Friday, November 26, 2010

The Fire Is Still Inside These Pots

Cary Joseph, anagama fired bowl, Ithaca, NY ©

Cary Joseph, anagama fired mixing bowl set, Ithaca, NY ©

Cary Joseph, anagama fired mixing bowl set, Ithaca, NY ©

Cary Joseph, anagama fired bowl, Ithaca, NY ©

When I first showed these images to Aurora, her comment was that the pots looked like the fire was still inside them. I couldn't have said it better myself.

It is always a treat to photography great pots. This week has been a bonus week for me. I have been ruminating on a new lighting setup since March.... yeah... quite a while. I didn't own the lights I wanted to use until after June, and things have been too busy to just go play.

But play is necessary. I spent the better part of Monday trying out lighting ratios and proportions and angles of light. Always trying to throw the light where I wanted it. Until I had the real objects in hand, it was all just practice... academic really. Once the pots were in the studio, it was go-time. Time to put rubber to the road. Since then I have been playing with more tiny variables than I can count. Trying to figure out exactly how to get minor nuances to just sing out.

Cary Joseph is a potter
here in Ithaca whose work is a stark contrast to most of the local pottery. His surfaces are primarily decorated by the fire and woodash flowing through the anagama kiln he fires with a group of other potters at Corning Community College. His other body of high temperature stoneware is glazed in rich carbon trapping shino glazes that are oftentimes iridescent and glittery.

I am honored to have been asked to capture the radiant glow of these woodfired pots of Cary's. If you get a hankering for one of these gorgeous pots, you can catch Cary Joseph at the Ithaca Fine Craft Show at the Museum of the Earth next month. Better still, call and make an appointment to visit his studio to see lots more pots! You can also visit Cary in his studio during the Ithaca Art Trail open studio event in October.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Thankful for Joe

Bruce Gholson and Sam Henneke, Bulldog Pottery, NC 2010 ©

When I was struggling to get into graduate school, I spent a year at Alfred University (NYSCC) as a special student (no joke, that is the registrar's term.) I was able to learn from some amazing people, most of whom were not under the employ of the university. As I was thinking about what I am thankful for, I am so grateful I had that time at Alfred. It was there that I met Joe Streno.

Out of the blue, came a larger than life character with a swagger, a smile and a wicked rye sense of humor. As a returning student, Joe came into the room with more experience, wisdom and life under his belt than most of us would have twenty years later.

Bruce Gholson and Sam Henneke, Bulldog Pottery, NC 2010 ©

We made it through the mid-way hump of the year and began the downward slide into the end of the year. As we prepared for our exhibitions and filled out applications to get into grad school, we all had to prepare images of our clay work. Joe offered to help me shoot slides of my work. Having had virtually no experience shooting commercial caliber work, I was completely in awe of how Joe was willing to share all of his time and technique. The images that came home from that shoot are still some of my favorite pics. What I am thankful for is that Joe said it was easy. He said that learning how to do it was easy. Then he added that being really good was a bitch. Joe made it look so smooth and seamless.

Bruce Gholson and Sam Henneke, Bulldog Pottery, NC 2010 ©

So what are these images all about? Well, Joe taught me to think about light and pots... and to find the drama therein. Joe wasn't timid behind the lens, and light bent for him in the most amazing ways. Sixteen years later, I pulled some of my favorite pots out of my cupboard to see what I could do to show them off. I have met so many great potters over the years, and whenever possible, I always tried to either trade or buy the best of their work that I could possibly afford.

While in school at Alfred, one of my fellow students was Samantha Henneke. At the time, her student body of work was primarily oxidation fired, very brightly colored glazes with dot patterns and amazing satin surfaces. I was blown away by how her functional work could pack such a visual wallop! I still kick myself for not picking up any of her work from that time.

The two pieces here are from Sam and her husband Bruce. Together they run Bulldog Pottery in North Carolina, doing what most potters only wish for. They make GREAT pots, sell great pots and live POTS. And it shows. I am so glad I get to use these pots every day. They sit by my computer keyboard with steaming tea or chai or hot chocolate. Every day.

On some level, they are a gift to myself. When the doctors and surgeons told me that clay would no longer be a reasonable or safe thing for me to continue doing, I was devastated (still am). Using other potter's pots though, makes it easier. It also helps to encourage me to pursue my photography with the same fervor that I pursued ceramics with.

When Joe first offered to trade his photographic skills in return for my pottery, I was blown away. Honored and excited! But most of all, encouraged. We both got the best part of that deal. By the time we wrapped up the shoot, I was still completely ignorant of all that went into the preparations for a commercial product photograph... but I felt like it was something I "could" learn to do. Like I said, Joe made it easy.

That encouragement is still there everytime I setup my seamless backdrop. In the past year, I feel like I have started to get to know what my lighting rig can and cannot do (easily). As with most things photographic, there is the easy (cheap) way, the right way (hard) and the fast way(expensive!) Since my ordeal with the surgery, coma and subsequent recovery, money has been a constant nagging hammer pounding into my skull. What in a normal year, I would simply throw money at as a way of solving,... now I can't do. If money couldn't solve it before, I would throw my back into it and shove my way through.... cant do that either. Which leaves me with the hard (smart?) way... and that is tough.

And for that, I am thankful.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

More edited images from the DeSousa Wedding

One of the best things about Lightroom is being able to go back to the same image again and again... because the edits are non-destructive. If you aren't happy with the "develop" module results, you can reset the image, and go give it another whirl. Nothing at all the way we used to edit images in Photoshop even a year ago. Pretty wild!

Since I had a bit of free time this past week as I suffered with my first cold in over a year... I figured it was a good time to get some editing work done. This week I have multiple portrait shoots to attend to, including my first formal pet portrait. Wish me luck!

Falling Away

After the rains of the past two weeks, the leaves are a memory. Trees are now distinctly either green and coniferous, or bare boned till Spring. When Aurora and I went out for our fall leaf-peeping safari we thought we would be able to go out many more times before the foliage turned. Nope. Once the rains and wind came through, it made short work of all the color. Which isn't to say that we're left with nothing to shoot... it's just that from now till early spring, the colors are much more muted and the weather more capricious.

Today, on the way back from hearing Aurora's band performance at the All-County Festival, Nancy and I decided to take the long way home. We headed North from Groton and found ourselves wandering about the farms alongside Owasco Lake. Having never really spent much time in this area, I was fascinated. It seems hard to imagine a time when folks settled this land. It isn't a very forgiving landscape. I'd love to see what Owasco Lake is like during the summer months.

We headed West once we reached the lovely town of Scipio. I have a laugh every time I think about how this name SHOULD be pronounced, and then remember that in upstate NY all bets are off when it comes to butchering the original name of some place.

From Scipio we continued over hill and dale, across massive windswept fields and through farms with acres of cowsheds that rolled on and on. Just as we reached the crest of the ridge, I started noticing the depth of the ditches on the side of the road. You could lose a car in one and not even notice it was gone. No less than 5 feet deep and probably considerably wider. Nancy explained that due to the windswept snow that socks these roads in for much of the winter, they have to have somewhere to PUT all of that snow when they clear the roads. Never thought about it that way. We live just across the lake from this area, and our neck of the woods sees nowhere near as much snow. Odd.

After driving through a whole new area today, it gave me ideas for things I would like to go back and shoot at a time when we haven't been gone from the house all afternoon. With full bellies, and the cats taken care of, I think it could make for a great photo safari. Certainly doesn't really look like the area that surrounds our home, that's for sure!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Kitchen is Redolent

The kitchen is redolent with apple pie and hawaiian pizza. More carbs have been consumed tonight than in the past week. It sure felt great, but wow, my blood sugar is through the roof!

I am left feeling like there is no real hope of ever seeing bread make a comeback in my life.

I read about a woman today, who after her gastric bypass surgery, a year later was able to come off all of her diabetes meds. Nice. I could deal with that. If only it didn't also involve more surgery.

I read a website last month that talked about the "raw food" solution... basically eating nothing cooked or frozen. Really limits the range of foods, but hey, for a few months... it might be worth it. Heck, if I cant kick this weight issue and the concomitant diabetes mess, I am up a creek. It has been a year since I walked out of the hospital. I feel in some ways like I have made so little progress. I am nowhere near ready for another surgery to fix all that is still broken. My insurance company decided last week that all of my physical therapy visits for the past six months are being denied payment. My disability claim was denied. Hasn't really made this fall feel very welcoming.

And then I think about where I was in August of 2009. Getting ready for a surgery I didn't feel good about. Scared about being out of work for a few weeks. Feeling nervous about the pain potential. It feels like that was a lifetime ago.

So... no new pictures today. I had planned on heading out into the windy raining sideways Ithacation today... but good sense got the better of me. I took the van to be worked on... only to leave 10x more frustrated than when I arrived. I hate our local Toyota dealership. Hate is too small a word. If it were anything other than a recall, I would have gone anywhere else. Walked around in the rain for two hours, waiting for a 2inch part to be installed. My kid could have installed it in 20 min. Didn't leave me with much confidence or patience. Got home to a mountain of bills that seems insurmountable. Paid a few.

And then, WHAM.

Day was over. Kid was home, happy to be here. With not much in the way of creativity, I gave in. In the end, bread won out. Pizza crust made the rain easier to bear. Cinnamon helped take the edge off the raging winds that swept through our hilltops today. My heart wants to know if we're going to make rock candy in my veins soon. Sure seems that way.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Image Restoration for a friend - part two

I had no idea it could be this hard. Seriously. I am used to editing images, some minor retouching here and there. Normally, I would say, it is fairly difficult. This was downright HARD. I think the results were worth it though. Now I really want to find some workshops on image restoration and retouching. I am sure that a lot of what I was attempting has been semi-automated by now, but seeing as how I am a novice, am completely unaware of what options are available in the industry. We work with what we have, right?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Renata's Studio Portrait Session

I had the great fortune to be able to spend this afternoon at the ceramic studio of my friend Renata Wadsworth. Her studio was filled with more light than I have ever seen in any potter's studio. I think you would have to be afraid of daylight to not LOVE her studio. More pics coming next week.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Still Working On Wedding Stuff

One of the things I enjoy so much about working for myself (as opposed to punching the clock for someone else) is that when I am trying something new, I can justify the costs of learning on my own time. My clients get to be the beneficiaries of my time and knowledge... as well as my explorations and occasional failures.

Today was spent mostly at hockey games... or driving to and fro. By the time I was ready to call it a day, I got my second wind and decided to make hay while the sun sat early (thanks a lot daylight not-so-savings). More than a few hours later I had plowed through more edits in a night than I normally complete in a week. VERY productive. Now, it's time for sleep. Tomorrow is going to be a long day with promises of more of the same stuff we dealt with last week.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Image Restoration for a friend

BEFORE retouching.

AFTER retouching.

One of my friends asked me earlier this summer if I would do some restoration of her family photographs. I had no idea what to expect initially. This is the second image in the series. The next two are probably going to be at least 10x harder. Lots of rust stains and fungus to remove. I love a challenge though! I doubt I will get to editing those tonight or tomorrow, but maybe Monday will allow me the time.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Customer Service Interactions

I saw this again today on Kirk Tuck's blog. Suffice to say, having seen this video at least half a dozen times before, it doesn't sting any less now than it did the first time I watched it. Today I also saw a video on Ron Philbeck's facebook posting. Guess it is getting to be that time of the year. The customer demands are increasing while at the same time we're all seeing less revenue for even higher service needs. More on that this weekend. Expectations. I guess they go both ways eh?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Catching Up

One of the most interesting aspects of post-production editing, is going back and remembering the emotion and suspense from the day of the shoot. There are always great stories and exciting ideas. Photographing Carol has been such a rich experience. Her patience has rewarded me with some of my most interesting lighting efforts. Each portrait shoot is different, with each person bringing their own needs and concerns... but when you get a chance to shoot someone like Carol, you can just cut loose and get into the process. Time flies by and the light bends and shapes and caresses.

When going back to edit these images, I had to smile. For all of my efforts, so many of the shots failed for one reason or another. Then I would find one that just sang. What amuses me now, is that I knew it when I made the click. In almost every occurrence, I pulled the camera away from my eye to show Carol. She too, would smile and the next few frames would just rock! Back and forth, and in the blink of an eye our time was over.

Other Ways of Seeing

It's one thing to try to throw nice gentle light on your subject when your main goal is to smooth out wrinkles or to hide blemishes in the skin. It is another thing all together to try to shoot in the dead of night and yet still capture detail that might not really be there.

Last night, while trying to catch the kid in her costume, I learned a few things.
  1. you cant focus in the dark without some sort of assistance
  2. when you turn off the autofocus lamp on your camera, you'd better know how to turn it back on!
  3. in the event you cant muddle you way through the menus on your camera in the total darkness, you had better remember to have included a headlamp in your bag.
  4. if your kid is laughing, chances are she's laughing AT you.

This was shot with an off-camera SB-600 speedlight set to camera left about 5 feet from the subject, set to 1/32 power. 85mm 1.8, shot pretty close in. Minor adjustments for saturation and contrast in Lightroom 3.