Bearville Valley, High Summer, from Overlook

Bearsville Valley from Overlook Mountain, above Woodstock, NY, High Summer afternoon c.1983  8"x10" Ektachrome, Schneider Symmar-S 300mm

My first love in photography is witnessing the singing presence of Creation.  That is the reason that I have Bellini's St. Francis in Ecstacy at the bottom of the home page.

I learned my large camera (big cameras that takes 8" by 10" pieces of film and tip the scales at some 70-100 pounds of gear) technique from Paul Caponigro, a master of the medium who taught it as both technique (the Zone System, et al) and as a meditation.  You see the heart of the image, you pre-visualize it, you set up the camera, frame the image and then...you step aside with only the shutter release, a thin cable, linking you to the camera.  You center, you focus, you quiet...and then when every thing is right, you trip the shutter.

At the time I took this image, my family and I were living in a house on Overlook Mountain above Woodstock (so high up that we could see over Ohayo Mountain across the valley to the Ashokan Reservoir beyond).  This is what we saw through the seasons in the two years we lived there.  High glowing summer, ice storms, breaking thunderstorms: I saw them, would pull back the slider and shoot.  This image looks down on the Bearsville Flats and the back road to Mt. Tremper. In 1985, the property (we'd been renting) was sold with 27 acres for $87,500.

For those of you who think that traditional photo-chemical imaging processes are passe, I'd point out that that camera shoots the equivalent of a 720 megapixel digital image...while the best digital cameras shoot a resolution of 6 to 40 megapixels. So it'll be a while yet before digital electronic imaging can deliver the kind of resolution and depth of tonality that traditional photgraphic processes can. Oh, I'll be happy enough when it comes to pass, because the film and developing costs for one 8"x10" exposure is $15....and the weight of the camera is just too much to deal with any more. 

For the whole Gallery of Hudson Valley landscapes, see here

Ashokan Reservoir, Late Summer, 2010
Ashokan Reservoir from the Pumphouse Deck, September 2010, Canon 5D MkII 21MP Digital SLR, 24-105 Zoom at 105mm


There isn't the resolution or tonality of the large-format, but it's pretty good for camera equipment I can hold in my hands...and digital manipulation allows you to manage tonal ranges that would have been nearly impossible with "wet"/film based photography.  The light in the clouds was fiercely bright compared to the shadowed landscape in this image, but it could all be brought together in Photoshop. 

I should say that full impact of this image was brought out by the Photoshop expertise of Angel Cobos of Laumont Studio in Manhattan; he was the one who worked with the digital file to bring out both the fierce light in the clouds and the subtle shadow detail.  Kudos also to the staff and work of the people of Laumont Studio, among them Tom Hurley in scanning, Jerry Lucid in retouching (he cleaned up dust shadows in the sky of the top image beautifully) and Phillipe Laumont himself, all of whom contributed incredible competence, patience, professionalism and grace.  Laumont Studio has the expertise and big equipment to work digitally with large format film and make large high-end fine prints from it; their Cibachrome and FujFlex fine prints fully match the impact of the original Ektachrome transparencies. 
Alas, both Kodak and Cibachrome will soon be gone, victims of a changing photographic world and the ever-increasing profit demands of the modern business world.



Warning: What follows is one of those tiresome artists' manifestos. See also here

This image speaks to another aspect of spirituality that manifests in photography: Creation is always there, always happening; its revelations and annunciations are all around us, if we but look.  Somewhat before I took this image, I was busily speeding on my way and all in my head with being late and thethingsIhadtodo....I was whipping over the Reservoir weir when the small voice (that we should all listen to more) said, 'Hey lookit that'.  And thankfully I really did....and I stopped and really opened to seeing....and saw and took this image.
We all need to take more time to see and breathe. 

I have mixed feelings about Photoshop: for me, the central gift of photographic imagery is that it can bring back what was there.  Not some sliced and diced weird artist's imaginative interpretation, but the revelation, the annunciation of life, its very essence.  For me, photography is witness.  The imagery is about opening to vision, not imposing my vision.  Photography alone of the art forms can do that.  Alas, so much of "contemporary" photography is about being as wiggy as the other art forms, about producing images that are as plastic, non-realistic and of an internal vision, that are "significant" and "challenging" and "troubled" and "visionary". 
My classic work (in the vein of Strand, Steiglitz, Adams, Caponigro) is, alas, quite out of vogue.

Hope you like it.