Cherry Blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Cherry Blossoms - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Luck has it that the cherry blossoms were almost peak at the Botanic during my visit to see my daughter. I was fortunate to experience the blooms back in 2014 when the flowers peaked on May 9. The gardens in bloom are quite magical especially when you are alone walking around in the misty coolness of the early morning. There was a small group of Japanese people, taking their time and moving slowly through the main walkway. They were noisy.

Cherry Blossoms - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

I was hoping that the drizzle would slow and it did, as I put the umbrella back in the backpack and started my routine of working the scene. I remembered some of the compositions of 3 years ago and did not want to repeat them. When I am photographing I normally don’t have an end in mind. Usually it is based on time or light or some other condition that causes me to stop.

Cherry Blossoms - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

I wandered out of the main Cherry Esplanade area and into the Japanese garden, another very peaceful area in the morning. For some reason I wasn’t finding what I needed here, the man-made constructions were too obvious and I made my way to this huge walnut tree that exuded so much power and quiet strength. I could see that the noisy group had finished their time with the cherry trees so I headed back that way only to find that my eyes for seeing were done. I had been in focused observation for 90 minutes and that is close to my limit. Found a place to sit and wait for my granddaughter to arrive. I shifted into family picture mode and ended up having a wonderful morning.

Walnut tree - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Guana River WMA

Marsh at North Jones Creek

Admittedly I haven’t spent much time at Guana and had never taken my bike onto the extensive trails to do any exploring. I made a reconnaissance trip to the north-west entrance to the park and did a small hike to take a look. Parking was very easy as the lot is designed to accommodate horse trailers. Walking on an equestrian path is not my preference for a wilderness trail. I returned with my bike and with my loaded backpack complete with tripod I headed into the park in search of wonderful things. My first stop managed to capture the last of the overcast light, and the sun burst through the clouds as I completed my shooting and I sighed with disappointment. No clouds in sight. I decided to keep moving on. The trails were flat but sandy in many areas and the weight of my gear was really starting to challenge me, plus the temperature was rising fast. I covered a trail that skirted Guana Lake but could not find a good place to access the water. The vegetation is very thick and full of bugs! After riding for about an hour I decided to head back and return when the light was better. Sometimes my dependence on the weather becomes a major hindrance on when I can shoot outside, but I have never been able to deal with the bright contrasty light of a sunny day.

Guana WMA, Ponte Vedra Beach, FL

Cloud Pool

Big Talbot Artist Residency

Big Talbot Island - View from the Milam House

Backyard View from the Milam House – Big Talbot Island

I’m enjoying a week at Big Talbot Island at the Milam House graciously provided by the North Florida Land Trust. This property is located on the only residential street on the island, a wayward attempt by the state to raise money by selling properties. Fortunately the idea was short lived before developers transformed this area into an Amelia Island resort. Driving up AIA and seeing the beachfront mansions one is reminded of the power of wealth to own property and do what they want with it. Certainly preserving unique and beautiful land for the public to access and enjoy is a privilege and something I support our government to pursue. There is less and less undeveloped land (especially desirable property near the water) and I can easily envision the crowded houses each with their own dock obliterating any natural view of what this land was like before everyone decided to take a piece for themselves.

Very rarely do I take time to be away from home and the studio to just be by myself. It’s been an adjustment. After entertaining friends and family for a few days I finally faced the reality of dealing with myself and what I wanted to do. “Nothing” never seems to be an option for me, but perhaps should be considered seriously. I started complaining about the breezy bright sunny cloudless day and decided this was a message not to go out and shoot. There are plenty of overcast days that will offer themselves in the future. Right now it is sunny, so enjoy it. Being alone in a wonderful place is special. I will see what it produces, if anything. For now it doesn’t matter.

Blackrock Beach - Big Talbot Island

Blackrock Beach – Big Talbot Island

Piezography – Not for the faint of heart

Piezography Pro inksI’ve been spending the past few weeks converting my old Epson Stylus 9900 printer to an OEM inkset, Piezography Pro, made by Jon Cone in Vermont. When I purchased my new Surecolor P9000 a few months ago, I debated whether to give my old printer away, sell it, or convert it to a B&W only printer. My interest in the Piezography inks started many years ago when I learned about the story of Jon Cone and his pursuit of quality prints from inkjet printers. I believe that one should understand as thoroughly as possible one’s own choices for medium. We are all interested in achieving the highest quality output for our work and this I believe is the current state of the art for inkjet black and white printing. If you are interested in more information about Piezography, download the Manual in the Community Edition.

Piezography Pro is a new version of the inkset that contains 10 inks and a gloss optimizer. You can produce an infinite variety of tone variations for highlights, midtones, and shadows using the warm toned and cool toned inks (4 of each). My previous B&W workflow used the Epson Advanced B&W Mode, which bypasses the ink profile system and manages the printing through a series of user selectable values for color toning and brightness. When Epson provided a 3 B&W ink tones (Black, Light Black, Light Light Black) this was touted as a revolutionary advancement, and indeed it is capable of producing impressive B&W prints. But there was always that inkjet look to them, something that hinted as a compromise, but you could not put your finger on it.

With the Piezography Pro inkset, there are basically 5 tones (HD Black, Dark Gray, Medium Gray, Light Gray, Very Light Gray) in a Warm and Cool variation, making a total of 10 inks. Then there is a one pass Gloss optimizer that removes any gloss differentiation due to unprinted paper showing. Only after looking at several of my prints with any areas of “white” did I see how prevalent (and distracting) this is.

I decided to flush my printer first with PiezoFlush which required a second set of refillable cartridges ($560). I had a stubborn Green channel and hoped that the flush would clear it up, which it did. Then I installed the Piezography Pro inks ($840 for the 250ml set) in another set of cartridges (btw, a set of 11 empty carts is $325). During the flush and installation, I’m sure another $150 worth of ink went into the maintenance tank, which filled up ($40). Piezography requires Quadtone RIP (QTR) software to send your file to the printer. QTR is shareware with a $50 donation. Printing is not as convenient as going directly to your Epson via Lightroom. Another learning curve. Speaking of curves, to get the most out of calibrating your system, you can “linearize” your output using a spectrophotometer (I have an i1Profiler). Lots of work. Is it worth it?

My preliminary tests using a “Proof of Piezography” test file shows dramatic improvements in the printing of dark shadow areas when compared to Epson’s ABW mode. Where ABW prints as all black, I get a visible 10-level gradation. Impressive. How this translates to an improvement in print quality I will need more experience. Almost time to buy more ink.

proofofpiezography-21

Solitude at Cary State Forest

Cary State Forest

The fog was thick this morning and i deliberated on where to go. We knew it was coming, and the morning schedule was empty. I decided to visit Ringhaver Park so that I could sleep in a bit and to check out the big oaks in the fog. Upon arrival a big dog in the yard next to the entrance was all excited and ready to tear down his fence. This disturbed my normal quiet preparation and entry and found myself anxious about disturbing the peace of the morning. As I walked into the park I said hello to a lady walking her dog. I had startled her and I’m sure she was wondering what all the tripod and camera gear was all about. As I set up for my first shot the mosquitoes started to attack, first covering my camera and then my face. Wow, I didn’t expect this kind of reception. I walked to my go-to area of trees and as I took a quick test shot, knew that this wasn’t going to work. My plan was to return to the car, spray myself down with Off! and then return. On my way out a strange man approached me and commented on my camera gear. I headed out and decided to come back another day as the dog resumed his barking.

It was already 8:40 but I decided to head out to Cary State Forest, a 30 minute drive. I needed some peace and quiet and wasn’t prepared to waste this special morning. As I arrived at Cary the fog was still very thick and I drove up Fire Tower Road and stopped several times just to look. I felt that I had shot many compositions on this road before and was satisfied with just enjoying the solitude of the moment. With the exception of some highway noise off 301, all was quiet. I wondered about and got out the camera. I played around with no intentions or plans. That’s generally how I like it. The roads are always a bit disorienting and I followed my intuition and drove towards the light. A few panorama compositions were captured, and the sun started to emerge around 10:30. Time to go.

Cary State Forest - Fire Tower Road

Osceola National Forest

 

OsceolaNF_2017-0104-166

There are 3 National Forests in Florida, Osceola is one of them. I haven’t been here in several years so I was much overdue, especially in light of the forest project I’m working on. Getting here requires a 90 minute drive which mean’s Doug has to get up at 5 am, not an easy task. I was late for the sunrise but managed to catch the tail end of the fog as it lifted when the sun rose. There were several hunters actively loaded up to shoot some deer with their dogs. I was not comfortable driving around after passing a caravan of 6 trucks, but I was done by 10. The area is huge and will require some dedicated visits to get things covered. Lots of material here!

OsceolaNF_2017-0104-175

Baptist Medical Center – Weaver Tower

Baptist-Weaver_2016-1122-012

On Tuesday we installed “Connected Stillness” in the Baptist Medical Center Weaver Tower, 1st floor lobby near the elevators. The 40 ft long installation depicts a typical morning at Cary State Forest, and combines photography and 3d elements. My hope is to offer a familiar, peaceful, and calming scene to those entering the hospital. It is a great privilege to offer this work to those who may need the power of art to move them to a higher place.

Baptist-Weaver_2016-1122-001

Gratitude goes out to my installation team Robert, Dorian, and Donald, my project co-collaborator Ryan Buckley of Gallery Framery, and my art representative Hillary Whitaker of Stellers Gallery at Ponte Vedra.

Cary Forest Study 632

Cary Forest Study 632

For the first time I was able to take one of my forest panoramas and incorporate it into an interpretive piece of art that reflects my intention for these large photographs. The forest extends horizontally and is momentarily interrupted by bits of the forest, natural branches that infill small alcoves between the canvases holding the larger print. These “bridges” connect the imagery together, and allow us to return back to the reality of the composition of the forest – wood, branches, and the interconnectedness of living things. The gaps must be jumped in order to progress visually through the 2-D composition.

The alcoves in the walls formed perfect pockets for the branches, allowing them to seamlessly fit in and provide the connection to the real world.

Branches   IMG_1478

Those who have visited my studio over the past few years now know what I had in mind for those bundles of branches. I don’t know why it took so long to develop this into a final idea. There was some experimentation on technique for the assembly and final finish. Overall I was pleased with the outcome and hope to extend the concepts with additional pieces.

Julington Durbin Preserve after the hurricane

Julington-Durbin_2016-1014-063

Hurricane Matthew slammed into Jacksonville on October 7 and caused widespread flooding to the beaches, but was not the catastrophic event everyone was predicting, which was a good thing. We have not had a major storm since 1964. We lost power at the house for 4 long days, and the tree removal in our immediate area of Mandarin will go on for weeks. Today I ventured out to the Julington-Durbin Preserve to check out any damage and could find very little in terms of downed trees. There was a lot of standing water making it difficult to get around without getting wet feet (which I quickly succumbed to), and of course the mosquitoes were having a field day. The fall wildflowers were in bloom and all was well in the woods, contrasted with the chaos and disruption on the civilized side of town.

Julington-Durbin_2016-1014-075

Julington-Durbin_2016-1014-089

Lenscratch Art + Science

Lenscratch

 

I am thrilled to be featured in the Lenscratch Art + Science series, curated by Linda Alterwitz. I met Linda at Mary Virginia Swanson’s Advanced Marketing workshop in 2014, and we touched base at PhotoNOLA in 2015. Here’s to the power of contacts and relationships. The project was formerly named The Forest re:Framed, in fact, my website still needs a little updating. The study is an inquiry into forests and the collective of trees that make up the forest. I wanted to find a visual expression of the forest “encoding” or visual footprint that I started to observe. My observations have been largely subliminal. Something caught my interest but I couldn’t put my finger on it.

Decoding the Infinite Forest

Then I created this image, Barcode Cypress, at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, and realized that perhaps a visual code could be derived from views into the trees. What used to be the repetitive landscape of pines now became an opportunity to discover an underlying message. With an increased attention given to the inner workings of forest tree communities (The Hidden Life of Trees), I’m excited to be looking deeper into a new-found subject that has been part of the overlooked Florida landscape. Finding interest in the ordinary is something I’ve always enjoyed.

Southern Icons A-Z

Cypress on Suwannee Sill
S: Still Scene, Southern Swamp
By Hastings Hensel
Perhaps especially with this—
a swamp in all its mossy stillness,

caught in a photograph by Douglas Eng—
the mind must impress some phrase,

must make an order out of metaphor,
for such is the way of reflection, and so:

the world, it seems, is turned in on itself
at the waterline—cypress and tupelo trees

like narcissists, solipsists, as if nothing
existed in the world except themselves,

especially not sound: not wing-beat,
not tail-slap, not splash, no sibilance

of the cottonmouth, only this silence,
and, because they are not razed (not yet

at least), the mind believes the trees proud,
and tells the ear to hear a cry, full of praise.

This weekend I was part of an exhibition at Slow Exposures in Zebulon GA. The exhibit Southern Icons A-Z was curated by Rob McDonald, Donna Rosser, and Meryl Truett, and contained 26 photographs with accompanying text, each one representing a word characterizing the South. I received the letter “S” for “swamp.” My immdeiate choice was an image I made in the spring of 2014 at the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge title “Cypress on Suwanee Sill.” The Okefenokee typifies the classic southern swamp, full of mystery, darkness, wetness, and bugs. The Suwanee Sill is a berm that runs along a canal that borders the west boundary of the park. The canal intersects the Suwanee River. Along the sill one can drive and then walk along the forested edge and most of the time not see another soul.

I was honored to be part of this group show and very pleased with the collaborative prose authored by Hastings Hensel.