Art by Accident: Unusual Photo of a Beloved Rhode Island Icon

Like any photographer who is active in Rhode Island, I’ve shot the Newport-Jamestown Bridge countless times over the last few years. At dusk, in early morning, with or without the Goat Island Lighthouse–I’ve done all these and yet will never tire of photographing this lovely bridge over and over again.

The above photograph, taken shortly after sunrise on a bitterly cold January weekend recently, is unique. At least, unique in my collection. And it happened quite by accident.  Here’s the original image, right out of my Nikon D90:

How did I get this original capture, and how did I transform it into the artsy version you see at the top of this post?

As I said, it was bitterly cold. And very, very windy. Not always conducive to thinking first and shooting after. So I set up the camera on the tripod, focused, dialed in what I thought were the right settings in Aperture Priority, and fired away.

Except that I wasn’t in Aperture Priority–the camera was still in Manual, from a shoot the previous afternoon. My usual method of shooting is to start in Aperture Priority but then, if the blinkies warn me that I’ve overexposed or (less frequently) I see that the result is underexposed, I correct it by readjusting in Manual. That’s what I had done the day before, during “normal” daylight, and I had forgotten to switch the camera back to Aperture Priority. Hence the extreme underexposure. The settings were f/14 at 1/125 sec. with -0.3 exposure compensation, and ISO 320.  Not conducive to overwhelming brightness early on a January morning.

Normally I would simply have deleted the image after upload, but this time curiosity got the better of me. Could anything be done with it? So I opened the image in Raw (I always shoot Raw + jpg), adjusted the exposure, then opened it in Photoshop CS5 (my editing program of choice) and simply adjusted a few sliders. No filters, no plug-ins, nothing other than the most basic tools CS5 has available. And I deliberately didn’t de-noise it either; that’s what gives it the “artsy” look, almost as if it were a colorized version of a charcoal drawing.

Could I repeat this crazy experiment successfully? I don’t know–but given the opportunity, I’ll certainly try.

The picture (the Photoshopped one, not the original) is available for purchase on my website at the special Print of the Month price for the entire month of March. Act now–by March 31–to get your own print of this iconic bridge in one of four different sizes.

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Above you see a selection of some of my more “normal” photos, as purchased and framed for a corporate office. The purchaser specifically wanted to display images from my “Windows, Doors, Reflections” collection, and here you see one way of framing them. “Window, Doors, Reflections” is an exciting series for me and one to which I am always adding new images. If you’re interested in a themed display for your home or office, why not take a look at this gallery on my website? You can create your own themes, perhaps from my lighthouse images, or my Monochrome or historically-oriented Modern Vintage collection. I look forward to your visit!

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More Photo Opportunities at Highland

Along with the “fine art” images I shared in my previous post, the Highland trip offered a complete change of pace to environmental photojournalism. I’ve always admired the work of Robert Glenn Ketchum in this realm, and of course, his book on the Hudson Valley is especially dear to my heart. Ketchum shows how you can make beautiful images while, at the same time, documenting environmental degradation.

Now, I’m far from claiming that my work is anything like comparable to Ketchum’s, but I do feel a responsibility to use my skills to document and raise awareness of the harmful effects of both manmade and natural disasters on the environment. It began with a shot I took a few years ago of the controversial Indian Point Nuclear Plant in Buchanan, NY–the plant ironically framed by trees from my vantage point across the Hudson at Stony Point–and more recently, I was encouraged to pursue this work during a portfolio review with well-known photographer William Geddes.

The aftermath of Hurricane Irene left no end of opportunities to document the destruction in the Hudson Valley, and back in the summer I photographed various places, including this very spot from above, looking down from the Walkway over the Hudson, and posted images in my Hudson Valley blog. One of those evocative images, a wide-angle view of the swollen, brown, green-flecked river, was awarded Pick of the Week in the Environmental Photojournalism category on the website of Nature Photographers Network, of which I’m a member.  Now I found myself down on that very shore, eye level with the persisting effects of the storm. The first picture (above left) shows how part of this wooden walkway, part of an outdoor area belonging to a local restaurant, has buckled. I took a horizontal as well but chose this vertical to process because it’s a tighter shot, focusing in on the buckled portion of the walkway.

The next image (above) shows how the flooded Hudson River breached the brick wall at the new Highland Landing Park, leaving a gap. Notice how both of these images, while highlighting the destruction I want to show, still includes enough of the surroundings to show where we are; this is the Hudson River, the Hudson Valley.

In the final image (above left) I had to turn my back on the river and the two bridges. Here you see homes on the shore, homes that should enjoy a lovely view of the river, but since the summer they’ve had a front-row seat to watch construction equipment repairing the extensive damage caused when the river overflowed the banks. The work proceeds slowly, no doubt because it’s not merely a matter of repair but also one of preventing, as far as possible, that this level of damage could occur again.

In my next post I’ll show you a couple of miscellaneous opportuinities that presented themselves on this shoot. Did I succeed in taking the best advantage of them? I’ll let you decide.