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All of My Photography in Just One Photo

 (DavidRaboin)

After several years of drought, we are finally having a normal winter in the Bay Area.  Rainy weather moved in last week and the sky has been a cauldron of murk ever since.  Between storms I took Holden out exploring.  Trying to catch a little sun, we drove up one of the steep hills on the edge of town and then took a walk on a ridge-top fire road. We climbed above the fog and stopped to watch the bands swirling mist float across the valley — or more accurately, I took photos of the wind-blown fog while Holden threw clods of dirt.

I think this quiet photo does a good job illustrating what my photography is about now.  This photo is Dave’s photography late 2014.

1)  Referencing other art — When I can, I use techniques perfected by painters or other photographers.  This picture borrows from the tradition of Chinese landscape painting.  Like Chinese Scroll Painting I use the fog to create a feeling of depth.  Mount Diablo looks all the more substantial and serene because the fog creates a strong figure ground relationship.  Foggy landscapes naturally lend themselves to this ancient technique.  In other situations I will borrow the techniques of different artists.  With my street photography I emulate everyone from Atget to Winogrand.  If I’m taking landscape photos on a cloudy day I think of Andrew Wyeth, on a dramatic day I look to Ansel Adams.  When I take architectural photos I reference Shulman and Sheeler.  And, if I’m taking engagement photos, I might reference a Disney princess movie.  Good artists borrow and great artists steal (quote stolen from Steve Jobs, who lifted it from Picasso, who lifted it from TS Eliot, etc…).    Do I worry that I won’t have a unique voice, that my photos will all look derivative?  No.  I’ve found that my personality, for better or worse, can’t be pushed out of my photos no matter how hard I try.

2) Ambiguity — Photography has a special relationship with reality.  On a basic, subconscious level most people feel that photos represent reality, but our thinking brains know photos lie.  We know photos don’t tell the whole story yet there’s still that persistent feeling that photos are real.  This foggy hillside photo dances on that fine line of reality.  Every mother’s instant reaction to this picture is, “Oh my god, he’s going to fall!”   But no, that feeling of danger is a trick of perspective.  That’s not a cliff.  You can’t see it from this angle but there is a flat berm just below the edge of the road, and then below that, the hill gradually recedes.  My son wasn’t in danger, but it certainly looks that way.  Adding another level of ambiguity to this photo is the way the road climbs into nothingness as it moves out the right side of the frame.  Like a late expressionist painting, the perspective of the road is slightly warped giving it a feeling of floating in empty space.  And the biggest ambiguity, without that introductory paragraph, we wouldn’t know what’s going on here.  Why is this little kid standing alone in the middle of nowhere?  Without any context, this photo could be fit to many different stories.  I enjoy making pictures that remind the viewer that maybe they don’t always know the full story, maybe photos aren’t all that trustworthy.

3) Strong Composition in a Snap — I’ve been practicing photography for twelve years and the skill I am most proud of is my ability to recognize a strong composition almost instantly (plus, if I miss one who’s there to tell me I missed it?).  This photo, like much of my recent work, wasn’t planned.  With my son busy playing with rocks and dirt I climbed up the hill next to the road to see if the view was better.  I kept a close eye on the boy, and even though I wasn’t thinking of making this photo, the second he moved into place my subconscious knew the shot was a winner.  I lifted the camera to my eye and “snap”.  I couldn’t improve the composition if I tried.  The tree on the lower left and the storm drain form a visual seesaw with my son as the fulcrum.  This creates some tension in the frame and the road acts like a support beam holding everything together.  The fog and distant hills add a sense of enormous depth.  Noticing these compositional elements was strictly an unconscious act.  My lumbering, conscious brain doesn’t think that fast.  Only after the photo is snapped does my conscientiousness catch up and I realize what I have.  This unconscious, instant recognition is the reward for years of practicing and studying the work of masters.  Now, I trust my instincts.  Most of my best shots are taken by feel more than thought.  It wasn’t always that way.  This skill only developed in the last couple years.  Training the unconscious brain takes 10,000 hours they say.

4)  My Core Philosophy — If you haven’t read it yet, you might want to visit my photography manifesto, my core philosophy.  This photo complies with most of what I wrote.  There are details, a time stamp, and thoughtful framing. I won’t bore you by repeating everything I wrote there.  Go check it out.

*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!

Alligator Alley

Florida Everglades Aligator Alley Aerial

We’re strapped in and climbing out of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The lights of the suburbs end abruptly as we fly westward over the Everglades.  It’s nightfall and the swamp is slipping towards darkness.   I imagine the reptiles are hungry and on the prowl.  Out the left window I can see Interstate 75, Alligator Alley, stretching towards the horizon.

We have a long, upwind flight to San Francisco ahead of us.  I can’t wait to get home.  This is day four of a difficult four-day trip and tomorrow is Thanksgiving.  During this trip we flew two red-eyes and then two night flights on the opposite days.  I couldn’t be a cargo pilot.  I need to see the sun.  To add to our troubles, the winter jet-stream is coiled like a Burmese Python across the central plains.  It’s been that way all week.  I expect more annoying turbulence tonight.

Florida Sunset (1 of 1)Our westbound climb extends the sunset.  We’re approaching the Gulf Coast when the sun finally tucks behind the horizon.  Five more hours to go.

 

*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!

On My Way to Lunch

 (DavidRaboin)

I was up all night flying, fell asleep around 8:00 AM, and then went out for lunch at 2:00 PM.  Trying to keep my photo skills in shape, I took my camera on the walk to lunch.  This is Fort Lauderdale, Florida.  The first photo is the ceiling of our hotel’s lobby.  The light shimmers as it filters through the rooftop pool causing the lobby to feel like a coral reef.  The architecture almost makes up for the blaring techno music.

 (DavidRaboin)

I don’t even try to fight the temptation anymore — it’s impossible to resist photographing lifeguard stations.  These South Florida models are especially pleasing.

 (DavidRaboin)

I think I need a new poster for my dorm room.

 (DavidRaboin)

Lunch wasn’t very good, but I still enjoy color photography.

*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!

Santa Monica Balance

 (DavidRaboin)

I was in Los Angeles yesterday.  We were scheduled to fly the redeye flight to Fort Lauderdale that evening but I had the entire day off before flying.  Not wanting to tax myself too much before an all night transcon, I decided to take an easy photo walk around Santa Monica rather than go crazy hiking in the Hollywood Hills or taking the Metro all the way to Long Beach.  I took the good old R3 bus and then spent an hour walking around downtown Santa Monica and the pier.  The sun was dropping and I hadn’t gotten a decent photo yet.  Nothing interesting was happening.   Then, when I was busy taking photos of a woman in a burka who was taking pictures of her husband and child, I spotted something crazy out of the corner of my eye.  Is that guy balancing on the railing?  Holy crap, he is… And I have a camera in my hand!  I ran over and snapped a couple shots before he jumped down.  We talked for a minute and I found out this guy does this balancing routine almost every night.  This is his daily workout and he was just getting started.  He was excited to have me follow him around and take some photos.  Lucky me.

 (DavidRaboin)

This dude is strong (never got his name but you can follow him on Instagram at NinjaPhilosophy).  He held this pose for at least 15 seconds.  Then he did it again, and again, and again.  A handstand in this precarious location was  impressive, but to do it with fatigued shoulder muscles was insane.

 (DavidRaboin)

 (DavidRaboin)

Ninja’s don’t know fear.

 (DavidRaboin)

If you’re in need of a stealth assassin, who can walk down a flight of stairs on his hands, I think I found your guy.

 (DavidRaboin)

This is the third time in three years that my photo walk was saved by a parkour artist (is that what you call them?).  The first time was down in Big Sur where I crossed paths with a couple of bridge climbing nuts.   Then, last fall I came across another free runner in Seattle.  As a former skateboarder I can identify with the parkour philosophy of finding new ways to use urban structures.  I hope that this wild, creative spirit shines through in my everyday photography.

*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!

Hansel and Gretel

 (DavidRaboin)

Hansel looks plump enough to eat, but the witch would be wise to stay away from these two. This particular Gretel knows more tricks than coyote.

I took this photo up on Lime Ridge, one of our favorite neighborhood escapes. The trailhead is just a couple of minutes from our house. There are lots of rocks for the kids to play on and a couple abandoned structures to explore. Making this photo took all of my Zen-Kids skills. Holden was taking a snack break and Ella was scrambling around the rocks above him. I knew the composition I wanted but Ella was in the wrong spot. I knew that if I asked her to move she’d purposely stay far away from where I wanted her — she’s stubborn like that, so I had to be patient. With no direction from me and before Holden’s snack ran out, Ella eventually wandered into the right spot for my composition and I quickly snapped this picture. The positioning of her hand was the only bit of luck — I think it’s perfect.

*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