Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dark Nights

We turn our heads reluctantly from summer,
start to look toward fall.
Morning crispness, school books.
Endings and beginnings,
sadness and possibility.
Enjoy every last golden moment of this month.
Squeeze out the last drops of summer and
hang it on the line to dry -
our memory of sticky days and thunderstorms,
wind in the leaves and crickets chirping.
These will keep us warm and cozy in the
long dark nights to come.

This is just something I randomly wrote down this morning in my journal, after I wrote in the date. It seemed to fit with this picture from Bath, the row of chairs at night, cool drops of rain on them, empty of tourists - foretelling of the seasons to come.

I am finding black and white photos very interesting lately. Before I left on my trip, I participated in the Mortal Muses black and white challenge. It was interesting to look through my photos and join in with some of my favorites. I was even one of the featured photos last week, in Thursday's post.

Participating in this challenge got me to looking at my black and white photos as a body of work, instead of each one individually. I love color, but I like the feeling that black and white can evoke. The simplicity of light and dark, lines and spaces. It got me to thinking about how I don't really see an image as black and white when I record it in real time, but when I see the photo on the computer it just asks to be black and white. Like this one, when I saw it in yesterday's editing, I knew that this was the way it needed to be.

And somehow, the words I wrote this morning, the challenge I participated in last month, the photo I took last week and edited yesterday all came together for this post. I love how that happens.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bath Time!

We are back from our lovely week in England, where we visited Bath, York and London. What a beautiful country! Buildings out of children's story books, the fastest moving clouds I have ever seen, and everything was in English. Imagine! That might sound silly, but I wasn't quite prepared for "foreign" travel in my own language, after traveling so much where the languages are different. The English language is the same yet so different in the UK. And some of the accents - they might well have been speaking a foreign tongue for what we understood!

Of all of the places we visited, Bath was our favorite. I loved the Bath stone buildings, the interesting doors, windows with flowers, rows upon rows of chimneys and the town at night. So much great history, from the Romans and earlier, to Jane Austen (I have to go re-read some books now).

When we found out the Roman Baths were open late I knew I wanted to visit in the evening, for the lights on the water. It turned out perfect - good light, fewer people - much better all around for me. You can almost transport yourself back in time with this image, imagining the baths in the Roman times. But not quite. The windows of the building behind, the signs, the walls - all subtle elements of modern day. An interesting juxtaposition of old and new, coming together in one pleasing composition. Hmmmm, that might just describe England as well!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Closed for Vacation

Chiuso per ferie. Closed for vacation.

Every August, the northern part of Italy closes up and goes south for the summer. For 2 to 3 weeks in August, anywhere around Milan is a ghost town. It is quite surreal to have parking readily available, empty streets and closed up shops. It's hard to fathom, in comparison to our American always-open mentality, that business owners would close up their businesses for 2 to 3 weeks. What if someone needed something? "No matter" is the sentiment here. They have lives to live. "What, do you expect us to be open all of the time for you?" Apparently not.

I was talking to a colleague at work yesterday about this time. He said it's not nearly as quiet and empty as it used to be. The big multi-national companies don't close anymore, like they used to in August, so there are a lot more people working. And of course that means the support of stores and other services. Also this year, with the economy, people may be on vacation but staying home rather than going to the sea. So the empty streets we are experiencing are not even that empty.

I will never understand it, why you would want to take a vacation at the same time as every one else. And, in the heat of summer, to the hottest places. But this is Italy, this is what they do. Their culture, tradition. Even while I shake my head in disbelief, I also feel a little sad that this cultural phenomena is slowly changing to be more like the rest of the world.

With that, I'm heading out on vacation myself. Summer vacation is only so long for my son, so that means travel at the peak times for us too. I will be back in a week or so, with pics of England to share.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Exploring with a Camera: Repeating Patterns

Time for another exploration! Can I tell you how much I look forward to these? I have been thinking about this post for the last two weeks, pondering today's topic and seeing things in the world around me with an eye to Repeating Patterns.

We have repeating patterns everywhere in our lives. So much so that we don't always notice them. We see, catalog, and sort the differences in things, that's how our brains work. The sameness can blend in to the background. But, when we notice, we can use the "sameness" of patterns to good effect in our photography.

First, let's explore repeating patterns as the focal point of our images. In the photo below, of a Barcelona apartment building, at first glance it might look like a photo of windows. It's not. It's a photo of a repeating pattern - the windows, balconies and shadows all repeat in a regular fashion. There's no one place for the eye to look. I've heightened the "pattern" aspect of the photo by changing it to black and white. No pesky color to distract you from the pattern. The image becomes more about the pattern of light and dark, than what is creating the pattern of light and dark. I especially like the undulating light "stripes" that appear, where the sunlight hits the building, when you stop looking at the windows and shadows and just look at it as a pattern.

    Here's another image that is of repeating pattern, of a rooftop in Murten, Switzerland. You see the shingles, all repeating at regular intervals vertically and horizontally. There is a difference in this photo, however, from the image above. In this photo, the repeating pattern serves to highlight another aspect - the fact that the shingles are different. The pattern repeats, but what makes up the pattern does not, so this image is about the differences. Differences in color, size, shape. You notice them all more because of the pattern.

    In thinking about repeating patterns and how I use them in my photography, I find that this second use, using a repeating pattern to highlight some third aspect, is my primary use. This image of shadows on the street in Bolzano, Italy is a good example. Imagine the image of the shadows without the contrast of the pattern, or the pattern without the shadows. Either way, in my mind's eye, it falls flat. But when you combine the two, and use the repeating lines and shapes of the pattern as a backdrop for the irregular and solid shapes of the shadows, you get a great image. The repeating pattern really sets off the subject, the shadows. Again, in this image I converted to black and white to highlight the lines, shapes, patterns.

    The pattern of the edges of the floor tiles, of this Gaudi design in Barcelona, serves to contrast and enhance the flowing nature of the art that is impressed into them. The angle of the photo, with the pattern growing smaller and blurring toward the back, serves to enhance your awareness of the dimension, how the light and shadow is showing you the impressed elements. The pattern of straight lines provides a structured frame that the flowing curves reside in and move through. You also get hints that the natural, curvy figures impressed into the tiles are a repeating pattern of their own, when you look at it closer. All that in one picture of a floor!

    Here the repeating pattern of the balconies serves to enhance the feeling of height in the skyscraper in Barcelona. You see this in many "looking up" skyscraper shots, but this one is very dramatic because of the horizontal lines and angles jutting out on each floor.

    This image, from Milan, shows how the pattern of the light and shadow on the unusual bricks of this building serve to show the curve and size of the building. You see the bricks, but the repeating pattern of them immediately leads your eye along the curve toward the edge. What happens after the edge of this picture? The crop of the image, which doesn't show you beyond the building, leaves you with the impression that the pattern continues indefinitely.While all of the examples so far have been of architecture, I also find store displays a wonderful source of repeating patterns. In this image,you have repeating patterns in three dimensions. An image of a single chocolate bar, while showing the design of the wrapper, color, etc., would not be as interesting as this one with the repeating pattern. The pattern of multiple bars repeated, as well as the repetition in the third dimension, gives depth and a feeling of abundance. You see the chocolate bar wrapper just as clearly as if that were the only thing in the photo, but you also see more.

    So, how can you use repeating patterns in your photography? Some ideas and tips...
    1. Look for repeating patterns, they are everywhere around us. Architecture is one of the best sources, because it takes lots of little, repeating pieces to build something big. Elements of architecture with repeating patterns can be found in the facades - windows, doors, trim, bricks, blocks of stone - or inside - steps, beams, flooring. Our modern world is built with repeating patterns! Stores are also a good source of repeating patterns, because they have a lot of the same thing to sell. Look for creative store displays that use that to good effect.
    2. Look for opportunities for the pattern to be the subject. Choose your composition and angle such that you see the pattern repeat several times at the same size and there is no "perspective" effect. This will often be looking straight at, or very close to straight at, the subject pattern. Try converting to black and white to enhance the pattern aspect, removing color as a difference that may distract from the pattern itself.
    3. Look for opportunites for a pattern to enhance or contrast with a subject. Use angles that show the dimension - distance, height, depth. Use compositions that capture differences in the pattern - whether it be color or shape. Use a pattern as a backdrop for the subject. Use post-processing, like selective color, to have one element of a repeating pattern pop out.

    What other ideas do you have for capturing images with repeating patterns? I'd love to see what your eye sees! Share here in the comments or join in the Flickr group.

    (Want to explore some more? You can find all past explorations linked in one place here.)

    Tuesday, August 17, 2010

    One Brick at a Time

    Today marks my 365th blog post - one year! I've been watching the little number tick up daily on my blogger dashboard and have been marveling. I've written one year of posts. To be honest, it took me two years to get the 365 posts, but I've decided it's the number itself that counts. And since most of the posts are since I started doing the photo-a-day posts last November, it means more to me. It's since that time that I've found my voice, found my eye, found myself here in this daily blog.

    It's funny, for the last couple of years, I've watched all of these people share their "Project 365" photos where they take a photo every day of the year, and I always said "I could never do that." It's wonderful to see bits and pieces of people's lives captured daily, and they have a cool record of the year when they are done. But that never interested me. Much as I love photography, I don't feel inspired to take a picture every day. I didn't have interest in a project where I would start and invariably fizzle out after a month or two. But, when I got the idea to share a picture every day, to look through my pile of photos (metaphorically speaking) and pick out the best, the ones that speak to me in some way, now that I could do.

    So here I am, at post 365. How did I get here I ask myself? One day, one image, one word at a time. Just like when building something monumental, a cathedral or a castle, it's built one brick, one stone at a time. That's what it takes.

    Of course, in my case I don't have a blueprint. I'm just figuring out as I go along and that seems to work. I don't have hard and fast rules for myself, like "you must post every day" or "you must post in sequential order" or "you must have a specific topic" because that would all make it feel like work. I know myself, I would work really hard to meet the self-dictated rules and then, eventually, lose all interest because I would have lost the spark that got me started. Think about it, have there been times where your self-imposed rules have run you into the ground? Do you have any right now? I'm constantly on the lookout for them anymore. I've learned those little self-imposed rules are the ones that can get in the way of following my heart, creating great things because I'm so busy with the work of following my rules.

    Thanks for joining me here, thanks for reading post 365 of the Kat Eye View. A place where rules are thrown out and images and words are based on whatever inspires me that day. A place where you can participate too, answer a question, leave a comment, tell me your view. I love to hear what's going on with you! I've met some amazing people this way, through comments and blog hopping and I love it. One more thing that motivates me to keep going!

    Ciao until next time, post 366...

    (Image is of Rheinfels Castle, in St. Goar, Germany in the Rhine River Valley.)

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    Light and Dark Places

    Italy has changed me. It was so clear to me on our recent trip to Switzerland, where the perfectly clean and cared for towns were pretty, but not so inspiring to me artistically. Where was the texture, the peeling paint? Where was the reality, the truth? It seemed too perfect. Like a wall erected between me and the place. Just look at the pretty picture, admire the beauty, move on. Distracting me by the surface.

    But what's underneath the surface? That's what I want to know. What is it like inside? What I see in the buildings and towns I visit is a metaphor for what is going on inside of me. I could have the perfect, controlled, beautiful exterior, but at what internal cost? Perhaps at the cost of creativity, the cost of self-expression. Or I can have an exterior that is not quite perfect, a little bit flawed, that doesn't follow all the rules, but is full of internal life and energy. Allows for a creative expression of the self. But with that must come honesty, an awareness and acceptance of the flaws.

    Which do I want?

    It might seem an easy question, of course I want the texture, the energy, the life. I want all of the creativity that comes along with it. But to get that I have to truly recognize and accept the flaws, the light and dark places inside of me. Boy, is that hard.

    I guess the fact that I'm recognizing this is a start. The fact that I'm seeing the light and dark both, choosing the texture and peeling paint, feels right. Feels real. And I am amazed at how, once again, I learn about myself through my art. I can't hide when I express myself creatively, all of me is there, in the images I create. My photographs have something to show me, they show something of me, beyond the surface impressions.

    Right now, they are showing me that my time in Italy has changed me. No doubt about it.

    Sunday, August 15, 2010

    Be Delighted

    Sometimes, when you are following your heart and your creative inspiration, when you just play around, you get to be delighted. Happy surprises appear out of nowhere. This image is one for me. I found this free action for Photoshop (works in Elements too - yay!) through a post on a Flickr group yesterday. I went to run it on another photo I had open, but somehow chose the photo incorrectly and got this one. Happy accident! I loved the result, it made the photo of the carnival lights in Geneva much more abstract and interesting.

    Here's the original:

    When we get creative, when we play, we have a lot of opportunity for happy accidents. These are what happen when we give up the idea of Serious Creativity with all of the pressure of creating something perfect, something that others will love, something marketable even, and just have fun.

    Yesterday my son decided it was an "art day" and (to my neat-freak husband's horror) proceeded to pull out all of his art and craft supplies (and some of mine) and spread them out on the dining room table. I found some artists chalks amidst the wreckage and had fun playing with colors and getting my hands dirty. I call the result "The Color Comet." Here's another recent happy outcome, a painting I did a few weeks ago when I just felt like putting paint to canvas and playing around. Not trying to be an Artist with a capital A, just enjoying the process of creating. I like the colors and the message, it sits on my desk and reminds me everyday to believe in myself. I share these little pieces, not because they are fantastic art, but because they are not fantastic art. They are just the result of creative play. The process of playing around delighted me, so the end result delights me too, if only for the memory of the fun I had. Pastels on my fingers, paint brush in my hand.

    So if you have time this week... wait, let me rephrase that... Make time this week to play creatively. Find a fun new action, pull out the paints or the pastels, go through your art and craft supplies and see what your fingers itch to hold. Don't have a plan, just have fun. Be delighted in the result. Come back and share your happy accidents!

    Laughing Out Loud

    We spent one day and evening in Geneva during the "Fêtes de Genève," a huge, three week long festival on the lakefront. It was fantastic to capture the motion, the lights and the uninhibited joy of these people on the bumper cars. Can't you just feel the laughter? When was the last time you had this much fun?

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    Making Ideas Real

    Flowers in pots on doorsteps or windowsills are favorite subjects of mine. I love the angles of the architecture as a backdrop for the curves of the plants and the pots. There is often interesting contrast in textures and colors of ground, wall, door, pot and plant. I love the care that the inhabitants take in creating the little scene on their doorstep or windowsill. Each one is different, unique, like the people who create them. So I keep being inspired by them; I keep photographing them and sharing them here.

    This morning in reading Simple Abundance, one of my favorite books at the moment, I came across this thought from the author Sarah Ban Breathnach, "...While you are offered many dizzying opportunities in a lifetime, Spirit only comes once for each Work seeking creative expression through you, then moves on. The bottom line is that the Work must be brought forth. If you don't do it, someone else will."

    Interesting thought to ponder... that these ideas that come along to us are only "ours" as long as we do something with them, make them real. If we don't, someone else will get the opportunity to be inspired by the same idea, and we'll be left in the dust saying, "Hey, I had that idea first." Which, as we all know, doesn't count for anything.

    So the "work" I'm doing with my art and the creative inspiration I receive for this blog - whether it's sharing the art of doorstep gardens, the little everyday details I see as we travel around, the ideas that come to me for my Exploring with a Camera series, or the insights into my creative process - are only "mine" as long as I actually use the ideas. Make them into something real.

    There is a a saying I love in Italian, "Tra dire e fare c'è di mezzo il mare," which translates roughly to "between saying and doing there lies the sea." I want to be on a boat, crossing that sea, as much as possible. I don't want to lose out on all of these wonderful opportunities that inspiration brings along, even if it's as small sharing the image of a few potted plants on a doorstep. Thanks for joining me along this journey to turn these ideas into something real.

    Thursday, August 12, 2010

    It's That Simple

    A pot of flowers on a step. Some color. Some texture. Some contrast. Nice light.

    Seeing this made me happy.
    Photographing it made me happy.
    Rediscovering it in my image files and editing it made me happy.
    Sharing it today makes me happy.
    Writing about it makes me happy.
    Looking at it makes me happy.

    Can happiness really be that simple? A photograph of a pot of flowers on a doorstep? Yes, I believe so.

    What simple thing makes you happy?

    (PS - You can also share your answer here!)

    Wednesday, August 11, 2010

    Important Question

    My answer: Right now!

    Images from a visit to the Cailler chocolate factory, in Broc, Switzerland. The tasting room proved that yes, you can eat too much chocolate in one sitting. But it was so good...

    Tuesday, August 10, 2010

    The Power of Photography

    On our recent travels I've had the opportunity to see a number of photography exhibits. Some of these were planned visits, others I just happened upon, but they all show the power of photography in different ways. I love uncovering and discovering all of the different ways that photography can impact us, deepening our experience in the world around us.

    In my visit to the Rosengart Collection in Lucerne, I had the opportunity to see the photos David Douglas Duncan took of Picasso. Duncan, a photojournalist, became friends with Picasso and captured some extraordinary images of ordinary moments in Picasso's life. The thing that struck me was the humor and zest for life that Picasso had, it just comes through in the images of him in his home, interacting with his family and his art. How powerful is that, to capture the artist that created the art, and to get a glimpse of the personality? It makes my understanding of Picasso and his work so much deeper. I don't have any pictures of the exhibit, but you can see many images of Picasso by Duncan on the web here.

    As we explored the Swiss countryside around Gruyere, we stopped at the Musee Gruerien folk museum, where they just happened to have an exhibit of the photography of Emmanuel Gavillet, a modern Swiss photographer. The subject was Gastlosen - the Swiss "Rocky Mountains." All black and white, shot with an 8x10" film camera, the images were beautiful in their capture of contrast and texture. The display also showed some elements of the 8x10" camera, which were helpful to explain aperture and film to Brandon, who is fascinated by the workings of my camera and the idea of "film" is completely foreign to him. The images, printed large and on the wall, were powerful. They were images full of quiet grace, showing the timelessness of nature. A reminder that photographs are at their best when viewed large, they are truly art.

    The city of Lausanne has one of the first museums in Europe dedicated to photography, the Musee de L'Elysee. The current exhibit is reGeneration2, an exhibition of 80 young photographers (in art school) from 30 countries in North America, Asia and Europe. I was struck by the sheer variety of it all... from people to architecture, from candid moments to studio, from black and white to color, from film photographs to digital collage, even shape (see round photos, in image shown above). Some of the photography I loved, some I didn't like, but it all reaffirmed my belief that we all have a unique vision to show the world. Art is personal, so for every person that doesn't like our art, there is someone who will. We need to keep showing our personal vision, developing our own style. Regain the irrepressible confidence of youth, the belief that you can do anything, that these photographers show.

    While wandering the waterfront in Geneva, we ran into a photography exhibit called "Chernobyl: 25 Years After the Catastrophe." Powerful images from Guillame Briquet, showing the area surrounding Chernobyl today. He captured the decay of the human creations and the rebirth of nature left to itself, even in the wake of such a damaging event. What a contrast, against the backdrop of the festive carnival also happening along the lakefront. The most striking images for me were the ones that showed the evidence of lives interrupted. Just left behind. And the saddest part? It was too late for most of the people in the town of Pripyat to survive, since they were evacuated a full day after the accident because of the extreme radiation to which they were exposed.
    This exhibit showed the power of photography to teach us about history, to remind us of events of the past and the longer term ramifications. To teach us about what the human ego can do, when left unchecked. Photography has the power to keep the world honest.

    Finally, last weekend back in my home area of Milan, Italy I found the exhibit of Alberto Bortoluzzi's 24+1 Cinema Chairs Project. What a delightful find this was! Finding an old movie theater chair in the dump, Bortoluzzi was struck by the disappearance of these chairs for their cushy, higher tech cousins. He began wondering about the stories that old movie theater chairs might tell, and started to find and document these chairs. He then contacted filmmakers for their memories of the cinema and the result is a powerful essay on the history of film, through the images of these chairs and the words of the people who helped create the films. A first for me, I actually made a beeline to the bookstore and purchased the book of the project so that I could enjoy the images and stories at my leisure. Bortolozzi's work shows the power of photography, when paired with stories, to capture something greater than the image itself. To create something wonderful and new.

    Photography is amazing, isn't it? We need to move it from the computer screen and onto the wall. We need to experience it larger than life, as a part of our physical environment. If you can, take the opportunity to go see an exhibit in person soon, and share what you learn! As for me, I think I'm going to figure out how to view some of my photos, live and in person.

    Monday, August 9, 2010

    Creative Contemplation

    Don't you love it when things in life come together? Everything right now for me is centering on the topic of creativity. Being aware of, responding to, listening to creative urges. Following my heart.

    Recently, I've been inspired to write posts (yesterday and Friday) about creativity, exploring the process of being creative. These posts have come to me, come through me, as I sat down to write. No planning involved, just following where my heart led.

    Yesterday, I posted a comment and link in response to a Shutter Sisters blog post, about a photograph that revealed more of me through the lens than I expected. That post from about a month ago, Create to Live, reveals my fundamental desire to create. Revisiting it reminded me of what is calling to my heart.

    This morning, in looking for some links to older blog posts for another project, I started going back in time. Back to over a year ago, before I was doing the photo-a-day on my blog. I found a couple of my earliest posts on following my creative urges, and the things I was learning about creativity at the time. I can see that I was just starting on the creative path, just beginning to listen to my heart.

    Today, as part of a morning ritual of inspirational reading, I started the August section in Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. It's all about creativity, as a "sacred conduit to your authentic self." Sarah says this about expressing creativity, "When we choose to honor this priceless gift, we participate in the re-creation of the world. When we follow our authentic path with love, embracing our creative impulses, we live truth even if what we think we're doing is just planting a flower bed, cooking a meal, nuturing a child, editing a book, producting a television show, sewing a curtain, writing a brief, painting a pictures, teaching a craft, composing a song, or closing a deal." That resonated with me... following our heart, through creativity, is a positive gift to the world.

    So, what is it I'm getting out of all of this? A reminder that this creative journey is ongoing, I've been on it for a while. An acknowledgement of the progress I've made since the start. A realization that I am following my heart, following the creative impulses, and they are leading me amazing places. Not only that, the more I practice, the easier it gets. I get an incredible sense of wonder and awe at the whole process!

    And one last thought, one last question to answer... How does this photograph tie in to the whole thing? This is an image I captured when following a creative urge. No purpose other than that. I loved the light, the afterglow of the sunset, reflected on the lifeboat of the ferry we took from Italy to Croatia. I love the composition. It gives me a sense of calm, contemplation, and of beauty in the unexpected. I followed my heart, and was rewarded. I'm starting to learn, it's what happens every time!

    Sunday, August 8, 2010

    Blank Slate

    Every morning, I come to this point, with a blank slate. An empty page, devoid of image or words. Ready to write, ready to receive some inspiration for the day. Sometimes, I have an idea of what I want to write, what photo I will select, before I sit down. Sometimes I don't. And sometimes, even when I have an idea, I throw that idea out the window and just write whatever comes into my head at that moment. Post whatever picture calls to me. It's become an interesting process, and I learn unexpected things from my photographs and my writing this way. A blank page becomes the window to my soul.

    It's one of the reasons I don't write scheduled posts much while I'm on vacation. This is part of my daily practice of creativity, and I can't seem to pre-schedule my future creativity. Sure, I could share pictures while I'm gone, but the magic of the daily choice, the daily contemplation that goes along with them is missing.

    Do you have a daily creativity practice, that has become essential to your art? What is it, how did you find it? I'm curious how you practice your creativity, how you open that window to your soul.

    A Single Rose

    A single rose, catches my eye, as it climbs up the wall and peeks out beside a now-defunct gate.

    A single rose, luscious red contrasting with deeper green foliage and grey stone, becomes the star of its surroundings.

    A single rose, a promise of more to come, of more beyond, than just that solitary blossom.

    A single rose, found on a walk in the town of Murten, Switzerland, transcends the place it was found. It could be anywhere. Take a walk today, and see if you can find it where you live, that single rose.

    Saturday, August 7, 2010

    Bonne Journee!

    Wouldn't you love to see this every morning on your way to work? Some one wishing you "Have a good day" in such a wonderful way? I would! I loved this florist display in Lausanne, in the French region of Switzerland, for it's cheerful message and abundance of flowers and plants. It just fills me with a positive happy feeling and I can't help but smiling. (And wondering how long it takes them to set all of those plants out each morning!)

    So to you all today I say Bonne Journee, or maybe more appropriately for where I live, Buona Giornata!

    PS - This was the post I was planning to write yesterday morning when the muse struck, and my heart told me I had a different message to share for the day. What an amazing experience that was, both in how it came together and with the response. Thanks so much for all of the wonderful comments, it is so awesome to connect in that way.

    Thursday, August 5, 2010

    The Means or the End?

    A stairway is a means to an end, a way to get from one level to another. But sometimes, the "means" can be separated from the "end." It becomes important in itself, like this stairway in the attic of Casa Battlo in Barcelona. Yes, it's a stairway. That's the obvious and practical "end." But it is a beautiful work of art, nicely framed and ready to be enjoyed, in it's own right. The "means" develops an identity on its own, a purpose of its own, without considering the intended "end."

    I've been thinking a lot about the process of creating art, creating my photography. The process of creating - of noticing and seeing and capturing and playing - is as important as the end result. The photo that I present here each day is just the obvious and practical end of my art, like the purpose of a stairway to get you from one level to the next. But the fact is that the process, the means, is probably more important to me, the creator. That's why I continue to create, why all artists continue to create. If it wasn't, we'd all be done with the first work of art we are really happy with, especially if we aren't doing this for a living. (Getting paid for art is another kind of wonderful "end" for the artistic process.)

    Ursula K. LeGuin said, "It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters in the end."

    The journey, for me, is the creation of the photograph. The beauty of this "means" being it's own "end" is that process of creating is not finite, is an ongoing, never-ending, renewable resource. Infinite. Regardless of what I created or shared yesterday, I have more to create today and tomorrow.

    Isn't that an incredibly positive and exciting way to think about it? I encourage you to think of your art, whether it's photography or writing or cooking or yoga, in the same way. The end is not the purpose of the creative process, the means is!

    Wednesday, August 4, 2010

    Exploring with a Camera: Reflections in Glass

    I'm so excited for today's exploration! The "Exploring with a Camera" series is about seeing things around you in a different way. To get good photographs, you first have to see, like I discussed in Monday's post. Today we're looking at capturing images with Reflections in Glass.

    Reflections in glass are so cool because the image you see is not a direct image of a subject. What's behind and around the glass changes the images, and the reflection itself often softens and distorts the subject.

    Below is an example from our recent stay in Lucerne, Switzerland. In this image, the only "direct" image you are seeing is straight through the walkway. The rest of the arches and store windows are reflections. See the people on the right? They are really on the left, not directly visible to the camera, but in the reflection they have a "ghost image" quality. It's like an optical illusion, but it's just looking down a corridor lined with glass.
    To get this image I moved around and took photos from several different angles and at different times with varying amounts of people. When I took this specific shot, I didn't even notice the people visible in the reflection on the right because I was focusing on the "direct" part of the image being free of people.

    Here is another example, of my son looking out of a train window. The reflection draws your eye to his profile. Look at it for a while and you start to see the symmetric shape between the two profiles. You'll also notice that the key areas of his face in the reflection - eyes, nose, lips - are clearly visible while the other parts are modified by what is seen out the window.

    If there is something immediately behind the glass, you can get really cool effects in your reflections. The security door immediately behind the glass in this photo enabled me to get an uninterrupted scene of the reflected street in Lucerne but with a really unique texture.

    A reflection can completely change a setting. Without the reflection of me and my family, the image below would be just another doorway to a modern building. Nothing of note that I would routinely photograph. With the reflection, it becomes a family portrait with a sense of place - you can see the wording above the door is in Spanish (we were in Barcelona) and the funky tube things draped across the top show part of the science museum we were entering. Notice how everything in the photograph seems to draw your eye to the center, where the reflection is. Also notice also the cool "double" effect with our reflections because the entrance had two sets of glass doors.

    Here is another reflection of an entrance, a self-portrait of me at our apartment building in Italy. I love the sense of place that is achieved by what is reflected in the background, along with the tiny little suggestion of what is behind the door. Not a huge fan of my pictures of myself (who is?), I also like how the reflection softens my image so that I don't focus on all of the things I immediately see as "flaws" in a regular photograph. Maybe I'm able to better see the real me, as others see me, because it's a reflection.

    And, just a reminder, glass is just not windows and doors! Here is a wine bottle, but in it there is a reflection of me and my family along with the buildings across the street in Nice, France. The subject here is the bottle, but the reflection adds interest.

    Tips for getting your own images of reflections in glass:
    1. Look for indirect light on both sides of the reflection. In reviewing pictures for this topic I realized that the most interesting reflections have indirect light as the main light source - either in shade or cloudy day or evening light. When there is a direct or strong light source on either side of the glass you will not get the kind of reflections I'm showing here.
    2. Look in and Look out. Keep you eye out for reflections on both sides of the glass, whether you are indoors or outdoors. When you see the reflection, also notice what you see through the reflection. That can make or break the image! It's easy to focus so much on the reflection that you don't see something distracting on the other side.
    3. Change your perspective. If you see a cool reflection, move around and photograph it from different perspectives and compositions. Because of the way you can often see what's on both side of the glass, you may find a more interesting composition, or even a different reflection, if you move a few steps to the left or right than where you first noticed the reflection.
    4. Look for reflections in all kinds of glass - not just windows. When you start to see these, you will notice that glass is everywhere, in all shapes and sizes and colors.

    Have fun seeing all of the reflections in glass around you in a whole new way! I would love to see your explorations in this topic, post a link here in the comments or join the Flickr group to share.

    Tuesday, August 3, 2010

    Beads of Fog

    What happens when it's cloudy and foggy on the mountaintop you visit? What happens when you look out and around and all you can see is a soft white? You start to notice the little details, close at hand. The way the fog beads up on the alpine grasses and flowers, like little crowns.
    The softness of the light and the splashes of color of the wildflowers against the patina of the tundra.
    The way the fog fades into the distance, providing a perfect backdrop to capture shining edges of nature's summer blanket in the Alps.

    Who needs grand vistas, anyway?

    (Photos from Eisel Peak on Mt. Pilatus, Switzerland.)

    Monday, August 2, 2010

    Beauty Shot

    The Swiss Alps at sunset, a beautiful scene from the town of Interlaken. Here is a beauty shot of the Alps for you! We had a lot of overcast and rainy weather while we were in the mountainous part of Switzerland, which made for interesting cloud and fog photos, but not always those classic Swiss Alps shots that might be expected. That's ok with me, it just makes me get more creative with what I do capture, and also to appreciate the little bit of clear mountains we did get to see!

    Sunday, August 1, 2010

    The Zebra in Switzerland

    "I really believe there are things nobody would see if I didn't photograph them." - Diane Arbus

    Perhaps you were thinking that upon my return from Switzerland, you would see grand vistas of the alps? Snow capped peaks and high alpine meadows? Yes, those are somewhere in my pile of files. But what I wanted to share first is the zebra bench. This is something that stuck in my head. I loved this bench, and the plants around it, that I found wandering in Unterseen and Interlaken. I had a great time photographing it, studying it from different angles and compositions while Patrick and Brandon waited for me. There is nothing like a scene like this to give me a wonderful creative burst, and I knew I would love at least one of the photos I took.

    But almost as interesting, is the conversation I had afterward with Patrick. I mentioned something about loving the zebra bench, and he said, "What zebra bench?" He hadn't even seen it. Wow. I spent 10 minutes photographing something that someone else didn't even see. Now, I doubt that I'm the only person to have photographed this little scene, I'm sure there are many others who have done the same. But the idea that there are many more that didn't see it at all, makes me realize, once again, that I have something to share with the world. I can show people what I see, from the Kat Eye View.

    "The camera doesn't make a bit of difference. All of them can record what you are seeing. But, you have to SEE." - Ernst Haas

    So, so true.