I have lived in Sonoma County, California all of my life and the natural beauty of this area is the inspiration for my photographic work. Art has always been a large part of my life, whether it was creating works of art or not. Everything I do, from work to photography to just living, I envision as art, to be done in a pleasing and harmonious way. This is what has continually brought my eye to the joys of photography. My father, when I was very young, tinkered with photography, he shot and developed his own pictures with a Brownie box camera. He never did fancy art pictures, just pictures of the family and trips. I had my Instamatic camera and played with that a bit, but it did not seem an art at that point.
Through my early teens I focused on drawing and cartooning. Other than high school classes, I was self trained and after high school I started doing illustrations and graphic art for a small company that created roll playing games and I learned commercial art the hard way. This was fun but not terribly lucrative and with a family to support my alternate joy, carpentry, took precedent. Art was now a hobby.
With the birth of our second child I got the photography bug again and bought a Nikon FE2 SLR camera to record the event and chronicle the children's and our lives, and do art again. For some reason the art never happened, but we have some great pictures of our family growing up. I made a few interesting photographs, but having to send my pictures out for developing and never getting back what I expected and the expense of film kept me from really letting go and taking pictures that were seriously good. Plus I was now busier than ever building houses, running a crew of 16 to 20 men and working long hours.
Then several things happened. Our children grew up and moved out, and we moved on too. City living was getting really old and I yearned to live in the country again, so we moved to Sebastopol, a place of sharp little hills littered with redwoods, oaks, bays and old apple trees. Our new home has wonderful wide open spaces that are very inspiring and driving to and from work every day through the beautiful hills got my creative juices flowing again. I started seeing things in the landscape, small intimate still lifes of nature and humans scattered everywhere.
And then I found digital cameras. The ability to take as many pictures as I wanted to, and then looking at them now on my computer strongly appealed to my frugal soul and sense of artistic independence. I was now more in control but quickly learned that there was more to this than taking all of the pictures that I wanted to. A plethora of software settings in the camera to deal with (most of which I never use, just manual, ISO, shutter, Kelvin and that's it). Then there was the computer and monitor to calibrate. ICC profiles. Photoshop to learn. Printers and papers to experiment with. All of which still gave me things I did not expect, so there was my eye to train to make all of the little mental adjustments and compensations. This all appealed to me in a way film never did. Even though I was almost completely computer illiterate at the time, I was having a ball. In a very short time I was selling photographs and note cards in local shops and getting good responses everywhere I went.
The first thing that really made sense in my freed ability to express artistic ideas was composition. A photograph has no soul unless the various elements combine to make a coherent statement. When I frame an image in my view finder, all of the elements have to interact and compliment each other just as you would do if you were painting a picture. In a painting you have the freedom to rearrange everything to suit your artistic judgment. In photography all of the arranging is done with camera placement, focal length and light. Nothing can be done about the other parts, they are just there, take 'em or leave 'em. Setting up a photograph takes a long time for me, moving my tripod over here and over there, zooming in and out, waiting for the light to change. I always work with a tripod so that I can contemplate the composition, envisioning it as an abstract painting. Even landscape photographs get this treatment, looking for that perfect alignment of shape, color, shadow and balance. The hills, trees and oceans, the fact that it is a beautiful meadow or barn when I see it, does not make it an artistic landscape, it is only a pretty picture, a memory to save for later. Later these photos can be a little hard to look at because they are only a tiny, uninteresting copy of that memory. I have taken many of these myself. A really good photograph takes you back to the moment to relive and enhance the experience.
My photographs of urban design are the ones I favor most. Landscapes are so huge that they can be intimidating. The geometry of human industry, though, can be brought down to a manageable level when all of the bits and pieces are accounted for. Lines, angles and colors outside of a naturally constructed environment have a bold graphic quality that make strong, simple photographs.
Then there are names. In the naming of a thing, the thing can change, take on a new life and a new meaning. A photograph is only two dimensional. A really good (or funny) name can take the image into a third dimension, where you are asked to rethink what you saw, then look at it a little differently. I spend hours (or minutes) studying each image for its name. This part is just as enjoyable because I love words, rolling them around and playing with them. There are many fun ones out there waiting to be used.
I have hours of enjoyment looking for, taking, processing, printing and naming these photographs. My hope is that everyone visiting here can get the same joy as I do and I thank you for letting me into your consciousness for this little while.
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