Saturday, March 23, 2013

Where Things Are At With The When and If

The "When and If" has seen a ton of work since I last blogged about it. Right now the deck boards are coming off, deck beams with dry rot have been repaired, the boathouses on the deck have come off, and the horntimber has been replaced and is being finished.

This week, while I was at the boatyard photographing the progress, I was amazed by how NONE of the deck on the bow remains. In fact, they have repaired the damaged deck beams, all the big screws have been pulled from the beams, and are now being filled with oak plugs and epoxy.

Knowing my fear of heights (and falling!), and also in the spirit of keeping a safe workplace, the deck was covered in fitted sheets of plywood. Once I was secure in knowing that I wouldn't fall through the beams and end up broken in tiny bits, I was able to relax and get some amazing shots of the deck minus the decking. After I finished shooting on the upper portion of the boat, I was invited outside the shelter to see where all the teak decking that had been cut out of the schooner was stacked neatly, almost like cord wood (yep, that's a BIG pile of short sections of teak, below)

The horn timber is in place along with new frames and some metal reinforcement. As I understand this assembly, soon all this gorgeous wood will be concealed, under layers of inner planks, creating a small finished interior space. This space will end up most likely being used as a tiny storage space, perhaps holding life jackets and such... so after all this amazingly complex work is done, it wont be visible again until her next renovation decades from now.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Thinking About Texture

Paint removal on the hull of the "When and If" schooner being restored by the Cayuga Wooden Boatworks in Cayuga, NY

One of the side effects of the winter slump in working flowing through the studio is the accompanying increase in time to explore areas that otherwise get ignored during our busy season. For me, this piece of the "some and some" puzzle has always been a difficult juggling act. On one hand, the cash flow coming in from assignments, new jobs and clients coming directly to the studio is fantastic... no question. Seeing so many happy customers is a thrill in itself.

The only downside is when I forget to shoot things for myself, for fun.

And that is what this winter has reminded me. To that end, I have taken a chunk of time each day, one or two days a week (or on the weekend if the family wants to go play)... and that chunk of time has been spent exploring texture.  I have been told by my fellow potters that my close-up photos remind them of glazed surfaces. Kind of makes me giggle, since when I was a potter, I was trying to go the opposite direction... making my glazes look like worn surfaces I was around all the time: metal, debris, wood, polished stone, tree bark, etc. Here I am now, on the other side of the equation and I still can't get this love of detail out of my inner vision. I guess that means I should probably follow the path and see where this leads!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Struggling to Comprehend

I have been trying to figure out how to write about the abject poverty that is so pervasive in the Fingerlakes region. During the summer months, everything screams tourism, wineries, camping, and never ending waves of verdant fields.

It is during the winter months that the rotting bones of this area show through the snow. Having lived in many different parts of the country, rural and urban alike... I feel like I am starting to ask different questions about the nature of poverty. Perhaps more importantly, I am starting to wonder about the future of poverty and wealth in America. For now, I plan on exploring this topic more through my images and my blog. I welcome discussion and comments.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Taking The Day Off

Once in a while, Nancy and I get in the car and just drive. Today we pointed the car northwest and started out. Hadn't gotten more than a few miles out of town before the snow squalls started. I love winter lake effect snow bands... unless I am driving in them. Luckily today they lasted just a few minutes. Nothing major.  Just enough snow to give that lovely warp-speed effect in total blinding whiteness. It passed soon enough, thankfully, leaving us to travel the grey, overly salted roads up upstate NY.

We drove through the lovely backroads, taking in all the dilapidated barns, derelict homes and burned out relics of a time gone by. When we finally got out of the car in Pittsford NY, I was surprised to find this amazing barn facing us, just across the parking lot. We didn't think bringing a camera on a mighty cold day would result in me making any great images so the camera stayed home, nice and warm. Bad idea.

So I made do with the camera that seems to follow me everywhere now; my iPad. Quite possibly one of the lamest cameras around, but hey, the best camera is the one you have with you. Turned the whole day into a scouting mission for textures that we'd like to go back and spend more time on with the proper gear.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Right to the Edge

I have been trying to figure out how to get my lighting setup to give me greater depth, with ever increasing subtlety (and softness) in the light (and shadows). This is not an easy pursuit. What I want is the quality one gets from window light, preferably from north facing windows. Unfortunately, at 10pm, most north facing windows give precious little light.

My next quest is to work on finding a gentle way to create some nice fill light so that I can bring up the detail in my shadows and potentially add some rim lighting to separate the subject from the background. Always more to work on!

Your thoughts? What would you change with this lighting arrangement? I know a hot sexy model would go a long way to getting my ugly mug off your monitor... but other than that? Anyone interested in seeing my homemade scrim that I am using as my new diffuser?

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Step by Step: Through the Cold

I have had quite a few people asking me how I came up with this image. During our trip to Seattle last month, I had a chance to play around with a program for the iPad called Snapseed. Snapseed is made by Nik, whose filters I use extensively in both Lightroom 4 and in Photoshop. They are second to NONE when it comes to making post production editing a breeze. Still not easy, but fun.

Snapseed came out with a PC version of their app and it came with a brief trial period. Since I had enjoyed playing with it on the iPad, I figured it would be worth goofing around with on my desktop. Sure enough, I was hooked. Lots of ways to add layers and colors and textures. Very fun, simple, easy. The downside was that there wasn't anywhere near enough control of the creative process. Once you exhausted their tiny handful of textures or colors, it all started to look the same. That just wouldn't do for my creative needs.

To that end, I returned to Photoshop and began building my images using this technique. Layer upon layer, changing the opacity and blending modes, over and over, adding salt and freshly ground pepper to taste, until it was soup. Mind you, much like recipes on the internet, there is nothing here that hasn't been done a thousand times before. It is nothing I invented. This is just a new way of making soup, for me. Here is my recipe:

Believe it or not, I started with this very flat, boring image. Yep. It sucked. Grey day, grey skies, no movement, cold, blah. Normally, I would just throw this sort of image out and go back and shoot again another day. Specifically a day where I wouldn't run the risk of hypothermia and frostbite.

Step one: create a layer over our main image. This texture was downloaded from and then modified slightly in Lightroom 4. It was necessary to change the layering property / blending mode to Hard Light.

Here, the Hard Light blending mode has been applied.

In this image, the opacity of the textured layer has been reduced to about 30%. That makes the color start to fade too, which can be a good thing or not, depending on your needs. In my case, I wanted it to feel as cold as I felt. That meant bringing in cold colors which could convey that frigid feeling. To that end, I put a SOLID dark blue layer over everything. 

Then I adjusted that layer with the Hard Light blending mode. Almost there! This was close to what I wanted, but the texture seemed a little over bearing. Seemed just a bit over the top.

In this final image, I adjusted the last BLUE layer's opacity to 30% which pulled the texture down a touch, and removed some of the harshness (and richness) of the color.

I hope this makes sense. I will be doing more of this sort of playing over the next few months. I have quite a few different ideas I want to experiment with. I spent the bulk of yesterday afternoon wandering around Corning photographing textures in back alleys. Never mind that it was freezing out. Never mind that I have bronchitis and should have been home in bed. I wanted to make use of the overcast glaring sky (very soft light) to capture the texture of the old brick buildings in the Corning downtown area. More on those textures in my next post.

I guess what I would like to know is how this approach to image making strikes you? Is this final image more compelling? How would you convey the idea of bone chilling cold? What ways have you used texture in your image creation?

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Winners of the Latest Contest

That's right! Everyone who wrote in their comment or suggestion gets a free print (of their choosing). I will be putting together a big print job, so now is the time to claim the image of your choice. This can be an image you've seen on FB, this blog or on my pottery blog. Any size up to 8x12, is yours as a thank you for playing along at home (and submitting your comments last week.) Prints will be shipped out as soon as they are back from Mpix.

Tony Raven
Justin Souza
Sandy VanWormer
Joe Streno
Kathy Howlett
Roxanne Marrero