My places.

N

o patience. That describes my attitude these days. I have almost no tolerance for technical issues and yet I know better.

I understand that everything made by man eventually breaks. That’s why there are so many service people. Mechanics, technicians, plumbers, the Maytag repairman, even doctors are working because stuff breaks.

Thinking about leaving WordPress I realized it’s not about the platform. Most of the time it is solid and stable. What aggravates me is the constant changing of workflow. That, and the lack of communication about those changes.

I know one thing about being creative. We need some sort of routine on which to hang our imagination. If the routine changes frequently all we are doing is swimming in place.

It’s one thing to shake things up in order to jump start the creative process, it’s another thing to be perpetually confused.

Take the block system for instance. What was wrong with the older so called classic template?

Nothing.

The block system is supposed to be faster. Nonsense. At best, it’s just a bit slower than the classic system. At worst, it creates extra work because it crashes or traps type, or traps drop caps.

Yes, I know there is a classic template in the block inserter. But, it’s a very early version. It may predate me.

So, that’s it.

I’ll discuss the picture on the other side.

T

his picture is more about feeling and a bit of nostalgia than any type of documentary work.

There are two images layered into one. As usual I was tinkering with number of pictures when all of a sudden it came together.

That happens sometimes when you put the work in. But, you have to put the work into your art. No work, no art.

The pictures in their literal form are of Mardi Gras beads on a fence, and of Kowloon, Hong Kong.

It’s nostalgic. It’s about looking back at my life and understanding that I likely won’t do these things again unless a vaccine is developed for people like me. That will take the federal government’s help. I’m not holding my breath.

I don’t know what you see or feel when you look at this image. After all, you bring your own life to the picture when you view it.

They say that all art is autobiographical. If this photograph isn’t that, I don’t know what is.


An urban look.

Yes. Once upon a place.

I keep writing about my time in Hong Kong. And, how I filled my down time with walks. With making pictures. With exploring. I thought that I should show you a little of my work from that time.

However.

I’ve reworked this picture a couple of times. Over a couple of years. My intent was always to show the city as a dynamic and colorful place. Hopefully, I finally did that by using more contemporary post production techniques.

Hong Kong is slowing down a bit now. But, in the past things changed quickly in the city. There were times when I found myself a little lost because old landmarks were torn down and new buildings were quickly built in their place. I suppose that if I traveled there today, I would have to relearn the city the I once knew quite well.

The picture. I made it from high in Times Square. No, not Times Square in New York. That would have taken one very long lens. Heh! There is a shopping mall called Times Square in Hong Kong. You can enter it in many ways. From various doorways. From a direct entrance from the MTR (mass transit) and from tunnels in Causeway Bay that are really intended for MTR use. On the sub floors there is a food court. Mostly like fast food. For the next ten floors there is a shopping mall. Finally, as you reach the tower there are offices and fine dining. That’s where I made this picture. Towards the top.

Technically, this picture is the result of a couple of modifications. At first I saw the picture as a HDR work. Later I saw it differently, but I used my early post production work as a base of the new version which is mostly adding a huge amount of color. That’s about me. I choose to believe that Hong Kong was, and is, a very colorful place. In fact, the color can be overwhelming. But, not to me. I like that.


Wet market vegetables.

A most interesting thing.

I made this picture a few years ago in Hong Kong. On black and white film. Likely Kodak Tri-X, but I was also experimenting with Fuji Neopan.

Look at the picture. Look at the color. It’s pretty much in the right place. Celery is green. Peppers are red. Ginger is light yellow. And, so on.

I made this color from whole cloth. Simply by pulling all of the curves in all sorts of ways and positions. At first, I thought it was some weird digital miracle. Then I realized that black and white film “sees” color too. That’s how various shades of gray are made. Red shows up as a dark gray. Green as something much lighter. Like that. My twisting and turning simply pulled whatever the film saw to the forefront. Suddenly, it wasn’t so amazing.

Anyway.

I posted this picture on Instagram. Some of you may have seen it there. Sorry about that. But, for most of you, this is a new thing.

The picture. I told you how I made it. But, not where. When. Back in the day I spent a lot of time in Hong Kong. Six years to be exact. I managed big book projects on huge commercial presses. There is a lot of down time. Beyond a lot of down time. Rather than sit in some bar with all the rest of the expatriates, I wandered the city. Photographing. Always photographing.

I found stuff. I found places. At that time, there were like two coffee houses in the city. I found a third, tucked in a back alley. My then companion, after years of drinking tea, had her first cup of coffee there. She became an espresso addict. Sorry about that. It could be worse. I found places where stuff is really made. The old-fashioned way. By hand. With tools. Real tools. I found wet markets that weren’t quite as famous as the big one in Central. That’s how I made this picture.

Sometimes, those days seem all a dream.


In the alley.

Long ago. And far away.

I used to spend a lot of time in Hong Kong. Six years worth of time. When I wasn’t working, I was working.

Uh, what?

My day job was book production. Large press management. Anybody who knows anything about that industry knows there is an incredible amount of downtime. And, work hours that are around the clock. Two am. Your phone rings. “Press check at 2:45.” You race to get there because you live in Central and the press is about as far away in the new Territories as you can get.

However, boredom can set in. Often, expats develop a serious addiction to booze. Or, other stuff.

But, not for me.

I wandered around endlessly. Making pictures. I found the usual stuff. I found the more esoteric stuff. And, I found the nooks and crannies that many Hongkongers don’t even know about. Or, if they did, they forgot about it. This place isn’t in that deep of a cranny. It’s located on Cat Alley, or Lascar’s Row. Either name is fine. It’s become a tourist attraction because you can find really high-end art in the stores, or less expensive knockoffs along the alley. I doubt many tourists walk this far down the street to find the oldest “antique shops.” Most of the stuff you find here has been ripped out of older buildings in Hong Kong’s never-ending cycle of rebirth and rebuilding. It’s not exactly junk. But, if you were on holiday in Hong Kong would you bring an old fan home?

I didn’t think so.

The picture. I saw it. I pressed the shutter button. I forgot about it. It was one of those so-called lost files that Google Pictures dug up. I’m not even sure how it did that since this image is not on my current computer or even on my plugged in portables. Apparently, it was transferred around somewhere along the way.

That’s a good thing. It also tells me that I have to get into my deep archives. This file is tiny. A lot of my “creative” post production was done to hide that problem.

 


Temple incense.

Another bit of reworking.

Man Mo Temple. Sheung Wan. Hong Kong. Everybody takes this picture in some form. Mostly, I’ve seen it with many rows of incense coils. It’s a stock travel staple. I’ve probably shot the location 15 or 16 times. Nothing really changes. The temple was built in 1847. It’s reputed to be one of the oldest, if not the oldest, buildings in the city. The gods of Man and Mo literally translate to “civil” and “martial.” Man is also regarded as the god of literature, while Mo is regarded as the god of War.

The picture. Again, I made it first on black and white film, printed it, scanned it and did most of the manipulations digitally. I’ve found a couple of these reworked pieces interesting from a standpoint of adding color. You can see blues, yellows and a sort of purplish color throughout the picture. Ah. The magic of digital post production. Or, at least digital filtering.


Back streets and trees.

I made this picture in Hong Kong. China. A couple of years ago. I tinkered with it during all of my down time. Mostly because to not do something photographic for a day drives me crazy. I doesn’t have to be the act of making a picture. It just has to be something photographic. The picture started out as a black and white piece of film. I made a print. I scanned it. I started messing with it until I got to this point, where I felt fulfilled. Photographically fulfilled. Imagine that.

Lately, there has been a big discussion on many of the photo blogs, sites and even on social media about photography as art. Or, photography and art. Or, the future of photography. There was one theory that I read on Petapixel (I think) that photographers hold ourselves back by looking to the past. I rarely take them seriously.

The real question, I suppose, is this. As we move into further into the digital age of the 21st Century what is a photograph?

Is it simply a document of what we saw? Is it an extension of personal vision that is only achievable through mixing and matching technique digitally? Is it something else? The answer is fairly simple. To me.

It depends. That’s the answer. It depends.

If I’m a photojournalist I’d better not be playing around with the original scene beyond various basic corrections. If I’m an artist I suppose I can do anything I want in order to make the picture say what I want it to say.

Of course, that begs a couple of questions.

I’m pretty sure the role and images of a photojournalist are fairly well-defined. But, art? Who or what defines that? One fellow blogger says that he’s a photographer. Pure and simple. It’s up to his audience to decide if his work is art. And, by extension, that he is an artist. I pretty much agree with that.

To a point.

Too many people take pictures of a sunset or a basic scenic without even consideration for light and shadow and call themselves “fine art photographers.” What’s artistic about those two scenarios? Point the camera and take a picture. That’s what I do. I don’t consider myself to be an artist.

Others ask why all this categorization is necessary. It isn’t. But, you brought it up.

Then, there are the others who want to know exactly what I did. A former follower was unhappy because I couldn’t tell her exactly what I did to make a picture look a certain way. I can’t, which is very different from I won’t. Although I have said that to a couple of people via Twitter. Make your own path. I experiment and tinker and plod along until I think I like something. Then I show it.

So there.


Wet Market in Hong Kong
Wet Market in Hong Kong

So. I’ll keep going.

This is a very early version of my digital experimentation. It’s from a time when I wanted to make a photograph look like something else entirely. Like a watercolor painting. I added some more stuff to it. And, there you have it.

This is old enough that the original exposure was made on film. For me, even the original slide worked because it gave the viewer the same sense that I had at the time when I took the picture. Crowds. Swirling Color. Energy. Motion. And, for a Westerner, a lot of confusion.

Giving the viewer a sense of something. How it feels. Being there. Isn’t that what a picture is supposed to do?

Oh yeah. I bet you want to know where it is. The wet market in Central. Hong Kong. China. I took it from the “Travelator.” The world’s longest escalator. On the way home.

One more thing about the original version of this picture. For a time, it was published everywhere. In travel magazines. Travel sections of Sunday newspapers. Brochures. Even a vertical billboard. I suppose it had an iconic feel to it.


New Mexican balloon.
New Mexican balloon.

Well, I’ll be…

I wouldn’t have thought I would have gotten such a favorable response to this kind of tinkering around. It really hit me when an old friend of mine said this is where he hoped to go with his new-found love of photography.

Hmmmm…

I think I got to this place sort of out of self-defense. And, a desire to learn where I could really go with my work. This, to be sure, is not a new thing. I worked my way through some of my archives and these images go back a ways. A long ways. Not only did I take them a few years back, but I started experimenting with them around the same time. Maybe as long as 8 or 9 years ago. Different software to be sure. But, my vision was headed in this direction. These pictures are evidence.

I can remember clearly when I started doing this kind of post production work. I used to play a lot of computer games. I suppose there is some kind of problem solving and hand eye coordination to be learned from them. I thought back then that if I was going to spend so much time at the computer that I might as well learn something that I could really use. I stopped playing games and started to learn about Photoshop and what is well beyond.

I suppose that it’s like being a musician, which by the way, my friend with his new photographic passion, happens to be. You mess around and mess around until you find something the strikes you. You don’t have to rush through the process because it is uniquely yours. And, nobody else is expecting a finished production. It’s a kind of art for its own sake. Until you decide to show it.

The pictures. Two from New Mexico. One from Hong Kong. The balloon is from the International Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque. Since I lived nearby I could return to the event repeatedly. Mostly, I looked for low light images. Sometimes, I’d just take a singular picture as the basis for some later work, not even knowing what that might be. In the stock photography world, that’s called a component.

The space flower is also New Mexican. I saw the backlighted flower and put the camera on the ground. It’s been around in various forms, but never like this one. Not that you’ve seen.

Hong Kong days was made from my roof. You know that I’m lazy and sometimes don’t like to roam far from home. I asked the building management for permission. They gave me the key to the roof door and said don’t fall off. They were used to my odd requests by this time. The post production work is sort of prescient. Hong Kong has degraded a lot since the time when I made this picture.

Hong Kong days.
Hong Kong days.

Space flower
Space flower


HK143
Photographing Kowloon’s Ladies Market.

This going to be more about the technique than it is about the picture. The picture, itself, was made in Mong Kok, in Kowloon. For those of you who don’t know much about the geography of Hong Kong, Kowloon is a peninsula that extends down from the mainland, which means China. Above Kowloon are The New Territories. Then, China. Hong Kong is an island and is often referred to as Hong Kong Island. It is divided into districts. There are also small districts which were once stand alone towns located on Kowloon. Mong Kok is one of those districts. Mong Kok is a very Chinese place. It is blue-collar. The people are hard workers. Generally, they make or sell things. The Ladies Market is a night market. No. You can’t buy ladies. But, once upon a time mostly women shopped at this outdoor market. Not so much anymore. Everybody shops for just about anything. There are outdoor restaurants and tea shops. There are all kinds of fresh food stalls. Fish. Meat. Poultry. Vegetables. Dairy. Fruit. There are all sorts of inexpensive clothing stalls and tables. You can find cheap jewelry, watches, tools, art, plants… well, you name it. The people selling this stuff ask high prices. They expect you to negotiate. Trust me. This is no festival. The is a blue collar market.

The picture. As you know, I’m big on the “sense of things.”  One way to express this in a way that can be photographed is found in the phrase, “what is it like to…?” I don’t know who said it first. But, I heard from my old friend, John Fulton, who said it to me when we were riding in a New York taxi as it careened through the streets of Manhattan as we were going to an appointment. You know. It was, “what is like to ride in a New York taxi?” That morning it was pretty scary. I wasn’t in New York to take a thrill ride. Or was I?

Anyway. This picture was made at The Ladies Market at the height of its rush hour. I could done this any number of ways. I could have set down a tripod and set the shutter speed really slow and let the people sort of flow around me. That would have been fine if I didn’t want the tripod after I finished making the picture. In a crowd like this, somebody would have surely knocked it over. It probably would have been stepped on. Broken in two. Mashed. Crashed. Maybe the camera would have went with it. I only have so many cameras. So. I did what I do in situations like this. I set the shutter speed and F stop about where I thought I wanted it. Then I held the camera as close to my body as I could and started making pictures. Yes, there is some motion in the image. But, that’s okay. The crowd was moving. The sellers were moving. Motion is the name of the image if you really want it to be about the Night Market. I think I captured the feeling. It’s really claustrophobic. And me? I really don’t like crowds. Arrrgh.