May 162013
 
Waves of Change

“Waves of Change,” Ecola State Park (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

Almost eight years ago to the day, Craig and I celebrated the end of our first temporary stay in Oregon by standing on the headland at Indian Beach at Ecola State Park just north of Cannon Beach.

Sunset at Indian Beach

“Sunset at Indian Beach” from 2005 (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

I remember that evening in 2005 so vividly, I can still feel the memory today:  The gentle ocean breeze.  The smell of the tide change.  The warmth of the setting sun.  Two of the photographs I captured that evening – with my Contax 645 medium format film camera – now rest above our bed in our Arizona home to serve as a daily reminder of one of our favorite places and moments along the Oregon coast.

Months ago, as we prepared for our second temporary stay in Oregon, a rush of thoughts overwhelmed my mind based on our first experience.  Where to go, when to go, what to see, who to see, and how to record such ample and different beauty in Oregon. As they say, “So many places to see, so little time.” The list of places to see and things I want to do became longer than a child’s Christmas list.

Sea Stack Sunset

“Sea Stack Sunset” from 2005 (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

Despite the seemingly endless new photographic opportunities this transition presented, I decided to start my photographic journey in Oregon in the same place I left off:  on the headland at Indian Beach at Ecola State Park.  It’s a place I’d been countless times before, and yet when I arrived on Tuesday morning, nothing, nothing, looked the same as 2005.

Upon coming to the realization that nothing, nothing, had remained the same, I smiled as big as the little girl who got everything she wished for on December 25.  In that instance, I mouthed the words as the wind whispered, “No man ever steps in same river twice, for it is not the same river and he’s not the same man.”  ~Heraclitus.

(Turns out Heraclitus’ quote applies to oceans and women too!)

I couldn’t have been happier to learn that in eight years, everything, everything, has changed.  Mother Nature altered the landscape such that I can no longer stand in the same place as I did before, thanks to landslides.   Those landslides pushed new rocks into the ocean, and each wave crashed a little differently on those new sea stacks.  It’s not possible for me to re-create the same compositions I did in 2005, even if I wanted to-I didn’t.

On top of significant natural changes and differing light/weather, I’m thankfully not the same person, photographer, artist that stood on that headland before.  I replaced my film camera long ago with two generations of digital cameras.  I now know what to do with a graduated neutral density filter.   I’ve embraced my love affair with the coast, despite living in the desert.  Endless experiences – conversations, readings, successes, failures, travels, and other inspirations – have challenged and changed my perspectives over time so that when I look at a scene I’ve seen before, I’m looking through an entirely different lens.

Ansel Adams summed it best:   “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”

Hang On!

“Hang On!” Ecola State Park, Oregon (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

Whether we know it or not, as time passes, we and the world around us are constantly changing.  But, neither change nor creativity needs to be a passive activity.  If we seek to create new images in the same spots, we must change as a person.  Simply buying a new lens won’t cut it.  Oh sure, new gear can help execute new visions, but we need to start with new ideas and make different associations among the knowledge we already possess to see, and ultimately photograph, something new in places we’ve already been once or a hundred times.

Consciously and subconsciously, we can gain fresh thoughts everywhere and anytime, not just while photographing.  Some ideas how:

  • Reverse engineer photos you like to understand the process they used to achieve a specific result.  How’d they do it?  Then how would you do it differently?
  • Keep asking “what if.”  What if you used a different lens?  What if you climbed the hill for a more aerial perspective?  What if you saw the ocean as the desert, metaphorically speaking?
  • Devour books.  Not just photography books, but anything that tickles your passion and stimulates your brain.
  • Listen to music, watch movies, attend plays.  And then think about how you can incorporate the concepts and ideas you hear, see, and experience into your photography.
  • Talk with and exchange ideas with others.  Not just other photographers, but also those who know nothing about photography, who explore other activities and fields you enjoy, and think differently than you.  Surround yourself with people who know more than you.
  • Screw up.  Often.  Then learn from the experience to develop even more new ideas.
  • Engage with your environment.  An experience you have in one location can help trigger ideas in a different location.  Ride a bike, go for a hike, take a field-based class – whatever gets you closer to your subject.

So last Tuesday, I brought with me to Indian Beach all my experiences from spending 90+ days in Acadia National Park in Maine over the last four years, every critique I’ve conducted during all the photography workshops I teach, the entire process of writing a book about Arizona wildflowers, and more simply, even the songs I heard on the radio as I drove to Ecola State Park, among so many other things.  And as a result, my photographs look nothing, nothing, like they did in 2005.

What other tips do you have to see the same place with fresh eyes?

Spring Emergence

“Spring Emergence,” False lily-of-the-valley at Ecola State Park, Oregon (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

Mar 212013
 
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Ride With Me,” Acadia National Park, Maine (Prints available for purchase – click on photo to order!)

Of all the images I’ve created thus far, the one I get questioned the most about is, by a landslide, “Ride With Me” in Acadia National Park in Maine.  I’m frequently asked, “Where was the camera?” and “And how did you snap the picture with both hands on the handlebars?”

Though I captured the image above during my second Artist-in-Residence with the park in October 2010, my visualizations for this image started almost a year earlier in November 2009 during my first residency.  In the months leading up to my first visit, I read a wonderful book by Ann Rockefeller Roberts titled, “Mr. Rockefeller’s Roads:  The Untold Stories of Acadia’s Carriage Roads.”  Concerned the “new” automobile would threaten the natural beauty and affect the quiet, peacefulness Mount Desert Island provided him, his family, and fellow community members, John Rockefeller, Jr. envisioned setting aside land to establish a network of carriage roads limited to only carriage riders, drivers, and pedestrians could utilize for recreational purposes. By 1940, a 57-mile system of carefully designed and developed carriage roads existed for exactly that purpose.

Inspired by this story,  as I turned each page, I started to piece together the kind of photograph I wanted to make when I arrived and experienced the phenomenal carriage roads for myself.  As soon as I made it to Acadia in November, I hit the carriage roads on foot or by bicycle, traveling almost every length of the 45-miles within the park boundaries.  Occasionally, I stopped to make a photograph or two or ten or fifty.  I felt I was capturing “nice,” technically acceptable photographs along the way but never truly felt I had captured something that did this unique feature within Acadia justice.

Poor Carriage Road Shot - ExampleThe photo to the right was honestly the best I brought home.  Does this inspire anyone to go to Acadia and see the carriage roads for themselves?  I’m guessing a resounding NO!!  This shot is just, well, really sad…

Now once you have a spark of enthusiasm or even a semblance of an idea, don’t give up on it!  I had the fortunate opportunity to return to Acadia in October 2010, so I had precisely 10 months to analyze what went wrong in the first attempt and design an approach that would yield the type of image I wanted to capture on the carriage roads.

I wanted to share how much fun it was to hike and bike along these paths, so I decided I would show myself in motion.  I’m not a fast walker, and so help me, I do not run ever (unless someone is chasing me or is giving away free cameras across the field…) so I planned to create the image while on a moving bike with a slower shutter speed to imply movement and speed.  I could hold the camera in one hand up to my eye while keeping one hand on the handlebars to render an OK image, but that approach seemed doomed for certain disaster for clumsy ol’ me.  I needed both hands on the handlebars, but how would I trigger the shutter?

I mulled my idea over with my husband, who promptly suggested I research what skydivers do to trigger the shutter when they throw their crazy selves out of planes with both hands free.  Hmmmm, yes…I found a company online, Conceptus, who made switches for just this reason!  So I traveled to one of their distributors in Eloy, Arizona to pick up my tongue-switch, a cable-release that would plug into the camera and would allow me to trigger the shutter hands-free with my tongue!  After just a few clicks, I knew this tool would certainly help me capture my vision!

With fresh enthusiasm for my idea, I returned to Acadia and started biking the autumn-kissed, tree-lined carriage roads with my camera strapped to my mid-section with a basic strap, my camera manually focused at infinity, my lens set at 16mm for a wide-angle perspective, and of course, my tongue switch in my mouth!  I’d bike as fast as I could downhill, experimenting with various shutter speeds to render just enough motion but not so much it looked like the stars when the Millennium Falcon went into hyperspace mode.

Six-hundred shots later- only four of which turned out to my liking – and I can confidentially say this photograph, “Ride With Me” is exactly how I felt about enjoying the carriage roads and perhaps more importantly, it conveys exactly what I wanted to share with my viewers about that special feeling.  I hope this photograph does inspire you to go to Acadia and see the carriage roads yourself!  Truly, as the title expresses, I wanted you to ride with me.

Whether you’re photographing from a bike, an airplane, or with your two feet solidly planted on the ground, remember to look at your image on the back of your LCD before you move yourself or your tripod to be sure what you’ve captured is exactly what you envisioned and wish to share with your audience.  If you don’t, you’re cheating yourself and your audience out of something very important you have to say about the scene in front of you.  Work the scene by moving your position, changing lens, using light differently, modifying your exposure settings, applying filters, or whatever else you can do to ensure you capture that vision. And like I suggested earlier, once you have an idea pop into your head or you see something in the field that excites you, don’t walk away or give up until you’ve recorded it with your pixels!

Technical info:  Canon 5DMII, 16-35mm at 16mm, ISO 50, f/20 @ 1/5th of a second, polarizer, triggered by Conceptus tongue-switch, basic post-processing.

Jan 042013
 

New for 2013, we're pleased to introduce our new Print of the Month Collection!

Here's how this works:  Each month, I'll select one featured photograph, and for the duration of that month only, that selected photo will be available for sale at 30% OFF any size and style print!  In addition to your print, you'll also receive a one-page write-up on the story behind the photograph, which will include specific location information, technical details, and photography tips.

To order the print of the month, visit our new 2013 Print of the Month gallery, select that month's photo, click Add to Cart, select the size and style you desire, and then enter the coupon code provided above the photograph during the checkout process.

Without further ado, I'm excited to share that our most recent photograph, titled “Winter Solstice Eve” from Canyonlands National Park, Utah is CMS Photography's very first Print of the Month!  Now thru January 31, 2013, if you use coupon code 13JANPOM1, you'll receive 30% off this print in any size and style!

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Viewed from the Green River Overlook, the sun sets over Island in the Sky district in Canyonlands National Park, Utah, USA (Prints available – click on photo to order & use coupon code 13JANPOM1 to receive your 30% discount now thru January 31, 2013!)

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