How To Shoot Yourself While Standing In A River:

Taking the selfie to the next level…

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The last sliver of sunlight on the canyon’s walls. Deschutes River Canyon, Oregon. (Click on any image to see it larger)

I have made dozens of pilgrimages to this sacred, riverine wilderness over the past twenty years. And within the delicious, unfolding hours that those magical days have afforded me, I have found myself, again and again, knee deep, balanced upon some submerged rock, fly rod in hand, asking for two simple gifts: trout willing to dance and a healing swirl of currents to pull and prod, and tug at the edges of my soul until, finally, I can release my grip on all those perceived slights and frets I have carefully gathered and kept score with during the months prior. This is big work. Thankfully, the river is even bigger.

Last summer I managed several consecutive days alone here, wading and fishing, harvesting wild currants and mint, making pictures of the river’s changing moods and falling into ever deeper states of calm with first-light awakenings and mid-afternoon naps beneath rustling trees. Slowly the chattering monkeys in my head quieted and I found myself thinking about a somewhat different kind of picture, one that might explain what a fly fisherman feels while lost utterly within ‘the pregnant moment’ of fishing. I haven’t had words to explain that experience, so profoundly moving to me and others, but I’ve longed to be able to share it,  to explain the strange, calming effect of the water and light, and the dances with fish to those who inquire.

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And so, five full days into my solo adventure, after an early dinner in camp I packed my heavy tripod and camera gear, grabbed my fly rod and donned my fishing vest, then headed off through heavy brush and a tangled thicket of trees toward a particularly picturesque and braided stretch of river.

In my mind I had begun to form an image that flowed with motion, with the hush of fading, midsummer light and with a fisherman’s calm, purposeful concentration. I was not envisioning a picture about catching a fish, but rather a picture about the search for fish. Anyone experienced with a fly rod knows that far more moments are spent searching for fish than playing fish, that it is the search that is the real gift, the meditation, the repeated koan. But how? How would one manage to record the beauty inherent within that lonely quest while standing there at the edge of the river all alone?

I had an idea.

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One of the coolest new features of the new Canon 6D, at least to this photographer’s mind is the built-in wi-fi capability its thoughtful makers have embedded within it, and those subsequent conversations now possible between a high quality, full frame SLR camera and an iPhone. Here, another dusk practice session, this one two days before standing in the river to shoot. I was intent on learning to make all the pieces work together seamlessly, but hadn’t even begun to imagine the fishing shot yet.

I had not attempted anything quite like what I was imagining nor did I know of anyone who had, but it occurred to me that maybe I could use Canon’s groovy new EOS Remote iPhone app to visualize and position myself perfectly within a framed-up image, then trigger the camera to capture my photograph, a selfie if you will, of the only possible fisherman in the vicinity intently exploring a stretch of pocket water in search of rainbow trout, at dusk. Undoubtedly, this was going to be more complicated than a simple, eyes-to-camera selfie, but figuring out how to do even that remotely was something I needed to master before attempting additional layers of complexity.

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iPhone screen captures, pictured side by side, showing how the app interface appears to the viewer as the phone and camera find one another.

As you can imagine, I was apprehensive about placing my brand new camera and L series wide-angle lens on a tripod in the river and then walking away from it, no matter how carefully I’d situated the tripod’s feet among those slippery rocks in shin-deep water. I could just imagine the setup slowly tipping over and disappearing beneath the surface as I walked away, or accidentally kicking it over as I tried to move around from behind it. I double and then triple-checked my setup for stability, carefully attached and leveled my camera, zooming out and framing up my shot in a way that would allow the viewer’s eye to move naturally through the scene from watery foreground to silhouetted fisherman, to eventually, pastel-colored dusky sky. Ever so slowly then I moved away from the camera itself and into the camera’s frame. When I was approximately where I thought I needed to be as the focal point of the shot, I activated the EOS Remote app on my phone’s screen and ‘looked’ through the camera’s viewfinder to see exactly what the camera was seeing.

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Obviously, I was still too close. And my back was turned too much to the camera. I moved two steps further toward the river’s center and a step to my right, tucking in behind a few leafy branches within the frame, then turned my body slightly more profile to the camera. I checked the screen again to see how the camera was seeing it. Much better.

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From the phone’s touchscreen then I manipulated my camera’s controls, dialing the shutter speed way down to allow the water in the foreground to blur out as it flowed through the scene during a long exposure, but discovered that there was still far too much light in the sky to slow my shutter speed suitably, even when shooting at low ISO and tiny apertures. I fired off a few frames, experimenting with the way I should hold my fly rod and where I should point it, but couldn’t yet manage the moody image I wanted. Even though the sun had dipped below the canyon rim on the far horizon, it was still too high and the sky far too bright, so guessing the light would probably be problematic for at least another half hour, I decided to go fishing.

Once my iPhone 5 was safely sealed back into its ziplock bag and tucked it into a pocket I carefully made my way back to the Canon 6D on the tripod, switched it off to save battery power and worked my way upstream. Hello there, fishies.

Between 7:58 and 8:39PM, as the light faded and the skies colored up, I caught and released three eager rainbow trout that were feeding in the “pocket water” upstream from my photo setup, then carefully worked my way back down to that sheltered stretch where my camera sat unattended within the swirling river. Whew! Still there. And dry. After switching the  Canon 6D back on and reconnecting with my iPhone via it’s internal wifi network, I waded back out to that picture-perfect little spot I’d earlier identified as ideal and began refining my position.

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The first shot in this trio shows me before I moved farther away from the camera and tucked in behind those leafy branches. In the second I’ve moved and turned a bit more sideways to the camera, but my posture feels too upright. In the third I’m in an attentive, low crouch, minimizing the chances that a nearby fish will spy me and spook.

The light levels had dropped substantially so I was now able to underexpose for mood while managing full, one second long exposures at f-20 rather than those 1/5 second exposures I’d needed earlier. In practical terms that allowed both for immense depth of focus and for that blurred, watery foreground, with literally five times as much movement as before, which certainly would add to the dreamy effect I was after.

With tripoded camera set on self-timer mode, shutter speed set to one second and exposure set to about one and a half stops underexposed, via the iPhone, I began to shoot in earnest, triggering the camera’s self-timer, then carefully pocketing my iPhone, assuming the position, flyrod extended and holding very still. I knew the camera would probably record some wiggle motion in me and my extended fly rod during such long exposures but also believed this might add to the integrity of the shot. (Imagine the fisherman in such a photograph frozen, perfectly still while the water moved all around him. It would  seem inauthentic and psychologically diminish the ‘truth’ of the shot.)

Each time I triggered the self-timer, I counted it down in my head, then waited in position for several more seconds, just to be sure. I did this fifteen times, selecting and zooming into each newly recorded image via my iPhone’s screen immediately after each capture, refining slightly as I went. With an aperture of f-20 on a 16mm lens, which I’d manually focused at about four feet distance, I knew the image would be sharp from the near foreground to a distance of infinity, so depth of field was not going to be an issue. And by viewing what my remotely triggered camera had recorded each time, via my phone, I knew my exposure was on target for the mood I was after and that my fisherman’s positions were improving aesthetically, bit by bit.

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The series of shots I made using the EOS Remote app that evening, as seen in a screen capture of my desktop computer’s Adobe Lightroom workspace.

Finally, confident I had a handful of images that worked as intended, I waded carefully back toward my camera, along the way pausing to prop my beloved fly rod ever so carefully on a rock in the foreground. With a simple swing of the camera to the left (upstream), I was able then to frame up another simpler shot, this time without the silhouetted fisherman.

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Selfies, digital self-portraits are boon to some minds and narcissistic bane to others. And regardless your opinion of their value to, or drag upon our collective psyche, they have been around in some form for as long as human beings have been curious and self-aware. Having once seen our reflections in the mirrored surface of a river at sunset, we could not help but wonder about the hidden depths of those fascinating persons reflected in the water. Our hungry imaginations demanded we ponder the implications of those eyes looking back at us, and that we try to see further into them. As we learned to draw, to carve, to rhyme, to paint, our explorations took on ever more elaborate and lasting dimensions. And so we artists of every age and medium since have found ways to explore the worlds we live in by examining  and picturing those unique physical vessels within which we breathe and move.

Self-portraits are an ancient and time-tested art form, and are without question here to stay.

This is the humble story of just one of them.

If you have questions about any aspect of this little project that I haven’t adequately covered here, please leave a comment and ask away. I’ll tell ya’ whatever I know. And once again, without you I’d just be standing here talking to myself, so my thanks once again for following along…

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Crawl, Don’t Walk

 A late-March, nose-to-the-ground wander through one gardener’s emerging shade garden.

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It’s early yet, but already this winter-dormant garden is beginning to push upward and out, a transformation worthy of careful attention. You won’t see much if you’re standing, though. Not at this stage. No, for now the magic is close to the ground. If you were standing here in my garden with me I’d tell you, “Go on, risk it. Get down on your hands and knees. Let your elbows get a little wet. Belly up to my emerging shade wonderland, my friend.”

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Soon enough these tender new shoots, these unfolding wonders will have knit themselves together into a lush, intricate, verdant quilt of life. You’ll be scarcely be able to see even the smallest patch of soil before long. And then, yes then it will make perfect sense to find some higher vantage point, a way to look down upon it all from above. For now though, I hope you can see why my humble shade garden seems best, viewed in tiny, bite-size vignettes . . . and from a crawl. (Click on the image below to see a much larger version.)

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Each of the photos in this blog post (with the exception of the one below), was captured with a Canon G-12 point and shoot camera, in much the way you see me below capturing what turned out to be the first shot in this blog post. This self-portrait was captured with my iPhone 5, the aid of a Joby GorillaPod and one of my favorite photo apps, Camera+.

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Left On The Cutting Room Floor, building my Flower & Garden Show Lecture…

Here’s the perfect chance to show some of my favorite, never before seen pictures that didn’t make the final cut for the book and share several behind the scenes tales from the making of The 50 Mile Bouquet

But how to weave all that into a story that will fascinate, entertain and flow over the imaginations of the audience like water? …or should that be like warm butter?

Start with tens of thousands of images shot in dozens and dozens of locations over a period of five years. Faces, places, relationships, actions, flowers, hands, bouquets, creatures, concepts. Now narrow that immense sea of images down to less than 200 that make sense for the book I co-created this past year with garden author Debra Prinzing, book designer James Forkner and the talented folks at St. Lynn’s Press. How exactly does one build a single slide that addresses all of that?

Here are the iPhone generated photos I shot yesterday as I worked out how to grapple with this ‘funnel it all into your brain’ concept.

First: I’m looking for something that I can use that looks like an immense funnel. Cue the violins as I dig this light fixture out of a dusty box in the basement and try to remember why I haven’t put it up outside my basement door yet. I hold it up while my trusty little iPhone camera counts down the seconds before shooting the self-timer triggered picture. Hooray for Camera+!

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OK, it looks enough like a funnel that I think I can use it, but how can I get it to float properly above my head without having to hold it there? Thinking cap time. (PS, I’m wearing the hat in this case partly because I don’t want to have to go take a shower and wash my uber-frumpy hair before I can do this thing…)

20130131_DPP-4Hmmmmm, a light stand, a triangular scrap of wood and a clamp. Yes, I’ll have to retouch out the stand and the back part of the light fixture, but on a dark, textureless background, that should be easy enough. Notice that I’ve now traded my regular eyeglasses for my three dollar “BugEye” glasses to add an overall touch of elegance and class to the image. And notice too that I’ve got the camera tilted at an angle so I can add type to the lighter side of the image while accommodating the crookedness of the ‘funnel’ since it’s hanging all cattywompus from the light stand/clamp. Tricksy little hobbit.

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By jove, I think we’ve got it. And I didn’t even have to take a shower.

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Oh noes… Can it really have been that easy? A mere half-hour from initial brainstorm to final shot. Still gotta download it into the computer and retouch it in Photoshop. And I need to come up with some kind of special effect for the myriad of photos that will be pouring down from the heavens into the funnel. Doh, and I still need to figure out what the slide should actually say, pick a font and then add the type. But hey…

Total build time for this one ‘concept’ slide: About 3.5 hours.

Only 79 or 80 more to go…     Stay tuned.

Want to see how it all comes together? Come to the Northwest Flower and Garden Show on Friday, February 22. I’ll be presenting this seminar, Left on the Cutting Room Floor at 2:45 pm in the Hood Room and then signing copies of The 50 Mile Bouquet immediately following. Lectures at the NWFGS are free.

Today is building slides day, in preparation for the Northwest Flower & Garden Show.
Today is another building slides day, in preparation for the Northwest Flower & Garden Show.

 

Wait, you did that with an iPhone?

OK, I shot it with an iPhone but finished the look on an iPad with a few inexpensive apps.

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Every few weeks someone feels the need to reiterate, to me and to any others within yelling distance that he or she “IS NOT IMPRESSED” with all the damned hullabaloo surrounding the wonders of photography now possible via iPhones and iPads. A few have even had the nuts to tell me I should get back to making ‘real’ photographs with ‘real’ cameras. Foolishly, I tried to argue with an early smattering of these temperamental souls, but as it turned out this proved only an exercise in breath control and utter futility. Once the direction of that path became clear I surrendered it happily; surrendered any need to try to change their minds or talk them into something that they adamantly didn’t want to be talked into. Instead, I went back to playing, making pictures for myself and not for them, exploring the world much as I have since early childhood, letting discovery and wonder lead me where it would.

I’m happier this way.

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The sun-bleached remains of a coyote, pictured with my iPhone 4 late last October. I came upon this scene while fly fishing on the Yakima river, walking the railroad track that traces the western edge of the river, scanning the waters below for rising trout.

 

The picture, as shot (above), was really just a record of what was, of what my eyes had seen when I paused that day to study the bones of a convoluted story abandoned to the elements and an unfolding string of days. It was not an image that would stop anyone in their tracks or pull them magnetically into a story, or really, leave them curious to know more. But it did seem there was potential for something far more evocative if  played with a bit. So I shot several variations, then picked up my fly rod and worked my way back down to the water to fish.

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Later, back in camp, I began to explore it with an app called Alt Photo to see if I could transform the simple photo I’d taken into an altered state more closely echoing the sun-bleached feel of the bones, skull and rocks. Then I called upon yet another app, this one an iPad app called Vintage HD which allowed me to colorize and subtly border the image, leaving it with the feel of an old, creased and tinted black-and-white print. Finally, my eyes liked what they were seeing.

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With these stacked effects saved and locked-in atop one another the photo definitely had a more vivid sense of story than the original but something was still missing. Maybe it needed to appear as if matted, I thought, the way my grandfather would have matted one of his ‘salon’ prints before submitting it for exhibition back in the good old days. And maybe too, the image needed a few stylized ‘identifiers’ to sweeten its contract with the viewer, a credit line and an image title doubling as typographic elements to provide both pertinent information and one more layer of aesthetic interest.

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A screen capture taken on my iPad from within the Vintage HD app, showing the digitally added border and age effect selected which helps complete the illusion of a creased, time-worn print.

Once I had saved this ‘aged print’ file to my ‘camera roll’ I then imported it into a relatively new, iPad/touch-screen version of Photoshop called PS Touch. Here’s the app’s splash screen so you’ll know what you’re looking for, should you decide you need it.

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One of the real beauties of PS Touch is that you can create individual layers for different elements which can then be moved, brightened, resized, or dialed back in opacity relative to everything else. Look at the next image, below and you can see that the now-matted image exists in the app as three layers. See the thumbnails of those three layers on the lower right side of the image? The copyright/photo credit and the word ‘COYOTE’ both float as individual see-through layers above the tinted, matted base image. I have positioned and slanted and tinted the type, and dialed back the opacity of these layers to place their elements visually, ‘just so’, allowing them to work toward an overall ‘old timey’ effect. Some with better design and typographic sensibilities than mine may form strong opinions about what I’ve done ‘wrong’ here and what I might have done better, but the basic principle of being able to take a humble, iPhone-captured image of a coyote skull and playfully transform it, thus, with nothing more than a few inexpensive apps, well that seems fairly universal in its appeal for any who would enlarge their ideas about the sorts of pictures they and their iPhones are capable of.

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Below, a screen capture of the two typographic layers, viewed alone, with the background/image layer turned off. This may help those who aren’t well acquainted with the notion of layers to see better how they work. By clicking each layer on or off, one can try out several variations to see what works and then save only those layers that do work, or save all the layers, while leaving only certain ones visible. Seriously, being able to work with layers has always been cool, but layers on a finger-driven touch screen simply rocks!

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Here’s the final matted version (below), and just beneath that, a very different effect, made from a vertical shot of the same skull, which I processed first in a weird and delicious app called MangaCamera and then a few more apps, including Camera+ and Over, to get to the poster image you see. Can you see how such play could become addictive?

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If you’d like more information about booking an iPhone/iPad photo seminar/workshop for your group, or if you would like to discuss personal photo coaching, either in-person coaching or through distance learning, please contact me via email, Facebook message, etc. Here’s all the info you should need to reach me.

About Me: David Perry

 

Christmas by the Golden Rule

Give Unto Others As You Would Have Them Give Unto You. 

For your esteemed consideration, a brief list of gift possibilities that have nothing whatsoever to do with endless asphalt parking lots, elbow-throwing shoppers, overworked credit cards, feelings of anxiety and resentment, and/or inevitable, near-horizon additions to your town’s overtaxed landfills.

If I could give the sort of gifts that I would love to receive they would look like these.

For someone ready to move into the next phase of his/her life: Folded neatly and tied with cotton twine; a recently-shed and very magical snake skin, found during a hike along an abandoned railroad grade high, above Oregon’s wild and beautiful, Deschutes River. A gift that will remind your loved one that shedding what no longer fits and then moving on, though sometimes fearful, is as natural as the progression of days within a life itself.

These gifts might not cost anything in dollars, but in each case they would cost their givers in time and awareness, and intention, which really, seem far more valuable as currencies.

A hand-carved Pine Bark Bunny, whittled while leaning against an immense sun-baked rock, surrounded by the pungent heat of a summer’s afternoon. Whether used as a Christmas tree ornament or a bookshelf chotchky, this little bark bunny is a gift of hope and playfulness, and a reminder that magical totem creatures may be found in the least likely places to help you in your journey. (I was first introduced to pine bark carvings as a very young boy by my dad who surprised me with a wonderful toy he’d carved for me while he was conversing with an old friend along a summer lake shore. They have fascinated me ever since.)

From the very edge of the earth . . .

Stones and Shells gathered on a rainy, healing winter’s walk along the beach: Here then is a gift that acknowledges the beauty of an ever-changing shoreline, honors the beauty that remains from a life that was, and that reminds its recipient of the softening, hard-edge smoothing effects of those crashing waves that sometimes pound against us.

Flavorful medicine for the chills of winter and the senses of the imaginative soul:

Wild-gathered mint, enough for at least a couple of pots of healing tea. So many of the medicines our hearts and bodies need are out there within the living, breathing world, as opposed to being found within the cello-wrapped packages on store shelves. This bundle of wild mint, gathered in a lowland seep along an untamed river has been drying and breathing within a cool, dark closet since summer, awaiting its chance to enliven the senses and relive aspects of its midsummer glory. Steeping these fragrant leaves within steaming, pure water will release healing essential oils and dream-inducing smells, and magically some of that warm summertime calm may reanimate and share itself with the sipper from within a china cup.

An invitation to consider what lies beneath and to risk letting it be seen:

Chestnuts resting in their prickly husks; Just beneath the spiny surface of so many wondrous things, flavors and colors and the tactile sense of utter smoothness. How many of us have built up spiny exteriors as a means of protection from those things we fear will touch our lives in ways we do not welcome or understand? And how many of us, having grown that prickly exterior, now feel trapped within it, so that those we love are now afraid of us and reluctant to even try to get very close. This is a gift that says, “I see you. I see beneath that gruff exterior and know that there is such a wealth of goodness, even softness buried just beneath it . . . and I am calling out to you to shed some of those thorns, if only for me.” What imprisoned soul wouldn’t find a tiny jolt of recognition and relief at receiving such a gift?

A reminder to live beautifully wherever you are, to draw warmth from the coldness of others and nourishment from the very air you breathe.

Here is the one gift in this humble gift collection that required any ‘buying’, for Tillandsia (air plants), simply do not grow wild in this region I call home. However, an air plant this size can probably be obtained from your local nursery or garden store for between five and ten dollars, and given that it needs no soil in order to live a healthy life it strikes me as a particularly powerful metaphor for a gift. One simply needs provide one of these magical plants a humble place to reside and no matter how poor its surroundings, it will find a way to gather what it needs, both to thrive and to grow ever more beautiful. This particular tillandsia lives atop a beautifully weathered ‘lava’ rock brought home from a camping and fishing trip along a lonely stretch of high desert river. Taken together, this handsome twosome provides a study in contrasts that continually dances with my imagination.

And so it goes, you see…

Of course, not everyone would understand such gifts, and some, inevitably would see them as uncool and unfair, as ‘cheap-outs’ or tight-wadded attempts to save their givers money rather than deeply thoughtful gestures that were intended to be delivered with a story and an implied, “I see you and love you.” Perhaps you will be able to see some of the gold that this soul suspects would result if each of us began to celebrate all of our holidays in closer accordance with that magical golden rule, giving as we would most like to be given to. And really, unless you just hunger for some useless, five, ten or twenty dollar trinket from WalMart that comes bubble-wrapped in plastic and that will be broken beyond any usefulness within a few weeks, and then headed for the landfill, why, why would you, or any of us ever resort to such gift giving inanity for someone else, just so we could check them off our gift list? Perhaps it is time to reclaim the essence of gift giving, investing the time you’d otherwise spend working to pay off the credit card bill generated by purchasing some of those silly gifts and instead, thoughtfully gathering and making, and weaving a personal story for your loved ones.

Which, if any of these gifts would you most like to receive? And what is the first of this type of gift that you imagine giving? Would there be some inherent metaphor or message behind it, or would it just be a simple gift of beauty?

Namasté

(And for those interested in such things, all of these photos were captured on an iPhone 5 using the Camera+ app and then processed in the iPad version of the same app, because it has more variables and control. All of the items were placed upon a sheet of kraft wrapping paper and lit with a single, affordable, incandescent Tota-light, diffused by a white cloth.)

Honoring That Which Is

( . . . rather than looking hurriedly away or pretending it is not.)

Nothing within me could manage even a moment of joy in seeing such a beautiful little life, fallen, cut short by its unexpected impact with a pane glass window, but neither could I just ignore it. My daughter saw it first and let out an involuntary, “Ohhhhh!” I moved toward it and lifted it gently into my open palm where she and I then examined it together. Expressions of surprise and wonder, and a shared sense of bewilderment, neither of us knowing just what to feel.

I called to my young grandson, Levi, a busy two and a half year old with undeniable naturalist tendencies, wanting him too to see what we had found, to share in this unexpected discovery, the hush and awe of the moment. His pudgy little fingers reached out immediately, wanting, no, needing to explore this miniature sleeping beauty by actually touching it. His outstretched finger was tentative at first, but within moments of discovering the silky feel of this hummingbird’s iridescent feathers, he wanted to know even more by taking it into his own hands.

“Hold it.” he said, an emphatic announcement of his wish. I demurred but encouraged him to ‘pet’ it  again with his finger. He grabbed it suddenly by its outstretched left wing and held it aloft. “Hold it.” he repeated.

“Put the little bird back in Grandpa’s hand, Levi.” I encouraged in a firm, steady voice, and thankfully he did so without argument or mishap. We both stroked its tiny body a few more times with our fingers, deciding that its color was green, and then I distracted him by pulling out my iPhone and clicking on the ‘Peterson Birds of North America’ app, to show him what this little hummingbird looks and sounds like in its living state.   ( I believe this to be a female Rufous Hummingbird, but it could also be a female Allen’s, which looks nearly identical.)

A few minutes later we were in the kitchen, washing our hands carefully with soap and water, talking about going outside to find more hummingbirds, in addition to two of his favorites, slugs and worms. And while we washed and talked, this little hummingbird was already tucked safely within a ziploc bag in Jen’s freezer, awaiting a time when I could attempt to honor its life more fully by making its requiem portrait.

The shot above was made in overcast morning light with my iPad, mounted on a small tripod, facing straight down. The image was then processed in the Camera+ app and saved. The typographic treatment was added later in Photoshop, using Berling, an elegant and timeless looking (at least to my eye), serif font.

This second variation on the requiem theme (below), intentionally strives for a very different feel. It was shot with a Canon 1Ds Mark III and the Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II lens at 125mm focal length and 1/13th second at f/9.0, to give me just enough depth of field to hold sharpness on the egg-like rock, but to allow the rusted steel background to fall away in softness, helping focus the attention most fully on the little bird. I composed the image as if for a magazine or book cover with plenty of room above and below for the title/masthead and feature blurbs. The weathered basalt stone upon which the miniature bird rests first captured my imagination during an early morning hike in the Deschutes River Canyon back in June, and it, like the body of the tiny hummingbird, made its way home with me to await further attentions and adventures.

It may seem a bit macabre to some eyes, to have worked so deliberately to picture death as I have here, but for me there was never even a question. What else would I have done with such a beautiful little life form? Toss it in the trash? Kick it over the edge of the deck or merely try to ignore it?

Within these next few days I will grant myself yet another brief window of time within the cool hours of early morning to step outside and bury this tiny creature somewhere safe within my garden, to thank it for its beauty and for allowing itself to be so viewed and studied . . . and contemplated.

Living deliberately takes time, but the rewards can be profound. And having proffered my ‘yes’ once again to some unexpected little miracle that I could never have seen coming, I feel as if in some small way I have also renewed my vows again to the world I live in  . . . to the artist’s life, to my grandson and to my own sense of wonder and humanity.

I have whispered this same question to myself, again and again throughout my fifty and five:  “When the world calls to you, Davey . . . will you slow your pace enough to truly see and hear? And having slowed, will you allow yourself to honor what appears before you, what simply is, counting that your sacred vow and answer, regardless your comfort or squirm?”

Today, once again, I’m afforded a window through which to answer.

 

OF SELFIES & STILL-LIFES: Part the 2

Further iPad camera explorations and ruminations . . .                                          Now with inanimate objects.

 

I’m quickly coming to the realization that the form factor of an iPad is really no more strange as an image-capture device than an old-school view camera. In fact, ergonomically it’s actually probably less strange, but also less familiar. And there, I suspect is the basis for nearly all that makes it seem ‘strange’. Truth is, most of us will get over any aversions we harbor toward the iPad camera’s differentness pretty quickly as we work with it a while, especially as we fall in love with some of the beautiful images it affords us. But like any other new camera or image-capture medium, you know there will be some who will inevitably need to step atop their soapboxes and with great surety and passion bemoan all that is wrong with making pictures in this godfersaken, newfangled-ish way. I imagine it was the same with Polaroid when it first arrived on the scene. For these bleating naysayers, defining themselves by the negative space has always been deemed, in and of itself an act of high art. Sometimes it is the only act of art they are qualified to render up. (Think bacon grease, here). Don’t let them sway you, my friends. Try making pictures for yourself and let the results be your guide.

 

This is the very first photo I made with the new iPad, hand holding it an inch above the soggy ground while peering at its glossy screen from an awkward, bent-over vantage on my hands and knees. It's not exactly an award winner, but on that chilly March morning, and despite all the things about it that were clumsy, I definitely felt I could see some potential.

The first step for me was shooting a few handheld, snapshot-y type photos with the iPad and discovering just how good the camera’s lens actually was when combined with the Camera+ app’s precise exposure and focus controls. These first few pics made the creative lightbulb come on for me, which left me then wanting to try more deliberate sorts of pictures   . . . pictures that actually gave that camera, in its strange, print-sized shape, a chance to really shine. It did.

First thing on the list: I needed a way to attach the darn thing to a tripod.

I looked at several iPad holders of various over the top prices and goofball designs, and finally settled on one of the simplest and surprisingly, least expensive that I had seen, The NOOTLE tripod mount at www.grifiti.com. Here’s a look at their page …

Simple, affordable and elegant. Just put your iPad into the snug fitting holder, attach it to a 1/4 20 threaded tripod head and you are ready to take your iPad photography to the next level. Literally.

A few days after ordering it, my new nifty Nootle arrived along with a bonus, free, Big Ass, (yep, real name), rubber band and an actual, hand-written thank you note. I immediately liked these people!

This single tulip in a hanging vase on my back door was my first tripod-stabilized photo on the iPad, prior to finding a suitable holder. Here, I merely rested the iPad atop a tripod head and held it as level and steady as possible. The image was shot and processed with the very groovy, Camera+ app. It's simple elegance convinced me that the camera was more than worthy, and that I really needed to either buy or build a hands-free holder to free me up for further photo explorations with it.

I can’t say that the iPad has become my ‘go to’ camera at this stage, but I can report that it has been winning me over a little more each time I use it. Mostly I use it for other things, like during workshops and shoots as a place to import photos shot with other cameras in order to include others in the discussion and viewing process. When hooked up to a projector, the iPad allows all of the participants in a workshop to view each others’ assignment image captures along with a show-and-tell classroom critique about what works and what doesn’t quite work in individual shots. On photo shoots, I find that being able to import a few photos from the camera to demonstrate to the subject what we’re getting on camera, or to stimulate a more informed discussion with the art director can really shorten the learning curve substantially, delivering us far more efficiently to our goal line.

But I digress. We’re here to talk about the iPad as camera, and more specifically, to explore the other half of that team of two photos I shot a few days ago and posted up together: Consider yourself reminded.

Here’s how the still life of those beautiful, maroon and gold, ‘Holden Clough’ iris looked straight out of the camera: clean, sharply focused and saturated with delicious color.

Shot on the iPad in Camera+ and unretouched, but for cropping a bit off the top.
As you can see, I tried warming up the colors in this early variation of the original. And though I do like it, I quickly became convinced that it feels much to warm and contrasty to serve as a suitable companion for the portrait I was matching it up with.

Over time, one learns that the best solution for a problem is not always the prettiest solution … or the most true. It feels as if to work side-by-side with the antique-looking portrait, this still life needs to feel cooler, more blue tones and cyans… and it needs to feel as if it is more of a long-ago memory, softened and faded by time.

I've added a white border to frame the image and curve its edges, but honestly, I think I've over-adjusted the color palette. This feels too blue and it is still too contrasty to imply the faded effects of time. Let's save this step and then run it through the app one more time.

Having added the curved-edge white border to set off the photo and provide enough white space to add the flower’s Latin nomenclature beneath it (we’ll add this later in Photoshop), it occurs to me that we need yet another level of ‘frame’ for the picture to finish it. I add that touch, still working in the Camera+ app, by adding a styled border called “Vintage”, then save it and run it through one more time to tweak the colors.

By tweaking the color palette and lowering the contrast, and then slightly blurring the edges of the white-matted image before adding that final 'Vintage' frame, I finally come to a place that feels quieter and softer than the original, as shot, a faded, patina-ed place that feels like it belongs to another era. The color palette isn't precisely consistent with the portrait image, which actually pleases me. I don't want it to feel like somebody's mother laid out a perfectly matching outfit for him to wear to school. In this case, I like the tension of color palettes that are not quite in tonal sync., but at least in the same neighborhood. Good enough for today's playtime.

Once I’d gotten to the soft, cool look you see above, I saved the image and then opened both it and the self-portrait in Photoshop, where I gave the portrait its own frame, butted the two pictures together and added copyright notices and the storytelling typography elements. Lots of steps. Lots of ‘practice’. And for what? Love? Money? Nada, unfortunately, on both counts. It could just be that I’m nuts.

Ahh well, at least I’m constantly stretching myself, join’ out there on the limb, where the fruit grows. At least I’m trying things, experimenting and giving myself permission to play, and fail, and grow.

I’m hoping you’ll be able to glean something for your own creative ventures from this journal. If you’d like to workshop with me to develop your own iPad photographic workflow, stay tuned. I am working on the elements necessary for both a lecture and a workshop on the topic, and you would, of course, be most welcome to attend.

Namasté