Saturday, December 31, 2011
Ask anyone who knows me or my family, and they will agree that this has been a tough year for us.
I dread writing our "holiday" letter. I fear saying too much about what we've been through.
Trying to find "nice" things to say some days can be almost impossible.
For the last six months, our telephone has rung no less than once every ten minutes, all day, from 8am until 9pm, every single day of the week. The phone is silent now. The creditors have been told to fuck-off and die. The papers have been filed and now we wait for the next stage of this process.
Peeking over the wall into next year, I am not sure what I expect to find.
What I would like to find:
More laughing. Lots more laughing.
More time with my family. (with more laughing!)
More time with my friends (and MORE laughing!)
Some level of acceptance.
Resolution to the turmoil that our family has been wrestling with this year (well, since 2009 really).
That is what I would like to see in the coming year.
I know I should wish for world peace, kindness to all mankind and freedom from Nature's harm...
but I figured maybe I would just set my sights a little lower for this coming year.
So, to everyone, may this coming year bring you joy and laughter.
One of the things I relish is challenging my assumptions. I am always curious to see things from the other side. It used to drive my ex-wife crazy. I don't mean just being a Devil's advocate... but to really see things from another perspective.
What do we see as certain, and why? How did we get to those assumptions? What would it take to challenge those beliefs?
Sometimes when I am sitting in a public space, I'll look around and pick someone innocuous looking... and bit by bit, I will start to see them in a much more insidious character. And so someone's soft spoken grandmother becomes a serial killer with a penchant for boiled knuckle pie. What would it take? How far away is that reality?
When I worked in clay, I would try to unthink my way out of a rut by re-examining my assumptions of how things could be made. Why did we have to make the pot right side up as we threw? Could a pot be made on its side? What about inside-out?
I am now trying to see photography in the same way. How do I convey a feeling? Where does that feeling come from? How do I challenge my assumptions about how we arrive at that emotion? Can I create an image that blurs the line of assumptions?
A closing aside: Does anyone have any interest in me posting any of the technical information about these portrait shots? The gear used, settings, software, editing, etc?
Thursday, December 29, 2011
Over the holiday Nancy and I have been trying a few different ideas to highlight her awesome tattoo.
Most of the images I have seen of tattoos tend to be shot with flat flash, straight on, with no care given to the person the tattoo belongs to. It may as well have been made on paper it seems. With these images, I wanted to capture Nancy's grace and beauty AND her amazing tattoo from Eddie Molina. I can't wait to see Nancy's next tattoo. It is going to be amazing!
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
Try as I might, I have not been able to turn today around.
With one minute before the clock ticks a new day into being, I am still stuck where I was at 9am.
Tomorrow will be a better day, for sure.
Sunday, December 25, 2011
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
Looking at some of my old pots through new eyes has helped me start to appreciate some of the pots that I've kept over the years. This was a large-ish teabowl from back when I was making pots at SUNY-Cortland with John Jessiman during my first summer in Ithaca. I had never done anything with wax resist before... and John used hot melted paraffin wax. I had never tried to emulate Asian brushwork, and after these few pots, I stopped. I realized almost immediately that my faculties with a brush were simply not up to the task.
What strikes me now, almost twenty years after I made this bowl,... is how simple the form is and how the tenmoku glaze harmonizes the claybody and the decoration. It just works. I love the gentle iron sparkles that formed in the glaze. I think I only kept two pots from this time in Cortland, but by far, this was my favorite.
Monday, December 19, 2011
It is getting to be winter finally. The days of wearing anything less than a sweater are behind us. Georgia was so happy to be romping around the snow this weekend. On Sunday morning, the air was so cold, and the snow so fluffy, I just had to get out there while the sun was bright in the sky. Days like this more than make up for days like today where the sun never really came out. Here's hoping for a snowy sunny winter!
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Saturday, December 17, 2011
It is hard to convey the sheer power of the devastation of our front yard over the past week. We went from having a row of beautiful ancient pines, to having a debris field. Now, most of the debris has been cleaned up. Instead we have a mountain of woodchips and sawdust. The tree trunks have been cut to a level height in anticipation of next Spring's construction of a new rose arbor. The woodchips will form the basis for our new bed's mulch. In between now and next Spring, I will comfort myself with the images of Lee's roses (der Rosenmeister nursery!) climbing up and over our rose arbor. I can't wait to see what's possible!
Thursday, December 15, 2011
Trying to write about doing pet portraits is always kind of awkward for me. I think photographing someone's pets has to be one of the most confusing and difficult propositions. It's one thing to photograph your own pet...where the concept of "Owner's Pride" covers all manners of sins. But when you step up to having your pet's life recorded as an image, it gets very personal. How will this person see my pet? Will they feel like they can trust my animal? Will the animal behave and if it doesn't will everything go awry? How will I look with my pet? Do I even really want to be in the picture? Is this really what I want? All of these issues are at the heart of the vulnerability inherent in pet portraiture.
That vulnerability makes photographing pets very intriguing to me. I am always curious what owners want to capture in the final portrait. Do they want to see their pet relaxed? Resting? Actively engaged in play? Interacting with their human? Interacting with other pets? Doing something silly? These questions really help me uncover more about the personality of the animal (and the owner), while I think about lighting and composition.
With this portrait of our friends Carol and Gordon, and their dogs Doolan and Grendel, we wanted to do an indoor portrait. They wanted something like a family portrait, in the living room with midday light pouring in the big front windows. They wanted that relaxed feel of sitting by the couch, and both dogs, present but relaxed. Both dogs were extraordinarily patient. We tried shooting from a few different vantage points, but in the end, working indoors was the main limiting factor. I can't wait till we can do some outdoor portraits of these two handsome dogs!
Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Sunday, December 11, 2011
This weekend, during the Ithaca Fine Craft Show, I had the opportunity to photograph work from one of the visiting artists from the Buffalo area, Mark and Katie Farrell of Buffalo Craft Company. Katie stopped by after setting up her work at the Museum of the Earth on Friday. After a brief chat about what she was wanting me to try to capture, she left me to my own devices. I haven't had much cause to photograph smaller works like jewelry in recent months. As such, this was a rare opportunity to problem solve and to attempt to combine some of my recent learning with some very practical needs.
What I had assumed would be at most an hour of shooting turned out to take the better part of the day. I quickly found that lighting small metallic objects with a combination of very shiny surfaces as well as matte textures, makes it nearly impossible to get good, soft, even light. I finally found some lighting arrangements which made the process a little smoother, but right up till the very end, I was really unsure how these images would feel in the final enlarged projected image.
By the time I finished my post-production editing, cropping and minor retouching, I felt confident that the images illustrated Mark and Katies attention to detail and love for materials. Check out their website and catch them at a show near you!
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Eleven years ago, I bought this house. With it came a short driveway lined with six tall White Pines. I would guesstimate the trees to be not much older than 80yrs old. Long enough for them to have seen this house go from being a tiny one room farm house built by the farmer in the 1840's... to being added on to at the end of the century. Another small room was added in the 1930's. A woodshed sprouted off the back sometime in the 50's. Finally just before I bought the house, my neighbor gutted the entire house, tore out all the original character, molding, trim, plaster... you name it. Dumped it all. Scraped the walls down to bare studs. Rewired the whole house. Replummed it too. Covered the whole house in vinyl siding for good measure.
And through it all, these six stately pines stood watch over this tiny house.
They have weathered so many windstorms, branches tossed about and needles littering the ground. They stood sentinel against the early season icestorms that snapped low branches, bowed to the ground under the strain.
Most of all, they creaked and swayed in our summer breezes. Giving us shade even on the hottest days. For Nancy, these tall pines reminded her of her grandfather's home where she and he spent so much time, walking through the stately pine trees. Each time one of Nancy's cousins would come to visit us, they would comment about how the massive trees reminded them of Grandpa.
Three years ago one of the big trees was hit by a lightning strike. It was such a violent blow that chunks of bark flew over a hundred feet to the road. The sap apparently boiled instantly and exploded violently. In the coming years we watched the neighboring trees die off, one by one. This year the only ones left were leaning severely, and the four in the middle were dead as toothpicks.
Nancy and I had some major fear about the trees falling on the house in one of our windstorms. We've seen it happen around here, time and time again. Aiming to be proactive, we chose instead to cut the trees down. Our friend Lee Ginenthal, of Der Rosenmeister Nursery, suggested that we have the trees cut ten feet off the ground so as to leave tall stumps that could be built into a future rose arbor.
At first, I couldn't imagine anything but a classic, post and beam arbor, but as the Summer passed and I saw that these trees really needed to come down, making use of the trees became more important. We hired our neighbor who runs Treetops tree service. Mark made short work of the massive job. He felled all the trees before noon... swinging from tree to tree in his harness with his chainsaw by his side. Limbing up farther into each tree, making sure that when it fell, it wouldn't snag anything on its way down.
These images were taken the following morning. The fog had rolled in, and as the sun came up and we could really survey the devastation, it became clear that everything had changed.
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Nancy and I worked on this design in preparation for creating a label for Georgia Rose's dog food storage can. Nancy goes nuts for most things retro, and I can't say no to anything "Georgia"... so we collaborated on this project... combining some of my recent photos, Nancy's design and love for fun fonts. I wish we had more experience working in Adobe Illustrator, because I think this would be amazing as a vector graphic. Hopefully this Spring I'll be able to take more workshops using Illustrator!
My hope is to do more work of this sort, perhaps as part of an album to accompany a series of pet portraits.
Sunday, December 4, 2011
Last week I met with Cary Joseph to see some of his latest pots to come out of the anagama kiln at Corning Community College in Corning, NY. Amazing forms with subtle and dramatic surfaces. This pots and so many more will be on display next weekend at the Ithaca Fine Craft Show at the Museum of the Earth. The preview party is on Friday evening. General Admission begins on Saturday morning and continues all weekend. If you have a postcard from the show or print a postcard from the show's website, you get in FREE!
Thursday, December 1, 2011
Since she was five, my daughter has played hockey. The last three years were spent on the travel team, heading off to towns far into the north country. At some of these games, especially playing against the northern teams, our girls would be playing against much stronger teams. In many instances, their players would be all 14 yr olds, while our team had plenty of girls under the age of 12... and only a couple 14yr olds.
It was Aurora's job to look after the smaller younger kids. If they got bullied or hurt, she went out and leveled the field. Checking is not allowed in girl's hockey. Sometimes the penalty was worth it. She once took three opposing players and stuffed them into their own net. 2 minutes in the box. She smiled the whole time.
Last year Aurora was ready to be done playing hockey. Her mom forced the issue so she stayed on, and played super hard. Scored a few times too, which for a defensive player, isn't too shabby. Her grandmother even got to see her score. Thought she'd have a heart attack when it happened.
By the end of the season, Aurora had more than her share of bruises and puck marks on her jersey. The most amazing injury was her bruise from a puck that hit her forearm. Left a mark so deep you could read the maker's mark from the puck in her bruise. "made in Canada". Oh yeah.
This year, Aurora decided to try karate. Her high school offers karate as phys ed credit. So 2-3 days a week she has karate at school. Then two nights a week, she travels across the lake to the dojo in Lansing. In total, she gets at least 4-5 hrs of karate a week.
In recent weeks she has come home with her knuckles bruised from knuckle pushups... and then later, from punching at the body pads. This week she had her advancement test to blue belt. She was a beginning white belt when the school year began. Between the skin peeled off her knuckles, the sore muscles and the daily bruises, I think she more than earned her advancement. As she put it during the exam, karate has helped her combine her mental and physical skills. And how!