The Glen West, 2014 conference on the arts and spirituality was unlike any conference I had attended. It was the photography section that drew me, but there was much more to learn about than photography. For example see my review of the book The Burning Word here. The photography instructor was this great guy, Michael Wilson (www.michaelwilsonphotography.com). Here he is searching for a computer file to show us.
There was some special fun to be had in class at times.
For your reading enjoyment let me mention two books that Michael encouraged us to read, both by Robert Adams, Beauty in Photography and Why People Photograph. I hope to review both of these in a future post.
For a conference related to both religion and arts it is difficult to imagine a better place than Santa Fe. It is filled with galleries (none of which I had time to visit) and historic churches. I visited the Bascilica Cathedral of St. Francis twice, the first time only outside and the second time inside as well.
On a free day many of us went to visit some more historic sites like the El Santuario de Chemayo, a place known for healings and considered very sacred by many.
People have left many signs of their visit tied to fences and any other objects. The chapel area is full of crutches and other signs of healing, but no pictures were allowed inside else I would have received some.
I chose to explore the area around the sanctuary and discovered some interesting sites like this one:
Later in the day, after visiting Taos, we encountered this old bridge crossing the Rio Grande River. Who would want to drive across this?
Prior to the conference I spent a couple of days with friends in Albuquerque. The area is filled with native sites. We visited the Acoma site and learned about the people who have lived on high mesas for centuries.
People are small in those landscapes.
I conclude with a view from St. John’s College where the conference was held.
Many fine cameras have come my way in the past few years, mostly mirror-less, but also the Sony A99. But none of them have inspired me like the Nikon Df. I love the physical controls, the minimal need for the menus, and the fantastic sensor with its superior high ISO performance. So, in my enthusiasm for this camera, and my desire to improve as a photographer I set out on what now appears an ambitious project, to post a new photo everyday for a year taken with the Nikon Df. At the time of this post I have maintained this project for about 190 days. So what have I learned so far, leaving aside the particulars of the camera itself?
There are pictures everywhere, interesting pictures. Some days are so visually rich that it is difficult to choose just one picture to post. Other days produce only one photo worth consideration so it is posted. Nevertheless, the process of getting up everyday with this commitment is enriching in the sense that it enhances my awareness of the visible environment. It is, as Dan Winter puts it, “noticing that which you are noticing.”
By necessity when I am looking for a good photo everyday I find myself thinking about how to make good photos of ordinary things. Most of my days are full of ordinary things. So this encourages a kind of perpetual openness to possibilities. It also encourages me to take different paths, a different road home from work, a different pattern in my daily routines. These changes have led to some interesting discoveries, and things in the nearby environment I had not seen before.
In is unrealistic to expect to take prize-winning pictures everyday or even every month. Still one of my photos posted so far has won a small prize in a local gallery competition. Others have been put into the files of my stock agency.
For my part I believe this daily discipline is improving my skills, certainly my union with this particular camera. It is becoming second nature to use the controls, and the potentials of various lenses are increasingly evident.
A surprise has been the discovery that people are often very cooperative in being photographed, especially when they know about my project. Even when they don’t know they often seem more than willing to be photographed.
An unexpected side benefit has been what I call the journal benefits. In other words as I scan through the pictures they form a kind of journal record of my daily travels and activities.
I have become more alert to my daily environments. Visual attentiveness, I believe, is a type of contemplation, a spiritual connection between subject and object. It is about being awake to one’s surroundings.
So while I might not recommend something as ambitious as a 365 day project, I certainly would commend shorter projects of this sort as a way to enhance awareness of both equipment and the environments of our lives.
Those who have been following the Df365 project will have noticed that I have begun to wander from exclusive use of the Df. Some days it is just more convenient to use some other camera. And those who have watched very recently will notice a fine new camera has joined the Df . More about this In a future blog. Meanwhile, keep seeing with eyes and heart.
As some readers will know I have been posting a new picture every day, taken that day, with the Nikon Df. Yesterday, June 24th was the first time I missed a day with that camera, due to travel. While traveling I kept the Sony RX100v.1 on my belt. So that has led me to reconsider my picture a day project. Starting with the 24th of June the picture a day will be with any camera I have, which was the RX100 yesterday. I suppose the Nikon Df will continue to dominate this project but the pictures will no longer be exclusively with that camera. I completed as of June 23rd 168 days of a new picture every day with the Df. Here are some additional travel shots with the RX100. The 30th street rail station in Philly is a magnificent old building.
Here is the handy belt holster for the RX100.
The reason I was traveling was for the Lenswork Roadshow led by Brooks Jensen, a truly inspirational conference.
Oh, and don’t let me forget the waitress at the Californian for lunch, who looked so puzzled when I asked if I could take her picture. “What should I do?” she said. “Just ignore me” said I.
The last three shots were taken with the Fujifilm X100s. That’s all for now.
We spent the afternoon in a lovely vineyard here in North Carolina attending the wedding of a friend’s daughter. The theme was casual country in a beautiful outdoor setting. In the hot 88 degree sun it was good to be dressed down with open collars and not ties or coats. The bride arrived in a buckboard.
When she got to the place for the service her two brothers helped her out.
The service was conducted by a friend of ours. They were in the shade of a great oak tree.
After the kiss, she replaces his hat. Nice work, girl.
Then down the isle and onto the buckboard. She has the reins!
Many years ago there was an interlude in my life when a good deal of my living was made photographing weddings. Today it was a pleasure to be under no pressure, just a time to relax with friends and enjoy a little photography. Marie and Andrew, may you have many happy years ahead.
I love clouds, all kinds of clouds in all kinds of weather. During my picture a day project with the Nikon Df I have had occasion to photograph a lot of clouds. So here is a selection. Two or three of these were put up in the picture a day with the Df but most have not been seen here before.
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time.”
― John Lubbock, The Use Of Life
“There was a star riding through clouds one night, & I said to the star, ‘Consume me’.”
― Virginia Woolf, The Waves
We all benefit from a space where clouds can be seen. The more open and expansive the better. There is something seemingly transcendent in the wonders of cloud formations. Oh yes the science has explanations for all the types of clouds, but that does not negate their art.
I expect, as long as I am able, to keep photographing clouds. Each day, every hour the skies remind us of the always changing nature of life on this wonderful planet. There surely is not another exactly like it in this whole enormous cosmos.
The woods around our house bring us many good things. The most important is beauty, but we also value the firewood in the winter, the meat for our freezer, and the peaceful place to walk and meditate. Every Spring I look forward, camera in hand, to the annual rise of the Wild Lilies. It was a wonderful surprise the first year I discovered them hidden away in the thick woods. They seem to come up almost overnight. Two weeks ago there was no sign of them, but today they are in full bloom, and some are fading already.
These flowers are such a feast for the eyes that it is a pleasure to seek different ways to photography them. I began this morning with a wide angle lens (28mm) and quickly changed to a Voigtlander 90mm for closer shots.
The Voigtlander 90mm is a fine lens capable of close focus as well as standard focus. It includes a closeup lens attachment but with flowers this large I did not have need for that.
A morning in the Spring woods photographing beautiful things is a meditative experience. The words of Jesus come to mind, “consider the lilies of the field how they grow, they neither toil nor spin yet not even Solomon in all his glory was dressed like one of these.”
As beautiful as these scenes are in color, they make for fine black and white subjects as well.
I sat for a while just taking in the peace and joy of the place, and only the call of other responsibilities brought me back to the house.
All of these photos were taken with the Nikon Df and the two Voigtlander lenses mentioned. There is one more shot from this series over in the Df365 page on this site.
Mepkin Abbey is a Trappist monastery in South Carolina near Charleston. It is on the grounds of a historic plantation that dates back to the Revolutionary war period. The environment is lovely with an abundance of Live Oak trees dripping Spanish Moss, and frontage on the Cooper river from which can be seen beautiful sunsets. I was there for a weekend retreat on the theme of Contemplative Aging with a group of about 20 people mostly over 60 years old, with the oldest lady being 88. Of course I was eager to use my camera also as a way of seeing, as a tool for contemplation of creation. These efforts were richly rewarded. One of the highlights for me was to look out the splendidly large windows of my room in the retreat center one morning, to see a magnificent very large nest where two raptors were perched. At first I thought they were hawks, then someone suggested Eagles, but they finally turned out to be Osprey, a pair preparing for their Spring family. Another highlight visually was the truly spectacular sunset on Saturday evening seen from the high bluff on the property near where the original family of the plantation is buried. The Rule of St. Benedict (the guide for Trappists) says that we should always remember death, our death, the battle against which we cannot win. So being near the cemetery and watching the truly beautiful sunset put me in touch with both the wonder of life and the reality of death, two thoughts that should ever be remembered together if we would gain wisdom.
Here is the first look at the Raptor nest: (click on the images to see them larger)
Then I walked around the intervening pond to get a closer look:
And finally got to a place almost under the nest, and waited for some action:
Here is the Saturday evening sunset which continually changed as the sun neared the horizon:
A sample of the environment: