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.

Strategies for creative success

•November 18, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Bos-Bridge_Sunset-25-DSC7360a1-sw-dbaStrategies for creative success

(Click image to enlarge)

  1. Educate yourself. Continue studying your craft every day. There is always more to learn, especially where technology intersects with your work.
  2. Develop habits that save time and grief. As a film maker, my most useful habit is always asking anyone I interview to speak and spell their name first thing when I start filming them. This also allows me a few seconds to get a natural voice settings, but mostly it’s about putting key information in a standard spot. Another example is the way I always organize my camera bag so that every piece of gear is put back in a specific spot. When I need something I know exactly where it is. Once habits like this are developed you’re always ready to move forward with confidence. For artists in other media the habits might include how you array your tools and brushes, how you clean your tools, etc. Working in your field will inform the habits you should cultivate. Consistency is key.
  3. Work simultaneously on several projects. The cross-talk between unrelated projects gives you insights that always filter back into your main work. In addition to film making I am always working on still photography and sound projects. Visualize and take steps toward your next major project while you work on the current one.
  4. A-Mtn-North-9740-05-sw-dbaWork every day. Some days you may do more, some less, but try to get at least something done every day.
  5. Find joy in what you do. If it doesn’t make you happy why are you doing it? Financial success is fleeting and rare. Joy need not be.
  6. Cultivate friendships with other creative folks. Nothing helps more than sharing what you do and collaborating with others. New perspectives are always key to creative success.
  7. Learn a language other than your own. Another way of developing new perspectives and expanding and sharpening your mind.
  8. Bos-Bridge-DSC2411_DSC0969a-2-sw-dbaTake care of your body, mind and spirit. There is only one of you, and if you’re not firing on all cylinders you’re holding yourself back. You don’t have to be fanatical about it, but strike a healthy balance of work, exercise, reading, and other expansive activities.
  9. Involve yourself in projects that push your limits. What’s the point of doing what you know how to do over and over? Failure often leads to spectacular progress. And neither comes without trying new things.
  10. Take time for you when you feel you need it. Nobody knows what’s going on within you like you. Sometimes you just need to back away in order to reengage stronger down the line.
  11. Sleep. Nothing repairs your body, keeps up the immune system and energizes your work like sleep. All of us get out of whack when a big project is about to culminate. Remember to take time to rest wherever you can. So much more will get done.
  12. Dream. Dreaming is huge to creative folks. Put together lists of what you might do if you had unlimited funds, and gradually make your dreams happen.
  13. Saguaros-SR_DSC9926-1-sw-dbaObserve and experience the world around you. Engorge your senses. See how light and shadow reveal the world. Hear the sounds of nature, industry and silence. Touch the many textures of your world. Feel the warmth of the sun on your skin and the chill of winter. Nothing moves the creative juices like the experience of the real world.
  14. Plot out your life on multiple fronts. Look ahead to what anniversaries might be coming up in upcoming years, and how they might intersect with your work. Map out festivals, workshops and other important events coming up.
  15. Develop goals, and strategies to meet them. Neither works without the other.
  16. Keep a journal of your progress. Every day jot down some of the key things you got done in your work and in your life.
  17. Buckley-Moon-Camera-DSC6721-DSC8503-02-1-swTake stock of your accomplishments and review your work periodically. It’s a good idea at the end of the year to look back at the accomplishments you noted in your journal. This will help you update your resume, see trends in your work, and map out strategies for the year ahead.
  18. Know your strengths and weaknesses. Refine your skills often. Work on turning weaknesses into strengths.
  19. Be limber: You’ll never survive the gale force winds of change if you don’t learn to bend. Be willing to embrace shifting circumstances and gradually turn them to your design. Let disasters in your life become lessons that inform your work, and your work will always speed your recovery from them.
  20. Revisit older work: Doing so gives you perspective on your artistic growth. See how you solved problems in the past and compare that to what you can do now. You may even find that you had a great idea a while back, and now know how to follow through on it.
  21. Know your worth. Don’t be afraid to ask for it in financial dealings. Likewise, don’t be afraid to walk away from a deal that doesn’t pay you what you know you should be paid. Other things will come up. Doing a favor for someone of limited means who is starting out is one thing. Being taken advantage of is another.
  22. Experiment. Let your art be your chemistry set. Take cues from things you see and experience in your life. Combine the unlikely to find new visions.
  23. Ballet Folklorico Tapatio

    Ballet Folklorico Tapatio

    Serve your community. Few things pay bigger dividends (not least of all personal satisfaction) than helping your community. There are so many ways to do so. Find what works for you, and you’ll discover that the support goes both ways.

  24. Be patient. Huge point. Nothing comes quickly. Identify a path and keep moving in that general direction, even if you have to take a different route along the way. In time you’ll get to where you need to be.
  25. Be generous with others. Share your talents and especially your knowledge freely. When you stop looking at others as competition you free yourself up to be a better person and artist.
  26. Be grateful. Express gratitude to those who help you. A few meaningful words from you might be all the encouragement someone else needs. And people always are willing to go the extra mile for those who express gratitude for their help.
  27. Communicate. Probably the most important thing in life. Communicate with your audience, your friends, your family, your loved ones. The more you hold back the more likely missteps are to happen.
  28. The Agave Goddess mural by Cyfi Rock Martinez, 2016 Tucson Arts Brigade

    The Agave Goddess mural by Cyfi Rock Martinez, 2016 Tucson Arts Brigade

    Look to others for inspiration. None of us holds the world’s secrets. Look at other people’s work. Read. Attend lectures and films. Be inspired by what others do and it will likely be reflected in more inspirational work from you. While you’re at it, let people know that you find their work inspirational. You just might become a catalyst for better work from them.

  29. Be compassionate, and love. Have empathy for the struggles of others, and do your best to help those less fortunate. Express your love through your work and through the way you live your life.
  30. Maintain a sense of humor. Bad stuff is going to happen along the way. The more you can laugh about it, the faster you will snap back from it.
  31. Bos-3-spirits-DSC2448_DSC1160-1-sw-dbaEvolve. Your experiences of life, love, loss, grief, elation, celebration, etc. become the stuff of your art as you progress. Know that your work is better now than it was five years back and worse than it will become five years from now. Or at least different from how it will be five years from now. Life packs surprises along the way, not all of which are pleasant. Use your art to move through the ones that aren’t.
  32. Enjoy your life, already in progress. Don’t sweat the things that didn’t happen. Celebrate the ones that did.

Turning to audio effects to find new directions in evolving work

•October 8, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Took the night off from film work to revisit music I’ve worked on earlier this year. Typically I spend at least an hour three or more nights a week working on improvisational music with little concern for where these musical starting points might wind up. They’re just a way to unwind and let go, for the most part, although they sometimes become the seeds of important new work.

 
There were several really simple improvisations I recorded over the summer months using an electric piano (one of my favorite improvising instruments) as a melodic starting point. Tonight I found myself reaching back to some of the effects-driven work I did a decade or more ago to find new layers in those simple improvisations.
The effects used rarely matter. Generally in this type  of revision I look to effects I haven’t used in a long time, and those which have so many layers of complexity that they invite a “what happens when I twist this knob?” approach.
 
What I love about working in digital media is the non-destructive nature of layering in such effects, as well as the malleability with which effects chains can be re-ordered, selectively turned on and off, and generally have their controls manipulated and recorded in real-time to create endless sonic variations.
This still falls under the heading of wood-shedding, so its not likely I’ll be sharing any of this soon. But for now, it’s a lot of fun, and in the long run, contributes to my notion of process in all of my work.

Discovering worlds between

•September 24, 2016 • Leave a Comment

Bos_DSC0283-_DSC4692b-sw

Click image to enlarge

Early this year I started a new series in collaboration with Michelle Bos, investigating ways of creating images evocative of the end of life, and the spiritual occupations of places.

Initially we worked with long shutter speeds to blur images and create ghostly apparitions. Later a variety of techniques were empoyed, including layering multiple images, as well as using layered mask techniques to emphasize certain areas of individual or combined images.

We have shot primarily at her home and in the desert outside of Tucson, Arizona.

The series is ongoing.

The techniques broadly experimental.

It has led to new ways I think about images, and caused me to rethink categories in my Lightroom catalog.

I’m used to practical categories. Cities, desert, landscapes, sky, architecture, and the like.

Dream-2a_DSC7418-1-16-swBut now I find myself creating whole categories of more abstract notions. Texture, color, shape, light.

When one layers the images and adjust the opacity, the images themselves become filters of one another. They modify each other in sometimes startling and often unexpected or surreal ways, amplifying the visual stories of places in between worlds.

The process is evolving.

The angle an arm makes, or the way the model stands sometimes suggests a similar shape in a completely differnt image. I layer the second image atop one of her and start moving the opacity sliders, moving the layered image around, adding adjustment layers and curves to just see what might become. Sometimes the image combinations are duds, and sometimes they take the viewer to surprising places.

Laura-stars-arm-79_DSC8499-05-sw-dbaFor roughly three years I have been creating similar layered images in collaboration with Laura Milkins, though in a purely experimental way. There is no concept to what we do and the results are sometimes highly surreal.

The two projects generate artistic crosstalk, not just with respect to each other and the photographic process, but also enter into my film making and music making as well. Notions of filtering, flow-through surrealism and multiple realities find different expression in those forms, and in turn, experimentation in those media wash back into the photographic process. It has caused me to remix musical pieces to play with illusions of sonic depth, or blur instrumental colors.

With each batch of source photos with the two models, new ideas emerge, are discussed and tried out the next time.

Some work, some don’t.

Some work out later with more trial and error.

Laura-plant-sidewalk_LM-MW25-DSC6283-02-sw-dbaWe change up how close or far way the model is, how busy or simple the background, or the angle of the shot. Sometimes there are props or special lighting techniques. Often the ideas emerge from working with the source images themselves. A shadow noticed on an individual photo leads to efforts to control shadows, or creating gobos to shape the light and shadow. Fabrics, scrims, and veils are being experimented with, as well as covering the model with lights.

Each new batch of images presents new opportunities for exploration and experimentation.