Sacred & Profane 2013

This past Saturday (19 October) was the 18th celebration of the “Sacred and Profane”, and art festival that takes place just down the road from my house on Peaks Island. It takes place at Battery Steele (See the USM Free Press article. Although I lived on Peaks Island 11 years ago, yesterday’s event was my first time attending. The weather was wonderful, and the venue at Battery Steele (and old WWII concrete bunker) was totally transformed and an enormous amount of effort went into cleaning up Battery Steele, and creating all the art installations.

Of course, Battery Steele is dark as hell (imagine a 200 meter long massive tunnel with 1 meter thick reinforced concrete walls and multiple side rooms and you get the picture), so almost all the photos inside were handheld at iso 3200. All images were taken with a 50mm f/1.4 lens.

Before entering, I was greeted by
some slightly surreal costumed folk (that’s an baby in the giraffe (?) suit; click on images for an enlargement):
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and inside, there were performance art/acrobatics:
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To darkly-hooded keyboard musicians:
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and, my favorite performance piece that really needed to be experienced, reduced here to merely a photograph:
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There were also wonderful sculptures that utilized the darkness and engineered lighting to wonderful effect:
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All in all, a celebration not to be missed. I can hardly wait till next year.

(In the meantime, I have more images made into a video that I would be happy to send you a link to if you are interested. )

The biology of seeing

I came across this lone maple leaf on a vast lawn of seaweed at low tide. To me this image is about texture and contrast. Not a gorgeous scenic, but an intimate pleasing composition. My eye is drawn to the bottom third of the image where the rock is peeking out amidst three waves of seeweed, and then my eyes naturally wander to the maple leaf and the dark upper patch of seaweed.

On page 78 of her book, “Vision and Art, The Biology of Seeing”, Margaret Livingstone talks about work done by A. L. Yarbus, a Russian psychologist who put trackers on contact lenses on subject’s eyes and monitored where their gaze fell while they looked at a series of pictures. What he found was that people tend strongly to look at portions of the picture where there is fine detail and high-contrast. There is a striking picture on p. 79 of Livingstone’s book where she shows the results of Yarbus’ work. You can see superimposed on the painting exactly where one person looked.

I’ve never forgotten this, and now I try to pay attention to exactly where I look in a scene. A photographer I know (Richard Newton at Univ. of Massachusetts) once told me that a good photograph naturally leads one’s eyes around the image in a pleasing manner. I think this is good advice and Yarbus’ work tells us that we can use contrast and detail to help assist in making pleasing compositions.