Archive for April 2012

Working Hands   Leave a comment

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

Reflecting on yesterday’s blog entry, I was reminded of a photograph I took last year while on a trip to Charleston, SC.

Up until the time I was 8 years old, my bedroom window looked out, beyond the safer boundaries of my backyard, onto a cemetery. It was not a morbid fascination I developed back then to the mysteries of death and of our society’s burial rituals, but an attraction to  the sense of place being in a cemetery so vividly creates for me. With a surname like Coffin, I guess it only stands to reason that I should be so fascinated.

On the day this photograph was taken, I wandered, as I often do, into the midst of a cemetery filled with the heavy weight that the symbols of our passing bring to us. All that was missing was a light fog rolling onto and gently over the tombstones and final resting place of so many souls, to set the scene as I experienced it that day.

Much to my surprise, as I rounded the bend of the church that stood in front of the graveyard, I almost literally stumbled into the man who sat idly and eerily quiet in front of me, resting himself and finding a peaceful quiet in the midst of the city of Charleston. I was, regrettably, afraid, an emotion one feels when confronted with the unexpected. I took pause not to disturb him, stepped back a few steps, lifted my camera and snapped a couple of pictures. He did not move a muscle, and I could feel my breath getting heavier for fear that my intrusion might also startle him.

I was filled with a multitude of emotions that are as fresh for me now as they were then. It was clear he was a working man; hands calloused by labour I could only imagine. The hood of his jacket lifted over his head to give warmth during the cool early morning hours. His shoulders pressed forward and his posture symbolic of the hopelessness of his fate and yet it was his hands, clasped and solid, strong and unflinching that have stayed with me since.

I slipped out of the cemetery unnoticed and left him as I found him, but I was not as I had arrived. Who was he and what brought him to “this” place? I wonder what those hands are laboring at today.


The Decisive Moment   1 comment

Henri Carti-Bresson has always been an inspiration to me. His iconic image “Behind-the-Gare-Saint-Lazare-1932”, shown here, is the quintessential example of the decisive moment. The moment when light hits film and epitomizes the peak of the scene observed in front of the photographer in the frame of his camera.

I have written in the past that I tend to be less technical and deliberate on compositional rules than I am for instance on tone and color. I am  inspired by Carti-Bresson when it comes to the moment in time that best represents what I see and feel and am keenly aware of the very moment when I press the shutter release and what is happening in time and space in front of the lens.

Walking by …

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

As I was setting up this image, in the corner of my eye, I observed the man about to enter the frame. Walking briskly in shadow and without notice of me on his right across the street, I clicked one frame. There are a few things compositionally wrong with this image, yet it resonates with me. I wish I had framed it better to include the bottom of his leading foot for example. This particular image is a visual juggle for me. The shadows falling on the facade of the building juxtaposed with the silhouette of the walking man.

Finally, I am left wondering who was this guy, where was he going and where is he now. The photography of strangers always leaves me with these questions. The image is all that is left to document a moment when our paths crossed, and he will forever be a stranger to me.

Window Dressing   Leave a comment

I have, on several occasions in my blog, referred to the immeasurable patience my wife has for my need to stop on a whim to take photographs of visually interesting and stimulating vistas that often cross my path. The scene shown above is one such visual delight that I came upon while I dutifully, and patiently I might add, waited for her to peruse the many knick knacks, crafts and miscellaneous items strewn about the innards of the store pictured here. I have no doubt, my description, biased by my own distaste for shopping, falls well short of the experience as she might describe it as she skipped excitedly into the depths of the colorful oasis.

Sitting on a bench in front of the store, in Hendersonville, NC,  I watched a variety of people, families, dogs and drifters walk by. I lifted my camera to my eye in the hopes that I might find something or someone interesting to photograph. I literally did not even see what was right in front of me until, panning left to right and back, I saw through my viewfinder the character of the storefront through which my wife had just passed. I immediately laughed at myself for missing something so obvious and proceeded to take a few shots.

I am not prone to add text to my photographs, though I have often thought it would make for an interesting pedestal on which to place my own sensibility to a visual exploration or concept with a running theme. While “Chalk It Up” can certainly take on multiple meanings, its presence in this image, is more about the setting than the message. I’ve been wanting to explore text within the walls of the image for some time. I think I’ll make that my next project.

Stargazer Lily   2 comments

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

As many of my fellow photographers will attest, we tend to suffer from what my sons refer to as, GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). I have also discovered this affliction in musicians, which both my sons happen to be.

Nikon has recently released their much-anticipated prosumer camera the D800, with a whopping 36 MP, driving the need for many of us anxious to upgrade, to examine our supporting cast of gear, not the least of which is the glass we put in front of it. In anticipation of the eagerly awaited D800 I have upgraded my lenses and have begun to put them to use in the studio on my aging D80. The reputation of Nikon lenses is second to none and Nikon continues its long tradition of making exceptional quality glass.  This studio  shot of a Tiger Lily and bud was taken with a very simple setup. One overhead softbox against a black seamless background. A few small adjustments in Lightroom 4 to push the highlights and pull back the shadow detail and voila.

I am very fortunate to be married to a fellow artist, who completely “gets me”, and understands the euphoria that accompanies the creative process that yields the artistic expression of our inner selves. Did that just sound like Lil’ C from You Think You can Dance? Oh well, it’s a pretty cool thing.

Posted April 6, 2012 by Paul Coffin in Nature, Photography, Studio

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All Stars   1 comment

Ben and Noah

When my sons were very young, I dutifully and delightfully carried my camera to many of their varied sporting activities. Baseball, as it would turn out, was not to be a life long interest, but it did become the catalyst for a pursuit in individual sport activities that both Ben and Noah excelled in. Ben went on to earn his 3rd degree black belt and Noah his 2nd degree black belt in Tae Kwon Do.

This is one of my favorite pictures of the boys, taken in 1999. It was not posed and their gesture reflects the confidence they possessed then as much as they do today. I love the pride of their expression. It has always amazed me how their personalities have remained the same in many fundamental ways and how they have also changed over the years. It is the part of being a father that is both perplexing and satisfying as I have navigated the many parental challenges that they have provided me over the years.

I know they both read my blog, and I know they both know how I feel about them. And so I’ll end this blog entry as I do when I wish them goodnight or say goodbye on the phone with the 3 simple words that will never ever change. “I love you”.

Posted April 1, 2012 by Paul Coffin in People, Photography, Portrait, Sport

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