Topic: Digital (150 posts) Page 1 of 30

Wheat Four 2019

This will finish the series I've been writing on the photographs I made in June of the wheat fields of the Palouse in Eastern Washington.

I am pleased to report that the portfolio is almost complete and that it just needs a few more reprints and a final edit to be ready to present.

If you would like to see the prints you can come to my studio to see them. Email me at: nrantoul@comcast.net

This is a small thing, but big if you are a printer and make portfolios. My prints in this series are on Red River San Gabriel Baryta paper in 17 x 25 inches. Archival Methods makes portfolio boxes, among other things. They now make a 17 x 25-inch drop-front box, seen here and also a 17 x 25-inch folio case. This is good news for those of us that like to use this slightly larger paper over the more standard 17 x 22-inch size. As a benefit, the DSLR full-frame fits this size paper better as well.

The last few days in Washington followed the already familiar pattern of getting up, driving, photographing, driving, photographing, on and on.

The latter part of Day 9 I started working in Pullman and this carried over to the next morning, which was my last:

These connect to a project I did in 2009 called Mallchitecture (here).

2011 Yuma Palms Mall, AZ

Rhode Island, 2009

I finished the trip with a few hours photographing the greenhouses at the University of Washington campus in Pullman:

That concludes this four-part series. I have been photographing in the area for 25 years, with trips every year or two. Am I finished? Hard to say. I feel like maybe I am, but in a year or two the Palouse will pull at me, just as it has many times  before. It is a peculiar place, charming and very beautiful. The area has purity and honesty to it in a world so lacking in integrity and so perverse as to be defeating at times. 

If you go, you could take a workshop, as there are several. Personally, I would hate that, being carted along to "choice spots" by a guide. I like the freedom to choose my places, my own time of day and time of year. 

Topics: Color,Black and White,Digital,West

Permalink | Posted September 9, 2019

Wheat Two 2019

This is the second in a series of posts about some new pictures I made in Washington in June.

They are here.

By Day 3 I was in a groove. Get up and go shoot. Simple enough. I made good work over the next couple of days.

I was there to make pictures of the rolling wheat fields and that's exactly what I was getting at the end of each day.

The type of rental car is important as I spend all day in it, schlepping equipment in and out of it in an endless succession of setups and tear downs, day in and day out. This time it was a Kia Soul, a little box of a car that was perfect: great visibility, fun to drive and no fear about getting stuck or centered on back farm roads:

By Day 4 I was feeling as though I had begun to accomplish what I was there for.

I wasn't finished or completed by any means but I could afford to try some different approaches and stretch the principles a little. Hence this; the "Wheat Suite" as I call it, the effort to distill the work by photographing one area extensively

In this sub group there are 14 pictures, all made from the same vantage point. 

We play such a "selectivity" game as landscape photographers. What we choose to include in the frame verses what we exclude makes all the difference. Using a couple of longer lenses I varied how much was in and how much was out, longer for more        distance with more compression of the visual space. For much of my career I never used longer focal length lenses. Most view camera work doesn't use anything very long. It wasn't until I started working digitally in about 2006 that they came into play.  I was working on the Cabela's project (here) and I needed more reach to get at the taxidermy displays.

This one was a long reach across the store's showroom floor, compressing the mannequins into the same space as the taxidermy mountain in the background. This picture is one of the reasons I find photography so rewarding. 

By Day 4 I also started working with other subjects in the Palouse. This is rare as I usually stay mostly on topic. But some things just hit me and the acute islolation

of something like this corrugated barn, with the light modeling it so perfectly just stood out.  

Next up? We will continue with this series looking at the remaining days I had left to photograph and I will include some of the aerials I made on Day 5.

Your comments always welcome: Neal's Email

Topics: Color,Wheat,New Work,Digital,West

Permalink | Posted August 27, 2019

I Can Remember

I can remember my teacher in graduate school Aaron Siskind telling me to keep it simple. Made sense to me. Not knowing what I was doing, it seemed like a good idea to make simple statements, to work towards complexity by starting from a foundation of knowledge that was known and manageable. This would also serve to build my confidence when I had little.

I remember thinking then that what Aaron was really telling me was to "keep it simple, stupid" but in retrospect, I don't think so. He wasn't diminishing me or my work. He was interested in my efforts at design and was a very experienced teacher. He could see me reaching and making mistakes. "Slow down and build a foundation first", he seemed to be saying.

On the one hand, photographing out here is deceptively simple. Get off the paved roads onto the dirt tracks that are the farmers' access roads to his crops, stop, point your camera and click the shutter. But to really capture this phenomenal place, to distill the Palouse down to photographs that are essential and elegant is not for the faint of heart. This takes care, experience, expertise, and a strong work ethic.

Lesson learned?  Let me know what you think: Neal's email

Topics: Digital

Permalink | Posted July 5, 2019

Heaven on Earth?

Three weeks on the island of Martha's Vineyard in May. 

Is Martha's Vineyard heaven on earth?

Not in early May.

Let me explain.

My family's home is in Chilmark, close to the western end of the island. Rural, some farms, the fishing village of Menemsha, the cliffs at Gay Head at Aquinnah close by and a couple of world class beaches.

What's not to like?

In early May, the weather. When I arrived, it was cold, wet and windy. Nothing was green, the trees were bare. Only by the middle of the month do things start to pick up and then there were only a few days that were almost warm. I find the island tough when the weather is bad. Surrounded by such beauty without being able to be in it beats you down.

I photographed right through it all, no big surprise, and got into some sets and subsets of things both new and visited before. One was is a stream running across the south beach and into the ocean, runoff from the marsh at Moshup Trail.

Patterns in the sand from the water and reflections on the surface. Remarkable. 

Are these something? I don't really know yet as I will need to work the files and make a few prints to be able to tell.

Being compulsive means I trekked up there six different days, a considerable hike a mile or so down the beach at Philbin to get to it. I tried photographing this with a tripod and without, used a PC lens to get the planes more parallel, went on diferent days with a long lens and a wide lens and with  Sony and Nikon cameras, with flat light and contrasty days. I learned to go after it had rained as two or three days of no rain and the stream trickled off to almost nothing.

I went up in a plane this past week for an hour flight with good light and the leaves just coming out on the trees.  We went up about 3 pm, late for me, but one of the pilots I work with flies over from Nantucket.  In the morning it was far too windy so we waited and the wind calmed somewhat.

Note: these are not finished files, but pretty much as they come out of the camera as RAWS.

We flew from the Aquinnah end of the island over to Noman's Land, a small restricted-access island a couple of miles off the south shore. The island was used for bombing practice by the military for many years and there is unexploded ordnance scattered around, hence the prominent"No Trespassing " signs.

I first made aerials here ten years ago and, in fact, it was the first of the Massachusetts islands I made pictures of.

Why go again? The technology has changed. The files I am making now are leaps above the files I made back then. Higher resolution, greater dynamic range and a color engine far more subtle and nuanced. In optics, the 70-200mm f2.8 Nikkor lens I use now for aerials is two generations improved from ten years ago and it shows. These are excellent files.

What else? I tried to mimic the series of the fishing village Menemsha I had made last year but couldn't pull it off. Perhaps someone else could work to make good pictures here offseason. But for me it seemed disrespectful and cruel. Menemsha is not a pretty sight in early May in the rain and the wind and the cold.

There are a couple of trees I photograph each time I go to the island. They are in Chilmark and are old friends.

As we are now in production for the next show at the Harvard Ed Portal opening in late June, the new Martha's Vineyard pictures will have to be put aside for now.

But let me make this statement and challenge: the body of photographs of mine from Martha's Vineyard over a long career begun in the late 60's is significant and important and should be looked at by curators and/or editors for increased exposure. Not only does the work encompass a survey of some of the massive changes to the island over the past 50 years it also tracks the evolving aesthetic, comprehension and refinement of this career artist. What better place to work over a whole career than an island? 20 or so miles of land surrounded by water means finite content, a place that is a microcosm divorced from much of the rest of the world but also part of it.

Any takers?

Topics: Color,Black and White,New Work,Digital,Northeast

Permalink | Posted May 27, 2019

Salton Sea 2 Part 2

Continuing and finishing a look at the Salton Sea 2 series made in 2012. 

The Salton Sea, a simply incredible place, as if from another planet. The soil crunching under my feet and turning to powder at my step.

The "sun behind the pole" trick used here with some slight band of color where there's water in the background.

The first photograph in the series with a preponderance of color, some kind of fetid and polluted pond that stunk. The lens is now taking a larger role here. Push a wide angle lens down and verticals bow out.

Back to our original structural device... long, blacked-out rectangular windows and here just a hint of the pond through the building, in color. This is one of those where the actual the print (at 22 inches across) makes a huge difference. Everything is probably too small here to see the subtlety.

Moving on we turn to the right and find another expanse of what looks like devastation:

and 180 degrees:

showing the mountains in the far distance.

This photograph brings us to another abandoned structure, shot square onto the   pointed edge of the building, a clear divergence from all the others which were made as parallel plane photographs. Another pond coming up, seen through the window, is shown full frame next.

I think of this image as being the most brutal, as this pond filled with some unimaginable liquid that looks viscous, fills the frame.

Then next to the series only vertical, back to where we started from

Then to the last two images in the series, when exhibited put side by side to each other, the same file printed twice:

with the black and white image conforming to the rule that says water is color, over there on the far right of the frame, a judgement call on my part and not without controversy as some feel the print should be all black and white.

I didn't so much mind breaking my own convention as I wanted to try to prove the efficacy of the device I used. 

By showing these two in this way I wanted to present the series as yes, from the otherworldy Salton Sea and its altered reality but also to drive the point home that I was using this work as a vehicle to make a statement about contemporary photography and how the rules ordering the use of color and black and white are no longer in effect. Photography has advanced in maturity to a "no rules" system where anything goes, much as all art has. So much of present-day photography either ignores precedent or its maker is unaware of what was made before or doesn't care.

On a more personal level, although often thought of as a conventional landscape photographer, I am not. In this case, I sought to use this place as a canvas. My palette is black and white and color. I've chosen to make my painting."Take em or make em", we say. Let your photographs come out the way the tools and technology choose or impose your own ideas and construct in your work.  Salton Sea is not a conventional landscape series of photographs for I am using where I was as a vehicle or platform for what I chose to do to it. 

Topics: Color,black and white and color,Digital,Southwest

Permalink | Posted May 17, 2019