Friday, April 30, 2010

Daily Practice 120/365

Title: "eternal partnership"
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I'm obsessed with renovations currently  - we're renovating our kitchen and updating the wiring throughout the house. These coils of electrical wire are dangling all over the basement, waiting to be connected into the panel and start being useful. At the same time, they make wonderful subjects to explore line, shape, tone and shade.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Daily Practice 119/365

Title: "Canopy"
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I was sitting on a bench after lunch, and looking up I was intrigued by the opening in the trees and the way the clouds were conforming to the edge of the opening, as if there was some silent agreement between trees and clouds.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Daily Practice 118/365

Title: "Lost in a cloud, lost in a thought"
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Went for a walk about at lunch time - the clouds were surreal, cotton candy dreams. There's something universally appealing about clouds, yet like thoughts they pass by in our lives. Like our minds, the sky is the never-changing backdrop that we can rely upon. Clouds are transient and ever-changing, something to be admired for their impermanence.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Daily Practice 117/365

Title: "The Return of Hope"
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We had a fierce wind storm yesterday, which was just clearing this morning. For a long time, humans have looked to the sky for signs, and on a morning like this it's easy to understand why. After a period of turmoil or darkness, those first tentative signs of bright light can lift one's spirits like nothing else.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Daily Practice 116/365

Title: "The angry, spitting sea"
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There was a strong, strong wind blowing from the east bringing the sea to a roiling boil. The birds were huddling on the shore, making occasional test flights only the return to the huddle. The wind was so strong that it occasionally blew the camera off level as I held it up to make an image. But the wind was also warm, hinting at coming days of calm, warm spring.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Daily Practice 115/365

Title: "Five second self-portrait"
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Today was World Pinhole Photography Day, a day when photographers all over the world use pinhole cameras to make an image. My plan with this image was to make a double exposure of plant leaves with a grid from the brick walkway. My camera is a modified oscilloscope camera that takes instant pack film, and has no viewfinder. So I inadvertently took my self-portrait (trust me, my feet are as much as you'll ever see of this photo-averse person). It was one of those unexpected accidents that just seemed to make sense.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Daily Practice 114/365

Title: "Day turned into night"
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The rain cleared off mid morning, leaving behind a sky full of portent over a heavy sea.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Daily Practice 113/365

Title: "Shaky Icon"
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I had a busy day today between work, checking on the kitchen reno and meeting a couple of colleagues for dinner at a local pub. Driving back in the rain, I decided to try some shots of the reflected street lights with a low res cameraphone. Of them all, I liked this one because of the blurry, shaky version of the legislature with its Disney-esque lighting.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Daily Practice 112/365

Title: "Sublunar Phenomenon 22/04/10 10:04:17 PM PST"
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There are strange things happening in the night sky these days....

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Daily Practice 111/365

Title: "The Golden Aura"
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I like the stark meeting of light and dark in this composition, the sense of flowing light.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Daily Practice 110/365

Title: "Camp Kitchen Still Life"
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Our kitchen is undergoing a renovation at the moment. I sent my darling E. is off traveling with her sister while the house is in disarray - they are taking an epic road trip across the country which will serve another purpose. Her sister Z. is moving out to our magical island to join us in this idyllic life!

In searching for a composition this evening, I came across this hodge-podge collection of the bare essentials of my temporary kitchen in the "studio" (aka the basement). I like the unassuming, unpretentious, casual collection of objects in this image.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Daily Practice 109/365

Title: "Huddling"
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I was walking through a construction zone between buildings on my way into the office, when a chance glance to the side brought these fungi into view. They were huddled against the side of a building, massing upon each other as if gaining protection in numbers. It hasn't been particularly damp recently, so their appearance was a little unexpected. Having the commitment to a daily practice, with that compulsion to make at least one image a day, caused me to stop and make a composition with my phone camera. Without this commitment to a daily practice, I might have not noticed them to begin with, and if I had I would most certainly have moved on without taking the effort to make a picture.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Daily Practice 108/365

Title: "Birth/Rebirth"
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I was invited out to Rochelle and Alex's for dinner last night with their friend Dave, who is an amazing photographer. Dave teaches a photography course at a local institution, and we were talking about the heavy reliance some of his students have on Photoshop, in that the students tend to be cavalier about composition and exposure while taking the image, because they rely on fixing everything in post-processing. The problem with this approach is they aren't developing a good working routine with the camera, and they are not improving their eye for composition. Someone who has worked hard at learning the craft of photography can take stunning images with any camera. Apropos of our discussion, Dave had brought some prints he'd made of images taken with the hipstamatic app on the iPhone. The camera on the iPhone is definitely low-res, yet Dave's images were notable for their extremely strong compositions, each an absolutely stunning jewel. It was a wonderful illustration of what we'd been talking about earlier, and a great inspiration for me - this is why I'm doing the daily practice. I want to improve my ability to make strong compositions and produce expressive images.

Ironically, today as yesterday, I was working "blind" in terms of making compositions. Yesterday I used a pinhole camera, and today I used a Fuji instax camera, but with a cheap 99 cent magnifying glass as a pseudo-closeup lens, making the viewfinder redundant. I was finding moments during the afternoon to photograph while doing other chores around the house, which put a useful limit on subject matter. I don't often photograph flowers, because it's such an overused subject which makes it difficult to bring something new. So I make no claims about this image. I was attracted to this magnolia blossom because the outer petals were starting to turn brown, but new fresh petals were still unfolding in the centre. Because I was shooting blind, it was a bit of trial and error to get a composition and I wouldn't say this worked all that well. Except that by not including all of the blossom and leaves in the frame, this composition ties into the training I received in painting to consider that the image extends beyond the canvas, not to always constrain the subject within the confines of the canvas. And so it is with this image - the viewer must consider that the subject extends beyond what is visible.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Daily Practice 107/365

Title: "The beginning of the end"
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It's fun to play around with instant film and a homemade pinhole camera without expectations. Down and dirty, hand held for long exposures, guesstimating the exposure time - it's a wonderfully freeing exercise. You're never sure exactly what is in the frame, how blurred the image will be from camera shake, and whether the exposure will be reasonable, until you peel the film apart. In this image, getting a good exposure for the sky burned in the sun to the point where it is other-worldly. As if we aren't just on the brink of disaster, but have arrived full force.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Daily Practice 106/365

Title: "Clearing at Sunset"
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Sometimes words just aren't necessary.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Daily Practice 105/365

Title: "The circle of life"
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Our campus is awash in bunnies, a horde that grows larger and larger. The truth is, the bunnies humanize the campus, they're cute and are a selling point when undergraduate students are choosing between institutions. A heaven forbid that any of those students (or visiting parents) should be confronted by the violence of natural law. Because where there are bunnies, there will inevitably be raptors. So there is a clean up crew that scours the campus in the early morning to remove evidence of that violence before students have risen from their toasty beds. So I was quite surprised to come across this specimen while walking in from the parking lot this morning. If this were a human corpse, and I lived in a tv detective series, I would be thinking that the body had been laid out for display, that there was a message in the positioning. But in reality, the bones were picked clean by the faster, bigger, hungrier animal that caught this little ball of fluff.

In terms of photography, the image portrays a certain devotional quality, at the same time the camera shake transmits a feeling of being shocked or startled, coming across the unexpected.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Daily Practice 104/365

Title: "Stand here and hug"
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Seen on campus during a lunch time walk. There was something about the chair - as if this was a waiting room for the "stand here and hug" service.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Daily Practice 103/365

Title: "The tangled web of lies and deceit"
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Another lunch time walk. There is a garden on campus which is starting to get into full bloom mode. But I noticed a bed that was being redeveloped, and some trees that had been uprooted all in the name of cultured gardens. I found the network of roots fascinating, a rare look at the hidden world beneath the trees.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Daily Practice 102/365

Title: "A confusion of edges"
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I took a walk around campus at lunch time. There was a spectacular magnolia tree in bloom, but I was far more attracted to the trunk of this old cedar tree. I loved the way the light just hit the trunk on the right hand side with such a pure, beautiful quality.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Daily Practice 101/365

Title: "A kindness of nothings"
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I have an aversion to talking about my photographic process, primarily because I want the images I make to be appreciated first and foremost for what they are, rather than for how they came to be. It's interesting that I feel that way about my photographic practice, when I'm usually quite happy to talk about how I've made an etching, or achieved an effect in a painting. I guess I just feel that photography is particularly burdened by questions from other photographers around what equipment was used, what film or post-processing tricks, what exposure settings etc. Some of this I can understand as being of interest, but the obsession with these questions seem to imply that the camera/film/software is what made the picture, and not the artist/photographer. I don't think too many photographers are making images to demonstrate the virtues of a particular set of equipment, or properties of film or processing software.

Yet I must admit that I have a love affair with film. I have a wonderful digital camera, and many of the daily practice images have been made with it. But one thing that almost never happens when using a digital camera is...some boo-boo or accident that produces an image far from what one expected. In comparison, film can almost be relied upon to be unpredictable (although careful processing etc can produce highly reproducible technical results). And that's important to me because my overall artistic process, regardless of medium, is to take the accidents in stride and allow them to dictate the further development of an image or series. Today I worked with some expired instant film and a somewhat wonky old, cheap polaroid camera. Sometimes with these film packs, the tab that you use to pull the film through the rollers fails to function properly - as it did today. So I would make an image, go to subdued light, open the camera back, grab the remaining part of the tab and coax the film out of the pack and through the processing rollers. The processing was uneven, there were inevitable light leaks, and these were quirks and characteristics that I accepted and happily worked with. This triptych sums up how I spend time in our back garden on a lovely spring day - I sit peacefully, feeling the slightly warming breeze on my face, alternating my gaze between the plants, and the sky.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Daily Practice 100/365

Title: "Morning meditation 10/04/10"
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Although I acknowledge that the genesis of this image comes from reading Ruth Bernhard's biography and her emphasis on the quality of light, none the less it makes me think of Minor White's incredible book "Mirrors Messages Manifestations". White had some interesting ways of thinking about subjects and how one came to photograph them. What I find very compelling about his work, and this book in particular, is how good he was at sequencing images. He did a number of formal "Sequence" projects, but in addition he had a spectacular feel for juxtaposing images in the book that highlighted common traits, even though the subjects were often quite different. Any artist can learn a great deal about common threads that run through their work, and how to recognize and exploit them, by carefully considering the work in this book.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Daily Practice 99/365

Title: "He looked down upon His creation"
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We watched a two bit movie this evening called "Hamlet 2". Somewhat funny, but not tremendously so. The movie ends with a high school production of the drama teacher's odd musical play based on Hamlet. In the play, Jesus takes a time machine to the present, where he markets himself as "Sexy Jesus". There's something about the light coming from the top left corner in this image that made me think of Genesis and the beginning of biblical time. Or....this could be a still from a recent sci-fi tv show like one of the later Star Treks, or Stargate Atlantis.'s just all a figment of my fevered imagination.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Daily Practice 98/365

Title: "the night my dreams turned post-apocalyptic"
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Although I'm still recovering from this flu, I did venture out briefly to pick up a prescription at the pharmacy, and on the way home stopped along the water. It was a bright, sunny day with a cool wind blowing in, the kind of day you wish for when recovering from a minor illness. Something to make you feel almost normal.

When I returned home, I was processing the images I had made. I liked one which had the sun just entering the top of the frame, highlighting the clouds and water. I had it ready to post, yet I felt a little deflated by the image - good, but somehow not completely satisfying. As almost an afterthought I tried a solarization effect, and wow - did the mood of the image completely change. I'm not feeling post-apocalyptic myself, but I certainly like what happened with the image. This little incident highlights something I've realized about art and science - the tools and languages might be different, but inquiry, problem solving and experimentation run deep in both disciplines.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Daily Practice 97/365

Title: "Drawn with Shadow"
I'm still overcoming this virus, but felt a bit energized in the early evening. I picked up a vase with some dried flowers and worked with that subject for a while. Eventually I noticed the shadows being cast by the vase on the newsprint covering the table top. I was intrigued with the intersecting lines, which almost take on the characteristics of an interference pattern from waves. I was also struck by the charcoal-like quality of the shadows, which gave a sense of drawing on the newsprint.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Daily Practice 96/365

Title: "compulsion"
The compulsion to make art can be a strong motivation. Matisse suffered a long illness which kept him flat on his back in bed. Yet he felt compelled to draw, so he attached a chalk to a long pole and drew on the ceiling of his room. The daily practice regimen is instilling a sense of compulsion in me. Just before I made this image, I was vomiting from a sudden onset of a stomach virus a couple of hours after dinner. I had not yet made an image for my daily practice, but beside the sink was this pineapple. It wasn't a long, considered time of image making, just a need to feel somewhat normal, to make an image. 

There's a bittersweet irony about the subject of this image. A couple of years ago we went on a delayed 25th wedding anniversary trip to Hawaii. The last night we were there we went to a luau, and 24 hours after arriving home we both suffered from a very nasty case of food poisoning, the kind one gets from undercooked chicken. We last ate chicken at the luau, in the land of pineapples, beaches and beautiful sunshine. Last night I felt as though this pineapple was staring me in the face, a momento mori of a horrible aftermath of a lovely vacation.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Daily Practice 95/365

Title: "An unbearable weight"
I grew up "back east", in an industrial city huddled against the end of one of the Great Lakes, the pollution rising in the sky like a nasty stain on a Sunday suit. One thing I miss from those days are the violent thunderstorms that would pass through during the summer months. Out here in paradise, thunder is an extreme rarity, something that is remarked upon by everyone on those few occasions when its low rumble is heard off the coast. I think in all the years we've lived here, I can only remember one true thunderstorm.

But in leaving things behind, others are gained. Here I'm able to experience the ever changing sea and sky. The weather has been quite spectacular and changeable this Easter weekend, cycling through a couple of extreme windstorms with respites of sun and warmth. Today there were intriguing cloud formations over the distant hills, pressing down upon the sea. I always feel compelled to make images of these formations, and their relationship with the sea. I'm sure I've seen other photographers' work with clouds and landscape, yet when I make these images I'm only responding to something inside. I'm not trying to follow in anyone's footsteps, or imitate someone's work, I'm just following my own personal imperative. I think that inner urge is what brings something authentic to an artist's work, regardless of whether the particular path is well trodden or not. It's not difficult to differentiate between the work of those who, like Ansel Adams, have a strong affinity for the landscape and the work of those who are simply imitating Adams' work.

I think one of the interesting things about this image is how a photograph changes our perception of reality. I remember reading in the biography of Gerhard Richter a discussion of how his landscape painting work changed from one period to the next. It all revolved around where the horizon line was placed in the composition - it seemed to get lower and lower as the work progressed, which in turn changed the perception of the portrayed landscapes. Through framing, the artist is revealing their own response to the scene before them, and ultimately will shape the viewer's impression of the "reality" of the scene. I've done nothing to manipulate the reality portrayed by this image, except by composition. And yet the perception of that reality is definitely influenced by the compositional choice that I've made. Photographs and their photographers are not dispassionate witnesses to truth or reality; it's a fallacy to think so.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Daily Practice 94/365

Title: "Return of Hope"
I walked along the water today, a strong cool wind blowing in off the sea. The sounds of the surf, the bright sun and the wind all brought memories of other places - Gulf of Mexico, California, Hawaii. The sea here is not open ocean, our little island huddles against the continent for protection and the ocean is caught between landmasses on the east and south of us. So we rarely get this configuration of wind and surf.

There is something about this combination of sun, wind and waves that is restorative to the soul, primal in its challenge and comfort. As a single image, this is not particularly special but I can see the possibilities of a series of such images that could transcend the pressure put on one image to convey all. Repetition, like the ocean itself, could bring new insights and a welcome sense of calm.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Daily Practice 93/365

Title: "Abstraktes Bild"
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It's an interesting exercise to make images from my watercolour board, or from my paintings. The watercolour board in particular represents unintentional mark making, it having acquired a random collection of colours, shapes, tones from paint that has gone past the borders of the paper that had been pinned to the board. Gerhard Richter always said that he first started painting pictures from snapshots because they lacked self-conscious intent to be made as art objects, but rather served as objects of devotion. He enjoyed the freedom from making compositional decisions by using the photographs as the source for the paintings. He felt that the person who had taken the photograph had already made those decisions. Of course, he did make some decisions regarding blurring of the images to make it clear that they were not photographs, nor were they intended to be faithful renditions of photographs (photo-realistic paintings). He went on to make large scale abstract paintings, and also photographed details of those paintings and made further paintings from the photographs. Cy Twombly has a long history of photographing his and others studios, and making photographs of details of his sculptures and paintings. In taking the photographs, they are intentionally blurred and ultimately are made into photographic "dry prints".

I consider this to be the start of a second phase of exploring this idea of making photographic images from previous work. I want to collect a fairly large number of images over the coming few months, and then evaluate those images to decide how to develop things further.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Daily Practice 92/365

Title: "Tail End"
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We had a huge wind storm blow up in the early morning here, hard enough to stop the ferries from coming to our island paradise. Hard enough to knock out our power. We put a fire on, stocked up on goodies, adopted a bit of a pioneer survival mentality - even though the power was only out in our neighbourhood. A 5 minute drive would bring us to powered civilization. But the weather invited us to take a bit of a slow day, enjoying the absolute quiet in the house (broken by the odd whistle of wind around the kitchen door). At one point I ventured out to fill a couple of coolers with ice from work so we could cool our perishables, and as I returned home I drove along the coast.

There was high drama - whitecaps and cresting waves - the likes of which we see only a few times of the year. For a while there was a break in the clouds and the sun came out - although the wind was still strong enough along the water to blow you over. But what caught my eye in particular was the emerald green colour of the sea - around here the water is typically bluish-grey. So I opted to make an image that focused on colour, rather than drama.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Daily Practice 91/365

Title: "Victims of Circumstance"
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My darling suggested the subject for today's daily practice. The semi-erect, trying to look dignified, carcasses of last year's window box flowers, killed off by frost. She was struck by the sculptural qualities of the dead plants, a study in the massing of the plants, with their repetitious attitude and structures. We don't like to admit it, but there is a delicate beauty in death, in the transformation that tissues undergo from life into death.