Ocean, Swamps, and Freedom

Ocean, Swamps, and Freedom

The land is flat and stretches out,
it seems that here the birches sprout
quite willingly in swamps and marsh,
the light is golden, never harsh.
The birds sing different and fly
towards far places, as the sky
turns orange and leaves us behind,
vanishing traces in the mind,
condensed adventure, precious time,
forgetting it might be a crime.

Dunnock

Dunnock

Besides their primary purpose, cemeteries exhibit properties that are hardly ever valued: First, they seem to offer great parking spots for a nights rest in a van (I guess this information shouldn’t be distributed widely, especially not on an internet blog). Secondly, they offer great potential to photograph wildlife – birds and squirrels in particular (however, the latter are rather quick, rendering the photography difficult for a sluggish human who just crawled out of bed). Also, as it should be, cemeteries are calm, quiet, and peaceful; and: very few people seem to visit them (myself included), especially when most graves are from long forgotten times. So, last week, I checked out the largest cemetery in our town, watched the squirrels, and took some pictures of the many many birds that scurried around:

Keeping a Clear Frame

Keeping a Clear Frame

Spring, flowers, sun. Finally some motivation to go outside again and search for the most beautiful early bloomers. This year, I could profit from all the scouting I did last year: Besides the botanical gardens and large patches right in front of the town hall, I now know about several other spots: Off the beaten track at the river, hidden deep within in a small forest, and at the outskirts of the city. All of these locations have on thing in common: They are calm, quiet, and you have them for yourself. And, as always, there is lots to learn every time I go outside. The main insight this year so far is quite straight-forward: isolate the subject and have clear edges of the frame. The subject should emerge from within the frame, not from outside. But you can judge for yourself which ones you find most intriguing:

That which remains.

That which remains.

She walks lightly, old man. She walks lightly upon the earth.

John Green, The Fault in Our Stars

From nothing, to being, to remembering, to being remembered, to nothing. Memories come, memories fade, become stories, get forgotten. Lost in a loosing universe; one of many. We only shape the being, we only choose the remembering.

Light snowfall decorates the pastures. Cold wind sweeps through my hair. Friends and family are with me, not only in my heart. I am as satisfied as one could be. But then, I notice it. A foreign species: standing still, patiently, waiting on the other side of the fence, observing me carefully; while the snowflakes settle in on the creatures head. I approach it slowly. My mother always taught me: If unsure what to do, just mimic your opposite – and so I do: carefully, I observe back. I fathom what happens within its mind: Are there thoughts about the landscape? The next meal? About the absurdity of our mutual and reciprocal study? Or is this creature not capable of such thoughts? Does it just dwell in this moment, right here? Enchanted by the simplicity of nature? Why does it seek our company? There are no answers, only silence. No one will know, and no one will remember. I cautiously moo to call the others – so that we can observe the pale-skinned creature together, as it is operating a small black box from time to time. Until it leaves again and we settle in for the night.

Winter-Wonder-Land Part 2

Winter-Wonder-Land Part 2

And even though
it's hard to show,
I like to offer
you a glimpse 
of what I felt
and what I saw,
I was in awe:
The elements
so pure and clean,
recurring yearly,
the routine. 
And with this polished
elegance,
all thoughts dropped to
irrelevance.
The scene was peerless,
people fearless.
A single person
on a bike –
quite bold amidst the cold;
instead, I hike.
Meanwhile,
the moon seduces
all alike,
Snow-covered spruces,
frozen rails,
as blue took over,
in the sky
a crescent, thin,
night settled in.
And I descend
with frozen skin,
a radiant grin,
as it has been
miraculous.

Implementing Conceptuality

Implementing Conceptuality

You can start with action.

A good friend.

Motivation is the beginning. It entails action, which gives positive feedback and, in turn, boosts motivation. Without motivation, there is no action – it’s a (sometimes vicious) cycle.

Or is it? I got reminded recently: the cycle can start anywhere.

I have been ill at home for two weeks. The internet showed me some ad of an artist who photographed plain paper. Admittedly, it looked quite boring. I had no motivation, but I started with action.

Step 1

Paper ready. Tape ready. A white kitchen table, a north-facing window. No idea what to do. The first hundred pictures are absolutely unusable:

Step 2

I figure out that pointing the camera down doesn’t work in this setup. I thought it could be nice, but it isn’t. Photographing at a slanted angle with respect to the light, together with a darker background, seems more interesting. Still, there isn’t happening much in the next series of tries:

Step 3

I already had the aperture wide open, but I didn’t place the paper correctly. I figure out that it gets better if only the edge of the paper is in focus. Then, the rest of the paper creates attractive effects in light and shadow:

Step 4

I am lowering the angle – parallel to the surface of the table. Minimizing or preventing the reflection seems more tidy. I can also increase contrast by using a black fabric behind the paper. Finally, I am getting something I enjoy. I wipe the first SD card to start all over:

Step 5

Go closer, omit everything unnecessary, any distractions. Clean and simple.

Step 6

Some last experiments to keep in mind for the next session: Playing with the foreground and using multiple papers. Now, I am motivated:

Details in the Shadows

Details in the Shadows

Deep within the shadows, the important details are hidden: in photography and in discussions.

Discussions are complicated as they require constant inclusion and exclusion. Often, the details are hidden in the shadows; but every detail is as important as the highlights. For example, the two items that are critical for a discussion are the two missing items, that which is missing and the reason for the absence of that item. This is one of the problems that we face in our discussions: What is the Missing Thing?

I am also curious about what else is in the shadows. What other issues are we missing? Why are we not seeing them? What is in the shadows that we do not see? The discussion is on the edges. The motives are unknown. The evil is lurking in the shadows, and the hatred in the hearts of those who know not good from evil. The evil is out there. The problem is that the evil is in all of us. There is a darkness in us that does not understand good and evil. There is a darkness in us that knows not the difference between right and wrong. There is a darkness in us that does not see the light. There is a darkness in us that only sees itself.

It is the nature of shadow to not be quite there. The shadows of photography are what can make a picture: a collection of still moments frozen in time. And for this reason, the use of shadows is a powerful technique that must be used judiciously. Shadows can be very useful, but they can also be very misleading, especially when used without understanding their nature and proper placement. Shadows can be the cause of serious, even fatal, issues in photography. When used wisely, however, shadows can make a photograph interesting and unique.

The hidden picture is just as important as the clear one. To the rest of us, the detail is, if not irrelevant, at least a waste of time. So why even talk about it? Why even photograph it? But if it is hidden and you cannot see it, it is not really there. This is the paradox of hidden details.

All non-italic text in this post has been automatically generated by a computer program, based on the first sentence.

Sundays

Sundays

Car keys jingle and I mingle
into the traffic. With no single 
destination.
Brief stop at the gas station.
I leave behind the city smog.
And then: into the rural parts.
I search and wander, at times wonder
where to go in all this fog;
A yellow birch, a distant church, 
I calm down, forget the town.

And then, quite suddenly, the sun appears, 
and all the fears of all past years
are gone, 
forever, no more tears,
fallen into oblivion. 
Smog got replaced by haze that stays
for long, the bells chime distantly: 
Ding, Dong. 
It leads me ways I haven't walked,
towards where horses graze.
A lonely tree, a distant boat
afloat the lovely lake. 
Most leaves are gone, a mid-flight swan,
a slight cold breeze, my warming fleece.
All earth holds still and is at peace.

I strive to capture, to collect 
some memories, every aspect
of nature into photographs.
But as I try to wrap
this life, this moment, 
carefully, into my trap, 
I fail.
It's too elusive, scurries by,
under the sky, so high above.
Instead, I sail on thoughts away.
Shove my glove on freezing hands,
just take it in and feel some love.