When you can't get out and shoot due to illness and security restrictions, you look for stuff sitting around the house. On our recent trip to India, my wife bought a couple of woodcut printing blocks. So naturally I pointed my extension tubes and 50mm lens at them to see what would happen. A few nine-exposure HDRIs and several layers of Photoshop treatments later, I came up with this. I think I like it, but that could be the lack of oxygen my brain's dealing with.
If you're into religious history, the Blue Mosque in Mazar-e-Sharif is one of a few reputed burial sites for Ali, Mohammed's cousin and son-in-law (there's a lot of that). If the history's important to you, the Wikipedia page for it is probably accurate enough.
I like it for the gorgeous, reconstructed tiles in several shades of blue (and other colors). From a distance, all you see is the blue. Up close, you see a) all the colors and b) the intricacy of the tile work. Should you happen to be traveling through Central Asia, and have a chance to visit, it's well worth it.
But what it really represents is a radical new direction for me. I'm several years behind on this, but that's okay. I'm developing a vision to go beyond photography. Maybe I'll call the pieces metaphotographic...'cause digital art is sooooooo aughts. Metaphotography ... metaphotographer ... whatever I call it, even if I don't end up having a name for it, the goal will still be Beautiful (meta)photographs from around the world.
One of my favorite landscapes on the planet is the volcanic perlite that formed these cliffs about 90,000 years ago. This photo is from a sunrise shoot that I did with both my Hasselblad 501CM and my Nikon D200. It was pure joy to be out on the beach before anyone else and to be able to study the cliffs while I was shooting. This was one of the film shots, if it matters to you. It was Ilford PanF, developed in Microphen.
On this last trip, I collected yet another new aircraft, a Russian-made Antonov AN-26 (as if the exit sign weren't enough of a clue as to the plane's origin). It was a decent, if noisy plane, twin prop with wings jutting from the top rather than the bottom.
The very interesting thing to me was that in an emergency, the passengers would use the rope on the right of the frame to escape. Even better, the rope was held together with very tightly wrapped thread. Seemed fairly secure, but I would have preferred something like clamps, a rope braided together, a ladder.
My friend Mireille (I'll tell you how to pronounce it later, give you a chance to work through it) and I were stuck at the military base at the Kandahar Airport. We got bumped from what would have been an interesting visit due to lack of space. Mireille is a Press Officer in the State Dept. Her job is to herd journalists, write exciting press releases about Embassy activities and speak officially for the Embassy. I'm sure there's more, but that's a good basic description.
This photo could be called a portrait through still life. Her world on these junkets is made of PDA, cell phone and notebook. Sometimes she's working with all three at the same time. I'm sure many journalists, press officers and publicists will see themselves in this one.
It's pronounced mi-RAY, though being French, the RAY is less emphasized than all caps might indicate.
We recently helped clean out my wife's grandmother's house. Nana passed a few months ago, leaving a full house several states away from where her children and grandchildren live.
The hardest part was trying to find those things that spoke to us, while respectfully leaving for the auctioneer the detritus of a life well-lived. Naturally, I was moved to document, while those more deeply affected sorted through things.
If you're interested in an album of this, visit my Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/bhneely, and while you're there, click on the Like button.
I had a red 4x4 Nissan Patrol turbo diesel that I loved. I loved it so much I named it after Sammy Hagar, who in the 80's you'll recall was known as The Red Rocker, because he always wore red and even wrote a song as a paean to the color.
Sammy and I drove to the top of a 14,000-ft mountain right to the Kazakh side of the Kazakh-Kyrgyz border. We drove across the open steppe, multiple times. We got stuck in a swamp (you read about that a couple posts ago). I learned about 4wd hi and low and how to drive on "roads" that make the forest service roads in the Cascade Range seem like highways. I drove on highways that make the forest service roads in the Cascade Range seem better than highways. In the city, I could drive as aggressively as I needed to, because he was bright red and had a no-bullshit look. I could say, "Yeah, I'll take out your Mercedes if you won't let me into the traffic stream."
Sammy was awesome. And I miss him.
About a decade ago, maybe more, when we worked in dot-coms, my wife got a pair of passes to the Seattle International Film Festival. We saw a lot of movies, of which I only remember 3 now - The Opposite of Sex, because it was the opening night film; Firelight, because it was just a beautiful movie to watch; and The Salt Men of Tibet, because it was just weird.
Three things stood out in particular with Salt Men...There was a scenic shot that lasted about five minutes. The camera was placed on a cliff top or the side of a hill, showing a breathtaking valley a thousand feet below and sweeping off into the distance. It was like the color version of something Ansel Adams might have shot. And we just stared at the screen, waiting for something to happen. Waiting. Suddenly, there was a tiny puff of dust near the bottom of the screen, and the audience realized we were watching a herd of yaks cross the valley. For another three or four minutes. Riveting.
The second was that these guys spend six months of the year on the salt flats, raking salt so it dries.
The third was a bizarre sexist ritual. They have to cross a river to get to the salt plain, and once they cross the river, they can only speak the salt language, a secret language that only the men know. When asked if a woman could ever be a salt gatherer, one of the guys looked incredulous, "They don't speak the salt language, so they'd never be able to cross the river."
"Could you teach them the salt language?"
"They don't speak the salt language."
So anyway, we were at a little shop of odd things and stumbled across Himalayan Salt, from this very place, and alleged to have mystical, healthful properties. We had to get it. Y'know what? Tastes like salt. But the big, bouldery grains make it a pleasure to pinch out of the dish.
Here's a different version of the fennel from the other day. I thought about making it b&w again, but decided I liked the lush greenness of it. My goal in the processing was to achieve something like the greens and contrast of Fuji Velvia film.
The process - 5 exposures in a range from -2EV to +2EV (base exposure of f/16 @ 1/6 sec, darkest exposure 1/20 sec, lightest exposure .6 sec - now why can't they use the fractional scale right up to 1 full second), combined in Photomatix Pro. I increased the color saturation a bit in the tonemapping process.
In Elements I tried a few different combinations until I struck on this: a duplicate layer that I applied a basic Enhanced Contrast curve to. Then I made a Hue/Saturation layer in which I increased overall saturation, as well as saturation in the green and yellow channels. Finally, I did a Levels layer to increase the apparent contrast.
Do you want to know about the process, or do you just want to look at a portobella mushroom? I'll just leave a little room for you to think about that.
The process - I shot 5 images, from -2EV to +2EV (base exposure of f/2.5 @ 1/320 sec, the darkest exposure was 1/1000 sec and the lightest exposure was 1/60 sec) and used Photomatix Pro to combine them into a tonemapped image. I twiddled with the settings in Photomatix a bit to get a good starting point.
In Photoshop Elements I got to the serious work. I made a duplicate layer and converted that to B&W on the Vivid Landscape setting. On top of that I did a Brightness/Contrast layer, darkening everything except the gills inside the mushroom. On top of that I did a Levels layer to increase the contrast of the gills, erasing most of it so that only the gills got the adjustment. Then I added a brown Color layer set to Soft Light. Finally, I did one more Levels layer to bring up the brightness end of the contrast scale.
And I did this while listening to Hendrix, Queen, Drain STH & Megadeth (just in case my musical reference points somehow affect your understanding of the process).
Sounds like a lot of work, and with all the jargon, it seems a lot more complicated than it is. If you think of the basic photo as pasta, the rest of it is as easy as mixing tomatoes, tomato paste, tomato sauce, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper and red wine (or beef stock or vegetable stock) to make a sauce.
I started seriously working with my extension tubes today. I worked with some onions, mushroom, squash, a blanket, an iPod, and this - fennel. Most of the shots I did were meant to be combined for HDR processing, so it'll be a few days before I post a completed project. But this was an easy one to put together for a quick post.
I'm pretty satisfied with my early steps. I have a lot of ideas floating around. It'll be interesting to see where this goes.
As I was shooting up the back wall of the EMP, I turned and saw this giant, silver Darth Vader helmet. When the museum started, it didn't have the Science Fiction Museum component, but anyone who knows Paul Allen (or has read an article about him) knows he's a huge sci-fi fan (his company is called Vulcan), so it didn't surprise me to see this.
In my beginning efforts to make HDR that doesn't look like bad fake photography, I've had some struggles. Subtlety has been difficult to achieve, but this one worked out beautifully. You'll see the Photomatix watermark all over it, because I haven't purchased a full professional license yet. I was waiting to see if I'd like what I could do. I think I'm there.
Frank Gehry designs some incredible buildings. The EMP in Seattle is one of those. Because it's a museum dedicated to rock music, and centers on a shrine to Hendrix, Gehry began his design process by sawing up a bunch of Stratocasters with wildly different paint jobs and piling them together until he arrived at something he liked. The building has no straight walls, and every I-beam had to be custom-crafted. I love this building.
Walking around it a couple weeks ago, I saw this reflection of the Space Needle and knew I had to come back. This particularly shot is a rough draft, the base for an HDR image I'm going to make. In fact, over the course of 90 minutes, I filled a 4gb card with components for as many as 50 HDR images. The more I learn about making them, the more I love working in digital.
Idle hands are the artist's playground. Sittin' around, waitin' for the meeting to start (or end), staring at the ashtray, I got to wondering about whether that's a tuna can. This is a 5-star hotel (well, they had 15 euro club sandwiches and cool chandeliers, anyway) and yet it looks like a tuna can in there, doesn't it?
Another shot with the 500mm lens, this time from about 15 feet away - right near the limit of how close I can get with it. One of the things I'm loving about using digital for black & white work is that I can do a wide range of effects, some of them comparable to film+developer combos I've loved, others can make things happen that I've never imagined before. Now if I could only afford several thousand dollars for one of the medium format digital cameras and the computer it takes to process those monstrous files.
For now, the usually dominant smells of a big city have been displaced by the delicate, but surprisingly robust aroma of orange & jasmine blossoms, with an occasional almond note. Sadly, this will end soon and we'll go back to the robust, but surprisingly delicate aroma (yeah, "delicate") of exhaust & cigarette smoke, with an occasional dog poop note. Aaaaahhhhh, city life.
I had gone out hoping to catch some nice sunset shots of the craggy camel back ridge that looms over Papingo. The shadows would have been spectacular. Unfortunately, our perfectly clear day had developed enough hazy clouds to the west that the sky became a giant softbox, erasing all the lines. Great for shooting beautiful women, terrible for shooting mountains. So I looked for other stuff.
Y'know how when you're pretty good at something for a long time, but you can't quite reach the level that you can see just past your fingertips? I reached it. For the past few weeks I've been able to make photographs that I had dreamed of, thought about, visualized, for years. It feels good.
Now, I'm going to out and run my first 10K. My goal is to finish.
With an iron chisel and an iron hammer a stonesmith sat in a workshop and carved this. More than 100 generations ago. I've been here 8 months, and I still can't get over that. The things we make will be rusted and eroded and gone, and this guy's grooves and flutes will be a little softer from the wind and rain, but still visible.
I'm back from my two weeks in the homeland. Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting pictures of the Pacific Northwest (PNW), and hopefully communicating the depth of my love for the region. There were days I felt pain in my heart, realizing how special the area is, and that it may be a long, long time before I live there again. This week, it's a series of abandoned or damaged cars, next week, we'll be going into the forest.