Tag Archives: black

Understanding our Latest Work: The Alamo

If you live anywhere in the state of Texas then the subject of their new work really needs no introduction.  Visiting the Alamo at some point in your life is almost a culturally required pilgrimage.

Staying in a city like San Antonio with over 1.4 million people has a profound effect on the things you notice day in and out.  I love to take shots of unusual historic buildings to send a unique message of mankind’s progress, or lack thereof, in its continual struggle to understand science and ward of the effects of nature.

A historical structure of slowly decaying history, such as the Alamo,  speaks volumes to me about the impermeability of man and his toys.

Alamo
The Alamo

With the Alamo, I chose to focus mainly in black and white. The tonal blacks give a definite age look to this magnificent structure. The real color of the mission is various stony shades of brown placed against a stone tiles that people walk on. The picture in color loses some of the definition as the dominant historical feature that it truly is.

The features of rough stone, brought out to the viewer using the classical ideas of dodging and burning, are then coupled with a more modern approach of adding slightly colored filters to give it the final characteristics I was looking for.

( Artist Note:)   San Antonio is fabulous historical city to visit and the nearby Menger Hotel is literally within walking distance.  It’s the place to stay on your Alamo adventure.

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Get The Scoop on Our Easter Rabbit Before You’re Too Late

Around my humble place of residence are scores of unseen plants and animals living, or trying to, in complete harmony with the humans and their industrial machines. Flowers and trees, birds, rabbits, squirrels, skunks, even coyotes and hawks are found living wild in our urban areas.

It is very rare to see the larger animals but finding them are a challenge that I enjoy. Often, these animals learn to approach humans in a cautionary way. One such example is our friendly kitten (baby rabbit) featured above. He was not real sure about me and never stopped looking in my direction during our little visit.

In fact, a small ballet soon ensued of him moving a foot away, and me slowly following. We’d stop, eye each other, and then continue to move another foot. This went on for several minutes until I finally lost the little guy under some brush.  Unfortunately, this is only half the work.

Bunny
Bunny

The other half of producing a work of art is in its production.  While most of the time the choice of whether to use black or white for a picture or full color is an easy choice for the photographic artist, sometimes the shot forces a specific choice.

For example, our cute bunny presented all forms of difficulties for a color shot. The rabbit has earth brown fur and he is sitting upon a small pile of flattened medium brown tree mulch while enjoying the protection of some dark shade from the sun wafting through the trees above.  The result was a small cute rabbit no one could see.  Obviously, what is great for the rabbit vs. predators is not so wonderful for the photographer.

It’s these very limits on what the picture will look like in color that makes photographic art no different from many of the other arts. For instance, In sculptor the rock forces the sculptor to use the rock he is given  in a particular way to create his work. It’s the same for photography, while I can manipulate the image in a variety of forms and fashions; I’m forced to use the underlying picture as nature gave it to me. This is the creative challenge that I love about this art.

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How Will You Scare Your Enemies this Chinese New Year?

Happy New Year!

恭禧发财  ( Gong Xi Fa Cài)  or (Gong Hey Fat Choy)

Since it is Chinese New year, I thought it proper to introduce one of my new works. This is Male Foo Lion.  Sometimes referred to as a foo dog, foo dogs are really lions. Foo Lions are very important symbols in Chinese culture and references to them are easy to find. The most famous being sets of Foo Lions from the Ming and Qing dynasties found in the Forbidden Palace in the center of Beijing, China.

I wanted to bring forth and center upon the emotion in the statue by giving a close-cropped view of the Male Foo Lionterrifying teeth and eyes of the lion. I envisioned the lion launching out of the frame at the viewer with its ferocious intent. The image was desaturated of color and various dodge and burn techniques are then applied along with a cool blue filter to enhance the whites and boost the blacks in the image.

Traditionally, Foo Lions offer protection from negative energy or Qi. It does this in the same way gargoyles work. The scarier or more grotesque the figure is the better.   This frightening visage protects its owner by scaring away the negative energy. It’s also important to place the Foo lion so that it is facing a door or window from which the owner of the lion believes negative energy may come.

The male lion usually has a ball under his paw representing the world and is always located towards the left side of an opening looking out. The female lion is found with a cub under its paw representing support. The female lion is always located towards the right side of the opening looking out.

This particular image is that of the male lion. So, if you wish to feel the full effects of its protection, place it on the left side of an entrance hallway, door, or window.

 

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The Unexplained Mystery of Buddha Hair

Seated upon a stone bench in the corner of an ivy garden, this Buddha meditates with calm reflection of the peaceful and beautiful scene around him. It is very popular to position Buddha statues in gardens. They serve to remind the casual garden wanderer that the garden is a perfect place for personal reflection.

The Buddha statues you see in a garden are often varied in size, color and origin. The Buddha’s teachings traveled all over India and into China. From China it moved wherever the traveling missionaries/monks went.   Some took the teachings into the countries of the Southeast Asian peninsula, while others went through the Korean kingdoms into the Japanese Isles.

Thus, we find all sorts of versions of Buddha statues. Some are fat, some thin, some happy, some sleeping, and some wearing strange ornamentation on their heads. The key is that no one has any idea what the actual Buddha looked like.   We often forget in our technologically dependent civilization, that cameras and photography are not even 200 old years.   So, these statues are decent representations of people whom received the rank of enlightenment known as a Buddha.

This particular Buddha has the characteristic snail Buddha Statue in Gardenknots on his head. It is lost to history and speculation about what, if anything, the strange bumps actually represent. Historians know that the Buddha shaved his head after he became enlightened. According to a logical earthly artistic interpretation, the bumps therefore show the artists were artistically attempting to display the short curls of the Buddha as the hair grew back in.

However, since the Buddha is often seen in a spiritual nature, it makes sense that there is a story that covers this characteristic also. Indeed, there is a popular story of garden snails who martyr themselves to the sun while protecting Buddha’s shaved head from sunburn as he meditated in the garden one day.

It was also thought that upon enlightenment you would receive a cranial bump that signified your advancement into higher levels of thinking. One possible interpretation being that bigger thinking needs bigger brains that have bigger skulls. Therefore, the Buddha could have all these bumps to signify how spiritually advanced he was.

Regardless of your interpretation, the Buddha statue remains one of the focal points to most gardens. A simple reminder that harmony and peace should exist there.

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The Texture Trap

Part of the beauty of a rose is the color.  But, the texture of a rose is often overlooked,  Through the use of black and white photography techniques we view this flower in yet another of its beautiful forms.

When dealing with composing a black and white picture for texture your adept to run into the issue of the texture trap. The trap is allowing the texture you are showcasing to completely dominate the picture. Texture is a needed element in any work of art, but too much texture can quickly turn the best masterpiece into a slurred mess of harmony and scale.

The old painting masters use to a sense of color coördination in their landscape masterpieces to give a sense of texture. The foreground would often be painted with close examination to detail to allow the viewer to place himself or herself in the picture.  A master would then paint a midground to present a color gradient to link the foreground to the background. That gradient is what gives the painting such a great sense of depth.

In photography we control this with depth of field.   That wonderful tool that allows the photographer to focus on the foreground in perfect clarity while allowing the camera to blur ever so slightly the midground and fully blurring the background. This depth of field allows us to control out textures by allowing us to simplify and unite the any complex textures into a smoother blended texture as the picture becomes more out of focus.  

One of the difficulties when dealing with texture in photography is that the relative size of the texture will often distort the sense of scale. When I was working on this rose I did not want the rough texture of the front petals to distract from the dramatic effect that the layering of the petals gives the shot.

Just like with the color, I also wanted to take a minimalist approach to size of the rose. Against the blackness of the background, the rose commands attention of the eye. It registers with your eyes and draws you to the center.   But this effect does not act alone to get the result I wanted.

The change in texture found on the rose itself helps draw the eye where I want it to go. The texture in the Rose picturefront and top of the rose is different from the back and bottom petals. Even though the rough texture remains relatively constant from front to back, the outside petals and fringe allows for the black background to hold the viewer’s attention to the rose.

By not having the rose so close and allowing this perceptual depth, I’m able to use the size of the background to hold the texture on the top petals of the rose in check.

Why would I want it in check? I just stated I was using the texture of the rose to draw the viewer’s eyes where I wanted them to go. This seems like a contradiction, but truly it is not. By minimizing the texture of the rose with the size of the background I don’t allow the texture to gain more influence than I want. I’m trying to use space to influence the texture. So the texture doesn’t dominate the scale in the picture like the result you would get by taking a closer macro shot.

As I continue to photograph more and more I am always astonished on how complex good composition easily becomes. The blending of the various elements to create a visual representation of what we wanted reality to be. Hopefully by watching your depth of field, you will avoid the texture trap of allowing to many textures from dominating your shots.

 

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