Category Archives: Photography

Photography and multimedia, including video.

Illegal pursuits

 

Shenandoah River, Harpers Ferry, WV

Shenandoah River, Harpers Ferry, WV

What I did was illegal, but the misty river was sublime.

And so on the morning of October 14, 2016, I pulled off the side of Route 340 in Virginia, attached my Nikkor 70-200 f/2.8 lens to my D800, and took a hike along the insanely busy highway.

I’d just crossed the Shenandoah River after spending the night in a Victorian home in Harpers Ferry W.Va. I was heading to the Potomac bridge below Harpers Ferry, where a pull-off is provided. But the Shenandoah was even lovelier with the sun starting to burn through the bank of fog that hugged the town.

So I dodged the morning commute traffic, scrambled over the concrete barrier to the bridge, walked out over the river and began shooting, all the while wondering if my car would be towed or what kind of fine I would face if tagged.

This was a labor of love. As a child I recall crossing the Shenandoah on this very bridge, my father driving, and being so impressed with river’s rugged beauty. It was nothing like the rivers back in Ohio, muddy, narrow and prosaic. Here was a river with rocks like fans, broad and dotted with islands and diverted for power. A river with a history, flowing through one of the most beautiful valleys in the East.

I returned to Harpers Ferry several times as an adult, but I never was happy with the images of this river that I captured. They never matched the magnificence of that memory from 50 years ago.

This morning, however, was different. This morning was it.

And I took the chance. I risked losing my car, a fine, embarrassment, even personal injury as I dashed through the traffic.

Those are kinds of things you do for love. When you finally find that which measures up to your memory, you risk it all.

And sometimes, some sublime moments, it is  worth it all.

I made it back to the car unscathed. About a quarter mile up the road, a Virginia State Police trooper was doing speed patrol. I am glad the officer was preoccupied and didn’t notice my illegally parked car.

What we do for love, we do for beauty, we do for memory.

And sometimes all we end up with is the memory.

 

Sorghum

Sorghum harvest,
Wellsburg, W.Va.,
October 2016

The day we harvested sorghum
it did not matter if the sorghum
grew on red or blue land.
The cane was green,
the community a rainbow
of calloused hands and smiles.
The sky voted for life,
the sun for abundance,
the sap for a sweet finish,
its excess cooking off
over the wood fire, late into the night,
our differences as steam
rising to the October moon.

Memories of a dream past

I spent a few hours this past weekend sorting through equipment that I purchased several years ago for the freelance photography business I launched way back in 2000.

The art and retail photography markets were much more hopeful and inviting back then. Consumers had disposable income and seemed to appreciate good photography. I always enjoyed capturing the romance of weddings, the joy of children and the wisdom of the mature adult’s face on film. I needed a second income so I could give money to faith-based initiatives and put away something for retirement. So I started Feather Multimedia.

The first five years were fantastic, the business grew quickly and I was working most weekends and every night. I worked harder at that than I had at any job. I kept investing profits back into the business, but I never made enough so I could step away from the 9-9 job and do the thing I loved full time. Health insurance was one of the big issues back then … this was before Obamacare.

And then everthing went down the toilet. The recession hit. Digital cameras became commonplace and photographers with their aresenal of special lighting equipment, expensive lenses and large sensors were no longer needed, especially in an economy where discretionary income was drying up. Good enough was good enough.

I started losing some important clients, ones I had come to depend upon for paying the overhead. I started paring back, and spent the next five years divesting myself of equipment to keep pace with the overhead.

The backdrops will go out the door this week. As I packed them, I thought of the many couples, youngsters and families who had been photographed in front of them. Ditto for the light stands that held the heavy monolights and soft boxes, which delivered the smooth, face-enhancing lighting that gave my images an edge over the myriad on-the-camera flash photos.

I’m not bitter about all of this. I will soon turn 60 and, frankly, I just don’t feel like making photos of screaming kids and babies, or uncooperative, half-smashed couples. Those caveats aside, I did enjoy my  years behind the wedding and portrait lenses. I loved thoses Sunday and Monday afternoons after a wedding, when the images popped up in Lightroom and I made the final tweaks to the RAW files. And I loved posting them into a gallery that was ready just 48 hours after the event, and creating multimedia shows of the wedding or photo session. Hopefully, at some point down the road, a couple who is having strife in their marriage and considering calling it quits, will look at their DVD and recall what it was that attracted them to each other in the first place. Or that mother and father will be able to pull out the slide show of their three-month-old baby and enjoy those fleeting moments again.

Nothing lasts forever, especially in this crazy, fad-driven economy. That includes the value of the artist’s work. I recently came across this blogger’s post  and I could not agree more. Most consumers have no idea how much money goes into the photographer’s equipment, software, training, computers and insurances. It’s been a few years since I purchased any new photo equipment, but my guess is that Nikon is not giving away equipment; I wonder why consumers think that photos ought to be given away or no value be attached to the photographer’s time spent in getting to a location, setting up the lights, figuring out the best angles, shooting the job, loading and archiving it, processing it and burning CDs or uploading images? There are expenses every step of the way. And unfortunately photographers require food, their cars burn gasoline and they get sick and require medical tests and drugs.

I constantly see new photographers come onto the local market, and I feel sorry for them, especially when they price their work incredibly low. They are setting themselves up for failure, especially if they ever plan to grow beyond using a simple DSLR and kit zoom lens.

At least they will have some good memories when it’s time to pack up the gear and sell it to the next starry-eyed photographer.