Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Week 47 - 365 Day Photography Challenge

Day 323 - Melting snow on windshield

I do not do layers. Yet. But I do find myself taking photos of patterns I think would look good as a future layer. This one may certainly be that. It was also a new camera challenge. There are a lot of reasons to take pictures. And even more if you are on the cusp of being a professional photographer. The photo below was an audition for new characters in winter still life photos. Last winter was one of my first explorations into still life photos and I really enjoyed myself and learned a lot. I want to do it again. But I want to use different objects. Frequent followers of my blog will remember the silver cream pitcher.

Day 324

The cast is a sheep skin, a rusty table which was once tiled and which I plan this winter to re-tile, a hand made pot from a friend and various rocks and weeds, and of course the ever present candle stick. I have tons of them of different sizes and shapes.

Day 325

But when the weather is good I plan to be out in it. I guess I am basically a landscape photographer. I hate doing portraits, will not do weddings, catch wildlife when it presents itself in my landscapes, and try to capture the nature of a beloved pet in an unguarded moment. I also use photography to record my paintings. This next year challenge I am going to include some of those in my challenge. And perhaps a blog or two about how to take pictures of your art work.

Day 326

In last week's blog I mentioned needing to know your subjects. And being just a little bored can be a plus from time to time. I do a lot of reflections in ponds of my acquaintance and I am always looking for a different approach. Early spring and late fall just before the ice closes them in ponds are like mirrors. It is hard to resist taking a picture even when you know you have stood at that same place before and taken one.

There is a lot of debate in photography books about where to put the horizon. In pond reflections it is where to put the edge of the pond because putting sky and water in a picture usually makes the sky look sick. I generally to by the rule of thirds or not at all. Photo above has pond edge vertically on the side. Below it is in the upper 1/3 of the photo. That is probably my favorite placement.

Day 328

The photo below is out of sequence so I could put the two reflections together but there is still the horizon placement to consider. And it is not an even Kansas horizon. If you have an uneven horizon placement is more of a guess. Remember the "horizon line" does not have to be the horizon. The bold line in this photo because of clouds and mountains is really the band of snow beneath the trees. It is in the bottom 1/3 just above the straight line of a path through the meadow.

Day 327

Decided to end the week with a bright green house blossom.

Day 329

So many flower pictures put the flower right in the center. If you have one of those digital cameras with the little flower icon as a choice on setting you will find it often focuses right in the center. I prefer my flower just a bit off center. The mass of this flower is to the right and in the background are balancing pinks of other flowers.

Balance, weight, and horizon are parts of composition which need to be considered if not when taking the photo then when cropping it. What is the horizon in the first photo?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

My Backyard and other photo contests

Homeward Bound

With the help of some friends I have discovered a host of photo competitions on line. Once you had to have slides and labeled just a certain way and packaged and mailed off. Back in the 1970's I did actually enter and win some photo competitions that way. The digital era makes it all that much more simple. Except there seems to be little common ground in labels for each image and even dpi or size. And that is true even when they are using the same submission service.

I have in the last couple of months entered ANMPAS, New Mexico Magazine and Santa Fe Photography Workshops contest all through Smarter Entry. They way they are set up supposedly you can upload multiple images and then send them off to different contests. I could therefore only upload five images, what NM Magazine asked for, and send at least three of them to all three contests. But naming and sizing seemed to be an issue. And there was one judge common to two of the contests. She probably would not award a prize to the same image in two shows.

I have a much more organized artist friend who does spread sheets of what is in what show. I did too when I had to ship things off. I live with the assumption that my emails will show me what I submitted digitally or at least Smarter Entry will give me a clue. I think Homeward Bound was entered in both the NM Magazine show and the SFPW show. But I believe the common judge was in ANMPAS and NM Mag. It is about a lot more than pixels.

Icy Reflections

The SFPW show name is My Backyard. I decided on the whole to take a wider view of that term. But I was rather nervous about stretching it to encompass the entire state of New Mexico. A lot of those images had been entered in the NM Mag show. So I focused on my neighborhood for Backyard.

Morning of the Elk
Debated Morning of the Elk but I entered that in the New Mexico Mag show. And while one of my most popular and profitable images it has not won a prize, and is taken on my Nikon D90 with only 12.3 mp. Fall dominated my NM Mag entries and it appeared snow was going to dominate the SFPW contest. I think part of that was sort of perverse because I did not want to be in competition with kids cannon balling into wading pools. Debated the one below of my garden fence. Much to recommend it. But it just did not seem Santa Fe enough. It was really my backyard, however.

End of Season

Another photo that is really my backyard is Cookout Canceled below. It reminded me of another photo I had taken a couple years ago of chairs and snow. Well several photos of chairs and snow.

Cookout Canceled

Seats Taken

Waiting for summer

I like presenting a "body of work" to judges. I always think of painting shows where all three of my pieces are shown and I want them to hang well together if that is what those installing the show want to do. But submitting three pictures with snow covered chairs is probably a bit over the top. And another change of the digital era is only one of the shows I entered in this round ends up with a printed, matted, and framed photograph for hanging and that was the ANMPAS show and Burn which sits in my studio awaiting the day it goes to Albuquerque.

The digital, on line shows, seem to be a current trend and one I can approve of as it costs the photographer far less. New Mexico Magazine will publish some of the winners, but mostly the top photos will appear on websites for both organizations. For My Backyard I entered Homeward Bound, Icy Reflections, and Cookout Canceled.  The others await in a folder marked Photo Entries on my computer.

Week 46 - 365 Day Photography Challenge

Day 316 - Smile for the Camera
 Maybe this week is about photographers getting bored. Or that I was not feeling that absolutely top of the world and often took the shortcut like just snapping a pic of the stuff on my studio shelf. Day 316 has a lot to do with both of those things, but also about the dullness of winter scenes and anticipating a shift to "inside" subjects like last winter with the still lifes I did. Looking for a different place to set up the subjects. And different subjects. You could call this a screen test.

Day 317 - dawn through the trees

And if you are a frequent reader of my blog you have no doubt seen this stand of Aspens before. I said on my fan page, Binford-Bell Studio, recently, that we photograph or paint subjects we know best. And our best photos maybe even subjects we are a bit bored with. It is rather like knowing all the best spots on your favorite fishing lake. Day 317 and 318 and 319 are vistas I have photographed again and again in all sorts of weather and varying light. Sometimes, like the stand of aspens in 317, I feel I have not yet got it right. Or, as with the little crop of aspens on the hill, there is no getting it wrong. There used to be one tree more on the right. It listed more and more and last year fell.  I am still really missing that tree.

Day 318 - Missing man formation

The two old Ponderosas in 319 have also been photographed a lot. They are a frequent perch for hawks who reside in this area. They are large trees and dominate a photograph while being almost impossible to be the sole subject as the tree in 320. The clouds and snow really added to this portrait of these two trees. I worry the one on the right is on its last days. The bark around its base shows decay and our sometimes fierce winds could blow it down easily.

Day 319 - the Magnificent Gentlemen 

Aspens grow tall and largely straight. Though I am told they do make a very subtle counter clockwise twist from top to bottom. This aspen standing alone on the hill seems to have suffered much in its climb to the heights. The wounds have made it bent and accented its twist. It is also a frequent perch for a red tailed hawk I am familiar with. It remains a tree I have not totally captured with the lens.

Day 320 - Do the Twist

One of the reasons you take your camera everywhere is the picture below. I was on a routine run to the local store and to feed a friend's cat. At my house there was a blizzard and in Angel Fire sunshine as I drove out toward Eagle Nest. I even pulled over at one point and took two pictures from the same spot looking opposing directions to show Facebook friends how different a mile can make. Just snaps as my English friend would say. But on the return trip the blizzard from back home hit Angel Fire, and the clouds began to shut out the sun.

I am still undecided about the red ring in this picture. It was not a solar flare off my camera. I was inside my car with the window rolled down and backed into the shade of the car. It also appears in another picture taken at different angle. I think it may be something on the ground which the beam of light is striking. That is near the end of the Angel Fire runway and could be a Loran light.

Day 321 - Beam me up Scotty

Day 322 is back home outside the studio, but, I confess, another snow storm. One without the blizzard. I was searching recent photo folders for a Backyard shot for a contest. It was taken the same day as 319. I have promised a blog about my selections for that contest and so you will see another picture of the snow covered table in that blog as it was one of my entries.

Day 322 - cook out canceled 

And so that's a wrap for this week's snaps of my old friends in the neighborhood.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Letters Never Sent

Visual Prompt by The Mag

A whole shoebox of them

written and received
some never sent.

from Dad at war
lovers and friends away.

of anger and confusion
written but not sent.

to whom it may concern
an unbound journal.

of my life
forgotten in a box.

J. Binford-Bell
November 2013

Friday, November 15, 2013

Creative Process - Rio Grande Glory

Rio Grande Glory by J. Binford Bell

I began this 24 x 30 inch mixed media painting last summer. It was inspired by several photographic trips to the Rio Grande River which has become a national monument - Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. There are so many great photographs taken of this river because for a large segment a road runs beside it. I drive through Embudo Canyon a lot and my mind is full of even more images of the light on the sides and the rafts on the river.

A road runs beside it through Embudo Canyon

Doing a painting of this inspiring canyon and the river which formed it became an opportunity to blend the digital images with my mental images and apply the emotion I feel when I am there. As I looked through my photo files this morning to find the one image I had used to arrive at the drawing I realized there was not just one but several. I liked the light on the hills in the photo above and the plateaus in the photo below. 

Fly fisherman above Embudo Canyon

And I love the bends of the river with exposed islands from the low water this spring.

I began my painting in July. With low water and exposed rocks. And I finished it in the fall when the river was higher and the colors along the banks no longer green. For a couple months the painting sat in my studio stalled with just the sky and the water. I don't use a lot of green in my compositions. And yet those were the pictures I had to refer back to.

Two principle elements

 I was lucky enough to be able to return to the Rio Grande shores this fall and get some new inspiration. I toyed with adding the fall reflections to the river like in the photograph below but I think that is another painting. I wanted the river in my painting to be a reflection of the sky. But I now had the palate for my shore.

Colors of fall

I was able to begin working in earnest again and blocked out the major colors. I knew at this stage that once the watercolors were in place I would begin using the oil sticks to finish.

Basic colors laid in
 And after the shore was the sky. The subject is the river and sky and the oil sticks were a perfect enhancement of poured watercolor sky.

Almost complete

In the final details were segments of other photographs and other times between low water and high. Last trip I made to the Rio Grande the rocks were not visible. The crosses on the bluff are from further up river. And I took the road out that runs along the right side. Artistic license or blinders. When I look at the Rio Grand in Embudo Canyon I do not see the road. I find it rude that it shows up in photographs.

And I always put the ravens in the skies of my day time paintings. And since the death of a soul mate there has always been one raven alone. But a friend asked my recently if my painting has changed since I am no longer producing for fairs. And yes, it has. "How?", she asked. One obvious way is I never took months to finish a painting. There were deadlines to be met. Booth space to be filled.

Now I am painting subjects close to my heart. I hope I am putting more of my soul into each work.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Week 45 - 365 Day Photography Challenge

Day 309 - Reflective Ms. Murphy

Interesting week. I got my submissions off for the New Mexico Magazine Photography contest and began working on submissions for Santa Fe Photography Workshops show - My Backyard. I am working toward a broader interpretation of backyard. I do feel that my "stomping grounds" in northern New Mexico are my backyard.

Day 310 - Icy Reflections

I do have some great images I took with my Nikon D90 that need mined out of my photo files. But I decided to see what I could come up with using my new Nikon D3200. Day 310 above is one I am considering for the three to submit. I always begin with approximately ten and reduce them as we get closer to the deadline. The photo below is nice but not suitable for the contest in question.

Day 311 -  Colorful Reflections in Ice

Nor is Day 312. Not really a backyard. But a great photo in my opinion. Considering it for the next photographic contest on my list, Insights. I try to keep ahead. After the 3rd Annual Insight Women of New Mexico Show I want to enter this one in is the Ralph Solano Photographic show at Old Pass Gallery.

Day 312 - Reflections of reflections

Day 313 would also be in consideration for my backyard as will the next two. But both of them probably will not make the cut.

Day 313 - Cool Reflections

Between times in New Mexico is a challenge. Not quite winter. Fall colors are gone. Trying to find compositions with the bare bones of trees and clouds.

Day 314

Photography is not about just concentrating on what you are good at. It is challenging yourself to explore new subjects. Reflections were once a new challenge.

Day 315

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Week 44 - 365 day Photographic Challenge 2013

Day 302 - Magique 

I think no photographer picks up a camera and decides to be Ansel Adams. No, I will correct myself, no sane person buys a camera with the belief they can become famous. Most photographers first get a camera handed down from a family member and begin taking pictures of the family pets. That was especially true in the film era with the inexpensive Brownie cameras by Kodak. And obviously the picture above shows that not all of us get too far away from or first favorite subjects.

The digital age, however, has changed to some degree the path photographers take. I will leave nameless all the friends I have that think if they go out and buy my camera they too can take prize winning photographs. Good luck with that. Taking pictures of our pets has provided us with lots of training and experience.

Day 303

And you no longer drop your film off and hope the wizard in the darkroom works some sort of magic. It is back to photography 101 where you worked your own photos in the college darkroom. Only now it is a dry darkroom, and I do not care how much you paid for your photo manipulation software. There is no substitute for the eye of the artist. You might be able to save a composition with a good crop or dodge out the Pepsi can in the foreground you never noticed but you have to know what you want to achieve.

The end days of fall leading into winter are a bit challenging. Anyone can snap an aspen on their iphone or the first snow of the season but the days in between are a bit challenging. You find yourself wishing for the first snow or at least a heavy frost.

Day 304 A

The perfect reflection of a winter scene in a not yet frozen pond is all about being in just the right place at just the right time. But the photo I took a few minutes later was better because the breeze had come up and changed it all.

Day 304 B
The reflection is not as perfect in picture two but the texture is better because of the shivering of the water. And the sun peeked out and put a bit of light on the distant trees. If you grew up taking pictures of you pets you developed the patience to wait to see what they did next.

Day 305

And Photography 101 taught you black and white was the bare bones of an image. If the basics are not there not much that fancy digital camera can do for you.

I was so ready to get into Photography 201 and work with color. But it meant more time in the darkroom. I think that is true even with the computer programs we use today.

Day 306

So many more variables with color. Especially if it is something like clear drops of water from melting snow. Snow does not stay pretty long.

Day 307

And the winter weather has taken just enough color out of the landscape you find yourself back to looking for colors in the sky or unique shapes of trees hosting two hawks. Or you retreat back to still lifes.

Day 308

It is still all about form and composition and light and shadow. It has never been about megapixels. Though having just upgraded to more megapixels I am not about to sacrifice them. I can still take a great picture of my dog. And I have taken pictures of pets long enough I look for the unusual in the pose. I do that with the landscape too.

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Women Gather

Resurrection Reunion by Stanley Spenser
Visual prompt by The Mag: 192

The women gather
their daughters in tow
festooned in Sunday finery.
Toting baskets
for a picnic on the graves.

The women gather
with the young girls to teach
the honoring of their ancestors.
They toil to clean
the graves of those from the past.

The women gather
with the next priestesses to be
to celebrate their mothers.
They dance
as all earth mothers who came before.

J. Binford-Bell
November 2013