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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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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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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Monochrome Mondays

Well it is really starting to warm up where I live after a few false starts, which means it is good to get out on the water. As I think I have said before, I like being near the water year round, but lets face it-summertime is the best. Last Friday I took advantage of a new ferry ride available in the city. It was such a beautiful evening, and I went right from where I work in Brooklyn all the way out to the Rockaways. My friend and fellow blogger Trudy did a great job describing what to expect from the ferry ride (and some great photos too!) so please read her post here.

Of course I had my camera with me and caught some great shots of all the bridges and  Rockaway Beach in my short time there. For more photos from the trip be sure to follow me on Instagram or Facebook (links below or to the right). Tempted though I was to stay longer,  I wanted to take the slightly longer return trip back to Manhattan while the sun was going down. It was just one of those beautiful nights to be out on a boat with the wind and the waves, not to mention a cold beer to boot! I took this photo just before getting back on the ferry from the pier in Rockaway. Something I thought of as I was taking it was that I love that New York City is not all about the buildings, cars and congestion. There is a surprising amount of nature-parks, beaches, and plenty of opportunity to be out on the water as well. Being out at Rockaway with the sun going down and the skyscrapers of Manhattan off in the distance (and humming a certain Ramones song) is a wonderful way to spend an evening I must say.

Rockaway Beach Pier

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Monochrome Mondays

I’ve always been a fan of optical illusions. Those subtle little works of art that play little tricks on the viewers eyes. They can be fun games to play with people. I’m sure everyone at some point has played the ‘is it a vase, or is it a silhouette of two people game’. Or stared at photos to reveal a hidden object after a period of time. Or tried proving that objects that are further away appear smaller (just like Father Ted once exasperatingly tried to do!). Here’s a list of some of the classic ones-http://https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_optical_illusions

Artists such as MC Escher, Salvador Dali, and Marcel Duchamp utilized various types of optical illusions as well in their work. As I said in my recent post Terra Firma, sometimes in the moments before you take a photo, you get a sense of where you are going with the shot. You know what you are after, and you just hope the technique and decisions you choose are the right ones. I remember when I saw this scene for the first time I had the vaguest sense of it being an optical illusion of sorts in the way the archway fades up towards the distance. What do you think? What are your favorite illusions?

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