Wednesday, February 4, 2015

BEING A PART OF THE LANDSCAPE


We are all often guilty of being ignorant of Nature. We move about landscapes with abandon and on occasion, we forget that we are in a place that is not the same as being in our own homes. 

After 20 plus years of wandering in the outdoors, I am continually amazed and disgusted at the amount of trash we leave behind. I have personally collected bag after bag of humanity's trash in places where it has no place. This is not something new. I have found beer cans with the old pull tabs and even ones that required the old triangle hand opener.

And so we have become a nation of people that care not how others perceive us. I once ran into a couple from Germany while hiking in the backwoods of one of our state parks. I had a plastic bag with me that I was using to pick up trash as I went along. They mentioned the bag, and then commented on how surprised they were that Americans would drop their trash anywhere. This led them to believe that even the inside of our homes were like this. I was appalled that they would think so, and yet at the same time, not surprised at their views. After all, just by looking around, they could see how dirty most American cities are today, and in this instance, we do not confine it to just where we live. As a result, foreign visitors perceive that we are a nation of people that care not how others see us.

All of this has gotten me to thinking about how much we need to change some of our ingrained habits. I have been to homes where I did not know the owners and have only seen on a few rare occasions a home that was somewhat trashy on the inside. So, if the case for most Americans is that they don't do this at home, why in the world would we leave our trash outside in Nature? Does this go back to the old adage "Your mother doesn't live here, pick up after yourself!"? In some ways, I believe that there is an element of truth here, but this is not the whole picture. 

Americans have become a nation of waste. We generate more trash on a daily basis than any other country in the world. The products we buy are packaged in disposable containers or wraps that leave us very few alternatives in the way of packaging. Efforts by some companies to provide us with green packaging alternatives have made little inroads, and the major companies that we routinely buy our products from continue to ignore these possibilities. Yes, many of them use recycled materials in their containers, but this is just one of many possible solutions. Many cities do not have any kind of recycling beyond newspapers, cardboard, and aluminum cans. I don't pretend to have the answers, but I wish that I did. I am just pointing out the obvious.

To help emphasize my point I have shared an image from one of my recent outings. The shoreline of the pool seen here is littered with trash, mostly water bottles, plastic and styrofoam cups, glass beer bottles, and aluminum cans. Click on the image to see an enlarged view to get a good look.


As you can see, it is really pretty bad. In addition, there is spray can graffiti all over the place.

Though I don't have the answers to these problems, beyond recycling everything that is not bio-degradable, and what is organic can be composted, there is one thing that we can do to help change others perceptions of us. 

Pick up your trash and take it with you!

And then, maybe a few of you will do what I have been doing for years, take a few bags with you and pick up the trash of others. In doing this simple act, we will all have a better outdoor experience. And maybe, just maybe, more and more will join in and help when they see others doing it. Then one day, we may go to our favorite place and see nothing but Nature at her finest - pristine, with only footprints left behind.


Tuesday, February 3, 2015

MOVING ON

How many of you have ever driven hours to a location only to be disappointed for one reason or another? Maybe the scenery is dull and lifeless, or maybe the light is not what you were hoping for. I know that I have and this type of situation can be extremely frustrating. However, I have learned from past experience that even under these circumstances, I can come away with at least something. Just because the place appears to have little to offer at the time, somtimes it has a 'little' to offer.

I had to go to Lawton last week for a real estate shoot, so I headed out early with a plan in mind to stop at the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge before heading back to town for the shoot. When I arrived just about sunrise, there were no clouds in the sky except for some low hanging layers to the North. I quickly pulled into the parking area at Jed Johnson Lake and hurried down to the shoreline. It did not look good. The light was quickly becoming flat and lifeless. I tried a few compositions, but I was not happy with what I was seeing. As I wandered along the shoreline, I was about to give up hope when I saw something that might work. I set up for this scene, but I really did not like what I was seeing in camera, even after tweaking the composition. I made a few exposures and headed back up to the parking area. The wind had picked up quite a bit and with regret, I loaded up and headed into town.
When I got home later that afternoon, I sat down and uploaded the images into Lightroom. My original assumptions were confirmed and I sat there looking at the scenes I had captured. I was just about to delete them all, when I decided to have a look at a few of them in black and white. Suddenly, one the scenes showed some promise. After a half hour of tweaking the image, I was somewhat satisfied with the results.
A little over a week later, I am once again looking at this image. With some additional tweaks in LR, I finally had an image that pleased me. The results you see here.

Even when conditions are not ideal, it doesn't hurt to make a few images that might work out for you later. Besides, you have taken the time to drive all the way to the place. So don't always go with your initial reaction that a location has nothing to offer. You might just come back with something special.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

CLOSURE

After my two posts ART IN LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY and INTEGRITY IN ART, I have come to several conclusions about my views with the issues I tackled in those posts, and made some decisions based on those conclusions. 

I have always found it is sometimes necessary for one to get things out in the open in order to gain perspective on those things that are fundamental to one's well being. Saying my piece was necessary for my own future growth, if that is even possible at this late stage in the game.

In retrospect, social media played a huge role in my recent posts here since it is the medium of choice for most photographers to get their work out there today, regardless of genre they practice. There is really no way for us to avoid being influenced by what we see on the net, and so drastic measures are sometimes needed in order to retain whatever sense of individuality we hope to retain in our work. I am not alone in this and those that have gone before me I am mad at, only because they did not take me with them.

For my own well being, I am going to make a departure from how I have been using social media. Over this past weekend, I closed several of my online accounts where I have been sharing my work and before this coming week has gone by there will be several more going by the wayside. Those that do remain will be used differently in the future. Why am I doing this? I will explain.

Most social sites that are designed with photographers in mind are promoting a particular style of imagery when it comes to landscapes. In other words, they are upholding the status quo which leads to new work of any significance, or difference, being relegated to the middle or back pages so to speak. If your work does not fit within what their curators have lofted to the top of page one, it will languish in the background with only minimal recognition and interaction. One can still add followers by being 'social', but the 'media' often appears to become secondary to the interaction with most of the viewers.

In reality, the photographers themselves are to blame to some degree for helping to promote this status quo. In an effort to promote their work, many follow the pack because this is what sells. For some it is a conscious choice, while for others it may be subconscious; but nevertheless a choice.

Photographers sharing their work most often find out that they get high praise both in numbers and comments when they post work that fits within their viewers expectations. These are the images that get the 'wow', 'awesome', etc type responses. When a photographer posts work that they personally feel is more artistic and in tune with their own aesthetics, they suddenly discover the numbers are usually much lower, though the comments may continue to say the same because the viewers do not wish to offend the photographer in question. The reason for this, I believe, is the viewers are waiting for the next 'wow' image from you. When you share work that is 'artistic', they don't understand and the results speak for themselves. These are my own opinions and experiences, and as such, I don't expect you to agree with me, though I am sure some will but many will not.

The only factors that yield any tangible benefit from the social aspect are the few 'real friends' (as far as that is possible in the digital realm) that you might make via this interaction. Some of these friends I will never meet, and yet I have meaningful discussions on all manner of subjects with many of them. I value these interactions more than many of them might realize. These conversations have been and were one of the primary reasons for my joining in the first place. And then there are those friendships that have lead to meeting in person which have the possibility of becoming lifelong friendships.

In the future, I will share notices of new journal posts, interesting news as it pertains to my work and the photo world, promote photography by my friends, and occasionally I will share a stand alone image. If you wish to have meaningful, stimulating, and sometimes entertaining conversations on photography (and occasionally other stuff) - read and comment on my journal posts. If you wish to keep up with my newest works, visit my website where you can comment on individual images, galleries, and in the guestbook. It is not that difficult creating new bookmarks and using a few more mouse clicks. I welcome any and all comments :)