Saturday, January 6, 2007

Shooting--Take Two

Out my study window
Smith River California
Taken 1/6/07

Ernest Dowson, once described as a “rummy English poet,” gave us the title of one of the most famous pieces of American literature. “I have forgot much, Cynara, gone with the wind, flung roses, roses, riotously with the throng.” (The poem has the improbable Latin title: Non Sum Qualis eram Bonae Sub Regno Cynarae.) While my experience of going with the wind is limited to kite flying, windsurfing and sailing, I have definitely forgot much. But I’d like to think that I’ve flung my share of roses. Today I’m flinging a couple to you on this site, and one to the good folk at Eyefetch ( Roses blooming in January has to be one of the joys of living in California—even in the relatively cold part of California known as the north coast. Yesterday, my shooting expedition took me into snow and ice. Today it was azaleas, roses and rhododendron, all in full bloom. And the snow and flowers aren’t twenty miles apart.

As I finished writing yesterday, and went to send the link to my friends, my internet connection crashed. Rather than fight with technology at midnight, I chose to go to bed. After all, tomorrow is another day. This morning, upon arising, I still had no internet connection, but by turning everything off, rebooting the computer, the modem, the wireless router, I was finally able to get on-line long enough to get the paying work done. Even so, my AOL kept closing, and my web sites kept “timing out.” Finally, it all crashed again, and like Humpty Dumpty, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men, this time taking the form of Charter Communications Customer Service, could not get it back up. “We’re not seeing your router,” I was told repeatedly, and prosaicly. Jack at Charter promised to send someone out on Monday to check the lines, and in the meantime, good luck. Had the day been bright and sunny, as Friday was, I would not have been so concerned. There are always pictures to take. But the day was wet and rainy, and I ended up spending the entire morning trying to regain my computer connection. And even without Charter’s help, roughly two hours later, everything was working properly again.

Rose growing on the side of my garage
Smith River California
Taken 1/6/07
(The rose is slightly blurred due to the fact that it is growing some 5 feet above my head and I couldn't control the wind while hand-holding the camera.)

While the day never became clear and bright, the rain did stop. With no fear of water getting into my camera, I ventured out into the front yard to see what might find its way in front of my camera lens. You see, it really is a passion for me. I’m never outside without a camera these days. You just never know when a hawk is going to be tearing into some road kill right next to the highway. (Caught that with the L3.) You never know when a scrub jay is going to land in your hedge. (Caught that too, with the D80.) You never know when the perfect rose, or wave, or sunset is going to appear right in front of you, so you have to be prepared. (That is, after all, The Boy Scout’s Marching Song—pace, Tom Lehrer.)

This week our local PBS station, KEET in Eureka, California, showed the American Masters episode featuring photographer Annie Leibovitz. My friend Carl, one of those “friends like you” who has contributed to KEET, called my attention to the program. Of course I watched it. Annie Leibovitz IS American photography in my book. The program showed the wide range of her work, from family snapshots to Vogue magazine spreads set at Versailles, and of course the Lennon/Ono portrait where John Lennon is nude and curled up, looking for all the world like a human chambered nautilus stuck on the side of Yoko Ono. While I have to admit that Leibovitz’s portrait work is stunning—the epitome of modern American portraiture—I found myself saying “I never want to work like that.” Don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily spend hours, days, weeks, camera in hand, shooting madly away. On the other hand, the idea of directing others to stand here, slouch there, put this on and sit at Meryl Streep’s feet, just leaves me cold. Well, maybe the latter if I get to meet Ms. Streep. Similarly, Jack Hollingsworth, of whom I wrote yesterday, explains that his "photo" work includes hiring hairdressers, costumers, models, extras, etc. all in the attempt to get the shot the paying customer wants. Fine. Go, do that. It’s not for me—at least not at this point in my “career.” I prefer being the photographer of found objects. Yesterday, I argued with myself if it were permissible to move a rock out of the shade so I could capture its colors.

Weeping Rose
Taken across the street from my house
Smith River California

Watching American Masters did get me to thinking. What is it I like to “capture” with my camera? Well, if I were to put it in one word, “nature.” I love rocks, wood, water. Twisted dead trees—or what my online friend Ed calls “gnarly old wood”—are a favorite subject. I’ve been known to take my share of architectural shots, though in general I much prefer being in the countryside to being in a city. I love those items that are out of place—roses in January, for example. And with the wonderful “Night Landscape” setting on my D80, I’ve discovered the joy of evening, even nighttime shooting.

This evening, as I headed into Brookings for some shopping, I grabbed the camera bag—of course I did. It was still light and there was the chance of getting some good seascapes. But ya know, I have hundreds of seascapes in my portfolio. I don’t need (and “need” is the operative word) one more village in Austria seascape. ("Village in Austria" is a euphemism for the “F” word. Apparently there is a town not far from Salzburg with a highly unfortunate name—at least if you’re a speaker of English. Henceforth, whenever I feel the need to use the “F” word, I’ll just say “village in Austria” instead.)

One of the interesting aspects of the online peer review site “Eyefetch” is that you can join different groups. There are groups for people interested in landscapes. Groups for people interested in experimental photography. Groups for sunsets, sunrises, bridges, trains, you name it. One group is dedicated to people who like to take city street scenes. Driving through downtown Brookings this evening, I seriously considered parking the car, setting up the tripod, and just sitting on a bench shooting everything that passed by. Instead, as I was leaving Freddy’s (the local Fred Meyers Store), the steam rising from the South Coast Lumber plant caught my eye. The sky was dark, but the plant was lit for night work. The rising steam caught the work lights and shone brightly in the sky. I grabbed the camera, set it for “Night Landscape” and shot away happily. One of the pics in particular is quite dramatic and I’ll be sharing it with the Eyefetch folk. That got me to thinking about what other night scenes might be of interest, and I immediately thought of the harbor. Picking my way nervously along the docks, fearful of dropping camera and tripod into the drink, I got several shots of the harbor lights, including this one with the sailboat Torrey Pines in the foreground and a working fishing boat all lit up for night work in the back. At the top of this page is a pic I took standing up at my desk and looking out the window in front of me. There are pictures everywhere. All you need to do is shoot.

Harbor Lights
Brookings/Harbor Boat Basin
Harbor Oregon
Taken 1/6/07

By the way, Ernest Dowson is also responsible for the title of a Blake Edwards 1962 film starring Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. In my opinion, the poem is much more meaningful than the movie. The poem , barely longer than its title Vitae Summa Brevis Spem Nos Vetat Incohare Longam, is reproduced in its entirety below:

They are not long, the weeping and the laughter,
Love and desire and hate;
I think they have no portion in us after
We pass the gate.

They are not long, the days of wine and roses:
Out of a misty dream
Our path emerges for a while, then closes
Within a dream.


Vikki said...

I loved reading about your on-line banking experience. I haven't tried that. I also loved reading what your Mom said to you last. I very much enjoy the pictures they are all very good. It is a good avenue to share you thoughts and feelings. I was very happy to read you plan on coming to WV. BTW for Christmas Mike bought me a piano, I have always wanted to play, so like you, now that I am retired, I am learning to play the piano. I can play Jingle Bells and love my lessons. I love you Bryan....Vikki

Vikki said...

The Poem really touched my heart.