Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Week four of the 365 Day Challenge

Day 22
Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

After two weeks of focusing on still life composition I gave myself a week to be random but began with an orchid picture which was not that far from a still life. But I saw a flow of time in these flowers and was drawn to the subtle colors.

Day 23
Winter Diamonds

Winter photography is not easy. The same conditions that formed these crystals fogged the camera lens and chilled my finger tips. I wear fingerless gloves for photography in the winter but some days this winter have been too cold for even that. But back at the computer I noticed that the same things I looked for in a still life composition I am selecting in outdoor closeups.

Day 24
Cast off leaves of my Crown of Thorns

Back in the studio I was trying to clean up some of the created clutter from my still life explorations and noticed the leaves around the base of my Crown of Thorns. The plant goes through a regular shed process and I find myself often reluctant to cast them away as the dried flowers and leaves are often as beautiful as the plant itself. The shapes and colors drew me to record them.

Day 25

My butterfly amaryllis has been blooming for a week and for the whole week I have been trying to capture it. It blooms in pairs and is a very large flower with lots of depth. In other words, it is a challenge. The composition of the plant does not lend itself to a pleasing composition in the photograph. Vicious cropping was used to come up with the above picture.

Day 26
The road back from Raton
Friday I had to go to Raton. Camera always goes with me especially since on US 64 east there are buffalo and antelope - sometimes. Not that day. Which left me with one of my more enduring photographic challenges - how to capture the vast emptiness of the plains. Note to self: Some subjects we are good at capturing and some require work. I have convinced myself it takes a special lens I do not have. And sometimes it is just looking at it in a different way. This time black and white seemed to speak of loneliness.

Day 27
Rain clouds forming
Montana is big sky country. The ring of mountains usually makes the expanse of sky in New Mexico high country look smaller. However on this particular day with rain clouds moving in it seemed vast. I had to pull over on the side of the road and confuse the tourists to take this shot.

Week four was a mish mash of subjects but for week five I am considering practicing photographing vistas. Obviously I need more work in that area.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Daddy's Records

Charlotte Gainsbourg  AnOther

Daddy's Records
the old 78's
The Ink Spots and Satchmo and Goodman
the heady weight
of being old enough.

Treasuring them 
as her daddy must
shuffling through the stacks and ages
the blues, and jazz 
and big band tunes.

All other music
she would call her own
would ultimately be measured
and for a long time found wanting
against the songs of her father.

J. Binford-Bell
January 2013

Thank you Tess Kincaid

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Revealed Truth on the Road to Raton II

Returning from Raton

I have scored some awesome pictures on the road to Raton - antelope and buffalo - but they are gifts. Normally between Cimarron and Raton it is just straight highway with distant vistas and here and there a windmill. Windshield time or two lane meditation.

I was not in the mood to drive to Raton yesterday. Too much to do at home, but when you must you must. So buckle up, amp the tunes, and cruise. If you are lucky you can reach a satori - a Buddhist term for awakening, comprehension, and understanding. Or has the comedian Shelley Bergman put it - "you know the sound of two hands clapping - what is the sound of one hand clapping." In Buddhist tradition satori arrives from kensho or seeing into ones true nature.

For me the road to Raton can be as much about the pictures I have not taken as those I have. Capturing the vast emptiness of this part of the high plains is far more elusive than the ultimate picture of buffalo. I keep telling myself it is because I do not have the right equipment. The wide angle gets the scope but not the beauty of the horizon. The long lens abbreviates it all too much. Rather a metaphor on life. Never seem to have the right perspective.

At the beginning of this trip I had a short conversation with an old friend. She has a new boyfriend so our conversations have become less frequent, much shorter, and sadly often shared with the boyfriend. Aaah the evil speaker phones do. Anyway in the short conversation on the long road yesterday we lapsed into our long history with men. Oddly my friend had the short view. She had forgotten about the husband that held her hostage at gun point for two days, the live in significant other that did drugs and beat her, the contractor turned boyfriend (never sleep with your contractor) that turned stalker, or the short and wild affair with the con man that stole her van among other things, of even the 20 year affair with the married man that kept trying to lure her into a menage a trois. All of which makes me cringe when she says she has a new boyfriend.

But maybe shortsightedness is a survival skill rather like denial. My list of abusive men is shorter and less dramatic only in that nobody held me at gun point for two days. And I have never believed any man enough to get totally conned. I am not sure that Dianne's ability to believe again is a plus or a minus. I frankly do not want the drama of another alcoholic in my life ever again. Life is just too short or too long.

Which brings me to an interesting point I discovered yesterday. It took me 20 less minutes to get back from Raton than to get there. And the only stop I made was to take the photo above on the way back.

Getting closer to capturing the emptiness. And the black & white treatment says a lot about the drought conditions. And a lot about my life really. After all the twists and curves of the canyon of my earlier life I am trying to straighten out the bumps. Satori in a photograph.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Week 3 - 365 Day Challenge

Day 15 - Time

 Decided to devote another week to still life photography. As Georgia O'Keeffe said about flowers "they are free models." And a long way from my usual out and about focus if you will. But I have a lot to learn about still life composition, selection and post processing. And the 365 day challenge is for me a self-imposed learning experience; an advanced class I have had to pay nothing to do. That is good because January is expensive for artists. It is when all your dues are due, and when opportunities to apply for exhibits seem to abound. And income is like negligible. But we have time on our hands. I like Day 15 because of the use of selective focus and two means of time.

Day 16 - Hats

While I spent time arranging Day 15 I found the hats on Day 16 hanging in a barn on the wall. A very simplistic composition rich in textures and shadow from the overhead lights.

Day 17

The arrangement of objects in Day 17 was an effort to recreate the feel of the still life paintings of the old masters like Rembrandt. In photographing this assemblage I discovered voids - the black space on the left of the photograph. Other photos I took of this I tried to keep the beige mat board background totally across the composition, but they lacked the mystery of this one with the ghostly image within the black.

Day 18 - Menage a Trois 

Back to simple with my ceramic hare, my favorite orb and a candle stick. Playing with textures and to have those stand out I reduced the saturation to not quite black and white.

Day 19 - Rags ready for rug

Balls of cut and pulled t-shirt knit ready to begin a crocheted rag rug was an accident really. I was taking the photograph for edification on the process for a Facebook post and loved the colors so played with it in post processing.

Day 20 - lovely bunch of shells

During my days in North Carolina I became a seashell addict. Not so much the shells as the beach combing to acquire the shells. I was frequently the first person on the beach at dawn following the receding tide. And when I first began to decorate my home I had just bought I found this basket I loved which seemed perfect for part of my shell collection which had been stored in boxes during my marriage. It is a still life that tells a story to me of my liberation. I tossed in the orb for contrast and focus.

Day 21 - end of days

I was cleaning up and cleaning out and this basket was literally falling apart. I empty the miscellaneous items that had been in it and walked it to the pile of cast offs in the studio. Then on a later trip I saw the late afternoon light streaming through its weave and tossed in the garlic and pomegranate. This was proof to me that I am beginning at last to see the light and textures and colors that make up a good still life even when I am not looking. Two weeks has not been wasted.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Let Me Go

Hands for Mag 152

Let Me Go

He always held on to her
Almost an act of desperation
as if she would fly away
She wanted to cry
Let me go.

Thrown together
commanded by their mothers
to watch after each other
on the walk to school
Let me go.

His grip 
hurt her fingers so
she tried to wiggle out
he squeezed even tighter
Let me go.

That day
wearing the biggest mittens
she slipped her hand out
and fled her bonds
I must go.

She ran free
turned to laugh
 he was gone
beneath the wheels
I had to go.

J. Binford-Bell
January 2013

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Week Two of 365 Day Challenge - Still Life

Day 8

It has been in incredibly cold week her in the high country and the ground is covered still with snow. A lot of it has gotten rather worn looking, and not so white, so I decided to focus my photographic efforts on still life. And rather than just finding and shooting that which I find about I decided to actually compose a still life from the very beginning.

My studio has excellent light from the windows or from the many spots. And as a collector of everything from the other of others like the ceramic bowl in Day 8 to Mardi Gras costumes and masks I made in Day 14.

Day 9

Day 8 was on my coffee table. I think I moved my coffee cup because it was the wrong color but other than that no arrangement of objects. Day 9 I set up on my studio with some fabric from my sewing room and my journal with objects plucked from various parts of the room. Artists love to be surrounded by things to draw or just enjoy. I am wild about candle sticks.

Day 11

Yes, I skipped 10 but the candle stick remark was a perfect segue to this photo, which like Day 8 was not set up. It is my little tea table adorned with candles from a full moon ceremony. They are not always together like this but they are wonderful together when they catch the afternoon light.

Day 10
Mirror and Chair

I probably took the longest time playing with the fewest objects when I was at a friend's green house. I was going to photograph the orchids again but found myself attracted to the color and simplicity of this mirror and painted chair. And the reflection of a stained glass window in the mirror. I probably have about 50 pictures of the mirror, with or without the chair, trying to capture the reflection and create the right balance. Love the colors on this one. And it taught me patience. The art begins with a still life long before the picture is taken. And with the glory of digital review on my camera I got to look at my mistakes before quitting. Composition and color was my main goal with this photo.

Day 12
Sage and Garlic

The old masters were great at painting still lifes. Not being able to afford models unless they were mistresses they painted the vegetables and objects around their studios. The bound sage for smudging resides in the glass bowl of sea salt in my studio. The garlic I grew in my garden and had hung to dry by the windows. I tossed them together and moved some things out of the way and behold my chaos of a still life. From the simple with the chair and mirror to the chaos of this. This exercise was about texture and color. And dealing with lots of objects. In post processing I began to play around with selective focus.

Day 13

Keep you eye on the ball. It has now been in three of this week's photos. I love its red which I picked up in the stems in the vase and the dried orchid cactus flower. But the main object in this exercise was dealing with the brass and the colors its reflective surfaces show. I was also playing with totally setting up the stage. Mat board for background simplicity, material to cover the foot stool I used as a base for my brass composition. Warning: You can play with folds on the material forever.

Getting better, I thought to myself, but something was missing: A story. So with Mardi Gras approaching next month I pulled out a costume I made and the feathered hat that went with it, and added a mask I made. I drafted a rocker in my studio because it could be moved around. The draw back with the Day 13 stage was that it was pretty much "fixed" to its spot in the studio. My rocking chair could be turned and tilted (wedging object under runner) to catch the light available through the windows.

Day 14
After the Ball

I have about 50 versions of this composition too. And more post processing variations. Definitely played more with the selective focus option in my post processing. In a busy composition it allows you to focus the attention on what you consider important and lessen the distraction of parts of the still life. With the mask and the hour glass against the lush brocade of the fabric it arouses questions about time and things and the past.

May do more still life exercises this week.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Week one - 365 Day Challenge

Day One

 A few years ago the 365 Day Photography Challenges began making the rounds among shutterbugs on Facebook and other social media. Until last year I was just a fan of the photos posted by my friends. The purpose was supposedly to get those participating to take their cameras with them everywhere and take photos daily. That was not something I had a problem with. I live in an area with herds of elk and deer, solitary eagles and hawks perched on trees and power poles. The camera is always with me.

Put I have at last gotten over my "film" attitude about the camera and click the shutter without regard to the cost to develop. I download to my computer hundreds of photos. And I do not always give them justice in the post processing phase. In film parlance this is equivalent to having many rolls of film you have yet to develop. So last year I decided to get involved with the challenge and did my first 366 Days of photos on my Facebook timeline. The four albums, one per quarter, shows to me an amazing development. Practice makes perfect and I came to see the challenge as practice - sometimes like just repeating the scales. And sometimes like finally mastering a difficult piece by Bach. And sometimes like deciding to see if you can play the guitar.

Day Five
Spider Wed on Thorns

 I am first a painter so I am far more at home with color. So one of my self imposed exercises is black and white. Last year made me far more comfortable with the lack of color. And it made me more aware of subjects that had very little color like the freeze dried rose buds below. They were naturally freeze dried by the winter weather. Snow, you would think, has no color and makes a good neutral background.

Day Two

Give snow piles, pushed up by a plow, some color and you give them mass. They become Arctic Mountains or glacier ridges.

Day Four

Or drained of color the snow becomes a canvas for shadows.

Day Three

But color is my first love. And the whites and blacks and grays of winter make me seek color out in all its possibilities. I was happy that this first week of photos in the 2013 challenge contained three photos that were not color. But that may also be way on day six and seven I went wild with the post processing.

Day Seven
Ode to a Terra Cotta Urn

The urn above has been a challenge for more than a week or a year. I would hate to admit even to myself just how many pictures I have taken of it. Pictures that fell short. Wise I suppose to always remember to take just one or two more. And I would have trashed them too but I needed a photo to end the week and so I decided to play around. Be careful what you trash.

Day Six - Epiphany

I titled this photo Epiphany and opted to place it last because I hate this plant. My studio is filled with Euphorbia like in  the second picture - Day Five. And because of an unaccounted sudden success with Jade Plants some succulents also occupy my space. This is a palm. One I bought just to adorn briefly one of my last art fairs. It fails to die but thrives. I snapped the picture because it was a focal challenge. BTW it also looks good in black and white. But with this treatment it has impact.

Impact is a word I picked up from a judge at a photography exhibit a friend and I intended. She asked him what he looked for when judging and he said simply IMPACT. After technical expertise and composition of course. But it was impact that separated the winners from the losers. If I had to pick a winner from this week's challenge based on that one quality I would go for Day Six.

Which would be your pick? Yes, we can disagree because different things impact each of us. It is the difference of opinion that makes horse racing possible as my dad used to say.

On to week two. I have decided to post a blog with my photos of each week with what has been revealed to me about my week of practice in photography and post processing. If you want to see the day by day progress check out Binford-Bell Studio fan page. I invite your comments - there or here. Let us begin a conversation about the art of photography or just the merits of practice.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Other Woman

Woman at Door by Daniel Murtagh
Prompt by Tess Kincaid at the Mag

The Other Woman

Waiting again
Another wasted day of want
Knowing he will not come
after dark
He belongs to them.

They get the holidays
Their birthdays
All the mutual friends
at the door
She gets the waiting.

He did not come
Couldn't call
the empty bed
She's the other one.

Willing to accept
those brief moments 
of love
Before he goes home to her.

J. Binford-Bell
January 2013