Rapid Changes

 

Fire Sunset

When my wife and I moved earlier this year from Manhattan to Queens we gained some things compared to our old apartment. A kitchen, nice floors, a balcony  bringing in fresh air and sunlight and a blissfully shorter climb up the stairs from a 5th floor walkup to a 3rd floor one. The other thing we gained was a majestic view. A beautiful panoramic view looking out in three directions. Our old apartment was on an air shaft and the only view we had was by craning our necks at an angle to get a glimpse of outside. It was a nightmare figuring out what the weather actually was most of the time.  Having that view has been a wonderful thing, and I spend as much time on our balcony or looking out the windows soaking up as much of it as I can now.

Now that view does have its limitations I have to admit. Partially obstructed views of some tall buildings in Manhattan, together with the varying heights of buildings on the next block and a back alley limit what we actually can see in terms of the New York skyline.  What makes it a majestic panorama for me however is for the scene above me in the sky. Since moving in March, we have been treated to an enormous variety of colors and different cloud patterns in the sky. Red, Orange, and Violet colors at sunset.  Shimmering Golden colors at first morning light and the cool hint of blue forming moments later. Then there are the cloud patterns  varying  from dark and ominous, to ones that seem as if they have absorbed the color of the sky that particular day, wrapping  reds and oranges within their shapes. Finally it also gives me a chance to see the moon and stars  which provides real comfort and calm.  Of course being a photographer all of these things have allowed me to take some great photos of that variety, both on my regular camera and on my Iphone.

Pink Sunset

Being able to sit in the comfort of my home and watch those cloud patterns and colors  changing rapidly in front of me is great, especially after so many years in the ‘darkness’ of our old apartment.  Recently as I watched a particularly outstanding sunset that came out of nowhere one evening, I thought how that rapid change in color applied to music sometimes. The idea of one simple phrase, one single note, or sound completely altering the song the way it had existed mere moments before. Or how a subtle change of tempo can alter the tone of a song completely reminds me of how those colors of the sky change so rapidly.

It happens quite often of course,  one famous example being the organ riff to Bob Dylan’s ‘Like A Rolling Stone.’ After several unsuccessful attempts to record the song, Al Kooper, who was more of a guitarist than a keyboard player found a way to sit in for one take. As the story goes, everyone involved with the session said not to bother listening to what he added, but after hearing the take for himself during playback, Bob Dylan said to bring the organ part up front to the mix, and the rest is history. Similarly, back in an earlier blog I wrote about Bob Seger’s song Roll Me Away, which was intended to be an all out rocker but instead became a mid-tempo anthem thanks to some studio experimentation.

Orange Sunset

In both cases they happened quickly, just like those times when you gaze up and see rapid color changes to the sky. Photography and music are all about experimentation of course, but sometimes those happy accidents occur that allows things to fall in place with great results. For me these past few months that has meant being in a position to grab the camera and take shots of those varying colors as they happen. In music it can happen in times like the examples above, or it can happen when your guitarist accidentally leans his guitar up against an amplifier causing feedback. When that group is the biggest of all time, you go with moments like that.

That is actually what happened in 1964 as the Beatles were recording I Feel Fine. The opening guitar lick made this song interesting enough already (which has its own story), but as Paul McCartney recalled-

“We were just about to walk away to listen to a take when John leaned his guitar against the amp. I can still see him doing it. He really should have turned the electric off. It was only on a tiny bit, and John just leaned it against the amp when it went, ‘Nnnnnnwahhhhh!’ And we went, ‘What’s that? Voodoo!’ ‘No, it’s feedback.’ ‘Wow, it’s a great sound!’ George Martin was there so we said, ‘ Can we have that on the record?’ ‘Well, I suppose we could, we could edit it on the front.’ It was a found object, an accident caused by leaning the guitar against the amp.”

Though other artists were experimenting with feedback live, I Feel Fine is widely believed to be the first instance of using it in the studio. What I like about the story is that everyone involved quickly recognized that there was something special in that sound and tried figuring out how to incorporate it in the song on the spot. In photographing the sunsets or occasional sunrise from our apartment I have had to rely on the same realization that the scene unfolding before me is going to be special. There is something about the moments just before that tell me whether the light will be unique, or something more ordinary. There is that momentary glow and the first tinges of a color forming. Will it be red, will it be orange or something else? Will the clouds obscure or aid the scene? What settings should I use on the camera?  In music those choices can happen in accidents like the feedback to I Feel Fine, or from a subtle chord change, or a singer changing the pitch. Whether in photography or music, sometimes the best results come from adapting quickly to a situation. I can’t speak about making music, but with my photography, I hope that will always be the case.

Special thanks and appreciation on this one to my friends Alan Standing and Jules Gray. I didn’t use their suggestions in the end, but you most definitely helped me out. Thanks guys!

I Feel Fine-Written By John Lennon & Paul McCartney

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All Photographs By Robert P. Doyle

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31 thoughts on “Rapid Changes

  1. The clicks are so beautiful, like mood swings, the sky reveals so much………Sometimes clouds take shapes and then you see them shifting, reading this, I miss my apartment, the balcony, the morning sky……..There are so many blessings around.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Shalini. I like that-like mood swings. Never thought of it that way but you are so right. I’m sorry you don’t have the chance to see that type of scene from your balcony. I never want to move to a place that doesn’t let me have a view of some sorts though. It has been so good for my soul especially seeing those changes. Thank you as always for such wonderful compliments and replies.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I suppose I should congratulate you on your new flat first! It is an absolute achievement to find one that is well-lit on one side, let alone three! Stunning pictures, especially the second. I used to spend hours watching the evening sky from our terrace, when I was growing up. Apart from the breeze and the changing colours, it instantly cleared up my mind. Anything seemed possible, and I would come up with all sorts of dreams about the future, even as I remained focused on what was going on around me because it was so beautiful. I’ve always thought sunsets and sunrises (if you’re able to wake up early enough, that is!) are “accessible” nature, available wherever you go. And the changeability makes it all the more captivating, as evidenced by all the pictures you took!
    And of course, I love “I Feel Fine”. I knew that story, and the “Like a Rolling Stone” one as well. It’s fascinating how, if you had to have a textbook about understanding what makes rock/pop music work, it’ll be equivalent to a The Beatles’ biography. So many things can be traced back to them, and they had such a tongue-in-cheek way of going about it, without considering themselves “artistes” like some other innovators do.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks on the apartment! It was a good choice for us to move. For exactly the reasons you say. It is so calming having those skies, sunsets, sunrises, and being able to watch the weather. It is very soothing and it helps clear the mind. Thanks as well on the photos. The view itself is limited but there is nothing limiting in the sky! I thought about doing a photo a day kind of thing. I might still do it. Stand in the same spot and take a photo every day for a year. Could be interesting. I love what you say about the Beatles too. So many things can be traced back to them and George Martin whether they thought it was a big deal or not. And it absolutely relates to everything that has come since. When you read about those things in a Beatles bio you just get a sense of it being the right people together at the right time asking questions and experimenting. Like what would happen if we double tracked a guitar, or recorded the strings on Eleanor Rigby with the mics really close to the instruments. Just thinking about different ways to do it. Not to say that other people weren’t but those ideas really shined with the Beatles. Thanks as always for great comments!

      Liked by 1 person

      • I feel, in a way, most socio-cultural things in the second half of the 20th century, not to mention artistic, can be related to The Beatles in some way. That is why you have extensive Beatles studies that are sociological, and obviously musicological. Their lives and careers, and everything else connected to them and not just to 1962-1970 of album-making, makes them so much more than the most successful musical act of all time.

        You should definitely go for the daily photo project! Maybe in the new year. Surely you would be able to spare a few minutes for sunset photos everyday!

        Liked by 1 person

      • Absolutely. I haven’t delved into any of those myself beyond a handful of documentaries, but I think they are a marker for everything in that period. Partly because there was that progression-working class guys who went through all that experimentation. And I don’t only mean the drugs. Music, fashion, Political. They encompassed all of those things in their time together. And so much more than the most successful music act as you say. And yes I am thinking about doing that with the photos now. Makes sense and I can definitely find the time for that!

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great photos of the sky and the changing cloud formations. I used to lay down on the grass when I was little looking up at the clouds trying to make out what things were. This post takes me back to that more innocent time, without the duties of fears that come with age. I really liked it.
    Also congrats on the new flat.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much for such a wonderful comment! I think most of us did that when we were little. Maybe we all need to do that now as well to keep some of that innocence. And thank you for the congratulations on the new place! Its not huge, its not perfect, but it is home. And I can always see the sky! Thanks once again

      Like

  4. Hi Robert,

    I’m digging your blog. Your blog is the first one I have seen that uses music videos embedded in the storytelling. I look forward to further exploring your work.

    I just finished a 2.5 yr blogging experiment (https://3danim8.wordpress.com/) with over 160 articles published since June 2013. One of the factors I tested included using song lyrics and videos in my technical articles. I used this technique in many articles, the most recent being the article that concluded my experiment: https://3danim8.wordpress.com/2015/11/11/the-conclusion-of-my-tableau-blogging-experiment/. You can find some lyrics at the beginning and some song links near the end of that article.

    If you are interested, after I crunch the numbers on this experiment, I’ll let you know what I found out regarding the effectiveness of this technique. Here is the epilogue of this experiment: https://3danim8.wordpress.com/2015/12/09/epilogue/.

    Thanks,

    Ken

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Photo Shuffle-Watch The Weather | Soundtrack Of A Photograph

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