Monochrome Mondays-The Sea

For today’s Monochrome Mondays I thought about the sea. For many of us summer would not be complete without going to the beach at least once. Of course when I was younger we went to beaches a couple of times a year, doused with sunscreen and nourished with hot dogs and ice cream. Sadly my very pale skin color does not allow me to enjoy the beach or wade in the surf  these days like I used to as a 10 year old. Quite frankly its just not fun to have to be covered up so much and fighting the crowds for a plot of territory for the afternoon so I tend to leave the beach for early mornings or evenings and off times of the year now. What I sacrifice in the pleasure of cooling down on a hot day is made up for in watching the sea crashing in and out. There of course is something so compelling and soothing about watching the sea. It can be both gentle and forceful. The sound of the waves can lull you to sleep, and the power of the waves can inflict damage suddenly. This last thought was inspired by the late Sandy Denny’s song The Sea. She first performed it with the group Fotheringay in the early 1970’s. While doing some research for my book recently, I came across something she said about the song herself-

“The sea seemed to become a sort of person, like a mind, and that’s what I have tried to convey, the power of the sea.”

I took this photo last September on a beach in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. It was a beautiful day. A little chilly, but the sea was essentially calm. If I had come back the next day it would have been different. The next day, maybe even more so. Thinking about Sandy Denny’s words, I think her song conveys that idea. We have calm and peaceful moods, and we can have stormy, turbulent moods, just like the sea itself. Though I seldom enjoy the pleasures of being ‘in’ the sea, I still am very much a part ‘of’ the sea. And I think that is why I enjoy taking photos of it so much.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0IMZs7u0Wo

The Sea-Written By Sandy Denny

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Monochrome Mondays

Summer is progressing here. Long lazy days where you don’t want to move around too much. Just find a shady spot somewhere and watch the world go by. Here in the big city there are lots of places, and lots of things to look at of course. Since we moved to Queens I have one favorite spot called the Anable Basin, or as some call it, the Eleventh Street Basin in Long Island City. It is an artificial inlet built in the 1860’s for industrial use. When much of that industry dried up, the area went through a period of decline before being re-purposed in the 1990’s as Gantry Plaza State Park. The park as a whole offers a lot of activities and people watching, as well as an amazing view across the river to Manhattan. But tucked away on the side of the park, runs the basin. As I have said here before, I love old buildings, and things like a ship wharf or an old brick building have a natural appeal for me. I love sitting there under the trees reading or people watching and imagining what the same view must have looked like 100 years ago. Which is just something your mind seems to do on a long lazy day in the shade.

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Home

Home is a unique word. As adults most of us have a home. An actual current home we live in. Often though we talk about other homes from our past. The home we were raised in. The home we lived in after breaking out on our own for the first time. The home we move into with our significant others. The home we spend our final days. The word evokes so much, both good and bad. Earlier tonight, I was looking at this photo I took a few weeks ago on a ferry trip from Brooklyn to Rockaway Beach. The photographer half of me took it because the scene was so inspiring on a beautiful day. The other half of me, the emotional half realized that it was my home in so many ways.

Other than 4 years off for good behavior attending college in Massachusetts, this photo represents all my ‘homes’. On the right of this photo is Brooklyn, where I was born. It also shows Queens, where my wife and I have happily lived for over two years now. On the left is New Jersey, where I grew up and spent all my youth. In the middle of course is Manhattan, where I spent my most crucial years of development. It is where I began taking up photography. It is where I dived deeper into the rich diversity of music that was there for the taking. It is where I met Jennifer, the person who has changed my life the most in so many incredible ways. It is where I learned who I am, though of course that process is ever evolving. Finally, surrounding it all is water, which connects me with my spiritual home of Ireland. Those of you familiar with my posts know that water plays a crucial role in my photography. That ebb and flow feels like life itself, and for me that is a crucial realization. My physical home may change, but for now as I ride the most meager ferry, or sip a beer on a beach, the crucial ingredient to all of them has been a connection to the water. Lakes feed the rivers, which flow to the sea, which carry you away towards home…

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Monochrome Mondays

The deeper I have gotten into photography, the more I find myself interested in the texture and contours of random objects. It might be the windows on an old building, or the pattern to a wrought iron fence. It might be the vintage lights in an old restaurant, or the lettering of a street sign. Texture was something I never really appreciated as an artistic concept I suppose.  Years ago when the computer games Myst and its sequel Riven were released, I picked up a companion book about the games called From Myst To Riven : The Creations And Inspirations. Anyone who has ever played  those games knows how groundbreaking the art was, particularly in Riven. While a great deal of it was done in a more cinematic fashion, creating worlds via the computer, the book explained that some of the styles, colors, and shapes were built around a photo expedition some of the team had made to New Mexico. While there they took close up photos of building textures-stone and brick patterns from houses, as well as plants and even Native American textiles. It opened my eyes to realizing that by moving in closer visually, shapes and color patterns can be quite intricate and fascinating in their own right. Not everything has to be seen on a large scale.

Awhile back here I used a photo of the rotunda in the old customs house here in NY (which now houses the National Museum Of The American Indian). It was a bit of trickery in that it was actually shot in color, but looked like monochrome because of the subject. I wanted to do something similar again, and while looking through some old photos remembered these shots I took last year of some white birch trees. Once again I photographed these in color, but because the bark of a birch is a variety of patterns of black and white it gave the effect of being photographed in monochrome and I really liked the end result of shapes and textures.

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Monochrome Mondays

Ireland just seems to be about light and color. Of course the first thing one thinks of is the heavy abundance of green…which is everywhere. But does green always have to be green? As I became more comfortable taking photographs, I started thinking about context, especially in relation to monochrome. I still feel that monochrome is the heart and soul of photography. There is a natural essence to it. Perhaps it is because you need to imagine the colors you see before you in a black and white photo. You obviously know that a variety of colors comprise the shot, but in the best ones, you somehow do not mind. Your see the art and starkness of the scene that color often does not represent as well. You feel the terrain before you in a landscape shot in monochrome. You sense the noise and movement before you in a cityscape shot in monochrome. You feel a connection to the person in a portrait shot in monochrome.

As with a lot of my other photographs, I often take them in both mediums to cover myself. Color photography is still wonderful and I probably take more shots in color than monochrome (though the equation is maybe 60/40 now!) Using this method in time I have figured out certain photos I know will only work best in monochrome. Such was the case with this photo taken last summer in Donegal. A random field in a sloping valley, dotted with the occasional house or sheep. It was an overcast morning when I took this, but at one point the sun started peeking through. Up to that point I had been taking color shots of the lush green fields, but once I turned and saw the light beams shining down, I instinctively adjusted the camera for monochrome, and this is the result.

Do you see ‘the colors’ in a monochrome shot?

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Soundtrack Of A Photograph, Part 12

Originally written in the early days of this blog (was it really almost 3 years ago!) I wrote longer posts then. I thought about restructuring this post and making it shorter recently, but decided instead to just make some subtle changes here and there and share it again. This is easily one of my top 5 favorite posts I have written in fact.

Soundtrack Of A Photograph

“Harmonizing For A Photo”

PART 1- The Photos

Harmony-noun, plural harmonies.

  1. Agreement; accord; harmonious relations
  2. A consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity
  3. In music-any simultaneous combination of tones especially when blended into chords pleasing to the ear.

Harmony is one of those tricky words I think. In the first definition above, we come across it as an ideal worth striving for, yet as a global culture we never seem able to achieve or attain. The second and third definitions we seem to understand and appreciate more and we do better with for whatever reason. Most of us have been moved in some way by music of some sort that utilizes harmony, be it a gospel choir or bands such as  the Beach Boys. I have touched on this sort of harmony in a few blogs already. But before I go into the musical portion of this blog…

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Monochrome Mondays

Just like in any big city, there is a lot of interesting architecture scattered around. Not just the big flashy skyscrapers, but churches, apartment buildings, and even transit buildings. The other night I went to Coney Island. For the first time I took notice of the old front of the Coney Island subway station. After years of decay and decline by the 1980’s plans eventually went in place to restore it. That included keeping the original facade to the building. The station itself was renovated nicely, with a good design and accomodating. What I love the most though is that wonderful facade with a string of lights over its entryway. It gives an air of being a theater almost. Well worth going to Coney Island for. I hear there is other ‘stuff’ at Coney Island too! 😄

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