Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Friday, October 30, 2015

Slowing Down

Waterfall at Treman State Park, gorge trail, Ithaca NY. Fuji X100s, ND filter, 20 sec exposure.

This time of year, I tend to reflect on the passing of the seasons. For me there is a special significance that occurs as we transition from the Halloween build-up through the first week of November. When I left the hospital six years ago, after having only been outside two times in two months, it was such an incredible shock. To go from green trees of late summer in September to seeing the color washed off the autumn trees in November was such a blow.

As a result, each year, I look forward to this time. I think part of it is that I don't want to miss it again. Unfortunately, it seems to always pass too quickly. This year, I felt very lucky that we had such incredible weather for most of the month of October. Once the rain and winds arrived this week, I knew that the days of riotous color were done and the period of grey, brown and sticks for trees had begun. It is all part of the cycle, certainly... but this year I felt slightly vindicated. I had made the effort and as a result I had seen more of the fall than in years past.

Looking back over the images from the month, I am coming to the realization that there is a significant change in the tone of my work. There is something different this time around. I have photographed these gorges and waterfalls in every season for all of the years that I have lived here... but I have never felt more surprised by the final results.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Missing Things

Just looking over these images on the computer makes me feel ready to pack my bags to leave. It has barely been more than a month and I am so ready to go back.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

The Difference

Columbia River Gorge from Bridal Veil Falls trail overlook, 2014

Columbia River, 2015 - taken with Nancy at Bridge of the Gods, OR
Aurora and I took a quick trip back to Multnomah Falls and Bridal Veil Falls the morning that we had to fly out of Portland. Most folks would have slept in, had a nice leisurely breakfast and gone to the airport on time. Nope, not us. We squeezed every last drop from that trip! In four day's time she and I spent two days flying out and back, managed to get in a trip the OR coast, visited and interviewed at two colleges, did a huge loop around the Olympic National Park and made two trips up the Columbia River Gorge. Every day held week's worth of experiences. It has taken me the better part of a year to process some of them.

Nancy and I visited here last month when we dropped Aurora off at college in Portland. Everything was dry, brown and crunchy due to the extended drought that has pounded the Pacific NW this year. No snowpack over the winter made for an exceedingly dry summer. No rain fell after May. By the time we got out there, we expected Multnomah Falls to be more like Multnomah Wind Tunnel.

This year's photo made it hard to hide the dry brown that was everywhere... plus the haze from all the fires in Central WA and OR added a dull grey-brown-ness to everything.

At the end of the day, it isn't the fires or the season that make the difference. This year is different because we left a chunk of our family out in Portland. Aurora joined a coastal explorers club at Reed... and I realized I wanna join too! There is so much to see and do, I just want to drop what we're doing here at home and move out there. I could list a millions differences between this year and last, but the biggest difference is knowing that Aurora gets to explore a whole new part of the world (to us)... and if we're lucky we get to hear all about it. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Learning to Fly

The first image was made this summer when Aurora and I took Georgia Rose up to Lake Ontario to swim. A recent storm had knocked down a huge chunk of the looming cliffs that make up Chimney Bluffs. The water was milky brown instead of the usual clear blue. Georgia Rose wasn't sure that the waves were safe,  and required enormous coaxing out into the water. Her life jacket didn't fit as well as it did two years ago. She'd grown a little.

The fallen clay and trees and misc debris that had fallen with the cliffside made it so that the beach access heading west was gone. Totally blocked. The only way around was to swim out into deeper water and brave the snags and unseen things in the water. Aurora and I discussed the possibilities and decided that foregoing our walk along the beach was a small price to pay for the knowledge that we would (all three of us!) be safe. 

The second image is of Aurora and Sandy, during Aurora's first summer discovering that she could, in fact, swim. We gave her a snorkel and mask... and the next thing we knew, she was off on her own, cruising the pool. At first her forays were along the walls, keeping safety within easy reach. As the weekend progressed, she gained more faith in her abilities and by the time we left Misquamicut she was a swimmer to the core. 

Red Cross classes for the next few years would see her progress up to the final lifesaving class which they refused to let her get at age ten or eleven because no one would hire her to lifeguard until she was 18. Never mind that she could lift the bricks off the bottom and perform all of the rescues that were required... she  was just too young (little) to pass the lifesaving test according to the Red Cross. The following summer would see Aurora in the middle of Cayuga Lake in a torrential electrical storm. Her sailing class had been out in little Opties... bathtubs with sails. A summer storm had come up quickly and now there were three foot waves with whitecaps roaring. Aurora's boat, like most of her classmates had capsized and filled with water. Everyone was being slowly rescued by the camp motorboat... but Aurora was left for last. She was relaxed in the water. Calm in the face of the storm. She knew she wouldn't drown... the  motorboat knew where her sailboat was... and as the chain of swamped boats was tied together and hauled to shore, Aurora's was the last boat in the line. 

Where am I going with this? 

I think we learn through adversity and failure. If things always worked just fine, I doubt we would really ever learn. This week Aurora started her first semester of college at Reed in Portland OR. She sent me her schedule of classes for the term and I gulped. She is signed up to take some heavy duty classes. Far more serious than my freshman year... but I know she can do it. I know that she will need someone to offer her that handhold for a short while... and then she'll be off and zooming. I also know that when storms hit and toss everything helter skelter, she'll be prepared and relaxed. It doesn't make it any easier to watch though! 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Getting There

Portland is Canadian

Folks here are way too nice. They are so freakin' polite they cant merge into traffic. It took four days of driving and cutting folks off before I finally got honked at! I said: Sorry ... And all was forgiven. Sooo west coast!

Totally unprepared.

They have moved into Reed. They have met their dormies. They meet with their adviser today. Time for us to fly back home. We're leaving a huge chunk of ourselves here in Portland.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Tickling Bumblebees

That moment when I bumblebee is so intent on the flower's nectar that you can get close enough to touch them.... that is the moment we called "tickling the bees". We could stroke their backs, gently. We have been doing it since Aurora was probably younger than five. Today was one of those calm days where the bees were loud and active. Pollen baskets were full on most of the bees I saw. I found one huge bumbler who was nearly the size of my thumb. I stroked his back gently, being careful not to disturb the massive pollen collection he had.

As I walked back towards the house I realized that we have some very odd traditions in our family. I felt a pang of loss, knowing that next spring, Aurora would be carrying on this tradition on the other side of the country.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Driving Color

After nearly ten years of garden neglect (five since the coma), I finally moved many of my daylilies this spring. Back when I first planted these daylilies, there were only a few dozen (okay, that's a lie... I planted over a hundred...but who's counting?)

It has now been more than a decade of watching them get overrun by weeds and grass. When the tiny shoots first popped up this year, I tried to dig as many out as I possibly could and replanted them with all of the new roses from Der Rosenmeister Nursery in Ithaca. I wasn't expecting any of the daylilies to bloom, given the shock of transplanting and the weirdness of our very dry spring.

Surprise! This has been the biggest year of blooms ever! I am seeing blooms on daylilies that I had no idea we had. Rich color and huge blooms are everywhere!! So how many did I end up moving this spring? Well over 200 at last count. There are still over 200 more still in pots waiting to be divided and replanted. Exhausts me just thinking about it.

I am realizing as I watch things growing in, that I am really bad about judging space between plants. Inevitably, I plant things way too close together. The upside is that the garden beds look great this year! Next year though, things are going to need to be divided again I guess. I should probably join a plant trade group and swap with folks who have vines (which we need) or shrubs etc. Anyone need some amazing daylilies?

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Summer Sunset

Summer sunsets can be dramatic or boring as can be. So much depends on cloud cover and the amount of moisture in the air. My favorite images are usually taken immediately after a storm has passed overhead.

Last night we were at Lodi Point on Seneca Lake. The sky was about as bald as it can be. Just about the time the sun was starting to set a line of thick grey clouds came over the western horizon and totally blotted out the sun. I waited around for a while, hoping that the sky would have some dramatic changes in color or texture. Nope.

To make the most of the slowly moving clouds, and hoping to squeeze a little bit of color out of the swiftly setting sun, I put a 6 stop ND filter on my Fuji 18-55mm f/2.8-4R... and aimed for that sweet spot of about 30 seconds exposure.

My next goat is to find something interesting for my foreground, to draw the eye while allowing the sky and water to do their thing. That means I will be looking for interesting docks and lake-side attractions like overhanging trees, large rocks, etc. Can't wait for the weather to cooperate!

Sunday, June 28, 2015


The graduation ceremony yesterday was bittersweet. It was amazing to see Aurora walk with all of her classmates. They have all been through so many things together over the years. I dont remember being able to decorate my mortarboard. VERY cool to see an orca show up on Aurora's.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Graduation is Tomorrow

Today, Aurora had her rehearsal for tomorrow's graduation. She came home with her cap and gown... which meant we had to try it on and have some fun. Even Georgia Rose got in on the fun, although she couldn't quite figure out what the business with the tassels was. Tasty though.

Tomorrow I will pack my camera alongside my handkerchief. Perhaps after the big day is over I will be able to collect my thoughts and words into something coherent. I wish I could explain away my emotional state by blaming it on jet lag from Texas. If you had seen the look on Aurora's face after she finished her job interview this afternoon it might make more sense. 

So much is coming together so fast right now. It feels like that last heavy, empty glide in the  jet plane just before the wheels touch down... so fast, so loud and then WHAM! You are on the ground and rolling. Or maybe it is the surge down the runway just before takeoff? 

Who says Doodles can't go to graduation ceremonies? 

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Kara! Kara! Kara!

Last weekend, Aurora and I went to Austin, TX to meet Kara. Matt and Maggie Spangenberg are the luckiest parents anywhere! Kara is the coolest! Relaxed and calm, hard to ruffle... Kara is amazing. Here are a few images from our way-too-short visit to TX. 

Monday, June 15, 2015

Loss for Words

Today Aurora got on the school bus for her last day of high school. I didnt photograph her first day heading off on the bus, back in second grade because ... well, because there was going to be another day just like it a day later.

In her hands today, she has three gallon bags full of cookies for her teachers. She baked these yesterday morning. This morning, I made toasted coconut pancakes for her. I never make breakfast for the family on a school day.

Watching the bus roll on down the road, I am filled with feelings and a dearth of words. Time to give the feeling room to roam. Maybe the words will come later.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Prom and Graduation Season

It is the best part of the transition from Spring to Summer... the onset of Prom and Graduation Season. I know it isn't on everyone's calendars, but if you have a teenager in High School, this is the season they have been looking forward to all year. While HS seniors get ready for their graduation day photos with their family, juniors are calling to make sure they can get their senior photos made during the cross-over from Summer into Fall... right as school resumes. It is a wild and exciting time. Seeing all these great faces I have come to know over many years, all getting ready to fly the coop. 

We do have a few remaining available dates for portrait work in both May and June. Yeah, I know... availability in June? We decided to cut back on our wedding schedule this summer and there are still a few slots available for location portraits this summer! Now is the time to call and reserve a session. Fall dates are already booking. 

Lastly, while we are not scheduled to photograph any of the local proms this year, we are available on a very limited basis to create images of individuals and couples before prom. Call asap to reserve your date!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

New Features of Lightroom Creative Cloud

Yesterday's big news all across the interwebs, was Adobe's latest release of Lightroom CC. Up until about a year ago, I would purchase LR whenever it went on sale (usually in the late fall)... and I would enjoy it until the newest features of the latest release compelled me to upgrade. I joined the CreativeCloud subscription service so that I could skip the waiting for the latest release. Now whenever there is a new feature being added, it automatically upgrades. The monthly cost was initially met with resistance, but now I just chalk it up as one more cost of doing business.

So what was the big deal with yesterday's release? Lightroom now can see faces!

Yeah, I know Facebook and Google have been identifying us for quite a while now. The difference with LR doing it is that now it takes that facial recognition and makes it into a searchable keyword-like function. In the first image, with Kyoshi Robin and Aurora, I can search my entire database of hundreds of thousands of images... just for Kyoshi Robin... and it will go and find them (assuming of course, that I turned on facial recognition and let LR go find them all). It is not perfect but it certainly is a huge step in the right direction!

all of the images of Aurora in this collection... even the blurry images of her face!

One of the best aspects of this new facial recognition is that (much like in FB) you can add folks manually. Granted, you could always keyword people's names into your keywords in LR, but now you can actually select their faces specifically... and then when sorted by names you can see them ALL at a glance.

Today there is a class on CreativeLive where all these new features are discussed in incredible detail!  Apparently CreativeLive will keep this as a free class indefinitely. This will be hugely helpful for folks who choose to upgrade to LR-CC.

After I do some more work with panoramas this week, I will post my thoughts about the Panorama Stitching and HDR possibilities in LR-CC. I am super excited to see how these new features with this latest release affect my workflow and the image possibilities.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Textures and colors of Spring

Spring is finally here. Our crocuses bloomed fast and furiously this year. They turned over the show to the daffodils a few days ago. The iris reticulata came and went in a heartbeat. The scilla are blooming left and right.

It's a heck of a time to be photographing flowers!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Wrapping Up

Over the next few weeks, Nancy and I will make another visit to Roosevelt Island to hang the images for the bedroom and a digital picture frame. You would think that at this point in the project we would be old hands at this. Nope. The next stage is going to require some interesting logistical solutions. Very excited to see how we pull the bedroom together!

Here are a few images of the finished prints, hung in place in the apartment. 

This is the entryway/hall into the bedroom. As you exit the master bathroom, this is what you see. These are metal prints, made on aluminum. I wasn't sure I would like the frame-less approach, but after seeing the first three metal prints last month, I am sold! I love the depth of color that this process can provide.

This is the wall which I was shooting the laser level at in the last blog post. Imagine: each print requires two nails to hook onto the floating block on the back of the print. So in order to hang this arrangement, we had to find the exact spot for all 8 nails before being able to drive the first one. Makes hanging frames from a single nail seem seriously easy. I think companies who use this sort of hanging device should include a nailing template. A sheet of paper exactly the size of the print, with the mounting holes marked out... that way you can lay it out without having to split fractions of an inch at 1am while the apartment was finally dark enough to see the laser markings on the wall.

This is the guest bathroom. The image was made from the southern part of Roosevelt Island. I had just purchased a series of Neutral Density filters (ND) and was trying to capture motion blur from the sky and the water while the sun set behind me, over the Manhattan skyline. By the time I had started figuring out exposure times and settings, the light was very nearly gone from the sky. I think at the time this was taken, my exposure was close to two minutes. Luckily the Fuji XT1 has the ability to be triggered by my iPhone, so I could have it set up securely on a tripod, open the shutter and control the exposure manually. It is hard to imagine that to my eyes, it was totally dark at this time. There was zero color in the sky. But leaving the camera open for that long let in the most marvelous hues! Definitely something I want to spent more time exploring this Spring.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Project in the Big Apple

About a year ago, a friend of mine asked if we would be interested in taking on a photography commission. Having never done such a thing, I wasn't really sure what that entailed. The commission was to fill a beautiful apartment on Roosevelt Island with our photography. Site specific... fill these walls. Part of the deal was that we were invited to come to NYC and stay in the apartment while we scouted and photographed to our heart's delight.

The image creation took the better part of the summer with multiple visits to NYC and Roosevelt Island. Over the winter we edited images and tried to sift through the mountain of images we had created. Part of the process was figuring out what would look best on these walls. It's one thing to make a great image, but the best image - printed at the wrong size, or on the wrong wall - is just useless. The uppermost image is the southeastern most bank of floor to ceiling windows... facing Queens and eye level with the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan. From this vantage, you can see the old hospital being torn down to make way for the new Cornell Tech campus.

On our trip down last month to start hanging artwork, we realized we would need to measure the walls accurately, so that when it came time to place the artwork, it would end up exactly where we wanted it. This image is where we started realizing that even with the shades drawn, the apartment gets so much sun during the day, that our laser level lines were tough to see.

Everything coming onto the island arrives via FedEx or UPS, including the artwork and our gear. On our last trip we were shocked/appalled/scared to find one of the boxes with metal prints, quite crunched up. Luckily, the inner packaging kept the work in perfect order. Whew!

When you have twelve foot ceilings and big maps of the New York waterways to hang, you start with the big stuff first. Set a level for the whole room, and start measuring everything on paper. In this case, we were able to use a fantastic collapsible ladder. Perfect for apartment dwelling!

Nancy was absolutely essential during this process. Inevitably, one of us needed to be across the room shooting a laser level or judging space along a wall.. and the other person would be trying to hold the artwork flat to the wall. Each of these metal prints has two small holes bored in the foam block that allows the print to float on the wall. That means each piece requires two perfectly horizontally hammered nails that are also perfectly in line with all the other pieces in the cluster.

This last image is a slightly wider shot showing the laser level at work. Over two days we hung nearly two thirds of the artwork for the apartment. The next trip in April will be filling the bedroom with massive framed black and white prints!

Now that you have some idea what we've been doing during the installation, the next post will be the "finished" images... the "after shots" if you will.