Texture, Gesture, & Visual Thinking

Texture and Gesture, Wolf Neck Woods, Freeport, ME

J. S. Bach composed 6 little “praeludiums” (which I assume means “little preludes”) which I just love to play. The other day, I was playing one of my favorite ones in c minor (BWV 934) and had the wonderful experience of observing myself playing the piece (the same observer that watches one’s thoughts when sitting in meditation) and simultaneously (another observer?) experiencing the walking bass melody in visual terms. While playing, it was as if I was seeing the bass line bounce up and down harmonic hills. The odd and utterly amazing thing is experiencing all this while simultaneously playing the piece. Who is playing anyway?

More recently, Saturday evening I took a walk in Wolf Neck woods in Freeport, ME after a long week working on preparing for my fall semester. I then had a parallel experience of watching myself looking at things photographically. There is a definite visual dialog I have with myself. I have this running silent conversation as I frame and make an image.

I found that tonight,  my process was an initial visual attraction that would make me stop. Then I start framing an image. Why did I stop here? What’s the dominant theme here? How does this look? No, a little this way…look at the edges of the image..distracting element…reframe. And so on…sometimes this internal process would go on for quite some time. And it’s enjoyable to me. It’s fun to pay attention to your thoughts and feelings while making images.

Sometimes the dialog is short. See something, stop frame. Done. The above image is an example of this. I was immediately arrested by the gesture, and not until I opened up the image did I notice how important the texture of the image. If we’re good photographers, we’re thinking visually like this all the time. And this visual thinking is very much like the musical thinking I started off describing at the beginning of this post.



White Balance in Architectural Photography

I just finished editing a set of architectural photographs for Steve Prescott of Fiddlehead Designs in Brunswick, Maine. This is a total kitchen redesign he recently finished for a client. Steve did all of the cherry cabinetry for this job, and he had custom glass created locally for the cabinet doors. It’s an impressive job, and anyone who has had any experience with woodworking will immediately notice the attention to detail from the matching of wood grain, to the extremely uniform reveals and excellent joinery.

Photographically, the job required an extremely stable tripod, as I wanted to show the kitchen in the lighting conditions actually present in the kitchen. I used the available light to photograph everything, and this meant at ISO 100, exposures of around 2 seconds at f/11.  The most challenging aspect (that threatened to take even more post processing time than I  wanted to spend) was the very blue (and very bright!) outdoor light streaming in through  the windows, while the indoor color temperature was due to the “warmer” tungsten lights (It drives the physicist part of my brain absolutely nuts to call blue light “cool” and red light “warm”—who came up with this?). The best way to have dealt with this would have been to have to drop the window shade, but that would have made my exposure times either very long or required me to go to higher ISOs than I like. So I used Photoshop CS5 to select the window area (and a few “cool” patches in the image) and applied a warming filter. Not perfect, but it made a marked improvement. Perhaps lowering the window shades would have been better? What would you do?

Lightroom 3, with its ability to correct for lens distortion and make manual adjustments made my 17-40 f4L lens into a pretty close approximation of a tilt-shift lens, and I could perform all these corrections on the raw images non-destructively. This is a completely fantastic feature, although it really seems to slow down processing of the images when this is enabled.

More images of this kitchen can be seen at this site.

Upper Falls, Cathance River, ME

I’m busy delving into the newly released Lightroom 3, organizing my library and doing some much needed keywording. In the course of doing so, I came across this photograph taken last fall at the Upper Falls, Cathance River, ME Thought it would make a nice blog post.

I must say that I am completely delighted at the image quality improvements in Lightroom 3. The new Lens Corrections are fantastic and I now have no reason to maintain my license for DxO Optics Pro, which is a time and money savings.

Only 1800 images left to sort through! My mid year resolution is to finish this task and never to fall behind on keywording and organizing again.

Febrary Ice

As I was walking my dog on this cold February day in Maine, I came across this icy stream. Unfortunately, I brought a monopod instead of a tripod, and was forced to do my best without a true stable platform. I attatched the monopod to my Canon G10 and braced the horizontally oriented camera/monopod against myself while taking this photo (1/4 sec, f/4, ISO 80). Not bad for 1/4 second. But what I’m not showing are the 35 pictures that didn’t make the cut. There’s one distracting element in this picture that bugs me; do you see it?

Sunset Paddle

I took a short sunset paddle tonight in Frenchman Bay. I’ve never photographed while paddling, but I decided to try to get over my inhibition about mixing salt water with photography. I’m still nervous while attempting to photograph while paddling—even though it was calm when I went out. I’m constantly paranoid I am going to drop the camera or capsize as compose a photo.


At low tide, there are hundreds of these starfish on the barnacle encrusted rocks in Hancock, Maine. I’ve read (in a book by Thorton W. Burgess) that a single arm of a starfish can re-grow an entire new starfish. How does that happen? Wouldn’t that mean that the starfish’s arm has to first grow a new stomach so that it can gather food for what must be a pretty seriously energy intensive re-building process?