Wednesday, October 21, 2015

NOTES ON THE ART OF BLACK & WHITE

As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been spending a great deal of my time studying a wide range of topics which now includes glaciers and the effects of climate change (which I will touch upon in the near future), the art of Impressionist painters, and the human condition of being an artist and creative person (also an upcoming post). 

My subject of primary interest has been the B&W photographers of the 1930's up to the early 1950's, and not just those working in the landscape genre. I have looked at many of the works of Edward Weston, Dorothea Lange, Edward Stiechen, Richard Avedon, Elliot Porter, Man Ray, Alfred Stieglitz, Paul Strand, and of course Ansel Adams just to name a few. 

In particular, I have been perusing the works of Lee Miller, a woman who began her career as a fashion model for Vogue magazine during the late 1920's, then moved behind the camera after moving to Paris in the early 1930's, and finally became a war correspondent/photographer during WWII. As a neophyte photographer, she studied under another significant photographer of the time, Man Ray. From him she learned not only composition, but unique techniques in lighting and the use of shadows. After becoming an accomplished photographer it was only natural that she work in fashion photography because of her contacts and previous associations. I have found this genre of her work, especially for both the French and British versions of Vogue magazine, to be some of the best I have seen, particularly her smooth highlight tones. In comparison with Edward Stiechen's work, who was considered the best in the world of fashion and portrait photography, her work seems to be much more elegant and creative than most of his work, and better than most of her contemporaries as well.

I mentioned in a previous post that I had also been studying the work of Ansel Adams. What I have been discovering in his work are his use of deep blacks and scintillating highlights in his prints. There is a distinct evolution in this aspect of his work after WWII, where it appears that he achieved a balance between the two that I find more eye catching than his earlier work, or for that matter, his later work. Of course all of this is due to burning and dodging in the darkroom, what we now do with masks, brushes, and grads in Lightroom and Photoshop. His technique in the field was to produce an even toned negative which would allow him more latitude with his printing techniques. Today, we follow his example by trying to create a RAW file that is somewhat over exposed, allowing us the same latitude with which to work with our available tools on screen.

As a direct result of this investigation of technique, I looked back at all of my work since I switched to digital and found that I had subconsciously been practicing these techniques all along. A subliminal message transmitted down through the last few years has become the norm in most of my conversions, and obviously is a direct influence from previous viewings of the work of the masters. This is not to say that I consider my work as good or better than Ansel's, but that I have found what I consider my own niche in the B&W genre. In today's world of photography, it is almost impossible to be unique without drawing some form of criticism, occasionally some praise, or comparisons to any number of artists who are considered masters of the art. And yet, finding one's place in B&W is easier in some respects than with color work.

As an example of what I am talking about, the image Ghost Trees below reveals deep blacks and luminous highlights while retaining some details in the shadows. The image conveys a dark mood of mystery and shadows in keeping with the nature of the scene, that being the trees were torched in an intense wildfire that burned for a week before being brought under control. I could have brightened the image to reveal more shadow detail, yet I wanted to evoke a mood of darkness and destruction to complete the mood I wished to achieve in the image.




This is a conscious effort on my part simply because I like the way these techniques make the image appear to have depth. When the tonal values are too close to each other, the image tends to look flat to my eye and lacks enough separation between tones to make the image interesting. This trend is quite evident in much of the B&W work today, especially in architectural works.

What I am driving at here with all of this is rhetoric is that we each see differently when it comes to our perceived aesthetics, a subject that I continually return to time and time again. It is what separates us from each other as photographers and reveals a sense of individuality in our work. Without these distinctions, our work becomes mundane, or worse yet, we all become copy cats and do a disservice to the art of photography.

Like any creative venture, it takes time to evolve a sense of personal aesthetics. Our evolution as artists is a long path, but in the end, we all begin to create work that is distinctive in all aspects, which makes each of us and our art unique.



 
You can learn more about Lee Miller here: Lee Miller

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Until next time ....

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

THE ART OF LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY - Breaking The Rules & My Own Evolving Aesthetics

I have been doing a bit of reading lately and came across one of Ansel Adams' books of work he created in the National Parks during his long and extensive career. One of the things that particularly interested me after flipping through the pages was his compositional style. In comparing his to others and my own, I noticed how much all of us have copied his style, some without even knowing that we were doing so because those that influenced many of us were influenced by him indirectly through others.

I have been a disciple of his work since the early days of my career and owe much to his style of photography. I can say with conviction that if it were not for him, I might not have ventured into this field at all.

Ansel was a proponent of the 'rule of thirds' in his career, but like all of us today, broke the rule whenever the subject material dictated or required it. After viewing many of his images over the years, it seems that he broke this rule more often than not. When one looks at photographs from the span of his career, we see this deviation a great deal, moving the horizon to the top or bottom of an image. I mention this because I see in my own work and the work of others that we do not break the rule as often as we probably should. The 'rules' of photography are not meant to be hard and fast so to speak, they are there as guidelines to help us make decisions.

My recent sabbatical from creating new work has been due in part to the fact that I felt I was in a rut of sorts, that I had reached an impasse creatively. To me, my work had become predictable and formulaic in many respects, so I decided to take a look at the work of others who have influenced my work over the course of my career, and the obvious place to start for me was at the beginning, with the one who first showed me the way. 

After this recent viewing of his work, I decided to take a close look at my own, to see where I might have made other, not necessarily better choices in composition, but also to help me possibly redefine my future work. What I found was that early in my career, I followed the rules fairly close while concentrating more on honing my technical skills. As the years passed, I began to deviate from the rules, but I found that I adhered to the rule of thirds more often than not. It was not until the last few years that I began to see a drastic deviation from this rule. What all of this told me was that the answer I was looking for was not in composition but elsewhere.

In the last few years, I have been creating works that often do not reflect the actual colors in the scene that was before me. I have used 'split-toning' quite a bit to create pieces of art, rather than images that were close to reality. This was a conscious decision on my part in an effort to break from the crowd. At times, my use of highly saturated colors often put me at odds with my own aesthetics, and I would look at an image and think to myself that I had gone over the top a little too much, but at the same time I would pull back from changing the result. This feeling was beginning to make me question the direction my work was taking and question whether or not I was really creating what I wanted. There was this nagging feeling that I had reached an impasse, that it was time to take stock, to ferret out my really deep personal reasons for why I was creating the art I was making. It was time to analyze my work from an aesthetic viewpoint and this would also give me an opportunity to question the validity of my work.

After much thought over the past few weeks, I wish I could tell you that I have had an epiphany. I have not. What I can tell you is that art for me is an ongoing evolution. When we question the validity of our own work, it only means that we are about to move in a new direction, a change that will either stay with us for a number of years, or disappear as a temporary bridge to what comes next. Without this evolution, our art becomes stagnant and devoid of life for us as individuals. With this in mind, I have made some conscious choices about how my work will look and be perceived in the future. When I return, and I will return, I hope that the new direction will continue to please some of you as much as I hope it will please my own sense of who I am as a photographic artist.

I will leave you all with an image I made last winter up in the Gloss Mountains of northwestern Oklahoma. The light colored material in the foreground is a thin layer of gypsum that rain has softened enough for grasses and small plants to push through. The fact that plants can grow amid a mineral that is a member of the halite family (salt) is a miracle in itself. As for any difference in previous work, I have retained some detail in shadows that I might normally allow to go black in past works in monochrome. I have also refrained from adding a bluish tint, something I have been fond of in my B&W landscapes.




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Until next time ...  

Monday, October 5, 2015

REFLECTIONS

I recently decided to take some time from my art in order to pursue other projects, but I find I am still working at it. I cannot seem to escape from it quite yet and I am puzzled, but not surprised. I suppose it is a bit like trying to quit smoking or some other habit that one has lived with for so long.

I have been editing quite a lot of images that I chose to rework and some that have not seen the light of day since being made. I have not created any new work but guess that it is just a matter of time before doing so.

I am currently putting together some exclusive 'folio' boxed sets of some of my work that I will offer on the website soon. I am having quite a lot of fun doing this because it allows me to look at my work in a different way - by association, rather than by date or time of creation. Each folio is of a specific location.

I have also been uploading quite a lot of my catalog to Getty Images. I have had a small amount of success from my association with them and currently have 4 images that will be used in some permanent displays in the near future. Nice to know that one's work hangs someplace where it is seen everyday by hundreds of visitors.

I recently deleted all posts from my Google+ page except for a 'goodbye' post. However, I am now a Moderator for the Intimate Landscape Scenes Community on G+. There you can see images that I have never shared before as well as a few that I have in the past that fit within this category of the genre. I do not know when I will return to posting on my main page but expect it will be in the Spring of 2016 - maybe ....

In looking back at my past work, I see a smooth transition from film to digital, then a softening of the latter towards a more artistic look. This was a conscious decision on my part about a year ago. I had tired of the 'look' I was achieving and made the decision to alter this 'look' to a softer more dreamy appearance. I also noticed a trend towards less intense color in many of my images.

All of this will undoubtedly continue and may even become even more noticeable in future works. But for now, I will wait and see what happens when I return from my self imposed sabbatical.





*** My website will be down for 'CONSTRUCTION' beginning Thursday, October 8, 2015 for some updates and rework with an expected relaunch around October 15 ***
 

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Until next time ...  

Monday, September 7, 2015

A LESSON IN COMPOSITION

It has been some time now since I posted in B&W, so I thought I would share this image that has been sitting in the 'waiting room' for several months now. Made back in May when we experienced all of the Spring flooding, the image has been patiently biding its time in a folder.

I found this pump jack, or iron horse as some call it, situated not far off of a county road close to my home. As you can see in the image, the jack is isolated on a small mound of earth surrounded by flood waters. Based on its condition, I am guessing that either it was shut down to prevent electrical damage to the control panel, or it succumbed to the flooding and shorted out. Regardless, the jack made an interesting subject isolated near the small lake you can see in the background.

I originally shared a vertical color version, with the jack seen from the other side, back in May. From experience I knew the contrasting moody skies would make for a good black and white conversion, so I saved the landscape orientation for this one. As can be seen, there is a great deal of detail evident in the scene, from the drowned weeds and grasses in the foreground, the pump jack and its immediate environs, the surrounding countryside and lake in the middle ground, and finally the great swirling clouds of stormy weather of the sky, all coming together to create a balanced landscape.

The only thing out of sync here is that the jack is looking off to the near right edge of the frame in the image. Ideally, one would place it on the left looking into and across the scene, but there were some trees in the scene off to the right that I did not want in the image that would detract from the jack itself. This forced me to move the jack to the right to keep the trees out of the composition. We are often times confronted with situations like this where we must make compromises in composition in order to achieve our the vision we have for the image.

In my mind, despite its one flaw (or is it really a flaw?), the composition works. All of the elements combine to make a pleasing photograph that looks great hanging on the wall, especially if you work in the petroleum industry, or happen to be a former oil field hand, or maybe you are just an aficionado of this sort of 'Americana'.

Even the ordinary everyday things we pass by on our way to work, or when out running errands have potential as photographic subjects. So don't overlook them. Take the time to stop and make a few exposures whenever you cross paths with them. Most often, you will be rewarded.


Sunday, September 6, 2015

EMOTION & ART

'Time waits for no one, but grants to those who truly live their lives more than they could have hoped for in one lifetime'

The remains of the cut summer wheat have been plowed under and the seeds of winter wheat have been planted. Late summer winds have blown a fine red silt into every crack and crevice, even forming little ridge rows on window sills where it creeps in. Plants with large leaves cup small quantities of the red stuff, and everything in sight seems to have been dusted by pixies on a rampage.

I am out wandering the fields around Indian Woman Mound for no other reason than to see what there is to see, and to get out of the house after days of blowing winds. I have photographed much of this area before but only in a superficial manner, not really seeing the essence of the place. What is it that I have been trying to say here?

I eventually end up near this short section of old fence, all that remains of what may have once been part of a corral. This relic, along with the windmill that no longer brings water from the depths, speak of a time past, when living life was different, and possibly even more challenging than the world we live in today.

There is history here in this place. Long before the coming of the white man the Plains Indians called this area home. A few small mesas dot the landscape and one in particular, Indian Woman Mound, is reported to be the final resting place of a revered elder. Though evidence of this 'burial' has never been found, it does not lessen the possibility of its truth. It may in fact just be a legend, but the natives considered the mesas to be holy ground, so in my mind there is a kernel of truth here that transcends skepticism.

When the white man arrived and displaced the natives (I am being kind here in my use of the word 'displaced'), they changed the landscape into another history. Trees were removed to make way for acres of farm land and the grazing of their livestock. An old hermit carved a hole in the mesa rock and called it home. I reach down and pick up a handful of this red earth, searching for my own connection. It seems to me little has changed since then.

And so now I have come. Knowing all of this history, what am I to make of this place? How do I tell a story in a photograph that reveals both the emotional context and the essence of this place, a story that the viewer will see and feel what it is that I see and feel?

A well known artist/photographer that I admire writes that he does not make photographs because of the intrinsic beauty of a scene, although he could and they would be better than any of my puny efforts, but because it is a memory of the experience. The image therefore distills the experience for him on a personal and emotional level. He will tell you that sometimes the experience is more important than making a photograph, because for him the experience is retained in memory, whereas the photograph will fade with time. The photograph becomes secondary to the experience. When he does make a photograph it is because he is sharing the experience, not just the intrinsic beauty. And so he is asking for an internal emotional response from the viewer when he shows us an experience, that 'frisson' one feels that is not unlike a lovers kiss. That warm and fuzzy feeling for those of you who do not speak French.

It is easy to make a good photograph, even a great one. All one needs are the technical skills, an eye for composition, and a little cooperation from one's subject. But all too often the emotional aspect is lacking. I see it everyday ... images that are technically excellent but lack the aforementioned emotional context, failing to impart how the artist felt when creating the image. Without this purely human aspect, the image falls on blind eyes and is nothing more than another pretty picture.

So how does an artist/photographer convey this emotion in their work? Can it be learned or taught? It cannot. It is the combined experience of truly living a life with purpose and a sense of personal fulfillment as an integral part of our environment and surroundings, rather than separate from and on the outside looking in. Only then do we succeed in imparting the emotional into our art.

I now share with you one of my 'experiences' with the image presented here. It is up to you, the viewer, to determine if this photograph reveals more than just a pretty picture. To determine if I have succeeded in telling a story as well as eliciting an emotional response.





And so you may ask me personally after all of this rhetoric, "Have you succeeded in this quest for more than just photographs Thomas?" Let's just say "I'm working on it" :)

You can see more of my work at www.holoceneimage.com 

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And don't forget to check out my workshops at hololight photo tours

Sunday, August 30, 2015

ANOMALY

I have often wondered at the ability of a few grains of sand and a rivulet of water to carve out a channel in its parent rock, in this case sandstone. Truly a marvel of geological engineering in many ways, the running water (usually from rains) finds the least path of resistance in its course downhill, carrying with it the already eroded grains of sand that had once been boulders, then rocks, then pebbles, and finally small grains as they travel on their journey. Along this course, the grains act as an abrasive, just like sandpaper. The grains of sand then become eroded smaller still, becoming finer and finer grains, thus creating a finer abrasive. The closer to the bottom of the channel one reaches, you find the resulting walls of the inside channel to be as smooth as the silken skin on the inner thigh of a beautiful woman. Surely a perfect comparison with all of the subtle curves involved as well.

But I am not here to discuss the anatomy of the human body, but rather the anatomy of rock. In the very bottom of this channel one finds the tiniest particles of sandstone that have been reduced to near microscopic grains. If one rubs these grains between thumb and forefinger, they feel creamy rather than gritty - like talcum powder. Almost organic I think, though my mind tells me it is silicon. Which raises the question, how different would we be from a possible silicon based life form? Bet you didn't see that coming!

Science fiction has long held out the possibility of silica based life. Look it up! If one takes a peek at the periodic table, one finds many similarities between the carbon and silicon atoms. Both readily combine with other elements to create variations and compounds. The primary difference between the two being that the silicon atom weighs 4 times as much as the carbon atom. And so, on Earth, a silicon based life form would have a difficult time, unless it were rail thin, or lived in the sea where there would be some buoyancy. On another world with lesser gravity though, we begin to see possibilities. Think about it.

What I am really striving towards here though has nothing to do with the building blocks of life forms - well maybe indirectly. I am pointing at the human brain's capacity to take one idea and extrapolate that idea to another. Just as I went from sampling a known silica product composed of minute particles of sand, I then moved towards thinking organically and postulated the idea of building life from the inorganic. This is where it gets mystical, or maybe even metaphysical. How is it that we have learned to discard the logical in favor of an alternative not based in reality? An alternative not based in scientific dogma, or religious in nature, but one that is based on our ability to imagine the impossible, improbable. This is what truly fascinates me about being human. Our cognitive abilities. And so, with all of these mental faculties and freewill floating around, the question arises, how did we get this far along the evolutionary path without going the way of the dinosaurs? Is it truly these abilities ensuring our survival, or just pure blind luck, or both?

Some would say that we are heading down a path of destruction of our own making. If one looks at our accomplishments from a technological viewpoint, one might think otherwise, that we have the science (or will have soon) to solve all problems. But maybe not. If one looks at our accomplishments from a humanitarian perspective, we have failed miserably. Yes, we have the ability to get ourselves out of possible global, life threatening/changing situations (some of our own making, so it would seem that we should try) by applying science. But this is where I think we have become misguided. If we cannot apply our cognitive abilities towards solving the humanitarian issues, what gives us the right to continue existing as a technological species? In my mind, we only gain that right from learning to balance the whole. When we start treating each other as equals, regardless of race, ethnic origins, religious views, or any other factor you wish to expound upon, then and only then do we deserve to persevere. Our cognitive abilities tell me this is possible. When I was younger and more idealistic, I held out hope; now, not so much so.

And now, on the roundabout, I come full circle again. In the not too distant future, will silicon based life get its chance here on Earth? MY cognitive abilities say, probably not, but then, one never really knows, does one?. So what is next for planet Earth? My money is on the insect world :)




If you haven't already signed up to receive email notices of future posts, you can do so on the link to the right by entering your email in the box under 'Follow By Email', or send me a request at the email below and I will add you to the list.

Comments on this post and all others are always welcomed, and if you do comment, please be sure and check the little 'notify me' check box in the right hand corner of the main comment box to receive my response.

If you would like to purchase a print, or sign up to receive updates,send me an email at: thomaswelborn@holoceneimage.com

Also don't forget to check out the workshops Tom Crews and I offer at hololight photo tours

Sunday, August 16, 2015

LAST LIGHT ON FORTRESS CLIFF

'Eons pass as the landscape erodes into boulders, then rocks, then pebbles, and finally grains of sand, reminding us that in the end everything is finite'

Spring Equinox - I have come to Palo Duro Canyon in the Texas panhandle with my good friend Paula for some hiking and photography. The weather is promised by the forecasters to be both warm and cool for the next few days. Perfect conditions for camping in the 'great outdoors', as some are inclined to say.

After setting up camp, we go for a drive along Park Road 5 to its end where we park. There is not a cloud in the sky on this equinox and the air has yet to begin cooling down for the night to come. I am in search of a vantage point where I can photograph the huge ridge known as Fortress Cliff. This is one of the prominent features of the park and I soon find a place from which to work. Paula is looking for fossils on the slope behind me, and I hear her occasional cries of delight when she finds something interesting.

I set up my composition and walk over to where Paula is searching the ground. The slope she is working is abundant in fossils of all kinds including teeth from long dead reptiles of the Permian Age. She shows me her finds so far and we admire them together. This is her first trip here and I am glad to see she is having a good time, rather than just following me around in my own quest.

The light will fall away quickly shortly before sunset because of the 800 foot wall of rock to the west. Once the Sun disappears, the ridge before me will go into shadow rapidly, so I will only have a few minutes to work. Paula joins me in time to see Fortress Cliff and the lower valley rocks turn a vibrant warm color. The rocks here are mostly sandstones, shales, and caliche with mudstones interspersed here and there, and all are stained with the red/orange color of iron oxides. These formations dominate this part of Texas and well into western Oklahoma, though most are below the surface and unseen. Here in the canyon, they are exposed in all of their splendor.

I make a few exposures just as the light is about to fall off, this image being the last one. Less than a minute goes by and the top of the ridge goes into shadow. We are done here and head back to camp. Steaks and baked potatoes are on the menu for tonight. In the morning we will wake to overcast skies and drizzling rain. So much for the forecaster's predictions.




You can see this image and more at www.holoceneimage.com 

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______________________________ 

HOLOLIGHT PHOTO TOURS  will be announcing a  workshop to Palo Duro Canyon for Spring 2016 in the near future! Stay tuned for dates and other info on this trip.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

AND NOW, FOR SOMETHING COMPLETELY DIFFERENT

I first met Lacey Reah on G+ a few months ago, though our friendship feels as if it has been ongoing for years. Her posts and writing reveal a raw, and at times, ribald sense of humor, all the while brimming with an intelligence that has depth, maturity beyond her years, a compassion for humanity, and a passion for what she believes to be right, wrong, and everything in between. She is so well versed on so many subjects that I am often astounded that one human being can be so deep. Her talent knows no bounds and I fervently hope that she will be with us for a long time to come. I for one would miss her dearly.

I first read an excerpt from Lacey's book titled "Fireflies" not long after I met her. I consider myself to be a well read individual, and I have had the pleasure of reading uncountable works by authors from both the mainstream and from the fringe. Fireflies was different. I had never in my life read anything that was so erotic, so passionate, and yet so well written in just a few lines. Henry Miller would be rolling in his grave with envy. I could not wait to read more. It was not long after this that the small book arrived at my doorstep. That very evening, I settled in with a glass of tequila and the book. Late into the night, I closed this jewel after reading the last page. My imagination ran wild with the possibilities of more, and with the ending left unfinished, a desire left unfulfilled. It was like a film so good that you hoped a sequel would one day see the light. I wanted more, so much more.

Charged with intense sexual energy, desire fueled by hunger, a longing for a lost humanity, and an ending that leaves the reader desperately wanting more, Lacey writes with a sense of urgency and a passionate voice not found in much of today's literature.

Her main character roams the night in search of an unrequited love, driven by a hunger she has yet to come to terms with, and yet, at the same time there lies an underlying sadness at the loss of the one thing she can never regain. In some ways, there is a little of all of us within these pages.

I would write more but do not wish to spoil it for those who will take the next step and read it for themselves. I highly recommend this little book. You too will long for more after your own journey into the night.

You can find the book on Amazon in both hard copy and for the Kindle reader here at this link:  FIREFLIES



Until next time . . .

If you haven't already signed up to receive email notices of future posts, you can do so on the link to the right by entering your email in the box under 'Follow By Email', or send me a request at the email below and I will add you to the list.

Comments on this post and all others are always welcomed, and if you do comment, please be sure and check the little 'notify me' check box in the right hand corner of the main comment box to receive my response.

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Until next time!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

TOM & THOMAS RIDE AGAIN

Well, it happened again. The infamous duo of Tom Crews and Thomas Welborn got together for an evening of photography.

After meeting up in Sulphur, Oklahoma for an early dinner, we headed over to Chickasaw National Recreation Area for an evening of wading the rushing waters of Travertine Creek. The creek is still running quite strong from heavy rains over the past month or so.

Rather than sit here and write a narrative of our exploits, I will share a few of the images I made. Tom's can be seen over on his Google+ page and on his Flickr page.

One of the first images I made when the Sun was still high enough to impart some warmth into the scene and some breaks in the trees cast a warm glow on the front of this small cascade.


After moving a bit further upstream, we came to a section where the water was running furiously. Looking downstream, the water smoothed somewhat into a gently swirling pool before moving on. It was nearing sunset, and the light filtering in through the trees spread a golden warmth onto the water's surface in this next scene.


Looking upstream from this pool, the water was running hard and fast. Here we see Tom setting up for a shot. He will probably kill me for this one!


My last image of the night is looking upstream right after sunset. There is still warmth in the trees but the falls are in complete shadow at this point in time. A long exposure to bring out the silky flow.



Here's a shot of Tom (too bad he moved his head).

And a selfie I made at our first stop.

Tom and I always have a great time when we get together. He is one of the finest people I have ever met, a good friend, and a tremendous photographer in his own right. I eagerly look forward to our next meeting!

If you haven't already signed up to receive email notices of future posts, you can do so on the link to the right by entering your email in the box under 'Follow By Email', or send me a request at the email below and I will add you to the list.

Comments on this post and all others are always welcomed, and if you do comment, please be sure and check the little 'notify me' check box in the right hand corner of the main comment box to receive my response. 

If you would like to purchase a print, send me an email at: thomaswelborn@holoceneimage.com
Until next time!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

SOCIAL MEDIA AGAIN - An Evolving Opinion & An Apology

I have spent the last few weeks reading some rants about the state of social media where it concerns photography, as well as some positive reads on its benefits and I have come to some conclusions, which I will share with you as this post moves along.

Most of you are familiar with my previous stand on this subject and know that I have had misgivings about whether or not there is benefit in using social media as a venue for furthering one's career as a so called professional. Here are some of the conclusions and observations that I have come to after my readings and discussions with friends who are artists and photographers, and with friends who are neither.

Social media is what you make of it. Whether or not you gain a benefit from it is up to you. Many have said that the world of digital photography and social media has ruined the 'art' of photography and allowed those who are mediocre practitioners at best, a platform for their photos. If they are getting more pluses, likes, etc than you, it can only be their interaction with their followers. Becoming frustrated and upset is not going to change the situation. In some ways, this sharing by non-professionals has diluted and saturated the market, and in turn made it that much more difficult for the practicing professionals to earn a living. We as practitioners of the art are to blame for some of this. Many are aloof and 'too busy' to share their time. To some extent, this is all true, but there is no going back now. I have no intention of going into all of the ramifications of this state of affairs, as there are many more pros and cons to the argument. However, I will say this, "Are we to deny others a voice just because they are not considered practicing professionals?" Perspective is required to assess whether or not this is a good or bad thing - time will tell, but for now I will say that they have the right as much as the next person.  It just means that we have to change the way we are perceived as professionals, and we need to increase our visibility, rather than sit privately (and sometimes publicly) disparaging the amateurs (we were all ones too at some time in our lives). We need to offer encouragement and help to those who are truly pursuing their passion.

If you are a working artist, professional, or what have you, then in order for you to achieve any kind of success in today's digital world, a presence on one of the SM platforms can be beneficial, but you have to make it work for you. As for the benefits, it shares your work to a much wider audience than if you were to use traditional methods of advertising; and it is free (other than the time needed to pursue it). Secondly, it gives you a platform for your 'voice', whether it be verbal or visual, or both. If you expect to reap financial rewards from SM, then you need to learn how to use it to your benefit. There are many out there who have parlayed success from its use and we can all learn from them. Most are open to private discussion and are willing to help when asked. 

In other respects, one of the true values I have received is the interaction with my fellow artists, photographers, and even some who are neither. Some that I now call friends I have met personally, others I hope to meet some day, and others I never will, but that does not lessen the value I receive from the latter. The ability for us to all have a voice, regardless of who or what we are is one that is beyond comprehension and even beyond placing a value upon. In the pre-digital world, some of the interactions now available once required extensive travel and conversations were carried out by mail, or telephone in most instances. As photographers, we did not have the 'reach' we now enjoy, and many were not even aware of others working in the field. Some question whether or not this change is a good thing. All I can say to them is, it's time to drop some of the old ways if they are no longer working and embrace some of the new.

In the past, I said some pretty harsh words about the people on G+ who were commenting on my work and it was mostly directed at the non-photographers who were following me. In retrospect, I was wrong and I now apologize to those that I may have offended, not in the hopes that you will come back, but as a genuine apology. In retrospect, I was being a bit of a snob and I was frustrated at what I believed was a waste of my time. In hindsight, only I am the worse for my behavior. The clock cannot be turned back and I do not expect to be forgiven. They were my opinions at the time, and though valid in some respects, they were based on my perceived notions that I was receiving nothing of value in return for my time. I now realize that most, if not all, of these perceptions were wrong.

In closing, I will say a few personal things about SM. It is, in the words of a friend and fellow artist, 'a time suck'. And I completely agree with her. It is also addicting, and like all drugs there are good and bad aspects to it. And like most people who are trying to kick a perceived bad habit, I looked elsewhere for help. Not long ago, I was at the point where I was ready to close all of my accounts and walk away. It was at this time that I began to do my reading and have discussions with others about it. I needed further input before I felt that I could do what I was contemplating. I stumbled onto a blog link by a well known photographer on G+ that was written over a year ago and man did it start a shit storm! I was amazed that I had not heard of it or read it for that matter. In a nutshell, this photographer took a relative 'newbie'  to task for her lack of talent and her methodology in promoting herself (she has 100's of thousands of followers on Instagram). My first reaction was 'right on man'. I will not name any names, but found that the hundreds of comments both for and against said photographer were both professional and unprofessional. Sides were taken and conversations were back and forth both for and against. Other than the original photographer who started this rant, the comments by others were calm and insightful. Many of these comments were posted by well known photographers on G+, and by many who are highly respected. In the end, even the originator had calmed and began reasonable discussions, though I don't think he changed his mind. For me, I had done a complete 180 after this discussion and now sided with the woman in question. After digesting all of this (yes, I read every comment), I now had a better understanding of SM and its value. So now what? Where do I go from here?

Social media is what it is. You can either embrace it or walk away from it. The choice is ours and ours alone. We have no right, other than free speech, to disparage others methodology or way of using it to pursue their dreams or aspirations. If you are displeased or pissed off with the way someone is making a success out of their dream, possibly only because you sense your own ways becoming a thing of the past, or your methods are not working for you, maybe you should take something from those that are succeeding and embrace it. Who knows, you may be the next big thing as a result. We all stand to learn from each other and that experience in itself is something that has never been possible like it is now in the entire history of humanity. This new world is here to stay and no matter how much the naysayers say, it is not going away. 

Yes, it is a time suck; yes, it is addicting; but, truth be told . . . I enjoy sharing my work and seeing the wonderful work of others. And yes, I TRULY DO appreciate all those who have something nice to say about my work. I for one now see the potential in SM, though I am still wary of its pitfalls, which will inform and influence the way I use it in the future. Guess I will stick around and see if I can further twist it to my own needs :)



 
To those who are still listening, I wish you all happy sharing and a great weekend !
  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

PASSING OF A THING REMEMBERED

I've often wondered how people who live in parts of the world that experience an annual monsoon manage to survive. Surely their lives are complicated by these events and sometimes they suffer the loss of their homes, the lives of loved ones, and their livelihood. 

We here in Oklahoma have been experiencing more than our fair share this year of monsoon like rains, and it is a wonder that everything hasn't just floated away. There is a major 4 lane highway just south of town that took a real beating a week ago with one bridge now closed to west bound traffic. I stopped this morning to have a look at the damage and was amazed to see that most of the road surface on the bridge was heavily pitted and much of it was just simply washed away. It will be some time before it is repaired. But that is not the story.

Our local municipal lake that I have dubbed 'Helltown Waters' is still severely flooded along the shoreline. Picnic tables that were once 50 feet from the lake's edge are now showing only their table tops. And of course, my favorite spot, the fishing pier, is now seriously in jeopardy of being history. The image below was made 5 days ago and shows just how much the pier has been damaged. As can be seen, the boardwalk is just gone. The planking was already quite aged with the wood starting to curl in many places along the walkway. I will be sad to see it become a thing of the past if it's fate is now a part of history. Maybe someone will rebuild it, but even if that occurs, it will no longer have its charm and the patina of age.


 

This next image, which I have shared before, was made the first part of May this year. As can be seen, the pier frame is intact and the walkway was at least a foot above the waterline. Again, the impression I am getting is that the boardwalk is gone, completely washed away.




Time and events have a way of changing those things that we love and hold near and dear to our hearts. I know we all wish it were not so, but sometimes we have no control over fate, destiny, or simply unforeseen events.

You will find both of these images at www.holoceneimage.com in the Oklahoma Gallery. Hope everyone in the USA has a great 4th of July weekend and to all others around the world as well. Until next time . . .

Monday, June 29, 2015

COMMUNION II

A quiet evening on Helltown Lake and another of Oklahoma's lovely sunsets. A recently erected drilling platform and rig provided a focal point and contrast for this event.

Continuing with my ongoing series Communion, which documents our energy needs versus our inability to change to other possible resources, I have been photographing oil field equipment with sunrise or sunset prominent in the scene as a reminder that the Sun offers us a constant renewable source of energy versus the problems that the oil and automobile industries continue to promote.
 



Our energy needs continue to outpace our ability to generate the resources required, and though we are supposedly in a glutted market right now when it comes to stockpiles of oil, both crude and refined, we continue to drill. After asking around a bit, I found that this particular rig is in search of oil, not natural gas. Which begs the question 'why?' Are we keeping oil field workers employed, rather than retraining them in solar and wind, or are we just continuing down the path of old habits and lining the pockets of those who cannot see past their greed?

Don't get me wrong. I grew up in the business with my Father a petroleum geologist. It provided a substantial living for us and I would be negligent and hypocritical if I did not acknowledge this fact. However, like many of us today, I have a love/hate relationship with fossil fuels. I enjoy the ability to drive wherever I wish to pursue my art and my work, but at what cost?





As you are all aware, at least those of you who follow my work and my writings, I believe that we are the primary cause for the current problem of the warming climate. The answers to our problems are available, if only those with deep pockets would be willing to invest more in energy 'solutions' and to be blunt about it, their own futures. A day will come when the oil is such a valuable commodity just for needed lubricants that there will be no choice but for us all to change. The longer we wait, the harder the transition will be for all.

I will get off of my soapbox now. I wish I was a billionaire, for if I was I would be spending my money in research to improve the future, not just continuing the status quo. Until next time . . .

You can see this image and more at www.holoceneimage.com

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

THE BRIDGE

The year is 1909. The dedication for a new bridge in southern Oklahoma in the town of Sulphur is underway. The bridge is built of local materials in the 'Gothic Revival' style currently popular and crosses Travertine Creek in what was then called Platt National Park.  The new bridge has been christened the 'Lincoln Bridge' in honor of the birth of President Abraham Lincoln. Though he has been dead for over four decades, people in this country have a tendency to name things after dead presidents and are always looking for a way to do so. And so, on the centennial of Lincoln's birth (1809), he gets a small stone edifice named after him in an out of the way part of the country that has only recently become a state in the Union. Ten years before, this was in Indian Country and was the home of the Chickasaw Nation.




Though history tells us that the land was deeded to the government by the Chickasaw Nation, a few legal residents and quite a few enterprising squatters had already moved in and built the small settlement of Sulphur. All of this excitement was due to the presence of 'natural mineral springs'. Folks used to believe that these waters were medicinal and beneficial to one's health, regardless of what ailed you. And so they came by the tens of thousands. It was not long before the Chickasaws realized that the place would be trampled to dust if something was not done. And so, they offered it to the government with the caveat that it be preserved as a part of the emerging national park system. The government accepted and today this bridge rests within the 'Platt Historic District' inside of the Chickasaw National Recreation Area.

When the bridge was first built, it crossed a creek that had a few scraggly trees along its shoreline. During the Great Depression of the 1930's, the Civilian Conservation Corp planted hundreds of trees throughout this area and built inviting facilities for those who came to this place. Most of these structures are still standing today, such as the one that now sits atop Buffalo Springs (yunush kulli) as seen below.



  
There will be more images to come of this place, so stay tuned to new installments. You can follow on Google+ or sign up for email notices on the right hand side of this post. 

To read more on the history of this place click on this link: http://www.nps.gov/chic/learn/historyculture/index.htm





Wednesday, June 3, 2015

ITERATIONS


One of the great things about the digital age of photography is the ability to easily manipulate images in computer software.

During the days of film, image manipulation took place in a darkroom working under 'red' safe lights to protect the film and papers. The chemicals used to process the film were sometimes quite pungent and the room often became quite warm during the work. Negatives or positives (slides) were then placed in an enlarging machine and exposed using light onto photographic papers. This is where any manipulation took place with burning and dodging (lightening and darkening) areas of the image to bring out the desired end result. The print was then placed in several more chemicals to bring out the exposed image. A great deal of work often requiring hours of work for a single image.

In today's world, the manipulation of images has become something of a controversy. Purists claim that it is wrong and the arguments are many. What these detractors put forth is nothing new. Each time we make a technological advance in some area there is always someone who has to disparage the new. It is human nature to resist change. It is enough to note that Ansel Adams and others of the film era manipulated their prints heavily in the darkroom, which in my opinion negates the naysayers of digital manipulation.

I myself waited several years before I switched from film to digital. My reasons early on were quality in nature, but once I was shown that the new generations of digital cameras could equal the best slide films, I could see the future. The benefits were many, such as not being limited to 36 exposures on a roll of film, the ability to change ISO in camera, and the most important factor being the photographer's ability to control the process from start to finish without the need for chemicals or sending one's film to a lab to have it processed.

As with any new endeavor, there was a lengthy learning curve with the software used to bring the images to light. I have been using Adobe Lightroom since version 2.0 to process the bulk of my work with occasional use of Adobe Photoshop when specialized tools are needed and I now have a comfort level with this suite of software. Most of my images take less than an hour to bring to their final iteration. This ability to process quickly is based on a preconceived look that I have in mind when I made the image in the field and my knowledge of the software's capabilities.

Occasionally, an image offers the potential to be processed in different ways. The image you see here is an example. The first is the third version and the next one is the second with the previous two being shared via social media and on my website over the past two years. There is also a fourth version created specifically for a client who wanted something different, unique, and one of a kind.

I am not partial to any one of these different versions (though I no longer share the first version due to banding in the sky that I have yet been able to eliminate) and each has its' own life and merits. 

This ability to manipulate an image to his or her own artistic sensibility is where the potential to create our own vision comes into its own. This also brings to light the concept that there is no one way to edit and/or process an image. This has given the maxim 'Create to please yourself - not to please others' even more meaning in today's digital world. For me personally, digital has expanded my horizons from an artistic standpoint and given my work a unique quality unlike others who are practicing the genre of landscape photography.






I hope you have enjoyed this post and take away from it something of value.

You can see this image and more at www.holoceneimage.com
 


You can sign up for email alerts when a new post is up, follow me on Google+, or get an RSS feed to this journal. You will find links on the right side of this page. I am also on Kujaja and 72dpi.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

VISIONS

When we are young, many things inspire and influence the directions that our lives will take. Some stay with us into adulthood, others not. For me, astronomy and science fiction were my main influences growing up. They were not just forms of escapism; they were a future that held promise. The high road to the stars was a dream that could become a reality, or so I believed.

By the time I was in my early teens, I knew that I wanted to become an astronomer. I read books on the history of the science and was amazed by the discoveries that Copernicus, Galileo, Kepler, Cassini, Herschel, and many others too numerous to mention had made. Though their instruments were primitive in comparison to what even beginning amateurs have available today, it was only through their perserverance, curiousity, and dogged pursuit of knowledge that made their discoveries possible. The possibility that what was taught in their day might be wrong was an added incentive.

At the same time, I was reading books on the then current state of the science and had purchased my first telescope from a Sears & Roebuck catalog. It wasn't much as telescopes go, but it was good enough to get me started. I spent hours out at night looking at the heavens, learning the constellations and star names, staring at craters on the Moon, and watching the four 'Galilean' moons of Jupiter change their positions. It was a wonderful time in my life.

During these heady days, I had begun reading science fiction as well. I devoured novels by Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and Ray Bradbury. Then, in 1968, a singular event occurred that would re-affirm my desire to become an astronomer. I went to see the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey. An event that would stay with me to this day. Years would pass, a bigger and much better telescope would come along, but I stayed the course into and out of high school.

Entering college, I began my studies in earnest. The hours were long and the mathematics were intense. It was not long though before the dream took a turn. The science was becoming increasingly complicated, and new technologies had changed it from an observational science to one of using instruments that one did not look through. These new instruments captured objects in non-visual wavelengths of light in order to ascertain chemical compositions and gather data about red and blue shift velocities among other things. Radio telescopes were being used to 'see' for much of this work. I was beginning to realize it was not the science that I loved but rather the 'beauty' of the heavens.  I had also begun to think of myself as something of an 'artist' because of my increasing interest in performing music. In hindsight, I suspect that this had a great deal to do with my new views on the science.

Due to my expanding involvement with music, I changed my major to music and philosophy, but after a year I dropped out of school to pursue music full time. During the next 15 years, I would read many sci-fi novels while on the road. I continued keeping up with the NASA space probes to other planets and imagined what it would be like to witness a sunrise on Mars. I became interested in the geology of these worlds and how their surfaces compared with our own Earth. Little did I know then that this would later become a driving influence in my photography.

Today, I feel as if I have come full circle in some ways. I can still sit for hours at night staring at the heavens, remembering the names of the stars and mapping out the constellations, or watching a meteor shower, and geology still influences much of my photography. And on occasion, a little science fiction sneaks in and I am inspired to create something otherworldly. And so I ask you, my readers to . . .

Imagine a world with a red sun. Terraformed by humanity, water now flows. Hydraulics are built to conserve and sustain this water of life. Though this new world is on its way to becoming a blue one in the centuries to come, for now, molecules in the atmosphere of this world are refracted by the light of the red sun, imparting a pink color to the sky and the dark waters. Imagination can be a powerful thing.

 



You can see this image and more at www.holoceneimage.com

You can sign up for email alerts when a new post is up, follow me on Google+, or get an RSS feed to this journal. You will find links on the right side of this page. I am also on Kujaja and 72dpi.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

CRAZY LIGHT

'They say that patience is a virtue, but when the mosquitoes are feeding, patience becomes a masochistic endeavor.'

The rains have the ground saturated with standing pools of water. My front yard looks like a marshland. The land surrounding the lake is no different. Prime real estate for breeding mosquitoes. Despite spraying myself down with repellent, they are finding the weak spots in my armor. I am trying to ignore and avoid them by walking around while I watch the unfolding drama. The past few nights, we have had some incredible storm light, and I am hoping for more, so I will put up with my attackers.

The clouds seem to be at odds with themselves as they are moving in many different directions. Though these storms are not particularly intense, the motions imply a malevolent violence. The movement is fascinating to watch. Small patches of blue dot the sky and then are quickly covered. Openings of hope. A clearing to the west tells me we may have some color after the sun goes down. I do not have long to wait.

Within minutes of the Sun's last rays, the colors come and begin to intensify. The colors become fabulous! I am fortunate to have witnessed this event - living in the moment. It will not last long. I make an exposure every half minute or so as the show unfolds, then just as quickly watch the colors fade and resolve into the muted blues and grays of the coming night.

There are times when I stop and think about how I came to practice this thing I love to do. I think of how fortunate I am to not be sitting at home in front of a television, wasting the precious comodity of time. We are all given such a short span of days in which to live our lives and what we do with those days is important. More so when we move into the later years of life. Tempus Fugit. And so I give thanks for each day that I am given the chance to once more practice my art and my craft.



The mosquitoes have renewed their attack with vigor. It's time to go - before they carry me away :)

You can see this image and more at www.holoceneimage.com


You can sign up for email alerts when a new post is up, follow me on Google+, or get an RSS feed to this journal. You will find links on the right side of this page. I am also on Kujaja and 72dpi.
 

Friday, May 22, 2015

ANGEL'S IN FLIGHT

I am standing knee deep in rushing water. The water is running hard and I can feel the vibrations through my tripod. The light breeze has turned into a different animal altogether, now blowing hard. Weather is moving in and I need to finish before it gets here. Not a good idea to be standing in water with a metal tripod when there is lightning in the air. It begins to rain, telling me I need to go. Before I get to the car it has turned into a downpour.

This is the last image I made this morning after several hours of standing in running water. I was at a small group of travertine falls located less than an hour from my home. At this time last year, the falls were nearly dry with just a trickle of water coursing along the streambed. The heavy rains we have received during the last two weeks has all of southern Oklahoma in flood stage. Many streams, rivers, and lakes are far above 'normal'. Though the rains are welcomed, I suspect it will not be enough to pull us out of the continued drought. Time will tell I suppose.



It has been a productive morning and there will be more images to come.

You can see this image and more at www.holoceneimage.com

Don't forget that you can sign up for email alerts for new posts, follow me on Google+, or get an RSS feed to this journal. You will find links on the right side of this page. I am also on Kujaja and 72dpi.


Sunday, May 17, 2015

BRAND NEW DAY

'The young warrior has been waiting for some time now. He has witnessed the brightening in the sky as he waits. He stands as the moment is near. The Sun rises, and he raises his arms skyward to honor the return of the Giver of Light. The warrior chants quietly in this moment of beauty. The day has begun and he feels the renewal in his soul. It is a good day to be alive.'


As I was watching this sunrise unfold, I was thinking of those who had come before me to witness the rising of the Sun, and like myself, felt renewal in the moment. Just as my imaginary young warrior above.

Our lives today have become so complicated, and I often wonder whether or not we would be better off without all of the distractions designed to keep us informed and in touch. The simple act of watching the Sun rise might be more than just a passing event taken for granted, but one in which we might feel a bit of reverence and give thanks for what we have.

Technology removes most of us from this simplicity. Tethered to our devices as if surgically attached, we wander aimlessly through our lives as if we had tunnel vision, only seeing what is directly in front, all the while missing everything else that is around us.

Fifteen years ago, we did not have digital cameras, cell phones, internet, satellite TV, and the list goes on. I remember having to wait 24 hours to pick up the slides of film that contained the work from my latest adventure. After viewing them with a loupe on my light table and selecting the best, I would have them printed at my local lab the following day. Today, I can download the images into my computer, process, then print them within hours. Convenient? Yes. A good thing? Maybe. 


I will be the first to admit that these capabilitites have made my life work simpler and more efficient. On the other hand, the free time that I should have earned from this time saving I now spend marketing my work and myself on the internet. I am carrying on text conversations with friends from around the world, talking to clients on the phone, all while I am working at selling my soul to put bread on the table and keep a roof over my head. There are days when I want to run away from it all. It is at this point that I remember what I do for a living and how fortunate I am to be able to get away from it all, if only for a short while, from constantly being barraged by the media and life's other demands. I am truly fortunate.

However, there still remains an issue that has been nagging at me. I am afraid that I have lost faith in the direction that technology is taking us. In our headlong rush to develope the next 'new great thing' or convienence device to make our lives easier, we feign ignorance of and push aside possible consequences down the road. Surely not all of it can be good. I wish we would stop and take a moment to wonder whether or not we should.


You can find my work at www.holoceneimage.com

You can sign up for email alerts for new posts, follow me on Google+, or get an RSS feed to this journal. You will find links on the right side of this page. I am also on Kujaja and 72dpi.