Richard Lishner Photography: Blog en-us (C) Richard Lishner Photography (Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 26 May 2023 02:56:00 GMT Fri, 26 May 2023 02:56:00 GMT Richard Lishner Photography: Blog 80 120 CRYSTAL SPRINGS RHODODENDRON GARDEN


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.


As it happens, within a few days I captured another two of my most admired images. This first is of a reflection of a tree in the glass facade of the Mercy Corps headquarters building across from Saturday Market. It is a straight shot - all I did was crop to eliminate any building edges and turn the green shade of glass, which I hate, to a more pleasing gray by rendering the image in black and white. It says something about our photographic moment in that most viewers think that this is a triumph of my post-processing technique; they think that this is a composite, which each portion of the tree placed skillfully by yours truly in the spaces of the grid. My artistic skill of actual observation and composition is only revealed when I draw their attention to the tree and the building across the street.


I then went to a Chinese art exhibit at the Portland Art Museum. The exhibit was okay, but the Chinese lanterns placed over the sculpture court were absolutely beautiful and pretty surreal in contrast with the stolid brick of the museum beyond. My tight crop which neglected any of the sculptures and the edge of the museum beyond further contributes to the weird atmosphere of the image. By the way, those two slits in the obscured-glass wall that separates the interior sculpture court from the public pedestrian walkway beyond are my only contribution to the architecture of Downtown Portland. I insisted that the public deserved some glimpses of the sculpture through the block-long wall, and in a rare show of good sense the powers-that-be actually agreed with me.

                                                       SATURDAY MARKET : FOR GOD'S SAKE, TAKE THE PICTURE!

                            SATURDAY MARKET : COASTER

That same week at the Market it finally occurred to me (duh!) that it might be a good idea to include a Saturday Market image as a coaster to sell  to visitors at the Market! I patiently waited to cross the street and took this wobbly snapshot that eventually became the image below. Sometimes a smaller portion of a photograph clearly says more than the actual scene you captured in the moment.


A few days later Fran dragged me out for one of her forays into obscure natural areas surrounding Portland that she finds on the Web. She finds Nature Preserves without wildlife and her specialty, wetlands without water. We always have a good time despite the false advertising. This noble tree stood alone, with not a bird in sight. In my search for Thanksgiving imagery, I couldn't believe that I had neglected this tree.


I adjusted the tonal values of the sky and the foreground grasses, opening up the shadows but still leaving the silhouette of the tree intact. I tried for my usual 2:1 wide crop to emphasize the extent of the tree and to reduce the foreground, but it was too tight. For this shot the slightly more open 16:9 crop gave me the surroundings I needed. I usually avoid the 16:9 ratio which I feel is totally arbitrary since it is based on the proportions of your wide screen television. I don't see what that has to do with photography, so I usually just go with 18:9, but there you go.


Faced with muted colors, I invariably reach for a black and white conversion. I like the mood of this version a little better, and it allows me to add a little more sharpening for more detail and darken the tree for a more graphic rendition.

                                                        THE MUSE, ON THE TRAIL : FINAL VERSION

So sometimes it does seem that a particular time and place can lead to an artistic winning streak. While I am always grateful for our life in such a beautiful environment, and for Saturday Market which has allowed me a unique venue to exhibit and sell my art, it goes without saying that Fran, my biggest supporter, in every sense of the term, has allowed me the space to pursue my artistic journey. On this Thanksgiving I once again reserve most of my thanks to her.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 25 Nov 2022 20:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to take you on a short walk through Portland's Japanese Garden. We finally had "football weather" yesterday, clear, sunny, and cold so I finally got out on a photo excursion with my friend Al. The Garden was absolutely spectacular, probably only a week past peak fall foliage, and the tourists were out in droves. This was my first visit to the Garden since Covid, so I really enjoyed the walk despite the cold. What's funny about Portland micro climates is that Fall is so late this year that the trees on my block or at the Saturday Market site at Waterfront Park have not even begun to turn color at all, while the higher elevation of the Garden finally let me see some Fall colors. I renewed my membership at the Garden after I realized that like a lot of other activities, I had not been there in three years.

Portland's Japanese Garden is nearly 60 years old and is thought to be the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan itself. The plantings, design, and details at the garden are so wonderful that a visit can elevate your opinion of the human race as a whole, which goes a long way in these trying times. I'm going to highlight six photos from this latest visit, to illustrate how relatively easy it is to come away from such a visit with memorable images - even if they are not on the greatest hits list at the postcard stand at the gift shop. This is my visit, or your visit after all, and your photos should reflect what actually moved you at the garden. After many years, not only have I have versions of these usual suspects, but I have multiple versions, so my interests have to focus on different takes on the garden. These six images were selected from about sixty photos that I captured yesterday, and each was enhanced by only a few minutes of post processing.


This first image was literally taken while standing on line at the entrance to the Garden. The most recent renovations and additions to the Garden completely reshaped and enhanced the entry sequence up the hill to the new cultural exhibits, gift shop, cafe and courtyard which gives the garden the entry it always deserved. The design and detailing of this new "Cultural Crossing" by renowned architect Kengo Kuma is enough to take your breath away and wonder about what can be accomplished by an architect when price is no object. My editing brought more attention to the leaves caught in the fountain, and enhanced the colors through both saturation controls and bring down the exposure, which has enhanced saturation since slide film days.

                                    COLOR THROUGH THE TREES : FINAL VERSION

This image didn't need much help beyond the usual sharpening and raising the shadows in the foreground. My framing of this view on the entrance path up the hill had already solved most of the problems with woodland (or garden) photos, by restricting the sky to a very small part of the image. Now your attention is focused on the color beyond the trees instead of the bright sky which always compete with what you are actually trying to show the viewer.

                                                        ROCK IN POOL : ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

This is an example of a "quiet image" whose discovery can thrill me after I have walked by the greatest hits, or the dozens of photographers who are taking photos of said greatest hit. "The Tree", made famous in the National Geographic, is just around the corner overlooking this same pond. The path up there is divided so that visitors can get around the line of photographers and their tripods who are allocated ten minutes each to get the shot. Since it was a week after peak, and not soon after sunrise, there was no point in taking another shot. But this rock caugt muy attention for the first time, mostly because of the leaves collecting in the water around it.

                                                        ROCK IN POOL : FINAL VERSION

I hope you agree that I have improved the image without going so far that it now lacks credibility. The slight crop naturally enlarges the rock by eliminating some boredom to the left and top of the original. More important is the adjusted color balance which eliminates a frightful blue shift apparent once you have adjusted it - sometimes our brains, which adjust colors on their own, can ignore an obvious color shift that our stupid cameras cannot ignore. Some subtle saturation to only the relevant colors bring out the orange leaves around the rock. But I am most proud of all of the subtle brushing that lightened the star rock while darkening the rocks behind it. This dodging and burning, just like in the darkroom, is so subtle that you almost can't see it while you are manipulating the controls. It's only after you compare before and after that you can see the dramatic, but hopefully "invisible" results of all your work.

                                                        WINDING STAIR : ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

Don't throw anything away. Just because you grossly underexposed a shot in camera, rendering what might be a nice composition into a muddy mess, doesn't mean you cannot redeem yourself later. I probably committed such an error only because I was contemplating how far I now had to climb back up the hill.

                                                        WINDING STAIR : FINAL VERSION

Now you can see what caused me to take the shot in the first place. I raised the exposure a full stop overall, and then went to work on the shadows of the stonework on the left. I then painted back the exposure of those two sunny steps at the bottom which had gotten too bright and drew you attention away from the lovely curve of the stair. Its this kind of attention to detail that can make your heart sing on a walk through the Garden.

                                                        WOW : ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

Okay, the Garden is at the top of a hill in Washington Park, and of course you deserve a view from the Garden. In Portland, a view means the Mountain, which might not appear when you most want to see it. This snapshot needs some work to make it deserve its subject.

                           WOW : FINAL VERSION

You can argue with the square crop, but I've got to sell coasters. I would have needed to erase the overhanging tree in any case. I shifted the color balance a little from the original blue, and lowered the exposure of the sky to balance it with the foreground. I then painted it back to brighten the mountain, which is nicely covered with snow after a very dry Summer. You might not care, but as a retired architect I had to straighten the towers so they would not fall down. I finally lightened the shadows in the foreground to bring out the tree and prove it was Autumn.

                            PORTLAND PARADISE : FINAL VERSION

We are our own toughest critics. I've obviously been here before, and have sold many  coasters of this image. Which one is better? Does it even matter? They are not different enough that they can both "survive", but we must compare and contrast. The Autumn tree is an obvious improvement, I guess, but I somehow like the bluer sky even if it is less realistic. A subtle shift in perspective - probably only ten feet to the right - has now revealed some irrelevant buildings to the left, but has eliminated the disorderly base of the taller tower. Does the improvement in the tree make up for the intriguing colors in the windows of the tower? I probably will take another stab at the new image and bring back some of the blue in the sky. Frequently I only can really stop working on an image when I show Fran the final two versions. When she questions my sanity while declaring that they really are the same - then I know that I've probably reached an end point, at least for today.


I have taken this image many times. It is almost impossible not to respond to this artful arrangement of dozens of beautiful trees of all shapes, colors, and sizes across the pond of white sand.  The Fall colors only add to the scene. What was interesting was that for the first time since I have been going to the Garden in the last thirty years, the traditional garden pavilion was actually open when I stood on this porch.


Now we have a picture! Some very judicious cropping has tightened up the composition, but the composition has come alive by allowing the colors to shine, by virtually, but realistically, screaming Autumn! What is interesting is that this again is mostly accomplished by removing that pesky blue tint, most apparent in the now white sand. And when you have such a perfect scene as this one, you must spend a little time cleaning up the sand by eliminating any debris that has encroached on the sand since the staff cleaned it this morning.

I hope you have enjoyed this short virtual visit to the Garden. The most important reason we should attempt to create images of wonders like this garden is that it provides yet another excuse for going there for the first time, or the fiftieth time. The search for a new take on what is for me a very familiar but wonderful subject provided me an excuse for an engaging day with a friend, far more important than any image I might capture at the same time.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 18 Nov 2022 20:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to make a return trip to Dartmoor, at least through the magic of Lightroom. I've been fortunate to have visited this extraordinary National Park in Southwest England twice, alone in 1976 and with Fran in 2009. For this city boy it is one of the most wonderful landscapes I have ever encountered, wild but not wilderness. This 30-mile square patch of moorland has successfully resisted human occupation and improvement for over 2000 years, even though it is the midst of England's "green and pleasant land." There are only two roads that cross the moor, meeting at the United Kingdom's highest security prison, which is not that fortified at all. Unless you have a getaway car or helicopter waiting outside the prison walls, you will almost certainly die trying to cross the moorland at night. It's that forbidding. The only thing that seems to have changed in the years since my last visit is that you can now watch videos of hikers who walk across the moor in one day, since it is only 30 miles across, but I certainly don't think it's for the faint of heart. For the usual visitor, an excursion around the moor, skirting its edges, is more than enough to get the flavor without the risk. While there are some picturesque villages on the edge of the moor, there is nothing between them, and you might never see another car as you wander about.

While I frequently misplace images in my archives, I very rarely delete them. For one thing the neighboring images provide clues as I search for the mislaid files; but they also provide the opportunity to revisit the day I captured the original images more than a decade ago. I am frequently taken aback at the quality of the images that I have ignored all this time. We are so determined to find the "best" image of the day that we overlook other shots that deserve another look. The opportunity of hindsight, fond memories, and the advent of new software technologies allows you to realize that your new skills can transform the original snapshots you ignored into images that you can be proud of. While they might not be the original "keepers", how else can I walk around Dartmoor again without traveling 6000 miles to get there?


This first shot is a lot better than most that will follow. It's certainly a little dull, but nothing to be ashamed of, taken from the side of the road. It gives a hint of the emptiness beyond the road - but the final image shows the benefits of a panoramic crop that eliminates most of the dull sky and foreground that adds nothing to the scene. The usual sharpening required of digital images reveals the texture of the moor that dissuades casual exploration even before the ground gives way to the wilderness beyond. Judicious dodging and burning of the rolling landscape beyond brings out the details and reveals the variations in that landscape that encouraged me to stop in the first place. As usual the idea is to create some "pop" without losing the feeling of the original reality that the viewer can believe in. You are the ultimate judge.


One of the features of the landscape of the moor are the occasional rocky outcroppings that can provide the only guide posts as you attempt to cross the forbidding landscape. This is a rare example right off the road. While there are cairns that are landmarks left by hikers who died way before you were born, it is obvious that no humans moved these rocks. They are the rocks underlying the entire area which have appeared above the surface, and grow more prominent as the surrounding soils are laid down and eroded. This being England, of course the 360 known Tors in Dartmoor have been mapped and named, for posterity.


Lightroom allows me to get closer to the real subject, without losing all of the sky, through a crop that highlights the subject without losing all of the context. But the real heavy lifting on this image was to lift the shadows below the rocks and to sharpen the image to reveal the texture and details in the boulders themselves.


One of the villages at the edge of the moor had a splendid church, mysteriously grand for the village while fitting in with the grand landscape beyond. My original snapshot concentrated on the tower but still included too much of the surroundings I was trying to ignore.

                     MOOR CHURCH : FINAL IMAGE

This vertical crop left out the confusing roof tops on the right of the original image. In addition sharpening brought out the details of the church tower, and a "Sunshine " filter reinforced the sunlight on the tower without blowing out the sky. Noise reduction software reduced the digital noise present in the sky.

                                            MOOR CHURCH : FINAL B&W VERSION

This image gained a lot of "mood" in this black and white variation. While I miss the warm masonry, the sky is very much more interesting than the color version. The contrast in this sky would not be realistic in color.


Dartmoor's lack of human habitation has allowed a distinctive form of wild horses to thrive on the moor for thousands of years. My original snapshot from the road captures the environment but neglects the real subject. The sky is completely blown out. The photo also illustrates the problem of "two" of anything, since the two horses compete for your attention - odd numbers are almost always better, for some reason that brain research has still not answered.

                           WILD HORSE ON THE MOOR : FINAL VERSION

I'm still too far away, but at least there is only one horse, and you can begin to appreciate the heather as much as the horse does. The contrast in the scene has drastically improved,  and the feeling of desolation has not been lessened by the absence of a featureless sky.


This original snapshot illustrates the truism that it is perfectly possible to belittle your photographic efforts because after all, you are not a nature photographer. Well, I'm not, but this isn't half bad, and it does have some nice back lighting. It just need a little help.


The image has now gotten the attention it deserves. Stretching the white and black points has enriched the image without raising the exposure - the scene is brighter, and the increased contrast has really brought out the tree, as has the sharpening overall. The back lighting is still there, but the horse is now black and white rather than gray and white. Dodging and burning, which involves darkening the darker areas on the hill while lightening the lighter areas, has enlivened the background. This tactic is so subtle that I can't even appreciate it all while I am doing it - the brush, set at 10%, doesn't seem to be having an effect. It's only when you toggle before and after that you see how much it really changes the image.


Finally we have the most dramatic transformation. Don't throw anything away! This snapshot was so underexposed that it is a wonder that I just didn't hit delete. It had nothing to do with the scene in front of me, but the raw file's hidden information allows you to overcome your initial miscalculation.


Now you can see why I stopped to take the photograph. The sunlit hill is glorious, and there is now both a foreground and a background where there was just murk.


Now that we have an actual photograph we can work on the image. The panoramic crop loses some sky and a lot of foreground along with the inconsequential horses. And even though the moorland is not flat, "correcting" the horizon just feels better even if it is not strictly correct. Lightening the shadow areas and adding some "sun" to the sunlit areas adds to the richness of the scene. Sharpening helps both the textures on the hill and defines the fields beyond it.

These six images are prime examples of the value in not throwing anything away. Storage is getting cheaper all of the time, and nobody else will ever delve into your archives, so at least take a look every once in a while to see if there is anything there that can whet your interest. You will most certainly not regret it.




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 11 Nov 2022 20:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to continue my discussion of finding images within images by exploring the idea of creating new images of such small pieces of existing images that they could be considered macro photos, after the fact. These drastic crops allow you to explore imagery that relates to your original image but that is such a different scale that it could possibly constitute an entirely new photograph. These new images allow you to explore different aspects of the scene that were just not available at the time you captured the image - and might be considered a different composition based on a lens that was not on your camera at the time. Software innovations allow us to seemingly acquire new photographic hardware, years after the fact, without reaching for our charge cards at the camera store.

I have recently acquired two new software plug-ins from a Portland company called On One that make these radical crops possible. They both use Artificial Intelligence to improve on existing programs, and are probably the best of their kind, at least until another company inevitably improves on them. These programs try to deal with two problems that come up when you try to enlarge photos without reducing them to a pixilated mess. Enlarging is essentially what you are doing when you radically crop a photo - you are taking what was a small part of your original image and throwing away a good portion of the pixels in the original image.

Any digital noise in the image, which is the digital equivalent of film grain (but not as aesthetically pleasing to us old film guys, even though we didn't really like grain either), will only be heightened in the the smaller "negative." On One "AI Noise" is essentially a miracle - it can almost completely clean up the noisiest digital image, without the usual problems of just rendering it a fuzzy, jelly remnant of its formally sharp self. It works so well that sometimes it cleans up images that you didn't realize were noisy in the first place, so running every digital image through this program as a first move before doing anything else is not a bad idea at all - especially when you will be doing some heavy cropping.

On One AI Resize is a new generation of enlarging programs which allow you to enlarge an image way beyond the size possible using the native resolution of your camera. Any digital photo (or film photo for that matter) has a native enlargement ratio based on the laws of physics and math.  In the days of film, the size of the negative basically determined how large an enlargement, with good detail, that you could achieve, assuming you could find photo paper that large anyway. An 8x10 camera produced an 8x10 negative, which did not require any enlargement  to create an 8x10 print. A 35 mm negative required an 8x enlargement for the same 8x10, so it couldn't possibly hold as much detail in the resultant print. The same physical constraints exist in digital printing, which is why digital camera sensors have increased in resolution from 3 megapixels to sometimes 100 megapixels in the last twenty years. Camera companies of course engaged in an arms race, based on the promise of prints of ginormous sizes that no one could afford and place in their homes. My fourteen-year old camera's 18 megapixel sensor is considered antiquated, but thatbsensor is powerful enough to produce prints so large that you couldn't afford them even if I did not make any money when I sold them to you.

But that is not really the point of the megapixel race, if you desire to heavily crop your images - remember that you are throwing away those very pixels you just paid good money for. So it pays to have 40 megapixels if you are just going to use 1/4 of the "negative" - you will still have 10 megapixels of information, while my camera is reduced to about 4 megapixels. While I still could produce a coaster, anything larger would be problematic. Resize software attempts to solve this problem by literally creating new pixels to give you more to work with - algorithms determine that within reason, that next created pixel would probably be pretty close to the existing one. Of course this is an educated computer guess, and the claims that you can now enlarge your file to 10x the size are overblown - but 4 or 5 times is well within reach. In theory this allows you to take 1/4 of your photo, and now enlarge it to the size that the larger photo could achieve, without any noticeable loss of detail. Now for the big reveal.

                            ART DECO ORNAMENT : FINAL VERSION

The original image of one of Portland's finest Art Deco department stores is already a small detail of the overall facade, a storm design in a rare black Terra Cotta facade. Terra Cotta was a very popular early Twentieth Century material, a ceramic substitute for stone that severely reduced construction time and costs without  restricting creativity. If you look at the bottom left corner of the original sculptural panel, you will find this flower - and now you can explore it in intimate detail. I'm not saying this is "better" than the original image, but it certainly offers something very new from the original photo. You can almost feel the clay in the hands of the craftsman.

                            SPACE NEEDLE #2 : FINAL VERSION

My take on an overall view of the Seattle landmark is already somewhat of a miracle, mostly due that great Seattle sky and the detail my telephoto lens could hold even from the deck of a moving ferry. But what if you wanted to just concentrate on the top of the Needle?

                            SPACE NEEDLE SUMMIT : FINAL VERSION

Yes, there is still a little noise in the sky, but you can count the number of people on the platform, which is kind of incredible. Only a telescope could get any closer.

PURPLE & GREEN                             HEUCHAERA LEAF : FINAL VERSION

This is a more conventional macro shot, of a beautifully variegated leaf. While it is not "macro" in the traditional sense of achieving a 1:1 ratio between the subject and the size of the image, this shot is pretty damn close and contains lots of detail. Now software can let me "buy" that macro lens I cannot afford.


If you have ever felt a Heuchera leaf at your local garden store, you now that's not digital noise, but "fuzz" - look at the edges of the leaf. There is no noise in the black background, and noise is always more apparent in the the darker tones of an image.

                            BIG ISLAND TREE : FINAL VERSION

This Hawaiian landscape is one small section of one of the Big Island's beautiful beaches on the dry side of the island. I focused on the lone tree on this thin outcropping which served to separate this beach from the resort beyond. This image was already a crop of the larger horizontal original, but I wanted to see what a closer crop would look like.

                            LONE TREE, BIG ISLAND : FINAL VERSION

Get closer! This closer crop is all about the tree. The sea loses it's "distracting" waves, and the closer crop even required erasing a lone figure that I hadn't even seen before lurking behind the tree.


This has been my take on the Statue of Liberty ever since I went on the ferry ten years ago. It's already cropped, but would it gain some power by cropping even closer?


This proves you can create a macro shot of the largest copper-hammered statue in the world. I would suggest that the last humans to see this level of detail were the sculptor and the workmen who erected this marvel. Any plane flying this close would risk a look-see from the Air Force.

                                             FILMER'S COUNTER : ORIGINAL CROP

                                             FULMER'S COUNTER : CLOSER CROP

Finally, we can see how these software tools have allowed me to improve this image, in my humble opinion. I noticed the reflections on the counter through a storefront window at a venerable downtown diner. It was pretty dark, and the resultant photograph certainly contained a lot of noise. I also managed to focus on the second set of shakers rather than the first, which was now out of focus. My new software has eliminated almost all of the noise, and enlarging the photo to crop even closer has eliminated that first place setting. The entire image now appears sharper even though it really isn't, and the image is now more about the reflections rather than the line of empty place settings.

These close crops are not for everyone, but I hope you can see how they can open up whole new worlds within your existing images. Once again, we can see that the click of the shutter is not the last time you get to create an image - it is just the first.





(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 04 Nov 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to show how you can usually find a few more good images within an exemplary image. This process of cropping to discover several new versions of the original photo is based on two basic theories of photographic composition. The first is that the framing of an image - what you include and what you leave out of the frame - is critical to your interpretation of the scene in front of you. This continues after you make an initial crop, because that frame is not the last word either. The use of different aspect ratios - the ratio between the horizontal and vertical dimensions of an image - can also completely change the way a viewer can interpret a scene. The second theory of composition that is one of my particular touchstones is to "get closer." My way of seeing is based on the idea that an image's impact will increase the closer you are to the real subject of the image. The admonition to "get closer" rules your cropping strategy until you have obviously gotten too close and lost all context for your subject. These two different cropping strategies will reappear in the variants I will show you of half a dozen or so images, most over a decade old. The fact that I am "used to" one way of cropping an image doesn't mean that another way will always be inferior. These different interpretations have intrinsic value in that they can break you out of the box, if you forgive the pun. The alternatives do not have to blow your mind either - your original decisions might still be the best.

The confession I have to make before we proceed is that in looking over my archives I have rediscovered two truths about my imagery. While I always say that a good landscape contains two or three other good images, I have realized that my particular way of seeing - a tight frame around a graphic image - actually makes that truism not as true for yours truly. The other aspect of my imagery that makes it tougher to find additional images is that contrary to most photographers, I usually frame my images vertically; this makes it harder to find interior images because the images do not contain as much breathing space as the more typical horizontal landscape. Yet I did still discover images within my images. Let's explore.

                                                       HADRIAN'S WALL : ORIGINAL

This first image was captured on a very cold day on the border between England and Scotland. Hadrian's wall stretched across the north of  Roman Britain, from the Irish Sea to the North Sea to preserve civilization from the depredations of the primitive Scots to the North, who had never been conquered by the Romans. The analogies to the Game of Thrones are more than obvious. The wall still stands today, complete with fortifications every few miles or so; it used to be a lot taller only because the dust of two thousand years has raised the ground level around it. My original square crop of the original image obviously helped for several reasons, as did exposure tweaks. The square crop eliminates the unkempt snow on my side of the wall as a good portion of unexciting overcast sky.



                            HADRIAN'S WALL, UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL

Here are three new interpretations. The first ignores the nearest portion of the wall in favor of the snaking portions in the distance. The second leaves out the mountains and that boring sky completely. Both use a panoramic 1:2 aspect ratio to emphasize the wide extent of the wall. The third square crop concentrates on the texture of the wall itself and the incredible skill of its builders on the edge of known civilization. Again, different doesn't necessarily mean better or worse, just different. In case you aren't feeling cold enough, see what the black and white version does to your bloodstream.

                            A BITTERLY COLD DAY AT HADRIAN'S WALL

We now move South to London, to Horse Guards Parade, which might be familiar from the Queens funeral. This parade ground is literally where the Horse Guards strut their stuff behind Whitehall in the center of the capital.


                           HORSE GUARDS PARADE : FINAL VERSION

                            HORSE GUARDS PARADE : BLACK AND WHITE

The square crop of the original snapshot is a vast improvement in my humble opinion, as the extra room on the right doesn't add anything to the composition; leaving it out also puts more emphasis on the surreal appearance of the London Eye in the distance. I can't decide whether I like the color or the black and white version better.


                            LONDON JUXTAPOSITION

These two new crops concentrate on parts of the scene to emphasize either the more traditional scene or the Ferris Wheel in the distance. Again, the overall crop might still be the best.

BATH                                                         BATH : ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

We now move onto Bath, home of some of the first multifamily housing in Great Britain. This is a sliver of the Royal Circus, a complete circle around a park, covered in the "Bath Stone" typical of the city.

BATH                            BATH : FINAL VERSION

The square crop brings you closer to the scene by eliminating the top floor and a little of the sidewalk. But what if we get even closer?

BATH                             ONE BICYCLE IN BATH

We can now give our attention to that modern invention, the bicycle, which lagged a clear half-century after these houses were built in 1824. The Royal Circus has been subtly humanized.

SOUTH BANK PROMENADE                                                         SOUTH BANK 4 X 6

The promenade on the South Bank of the Thames is a continuous walkway, complete with Victorian sculpted lamp posts every twenty feet or so. This was the venue for the recent "Que" to pay respects to the Queen, a line which extended ten miles over three days and nights. These tow additional crops show how subtle differences in aspect ratios can affect an image. While these are subtle, it is interesting how different people can really respond to a change in aspect ratio. The original is a standard 3:2 vertical; the narrower image is a vertical 2:1 panorama, while the last image is a very traditional 5:4 vertical to fit your 8 x 10 frame from the drugstore.

SOUTH BANK PROMENADE                                                                      SOUTH BANK - VERTICAL 2:1 PANORAMA

SOUTH BANK PROMENADE                                                        SOUTH BANK - 8 X 10


This is a ridiculously wide crop, a 1:3 horizontal, of a wild scene on the edge of Dartmoor in Southwest England. Beyond that hill is thirty miles of wilderness, so barren that when I walked on the edge I later realized that I had walked through an RAF bombing range. These two crops were easy, since there are obviously multiple images within this one.



The first image is an under control 2:1 panorama, with the hill nicely balancing out the tree. And if you think the tree deserves its own image, the the standard 3:2 crop now looks like an absolute close-up. I lightened the overall exposure one stop and then darkened everything around the tree to let the tree stand out a little more than the original exposure, which I kept dark to hide the multiple artifacts from this panoramic stitching experiment, which used 5 different images!

                             CROWN POINT : SQUARE CROP FINAL VERSION

And finally we get closer to home, with this view of what I call "God's Restroom", Vista House at Crown Point in the Columbia Gorge. As a retired architect, I naturally emphasized the man-made intervention in this incredible scene. What a site! If you don't think civilization can improve on Nature, cover up the building with your finger and then form an opinion. Since I made this image, I have always been upset by the grim sky above, the result of raging forest fires deeper within the Gorge. If any image cried out for sky replacement, it is this one, but my ethics and lack of post-processing skill have always prevented me from further investigation of this image - until now! Could a different crop make a difference?

                             GET CLOSER! : SQUARE CROP WITH GUSTO

Get closer, while keeping to the square. The sky is diminished, and the building is even more important in  the slightly less grand landscape.


Does a horizontal aspect ratio help widen the scene while ignoring the sky?


Get closer! This time by going even wider, since the 1:2 panorama cuts out the sky completely by leaving out the tops of the Gorge cliffs beyond.

                                                        CROWN POINT : VERTICAL PANORAMA

And finally, maybe perversely, will a vertical aspect ratio heighten the drama by drawing Beacon Rock visually closer to the Crown Point? If you've hiked in the Gorge, you know that the real killer is vertical gain, so why not narrow the scene to emphasize that grandeur? That brown sky is again reduced to just a sliver at the top of a vertical panorama.

I hope you have enjoyed this exploration of the art of the crop. It proves once again that there is more than one way to skin a cat, even if you have been looking at an image one way for more than a decade.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 28 Oct 2022 19:00:00 GMT
NEW YORK STATE OF MIND                                                         URBAN EXCITEMENT : FINAL VERSION

I've been thinking about New York even more than usual this week, mostly because my beloved team, the New York Metropolitans, have somehow succeeded in disappointing me once again. I had successfully resisted their charms all season until the final two weekend series against the Braves and the Padres reduced the season to ashes. The Yankees still remain, but of course they are not only the ancient enemy but also seem to to be the worst 99-win team in recent memory. Optimism does not reign.

I've lived in Portland now for thirty years, but I will always be a New Yorker. Fran is frequently  confused by my latest rant until she realizes that the mayor that I'm complaining about lives three thousand miles away. As an urban landscape photographer I do envy the photographic opportunities available in "The City that Never Sleeps" as opposed to our own "City that Works." Along with London and Paris, New York serves as the scene of most of the world's history of photography in an urban setting. I do try my best with Portland, but it remains obvious to me that their is more potential for imagery on one block of New York than in the entire Rose City.

This week, in another attempt to find some of "The Missing", those important images that I have somehow lost once again, I happened upon a half a dozen images from New York that I had neglected over the years. I enjoyed processing them, and it proved to me that I can capture some of the beauty and absurdity of the place that I was born 66 years ago, but visit very infrequently. These images are from the last ten years, but somehow seem to be timeless glimpses of the New York of my imagination.

The first image above is a view looking down on Midtown. My telephoto lens provides some compression, so that four blocks can seem even busier than they are. Normally I would convert to black and white for what I consider a more realistic "naked city" monochromatic vision, but of course I would then lose those yellow cabs which provide some sense of visual order in the jumble of New York traffic.

                                                        MY FLATIRON : FINAL VERSION

Here is another classic view of New York. The Flatiron building has been one of the world's most famous photographic subjects since the beginning of the 20th Century. I've read one photo book which pretty successfully recounted the entire history of photography through images of just this one skyscraper. I'm not really adding much new here, but in restricting my view to just a portion of the facade I think that I have stressed the building's ability to be part of the fabric of the city even though it's height and shape and location was astounding to pedestrians when it was first built. By leaving out the famous curved end of the building, as well as both the sky and the ground, I can concentrate on what must be the most subtle bay windows ever drawn by an architect. I had never even noticed that the stone on these bays was a little darker than the flat portions of the facade. This facade serves as the proof, in my opinion, of the notion that older masonry skyscrapers achieve more "readability" than newer glass facades, in that we can readily imagine ourselves looking out from those clearly human-sized openings. In leaving out the base of the building, the image is rendered more timeless, since the Flatiron is always the same, but the pedestrians, the storefronts, and the "transportation conveyances" change over the decades. The only clue that this is a modern photo are those window air conditioners that look like they could be in my childhood bedroom. I converted the image to black and white, but I find this color image, so tan as to be monochromatic, to be more convincing.

                                                       EMPIRE STATE IN THE CITY : TWO VERSIONS

Which is not to say that I can be convinced in the other direction. Of these two versions of the Empire State Building, I find the black and white version so much more "New York" than the color version that I think the debate in this case is over. In fact, even though I know that the colors in the first image are "true", to my eyes they appear completely fake. Both images do illustrate what I like best about this tower, that it appears to fit the fabric of the city despite its overwhelming size. From a few blocks away it complements the older buildings that surround it; a lot of it's charm on the street is that even when you walk right by it, you cannot tell that something is going on until you look straight up.

                            A BLOSSOM IN NEW YORK (BLACK GARLIC AKA NEW YORK IRONWEED) : FINAL VERSION                         

Nature sometimes asserts itself. This image is from the High Line, the genius of an urban park created out of a ruined elevated freight line on the West Side. Here I've been charmed by the appearance of not one, but two butterflies, on a flower blossom two stories above the street. Drastic underexposure of the background has made the chain-link fence a distant memory.



Sometimes the choice of color or monochrome is just a matter of taste. This interior view of a small portion of the Chelsea Market works in both, but I really love yellow and orange, so that's where I fall on this argument. I love the way that the various light sources - the incandesent paper lanterns, the neon store sign, and the natural light streaming in from stage right - combine to create a harmonious atmosphere. As usual, the black and white reveals more detail, while those yellow and orange lanterns brings the image to life. What is interesting to me is that to my eyes the Books sign shows even more contrast in the black and white version, set against gray, than it does in color set against what should be a more contrasting tan. In both versions I feel that the image is very balanced, with the visual weight of the lanterns on the left holding serve with the power of the bright letters on the right.

CHELSEA MARKET (BOOKS)                             BOOKS : FINAL VERSION

Another reason that I was charmed by this rediscovered image is that it provided a complete contrast with one of my most venerable images. I have sold hundreds of copies of this shot, taken ten feet away, and ten seconds after this forgotten image. "Books" has always provided me with all the proof I needed  of the value of print in the photographic image. I never could decide the value of a neon sign on a clear background that could be seen from both the front and the back, but there was no denying the power of letters to engage viewers, even if they were backwards. It was nice to rediscover the cousin of "Books", now known as "Books #2."

                                                        14TH STREET : FINAL VERSION

This final image only works in monochrome, as we have entered the belly of the beast. I am forever grateful that I had the chance to grow up in New York, but I often find it impossible to understand how anyone who did not grow up there can overcome the urban angst that becomes second nature to a native. I know I am really back in the city when I descend below to take in the awesome reality of the subway, where every day more people than live in the entire State of Oregon somehow get to work, to the ballgame, or just back home, without questioning their very existence. As in a lot of the magic of the city, it is truly a miracle that it works at all.

If you question your sanity in relation to the average New Yorker, I leave you with this final thought, gleaned yesterday from the "Newspaper of Record." In an effort to do something about the filth of the city's streets, the powers to be have decided that they will not allow garbage to be placed on the street until 8:00 P.M., thus shortening the city's rat buffet by four hours. This proposed "solution", was taken by the only major city in the United States which in fact allows garbage to be placed on the street without that modern invention, the garbage can. This is yet another example of what constitutes the truly "Unique New York" quality of life in the city of my birth.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 21 Oct 2022 19:00:00 GMT

                            XMAS ABSTRACT : FINAL VERSION

This week I would like to show off another half a dozen images that I rediscovered in my archives while searching for another round of "The Missing", the important photos that I have somehow misplaced once again. The current "Missing" files number ten, indicating that no matter how I try to improve, I cannot overcome my natural tendencies toward disorder if not outright anarchy. In any case, about the only benefit of these frequently hopeless searches are the rediscoveries of other images. Upon rediscovery, it is usually only a small bout of post-processing to render these new images into something wonderful that I can be upset if I then lose them at a later date. This circular destiny is both funny and frightening.

This first image didn't require much work at all beyond just finding it again. It dates back about ten years,taken during an especially dismal evening when I tried to sell my work at an offshoot of the Market at Pioneer Courthouse Square in Downtown. As usual, a retail opportunity that should have worked - selling art at Christmas in the heart of Downtown - didn't work at all. The image is a very abstract view of the Xmas lights on the annual tree in the middle of the Square which towered over my booth. I was so cold that I couldn't possibly hold my iPhone reasonably still, and the result is this hyphenated and caffeinated view of Christmas. All I did was to darken the black of the tree; the lights needed no saturation.

                                                       YARN BOMBING : ORIGINAL

This snap, and it really doesn't even deserve that characterization, was taken during another Christmas in the Square a few years later. In my usual resistance to all things entrepreneurial, I had somehow neglected to try my hand at one of the most popular tourist shots in Portland. This is the "Allow Me" statue in the Square is by J. Seward Johnson, Jr., who duplicated it in various poses around the country. It pictures a typical downtown businessman about to aid some hapless tourist. Unfortunately, while the typical Portlander can be helpful, he holds only disdain for the "Suits", and certainly does not carry an umbrella.  The whole thing is rendered somewhat inauthentic. But at Christmas the statue is redeemed by a truly characteristic  act of "yarn bombing" which subjects a lot of our public art to knitted additions in the dead of night. 

                            YARN BOMBING : FINAL VERSION

Let me help you with some work in Lightroom.  First the square crop, since this has some potential as a coaster, and the crop will eliminate some of the completely washed out sky that was the result of my overexposure. Then I used the angle tool to straighten the photo, on the theory that the lamp post in the rear was probably not falling over. To isolate the subject as if he was a supermodel, I simulated a two thousand dollar portrait lens by not only darkening the background, but also reducing it's sharpness and clarity, so that attention will be paid to our businessman. The final touch was to darken the umbrella and subtly lighten his bronze face to overcome the original backlighting.

                                                        PORTLAND JUXTAPOSITION #4 : ORIGINAL

I rediscovered another of my "Portland Juxtapositions", this one that pits City Hall, a 1895 confectionery inspired by the  1888 design of the Old Executive Office Building next to the White House in Washington, D.C. That building is famous for governmental skullduggery, as well as being so over the top that it somehow survived numerous attempts at demolition by later generations overcome by its sheer wedding cake audaciousness. Our City Hall is fairly modest in comparison, and stands as another example of a building which survives mostly because we kind of know that we would only replace it with something worse. To the rear is one of our modern skyscrapers, the Pac West Center, built one hundred and six years later in1984. The building looks like it was zeroxed from the  1977 City Corp Building in New York. Its architect, Hugh Stubbins, probably said "why the hell not, no one will notice, it's three thousand miles away!" Portland has several examples of such architectural duplication. One of our bank buildings downtown has exactly the same window grills as the Lincoln Memorial, done by the same architect, which would only be recognized by another architect doing too much poking around Downtown. Thus it is somewhat ironic that this Portland Juxtaposition involves two buildings whose designs are moved from two cities on the East Coast to stand next to each other on the West Coast.

                                                        PORTLAND JUXTAPOSITION #4 : FINAL VERSION

All I did to improve this image was to lower the highlights and raise the shadows, which is not my usual strategy which involves adding, not subtracting contrast. But in this case it revealed detail and color in both the sunlit facade and the elaborate cornice details, formerly hidden in shadows. The rest involved subtle cropping and straightening that probably only a photographer/architect truly cares about. If you notice, those pesky branches in the bottom left corner have disappeared, as have both the upper and lower window stripe fragments on our Citycorp copy in the rear.

                                                        REFLECTIONS ON NEW YORK : ORIGINAL

We now move to New York for a couple of images that I took while we were attending Benjamin and Margaret's wedding twelve years ago. This image is an example of my fascination with both minimalist glass facades and the reflections that are endemic in such buildings. Here you see what can happen if the architect is so bold as to throw in a corner - thus creating a dual reflection on the angled facade.

                                                        REFLECTIONS ON NEW YORK : FINAL VERSION

I tried here heighten this effect by both increasing the overall exposure of the photo while lowering the luminosity of just the tan solid portions of the facade. This both brightens the overall scene while increasing contrast without really darkening anything. The only added contrast is in the curving lines of the right portion of the facade. And while I appreciate the height of a New York tower compared to Stumptown's examples, I had to eliminate the sky at the upper left corner to heighten the graphic effect.

                                                        NEW YORK STATE OF MIND : ORIGINAL

If you thought the Father of the Groom was nervous before his son's wedding, imagine how these unfortunate souls felt a dozen stories down on the street. Here we have what might be characterized as a typical example what can only be described as traffic malfeasance. And you wonder why it's not a good idea to allow more handguns on the streets of New York?

                                                        NEW YORK STATE OF MIND : FINAL VERSION

It took far less time for me to improve this image than it took to unravel this little vehicular nightmare. A little cropping to reduce a little of the chaos at the edges, like the upper torso of the jaywalker and the unnecessary  extra cab on the bottom edge, focused our attentions on the mess at the heart of the image. I reduced the glare on the right side of the street not bey reducing the exposure, which made it too dull and dark, but by selectively reducing the luminosity of the yellows which allowed for more detail on the sidewalk and the awning. Lightroom's Hue/Saturation/Luminosity controls can reveal the underlying colors of your image better, or at least different, than what your own eyes and brain tell you. Notice that reducing the sidewalk and the awning luminosity, which Lightroom told me was "yellow", actually revealed the yellow curb. When I tried to recover some punch in the yellow cab, it helped that Lightroom thought that the iconic New York yellow cab was really a little more orange than yellow.


Finally we have this surrealistic scene on the highway from Los Angeles to Las Vegas. I am not making this up, and it was not Area 51. With remnants of LA smog over the mountains beyond, we are looking at fields of solar collectors which are also functioning as mirrors to concentrate light, in reverse light house fashion, on those mysterious towers. Or at least that's what I think I saw.


It's not often that I use a 3:1 crop, because it's really very wide, but this scene seemed to justify such a frame. The drama and mystery was concentrated in a narrow wide band, and very little smoggy sky was needed above the mountain range. And if you think this was a weird spot, well you are a few minutes from Las Vegas, so it will get you in the mood.

I hope you have enjoyed another rescue mission, and encourage your own forays into your own photo archives - and hope you are more succesful than yours truly in keeping track of your images.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 14 Oct 2022 19:00:00 GMT


I have another confession to make this week. Last Saturday was our Oregon Day, thirty years to the day when our family arrived in Portland after our trip on our Oregon Trail from Washington, D.C. This week we will celebrate Fran's birthday, when she is once again one year older than me so that I canclaim my status as her "boy toy." In the midst of these events, I want to acknowledge that my wife, in addition to all of her other stellar qualities, has created an incredibly beautiful garden around our bungalow. This is all her doing, with little or no effort on my part, so much so that I readily acknowledge that it is her garden, created around my indifference, ignorance, and generally bad attitude towards working in the dirt.


                            TIPTOE THROUGH THE TULIPS : FINAL VERSION

The only contribution I ever made to the garden was my brief devotion to planting tulips, when I realized that all I had to do was dig a hole, and that they seemed to come back every year. the only problem was that they would emerge in a blaze of glory, and then just be a mess which Fran had to take care of - she was not amused.

                             CANNA LILY : FINAL VERSION

                                                    ZEBRA (PORCUPINE)-GRASS : FINAL VERSION                                            

My tulip phase was followed by a Hosta phase, wherein I would buy any plant I saw, as long as it was a Hosta which could grow in the perpetual shade of our street, where giant Maples, now banned by the city, spread completely across 37th Avenue. When we turned the corner the temperature would drop at least 5 degrees. Since our address didn't read Laurelhurst or Ladd's Addition we did not get any leaf pickup. I stopped all efforts when I reached twenty bags one year, which we had to pay a surplus $5.00 a bag to get hauled away. After careful observation I observed that our tree was the last on the street to lose it's leaves, and that the wind currents seemed to bring everyone else's leaves right to our doorstep. My gardening efforts came to a halt both in front and behind our house.

                                                A CORNER OF THE GARDEN : FINAL VERSION

In my defense, which I sustain only to withstand the shame of my non-participation, Fran's garden started with more than two strikes against it. We have a very small lot, with very little privacy from our neighbors, and without knowing it we had bought on the "stupid" side of the street. In Portland, as opposed to back East, the hottest part of the day is the end of a Summer day when the sun has been beating down on our west facing garden for nearly eight hours. I could call myself a designer, even though I had never actually planted anything in my life, and considered any plant a gift from a God I constantly argued with but didn't quite believe in. Fran was certainly inexperienced as well, but responded to my lack of energy and unwillingness to engage in "stoop labor" with a drive to create a garden out of nothing.


                            PENSTEMON OSPREY FLOWER : FINAL VERSION

My inability to contemplate doing anything with our garden had in fact created a pretty good approximation of a prairie, dominated with, I kid you not, thistles so thick, and taller than Fran, that you couldn't even see our back fence, much less walk to it. Three events led to Fran's garden. The first was when our neighbor's fence actually collapsed, held up only by my thistles. I agreed to design a new fence and pay for the materials if my handy neighbor would build it. I finally had some privacy and something behind my house that I could believe in. Fran then paid to have the entire yard cleared of my prairie. Finally our friends agreed to plant an entire preliminary garden of flowers for their wedding. Fran was on her way.


                           LADY FOXGLOVE DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

I designed the broad outlines of the garden, with a gravel path dividing the area into several sections. Fran had the rosemary bush removed, which had taken over anything the thistles hadn't controlled. I was told to get my rosemary elsewhere, which in my neighborhood was every other house within walking distance. Once Fran realized that I had very little interest in actually doing any work in the garden, any thoughts I occasionally offered were treated with the derision they deserved. As Fran's gardening experience and knowledge increased, my opinions became even less welcome. The garden was hers.

                           CAPE FUCHSIA : FINAL VERSION

There were two more garden conflicts between us. It soon became obvious that we had differing opinions on "volunteers", those plants which somehow arrived in the garden. These delighted me for some reason, maybe because I didn't have to do any work to enjoy them; Fran considered them a nuisance if not an outright affront. This was her garden, and neither me nor God had any say in the matter. The first image at the start of this essay is the last volunteer that was ever allowed even a brief stay in the garden. Our other conflict was over my misunderstanding of the "process", which demanded the purchase of such small plant speceimens at the garden store that I couldn't even appreciate them most of the time. This was then compounded by Fran's discovery of the discount section, which I derided as where they put "social worker" plants, which of course only endeared them to my social worker wife. I sometimes concluded that Fran's latest purchase was right out of the Monty Python skit - this plant you just bought is dead!


                            BLACK AND WHITE VERSION

Needless to say, I was completely wrong about almost everything in the garden and after ten years or so I get to enjoy pretty much a small paradise behind our house. I still only move the occasional bag of compost, and actually enjoy the garden more than I think Fran does, since like most "makers" she usually sees only what still needs to be done. But I have tried to get her to actually appreciate what she has create all by herself, starting from less than zero. The thing is that she so enjoys her puttering that sometime the only thing I can do is to try to get her to stop working on the garden. I know if we put in a lighting system she would work way into the night. When she retires I think that she should volunteer to weed in the Japanese Garden or the Chinese Garden in Portland to find another venue for her weeding energy.

                                                 BUTTERFLY BUSH, WHITE GAURA : FINAL VERSION

                             FRENCH HYDRANGEA :  FINAL VERSION

Almost all of these photos were taken on my iPhone, another argument for it absolute suitability for this type of photography. It is actually a fine macro camera, especially if you take the time to import the images into Lightroom and improve them there. I am sure that if you actually became proficient with some of the more advanced apps for the phone in the app store you could accomplish similar results there as well. As usual the key is cropping, simplifying, and exposure manipulation to highlight the subject instead of the chaotic surroundings. Sharpening is required as well, since every digital image, whether taken on a phone or a $10,000 camera requires some sharpening to counter the digital process itself.


I am by no means an outstanding garden photographer; I can only do my best in creating what I call "floral portraits" which concentrate on a single flower. I leave the overall garden images which can make sense of an entire garden scene to the professionals. I only hope that these modest efforts do some justice to the small paradise which Fran has created and she still lets me enjoy.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 07 Oct 2022 19:00:00 GMT

I'd like to make a couple of confessions this week. I've been writing these essays for almost two years, and I have become a little cocky about my ability to write what I call a weekly column, as long as I have no editor, no word limit, high or low, or even a topic I have to cover. So cocky that I have even begun to not even know what I'm going to be writing about before I sit down to write my blog post. This week I even had the nerve to start a blog post about images I hadn't even created yet! The other confession I have to admit is that while I can mansplain with the best of them, I usually am a little uncomfortable with entering a project without the slightest idea of how I'm actually going to accomplish my goals. I tend to overthink things rather than just winging it.

                            LIBERTY : FINAL B&W VERSION

So today I want to address the value of trying something new, especially when you don't know what the hell you are doing. While frustration can ensue, the shear terror and understanding that your inexperience will not just betray you but completely undermine your efforts can lead to the excitement and liberation of very low expectations.

                            ONE DOLLAR : FINAL VERSION

People often ask me about my photographic training and skill set, and my usual answer is that I am an artist who happens to use a camera, but that I have large gaps in my photographic knowledge. I know how to make the images that I make, and do a damn good job of it, but if you ask me to shoot sports, or wildlife, or portraits for that matter, I am working on instinct. It's not that I might know more than you, but I certainly know less than a photographer who shoots those type of images, sometimes a lot less. My self-labeling myself as an artist relieves me of the expectations others might have that I can pick up a camera and of course shoot a ballgame or a wedding or even their dog.


My training as an architect gave me a skill set as an artist when it quickly occurred to me that since I was an absolutely terrible businessman, my future in architecture relied on my skills as an artist that happened to be an architect. So it was a natural progression when I needed to take photographs of my architectural projects and couldn't or wouldn't afford to hire a "real" architectural photographer.  It took me years to realize that even though I might never have their technical skills and wizadry, most architectural photographers didn't have a real clue about what the architects had been thinking when they designed the project - and I did. My architectural images thus combined the skill sets I had honed as an architect with the self-taught experience I gained as an artist whose subjects were usually far away, did not move, and certainly did not talk back.


These images I am showing today are the result of a deliberate effort to try something completely new - not for the universe, but at least for me. I had little expectation that I would exhibit incredible skill as a still life macro photographer. A big part of the fun was the idea that I could accomplish anything at all, since I really didn't know what I was doing beyond holding the camera reasonably still. I even flubbed the things I did have experience with, like realizing that my tripod was still so full of North Carolina beach sand that it was really unusable. I set out to shoot some macro still lifes without a backdrop, or a real macro lens, or any flash equipment beyond my on-camera flash, which I had used about a dozen times in as many years - what could go wrong?

                           BROTHER, CAN YOU SPARE A DIME? : FINAL B&W VERSION

Amid a lot of frustration I did have a lot of fun in the ensuing hour or so of shooting three subjects that were all available in my studio, hiding in plain site. These included a pile of coins which I haven't even had the energy to take to the bank, a collection of paperclips that fell on the floor as I reached for the coins, and a few cherry tomatoes that I snacked on just slowly enough to allow me to use some of them in several images. Out of about one hundred images, here are a dozen or so that are not completely embarrassing.


I started with the coins since I had a few bad puns to at least work with, even though I knew that I wasn't going to make a profound statement about inflation or inequality with a pile of coins on a white background. Window light and one architectural lamp provided some good light before I dared to turn on the flash. Even though I did find the button to turn on the flash, something that has eluded me in the past, it was quite humbling to realize that my characteristic vertical grip on my camera was actually placing my hand in front of the flash. Talk about a newbie! I tried to use my reversing ring to achieve true macro enlargements that allow for 1:1 ratios between subject size and image size, without much success. The reversing ring is a simple metal ring that allows you to reverse your lens and attach it to your camera backwards - making it into a very low powered microscope. The only trouble is that all electronic connections between the camera and the lens are lost, which makes for a trial and error shooting style that can only be mastered with about several years more experience that I possess. I could never overcome the incredibly narrow depth of field that results from such close-focusing. That is why one part of something even as small as a penny can be tack sharp,while the other edge is very soft. I soon abandoned the reversing ring for just using my zoom lens which can achieve somewhat close to macro  magnifications - but only after almost mangling it when I didn't realize that removing the reversing ring required me to push the usual lens removal button on my camera body. It's a good thing that this photo session was not taped for posterity.

                            MY TWO CENTS : FINAL VERSION

After several bad photo puns, and the realization from Fran's casual chuckles and comments revealed that she had far better ideas for possible shots using coins, I moved on to paperclips. At least I learned that a casual pile of paper clips wasn't as exciting as a pile of coins, so that I had to do at least a little compositional thinking. But not much.

                            CLIP ART : FINAL VERSION


I finally moved on to cherry tomatoes. What was interesting was that I actually had to remove a lot of the light to control the hot spots on the tomatoes, so off went the flash. In the end, a collection of tomatoes wasn't much more than a few tomatoes, but at least they are colorful. The coins and the paperclips both seemed to gain interest when rendered in black and white. The extra detail and contrast seemed to more than make up for the lack of color.

                                                        GOOD ENOUGH TO EAT : FINAL VERSION

I hope that my experiments might encourage you to allow yourselves to engage in something way out of your comfort zone, whether in photography or some other endeavor. Don't start with skydiving.

                            CHERRY TOMATO BABY! : FINAL VERSION




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 30 Sep 2022 19:00:00 GMT


This week I would like to throw caution to the wind and insist that the real reason that you should try to learn post-processing software is not to improve your images and to communicate your artistic intent to viewers, but to have fun. I simply get a kick out of trying new things, not out of an effort to be weird, but to use these computer manipulations to get out of my comfort zone. The goal is to get a "better" image, but the fun is in the process, and the liberation that can come out of experiments beyond my normal "work flow." All of these images were rediscovered on a fruitful search in the archives after I had once again lost one of my most popular images, which I fortunately rescued from the "missing" file.

                                                       JOSHUA TREE, DEATH VALLEY : FINAL VERSION

                                                        JOSHUA TREE, DEATH VALLEY : ORIGINAL IMAGE

Sometimes the result is just a far better rendition of an image - not saving a photo per se, but attempting to find the potential I saw when I pressed the shutter and somehow missed when I viewed the result. Often this is simply the result of the perfectly ordinary fact that photographs do not directly relate to reality, which is one of the reasons we take them in the first place. The camera sees things differently from you and me, and while that often leads to wonder, it sometimes can disappoint. There is nothing wrong with continuing your artistic pursuits beyond your efforts "in camera."

                                                       DEATH VALLEY ROCK FORMATION : ORIGINAL IMAGE

                                                       DEATH VALLEY ROCK FORMATION : FINAL IMAGE

These first two images were created on my only visit to Death Valley, which I recommend to everyone - just don't go in the Summer, and please skip Las Vegas, which exemplifies everything wrong with our country if not the entire world. My post processing efforts are not dramatic, but I think they clearly improve these two images which were initially lost in the shuffle. Judicious cropping, increased saturation and contrast,sharpening and you've gone a long way to a better rendition.

                                                       STERN WHEEL : ORIGINAL IMAGE

                                                       STERN WHEEL : FINAL IMAGE

                                                        STERN WHEEL : BLACK AND WHITE VERSION

The next two images show how these efforts can improve the graphical bent that is one of my chief ways of seeing the world in the first place. Even these simple compositions can benefit from efforts that make them even more simpler. The switch to black and white can also be a major move towards abstraction, further removing the images from the morass of documentation. I didn't care "what" I was taking, and these post-processing moves can further highlight my intent. Structural ingenuity, separated by one hundred years, can also be treated as beautiful sculptures devoid of a purpose far beyond their maker's intent. Not that I don't think for a minute that those makers didn't delight in the beauty of what they had made - they just didn't revel in it for fear of it being removed by "value engineering."

                                                        SAFECO TRUSS : ORIGINAL

                                                        SAFECO TRUSS : THE COLOR IS BETTER, AND DON'T YOU SEE IT'S STRAIGHT? COME ON, MAN!

                                                        I HATE THAT SICK GREEN ANYWAY, SO LET'S GO BLACK AND WHITE

Sometimes my efforts can be totally arbitrary, often in my pursuit of a photo coaster which requires a square crop. While certain images can only be compromised, if not ruined, by such treatment, others are strengthened by this stringent simplification.


                            CLEARLY, FOUR IS BETTER THAN SIX!


                            CLOSER, BUT NOT CLOSE ENOUGH


If you have been wondering where all these wild moves I initially talked about went, I would remind you that I am inherently a pretty conservative photographer. My liberation might be your straight jacket. But in discussing this final image, I hope I can show how I can loosen up a little.


This image was taken several years ago on a trip to the Statue of Liberty. As we sailed past I tried to capture an overall view of Ellis Island, the beginning of many of our families' American journeys. It's not a bad snap, but the first things I did were to straighten my wonky horizon and crop out some meaningless sky and water to achieve the real wider angle the building deserved. The usual sharpening, a little saturation -especially of the overall brick and the remaining fall foliage - and we have arrived at what would ordinarily be my "final version."



Then I just decided to have some fun, and use some filters that I had previously avoided. The color image was first subjected to what the software world calls a LUT - a "Look Up Table", which are color filters that come out of Hollywood, used by cinematographers to achieve their overall "look" for a film. This look can become their career signature or at least the color cast for that movie. Think of "Chinatown", or "The French Connection", or even "The Lord of The Rings" - there was something going on in the rendition of color that gave them a certain feel, even if you couldn't put your finger on it. This LUT was labeled "Branaugh" by my software, which was good enough for me. It clearly muted the colors in such a way that I could temporarily forgive him for leaving Emma Thompson. I finally added a "texture" layer in the background, that added enough crunch and wrinkles that the image now can begin to resemble a postcard from the last century. Maybe yes, maybe no, but I certainly haven't "ruined" anything.




I then switched to black and white. The first effort is the result of my normal procedure in monochrome, and as usual the result focuses on sharper details and allows for more contrast overall and especially in the sky that can be achieved in color. I believe my efforts achieve a stronger image, especially if you don't miss the color. This final attempt lightened up everything, using a "sunshine" filter to brighten up the image a little more subtly than by increasing the exposure - as if the Sun just came out for a minute when I snapped the shot. Add some "glow" and the Sun can begin to really beat down on the lighter tones. Of course use restraint unless you are going for a radioactive representation. Finally a very subtle sepia tone was added to achieve an element of nostalgia, which is really just apparent if you view this rendition side by side with my standard black and white.

A great tip for working with images is not only to learn when to stop, but to go back the next day or a week later. It will instantly become apparent where your have gone too far, and then you can dial back your "radical" moves. Goldilocks learned an important lesson which can become your motto when working with images.

Non of this stuff is earth shattering, but I did have fun, and I encourage you to also move past your comfort zone, maybe even beyond my conservative parameters. When people ask me if I have had fun taking any photographs lately, I often tell them how much fun I have discovering the hidden value in images that I captured many years ago.




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 23 Sep 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to show you the images I captured on two hikes in the Columbia Gorge ten years ago. The commentary will be short and sweet, since my organizational talents have left me completely bereft of any real idea of where exactly these two walks took place. I know I should be upset, but what is the point? These images function as reminders of how blessed we are to live in such a beautiful place; they can stand in for generic Oregon Beauty Shots without too many more specifics. The real point I am trying to make is that this first image is the only one I have ever actually printed from those walks ten years ago. The value of Lightroom and my archives, disorganized as they are, is that I can take another look at images that would be lost otherwise, and find some that clearly deserve the light of day. It is that ability to go back in time, and post-process images from ten years ago with better software, and more importantly, better skill at using the software, that makes these forays so delightful. Yes, I'd "rather be out shooting", but what is wrong with going on a hike that you barely remember going on?

If I racked my brain I probably could remember exactly where these images were taken, but I think the images can stand by themselves without GPS coordinates. So let's take a look at some as photographs without worrying about their exact subjects.                                                        OREGON TRAIL : FINAL VERSION

Fran and I are not world-class hikers, and my photographic efforts, and my incredibly slow pace, serve to slow down and shorten our trips into the woods. This image above illustrates the beauty and civilized nature of our typical hike - a nice, safe trail, so that the hike is about the surroundings, not the effort and danger involved in the trip.

                                                        TWO "SMALL" MOUNTAINS, TWO DIFFERENT DAYS : FINAL VERSION

Which is not to say that the surroundings can tend to be spectacular. Some readers might even recognize these two mountains, which are no big deal in the context of volcanoes like Mt. Hood, but which served as the focus of the two hikes. Getting anywhere near the top is not on my list of things to do, but I can still admire their stature, even without remembering their names. I can take comfort in the knowledge that whatever the settlers called them, their native names were probably more evocative and had a several thousand year head start.

                                                       INTIMATE NORTHWEST LANDSCAPE : FINAL VERSION

Sometimes a very quiet spot on the trail can mean more than the hike's apparent goal. This intimate landscape reveals the wide variety of tones present in what can seem an overwhelmingly green environment. I also frequently delight in the fact that I can walk in such  settings without worrying about the violent nature of how they were probably formed hundreds if not thousands of years ago.

                            ONE BRIDGE, TWO WAYS : FINAL IMAGES

Often as a retired architect I can really appreciate the efforts that went into the creation of these trails that allow for my casual walks in the woods. Most of these trails were probably the result of "make work" projects by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) during the Depression, and you don't have to be a socialist to wish for such energy today. These two views of this bridge, miles from civilization, show how their efforts both enhance and make it possible for ordinary people to appreciate this beautiful environment.

                                                       FRAMING THE WATERFALL : FINAL VERSION

                                                       HORSETAIL FERN : FINAL VERSION

Of course it can help if you really slow down to enjoy the small wonders which can often be overlooked on the way to the overview. These two images highlight such moments.

                                                        TWO WATERFALLS : FINAL VERSIONS

Then there are the waterfalls which are the usual "goals" of these trails. You can't beat a waterfall, although I sometimes wonder why mankind is so mesmerized by these water features as a proof of gravity. The Native Americans and hunters that forged these trails out of animal byways surely weren't in for the views, were they, so why do waterfalls provide our excuse for these walks in the woods? But you cannot deny their power, especially when you consider that the water formed the immediate environment. Aren't you glad you were not around the day those rocks arrived at this beauty spot?

                                                       WEEPING WALL, TWO VERSIONS

The gorge environment is generally so wet that you don't even have to name the waterfall. These two images show what happens when the very walls of the canyon seem to be weeping. The black and white version allows for more subtle manipulation of tones to bring out the wispy water down the cliff, but both versions are enhanced by very subtle "dodging and burning" of light and dark areas to bring out the contrast an make the image really pop. Sometimes these efforts can seem so subtle as to be a waste of time, until you throw the "switch" and see how much of a difference your work can make in bringing out what you saw in the first place.

                                                        A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT : ORIGINAL

                            A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT : FINAL VERSION

                            A RIVER RUNS THROUGH IT : FINAL B&W VERSION

Finally, let's get back to the one image I thought I had gotten out of these two hikes ten years ago. On the way to the waterfall it is easy to overlook the stream that will make it all possible. On this day those trail builders had fashioned a bridge right over the river, allowing me to focus on the beautiful leading line that it provided in the forest. The square coaster crop eliminated some of the foreground, bringing you closer to the action. This final image also shows how sharpening, enhancing contrast to bring out the rapids, and some subtle saturation of those gorgeous greens can make an image pop. It's a matter of taste, but the details and range of tones in the the black and white version show that you don't really have to rely on the green at all.

Obviously, you have to appreciate the process in photography, since you can hope for only one "keeper" out of one hundred shots you might take on a hike, or in a month. While this is generally true, and nothing to be ashamed of, I hope you can see that  you can find more than one image from a trip that is worthy of your efforts. You just have to be willing to take the walk again.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 16 Sep 2022 19:00:00 GMT


I would like to take the opportunity this week to take you on a photographic journey through a small portion of Northumberland, an English county on the edge of Scotland. This area serves as the model for "The North" in the "Game of Thrones", which Benjamin introduced to me as "The War of the Roses, with dragons." Benjamin, Fran, and I had the incredibly good fortune to visit there in the winter of 2008, which I cannot believe is now almost 14 years ago. We were traveling to Scotland on the wrong side of the road, and needed a base of operations on the way for a few days. I chose the coastal village of Bamburgh when I discovered it in Powell's while looking at a book on great English seaside villages. I hope these following images will reveal why I suddenly knew we had to stop at this small place on the map.


Bamburgh entered my thoughts this week for a number of reasons. One was all the renewed talk of dragons and such with the advent of the new series. Another was the completely depressing news from the UK, which seemed to mirror the mood of England and the world during our visit in the Winter of 2008-2009. In case you think that we are the only english speaking country that can so mess up it's own politics, I would recommend that you pay some attention to London. We were on holiday that winter in the midst of the economic crash, and most Brits we met seemed to think that we might be the last Yanks they would see for some time. The drumbeat of bad news got so bad that the mayor of London, Boris Johnson (!) went on the "tele" and said that while things were bad, Britain had obviously gotten through more trying times in the past, and everything would be alright. The next day the Archbishop of Canterbury responded by calling him a "cockeyed optimist." The third item that jolted my memories was an article in the New York Times that highlighted the Holy Island of Lindisfarne that is a short drive from Bamburgh and that we also got to visit on this trip.


Bamburgh is a small prosperous village of 400 or so souls on the Northeast coast of England, one of several in this area north of Newcastle. It really doesn't feel like a tourist mecca, especially in December. It resembles an exclusive town on the Oregon Coast like Gearhart, which only caters to people who can afford a beach house. But of course it is 1500 years old, and those uncouth tourists included real Vikings from time to time. December travel in England is certainly unusual unless you are visiting Grandma, so we had the Bed and Breakfast to ourselves, and got to sample the three pubs which were within walking distance for our entertainment and dinner after sunset at about 3:00 P.M. each night.

                            BAMBURGH SEASCAPE : FINAL B&W VERSION

These first few images are seascapes which could be really anywhere with an ocean view, though the beach was certainly very nice and fit into Fran's love of the "Winter Beach Experience" very well. I've done my usual bought of post-processing to make them my own, converted some to black and white, and I think they can stand in for a nice coastal image of a non-tropical beach. But then you turn your back to the North Sea, and realize why you came here, and that this is certainly not the Oregon Coast.


Bamburgh Castle is right on the beach above the dunes. Built in stages and occupied  at least since 500 A.D. it was saved and refurbished by a wealthy Victorian aristocrat into a private home (!) in the early 20th Century.  The castle served as the seat of the Kings of Northumbria, a northern kingdom that controlled the area way before the English did. Henry VIII seized the castle and the monastery when he "dissolved" the monateries in 1500. It is one of a series of castles on this coast that protected the North from the current marauders, who changed over the years from the Vikings to the Scots. They were placed so that fires could signal of trouble for the next castle down the coast - think of the pyres of Middle Earth.


My castle shot isn't bad, but of course it pales compared to those of photographers who live nearby and can come before dawn. What is funny and only occurred to me later is that these include most of the best photographer authors of "how to" books on my bookshelf. I swear it must be the water, but they all could gather in the local pub, and I am no longer surprised to turn the page of yet another book and once again find another spectacular shot of Bamburgh Castle.


                                                       A "FRIENDLY" AT A UNIQUE PITCH : FINAL VERSION

                                                       LOCAL PHONE BOX - IS IT STILL THERE? : FINAL VERSION

The castle dominates the beach as well as the central part of "downtown" Bamburgh, serving as an understated backdrop that only an Englishman could learn to just get used to. The local football pitch literally fronts the castle, so this might be the only place where you can score a goal in such an environment. Our B&B and those pubs and this phone box were a few blocks away.


Part of the charm, and tribulations, of touring through such a small place in pre-Google days was that map reading was required, and English addresses were sometimes "quaint." These two examples were actually pretty user-friendly, since most addresses and street names were set into unlit stonework so that our usual post sunset arrivals were always an adventure.

                                                       HOLY ISLAND, LOW TIDE : FINAL VERSION

Five miles up the road from Bamburgh is another incredible spot, the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, Northumberland's answer to France's Mont Saint-Michel. This monastery/castle stands on a very small island off the coast which is reachable by foot only at low tide. Several hundred people and a lot of sheep live on the island, and day-trippers have a penchant for, shall we say, pushing their luck. My photo of the warning signs still don't seem to work, and I wonder what you tell the agency when they find dead fish in your rental. Last week's Times article showed a recent innovation - seemingly random-spaced emergency stairs to decks above the twice daily waterline so that you don't have to wait on the roof of your car to get rescued.

                                                       DARWIN'S WORD TO THE WISE : FINAL VERSION

When you successfully arrive on the island you can view the low-lying landscape that will soon be underwater, and the local architecture that even include storage sheds that might be overturned fishing boats. Just be sure to check the tide tables - when we were there there were no overnight accommodations.

                                                       HOLY ISLAND CANALS : FINAL VERSION


                                                        PARTNERS IN CRIME : FINAL VERSION

I hope you have enjoyed this short trip to the Northeast Coast of England. And I hope that it might inspire you to include an "obscure" spot on your next road trip, for not every great spot can command the world's attention.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 09 Sep 2022 19:00:00 GMT

My troubles with my photographic archives have not caught the attentions of the FBI, but that doesn't relieve the headaches that can ensue during a simple search for an image that I have somehow lost. The fear is that the image is gone, but it's usually just hiding on my computer somewhere, out of sight of Lightroom. The analogy that software engineers use when discussing programs like Lightroom or iTunes, for that matter, are that these database compilations are like the library catalogs where you search for a book that is somewhere on the shelves. Bear with me if you have never seen a library catalog, or searched among the shelves. Let's just say that my photos are not in Lightroom, but hopefully in one photo file on my computer, or more accurately, on one of three auxiliary hard drives that are plugged into the computer. One of Fran's favorite curse words is "dongle", the annoying series of wires that connect these drives to my computer. The trouble is that Lightroom sometimes doesn't remember where the file is, since yours truly has messed up something once again. The converse is that the original file, if you find it, is not enough, since you are really interested in the post-processing you did in Lightroom, which is contained in my Lightroom catalog. Continuing with the library analogy, my organizational skills often lead to a situation where the librarian has lost both the dog-eared card in the library catalog, or has not put the book back on the right shelf, or maybe both.


The result is that I literally have a continually updated list titled "The Missing", which lists the images that I currently have misplaced. The "Missing" are not some random forgettable images, but are often photos that have actually proven themselves in the marketplace. Frustration abounds. Recently I have tried to respond to the current economic conditions by re-emphasizing the position of coasters as central to my marketing efforts, such as they are. Customers are back, but they seem worried. I have returned to the idea that each coaster can trigger a sale, especially as a solo item, so that variety is again more important than concentrating on my best sellers. That single coaster, with an image that appeals to a tiny minority, can turn a complement into an actual transaction. Of course this only works if you can find the bloody image in the first place.



My recent forays into the archives have been actually more successful than usual. This past week I did find these two out of seven on my current list. What  I would like to tell you about this week are about the half a dozen images that I discovered hiding in-not-so-plain sight during my search. These kinds of discoveries can find some hidden "gems" which I have never even realized that were there.

Sometimes my initial exposure decisions were so out of whack that I passed over an image that had some potential. This Oregon stream, don't ask me where it is, was lost in the forest murk until I raised the exposure a full stop in Lightroom. This is the kind of corrections that are possible if you shoot in RAW, which doesn't touch your original file, but allows you to retroactively rescue an image from yourself.

                                                       OREGON STREAM, BEFORE AND AFTER

This next image shows the value of emphasizing the image's original strengths while eliminating superfluous issues. Here the crop tool works to play to the wide angle view I like at the coast, and subtle exposure fiddling emphasizes the incredible light conditions that prompted my interest in the first place.



Occasionally I discover an image that I wonder why I ignored in the first place. In our search for "the winner" we sometimes overlook an image that deserves some attention. This reflection in a neighboring building is the kind of thing that caused me to put aside my polarizing filter, a landscape photographer's constant companion, once I started to concentrate on architecture and cityscapes. Reflections are just too much fun to try to eliminate - they are often what creates a unique view in the city. I just tweaked the image a little to brighten it up; the black and white version further emphasized the distorted details in the reflection.

                                                        REFLECTIONS ON ARCHITECTURE : ORIGINAL, REFINED, AND BLACK AND WHITE

This image of a water tower in Portland  required a lot more processing to show it's potential. The vast differences in exposure required multiple graduated filters to both balance the exposure and then tweak it further to bring out the contrast. As usual, black and white allowed for more aggressive manipulation, especially in the sky. The sky had been so boring initially that I had felt that I only could improve the photo by croopin it out.

                                                        THREE WATER TOWERS : POLISHING A GEM?

The wreck of the Peter Iredale on the Northern Oregon Coast is a on every landscape photographer's bucket list. As is often the case, the image becomes so ubiquitous as to render your version somewhat superfluous. Here I set out to convert one of my efforts into a striking coaster, cropping to a square, and manipulating the exposure to render the wreck as a silhouette. Finally the black and white conversion makes the image even more graphic, and my Peter Iredale is certainly different, if not better than yours.

                            MY PETER IREDALE : WORTHY OF YOUR ATTENTION?

And finally we come to an overlooked image that might serve as a postage stamp or in a dictionary to illustrate the term "Oregon." I cropped to my usual square and used multiple graduated filters and some subtle dodging and burning to bring out all the variations of tone on one Oregon hillside.


                            OREGON : FINAL VERSION

I hope you've enjoyed this trip through the archives, and I encourage you to try a journey through your own so that you might also find some fine image amongst the murk. Otherwise that gem might be hidden in the warehouse next to the "Ark of the Covenant" at the end of Indiana Jones.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 02 Sep 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to discuss a topic that is a big part of my work, which is abstraction in photography. To some observers, this topic is pretty senseless, since photography is in many ways the most concrete of the arts. Photographers don't start out with a blank page, but with the real world, which they then endeavor to organize, frame, and simplify in order to present their view to the rest of the world. So we seem to some extent to be stuck with the real world, although Photoshop has changed that to a certain degree.


But of course a photograph is a two-dimensional abstraction of the real three-dimensional world in front of the camera. Photographers inately understand this, even if the viewing public often searches for the "truth" which is not really there. Some photographers compose their images to try to use every strategy they can to make their images more three-dimensional, through contrast, layering, or emphasis on foreground, middle ground and background in a single epic view. Others embrace the differences between a photograph and real life; Gary Winogrand famously declared that he took photographs to see what he pointed his camera at would look like in a photograph. And the extra level of abstraction that is a large part of the charm of black and white photography is often lost on the public, even those who admire that abstract art.

TURQUOISE, SAN FRANCISCO                                                    TURQUOISE : FINAL VERSION

So there is no doubt in my mind that while photographs are abstract art, there are various levels of abstraction, ranging from the seemingly documentary image to the images that are so divorced from a subject that they are mostly about themselves. I find playing with these levels of abstraction a lot of fun, even though I know that the more abstract an image, the less chance I have of actually making a sale. People generally do not like to be challenged or confused by an image, and their desire to find out "what is that" directly undercuts the artist's belief that it really  shouldn't matter. Most of the time viewers who have been drawn to an abstract image are very disappointed when they find out what it really "is" - almost as if the magician has been conning them rather than delighting them. So it is okay if many of these images leave you a little cold - I will understand, even if I never stop trying to provoke a positive reaction.

I think that there are probably about five "levels of abstraction" available to the photographer; some overlap, and you could argue that I am often confusing the issue. I present these three views of one subject to try to illustrate these levels before I explore my five levels one by one.

                            GREEN SCREEN : FINAL VERSION

                                             LAYERS : FINAL VERSION

                            THE GATES OF MORDOR : FINAL VERSION

These three images are all renditions of an heroic sun screen on the western facade of a federal government office building in downtown Portland. Like a lot of my images, they don't really appeal to tourists, but are more oriented to Portlanders who will recognize the subject even if they would never look at it that way. The first image is actually the most realistic in terms of color, even though it is inherently abstract since this is only a small portion of a 15-story facade. While the second image appears to reveal more of the structure, I still don't know where those green and blue background colors came from, since I do not think they really "are there." The third image is so abstract that it appears to be a black and white rendition until you notice the dark blue in the windows. I've exposed so much for the bright aluminum fins that everything else has faded to black, and I think my title conveys mysterious power that the image conveys, at least to its creator. I hope you can see the different levels of abstraction, even if all of the images are certainly abstract.

The first level of abstraction might not be abstraction at all, but I think it is the introduction of the subject at hand. "Minimalism" is a type of photographic image that deliberately simplifies to the point of abstraction. There is a lot of "negative space", which is a fancy way of saying emptiness, and while the viewer might know what they are looking at, they often might not know why in the hell they should care. There is a lot of overlap between minimal and downright boredom, often hidden behind the emperor's new clothes. Here are a few examples of minimalism you might either hate or love; try to remember that there are entire photography magazines devoted to this genre. Most minimalists might argue that these images are far too complicated!

                                             DAMN NEAR CLOSE TO PERFECT : FINAL VERSION

                                             BAMBURGH BEACH : FINAL VERSION

                           BIKE RACK : FINAL VERSION

LIGHT SHAFT (BRITISH MUSEUM)                                              BRITISH MUSEUM : FINAL VERSION

                            LIGHT, SHADOW, AND STUCCO : FINAL VERSION


                                            THREE LINES AND A CROW : FINAL VERSION

If you can control your laughter, realize that the "single cloud" image is sometimes a photographer's best seller, even though mine leaves me cold. Some portfolios are stuffed with obscure scenes that are mostly collections of lines, shadows, or colors without a clear subject to even caption. And of course the last shot is my response to Portlandia's "put a bird on it."

An interesting inversion of minimalism are images devoted to deliberate obfuscation, either through photographic technique or just a weird subject. This is difficult to pull off, since we are supposed to be engaging in visual communication.



                                                        ARCH ABSTRACT : FINAL VERSION

The first image is actually a pretty "straight" rendition of a facade on the Portland State campus. The only weirdness that I added was my white balance shift which rendered everything blue. The strangely drunk architecture is due to placing two glass facades opposite each other, and then allowing the glass windows to be just a hair too large. The strange reflections are available to anyone who walks by. The second image is a trip to a perfectly ordinary coffee shop in St. Louis, where I happened to be beguiled by multiple reflections of reflections that transformed the scene into a multiple exposure without making a multiple exposure. The last image is of a reflection that I spied at the Gateway Arch, and I can honestly say that I have no memory of actually capturing it, or how I managed to create it in camera, or what it is in the hard reality of the architectural context.

A wild sub-category of the abstract pursuit is what happen when you take photographs of abstract art itself. The art is already abstract, but now the photographer is tasked with making their own interpretation, which will inevitably lead to another additional level of abstraction.

                            VETERANS' MEMORIAL : FINAL VERSION

                                                       WILMINGTON COUP MEMORIAL : FINAL B&W VERSION

                            TANNERS CREEK #2 : FINAL VERSION


                                                                   GATEWAY ARCH : FINAL VERSION

I feel that my abstract images of abstract art contribute an additional level of abstraction, my own, to what is already an artistic intent to render an idea in an abstract manner. The first image is of a sculpture of hundreds of dog tags that memorialize service and sacrifice at a memorial to North Carolina's veterans. The second image is of an abstract sculpture that serves as a memorial to the only documented coup d'etat that ever occurred in the United States, when the white citizens of Wilmington, N.C. overthrew the legally elected mixed race municipal government. Next comes a portion of an abstract sculpture of railroad rails that reminds visitors that Portland's Pearl District was a giant rail yard before it became a sexy place to live and eat and shop. The picket fence is an abstract sculptural comment on the American ideal of the picket fence. My choice of exposure makes the mirrored sculpture even more abstract by removing the context beyond the fence to black - now the only reality is the field in front of the fence. And finally I have attempted to make an abstract image of the Gateway Arch, an abstract symbol of Western expansion that is a very real sixty-stories tall.

Photographers can also render very real subjects into abstracts by emphasizing patterns that "could" go on forever, even though we know they do not.

                            THE RED CHAIRS : FINAL VERSION

                            COILS OF STEEL FINAL VERSION

                            GERONIMO! : FINAL VERSION

                            FRACTAL POND : FINAL VERSION

Images like these are almost an attempt to create an abstract image out of the real world without distorting reality but by framing it in an abstract manner. They are all about patterns, rather than the actual subjects, without obscuring their ordinary subjects. These four abstract images started out as a portion of a beach condo facade, a stack of rattan cafe chairs, the underside of a parachute display at an Airborne Museum, and an ordinary collection of leaves in a pond. If you don't recognize the patterns, you might wonder why I created the images at all.

Now we can explore subjects that are more or less divorced from their contexts, so that while the viewer knows what they are looking at, it is an unusually detailed portion of the subject at hand. We are on they way to the point where the subject of the photograph is the photograph.

                                             GARDEN POND : FINAL VERSION

This color study is all about the ripples and the mysterious colors, which are actually reflections of the fall foliage overlooking the pond.


A detail of the facade at the New Museum in NYC that is such a close-up view that only adds mystery to an already opaque facade.

                            GLASS CEILING : FINAL VERSION

Incredible detailing of the glass roof of the shelter at Director Park in Downtown Portland, taken from above instead of below. My exposure also eliminated the busy context of the mediocre architectural surroundings of the park.

                            AFTER THE RAIN : FINAL VERSION

One of my most popular images; people love the rain drops, love the tree shadows, but are usually somehow disappointed when they find out that I found this image on a TriMet bus shelter.

KOIN CORNER                             M.C. ESCHER MEETS THE KOIN TOWER

SPACE NEEDLE 2 B&W                                                         A SLIVER OF THE SPACE NEEDLE, WHICH SOWS CONFUSION IN MOST PEOPLE

                            DRAGONFLY TENT : IT'S JUST MY IMAGINATION

                            DROVE MY CHEVY TO THE LEVEE... : FINAL VERSION

And finally we arrive at images that are so abstract as to leave the actual subjects way behind. These are the ones that can provoke reactions way out of what this photographer might expect in my booth. I usually just ask why my customers like the image, having learned through experience that they don't really want to know what it is, even though they demand that I reveal the subject. I will follow my usual practice and will not reveal what the hell it is. I hope you have enjoyed this trip down the rabbit hole.

                            DOODLE #1 : FINAL VERSION

KIND OF BLUE                             KIND OF BLUE : FINAL VERSION







(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 26 Aug 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to exhibit and discuss the strategies behind another batch of images that I have rescued from my archives. They all show the beauty available in the gardens of Southeast Portland. These range from neighborhood front yards to the incredible Portland Rhododendron Garden near Reed College. One of the delights I have in doing this blog is that it gives me the opportunity to tell a story with images that really have no chance of ever making an impact on my sales at the Market. While all of my work is "personal", there are some images that do not have any commercial potential at all, despite their artistic value - either because I have a "better" shot, or that the apparent subject does not scream at the viewer. Of course this is all in my humble opinion, and should be taken with a grain of Kosher salt.


I will repeat my main rules for garden imagery:

1. Get closer - think like an insect, not like a human casually viewing a plant from six feet away. Do not be afraid of not including the entire plant, or even the entire blossom. With my zoom lens I have discovered that I can fool the "minimum distance" limitations of the lens by first focusing on the wide end, then zooming in to take the image I really wanted; sometimes it helps to turn off auto focus after the initial long-range focus so the lens will not try to refocus and tell you that you are too close. My lens actually allows you to tweak auto focus manually, which makes this far easier.


2. Search for calm backgrounds. Flowers are like supermodels - you do not want the background to compete with the subject. While you should be using a wide aperture on your lens to soften the background, it pays even more to adjust your framing if at all possible to achieve as "clean" a background as possible.

                            SHOW OFF (LILY OF THE INCAS) : FINAL VERSION

3. You are not making a documentary photo - they have all been taken. Use exposure controls to place as much emphasis on your subject as possible. Subtly lighten and saturate the subject, while de-saturating and darkening the background. Think of it as giving nature a helping hand, since flowers are almost always lighter and more colorful than their surroundings, so that the pollinators can easily find them.

                            BLUE AND WHITE (BELLFLOWERS): FINAL VERSION

                                                       STRANGE AND BEAUTIFUL (SENSITIVE PLANT - I'M NOT KIDDING): FINAL VERSION

4. Try for the shade. While it might be fun to be out and about on a sunny day, your camera cannot handle drastic differences in light and shadow as well as your eyes, especially on a blossom. It just gets confusing, and like most portraits of people, flowers look better in a quiet light. You can literally achieve this often by just shielding the flower with your own body. Overcast skies work better than direct sunlight for garden imagery, which gives Portland photographers a built-in advantage. The exception to this rule (there's always an exception) is if you can use back lighting, with the Sun hidden behind the foliage and shining through to highlight the colors and structure.


                            VIOLATING MY OWN RULES : FINAL VERSION

Sometimes I violate my own rules. This image lacks a clear focus and is on the edge of shear confusion. Yet I delight in the complexity of a real bush, and I like the banded water background even more. This type of garden imagery is very difficult to pull off, and maybe it doesn't really work, but I like it anyway.

If you think of your garden photos as color studies, you are more than halfway there. You are reacting to the beauty of the subject, not the subject itself. While it might be an exaggeration to say that the subject doesn't matter at all, think in graphic terms - it just happens to be a flower. My photos try to be about color, or texture, or shape. Even when I'm just overwhelmed by the structure of a blossom, I hope that the photo is about natural structure rather than about that flower. When you convert to black and white, you are further emphasizing the power of contrast and detail - and again separating the subject from its environment. While it might seem perverse to render a flower in black and white when the subject is "all about" color, I am frequently surprised at how effective a black and white version can render the beauty of a garden scene.


It is not about the gear. Your iPhone can beat an advanced "real camera" at this type of imagery hands down, at least until you spend $2000  on a camera and another $1000 or so on a macro lens. Just try to make sure that the phone is focusing on the flower, and that it is exposing for the flower. Once you post-process the image any viewer would be lying if they thought they could pick out the iPhone photo, at least until you tried to blow it up to fill a wall.


I find that concentration on small parts of a grand garden can inspire the idea that you could try for a similar vignette in your own garden, although that might be just wishful thinking.


     Then again, somethings just can't be duplicated at home - that's one of the reasons these places can be world famous, beyond the plantings.


I hope these images can inspire you to try your hand at some personal floral imagery. Remember that you are not the gardener - you do not have to know what type of flower you are admiring in order to express your admiration in an image. Google is more than happy to tell you what you just shot, and supply the documentary image you are trying to surmount. And weeding is not required for garden appreciation.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 19 Aug 2022 19:00:00 GMT
AALTO IN OREGON                                                        AALTO MAGIC : FINAL VERSION

This week I'd like to discuss the problems and opportunities that face a photographer confronted by a place, either natural or man-made, that is both beautiful and somewhat resistant to communicate its charms. While I always encourage photographers to "work the subject", what about the idea that there is one obvious "money shot" - and that any other images cannot compete, are just variations on that shot, or way too narrow in scope. I believe that the answer to these concerns is for us to return to the idea of the photo essay, wherein we try to tell the whole story, or at least a large part of it, by including images that can support one another. Obviously it helps if you have an outlet for these stories, since the "money shot" will be the only one to sell, maybe, in a gallery. Since LIFE magazine seems to have lost my contact information, this blog will have to do.

                                                       AALTO MAGIC : FINAL B&W VERSION

The subject of this week's essay is Alvar Aalto's library at the Mount Angel Abbey in the Willamette Valley, about two hours south of Portland on mostly rural roads. The monastery is essentially a small college campus on a bluff overlooking the valley, complete with a beautiful quadrangle comprising all of the requirements of a Benedictine religious community with spiritual links to Medieval Europe - a very nice church, dorms for the monks, a dining hall, an office space for the community, and paths to walk and think in the surrounding woods.  The monastery was started in the rural Oregon by Swiss monks in 1882. The seminary continues religious instruction, and laymen can come to participate in religious retreats with the monks. The Benedictines even carry on Medieval traditions by running one of the few monastery breweries in the nation in nearby St. Paul. While no t-shirts are for sale at the gift shop, I did once have to "shush" my young son Benjamin when he asked who this Jesus character was who seemed be prevalent among the items for sale.

                            NOTHING TO SEE HERE : FINAL VERSION

The real reason for visiting this complex, for those in the know, is to see a building whose beauty is as totally unexpected as it is quietly unassuming. Every campus needs a library, and the monks get to use one of the most beautiful libraries in America. While the library does take advantage of a beautiful site, its quality has nothing to do with its size, the art it contains, or its collection of books. Unlike the great central libraries of large cities or well-endowed universities, this library's size and external appearance most closely resembles a quiet neighborhood branch library. The major difference is that one of the greatest architects of the Twentieth Century designed it.

From the exterior the library is so low-key that you could be excused if you just passed it by on your walk around the quad. It is a mute one-story structure whose quality construction and materials do not overcome an architectural reserve that fairly shouts "background" building - "nothing going on here, just move along." An image of the exterior facade would only prompt a response of "huh?"

                            ENTRY TRELLIS : FINAL VERSION

This is actually pretty characteristic of all of Aalto's work. His buildings might be handsome, but they are not pretty, and his concerns do not center on making a splash on the exterior, but getting to the fun stuff inside. It might even be said that his work is almost unphotogenic. It is certainly clear upon investigation that exterior elevations are nearly unnecessary - that all of the drama is in the floor plan, the cutaway sections, which form the interior spaces. The incredible detailing is more sensuous than obsessive, although its intensity will only make most architects wonder how charismatic he must have been to command such loyalty from his clients and their budgets. Aalto was one of the giants of architecture who seemed to be "modern" but stylistically apart from the holy trinity of Wright, Mies, and Le Corbusier. He most closely resembles Louis Kahn, another "architect's architect", whose work only revealed its power upon close inspection rather than through photography. As a photographer it can be somewhat hard to admit when you come to realize that a photograph cannot do a particular subject justice.

                                                       LOW KEY LOBBY : FINAL VERSION

The monks actually wrote a letter to Finland in the early 1960's to inquire if Aalto might be interested in their library project. Almost all of his work was in Scandinavia, and he had only completed one project in the United States, a student dormitory at MIT in Boston. Since Aalto had designed several libraries and community centers in Finland, maybe the monks figured that he had another one in his back pocket. I Imagine it was analogous to when some advertising agency calls a classic rock band seeking permission to use what was once a counter-cultural anthem to sell insurance. "Well, hell yes, where do we sign?"

                                                       PULL UP A STOOL : FINAL VERSION

Aalto sent over a variation of his "typical" radial fan-shaped library design. At Mount Angel, his characteristic  plan expanded in three dimensions. The one-story building is revealed after entry as one cascading three-story space, flowing down the hill that surrounds the quad. The space is organized as a series of terraces, reading desk overlooks, and bands of skylights that configure the space without dividing it. The rows of book stacks radiate out and down three levels, and almost everything is theoretically in view from the circulation desk, without CCTV cameras.

                                                       PRIVATE AND PUBLIC : FINAL VERSION

Once you get over the initial shock and awe, you begin to inspect the structure in detail, and discover to your delight that you are inside a "gesatkunstwerk", German for a project that has been completely handed over to the design team, down to almost every detail. For most architects this chance to influence nearly every aspect of a project is an impossible egotistical dream that would be such a shock as to almost certainly quickly lead to design paralysis.


The library was dedicated in 1970 with a performance by jazz great Duke Ellington. Aalto, or at least his firm, designed almost everything at Mount Angel, from soup to nuts. The attention to detail, and the idiosyncratic details  themselves, reveal a Scandinavian sensibility brought virtually intact to Oregon. It goes way beyond the famous furniture designs that you can still buy for your home today, like the three Aalto stools we own, just as beautiful and utilitarian as they were when Fran and I received them as wedding presents 38 years ago. But rest assured that the library contains the most extensive collection of Aalto furniture in the United States.

Every detail is thought out and customized, such as the unique light fixtures on the continuous desks at the perimeter of each floor level. Utilitarian metal bookshelves have beautiful wood slat end caps that mirror the custom wooden ceilings over the circulation desk. Windows overlooking the valley are used to ennoble individual study spaces, while the overall windows on each floor are bands of transom windows that resemble the skylights at each break in the ceiling above. A private perimeter office is surrounded by such a beautiful obscure glass partition that you almost can't resist breaking in to see inside. You can almost forgive the madness of seven different types of skylights in the initial foyer alone.

                                                       BOOKSHELF END CAPS : FINAL VERSION

                                                        QUIETLY ENJOY THE VIEW : FINAL VERSION

                                                        PRIVATE PERIMETER OFFICE : FINAL VERSION

My favorite professor in architecture school once punctured my attempt to analyze an Aalto building by humorously pointing out the inherent difficulty of such an exercise. He revealed the secret of Aalto's "design method" by drawing a cartoon of a lightening bolt. Mere mortals could only appreciate his work, without truly understanding how it was done. Please  take a trip to Mount Angel and be thrilled by the show; the monks in their robes only add to the magic of the architecture.

                                    THE DRAMA EXTENDS TO THE "BASEMENT" LEVEL : FINAL VERSION



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 12 Aug 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to try to try and convince you that all you need to do to find something interesting to photograph is to go take a walk in the neighborhood. It's about that easy - all you need to do is open your eyes. Even Manhattan or Yosemite can become old hat if you are not willing to pay attention to your surroundings, but taking the time to look can deliver interesting images on a simple walk to the store.


Most of my customers think that the nicest compliment they can make to me is to extol my "eye". I am not discounting my skills at composition, which led me to be an architect, nor all of the design training that can translate from the drawing board to the camera. But the biggest skill I possess as an artist is the ability to slow down enough to actually notice the world around me. I see things most people miss merely because I stop to smell the visual roses. After that my "eye" comes into play because I am willing to see things without caring to merely documenting my subject, but by expressing my wonder by interpreting it in my own way.



These images were found and created on about three walks this past month as I "hiked" to the grocery store on Hawthorne Blvd. Thirty years ago our real estate agent apologized that our prospective house was eight blocks from Hawthorne - I replied that if I couldn't manage eight blocks that I would just stay in bed. All of these images were found on those eight blocks. I frequently get quizzical looks from passing pedestrians wondering what the hell I am possibly finding to photograph. And sometimes even I wonder what there is still to discover on that short walk, but inevitably I come across some little pocket of beauty I hadn't noticed before.

                            BUNGALOW CANADA LILY : FINAL VERSION

None of these images are earth shattering, but maybe that is the point. One of the reasons that I enjoy writing these essays is that it gives me the opportunity to create images that are totally divorced from any effort to sell them. The images that I exhibit at the market are all my "personal work", in the sense that I was creating them for my own amusement long before I imagined selling them. But I am not so divorced from reality as to understand what might appeal a little more to potential customers - my lack of skill as a businessman serves as a curb to any aspiration to "sell out." These images from my walks only need to appeal to me, and to possibly provide proof of my theories of what you can find out there on your own walks.


In a funny way my floral portraits are not commercial in that they are just too damn easy. A well exposed photo of a beautiful flower starts to lose its meaning after the first few hundred images. I could sell an unlimited amount of these images, but what is the point? Take photos of what you love, a wise man once said, and I love a pretty flower as much as the next guy, but not enough to actually care that much to make these images a large part of my work. I am not willing to obsess about flower imagery, which requires extensive lighting, carting along portable backgrounds, and heaven forbid, actually buying some flowers at a florist. So I take my casual "floral portraits", as I call these images, to emphasize the idea that it is my feelings about these blossoms that count, because it is hard to "document" something that you don't have a clue about. The only reason I can pretend to know the names of any of these flowers is because I recently discovered that Google images could reasonably tell me what the heck that particular flower actually was, way after the fact. I hope you can see that my portraits have very little to do with the documentary images that appear on Google.

                                                                      FLORAL PANORAMA (BROOMRAPE) : FINAL VERSION

All of these images could have been taken on my iPhone. In fact, the only way you can make flower images much better than the output of your phone is by spending another thousand dollars for a macro lens for your "real camera" - the iPhone is that good at capturing nearby small objects in good light, which is kind of the definition of garden photography. My only advice is to get close, try to take photos in the shade, and expose for the flower, with the idea that the background can go dark. Just like a supermodel, you are trying your utmost to achieve separation of your subject from the background.


All of this can be emphasized with your post-processing skills. Judicious saturation and brightening of just the flower, coupled with the opposite for the background, can give you the figurative spotlight that the star demands. Any way that you can heighten the contrast between your subject and its surroundings can help, but try to keep it subtle enough that your viewers won't notice your manipulation. Introducing vignetting, a subtle darkening of the exposure around the edges of the frame, can also contribute to separation. This is pretty funny since some portion of that thousand dollars you paid for your fancy lens was to correct for that same naturally occurring darkening of the edges of an image that plague cheaper optics. And you can always try for a black and white conversion, which can show your skill in pulling off an engaging image of something that seemingly was all about color.

                           A POX UPON YOUR PHLOX : FINAL VERSION

                                                       BANANA LEAF, ON THE PATH TO ABSTRACTION : FINAL VERSION

Since I am an architect, I also tend to notice the details that I find on the older houses in my neighborhood. Architectural details are always there for those that look, and can give you a measure of faith in human ingenuity despite the constant cheapening of our environment. These small bits of craftsmanship show the value of "vintage" construction, when people actually seemed to care about what they were doing while they made a living.

                                                        METAL SMITH TRYING TO COMPLEMENT, AND OUT DUE MASON : FINAL VERSION


                            RECENT STREET MURAL : WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM!

I hope my short walk might inspire one of your own. Bring a camera, and remember my admonition that when someone comments "why the hell are your taking that photograph?" it means that you are more than halfway to achieving a personal "eye" of your own.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 05 Aug 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to return to the Big Island of Hawaii, which Fran and I last visited in February 2019, so we could spend time with our good friends Vinny and Steve. We enjoyed the hospitality of our friend Miriam who had left for Hawaii to live with her partner Greg, where they lives in a jungle subdivision near Hilo. Sitting in my study today, with the temperature hitting 100 degrees, it is a relief to visit pre-Covid paradise through the magic of post-processing some of the images from that trip.


These images were culled from hundreds I took in these two weeks on the Big Island. We first stayed in Miriam's condo on the dry side in Kona, which she rents out and uses as an escape from the rain in Hilo. To say that this place is luxurious is to belabor the obvious, but in fact it is not considered ne plus ultra. This despite the fact that groundskeepers literally spruce up the grounds outside your bedroom before breakfast every day, carefully removing any vegetation that has ceased to behave. Just beyond the grounds are lava-filled deserts featuring unruly palms and distant views of the volcanoes in the center of the island. The place is so isolated from reality that I found only one mailbox in the entire complex when I had the wild idea of mailing a postcard.


They are not kidding about the dry side. Kona's landscape is basically composed of the ocean and lava. We soon realized that the civilization that existed had also been been built on lava flows. This results in beaches that we were not used to, with very little sand, and lots of lava right behind you and sprinkling the water a few yards from the beach. The redeeming qualities were the pristine waters which are required for snorkeling,  and the fact that the beach is usually a good ten degrees cooler than the grounds of the condo ten minutes away. The best beaches literally feature a palm tree for each blanket group, as long as you get to the beach before noon.


These beaches are also interesting since most are not just straight lines, but are little bays, so that there is something on the other side of the water, headlands which separate the "wonderful" beach which you have chosen from the one from the hoi-polloi next door, or even better, from the exclusive private beach one the adjacent resort grounds that won't let in the likes of you. Sometimes the lava flows are so extensive just off the beach that they protect a lagoon that has pretty much no relationship to the pounding ocean just beyond the rocks.


There are also some environments that you only discover on a trip to the islands, such as the ancient royal fish ponds adjacent to the ocean. These are placid centuries-old lagoons that cleverly allow ocean fish to enter, but not escape, to live out their lives before they provide dinner. Now they are parkland, with mile-long trails and islands on the grounds, shaded by palms. There are also some places that reveal a small glimpse of pre-resort desert, as long as you know where to look.

                                                       JUST OFF THE RESORT PATH : FINAL VERSION

And there is always another beach. I would search for slightly different viewpoints, since I knew that only residents could probably achieve the perfect combination of clouds, surf and palms that my two weeks would probably not conjure up.


Sometimes all you need is a different perspective. we are eating lunch at a cafe on a ridge hundreds of feet above the beach. Those "weeds" below are fully-grown palm trees.

                            LAVA  JUST OFF THE BEACH : FINAL VERSION

                                                        LAVA BEACH : FINAL VERSION

                            LOOK BUT DON'T GET TOO CLOSE : FINAL VERSION

The trick with Hawaiian photography for visitors is to adjust to the environment rather quickly. It was hard for me to realize that my usual vertical framing would just not work on the beach - that in fact even horizontal views usually benefited greatly from wide angle cropping. As an urban photographer usually interested in reflections, I'm not experienced with my polarizing filter, which is about as necessary on the islands as the analogous sunglasses you probably should be wearing to cut down on the glare.

As usual I compensated by concentrating on the details, ranging from my "intimate landscapes" to near abstractions. These allowed me to focus on the beauty available in this alien environment.

                                                       TROPICAL COLORS : FINAL VERSION

                            PALM LEAF DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

                                                        JUST OUTSIDE THE BEDROOM : FINAL VERSION

I hope you have enjoyed this return trip to the Big Island. I will leave you with a final image, one that I think that proves that a subject can transcend its documentary restraints. A palm leaf is not always just a palm leaf - it can stand in for a mathematical formula.

                                                        PALM LEAF CRESCENT : FINAL VERSION




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 29 Jul 2022 19:00:00 GMT

We went for another walk in the woods last week. I'd like to show you about half a dozen images from that trip, with the emphasis again on concentrating on the details that can make an environment sing. Woodland photography has two main "rules." You must use your compositional skills to find some order in one of the most complicated environments that exist - to make sense and find landing points amid the visual chaos. Your other mission is to resist including any sky in your images, since the sky's brightness will distract the viewer from the forest environment that you are endeavoring to portray. If you can find a subject to focus on, and eliminate distractions in both your frame and exposure, you are well on your way to developing some expressive woodland imagery. It's also great if you can find some fog, which can reduce the visual overload, but I have never been as successful at that as the landscape photographers that I follow on the web. Oregon's environment does usually provide overcast skies, which ensure that the woods do not become a confused tapestry of contrast - sunlight can ruin your photography in an otherwise dark environment.

                                                        THE VARIED SHADES OF GREEN UNDER OVERCAST SKIES : FINAL VERSION

These first two overall images of the park, visible from the visitor's center, show the miracle of L.L. Stub Stewart State Park. The park was created through a series of land swaps with surrounding private and public timberland. The 1800 acres of the park stand in the midst of ordinary Oregon timberland off Highway 26 to the Oregon Coast. If you look beyond the park boundaries you will find the outlines of the generational cutting of Oregon forests, which denude hillsides for at least 20-25 years before they are presentable, even at long range. This state park was opened fifteen years ago and was the first state park to be created in Oregon since 1972. It is 34 miles from Portland, and is large enough to accommodate widely different user groups - hikers, horseback riders, off-road bikers, disc golf enthusiasts, campers - who can enjoy themselves without ruining anyone else's fun. After our first tip to the park, I feel a lot better about my state income taxes than I have in years.


The hiking trails we tried out went through very varied environments in addition to typical Oregon woodland. This first image shows the edge of the forest, daisies right outside seemingly impenetrable darkness.


     DAISY MEADOW : FINAL B&W VERSION                                                                               

These "daisy prairies" exhibit character both in color and black and white. They seem to rise up immediately anytime the tree cover opens up, either through man-made interventions like picnic areas or in natural areas near recently fallen large trees. The color rendition highlights the subtle color variations in the underlying grasses, while the black and white plays of the contrast between the flowers and the grasses.

                                                       DAISIES READY FOR THEIR CLOSE-UP : NATURE DOCUMENTARY AND HOLLYWOOD NOIR VERSIONS

These daisy close-ups show the interpretative power of black and white - this exposure would not work at all in color, but allows an isolation of the flowers from their background while losing the yellow flower centers.

                            AMIDST THE FERNS : FINAL VERSION

As you move into the forest, Oregon ferns begin to take over. These yellow leaves were the only distraction in an ordinary field of ferns that could supply multiple garden centers.

                                                       BIRCHES IN THE FOREST : COLOR AND B&W VERSIONS

The woodland we walked through on some of the trails was unusual for Oregon in that Birch trees seemed to rule the roost instead of the usual Douglas Firs. While they might not be the stark white of a stereotypical Birch, they did provide a lot of contrast with the green of the surrounding forest. This contrast works in both the color and black and white renditions, providing the focus for the image that will show the viewer where to look. It helps that the Birch trees are the lightest parts of the image.

                                                       BACKLIT THICKET : FINAL VERSION

These are probably Willows, but the Birches also exhibited multiple trunks as their usual configuration. This image shows how the thicket can both highlight and screen the lighter background.

                                                        BIRCHES AND BRANCHES : FINAL VERSION

                                                       BIRCHES AND BRANCHES : HIGH KEY B&W VERSION

This final image proves again how a black and white conversion can allow for widely different interpretations of a scene. I was struck at how the two birch trunks stood out from the surrounding greenery. In the color version I discretely darkened the forest, especially the small areas of sky peaking through the foliage. You would be surprised at how these very small areas could still distract the eyes, and how a subtle darkening will not alter the overall scene. In contrast, forgive the pun, the black and white version allows me to lighten the forest for an ethereal feel. I could both lighten the green information that is still contained in the black and white file, and then use graduated filters to further lighten the forest behind the trees. These strategies would be clearly garish in a color rendition.

I hope you have enjoyed another short walk in the woods. And I hope that you see that you can create woodland imagery without having to travel hundreds of miles to a National Park, not that there is anything wrong with that. Good hunting.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 22 Jul 2022 19:00:00 GMT

A couple of weeks ago I resumed my exercise regimin, such as it is, by walking across another of Portland's bridges over the Willamette.  The Broadway Bridge was built in 1913 during Portland's bridge boom, when the city fathers were consolidating the takeover of East Portland by replacing the ferries with bridges and more importantly, carrying the streetcar lines across the river which would allow for real development of the Eastside of the larger city. Portland had grown in 1898 in exactly the same way as New York City, by annexing the city across the river. The ramifications were certainly not as great, since Brooklyn had been the fourth largest city in the nation when it became part of Gotham.

The Broadway Bridge was named for the street it carried over the river, which had been named after New York's Broadway in the 1850's when East Portland was first platted out on farmland east of the river. What is interesting is that 7th Avenue in Downtown Portland on the West side was renamed Broadway because it connected to the new bridge, and subsequently became a smaller copy of New York's Broadway with theaters, nightlife, and a lighting scheme that can charitably be described as gaudy. This renaming was only as confusing as the 90 degree shift of the street from East-West to North-South when it crossed the Willamette.


Walking across the bridge is a pleasant excursion, marred only by the relatively bare moonscape of the road just east of the river, caused by the lack of street life near the Rose Garden parking lots. Yes, the Rose Garden now has a different corporate name, but we must fight the power. The only bright spot on this portion of the street is this sculptural, if somewhat non-functional transit shelter at the Streetcar stop near the East end of the bridge. The 1% for Art shelter was designed by Jorge Pardo and built in 2013.

                                                               NOT JUST ANOTHER TRANSIT SHELTER : FINAL AND B&W VERSION

The bridge, now 119 years old, is an historic structure known as a Rall-type Bascule bridge, whose lift span of 278 feet is the longest of its type in the world. For the non-engineers out there, it basically means that the counterweights pivot and slide rather than go up and down, so the Broadway Bridge doesn't have towers like the Hawthorne and the Steel Bridge, and the lift span doesn't stand out from the other four portions of the bridge, which extend 1742 feet across the river. The lift span confounds commuters about once a day. Parts for the bridge have to be custom-made, since the mechanism is so unique. 

The bridge was painted black, just like the Steel Bridge, until 1961, when the powers that be decided that each of Portland's bridges should be painted a different color. "Golden Gate Red", also known as "International Orange", was chosen for the Broadway, and it is similar if not identical to its more famous cousin in San Francisco. We recently painted our house a similar red/orange, which is one of the hardest in the family to find in the paint swatch book. In fact, most oranges are not recommended for exterior paint due to excessive fading, but the "City that Works" knows best. The bridge has certainly faded a little since it was last repainted a dozen years ago, but everyone loves the color even if they can't quite define it.

These truss bridges were certainly Benjamin's favorites when he was a youngster, because of their complicated and seemingly inexplicable steel geometries, with girders and connections galore. He christined them "Dinosaur Bridges" after his childhood obsession, maybe because they were as ungainly as they were obviously antiquated.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 15 Jul 2022 19:00:00 GMT
A WALK IN THE WOODS                                                        MT. TALBERT NATURE PARK : FINAL VERSION

The other day Fran and I and our friend Kathryn took a walk in the woods. I hesitate to call it a hike, since it was only three miles long, and my pace these days, especially with my camera, constitutes a stroll at best. On the other hand, though it was rated as "easy", it was clearly "moderate", though any route that is labeled the "Summit Trail" should have foreshadowed something a little harder than "easy." Fortunately the hardest part of the trail was right at the start, so at least it did get easier as we stretched our legs. And the summit was only 600 feet higher than the the parking lot.

                                                       MT. TALBERT NATURE PARK : B&W VERSION

The nicest thing about this walk, besides the company, was the implausibility of the setting. Mount Talbert Nature Park is almost a prototypical Oregon woodland, but it's survival in suburban Clackamas County outside of Portland, just off one of our horrible highways, I-205, was very surprising, at least to yours truly. I instantly decided that this natural area, set aside by our Metro taxes, was probably about the only thing that anyone should care about in this particular suburban setting. Happy Valley is a neighborhood that offers nothing to the greater Portland Metropolitan area - a creation of the home builders' industrial complex that builds horribly designed McMansions over anything they can get their hands on. It is one of those areas where they can plant subdivisions without any further thoughts about their connection to the region, much less the city. Happy Valley, in my humble opinion, is one of those places whose very existence is problematic at best. While of course I'm sure there are very nice people in Happy Valley, they choose to live there mostly because they believe Southeast Portland is an urban hell-hole. You might understand our mutual disdain as I write this essay in my 110-year-old bungalow, secure in the knowledge that the urban/suburban split might even be more important than Oregon's incredible urban/rural conflicts. What is even more ironic is that the preserves that our Metro taxes create are mostly supported by the more urban areas, where parks are harder to come by. So this section of woods was an unexpected delight. While you this hill seems pretty remote, it is the largest undeveloped butte in the area, an ancient subsidiary volcano of Mt. Hood. It is only what we call a very young Old Growth Forest. These woods were clear-cut about 100 years ago, and they would be cut again if they weren't preserved. Too many of the rolling hills of Happy Valley's subdivisions resembled this area long after my family showed up in Oregon in 1992.

                                                        FERN FOREST : PRIMEVAL OREGON, COLOR AND B&W

I think that these images, culled from about two dozen photos that I took over a couple of hours, can illustrate the value of taking your camera along on a walk. I had very low expectations when we set out, but found that this woodland offered some very nice prototypical "Oregon" images that closely resembled those found much deeper in the woods, hundreds of miles away from my house. These first two images show key components of our woods - evergreen trees ranging in size from large to gigantic, above groves of ferns that were around in the age of the dinosaurs. Once you realize that the color photos are largely monochromatic shades of green, you can try black and white versions that tend to show more details. The important tip that I might suggest is to avoid any significant areas of sky in your image, since the brightness of the sky will distract your viewers away from your subject, the forest. Remember that a desire to show the entire scene can detract from the important parts of the scene that led you to push the shutter button.

                                                        THE FOREST FLOOR : COLOR AND B&W

Here I've gotten even closer to those ferns, with only a hint of the big trees. Natural groves of ferns like this can be truly overwhelming, far surpassing any display at the garden center, and all without any intervention by mankind, thank you very much. The choice of color or black and white is very much one of personal taste, though close inspection will see that the black and white versions can allow for more manipulation of the scene than we can accept in color.


Occasionally only color will do, because the primary reason for the image itself is color. This blossom deep in the woods shows off its colors to attract pollinators, not photographers, it attracts us just the same. If I had gone even further in for a macro shot, then there would be enough floral structure to justify a black and white version, but at this size the color really helps. This already is only a very small part of the actual original shot, so you can see what even a fifteen-old camera can accomplish. Of course the Iphone in my pocket would have done even a better job on a flower, while it can't hold a candle to a larger scene. Post processing increased the seperation between the flower and the background by selectively sharpening the flower, and blurring and de-saturating the background.

                                                       LACY BUSH - ALYSSUM, ACCORDING TO GOOGLE : FINAL VERSION

We came along this showy shrub which we had not encountered before, with very white and lacy flower fronds that stood out in the woods without any need for color. This really benefits from the black and white conversion, which allows for a very dramatic rendition that would not pass the smell test in a color photograph.

                                                       THE BURNING BUSH : FINAL B&W VERSION

The bush is now clearly ready for its close-up, and the forest can be reduced to a very dark bit player. The structure of the lacy fronds is more clearly delineated even while they positively glow under my artificial, but realistic spotlight. The black and white version more clearly shows what I felt about the bush in its environment - I can leave the documentation to Dr. Google.

I hope you've enjoyed this short walk in the woods. Nature can enrich our lives even if it is not as dramatic as a National Park - especially if we encounter beauty in such an unexpected place.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 08 Jul 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to discuss the power a photographer possesses when it comes to using modern post-processing in adjusting images. I believe it can in fact be much more important (and fun) than the initial capture of the image. This after-the-fact manipulation is based on the photographer's compositional skills, but it allows for a more personal interpretation of what might be a standard shot. It is certainly not "cheating", although everyone has certain limits concerning what they are willing to do to an image. My art is open to your interpretation - but it is my art, and the viewer should avoid declaring that my rendition of a scene is not the "truth". These nine different interpretations of this scene on the Willamette differ, and one might appeal to you more than the others, but none of them, in my humble opinion, is "wrong." Their is no real difference in interpreting an image in the traditional darkroom or in Lightroom, the clever name for the computer software that I use. Photographers have always used various techniques to interpret an image to their current satisfaction, which might change upon further viewing. Sometimes we will get even bolder, but often we dial it back a little after taking another look. I have already "dialed back" two of these images while I was preparing this essay this morning. 

The "original" image above not straight out of camera - it has already undergone some basic corrections. It has been cropped to emphasize the subject, which has been adjusted to fit the square format required for its future as a photo coaster. The river bank has been straightened out for a level horizon, but i was far enough away so that Big Pink is not leaning enough to need to be corrected. The image has been sharpened to my standard levels, which will not make up for any camera shake, but is required by a digital photograph's initial softness. Subtle adjustments to contrast and saturation has also been made, because the "digital negative" of the RAW settings that I use allows for more manipulation later by delivering a very flat, uninterpreted file. Another falsehood that many photographer's continue to believe is that their JPEG files "straight out of the camera" are a straight interpretation of reality, while they are in fact the camera's computer rendering of a smaller file. The JPEG is already an interpretation, just one that is done frankly by a simpler computer than your laptop, over which you have no control, and will be degraded every time you subsequently adjust it. Programs like lightroom never touch the original file - your editing is non-destructive, and what you see on your screen is just a compilation of the "instructions" that lightroom will do if you export the image to the web or print it so that will re-enter the analogue world.

                            BIG PINK AND THE WILLAMETTE : HIGH KEY COLOR

Now the fun begins. These three other color versions are I believe, realistic interpretations that I could make of the scene. The first is what photographers call "high key." It is not over-exposed, but the exposure is twice as bright as the original. it's just adjusted so that the brightest tones are in fact brought down, while the darkest tones are "crushed" to eliminate almost all of the true blacks in the image. The contrast is also lowered to reduce the difference between the lightest and darkest tones in the image. Unlike an HDR image, which tries to make everything visible, the high-key image will not eliminate all of the shadows, and might still contain some very small areas of dark tones that will ensure a degree of realism. So the result is a "brighter" version of Portland, which might be aspirational while still close to reality. Big Pink has in fact been darkened to ensure it doesn't fade into the brighter sky.

                             BIG PINK AND THE WILLAMETTE : LOW KEY #1 (TOO MUCH) AND #2 (JUST RIGHT)

Now we turn to what is termed a "low-key" interpretation. The  first version is darker, and upon instant reflection I dialed it back. The second low-key version is more subtle. The real difference from the original image is now the tones in the river, which are a little darker and richer.


There are other ways to affect a color image. One can manipulate the white balance to a degree without outraging the viewer. Most people seem to like warmer tones, and photographers have been baking this into their images for a long time. Subtle under-exposure when using film by rating it at a lower ISO then on the box was common; now a lot of people just tell their camera that it's shady when it's just a bright Summer day to accomplish the same thing in camera. Shooting in Raw allows you to subtly do the same thing in the computer with more control by just tweaking the white balance a little towards the warmer part of the spectrum, avoiding the color casts that can occur when "colorblind" males like myself directly adjust color hues directly. The result is just a sunnier, warmer day than most Portlanders expect, but not unbelievable.

It is hard to achieve bolder color interpretations without straining viewer credibility; I never subscribed to the HDR craze which resulted in what can only be described as surreal color imagery. While our eyes can see much more of the dynamic range of the world than our cameras can, it just seems weird to open up the shadows so much in a photograph. Our brains can see more detail in the highlights and the shadows because we are not really looking at them at the same time. But when our brains allow for abstraction by removing colors in a monochromatic image, we all seem to widen what is an acceptable interpretation.


This is the standard black and white interpretation Lightroom will make when it converts my original color interpretation into black and white. It is not just a de-saturated color photograph, but is in itself an algorithmic interpretation by assigning subtle values tones to different colors found in the original color version. De-saturation alone will yield a dull, lifeless image because the different colors we see might be rendered as very similar tones in grayscale. In other words, the original color information is not discarded, and we can easily overrule even this computer version by adjusting the grayscale tones of different colors. Special software tools even "know" the original colors so you can adjust tones in your black and white without looking back or remembering the original color photograph. This computer interpretation is a pretty good black and white interpretation, but there are an almost infinite range of other renditions which can transform the image into something very different.

You can access these varied interpretations in many different ways. The easiest, and again by no means "cheating", is by using presets which are supplied by the software. In this way one click will lead to a different interpretation which the human in control will have to decide is appropriate  for the image under consideration. You don't like, go on to the next one, until one strikes your fancy. But the best part about presets, once you get over their amusing names which rival the names of paint colors, is that the same sliders that you move in the software move when the preset is clicked - and then you can still move any of them make the preset just the start, not the end of your black and white journey. Another way is to make  the "standard" black and white interpretation, but use the different color interpretations you have already made as the different starting points. I, true to curmudgeonly form, just started out with the standard black and white and made my different versions by manipulating the first black and white interpretation.


Here is the "high-key" black and white. While if you look at the mid-tones you can see that the overall exposure hasn't changed much, The shadows have been opened up considerably, and there is very little pure black anymore. It's a sunny day in Portland!

                            BIG PINK AND THE WILLAMETTE : DRAMA

Or we can go for more low-key without muddying the waters, forgive the pun, by avoiding lowering the overall exposure but just manipulating certain colors. Viewers accepted early black and white photos even though there was almost no detail in the sky since early films were not very sensitive to blue - our brains accepted white skies in the black and white world until advancements in film technology allowed us to see the clouds up there. Since photographers could now manipulate the sky, we soon learned that in our quest for contrast - the "color" in black and white - allowed us to render the sky in very dark tones. We know that the sky isn't really black, but isn't this arresting? Lowering the exposure of just the original blue tones in the sky and its reflection in the river makes for a much more dramatic mood.

                           BIG PINK AND THE WILLAMETTE : KIND OF BLUE

Monochromatic images don't have to just black and white. Sometimes it can be delightful to inject a little monochromatic color to subtly affect the tones of the photo for a slightly different mood. I resisted the sepia tones most familiar to viewers from early black and white photos because it didn't seem to fit this view of modern Portland. But this blue tone seemed just right for our overcast city. A Selenium tone is another historic way that photographers used additional chemicals to prolong the shelf life of their prints. The software adds a blue tone, mostly to the highlights, while the darker tones remain mostly black. Even though no chemicals have been used here, I could add their blue tone, and then dial back the saturation to achieve even more subtlety than the computer's version.

                            BIG PINK AND THE WILLAMETTE : SPLIT TONE

Soon photographers started asking themselves that if they could add a color cast to their black and whites, why just one? Contrast could be subtly heightened by adding contrasting color tones to the highlights and shadows. Instantly dubbed "split tones", these black and whites achieved more than straight luminosity contrast by injecting subtle color tones in their shades of gray. This was not colorizing - these colors were still abstract tones - but photographers were soon tanning up the highlights while blueing up the shadows. As usual in post-processing, subtlety is the key, with success achieved through intriguing the edge of view consciousness without hitting them over the head. Somehow the black and white is richer; and if our brains allow for a white, or a black sky, why not a tan one?

I hope you've enjoyed these different interpretations of a February day on the Willamette. None of them strike me as too weird, but I'd love to hear which ones struck your fancy. Don't feel bad if any  were just not your cup of tea. And I would really love it if this essay allowed you to think "out of the box"  when it comes to reinterpreting your images. Your creativity can extend way past hitting the shutter button.


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 01 Jul 2022 19:00:00 GMT

I would like to continue my discussion of the power of travel photography to provoke memories, especially if you allow yourself to personalize your vision by looking at and responding to the things that provoke you. So many of the places we visit have been so documented by both good and bad photography that it's sometimes hard to see how your image will be any different than anyone else's take on the subject. But I believe that this challenge can lead to some important and personal images. And even if they are not that "loaded" to anyone else, you will remember how you felt at that place.

I approached our trip to Germany in 2006 with some trepidation, but we had promised Benjamin a European trip before he went off to college, so our German language student mapped out our route through Germany. We ended up having a great time, and the beauty of the country, my love of it's wine, and my ability to map out a weekly rotation of the narrow confines of German cuisine overcame my anticipated depression in confronting the overwhelming layers of German history. It turned out that we visited at just about the best time, since the Germans were in an unusually good mood during the World Cup, and the country was finally beginning to see the fruits of reunification. I might have been a little naive, but people seemed generally friendly, and I concluded that most felt like the United States was still the big brother who had delivered them from the evil of their own creation, not once but twice. 

                                                     MEMORIAL TO THE MURDERED JEWS OF EUROPE - INTERIOR VIEW

It was fun watching Benjamin leading the way with his language skill, although his incredibly good accent would quickly lead to village idiot status when the natives would instantly conclude that he wasn't an American, but just an ignorant German with a small vocabulary. While Fran was certain that I was an idiot when I decided that I could communicate in English as long as I affected a German accent, the truth was that many Germans seemed fully fluent in English, with a German accent. We also soon realized that unlike in the rest of Europe, and even in England, we could pass as Germans, since we looked like them, especially when we held hands, which is our habit and seems to be theirs, while walking through the city.

Which is not to say that I overcame all of my personal triggers. Sometimes the small towns and villages were just a little too neat. Street names and map reading was okay, but I still seemed to quake when confronted by a full newspaper in German. I still couldn't abide with German Shepherds, no matter how handsome they were. The fact that it was 2006, and Germany seemed to be a very young country, helped me get comfortable with most people under 75 years of age. But now we were heading to Berlin, which in my nightmares is always pronounced in a very forbidding accent.

                                                      THE REICHSTAG : FINAL VERSION


Berlin turned out to be just fine, a city still finding itself 60 years after the War, and less than 20 years after the Wall was torn down. We stayed in the former East, in a neighborhood named Prenzlauer Berg, which seemed to be incredibly authentic since it hadn't been destroyed by Allied bombers and had been mostly abandoned by the East Germans since it was too close to the Wall. While we were at first a  little disturbed by the graffiti, whose presence was over the top even for New Yorkers, we soon realized that gentrification and change were happening so fast that it would probably be gone in another six months. It was very interesting to be in a city of two million people with only a few skyscrapers in the new developments at Potsdamer Platz. How did so many people live in a city of only ten story buildings? It was only when we realized how big the blocks were, with most apartment houses containing a large park as a courtyard, that it all started to add up.

These images are mostly my reactions to the overwhelming layers of history in the city, and the German relationship with their own history, which seemed more introspective and nuanced than most Americans. Sometimes these were outright memorials, but often we would just stumble on something that would stop us in our tracks. A little park where we had some ice cream turned out to be the place where most of Jewish Berlin was assembled to depart to the East. I visited an exclusive camera store, and found one of the few swastikas in Germany on a vintage Leica similar to the one my father owned - it was the SS edition. What was interesting was that the Germans were ensuring that they would not forget their terrible history by keeping it around in prominent locations, no matter how disturbing the juxtapositions.

The first two images are of the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe right in the center of Berlin, near Parliament, the Brandenburg Gate, and across the street from one of the most exclusive hotels in the city. These are color images, but you can see how these granite blocks seem to suck all of the color and sound and views of the Capitol city. The field of obvious granite caskets from the outside swallows up visitors who venture inside, since the ground falls away, and you are soon alone with your own thoughts, only conscious of the terrible grid and searching for the city you were just a part of.

                                                     REMNANT OF THE WALL : FINAL VERSION

The Wall is mostly gone, but it always reappears when you least expect it , even as just a line in the pavement. The idea of a city as a prison can seem almost beyond politics, but it's hard not to be proud of the Allies at Checkpoint Charlie, preserved as a museum of the Cold War division of the city.

                                                      ALLIED FLAGS, MINUS THE SOVIETS, AT CHECKPOINT CHARLIE : FINAL VERSION

Sometimes it wasn't so grim. One of the most jarring things to this New Yorker was a subway without turnstiles - this is an above ground station. The idea that people could just buy passes and be free to come and go as they pleased (and pay a hefty fine if they were caught with out a pass) was as foreign to me as the language.

                                                      "WHERE ARE THE TURNSTILES?" : FINAL B&W VERSION


                                                      BACK GATE, JEWISH MUSEUM : FINAL VERSION

The Jewish Museum was one of the most interesting, and troubling, and frustrating buildings this architect had ever visited. It is an addition to an old Palace, which is now the entrance. The building seems to have been dropped from Outer Space, and it hits the ground with such force that even a simple back gate seems weird as Hell. This sculpture of a building doesn't even have a front door - you enter underground from the old Palace and then head down a one-way stair another five stories to an atrium that you can't see from anywhere else. This route is as disorienting as it sounds.

                                                     MAIN STAIR, JEWISH MUSEUM : FINAL VERSION

The only thing that relieves the pain is that the Museum succeeds in showing the entire history of Jewish Germany, not just the Holocaust. The building of course drops hints at the dislocation everywhere, from the windows on the skin which obviously don't seem to function as ordinary window openings, but appear as gashes in a metal skin. Once you are inside you realize that they have absolutely nothing to do with the rooms they appear in, so they don't seem to relieve the architectural tension.


When you finally get to the inevitable end, you are confronted with that hidden atrium, only lit from skylights at the top of the cube. The floor is lined with German train couplers, whose resemblance to faces is much more than off-putting. The climax comes when you are allowed (?!) to walk across the atrium, where the metallic sound of death echoing off the concrete will never leave you. Architecture, even that of a concert hall, has never left me with such an overwhelming sonic memory.

As if Berlin wasn't enough, the final image comes from Nuremberg. This city as well preserves it's history, seemingly by design, and almost in spite of itself and of the future. The Holocaust Museum known as the Documentation Center is just for Germans - their are no translations in the entire museum, although it is clear what is being discussed. The museum is also a "local" museum, since it concentrates on the Nazi nightmare in only one place - the spiritual center of the Party, Nuremberg. The museum is only part of Albert Speer's enormous arena - think of Madison Square Garden as a brick ruin - which seems almost too big to tear down. The most chilling part of the exhibit to me was my realization that the plaza where we had just eaten lunch, the exact table, appeared in a photo from 1938 under a large Nazi flag.


We took a tram to the reviewing stand, that reviewing stand where Hitler screamed his evil intent to thunderous applause. While the American Army blew up the swastika that crowned the stands, it made it clear to the Germans that this place would not be allowed to disappear, and it hasn't. In fact the brand-spanking new municipal soccer stadium is literally in view across the parade ground. In many ways it's like being in your own private newsreel, and I hope these images have conveyed some of my feelings of historical dislocation that will always be present in Berlin and Germany.




(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 24 Jun 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to explore one way you can try to make your travel images much more personal. The natural tendency of most photographers is to concentrate on the top ten "money shots" of a particular location. While in my opinion that is a considerable advance on the selphie in front of a famous view, it is not a very satisfying way to document a trip. So grab the obvious shot, but concentrate on your particular way of seeing the world, which doesn't really change with a new venue. This can also help in overcoming the sensory overload that can accompany a new fantastic location. Restriction is frequently the mother of invention. After all, this is your trip - the standard images are all available on Instagram anyway, and it's really hard to believe that you can challenge a native photographer, who has the advantage of unlimited opportunities to take advantage of the season, the weather, and the light that will most certainly not occur on your once in a lifetime visit. So I would encourage you to make images that are as idiosyncratic as you are.

                                                      A VIEW FROM THE WINE VILLAGE : FINAL VERSION

These six images are all of very particular architectural details that caught my eye during a family trip across Germany in 2006. We had promised Benjamin a European journey before college, and like most good Jewish boys (!) he wanted to try out his German which he had taken for three years in high school. My love of German wine also didn't hurt. So we set out for Germany, where Benjamin learnt that most cafe conversations he could overhear and understand were not about philosophy. Fran and I were comfortable once we realized that most Germans seemed to be born after the war, and that the prevalent feeling we could discern was that most Germans attributed their comfortable present to our victory in 1945. America in 2006 still seemed to be the protective democratic big brother that had delivered freedom to the German people through defeat.

So in the spirit of recent books that promise historical insights by exploring a few artworks, or culinary dishes, or particular alcoholic drinks, an architect might try to explore a place through attention to architectural details. We started our trip in the wine country, staying in a room at a winery which had formerly only been a name on one of my favorite bottles of Riesling. Only a visit to a wine-growing area can provide the memories that will seal the deal. This initial image is really just a "typical" view of the village of Bernkastle-Wehlen in the Mosel wine region. The textures of the pavements and the stone houses set you up for strolls through the vineyards, where you can literally kick the slate on the ground that you taste in the bottle. The walk through the vineyard is usually only next to the vineyard, since that steep hill just beyond the town filled with vines is also typical.

                                                       J.J'S GATE : FINAL VERSION

                                                       J.J'S GATE : FINAL B&W VERSION

We stayed on the estate of S.A. Prum, "Eric the Red" for his thick red hair. He is a cousin of the most famous vintner in the Mosel, J.J. Prum.  This detail is from the gate of his mansion in the village.  J.J. obviously knows where his fortune comes from, and celebrates it on the imagery of his front gate. The best thing about Riesling is that until fairly recently I could afford most every bottle in the wine store, even J.J.'s, because my tastes were out of the ordinary. Visiting the vineyards reinforced the truth that most of the wine labels probably represented only a very small portion of the hills out of town. As usual, the black and white version heightens the gate details at the loss of the "green" grapes and some separation from the windows beyond.

                                                      POLYCHROMY MASONRY : FINAL VERSION

                                                      POLYCHROMY MASONRY, HOLD THE COLOR

The Germans had an unusual love of color for a Northern European country. While this Medieval window was certainly not typical, it was far from unique. Frequently the prevalent ornament seemed to be a variety of colors of the materials used for the stone or brick walls, or the roof tiles, rather than sculptural ornament. It occurred to me that Germans held to a belief that you had to build a building anyway, so why not achieve some distinction by just using more crayons in the box. Since these color combinations are sometimes not very subtle, even the black and white version highlights the contrast in the masonry, although those incredible interior colors are lost behind the windows.

                            LUBECK CATHEDRAL DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

Sometimes only a color version will do, like on this detail of the cathedral in Lubeck, on the Baltic coast. As part of the Medieval Hanseatic League, a Baltic confederation that predates modern Germany by centuries, Lubeck built most of the city, including its cathedral, not with stone but with very elaborate brickwork. The bricks just go on and on, realizing all of the details, and some new ones, that we are used to seeing realized in stone. Throw in some painted symbols, and you get a very unusual cathedral.

                            SHIVERS UP YOUR SPINE : FINAL VERSION

The detailing can sometimes even scare you. Just because you don't have sculptured stone gargoyles doesn't mean you can't achieve horror in metal flying off a building. When you don't introduce color in Northern Europe, you can achieve a color photo that might as well be in black and white. In any case, the mood is just as grim.

                                                       DOOR HANDLE DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

The German attention to detail can extend into art for art's sake, such as this door handle. When you merely open a door you can explore the history of a rain-drenched town. Hundreds of years of door-opening have burnished those bronze umbrellas to a sheen which shows you where to touch the handle.

                                                      ANNO 1622 : FINAL VERSION

This last image illustrates the historical layers present in this country, far older than the modern German nation. Many structures, ranging from houses to cathedrals, will cite the date of construction right on the edifice, celebrating their erection hundreds of years after their birth. It seems to be a natural belief that this structure will never disappear. Notice that this castle was renovated in 1936, before most of the older buildings in German cities, whose urban renewal was due to Bomber Command by night and the Eighth Army Air Force by day.

I hope you have enjoyed this brief journey through German history through six details, and encourage you to pursue your own individual photographic journeys the next time you visit somewhere new.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 17 Jun 2022 19:00:00 GMT

                            PORCH SHADOW : FINAL VERSION

This week I'd like to discuss an attitude that frequently comes up in my booth at Saturday Market. I can summarize the conversation as " you don't use Photoshop on these photographs, so you?" As if post processing is somehow fraudulent, or at least morally suspect. Now I don't advocate replacing skies, or liquifying waists, or taking away twenty years of aging instead of just using old portraits. Every photographer has lines they will not cross, some set up by the New York Times (I wish I had such problems!) but mostly by their own ideas of what they are trying to do with their art. My basic stance is that I am trying to communicate my view of the world, my take on subjects great and small, and that this communication should at least be based on what I saw, or what I feel now. The idea that photography conveys "truth" is just as silly as the one that History is the repository of the "truth" of the past. I went to graduate school in History too many years ago, and the first thing graduate students learn is that History is written by human beings, who have their own points of view, both weaknesses  and insights. The study of History is called Historiography, and students learn that more than one viewpoint is necessary to take in the entire breadth of the historical story. This is a good thing, since if History was perfectly "true", there would be no need for future interpretations by those same students. Economic prospects for historians are bad enough as it is.

                                                PORCH SHADOW : ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

Photographers channel their viewpoints in the same ways as historians. The primary way is their choice of subjects, which like any artist is usually  completely up to them, in the sense that they are artists, not employees. Shoot what you love, and if it's flowers you probably aren't also shooting airplanes, although there's nothing wrong with that. Then you have to decide what to include in the frame. Even historians who write histories of the world cannot include everything - they must make choices on what to leave out. Now you have to choose your point of view, stated or otherwise, which hopefully will not distort the facts so much that readers will not accept most of what you say. That is why open-minded historians can respect Marxist historians even though they might think the underlying ideology is bogus. And of course we haven't even gotten to the point of deciding how much the particular historian will care to, or can even achieve, a truly wonderful way of telling a story, which in History is as fundamental as play writing.

                            PORCH SHADOW : FINAL B&W VERSION

The idea that traditional analog photographers did not affect their original captures in the darkroom is of course sheer ignorance. Even photo journalists or their editors decided which images were fit to print, and would of course choose a striking, well composed image if it was available over the other twenty shots that were rejected. Other photographers were restricted by the difficulties of dealing with technology. Color slide photographers would have to bracket, take multiple exposures of the same subject, because it was almost impossible to affect the slide image after the fact. Kodak was in charge of processing for everyone from my father to the world's most famous photographer when it came to slide film. Before that of course, you could have any color you wanted, as long as it was black and white. Monochrome was the rule, not an "interpretation."

                            PORCH SHADOW : COLORIZED BLACK AND WHITE 

But of course the whole point of photographers working their magic in the darkroom was not to save money at the source for most prints, which changed over the years from the mail to the one-hour kiosk at the mall. Photographers would spend countless hours in darkness, become amateur chemists, and devise innumerable ways to affect their images after the original negatives emerged from the film canister. If you have ever seen a master printer's record of what they have decided to do to a negative, which might include dozens of different development times for different parts of the image, then you might forgive me for moving some sliders in Lightroom.  The final print is an interpretation of the original negative, which was even more true in the darkroom, where the "technology" consisted of holes cut in paper and wands of paper shapes to mask parts of the negative for longer or shorter exposures of light from the enlarger. Under these circumstances, it was hard enough to duplicate a print that photographers just admitted that this particular print was just their latest interpretation. The conductor interprets the composer's score, and it was only with recording technology that listeners could actually hear those interpretations side by side instead of in their memories of a particular live performance decades ago.

This first image is an example of what I would call a "grab" shot, taken yesterday with my Iphone as I walked out on my front porch. I was enamored with the shadow of one of our Japanese Maples on our newly painted porch columns. The original photo has many problems - it includes too much, is not straight, and it is not symetrical either. A simple shot like this usually is required to become more simpler in post production. The square crop focused on the shadow, straightened the post, and placed it in the center of the square frame. The black and white version allows me to realistically darken the shadow and brighten the column. The "colorized" black and white allows the viewer to see the yellow trim while eliminating the colors in the background. You are entitled to your own favorite, but it's not a stretch to say that it is probably not the original snapshot.




The next photo was taken  during a windswept ferry ride back from Vancouver Island. The horizon is not straight, a cardinal sin in landscape photography, and is obviously underexposed. But it had potential. The final color version fixes those flaws, and the panoramic crop lets the horizontal orientation breathe by eliminating unnecessary sky and water from the composition. The black and white version increases the drama, and now the sky is back to being the original subject. There are probably dozens of fine black and white interpretations - this is just my final one for today.

This last image is yet another image of Tilikum Crossing, Portland's latest bridge over the Willamette River. Since it's now one of the signature walks in Portland, I take a ramble across from time to time. I am a photographer, and it is almost impossible to not try for yet another view, even if it might only be marginally different from previous attempts. Since I am one of the few photographers in Portland who doesn't have an image of the colored light night-time view of the bridge (my rare attempts at actually timing a photo shoot were on nights in which unaccountably the lights did not go on) hope at least springs eternal.

                                                       TILIKUM CROSSING #WHO KNOWS? : ORIGINAL SNAPSHOT

The original dusk snapshot is crooked, and includes much too much of the light post on the left as well as all the, let's face it, "crap" on the waterline. But the big problem is my white balance, which is too far off for even my liberal tastes to allow - the blue is overwhelming, and while skies are blue, and the river is rumored to be blue, concrete is certainly not, even in blue hour.

                                                       TILIKUM CROSSING #WHO KNOWS? : FINAL VERSION

Cropping up and to the right eliminates most the crap. The "real" white balance eliminates the blue but actually hints at a sickly green concrete bridge against a Portland gray sky. When colors are under inspiring I naturally try black and white, which will eliminate any obvious color casts and take care of meaningless and distracting lights on the river. Most important, black and white allows me to realistically darken the sky to get back to the original dusky mood.

                                                       TILIKUM CROSSING #WHO KNOWS " FINAL B&W VERSION

The absolute "truth", at least in my humble opinion, is that post processing is more than half the fun, and that both my and your images will only be their best after a little work on the computer. No you can't save a bad photo, but that is not the point. You can improve your photography by taking the time to improve on the original capture. Not doing so is akin to being an athlete who refuses to train for competition. The photographs I am showing you today all improved with a modicum of work, so much so that I think they bear very little resemblance to their original form. Whether or not you like my interpretations, I believe that you have got to at least admit the distance traveled, if not the value of the final destination.

The real magic in post processing is not in misleading the viewer like an illusionist, but in enhancing the viewer's experience through the magic of reinterpretation. And by the way, I do not use Photoshop, only Lightroom and On One software, which I swear you can easily use, if not master. Why don't you try it with some of your best images?

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 10 Jun 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to make another trip into my archives in an effort to encourage you to revisit old photo shoots to see if you missed any gems in your first, or second, or even third go-around through your images. The last time I wrote of this effort, I entitled it "Revisiting Your Archives." But let's get real - this is really a rescue mission. It's not like I'm the only one who fails to see the brilliance of his efforts at first glance - although I would have to admit that my skills, along with my lack of organization both contribute to a supply of images worthy of later attention. After all, we are talking about a man who has a file called "The Missing", which notes images that I can no longer locate. In my efforts to highlight my images on social media, I need a steady supply of new photos which I cannot fulfill with just new photo shoots. Thus my efforts to slowly go through my archives, as disorganized as they might be, to find images I might have missed previously. I'd like to emphasize that these are not "rejects" - in fact some of these images are so good, in my humble opinion, that I now question my editing even more than I used to.

                           BAGDAD #4 : FINAL VERSION

This first pair is probably at least "Bagdad #4", since the theater is such a compelling subject and is only a fifteen minute stroll from my house. This latest effort was a grab shot with my Iphone while waiting for the traffic light to change. I was struck by the clouds and the sunset behind them. My usual tight crop reduced the image to just sky and sign. I do like the pink in the clouds in the color version, but as usual I like the black and white mood better. because it further reduces the information about the small section of the building in favor of the clouds and sign. The only hints that this is not the original West Side Story are that we know the Bagdad was a porno theater back in 1961, and that there was no such thing as dot com 60 years ago. I also like the window reflection  of the marquee in the window, which is more apparent in the color version.

                                                     EASTER OREGON MONOLITH : FINAL VERSION

                                                     EASTERN OREGON MONOLITH : FINAL B&W VERSION

I somehow missed this image of a random monolith in Eastern Oregon when I put together my latest photo book, "Exploring Oregon" and can't for the life of me wonder why. Of course the black and white version is rich in detail, but I like the subtle colors of the color version better anyway.



These two studies of overhanging branches on the Cape Fear River come from our recent trip to visit the kids in North Carolina. I don't know why I overlooked it before. While the black and white version as usual contains more detail, I feel the blue of the river achieves more separation and punch in the color version. The panoramic crop helps orient and concentrate the viewer's attention on what I consider important.


                                                       SOOKE POTHOLES : COLOR AND B&W

These two versions of a portion of the Sooke Potholes Park on Vancouver Island eluded me on the first edit of these vacation photos. I blame that on the success of a crop of the original image, and mostly on the many different images I took on this hike. Sometimes a lot of images can cause  a photographer to fail to see the positive aspects of an individual photo. I think the color version's subtle colors show off the layers of the landscape better than the black and white. Of course if you want to pretend that the lichen on the hillside is snow, the black and white version is the way to go.


This image is from my foray across the Hawthorne Bridge last month. The Ross Island Bridge to the south caught my attention when I realized I could frame its central arch. The sailboat clinched the deal and I waited a minute or so until it found its rightful place in the composition. The green island trees provided a nice color contrast, but the black and white version really shows off the geometric lines of the bridge structure. In the black and white I can darken the sky and lighten the clouds and sails much more than I can get away with in color. I also think the thin shadow of the bridge is better portrayed in black and white. The panoramic crop emphasized the arch and eliminated a lot of superfluous river and sky. For the life of me I cannot understand how this image, one of the few I have ever taken of this bridge, eluded me when I went through this photo walk.


Finally I will show you one of my first experiments in Intentional Camera Movement, where the photographer deliberately moves the camera during exposure. Not one to think out of the box even when I'm thinking out of the box, it took a lot for me to go against my training and allow myself to move the camera. But I had spent the week looking at the same beautiful stretch of North Carolina beach, and was frankly looking for anything to see something different from the condo balcony. I overlooked this image as a failed experiment until I gave it the panoramic crop that it deserved, and actually decreased the saturation of the sunset reflections, especially that yellow sky. I'm now fairly well pleased with this image, although the algorithm's intent to throw every ICM image across my Instagram feed since I posted this image is not appreciated and a little disconcerting. But I am glad I saved all of these images from the obscurity of my neglected archives.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 03 Jun 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I would like to describe the process by which I "work a subject" by concentrating on seven different versions of one subject. Working a subject is even more exciting when that subject is completely unexpected, a surprise on a photographic jaunt that delivers something beyond the ordinary. Such an experience was part of an exploration of a garden center that I described in last week's blog. I anticipated a flower portrait session, and suddenly encountered an architectural abstract that falls into my wheelhouse. I was pleasantly surprised, and the following variations show how I tried to respond. By the way, if you do not share my enthusiasm for this image I fully understand. What piques my interest does not necessarily float your boat. It is my job to convert my initial "wow" into your "wow", and failure on my part might reflect on my photographic skills without in any way dismissing my initial interest. In any case, these images might inspire you to try different things when you encounter a subject that grabs you.

                                                       HOOP HOUSE #1 : FIRST TRY, PROCESSED

I walked through a door into a tent structure that was designated as "Hoop House #1", and while it's not the Pantheon, this arched shed for shade plants lifted my spirits. I guess the architect in me was excited by how such a utilitarian structure had achieved some poetry. The lightness of the structure, the way the fabric controlled glare without cutting off most of the light, and the unexpected size of the interior told me that I had found something special, at least for me. I might be wrong, but I think the tent is about 50' wide by 150' long. Did I mention that  am a sucker for Japanese lanterns? Needless to say, I didn't spend much time looking at flowers for the next few minutes.

These photos were all post-processed and cropped, and "corrected", but I think they reflect the strategies around each initial attempt to respond to the subject. The first one above shows my fascination with the lone yellow lantern in the midst of the other lanterns marching down the tent. I cropped the image, but was uncomfortable with how close the last lantern was to the bottom edge.


I tried a horizontal orientation, somewhat unusual for me, to place the yellow lantern at the head of the line. I will say that I was concentrating on the ceiling because I do not have a wide angle lens, and more importantly, I didn't want to include any messiness, commercial signs, or even the plants that would clutter my vision. You might have reacted differently.


What if I left out the yellow lantern? Was it a distraction in the line of lanterns, or a highlight? This next shot tried to answer that question, and I found five lanterns, all lit, to run through the frame. I will tell you that a problem with all my shots was trying to determine the "proper" angle to achieve the illusion of a straight horizon with so many horizontal supports running through the frame - it usually involved a compromise that involved either leaving out or highlighting the level of the frame member closest to the edge of the frame.


Once I left out the yellow lantern I naturally tried a black and white conversion. This seems more "pure" to me than the color version, and as usual brings out the details in parts of the image like the lanterns and the tent that might be overlooked in the color version. By the way, I never got the yellow lantern to look any good in black and white - it only looked discolored and dirty.

                                                       RIGHT SIDE VERTICAL, HOLD THE YELLOW

It was now time to return to my normal vertical orientation, which would emphasize the view down the tent.  I liked this angle better, but was troubled by two things, which of course border on the anal, but it's my image, right? The lead lantern doesn't seem to be lit, and by including the vertical back wall I have had to include an intruding fan. I will admit that with a modicum of work I could "light" the lantern and erase the fan, but you purists in the audience don't want to hear about that, do you?                                                                      VERTICAL PANORAMA

My solution as usual was to crop even tighter and go to an even more vertical 1:2 aspect ratio, reminiscent of Japanese screens. I no longer find the inclusion of the gable a problem - only architects would probably notice.

                                                                      VERTICAL PANORAMA, BLACK AND WHITE

I immediately went to black and white. The image is even more clearly about the lines and lanterns, and somehow the lead lantern seems a little brighter.  What is funny is that I don't really appreciate extra detail in the tent surfaces, which seems too busy, and the gables vertical lines are more intrusive too. And what's that ridiculous cable coming off the third lantern? It's there in the color version, but here it really is a distraction, so it will be gone when I open up this version again.

                            HOOP HOUSE #1 : SQUARE ORIENTATION

I returned to my original spot in the tent. When in doubt, I always try the square orientation. 16,000 coasters can't be that wrong. I let the yellow lantern lead the way, and trusted the receding horizontal supports would lead the viewers' eyes even though I only included three lanterns. I am under no illusions that this would make a popular coaster - you can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

                                                       HOOP HOUSE #1 : FINAL VERSION

Although I liked the square, I went back to the vertical to get more depth in the image. I adjusted the photo in post processing to get the most clearance I could for the last lantern, mostly by letting the horizontals go wonky by emphasizing the first level horizontal support.

This is my favorite, but that's just me. I would love your opinions. What is the best part about this unexpected photographic find is that it is about fifteen minutes from my house, so there is always the opportunity for more experimentation.





(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 27 May 2022 19:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to expand on my recent essays concerning the opportunity for taking photographs on "walkabouts", and also the power of using photography as an excuse to get out of the house. Photographic pursuits can both enliven activities and through the pursuit of art make these trips a "both/and" proposition. This is especially important when you are not walking by yourself but spending time with someone else. While Fran has never been coerced into carrying my tripod, she has acceded to my camera as a third wheel as long as I don't make a walk around the block, or on the beach, into a National Geographic assignment. These impromptu photo walks work even better if I'm tagging along on an activity that she knows will require some intense attention on her part. Instead of the stereotypical couch for husbands at the boutique, why not search for images when your significant other is otherwise engaged?


These images were created during a visit to a local garden center this last week. Fran loves when I accompany her on these outings, even though I am restricted in my commentary on her choices since my lack of stoop labor has given me no say whatsoever on any aspect of what has become her beautiful garden. My two cents are worth less than two lira when it comes to her garden. Sometimes she will allow me to pick out one specimen if it also passes muster with her personal vision, but I still find that I spend much time falling in love with some plant that needs an environment far different than our 40' x 100' plot can muster. And long ago I resisted going along with Fran on her walks "way to the back" of the nursery to search for "social worker" plants that only prompt the question "are these plants dead?"


So I take my camera along to while away some of the time. This allows me to pursue what I call "plant portraits" without walking in the garden, or through the neighborhood. Since this is very different from my usual photographic pursuits, it allows me to stretch my aesthetic legs while really lessening the pressure for a great shot. After all, I'm just walking in the nursery - how do I ever expect to grab a real image?

                            AFTER THE RAIN : FINAL VERSION

In fact the problems in taking a natural image in the midst of an artificial environment only encourage my natural tendency to concentrate on details or snippets of a subject. While this is somewhat similar to taking photographs at the zoo, instead of cages the photographer tries to restrict the presence of price tags and labels. So I try to zero in on the details of the plants rather than the commercial backgrounds. I used to even try this at the supermarket until multiple managers accused me of working for their competitors, obviously trying to steal their display ideas for green peppers. So far nobody has objected to my taking photographs of their beautiful plants on offer.

                                                         BIG LEAF STRUCTURE : FINAL VERSION

In addition to the isolation problem, I also have learned to deal with two other constraints on photography in this environment. The first is depth of field, which is a very different cup of tea than what I usually face as an urban landscape photographer. Instead of trying to get a majority of the image in focus, I am actively trying to reduce the surrounding environment to an out of focus haze to eliminate the commercial distractions. This then leads to the problem that plants, trees,or even flowers are three dimensional objects, and this reduced depth of field can lead to a very distracting view of a flower that is only partially in focus, even though front to back is measured in inches. "Focus stacking" an advanced concept requiring even more software than I own, and a tripod that would be way too much in a commercial environment, is unavailable on a simple trip to the nursery. Framing  your image to restrict commercial artifacts becomes more important than wide-open apertures that might lead to out-of-focus segments of the subject at hand.

                           BUG'S EYE VIEW : FINAL VERSION

The other problem is focusing distance, which is probably too far away from that flower unless you own a specialized macro lens. Your floral subject will either be too small in the image, or your camera will not focus on the smaller part of the flower that you really were interested in at all. Auto-focus can be really frustrating as the camera either chooses to focus on the wrong part of the image, or just doesn't work at all. My lens will not focus at a distance of less than about two feet, but I have discovered a work-around that seems to work, at least for my lens which allows me to "tweak" the focus manually without going into manual focus mode. You might try this. Move back to a distance that your lens will focus at, then either "tweak" if your lens allows, or turn off auto-focus. Now move in to where you wanted to be in the first place, and try to manual focus on the flower. It is my experience that somehow this allows me to achieve focus at these much closer distances than my lens can supposedly allow. Your mileage might vary.

                            BUG EYE'S VIEW : FINAL B&W VERSION

What the real strategy that works for the garden center, or floral imagery in general, is to eschew your fancy real camera for the one in your pocket. The Iphone is actually the best camera that most people will ever have for taking flower images. It excels at such imagery because of its wide depth of field, its light weight, and its short focusing distance. It even has a built-in flash, which works very well if you can turn down its power. I would speculate that the only way to beat an Iphone in the garden is to buy a $2000 dollar camera with a $1000 dollar macro lens, not that there's anything wrong with that. If you are disappointed with most images from your Iphone, I think you would be delighted with the garden images you can achieve with your that "fake" camera in your pocket. Especially if you post-process them, print it, and put it on your wall.

                                                       A WALK IN THE FOREST GARDEN CENTER : FINAL VERSION

So I hope this encourages you to find some photography available in unusual places. Remember that a latte and a pastry at the end of the trip will go a long way to reduce the tension of bringing along the camera. It goes without saying that you should resist taking any pastry pictures. Enough is enough.

                            MAPLE LEAVES AGAINST THE SKY : FINAL VERSION


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 20 May 2022 19:00:00 GMT
WALKABOUT I'd like to continue last week's discussion of finding excuses for getting out there and taking photographs. In addition to promoting some exercise, a proper photographic walkabout lets you stretch your aesthetic legs, especially in the pursuit of what I might call "the picture not taken." It's one thing to take a hike in Yosemite, or even a local park, and another to try to find photographs on the short walk to the anticipated photo destination.

By stretching your imagination of what could make an interesting image, you accomplish three things. You begin to appreciate the beauty that exists in the world beyond the obvious. You reduce the pressure to create an epic image, because after all, you are just noticing a little thing that maybe didn't even make you go "wow", but at least made you go "huh." And finally, by focusing on something that others might not even consider a "subject", you reduce the ordinary pressure to make your image about documenting the real world.

In this essay I will concentrate on just four images, all taken on a jaunt to and across the Morrison Bridge to Downtown Portland. It is very rare that one walkabout can deliver four "keepers", and I don't really feel that any of these photos are in any way "epic." Remember, I did get in a nice walk on a beautiful day, and sometimes the exercise of getting something out of basically nothing is worth the experimental time. I hope you can get something out of the process of making these images, even if you are not overwhelmed by the results I achieved.

The first image is of a somewhat famous neon sign of a bowling alley on my route to the bridge. Portland has a heritage of unique signage that recalls a time when sign makers came as cheap as carpenters, and a good sign was a point of retail pride, no matter how humble the establishment. I took something close to this same image a few years ago, and it had a future as a pretty steady selling coaster - most of my customers respond to a local landmark, especially if it is obscure enough to highlight their local expertise. Of course I mislaid this original file, and the image became one of "the missing", cited on my list of hopefully temporarily lost images that actually will sell. So on this walk I took a moment to try to recreate the image.

I took about half a dozen attempts, trying to isolate the sign, make sure it was somewhat straight, and give it enough room so that I could later crop to a square coaster.  This is not as easy as it sounds, since I'm trying to fit a vertical sign into a square frame. I also had to deal with the support structure and the awnings that were underneath the sign. I finally determined which side of the sign looked better, based on the background, and went on my way.

The result was pretty underwhelming, but I began to see what I could make of it. The square crop was accomplished without losing any of the sign, and I straightened and centered it in the frame. Images this simple must be straight, and if you are going for symmetry, you better adjust that sign to be right in the middle or your "mistake" will jar and annoy your viewers. After all the usual moves in Lightroom, it was time to proceed to On One for some magic. At the risk of the balance of the image, I had to get rid of the remnant of the vintage lamp post on the left - my crop had left this distraction, and it was time for the magic eraser to get rid of something that was clearly not adding to whatever the image was trying to say.


Magic act over, it was time to get rid of the blue sky, which always seems inauthentic in a Portland photograph. By converting to black and white I would place more attention on the sign, which dealt with the black and white world of black bowling balls and white pins. But I was losing too much by losing the red neon, so I used some manipulation by de-saturating everything but the saturated colors, which left me with a black and white and red image. This was the extent of my knowledge of On One, which I am still mastering. After returning the file to Lightroom, I then knew how to de-saturate the only other color that remained, the remnants of blue in the sky. Don't be afraid of using parts of multiple post-processing programs to make life easier. I hope that the final image concentrates the viewers attentions on what attracted me to the sign in the first place.



The second image highlights another "site" adjacent to the Morrison Bridge. It also is another example of my folly of trying to create an attractive photograph of an art piece that I find problematic at best. This building is a speculative office building that is actually between two segments of the bridge, and is an example of "creative space" office space which is so weird that developers know it will only attract artists, architects, and other creative types - law firms need not apply. Most of Portland's bridges actually rise up over solid ground for a few blocks on the east side of the river, to reduce the grade and get over railroad tracks. Thus the first section of the Eastside has always been kind of a hidden area for trolls, darkened by the multiple bridge spans and becoming even more obscure than those streets under the "El" in New York. I think the only people who know what this building actually looks like at grade are the tenants and the architects.

It obviously has pursued a "look at me" strategy that easily provokes comment, and maybe interest, as you cross the bridge. I remain unconvinced, although I do acknowledge that the building actually improves a very problematic site. The paint job is wild enough, but when the potted plants appeared it clearly went over the top as well as over the roadway. Fran considers this kind of stuff "whimsy", while I wonder if it degrades my entire former profession.

I corrected the white balance, since the wild blue facade had made everything, including those pots, blue as well.

In any case, I try my usual strategy in isolating one part of the building in order to highlight the absurdity - their is no need to show the entire five-story box, and the idea that the viewer could imagine that this nonsense goes on even further might heighten their fears. The color of the facade was so wild that even my black and white version just de-saturates everything but the blues, and those potted plants now look closer to their eventual grey demise from all of the surrounding auto fumes.

When I finally arrived Downtown, I was struck by the contrast I noticed at one corner of one of our vintage office buildings. I don't know its name, and I don't care. This image is all about the sun, the light and shadow, and the repetitive nature of office windows of a certain age. It was necessary to straighten and relocate my corner as close as I could get to a central vertical. While I've got nothing against light brown brick, that blue sky was again annoying me, so I went to black and white. Monochrome allowed me to both add more contrast and to highlight the sun's focus on one side of the facade, and its absence on the other.

My last image on this day could symbolize one of city's nicknames as "Bridgetown." While it is frequently easiest to focus on the bridges when we are actually crossing them, I was struck by the layering of, count them, four different bridges to the south of the Morrison. The Hawthorne, Marquam, Tilikum, and Ross Island bridges all combine to form a wave of lines and shapes and four different engineering eras in one shot. My main attempt was to try differentiate the different spans so the viewer wasn't overwhelmed by the mess. I cropped to a panorama to focus the attention on the lines, eliminating distracting amounts of sky and river. I increased the contrast to show off the Tilikum's white cables and the Ross Islands"s black steel, and hoped the Hawthorne's towers and the Marquam's hulk would allow them some power in the image. I tried to place the Ross Island's arch as close to the center as possible. The color version tries to use the green of Ross Island to prove a contrasting background to all of these lines. The black and white version increases the contrast and allows more bridge detail to draw the viewer's attention. I'm not sure which works better.

I hope you've enjoyed another jaunt, and encourage you to take along your camera provide another excuse to get out of the house. Every one of your images doesn't have to be "important" if it provides the opportunity to practice your craft.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 13 May 2022 19:00:00 GMT


This week I would like to discuss the origins of a long-term photo project, which can provide the excuse you need to get out and shoot. These excuses do not even need to be aesthetic, because the joy we get out of capturing images can be combined with other desires that can be good for our bodies and souls. Most landscape photographers date the beginning of their image making to an overwhelming love of the outdoors, with the camera being mostly a means of documentation. It was only later that the chronicling of their hikes became an artistic pursuit to communicate their feelings about the landscape to others.

                                                 TILIKUM DETAIL : COLOR & B&W VERSION - I prefer the black and white


I have never been a long distance hiker, and my camping exploits ended when I rejected the idea of going places where I was not the apex predator. As an urban landscape photographer, my hikes are not as adventurous as hikes in the wilderness, but my love of the city and architecture has always propelled me to be a "walker in the city". Recently I began to try to combine this excuse for going for a walk with the actual aerobic benefits of said walks. The trouble with a "photo walk" as exercise is that this photographer needs very little excuse to stop and take multiple photographs that turn an already slow stroll into the aerobic equivalent of a chess game.


So I began a game with myself that I might recommend to other photographers. I left my house and walked at a steady pace in one direction for a half hour, no stops allowed, with the promise that on the walk back I could take out the camera and shoot to my heart's content. Thus i am getting some benefit from the walk, which usually only takes 1 1/2 hours or so, and I can see that I have been walking farther than at the beginning of the game. The trouble remained that even though I was walking down some streets in my neighborhood that I had never seen in the thirty years I have lived here, it was still the old neighborhood, which left a certain photographic motivation tepid at best. Southeast Portland can be beautiful, but it isn't the Gorge.

These two images highlight the Morrison Bridge opening up, and the place where pedestrians must stop when the span opens - you don't want to be on the wrong side of that gate!

But as my walks became longer, and society gradually opened up from our pandemic slumber, I realized recently that I could drive towards the city, park, and start my walks from wherever I felt like, knowing that there would be something new to look at in my half hour. I know that this new regime is not earth shattering, but I have begun to broaden out from my own neighborhood. I used to do most of my walking Downtown, but while Portland is not the Fox-addled nightmare of urban decay, it can be somewhat depressing. Empty storefronts and encampments don't make for delightful urban landscapes.

                                                       EASTSIDE ESPLANADE BOARDWALK BRIDGE FROM THE BURNSIDE : FINAL B&W VERSION

In the past few weeks I hit upon the idea of walking to Downtown instead, and began my jaunts about 15 blocks from the river, with the promise of getting to walk across one of our bridges as the goal/highlight of the trip. Thus I have combined aerobic exercise (at least for me) with an opportunity to take a slow look at some of Portland's icons - one of our city's nicknames has long been Bridgetown. Portland's river, the Willamette, shares the centrality and dimensions of the Seine in Paris and the Thames in London - bridging the river allowed for the city's growth while not requiring the earth shattering engineering of the Brooklyn Bridge. Portland's bridges are numerous, and for more than a century their varied and picturesque designs have enlivened our landscapes. The fact that we rarely throw anything out means that some of our bridges are now living museum pieces, which can only be repaired if we reinvent their components. Throw in the fact that about half are drawbridges, with a potentially fatal effect on traffic, and you can see why Portlanders have a pretty intimate relationship with these spans.

                            BURNSIDE BRIDGE CONTROL TOWER : I don't know which version I prefer.

These photographs come from the walks I've take in the past few weeks, along with some of my most popular images of our bridges over the years. As usual, most of my imagery is pretty specific, and a lot of people only know some of the images because they have taken the same walks as I have. I have resisted the heroic shots that my colleagues take as required, usually suffering as a businessman. Portlanders have a relationship with the St. Johns Bridge that can only be characterized as an addiction - when I finally allowed myself to take a shot of the bridge, I sold over 30 coasters in the first three weeks. These were not to tourists, since almost no tourist even knows this most outermost of our bridges even exists.

                           INTO THE WOODS, ST. JOHNS BRIDGE : FINAL B&W VERSION

I'm one of the few people who actually don't like the green of the St. Johns, so black and white it was. I avoided symmetry out of habit and a fear of the semi trucks from both directions if you stand on the center line.




                           LATE AGAIN : FINAL VERSION

Three views of the Hawthorne Bridge, one of intimate disappointment as a commuter, the other a classic blue hour shot with the city lights just coming on. Much to my surprise, I think the black and white version works as well.

ON BROADWAY                            ON BROADWAY : FINAL VERSION

A really intimate view of the Broadway Bridge, which I have sold to several city engineers involved in it's restoration. While the color is similar to the Golden Gate, it's not an exact match.

I hope you enjoy this short trip across the river, and find your own excuse to get out and walk the city. It doesn't have to be for miles if it takes you to places you really didn't know because you've never taken the time to be a pedestrian there.

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 06 May 2022 19:00:00 GMT

Last week I discussed how it could be very useful for photographers to actively experiment with new techniques or approaches when they go out into the field. I would like to expand this idea by encouraging you to experiment after capture by taking new paths in your post-processing as well. It is very easy to fall into patterns when using software to enhance our images, and a conscious decision to try something new, or even crazy, when we process an image can lead to unexpected and liberating results.


I have a lot of problems with the idea that photographers must develop what we call a "workflow" when we process our images. My first objection is primarily psychological, in that I resist the idea that this is "work", since I have a belief that art should be fun, even if you are crazy enough to try to earn some money from your efforts. I have never spent my work life in front of a computer screen, so I can understand why others might resist transferring their hobby time to more screen staring. But in reality this is not digging ditches, and while it can be repetitive, one might realistically ask why you are pursuing something if it has ceased to be fun. Part of the solution might be to deliberately switch things up, and I'd like to show you some examples of divergent paths I have taken in post-processing several images. I believe that this has led to some exciting new ways to interpret an image.


Frequently the first move I try is to see how the original color image would change if it was converted into black and white. This is not usually done in search of nostalgia, or in an effort to just include an image into a portfolio of monochrome images. I have found that a black and white conversion can totally change an image, especially if the conversion is accompanied by additional moves that modify the image beyond removing color. In other words, we are not just searching for grey-scale, but seeing what we can also do to change the image's interpretation. Using the abstraction of black and white allows us to modify an image far beyond what most viewers would accept in a color photo.

The first example is the three different versions of this seascape off the North Carolina coast. The first image is a classic color image of the pink skies that can accompany the beauty of sunset if you are looking in the "wrong" direction, i.e. the sun is setting behind you. It's even more fun if the moon is rising. I cropped the image to emphasize the pink band, but increasing the saturation  was not necessary - this event, which seemed to occur at 7:15 pm on the dot for over a week, was just that beautiful all by itself. The question then becomes what you would do  and why you would convert a photo which seems to be all about color into a black and white photo? The first example shows what usually happens - a somewhat boring grey scale interpretation which does not replace the intensity of the color with anything very useful. We'll see later that you can attain a new level of detail by leaving out color, but this image is very simple, so that doesn't seem to work. But what about if you advance the clock a few hours? The final moody night-time shot, done by simultaneously drastically lowering the exposure and heightening the glow of the moon, changes the mood completely and doesn't strike the viewer as fake at all - impossible in a color shot.

                           FLORA #2 : FINAL COLOR AND B&W VERSIONS

Here is another classic example of what is seemingly a fool's errand in black and white conversion. Why would you remove the color from a flower portrait, a stereotypical example of the power of color imagery? In this example I do it to emphasize the structure of the flower, and as a way of surreptitiously isolating it further from the background by converting said background into a velvet curtain. Viewers would not begin to accept this much contrast in a color image, at best figuring it was a studio shot as opposed to a real flower in a garden.

                                                        ANTEBELLUM SEATING : FINAL COLOR AND B&W VERSIONS

Here I've used the black and white conversion to make the image more about the light on the chair than anything else. We lose the beauty of the various wood shades in favor of the various tones on  the chair. The Bible is subdued, the chair's surroundings fade to black, and the pattern on the curtain is made more important in the monochrome version.

                            ST. JOHNS NOIR : FINAL B&W VERSION

These days a popular political cliche is not to waste the importance of a political crisis to not take advantage and accomplish other changes while you deal with it. I would carry that over to black and white conversion. A well-composed (if I say so myself) view of the St. Johns Bridge is converted into film noir interpretation suitable for Gotham City by exposure manipulation that converts it into a total silhouette, with almost no detail inside the black bridge. While I am almost always in awe of others who can coax hundreds of shades of grey out of a black and white, I am neither as skilled or oriented in that direction, so why bother?


Sometimes it's just a matter of going with your gut, with the proviso that both interpretations might be equally as worthy. The color shot is a love letter to the beautiful sandstone Chelsea Cathedral in London, resplendent in the setting sun, with an interesting complementary blue glow in the stained glass. The black and white is all about the shapes of the arched window, the light and shadow of the flying buttresses, and somehow the texture of the stone is even more important without the golden color.

                                                       NAKED CITY CHRYSLER BUILDING : FINAL B&W VERSION

I love the Chrysler Building more than any other skyscraper in New York. It seems the most romantic building in the city, with its spire and frankly ridiculous Art Deco ornament, where hood ornaments become gargoyles, that it always makes me smile. The black and white conversion of this focus on the top converts what is really a post card into something very different. The spire and ornamentation, in fact the whole tower, positively glows because I have adopted a black interpretation of the boring blue sky that even Ansel Adams would be proud of. This has no relation to actual reality, but no one is offended by my departure, for we have an almost infinite acceptance of such manipulation in black and white.

                            OMSI : FINAL VERSION

Finally, we have an image which seems to be all about the color of the beautiful OMSI entrance sign that proudly stands in the building's lobby atrium. The image is another example of my love of outrageous color, and the power of letters to capture our attention as graphic devices way beyond their communicative utility. The OMSI red, contrasted with the mechanical/architectural gray and a typical Portland sky with powerful clouds, screams color photograph. Thus I was a surprised as anyone when I worked on this black and white interpretation.

                            OMSI : FINAL B&W VERSION

A black and white interpretation that cranks the contrast up to 11, throws in a lot of "glow" as well as an equal amount of sharpening, has resulted in a black and white image where, at least for me, the neon letters are even more vibrant than the color version. Once again, experimentation has yielded unexpectedly delightful results.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 29 Apr 2022 19:00:00 GMT

I'd like to discuss the idea of experimentation in your photography this week. Another way that you can "discover" things to photograph while you are on vacation, or just around the corner, is to consciously set out to experiment when you head out with your camera. Trying something new can open up loads of possibilities, especially when the "subject" of your image is overly familiar. Experimentation can allow for a new way of seeing, either at the point of capture or later in post processing.

The image above is of a groin on a North Carolina Beach near Wilmington, North Carolina. I don't know why a man-made intrusion that disappears into the sea is also the place that a man definitely does not want to be hit, but that's for another day (in England, they differentiate by calling the seaside feature a groyne). This groin carried a pipe that probably discharged something nasty into the ocean, but on this rainy day I found it interesting enough to see how I could manufacture an image out of concrete blocks and an iron pipe.

My solution was to search for elements of abstraction in the image. I will show you the original color image in a second, but I turned to black and white almost immediately for several reasons. Since it was such a nasty day, the sea was grey anyway; the hint of green on the moss covered concrete didn't add much either, and the pipe and the stanchions in the water were already black.

                            NORTH CAROLINA GROIN : FINAL COLOR VERSION

But my search for abstraction centered on my experiment with a long exposure. While it was a grey day, it was still day, and the sea was actually pretty rough without being very exciting - think breaking swells that threatened my tripod without throwing up any picturesque splashes. My objective became how to lengthen the exposure enough to reduce the sea to a flat, abstract surface leading past the groin and the stations out to the horizon.

Photographers do this with a few pieces of equipment that allow us extend our exposures enough so as to perceive a kind of zen-like gaze at the environment that is the exact opposite of an artificially lit flash shot. While strobe flashes stop action because they show us exact, almost infinitesimal moments in time, long exposures show us things that our naked eyes cannot see by stretching out the duration of our view. The shutter is open so long that momentary movement is ignored by the sensor. Moving tourists seem to disappear in the piazza because they moved too fast to be registered on our sensors, which only caught the things that were there the whole time. And recurring movements, like waves at the beach, get evened out, because the camera is recording all of the waves as a "still average" over a much longer period of time than any one breaking wave.

                            FIRST SHOT : f8.0 @ 1/350 second - A TYPICAL APERTURE/SHUTTER SPEED

Taking such long exposures that will yield images of things we really can't see in real life require a few accessories. You really need a stable tripod because you can't possibly hold or even place your camera down to stop camera shake when your exposure lasts for multiple seconds. We want to see the movement of our subject, not the apparent palsy in our grip on the camera. We put our cameras on a two-second delay when we push the shutter, because even that subtle act of hitting the button might actually register as shake, so we let the camera "settle down"  before it takes the shot.

To lengthen the time of exposure, and not just get an over-exposed image, we must cut down the amount of light that is getting to the sensor. We can't turn off the sun, so it's time to put on sunglasses to cut out the light. The sunglasses aren't for us, but for our camera - in this case it's not what we see, but what the camera sees, that is important. A neutral density filter placed over the lens will hopefully reduce the light by a measurable amount that will enable vastly increased exposure times by convincing the sensor that the sun has gone down. While reducing a waterfall to a gentle mist might require an exposure of a couple of seconds (still far too long to hand-hold), stopping the ocean might require an exposure lengthened to minutes. Now the problem is not hitting the shutter, but having to close it again. Most cameras will not automatically close the shutter after 30 seconds, so for longer exposures you need a gizmo to both open the shutter and close it again after your watch registers the appropriate excruciating time required. I cannot explain how long a two-minute exposure can seem, when we are used to the exposure being over before we are really concious of having pushed the button at all.

                            SLOWER : f16 @ 1/45 second, off-center, one stantion

There is one physical problem I haven't yet mentioned. You have painstakengly  determined the perfect composition, and accurately focused - but then you must engage in some lower-level math to take a photo you can't see. The filter is so dark that when you place it over your lens you can no longer see the scene through the viewfinder, and you cannot see what your subsequent setting changes are doing to the image before you take the photo. You are literally in the dark. You must change your focus to manual focus, because the camera will try to adjust the focus to the new midnight lighting, and it won't be able to auto focus. Even worse, your viewfinder is going to stay black no matter how you change your settings. Fortunately, the neutral density filters have ratings on how much light they are stopping. To stop the ocean, you should have a ten-stop filter, which reduces the light by ten stops. Remember that we are trying to reduce the light to the sensor. Thus you have set the sensor sensitivity to it's lowest native setting, exactly opposite what you would do to take a night-time shot. You have also set your lens to a very small aperture to reduce the size of the hole that light can get through. You then click your way down to the lower shutter speed, doubling the amount of light with each click, because you are letting in more light by extending the duration the shutter is open. Count ten clicks, and you are somewhere in the neighborhood of properly exposing an image that you can't see. It's time to experiment, and to see what happens.

That's what it comes down to, and why it often seems that photographers are just overthinking the entire affair. Our digital cameras will now let us see our results right after the shot is over, so after our long exposure is finally over, we can see how close we are to what looks a reasonable exposure. Adjust as required, and probably wait even longer. Something to read is highly recommended.

                           FASTER, BUT ALMOST SYMMETRICAL : f16 @ 1/125 second

You are not searching for a "proper exposure" once you are in the ballpark, but are actually trying to see if you have positively affected the image enough by lengthening the exposure. If we have a "proper" exposure at our first ordinary view through the viewfinder, then we will have another "proper" exposure if we keep doubling the exposure time while we halve the light getting to the sensor with our neutral density filter. But since we cannot see the exposure until we take it, we are in the dark until we take the photo.

I used to think that long exposure photos were just a gimmick, a way of easily creating an arty image out of nothing. This might be true to some extent, but now having experimented with the technique I can see that the rules of composition are not suspended just because we have changed the amount of time we are recording. This image would not be as strong without the central placement of the groin, and I for one think that the presence of the stanchions is crucial. And I regret that the rain caused enough discomfort that I refrained from getting out the electronic shutter release. A thirty second exposure was just not long enough to completely flatten the waves and eliminate their variations near the groin. But for a first experiment this wasn't bad.

                            TEN STOP FILTER : f16 @ 30 SECONDS

The exposure of the photo will not change, but the photo will. The waves will disappear, and the clouds will seem to streak across the sky, while stationary objects will still stay sharp. Once the viewer notices, they will frequently get fascinated, because you can't see this stuff on the beach. Our photographic experiment has yielded a new view of a familiar subject.

                             TEN STOP FILTER : f16 @ 30 SECONDS, B&W


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 22 Apr 2022 19:00:00 GMT

I'd like to return to North Carolina this week to discuss four images I created there. My overall theme is that most of my photography is based on noticing things - paying attention to light, shadow, forms, and geometry - that others might not see. What's funny is that this either leads people to really appreciate "my eye" or to not get my imagery at all. While I do not search for the obscure, I must accept that my way of seeing is not for everyone, and that's okay. I would suggest that this attitude can be very liberating to the rest of you out there - it takes a lot of the pressure off if you have a little faith in your vision and do not care as much if the public responds. With about 97 million photographs downloaded to Instagram every day, it's a miracle if anyone notices your efforts at all.

In that spirit let me try to explain what caught my eye in taking these four images, and how I tried to emphasize that act of paying attention in my subsequent post-processing. A big part of "proper" landscape photography is waiting for the light. This doesn't just involve waking up real early or staying late, but bringing along a book or just meditating while you wait for the light to hopefully change and transform a good image into a potentially great one. I usually lack the energy or patience to accomplish this goal, which is why I firmly believe that we take our best shots close to home, wher we can easily return for better light another time. But patience is not the only virtue; sometimes just noticing something can suffice. We stayed at a true beachfront property at Carolina Beach just outside of Wilmington, and it took only a few days for me to notice that the best light of the day, without a doubt, took place at 7:15 PM each evening. While some days were a little better than others, if you managed to be on our deck at that time you would be greeted with what Mountain people call Alpenglow, the pink shades in the sky that do not really require mountain views. It's just kind of a reverse sunset, and usually lasts only five minutes or so. What was so much fun was that this was so reliably predictable that it required no patience at all - just show up, and there you have it. Of course you can't have your camera set to auto white balance since your stupid expensive machine will wipe out the pink glow as a "mistake" instead of celebrating it. This image is all about color, so that I even violated my secret identity on 500 pixels by posting a color photograph. The world didn't come to an end, although there were probably some people in Eastern Europe who were shocked, just shocked. As usual with my landscape images these days, I've cropped it down to 1:2 to more fully emphasize the horizontal aspect. The pink glow was nicely confined to just over the horizon, so cropping didn't affect the image in any negative way.

                            THE RED CHAIRS : FINAL VERSION

The obverse of the beachfront stroll is to observe the state of that beach's architecture. I am always on the lookout for "architect was here" as a relief to the usual structures that don't even to seem to notice that they are located on the beach - there is a damn ocean over there! I noticed this relentless grid on one of the larger condo towers on the beach, which was a lot bigger than we are used to on the Oregon Coast. Then I focused on the rebel on a certain floor who was going to have red balcony furniture no matter what anyone else might think. Once you notice something, it really doesn't matter if no one else does - your job becomes merely how to emphasize what you have noticed. In this case the only requirements that I had to meet were to crop the image so that the grid could go on forever, and to do my best to straighten and align the grid in post-processing so that the photo looked like I could have taken it from a helicopter hovering way above the ground. The viewer is then left to decide if any of this means anything at all. And of course the image must stay in color since the red chairs are what's holding it together.


                                                       REFLECTIONS ON WILMINGTON : FINAL B&W VERSION

The next image was a happy accident. I could claim that I knew what I was doing, but that would be a lie. What appears to be an elaborate double exposure is in reality just a wild conjunction of interior and exterior reflections in a coffee shop. The most credit I can take is that I noticed something was pretty strange and I lined up an image that I really didn't understand at the time of exposure. This stands previsualization and the "decisive moment" on its head; it reminds me of the admonition to "say something if you notice something" as the least a photographic witness can do when confronted by the unusual. I only noticed what was going on in this image when I looked over my photos a few days later, when I was charmed by the many juxtapositions that occurred in one ordinary image of a typical apartment house. I am unsure which version, color or black and white, works better here. The color version is "lighter" and more lively, but there is enough contrast in the black and white to overcome the lack of color. Neither image is much more confusing than the other;it helps that the central light post is just as black a presence in each version.

                                                       ANTEBELLUM DETAIL : FINAL B&W VERSION

Finally I present another image from the plantation house we visited near Wilmington. Here I am just a retired architect,"nothing to see here", who is overwhelmed by the classical detailing on an Antebellum mansion. This image must be in black and white, since the off-white natural color is completely underwhelming, and we all know that the vegetation is actually green, and who cares? I found two things intriguing about this "subject". One was that this stone detail was so obviously painted, carved wood, which seemed to hearken back to the classical originals, whose leaves were actual leaves. The other was that while this detail certainly came out of a "pattern book", it was built by enslaved artisans more than two thousand years after other slaves had probably built the Classical originals. All I did was to notice their handiwork, and for this image, that was more than enough.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 15 Apr 2022 19:00:00 GMT
ART, TRAVEL, FAMILY, AND COVID - MARCH MADNESS                                                        ENSLAVED PERSON'S VIOLIN : FINAL VERSION

                                                        ENSLAVED PERSON'S VIOLIN : FINAL B&W VERSION

March and April 2022 have proven to be a very interesting time for this writer, photographer, grandfather and birthday boy. In no apparent order I had a wonderful trip with Fran to North Carolina to see Benjamin, Margaret, and Isaac; started off the art year with a nice few weeks at the Market; spent a wonderful time on the beach with our extended family, Vinny and Steve; created several nice images without driving myself silly; celebrated my 66th Birthday; and caught Covid. I am fine, and my week on the couch is over, and I am trying to take it easy and realize how lucky I am that I caught it in April 2022 instead of April 2020 or April 2021. To say it was anti-climatic would be to overly dramatize my bout, which was somewhere between a bad cold and the flu. Of course I was vaccinated and boosted, so the reaction of my doctors was muted; call us if you feel bad. I probably caught it either on the airport trips or at the Market, and felt much worse when I had double-pnemonia a few years ago. Mostly just tired to the point where napping and going to bed early could be done without much guilt.

                                                       ANTEBELLUM STAIR : FINAL B&W VERSION

                                                       ANTEBELLUM STAIRCASE : FINAL B&W VERSION

We spent our time in Wilmington on the beach about a half-hour from Benjamin's apartment in town, and though our accomodations kept going up in price each time we delayed our trip, the decision to book actual beachfront property was wonderful. We really lucked out with the weather, which was basically better than any week on the Oregon Coast any time of the year. It rained one day out of ten, and most days we could walk into the surf.


Wilmington is opening up nicely, and while it never was as buttoned-down as Portland, it also didn't seem like it was completely ignoring the fact that there had been a Pandemic. North Carolina seems to be stuck in purgatory somewhere between the Yankees in Virginia and the yahoos to the South, ashamed at the obvious problems with its history but unwilling to cow-tow to Northern superiority as well. Thus a considerable chip on it's shoulder that goes along with a pride in difference, and an urban/rural split very familiar to this Oregonian/New Yorker, with even less urban to leaven the overall countryside. Consider that Wilmington was really the only city in North Carolina for most of its history, and that Charlotte is so close to the border that it might as well be in South Carolina, and you can see why the overall ambience is distinctively rural.

                                                       PLANTATION SEATING : FINAL VERSION

                                                        PLANTATION SEATING : FINAL B&W VERSION

We had a wonderful time with everyone and my grandson is just a pistol. He is very different than Benjamin, with a sly side-eye, and you've got to watch him like a hawk. Thank god that his digital photo efforts do not cost me any money, since he is completely enamored with the camera and actually sometimes seems to be better than Grandpa in taking pictures of people, as long as you discount his interest in taking pictures of the floor with an attention to detail that borders on the obsessive.

                                                       ISAAC AT REST : FINAL B&W VERSION

I still have to go through most of the images I took on the trip. I'm beginning to realize that no matter how much I endeavor to experiment, my best images seem to be close to my wheelhouse, despite or in spite of their purported subjects. Most of these images come from the end of our trip, when we spent a few hours at a Plantation House near Wilmington. The tour guide was a wonderful woman who rightly emphasized the stories of the enslaved people who had actually built and lived in the house, rather than the purported owners. While I certainly did not "work" the subjects, I  am pleased that post-processing has brought out some of the artistic value of ordinary domestic objects; hopefully these images can honor their lives lived in the shadows.

                                                       WILMINGTON COUP MEMORIAL : FINAL VERSION

                                                       WILMINGTON COUP MEMORIAL : FINAL B&W VERSION

This detail of a new memorial for The Coup that took place in Wilmington in 1891 - the only documented coup of a legally constituted municipal government in the United States - brought to an end a successful Reconstruction administration and led to Jim Crow for seventy years. While the memorial seems ill-placed at an ordinary suburban intersection, it actually might someday play a more important role at a site that might be central to the city's future growth. It struck me that the site might one day be as central as the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin - a permanent reminder that precludes commercial use of the site.

                                                        BACK STAIRS : FINAL B&W VERSION

(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 08 Apr 2022 19:00:00 GMT

It's a lot of fun to misquote Thomas Boswell's ode to baseball, even if the powers to be have conspired to destroy their opening day. Last weekend was Opening Day at Saturday Market, and it was fun to be back exhibiting and even sometimes selling my art. I had anticipated a lousy day, weather-wise, and feared that the monetary results would correspond. Instead it was about as nice a Pre-Spring day as Portland can muster, and the crowds seemed just as excited as the vendors to be back under the Burnside Bridge.


My new space under said bridge has a lot of possibilities, a corner space with three open sides in a good vendor neighborhood. The three open sides offer a lot of different areas to show my work, and also relieve any feelings of claustrophobia. Since I have resolved to try to be a "fair-weather" vendor this year, I am not as worried about being blown away by the wind - I will just be mature enough to stay home.


It is amazing how your location in the market can affect your mood. Some of the most exacting urban design experts I have ever met are my fellow vendors at the Market, who are convinced that a difference of ten feet can spell happy days or financial ruin. I have never thought it made that much difference, as long as one understood that the emphasis on seniority made monthly rents vary by location. But since everyone pays the same daily rent, no matter how good or bad your location, and daily rents dwarf monthly over the course of the year, the fix is in. After twelve years I have reached about as high as I ever will get on the seniority list, as young whipper-snappers attendance gains over me will make up for retirements among those vendors still above me on the list. And even I have realized that even my view from the booth will affect my mood, so that my new view of the sun beyond the bridge will certainly beat last year's view of a homeless encampment.


There are only four photographers left at the market, and we are a collegial bunch, since we each fill a different enough niche that we can actually send customers on to our "competitors." And the economy has eliminated the people who either existed by giving their work away, or just sold the same product as everyone else. Of course there has also been a certain amount of attrition due to a new-found sanity among even artists under the bridge. As I always say, the real insanity among artists is our continued belief that anything about the selling of Art makes any economic sense at all. As I slowly lose those beliefs, it is becoming a lot easier to have fun at the market.




There were even some tourists about, although I can't imagine how anyone is actively visiting our fair city at this time. Maybe I'm just naive about how bad the rest of the country is doing. After two years of Covid, it takes a lot of optimism to see how downtown will soon recover, even though I still think it doesn't pay to bet against Portland. Our leaders seem to lack any understanding in pursuing both short-term and long-term solutions, resulting in complete stagnation. There is a complete lack of attempting anything, and different factions decry solutions that actually even work because they are ideologically suspect. What is exceedingly weird is that no matter how incompetent our local leaders appear to be, the relative intelligence of our citizens seems to have so far preserved human lives. Most of the rest of Oregon resembles the Deep South, seemingly intent on ensuring that the virus will always have unvaccinated hosts to prey upon.       GORDON BEACH : FINAL B&W VERSION

Our food carts have reopened too, so that I can find a good lunch again. At the end of last year it was slim pickings indeed, but most of my favorite choices are back again. Lunch at the Market is always problematic, since I'm supposed to be in my booth, not on a twenty-minute long line waiting for lunch. What's funny is that the second you start lunch, business picks up, so that you are torn between eating a too-late lunch and actually making money.


Inflation has begun to take a toll, although as a small businessman with very low profit margins it also has provided an excuse to finally raise my prices for the first time in five years. What is interesting is that my emphasis this year is to find a way to create some lower price points to raise sales. The coasters sell themselves. The metal prints are extraordinary, but are too expensive for me to buy to sell them at a low enough price to really increase sales. As a premium product, they just cost what they cost. What is interesting is that customers seem to understand that the basic food cost equation of 3x costs is fair, but is just too high. Thus I am trying to see if I can sell larger laminated prints at about half the price that the metal prints must cost. Frustration has reared its ugly head in that the laminate prints were designed to "get the coasters on the wall." They have been successful, but my attempt to sell the small prints that are not "squares" has been a failure. So 4 x4's are cute, but 4x6's or 4x8's are too small.  So I am going to try larger and more expensive 9x12's and 8 x16's to see if laminated prints can sell at half the price of  similar sized prints in aluminum.


Most of the images in today's essay are processed at a 1:2 aspect ratio, which I have decided is the best "panoramic" ratio available. Ordinary photo prints come out of the camera as 2:3 or 3:4 sizes; the 1:2 ratio is significantly wider without being too wide. The wider 1:3 ratio only seems to be justified by a mountain range or a real urban skyline; most of the time there is just not enough "subject" for such a wide aspect ratio. But for a photographer who shoots mostly square images, the 1:2 ratio offers a different enough view of the world to stimulate my creative juices. While I can certainly stitch together shots for this wider view, I have found that most of the time I can justify a wide 1:2 ratio by just cropping out the wasted space in the foreground or sky or both. The historic "panoramic" ratios of 16:9 or 16:7 were functions of film sizes and are close enough, a little wider and a little shorter, to 2:1 to prove my point that 2:1 is wide enough.


I will have to see if this 1:2 aspect ratio, at a larger print size, is attention-getting enough to attract customer interest. But it has been interesting enough for me to crop some of these images to this new ratio to see if they work at this "wider" perspective.

                                                       EMPIRE STATE : FINAL VERSION AT STANDARD 2:3 RATIO - TOO WIDE?

                                                                     EMPIRE STATE : FINAL VERTICAL B&W VERSION AT 2:1 RATIO - TOO SKINNY?


(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 11 Mar 2022 20:00:00 GMT

This week I'd like to take a deep dive into post-processing one image. I hope to show how important it is to take your time with an image in an effort to improve your out-of-camera results. I have no doubt that almost every image you or I take can be improved immensely in just a few steps with some attention in post-processing. And this can go double for those images which you might have ignored in their original form. In my latest foray into my archives, I discovered this image I snapped Pre-Covid on a walk on the Eastside Esplanade, a highfalutin name we have for a walking path on the East Bank of the Willamette, stuck on a tiny sliver of land between the river and a freeway. Despite its location, it somehow works as part of a three-mile loop downtown, albeit a noisy one. This image shows the most romantic part of the journey, a boardwalk that juts into the river to avoid some train tracks (!) that had first claim on this portion of the river bank. The row of pre-rusted Corten steel piers show how far the floating boardwalk can rise or fall depending on the height of the river.


Here is the original overlooked snapshot from 2019. The crop is all wrong, as is the color balance and the exposure. But as I looked through the very small icons of the dozens of shots I took that day, I was intrigued by the several loops of curves that floated through the image. It is very useful to view your images at very small sizes, both to divorce them from their "subjects" and to see if any more important compositional aspects can grab your attention. I know photographers who make a pass through images after first de-saturating them, or even viewing them upside down, so that they are just looking at lines, or shapes, or tones, or negative spaces. If something grabs you at a very small size, there is a good chance that you can find something compelling at full size.

                            EASTSIDE ESPLANADE : FIRST SQUARE CROP

So I noticed those three or four or five curves floating through the image, and realized how much stronger they would appear without the wasted space to the left and right. The curves included the boardwalk rail on the right, the boardwalk itself,  and the line of piers, especially their tops. Secondary curves included the two segments of freeway above and to the right, and the roof of the Rose Garden Arena beyond the river. The question became where the square should be placed. I had to include the tops of the piers, but how many were necessary?

                           EASTSIDE ESPLANADE :  PIVOT RIGHT

I first tried to pivot right, to ignore the Rose Garden andto include more of the lower freeway curve on the right. But there is clearly not enough breathing room on the left, so I then pivoted left to lose what I thought was the distraction of the Convention Center tower on the right.

                            GOLDILOCKS : FINAL SQUARE CROP

You have got to learn to look closely at the edges of your frame, even if you didn't look closely enough in-camera. My final decision was based on losing all of the right freeway curve to include all of the Rose Garden roof, and more importantly not to cut the boardwalk bench on the left. Just like portraits, where you have got to pay attention to amputating limbs, landscape photographers must pay attention to disconcerting distractions at the edge of the frame.

                            WHITE BALANCE REVISIONS

Light has color, which our brain subtly understands and interprets so that we can exist in the world and not get eaten by the saber-tooth tiger. Our cameras, although technological miracles, are still not as smart as our brains. The digital sensor, like film before it, is much too literal for the real world. It actually pays attention to the exact color temperature of the scene, or more frequently doesn't show the same latitude as our brains in adjusting to changing light. The image has now been "corrected" for color, and the auto setting, frequently a disaster, has not done too bad a job here. While the result might be a little too warm for Portland reality, it is clearly much closer to the truth than the original which was way too blue - notice the top of the piers, which are now white. The clouds are now white as well, even though the sky has reverted to grey instead of its false blue overtones.

                            BLACK POINT

Things will start to get more subtle from here on in. In many ways the most important thing about post-processing is to manipulate your image, and improve it, without letting your viewers in on the secret. Like a magician, viewers want to be amazed, even deceived, as long as they don't notice the sleight of hand. Here I have lowered the black point, which forces more of the darker tones toward pure black. Viewers perceive this as a richer image. They think you've made it more saturated, even though you haven't touched the saturation slider. While the deeper tones have shifted, the mid-tones and lighter tones have not been touched. In general, the more you move away from "global" changes which affect the entire image towards more and more selective changes, the more you can change while keeping the illusion of subtlety.

                           LIGHTEN THE SHADOWS

Sometimes you can even feel that you are at cross-purposes in the pursuit of Goldilocks. I've just darkened some potions of the image. and now I lighten it back up. But I've lightened the shadows, which are different than the darkest part of the image down at the black point. Obviously everything overlaps to some extent, and the boardwalk has clearly gotten lighter. More importantly, the piers have now emerged more strongly as several shades of orange rather than dull brown.                             GRADUATED FILTER

Landscape photographers, even of the urban variety like myself, frequently have to deal with problems in the sky. Skies, even in Portland, are much brighter than the rest of the world around us. Our brains adjust, but our cameras don't. Thus the sky is frequently much too light in comparison with our subjects below it, and the image is out of balance. In the past, photographers would place graduated filters over their camera lenses, kind of like bifocal sunglasses which would gradually go from dark at the top to clear at the bottom. We can do the same thing now on the computer. Here I've lowered the exposure in the sky by one full stop, so there is now much more detail in the clouds. Again it's subtle, because if I went too far you would notice and not believe.

                           ADD A VIGNETTE

We are now almost finished, at least for today. As I've said before, a good strategy sometimes is to present two versions to a bystander to see if they can see the result of your incredible efforts. If a sane person like Fran is confounded by her confrontation with two images which "are exactly the same!", then maybe you've reached a point of diminishing returns. Here I've added a "vignette", a hopefully subtle darkening of the edges of the photograph. You can see it in the bottom of the boardwalk and the top of the sky. What is funny is that vignetting is frequently cited as a fault of less-than-stellar camera lenses, but that photographers will gladly do it themselves, thank you. The theory is that the viewer will be attracted most by the lightest part of a scene. Thus if you can subtley  darken the edges, the viewer's attention will now be drawn to the comparitive brightness at the center where you wanted them to look! Oh, the webs we weave. Of course, if one goes too far, the viewer will wonder if you took the photo through a periscope on a submarine.

                            EASTSIDE ESPLANADE : B&W FINAL VERSION

Now we reach for the abstraction of black and white. What can we achieve by eliminating color entirely from the equation? Remember, I was really concerned with those flying curves, not the color of the boardwalk, or the trees, or the river. While I didn't really care about the colors, I do miss the orange piers, but I really like orange. The green trees, and especially the green highway signs, which I now hate so much that I want to get rid of them from the color version as "distractions", are not missed at all. My curves are still there, and I do like the sky, but the tops of the piers have lost a certain amount of contrast with the rest of the piers. It is clearly a matter of taste.

You will have to trust me that this final black and white version is also a lot better than the original conversion to grayscale. While I am getting better with the On One software, I still can't figure out how to save steps to show the process. I started off with the "Paparazzi" preset, which is even funnier than its name. These presets, unlike Instagram filters, are just a starting point, because all the changes are revealed in the usual sliders, and you can change them and reduce the settings to your heart's content, which is usually a very good thing. "Paparazzi" applied a red filter, darkening the blues, but less so than my usual choices like "Machinist" or "Ansel in the Valley". Don't ask. In any case I added four more filters to varying degrees. Dynamic Contrast is a very good algorithm that just heightens mid-tone contrast while leaving everything else alone. The "Sunshine" filter adds a little glow of missing Portland sunshine to the scene. Sharpening and Vignette supply the finishing touches. A very important control that On One adds to its software is that you can select which parts of the photo will be affected by these filters with tools that can work much faster and more exactly than any brush you might wield yourself. The 'luminosity' control allowed me to use these filters just on the darkest portions of the image, so that the sky and the river were not affected at all. Controls like these allow for much more control in the digital darkroom, without that bitter chemical aftertaste.

I hope that you have enjoyed seeing how this photographer "makes" a photograph as well as "takes" a shot. It might not be important considering the news of the day, but we must do our best to at least keep us sane in this crazy world.



(Richard Lishner Photography) Fri, 04 Mar 2022 20:00:00 GMT
NEW YORK, MARCH 2011                                                        CHRYSLER SPIRE : FINAL B&W VERSION

This week we return to New York in 2011, when Fran and I visited to plan Benjamin and Margaret's wedding. Through the power of the photographic archive, we can return to a simpler time, when people still crowded the subways, and Donald Trump was just an asshole local developer. Most of the images featured in this essay have never had a second glance since I captured them eleven years ago; it's a tribute to the opportunity that awaits you when you return to your archives. It's not like your original selects were not your best, but that your editing and post-processing skills have now allowed you to see the possibilities in images that you originally ignored because they weren't your "best."

                                                       THE BAT SIGNAL GONE AWRY : FINAL VERSION

Take these two images. I love the Chrysler Building more than any other skyscraper, and I am not alone in this sentiment. This image only began to sing to me after I cropped and straightened it in a deliberate manner that had nothing to do with the original capture. The power of monochrome is that the image looks a lot more realistic with a black sky than it does with a "real" blue one. The Empire State image shows the power of having to be there on a certain day at certain time, when some random contrails seemed to have marked a certain point in the sky. You wouldn't believe it if you didn't get to see it.


It happened to be St.Patrick's day, so you get a rare action shot by yours truly of a rare coed bagpiper squad. This was one of my few parade shots that came out at all; most of the rest of the day was spent trying to avoid the worst displays of drunken louts since I braved a soccer match in London in 1975. This parade featured a controversy over blessings at St. Patrick's, and of course my future daughter-in-law had something to say about it.

                                                        GOOD TROUBLE ON FIFTH AVENUE : FINAL VERSION


The Irish Brigade from the Civil War also made an appearance to honor their service for the Union.


Public drunkenness was not the only addictive behavior on display - we also took in lunch at the newly opened celebration of all things Italian, which included this minor display of Parmigiano, which might constitute the entire supply available in most American cities. Again, this is before we had to deal with Batali's indiscretions. A simpler time.

                                                       GRAND CENTRAL #1 : FINAL VERSION

                                                        GRAND CENTRAL #2 : FINAL VERSION

                                                       WAITING FOR THE 11:52 : FINAL VERSION

A New Yorker has a special relationship to the city's landmarks, especially after a lifetime away. There is no need for "the shot", since you have not only seen it duplicated thousands of times, but you have it implanted in your brain even if it was taken before your existence as a New Yorker. As Fran frequently reminds me, I never had to wait for "next year" because I hadn't yet been born. So our brief visit to Grand Central yielded these three snippets; only the last image has been seen since 2011.


I have shown a square. black and white version of this guardian of the Main Library before, but I now find this full-length "tourist " version a more surrealist take on its appearance on Fifth Avenue. It just belongs there among the stores, offices, and apartments that are just as out-of-this world as the statue.


Now some landmarks are so personal as to defy translation. I have always been fascinated by the granite outcroppings in Central Park, perhaps the only "natural" things in that very contrived natural landscape. How many other places offer a potentially dangerous rock scramble within site of skyscrapers? There are only two more personal shots I can think of, and am almost sure I don't have, the view through the front subway car, which I am told is no longer available. The other is a detail of the steel-trimmed stairs encountered upon entering the subway; this tells me more than anything else than I am back in New York, and I better pick up the pace if this "corn boy" is to avoid being swept away in a tidal wave of urban angst.

                                                       MADISON SQUARE DETAIL : FINAL VERSION

I always thought it was so helpful to be able to know the time even if your watch was a little inaccurate, and it seemed to connote a certain sense of adult responsibility if a company was willing to stand behind their clock. I only recently realized that I was old enough to remember the "Old Garden" even though it wasn't actually at Madison Square either. The name "Boom Boom Geoffrion" somehow appeared in my brain, and it took a trip to the Google to confirm to Fran that she shouldn't yet make a reservation for me at the Memory facility on Division Street. Of course the fact that she soon cited "Rod Gilbert" was no cause for worry.

                                                       FLAT IRON WITH LAMP POST : FINAL VERSION

                                                       FLAT IRON DETAIL : FINAL COLOR VERSION

Here are two of my out-takes of the Flat Iron Building, which might be the most photographed building in New York, if not the world. In fact, one of favorite photo books ever is one coffee table volume which just contains images of the Flat Iron throughout the history of the history of the photographic medium itself. It's hard to find fault with my modest efforts if your competition includes Alfred Stieglitz in 1904. I especially like my black and white version of the side of the building, which of course is in color. The clouds have created a beautiful pattern which is enlivening the stone facade and its oh so subtle bay windows. It's only when you see the real black and white version that you appreciate the colors.

                                                        FLAT IRON DETAIL : FINAL B&W VERSION

                                                       PROUD PARENTS : FINAL VERSION

I would be remiss to leave out the other reason we were in town, to see the premiere of the Box Colony's one-and-only production on Broadway. To say that Fran and I were walking on air a few stories higher than the pavement as we sauntered down 45th Street past Daniel Radcliffe in one theater and Benjamin and Margaret's production a few buildings down was an understatement.

So I hope you enjoyed a walk in Ma