My Photos — on display for the benefit of the world

Latest

Sunbelt Saturday Afternoon

 (DavidRaboin)

I’m wandering around Dallas on a summer Saturday afternoon.  With the temperature close to 100 degrees and crushing humidity, downtown is nearly deserted.  I feel like I’m in one of those last man left on earth movies.  Or maybe it’s not the heat that’s keeping people off the streets, maybe it’s The Rapture and all the good Christians of Texas have gone on to their reward?  That would explain why it’s just me, the yankee carpetbagger, and the homeless out on the streets today.  We are “the left behind”.  Either way, these are perfect conditions for someone who likes to mess around with cameras.  Now, I’m free to make semi-crazy abstract photos of the architecture and no one is tapping me on the shoulder and asking why I’m taking up-close photos of a support beam in a transit center.  How would you explain to a concerned citizen that you’re using this beam to divide your frame into rectangles and the beam is essential for confusing the perspective of the image?  Would they understand that some photographers like making photos that feel both flat and also simultaneously have a sense of deep perspective?  Maybe their college roommate had hung an MC Escher poster in their dorm room at Texas A&M for a few months and I’d be OK?

And then, a miracle, proof that God loves photographers — just as I get my shot composed, the only other person in Dallas that’s brave enough to leave air-conditioning walks into the frame, and she walks right through the perfect spot.  Click.  This is the photo of Dallas that I’ve hunted for all summer:  the generic, could-be-anywhere city all piled up like a mad collage around a lonely figure.  This is your America hometown in 2015.  It’s not an altogether bad place.  Downtown Dallas might be alienating and soulless, but it’s also comfortable, and easy to get what you need to survive.  It’s possibly the perfect trap for us higher level primates.

 (DavidRaboin)

And, if you still harbor illusions that you are free, the architecture of Dallas is here to remind you otherwise.  Make things easier on yourself and submit now.  There is no escape.

 (DavidRaboin)

We the people of Dallas are both the inmates and the prison guards.  You best behave yourself.  We are keeping an eye on you.

*David is a California Photographer . You can order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Congress Avenue Bridge, Austin, Texas

 (DavidRaboin)

When I write these posts I often struggle with deciding where to pick up the story.  I travel a lot, but I post only bits and pieces of my life.  For instance, this photo was taken on Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas. A crowd had gathered to watch the nightly launch of Austin’s famous bridge dwelling bats, but I was there almost by accident.  My day started at 3:00 AM in the deep suburbs of San Francisco. I drove to the airport in the dark, flew three legs (SFO-LAX-SFO-AUS), road a shuttle to our downtown hotel, took a long run along the banks of the Colorado River, and then, in a haze of endorphins and exhaustion, I then took my camera out to try for some photos.  I don’t remember if I was after photos of the bats or photos of the people who were there to watch the bats.  I mostly just went out because the Congress Avenue bridge is right next to our hotel and it seemed like easy photo fodder.  This is my regular photo routine; drop in to a large American city for a few hours and see what happens.  After all these years, I feel at home pretty much anywhere in America.

I like taking photos at crowded events.  No one pays attention to the photographer when everyone is wielding a camera.  I walked the length of the bridge and decided to concentrate on getting a photo of the punk rock couple (the guy with the Mohawk and his retro girlfriend), but after watching them for a few minutes, I noticed the couple to their left was equally interesting.  Could I get both couples in one frame?  Could I add that distant thunderhead?  I like to have many elements in my photos, but at some point, adding too many subjects turns the photo into a pointless mess.

Does this photo work?  I’ll won’t know that for a couple of months, after the newness wears off.  For now, I like it.  I think it feels like a summer evening and I like the diversity of the crowd.  Who would’ve guessed so many people would get together to watch bats fly out from under a bridge?

As for the bats, they waited until after dark to take flight.  I was in the wrong spot to try for a picture.  If you want bat pictures, skip jogging, and get set up early.  All the best places fill up long before sunset.

 (DavidRaboin)

*David is a California Photographer . You can order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Towards Intensity

 (DavidRaboin)

We’re approaching a line of thunderstorms.  The sun is setting and we’re riding through the storm’s shadow.  We’re traveling west at 8/10ths the speed of sound, but at 36,000 feet, the drama plays out over hundreds of miles, and it feels like we’re crawling through the atmosphere.  I have time to enjoy the slow-motion-sunset-light-show and keep an eye on the big cells that we’re steering around.

Every now and then I have a major insight that changes my photography.  It’s more of a feeling that comes over me and then that feeling leads to the transformational insight.  This doesn’t happen a lot, maybe once every couple of years.  Right now, I think I’m on the leading edge of one of those transformations.

 (DavidRaboin)

Around the west side of the weather, the last glow of the summer evening sun paints the towering clouds.  A wall cloud droops down from the center of the storm.  Look out Missouri.

My last photography revelation was about details and capturing relics of time.  At the time, I was deep into the work of Joel Sternfeld and his book American Prospects.  I loved the large prints and the details Sternfeld captured with his medium format camera.  I was excited that my modern DSLR could capture the same level of detail without the expensive of film.  Rebelling against the trend towards viewing images on tiny phone screens, I decided to pack my photos with details, textures, and little markers of time.  It was a good progression for my art, and as a new father it was important to add all those details to my photos.  I’m finding that over time those details are turning into sentimental gold.  My framing opened up.  I let my lens breath in all those important details.  And, as that evolution was taking place, I was also learning how to photograph children.  Taking quality candid kid photos depends on speed.  So as my frames and compositions were opening up, I was also learning to take photos on the fly, not worrying so much about the perfect composition, and accepting good enough.  The biggest surprise was finding out that my photo taking could work faster than my consciousness mind.  These speed photos are a product of thought, but they happen in a different part of the brain — I think.  I can explain the photos after they’re made, but mental process that goes into them comes and goes like a flash flood.  In some ways, it’s out of my control.      

 (DavidRaboin)

The thunderstorm’s delicate crown stretches across the Missouri sky.  Sometimes the best photo is just a straight on view of the thing itself.

My new revelation (and resolution) is to concentrate on intensity.  This might be a response to all that fast, sloppy, experimental shooting I’ve been doing  the for past few years, but I think it’s more the result of my writing.  In writing, I’m always searching for the best word, and my editing process is merciless.  I try to say the most with the fewest words.  Why not do the same with my photographs?  I’m not suggesting that I remove subtly from my photos, but rather that I streamline the message, frame things so there’s no confusion about what I’m trying to communicate.  And, like digging for the best word to make my point, I’m now on the lookout for the visuals that make the greatest impact.  My photos will still be about the details, but maybe the details will be more in your face, and my compositions simplified when they can be.  A short declarative sentence is sometimes more powerful than one of Faulkner’s page spanning monstrosities.  I’m bringing conscious planning back into my photography.  I’m slowing down.

*David is a California Photographer . You can order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Family Camping at Tuolumne Meadows: The Legend of Spooky Farters

 (DavidRaboin)

Here’s Holden, the terror of Tuolumne Meadows campground.  You can see that the altitude didn’t slow him down.  At 8600 feet, a lot of reviews warned of kids getting altitude sickness.  We didn’t have any problems with that.  We probably would’ve welcomed anything that can slow this guy down.   Holden drove us a little nuts with his playing and falling in the dirt.  You see, the campsites are mostly covered in powder-like dirt and when it mixes with the tiniest amount of afternoon alpine rain showers (like every afternoon), the dirt becomes sticky.  I think I hauled this guy up to the bathroom for a wipe-down at least a dozen times.  Don’t get me wrong, we loved this campground, but it was challenging with a toddler.  

A couple of weeks ago my family and I camped up at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park.  Although I grew up camping and camped a little during my bachelor years, this was our first ever camping trip as a family. I must give Maria credit for both entertaining my crazy idea to go camping with a toddler and for doing the majority of the pre-trip organizing because I had to work until late the night before we left.  Since this was our first time out, we treated this trip as a practice run. We would be gone only two nights, but we did raise the difficulty level by choosing a high elevation campground in the heart of black bear country, and in the days leading up to our departure, the forecast called for rain and night-time temperatures in the 40s.  So, this trip was going to be little more involved than visiting the local Jellystone Park.  In the end, it actually turned out to be the perfect introduction to camping. The scenery on the north side of Yosemite National Park was stunning, and compared to the famous valley, it felt like we had the place to ourselves.  The people we met we’re mostly serious outdoors people.  Everyone was friendly and helpful.  The less desirable tourist types that one expects to encounter at a popular National Park were nowhere to be seen.  Also, Tuolumne Meadows is a beautiful campground on the banks of the Tuolumne River.  We cooked outdoors, attended a ranger campfire presentation, and the kids did plenty of exploring.  I’ve always dreamed of one day taking my kids camping in a national park, so in many ways, this short trip was a dream come true.  I hope it’s just the beginning of more family adventures.

 (DavidRaboin)

On the first night, we put the kids to bed early.  They were tired from traveling.  I took my camera and tripod down to the Tuolumne River for a few minutes of sunset photography.  I felt a little bad leaving Maria alone up at the campsite after all she did so much work putting this trip together, but how often do I get out during the golden hour in the High Sierras?  Under pressure, I worked fast and got some nice shots in under fifteen minutes.  There was a time, pre-family, when I would’ve chased these kinds of photos all day long. And,  I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss it a little, but playing with my kids in a National Park is so much more fulfilling.  If  I did have the time for serious landscape work now,  I think I’d shoot differently.  I’d hunt up more drama or a new perspective.  I enjoy making these photos, and respect the work that goes into quality landscapes, but I feel like these shots don’t go far enough to express my ideas or emotions.  I like to believe my photography has progressed past the standard wall calendar landscapes.

 (DavidRaboin)

On the morning of day two, we set off on a hike to Gaylor Lake.  The trailhead was at 9000 feet and climbed quickly to a 10,000 foot pass.  It was a challenging climb for Ella, but she made it, and the views from the pass were spectacular.  If  we were to do this hike over again, we would make a loop and have the Yosemite free shuttle bus pick us up on the Tioga Pass Highway.  The hike was gorgeous, but by making a loop you would get more time in the high country above the trees.  

 (DavidRaboin)  

Shortly after starting down the mountain, a thunderstorm rolled in.  Lightning struck the peaks on the far side of the valley.   When the first peal of thunder rolled down the valley,  Holden, who was born in California and hasn’t had much experience with thunderstorms, said, “Spooky farters scary.”  We hurried through the woods and made it back to the car without getting soaked or struck by lightning.  

 (DavidRaboin)

This is what makes the Tuolumne Meadows campground a winner:  The Tuolumne River.  After a strenuous morning hike, we bummed around the banks of the river the rest of the afternoon.  There are lots of rocks to climb and places for the kids to explore, all within a few hundred yards of the campground.

 (DavidRaboin)

Here’s Ella adventuring along the banks of  The Tuolumne River.  In the background you can see Tuolumne Meadows Campground.  If you’re lucky, you can score a riverside campsite.  

 (DavidRaboin)

California’s wildflowers last deep into summer in the high country.  Holden doesn’t notice.  He’s off on a s’mores trip.

 (DavidRaboin)

Moopy and Bunko, High Sierras, Mid-Summer 2015

We survived our first family camping outing.  Tuolumne Meadows was perfect.  If we were to do this over again, the only things we would’ve changed is we would’ve added another night to our stay, and we would’ve brought swim suits.  National Park campgrounds never have showers and this one is especially dusty.  That wouldn’t be a problem if you bring a swimsuit and take a dip in the river.  The area surrounding Tuolumne Meadows well stocked with amazing sites and trails.  I imagine a family could spend a month up here and not run out of things to do or see.  One word of warning though, it snowed an inch up here the day after we left.  Be prepared.  It can get chilly at night.

*David is a California Photographer . You can order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!

Huron, South Dakota, The Place Where Evil is Born

We middle latitude dwellers expect our storms to unfold in a predictable order:  dark clouds approach from the west, a burst of wind, and then the rain and lightning.  That’s how thunderstorms unfold in the Midwest anyways.  But what if you’re flying a jet?  In an airplane, you’re just as likely to approach a storm from its billowy white backside as you are to fly up on it’s eastern storm shadow.

 (DavidRaboin)

We’re flying through South Dakota’s expansive sky, making our way from the West Coast towards Boston.  Up ahead, a cold front has sparked up a line of strong thunderstorms with a 55,000 foot tall supercell anchoring its southern flank.  We request a twenty degree right turn and run down a corridor of clear air,  Then, from a safe distance, we watch the storm play out in reverse order.  First comes the rainbow, then the torrents of rain, and last is the foreboding shadow.  Someone tell Noah to hurry up on his arc.  The rainbow is already on it’s way.

 (DavidRaboin)

As we round the sun-soaked crown of cumulus, the storm’s ten-mile deep shadow comes into view.  My first officer says, “Wow, that looks like the place where evil is born.”

*David is a California Photographer . You can order prints of the photos featured on this blog by clicking on the image or visit our website at photos4u2c.com Support this site by using one of my links to Amazon.com. Thanks!
Support this site by using our links to Amazon.com