Category - photography

Portals of Stone: The 2014 Calendar Version

And now, a bit of shameless self promotion:

28_back_coverYou do know that there’s a new year starting in a few weeks, right?

But… how will you know for sure unless you have a colorful calendar on your wall that reminds you of the fact every 30 days or so?

Oh, sure, that digital thing in your pocket will keep you up to date well enough.  But where’s the fun in that.  It’s so… one dimensional!

Consider, on the other hand, the three-dimensional, time-warping qualities of these images:

First, they will help you identify the present date.  Sure, any calendar can do that, but these calendars also…

…Transport your imagination into a time in the not so distant past (i.e. centuries, not millennia) when great edifices were carved from stone, by hand, and constructed over several decades.  Many of which lie in ruin today…

…and through which you are transported into the cosmos and offered a glimpse of the vastness of space and time – in the form of starlight that left its source millions of years ago…as captured by a giant camera/telescope suspended in orbit around the earth.

The images are “Portals of Stone” – rendered in ink, on card stock… a new “portal” every month through the new year.

Just follow the link to see more at…

PORTALSOFSTONE.COM

or follow this easy PayPal button to order yours today:



A Year of Living

Last Friday – my 63rd birthday – I re-posted (with some minor edits) the short essay I wrote on the occasion of my 62nd birthday.  It was about turning 62 – the age at which my brother had died in 2011 – and the quest to outlive him numerically by turning 63.

That post ends with:

There is much more to that challenge than simply lasting the year.

I’ve got some living to do.

Seeing that line again for the first time in a year caught me up short.  It made me wonder: Had I lived up to my own challenge over the past 12 months?

Or had I just gone on with my desultory day to day existence, squeezing nothing more out of my continued presence here on earth than the consumption of natural resources and the production of bodily wastes?

And then I remembered this photo:

Melrose Abbey - Scotland

That’s me, seated on a bench before the south elevation of Melrose Abbey in the borders region of Scotland.

For so many reasons, that photo answers the question.

I may not have lived entirely up to whatever potential I have had languishing here for the past several years (like, since Book Two went off the rails), but I think I can say that I certainly made some effort, and have some results to show for it.

I mean, I’m pretty pleased with the whole “Portals of Stone” collection that came out of that trip to England and Scotland last spring.  I had my first “art show” this fall, and now the whole collection is hanging in an actual art gallery in East Nashville.  And I got a check in the mail for one of the pieces last week.  Eat your heart out, Van Gogh…

Probably more important than any of that is just the fact that I made the effort.  That I saw an opportunity and I grabbed it, and the result was as satisfying and meaningful a two-weeks as I can recall in my life.

I still can’t quite put my finger on what draws me to these medieval ruins, although I can say that the unexpected result – the Portals of Stone – that came out of that trip is maybe the most creative expression I’ve had since… well, maybe since I finished/published Book One – and that’s going back to 2002.  Certainly the most creative visual expression in like… ever.  I mean, hey, I was 62 years old and for the first time in my life I came up with something that somebody else – actually a couple of somebody elses who have authority in such things  – considered “art.”

So, yeah. That happened.

And now the same gauntlet is thrown for Year 64.

Cue the Beatles:


Beatles – When I’m Sixty-Four by hushhush112

How Many Barcamps Have You Been To?

bcnlogoAs anybody who follows my Facebook/Instagram feed knows all to well, I had the privilege last week of being the “In-Kind Sponsor” for Barcamp Nashville 2013.  All I had to do was photograph the entire day long event. Which, frankly, was a blast.

As I mentioned in a post (before I carpet-bombed my own feeds with photos…) Barcamp has always been something of a landmark event in my personal reckoning, after I attended the first one in 2007 – an event that marked the beginning of my emergence from years of seclusion and book authoring.

Probably because I mark my own involvement with Barcamp from the very first one in 2007, I got the idea early that morning to start asking the people who were working on and attending this year’s event “How Many Barcamps have you been to…?”

The answers appear in the slide show below.  Hover your cursor over the top of the frame to see the suspects’ names.

Is This a Dumb Idea for a Camera…

nikonDf

…or the dumbest idea for a camera, ever?

Ming Thein  offers some insights on the just announced Nkon Df – a camera that seems to blend all the disadvantages of digital photography with all the disadvantages of film photography.

I think Ming is mincing his words here.

To be honest, I really don’t quite know what to make of this camera… I’m confused. On one hand, there are very sensible engineering choices – the sensor, for instance; but on the other hand, marketing said that you have to have AF and a full digital set of controls and a retro look, so we land up having too many buttons and knobs and a bit of an F3-collided-with-a-D600 appearance to it.

I’m not mincing mine: I think this is the dumbest thing in camera design/engineering Nikon could possibly have offered.

Starting with the same dysfunctional AF array that soured me on the D600 right out of the box.

Ming talks a lot about the viewfinder.  He’s talking about an optical viewfinder.  But based on my experience with the Olympus EM-1 so far, I think the whole idea of the optical viewfinder is obsolete.  I spent a lot of time while shooting the Barcamp on Saturday experimenting with flash settings – flash on, flash off, flash exposure plus/minus – and never had to take the camera away from my eye to make those adjustments because all the info is right in the viewfinder.  I don’t think there is any optical viewfinder that puts that much info in front of your eye.

But better than that, each time I made an exposure, it would appear before my eye in the viewfinder.  I could tell without ever looking at the back of the camera that I’d gotten the shot and move on to the next one.   You can’t do that with an optical viewfinder, either.

It seems to me that some evil twin of Marshal McLuhan is now running Nikon.  McLuhan wrote about seeing the future through a rear-view mirror – using new technology to do the work of the old.  He wasn’t suggesting that that is necessarily a good thing – but this camera is a classic example of doing just that.  It’s taking digital technology and trying to replicate the film camera experience.  Jeezus, if you want a “film experience,” just get an F3 or an F100 off eBay.

And the price… almost $2,800??  That’s the same as a D800… which is possibly the finest DSLR on the market.

I’m with Ming.  Totally confused.

Barcamp = MOMOP (#bcn13)

bcn13_theme_banner

Tomorrow’s Seventh Annual BarCamp Nashville is going to be one of those “coming around full circle” events for me.

The very first Barcamp in August 2007 was something of a “coming out” event for me.  After selling songs.com –  my early-stage, “Internet one-point-oh” business – to Gaylord Entertainment in the fall of 1999 (and spending a year watching them run it into the ground), I sorta went into seclusion for several years, during which I wrote two biographies of obscure 20th Century Scientists.

Then in the summer of 2007, I started reading about this event that was going to gather all the disparate elements of Nashville’s emerging digital arts and business communities for an “unconference” that covered a vast array of topics – the only unifying factor being some interface with “new media” and their underlying technologies.

Here, see for yourself:

I have not made it to every Barcamp since, though I have made it to several and made lasting friendships at each one.

This year, for the first time, I’ll be making an actual contribution other than my usual wandering around between sessions and heckling the presenters.  I have signed on as an “in-kind” sponsor which means that in exchange for hanging the “Cohesion Arts” logo in strategic places around the (undisclosed) location (a designation that puts me in some most-esteemed company), , I’ll be providing still photography coverage for the event.

More than just taking photos, though, I hope to engage everybody in attendance who has a cell phone / camera (who am I kidding, that’s everybody...) in the day’s photo coverage.  There will be a video screen in the front of the venue offering a continuous Instagram feed that will include not just my photos, but any photo that bears the hashtag ” #bcn13 .”

Barcamp is a hard event to describe to somebody who is not familiar with the concept.  Yes, it’s an assembly of the region’s digerati, but there is no single theme for the day.  It’s really just an excuse to get a lot of similarly minded people in a room and start bouncing ideas around.

For me, Barcamp has always been first and foremost about the people I get to meet.  It’s a welcome departure from the virtual, online experience that tends to dominate our lives these days.  Which brings me to the acronym in the title of this post, which came to mind while trying to describe BarCamp to a friend today:

You’ve heard of “mooc“s, right? That’s a “massively open online course,” those classes that universities offer for free to thousands of students around the world over the Internets.

And then there is the concept of “meatspace” –  what was once – before we all started living our lives through screens and keyboards – known as “the real world.”

So BarCamp is a

Massively Open Meatspace Opportunity

or

MOMOP

At least, that’s what I’M calling it.

Now y’all get those cell phones out and start tagging your photos w/ ” #bcn13 “

And if you see a guy with a rumpled photographers vest and a couple of cameras round his neck, stop and say hello, and I’ll make sure we get an “official” photo into the stream…

P.S. A special shout out to Kerry Woo for suggesting I volunteer for this assignment.  I’m glad they accepted the offer, and I hope I can live up the exceptional standard that Kerry has brought these events in the past.

Rosslyn at Dawn

I’ve been in Scotland for a week.  I haven’t spent nearly as much time sorting and editing as I have shooting, but some of what I’ve got to show for my presence you can see here.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Rosslyn Chapel at Dawn

Rosslyn Chapel at Dawn

Photographers live for about four hours every day: the two hours on either side of sunrise and sunset.  That’s the best natural light of the day.  The rest of the day is for location scouting (or so I’ve been told).

Somebody asked me once, “which do you prefer, sunrise or sunset?”  To which I replied, “well, I’m usually awake by sunset…”

And that has been the case so far on this expedition.  Despite my best intentions, I’ve slept through every sunrise.  That might have something to do with fact that the sun sets at this latitude at about 9:30 PM, and the twilight lingers until nearly 11.  And  I’ve been out every evening photographing something at sunset, though the actual sun has been mostly obscured by clouds.

After that, you get back to your room, download the memory card, sort the photos and edit a few, and by the time you start nodding out it’s 1:30 AM.  Not exactly conducive to starting again at 3:30 (since the sunrises at about 4:30…).

Tweed River Valley btw Melrose and Rosslyn

Tweed River Valley btw Melrose and Rosslyn

Yesterday I made the short – and lovely – drive from Melrose to Rosslyn, which is my whole reason for being here in the first place.  And last night I went out again at sunset and looked for something to shoot at the end of the first completely sunny day I’ve had all week.  After that, same drill… fell asleep at the keyboard about 1AM…

But this morning something very different happened: I woke up and saw the moon setting in a perfectly clear sky outside my window.  I looked at the time on my iPhone: 4:24.  Like an idiot I tried to go back to sleep.

But whatever higher power brought me here intervened.

Despite my best efforts to go back to sleep, that was not gonna happen.

In the absence of sleep I opened Google Earth on my iPad (there was just enough signal to get a view) and entered the coordinates for Rosslyn Chapel, which is about 2-1/2 miles from the b&b where I’m staying.  From the map I could see there is a road that goes past the chapel to the edge of a field on the eastern side.  From paintings and photos I’ve seen from that angle, I knew there was some kind of meadow on that side of the chapel.

I threw on some clothes and was there by 5:30, just as the sun was peaking over the hills.

Medieval churches, chapels, and abbeys were typically laid out so that the altar – and the grand windows above it – face east, so that the rising sun can remind worshipers of the Resurrection (note to fundamentalist Christians: you do know that Muslims face east for their prayers, too, right?).

The  combination clear sky and the rising sun meant that the best natural light I’ve seen all week was shining down on the nearly 600-year-old of east facade of the Rosslyn Chapel just as I was getting my tripod set up.

Left to my own devices, I might have slept right through it.  But I swear, some power better than myself hauled me out of bed, threw clothes on me, and steered my rent-a-car through the pre-dawn light to get these photos.

Now, behold the majesty of 15th Century architecture:

Rosslyn Chapel at Dawn

Rosslyn Chapel at Dawn

 

I’ve had good moments and bad moments on this trip.  The good ones are usually after I’ve been shooting for several hours, and I’ve taken the time to marvel at the fact that I am even here, doing this extraordinary thing.  The bad ones are after I’ve sat at the computer with the results from the day and thought “oh crap, I missed that… shoulda framed that differently… oh, look at THAT… that I didn’t quite get in the frame…”  etc. etc.  All common photographers’ laments.

But today, I can take some solace in the knowledge that however else the rest of the day goes, I got this part right:

Detail of the East Facade of the Rosslyn Chapel

Detail of the East Facade of the Rosslyn Chapel

 

But only because that Higher Power would not leave me to my own devices and let me sleep through the dawn.

I wish I could remember now who was it who said, “you do the work… and the inspiration takes care of itself…”

 

T-Minus 1 – How The Return To Scotland Came About

This is the third installment of a series on how my trip to Scotland / England came about.  The first installment is here, the second installment (a bit of a sidebar) is here.

Listen to John Doan’s harp guitar while reading this post:

Now, where was I? Oh yeah….

One of the most stunning places we visited in Scotland last October is a small church several miles outside of Edinburgh called the Rosslyn Chapel.

Rosslyn Chapel ©2012 paul@cohesionarts.com

Rosslyn Chapel ©2012 paul@cohesionarts.com

If you’ve read “The DaVinci Code” or seen the movie, you might recognize the name.  Dan Brown wrote the last scene of that story at the Rosslyn Chapel. The bones of Mary Magdalen – the real “Holy Grail” as portrayed in the novel – supposedly having been hidden there, in a a secret crypt concealed under the foundation of the chapel when it was built during 15th century.

We almost didn’t go to Rosslyn.  When it was first suggested to us, I looked it up on the web and the first thing I noticed on the website was

Please note that there is no photography or video allowed inside Rosslyn Chapel.

And when I read that I thought to myself, “well, that’s a deal breaker….”

But I talked it over with Ann and we agreed that it would be worth seeing even we couldn’t take pictures inside.  We figured it in to the itinerary for the last full day of our  trip, when we would be back in Edinburgh for two nights and still have the rental car at our disposal.

So on morning of the last day of our tour of Scotland, we ventured out of Edinburgh about 7 miles south to the village of Rosslyn.

And yes, the interior of Rosslyn Chapel is truly extraordinary.  Nearly every surface is adorned with detailed masonry carvings depicting the history of the area, the chapel’s founders and builders, or a passage from the Bible, all rendered by the most skilled stone masons of the 15th century.

Entrance to the Rosslyn Chapel - ©2012 paul@cohesionarts.com

Gargoyles guarding the entrance to the Rosslyn Chapel – ©2012 ann@cohesionarts.com

In the centuries since its construction, the tiny Chapel as been through all kinds of depredations, from serving as stable for Cromwell’s cavalry in the 17th century to an ill conceived conservation effort in the mid-20th century that coated all the  carvings with an impermeable layer of magnesium fluoride that trapped moisture inside the stone.   Just about the time that The DaVinci Code was released, the Sinclair family that owns the chapel and surrounding estate embarked on a more enlightened course of preservation, and now, in the wake of the novel and the movie, the Rosslyn Chapel is among the most popular tourist destinations in all of Great Britain.

Ann and I spent most of the morning of our last full day in Scotland there.   We made a lot of photographs of the exterior, and spent enough time inside to come out pretty well awed at what we’d seen.  But, per the rules, no photos of the interior.

– – – – – – – –

John Doan

John Doan

Fast forward now to  January 28th, when I received an e-mail from a musician named  John Doan.  John is is primarily a harp guitarist; his home base is Salem, Oregon.

If you’re not familiar with it, the harp guitar is an instrument that starts as a guitar, but is embellished with an extension of the body of the guitar  that supports some number of open, unfretted strings, usually bass notes, that are plucked separately in the same manner that the strings of a harp are plucked.   John Doan typically plays a variation of the harp guitar that includes a further set of “super treble” notes that are strung musically above (physically below) the 6 guitar strings.

I can’t recall now when I first discovered John Doan’s recordings, most of which I purchased via iTunes during the period when I was still paying for downloads (which I rarely do now, with the advent of streaming subscription services like Spotify).  But since I first discovered him I have been an avid fan of his Celtic-infused, sonically rich recordings that evoke the spirit of the islands with which I am so enamored.  I met John briefly once, at an annual event called “The Harp Guitar Gathering” when it was held in Indianapolis in the fall of 2010.  That’s probably when I put myself on his mailing list.

So I get this e-mail from John Doan in late January.  And after the usual “this is what I’m up to…” stuff, I scanned his tour itinerary at the bottom of the message.  And that’s where I saw:

May 26: Rosslyn Chapel, Scotland

Whoa.  Did I read that right? A concert inside the Rosslyn Chapel??

I quickly fired an e-mail back to John.

Can you use a roadie/photographer on these gigs?

I need an excuse to go back to Britain this spring…

Where “back to Britain” was a link to the site were I was gathering and displaying our photos from the trip in October.

John’s reply to that was pretty non-committal, but the more I thought about it, the more intrigued I became about the proposition, so I sent another message:

Please forgive the quick “need a roadie?” message that I sent earlier
today.

This time… I think I’m serious….

..after which wheels started turning…

Long story short: I’m leaving tomorrow afternoon, and will meet up with John and his entourage of wandering minstrels a week from today at Rosslyn.  And I will have permission to photograph his concert inside the Rosslyn Chapel.

Two weeks ago Ann and I encountered a Scottish photographer a the TACA Arts & Crafts fair here in Nashville.  We got to talking, and I told him that I would be going to Scotland soon, and that I’d be photographing inside the Rosslyn Chapel.

“That’s forbidden!” he said.

Yes, it is. But I’ve got special dispensation.

And that’s why I’m going back to Scotland tomorrow.

Rosslyn Chapel - a Victorian-era carving over the North Entrance ©2012paul@cohesionarts.com

Rosslyn Chapel – a Victorian-era carving over the North Entrance ©2012paul@cohesionarts.com

 

T-Minus 2 Days and Still Counting

(This is the second of two installments. Part 1 is here, Part 3 is here.

– – – – – – – – – – – –

I’m still working on another post (or two) about how my trip to Britain next week came about, and will perhaps get the story finished before I leave on Sunday. For now, I want to get something else out there.

It begins with a passage that came to mind in the midst of some breath work with my therapist on Wednesday:

The heart seeks
and only the heart can find
that which we do not know
that we know

Now, as much as I am loathe to even mention the name – much as Harry Potter referred to Voldemort as “he who cannot be named” – the thought above is a corollary to something Donald Rumsfeld famously (infamously?) said during one of his Pentagon press conferences when he was trying to explain whathefuck had gone wrong in Iraq:

There are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we do not know we don’t know.

I’ve always thought that Rumsfeld’s assessment of the realms of knowledge and ignorance stops just short of what might be the most import insight of all, that…

There are things that we do not know… that we know.

Basic, fundamental, truths of existence that live on a subsurface, spiritual level that where we do not spend nearly enough time.

Perhaps I am going to the ancient ruins of Britain to spend time in places where long ago mystics and monks did just that.

As good a reason as any…

And, now that I think about it, I realize that right after I had the “breath work revelation” I’ve shared above, I may have had a clear illustration of the principal – and an affirmation of why I have to go on this trip alone.

After I saw Kenneth on Wednesday,  I went downtown to the Shelby Street bridge to photograph the Nashville skyline and see what sort of results I would get shooting for HDR with my new Nikon D600.

The results at sunset were pretty satisfactory if uninspiring, except perhaps for this one shot where I got  everything to line up:  the sun hitting the tops of the building, the f/16 aperture that produces the cool star effect:

Sunset over the Nashville Skyline - May 15, 2013

Sunset over the Nashville Skyline – May 15, 2013

But after I got that shot I stood around and waited for over an hour for the sky to darken and the lights of the city to come on.  And about 8:30PM I got this shot, which I think is downright spectacular:

Twilight Over The City

Twilight Over The City

… because I WAITED FOR IT (and trust me on this, the small rendering here doesn’t do the image justice; click here to see the whole frame a bit larger).

And that, sadly, is what I can’t seem to do when I’m with Ann.  At least, not that day we stopped at the Beauly Priory on the Black Isle near Edinburgh. And I’ll say again, I think Ann got better photos in less time than I did.  But I wasn’t done yet…

That’s why I drove away thinking, “I have to come back here by myself.”

And now, it appears, I am doing just that.

In two days.

Because when the heart is patient.. only then.. can it find what it does not know that it knows.

– – – – – – – – –

And now, the rest of the story...

 

Sally Barris in Our Backyard

DSC_6264-EditAnn and I did a photo shoot last Saturday evening with the lovely and talented Sally Barris, aka “Sister Waymore” (when she travels with Pops and Willy).  The light was perfect, and all we needed to get great portraits was one strategically placed reflector.

Here are some of the shots that we all think are among the best:

Not familiar with Sally Barris? Then please, avail yourself to her latest album via Spotify: