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!

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Baptist Medical Center – Weaver Tower

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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

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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.

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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.

 

Critical Mass 2016 Finalist

Pine Study - Cary SF, from the series "Decoding the Infinite Forest"

Pine Study – Cary SF, from the series “Decoding the Infinite Forest”

I’m honored to be one of the 2016 Critical Mass Finalists for my new series “Decoding the Infinite Forest.” Many thanks to Photolucida who conducts this annual event and congrats to all on this distinguished list. Sometimes we just need a little assurance that we are on the right track…I’m grateful for the recognition.

Many of you who may not be familiar with this competition or what fine art photographers go through to promote their work. There are several international competitions held throughout the year by various organizations, often based on categories or themes. Artists submit a project (images + artist statement) and a juror (or jury) selects finalists or winners. These jurors are well known photographers, gallerists, curators, consultants, and publishers from all over the world.

Critical Mass is an annual online program conducted by Photolucida based in Portland OR. From over 800 submissions, 200 Finalists are selected. Then, a detailed review by over 200 jurors narrows the field to a Top 50 and a few top awards. Their biannual companion program is the Portfolio Reviews Festival, which I attended in 2015.

Why do we do this? There are few opportunities for an artist, say in Jacksonville FL, to have a New York gallery owner, Nat Geographic Photo Editor, or a museum curator, look at your project. Exposure and relationships are key elements in getting your work (and yourself) into the photographic community at large. In addition to having good work, you need to show up and participate to have even a remote chance of playing the game outside of your neighborhood.

What is very clear at this point in my career is that there is a lot of work left to do. Judging from the quality of the work I see in these competitions, I am inspired to keep going at it!

More information about my new series “Decoding the Infinite Forest” is in the works. I have taken the elements of my Forest re:Framed project and expanded it. More to come!

Freedom and “old growth”

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I wrote this after two weeks visiting Mt Rainier and the Upper Cascades National Parks and surrounding National Forests and State Parks. I love the Pacific Northwest filled with cloudy days and heavily forested land. But the natural history of these areas are fresh with recent memory and existing battles with timber companies and interests that put the last old growth forests at risk. It’s a continual war, and only through the diligence, tenacity, and sacrifice of concerned individuals do we have any forests left. For the general public has other priorities, and these battles are fought locally. I am indebted to all of those who are responsible for what is left and hope that there continues to be a future for these sacred lands.

7/24/16 – Making sense of the old growth

The northwest old growth forest stands in stark contrast to the southeast managed forests around my home. I was first taken by the overall sense of serenity, perhaps it was the quality of light, the temperature, the closed in feeling of the larger trees, or the different sounds of the birds and wind moving the branches. Early July meant that the leaves were fully out and that summer was in session, the trees were in full production and growth, the forest was alive. Large trees dotted the trails, enormous trunks heading straight up towards the sky. Walking amongst the foundations to these massive structures I felt insignificant. Often I reached out just to touch the bark and to try to feel the life force within. The forest floor was complex, filled with life and thick with vegetation, decaying limbs, stumps, and small trees all taking their turn at reaching for the sky. I was amazed at the diversity of growth and the sheer biomass of the scene. Primordial life as it has existed for centuries.

What occupied and interrupted my thoughts was the history of the place, and the thoughts about the old growth forests throughout our planet. These places are now very rare, less than 10% of what was, is still untouched. Is this a little or a lot? Who is to decide. The human race is consumptive, and I am an active participant in the depletion of the earth’s resources. How are we to recognize, reconcile, and rationalize what is happening to these places? What is evident for me is my awareness of what is happening, both here and in many other areas of our culture. The decisions about what gets cut, consumed, mined, polluted, extracted, and put at risk, are made by people who are primarily motivated by business. They strive for “balance,” which is all relative to where your center is. Capitalism is not self-regulating. It can become destructive by seeking goals that are not in the best interest of all…with all including non-human aspects of our planet. As I read more about the timber industry, and how trees have been (and continue to be) a pivotal factor in the economic wealth and security of nations, I realize how significant these forests are, and how drastically irresponsible we have been at even recognizing their existence.

Walking through these forests introduces the stark reality of what the forestry resource looks like. It’s like our use of water today. Each of us turns on the tap and lets the water run, because we have an infinite supply of fresh, clean water at our disposal. Why go to a lot of trouble being stingy and conserving a commodity that is cheap and abundant. Use it and focus your valuable time and effort on more important things, like watching TV and checking your social media feeds. Water is there and we have a right to it. When the Europeans landed in the New World it was the forests that completely overwhelmed their impressions. From a land whose forests had been decimated for centuries, this was a chance to start over again, to cut and cut and never have to worry about running out of timber. As they cut themselves across the country, when they reached the west coast, the timber exceeded any imagined possibility. Trees 300 feet tall and 15 feet in diameter filled the land for what seemed like forever. You could not possibly consume this much timber in several lifetimes, so cut they did. It was not until technology allowed the wholesale decimation of forests that we started to outpace these predictions. Just like our current consumption of water, we could not and would not stop.

Could we apply and learn the lessons from our old growth forests to conditions we have today? Sadly, no. As we speak the forests are being cut, and even more striking is the spread of insect infestations due to climate change taking down forests faster than the saws. Nature may be outpacing us and soon there may be no more forests to worry about.

These issues deeply concern me and draw me deeper into understanding a place where human beings have not managed to affect the natural flow of things. This is also true in the deserts of the Colorado Plateau, the boreal forests of Alaska, and in other sparsely populated areas like Death Valley. There is a certain attraction, curiosity, and connection to these remote places. The forests though, are very much alive, and it is this fragility that is so vulnerable to our intervention.

Considering that “man” has altered every other square inch of the earth makes me uncomfortable. It means that I am living in an artificial world, which is the reality of life, but something I haven’t really thought about. We always like to think that we are free beings, with the freedom of thought and existence particularly attractive, especially as Americans. But to know that we have created an artificial world, specifically to support the capitalistic “machine,” is disheartening. We cannot escape it, and running into the woods or desert is one of the few ways we can find a small glimpse of perhaps the last bit of real freedom in a real sense. Even going out on an established trail into these woods surrenders you to the fact that someone has established a path for you, one that you must take (“please stay on the trail”), but at least you can see beyond the trail and envision yourself in a place that is unique to you.

That is the attraction of these places for me. It is a reprieve and exercise of freedom in a visual sense to see nature unaltered by man. It is a necessary respite for all of us and re-establishes our existence as free individuals.