Timing

July 7, 2019

BW photograph of Taugahannock Falls canyon under strong sidelight-the falls are in shadow while the canyon wall is strongly lit.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Timing, as the saying goes, is everything.

That is certainly the case with photography.  In the photo above, arguably, the most important of the subject matter, the falls, is in shadow, while the canyon wall is brightly lit by the strong, directional sidelight.  Such is often the issue when traveling.  It may not be possible to be at the location at the desired time.  Or, if there at the desired time, environmental conditions may not cooperate so as to allow for the intended image.  When that happens, one must adapt.  The strong contrast presented by the rising sun allows for a textured study of the canyon wall.  Perhaps this calls attention to a feature that may be overlooked when focusing, literally and figuratively, on the waterfall.  Perhaps this is also just a rationalization for a missed opportunity…

In any case, one must remain flexible.  Plans often have to be modified due to conditions beyond one’s control.  More to the point, one must retain control over that which is within reality.  Being adaptable is certainly an asset when so much can, and often does, go “wrong”.  That last word in is quotes because that in itself is a judgment.  It is much better, and more conducive to one’s well-being, to avoid such interpretations and just accept the situation as it presents itself.  In this particular case, it was a gloriously clear morning in which to be on the road.

Take care.

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Appreciating da Vinci

May 2, 2019

BW photograph of a decaying log alight on a large rock after a flood.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Earlier this morning, I had gone for brief walk as it was a bit of a damp, foggy start to what was to become an 80+ degree day.  The above log caught my attention due to its having been deposited on a large, flat rock after a flood event.  The fungi and overall condition evidenced that this log is on its way to decay.  As such, there were textures and patterns to be explored.

While listening to the radio, I found out that today is the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death.  The May, 2019 issue of National Geographic, which arrived yesterday, contains the cover story addressing the breadth and depth of da Vinci’s contributions to life and culture.  NPR’s 1A aired this interview with biographer Dr. Walter Isaacson later in the morning.  I was especially taken with Dr. Isaacson’s statement about being “observant” of the world in which we live.  His final comment about viewing the Mona Lisa is quite fitting and amplifies that point.

BW photograph of tree whorls on a decarying log.

Copyright 2019 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The attention to detail that da Vinci brought to all of his works is emphasized throughout the article and interview-an example of which is when Dr. Isaacson describes the whorls of da Vinci’s hair as seen throughout his drawings and paintings.  It is eerily, cosmically, coincidental that I had made the above photograph this morning before listening to the interview.  The spirals in the wood are what had garnered my attention-they are to the upper right of the log in the first photograph.  I had no idea that da Vinci was so captivated by such patterns.  I think he would have approved this taking of notice.

As an aside, I use Moleskine notebooks to document my thoughts when out-and-about as they slide easily into the pockets of a couple of my photo bags or the various vests worn.  As the writer of this blog, it is extremely useful to jot down ideas before they disappear into the ether.  I bring this up because until listening to the interview with Dr. Isaacson, it had been quite awhile since thinking about paper as a form of technology.  There is a distinct, organic, pleasure that comes from combining paper and pen-the physical feel and the curl of the pages; the scratchiness of the pen depositing the ink while the stream of consciousness flows.  This is much more enjoyable than hammering away at a keyboard and staring at a monitor.  If the experience with da Vinci’s journals is any indication, those notebooks will most certainly outlast any hard drive…

Take care.

Spark

December 14, 2018

BW photograph of trees silhouetted againt the rising sun.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

When going to the mountains for a hike, I am often up-and-out of the house and on my way well before sunrise-this becomes more of a task when temperatures are below freezing and it is still fully dark.  However, the trade-off is the stillness and solitude that has been written about previously.  Still, it feels like a bit of a slog when first starting out and much effort is involved in getting the legs moving.  The morning when these photos were made was certainly no different in that regard.

BW photograph of trees silhouetted againt the rising sun.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

However, what was different, or perhaps better stated as being more noticeable or remarkable, was how energized I became when setting up the camera for these photos.  The brain engaged to manage the process of composition and exposure-the intentionality of photography drives selective attention to make all else fade away.  (Photographer’s note:  the image directly above is the same general composition as the one leading off this post.  The only difference is a pan to the right to include the closer tree, which is why it appears to be more prominent.  This cue adds a bit more depth to the composition.)

BW photograph of trees in front of a vertical rock formation early in the morn.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Back in the day (and I am old enough to use that phrase…), there was a distinct thrill that occurred when watching the image appear in the developing tray when working in a chemical darkroom. (The chorus of the song “Anticipation” is playing in my head as I type this.)  That kick is the result of a bit of dopamine being released in the brain, which has been referred to as a “dopamine squirt”.  Working digitally changed that as one no longer has to wait to see the results-they appear almost instantaneously on the monitor of the camera.  The kick remains the same, though.  This is especially true given that I work (mostly) in B&W now, which presents an image quite different from what is seen with the naked eye.

BW photograph of an overlook into a valley between two trees.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

After having worked in B&W (in both film and digital mediums) for so long now, I have the ability to pre-visualize the scene as greyscale and not colour.  Of course, one only has to snap a test photo to see the difference a B&W emulation makes when using a digital camera.  Still, there is that spark of creativity that comes from seeing a scene, mentally creating the B&W interpretation, and then doing the work to realize the image as conceived.  That aspect is what makes the process just as important as the final image.

Take care.

Themes and Variations

October 1, 2018

BW photograph of an overcast sky looking out toward Thurmont from Hog Rock.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

A theme is a common thread that is woven throughout a body of work.   This blog contains posts that address several themes:  climate change and trash are two of the major subjects.  Being in the mountains is another.

A variation reflects a modification of some sort-something is added or taken away or presented in a different fashion.

I have written before about photographing the water at Morgan Run.  It is quite difficult to take the exact same photograph-even with using the continuous drive setting on a camera.  While the theme remains the same (Morgan Run), each image is a variation due to the instantaneous changing of the water as it flows.

The same can be said for the atmospheric conditions when looking out from the Catoctin Mountains.  The photograph above was made this past weekend.  If there are any clouds in the sky, they are often morphing into new shapes and sizes.  If the wind is blowing, they may move across the frame.  During a sunrise, such as this one, the light on and behind the clouds alters the illumination.  There may be crepuscular rays.  Variations all.

This is, in part, why I look forward to visiting the “same” places time after time.

Take care.

Flora and Fauna

September 18, 2018

BW photograph of the Hog Rock Trail heading toward Cunningham Falls on a foggy morning.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

One of the other real advantages to being up and out before the sunrise is that you get to experience the waking up of the world around you.  Yes, in some situations this means more people, and more cars, and more mechanical noise.  Out in the woods, though, this changes.  For example, the various species of birds begin to sing their songs.  The aroma of the air and the texture of the ground underfoot change.  Various plants open and/or reorient themselves.  It is quite a sensory experience.

BW photograph of the split end of a tree limb laying on the ground.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Speaking of such, I am currently reading A Year in the Maine Woods by Dr. Bernd Heinrich.  The author is able to provide ample details as to which species makes which sounds and when or which tree is in which stage of development.  He is quite learned and has put extraordinary effort into being so.  Early in my photographic career, I spent quite a bit of time attempting to develop such knowledge.  Arguably, as per photographer John Shaw, being a well-informed naturalist would be as asset in the pursuit of photography.  This is most certainly true for one making specific photographs of particular species-you can learn when to be where for the desired image.  On the other hand, I have gotten to a point where I do not need to know which species are making what sounds as I am not interested in that degree of selectivity in my photography.  I prefer a greater degree of serendipity to my process-I wander and photograph what catches my eye.  However, I absolutely need to know that the species are.

This latter point is quite important, because we are in an age, the Anthropocene, which may very well mean they aren’t.

Please be sure to read Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural HistoryThis is Ms. Kolbert’s The New Yorker article addressing the same topic.

Take care.

Greys

August 23, 2018

BW photograph of an overcast day in Mercer, ME.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Having deep distinct blacks and bright white highlights provide the end-point contrast for striking BW photography.  However, the gradations throughout the middle-tone greys are necessary to provide the full range of tones for this medium.  Otherwise, you would have what BW photographers refer to as the “chalk and soot” look.

BW photograph of an old Ford tractor with a front end loader.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

The black-grey-white transitions, combined with the absence of colour, which is often overworked via the Saturation controls in photo-editing software, provides a sense of purity, a sense of “completeness”, to the imagery.

Take care.

Fallen

June 9, 2018

BW photograph of a fallen, broken, tree.

Copyright 2018 Kevin P. Mick Photography. All rights reserved.

Over the past few months, and especially recently, many images of deadfall and the result of the interaction between weather and trees have been posted and discussed.  The one above is in keeping with those themes.  As this is being written, the sky is darkening as the latest round of thunderstorms is building.

Photographically, diagonal lines can draw the viewer’s attention.  While vertical and horizontal lines imply stability, diagonal lines induce a bit of tension in a scene.  The tension in this particular photograph, though, has already been released as the tree has fallen.   Still, there remains a bit of drama as the tree is neither vertical nor completely horizontal.

The existential question remains:  did it make a sound when it fell?

Take care.