Sunday, May 29, 2011

Der Rosenmeister Roses Are Blooming

Okay, so the first image I inserted into the blog today wasn't a rose... but rather a gorgeous azalea, made almost transparent from the torrential downpour that pelted the flowers in Ithaca on Friday night.

At this point, all I can say is hustle over to Lee's nursery while there are still roses to be had. Once they're gone, you'll have to wait another year. And when you visit, be sure to stick your nose into as many roses as time allows. Some of these heirloom roses have the most wicked combinations of smells.... somewhere between citrus, rose, and spice. Maybe even clove. Just phenominal. And of course, be sure to ask Lee your rose gardening/pruning/planting questions while you're there. If you get home and realize that you have a burning question, email him or leave a question on his blog.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

This is What Happens on a Photo Walk in Ithaca

Today Aurora and I found ourselves at Der Rosenmeister Nursery in Ithaca. Lee's roses are just beginning to bloom. Somehow that phrase doesn't do justice to the experience of the sights and smells in his nursery. Unlike most nurseries or plant stores, Lee grows and tests all the plants he sells, so his roses are hardy to the extreme. Having done a few photo shoots in Lee's garden in the middle of winter, coming out in the warmth of late Spring was a blast of fresh (hot) air. The breeze was redolent with the smells of rose and citrus. Even the bees thought it was intoxicating!

Most of the photo-walks (or photo safaris depending on where we are heading) that we take have very little direction in mind when we start. We decided this Spring, to open our photowalks to the general photography community here in the Ithaca/Trumansburg area. We head out at least one weekend a month, for 1-2 hours, nothing massive. We shoot, swap lenses, try new stuff and see places in a whole new light. We aim for good light, or at the very least, dramatic light. That means being ready to shoot before the sun gets warm and being willing to fight off the bugs as dusk falls. If you're interested, follow my facebook page and you'll hear when the next photowalk will be happening. Always happy to have company.

For those of you who love roses, get yourselves out to Der Rosenmeister Nursery while Lee still has roses. My guess is that he will be sold out before the end of June. Selection right now is awesome, so hurry out! If by chance he has already sold out of the variety you want, ask if you can reserve a few plants for next year. And as the various varieties come into bloom this summer, Aurora, Nancy and I will be out in Lee's garden photographing as often as possible. Come join us!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Got a Boatload of Soul

How can you look into those eyes and not feel something?

There is oftentimes this look of acknowledgement or guilt. I don't know how much of that is anthorpomorphism, but it certainly has the desired effect. At the end of the day, Georgia may be a puppy, but she gets treated like people. No question. Next up: a video of her daintily plucking the leaves off her strawberries before chomping down on them.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Spring: in a different light

The stereotype of Spring flowers seema to focus primarily on the joyous screams of brilliant color. Every image of a tulip or cherry blossom or daffodil always strikes me as color first. So many photographers take that one step further and over-emphasize that color by increasing the saturation to un-natural levels.

So what happens when you remove the color? What about texture? Form? Pattern? Line? Shadow?

Even though I invariably shoot in color with my DSLR (Nikon D300s), I still think like a black and white photographer. I look at tonality, density, contrast, focal point... far more than I look at fields of color. I love seeing how patterns emerge from my images days after I've first shot them. I find that there are often occasions where my initial intent isn't readily apparent, but in retrospect, I find the common thread permeating the imagery.

After over thirty years of making images, I am only beginning to realize that putting the camera to my eye is only one tiny part of the image creation process. Sometimes my mind sees what my eyes miss completely. It may take repeated attempts to capture what my initial inspiration was... but when it works, it speaks to me.

This all begs the question: How do you, as an artist, go from inspiration to creation? What does that process look like? How do you know when you're on the right path?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Julie Crosby's Wood Firing Process

One of the prerequisites for firing with wood, is having a kiln (usually) pretty far from town, set in a beautiful pastoral setting, with stunning views. Well... Julie Crosby has all of those requirements in spades! I went out there Friday afternoon late, to watch as her firing began.

At this point in the firing, she was feeding small bits of wood just to raise the temperature slowly. I think the kiln was still around 600 ... basically just warming the big beast of a kiln up slowly.

By nightfall, this kiln would be roaring along, eventually reaching temperatures close to 2400⁰F, glowing with all the heat of a roaring volcano. Alas, I was too fatigued to return for night-time shots of this firing. I aim to be back in October for her next big firing! Now I have to wait till Monday or Tuesday to get a peek inside the kiln to see how the flame and wood ash, and all the heat has transformed Julie's pots!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Shooting Between the Drops of Rain

Normally, when the bleeding heart begin to bloom, I start thinking about mowing the yard for the first time of the season. Usually, nights are still cold and it takes the morning sun to warm the dew. As this week draws to a close, each day has had rain at some point or another... every day, for a week. Normally, for Spring, one expects a little rain, here and there. But we have had steady rainfall, almost every day since the second week of March. Yeah, two solid months. Our soil has never been dry enough to turn over.

Some of our small shrubs are leafing out but others look like they may actually rot in the ground this year. Our entire yard is splashy!

All of these images were taken with a Nikkor 60mm Micro/macro lens on a Nikon D300s. Between the body and the lens were three stacked extension tubes (same ones I wrote about earlier this week.) I had very high hopes (and obvious misunderstandings) of them enabling me to move myself farther away from my subject while maintaining a 1:1 ratio. Instead I turned my macro lens into a magnifying glass, and ended up needing to be almost touching my subject in order to be within the narrow focusing range of this arrangement. Not what I wanted. So, I sent back the set of extension tubes and will take that money and put it towards a 105mm macro. Might not be able to afford it before the year's end, but for next Spring, that would be a nice addition to the lens stable.My concern right now is that with Nikon's lens manufacturing at a standstill post-tsunami/earthquake/and nuclear disaster... this lens is on backorder everywhere. Might not have any on the shelves for a while.

A couple closing thoughts about our flowers: most of our alliums bloom sometime the last week of May, and into the first week of June. Strangely enough, they are early this year. We also had two German bearded irises bloom today.

My biggest frustration right now is that with all this rain, the weeds have taken control of the garden, leaving me with a much bigger chore ahead of me this summer. Add to that the massive influx of black flies and all of a sudden, life indoors looks like a mighty fine prospect.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

New Toys To Play With Today

Three awesome things came from B&H Photo today. I'll share the first one with you by way of images first, then explanation. Later in the week, we'll talk about things 2 and 3.

This set of extension tubes is made by Tenko, and are specifically made so that they integrate with Nikon bodies and lenses, maintaining focusing cability (very limited, most macro photogs manually focus anyway), and metering. Here are my experiments before dinner.
I have wanted a set of extension tubes for my macro photography for years. Compared to a lens, they are dirt cheap, but inevitably, something else has won out when it came time to fork over the credit card number. About a week ago, when I was shooting the lovely flowers that were in bloom, I started seeing some of the major limitations of my 60mm Nikkor Micro lens. While it is an extraordinary lens, no doubt, it falls short in some odd ways. The main criticism I have is not really a fault of the lens, really more "as designed"... you need to be quite close to the object being photographed. Inches really.

Nikon D300s, Nikkon 60mm, f/14 (no extension tubes)

Nikon D300s, Nikkon 60mm, f/4.5 (36mm,12mm, 20mm stacked extension tubes)

At that range, you start interfering with your light source. I've been toying around with other ways of bringing in light while trying to steer clear of macro-strobes. That just seems like overkill.

Nikon D300s, Nikkon 60mm, f/3 (36mm extension tube)

One of the suggestions I read on a blog dedicated to macro-photography was to use extension tubes. Having never worked with them before, I was more than pleasantly surprised. Here are a few images from today's playing around in the studio.

Nikon D300s, Nikkon 60mm, f/25 (36mm,12mm, 20mm stacked extension tubes)

So after all of this playing around, I am left wondering... what would you shoot if you had a Big Bad Macro lens to play with for the day? What sorts of things would you find interesting? Ideas? Suggestions? Any other local Nikon shooters want to go out and play? Have a macro party?

Monday, May 16, 2011

Chaos of Color... to be followed by rain

In the few short days of bright sunshine, warm temperatures and dryness, everything bloomed.
Not necessarily in their normal order though. Some plants which normally we wouldn't see in full bloom until the end of May are nearly blooming now. Other plants which normally are still thoroughly in full color until well past Mother's Day didn't make it through last weekend. In some cases, flowers just melted right on the plant. It looked almost as though someone had come through a toilet papered our yard in dying colors.

Normally forsythia is the harbinger of warmer days, sunshine and the return of robins and blackbirds. This year the forsythia put on a very brief show before folding up the tent and closing the circus. In this one particular image, I was surprised to see how waxy and almost cheese-like the petals of this bloom appeared. Macro lenses sure do bring you in a lot closer! Taken just a step back, this is what the forsythia looked like... but shot with a non-macro lens.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

The Forecast Calls For Pain

Nine days of rain are forecast. In theory, it should be raining right now for that to hold true. So far the precipitation has held off, which means most of the yard is mowed. Here I am, working at the computer when I should be outside mowing more of the yard. Taking a break now and then is a good thing, right? While I am catching a breather, I figured it would be a good time to post my favorite shots from the past few days of glorious sunshine.

A friend of ours gave us this katsura tree about two years ago. The colors are exceedingly interesting, throughout the season, but what intrigues me the most: the cotton candy smell of the leaves as they dry in the Autumn. How on Earth is this possible?

A few years ago, we went to a woman's home to pick up some plants she had offered on Craigslist as she was thinning out her garden. If I remember correctly, she had a huge bed of lemon lilies that she was dividing. Our surprise was that in there, almost like weeds, were a very small but very showy version of bleeding hearts. Almost fern-like foliage, they are the nicest surprise to find every spring now.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Shearing the Sheep

Today was Georgia's first trip to the puppy barber, and she sailed through with flying colors. Here are some shots from her venture to the doggie stylist. Took her to the Grooming Room in Ithaca. Great place and a fantastic groomer: Nancy Cusamano! After all was said and done, she still looks like our puppy, and best of all, you can see those beautiful eyes again!!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Frisbee Pooch

I don't understand people who don't play frisbee.

I haven't played frisbee at this house since we bought it. That's awful.
I did however find our frisbee yesterday. The years of being under our deck, collecting snowmelt
and going through repeated freeze-thaw action had cracked it irreparably.

All of which really means, it is time to get a new frisbee!

Monday, May 9, 2011

Georgia: a slide show

Yeah, there's one shot of Ferro in there too, not to worry.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Georgia Becomes a Frisbee Dog

There is nothing better than a frisbee dog. I grew up with my dad's dog, Ralph joining us for each and every game of frisbee in the street in Hialeah. We'd be skipping the frisbee off the asphalt or tossing it into the grass, and Ralph would be right there, catching it like it was nothing.

I never really anticipated Georgia liking frisbee.

As part of our Mother's Day, we drove down to Painted Post to visit with Nancy's folks and her neighbors, Dennis and Marilyn Abbey. Watching Mr. Abbey's way with Georgia was flat-out-amazing. She took to his style instantly. Pretty soon, the two of them were playing frisbee. Today was mostly fetch, but I could see this quickly becoming all the leaping, jumping, catching that full-on frisbee entails... VERY soon.

At one point, Sandy was running across the back yard with Georgia in hot pursuit. Georgia took the lead and quickly cut right into the path of Sandy's legs and down they both went, in a heap and yelp. Luckily no-one was worse for wear.

While we have lots of chew toys for Georgia to play with (THANK YOU SABRA!!!)... what we lack right now is a frisbee. We had a few but for some reason, I can't find them anymore. One thing I know for sure, is that they are not on the roof (I checked). So, I need to get a new frisbee and we need to find an open field for Georgia and I to practice. Any other frisbee lovers out there? Wanna come play?