical crop, also taken that day, although you can see that the flag is in a different position. The original is lost to history, another casualty of my lack of organization. I hope you agree that my use of sepia black and white tone is far better at conveying the historical nature of the structure than the straight color rendition. You would have to pay far more attention to detail than yours truly to be able to date this image with any accuracy at all. This is helped by the absence of the ground plane of the bridge, any background, and any other pedestrians or conveyances that might give a hint of the image's age. It is truly  amazing that untold millions of people have viewed the bridge from exactly this spot, with only the flag's position (and the number of stars) dating the photograph. I do think the image does suffer from the lack of a ground plane, since the extra room in the vertical is still mostly sky.


                                                                THE BRIDGE, 2001 : A BLACK AND WHITE STUDY IN SILHOUETTE

This is far more like it, although I would be truly fooling myself if I thought it was anywhere in the neighborhood of unique. I went for an assymetrical silhouette, which is based on my lack of a wide angle lens and my usual hasty exposure. But we make images long after we take them, and I deliberately restricted the view to only one part of one side of one bridge pier while lowering the shadows to obscure any detail on the pier itself. The color original is in no way of any use at all. While my first black and white conversion held more detail in the sky, I lost most of that in pursuit of a brighter, and even more graphic image. Those in the know will realize that this is a certain bridge because of the diagonal bracing tying the vertical supports together under one of the main cables. The image tries to convey the delicacy of this spider web contrasting with the solidity of the great black masonry pier.

               FRAN AND RICH, 2010

                                                       BENJAMIN AND MARGARET, 2010

Of course the bridge is bout people too. Here are four people -  two middle-aged ex-New Yorkers, and two new young people in the city, in 2010. Benjamin looks like he could easily pass for one of the workers who built the bridge.

                                                                NO DAREDEVILS ALLOWED, 2010 : FINAL VERSION

Here are two details from the bridge.The first seems almost quaint, a sculptural celebration of the idea that maybe pedestrians should stick to the promenade provided for them since the bridge was built. The barrier probably works, although it looks like anyone crazy enough to walk on the cable across the bridge could manage to climb around this whimsical doorway in the air.  The first man to supposedly jump off the bridge and live went on to star in a Broadway musical that celebrated his feat. The main cable pictured above, one of four, is more than 18 inches in diameter and is a wrapped combination of 15 cable clusters composed of thousands of steel wires. My father would occasionally take me to one of the   factories where he worked as a Plant engineer which made similar cables. These machines he was tasked with keeping running, no matter what, spun cables more than two blocks long and could take off a man's arm is he wasn't careful. The working conditions were absolutely Dickensian. Today you can buy a multi-million dollar condo in similar buildings fronting the Gowanus Canal, a Superfund hazardous waste site.

                                                                 WALK THIS WAY, 2010 : FINAL VERSION

The promenade is still there to allow pedestrians to cross the bridge, even though the horse-drawn caraiges and the cable-car railway is long gone. The original one-cent toll has also been forgotten. This recent super graphic serves to tell people where they should walk, something their great grandfathers would probably have deemed unnecessary if not condescending.

                                                              THE TWIN TOWERS FROM THE BRIDGE, 2001 : COLOR AND BLACK & WHITE


This last image, both in color (!) and black and white, illustrates how the bridge endures. I took this on my first journey across the bridge in the late Summer of 2001, on a visit to New York. I literally stood in the plaza at the World Trade Center while I decided whether to pay to go up; I had never had the opportunity. I decided that the sky was too gray to afford a good view, that I couldn't afford the admission fee, and that I could always go up the next time I was in town. So I had an incredible time walking across the bridge, for free, for the very first time. The next month the Twin Towers were gone, and this has became a somber historical image.

But the bridge endures, and it is beautiful.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 27 Jan 2023 20:00:00 GMT
THE SCANNER AS TIME MACHINE                                                                     ALMOST CERTAINLY LAFAYETTE SQUARE, 1980'S : FINAL VERSION

This week I would like to extol the virtues of the scanner. This machine allows the photographer to delve deeper into his or her archives. This assumes that they have enough years under their belt to have photo albums of old prints, or even old slides which they can no longer view because the projector is in a landfill somewhere. The scanner is actually a type of time machine, since it converts these artifacts into digital files that can be processed in Lightroom and be resurrected as digital images that can be improved far beyond their analog origins. These images are examples of my work, long unseen, which I can now exhibit. And prove, at least to myself, that I wasn't half-bad as a photographer decades before I considered the idea that I was an artist. Even though I can remember taking all of these photos, I really cannot claim to know their exact locations, subjects, or dates of origin. I know they are mine, but beyond that there is some element of mystery. This allows me to appreciate them as compositions even more, somewhat divorced from the reality of space and time.


                                                                     BLACK AND WHITE VERSION

                                                                  I SUSPECT THIS IS THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, BUT I COULD BE WRONG : FINAL VERSION

These first two images are both from my time in Washington, D.C. during the Reagan and Bush the Elder administrations. I lived in Arlington, Virginia, so at least I could vote, even if I rarely voted for a winner. Fran and I are old enough that when she really wants to get my goat she can accuse me of being a Reaganite, which in today's context can seem almost quaint. The first image I can almost swear is from Lafayette Square across the street from the White House. The real hint that it is Washington and not London is the brick instead of cobblestone. I don't really have a preference between the graphic qualities of the color or the black and white version. The color image shows off the red brick, while the black and white version emphasizes the curve and shadow of the railings. The second image could be the Library of Congress, but it really appeals to me as an example of the power of the dome as an element of architecture. I also enjoy that the awe I felt can be conveyed without showing the entire dome - your brain completes the circle without the fish eye lens I have never owned. And if this isn't the Library of Congress, does it really matter?

                                                                TWO VIEWS OF LATE TWENTIETH CENTURY LONDON : FINAL VERSIONS

These next two images are from London, but I do not know when they date from beyond the fact that they are pre-digital, which places them somewhere in the late Twentieth Century. I lived in London in 1976, and visited with Fran in 1977 and 1990. The first image is from some Wren Parish Church which again shows the power of a much smaller dome. This dome in fact hearkens back all the way to the Pantheon, although this oculus is a skylight which at least blocks the rain. The second shot looks like an image from a detective show with the subtitle of "Somewhere in London." My post-processing now reveals the street which was completely lost in shadow in the original slide. I converted the image to black and white to mask the overwhelming noise in the color shadows. This allows the viewer to focus on the row of chimneys which originally attracted me to the scene. It's almost as if the Victorian architect cared much more about the sculptural qualities of these chimneys than the actual row of dwellings themselves. At least the masons got to show off.

                                     TRINITY CHURCH GRAVEYARD : FINAL VERSION

                                                                 ONE DAY AT THE BALLPARK, EARLY 1970'S : FINAL VERSION

These next two images are from Old New York, and are more than 40 years old. I believe the first is a detail from the graveyard of Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan. Trinity's spire was the tallest building in New York before the first skyscrapers were built, and was carefully framed from a certain angle by the space between the Twin Towers. I carefully cropped and darkened the background to remove any hint of the late twentieth Century. The second image is a rare "street shot" taken at a day game in the early 1970's. The two brothers seemed to rooting for different teams, or at least had two different favorite colors. Presumably they are now in their late fifties, and hopefully have as fond memories of Shea Stadium as I do. My post processing allowed me to balance the exposure between the cheap seats I was accustomed to and the sunlit expanse beyond. Shea is no more, but at least I can still hate the Yankees.


These last two images come from somewhere and some time lost in obscurity, but I have always felt the compositions held some interest. My post-processing of the scanned images elevated them far above their one-hour origins. I love the boardwalk, whose design reveals the arbitrary whims of it's designer as it weaves it's way across the water. The image's age is highlighted by the absence of any politically correct safety railings. Presumably there were no gators in the shallow water. By the way, we were probably walking through what we innocently called "swamp", way before the reign of the "wetland."

                                     RED CLAY : FINAL VERSION

This image is my homage to a photograph on a famous Jazz album I owned as a re-issue (!) in the early 1980's. Back when there actual album covers, an image a lot like this one graced my copy of Freddie Hubbard's "Red Clay." And while I certainly wasn't in Georgia, this sodden dirt road caught my eye because I was familiar with the other image. I cropped it to highlight the most interesting part of the photo, making it into a square because, like coasters, record covers were square.

I hope you have enjoyed this trip down Memory Lane, even if my memories are somewhat hazy. I encourage you to revisit your own pre-digital archives with the goal of utilizing the scanner time machine to allow you to improve and use your images from yesteryear.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 20 Jan 2023 20:00:00 GMT
IT'S ALL IN THE DETAILS                                                         WHEN CURVES COLLIDE : FINAL VERSION

This week I'd like to discuss the value of focusing in on the details. While this applies to most photographic subjects, it really comes into its own in architectural photography, especially in the type of image-making that I am particularly interested. I started out in my photographic journey on the mission to document my own projects as an architect, since I couldn't come close to being able to afford professional architectural photographers. My particular circumstances forced me to pay attention to small parts of the project - I didn't own the wild angle lenses required for most interior photography, and I didn't have the support staff required to "stage" a house for the typical magazine shoot. Since most of my projects were variations on small scale residential additions, I didn't want to focus on the whole house anyway, even if most of my designs were pretty sympathetic to the existing house designs.

                                                       WINDOWS MEET SCULPTURE : FINAL VERSION

I gradually realized that my developing photographic style, such as it was, had pretty much nothing to do with the professionals I couldn't afford - while I couldn't even approach their technical skills or equipment, as a practicing architect I knew where to find the "money shot" that could explain the value of the design. Of course it didn't hurt that I was the designer, and to give myself a little credit, I wasn't trying to photograph a horrible or at best mediocre design, which is the lot in life of most professionals. It was only when I went on a shoot with a professional architectural photographer and saw the shot list provided by the architect, that I realized the pretty unique position I was in. Most architects had no idea how to photograph their own designs, and most photographers couldn't think like an architect. Even when confronted by a high-quality piece of design, they couldn't find the "money shot" which would celebrate the skill of the architect.

                                                       A SCULPTURE GARDEN THAT SURROUNDS A SCULPTURE : FINAL VERSION

These circumstances led me to focus on the details of architecture, to document the small wonders in a work that I could celebrate instead of just documenting the entire building. I now realize that this approach guides my art whether I walk through my neighborhood noticing small details on ordinary buildings or visit a famous structure half-way around the world. And I know that this leads to a more individual set of images that I can call my own.

These first three images come from the work of Frank Gehry, one of the most famous architects of our times. They show the problems and opportunities that can arise when exuberant sculptures collide with our more pedestrian orthogonal world. You still have to keep the water out, or at least try. Think of the poor guys and gals who have to figure out how to place ordinary windows in the boss's sculpture, or to even sheath compound curves with metal panels. But the true genius of detailing comes when it serve a higher purpose. The third image of Gehry's Symphony Hall in Los Angeles shows the incredible garden that sits amidst the sculpture. While the building is so delightful that it qualifies as architectural porn, I for one insist that it looks just as silly on the street as Wright's Guggenheim - the best you can say is that it "enlivens" the streetscape" after it has fallen there from Outer Space.  Yet it is only when you get to visit, and walk up an ordinary stair from said street, that you get to spend as long as you like in a block-long roof garden on the roof, available for free with out even entering the building!

                                                       1882 : FINAL VERSION

Architectural detailing started with a need to cover your ass, to figure out how to try to prevent water from getting into your structure. It was further refined to hide pretty much any joint - between wall and ceiling, wall and floor, any corner - that needed to screen the fact that materials and carpenters were not perfect. Since architecture is an art as well as a science, soon designers started using detail to celebrate their own ingenuity as well as to allow their craftsmen to show off theirs. That is why a beautiful detail can grace any structure, since you have got to build the wall anyway - why not allow the carpenter to show off a little? And that is also why old buildings have value, since both the architects and the carpenters came cheap, and the builders could afford to let them amuse themselves to a certain degree.

Masonry seems to have been delivered by the Almighty so that both the designer and the bricklayer could celebrate their existence. I think the first image shows a detail from a Massachusetts warehouse, which celebrates the structural piers and arches, and shows how the world's most ordinary "building block" can be manipulated to decorate without decoration. Throw in the pride of the mysterious "H" and the year of it's creation, and you have a beautiful warehouse.


Or think about the pride inherent in this brick detail above a side door of an ordinary Elementary school in Southeast Portland. The side door!

                                                       IT'S BEAUTIFUL, AND THE CLIENT WAS A LEFTY : FINAL VERSION

This is the front door of a bungalow in Southeast Portland. Just imagine the pride of the designer and the carpenter who created this entrance. The street number above is an example of a Depression Era Portland "make work" project when the city fathers encouraged the idea that houses should proudly show their addresses with ceramic tiles that would employ both craftsmen and carpenters.

                                                       AND YOU CAN RAKE LEAVES WITH IT! : FINAL VERSION

Or think about this exuberant porch detail on this small Victorian porch that ensures that this house is at least special if not unique.

                                                       CAN ARCHITECTURE BE SENSUOUS? : FINAL VERSION

When you get to an institutional client where price is no object, then budgets cease to matter. This is a detail of Louis Kahn's library at a small and over-privileged boarding school in New England. Forget the fact that you are looking at one of the corners of a four-story atrium at the center of the library, and that these concrete circles reveal the stacks and study carrels beyond. Think about the idea that this is some of the most sensuous concrete ever created, and that most every surface that is not concrete is incredibly detailed oak paneling that is worthy of fine furniture.

                                                      OKAY, ENOUGH ALREADY : FINAL VERSION

Sometimes detailing, like everything else, just goes too far. A recent development in architectural design is a celebration of detail that can become almost a substitute for the attention that must be paid to most other facets of design, in my humble opinion. It is no wonder that institutional projects can now cost $1500 per square foot. This is the emergency stair on a government office building in California, which if you look closely still requires a handrail behind its glass facade.

                            REFLECTION OF WHAT? : FINAL VERSION

I don't even remember where this facade was located. It amazes me that with all the attention to the incredible detailing of this curtain wall, that the architects did not realize that they were building an architectural Rorschach Test that would obscure their own efforts. It was up to me to notice this profound accident of intention meeting reality.

These images from my archives and from strolls last year show the range of delight that can be found when people - clients, architects, craftsmen, even societies - have a modicum of pride in their work. While the downside is that this can be a rarity, at least when I find it I like to pay attention.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 13 Jan 2023 20:00:00 GMT
LOOKING AT TREES                                                  NATURAL INK BLOT PRINT : FINAL VERSION

This week I'd like to wish you all a happy new year and discuss the pleasures I get from observing trees. I'd say there are a number of reasons that I like to observe trees which relate to their beauty, their structure, and their refusal to either move or acknowledge mankind's presence at all.

Trees have always struck me as beautiful.  I always resisted removing trees from a site when planning an architectural project. I frequently told my clients that "only God can make a tree" which is pretty definitive coming from an atheist. One of the reasons I find trees beautiful is their structure, which can be mimicked by structural engineers but nevertheless seems to have little to do with our orthogonal strategy of dealing with gravity. As a photographer who tends to love subjects that are larger than me, don't move, and don't talk back, trees fall into my wheelhouse.

I've been looking through my archives for photos of my son at the same ages as my grandson for a photo book I've been working on. More on that in a future essay. While on that search I came upon some images of trees that caught my interest and prompted some efforts in Lightroom to make them a little "more interesting" so as to catch your attention as well. A few came from files lost in the last decade, while the remainder were captured last year.

                                                        TREE ALONG 37TH AVENUE : FINAL VERSION

These first two images capture the beauty of two trees through the employment of silhouettes, which emphasize the intricate structure of two very different specimens against the sky. The silhouette uses an overwhelming amount of contrast to reduce the photograph to almost a line drawing or an ink block print. I reduce any detail in the tree itself that might have survived the natural back-lit conditions by lowering the black point to render the shadows as pure a black as I like. Since our eyes and brains encounter such conditions in the natural world, we can lower the blacks to near zero without causing viewers to declare the result as "unnatural." The same latitude does not apply to the lightest portions of a scene, for our brains want some level of detail to remain in an image besides the natural white of the paper where no ink at all has been applied.

The first image  comes very close to a pure silhouette, with a series of trees standing tall against a featureless sky. It even appears to be a purely black and white photo until you notice that the gray sky that day was closer to very light tan. Of course this kind of image gives you  an excuse to walk in the woods during the Winter, when there are no pesky leaves obscure the sculptural structure.

The second image was taken on the street in Southeast Portland a few days ago. There is no statute saying that you can't raise your camera to the sky and ignore your surroundings to focus on the real beauty close at hand. This silhouette also proves that a little color will not ruin the effect, as long as you resist the desire to lighten up the tree itself.

                            LONE TREE ON THE SAVANNAH : FINAL VERSION

Here I encountered another lone tree with an interesting shape, but the overall conditions led to a more natural approach. The silhouette revealed an appearance more furry than leafy. As usual, I had no idea what kind of tree I was looking at - and as usual I masked my botanical ignorance with a delight in "mystery." In any case, I tried without much success to coax some detail out of the gray sky - but I did lighten the foreground enough to reveal a lot of detail and color in the prairie that surrounded our star. Photographers employ gradient filters to balance the exposure in different parts of scene. Our eyes and brains can adjust to wide differences in light levels much better than our stupid cameras. In most landscapes it becomes part of the drill to reduce light levels in the sky, and increase them in the foreground - but only to the point that our brain does not rebel at the lack of any true blacks or shadows.

                            THE CLUMP  OF TREES : FINAL VERSION

But there is more to trees than just their shapes. This clump of trees near the end of summer was just beginning to assert itself against the surrounding woodland. Not too showy, but they got my attention. As usual I tried to crop to reduce the gray Oregon sky to a bare minimum to allow the subtle colors to come through. Even Oregon skies are too bright in a woodland shot, and since our eyes are always attracted to the lightest part of a scene, it's best to eliminate as much of it as possible to concentrate on your real subject.

                                                        DOGWOOD DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

Of course in Spring and Fall our eyes are delighted by the color of the flowers of rebirth, and in a slightly morbid fashion in the flame-out of vegetation that signals imminent nakedness and death. This first image glorifies this Dogwood's plumage to the extent that I don't care about the out-of-square siding in the background and just appreciate that my neighbor painted his house a Portland Gray. I am always delighted when a scene does not need any additional saturation, thank you very much.                                                         YOU SHOULD OF SEEN ME LAST WEEK! : FINAL VERSION

Then we get to Autumn, when certain trees just want to go out in a blaze of glory. Portland is not really known for it's fall foliage, since we are solidly in the land of perpetually green forests - and that once our few deciduous species finally turn on the color, the autumn wind and rain firmly shuts it off in a few days if not hours. This year we had one of our latest Falls ever, and when I caught this Maple in full glory in the Japanese Garden the maples at my house hadn't even thought of turning. Another example of the power of the micro climate, since the garden is located more than several hundred feet higher than my bungalow. Like any good National Geographic photographer who has never appeared in the actual magazine, I lowered the exposure a tiny little bit to saturate the color without using the Saturation slider.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief look at trees, and encourage you to pay more attention to their mute beauty.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 06 Jan 2023 20:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to deliver my annual report for my art business, which continues to astound me in  the incredible way it really doesn't make any sense. The more I try to be a better businessman, I seem to only succeed in being a better artist - the bottom line doesn't really change much at all. But I thought that some of you might be amused at my efforts, so I will share some of this year's round-number preliminary statistics. Since the State of Oregon finally delivered my tax refund this week, a mere eight months after I filed it in April, I don't think that anyone should mind if I make a first stab at assessing my year. The images in this annual report are my first attempt to determine my best images of the year. These 25 images survived an initial selection of about sixty out of 1300 photos I took or worked on this year. About half are "new" images that have little to do with the initial snapshots I might have taken a decade ago. This selection is pretty personal and few have had any impact on my sales - but they are this year's answer to "which one's do you like best?" Your mileage may differ.


                            AT LEAST I'M NOT A CHANDELIER SALESMAN! 2022

Before we get started with the grim statistics, let me first say that I am incredibly grateful that people respond to my images, sometimes even buy them, and that Saturday Market exists as a venue and that Fran still encourages me after all these years in every way possible. Her biggest achievement this year might be that after more than a dozen years I'm finally beginning to agree with her that none of this makes any sense, and that it really doesn't lend itself to MBA type analysis. The bottom line is that I do make money, incredibly rare for an artist, but that I don't come anywhere near to "making a living."

                            BAGDAD NOIR #4 2022

                            CASCADE LAKE : B&W CONVERSION OF 1996 PHOTO

I get most of my jollies from spreading my art around the globe not through the internet, where I have been a near total failure, but through my little booth at the market. This year I made around 350 sales, which averages nearly ten a day, which actually surprises me, but there you have it. It's the variability that can drive everyone nuts, which has led Fran to abandon any predictions of my mood when I come home exhausted at the end of the day. This year I put art in around 100 more houses in Portland, adding to my total after a dozen years of approximately 3500 homes and apartments where I might encounter my art. I sold art to about 240 more places in the rest of the United States, where I have sold art to people from every state in the Union. I have art in eight Canadian provinces - this year I "made" Yellowknife, in the Northwest Territories. My art now graces homes in 25 more places in sixty countries throughout the rest of the world; this year I sold art to people from Bosnia and the Czech republic for the first time. I frankly find this absolutely incredible.

                            BUG'S EYE VIEW : 2022 MACRO ENLARGEMENT


The real story this year is that although I'm certainly not back to my sales totals before the Pandemic, I'm doing it in half the time. Saturday Market is now really Saturday Market, with no Sundays for the foreseeable future. So although I'm paying the same rent I used to pay for two days on the weekend, I am making just a little less in one day than I used to make in two. The slightly longer endurance required in more than 12 hours outside under the bridge is more than made up by Sunday at home. I have no complaints with earning about the same money in only about 60% of the time at the market.

                            MORRISON BRIDGE : 2022 B&W CONVERSION

                                                                     A REDISCOVERED, AND RECROPPED B&W CONVERSION OF 2012 PHOTO

Now let's take a deeper dive in how I actually make money. Since I compiled some of these statistics in the process of writing this essay, consider that I am actually kind of thinking aloud - and that your conclusions about how I should respond to this stuff bears little resemblance to the reality of the art world, especially under the Burnside Bridge.

                            OREGON COAST DUNE GRASS : REDISCOVERED 2016 IMAGE

                                                TILIKUM CROSSING : SEVERE B&W CONVERSION OF 2019 PHOTO

I am a coaster monger. Sales of coasters probably represent about a third of my total sales, and most of my profits if I really drilled down. I sold 527 coasters this year, about 150 less than in 2019. On any given Saturday probably 250 of my images are available as coasters, which is clearly nuts except that I've long held the belief that the one image that a person responds to is the key to a sale, despite the fact that nobody else except me ever gives a damn. So while the top ten coasters, including two ties, account for 43% of coaster sales, they might not be the reason a customer went for the set of four, but only the result of really liking another obscure image. 17% of my images sold just one time, which seems to reinforce that theory. On the other hand, 54% of my coaster images never found a buyer at all this year - they are clearly not pulling their weight, and even I have begun to cannibalize them for the creation of coasters that will actually sell.

                            AN ENCOUNTER IN LADD'S ADDITION : 2022


I have not bought a new coaster blank for months, which is great since they have gone up by almost 50% - talk about inflation! I actually recommended to the proprietor of one of my art supply stores that they install some defibrillators after I noticed that the felt sheets I used to buy have gone up in price from $.33/sheet to $1.49/sheet! It's a good thing that for some unknown reason I saved bags and bags of the felt trimmings over the years, so that I have not bought a felt sheet in years, and hopefully will not have to for several years to come.



Magnets are a subset of coaster sales. For years magnets drove me nuts, since I couldn't rationally decide what should be a coaster and what should be a magnet. Inevitably I chose wrong, leading to customer disappointment. It was only when I became disenchanted and eliminated magnets entirely, (which of course led to unprecedented demand for magnets), that I hit upon the solution. I now convert coasters into magnets while you wait, which lets me charge the highest price in the market for a magnet, while the customers cannot believe I do not charge a premium for the surgery. Even though I only sold 63 magnets this year,more than I thought, that's about a $500.00 in profit since I spent only $10.00 or so on the magnet sheets.

                            SCARY GERMAN GARGOYLE : B&W CONVERSION OF 2006 PHOTO

Another product I sell is also a direct response to my coasters. My "Miniatures" are the same size as coasters, but placed on a thicker wood frame which allows them to stand by themselves in a bookcase or on a table or hang on the wall. Of course the coasters can hang on a wall with a couple of pieces of velcro, but try to monetize that! Believe me, it doesn't work since my customers declare "but they're coasters!" and then graciously email their installations a few months later - on the wall. The mini's started out like gangbusters, but know I only sell about one a week. At least I finally showed some restraint by declaring there would only be one copy per image - but this was countered by my attempt to sell images that were not squares. After all, they were not coasters; but try explaining to me why a 4x4 is cute, but a 4x6 is too small? At least the dozens of disdained 4x6's can now be used as the hidden frames behind my metal prints.

                            THE RED CHAIRS : WILMINGTON, 2022


Another victory this year was bringing back my small posters. They too were very popular until the 2018 Recession (oh you missed that one? it was true at the market) drove down market prices to the point where my posters, with my name on them, were selling for more than my competitor's matted prints. The posters survived in their bags as packing material for the small metal prints (they still are) until I decided to put them in a box on a table and see if anyone responded. I only sold 17 this year, but that's 17 more than I sold since 2018, and it's all profit. I probably have several years until I actually have to print another one.

                            BAMBURGH BEACH : B&W CONVERSION OF 2008 PHOTO

                            CRATER LAKE #1 : REDISCOVERED AND CROPPED 1994 PHOTO

My books are a total labor of love. I wrote four of them during the Pandemic, and thereupon learned that the only worse economic position than an artist was an author. If I could get these books into Powell's I would lose $1.00 with every sale, and even I realize that you can't make that up in volume. But I do sell about one a month, earning far more for each book, at a fair price, than most authors ever dream of. I'm very proud of them, and I dare say that you won't find another photo book with what Fran calls such "spirited" commentary.

                                                       SHADE HOUSE #1 : 2022

                                                     EASTERN OREGON MONOLITH : REDISCOVERED 1999 PHOTO

Which leaves my metal prints, the biggest source of sales, but also the biggest source of marketing frustration in my booth. These are my big ticket items, which grab the viewer's attention and show off my work better than any other medium that exists in the photographic market today. These prints are exquisite, but they are also very expensive, and inflation isn't helping at all. Thus they are pretty much billboards at this point, drawing customers into the booth but rarely leaving. My dream marketing plan would have me sell one or two each Saturday, but that rarely happens. I only sold 29 metal prints this year, and sold exactly zero of those larger than my smallest 8x8 size. I feel my prices are very fair, if not on the too fair side. And my colleagues, who have all converted to metal after I led the way, sell the larger sizes for some 100's of dollars less that I do. But I watch, and they DON'T sell them either, so lower prices doesn't seem to really matter. I'm at a loss, and I think I must stop bringing my larger metals if only to reduce the enormous time it takes to set up and tear down my gallery. Since they really are beautiful, it's pretty disappointing.

                            VINTAGE CANNON BEACH : A 2016 PHOTO, PROCESSED IN 2022, COULD BE 1942


So there you have my 2022 State of the Market. I remain optimistic but puzzled. One of the things that has kept me enthused this year is this blog. I realize that in some sense I have bitten off more than I can chew, that a blog a week might be too much, but I am still enjoying myself. When other artists say they have a blog, and I discover that they have written a dozen blog posts over four years, I can only shake my head. So I thank everyone for your attention, and hope you are enjoying these musings on my photographic journey. I once again invite you to tell me you are out there. My statistics tell me that on the average more than 200 of you are reading each week, but I have no idea who the vast majority of you are besides my wife, who provides her own "spirited" commentary each week. Happy Holidays, and a Happy New Year.




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 16 Dec 2022 20:00:00 GMT
URBAN PHOTOGRAPHY                                                         BIG PINK FRAMED BY BROADWAY : FINAL VERSION

I'm often asked what kind of photography is my main focus, and over the years I have struggled with this question. The problem is complex; I would like my images to speak for themselves, despite my zeal about writing about my process in creating them. Attempts at characterization run the risk of artistic pretension combined with the feeling that my specialty is unusual enough to just lead to confusion - and that my real specialty is a niche in that already narrow focus. So I will give it another try. I am an urban photographer, in that most of my images are set in urban spaces. I am an urban landscape photographer, since my imagery is certainly in the landscape tradition, minus the beauty of the natural landscape. Since most of my imagery is not in the grand landscape mode, I would then characterize it as intimate urban landscapes and start on the road to descriptive confusion. My photos are certainly not in the "street" tradition, in that the scenes usually do not contain urban inhabitants - but I am beginning to be annoyed at the "no people" designation in one of the photo-sharing websites I contribute to, since I suspect that they think I do not have any friends. And while my photos contain buildings, I wouldn't really describe myself as an architectural photographer since I'm not usually trying to present a "hero shot" of a piece of architecture. The buildings are important in their role in the drama of the city as a whole.

Now that I've confused the issue, I would like to show a half-dozen examples to attempt to clarify my pursuit. They come from Portland, London, and New York, but they really are about the urban condition as a whole. They were taken during the last fifteen years, and there are no people in them (!).

                                                        ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

This first snapshot was taken on a walk across the Broadway Bridge in Portland. I was interested in the juxtaposition of turn of the century pragmatic engineering with a heroic glass monolith that the bridge's designers couldn't fathom or even anticipate when they built the bridge. "Big Pink" is an icon in Portland, since it is one of our few real towers, standing apart in the skyline, and for God's sake it is pink. I could probably call this "Big Pink #10" and not be far off the mark. So if I am going to take yet another portrait of Big Pink I try to make it a little unusual.

While I said that the bridge structure was pragmatic, it's celebration of the art of the truss verges on the romantic. The joints, like this asymmetrical one involving five girders and wonderful collection of rivets, are almost poetic. When later City Fathers decided to paint the bridge red it only increased the drama.

The final image tries to do a few things. I've lightened the exposure to show off the bridge. I subtly cropped the composition to get rid of the annoying portion of the Koin Tower at the right edge, and to reduce the visual clutter of all those rails on the bridge. Lightroom allowed me to increase the saturation of the blue portions of the sky that were not even there in the original snapshot. Finally, I played with perspective correction tools to try to straighten both Big Pink and the vertical parts of the bridge truss, all to mostly no avail. The camera reveals that the bridge is not really square with the ground, so that this anal architect can have a straight Big Pink, or a straight bridge, but not both.

                                                       LONDON AT DUSK : FINAL VERSION

On to London. I think this scene is on a side street somewhere in the West End, but that is not really important. You would have to be a London Cabbie to convince me that you were certain of the exact location, but it contains enough details -the partial street sign, the stone and brick palate, and the typical church tower in the distance - to say "London." My frame of reference is those two yellow lines near the curb, which denotes the bike lane where I was allowed to ride on the street in 1976. This is Xmas 2008, and despite the lights, the mood was pretty grim.

                                                        ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

Not as grim as the original exposure, which was probably more realistic considering it's a little past four in December. But I tried to lighten the dark shadows in the street to reveal details and in fact also reveal a little bit of the street lighting and the facades of the buildings forming this lane. Once again I tried to straighten up those buildings and the church tower, which necessitated some more cropping of the foreground.

                                                       LONDON AT DUSK : FINAL B&W VERSION

Somehow this black and white version seems to capture the mood better, even though it reduces the festivities. To each his own.


This snapshot of the Salmon Springs Fountain proves two things - I can take a photo through the windshield while waiting for the light (it's Portland so probably no one blew their horn when I failed to anticipate the green light) and that I can take a photo with a person in it, even if she is obscured by the fountain. Obviously this impromtu shot needs a lot of work, unless you're partial to street signs.


The panoramic crop focuses our attention on the fountain and emphasizes its width.  I can live with the red chair, but those posts have just got to go.       SALMON SPRINGS PANORAMA : FINAL B&W VERSION

While we're at it, let's get rid of the red chair too. Converting to black and white eliminates the red chair, while the "perfect eraser" removes those posts without any fuss. And its not like their was a whole lot of color in the shot in the first place.

                                                       PARK TABLE AND CHAIRS : ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

A study in light, shadows, and pattern in an urban park. I can't go back and give the chairs more room, but I can "clean up the area" in such a minimalist composition. And straighten that leaning table post!

                                                       CROPPED AND STRAIGHTENED TABLE AND CHAIRS

I straightened the table and cropped out the mess at the top edge of the photo. When I converted to black and white instead of tan and white, I also got rid of as much litter and gunk as I could - you've got to tidy up!

                                                       TIDIED UP BLACK AND WHITE VERSION

                                                        REFLECTIONS ON PORTLAND : ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

Another Portland Icon, the Portland sign at the Performing Arts Center. I was intrigued by this natural double exposure which combines a mirror image reflection in the staircase glass of the street scene beyond with a reflection of the staircase itself. Or something like that. Once again, this intriguing image needed just a little less wonk.

                                                        REFLECTIONS ON PORTLAND : FINAL VERSION

Okay, now we are under control, even if we still don't know what is actually going on. A little selective saturation of the aqua sign and the red railings helps things along. Even if I specialize in the "intimate urban landscape", it doesn't mean that I can't approach the surreal.

                                                      WATER STREET : ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

Sometimes you are just walking along, minding your own business, and the absurdity of urban life smacks you in the face. Which way is one way? Even though Water Street and Dock Street might be perpendicular, how can Dock Street run past Water Street? It is now up to me to not only make you laugh, but to make sure that nothing distracts from the joke.

                            WATER STREET : FINAL VERSION

Time for a coaster. Heighten the contrast on the sign, eliminate most of the lower portion of the image, and most importantly strongly reduce the saturation of the distracting red sign. Even though the wall wasn't red, it also was rendered down to almost nothing when we blunted the sign. Now there is nothing left to look at except the rather confusing directional aids at the intersection.

I hope you have enjoyed these urban explorations. Get out and take a walk, and bring your camera.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 09 Dec 2022 20:00:00 GMT
REPETITION                                                         EVEN A CONCRETE WALL CAN ATTRACT YOUR EYE : FINAL VERSION

While I was on yet another rescue mission in my archives I noticed that a number of the formerly neglected images that I had saved from the trash heap had one common theme. This theme of repetition was apparent despite the widely divergent "subjects" of the photographs. I feel that this compositional device can both draw viewers into the image and serve as an organizing principle that can ground the viewers in your way of seeing. I think of it as a more subtle expression of "leading lines", with volumes or objects or areas of an image repeating across an image and subtly holding it together. Let's look at six images for clues on how you can use this idea in your compositions, both when you are viewing the world and maybe years later when you are wondering what in the heck drew you to taking that photograph in the first place. Post processing allows you to both improve the image in all the usual ways - sharpening, cropping, etc. - and then enhance the image by emphasizing the repetition that you hope the viewer will wrap their brains around.

                                                        CONCRETE WALL : ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

This first image has all the attractions of a dull concrete wall, the kind of scene that architects like me decried and tried to ban from the urban fabric of Downtown Portland. This doesn't make for a lively cityscape. Even in our miniature city, with it's tiny 200-foot long blocks that promise quick relief no matter how bad the building that is ruining your walk, it is hard to love such a forbidding wall. But the photographer can come to the rescue by seeing the hidden beauty of this landscape! The first thing I did was to adjust the color balance to more accurately reflect the lighting conditions on that day a decade ago. Who am I kidding - I don't remember what that day was like, and I am glad that a detective is not interrogating me about it. But the shadows on the wall hinted that it was a little sunny out, and these shadows "allowed" me to pretend that that the photograph was taken in the shade. This warmed up the scene considerably, and if the concrete is not exactly "golden", it is certainly more attractive. But the real reason I was suddenly intrigued by the photograph was the repetitive vertical lines of the concrete panels that drew my eye down the street. Since the image was now all bout those lines, this anal photographer had to correct the verticals by straightening the center vertical panel line. This is easier than actually warping the perspective, but in this case it worked like a charm, and even the line next to the right edge of the frame is no longer wonky. All that was left to do was to lighten the exposure a little, but increase the contrast so that the lines would rule the composition by becoming true black. A very nice side benefit was that this also brought out the slanting light and shadow of the sunlight against the concrete as another repetitive element in the image.


If my art can enliven a dull wall, what about a series of stone steps? I was drawn to these scalloped terraces near Buckingham Palace in just the way that the designer had hoped. It was now up to me to heighten that sense of repetition that I felt. The square crop was one way to eliminate the pesky human legs in the upper right corner, and I moved it around the original shot to find the right combination of repetitive scallops that would please my eye. Of course there are dozens more, and maybe a horizontal crop would even be better, but a man's got to sell coasters doesn't he?

                            THE KING'S STEPS, 15 YEARS LATER : FINAL VERSION

The levels are now foreshortened, the blue cast has been eliminated, and sharpening has brought out the textures and solidity of the steps. They are beautiful, but you certainly wouldn't want to take a tumble if you don't watch your step, so to speak.

                                                        PEARL TOWER : ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

On to facade graphics. I was intrigued by the overwhelming repetitive nature of these balconies climbing up the exterior of a Pearl District condo tower, complete with a perfect reflection in the mirror glass that only added to the graphic nature of the image. Upon investigation, the overall blue tint was actually not really out of line with the actual light of that afternoon. Mirror glass will reflect a rare blue sky, after all. As a retired architect, I don't usually enjoy tilted buildings, but in this case I thought it useful to emphasize the height of the tower by getting the most I could get with my standard lens. Portland towers suffer from our urban design codes in that they most often resemble the base of the skyscrapers we are used to in other larger cities - they just aren't tall enough, especially for a New Yorker.

                                                                     PEARL TOWER : FINAL VERTICAL PANORAMA

Your framing can certainly emphasize the image's proportions, so I converted the conventional vertical frame into a 2:1 vertical panorama to further heighten the visual experience. Sharpening and increasing the contrast brought out the divisions in the glass curtain wall and darkened these lines to continue the repetitive dance across the entire facade beyond the balconies. I finally slightly lightened the overall exposure and lowered the exposure of the triangular piece of blue sky to further define the building's lines.

                                                                     PEARL TOWER VERTICAL PANORAMA : FINAL B&W VERSION

You want graphics, I'll give you graphics! By eliminating the blue, the black and white version further emphasizes the lines and sun/shadow interface that is now the entire image. I don't know which version is my favorite, but it is interesting that the black and white version finally allows the viewer to really see that balconies don't bite into the building - the "column" holding them up is actually another mullion in the curtain wall.


                            GERDING THEATER 4 X 4 : FINAL VERSION

These next two images show that you as the artist get to control the repetition even when another artist has set it up for you. This first photo is of an art installation in the lobby of Portland's Gerding Theater. The red glass squares set into the stone wall, with their lamps mimicking candles, are certainly striking and repetitive. But I get to show the extent of the pattern that I like, so the reality of 63 or so squares is first reduced to six and finally to four, because four squares fit the square coaster. You decide if I've gone too far.

                                                       ELLIS ISLAND WINDOWS : ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

                            ELLIS ISLAND WINDOWS : FINAL VERSION

These are two versions of the same image. The original snapshot of the windows at the Grand Hall at Ellis Island attracted me because I love patterns and the silhouettes I can make through exposure modifications to emphasize those patterns. The final result increased the contrast to emphasize the repetitive frames of the beautiful windows. The square crop also eliminated the reality of the badly proportioned square fragments at the edge, along with the vintage radiator in front of the windows. I subtly did some work on the exterior view to heighten the fall foliage, downplay the yellow railing, and allow the viewer to be more aware of the Empire State Building beyond.

                                                       TANNER SPRINGS #2 : ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

We will end this essay on repetition by showing another segment of an artistic repetition that I can make my own. Just because another artist has provided me with a work of art doesn't mean that I can't interpret it in my art. This railroad rail sculpture in Portland's Pearl District snakes along the edge of an entire city block, and is meant to hearken back to the neighborhood's former existence as a giant rail yard. This snapshot shows just a tiny portion of the sculpture in the afternoon sun. I carefully framed the scene to use the trees as a background to screen the buildings beyond the park. But when I viewed the photograph last week, five years after capture, I was dissatisfied with the deep shadows obscuring the bottom of the frame. I will now show two ways to eliminate those shadows, and you can decide which one is more successful - based on the idea of emphasizing the repetitive quality of the sculpture that originally caused me to press the shutter button.

                                                       EXPOSURE FIX ELIMINATES DISTRACTING SHADOW

I raised the shadows in a realistic fashion in the bottom third of the frame to eliminate the shadow's distraction from the subject at hand, the repetitive railroad rails, and it certainly helps.


But what if I eliminate the shadow by just cropping it out? I am not sure which way is the answer. While the rails' height and proportions are certainly diminished by the square crop, in a funny way their repetitive nature is emphasized by what is now a more horizontal sequence across the square frame. I'm still debating this, and you can certainly disagree with me without being wrong.

Without repeating myself, I hope that you have enjoyed this discussion of repetition in photographic composition and try to integrate it into your own photographic journey. Repeat after Me!

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 02 Dec 2022 20:00:00 GMT

This week I thought that I would celebrate Thanksgiving by taking a look at some photos that I had created in the last 15 years at around this time of year, the tail end of November. In looking through the archives, I had the usual problems of misplaced images, but I did manage to find about ten images that fit this Thanksgiving criteria. And as usual I also discovered one image that deserved to be rescued from the murky depths of the archives - now I just have make sure that it doesn't disappear again now that it has been anointed as a "keeper."

                            LAN-SU POND : FINAL VERSION

I've agreed in the past that Ansel Adams was correct when he cited a ratio of 1 keeper out of 100 photos taken as a realistic goal to shoot for when heading out for a photo excursion. While this might seem depressing, it does free up some room for experimentation, and reinforces the belief that we are in this for the experience, the process of taking and creating images, rather than for the rare result of a winner. Getting outside, and learning our art, really provides most of the excuse we need to try once again in the face of the fact that most of our results will not measure up to our own standards. In regards to the 1/100 ratio we've discussed, it is interesting that the oft-cited rule that a real education requires 10,000 hours, or in this case 10,000 photos, that the results of such an effort would yield a nice portfolio of 100 images - which would be more than enough to justify the pursuit.

                            LAN-SU WEEPING WILLOW : FINAL VERSION

So imagine my shock when in investigating my Thanksgiving work over the years I uncovered two very interesting statistics. The first did not surprise me in the least - the paucity of images from late November. Portland, Oregon is not known for its great weather in late Fall, and I'm not alone in feeling that there is nothing as nasty as rain and 42 degrees, even though it's not a blizzard. It's not invigorating "football weather" either, so it did not surprise me when there were not that many images in the archives from late November. On the other hand, in the space of ten days at the end of November in 2009, I captured six images that rank among the best I have ever created - a run of imagery that resembles an undefeated college football team vying for the playoffs. Four of these images were taken on the same day, which I now realize was probably my best day ever as an artist.

THE PATH                             LAN-SU GARDEN WALK : FINAL VERSION

These first four images were taken on one trip to the Lan-Su Chinese Garden on November 21, 2009. I obviously was having a very good day artistically, and after ten years of further visits to to the Garden I probably have not created much better imagery than on that day. The garden's beauty obviously didn't hurt, but I can honestly say that after taking and seeing hundreds of fine photographs of the Garden, these are pretty damn good. More importantly, they exhibit the qualities that run through my work - they are obviously my take on the Garden, and fit in with my best work, whatever the subject. When viewed in my tent in the Market, they are exemplary examples of my "photographic voice".

The first image is just such a "Rich"photo. It is a beautiful Japanese Maple, on the best day of its life. It takes up so much of the frame that it doesn't matter that I did not include the whole tree. Further inspection of the image might reveal its surroundings, including the pond just behind it, but the tree is almost the idea of a tree, or at least a Japanese Maple. It only adds to my pride in the fact that "My Tree" is not "The Tree" which is such a popular photographic subject that people must wait on line in order to capture the same image that they have seen thousands of times before.

The second image is of one of the iconic buildings in the Garden. I am very proud of what I didn't include in my tight framing - the only really bad detail in the Garden - the ugly concrete bridges that lead to this island, as well as the exceedingly blase office building rising above the pavilion. This building which i managed to ignore is in fact one of the few hints in the Garden that you are actually in Portland and not in China.

The third image is even more "quiet", but I did grab another great reflection while appreciating the skill the Garden's designers in placing four different foliage types and some crazy rocks in such a small space. I'm a sucker for weeping willows, and yellow is one of my favorite colors.

The fourth image is one of my favorites, since it combines my love of craftsmanship with a bent toward the abstract. Viewers are frequently very confused by what they are admiring, which some imagine as an aerial shot of some ancient city. Almost all of the Garden's pathways are paved in rocks imported from China, placed by artisans in a concrete base between slate borders. Each garden room has its own design.This is a detail of the "Garden of Cracked Ice". I thought that I could increase the abstraction by not including any hints of what surrounds this beautiful floor. Another level of abstraction is achieved in that while this is a color photo - note those radioactive leaves - I have increased the contrast to such a high level that the  brown stone floor is now rendered in near black to almost white.


The Garden is so beautiful that even it's debris is worthy of photographic attention. These fallen Gingko leaves, somewhere between orange and yellow, covered the planting strip outside the Garden's perimeter wall. The viewer has no idea whether this pattern extends for another few feet or only another few inches. The reality of the situation was that any less of an intensive view would have revealed that this was just a pile of leaves on the street and that I was sitting on a fire hydrant. Art is not reality.