One month ago there were many of the swallows sitting peacefully on a wire. And then they were gone. Today the swallows are back!
The pier was narrow, light and shaky. At some moment I felt slightly dizzy walking on it. While walking on that pier I thought about the other piers in my life; there were not many of them. Only three.
A two story condo. A little porch. A big steep hill in front of the porch. Just a few steps from our house. It’s summer and the hill is covered with tall dry grass. My first summer in Utah. Unmercifully hot and unusually long. It’s already early September but the temperature outside is still close to one hundred.
For me trees always were the teachers. I thought about them as lonely people and exceptionally strong. They don’t loose themselves; they always fight for life with all their strength. They fight to build their own form and represent themselves to the world.
When the tree is dead (picture above) and reveals it naked death to the sun and wind, rain and storm; you can read its whole story of the struggle, of the sickness. You can learn how many attacks it withstood, how many storms it endured.
I noticed that I stopped to celebrate little simple moments in my life. Perhaps, it’s time to do it here.
There are places you would never go but constantly think about. They fill your imagination with different photographic opportunities which in reality may be nothing more than illusions. Thus, for a long time I wanted to explore the backyard of the oldest hotel in our city but didn’t have the guts to do it. Two days ago I finally gave myself permission to go there, explore and take a few pictures.
Yesterday I thought about what makes a good photograph? Why so many of my photographs are falling short and only a few have their own life?
David duChemin in his book “The Soul of Camera” wrote:
When we look at our photographs and find not the slightest reflection of ourselves, it’s a good sign that our images have lost soul.
Does my first photograph have soul? And what about the rest? I don’t know… What I know that my first photograph is my favorite because it reminds me of places where I grew up. And that is simple as it is.
I was intended to photograph an old motel with a fancy name surrounded by red long fence. But this motel wasn’t a photograph that day. I worked and worked the scene until I realized that I had no interest whatsoever in this damn motel. I forced myself to say “no” to everything what was there around and left.
Luckily, I found the moment which I liked a lot. Two bikes by the Mini Mart were patiently waiting for their owners. I looked at these bikes and thought that I also once upon a time had a bike when I was ten years old. My dad bought for me a simple bike and taught me how to ride it. That was the only bike I owned.
Old yellow freight car. Nothing special. Always at the same place and frozen in time.
Our downtown is interesting. You go there and never know what to expect. Last Saturday I took pictures of what I found more or less interesting. Just a few simple moments which made my whole trip worthwhile.
Sometimes you look down and see… the cowboy boots standing on a little stool. And then your look up and see the man fixing something on the door of his store in his cowboy boots. Thanks that he took his time letting me to immortalize his cowboy boots.
You look inside the store and it’s unusually dark there. You see on the floor the beautiful white dog with his owner. Both are so peaceful.
You enter the outdoor dining area of one of the local restaurants and see the red table with salt and pepper shakers on it. You are so thrilled because you dreamed for months taking picture of a red table with salt/pepper shakers. Sometimes dreams come true. You have only to believe in them.
Then you go to your favorite place to look at the windows. How many times did I look at this building and its windows? Thousands… In summer this building surrounded by little lights. This time I was able to get an interesting effect of them (used Lensbaby).
And then I found something odd when I was ready to leave. No explanation what it suppose to mean but it looked intriguing.
This summer resembles the summer I arrived in Utah several years ago. It’s unmercifully hot and we have only a few hours in early morning to enjoy summer. In evenings the temperature is so high that it’s impossible to wander on the streets.
Today I spent a few morning hours in our downtown. I met interesting people, I took plenty of pictures of dogs. I always take pictures of them. I even wanted to bring home a little labrador puppy but thought about my old Tasha and Kaya and changed my mind.
Morning was wonderful and considerably cool. I am slowly turning into an early morning person.
Benches on the streets can tell the fantastic stories. Sad and joyful. Serious and funny. Benches in the museums are usually silent and leave everything to your imagination.
I am thirteen years old and I am traveling by train on my own to Moscow. In my car compartment there are four of us; a married couple, a young girl and me. I was told by mom to be careful and not to get into conversations with strangers but as soon as our train takes off I am totally involved in conversations. I am fascinated by a young girl who is much older than I am. She has a little book of poems in her hands. We talk, she reads some poems to me from her book. I am not familiar with a poet. I know so little about poetry. Alexander Blok… His poems make me silent. There is something in them I can’t understand but I can feel. I feel sadness and I want to cry but try to stay calm. I especially like the poem “The Stranger”. I ask the girl to read it to me over and over again and she reads:
And every evening, at the appointed hour
(or is it merely a dream of mine?),
the figure of a girl in clinging silks
moves across the misty window.
Slowly she makes her way among the drinkers,
always escortless, alone,
perfume and mists emanating from her,
and takes a seat near the window…
Strange… The industrial scene, the curvy railroads tracks and memory about the girl who introduced me to the her favorite poet Alexander Blok in the train to Moscow.
I arrived to the lake and found out that if you want to park your car there you have to pay sixteen bucks for parking. I didn’t have money with me. And that was a lot of money to pay for hanging around just for two hours on a beach.
The closest parking place happened to be two miles away from the beach. It wasn’t bad. Our early mornings are cool and you have a few hours until will be unmercifully hot. To walk forty minutes to the beach wasn’t bad but when I came to the beach it was already crowded. I hanged a little bit around and headed back to my car. On my way back I noticed an old house with a cute “guy” looking through the window. I liked him immediately. I liked his hat, dark glasses and especially rocking cool mustache.
A few minutes later I head a voice behind my back “That is a nice morning to take pictures on a private property”. I was so preoccupied with this cute “guy” that I even didn’t notice the warning sigh “No trespassing. Private property.” “This is my security guy,” said a man wearing the same hat as his “security” guy.
There are moments in your life which can make your adventure worthwhile because you meet a kind person who easily could be mean and angry at you but instead showed his graciousness and understanding. And at this precise moment you understand that kindness is always a choice and think how often you choose between being kind or indifferent and cold.
I have inside me the winds, the deserts, the oceans, the stars, and everything created in the universe. We were all made by the same hand, and we have the same soul. Paulo Coelho
There was time when I didn’t love the desert but slowly year by year I began to appreciate its beauty more. I used to it strong windy mornings, unmercifully hot summer days and cool late evenings.
I believe that inside the barn is the whole different universe and a different time zone. You enter this universe and you are lost among old long chains, ropes, different tools, nails, generations of different pocketknives, a few old rusty bikes, old tires, rubber boots, layers of dust and broken tires.
Barn has a smell. It smells of hay and sometimes of horses, it smells of breezy mornings and beautiful sunsets. Am I imaging all of this? Of course, I do. I was only once in a barn and remember a few things I didn’t mentioned above; there were a lot of broken chairs and an old sewing machine, piles of tools on the old tables and old machinery I have never seen before.
“We are afraid to look through that window”, that is what my friend said to me another day while looking at the photo above. He didn’t say anything about liking or disliking this photograph and I didn’t ask.
Anyway, I found an abandoned shed and spent a lot of time trying to photograph the old door and a broken tire next to this shed. None of the pictures came out OK. Then I am moved to the broken window and after a few attempts I got finally the picture above.
What can I say about shooting for three days in a row with my Lensbaby sweet 35? It’s difficult. It’s difficult to find the focal point and make it sharp. It’s difficult to use a lens with only one focal length. It doesn’t let you to be lazy.
I remember that Henry Cartier-Bresson at the beginning of his photography used the 35 mm lens and then he switched to 50 mm. When he was asked, why the 50 mm lens, he said:
The 35 is splendid when needed, but extremely difficult to use if you want precision in composition. There are too many elements, and something is always in the wrong place. It is a beautiful lens at times when needed by what you see. But very often it is used by people who want to shout. Because you have a distortion, you have somebody in the foreground and it gives an effect. But I don’t like effects. There is something aggressive, and I don’t like that. Because when you shout, it is usually because you are short of arguments.
Well, I don’t like to be loud and to shout but if it will happen I will not be upset about it. And I don’t mind to include a few more things in my photos.
“Have you also learned that secret from the river; that there is no such thing as time?” That the river is everywhere at the same time, at the source and at the mouth, at the waterfall, at the ferry, at the current, in the ocean and in the mountains, everywhere and that the present only exists for it, not the shadow of the past nor the shadow of the future.”
Herman Hesse, Siddhartha
Of course, yesterday not everything went smoothly. My Nikon D90 in manual mode doesn’t display a metering scale when the Lensbaby is attached. Yes, no display even in manual mode. If it will happen to you the best way to figure out the correct exposure is trying to guess and check. It’s not high tech in our digital era but it works. You take a few testing shots and see how light they are or dark and go from there. If it’s too light increase shutter speed and make it faster, if it’s too dark go for a slower shutter speed (decrease numbers). And not forget about ISO.
It’s a long way to learn how to use Lensbaby, you have to practice and practice and be patient. And that is what I am going to do.
Here I am with three decent pictures from the old theme Western Landscapes and not willing to give up on it yet. I will continue this theme under different name West Land. It’s more broad and less promising and allows me to include whatever I want in it.
Of course, if I would pack my car and hit the Road to see nearby states it would be a different story. Meanwhile, I am staying where I live and photograph what I can find near my home.
I am exploring now our local park. I know, know that isn’t very exciting idea but to make it more interesting I started to pretend that I am a tourist – the crazy one – who fell in love with our park and since that walks there days after days sniffing, snooping and looking around.
Another day I was stopped by my neighbor and asked what I was doing by the river kneeling on my knees and answered that I tried to photograph creatively. He gave me a look like I was totally insane and lost completely.
Of course, to some degree it’s madness. It’s madness because every reasonable person would give up on the idea to take pictures with the cheap soft focus filter (costed seven dollars). Every reasonable person would go on the forum and would learn more about these type of filters before buying them.
Well, I will continue this theme and explore our local park hoping to get a few more decent pictures. And then I will hit the country roads and go to the same places which I know by heart. I don’t mind see the same places over and over again. I never get tired of them. Just a little bit bored sometimes.
I started the series of portraits of strangers a few years ago and I got accidentally a few good pictures at the beginning and thought that it was great. These few pictures inspired me with a cocky confidence which was short-lived when the bad pictures of strangers began to pile one after another. I gave up on this idea.
The idea returned back a few weeks ago during the car show when I found myself looking more at people than at cars trying to figure out how I can approach some of them and take pictures with permission and without.
Thus, were made a few new portraits of strangers.
First, I met Her. No doubts She was graceful and beautiful. And She was patient. For some unknown reason She sat still for fifteen minutes on a dry flower letting me to take her pictures. I suspect She was napping.
Third, I decided to torture myself and set my camera on manual mode and manual focus which I never used before. It was time to learn something about this mode.
What can I say about my experience? Of course, I struggled. I struggled with exposure, sharpness and shutter speed. When I tried to take pictures of a dragonfly (first picture), I couldn’t get it in focus which I blamed on my bad vision but then somehow things started to improve. Do I like the manual mode? I don’t know.
I think in street photography it’s useless because while you are trying to adjust the right settings the decisive moment would be gone and leave you frustrated and disappointed. If you are a nature and landscape photographer the manual mode probably is very helpful. You are in control with the whole situation. If you are an amateur photographer like me it’s still nice to know how manual mode works in order to understand better exposure, shutter speed and ISO. That is what I tried to do today.
It seems recently that I am running out of ideas. Thus, the idea of doing Western landscapes didn’t turn into something exciting. Why? I think because my blur photographs made the world dull and stagnant and it wasn’t my intention.
I didn’t say no to the idea of pictorial photography because I don’t want it to go away. And I don’t want to think that it was a wrong idea. Not yet.
I don’t know how you treat your ideas, I try to deal with them with all my respect and curiosity even if they are false.
Well, I am still holding onto the idea to continue my Western landscapes but not the way I began to do it. I don’t like the blur world and I am getting tired quickly of black and white colors. I want the world to be alive and a vital place.
Today I looked at a few pictures which I named Western Landscapes. They are actually not true landscapes in a sense of beauty and space. They are more like fragments where mostly trees are present and a river.
All these photographs were taken with the cheapest soft focus filter and it sometimes worked OK and sometimes everything came out so messy. Of course, it’s easy to blame the filter than myself but I made a lot of damn compositional mistakes.
Once an American photographer Sally Mann wrote that good photographs are gifts. Taken for granted they don’t come. I should more often remind myself of these words.
Well, so far out of hundreds pictures taken yesterday I chose only five to publish here. And they are all about my personal vision of beauty which is sad, reckless and moody.
I live in Northern Utah and in spring and early summer everything is wonderfully green. We have tall beautiful trees, a few rivers which are icy cold, lakes and we are blessed with a few cool days in summer.
Lately I was thinking is it possible to tell through my photography about my little world where there are my favorite trees, the river which knows all my dreams and thoughts, and prayers. Is it possible to tell stories about what I appreciate very much and grateful to have in an poetic way. I decided to give it a try and see where it will take me.
There is a long wall in our park where our local street artists can express themselves in their stories about heritage and the history of our country.
Some people might find this art naive and childish like but that is what fine art stands for. Naive, romantic and a little bit primitive.
If someone would read about my little adventures he/she would say that I am exaggerating calling things that happened to me an adventure. Who would call an encounter with a young deer on a narrow mountain road an adventure? Nothing special happened. A young deer decided to cross the road in front of my car. Thank God that I wasn’t speeding and was able to stop on the brake right in time.
Later on the same mountain road I met a beautiful white dog (on the first picture), who was wandering on the road as he was lost or abandoned by somebody. I was ready to rescue this dog and bring him home but when I went to talk to him he shyly tried to get behind the bushes. And then I saw the sheep on the mountain and a dog whom I wanted to rescue was running toward them. First time in my life I met a shepherd dog. He was big. Shy. And very friendly. I fell in love with him from the moment when I met him on the road.
Then I met his twin – another shepherd dog- who also was very shy and smart. I talked to him much later and he listened carefully from the distance.
I had a great time in the mountains. I watched sheep. Took a lot of pictures of them. And even took pictures of osprey birds ( googled later and found out that they are osprey and not hawks).
My little adventures in the mountains weren’t special, just little encounters with sheep, mountains, two friendly timid shepherd dogs and the osprey birds. But because of them my world became a little bit BIGGER and more INTERESTING.
Street photography isn’t only about a decisive moment, it’s also about light which is constantly changing. Sometimes I am so obsessed to capture the moment that I forget about light and the result is an overexposed picture or underexposed.
I know that some street photographers use P mode (stands for Program) and don’t worry much about light. I have never used this mode. Next time I am going to give it a try.
When you go off the main road sometimes you can find an old abandoned house. You come closely and see shadows of old trees dancing on the wall, dried leaves hanging on the pipes and a window.
This morning I wrote a haiku about this house.
There is no cat in the window,
only shadows dance on the walls.
Abandoned house stands still
full of secrets.