Archive for the ‘Behind the Shot’ Category

Behind the shot: “Rock Harbor II 2014”

by Sue Dawson

RockHarborII2014

I ASKED ALISON about the new photo on our main wall, called Rock Harbor II 2014. We’ve printed it as a large canvas, and we just hung it for tomorrow’s opening reception, for our third show this season of Alison’s newest work. It’s such a stunning, painterly image, I’ll have to convince people that this is a photograph. This is one I’d like to hang in our own house. Here’s what she said:

“I took this shot last fall, right before teaching a workshop for the South Shore Camera Club on the Cape. I had just done tests comparing the new Nikon D810 and my old D700. Being the picky, in-search-of-high-quality person that I am, I test all of the new equipment that comes along. I’m really frugal, but whenever I find something worth the leap, I’ll be first in line with my credit card at B&H. As soon as I ascertained that the 810 produced images with much higher quality, I ordered it. My new toy arrived the day before I left for the Cape – I was like a kid in a candy shop.

In doing last-minute scouting for the workshop, I hit all of my favorite places along the Brewster flats. These days, I’m drawn to shoot images that are either all neutral, or predominantly neutral with flashes of color. So I was looking for low tide, and flat, uninteresting light – that’s the neutral backdrop. Fall is my favorite time, because the plants in the marsh have interesting, often warm-toned flashes of color. In the summer it’s all green, but in the fall, there are gorgeous color variations.

For me, this shot really tactilely feels like I loaded a paintbrush with some cadmium yellow and a little burnt sienna, and applied those brushstrokes. That’s what it looks like on the finished print, but it’s also what it felt like when I was shooting. My technique really feels like painting. I’m carefully composing the shot, and then going on instinct as I create the “camera stroke.” As with my other painterly images, the effect is entirely done in-camera. There’s no post-processing that creates the painterly feel. The D810 enables me to print larger, with amazing resolution, and captures the nuances of color that drew me to the shot.”

Our opening reception is tomorrow (Saturday, August 8th), from 5 to 7:30pm. 

Behind the shot: “Oak Bluffs 2015”

by Sue Dawson

OakBluffs2015blog2

I ASKED ALISON about the new photo on our main wall, called Oak Bluffs 2015. We’ve printed it as a large canvas, and we just hung it for tomorrow’s opening reception, for our second show this season of Alison’s newest work. It’s mesmerizing – it looks like it’s just floating on the wall. Here’s what she said:

“That’s the direction I’m going in now – a more muted palette, fewer primary colors. It doesn’t have to be dawn or dusk for me anymore. I used to look for a stronger color palette, which you’ll find early or late in the day. But now I’m watching for the really subtle things that are happening. Quiet things, like the two different flat calms going on in the water in this shot. I love the height of the tide – almost covering the rocks, with just a few of them poking through. If you could see all of the rocks, it’d be really seaweedy, really messy-looking. This just gives you a hint of the rocks.

It’s a location that’s so subtle, you’d never stop and take a touristy picture there. It’d never be subject matter that you’d hear, “Oh, honey, let’s stop and take a picture.” I feel like what I’m looking for now is something that’s evocative, but understated – something I think is beautiful, but not in an obvious way. A scene where a little change of light, wind direction, wind velocity, the tide, will make me screech to the side of the road, get out my camera, and ignore my appointments for a half hour.

I drive by this spot every day, and pay attention to what the tide’s doing, what the water’s doing, what the light’s doing. I stop there once a month and take pictures. But this particular day was unique. The sky was almost white, and the water took on two distinct tones. In the distance was flat calm, and up close, the water was moving over the rocks. So you really have this gradation from the whitish sky up top, to a sliver of the most distant water that’s moving, to flat calm water reflecting the sky, and into the moving water in the foreground. Beyond the end of the jetty, that flat calm is like a mirror, reflecting the sky. And nearest to me, the water was choppy, so I used a long exposure to make the moving water look soft and smoothed out over the rocks.

The centered one-point perspective draws you into the photo. And I kind of love the fact that the thing in the middle of the jetty is completely practical – not picturesque – and yet becomes the center of interest in the shot. It’s totally mundane – not like the fishing pier, which is beautiful unto itself.

I love the concept of the contrast between extreme sharpness and extreme softness in the same picture. And I already mentioned the two types of water – the flat calm, and the choppy waves I smoothed out in the foreground. There’s a duality throughout, really – a complexity that you see, the longer you look into the picture. At first it’s simple, calming, deep. But as you’re drawn in, there’s so much more to see, so much more to feel.”

Please come by tomorrow – Saturday, July 11th – and see it in person. Our reception is from 4 to 7pm, and this show will be here through August 7th. 

Behind the shot: A stormy winter

Eastville 2013

THIS WINTER WAS FANTASTIC for photographing storms on the Vineyard. Anytime there’s a storm in the forecast, everything in my life comes to a screeching halt so I can focus on shooting. Once the storm is close to its peak, I leave my cozy home and happily head out into the elements, telling my family I’ll be back once the storm subsides or the sun goes down. The ones I particularly enjoyed shooting were Hurricane Sandy in late October, which was downgraded to a tropical storm by the time it reached us but nonetheless packed a powerful punch; winter storm Nemo in early February; and a March nor’easter. Sandy, in particular, was quite exciting, because there were really humongous waves and powerful winds, and it actually rearranged some of the shoreline of the Vineyard. I noticed this most dramatically at Lucy Vincent Beach, where the waves literally scoured all the sand off the beach, leaving rugged clay and stone exposed underneath. As it turned out, it wasn’t just the day of Sandy that was exciting – I continued to visit Lucy Vincent a couple times a week for several weeks. Each time it was different, often dramatically so. The big cliff at the end was weakened by the storm, and kept changing with the tides, until it finally collapsed into the sea.

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Behind the shot: The “swimmer” series

I’VE BEEN WORKING ON A NEW SERIES of photos of “Swimmers” at our local indoor pool. Truthfully, it started out as something I could do to pass the time while my daughter Sarah swam with the swim team each week, while I, otherwise known as “Mom’s taxi service,” waited until it was time to transport her back home.
It wasn’t long before the snapshots I thought of as entertainment turned into work I really cared about, as I filled up at least one memory card each Thursday afternoon, and headed back to my studio to download the images and tweak them a little in Lightroom.

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