Archive for the ‘Nature’ 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.

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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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The Beacon – Cape Florida Lighthouse   Leave a comment

Cape Florida Lighthouse

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

Growing up on the east coast of Nova Scotia, lighthouses held more than just a symbolic notion for me. Long since replaced by modern technology, the lighthouses of the past have become a tourist attraction and destination for history buffs and photographers alike. This particular lighthouse has an interesting history related to the Second Seminole War in 1835 as the keepers were trapped in the tower while they were attacked by the Seminoles.

The Unchanging View

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

Imagine back in 1836, looking out these very windows and knowing it could be the last view you ever saw of your home. John Thompson and his assistant, Aaron Carter faced that very reality and sadly it was indeed Aaron’s last moments in the tower before his death.

A Room With a View

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

As luck would have it, I arrived just in time to walk the 109 steps to the top of the lighthouse. In 1855, the tower was renovated adding an additional 30 feet reaching to a height of  95 feet, it’s current height at the observation deck.

The Beacon

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

Finally, with a little squeezing, I made it to the top of the lighthouse where the lens of the lighthouse sits, commonly known as the focal height, 100 feet up. Clearly not constructed for someone who is 6’3″, it was a space I could barely walk around in. It’s not often you get a chance to climb to the very top of a lighthouse and it was certainly a lucky chance that I was able to. These monolithic structures make great subjects for photographs and I am always on the look out (pun intended) for an opportunity to photograph them.

Thanks for stopping by.

South Beach – Lifeguard Stands in the Morning   Leave a comment

On a recent trip to Miami I decided to rise before the sun (and my meetings) to enjoy the early morning sunrise and smell of the salt air as the waves crashed against the shore. This was my first time to Miami and to the area of South Beach. It is a sight to behold.

Below are a series of images of the life guard stands that dot the shoreline every 500 yards or so. Built to replace the original structures damaged when Hurricane Wilma hit in 2006, the lifeguard stands are fully functional and used daily.

10th Street Lifeguard Stand

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

16th Street Lifeguard Stand

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

15th Street Lifeguard Stand

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

14th Street Lifeguard Stand

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

13th Street Lifeguard Stand

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

12th Street Lifeguard Stand

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

The quiet morning walk along the beach was a great way to start my day and though the sun soaked bodies that typically dot the beach are also a main attraction of South Beach, the peace and tranquility of the morning offered this somewhat introverted photographer time to enjoy the simple beauty of the rising sun and the warm glow of light as it enveloped the delightfully colored stands the lifeguards call home.

Napa Valley in the Fall   2 comments

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

Napa Valley, like most wine producing regions has a mystique all its own. There is of course the wealth effect of fine wine and certainly Napa, like many famous wine regions, suffers the ills of the highbrow, that for me can sometimes be off-putting. Be that as it may, there are many welcome and hospitable vintners who, once past the pretense, proudly share the history, flavors and nuance of their wines. Fall in Napa is a sight and smell to behold. Driving along  Redwood Rd. towards Hess Collection winery, in the rolling hills north-west of Napa, the air is filled with the aromas of grapes crushed and fermenting as well as those still hanging from the vines.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

Honestly, I can’t say for sure what I was smelling but it was sweet and delightful. Late October generally marks the end of the harvest, so I was a bit surprised to see grapes still hanging from the vines.

Hess Collection is a winery owned by the Swiss art collector, Donald Hess, on land leased from the Christian Brothers, who occupy a nearby retreat and conference center. Nestled in the hills 7 miles from Napa, this quiet location offered a nice respite for a quick afternoon visit to the area.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

I quietly approached the chapel and found someone who kindly gave me permission to photograph the interior of the church. This image is composed of 9 frames so that I could capture all the highlight and shadow detail. Despite the lack of ornate architecture, the rich colors of the wooden pews and tile floor provided a pleasant contrast to the white walls  balanced with the wooden trusses of the ceiling.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

I was pleasantly surprised to see grapes still hanging on the vines, expecting to see empty vines with fading fall colors. Instead, I was greeted with plump bunches of  bright blue grapes, suspended against green, rust and orange leaves and twisted brown vines. After a light wine tasting I headed back along the quiet roads to make one more stop in Napa for a late lunch.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

The Uptown Theater, in downtown Napa,  made for one last series of photos before I left the area for the day. I could not help but add a duotone effect to add to the nostalgia of the art deco theater. For a brief moment, I was taken back in time and imagined the theater in its days of antique cars, wealthy local socialites draped in fur and black tie affairs that surrounded the Golden era Hollywood premiere. Those really were the days.

As always, thanks for stopping by.