Kayaking On Your Next Dental Visit

One of the great things about the latest digital printing technologies are all of the new materials that are available to print on. Not limited to just traditional paper, there are many options to display photographs in unique, interesting, and affordable ways. I pay very close attention to this area of the industry, and when I heard about PhotoTex mural material from Lexjet, I ordered a few rolls right away. I knew it would provide opportunities for current and future customers that want a great looking and easy to install presentation in their homes or offices.

I’ve had great success with PhotoTex, notably in a local coffee shop in my hometown of Beacon, NY, and most recently in a dental office that wanted to bring the feel of the Hudson River into their rather sterile environment. After helping Dr. Ricardo Rios, the owner of Middle Hope Family Dental, chose an appropriate image for his main exam room (which was challenging due to an existing window), I printed the image in three separate pieces to cover the entire 12 1/2 floor wide wall.

When printing the mural, I overlap each piece slightly to avoid an unsightly seam, and add an alignment mark at the top and bottom to make sure the finished piece looks even and natural. Finally, I setup a time when the office was closed, and installed it being careful to align each piece perfectly. PhotoTex is extremely easy to work with since it has an adhesive backing which is strong, but allows for repositioning and doesn’t damage the wall when removed.

The finished mural looks great, and patients have expressed approval, especially in terms of making them feel more relaxed and comfortable. I only wish I had installed the mural before I had my wisdom too extracted a few weeks ago!

I’m really excited about promoting these types of installations, especially in healthcare environments where I’ve always believed nature can promote  healthy mental and physical well being. When the nature is local and familiar to the community, it is that much more effective.

Most Popular Articles of 2009

Looking at my visitor statistics for the blog this past year, I thought that it might be useful to make a list of the most popular articles of 2009. I am so grateful that many of you have found something useful or helpful in my writings about photography, technology, nature, and my passion for the beauty around us in our everyday lives. I’m certainly motivated to continue to bring you more positive and helpful content in 2010, and look forward to getting your feedback and hearing from all of you as often as possible. Thanks for all of your positive comments, and for making this a great year on the Beyond the Lens Blog.

Here are the top 10 articles of 2009.

1. Lightroom Plugins
2. LightRoom Plugins – Update
3. Realistic HDR Photography
4. The Birth of Modern Landscape Photography
5. Adobe Lightroom Resources
6. Photography Field Kit – 2009
7. Photographing the Walkway Over The Hudson
8. New Video: Exploring Bannerman Castle
9. Fall Photography Guide To The Hudson Valley
10. The Formula For Luck

Hudson River Landscapes, Past and Future – by Ned Sullivan

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Columbia County Farm - preserved by Scenic Hudson

Welcome to a new feature  – guest bloggers! In the coming months I plan to have a variety of guests that can contribute to our understanding of photography, nature, our environment, and anything else that goes Beyond the Lens. I am honored and tremendously grateful to welcome my first guest, Ned Sullivan, President of Scenic Hudson, the leading environmental organization dedicated to the Hudson Valley. Many of the hiking trails, mountain top vistas, and Hudson River shorelines that I enjoy and photograph extensively are the result of the conservation work they have done over that past 40 years. Thank you Ned, and stay tuned for more exciting guests in the future.

Just about every museum in America features Hudson River School paintings, and one of the great joys for me is encountering canvases depicting landscapes that have been protected by Scenic Hudson.  I get a particular thrill out of 19th-century views of Storm King Mountain – the northwest  gateway of the Hudson Highlands that our founders saved from a massive power plant.  Paintings by George Inness often provide windows on the spiritual dimensions in nature – the greatest lure for me in the outdoors. Frederic Church is master of  magisterial panoramic vistas of the Catskill Mountains visible from Olana, his home and studio near Hudson. Scenic Hudson has preserved more than 1,200 acres of farms and forests prominent in the foreground of these sublime works.

Scene on the Catskill Creek - Frederic Chruch

Scene on the Catskill Creek - Frederic Church

Scenic Hudson conserves places like these – and creates parks so people have access to them – because they’re irreplaceable national treasures, an essential part of our heritage, and we want to ensure artists always will be able to capture their magic.

We’ve seen firsthand how the Hudson River and its shores continue to be a powerful source of inspiration – for young and old.  The art contest for youngsters Scenic Hudson sponsored in 2007 drew hundreds of works that vividly and imaginatively caught the essence of the river and our parks as only a child could. Last year, the 2,500 images entered in our photography competition not only showcased the valley’s beauty in all lights and seasons, but highlighted its fragility and the urgency to step up our work.

We’re doing just that through our campaign to Save the Land That Matters Most – the most ambitious land-protection initiative in Hudson Valley history. Launched in 2007 to provide a lasting commemoration of the Quadricentennial of Henry Hudson’s 1609 voyage of discovery, this historic partnership with fellow land trusts, governments, businesses and individuals seeks to protect 65,000 acres of the utmost scenic, ecological and agricultural importance. These lands not only are the key to creating economically vibrant communities, but they ensure we have clear air and water and healthy local food supplies. They supply habitat for 85 percent of our state’s wildlife species. And just as important, they make us feel good, they nourish our soul.

Robert Rodriguez Jr plays an essential role in our campaign and its ongoing success. Since the outset, he’s been chronicling the landscapes we’ve conserved. Better than any amount of words, his stunning images of rocky shorelines, rolling meadows, primeval marshlands and unforgettable views convey why we couldn’t let these properties fall prey to developers’ bulldozers.

One of the goals of Saving the Land That Matters Most is to provide more places to connect with the valley’s natural splendor. Earlier this month, Scenic Hudson broke ground on our newest park. Located in Columbia County’s Town of Stockport, Harrier Hill Park affords spectacular panoramic views of the Hudson River and Catskill Mountains and excellent opportunities for watching the myriad bird species attracted to adjacent grasslands. It also provides a crucial link for a trail that will offer five miles of hiking through this and other nearby protected lands. I invite you to the park’s grand opening this fall – and to all of our free, fun events. You can find more information about these here.

Writing about landscapes like those admired from Harrier Hill Park, Thomas Cole, the founder of the Hudson River School, wrote: “Nature has spread for us a rich and delightful banquet.” Scenic Hudson is committed to ensuring that people will always be able to savor the Hudson Valley’s never-ending feast.

The Lessons of Editing In Photography

Over the years I’ve had my fair (or as I see it unfair) share of failures, whether working in the music industry or photography. There probably isn’t a day that goes by when I’m in the field where I don’t fail at some point or another, often repeatedly. This is most evident in the editing stage when I return from a shoot and import my images into Lightroom, my current cataloging software of choice.

My normal workflow starts with reviewing all of the images and rating anything that I like on a basic level with 1 star. Any image that doesn’t get at least 1 star may get one at at a later date, but I’d rather make some decisions right away in order to maintain some efficiency. I only delete images that are technically deficient (out of focus, water on the lens, etc.). I may give an image 1 star for reasons other than the obvious, an example being it provides a reference I can use in a future visit to a location. If the image is valuable in any way, it gets 1 star. Next I use a filter to show only those with 1 star, and start the process again, but this time looking for images with more potential and aesthetic qualities I like. These now get 2 stars. At this point I usually take a break to refresh my mind, and may wait a few minutes to a few hours or days before revisiting the two star images again.

Often I’ll make a slideshow in Lightroom with the two star images and review them looking for something that really attracts me, moves me in some way, or perhaps really reminds me of what the location felt like at the moment I made the photograph. If I am fortunate, these I mark with three stars, and now I ‘m down to a very few select images. Very often I’m down to nothing, since I just wasn’t motivated to hit the “3” key, and as I say, it’s “back out a 5 AM again.” Selecting the 4 star images (if one exists), is where the really hard work and fun begins. These are the images that I will spend time with specifically to make a fine art print and sell either online, at a gallery or art show. These are the real keepers, the ones that express my vision, my personal way of seeing, without explanations or doubts. This means it is the best work I can produce at the moment, and I am willing to accept whatever accolades or criticism it generates without any regrets of showing it in the first place. This has taken me many, many, years to understand, with failures and disappointments along the way. But the process has also given me the self-confidence that is so important when making decisions about one’s creative efforts.

There is nothing wrong with asking for advice or seeking opinions from others you trust. I do it all the time. But only after you have been your own critic and edited your work down to the very best you can produce. This is my mantra, the single creative principle I have tenaciously followed without compromise. If I have a nagging feeling in my gut, or any doubt about an image, it gets demoted right away. I need the clarity and confidence that I am presenting my best work – I sleep better that way. Equally important is the confidence in knowing that regardless of whether or not I agree with someone else’s judgement, I am happy with the perception they have made of my presentation, professionalism, and humility. Truth and respect go hand in hand.

When working on a commercial assignment, editing is even more important when there are deadlines to be met. Almost perfect just doesn’t cut it, and the thought of submitting something I feel isn’t my best is not an option for me. I have made mistakes in this area, but I’ve learned valuable lessons in both judgement and discipline.

Perhaps I am too hard on myself or strive to achieve that which seems so often out of reach. Critical editing seems to magnify the failures and reinforce the belief that I am not succeeding in some way. But the truth is quite the opposite and I realized long ago the failure is part of the journey that has helped me arrive at the truly creative and inspiring work. That keeps the creative juices flowing, keeps me motivated, and helps me remember why I love what I do. And I believe judicious and uncompromising editing has helped me grow faster as a photographer than any other aspect I can think of.

“If you limit your choices to only what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise.” – Robert Fritz

Getting Past The Obvious Photograph

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I really enjoy photographing lighthouses, especially because they really challenge me to “see” beyond the ordinary, and hopefully take me to that edge of creativity where real growth occurs. There isn’t a lighthouse in existence that hasn’t been photographed countless times, so it can be difficult to find a unique perspective- an interpretation that goes beyond the literal. Certainly it’s all been done before, you might say, but we each have our own way of seeing the world. And if we bring our personal experiences into the process of choosing a particular composition over another, then no two images are exactly alike.

The Esopus Lighthouse on the Hudson is unique in that it sits in the middle of the river and is completely surrounded by water. This has always intrigued me, and I’ve struggled with how to convey the remote feel of the lighthouse, while at the same time giving a sense of the surrounding area.

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“A good photograph is a metaphor that’s reminiscent of something else” -Chris Orwig

While these two images are very similar in terms of their angle to the lighthouse, they are vastly different in terms of what they convey, and how I’ve tried to place the lighthouse within the context of the landscape. In the color image, my goal was to give a sense of the remote, floating, almost isolated feel of the island. Having a foggy day, which helped mute the colors and contrast, was critical to this effect. In addition, I waited until just the right time when the fog had cleared the lighthouse in order to make it feel very clear and very present; a beacon out of confusion, something to grasp on to, both visually and metaphorically.

In the second image, I’ve tried to achieve the same result, but in quite a different manner. The strong, dark, and very heavy shapes and lines make a very graphic, almost unorganized statement that seems to dominate the image. But out of that, again the lighthouse brings some temporary order, a place to rest the eye on something familiar, even if just for a moment, until the dark shapes again demand attention. Musically, the first is light, airy, and very melodic, while the second dark, foreboding, but steady and definitely very rhythmic.

Both of these images are also somewhat different from my typical work, but risk and failure is part of the process, and I’m more than willing to fail in order to learn.

I hope these examples are helpful in your quest to both understand the process I follow, and also inspire you to “see” more than what is obvious at first. Thanks as always for your time, and please share the blog with someone who may enjoy reading it.

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