Thoughts

LensWork Seeing in Sixes 2017

Just received my copy of the LensWork "Seeing in Sixes 2017" book of six image projects. I am honored to have two projects included, "Autumn Stillness" and "Truth of Trees." Publisher, Brooks Jensen, states in his introduction: "So here are the 50 chosen projects. It is perfectly natural to wonder about our criteria for inclusion in this book. We looked for several things, not necessarily in this order: originality, consistency of style, engaging content that grabbed our attention, projects about life rather than about photography, images that complemented and supplemented one another instead of becoming repetitious, projects that engaged our imagination; projects that included compelling text that expands the viewing experience; projects that reflect a photographer's point of view rather than a camera's view; excellence of craft both photographic and with text; projects that create their own small world within the limitation of six images only...Most importantly these are visual expressions of life."

LensWork commands a special place in my photographic influences. I met Brooks Jensen at the Photolucida Portfolio Reviews in 2015 after being a LensWork reader for many years. Brooks is an avid photographer, publisher, and writer, and brings a valuable point of view to the world of fine art photography. 

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Cherry Blossoms at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Cherry Blossoms - Brooklyn Botanic Garden Luck has it that the cherry blossoms were almost peak at the Botanic during my visit to see my daughter. I was fortunate to experience the blooms back in 2014 when the flowers peaked on May 9. The gardens in bloom are quite magical especially when you are alone walking around in the misty coolness of the early morning. There was a small group of Japanese people, taking their time and moving slowly through the main walkway. They were noisy.

Cherry Blossoms - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

I was hoping that the drizzle would slow and it did, as I put the umbrella back in the backpack and started my routine of working the scene. I remembered some of the compositions of 3 years ago and did not want to repeat them. When I am photographing I normally don’t have an end in mind. Usually it is based on time or light or some other condition that causes me to stop.

Cherry Blossoms - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

I wandered out of the main Cherry Esplanade area and into the Japanese garden, another very peaceful area in the morning. For some reason I wasn’t finding what I needed here, the man-made constructions were too obvious and I made my way to this huge walnut tree that exuded so much power and quiet strength. I could see that the noisy group had finished their time with the cherry trees so I headed back that way only to find that my eyes for seeing were done. I had been in focused observation for 90 minutes and that is close to my limit. Found a place to sit and wait for my granddaughter to arrive. I shifted into family picture mode and ended up having a wonderful morning.

Walnut tree - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Big Talbot Artist Residency

Big Talbot Island - View from the Milam House I'm enjoying a week at Big Talbot Island at the Milam House graciously provided by the North Florida Land Trust. This property is located on the only residential street on the island, a wayward attempt by the state to raise money by selling properties. Fortunately the idea was short lived before developers transformed this area into an Amelia Island resort. Driving up AIA and seeing the beachfront mansions one is reminded of the power of wealth to own property and do what they want with it. Certainly preserving unique and beautiful land for the public to access and enjoy is a privilege and something I support our government to pursue. There is less and less undeveloped land (especially desirable property near the water) and I can easily envision the crowded houses each with their own dock obliterating any natural view of what this land was like before everyone decided to take a piece for themselves.

Very rarely do I take time to be away from home and the studio to just be by myself. It's been an adjustment. After entertaining friends and family for a few days I finally faced the reality of dealing with myself and what I wanted to do. "Nothing" never seems to be an option for me, but perhaps should be considered seriously. I started complaining about the breezy bright sunny cloudless day and decided this was a message not to go out and shoot. There are plenty of overcast days that will offer themselves in the future. Right now it is sunny, so enjoy it. Being alone in a wonderful place is special. I will see what it produces, if anything. For now it doesn't matter.

Blackrock Beach - Big Talbot Island

Solitude at Cary State Forest

Cary State Forest The fog was thick this morning and i deliberated on where to go. We knew it was coming, and the morning schedule was empty. I decided to visit Ringhaver Park so that I could sleep in a bit and to check out the big oaks in the fog. Upon arrival a big dog in the yard next to the entrance was all excited and ready to tear down his fence. This disturbed my normal quiet preparation and entry and found myself anxious about disturbing the peace of the morning. As I walked into the park I said hello to a lady walking her dog. I had startled her and I'm sure she was wondering what all the tripod and camera gear was all about. As I set up for my first shot the mosquitoes started to attack, first covering my camera and then my face. Wow, I didn't expect this kind of reception. I walked to my go-to area of trees and as I took a quick test shot, knew that this wasn't going to work. My plan was to return to the car, spray myself down with Off! and then return. On my way out a strange man approached me and commented on my camera gear. I headed out and decided to come back another day as the dog resumed his barking.

It was already 8:40 but I decided to head out to Cary State Forest, a 30 minute drive. I needed some peace and quiet and wasn't prepared to waste this special morning. As I arrived at Cary the fog was still very thick and I drove up Fire Tower Road and stopped several times just to look. I felt that I had shot many compositions on this road before and was satisfied with just enjoying the solitude of the moment. With the exception of some highway noise off 301, all was quiet. I wondered about and got out the camera. I played around with no intentions or plans. That's generally how I like it. The roads are always a bit disorienting and I followed my intuition and drove towards the light. A few panorama compositions were captured, and the sun started to emerge around 10:30. Time to go.

Cary State Forest - Fire Tower Road

Osceola National Forest

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There are 3 National Forests in Florida, Osceola is one of them. I haven't been here in several years so I was much overdue, especially in light of the forest project I'm working on. Getting here requires a 90 minute drive which mean's Doug has to get up at 5 am, not an easy task. I was late for the sunrise but managed to catch the tail end of the fog as it lifted when the sun rose. There were several hunters actively loaded up to shoot some deer with their dogs. I was not comfortable driving around after passing a caravan of 6 trucks, but I was done by 10. The area is huge and will require some dedicated visits to get things covered. Lots of material here!

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Freedom and "old growth"

UCascades-MtBaker_2016-0706-147 I wrote this after two weeks visiting Mt Rainier and the Upper Cascades National Parks and surrounding National Forests and State Parks. I love the Pacific Northwest filled with cloudy days and heavily forested land. But the natural history of these areas are fresh with recent memory and existing battles with timber companies and interests that put the last old growth forests at risk. It's a continual war, and only through the diligence, tenacity, and sacrifice of concerned individuals do we have any forests left. For the general public has other priorities, and these battles are fought locally. I am indebted to all of those who are responsible for what is left and hope that there continues to be a future for these sacred lands.

7/24/16 – Making sense of the old growth

The northwest old growth forest stands in stark contrast to the southeast managed forests around my home. I was first taken by the overall sense of serenity, perhaps it was the quality of light, the temperature, the closed in feeling of the larger trees, or the different sounds of the birds and wind moving the branches. Early July meant that the leaves were fully out and that summer was in session, the trees were in full production and growth, the forest was alive. Large trees dotted the trails, enormous trunks heading straight up towards the sky. Walking amongst the foundations to these massive structures I felt insignificant. Often I reached out just to touch the bark and to try to feel the life force within. The forest floor was complex, filled with life and thick with vegetation, decaying limbs, stumps, and small trees all taking their turn at reaching for the sky. I was amazed at the diversity of growth and the sheer biomass of the scene. Primordial life as it has existed for centuries.

What occupied and interrupted my thoughts was the history of the place, and the thoughts about the old growth forests throughout our planet. These places are now very rare, less than 10% of what was, is still untouched. Is this a little or a lot? Who is to decide. The human race is consumptive, and I am an active participant in the depletion of the earth’s resources. How are we to recognize, reconcile, and rationalize what is happening to these places? What is evident for me is my awareness of what is happening, both here and in many other areas of our culture. The decisions about what gets cut, consumed, mined, polluted, extracted, and put at risk, are made by people who are primarily motivated by business. They strive for “balance,” which is all relative to where your center is. Capitalism is not self-regulating. It can become destructive by seeking goals that are not in the best interest of all…with all including non-human aspects of our planet. As I read more about the timber industry, and how trees have been (and continue to be) a pivotal factor in the economic wealth and security of nations, I realize how significant these forests are, and how drastically irresponsible we have been at even recognizing their existence.

Walking through these forests introduces the stark reality of what the forestry resource looks like. It’s like our use of water today. Each of us turns on the tap and lets the water run, because we have an infinite supply of fresh, clean water at our disposal. Why go to a lot of trouble being stingy and conserving a commodity that is cheap and abundant. Use it and focus your valuable time and effort on more important things, like watching TV and checking your social media feeds. Water is there and we have a right to it. When the Europeans landed in the New World it was the forests that completely overwhelmed their impressions. From a land whose forests had been decimated for centuries, this was a chance to start over again, to cut and cut and never have to worry about running out of timber. As they cut themselves across the country, when they reached the west coast, the timber exceeded any imagined possibility. Trees 300 feet tall and 15 feet in diameter filled the land for what seemed like forever. You could not possibly consume this much timber in several lifetimes, so cut they did. It was not until technology allowed the wholesale decimation of forests that we started to outpace these predictions. Just like our current consumption of water, we could not and would not stop.

Could we apply and learn the lessons from our old growth forests to conditions we have today? Sadly, no. As we speak the forests are being cut, and even more striking is the spread of insect infestations due to climate change taking down forests faster than the saws. Nature may be outpacing us and soon there may be no more forests to worry about.

These issues deeply concern me and draw me deeper into understanding a place where human beings have not managed to affect the natural flow of things. This is also true in the deserts of the Colorado Plateau, the boreal forests of Alaska, and in other sparsely populated areas like Death Valley. There is a certain attraction, curiosity, and connection to these remote places. The forests though, are very much alive, and it is this fragility that is so vulnerable to our intervention.

Considering that “man” has altered every other square inch of the earth makes me uncomfortable. It means that I am living in an artificial world, which is the reality of life, but something I haven’t really thought about. We always like to think that we are free beings, with the freedom of thought and existence particularly attractive, especially as Americans. But to know that we have created an artificial world, specifically to support the capitalistic “machine,” is disheartening. We cannot escape it, and running into the woods or desert is one of the few ways we can find a small glimpse of perhaps the last bit of real freedom in a real sense. Even going out on an established trail into these woods surrenders you to the fact that someone has established a path for you, one that you must take (“please stay on the trail”), but at least you can see beyond the trail and envision yourself in a place that is unique to you.

That is the attraction of these places for me. It is a reprieve and exercise of freedom in a visual sense to see nature unaltered by man. It is a necessary respite for all of us and re-establishes our existence as free individuals.

Congaree National Park

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I made a quick reconnaissance trip to Congaree National Park near Columbia, SC, knowing that I needed to return with my kayak and more time. This is a fascinating place and one of the last old growth cypress forests in the south. My interest in old-growth has increased and as I learn more I become more curious about my reactions to being in these areas that have never been disturbed by man. I have a sense about them but can't seem to describe it, and visually, there is a different kind of randomness present. The park is not very large, but most of the area is only accessible by kayak. I'm always taken by the magnificence of these expanses of growth and habitat and how we have managed to destroy most of these areas through development.

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A River Speaks - UNF Lufrano Gallery

A River Speaks "A River Speaks" is the current exhibition at the Lufrano Intercultural Gallery at the University of North Florida. The show was organized by artist Jim Draper and features work by Jim, Paul Ladnier, Allison Watcon and me. I developed a piece called "Sky-River" from a selection of photographs taken at the County Dock in Mandarin, a few miles from my home. I stop there now and then to catch a sunset or watch the weather change. It never disappoints.

"Sky-River" contains nine 24 x 24 images printed on satin photo paper and laminated to Sintra. I also allied an overlaminate for protection. I wanted to provide a clean "frameless" look to the pieces, and was happy with the results. I've been experimenting with various mounting techniques. It's hard to beat the classic matted photographic print under glass, but admittedly, this treatment is expensive and limited in its presentation. I feel that we should take the liberty to express another dimension to an exhibit of photographs, even if it diminishes the "fine art print" aspect of an individual piece. An individual photograph can exist as part of a installation that has a life of its own. I hope to be exploring this further.

Sky-River

The Lufrano exhibit is simple and straightforward, which is becoming rare. It is easy to understand and beautiful to see. Being in the company of like-minded artists is a privilege and pleasure. The exhibit is open through March 11, 2016.

A River Speaks Text

The Talbots

Big Talbot Island - Oaks Little Talbot and Big Talbot Islands are two of my favorite places for photography and for just getting away. I try to visit several times during the year. I got a late start and the overcast conditions were disappearing fast. But I've grown to accept "what is" in terms of the weather (and other things too!) so was perfectly ok if this turned into a reconnaissance trip and a chance to renew my annual Florida State Park pass. There is construction along Heckscher Drive with a new bridge over Sisters Creek. The drive is not quite as peaceful as it was when my dad used to take my brother and I out to fish at Little Talbot. I arrived at around 10 am, renewed my pass, and proceeded to the west beach. There were two cars in the parking lot. After a quick stroll along the beach I headed out to Big Talbot, crossing Simpsons Creek where it seemed like a lot of fishing was going on. I pulled off at the trailhead for Big Pine Trail which is the start of the new East Coast Greenway bike trail. The hike on Big Pine is always pleasant but the mosquitoes were still quite active. Next time I'm going to bring along my bike to experience the paved trail which is really nice. They will soon have the section completed that connects up through Amelia Island.

Big Talbot Oaks

Some of the best photography for the coastal live oaks is in the parking lot at The Bluffs. The lighting here is always sublime and there is an assortment of twisted and gnarled branches within easy access. I've photographed these trees several times already, but each time I'm here I feel as if there is something new I can capture. This area also gives you access to the beach and the driftwood along the shore (the boneyard). So what is it about these trees that holds my fascination? I am drawn to visually complex compositions. I try to make some sense out of them  by somehow understanding their inherent nature. There is a complex nature to each of us and often it is very beautiful. When we can reduce something complex into its fundamental structures, complex becomes simple and minimal, and the real beauty is revealed.

Big Talbot Oaks

Critical Mass Top 200 Finalist

critical massWe were thrilled to receive a Finalist Award at Critical Mass this year for Streaming South. This very competitive and prestigious competition is held annually, and I will have to confess that I've been entering for the past three years with no luck. It's always nice to be recognized by the industry for your work, and the submissions are always phenomenal. It is amazing to see the work that is being produced all over the world. A few comments from the jurors:

Beautiful scenes, nicely composed, if somewhat romantic views.

Appreciate the modest scale and cohesive group.

Some very lovely work that does truly reflect the artist's interest in, and admiration of, the work of the 19th century landscape painters both the Hudson River School and the Luminists. For me some of the photographs are too similar, however, the best of them are refreshingly beautiful. Good work.

Clear that extreme care and editing went into these images and the selection. A special care for these color landscape with a motivation akin Robert Adams’ B&W images.

Douglas, Your artist statement is so wonderful, it works well to give your images context. One gets easily pulled into the frame and the meditative feeling is great to feel. For me, the last image 'Water Spirit' is lovely.

Nice project that could have been an exercise in 'same-ness,' but realized as a beautiful essay here.

The cloud image is a surprise, yet it fits your theme.

A lovely, poetic body of work, Douglas. I like the personal element in your narrative. Very delicately done. Thank you for sharing this with us!

These are very pretty. I do love the contemplative quality.

What are you going to do with it?

IMG_2080 The latest addition to our creative toolset is a CNC router. I've been thinking about this technology for a long time. Back in my AutoCAD dealership days, I wrote some programs to create the NC codes (G codes) from drawing files to produce sprockets and drive a punch tool. I'm fascinated by the ability to control precision machinery, much in the same way I have a keen interest in computer programming. In fact, this is just another type of programming, with a different output device. More information about CNC routers can be found here. After some research and a recommendation from a trusted friend, I placed an order for a kit from CNCrouterparts and my brother and I started assembly on January 5th. The entire machine was delivered by UPS in 14 boxes. Assembly was fairly straightforward and we made steady progress. No special tools were needed, just some careful interpretation of drawings and reading of the online "tips". Part of the reward is knowing that you assembled something yourself. Rarely do we have to put anything together anymore except for the occasional bookcase from Ikea. We were thrilled when we were able to get the machine to move. Then we wrote our first program to welcome the machine to the world.

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When I made my post to Facebook announcing the arrival of our new tool I received a lot of inquiries on what I was going to do with it. Honestly I don't have any specific plans other than a gut feeling that this may change the direction of my art. I didn't need to know anything other than that. Sometimes you just go with an instinct, especially if the stakes are high. First step is to acquire some basic skills. There is a steep learning curve, but then the possibilities open. I think we are given these moments of inspirational opportunity, and we need to learn how to take them. I'll see how successful this move becomes. Worst case I'll have a big piece of equipment for sale on Craig's List. Best case...well maybe my life will change. I'll take those odds.

Initially I'll be exploring what I can do with various materials. Wood, acrylic, Sentra (expanded PVC board), Dibond (aluminum bonded acrylic), and corrugated cardboard are all materials that can be easily handled by this machine. The bed is 4 x 8 ft, so I can handle some big pieces. I don't know exactly what I will be printing but I'll try some simple textures and outlines all derived from photographs. I'm going to be looking at this as another type of printer. In order to create a piece, you start with a "vector" representation of the object. Everything is 3D and objects derived from photographs need thickness. Then you define the toolpaths and tools to make the specific cuts. This is the "programming" step. After that another program creates the actual codes that are fed to the machine. Stay tuned for progress reports.

What are you going to do with what you have?

CNC Adventure 1 - It's Breathing from Doug Eng on Vimeo.

01/09/2015 - My brother and I finally got the CNC router table to come alive. Still lots to figure out but we're over the hump. Looking forward to making something!

 

CNC Adventure 2 - Hello World from Doug Eng on Vimeo.

01/10/2015 - Our first program...in "Sharpie" mode, we programmed our first toolpath using VCarvePro. Yay! Actual runtime is 2.5 minutes so you're getting a fast forward version.

How commissions can take you in new directions

Morning Marsh View - Ft. George Island, FL - 108 x 30 Face-mount Acrylic Some artists avoid commissions. They feel that catering to an external requirement somehow interferes with their "art" or message. I totally respect this position, and sometimes I feel that this serves the artist well. I tend to do well with some direction. Maybe this is part of my engineering background, as I am more comfortable with structure and results-oriented tasks. Recently I was asked to provide a large piece similar to the style of artist "x" with a particular color in the foreground to match a wallpaper sample. I was happy to take on the request. The required image was out of focus and abstract. I knew what techniques I had to use, and where I could make the image. When a fellow artist saw the wallpaper sample on my desk, he asked, "What's this?" I explained my project, and he laughed out loud, "I can't believe you are prostituting yourself!" I was very curious about his response, and did some thinking about my reasons to do the work. I saw it as a challenge and a way to expand my skill set. I also saw it as a paying project and something I would be proud to say I created and was capable of doing. Nothing in the assignment violated my values or compromised my artistic direction. So I carried on and basically ignored the comment. The client was thrilled with the result and complementary on how accommodating I was to work with. I think some artists forget that many of us create art to satisfy purposes external to ourselves. Whether this discounts my stature as an "artist" or  degrades the work, I don't know, but I'm happy that everything worked out for everyone.

New directions

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It's a nebulous title for a post but I'm on to something new. A few months ago I bought a kayak. Enough said. In fact there is so much to say I started a new blog called Streaming South. Why another blog? I wanted a new platform to talk exclusively about my photography on the boat. I thought that this new conversation may distract from what I have going on here. Sounds like a strange reason, but head on over to see some new images and cool places to go.

Deep Creek on a kayak

Annual California excursion

Old Bridge, New Bridge - Oakland Bay Bridge Our annual trip to California came early this year. Usually we arrive in August. I don't have a good track record with the CA weather. While I hear that summers are typically cloudy and foggy, I've had no such luck. Bright sun and clear skies followed us all week as we covered San Francisco, Oakland, Monterrey, and Big Sur. I surrendered when we were at Point Lobos and Big Sur and decided to just enjoy myself without expecting to get any worthwhile images, which is exactly what happened. That's life, sometimes the weather cooperates and sometimes it doesn't.

Jackson and Grant - Chinatown, San Francisco

We managed to stop at some coastal towns for some good food and browsing. I enjoyed visiting the Photography West Gallery in Carmel and viewed work by Christopher Burkett. I'm always amazed at the high level of work being produced by some artists. Our other great discovery was a small hole in the wall restaurant called Dumpling Empire right near the San Francisco Airport. It's a 5 minute drive from the Best Western. Dumplings almost as good as my mom's.

Kelp - Pt. Lobos State Park

This year I feel that my interests are geared more towards local/regional subjects. Maybe that's why the karma wasn't right this year on the West Coast. I'm glad to be back home in familiar territory.

Spring at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Main Entrance - Brooklyn Botanic Garden On my list was to catch the Cherry Esplanade at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden at peak. I watched the Bloom Meter on the BBG website to see if there was any chance of catching something during our planned trip in early May. With the weather being all screwy lately, I thought there may be a chance. The stars aligned and the weather and trees cooperated for an outstanding display on a foggy May morning. I arrived at 8:30 and was the only one there for a while. Usually this place is packed with people. It was all magical.

Cherry Esplanade - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Overall I was overwhelmed with what I saw. After about 3 hours I was exhausted. It is rare that I arrive at a place and conditions are so perfect for photography. I don't think I made any extraordinary images that day, but the experience was memorable. This day will be in my mind for a long time.

Cherry Walk - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Touch - Brooklyn Botanic Garden

Barnett Building finds new life

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Our 2013 One Spark project Beyond the Facade was located on the front of the former Barnett Tower on the corner of Laura and Adams. The once majestic windows are once again uncovered, as our murals and underlying plywood were removed. It's so nice to see the building again, and renovations are starting to house a law school, offices, and apartments. I was able to take a few shots inside the building before construction begins sometime after One Spark 2014. The building was already gutted several years ago in anticipation of another renovation project which failed. This time things look good for this grand building to come back to life.

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Walking around and photographing old buildings is one of my favorite activities. I like to feel the history within the walls and imagine all the activity in the previous use. It's uplifting to know a building is going to be re-used instead of torn down. Although most of the old character is gone, the main structure and exterior will remain. We need reminders of the past to realize that our city has a long and prosperous history.

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Ocala National Forest

Oak Hammock - Ocala National Forest I love visiting the Ocala National Forest in the spring. On first glance the "forest" dose not fit the typical expectation of a classical forest. Miles and miles of pines intersected by dirt roads does not make one think of the deep dark forest of ancient trees. No, Ocala is mostly managed timberland, with very little (if any) old growth trees. Mostly pines and a few oaks, wiregrass, and dirt roads. That's it. Finding points of interest is the fun part, as there are pockets of live oak and other flowering trees interspersed within the property. I found this particular oak hammock on my last visit and was a little unclear where it was located. I drove around retracing what I remembered as my old route and there it was. Going to a site multiple times is always good for me. I always have a new perspective and it allows you to try new things.

I am shooting stitched panoramas and this was a perfect scene for one. I'm also doing more shots looking straight up and again, the subject yielded a lot of interesting material. I'm sure i'll be back again for another visit and some new things to try.

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Cold morning in Brooklyn

Union Street Bridge It was 20 degrees in Brooklyn today with a brisk wind. Not very pleasant conditions for the guy from Florida but the sun was out and the images were waiting. I took a stroll from the Prospect Park area to Carroll Gardens up and down Union Street. Lots of warehouses, apartments, and typical Brooklyn streetscapes. I was glad to get home after that walk and warm up to a good cup of coffee.

Parking lot, Brooklyn NY

Graffiti

Stardust - Car door constellations