We got out of the house, my daughter, my wife and I to investigate the snowy, colder (-20C+) world surrounding our community of High Level, Alberta. I gave my daughter and wife, each, a camera to use, and, off we went. For me, having spent so much time inside seeing this year through to its conclusion, it was good to be outside in the air and seeing landscape, thinking through photos and working with camera, lens and settings. Good. Feet and hands were cold to start, but then image-making took hold in each of us. An hour’s plodding perambulations found us cooler, but several images richer and in good spirits. And, it was some fun to explore the photos we had taken together and to see where edits could take us. Here are a couple of my images.
Quotes to Consider / Inspire: (1) ‘The only photographer you should compare yourself to is the one you used to be (unknown).’ (2) ‘Don’t shoot what it looks like. Shoot what it feels like (David Alan Harvey).’ (3) ‘I wish that all of nature’s magnificence, the emotion of the land, the living energy of place could be photographed (Annie Liebovitz).’
Listening to: Arvo Pärt’s ‘Spiegel im Spiegel,’ Blue Suede’s ‘Hooked on a Feeling,’ U2’s ‘Magnificence,’ Angus & Julia Stone’s ‘Big Jet Plane,’ Rob Thomas’ ‘Little Wonders,’ Louis Armstrong’s ‘What a Wonderful World,’ Norman Greenbaum and ‘Spirit in the Sky,’ Bob Dylan’s ‘Shelter from the Storm,’ and José González’s ‘Stay Alive’ and Junip’s ‘Don’t Let It Pass.’
At home this Christmas with my daughter and wife – no miles travelled north to south and back; family safe and physically distanced, family by Zoom call – safe and blessed. Good. Through Saturday (our Boxing Day, 2020), each time my wife and I came into our kitchen we found ourselves marveling at the beautiful result just beyond our kitchen window. In colour ranging from sage to coffee to obsidian, clusters of leaves that still clung from tree branches were edged and covered in heavy hoarfrost. The night before, found High Level shrouded in a dense mist, the right conditions “… when moisture in the air skips the water droplet stage and appears directly as ice crystals on [different objects].”1 A frost point had been reached creating hoarfrost. In the week that has followed, we got out with cameras, my wife, my daughter and I out into the forest and out into our backyard. These are images of our backyard leaves.
Listening to: Holly Cole’s ‘Neon Blue,’ Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers’ ‘It’ll All Work Out,’ eastmountainsouth’s ‘Hard Times,’ Ruckus’ ‘Same in Any Language,’ Faron Young’s ‘Hot Rod – Shotgun Boogie No. 2’ and Appalachian Road Show’s ‘Don’t Want to Die in the Storm.’ Also listening to ‘Dreamsicle’ from Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit. Still listening to Motorhead’s tribute to David Bowie with ‘Heroes.’ ‘Apocalypse’ by Cigarettes after Sex still reminds of Roxy Music’s ‘More Than This,’ ‘Avalon’ and ‘The Main Thing.’ Liking the soliloquy entitled ‘Peace’ from the movie ‘Any Given Sunday;’ it’s about team (maybe something appropriate for how we close out 2020).
Quotes to Consider / Inspire: (1) ‘Every other artist begins with a blank canvas, a piece of paper … the photographer begins with the finished product (Edward Steichen).’ (2) ‘Photography can only represent the present. Once photographed, the subject becomes part of the past (Berenice Abbott).’ (3) ‘If I like many photographers, and I do. I account for this by noting a quality they share – animation. They may or may not make a living by photography, but they are alive by it (Robert Adams).’
As you enter Calgary from the south you crest a plateau. You see it, right where you choose between Deerfoot and Barlow Trails. You find yourself looking out and over Calgary’s sprawl. It’s a panorama shot I want to take – Calgary’s skyline looking northward and a nudge west to downtown towers. It has happened a couple of times driving up through Calgary. I find myself recognizing the potential of this shot. And, each time I am at the beginning of a drive home of eleven or more hours. Impatient to get the drive done, I haven’t anticipated the stop and time for working this shot. Do dissonant moments like this happen to you as a photographer?
This Calgary skyline panorama shot will need tripod and head levelled. The head will accommodate a Canon 5Diii via L-bracket plate for telephoto lens, a Tamron 150-600mm lens zoomed in as far as needed. Aperture priority will be used to allow a consistent exposure of f-8 or f-11. Manual focus using back screen magnification will allow me to find sharpest image to work with in editing. I want most things in this photograph to be sharp and in focus. I will trial two methods for finding focus: first, focusing on an element a third of the way into the scene (a standard practice); and, an alternative method, if the foreground is more than a metre from the lens, is that promoted by Nigel Danson – focusing on the most distant point needing focus (the towers). And, there’s one additional focus element to bring into play – locking up the camera’s mirror as a means to reduce camera vibration (if it is windy mirror lock-up won’t do much). Then it’s about gathering a series of shots overlapping by a third on each. Depending on how far I have focused into the scene (and how much the scene fills my viewfinder), the panorama will need three, five, seven or more shots. In terms of composition, I intend to keep Calgary’s towers to the left side of the image – that’s my starting thought. But, it will be good to look all around what this scene presents – there are always other compositions to consider. Here, though, juxtaposition is what this scene seems to call for – the vertical of Calgary’s downtown towers and the horizontal sprawl of the city.
The Rocky Mountains may be at play in the background, a welcome element in the shot. Cloud work will add to the shot – there may be wisps of Cirrus clouds at dawn. Working through the blue hour and into sunrise will yield many colourful panoramas to work with. Other panoramas are possible, further along the Deerfoot, each with other foregrounds from which to consider Calgary’s skyline.
So, this panorama of the Calgary skyline needs planning. And, it needs me to make time for the making of this shot. A trip to southern Alberta will need to consider dates, best day(s) in terms of weather and times. It might be good to work these images over two days – a day to scout and review starting shots. And, then a second day for taking final images. With two days it might be good to organize other shots and activities as a way to utilize both days (a visit to The Camera Store is never wasted). Rest will need to be factored in. While luck favours the prepared, having slept well adds to the outcome of a photograph. Working through this post is a kind of preparation. It is enough to allow me to work this photograph’s intention through to reality. I’ll need to be safe working near the highway. That’s part of my consideration, too. Good.
For this Calgary Skyline panorama (above), a YouTube video and Google maps helped me find this vantage point – something workable. I found my way from the Deerfoot to this location. I parked my truck, loaded camera gear on my back, walked down the hill and set up tripod and camera. I trialed four panoramas from this location and looked for other possible subjects of interest. Then, these few moments exhausted, it was about packing up, walking the hill, stowing gear in the truck and returning to my homeward drive. This image is one I will shoot again as dusk shot, night shot and as winter scene in snow – that planning is ahead of me – something to look forward to.
Listening to – U2’s ‘Who’s Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses,’ ‘Tryin’ to Throw Your Arms Around the World,’ ‘Elevation (Influx Mix),’ ‘When I Look at the World,’ ‘Get On Your Boots (Fish Out of Water Mix),’ ‘New York,’ ‘Magnificent,’ ‘Beautiful Day’ and ‘Grace.’
Quotes to Consider / Inspire: (1) “If you say there is nothing interesting to shoot, it is you that is not interested (Jon Luvelli).” (2) “I put together artwork like tiny pieces of a puzzle, with hopes of one day seeing the whole complete picture and therefore understanding myself more (Jon Luvelli).”
Again, a fifty-year-old lens, autumn sun in the late afternoon, white glow and crispness of shape.
“’You think too much and I bet it kills the magic,’ he says simply. ‘Some things are just instinct and if you try and replace that with thinking they die. You can read and think as much as you want before and after, but in the moment, man, you have to, like, let go (Blue GhostGhost, Art Criticism).’”
Listening to: Pat Green’s cover of U2’s ‘Trip Through Your Wires’ featuring Joe Ely.
I am liking a song put out by the New Customs. It’s about photography, it’s about memory and it’s about being in the moment that pulls you to a photograph and what that moment pulls from you. The song is called ‘Chasing Light.’ Liking it.
These are August images that are framed up; I’d spent the afternoon on Watt Mountain, then came home for supper and got out again eastward in Fort Vermilion’s north settlement – Buttertown. Liking what can be done with a rangefinder and my prime lenses. More practice with the rangefinder while physically distancing and being outside. Good, good.
Quote to Consider / Inspire – ‘Don’t pack up your camera until you’ve left the location (Joe McNally, The Moment It Clicks: Photography Secrets from One of the World’s Top Shooters).’
Listening to – ‘Chasing Light’ from The New Customs, a song all about photography and photographer.
Immensities – southern Alberta prairie that stretches out unending, wind and cloud moving in the sky above and these four-story tall wind turbines. Each immensity is a necessary component of what are termed ‘wind-farms,’ an alternate means of creating electricity that does not require coal or the damming of a river system. Again, these are images from February’s road trip between Lethbridge and Waterton Lake National park.
Quote to Inspire – ‘The Earth is Art, the photographer is only a witness (Yann Arthus-Bertrand, Earth from Above).’
Listening to: Bob Dylan’s ‘Rough and Rowdy Ways.’
Early morning, out on High Level’s trails cycling in August – a rich time of mist, colour, light and shadow.
Quote to Consider / Inspire – ‘Photographs are just light and time (John Green, Turtles All the Way Down).’
Listening to – ‘Turn, Turn, Turn’ as sung by John McCutcheon from the ‘To Everyone in All the World: A Celebration of Pete Seeger.’
Near noon, nearing the turn-off toward Twin Butte and St. Henry’s Church – February, 2020; a good day.
Quote to Consider / Inspire – ‘To photograph: it is to put on the same line of sight the head, the eye and the heart (Henri Cartier-Bresson).’
Listening to: ‘People Get Ready (Live)’ from Seal’s ‘Soul Live’ album.
That day – I arrived at Lethbridge the day before. My daughter had an assignment due for University the next day. I would go out with cameras for the day and meet her for supper the next evening. Good.
Here is one of the first images of the day edited towards being a silhouette. Liking it.
Quote to Consider / Inspire – “Ultimately – or at the limit – in order to see a photograph well, it is best to look away or close your eyes. ‘The necessary condition for an image is sight,’ Janouch told Kafka; and Kafka smiled and replied: ‘We photograph things in order to drive them out of our minds. My stories are a way of shutting my eyes (Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography).’”
Listening to: Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris with ‘Red Staggering,’ ‘Rollin’ On’, ‘Love and Happiness’ and ‘Right Now’ from their ‘All that Roadrunning’ album.
Enjoying this – getting out and seeing the world through a camera and lens. But, what do you do? Are you in the predicament of wanting to trial different cameras. I have used Canon cameras mainly. I have an Olympus EM-5 Mk II and a Fuji X-100F. My question is how do you go about selling or trading off your older camera(s). What is your experience? There is KEH that I have worked with. But, I have never traded my cameras toward newer ones.
These images are associated with southern Alberta back in February, 2020.
Quote to Inspire / Consider – ‘While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see (Dorothea Lange).’
Listening to: ‘Beachcombing,’ ‘I Dug Up a Diamond’ and ‘This Is Us’ from the ‘All the Roadrunning’ album from Mark Knopfler & Emmylou Harris.
One of the first images with a fifty-year-old rangefinder 90mm prime lens. A Sunday afternoon image found out near Fort Vermilion’s north settlement in colder October days before snow.
Quote to Inspire / Consider – ‘Always seeing something, never seeing nothing, being a photographer (Walter De Mulder).
Listening to: John Prine lifting his voice with ‘When I Get to Heaven.’
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