A YEAR IN RETROSPECT – 2016 – A SAMPLING FROM THE SELECTION

Photographers are uniquely well equipped to do a retrospective review of the year past; in fact, for all their years of photography.  They need only browse their image files. The digital era has also made such reviews easier.  No more page after page in heavy albums; just skim thru the folders on the hard drive.

I frequently browse through past years but I also make a point of doing an annual review of the immediate past year’s work.  I look for images from each event or subject that I most enjoy or that I think represent the best of my year’s work, and I publish these as a gallery.

Having made my selections for the 2016 gallery, I then asked myself if just a few of them could serve as symbols for how I think and how I shoot.  Surprise: some did.

These were not made in the camera; they were captured by the camera but they were made in the head (read “heart”) so you will see what I felt.  I hope you experience them as I did.

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The gold and brown tones tell of a soothing late twilight.  The channel marker counter-balances the boat.  The four guys in the boat are having a good time, and you can see their rods flexing with their fun.  The foreground grasses nicely place and isolate the viewer.  In a print, the homes of Tuckerton Beach are dimly seen as though to say, “Life and all that it brings is out there … but not right here … not right now.”

I recently sold a print of this to an older man who, somewhat choked up, talked about his memories of joining his father out there on Friday nights after his Dad came home from the week’s work.

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This Portrait of Two Mules is quite different for me but I’m fond of it.  It was made on a country road in Lancaster County on a warm August day.  The mercy of Photoshop enabled me to remove all of the flies on them which didn’t seem to be bothering them as much as they did me.  I was moved by the mules’ at-peace demeanor.  They had probably worked hard that morning and probably would do so again tomorrow, but for now they were just enjoying the warm rest and each other’s company.

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Next is my Zen Royal Tern … or is he stoned?  In an earlier appearance of him on line I suggested that he was murmuring, “Dude, sunrise on Sanibel is soooo cool.”  Well, you get the idea.  I was anthropomorphizing because I felt that way and so, I thought, should the bird.  I, too, revel in the warmth of the morning sun and in the gentle breeze off the ocean and the shhhhh of the waves and the glory of a new day alive, and I feel one with the universe.  Are we sure that a bird can’t also approach nirvana? Namaste.

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This image is  compelling for me.  A pair of cormorants were performing a post-breakfast cleanup.  What struck me was the arrangement of the branches, the birds’ positions, and the reflection  of the scene.  It also stood out because the background water was rippled while the foreground was quiet.   I further enhanced the image by giving it a slight selenium tone and a dodging of the center to lighten it.

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I find this image haunting in its isolation and starkness.  The strong diagonals are a part of it, and the shades and curtains, the slatted shutters, and the weathered siding have an Andrew Wyeth feel for me.

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I was pleased to encounter this group gathered for a communal breakfast at their diner.  I could see spots of white deep in a mangrove thicket and I discovered this when I slowly investigated.

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I recently attended a photography symposium where one of the speakers urged that we plan out our photo shoots.  If nothing else it helps ensure you have all of the lenses and filters you may need.  I agree with that; it’s good common sense.  What it doesn’t embrace, however, is the spontaneous, unplanned, never-to-happen-again kind of image.  I had just gotten off the Colonial Williamsburg shuttle bus and I was on my way to Duke of Gloucester Street for some images of the Grand Illumination.  I looked over my shoulder and here was this scene with the colonial style street lamp against a fading twilight.  Quick, stop, compose, shoot!  It was the best shot of the night, if not the whole trip …… and unplanned.

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That twilight scene above sets the stage for my last selection … a sunrise.

Sunrises … sunsets … there’s a zillion of ’em.  In fact (mea culpa) about 10% of my 2016 selections are in that category.  We are drawn to the spectacular color and its effect on adjacent clouds or bodies of water.  There’s way too many of them, but we can’t stay away from them.  In my occasional workshop on composition and content, however, I have a section called “What shall we do with this sunrise/sunset?”  They need something else to sustain viewer interest if not to create some depth or additional feeling to the image.  As to this selection from selections, I keep returning to it.  Yes, the color intensity gradient is nice and the cloud structures are interesting.  But it’s the diagonal line of the sand dune and the darkness below that keep me here, and the lone beach chair just where the orb will appear that holds me.  That spot is an example of what I call the emotional center of the image.

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Thanks for staying the course for this wordy blog post.  I hope it was at least entertaining.

If you’d like, take another coffee break tomorrow for the slide show of the full 2016 selections.  It’s less than three minutes.

Click here to get there.

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