Playing the Cards I Was Dealt at the Ojai Storytelling Festival

In a visually cluttered environment, I sought ways to simplify.

In a visually cluttered environment, I sought ways to simplify each frame.

I’ve attended sixteen Ojai Storytelling Festivals, and I’ve photographed at least twelve of them. Every year there are new challenges. Oh, he’s going to juggle flaming torches? Okay. Oh, she’s going to spin and twirl all over the stage? Okay. Oh, they’re going to wear black clothes and bright white makeup? Okay. I attend nearly every event over the weekend, so if at first I don’t get the shot, I usually get another chance.

This stage was really challenging, with bright gels everywhere I turned, and a harsh spot that produced "raccoon eyes" unless tellers looked in very specific directions.

This stage was really challenging, with bright gels everywhere I turned, and a highly placed spotlight that produced “raccoon eyes” unless tellers looked in very specific directions.

This year threw some unknown unknowns my way.  The past two years, I’d gotten quite used to taking up a position behind or up against giant speakers at stage-right, which allowed me to get close to the performers without distracting the audience. But those speakers weren’t used this year. Nor was there seating in the “orchestra pit” area, so any attempt to get close to the stage put me out in the open, between performer and audience.

Sometimes I could find an angle and minimal depth of field to obscure the busy backgrounds, but not often.

Sometimes I could find an angle and minimal depth of field to obscure the busy backgrounds, but not often.

I found a relatively unobtrusive spot stage-left, where I faced a busy background and obstacles (music and microphone stands) in the foreground. Unsightly backgrounds and cluttered foregrounds became a bit of a theme because most of the daytime performances previously held in Libby Bowl were staged this year at the Ojai Center for the Arts. On a makeshift stage, under a canopy. A small canopy.

Eventually, I moved closer, went monochrome, and got all portrait-y.

Eventually, I moved closer, went monochrome, and got all portrait-y.

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But wait, there’s more! Two of the tellers were accompanied by musicians. So I’ve got busy backgrounds, cluttered foregrounds, and I’m looking for compositions that accommodate a standing teller and a seated musician.

Eventually I pulled off some nice shots of Minton Sparks and John Jackson, it took some gymnastics to find the angles.

Eventually I pulled off some nice shots of Minton Sparks and John Jackson, but it took some gymnastics and yoga moves to find the angles.

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On top of all this, I faced the ever-present gels of doom – purple and green and maroon and blue; not the most flattering replacements for skin tones.

But you know what? I told myself the same thing I told a visiting German photographer who didn’t like the light in Monument Valley last month: I play the cards I’m dealt. And I found two techniques that mitigated most of my challenges: tighten the frame, and narrow the color palette.

It only has to work a few times to deliver what the tellers and the promoter need. And I think it did.

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Next week I return to shooting dance. I wonder what cards I will draw…

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Filed under Dance and Theater, Low Light

A Slow Learner, but a Learner Still

Only so many dusks, only so many springs.

Only so many dusks, only so many springs.

It seems like just one post ago I was supposedly relearning that I will only get so many magic hours (dawn & dusk light) in my life, but just this afternoon I sat at my desk, trying to decide whether to haul a camera into the backyard or take off my shoes and lounge about the house.  Continue reading

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Filed under Nature Photography

The Most Important Lesson: Remember Who You Are

We scheduled our visit to Monument Valley to coincide with the full moon. Very challenging, but fun fun fun.

We scheduled our visit to Monument Valley to coincide with the full moon. Technically challenging, but fun fun fun.

As regular readers know, I’m not the sharpest lens in the bag. One of the reasons I maintain this blog is to record lessons for myself – despite the fact that, in the words of Elvis Costello, “I talk to myself but I don’t listen.”

So, several of these lessons are things we all already know. In fact, most have been featured on this blog before. Still… Continue reading

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Filed under Camera Gear, Travel and Vacation

2015 Southwest Vacation Slideshow

In future posts I’ll share photos and lessons learned – and missed – during this trip. In the meantime, here’s a slideshow.

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Filed under Travel and Vacation

March Came and Went, but I Got a Few Frames

"Whole lot of hard times, a little bit of magic." Dang I love Patty Griffin.

“Whole lot of hard times, a little bit of magic.” Dang I love Patty Griffin. This is what March 1st looked like in Ojai. (D7100)

I’m not sure what happened to March, but I’ve got big plans for April.

I got to see and photograph some Cedar Waxwings at Soule Park.

I got to see and photograph some Cedar Waxwings at Soule Park. (D7100)

...And a bluebird too.

…And a bluebird too. (D7100)

I attended an event with Susan Stamberg, founding mother of NPR. She might not like this photo, but I do.

I attended an event with Susan Stamberg, founding mother of NPR. She might not like this photo, but I do. (X100s)

My day at the Getty did not result in a lot of good photos, but I got a lot of exercise and started playing around with Nik filters.

My day at the Getty did not result in a lot of good photos, but I got a lot of exercise and started playing around with Nik filters. (D610 w/24-70 f/2.8)

I may have visited The Vine with the D610 and a macro lens.

I may have visited The Vine with the D610 and a macro lens.

I had a near-miss on my motorcycle and wrote about it a KindlyGentlemenMotorcycleClub.com.

I had a near-miss on my motorcycle and wrote about it at KindlyGentlemenMotorcycleClub.com. (D610)

So March was, um, meh. In April I'll revisit Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly and see if I've learned anything about landscape photography.

So March was, um, meh. In April I’ll revisit Monument Valley and Canyon de Chelly and see if I’ve learned anything about landscape photography. (D7000)

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There Can Be Only One

Backyard Bees-0178-2

As I’ve mentioned many times, I’m trying to become a more ruthless editor. I got many well exposed, sharp images of bees in my backyard last week, but this one stood out as my favorite. I shared some of the others on Facebook, but I should not have done so. Others have said it: if you only show your best work, people come to believe you are a good photographer. So do you, and so you do. This will be my new editing mantra: There can be only one.

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Filed under Motivation, Nature Photography

“I will never photograph my father again.”

My father and my son, twenty-five years ago.

My father and my son, twenty-five years ago.

My father died on January 26. He had been on hospice care for almost two years, so as my wife put it, “It wasn’t a surprise, but still managed to be a shock.”

89 and looking like a movie star

89 and looking like a movie star

Everyone grieves differently, and to most, I do not appear to grieve at all. My knee-jerk response to most forms of stress is to get busy. Contact the authorities; review the paperwork; take care of business. Sorrow has to sneak up and jump me unaware. As it happens, sorrow is quite the ninja warrior. I was collecting photographs for the slideshow embedded below, and the thought hit me: I will never photograph my father again. That did it. A good long cry. And the pleasant realization that in most photos of my father, he is laughing.

Dad died a month shy of his 90th birthday, but he could still rock an Eisenhower jacket like no one I know.

Dad died a month shy of his 90th birthday, but he could still rock an Eisenhower jacket like no one I know.

A special thanks to friend Myrna Cambianica, who encouraged me to keep shooting, through thick and thin. Thanks to these photos, I can grieve with a smile on my face. http://youtu.be/9z–2Bo511E

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Filed under Personal