I've been taking photographs of nature for as long as I can remember. Grasslands, mountains, rivers, forests and more, I love the peace that is offered in these undisturbed environments. Often, I'm exploring nature on my own. Then a deer appears, butterflies flutter into a scene, alligators let out a hiss or a roar from a swamp, and birds grace the skyscapes and treetops. I'll never grow bored with nature. But, as a photographer, I want to expand my focus without straying too far from my specialty.
A couple of weeks ago, I decided it was time to add people to my nature photographs. I wanted to do this in a gentle fashion, not intruding on the pristine. I posted online a call to collaborate on this project. The response has been overwhelming. One of the first people to respond was a co-owner of a vintage clothing start-up company. She wanted to model a few of her vintage outfits in a field. We agreed on a location suitable to feature nature and her outfits.
The photographs I share today are from the photo shoot at The Celery Fields in Sarasota, Florida. The photographs are black and white as that meets my original vision of this creative project. The Muse Upstairs will share the photos in color on their product release schedule.
When I see an empty bench, or a bench with two people having a conversation, my first thoughts are, "What stories have been told on that bench? What are they discussing? What have been the moments of reflection?" I see a story, or several in each bench. I have a folder in my photo archives specifically for benches. I revisit them when I need an inspiration for a story.
I have other collections in my archives that serve the same purpose, but none that produce stories more than benches. I like to convert the photos to black and white. This simplifies the scene, eliminates the clutter color can inject. For some, the last statement might seem odd. More detail, more story, right? Not exactly. I want the raw emotion of the location, why the spot was chosen by the character. I can color in the scene with my written words as the story develops from the bones.
I don't always capture the person, or people, on the bench in a photo. If I do, I capture then from behind or their side silhouette. The story develops besed on their mannerisms more than from the details in their face. And, I'm not out stalking people. I'm capturing a single frame of time and I move along.
Once I have the foundation of the story in black and white, I begin to color in the story as I write. The techniques described in this post are a few that I use to inspire my writing. I'll share others in future posts.
We've been made aware of a few terms in the first months of 2020, social distancing, coronavirus, and shelter-in-place or stay-at-home orders. These terms have unsettled our normal routines and lifestyles. If you're like me, I get a bit stir crazy after a couple of days indoors. I'm not under one of the orders at this time, but I've been staying at home to help slow the spread of the virus during a global pandemic. Every couple of days, I get in my car and drive. I don't typically stop anywhere. The change of scenery helps change my mood positively from a mild anxiety. I drive a convertible. Living in Florida, I'm able to drop the top and benefit from the Vitamin D exposure. I never know where I'll drive. Frankly, the destination doesn't matter. The journey clears my head and helps me focus on rest and renewal beyond the four walls that surround me during isolation.
I did make a stop today. The Bradenton Riverwalk had little foot traffic at the time I was passing the route. Good for maintaining social distance. I parked my car and walked the path along the Manatee River in Bradenton, Florida. As a photographer, I can't resist taking a photo. All I had on me for a camera was my Samsung smartphone, not the top of the line model either. I'm frugal when it comes to phones. Can I talk on it? Can I text? Can I do a Google search? Yes? Good enough for me. I clicked off a few scenes that I'm happy to share. I healed my mind and I'm back within the four walls for a couple of days.
On my first visit to the John Chestnut Senior Park in Palm Harbor, Florida, I was quite fortunate to capture the scene of a couple of Nature's Lovers, plus one of Earth's oldest creatures.
Photo location: John Chestnut Senior Park
"A View from Moody Park"
This photo has been selected as a FEATURE on Fine Art America in the Gray Scale Outdoors group.
Each time I visit this preserve, I try to view it from a different perspective. With each head turn, squat, and lighting change, this preserve takes on a new appeal, like an ever-changing chameleon. While I'n sharing a mix of color and black & white images, black and white was screaming! That's not a shocker to those of you that have been following along. Nature preserves, like Perico, are best shown in a simplified image. The textures and shadows enhance the story.
After living in Manatee County, Florida now for four and a half years, I've heard year after year that I must attend the Manatee County Fair. Well, I finally attended last evening. I, along with my wife, entered the Arts & Crafts competition along with 100s, maybe even over 1000 others. She entered a crochet collection of Winnie the Pooh Characters in a basket. I'm proud to say we found a first place blue ribbon on that entry as we walked through the Arts & Crafts building.
I was presently surprised to find that there was a blue ribbon on one of my photography entries, "Downtown Blues" (shown below). I entered two other photos that also received runner-up honors. It's quite humbling to put your work before the public.
Needless to say, we walked the rest of the fair with smiles on our faces, We reminisced the old days when we walked, holding hands, the many fairs of New Hampshire in the fall. There was a bit of a chill in the air last night, but nothing to compare to September evening in the north.
Industrial isn't typically my style, but black & white is my favorite. I captured this scene in Apollo Beach, Florida while visiting the area to document the migration of manatees to warm waters generated by this power station. I won Photo of the Day from Florida Center for Creative Photography for this image on November 29, 2018.
I like contrast in photography, just as I do in my life. If I'm not finding peace and my center along the shoreline, I'm finding it on a trail in the mountains. The photos shared in this post are from a road trip and some hiking north and east of Asheville, North Carolina. The drive began by getting on the Blue Ridge Parkway in Asheville and then winding through the Pisgah National Forest. There are a number of pull-offs to take photos of the beautiful mountains and valleys. The clouds can take over the peaks, but if patient, you will get pockets of clearing skies. If you make this trip, dress in layers. The temperatures are wide ranging depending on cloud cover.