Sunday, April 28, 2019

Just a Little Mystery

Mysterious figure standing at a gate in Guilin, China. Nighttime image with colored lights.
There's something about a little mystery in photography that appeals to me. I admit it, I love a good whodunnit. I love images that make you ask more questions than they answer. Images that make you think, make you wonder, make you lost...there's just something so appealing about them to me. I love the idea that you can get lost in an image, that it takes you away, to that faraway place, to a place from which you almost don't want to return.

OK, yes, I admit, there's also something fabulous about the right in your face style of photography too. Photography is a lot about realism, I get that. I totally get that. We're "real" kind of people in a "real" kind of world. And, yes, magical sunsets or lights or sweeping landscapes that you can almost reach out and touch do seem kind of fabulous too, don't they? Heck, I've been there, I've seen that, I know the drill. I want some of that as well, but there's just something about a little mystery. I just love it when a little something-something is left off the table. When not everything is spelled out so clearly in black and white. When the photographer makes you think. You like to think, don't you? Heck, I think everybody likes to think. We're thinking beasts as a lot, I swear we really are.

I think sometimes we get lost in mysterious images because they draw us in. It's not so black and white, it's not so in your face. Instead, it quietly pulls you in, like it ropes you, draws you into its world for a spell. There's just something about that whole idea that I really like. It's captivating.

It's hard to make mysterious images. Often, they don't jump out at us. We have to work at them, sometimes a lot, but I think they are worth it. They are so worth it in the end. There's just something I love about a little mystery, a little question mark, a little bit left off the table for you to figure out all by your lonesome. That little nudge that makes you think, makes you scratch your head, makes you wonder in amazement. A nagging question, perhaps, or maybe a mysterious figure that you just can't place. Sure, it might make the hair on the back of your neck stand up a little bit but, hey, that's an emotion too, isn't it? Let's face it, well all like emotion as photographers, don't we? Even if they boil down to *that* kind of an emotion, it's still better than not feeling anything at all, right?

Yes, there's something about a little mystery in life that I really like. I chose this image tonight deliberately, since it's a bit of a mystery and I was going over some of my work from China. I thought it fit nicely and still can't quite remember what I did to make it happen. Yes, I guess it's that kind of image but, like, that's OK. I like a little mystery, even if I'm the one who can't remember it all. It's all well and good.

This is me, standing by some ancient forgotten gate in China somewhere. Lost. Just how I like it. And now, I guess, I hope you like it too. 

Until next time...

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Opportunity Weekend - April 21, 2019

Bats flying across the night sky, Round Rock, Texas
I'm batty over bats, I admit it. Still, it's Easter Sunday and also time for some great opportunities for you so, without further ado, here goes:
That's a bunch of opportunities for you to go batty over, so please go out and get some.

Until next time...
 

A Pile of Rocks

Bats swirl from under a lamppost in Round Rock, Texas
Earlier this week fire ravaged the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris. Now, I have never photographed Notre Dame, I've not been to Paris or even France for that matter, and I was saddened to hear of the tragic loss. Sadly, Notre Dame has now become a place I will never get to photograph, since the fire caused so much damage. We all have photographic buckets lists and sometimes we get lucky and get to check items off but, alas, sometimes things just don't work out according to plan. I've learned to cope with this over the years, though it does weight heavily on my soul at times.

This week, I did get to photograph something special, although it was not Notre Dame, it was kind of magical in its own right. Interestingly enough, it started out rather ordinary, in fact, I almost didn't make it to the photo shoot at all. A photo group in town had slated a meetup in nearby Round Rock at, of all places, an auto parts store. This auto parts store used to be a little antique shop called "Cabbages and Kings" (in a nod to O. Henry who is actually associated with this area.) The antique store sounds like it might be interesting and, frankly, it might have been in its time as well, but the evening belonged instead to a local bat colony. You see, as it turns out, the former antique shop turned auto parts store is right across the street from one of the largest colonies of bats in the area. I was given good directions and a time for meeting but, as it turned out, I got a little bit lost along the way and got there a few minutes late. I also got stuck waiting on a passing train which, interestingly enough, is also a good photo opportunity from the same location.

The meeting time was just about sunset. After I had gotten lost and all but given up on finding the spot, I drove along the highway along a route I thought would take me back home. As luck would have it, I wound up driving right past the little auto parts store and managed to get there just in time. It was not quite sunset and the bats had not come out yet, so I parked, got out my trusty tripod, and joined up with the crew. I wasn't expecting much, as this was more of a social thing for me, but I wanted to check out the nearby bat bridge and also maybe get some early evening/dusk type of shots if I could manage it.

Turns out we had a fantastic evening. I saw a beautiful glistening moon above a pink tinged sky. The sunset was great, the night was pleasant, the colors in the evening sky very lovely. I met some old friends, made a few new ones, watched a train go by, and learned all about bats. All in all, it was a wonderful evening. Honestly, such a lovely night, in hindsight I would not have traded it for a shiny cathedral or a jaunt to some faraway spot.

Some of my favorite quotes are actually about cathedrals. "A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral," Antoine de Saint-Exupery.

"What are you doing?" a man asked of three laborers beside a building under construction. The first man replied, "stone-cutting," The second smiled, "puttin' in time until a better job comes along." The third man waited a moment and then said simply, "I'm building a cathedral!"

You would think that, given my fondness for quotes such as these, by now I would have learned that a cathedral is more than a pile of rocks.

We all build cathedrals in our minds. We can all find beauty in everyday things. We can all appreciate the ordinary. We can learn to craft great images where we stand, honestly, we all have that capability, we just need to foster a creative spirit and encourage ourselves to approach the world with a childlike sense of wonder. Cathedrals are little more than piles of stone. Their greatness lies in our hearts and vision. Sadly, Notre Dame has burnt down and I will never get to photograph it. I can't let this stop me, as I have a lot to photograph in my own little world. Cathedral of the mind, for sure..."Shoes-and ships-and sealing wax-of cabbages and kings." It's all right there before the shutter if you just stop long enough to pay attention I suppose.

Until next time...

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Phthalo Landscape - I Love You Blue

A field of bluebonnets in Central Texas.

Leftover from my days as a painter, I seem to have developed a bit of a crush on a certain color blue. Now, when I say, "crush," I'm not talking as amorous as my current celebrity crush (ahem, Vance Joy in case you are not paying attention.) He really curls my toes as they say, and there's probably no coloring over that one. Alas, the blue really is a lust of mine, as I do seem to be carrying a torch for that dreaded phthalo.

It started out innocently enough. Back when I was doing an encaustic series, I guess somehow I had grown tired of swiping everything in brown, brown, brown, reddish brown, and more brown. Now, if I'm being honest, I have always been one for a limited palette. You can probably tell this from my photography, although it might not be quite so obvious if you don't know to look for it. Let's put it this way, I'm basically a three color gal. I'm also a bit particular about the colors into which I dip my fingers. I have to say, I love certain colors and shun others. Again, you could probably guess this from my photography as well, although not always in your face obvious, it's there for all to see. So, back to painting, while I was crafting my Santa Fe sunset series, I decided I needed some blue for the sky. The skies out in Santa Fe really are not ultramarine, let me tell you. No, Phthalo really does it justice (if you have never been to Santa Fe, you'll just have to trust me on this one.) I'm not usually one for deep blues, well I guess I wasn't until I broke out the Phthalo and then I feel in love. I can't help myself, I love that color. Somehow, we just bonded. It was the perfect shade and the perfect touch and it just fit oh so well. Now, I know you're not supposed to fall in love with a color. It's bad form, as they say. It's kind of like picking a favorite among your children. You just don't go there. You shouldn't, and I know but I did anyway. It's kind of like eating an entire pint of ice cream in one sitting. Wrong, wrong, wrong on oh so many levels but still it felt good going down and, so help me, I really do have no regrets about it afterwards. Phthalo, I love you, I really, really love you. OK, maybe just a little lust early in the morning but there you have it. I confess!

Fast forward to Texas and the present day. I find it hard to get inspired with bluebonnet images. Yes, I know the bluebonnets are pretty and, yes, I know everybody wants to, no makes that has to, shoot them. Yes, I know I must do it too at some point but, you see, I just find it so uninspiring. There's just something about it. At the end of the day I feel like, even if I do a knockout wiz bang job, I'm going to have just another sucky bluebonnet image. I must confess. I really don't know what to do with these bluebonnets. I mean, sure, they are great to plunk your dog down in, or maybe your kid (if you even have kids) and take a couple of snaps but, beyond that, it's hard to get any real artistic meat out of them. They are like the SPAM of flowers here in the otherwise lovely Texas springtime. Great smelling and very pretty SPAM, mind you, but weird breakfast meat nonetheless.

So, what's a girl to do? I decided I would turn my love and appreciation for all thing Phthalo into a bluebonnet image. Now, as I traipse about in the weeds, trying not to trample what's left of the prized bluebonnets en route to crafting my wonderful obligatory bluebonnet image, my mind drifts to that Phthalo. That wonderful Santa Fe sunset sky blue. It's all I can think about these days. I love that blue, really I do. Yes, I know my artist friends are going to tell me, "But...it's so....INTENSE..." Yeah, I know. I get it. Intense. It is. But, what can I say? I just love that damn color, OK?

This time of year, our landscapes are almost Phthalo. And, I love Phthalo, really I do. I'm having a wonderful spring, enjoying my wonderful Phthalo landscape and, no, I don't really care if you make fun of me for it. Heck, I still have the Gin Blossoms in the shuffle on my phone. I just don't care what anybody thinks anymore. I'm so self absorbed I know but I refuse to deny myself the pleasure of Phthalo. "Hey Jealousy!" Don't be hating on my jam, m'kay? (C'mon, you know you love yourself some pretty intense Santa Fe sunset Phthalo blue landscapes now, don't you? 'Fess up already!)

Until next time...