Snow, Snow, Snow!

Not quite in the same league as the boatloads recently dumped in the Northeast, but we have had a bunch of snow here as well. It’s hard to resist photographing in these conditions–despite temps that freeze the shutter finger and drain the batteries.

Yes, this is the most cliché view in Boulder…but it is still irresistible at sunrise after a heavy snowfall. At least I tried to make it slightly different by incorporating those large boulders (imitating large marshmallows, in this image) by the park headquarters building:

The First Five Flatirons from Chautauqua Park. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
The First Five Flatirons from Chautauqua Park. Boulder, Colorado, 2015

An unusual view toward the Continental Divide from the Peak-to-Peak Highway. Those dark areas turn to gold in the autumn–they are aspen groves:

Winter Glimpse of Indian Peaks Wilderness. Peak-to-Peak Highway, Colorado, 2015
Winter Glimpse of Indian Peaks Wilderness. Peak-to-Peak Highway, Colorado, 2015

Looking for patterns in the cottonwoods by Boulder Creek:

Cottonwood Patterns, Winter. Boulder Creek, Colorado, 2015
Cottonwood Patterns, Winter. Boulder Creek, Colorado, 2015

Some mischievous manipulation going on here:

Strange Roots, Winter. Boulder Creek, Colorado, 2015
Strange Roots, Winter. Boulder Creek, Colorado, 2015

Our New Concept in Art (A New Portfolio)

Contemplating Art at the BMOCA. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Contemplating Art at the BMOCA. Boulder, Colorado, 2015 (An iPhone 6 image)

My wife came up with this one as we were visiting the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoCA) yesterday.

Here is how it happened…

First, we worked on understanding and appreciating  the main exhibit, Substrate, by a group of seven very accomplished artists. Once we had seen and digested the different installations, we wandered into the empty upstairs meeting room that looked as if it had, perhaps, just held a small conference the day before. There were a few tables and chairs in the center, and some other objects scattered about.

Thus:

The Trinity Conference Room. BMOCA, Boulder, Colorado, 2015
The Trinity Conference Room. BMOCA, Boulder, Colorado, 2015 (An iPhone 6 image)

“Objects”…yes, indeed, and this is where it gets really interesting…

In one corner, bathed in the white, snow-augmented light coming in from the large windows, were three empty sculpture pedestals, painted white, and left haphazardly behind.

Again, thus:

White Trinity, #2. BMOCA, Boulder, Colorado, 2015
White Trinity, #2. BMOCA, Boulder, Colorado, 2015 (An iPhone 6 image)

“The Trinity”, said Maria in a mock serious tone, as if she had just discovered yet another art exhibit.

Then I noticed an interesting parallel on the other, darker, side of the room–three black waste baskets set together.

To wit:

Black Trinity, #1. BMOCA, Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Black Trinity, #1. BMOCA, Boulder, Colorado, 2015 (An iPhone 6 image; Image credit: María Rosa Fusté)

“The Dark Trinity”, I replied, just as not-seriously. “Look at how the three pedestals form a trinity bathed in righteous white light, while we have over here, three black wastebaskets set against the darkest wall of the room. A jolting contrast and unusual balance and juxtaposition.”

The profound multiple meanings of this inadvertent “art installation” we had discovered were mind blowing. There were obvious religious (Christian, at least) overtones to the array of objects…White Trinity versus Dark Trinity…Christ versus the Devil…Salvation versus Eternal Damnation…Purity versus Sin, and so on.

But was there some sort of subtle additional social commentary? Perhaps a statement about the past and current influence of race and racism in this country? The darker-skinned of our population set against the dark wall versus the lighter-skinned dominant group set against the sunshine and bathed in white light…one group shunted aside and oppressed versus the other group set out for proud public display…

Or, were we also seeing, perhaps, allusions to the film, The Matrix? Or, maybe an allusion to the first nuclear bomb explosion–the Trinity test site?

What other layers of meaning had the artist hidden in this installation?

Of course, all this was pure farce. These were just random objects, randomly placed, in a random room that was then not being used for some random reason. Pure random randomness. The position of the three white pedestals and the three black trash cans was entirely coincidental. But, it could certainly be interpreted as very high-brow art!

Hot damn, Dilbert, it was art!

Thus our “new concept in art” portfolio that we will be working on. I can’t wait to build up our pile of pilfered and profound images as we visit museums everywhere, photographing the non-exhibit detritus laying about and around the actual exhibits. The point of our work: art is everywhere–you don’t even have to try to arrange anything in any special way. With the right perspective, explanation and interpretation, you can give even randomness an incredibly profound sense of meaning. Just tie things together with the camera, use a few sophisticated words, and you’ve got it!

Hmmm…A question for you, then: If art can be discovered in such a random way, what kind of meaning is left in those installations that were deliberately constructed or placed on the walls of the museum by real, hard-working and starving, artists?

What does it all mean, Beeblebrox?

On Chimping

Chimping the Shot Times Three. Barcelona, Catalunya, 2014
Chimping the Shot Times Three. Barcelona, Catalunya, 2014

Chimping”, from Wikipedia: “Chimping is a colloquial term used in digital photography to describe the habit of checking every photo on the camera display (LCD) immediately after capture.”

Yep, that’s it. And I do admit to it…BUT…

All I am really doing are just two teeny weeny, but important, things:

1) I am checking the basic composition in the LCD, and…

2) I am checking the RGB histogram to see if it is where I want it–very often, but not always, ensuring that there are no blown highlights or blocked shadows. (This check often results in shooting another frame after adjusting the exposure compensation a tad.)

Some things I don’t do whilst chimping:

–Check the color rendition on the LCD.

–Check the exposure visually using just the LCD image.

–Peruse the photos so far taken to see if I have any good ones.

–Thumb through the photos to delete the bad ones.

On the first two points above, the LCD can be notoriously inaccurate. This can happen because of the ambient lighting (very bright or dark), or it can be because the image in the LCD is merely a jpeg rendition based on your in-camera settings–thus already “post-processed” in some way.

On the last two points above, I wait until I can see all of the images on a big screen, at home.

So, I think it’s OK to do some slight chimping…but don’t take it to the extreme–they just might stick you in a cage!

Caged Chimp. Mendoza, Argentina, 2008
Caged Chimp. Mendoza, Argentina, 2008

Billy, the Carpenter

Just Another Day On the Job. Boulder, Colorado, 2015
Just Another Day On the Job. Boulder, Colorado, 2015

…at least that is what it said on his construction helmet.

I posted this image a couple of weeks ago in a blog post about street photography (Street Portrait Teamwork, February 10, 2015), but I am posting it again for a couple of reasons.

First, I have reworked it a bit and I think it came out a bit better this time.

And, second, to tell you…the rest o’ the story (“Paul Harvey…Good Day!”)…

After I re-tweaked this file with Nik/Google and Photoshop, I printed two copies on 8 1/2 x 11 Epson Ultra Premium Luster paper, let them dry for a day, signed them, coated them with Premier Art Print Shield, placed them inside plastic photo sleeves with a business card, and headed out to Billy’s work site on Pearl Street–“The Hole”, where the Boulder Daily Camera used to have its headquarters. (As an aside, yesterday, a couple of fun-loving local skydivers tried a little BASE jumping action from the 200′ crane on the site. Pretty dern low fer that kinda nonsense if’n ya ask me.)

I didn’t find Billy–he had just finished his shift for the day–but I did find a couple of guys who knew him. I handed over the photos in a large vanilla envelope (that’s what we called these envelopes as kids). They promised to hang the photos in the work shack so everyone could throw darts at Billy. Thus assured that Billy would eventually get his photographs from his buddies, I headed home with a smile upon my countenance. Gotta love those guys!

The lesson here is this…After you capture an image of someone on the street, or in public, try to go back, find them, and give them a copy of the print. Who knows where it might lead. At the very least you make their day, make friends, and foment good karma. And, “what goes around comes around“, as my old bus driver Mr. Reynolds used to say. (He would also usually add, “And I ain’t justa whistlin’ Dixie, neither!”)

Video Tutorials, Muppet Style…a la Mario and Fafa

Time for some photography-related humor…

There is actually some authentic educational content in these Mario and Fafa videos, but it is really their [reasonably] wholesome creative and comic genius that makes them worth passing on to you for your peeping pleasure. (If you like what you see, you might check out their Facebook page, too: Glove and Boots.)

The first (2:58 total) is for you videographers out there. It is sort of a public service announcement about why you should NEVER shoot vertical videos with your phone camera (or with any other machine for that matter). George Lucas even has a bit part (a pun, as you will see)…

This second video (5:35) is a Photoshop CS6 tutorial…but I spent more time enjoying the wonderful choreography, dialogue, and special effects than I did paying attention to the CS6 lessons. I especially loved Fafa’s stereotypical, droning, “Photoshop tutor voice” you’ll hear on so many such video lessons posted on YouTube. You will definitely get a hearty chuckle out of it…

Peter Lik…Artist? Or, slick businessman? Or both? Or…something else?

Maybe you haven’t heard of Peter Lik, but you have surely heard of the sale of one of his photographs, “Phantom”, for $6.5 million. That makes it the most expensive photograph ever sold to date.

To jog your memory, here is what a Google search came up with, although the colors seems to be a bit weird…or maybe not:

And, another version of the image in question (in monochrome), as ridiculed anonymously on the internet:

Very nice that the dust someone threw in the air for the shot managed to form the shape of a “phantom”–or was there some Photoshop help there? No matter…

Peter Lik’s work is typically of that very saturated, landscape school I discussed in my February 5, 2015 blog post, On Super-Saturated Landscape Images. The difference is his marketing genius. He has managed to parlay his work, and his system of progressive pricing of limited editions, into a multi-million dollar business centered in Las Vegas. Imagine selling well over a million dollars worth of your prints each week!

Holy Suffering Sotheby’s, Batman!

There seems to be some question, though, if there might not be sort of a subtle psychological manipulation of client expectations in the Lik Gallery business model. Hmmm…the plot thickens…

To read a bit more about Peter Lik, his ingenious business model, and the famous “Phantom” photograph, check out this February 21, 2015, New York Times article, Peter Lik’s Recipe for Success: Sell Prints. Print Money. This is definitely a must read for a little insight into how the sale of art works in this modern world of massive PR and marketing strategies, instant gratification, and buyer v. buyer bragging rights.

More links in case you want to delve a bit more into Peter Lik and the “Phantom”…well…uh…the “Phantom” controversy, I guess might be the word…

Try these forums (links to various news articles can be found within these discussions): Peter Lik Photo Sells for 6.5Million. How? and New York Times Exposes Peter Lik Photography Scheme

And yet another article with a fount of links to related articles at the end: Peter Lik–Like Him or Not

Different Visions

This is why we can all be artists, unique in our own special way–we are individuals with different life experiences, different values…thus, different ways of perceiving and interpreting the world around us.

By way of example, here is my interpretation of the unusual architecture found inside the mountainous circus tent that is the Denver International Airport:

DIA, #2. Denver, Colorado, 2015
DIA, #2. Denver, Colorado, 2015

In contrast, I gave the exact same raw file to my wife, and she came up with this:

DIA, #2 Reprise, by María Rosa Fusté (posted by permission). Denver, Colorado, 2015
DIA, #2 Reprise, by María Rosa Fusté (posted by permission). Denver, Colorado, 2015

Talk about night and day, peas and carrots, yin and yang, Adolf and Alice!

Her comment as she worked: “I’m trying to make this look as little as possible as the reality of what it is.”

So, you see…Whether you are a photographer, sculptor, painter, writer, actor, musician, poet, architect, street performer, comic, or even scientist, everyone has a very personal, unique vision.

What’s yours?

Wasson Peak in Monochrome

I tend to use color for the photographs I use to document a trip (as in yesterday’s Wasson Peak blog entry, and many of my Colorado 14er reports). I move to monochrome for the images that strike me as being more emotional, more artistic…more laden with mood and meaning.

At least that’s my sense.

For these color “documentary images”, I often feel obligated to say exactly where the place is and what you are looking at. I often point out interesting or popular landmarks.

With my black and white photographs, though, I feel like it doesn’t matter where the images were captured…it is more about how they make you feel on a gut level.

Here are four monochromes from Wasson as an example. Compare these with the more conventional, documentary, and postcardy-type images in yesterday’s trip report. What do you think? Do you see a difference in emotion? Do you not find the monochromes to have a deeper layer of feeling?

Mt Wrightson and Cloudscape. From Wasson Peak area, Arizona, 2015
Mt Wrightson and Cloudscape. From Wasson Peak area, Arizona, 2015

 

Tucson Mountains, Mid-Morning Light. From King Canyon Trail, Wasson Peak area, Arizona, 2015
Tucson Mountains, Mid-Morning Light. From King Canyon Trail, Wasson Peak area, Arizona, 2015

 

Saguaro Family Under a Desert Cloudscape. King Canyon Trail, Wasson Peak area, Arizona, 2015
Saguaro Family Under a Desert Cloudscape. King Canyon Trail, Wasson Peak area, Arizona, 2015

 

Scarred Saguaro. King Canyon Trail, Wasson Peak area, Arizona, 2015
Scarred Saguaro. King Canyon Trail, Wasson Peak area, Arizona, 2015

Arizona Summits: Wasson Peak (4,687′)

Saguaro and Ocotillo, Cloudscape. Tucson Mountains, Arizona, 2015
Saguaro, Ocotillo, and Cloudscape. Tucson Mountains, Arizona, 2015

 

Wasson is sort of a nondescript desert summit, amongst others of a similar nature in the Tucson Mountains, but it is the highest point in this small range just west of the Old Pueblo. So, for that reason alone, it might interest you as a nice winter hike.

From a photography perspective, it merits consideration because it gives you relatively quick access to 360-degree views of Tucson and the surrounding Sonoran Desert–an excellent sunrise or sunset perch.

Finally, it takes you through some classic Sonoran Desert flora and fauna. I happened upon a herd of deer near the summit of Wasson today–a nice surprise.

Here is a quick trip report based on the King Canyon Trail access (7 miles, 2000′) and hiking at night with no moon and a Costco headlamp…

Trailhead: Park your dinosaur grease-eating vehicle just across Kinney Road from the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in an unmarked dirt lot.

Starting out: You have two options from the back of this dirt lot…You can hike up the old dirt/gravel road or you can take the footpath just to the left that will deposit you in the wash. I chose to take the road up and the wash on the return. Keep your eyes wide open in the wash as there are some small remnants of petroglyphs to be found.

The trail: Going up the old dirt road from where you parked, you will immediately run in to the gate and the usual trail intro signage. Beyond that, although the trail is well-used and well-signed, there are maybe three places where you could potentially choose the wrong route on a dark and stormy night:

1) At about 0.9 miles, the old road/trail you have been following will deposit you in the wash. Don’t turn left toward the Mam-A-Gah Picnic Area. Instead, continue straight another 200 yards or so up the sandy wash. (The sign here doesn’t indicate the direction for Wasson Peak.)

2) At a second sign, 200 yards up this wash, the arrow will indicate Wasson Peak to the right. You will see the stone staircase about 15 feet beyond this sign to the right. In the dark, you could possibly miss this.

3) Once you gain “The Pass” and have your first view of Tucson far below, a third sign with four options will suggest that you turn left to start up the last 1.2 miles of steep trail to Wasson’s summit. The sign is correct–just do it!

Another trail comment…This route would be a great option for trail runners. You get some 2,000 feet of altitude gain/loss over a seven mile trail on footing that is pretty good for the most part (on the relative trail running scale, of course). WARNING: Just be careful not to catch a shoe tip and launch forward like a torpedo out of a submarine and sprain a pinky finger and gash open a palm (not that I did anything like that).

There are several other trail options that will take you to Wasson Peak, some that will help you create a nice long loop hike. I’ll let you investigate the possibilities. (Look for Hugh Norris, Sendero Esperanza, and Sweetwater trails.)

Time requirement: Runners could do this…well, as fast as you can run. Maybe an hour and a half round-trip? I hiked fast and jogged a bit here and there and it took me 1+15 up (in the dark) and 1+05 back (looking for petroglyphs along the wash). A more typical hike-and-rest time would be 3-4 hours for the entire trip.

The photography: The machine used was the 16mp Fuji X100s range finder look-a-like. The lens on the camera is a fixed 35mm-equivalent and I carried no tripod. For most shots I tried to brace myself on rocks as best I could. The Fuji was certainly a lot lighter to haul up the hill than my usual D800 and three lens/tripod Gulag brick bag, but obviously not as capable or as flexible.

Here are some sample images from this morning:

Arizona sunrises and sunsets are legendary. If there at least a few clouds in the sky to reflect the light, this is a reputation well deserved. Mt. Wrightson (9,453′) is visible on the horizon to the right, and a few lights from south Tucson can be seen on the left…

The View to the Southeast. From Wasson Peak, Arizona, 2015
The View to the Southeast. From Wasson Peak, Arizona, 2015

 

A similar view as the colors change and the Earth’s rotation brings the Sun closer to the horizon…

The View to the South. From Wasson Peak, Arizona, 2015
The View to the South. From Wasson Peak, Arizona, 2015

 

First light on Baboquivari Peak and Kitt Peak. That is the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum at the bottom left…

The View to the Southwest. From Wasson Peak, Arizona, 2015
The View to the Southwest. From Wasson Peak, Arizona, 2015

 

Looking back at Wasson’s nondescript summit with the excellent trail visible. The Santa Catalina’s can be seen on the far right edge of the photograph…

Wasson Peak in Morning Light. Tucson Mountains, Arizona, 2015
Wasson Peak in Morning Light. Tucson Mountains, Arizona, 2015

 

Note the long shadow cast by Wasson Peak onto the desert landscape…

The View West. From Wasson Peak, Arizona, 2015
The View West. From Wasson Peak, Arizona, 2015

 

The spring wild flowers are not far away. The ocotillo are already looking very green and happy, ready to burst into bloom…

Ocotillo Spring with Landmarks. Wasson Peak Trail, Arizona, 2015
Ocotillo Spring with Landmarks. Upper Wasson Peak Trail, Arizona, 2015