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.
PROTESTANT WORK ETHIC
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.
A MEANDERING RIVER IN AMERICA'S OUTBACK
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.
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