We feed the sheep round bales of hay in the evening. I knew I would have to wait for Hans bringing the bales down from the upper barn so I took my camera out to the hay bale feeders and the sheep.
I took 83 photographs in 7 minutes. This one was taken at 5:30:41 PM, 9 minutes after sunset, using a Nikon D700 mounted with a Nikon 50 mm lens opened to f/1.4 at 1/200 sec with the ISO at 1000, set automatically, and processed in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom.
On the way to the farm I was struck by the vastness of the fiery sky; but I realized I couldn't get to the sheep before the sun had gotten too low to photograph this ever furtive light behind them. As I drove toward the sun, the colors evolved, the dark clouds were ablaze as if an arsonist had torched the sky.
Beauty is communal, it must be shared to be realized. There was a sense of aloneness to this splendor; there was a need to picture it, to tell someone about it.
Baron de Charlus:
His voice rose. "It reminds me of a room in the Château of Blois where the caretaker who was showing me over said: ‘This is where Mary Stuart used to say her prayers; I use it to keep my brooms in.’ Naturally I wish to know nothing more of this house that has let itself be dishonoured, any more than of my cousin Clara de Chimay after she left her husband. But I keep a photograph of the house, when it was still unspoiled, just as I keep one of the Princess before her large eyes had learned to gaze on anyone but my cousin. A photograph acquires something of the dignity which it ordinarily lacks when it ceases to be a reproduction of reality and shows us things that no longer exist."
À l'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs Vol. 2 of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu, Marcel Proust 1919; translated by C. K. Scott Moncrieff 1922.
I'm using a Nikon 50 mm f/1.4 lens (1/800 sec at f/8.0, ISO 400) here. At the stand last week I spoke to a photographer (he'd stopped to buy a Rosemary Lamb Sausage) with a Leica film camera mounted with a fixed focal length lens around his neck. We talked photography and the difficulty of shooting animals. He said using a zoom lens is lazy because you remain stationary and frame with the lens rather than by moving your body and camera to a different angle as you must do with a fixed focal length lens.
I hadn't realized how static my imagery had become using zoom lenses. I hadn't understood how by using a fixed focal length lens I could enrich my photographic language. My 50 mm lens was always buried deep in my lens bag—but no longer—now it's mounted on my camera in anticipation. These new images are not only more dynamic, they are fresher—almost like they were taken by another photographer.
I put a Nikon 70mm-200mm f2.8 VR zoom lens on a Nikon D700 FX camera to shoot portraits. Using a longer lens I don't frighten the sheep by getting too close to them. This photograph was taken hand-held about 12 feet from the subject: 1/400 sec at f11 with a focal length of 105 mm and at ISO 400.
To demonstrate how good the Nikon 70-200 mm lens is, I enlarged a portion of the photo in Lightroom to show you the shadow of the ewe's eyelashes on her cornea. In the original at a file size of 14 MB the shadow is even more demonstrative than in this smaller web version of 400 KB.
Note: The yarn photos are taken with my studio camera, a Nikon D80 DX with a 18mm-135mm f4.5 zoom lens, a camera with a smaller capacity. As you can see the yarn photographs are not quite as sharp even though the camera is mounted on a tripod.
This is a pure madder and I dyed it slowly then rinsed it many times. It is an excellent red, not orange, not purple. Maybe the truest 100% madder red ever. It was dyed in a limited edition of 24 skeins and I have 23 still available in the Yarn Store.
I'm working on getting the right lighting when I shoot newly dyed yarn. This shot is illuminated by 2 compact flourescents that are large & bulky. If I can adjust the amount of light on three Nikon Speedlights, as I suspect I can, I'll start playing with flash units that are smaller.
Notice the new positioning of the back light, the sense of depth it gives in the photo above, seen on the top with the key light coming in from the right. What's lacking is a 3rd light, a gentle fill light from the lower left to complete triangular lighting.
When I returned from Paris in the early 80's, I continued my study of painting at the Arts Students League on West 57th Street.
I attended classes in Life Drawing taught by Robert Beverly Hale and classes in Abstract Painting taught by Richard Pousette-Dart, the former was a Curator of American Art at the Metropolitan Museum and the latter had paintings in the Met's Abstract Expressionist collection displayed alongside the drip paintings of Jackson Pollack; but no matter the aestehtic wisdom these two may have passed along to me, what I remember when I look through the viewfinder of my Nikon, poised to photograph my sheep, was from a less hearalded painting instructor at the League, Peter Golfinopoulis who said, "A work is it's context."
Here, I photograph the context of the clouds and the text of the sheep.
Charles Baudelaire characterized le flâneur as a "gentleman stroller of city streets," he saw le flâneur as one who portrayed from the outside and participated in the life of the city. While remaining a detached observer, le flâneur played a role in the cityscape. His stance was simultaneously part of and apart from the relationship between the individual and the greater populace.
(A modern) application of le flâneur (is) to street photography (and) comes from Susan Sontag in her 1977 essay, On Photography. She describes how, since the development of hand-held cameras in the early 20th century, the camera has become the tool of le flâneur:
"The photographer is an armed version of the solitary walker reconnoitering, stalking, cruising the urban inferno, the voyeuristic stroller who discovers the city as a landscape of voluptuous extremes. Adept of the joys of watching, connoisseur of empathy, the flâneur finds the world 'picturesque.'"
After the Wikipedia entry.
Or a Poem in garlic. I wanted to shoot the garlic coming up and I wanted to get Poem in the shot; I told her to sit and I lay down in the garlic bed with a Nikon 14-24mm zoom lens, at a focal length of 14mm, on my D700. Here, the camera is almost on the ground and the lens about 14" from Poem's nose. At three frames a second, in several bursts, with Poem always in motion, I took 79 exposures to get one I could work with. Back at the computer in Adobe Lightroom, I used a graduated filter on the sky to bring out the moodiness of the day.
Last Saturday, a guy asked me if I had any garlic yet. "It's coming," I told him, "when it's in, you can order it from Garlic Department of the General Store if you can't get to the stand."
Robert Altman, director of M*A*S*H, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Nashville, The Player, Prêt-à-Porter, and Gosford Park, was in the U.S. Army Air Force and piloted B-24s in fifty bombing missions in the Pacific theater during World War II.
"I don't think anybody remembers the truth or the facts. You remember impressions."
In Adobe Lightroom, I darkroomed this photo as shot. The exposure was decreased using graduated filters to bring more definition to the rams' faces and to contrast them with the blue sky, which was adjusted for hue (I love chicory bloom blue), saturation and luminance, to increase the illusion of a third dimension on the two dimensional plane, seeing as we do, through perspectival discoveries of Quattrocento painting.
Yet both versions of the photograph have little to do with what I saw in the viewfinder when I released the shutter.
Reality, which in many cases is language dependant (opposed to seeing your mother which is not), is chameleon-like with no fixed repository of meaning. Specifically, does reality reside in your eyes, in the Nikon D700, in Lightroom, in my eyes, or in medieval eyes who had not yet seen painting by Sandro Botticelli? All locales have their say here. Perhaps a (see)saw from Williams Carlos Williams can help us, “It is not what you say that matters but the manner in which you say it..." (see for say)
What I saw from behind the camera was none of the above; what I saw was a picture taken by someone else. One that I'd seen years ago where the ram's head was above the photographer's while standing. I had longed for the majestic feeling of that photograph and now I might finally get something similar to it—circumstances were permitting—I framed the rams with the Nikkor 24-70mm zoom at 42mm; then shooting Aperture Priority at f/7.1, the camera adjusted itself to 1/250 sec at ISO 2000 and I got 6 exposures (all slightly out of focus, unfortunately) in 2 seconds before the rams changed position in the low, flat light of the afternoon. Jean Luc Godard often expressed to Raoul Coutard, his long-time cinematographer, what angle he wanted by referencing another filmmaker's shot, "comme Hitchcock à fait dans Rear Window..."
The rams look over my left shoulder at Poem who is sitting 20 paces behind me. And you can bet she's looking back at them waiting for the word.