The Hudson River School of — Photography???

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Want to make your photographs look like a masterpiece by a famous artist? I used to (half jokingly) dream of the day when a click of the mouse could turn a photograph into a work of art by one of my favorite painters. These days, thanks to plug-ins and programs from Topaz Studio and other places, I can pretty well do just that — well, almost. If you want to produce your own Rembrandt, Degas, Van Gogh, Cezanne, even Da Vinci, the software is there. But, wedged as I am between the Hudson River and the southeastern Catskills, my dream has me pursuing the artists whose work inspired me to live here in the first place: the 19th-century landscape artists known as the Hudson River School.

If you want to produce your own Thomas Cole, Frederic Church, or Asher B. Durand, the presets don’t exist (at least, not yet). But that’s OK — because if you’re determined enough, you can use your own ingenuity to figure out how to do it, and in the end, that’s really more satisfying.

Take the painting — I mean, the photograph above. It’s of a lake in the Woodstock area, and I photograph there frequently. In the 19th century,  Hudson River School painter  Jervis McEntee, when he wasn’t painting in or near his native Kingston, used to roam that area and produced a couple of paintings of it. McEntee’s rather subdued style, coloristically speaking, appealed to me as a corrective to my occasional tendency to post-process my photos in grungy, gritty ways, and I decided to see if I could derive inspiration from my 19th-century neighbor. This image was processed using a combination of a Nik Color Efex Pro preset and a filter on Photoshop CS5. It took some trial and error and in fact I ended up with two or three different final versions, but this one is my favorite.

Emerge_Gallery_MAR_exit_20_flier_JPG[1]It was also a favorite of Robert Langdon, owner of the Emerge Gallery in Saugerties, because he has chosen it to be exhibited in the gallery’s show, “Exit 20,” opening on Saturday March 3. A wonderful variety of talented artists in all media will have their works on display, so if you’re in the area while the show is running, do come along to enjoy it. Hope to see you there!


Rhode Island Ramblings

At last I’m getting round to systematically processing my images from my Rhode Island trip back in October. “Systematically” meaning that I go through each subfolder, make a first cull eliminating photos I definitely don’t want, then run the rest into Lightroom where I make the final choice about what to subject to some serious processing.

Here are two from Colt State Park. I start with these because they’re the only two that don’t feature stone walls; I was obsessed with stone walls on this trip.

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First, this statue of Senator John Chafee of Rhode Island. It was erected after the Senator’s death in 1999. Before his time in the Senate, John Chafee also served as Governor of Rhode Island. He was clearly a very great man, for reasons that I won’t get into lest this post be regarded as politicized. Anyhow, he was also the father of Lincoln Chafee, who was Rhode Island’s governor for one term before the present governor, Gina Raimondo, took office.

It’s obvious from the above that I have no disrespect whatever for the late Gov. Chafee, but I’ve tried for years to get precisely this picture of the statue, with a seagull on his head and that beautiful tree. It just makes for an interesting composition. While I had the photograph in Lightroom I enhanced all the blacks to remove the details of the benches etc. at the bottom of the picture so that everything would look virtually silhouetted. I also slid the Clarity slider down to about -70 to remove any distracting detail from the clouds. Then after transferring it to Photoshop, I slid the Saturation slider all the way down to -100 to eliminate a distracting streak of blue cloud from behind the gull’s head. What do you think?

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The second photo, for a change of pace, shows what’s called “the old bridge.” I walked around trying to find an interesting, uncluttered composition and decided on this view with some autumnal grasses in the foreground. I always seem to hit Colt State Park on cloudy-to-ominous days (probably because I always go in winter or autumn), and for this picture I decided to counteract that (as well as add to my growing collection of painterly photographs)  by using one of the presets in the new Topaz Impression in Topaz Studio. One thing I like about the new Topaz Studio programs is the Opacity slide; if you discover a preset that you basically like but find it a bit exaggerated for your purposes, just slide the Opacity slide back until the effect decreases to a point that you like. That’s what I did here. Again, what do you think?

To purchase a print or other product, click on the photograph you’re interested in and it will take you directly to the link on my website.

Best Photographs of 2017

Here are my favorite images taken in 2017, posted in the order in which they appear in my 2018 calendar.

If you wish to purchase prints, or other products with the image on them, just click on the photo you’re interested in and you’ll go directly to that photo on my website. Thank you for looking! Hope you enjoy them.

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Lobster Traps in Galilee, Rhode Island

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Spring Flowers and the Barn

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Stone Wall in Rhode Island

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The Rondout at Eddyville

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Jamestown Marsh with Pell Bridge

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Sauer Farm, Mt. Marion

Beacon of the Berkshires

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This is Mt. Greylock, at 3,491 ft. the highest point in Massachusetts. Specifically, it’s located in the Berkshires region, a culturally and naturally rich area in the western part of the state. I took this picture during my visit there in October. The mountain, which has a motor road up to the top, is easily reached from Williamstown, a lively college town where I stayed.

If you look closely at a point to the right of the center of the image, you’ll see a tower. I could have cloned it out but I deliberately didn’t, in defiance of the purist view of nature photography that rejects any hint of human activity. Think of iconic peaks of the Northeast USA such as Whiteface (Adirondacks, NY) or Mt. Washington (Whites, NH); those of you in other parts of the country can undoubtedly name your own. Both these mountains have important structures on top. What’s a photographer to do when entering a picture of one of them in, e.g., a nature competition or forum? Clone the structures out  and thereby produce an unnatural image? Avoid shooting the peak at all, at least from the angles from which the structures are visible?

Rhetorical questions. The point (no pun intended) of Greylock’s tower is that it’s a broadcasting tower. For years it has broadcast the signals of WAMC Radio, the local NPR station for northeast New York and western New England. Now, because the TV station that also uses the tower is leaving, WAMC has the opportunity to purchase the tower for itself and thereby assure its future. Fundraising is taking place right now, in advance of the usual February fundraiser, to ensure that the tower on Mt. Greylock remains a beacon for our area.

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If you’re visiting or live in the mid Hudson Valley, you might want to stop in to the Emerge Gallery in Saugerties to enjoy the current show, Primar(il)y Red: An Exhibition of Art Celebrating the Color Red. My popular photograph of the old Adirondack Barn at the junction of Rts. 73 and 9, which was demolished a year ago, is in the show. The barn has been an important part of Adirondack history and I’m glad to have been able to preserve its memory in this way.

Happy New Year to all my readers!

Fall Foliage and a Gallery Show

Ed DSC0959 sThe foliage here in the Northeast has been a bit of a bust this year, but the marshes, with their autumn-golden grass, never disappoint. I got to photograph two marshes during a brief trip to Rhode Island last week–one from the little parking area at the Coggeshall Farm Museum in Bristol and the other a hidden gem on Jamestown island. These images are quickly processed from the jpg versions. When I have time, I’ll give them (and others) the full treatment, putting the Raw files through Lightroom and then Photoshop.

The image at the top of the page shows the marsh visible from the Coggeshall Farm. The sky during a break in the almost relentless rain on this day added some drama.

The marshy land in the Great Creek was quite a discovery. I was on my way to photograph the famous Jamestown Windmill and happened to pass this. The windmill was quite close by, so it was easy to turn around to go back to the creek, which had its seemingly statutory now-closed-for-the-season seafood shack in whose parking area one could stop.

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I always love the way the marshland itself intersects with the surrounding waters to produce interesting shapes and what sometimes appears like a maze–Cape Cod has its share of those, as do the Essex marshes north of Boston–and for this shot I wished I were about six inches taller to have been able to minimize (or better, eliminate) overlap between the different sections of marshland. Anyhow, if you think you see a bridge lurking in the background, guess what–

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–you were right! The Pell Bridge, which connects Aquidneck Island (on which Newport lies) with Jamestown island. I got several shots but like the way this one includes the flag.

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If you’re in (or visiting) the Hudson Valley during November, we’d love to welcome you to an art show opening at the Emerge Gallery on Main Street in Saugerties. The theme is “Petit”–it consists of smaller works of art–and I have two pictures in the show. In addition to the framed works on display, a variety of matted prints is also available for sale.

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Photographing History: The Doughboy

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One hundred years after the United States’ entry into World War I, doughboys are again in the news. This morning, in a big parade in Paris, France that both celebrated the French National Day (Bastille Day) and commemorated the centenary, a corps of American soldiers marched in the parade as a salute to President Trump, who had been invited to view the event, and several of the soldiers were dressed as WWI doughboys.

First, “doughboy” is an informal term referring to a member of the United States Army or Marine Corps, especially those who served with the American Expeditionary Forces in World War I, although it was apparently in use during (and possibly originated in) the Mexican-American War in the 1840s.

In case you’re wondering, no, I’ve never photographed an actual doughboy; the last one to have served in the First World War, Frank Buckles, died in 2011 in West Virginia, aged 110. But a few years ago, at the invitation and request of the archives of the Dominican Order’s Eastern Province, I photographed a rather famous statue of a doughboy located in North Providence, Rhode Island (the Order’s archives are housed at Providence College, a few minutes drive from where the statue stands).

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Rev. Nicholas Serror, OP, photo courtesy of Dominican Archives

The statue is titled “On to Victory” and was designed by John G. Hardy, a sculptor from Warwick, RI.  The connection between the Dominicans and the statue? The model for the statue is said to have been a Dominican priest, Rev. Nicholas Hugh Serror, OP (1896-1972), who served in the infantry in WWI. Clearly destined for a life of service, Nicholas Serror entered the Dominicans, received the habit in 1927, and was ordained a priest in 1934. A faculty member at Providence College for many years, he collaborated with a colleague at nearby Brown University in the development of a drug that ended an epidemic of ringworm in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada, in 1950. 

Photographing this statue was a challenge. It stands right up against St. Albans Church and so there’s always going to be some background interference. In addition, I was taken there on a bright, sunny day–though fortunately, in very late afternoon, not in the most garish period of midday light. The best solution was to select the two best “poses” of the shots I took, blur out (or remove altogether) the background, and–which was especially appropriate given the historical nature of the subject–convert them to B&W. Here are the results; you’ll note that the one photograph is a crop of one of the others to provide a close-up. (I’m tempted to go back and reprocess one or two of them in sepia to give them a “vintage” look.)

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I want to thank my Dominican friends at Providence College for the opportunity to photograph this historic statue and for honoring the results by framing one of the images to hang in their archives.


Record Shot and Art Photo: Composition Challenges

A lot of my camera time is spent photographing historic structures. They could be anything from a fine house that’s been lovingly preserved to a ruin ready to succumb to the weather or the wrecker’s ball, and everything in between.

The question I always ask myself, especially if it’s a subject I’m photographing for the first time, is, how should I present this? As a straightforward record shot or in an artistic interpretation? Actually, as long as you’re there, it’s as well to do both. Record shots–or in this context one might say documentary shots–are, for me, a way of getting to know the subject: introducing my camera to it and vice versa. After I’ve taken one or more of those, I move in, look more closely, and evaluate the subject for possible artistic interpretations.

Saugerties, a river town on the Hudson River some 45 miles south of Albany, has a vast treasure of historic subjects, including the famous lighthouse that also serves as a B&B. Yesterday the light was just right for photographing a home that adjoins the Reformed Church–actually, it’s the parsonage for the church–because the rhododendrons were out in full force and offered a burst of spring beauty and color.

Here is the first image I made–the record shot: the front of the house with the door, windows, and, of course, the two rhododendron bushes.

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But I wasn’t satisfied to stop there. It’s a good record shot, a bland postcard shot, one might say, but there must be something more here.

Of course, there was. After all, what had attracted me to the building in the first place–a building I walk or drive past frequently but had never before thought of photographing? The rhododendrons, of course. Here’s the result.

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Please note: Both images are the jpgs “right out of the box,” with only minimal postprocessing. I’ll get to that stage later. But I want to point out that in this blog post I’m concerned primarily with the compositional aspects: how to get from the record or documentary shot to a personal interpretation. But there needn’t be a complete dichotomy between the two, because even a documentary shot can be transformed into something artistic depending on how you decide to process it. (This is especially useful for this historical photography because you can use a program such as Topaz B&W Effects or Nik Silver Efex Pro to make your documentary shot look like an old-fashioned historic photograph.) But that’s another story!

Back to composition: My fellow Hudson Valley photographer Robert Rodriguez, Jr. frequently writes about composition, and offers invaluable tips, in his blog and in his newsletter. If ever there was a photographer who proves that you don’t need to travel out West for the “iconic shots” to produce stunning photography, Robert is such a photographer. Click here to get to his website — I promise you’ll be glad you did. His motto is “Inspiring the Creative Spirit,” and that he certainly does.