Archive for the ‘Art’ Category

The Day the Trees Fell   Leave a comment

On September 29, 2003 Hurricane Juan landed on the shores of Nova Scotia, causing what many describe as the worst storm to hit Halifax since 1893. I was living in Virginia at the time and other than what appeared on the nightly news and photographs posted on a variety of social web sites, the devastation was incomprehensible to me. This is often the case of the effects of natural disasters seen only through the lens of the internet. I recall distinctly my first trip back to Nova Scotia the following summer and was, as many still are, awe struck by the force of nature and the wrought it had on one of Halifax’s most famous parks, Point Pleasant.

I visited Point Pleasant this past summer, some 12 years later, and was again taken aback by the new landscape. My memories of this place still deceive me and my expectations, despite my familiarity, trick me into thinking what was once there still is. Ironically, that very notion is what drew me back to write my first blog entry in two years. My hiatus broken, literally and certainly figuratively by the once towering park I grew up near.

Despite the ravages of the storm, some trees still stand, as monuments to our memories and reminders of natures wrath. Peeled of their nature,  sculpted by wind and time, these trees stand tall with a new meaning and resolve.

These are the trees that remain.

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2015 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2015 Paul Coffin Photography

_PAC6407

© 2015 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2015 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2015 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2015 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2015 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2015 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2015 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2015 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2015 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2015 Paul Coffin Photography

Thanks for stopping by and please, your comments are most welcome.

Does artistic value diminish with ease of creation?   1 comment

I am a frequent reader of a variety of blogs that provide helpful tips on how to use tools like Photoshop and Lightroom, two of my primary post processing tools. I recently commented on one of those blogs on the topic of  the authorship of an image which can be found  here.

My response, as you can read below was my attempt to bring to light a broader issue facing photographers today. The question of “ease” and the value we place on our images relative to the circumstances which placed us in front of a scene and in front of our camera, pressing the shutter release at a moment in time. The photographic community apologizes far too quickly for the ease with which the art we create is in fact created. I think that fact is what devalues the art form and it is time we allow the image to speak for itself and we stop speaking for it or at the very least excusing it.

Before I get to my comment, I thought I would share the before and after of a picture I recently took on a visit to Gibbs Gardens with my wife this past weekend.

Before – Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC)

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

After

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

It is clear (at least it is to me) that  the second image is superior in many ways to the image that is not processed in any way. If I said I worked on it for 8 hours perfecting the color and contrast would that mean it had more artistic value than the first? If I said it took one click of a button in Photoshop would that devalue it? What if, as it happens is the case, that it was my wife who suggested I take this particular picture from this particular angle. Does that fact make me any less a photographer and the image any less brilliant? I think not.

Perhaps I have been hanging around other photographers too much and my bias on ease is formed from that dialogue.  In the end, I would suggest it doesn’t matter any more or less than the size of the paint brush for a painting or edge of a chisel used on a marble sculpture.

I am thrilled with the latest technology and relative ease with which an image can be truly transformed in post processing and make absolutely no excuses for it. All I can hope for is that when you look at the second image you say wow and that it moves you emotionally in some way. At that point, I hope, how I made it is less important than that I made it in the first place.

Here are my comments from the blog I mentioned above.

Matt,

You pose a great inquiry and offer an even better debate on the very nature of photography as a form of artistic expression. I would suggest this predicament is no different than the much debated question “is photography art”. The availability of the tools to the masses to make photographs has been around since the time Kodak gave away thousands of Brownies. Anyone can “take” a photograph but not very many can make art from a photograph. That for me is where the line is drawn.

Whether in the plane or on the conference floor, the real question is not “the how” but “the what”! As photographers we seem to be constantly apologizing for the how or at a minimum explaining it. Why does the how matter to anyone but ourselves as artists. The how is a mystery for me when looking at the folds of fabric carved in marble, and while fascinating, my mind dwells more on the subject, the pose and the beauty of form than the chisel, hammer and sand paper.

So it is with your photo from the plane. The fact is, the very moment you finger pressed the shutter release, something special happened. Could the person beside you have pressed their button at the same time pointing their lens in the same direction, sure. Does that make it any less special, I would suggest not.

It’s true, there is a technical element of the mastery of photography that we all must overcome to create great art, no different that the mastery of hammer and chisel or paint and paint brush. The various incarnations of David each with its own unique interpretation of the “original”, and I use that term carefully, are masterpieces in and of themselves. The ability to repeat “the how”, as is the case with the wedding photographer example, is meant only to demonstrate to the consumer the ability to achieve the technical capability of the toolset and nothing more. The real mastery comes from the subtle use of these tools to capture a moment in time that reflects back to the audience an image the moves the viewer with emotion.

That it was “easy” for you to press the shutter because the circumstances that put you there were not of your own doing is no different than the presence of a magnificent sunset that just happened to occur when you were about to press the shutter. The difficulty of the capturing of the moment, for me at least, is of much less importance, than the fact that you captured it in the first place.

Here is something else to wrap your noodle around. What if you had a time machine and went back to the very second Henri Cartier Bresson pressed the shutter on his infamous photograph, Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, in 1932 and took the same picture with your D800. Which photograph do you think would be considered a masterpiece, yours or his and would the other be any less for it?

As always, thanks for stopping by and please, your comments are most welcome.

The Big Easy   1 comment

St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans, LA

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

I recently returned from a trip to New Orleans with my youngest son during his senior year high school spring break. New Orleans offered a varied mix of culture, history, food and local flavor deserving of  any southern city of its size.

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

My son and I avoided the decadence often associated with the city and instead, walked along the alley ways of the French Quarter meeting a few of the eclectic people and places along the way. Street musicians dotted the streets and entertained passerby’s as the sun warmed the day. I have always been intrigued by street performers. These are individuals who do what they love and despite the obvious financial hazards of street performing, are willing to entertain with a smile in the hopes of a small contribution to their well being.

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

Eager to venture off the beaten path, we took a day to travel outside the city. At the top of our list of places to visit was the Oak Alley Plantation.  Cameras in hand, and tripod at the ready we waited until each room emptied or the view was unencumbered so that we could quickly set up the shot and take a few photographs. Strolling the grounds after our tour, we walked the length of the walkway lined by the live oaks, stopping as we went to photograph the plantation and take in the beauty of the magnificent trees.

Oak Alley Plantation

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

The trip to New Orleans was a short one, but my son and I squeezed in a drive through St. Bernard’s Parish, a trip to a the marshes on Lake Pontchartrain, Oak Alley Plantation and plenty of walking through the city. We ate well and enjoyed each others company. It will be a lasting memory we will share.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Controlling Light and Visual Interest   Leave a comment

Tulip Bulbs

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

I have often been accused by my wife of committing “art speak” when expressing my feelings about art or my photography. Accused, suggesting a distaste, for the perceived pontification of analysis of art. I actually like to take an in-depth journey into what art means to me, though stop short of an “art world” historically influenced, high brow  view often posited by intellectuals; and yes that is my distaste.

I like to speak about how art makes me feel, where my eye travels in the image and how the subtle elements of contrast, color, form and composition influence the feelings I feel when I stare into the artwork and am moved by its presence in my world.

So it is with this image that I am pulled into it, examining its detail, not looking for meaning, but simply basking in the beauty of the pedals, the bulbs,  the roots, the lighting, and the life of the flowers suspended in water. Life emitting from the chaos of a root system visible through the container in which it is held.

Early attempts at lighting were naturally trained on the yellow pedals, until mid way through the shoot, I began to become more and more fascinated with the bulbs and root system of the arrangement. Adjusting my studio strobes to concentrate their power on the lower section of the flowers resulted in some glare and required some fine tuning and post production tweaks to ensure the clarity of the area I wanted to draw the viewers attention to was unencumbered.

I have written before that I only marginally obey compositional rules like the rule of thirds, discreetly and intuitively. That said, what I love about this image is the unbalance within the balance. The leaf, partially broken, straddling the lip of the vase, rests conspicuously in front, demanding attention to itself in its denial of its peers attempts to stand tall. The bulbs, often hidden from view, brightly calling awareness to themselves, like younger siblings seeking notice. Beneath the water, lies another layer of support, roots stretching in all directions, the labyrinth now contained only by the clear glass, taking its shape and wanting. Finally, the yellow tulip flowers, accustomed to the stare of the voyeur, now found competing for that gaze.  They are but a subplot in the play, the best supporting actor, no longer the protagonist.

Set against a plain black background all this drama might otherwise be lost, if not for some careful lighting and visual “slight of hand”, working its way through your consciousness, or at the very least mine.

Thanks  for stopping by …  and indulging me my visual soapbox

Posted March 15, 2013 by Paul Coffin in Art, Nature, Photography, Studio

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Music in The Air   1 comment

While I can’t claim the images in this post represent originality, I will say that experimenting with photographing smoke did result in some very original forms from which I was most pleasantly surprised.

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

I have seen smoke photographs in the past, but it wasn’t until I was able to really study them, that the beauty of the form and texture emerged. The motion of the smoke,  influenced by the occasional puff of air or wave of my hand, was beautifully captured against a black background to accentuate the movement and sense of motion. Honestly I can’t say that I have ever seen smoke this way before or that it was even possible to take such shape.

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

Music in The Air

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

As my artist wife was quick to remind me, titling a photograph has its pitfalls and so it was that I stopped short of attempting to name every image. But the image above did remind me of musical notes and so it is aptly titled, Music in The Air.

I am very pleased with the results of these experiments, but I am also anxious to look for ways to bring something original to the subject. We’ll see what I can come up with.

Thanks for stopping by.

Abandoned and Forgotten   1 comment

The Nolan Plantation, Bostwick, GA

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

Time it seems, takes its toll on all things living and not. No doubt, life lived here, in this place, now seemingly lost and forgotten. The history of this place like many other abandoned structures in the south, is rich with storied wealth and comfort amid the impoverished and lowly. It remains a stark contrast to its surroundings as much today as I am sure it did in 1910.  Built in the early 1900’s, the Nolan Plantation was surrounded by a 2000 acre farm and country store across the road. Today it barely holds its own and the decaying facade is met equally with softened floor boards and broken windows. It is now a home to scores of pigeons.

Two Doors Down

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

I’ve been known to venture into an abandoned building from time to time for the “sake of the art” and as is often the case, it scares the heck out of me. The eerily quiet home was lit only by the mid morning light piercing the cracked windows and warmed the otherwise cold interior. Colors, only partially faded, textured with cracks and graffiti remained vibrant and willing. It was the only way the walls could talk.

Home Alone

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

I have a rule when I enter a building, and that is not to disturb anything. I don’t move objects to enhance the composition and I leave little evidence of my presence. It’s my way of paying respect to the place and its history. And so it was with this chair, in the corner of the room, the only piece of furniture I found, that sat waiting, as if its owner would one day reappear, kept company by the sunlight casting long shafts of contrast along the weathered floor marked only by the wood framing.

Inside Looking Out

PAC_4072_HDR

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

Room after empty room the natural light shone through. Scratched messages from previous visitors littered the walls. It is regrettable that such a magnificent structure has fallen into such disrepair. Strangely, its beauty remains despite the peeling paint, cracked walls and sunken floor boards. It is isn’t lifeless yet and appears unwilling to “go down without a fight.”

Thanks for stopping by.

The Jaguar   1 comment

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

The hood ornament of a classic car offers a variety of symbolism for its brand and its driver. I’m not a huge “Jag” fan, but this classic hood ornament on a well preserved classic caught my attention. I learned a long time ago to shoot in “aperture priority” mode in my camera and over the years forgot why. The recent acquisition of some great lenses for my camera reminded me why. Depth of field is a tool in every photographers toolkit and when used properly can be an effective method of drawing attention to a particular area of the image. This is a bit of an extreme example, but I like how it makes you feel like the jaguar is really going to leap off the car.

Today’s subject is a bit of a departure from recent posts, but I wanted to share this image as it is a recent favorite.

Thanks for stopping by.