Sunday, August 30, 2009

Geschichte in Augenblicken

My art making is process-driven, a by product of being an experimental scientist. I start out making a print, or a painting, or a photograph by thinking of the process rather than thinking about a specific image or goal. And when I look at the art of others, I often wonder what their process was, how they arrived at the final destination of the piece. So it's somewhat paradoxical that I abhor the need of most photographers to know "what lens, what camera, what f-stop, what shutter speed, what filter, what film/memory card/pixel count" about virtually all images. Somehow their need to know this information seems mechanical, leads to arguments over minutiae, and in many respects has nothing to do with process.

So I hesitate to say that today I went out into the back garden with no obvious goal in mind except to take some images with a new digital camera and a zoneplate lens attachment. The hesitation is that I don't identify with a particular camp when it comes to photography tools - I use the tools at hand that I think will get me started on a process that will engage and interest me. Sometimes it's film, sometimes digital; sometimes it's ultrasharp lenses, sometimes it's a $1 magnifying glass lens; sometimes I'll end up in the darkroom, sometimes I'll be working with Lightroom. If so many people interested in photography weren't so mental about digital vs film, "straight out of the camera" vs post-processed, I would be less circumspect about how some of my images were realized.

This image and the crazy ramp-up to a new term of teaching made me think of a simpler time in our lives quite some time ago. We spent a couple of years in Germany, working at a research institute, renting an apartment and spending our free time traveling and getting together with a motley group of ex-pats. That time holds a lot of wonderful memories, and I dream of returning to those simpler times. Looking at this image made me think of the German word augenblick which we would refer to as "the blink of an eye", a moment in time. "Geschichte in Augenblicken" means story in moments. Which seems like a very succinct definition of life, each of our stories being unique. A photograph by its very definition is the story of a moment, so there is a strong connection between life and photography. Something as simple as trying out new equipment has opened up the idea for a new series of images, of moments that define my life, my story.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


The local shores are constantly calling to me, inspiring an endless obsession. Everywhere I look, I see still life images with qualities that would be difficult to replicate in the studio. The first, and most important being the arrangement of objects, which lacks any deliberate intention. The range of colours and tones. The intersection of edges, defining and dividing. Textures which help define three dimensions within a two dimensional image, lines which are un-selfconscious and draw the eye deeper into the composition. Yesterday at low tide, I shot 5 rolls of film and then made digital images until my battery ran low. Yes, all those pictures of rocks, kelp, the drawn landscape. For many, a superficial glance will suffice but for those who linger, a rich world lies within.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


There's something special about the way the crispness of a hot summer day yields to the blurry tones of dusk, the last light catching just on the horizon.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Drawing Off The Page

I don't have mad drawing skills, but I have done a few drawing projects and have a keen appreciation for all types of drawings, particularly abstracts. As a result, I feel the development of my eye is influenced as much by drawing and sculpture as it is by photography. I see the world around me in terms of tones, textures and lines, and try to use a "drawing sense" in composing with my lens. Line placement and composition in a drawing is usually the result of deliberate choices the artist makes. One might view the lines and shapes in the landscape as random or accidental, but lines like the ones in this rock are just as deliberate. The result of a culmination of circumstances and forces, these lines are placed deliberately and composing the image brings them into the realm of drawing.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


I love the accidental, which is how this image came about. I was testing how a Lensbaby Composer with the plastic lens insert would work for digital infrared. On my Canon Rebel XT, most lenses have an IR "hotspot" even when wide open. So I thought I'd test the Lensbaby out. The good news is that at all apertures, there is not evidence of a hotspot (haven't tried the glass lens inserts yet). The testing involved removing the R72 filter, changing out the aperture ring, then putting the filter back on. The infrared filter is opaque, so for each shot I was just blindly focusing at infinity. But I forgot to put the lens back at infinity when I took this shot. Just a happy accident.

Thursday, August 13, 2009


I took this image at a park overlooking Shoal Bay and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. It is a spiritual place for me, somewhere I go to feel the ocean breeze and the sun in my face. A place of contemplation and peace. It's a small park, not much to recommend it as a place to photograph and yet there is always one or two images to be found, to be made as photographic contemplations.

Monday, August 10, 2009


I have a deep, abiding love for the coast where I live. History is written in the rocks here, reaching from millenia ago to the present day. Ancient history etched in the rock surface, present history attached, everything integrated into a continuous whole, like a multimedia art piece. I really see a connection between a subject like this, and the potential to transform it into a drawing, painting, etching. It's possible to find a hundred photos to take within a radius of 20 feet on some of the beaches here. Which is something I find comforting - no matter what kind of funk I find myself in, a quick trip to the beach will give me several hours of engagement with a rich, wonderful narrative.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Emotional Richness of Blur

There's something engaging about blur. Ultra sharp photos seem to elicit a sense of "wow", an appreciation of technical achievement. Blurry photos hit you in the gut, down in the emotional centre. They recall fragments of dreams grasped on the edge of waking. It's that reaction I'm chasing, playing with different tools to achieve images that speak to me, and I hope speak to others. I see the landscape as a playground for imagination, and that's how I want to represent the landscape. As a cherished experience, rather than a postcard moment.