November 17, 2019

Colour photograph of the sun setting in Frederick, MD.

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

There really is a fundamental choice between working in colour and working in BW.  One of those points worth considering is how the viewer will interpret the image.  For example, in the photograph above, it is readily apparent that this is light at the extreme of a day-it happens to be a sunset, although it could have been a sunrise.  (This scene, though, is looking west, so that would be a giveaway that this is a sunset.)  The tell-tale colours make the point.  The hues provide a sense of “warmth”, which may then produce a feeling of comfort.

BW photograph of the sun setting in Frederick, MD.

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

If, however, you take the same scene, but create a BW image, the visual clue of the colour is eliminated.  The tonal qualities of the clouds could now be signifying incoming weather.  This is a much starker rendition and creates a very different “feel” to the scene.  To me, it is still beautiful, though.  I like the purity that comes with BW.

It is important to know that neither photograph presents the “reality” of the moment.  The colour photograph was made using the Velvia emulation, which produces very saturated colours-they were not quite this rich.  The BW version was made using the Acros emulation with a green filter to darken the clouds a bit.  Most see in colour, so a BW photograph automatically changes the perception of the viewer.  The focal length used also provided a narrower field of view than would the human eye.  In both cases, to avoid over-exposing the sky, the foreground elements were allowed to record as deep shadows/silhouettes-the eye has a much broader dynamic range and could therefore present much greater detail in those darker areas.  I am fine with the silhouettes.  There are a number of techniques that could be used to hold detail in both the sky and the foreground, but I do not like to do so.  These images are more dramatic.

At this point in my career, I tend to immediately think about the BW version of any scene.  My cameras are configured to align with that preference.  Therefore, it takes a conscious effort to make the changes necessary to create a colour image.  (Sometimes, I neglect to do so as it does not occur to me.)  That is one of the advantages of shooting digital-one camera provides all of the options.  When shooting film, I often carried two bodies-one with colour slide film (Velvia, when photographing the natural world), and one with BW film (usually, TMAX 100).  That system was useful, but sometimes created a problem with the lens I wanted being paired with the film I didn’t.

It is helpful for the photographer to have a clear intent in mind for the final image.  That may, or may not, include the interpretations of the view.

Take care.


November 17, 2019

BW photograph of a tire laying in a stream.

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

This report aired on NPR as I was driving to work the other morning.  This is from a bit earlier in the month.  The connection?  Toxins being released into the environment, which, in turn, pose present dangers to biological organisms.   The first report states that funds are not available to adequately police wild areas, therefore toxic chemicals used in the illegal drug trade make their way into the food chain.   In the second, it is the proposed relaxation of environmental protection standards governing disposal of waste from coal-fired power plants that is the issue.  The risk is that of toxins contaminating water sources.

BW photograph of a can in a plastic bag laying next to a leaf.

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

I sometimes reach the point where stories about the goal of maximizing profits, whether within or without legal and/or regulatory bounds, resulting in environmental damage become more than I want to hear, and I feel the urge to turn off the radio.  That, then, begs the question:  If one does not listen to such reports, then how does one know the breadth and depth of an issue?  If one does not keep up-to-date on regulatory roll-backs or the illegal use of toxins, how does one know the extent of the damage?  What would happen if folks stopped paying attention to the environment?  If a tree falls in the woods and nobody hears it, does it make a sound?  Of course it does.  As long as there is violation of regulatory standards, which includes the failure to adequately fund such efforts or the blatant rolling back/reversal of said standards, the damage continues, thereby creating the persistent need to pay attention.  The frustration and dismay that periodically builds is simply the evidence that more work needs to be done.  That work begins with a critical awareness of the issues.

Keep paying attention.

Take care.


November 3, 2019

BW photograph of a line of bare trees after one of the first frosts of the season.

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

We have had a few signs that fall is upon us.  One is cultural:  the clocks were set back one hour this morning (“Spring ahead and Fall behind” as the saying goes).  The rest, though, most certainly pre-date the human measurement of time.  Tree leaves have been turning colour and dropping for awhile now.  The colder temperatures of the last couple of days have brought about the first mild frosts, which were apparent in the early morning.

BW photograph of a field of corn against a blue sky.

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

To me, though, the most visceral, the most resonant, is the drying of the field corn.

BW photograph of a closer view of stalks of corn.

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

The transition of the summer stalks from the then vibrant green to the muted tan/brown of today, and from what were once supple to the now crinkly, are true measures of the passage of time.  It is not purely visual, either.  There is nothing that quite matches the raspy, textured sound produced by the wind moving about the stalks.  There is a metaphor here that also marks the aging process for us, too.

That time is here.

The sun warms in either case.

Take care.

The War of the Worlds

October 17, 2019

BW photograph of a water tower-long, wide composition.

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

These are images from Frederick, Maryland.  Each time I go there and look toward this water tower, I think of H.G. Wells’ classic The War of the Worlds.  The cover image in that link should provide the rationale for this association.

BW photograph of a water tower with the tower left of center overlooking some houses.

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

This work was published in book form in 1898 and later adapted as a live radio broadcast by Orson Wells.  That broadcast, which coincided with Halloween, was reported to have been thought by some as a narrative of a real invasion-the story of this broadcast is quite a tale.  There have been a few movie adaptations over the years.

Spoiler alert: if you have not read the book nor heard/viewed any of the adaptations, please stop here.

BW photograph of a water tower right of center overlooking some houses.

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

If you are familiar with the end of the story, then you know that the martians are ultimately defeated by the air on earth.  While our technology and war machines were no match for their technology and tripods, the entities themselves simply could not safely breathe our air.  They perished.

Importantly, in reality, such is the case for many humans here in the 21st century.  This is a link regarding the most air polluted cities in the U.S.  This one broadens the scope to the planet.  Statistics regarding the number of premature deaths due to air pollution are also included in the latter link.  (As an important aside, BBC’s Witness History program aired an episode of how Mexico City addressed its car pollution problem.)

BW photograph of a set of old wooden stairs leading to a boarded-over entrance.

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

Given the toxicity of the air, human-generated pollution presents a clear and present danger to the well-being of peoples around the world, especially as efforts are made to roll-back previous legislation regarding pollutants.

BW photograph of fallen leaves laying in a puddle in a gutter.

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

Indeed, uninhabitable conditions, be they environmental (polluted air and water, drought, desertification, rising seas, etc.), economic (lack of employment, exploitation), or social (war, persecution, genocide, other forms of violence) are some of the main drivers of human migration.  As the planet continues to warm and such conditions intensify, so will the conflicts over the remaining habitable areas.  This is one reason for the renewed interest in extra-planetary travel.

It would seem reasonable that there is some form of intelligent life out there in the ‘verse.  One could say that it is a bit egocentric/ethnocentric to think we are the only intelligent life in existence.  (One could also say that given the current state of affairs in so many places, our intelligence could be questioned…)  Therefore, SETI had a history and there is a rationale for the current iteration.  Time will tell.  My fantasy, though, is that any other extraterrestrial life capable of being consciously aware of us would also be intelligent enough to avoid our attempts to make contact.  The manner by which we treat each other and our planet is enough to give intelligent beings pause.

Take care.


The Blob

September 29, 2019

BW photograph of dappled sunlight on a brick wall.

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

No, this does not refer to the classic 1950s sci-fi movie nor the more recent John Carpenter re-make. Instead, this is a reference to a mass of hot water that has again formed in the Pacific Ocean.  As per that linked report, should the prevailing weather conditions continue, this much warmer water has the potential for impacts up-and-down the aquatic food chain as various species are unable to survive the temperature increase.  There is also a risk for the return of toxic algae blooms.  Both of these create issues for the fishing industry.

BW photograph of dead autumn leaves laying atop a rock.

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

NPR also did this story regarding the recent U.N. report, which contains information about these hotter pockets of water as well as a broader range of water-related problems, which include the melting of glaciers and ice sheets-here is the U.N. report.  This report details the degree of dependence and risk faced by the populations living in various geographic locations around the world as the planet warms.  To underline this point, please give this report about the Mont Blanc glacier.

It is so easy to get lost in the latest news of the day, especially given the political systems in place worldwide, and the subsequent issues they create.  This roller-coaster ride can be quite fatiguing when followed closely.  Meanwhile, the inexorable degradation of the planet continues.  As the Amazon rain forest burns, more CO2 is released, and those trees are no longer available for CO2 absorption.  As permafrost melts, greenhouse gases are released.   As environmental protections are eliminated, more damage is done.  The seas are rising.  They are also getting hotter.

It is evermore important for individuals to make concerted efforts to reduce carbon footprints.  At the same time, it is evermore necessary for pressures to be brought to bear on politicians for the larger systemic changes.

All of this flies in the face of nationalism.  In a speech to the U.N., President Trump openly advocated a rejection of globalism.  He has pulled the U.S. from the Paris Accords (not to mention other global agreements). Climate change is the prototypical problem requiring global cooperation and action as rising seas do not respect borders.  Droughts do not respect borders.  Larger and more powerful hurricanes and typhoons do not respect borders.

If you have not already heard Greta Thunberg’s speech to the U.N., it is worth a listen.

Take care.


September 21, 2019

BW photograph of the sun rising behind some wheat stalks.

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

Yesterday was a day of protests initiated by the Fridays for Future group-The Kojo Nnamdi Show broadcast this discussion, and it is worth a listen to hear the student perspectives.  (Mr. Nnamdi followed that with this one the next day.)  Fridays for Future (and here) is one of several student-led activist groups engaged in changing current policy with regard to climate-related issues.

I think a commentator on the BBC best summarized this during a news broadcast when he stated that the youth behind these protests for action on climate change are the “voters of tomorrow” and the “employees of tomorrow”-therefore, the politicians and employers of today would do well to pay attention to what they have to say about the environmental crisis in which we are.  Unfortunately, I did not catch his name for attribution.  This has also been a point made by others.

Whomever said, or actively says, this, is spot on.  This generation is inheriting a world in flux:  the September 2019 issue of the National Geographic had as its heading “The Arctic is Heating Up”.  The October 2019 issue features a photograph of Sudan, “the last male northern white rhinoceros”, on its cover.  The. Last. Male.  As National Geographic also states “Sudan died in 2018”.  Climate change and species extinction-humans are a common denominator.

Such stories bring about a range of emotional responses that span the gamut from anger to depression.  It is helpful to channel that energy toward wrangling the political will necessary to reverse the degradation of the planet and its inhabitants.

These students get that.

Good for them.

Join them in their call to action, as we are all stakeholders in the planet.

Take care.

UPDATE:  The United Nations is hosting the Climate Action Summit tomorrow-this link is from the World Health Organization, which addresses health concerns related to climate change.  There are several links for more information about those effects at the site.

Meanwhile, Tropical Depression Imelda pounded parts of Texas with inundating catastrophic rains, and the current administration has revoked California’s auto emissions standards…





August 17, 2019

BW photograph of a section of running water showing the turbulence.

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

One media resource that I find to be a useful compilation/analysis of the week’s events is the NPR 1A “Friday News Roundup”, which devotes one hour to U.S. issues and one to the global scene.  The following links are for the week of August 12, 2019:  Domestic and International.

Condensing the amount of current turmoil gives one pause.  The division and hostility between peoples and between humans and the environment paints a bleak picture of the state of humanity.  One of the themes that runs through this week’s stories is the characterization of what it means to be an “American” and how we project that meaning to the rest of the world.  This is encapsulated in the statements made by Ken Cuccinelli, the acting director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  Please be sure to read through that entire link or listen to the report.  At one point, acting director Cuccinelli states: “No one has a right to become an American who isn’t born here as an American.” It is important to note the current administration’s effort to eliminate birthright citizenship-a position acting director Cuccinelli has supported.

America was, literally and figuratively, built on immigration.  We also have a long history of racism.  Nationalism is also not a new concept.  However, unless one has a 100% indigenous ancestry, then at some point those born elsewhere factor into one’s family history.  It is also vitally important to keep in mind how the U.S. government ended up treating indigenous peoples.

BW photograph a single leaf with holes laying atop a large boulder.

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

This was also a week that brought further threats to those species already existing on the margins in the form of changes to the Endangered Species Act.  This link highlights the significance of the language being used and the impact of that language with regard to the protections offered (or not).  Despite progress in genetic engineering, extinction still means forever.

BW photograph of a log laying in front of a large rock.

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

Focusing on those two issues here is not to be seen as a dismissal of the other issues discussed in this week’s “Friday News Roundup”.  There are certainly other issues of concern not addressed in today’s program.  They do, though, place a square focus on how we envision America.  More importantly, they highlight the operationalization of what it means to be an American.  The 2020 election will help decide that.  However, 2020 is still quite a ways off and much can happen between now and then.  Indeed, listen to those 1A discussions and clarify your positions with regard to the topics.  Do the requisite research so as to become more familiar with the complexities of the issues.  One real problem is engaging short-term thinking and egocentrism for the decision making process.

Once something is gone, it is gone.

A confession:  Due to my age and life experiences, I can go down the rabbit hole when thinking about issues that are important to me.  I also only write about issues that are important to me. I certainly know that some do prefer to not be inundated by such content-I, too, need to turn it off now and then.  It is also clear that not everyone will agree with the points of view expressed here.  What I do hope, though, is that folks will take notice and think about the content.  One can only decide how one feels if they are aware of the issues.  Once those thoughts and feelings become clear, then courses of action can be developed.

For me, that sums up the evolution of this blog.  I knew from the start that I did not want this to be another gear-driven blog:  I am not that into gear.  I also did not want it to be a cascade of “pretty” pictures-there are tons of blogs and other media for that.

To tie in the photographs, when I find myself with something to say, I go in search of an image to create that illustrates or serves as a metaphor for the thoughts and feelings in the written material.  For example, the photograph that leads off this post is one of rushing water.  I was thinking about the “Friday News Roundup” and so used a shutter speed that was fast enough to give some “edge” to the water, but slow enough to also suggest the pace of the flow.  Many times, these types of images are made with a very slow shutter speed so as to completely smooth out the water-there are many examples of that technique in other posts within this blog.  Doing that, to me, suggests a sense of serenity, that all is comfortable and well and peaceful.  That is not what I wanted to convey here as I view the current news cycle as one that is quite edgy and moves at such a pace that it is difficult to keep up.  The issues keep coming, blow past, and can leave one with a sense of accumulated fatigue.  At other times, I create an image and then need to think of written content that will compliment the visuals.

Together, it is the interaction between the written and the visual that spurs my creative process.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Take care.