Topic: Color (119 posts) Page 1 of 24

Going to Paradise Day 4

This was my last day in Paradise, Day 4. Although cut short by rain in the afternoon, some of what I was able to get to in the morning was grim.

Much of this, of course, had a purpose, was purchased at some point, used by human hands for some reason, stored away for use another day, now rubble, debris in a disaster zone.

Three deer came by while I was photographing, foraging and perhaps looking for a handout.

Just before the rain started I ended up in a higher-end neighborhood, with gated driveways, security systems and views out over the canyon, homes perched on the edge.

These are places I wouldn't have been allowed close to before the fire, now, in a perverse form of democracy, wide open, gates unlocked, nothing for robbers to steal.

That's it for the photographing part, the acquiring of photographs, just really the first phase of a project. Next when home I will edit and edit and edit, an endless process of working on the imagery to refine the work to an essence, a core group of pictures that say best, that speak to my intention. For this group I will write the story as well with the idea that perhaps this work deserves attention as a published piece. Not my field or area of expertise. We will see.

With a little research you can delve into the politics behind this particular fire, the worst in Caifornia's recorded history.

The fire caused at least 86 civilian fatalities, with 3 persons still missing, injured 12 civilians, two prison inmate firefighters, and three other firefighters. It covered an area of 153,336 acres, and destroyed 18,804 structures, with most of the damage occurring within the first four hours. As of November 19, insured damage was estimated to be $7.5–10 billion.

Source: Wikipedia

Was this fire preventable? How did it start and who is liable? Could the town and state have prepared better, plotted a safer and more effective evacuation plan? Will Paradise rebuild?

Thanks for coming along. I appreciate your being a subscriber to the blog.

Topics: West,Digital,Color

Permalink | Posted January 6, 2019

Going to Paradise-Day 3 Beauty

Overwhelmed. I think that was it. Photographing in Paradise for several days got to me. Scene of the infamous Camp Fire. So much destruction. 

At any rate, I've been staying in Red Bluff, about an hour away. Why? Because forget finding anything in Chico, the closest town, because so many displaced Paradise residents are living there now. The commute each am and pm is long, two lane, straight and flat. I am in Central Valley, the huge agricultural region inland from the coast in California. On the morning of Day 3 I began photographing along the way to Paradise (putting off the drive up the ridge to town?). Row after row of nut trees, almond and walnut, some fruit orchards, all bare, in January.

 Rural farmland mostly. Open and expansive, a river valley in large scale with distant mountains on either side. And very beautiful.

Why stray from the stated mission to photograph the effects of the Camp Fire in Paradise? For a reprieve, a break, to come back to beauty, some serenity and sense that all is right in the world. For things are very wrong in Paradise and I don't know that it can ever be made right again.

Padlocks on a fence overlooking the canyon in Paradise.

Wooden crosses on the side of the road into Paradise to commemorate the 88 killed in the fire.

Mailboxes at the entrance to a retirement community leveled by the fire.

What is quite striking is how quiet this all is. Get away from the main street, into residential neighborhoods and walk around to find no one there. They are gone, their homes ash and dust, for there is nothing for home owners to return to. These neighborhoods are ghost towns, oddly serene, unvisited, no moms carting kids off to school, no sprinklers cycling on to water the grass, no sound of lawn mowers on Saturday mornings, no dogs barking, no joggers, no deliveries, no UPS truck bringing Amazon orders. Nothing, no life and no sound. Odd and dead and gone.

Last day today, Day 4. Back to Paradise as a wrap up, to take one more look, to see if I missed anything.

Topics: West,Digital,Color

Permalink | Posted January 5, 2019

Going to Paradise-Day 1

Flight from Boston to San Francisco uneventful. Stayed in the Bay Area with my sister in El Cerrito then drove north to Paradise through the flat agricultural Central Valley filled with row after row of fruit and nut trees. Everything looking tinder dry and brown as I drove up the ridge into town. 

Initially, I wasn't sure I was seeing the effects of the fire, not until I noticed trunks of trees that were charred. Because of high winds a firestorm may be moving so fast it can leave trees singed but still standing. This is the case in Paradise, the site of California's worst fire on record. 

The Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history to date. The fire started on November 8, 2018, in Butte County, in Northern California. After exhibiting extreme fire behavior, an urban firestorm formed in the densely populated foothill town of Paradise.The fire caused at least 86 civilian fatalities, with 3 persons still missing, injured 12 civilians, two prison inmate firefighters, and three other firefighters. It covered an area of 153,336 acres , and destroyed 18,804 structures, with most of the damage occurring within the first four hours. As of November 19, insured damage was estimated to be $7.5–10 billion. The fire reached 100 percent containment after seventeen days on November 25, 2018.*

*Source: Wikipedia

First Impression

As I approached town, it quickly was clear where I was, as almost everything had burned.

The central street of the town sits along the top of a ridge and as I drove up the town's main street called Skyway the devastation is everywhere.

The Happy Garden Chinese Restaurant

A motel

Here I was just scouting, trying to grasp the extant of the damage, thinking what it must have been like, having to flee, Skyway Road backed up with vehicles,  homeowners and businesses alike, everyone evacuating, leaving everything behind, raging fires on either side. Some were trapped in their cars, gridlocked, some abandoned their vehicles and escaped on foot, nowhere to go and nowhere to escape. Imagine. The fire raging around you, looking like night in the middle of the day, your own town, propane tanks exploding, plastic signs melting, embers flying over you, the air thick with smoke. And the wind, fanning the fire, urging it on to the next and then the next, the fire raging through the town, consuming everything in its path. A nightmare.

Paradise, California, a town that doesn't really exist anymore.

I will be back again later this morning and am flying today to make aerials out of Chico Airport, the closest to Paradise. 

Topics: West,Color,Digital,New Work

Permalink | Posted January 3, 2019

26 Dollars

After spending a night in NY, we headed back to Boston by way of New Haven to see the George Shaw painting show at the Yale Center for British Art and have lunch with Phillip Prodger. Phillip is the former curator of photography at the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem and has recently returned to the States from London where he did a stint at the National Portrait Gallery.

Before I tell you the $26 story let me share some of Shaw's paintings with you.

Quite often these are large, on up to  5 or 6 ft, mostly enamel on metal. Here is the      opening statement

Don't know if you can read it so small but it speaks about his inherent preoccupation with the fine art of painting and the prevailing medium of the day, photography. 

These are extraordinary paintings, "take your breath away" beautiful and, for me, they both validate present day painting but validate much of my work that points at things like fences, that allows shadows, blank walls and everyday objects pulling back in space, made earlier in my career in black and white and now in color. 

photograph: Neal Rantoul from Fences and Walls


painting: George Shaw

painting: George Shaw

Affirming is the sense that Shaw and I look at the world  in similar ways. Uncanny, really, that someone unknown to me until now has been working in a manner that is somewhat aligned to mine. 

Looking for proof? Easy. Go to Edgartown Beach Club and the blog post:

here   (hint: the author of the series is me, working under the pseudonym Marc Meyers)


photograph: Neal Rantoul

painting: George Shaw

26 Dollars: Heading back to Boston on the Mass Pike we stopped for gas. I am standing there filling up and this man comes up to me. He's got an elaborate story about a dead fuel pump in his pickup truck, a towing charge, a weekend in New London for Coast Guard veterans on a cutter, a chipped tooth, his two daughters, needing bus fare to Portsmouth that is $66 and then shows me the $40 in his wallet. He's $26 short and can I help hm out? I ask him if he's asked others before me. He says, yes, one other. I ask how'd that go? He says not well. I don't hesitate and hand him first my card saying he needs to call or email to get the address to send me the $26 when he gets home. He says he will do that. I ask him his name. He says Dave O'Malley. He's middle aged, looks together and is with me every step of the way. I hand him $26. He looks me square in the eye and says thank you, you are a life saver and then shakes my hand. It is now five days later and I have heard nothing from Mr Dave O'Malley.  I am a sucker or it is money well spent?

My email: here


Yale Center for British Art in New Haven, CT  here through December.

Topics: Martha's Vineyard,Northeast,Color,Black and White

Permalink | Posted December 17, 2018

Utah Day 8

I left Moab yesterday and drove the 3 hours up to Salt Lake City. What a boring drive! It's all I could do to stay awake.

 But in the early a.m. I drove out to

which you get to by driving on the northern access road just out of Moab to Canyonlands Park. This essentially is a peninsula above the desert valley. It is an extraordinary place and, from this vantage point, essentially like standing on the bow of a ship.

It felt like aerial photography with the advantage of not going 100 mph, giving you all the time you wanted to study and look. I loved being able to roam around this whole expanse with a long lens and pick and choose my pictures.

As I was photographing, looking through the lens, I found myself thinking of macro versus micro economics, minimal versus maximal, a world view versus a hyper-close view.

This was oddly powerful. I don't know that I have ever been accused of having a God complex but if ever that were to surface now would be the time, as though, click the shutter, there I've made another butte, click, another canyon, click, another wash, click, another spire.

Last, another thought along a different line, at what point would the image break down in terms of intelligibility? As I pushed the medium and the limit of my lens, as I reached now across miles of information, content compressed through great distance, the image would just lose its comprehensibility and break down into abstract lights and darks.

I know, "Neal, what were you smoking?" Right? I swear, I was substance free. But you'd have to be clueless to not have deeper thoughts in a place like this. Our world can feel very large here, and us, very small.

To wrap up my time in Moab I leave you with this:

with the shadow of me and the rental Jeep in the picture. I hate goodbyes, always hard when you leave what you love, but Moab continues to be a place close to my heart, something about its scale, its color, its shapes and forms, its accessibility, draws me in. Goodbye Moab, I hope to see  you again soon.

Topics: Color,Digital,Southwest

Permalink | Posted November 11, 2018