Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beach Time

Seems like there's been plenty of reason to head to the beach these days (late fall/early winter in South Florida). The weather has cooled (trust me, it's no fun going to the beach when the air temperature is 98 degrees, the sand is 90 degrees and the water a balmy 88 degrees),
the surf is picking up again and the college girls and boys are back in town!

For me it's a time of two great choices; enjoy the water and surf or make use of some beautiful, crystal clear light with which to photograph. These photographs were shot on two separate occasions in one week. I love the mood of the beach and try making images that convey the rhythm of the moment. It's a time when walking around with one camera and the most two lenses is enough; no reason to draw attention to oneself. All one needs to do is slow down and enjoy yourself!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Crazy Hollow

There's this vine engulfed tree that for months and even years has captured my imagination. It sits not far from my house and I drive by it periodically. I've asked those that life near it about it but they know very little. All I know is that this tree sits on an empty, sand filled lot and is clothed in a strange vine.

No one is sure the type of tree it is nor of the vine. All anyone knows is that the tree still stands and the vine no matter how many times it's cut back just keeps on growing. No matter, I'm only interested in the visual essence of this tree.

Being that the tree sits in a non-descriptive lot surrounded by homes, power lines, sand and other nearby trees it isn't a subject that is easily isolated and photographed. However, I was looking for more than a tree snapshot and for the longest time I couldn't figure out what.

Eventually I figured it was time to shoot before someone bought the lot and unearthed this piece of nature's sculpture. At my wits end I called upon a friend who had shot with me once before and asked if she would pose by a tree. She agreed and a day later began shooting.

Technically I decided to underexpose the background and use one light source with a large beauty dish. A Zork lens was used in several of the images to create spacial distortion. The vine had always given me the creeps and once I began shooting I focused on creating both a mysterious and frightening feel to the images.

It was a real challenge and for that very reason that I wanted to photograph something out of my comfort zone and to simply push me into creating, good or bad. The purpose was not to create an award winning set of images but to simply challenge myself and to that end I did; still though that crazy tree has not loosened its grip on my imagination.

Postscript: Two months later I drove by the lot and the tree was gone!

A summer (winter) vacation in NZ

What better way to spend the month of July than getting away from the heat, humidity and mosquitoes of South Florida and spending it way 'Down Under' or close enough. My son and I packed winter clothes for our summer vacation, flew countless hours and thankfully landed in the land of Lord of the Rings and lamb chop, New Zealand!

It was a vacation that falls under the category of "best"! Renting a camper van equipped with all the essential necessities we traversed both the North and South Islands and managed to stay on the 'right' side of the road for the most part. We hiked, went Zorbing (rolling down a hill inside a giant golf ball), traversed river gorges in zip lines, ate vegemite (well, I did), surfed in freezing water, went bird watching and searching for yellow-eye penguins, snowboarded some incredible mountains and of course we bungy jumped WITH our eyes open! Had we more time who knows, we might have parachuted to the top of some remote glacier or explored some other adrenalin-inducing invention the Kiwis are so well known for.

I could continue and tell you that the scenery is beyond beautiful, the people are accommodating, the wine is cheap and quite good, that street littering is almost impossible to find, that it rains a lot in the winter and that you'll see at least one sheep if not a thousand every day you are there, guaranteed, but why spoil your opportunity at discovery! I came back with some images but trust me, I left a lot more than I brought back. Reason enough to go back. Cheers!

[Technical stuff: Traveled with a Nikon D3 and D300; no zoom lenses for the D3, only prime lenses ranging from 14mm to 180mm; took one zoom for the D300 the DX 12-24mm; all CF cards were dumped into an Epson P-4000 viewer/storage drive and a Wolverine 160 GB storage drive; other accessories included a light weight Gitzo Mountaineer tripod, an SPL splash housing and a Lowepro Dryzone backpack.]

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Picture of the Week, 6/2/10

6/2/10: "Side by Side", that's the title of this week's Picture of the Week. I selected this image to signify the beginning of summer after this Memorial Day weekend. (Sorry to my Southern Hemisphere friends). Many of you as I am are feeling the pain of a sunburn after a long weekend of beach side/pool side/lake side frolicking. It's not an easy day today to get back in the swing of work or to finish up with final exams of another school year.

However, once this week is done summer begins in earnest and I suggest you invite your partner, a friend or maybe just your dog for long, lazy strolls on a beach, side by side. While you enjoy some good conversation or maybe walk in quiet make sure to feel the sand between your toes, the water lapping against your feet and take in the scenery; there's no hurry so walk slow. Oh, and don't forget the sunscreen!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Picture of the Week, 5/24/10

5/24/10: So what makes a school of mullet swim at a frantic pace and jump out of the water? Well, I might have one answer.

It was a beautiful September afternoon at Reef Road in Palm Beach, Florida that saw glassy four foot waves rolling in and a plethora of surfers maneuvering to ride them. The conditions were excellent for water photography and with water housing in hand and fins on feet I swam out to capture some of the action.

As the afternoon rolled on I began to notice large black shadows moving underneath the surface of the water, which I immediately took to be large schools of fish. This is a common site along the shores of South Florida during the spring and fall as schools of fish migrate up and down the east coast of the United States. The point being, I wasn't worried.

Suddenly however the black shadows start moving erratically and quickly and then out of the depth of the shadow large numbers of fish (mullet in this case) begin jumping out of the water; this is something they're not normally known to do unless of course they're being chased by large predatory fish. It could be snook, tarpon, jacks and even sharks that are hungry for mullet. I had no clue what spooked the mullets but suddenly I was surrounded by this frenzy.

I called out to the surfers to come lend me a surfboard to float on but for some reason non came. It was literally raining mullets all around me and there was nothing I could do. Fortunately my instincts to photograph this spectacle took over and thus the shot you see here, which I must admit is rather rare. Still, I had no idea what was making the mullet behave so erratic. However at one point I submerged my camera completely under the water and pointed it downward beneath my legs and snapped a photograph expecting to see more mullets in the image.

That evening I downloaded the images to my computer and took a quick glance at them. It was then that the answer to the original question came to light. In the one frame where I poked the camera underneath me and snapped the shutter I saw a large school of mullet with a big hole in the middle of them and in that hole swam a six foot bull shark. He was no more than five feet away, totally unbeknownst to me but not to the mullets and obviously not to the surfers that fail to come and lend me a board!

Camera used was the Nikon D3 with the 14mm f/2.8D Nikkor Lens inside an SPL splash water housing. Exposure was 1/500 of a second at f/4.5 at an ISO setting of 200.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Picture of the Week, 5/10/10

5/10/10: I'm traveling on the South Island of New Zealand and come upon some good waves with a few surfers riding them. I hang around to check things out when I befriend a local surfer. We talk and he learns that I'm traveling around with my son taking in the sites and looking for new experiences. Hearing that he tells me of a foot path along a creek in from the ocean that leads to a waterfall and pool where some 30 or so baby seals are left for the day by their mothers while they go feed. It's kind of like a day care and the baby seals spend the day having a great time playing in the pool.

Of course we hiked to where the hidden foot path was and made our way through a forest to the waterfall and pool and lo and behold there they were! It was amazing to see them playing, jumping and basically being young kids. At one point as I'm taking photos I get a feeling that something is near me and when I take my eyes away from the camera and look down I find a curious seal looking up at me. I gently put my hand out and the baby seal comes and lightly nudges it like if to say 'ah, you humans are so cute'. And just as I had befriended a local surfer a short while earlier now a local seal was befriending me--what goes around comes around!

Nikon D300 with a Nikkor 24mm f/2.8 lens was used and shot at 1/80 of a second at f/2.8 with ISO set at 640 and an exposure compensation value of -0.7. The NEF RAW file was converted using Nikon Capture NX2 and further processed with Photoshop CS3.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Picture of the Week, 5/17/10

5/17/10: Classic; Soulful; SOUL ARCH! That's Blair Markham during the epic "Halloween Swell" of 1991 at Wilderness, Puerto Rico. I'll never forget this swell nor will anyone else who witnessed it. The day before this photograph was taken I was in Palm Beach, Florida when the "Perfect Storm" formed off the northeast United States. Boats were sunk and people died but to surfers it was a time to witness ocean swells of giant proportions and for some a time to test their skills and strength at paddling into and riding seldom seen waves.

The waves off Palm Beach were simply too big and out of control for most but maybe a couple of surfers. The waves were so big that they closed off the island to motor vehicle traffic as pounding waves inundated beach side homes and roads. I knew that it would not take very long for the swell to make its way through the Bahamas and down to the Caribbean. Consequently I boarded a red-eye flight out of Miami and into San Juan, Puerto Rico. I arrived on the west coast of the island at 3:00 a.m. and within a few hours I was preparing to swim out at Wilderness.

Only a few surfers riding their big wave guns made it out that day. One of those, a little known Coast Guard cadet by the name of Blair Markham, was also able to paddle out at Wilderness except he did it on a classic long board; a board more apt for the soft rollers at Waikiki than the monsters hitting Wilderness. To see Blair take off on eight to twelve foot 'Wildo' was inspiring enough but to see him handle the waves with style, class and fearlessness was something totally unexpected and absolutely remarkable. This particular image epitomizes his entire session and will forever be equated, at least for me, with the Halloween Swell of 1991.

I used a Nikon FM2 camera body with an MD-12 motor drive and a 105mm lens attached to it that was all encased in a custom water housing made by Jim Bailey of Sea Research. Fuji Velvia film was used and most likely shot at 1/500 of a second with the aperture set at 5.6. The only other equipment needed was a pair of good swim fins.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Picture of the Week, 5/3/10

5/3/10: First of all this image was made in Charleston, South Carolina; now the fun part! I asked these boys to walk past this mural as they bounced their basketballs and I quickly snapped three frames. As you can see the basketball transforms into the letter "O" in the word "pastors", perfectly placed between the dots; cool, huh? Of course, all this was done in the computer with Photoshop, nothing real here. Come on, what are the chances of actually capturing an image like this in one pass? Well sorry digital gurus, you're dead wrong!
The image was shot on film and it wasn't until I processed the roll and laid the slides on the light table that I realized what had happened. I was pleasantly surprised and the magic of photography that has been lost in the digital age once again reappeared. You may call this pure luck and maybe you're right, however, I call it putting yourself in a place to be lucky!

For those interested I used Professional Kodachrome 64 (PKR) with a Leica M6 and 35mm f/2.0 Summicron-M. (Those were indeed the days!)

Friday, January 1, 2010

Picture of the Week, 4/25/10

Strong composition, balance and symmetry plus a bit of drama adds to the allure of this image that was recently made on the North Island of New Zealand. In addition the calmness and reflection of the water helps to soothe the otherwise dramatic elements (weather, dominant graphics, bright light) in the picture.

A Nikon D300 and a Nikkor 12-24mm f/4 G lens with focal length set at 12mm was used. Shutter speed was 1/400 sec, the aperture was f/10 and the ISO was set at 200. Metering was set to Matrix.