Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Beebe Lake

Along the south shore of Beebe Lake, on the Cornell University campus. Parni’s photo, my edit.

When Parni first suggested we take her camera for a walk, I thought she might be taking most of the photos. I hadn’t carried a camera for years, partly because I’d found that for me, taking photos often got in the way: Walks became less about simply experiencing and enjoying a place, a day, and mostly about taking photos. I needn’t have worried, it’s all been good: Bringing the camera along has added a new and exciting element to our explorations, and been Big Fun for me too­. And so far, I’ve kept my impulses toward thorough (I’ve never become entirely comfortable with obsessive) in the pocket.

It’s been interesting to note how much less time and effort I’m putting into taking photos than I would have a few years ago. No tripod, no careful setups, just freehand snaps with the camera on Auto. I haven’t learned how to change its settings yet, mess with exposure, shutter speeds. Seems a good thing to let all that go for now, let the little camera do its thing. Less work, more fun–What’s not to like?

Of course, part of why I’m okay with throttling back on the in-camera thorough is because I can control the post-camera process in a way I never could when I was shooting film and sending it off to be developed and printed. I find I’m treating many of our files as raw material, essentially–Let’s see what we got today, what I can do with this one in Photoshop.

Beebe Lake 2
The path continues along Beebe Lake’s north shore. Parni’s photo, my edit.

Most of what I’ve done with these photos of Parni’s is subtractive–With Beebe Lake 2, radically so. In both cases, though, I looked for those elements that seemed to me at the heart of the image’s appeal, and cropped until all they seemed balanced, in harmony, and no distractions remained.

I’ve always liked panoramas, but never drawn them much. Maybe I’ve needed to explore them in another media; maybe the experience of working with this kind of format digitally will have its effect on whatever happens at the drawing table.

If not, that’s fine too. There are things I want to draw, and things I want to photograph, and they’ve never overlapped much. At the moment, I’m enjoying both media again, and I’m looking forward to our next walk.

Admiring: James Gurney’s plein-air watercolor of Maison d’ Ailleurs, “a museum of science fiction, utopia and extraordinary journeys” in Yverdon, Switzerland. “Return to Dinotopia”, a new exhibition featuring over 50 of Gurney’s Dinotopia paintings, will open at Maison d’ Ailleurs in October.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Wall's End

Wall’s End
Built circa 1985, photographed 2004

Twenty years ago now, more, I rebuilt a stretch of stone wall that ends here. Sections of the wall had fallen, and those still standing had settled, slumped, wound this way and that, so I tried to blend in my new work in a way that went with the flow–And would hopefully, one day, become indistinguishable from the old. Hence, a new name, one that stuck: Weaving Wall.

The wall’s end widens to accommodate the two concrete silo staves that form the seat. I’d intended to build a six-pack cooler into the wall behind the seat, near the top, but access became a prohibitive issue; solutions that seemed aesthetically pleasing also seemed likely to create drainage problems that would compromise the mortared stonework there. So I filled in the space with rubble and mud, capped it permanently. A few empties did find their way into the wall elsewhere, though.

There’s no footing below the mortared area, but the mortared joints haven’t opened up much. I remember thinking that the wall’s new end would move around some, but maybe if I built it solidly enough it could ride the frost-and-thaw cycles as a unit. Probably a na├»ve approach at best, but twenty years on, the wall’s end and seat are both holding up well.