Saturday, July 31, 2010

Zen and the Art of My Photography

Spending a week soaking in "Zen and the Art of Photography" has left me with more questions about my work and what Zen is than I could have thought.  Doug would would be pleased with that struggle I know for sure. (smile).   For myself, I am left with few answers, but more awareness.  Maybe that is the entire point of Zen and everything we were exposed to this week.  Contradiction is at the heart of Zen.  Rooted in action and focus but also non-action, clarity and reflection as well. (Did I just write that?)

"Show me the face of God."
This was one of the final exercises.  No kids, no pets.  No problem.  My mind hadn't gone that direction.  I looked near the river and found nature there.  Found man's destruction there also.  I think it's hard to find the face of God.... I believe it is to be revealed and I think it will take time for that photograph to show itself to me.
A great quote from the week:
"We don't see things as they are- We see them as we are." -Anais Nin

I realized the photograph that follows is the one I kept going back to while thinking about my "Zen week." The moment I saw this, I knew I had to make a picture of it.   It's an abstract- no pretty landscape or flower, but everything is here I connect to.  The dark rectangular shadows needed to be there.  The torn edge.  The uniformness of the screen. The composition.  The loose strands gradually pulling away and escaping. I doubt few besides myself will think much of the image, and even though I'm sharing it, I need to not worry about that.  "Don't listen to that voice."( as Doug would comment).
  So I didn't.
Profile in Screen Door

Thursday, July 29, 2010


Exercise one today was to find the worst possible place we could think of and make a picture there.  Someplace were we would normally totally ignore as not worthy of our time.  I had noticed the schools tennis courts the first day here and of course walked by while looking for places to shoot (okay, I said "shoot").  I walked around in this bare bones court-not even a net here and found these small holes-some filled with water, some trying to start life with weeds growing in them.  I'm sure the security camers wondered what the guy was doing crawling around on his belly with a camera glued to his face.
I actually liked this exercise when finished, but then I do like abstracts and these interested me.
1/4Cup with Rust
1/4 Cup with Life


Today we had an '"assignment" or exercise while in a garden, to try and make pictures there of metaphors.  Not easy, I can admit.  Photographing flowers is alright, and I do make my share of those-sometimes to get them out of the way I know.  I walked around this lady's yard and it was full of flowers and decorations-just a huge place.  I had to just soak it in first, to try and see what was really there.  Light was okay.  These three flowers were the first thing I noticed as Doug talked of the exercise, and I just thought about life and death-maybe too easy, but it was right there.
Again-oh suprise, a fern!  I know, I just connect with them in some strange way-maybe because I crawl around in the woods and swamps all the time.  I like their shape and tenacity.  This lone fern looks captured by the fence and maybe defying it also.
This last picture I made was as we were walking down the street to leave-I had noticed "diggers hotline" spray paint and pin flags marking power lines right through parts of the garden-so something was going to getripped up here.  I thought the shadows of the wildflowers on the blacktop and tar told a story about "progress" in a way.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010


So one of our exercises was to photograph "the whole thing"....a scene or an area,  and then keep paringing it down, down, down to the most important elements.   I took a hike out into a swamp where some of the painters were working and I found an easel, box of scattered oil paint and a pallet waiting for the painter to come back.  I just kept moving in, pretty much ignoring the huge towering red pines above and focused on the color of the oil paint.  A quick switch to a close-up lens and I was able to get really close on the texture and color of the paint.  Simple, abstract, but I liked it anyway.

School of Arts-2010

"Zen and the Art of Photography" is the name of my class this time around here at the School of Arts.  It's a bit different than some of the other classes I've had-some meditation, some writing and a lot of small photography exercises to try and bring our personalities into our work.  I didn't shoot much that I was real happy with-you know, "keeper" photos, but still, it was good to make pictures again.  Funny, but I sometimes seem to gravitate toward small nature subjects, and in the next minute am drawn to abstract designs or forms.  Oh well. ....maybe that is good, maybe not.  We also did a study in light and took portraits of everyone in the class-with bright overhead light.  The one below was a favorite.  I love black and white but still am not happy with how digital converts color to BW.  My laptop here doesn't have a good "convert to black and white" in photoshop like my home computer, so it has been a bit more of a struggle.

Hobart stove conduit

Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Edge Border?

I'm about to head north once again to spend a week at the School of Arts.  I think this is about my 6th year there and each year I learn something new or am influenced by the instructors and students there.  I've found that there are times I need to be pushed to try new things or be forced out of my comfort zone in photography.  Each year, I have gained something from attending and it has improved my work.  It's one thing to go out and ..."well, I'm going to look for something to shoot today" vs. you "have to find this and this and this to shoot for that assignment."  My instructor this year will be Doug Beasley and the theme is "Zen and the Art of Photography."  Not sure what to expect, but probably something very new...... I do like to seek out quiet places and moments when I make a picture, so we'll see.   When looking at his work, I noticed a lot of his images use a "edge" or border on them-almost a frame.  They look like old emulsion images from polaroid of print film. (  It is kind of a cool effect and I'll be anxious to ask why he uses it on some photographs and not others.  I played around a little with it over the past couple days-here are my results.

Sand Creek Brewey on a  Friday Night
Blue Roof House Near Greenwood, WI
Nancy Jo on Lake Michigan

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Sturtz Prairie

Felt like I've been in a photography slump lately-and I was going to do a 365 project?!  I've had my camera with me enough while at Levis working, but nothing jumped at out at me to make a picture.  Sometimes, I think one should just press the shutter-at anything, just to get the ball rolling.  Seems once that first shot is taken, then I start seeing things again.  So on my way to Levis early in the morning I just pulled over at the "Sturtz Prairie" near Columbia (Clark County, Town of Hewett).  This is a native grass prairie restoration Toni and Rick Sturtz have been establishing for the past several years on their property.  I had noticed some large cone flowers coming up lately as I've driven by, and of course, Big Blue Stem, brown eyed susans and daises.
I liked this composition with the arched grass bending over and the color they seem to share.
This cone flower was nearing the end of it's flowering life, but there were other flowers to take over.

....and it wouldn't be a photo shoot without ferns!  I don't know this species, but like them.  Black and white seemed to be the way to view these.