Watching the changing fo the light all around us

•May 22, 2018 • Leave a Comment

It’s strange how a quick series of photos, done with no prior thought or consideration, suddenly changes your perception of a particular moment.

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

I was out along a main farm road in Marana Friday night shooting the sunset and the twilight glow that followed. My camera faced west. Behind me I could hear the swoosh of passing traffic.

Immediately in front of my tripod was a concrete irrigation trough about two feet wide, partially clogged with sticks and small debris. Some scrub brush had taken root along portions of its length parallel to the highway.

Step over the concrete and there was an expanse of dried, cracked mud from where water had pooled a few days before, then dried. It still bore marks of farming equipment that passed over it was it was still capable of holding form.

Beyond it, the fresh sprout of a new crop formed a green carpet like a putting green in bands parallel to the horizon as far as one could see. And beyond that, mountains in silhouette made stark by the glowing color gradient sky above.

I shot through the sunset and well into the twilight, hoping the moon would drop to the horizon quickly enough to put it in frame with the mountains in a bigger way. Unfortunately, I was a day or two late in the lunar cycle and couldn’t get that sky dance the way I’d hoped.

Had I stopped and shot this location when I first saw it, on my way back from shooting a performance by Ballet Folklorico Xochitl at Marana High School earlier in the week, I’d likely have gotten it and more. It was just after sunset then too. The standing water was reflecting the glowing horizon to the west in a curious oblong shape. I slowed slightly and looked at it, taking note of its location and that of the curving section of power lines just to the north of the pooled water. It would guide me back I thought. And it did.

But on the night when I first spotted the vantage point I was leading a friend in a separate vehicle back to the highway from the school, and while loaded for bear with cameras, I didn’t want to cause a delay for them. Besides which I had offered to help unload the heavy dresses from the event. And I was anxious to look at the photos I’d taken prior to the dance event in the nearby Ironwood Forest National Monument.

The following night I was shooting another key element for my film, The Mariachi Miracle. Each year the rehearsals for graduation become a welcoming ritual for the new recruits who will join Pueblo High’s acclaimed Mariachi Aztlán. Not one of hazing but one of nurturing where the new recruits are joined by outgoing seniors and other elements of the group to share a bit of technical information, get to know them better as people and generally welcome them into the fold. Then the following week they join the non-graduating members in playing the all-important Pomp and Circumstance and Las Golondrinas, as well as other tunes, at graduation. The mariachi is a strong symbol of pride and culture at the school. It is a beautiful tradition and one that in no way diminishes Pueblo’s other outstanding music programs.

Bathed in another sunset glow, I grabbed my gear in the parking lot on the night of the Aztlán rehearsal and noticed that the fingernail moon that follows the new moon was close to the horizon at this time of day. And so I determined that the following night I would return to Marana and shoot.

Looking back toward Tucson

Looking back toward Tucson

Flash forwarding to the end of my shoot in Marana I was about to pull the camera from the tripod, pack up and head home when I turned around to see that the glow of lights from Tucson had made a faint silhouette of the northern end of the Tucson Mountains. I thought, “I should get a shot of this.” So I boosted the ISO slightly, adjusted the shutter speed to compensate for the darkness and took a shot.

The first exposure was a little dark so I set the shutter to stay open for a few seconds longer. And thus began a quick dance of lowering the ISO slightly, extending the time the shutter would stay open and setting the stage for light trails of passing vehicles.

I’d somehow forgotten to bring a cable release for the shoot to steady the shot, so I had the camera on its timer which opened the shutter after a ten-second delay from the moment I hit the shutter release. I watch the very sparse traffic approach and estimated roughly how long it might take the vehicle or vehicles to come into frame.

Sometimes the shutter was open through the entire pass, sometimes through only part of it. Sometimes several vehicles passed through while the shutter was open. And sometimes they came through the shot from different directions leaving red and white streaks depending on whether it was the headlights or taillights that were captured. And once a truck with a pale blue light on the cab came through and left a different band of light above the red and white glowing streaks.

I didn’t take a lot of shots. I spun the camera back around to get final shots of both the western sunset horizon and one more of the southeast view that created traffic streaks over Wasson Peak, then put the lens cap back on, removed the camera from the tripod, and started stowing the gear.

I’d shot time-lapse images of passing cars before, so I knew what this might look like. But as I drove that long expanse of dark road that connects Avra Valley with Interstate 10 to head home, I was already thinking of the deeper meaning of that chance capture.

As we pass by in our cars without thought to our surroundings in the dark, perhaps listening to music or talking with friends in the vehicle, we leave behind an aura of our passing – impossibly faint and indistinct –  in the warm night air. We leave a trace of our thoughts and intentions. The brightness of our streaks is determined by our haste to get somewhere. Tangled within are our emotions and the jumble of thoughts that cloud our experience of being in the moment.

Had I not turned around before taking the camera from its mount I likely would have missed it. I am my own cloud of conditions, memories and perceptions. My mind is generating its own narrative of birds and bats over the fields flying through the twilight sky in front of me, an ultralight that buzzed overhead at sundown, the ground and air traffic in the distance, and the glow growing fainter on the horizon.

My shoes sunk into the dirt unpredictably as I descended the slight slope toward my car, the soil in some places turned to a fine powder by local cousins of prairie dogs. My movements were intentional, to keep my balance and to avoid being run down on the dark stretch of highway. But the traffic was pretty sparse, so that worry was a faint one.

I turned the key, steered onto the road, and became another streak in the night.

Photography changes your world view

•May 22, 2018 • Leave a Comment

Photography makes you see the world in a different way.

Click image to enlarge

It changes the narrative. It changes how you look at things, and the details you notice. Color, form, texture, composition, patterns and shapes. The way light and shadow inform our view. How emotion and drama are heightened and created.

Most people go through life without seeing the world around them, let alone intimately experiencing it.

It has changed my work as a writer, filmmaker, composer and person. It has made me a better, more compelling storyteller.

It has connected me with my community, friends and the place where I live.

It has connected me with time, seasons and cycles of life. It has deepened my understanding of the world and appreciation of humanity.

It has helped me be more honest with myself and others about who I am and the things I care about.

It very much appeals to both my scientific and artistic sides, it likewise provides an unexpected vehicle of expression. Unexpected because it’s not something I really saw myself doing.

Photography appeals as well to my sense of order and organization on many different levels, from the way I arrange the gear I take with me into the field to the process by which I plan and execute the shoot, and on into the way I input, append metadata, back up and work the photos. When I look at the world now I think about how it will look in black and white, or how I might manipulate one or more elements of the frame. I think too of how what is in front of me might become layered with something shot a while back or to be shot in the future.

It has given me a greater appreciation for art and architecture, music and dance, form and rhythm, place and juxtaposition. And it has made me realize that I am part of an artistic current that has been going on and evolving throughout human history.

It has been a creative outlet that has spilled out to all of my other creative expressions. The crosstalk between them has strengthened all.

Mostly it appeals to my love of exploration – of the world, of my capabilities and of myself.

Going desert dark in B&W

•April 11, 2018 • Leave a Comment
Phantom limb

Phantom limb

(Click image to enlarge)

 

Going Dark.

 

For several years I have experimented with creating black and white images from digital color photos.

 

In particular, I have been interested in creating imaginary desert moonscapes, somewhat akin to the exaggerated illustrations of science fiction artists of the 1950s and early 1960s.

 

The desert’s plant life looks pretty alien in broad daylight. But when the blue in the sky is throttled down in black and white and the mix of the remaining colors is manipulated and altered, broad daylight becomes a moonlit night.

 

Raggedtop Mountain panorama

Raggedtop Mountain panorama

The effect works best with wispy cirrus clouds, which amplify the ghostly lighting effects.

 

After several years of experimenting with these false-night black and white images I have started lately to go darker. To add a curves layer and heighten the contrast, giving both a brooding and bright contour to the landscapes.

 

Springtime in the desert brings extra colors to the palette, which can be made to glow or go totally dark in black and white. And the myriad forms and points of life and death of the iconic giant saguaro cactus bring unexpected texture and shape to the work.

 

It feels very western.

 

Sometimes haunting, sometimes elevating. Sometimes grand and stoic.

 

This work wears a psychological cloak very different from the normal experience of desert visitors.

 

To the Tohono O’odham – the indigenous people of Southern Arizona who were here when the Spanish arrived – saguaros are ancestors.

 

It’s not hard to see their point. Saguaros take on a quasi-human form, and countless mythical shapes as well.

 

In some ways, these photos play up that human connection. They bring out many personalities as well as individual details of the historic struggles for survival that each desert sentinel has experienced, there surrounded by offspring, extended family, and ancestors, quietly surveying the surrounding land.

 

Creating them has changed how I view the desert. When I look at the sky and earth in the desert now I see what they are and what they will become. I am starting to see in grayscale, which is a different skill for a photographer. I know instinctively now what will work and what won’t.

 

But there are still enough surprises and twists to keep me on the path. When I step out of my house and see a blue sky with wisps of cirrus clouds, all non-essential appointments are about to get canceled. It’s time to find a new place to shoot.

 

There is still a lot for the landscape artist to discover from without and within.

 

El Rey

El Rey

The desert teaches all.

 

 

Metadata key to finding, copyrighting photos, audio and video

•June 20, 2017 • Leave a Comment
Some of the metadata a camera saves with each shot

Some of the metadata a camera saves with each shot

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

 

One of the things I do when I come in from shooting photos, just before backing them up, is append the metadata.

 
What is metadata? When most folks see a digital image that’s all they see. But invisibly encoded along with the image is a great deal more information about that photos. This info includes the camera that shot the photo, what such settings as the ISO, f-stop, shutter speed, etc., were, along with the focal length of the lens used. If you’ve set the date and time on the camera, that information for each shot will also be included.All of this information helps a photographer understand how to improve their mastery of the camera.
 
In addition to the information the camera provides, there are user fields provided to embed who the photographer is, who holds the photo copyright, where the shot was taken, the photographer’s email, phone and website info and much more. Most photographers create templates of various sorts to fill in that information.
 
The photo of Mar de Jade in Chacala, Nayarit, Mexico which the metadata above was attached to.

The photo of Mar de Jade in Chacala, Nayarit, Mexico which the metadata above was attached to.

And then there are fields specific to the photo, such as title, description and the like. This is where one notes a variety of information, from who is in each photo (if known) to circumstances under which it was shot, keywords, etc. These user fields help one locate shots of a specific person, group or event.

 
Similarly metadata can also be appended to video and audio clips
 
So while it is time consuming to enter metadata, it is key to locating your images and video clips on the fly.

Carving out a creative time slot

•May 18, 2017 • Leave a Comment
Improvising in the 1980s

Improvising in the 1980s

I’ve lamented of late not having time to allow for free-form creativity like I did back in the 1980s when time was a fairly loose notion. In those days I moved freely between writing, performance art, composing music for dance companies and other groups, photography and a few other odd pursuits. One medium flowed into the next as ideas generated in one influenced the other.

 

I still tend to work simultaneously in multiple media. But the demands of trying to keep a film and book project going, along with adding to a gigantic archival project, leave me with little or no time to ponder creative concepts at length. And that is where the real breakthroughs happen.

 

So I have decided to dedicate Wednesdays to breaking the circuit and allowing for more creative space.

 

An experience is more often likely to generate a creative stream than actual work. For example, the experience of a sunrise is very different than filming it. Rather than focus on the frame and what’s happening within one becomes conscious of the wider view of the sky. The instantaneous shift of color and hue, shape and form. The revelation of the elements set to a soundtrack of chirping birds. The chance interruption of a flock of birds headed west. The cool air stirring leaves and moving across your face.

 

It distracts and quiets the mind, even as cars rumble past. It soothes. It reminds one to be present.

 

That is when the mind starts to drift into abstraction. When the inner narrative is hushed. When impression turns to realization.

 

That is what I’m trying to cultivate.

 

It is not an easy thing. Our minds chatter away to fill the stillness. We are reminded of all the things we need to do. We are disturbed by things in our environment. And in an age when devices endlessly interrupt the train of thought, we are abruptly awakened from the daydream we need to take.

 

And so yesterday as I set out to carve out creative space, I first began by shutting off my phone, tablet and computer. I took my watch off and left it face down. And then I started to think about how I might go about setting up situations that would invite abstract consideration.

 

I began by considering rules and asking questions about how I might set up this space.

 

Rule number one. Minimize note taking. When a creative stream emerges, that’s fine. But random thoughts of what needs to happen, not so much. And any note taking to be done has to be on paper rather than electronic.

 

This is actually hard for me as I am an avid note taker. When a though worth pursuing happens I am apt to quickly grab my tablet and jot it down. But on Wednesdays I want to let things go. The thoughts worth saving will remain and become expanded. The ones not worth time will dissolve away.

 

Rule number two. Improvisation rather than performance. I allow myself to make music but not to record it. No cameras or recorders. Focus on experiencing the moment rather than capturing it. The old adage that the journey is what’s important, not the destination. This forces a process of more extended improvisation rather than saving half-baked ideas.

 

Rule number three: Throw out rules one and two when you need to.

 

Early on in the process I realized that I needed to identify the things that interrupt and impede the quiet mind, and those that support it. There is an array of both.

 

Interruptions and sources of anxiety are many. Minimizing both should lead to deeper, more open thought.

 

I first needed to consider what causes anxiety in my life, and what things I had control over, even if in a limited way.

 

What are things that put us at ease? Order in our environment for one. Are things put back where they belong. Is the trash out, and are things clean? Can you find what you look for easily and readily? If not, these things nag at you, even if you’re not paying attention.

 

This seems like a good starting place. And so that is where I began. Not overdoing it. Just getting enough done to signify progress and to leave a starting place for the following week. Making simple chores a mantra that clears the mind.

 

I had to also consider obstacles that are distracting me. Money is always a source of anxiety for a filmmaker. It’s hard to free your mind when you’re unsure if you’ll be able to continue much further. You have to think through the contingencies and constantly reevaluate budgetary priorities. It is always draining.

 

And so I have decided to work on those concerns on Mondays and Tuesdays so as to have that distraction fall aside as much as possible, and to develop ways to communicate why things cost what they do and what gets done with the money raised. Learning to articulate the cost and its relationship to the mission will hopefully help blunt the nagging need.

 

At the same time there are things that amplify the ability to quiet the mind. Silence. Rest. Exercise. Experience. Sonic improvisation. Meditation. Movement.

 

And so time and space must be carved out for them as well, and a deliberate, yet flexible, plan put into place to diminish the distractions and cultivate the quiet mind.

 

Why is all of this important? For one it’s a means of decreasing the stresses than inevitably build up in a complex long-term project of this sort. It’s also a way to see what lies beyond and to prepare the mental soil for projects beyond. Most importantly it becomes a way of enhancing clarity, sustaining purpose and defeating burnout before it happens.

 

Directly and indirectly, creative currents developed through this deliberate process will bring greater meaning and renewed spirit to the current film and book project and life beyond. At the same time it will help me cope with mounting pressures and find creative solutions to current and future issues.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A PBS documentary on photographer Dorothea Lange changes the landscape for a mariachi filmmaker

•April 1, 2017 • Leave a Comment
Dorothea Lange, photo from PBS American Masters

Dorothea Lange, photo from PBS American Masters

I was coming back from a shoot with Mariachi Sonido de Mexico. Inputting and backing up for footage. Making a quick check of the audio. That sort of thing.

And I was just about to start watching it and carving it up when I got a text that a documentary on Dorothea Lange was on PBS’s American Masters series. I thought I’d watch for a few minutes and found myself engrossed in it.

The photos were beautiful and powerful in equal measure. The composition and weight sublime, the love of light and the sheer drama of each image masterfully composed and perfectly shot.

The discussions of how a book is put together, with little story clips from the people photographed, succinctly getting to the core of their life experience. The discussions of pairing images to be seen together in a book. How each changes the perception of the other. The experimentation it takes. Pinning images to a wall to see what the hey say individually and collectively.

The idea of creating phrases, sentences and sometimes paragraphs through a succession of photographic images.

As I go into what will hopefully be my last mariachi conference, at least for the current film, I bring a lot of skill to the photographic portion of my work that I lacked before. And now I have a lot of food for thought. What stories to I want to tell with these images? How do I teach myself to slow down, and wait with intent for something magical to happen before pressing the shutter?

I need to step it up. I need to make my images count. I need to create powerful, meaningful images, and accompany them with concise commentary.

I need to be thinking about books and exhibitions as I am shooting.

Becoming a photographer takes work, life

•March 31, 2017 • Leave a Comment

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

My photography teacher, Joseph Rheaume, used to say that we don’t take photos, we make them.

 

It has taken me several years to understand those words. But they are true.

 

It starts with control of the camera, our instrument. That requires thousands of exposures, each a lesson in technical refinement, and none an end to the process.

 

It requires knowledge of composition, again refined by mountains of work. It takes a thirst for experimentation and discovery.

 

It changes the way you see everything.

 

Everything!

 

But the exposure is just the start.

 

Day of the Dead folklórico dance

Learning post production techniques through trial and error, and a constant updating of knowledge as those tools evolve are equally essential.

 

A composite is built combining all of those technical elements with the experiences of life. The mysteries and revelations amplify through the lens.

 

The image is made and remade. The best are returned to and refined again and again.

 

It is a different world from that of film image makers.

 

The capabilities are greater.

 

But all is built on the framework of the great masters. Technique, work flow, experience.

 

In this world I am a child. A little older than most, but in my infancy nonetheless.

 

But I am learning and growing.

 

It takes time.

 

 

But I am finding my voice.

 

I couldn’t tell you what images I will make five years from now.

 

I have too much work to do in the meantime to get there.

A twist on an old idea reveals the other worldly all around us

•March 30, 2017 • Leave a Comment

CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE

New photographic explorations are coming into focus through the lens of older work.

 

Concepts evolve, along with technique, and the crosstalk of work in other media feeds back into the original idea.

 

My Bewilderness series, which was originally conceptualized as models doing bewildering things in the desert and other wilderness settings, has taken a variety of different twists since it began a few years back.

 

Now my Apollo 18 series is also undergoing transformation.

 

Apollo 18 was intended to photograph places where astronauts for America’s Apollo lunar landing program trained, but with an artistic rather than scientific eye. The series was informed by the look of photographs from the moon landings, particularly with respect to panoramic photos created from images shot on the moon.

 

But of late I’m starting to realize that experiments with a new line of photographic post-production technique is resulting in images that bear their own similarity to photos taken on the moon, and make the earth look like an alien world.

 

I called one batch from the series “On the Other Moon.”

 

People sometimes point to the fact that Apollo photos show the blackness of space but never stars as “evidence” that the moon landings were faked. But what they don’t realize is that the astronauts were shooting in bright sunlight, and the camera sensitivity was adjusted for that bright light source. And just as you don’t see stars in daylight because your eyes are adjusted to the sun, even though the stars are just as present in the sky, so it was on the moon when we put the first boot prints on the lunar surface.

 

And while the Apollo photos generally appear to be black and white images, often the limited tones of the lunar surface are the true source of that color illusion.

 

For quite some time now I have been producing images shot in broad daylight and then converted in Adobe Photoshop to gray scale (B&W). The originals were shot in Camera Raw, which affords a great deal of flexibility in manipulating the image in post-production. When one converts to gray scale, a group of sliders comes up allowing one to mix the relative strength of the various colors of the original color image being converted to black and white. By turning the blue of the sky all the way down (or nearly so) and similarly reducing cyan (the blueish color of water vapor in the air), the illusion of a black sky similar to that photographed on the moon is achieved.

 

B&W

Adjusting the various other color strengths creates whole new ways of manipulating the composition of the photo. And in the end, they look as though they have been photographed in moonlight, or perhaps on another world.

 

Treated in such fashion, Arizona’s desert plants and geologic features take on a 1950s science fiction quality. It’s a new way of looking at the southwestern U.S. for it for its other-worldly beauty, and in doing so, connecting this series to photos from man’s first excursions to another world.

Discovering the joys of photography on the down low

•March 29, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Perspective is always important to photography, be it intellectual or physical.

 

An aesthetic viewpoint and a physical viewpoint are equally important.

 

For the most part photographers shoot from eye level. Sometimes they squat or kneel down for a shot, and often they climb up mountains and onto tall buildings to catch the view below.

 

For most of my 45 years of desert dwelling life I have seen things almost exclusively from eye level.

 

But over the past year or so I’ve become more interested in the desert at ground level. The crushed up rock and soil. The little rivulets that shape the terrain. Root structures, animal burrows and just the shadows spilling across the desert floor are fascinating. Even people’s shoes and feet.

 

To really see these things you have to get down low. At 63 years old and advanced in human bulk, this is easier said than done. The spirit is willing but the flesh is saying, “Yeah, but how are you getting back up again?”

 

Contents have settled during shipping.

 

Some new tools are making the job a bit easier.

 

A company called Platypod (https://www.platypodpro.com) has created a plate with screws for adjustable legs and a mount to screw on a tripod head. Combined with the head, the Platypod Pro or Max can get your camera down to about five-six inches or so off the ground. Several manufacturers have also started making regular tripod with a flip-over mast that allows a stable platform for your camera even lower than that, although an inverted image results. Easiest fix in the world but a little disorienting.

 

Personally I’m interested in creating low perspective panoramas, so my requirements are a little different than those of single frame photographers. A tripod head with markings at the base to indicate in degrees the orientations of the shot make it easier to ensure that I have enough overlap in my consecutive shots to successfully create panoramas.

 

A tripod leveler and a spirit bubble level for the hot shoe of the camera help make sure your shots are all level. And the more level the tripod is, the great the area your panoramic sequence will be able to connect.

 

A tripod makes every photo better. There is no substitute for a fixed platform for your camera. Every shot is crisper and more detailed. So having one that gets you down to that level takes a lot of the work out of shooting.

 

Even so, with the camera so low it’s hard to get down to the viewfinder, and even in monitor mode its tough to see that little screen without lying in the dirt (which was more fun in my teens and 20s than now).

 

Manfrotto came up with a really great solution called Digital Director. It’s a frame that your iPad or iPad Pro plugs into. A USB port connects to your camera and sends the image that would normally going into the camera LED over to the ipad, where it can be viewed at larger size. Moreover the software gives you full control over where you set your focal point in the frame, as well as ISO, aperture and shutter speed. It’s downright phenomenal. When you take a shot, the image is ported to the iPad so you can see what you’ve got before you move the camera.

 

Naturally the only big drawback for this kind of system is that the desert sunlight is so bright that it’s hard to see. A yard or two of black fabric from a fabric store makes a dark enough hood to solve that problem cheaply.

 

I’m near the beginning of the learning curve as I delve into low perspective photography but I’m highly highly motivated to get up to speed before rattlesnake season starts. Not interested in photographing rattlers. I’m interested in avoiding them and their assorted poisonous desert pals by just giving them space when they’re most happy roaming around.

 

One of the things I’ve always wanted to do is photograph the nude as landscape. Reclining, crouching and in various contortions mimicking the terrain behind. The shapes, shadows and contours are essentially the same. It has been frustrating in the past to try this because of the limitations of tripods in terms of minimum height. I was always looking down on the subject. Now I feel I may be able to get some traction on that idea, and to layer those images with other landscapes to produce imaginary terrain.

 

She becomes Sedona

She becomes Sedona

Test work in that direction is already underway.

 

 

Apollo 18 series gets new twist

•February 2, 2017 • Leave a Comment

Click images to enlarge

Photographic series conceived in one way, over time, take new form.

The concept evolves, along with technique, and the crosstalk of work in other media feeds back into the original idea.

My Bewilderness series, which was originally conceptualized as models doing bewildering things in the desert and other wilderness settings, has taken a variety of different twists since it began a few years back. Now my Apollo 18 series is also undergoing similar transformation.

Begun in 2014, Apollo 18 was intended to photograph places where astronauts for America’s Apollo lunar landing program trained, but with an artistic rather than scientific eye. The series was informed by the look of photographs from the moon landings, particularly with respect to panoramic photos created from images shot on the moon.

But of late I’m starting to realize that experiments with a new line of photographic post-production technique are resulting in images that bear their own similarity to photos taken on the moon, and make the earth look like an alien world.
I called one recent batch from the series “On the Other Moon.”

Science doubters sometimes point to the fact that Apollo photos show the blackness of space but never stars as “evidence” that the moon landings were faked. But what they don’t realize is that the astronauts were shooting in bright sunlight, and the camera sensitivity was adjusted for that bright light source. And just as you don’t see stars in daylight because your eyes are adjusted to the sun, even though the stars are just as present in the sky, so it was on the moon when we put the first boot prints on the lunar surface.

While the Apollo photos generally appear to be black and white images, often the limited tones of the lunar surface are the true source of that color illusion.

 

Texas Canyon, Arizona

Texas Canyon, Arizona

For quite some time now I have been producing images shot in broad daylight and then converted in Adobe Photoshop to gray scale (B&W). The originals were shot in Camera Raw, which affords a great deal of flexibility in manipulating the image in post-production. When one converts to gray scale, a group of sliders comes up allowing one to mix the relative strength of the various colors of the original color image being converted to black and white. By turning the blue of the sky all the way down (or nearly so) and similarly reducing cyan (the blueish color of water vapor in the air and other sources of reflection from the sky), the illusion of a black sky similar to that photographed on the moon is achieved.

Adjusting the various other color strengths creates whole new ways of manipulating the composition of the photo. And in the end, they look as though they have been photographed in moonlight, or perhaps on another world.

Treated in such fashion, Arizona’s desert plants and geologic features take on a 1950s science fiction quality. It’s a new way of looking at the southwestern U.S. and seeing it for its other-worldly beauty, and in doing so, connect the series to photos from man’s first excursion to another world.