May 14, 2021  •  Leave a Comment

                                    ISAAC -WHO KNOWS WHAT HE'S UP TO?

I've been away for two weeks visiting my son and his family for the first time since Covid. My thoughts of composing the blog while on cross-country flights were quickly dashed by the reality of delayed, chock-filled flights, so I missed my self-assignment for the first time this year. What is interesting is that after missing two postings, and not promoting on Instagram for two weeks, the numbers of blog readers are up instead of down, so as usual I am just mystified. I am astonished that on average these posts are getting more than 40 readers every week, and am very grateful, despite the fact that I have no idea who my readers are. I think that my limited technological skill allows for comments, but so far absolutely no one has revealed what they like or don't like about my essays. At the risk of trolling, I would love to know what you guys think, and what you would like me to concentrate on. If I haven't set the blog comment settings up correctly, you can send me an e-mail at [email protected] .com. Again, thanks.

This week I would like to explore the subject of vacation photos, or travel photography in general. It is more than a two-edged sword, for our powers of observation are heightened by the exotic, while we stand little real chance of getting something beyond the cliche because we really don't know anything about the new place. That is why I've always thought that the best images are made by locals, not withstanding the visual excitement of Paris, London, or New York over Wilmington, North Carolina, where I have spent the last two weeks. Don't get me wrong - Wilmington seems like a very interesting, real place, which is a giant step up from the first two stops on my son's early teaching career, Minot, North Dakota, and Murray, Kentucky. Wilmington is a coastal port with a small historic downtown, a variety of nice neighborhoods, restaurants, museums, parks and easy access to a variety of beach towns which are close enough to be suburbs. Yet after two weeks I would not pretend to know anything about it beyond the route to the nearest coffee shop from our rental house.

Of course seeing  the little guy featured at the top of this essay was the prime motivation of the trip, and we had a great time seeing him every day in person instead of on the computer. Isaac is 3 1/2, and while he is subjectively gorgeous and a genius, you've got to admit he is objectively damn cute. My readers know that most of my photography is of subjects that don' move and can't talk back, so the first thing I would say about vacation photography is that you might consider it an opportunity to try something different. This goes along with the theory that most of your efforts will probably backfire anyway, so what's the harm? My portrait skills are rudimentary at best, so combined with my desire to not spend my vacation behind the camera, I didn't take very many successful shots of my grandson. He moves too fast, and is so close to the ground that I usually feel like an NBA center trying to find a guard. Grandpa's knees work against meandering down to his level, but I tried. And since this "professional" photographer barely knows how to operate his on-camera flash, the odds were against me.

                                                               ON THE MOVE


                                    EXCITEMENT - EMOTION OVER TECHNIQUE

These images were among my most successful, and I  think you can see that striving for technical perfection, or even competence, can be the enemy of capturing the joys of a grandchild. The unfocused image with blurred movement probably is the best of the bunch. I found I was better at showing Isaac's interactions with others.

                                    SWIMMING WITH MOM

                                   AT THE OCEAN WITH DAD

                                    WAITING FOR GIGGLES - MATURITY CONTEST WITH GRANDMA

My other thought on vacation photos are to just go with what you are comfortable with, on the theory that our ways of seeing are so ingrained that a new venue really doesn't make much of a difference. Our individual perceptions of a new place will probably reflect our predilections, so just go with the flow and follow your photographic bliss independent of the place you are visiting, since you probably don't understand it anyway.

                                    NEWCOMER TO THE LAND OF MASONRY

                                                               ISAAC'S NOT THE ONLY ONE WHO IS FASCINATED BY LETTERS

                                    TIED UP ON THE WATERFRONT

                                    ON THE SHORES OF THE CAPE FEAR RIVER


These images reflect my taste, and while they don't have much to do with Wilmington, that doesn't mean I can't practice away from my usual Portland haunts. When you go visiting, it doesn't mean you need to abandon comfortable strategies.

                                    A SMALL VICTORY OVER VALUE ENGINEERING

While waiting for my son at his academic office, I could appreciate a detail of the new theater building. I then took a more abstract view.

                                   WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?

This overhang is on the other side of the building, and is an example of what you can glean from a completely unusable grab shot. This high-key image was completely blown out in camera do to operator incompetence. The image is now supposedly one stop underexposed, and to this artist is completely intriguing. By the way, two more stops of underexposure reveals a very ordinary architectural move. I would also add that nothing in the above image is blown out - it's just a mysterious white object taken against a bright sky.

                                   RAIN CATCHER

This is an image of a portion of a modern downspout on campus, completely divorced from reality, much less Wilmington.

Things can get even more interesting when you go to tourist spots, because you are placing yourself in front of interesting things. You can document, but you can also try some interpretation, because again, you really don't get what you are looking at. About two hours from Wilmington my son found the Vollis Simpson Whirligig Park, the result of a retired farmer's fascination with windmills, a very understanding wife, and a lot of "folk art" talent combined with a lifetime of mechanical ingenuity. Think of it as a rural Watts Tower - and the only reason to ever visit Wilson, North Carolina, which in fact has done a very nice job of celebrating a local talent. We spent an hour there, and couldn't even begin to convey this collection of windmills - and even deciding how to capture the fact that that a big part of their charm is that they are constantly moving!

                                    PORTIONS OF THREE WHIRLEIGIGS

We also traveled to three other spots on our road trip where I took my usual abstract studies of two museums.

                                    UNDERSIDE OF A WWII PARACHUTE AT THE AIRBORNE MUSEUM


I will end this essay with two landscapes, one at an Arboretum and one panorama at a Revolutionary war battlefield. When you are faced with the unusual, at least give it a try - you might get something memorable, even though natives might overlook it.

                                   WE'RE NOT IN OREGON ANYMORE - SPANISH MOSS


I hope that I have conveyed some of the ways you can practice travel photography. Enjoy our renewed freedom to travel, and the various ways you can enjoy making images away from home.