Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Sweet November | Nature Photography at Hunting Island

Even before moving to Hilton Head Island I had already learned about - and visited - Hunting Island State Park, just east of Beaufort. It is one of those rare places along the coastal sea islands that has been kept almost completely in its original, natural state. In other words, a beach full of wonderful, weathered drift wood and a maritime forest environment free of development. Hunting Island is a nature photographer's dream location. Each and every visit yields images that rank in my top personal favorites representing the South Carolina "lowcountry."

Recently I was blessed with another opportunity to visit and photograph on Hunting. In the beautiful light and pleasing temperatures of a November morning I explored both the wider landscape of beach and sky as well as the smaller details and shapes provided by a treasure trove of subject matter found at my feet.

Even though my visit to Hunting was just for a few hours one morning last week the outing resulted in images that I was happy to add to my growing stock library of South Carolina nature photographs.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Place Called Home | Where The Best Photographs Come From

While in Ohio recently I was hoping to have a day or two following the October 26 - 28 Hocking Hills workshop to hit the trail alone and capture some of that beautiful light of autumn in a landscape that I've come to know and love. But it was not to be so. A painful knee and immobile leg made it practically impossible to transverse the trails through those deep gorges. However, one thing I've learned in working for myself as a professional photographer is that there is a reason for everything, good, bad or just painful inconvenience.

Immediately following the workshop weekend in Hocking Hills I traveled back to the place I call home, Dayton, for an extended, unplanned visit while I had my knee looked at and healed. Even though my current residence and place of business is Hilton Head Island (and even that is going to change soon), Dayton is where I grew up and have lived the majority of my life.

Despite my injured knee I was able to get out and do some photography. My favorite haunt near Dayton is the Sugarcreek Preserve MetroPark, south of town near Bellbrook and Centerville. There is a rolling, open meadow that never disappoints at sunset. I love working from the perspective of being down low at eye-level with the tall grasses and shooting upwards to include a dramatically lit and vibrant sky. In late autumn the grasses offer an array of texture in rich hues of tans and browns.

It was inspiring to walk the old and familiar trails again, both in Hocking Hills and at Sugarcreek. Yes, the natural beauty of the tidelands of South Carolina is alluring but home is where the creative heart resides. It's the connection to my formative years, my "proving ground' of sorts where my passion for camera and film first took root.

I think we tend to be hardest on those places - and often people as well - we love the most. A full appreciation for childhood homeland takes a while to make its presence known. In later years as we grow older we become more fond of the memories - the neighborhoods, the schools, the friends.

With artists the memories are more acute and run just a tad bit deeper. Perhaps it's because the feelings conjured through that touchstone of emotion is always echoed in and through the work they create. Maybe that's part of the reason I am always visually drawn to the fading light of a moody sky. I struggle with finding the right words but I know it when I see it. More importantly, I know it when I feel it.

The old trails through woodland and meadow. Sugarcreek, Cox, Germantown, Ft. Ancient, Little Miami, Clifton Gorge, John Bryan and of course, Hocking. Each season so distinct in light, shadow, color and scent. Familiar ground underfoot and trail side companions of Maple, Oak, Beech and Hemlock. Home. It's always there wherever life takes me.

“A human life, I think, should be well rooted in some spot of native land, where it may get the love of tender kinship for the face of the earth, for the labours of men go forth to, for the sounds and accents that haunt it, for whatever will give that early home a familiar unmistakable difference among the future widening of knowledge: a spot where the definiteness of early memories may be inwrought with affection, and kindly acquaintance with all neighbors, even to the dogs and donkeys, may spread not by sentimental effort and reflection, but as a sweet habit of the blood.” - George Eliot

The song "My Father's Father" by The Civil Wars provides the near perfect sound and lyrics to the experiences and images that come to mind when I think of my favorite Ohio trails and haunts.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Making Our Verse Through Photography | Hocking Hills Autumn Workshop Recap

It was my pleasure to have the opportunity to lead and teach a group of 19 very talented and enthusiastic photography students during this past weekend's workshop in Hocking Hills, Ohio. They were also a very understanding group because as it turned-out, I was functioning with a torn left quad tendon just above my knee. The injury occurred earlier in the week while in South Carolina but it wasn't until I got in to see a doctor with the Orthopedic Institute of Dayton - on Monday following the workshop - when I found out the reason for so much pain and swelling. As a result I will be "mobile office" in Dayton, Ohio for a few weeks before returning to South Carolina.

One of the lessons learned - for both me and my workshop students - is the need for photographers to be able to adapt and adjust to unforeseen circumstances and changing weather when shooting for assignment, workshop or personal project. We were also working around some interesting weather coming in ahead of the super storm that was hitting the northeast and a cold front bearing down from the northwest. Lots of rain (more than I care to work with) on the Sunday of the workshop program.

The pain in my knee did become so bad that I had to end the program two hours early on Sunday afternoon but the group was very understanding. For that I am thankful. 

Despite the challenges we had a great weekend for learning and photography in Hocking Hills. The locations I did manage to guide the group to included Cedar Falls and Conkle's Hollow. In those locations we concentrated on form, texture and composition within close-up nature subjects and selected sections of the landscape. Something new to this fall's weekend program was adding a section on portrait photography, both location/environment and inside at our meeting facility at The Inn at Cedar Falls.

Every workshop group and experience is unique in personality, group dynamic, theme and point of emphasis. But one thing is common - they are always positive, uplifting learning experiences. I know it is for me as the instructor and I hope these programs are reacted to in a similar way by the participants. I have yet to hear otherwise and once again, I'm grateful.

I think the highlight of this most recent session came on Sunday morning when took the group down an unexpected path by showing a clip from a favorite movie, "Dead Poet's Society." In this clip (apologies but the imbed option from YouTube was disabled) Robin William's character - Mr. Keating - talks about the importance of passion in art, in this case poetry, but what he is saying applies to all forms of art. "What will your verse be?" This is the question I presented to my workshop students. For us our poetry are the images we capture and share. Our legacy, our record of moments captured and stories set to the images that serve as our connection to what is felt within and with those who view our work.

Come injury and bad weather, the learning process continues, for student and teacher. The beauty of photography is that neither one ever truly arrives at an end point. For us the journey is everything and along the way we leave our "verses."

The following web gallery provides a look at the images captured during the Autumn Journey Workshop of October 26 - 28, 2012: