A Strange Day

Sometimes I want to tell a story without images, only with words. A story like this one.

Yesterday was a strange day for me.

While walking in the woods I met a man walking barefoot. He stood with his feet on a large maple leaf looking into the sun breaking through the bright green canopy of spring above and smiling at it. I smiled at the whole spectacle and the pure joy radiating from him.

I approached him and said it was a great idea to go barefoot. He said he was on a journey of self-discovery but he was thirsty and asked if I had any water. I gave him one of two bottles of water I had and told him to keep it. Then I removed my shoes and walked barefoot myself. I wanted to discover something myself.

I discovered long forgotten feeling of the ground I walk on. It reminded me of my childhood when I was running around barefoot all the time at my grandparents’ farm. And the gentle poking of rocks made me feel more alive.

Later on I was on my way to pick up food when I met a beggar who was done with begging for the day and was sitting alone and playing a guitar by himself for himself.

I’ve seen him before. His bright personality and appearance was very memorable. I told him the song was too sad and he played a joyful one.

At the restaurant I got extra food because I knew I’d like to share it with him. On the way back I asked if I could sit and listen to him playing while eating. He was delighted at that. So, I sat on the ground and I was in a concert, the audience of one. The best entertainment I had in months!

He played 3 songs that he wrote himself until he got tired and wanted to have a dinner too with whatever he got from begging. I shared what I brought and we had dinner together talking and talking. When we finished I thanked him for his music and left.

Later I was sitting outside reading a book in warmth of the evening sun. I was taking my eyes off the book from time to time to look at the sunset. A hill, really just grass covered big mound of dirt left from a construction long time ago, was blocking my view.

I meant to climb that hill with a camera for quite some time. I wanted to see the view from it but the hill was in private land (owned by construction company I presume) and that was stopping me. But yesterday I just got up, went to the hill and climbed it and had utter delight standing on top, looking at the sun changing hues as it was slowly rolling toward the horizon.

Yesterday was an interesting day for me.

Being One With the Place

Last week I just spent a few days in the Palouse and something unusual happened on that trip. I did not take pictures there. That’s right, I spent several days in one of the most sought after photographic destinations in the world and for a few days I did not take a single picture.

It’s important to mention that I had  been to the Palouse many times before and had taken countless pictures there. But not this time.

When I got there this time I realized that I didn’t have anything else to say about it; I have exhausted my visual language in photographing it. And instead of photographing it I decided to experience it. Simply being present there.

Instead of driving up to location for sunrise when an alarm went off after a night sleep in the car I was peering through the windows covered with a veil of snow white petals taken off the apple tree I was parked under by the gusts of wind whose rhythmic shaking of my car lulled me to sleep the night before.

Instead of driving around looking for photographic opportunity I was sitting at the top of Steptoe Butte, reading a book, doing some work, or just staring in the distance.

Walking among the trees of abandoned orchard I’d stop caught by the singing of the birds. I’d stand for I don’t know how long listening to them because the time lost its meaning and only the melody of the nature remained. I’d stand as quietly as possibly and just listen.

Next day I walked to the top of the Steptoe Butte proudly towering over the ocean of rolling hills. There’s a road there going all the way up. That’s how most people get there and that’s how I used to get there too. But, I wondered, what it would be like to walk that road instead. I drove to the top first, left my car there and walked down to the base of the butte. That way I would not chicken out and turn around half way to the top. I’d have to go all the way because that was where my car was. Following a spiraling road bound around the butte a few times down I went.

Walking it gave me a new appreciation of Steptoe Butte diverse natural beauty. A green carpet of grass with orange and purple and yellow and blue polka dots of wild flowers was covering the slope.  A multitude of plum and apple trees covered in blossom ranging from pure white to gentle pink were rising from that carpet. And isolated rock gardens not tamed by the vegetation yet.

On the way back I spotted a faint trail going up, more likely walked by wild animals than people. I took it. And just like that my walk turned into a real adventure. I found wild flowers I had never seen before, I experienced rich scents I had never smelled before, I saw a herd of deer that quickly retreated away from me and an ant mound that I carefully walked around at a safe distance.

A patch of trees that seemed insignificant from the road turned out to be a real forest where one could use ‘up’ as the only way to keep walking in the same direction. I had to find my way, sometimes walking around spiky bumbles, sometimes retreating and finding another way when facing especially dense vegetation. When I finally walked out of the forest onto the road I was rich with new experiences and much closer to the top than I expected.

In the end I did take a few pictures when the light was so dramatic that it was hard to stay away from the camera.

Restrictions Mean Creativity?

For almost two month now we’ve had Stay at Home order in Washington state. It ruined my travel plans and I was pretty disappointed with the loss of photographic opportunities. But I stayed at home and only walked close to it to keep myself and other people safe. As days passed and I kept walking the nature trails next to my home, I first came to terms with the restrictions, and then I started appreciate them because I was falling in love with the place I live in.

Day after day I was walking in the patch of wilderness near me. Little by little I studied it. Now I know every little stream, every little trail. I know many trees and rocks. I know how they look in sunny weather and in cloudy one. I know how they look in the morning and in the evening.

I spent hours sitting on a rock or log by a burbling stream in a cool shade of a tree while the sun was winking at me through the canopy. And I was winking back at the sun, listening to a story the stream was telling me. Or read a book myself. Every time I would make sure to leave no trace and take a good picture of the place.

The forest became my friend. I saw it waking up after winter, stretching its muscles with the cracking sound of its branches, dressing up in a green dress with flowery polka dots. Every day I had little discoveries waiting for me, brightening my day: a new flower blooming that was not there the day before, a tree having a shimmer of green where there were bare branches earlier, a deer walking among the trees.

The forest was never resting, always changing. And yet there was a sense of calm and peace in the forest. Nothing was rushed and everything got done. Slowly day-by-day it was coming to life.

By now I came to appreciate the restrictions for making me fall in love with the place I live in. I was challenged to find something interesting close to home. And I became more attuned to its beauty. And I became more creative.

I’m eager to see it living and changing through all the seasons.

365

http://www.flickr.com/vit-photo

It has been a while since my last post. I’ve been busy, very busy. That sounds like a typical excuse. At the same time it is an explanation too. I’ve had several art fairs which turned out very successful, more successful than I expected. Just like the last year I was not prepared enough for success and had to actively print, varnish, stretch, mount, frame, in between art fairs. Then I tried to catch up on photographic opportunities of the summer that was quickly running away. Now I’m trying to catch up on post-processing of those images, while preparing for the fall season of art fairs. How’s that for explanation? Not enough? Well, I’ve also update my website, both the look and the content. And I started a couple of new projects – and that’s what I want to talk about.

***

365 – that’s how many days in a year, in a typical year. Among photographers Project 365 also refers to a photographer’s personal project where he/she makes one photograph every day for a year. That’s what I started to do.

I don’t adhere to the strict rules of Project 365. I’ve relaxed them for myself a little bit to make it more enjoyable. I don’t force myself to post a new image every day. Sometimes I have bad days when I don’t feel like making a photo. And then there are good days when I post more than one. All the images are taking with my smartphone and posted directly from it without post-processing. See, I’m trying to make it simple for myself.

It is a good [almost] daily exercise. Just like athletes need to flex their muscles every day I need to flex my creativity. It has been both enjoyable and beneficial for me. My daily world now has a lot of images in it. I see more and more images along the path which I’ve worked thousands times before. The world is now filled with lines texture, shapes, patterns and colors.

I hope that it will last longer than a year. So, rather than referring to it as Project 365 I refer to it as “Daily Impressions”. I don’t seek fame and glory with it but some of you may find it entertaining.

Enough talk. Here is the link: http://www.flickr.com/vit-photo. (Finally, I found some use for my Flickr account which was sitting untouched for ages.) Oh, well, I’ve copied the link to beginning of the post for those who won’t read all my scribbling. 🙂 And you don’t have to remember it. It is on my website under “Social”.

Magic of a Print

The Bellevue art fair is behind me now. Thanks to everyone who stopped by, said hi, bought some or ordered. Thanks to you it has been very successful for me. Now I have a lot of orders and a lot of new prints to make – and I enjoyed it very much.

There is some magic in a print slowly coming out of a printer, another world appearing out of thin air. I’m wondering if it is the main reason why I do my own printing: to see it happening.

Next is varnishing. That’s pouring milky acrylic on the print and spreading it equally to the whole print. This make the print foggy, it hides it again from this world. I typically do this at night, so it can dry over night. When acrylic dries out it becomes transparent and the image becomes crisp, contrasty and full of color.

The first thing I do when I wake up is to go see the print – my baby. This is how it is going to look. There is still stretching, mounting, framing ahead but that won’t change the look of the image.

What’s left is to do stretching or mounting and then framing.

And that’s what I’m going to do for the next two weeks. Thanks to all who bought or ordered prints for giving me such an opportunity.

Photographic Style

There is certain set of topics that popular on photographic blogs. Style is one of them: what it is, how to get your own style, etc.

I typically stay away from repeating what has been said already but I have something to add to a conversation about photographic style. I’ve seen a style is often being confused with consistent look, subject or concept.

I can make my images look certain way and say that is my style. Think of Instagram and applying the same filter or set of filters to all your images, or making only HDR, tin type, etc. Can it be my style style? What make it mine?

Once, I remember, I asked a fellow photographer what kind of photography he does and his response was "I do HDR photography". I thought it was an odd way to define your own photography. HDR is just a tool, a software. Defining yourself as HDR photographer is like saying I’m feeding images into this tool and like all that comes out on the other end.

Let’s say I found my own secret recipe to make my photos look unique. Well, it will be unique just for a short while before someone figures out how to reproduce it. Second, I refuse to believe that the sole purpose of a photographer is to feed images into a tool that produces consistent look and the same look can look good on all photos.

Next thing that is often misinterpreted as style is concept, an idea that is implemented in all photos, a subject or set of subjects photographed in a certain way. For example, photos of Lego figurines repeating compositions of famous photos. Or photographing monkeys with interpreted-by-people-as-smile expressions on their faces. Or light painting.

Can the concept be your style? I feel it is much closer to style than image look itself. I’ve seen some amazing photos of water drops with interesting lighting that produced surrealistic images. Concept can be certainly more unique and harder to reproduce than look alone.

The danger though is in getting stuck with one concept and becoming repetitive. There is also a risk of focusing too much on concept and forgetting about other aspects of photography. For example, you’ve come up with a concept of photographing certain subject in a landscape. Make sure that it is a decent landscape, horizon is leveled and light is good.

Somewhat close to concept consistent subject is sometimes referred to as style. Let’s say I photograph only flowers, or waterfalls, or sunsets and call it my style. Same question comes to mind – how this can be my style, what makes it mine? Many other photographers might be photographing exactly the same subject.

So if we put consistent look, subject or concept aside what is left to define style? Style is my unique perception of the world I photograph. There is something ephemeral about images that is common thru all the photos and reveal photographer’s soul. It exposes my personality. It is self expression.

I struggled for a long time to have a style, just like many other photographers did, until someone else defined it for me. After looking at my images that person said that they all look “dreamy like fairy-tale”. That’s exactly how I feel when photographing and it comes thru in my photos.

Now a few years later I realized that the reason I’ve struggled to find my style was that I was looking for the wrong things. I don’t have consistent look, subject or concept. I like to experiment, try something new. Photographing the same makes me bored. It puts my mind in an artificial box and my mind starts a rebellion.

If you struggle to find your style, feel unhappy about what you photograph, may be you should try something new. Maybe you’ve put yourself in an artificial box while your style is outside of that box?

Strawberry and Art

Random line of thought…

Why don’t I print some of my images on glossy paper? I’d like to make some of my work on a glossy surface. Some of the images would look great on super glossy paper face mounted to plexiglass. Way too expensive to make. Nobody will buy at that price. Average consumer buys good enough at the lowest price.

Stop. This line of thought reminds me another one I had a while ago…

Why there is no good strawberry in grocery stores? Good one is much harder to grow, transport and perishes quickly. It would cost much higher. The average consumer hunts for a best price for a good enough product. What used to be good enough yesterday, becomes a base line today and good enough can be lowered further. In the end all we are left with is strawberry that does not smell like strawberry, does not taste like strawberry and looks as if it is made of plastic. And it keeps that look for many, many days…

Art Fair: My Experience

This year I tried something new – selling canvases with my photographs at art fairs. I’ve been to two art fairs: Kirkland Uncorked and 6th Street in Bellevue. A few weeks passed since the last one. I had time to recover and reflect on this new for me experience.

The Most Important Takeaway

The most important takeaway – my audience. I found more people who like my work and keep in touch with me. Talking to people gave me insights and unusual perspectives on my photography.

Thanks to all who stopped by my booth on either of the art fairs, talked to me, purchased my work – you’re my audience and I love you all.

The Best Encouragement

I got encouraging response to my photo impressionism work. This was very surprising. This is something that I like to do a lot and at the same time I thought people would not accept. Well, I was wrong, people loved it.

The Best Moment

When someone passing by would suddenly freeze seeing my work and in a few seconds after catching a breath slowly say “wow!”.

The Worst Moment

Pouring rain on the first day of the art fair in Kirkland. Everyone simple disappeared from art fair. Staying alone in a booth without anyone even passing by is the worst.

The Funniest Moment

When a woman passing by saw my photo with a boat Stillness and said “I love this image but I’m done with color blue”. Should I have offered it to her in some other color?

Kirkland Uncorked

Last month I have been extremely busy printing a lot of my images preparing for Kirkland Uncorked – an art fair in downtown Kirkland. The art fair is at the end of this week July 15-17.

50 canvases are ready to be hung. Today we did a “dry run” of the art fair. We’ve raised the tent, assembled grid walls, hung a few canvases.

Below is the result of the test. It will be even prettier at the art fair. I hope to see some of you there. I’ll post booth number and location once I have it.

WP_000441

Naïve and Romantic

Recently I got a link to a somewhat interesting article Preparation In Fine Art Landscape Photography. While I found it interesting (I do myself lots of the things listed in the article and find them useful), at the same time I thought it is too simplistic and pragmatic.

The most important thing I do in the field is missing from the article’s list: connecting with a landscape. Before I even take my camera out of a bag I spend time observing landscape that surround me – from tiny flowers to tall mountains to high sky up above. What’s interesting in it, how do I feel about it, is it a happy place or a sad place, is it powerful or weak? I spend as much time as I need to feel the things that surround me, walking around or simply sitting. I may even close my eyes and focus on scents or sounds of birds singing or waves crashing onto the shore. Can you imagine that – a photographer with his eyes closed?

Call me naïve and romantic – because quite frankly that who I am – but when I photograph I don’t follow any specific list of steps, I follow my emotions.

Two Trees on a Hill at Sunset
Two Trees on a Hill at Sunset