Topic: West (17 posts) Page 1 of 4

Going Back to Paradise

Safeway Market on Skyway, Paradise

Last January I went to Paradise, CA and photographed three months after the Camp Fire devastated the whole town.

PBS Frontline has an episode on the fire:  https://www.pbs.org/video/fire-in-paradise-ncamrn/

I am going back in early November. I want to see  how it looks now, how much they are rebuilding, how much evidence remains. I also want to get a sense of whether people are returning or if they have left.

Last winter I photographed the town on the ground and from the air: here.

85 people died from the Camp Fire in Paradise

I leave November 12 and will try to post to the  blog during the trip. You can follow along by subscribing to the blog.

Stay tuned

Topics: West,Digital,Aerials

Permalink | Posted November 3, 2019

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: West,Color,Black and White,Digital

Permalink | Posted September 9, 2019

Wheat Three 2019

(Apologies: the blog was delayed as I took off for a week or so, first to the Cape and then to Martha's Vineyard. Just escaped the big winds from the edge of Dorian yesterday as I left the island. The ferries shut down after I left in the late morning.)

In the last post we looked at work fom Day 3 and 4. For this one we'll move on to Day 5 (the aerials) and Day 6.

For the past fifteen years or so I have included photographing aerially in most of the locations I go to. While some projects are aerial only, the Wheat pictures combine aerials with photographs made on the ground.

Day 5

There are so many variables in working aerially that you can't always predict the flight's success. To name a few: turbulence, clarity, time of day, time of year, temperature, where you choose to fly. With the prevalence now of consumer drones I often get asked if I use drones to make my pictures. I do not. In an hour or so over the Palouse I can cover a massive amount of territory. A drone is much more limiting and has to be landed, put back in the car and then driven to a new area.

Although I got a few from this year's flight that will remain in the portfolio, my success rate was lower than in past years.

Sometimes the photo gods ignore you and sometimes they shine down on you.The day before from the plane I'd made this one:

Day 6

Then, on Day 6 I came across this:

Day 6 was good, clear and calm. Wind can be bad, it makes it difficult to hold the camera steady making for unsharp photographs. Tripods can lose their effectiveness as they shake too in the wind.

After now many years of making pictures in the Palouse, I know that some of my photographs will sift down to be iconic in support of the overall work, standing as symbols for the work made that year. For instance:

1996  (from the permanent collection of the Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, MA)

or:

2009

or:

2010 (from the permanent collection of the Houston Museum of Art, Houston, Texas)

Back to my original intent with this series of blogs: experience counts. Got something you feel passionate about? Does it have an element of time to it? Is it something you could go back to and photograph again and again, building the  quality of the work over multiple trips, taking months or perhaps years to complete? Stick to it. Who says the first time you see something is the best time to photograph it? Different seasons, different days, different light, different times. Excellent landscape work is often improved through a deep knowledge of what is in front of you and the camera. Want substance, subtlety, nuance and emotion from your landscape photographs? Don't go for the cheap shot: over saturated colors, fake skies, cliche, enhanced, over cooked, super sharp. Fake Fake Fake, I say. Keep the long view on your work, don't go for cheap thrills.

This one, above, and the one below will, I am sure, serve as iconic photographs for this year's trip

End of summary of days 5 and 6.

Next up, we'll finish. with my final photographs. Stay tuned.

Topics: Aerial,West

Permalink | Posted September 7, 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: Wheat,West,Color,Digital,New Work

Permalink | Posted August 27, 2019

Boats

I just added a very early series of mine from the 1970's to the site. Called "Boats" the photographs are black and white photographs made in 1978 and 1979 from two marinas: Martha's Vineyard, MA and Berkeley, CA

They are here on the site.

I made the pictures two years before the Nantucket pictures (1981) and as such, they don't have the emphasis on sequencing and narration that later works did.

Made six years after getting my MFA degree from the RI School of Design the prints show a predominant concern with design and have a full tonal range from 2 1/4 inch negatives. I almost always used Kodak's Rapid Selenium toner. This is evident in the Boats prints' neutral to cool blacks. By this time I  had devised a unique system for agitating the film during developing. This resulted in exceptionally smooth tonalities in areas like open sky. The prints are in perfect condition after all these years and are about 12 x 12 inches.

With so many photographs made over so many years, I tend to categorize my own work in a couple of different ways, mostly as A work and B work. The Boats pictures are solidly in the B column, meaning I believe they are important, but not seminal. To my eye, the concern is clear to see. This was a time of continuing development, as I was refining my own approach and deepening my understanding of the quality of light used to make my pictures. The pictures are about quality, with no interest in boats as a subject whatsoever, simply as surfaces to reflect or absorb light from the sun on early morning bright days. 

Made long before those of us in the photo art community thought of editioning prints, the photographs in my studio are the only ones in existence. If you'd like to see them please email me directly: nrantoul@comcast.net

Topics: Northeast,West,Black and White

Permalink | Posted May 31, 2019