Intimate Landscapes by Robert Rodriguez

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Robert Rodriguez, Jr. is one of the greatest landscape photographers working in the Hudson Valley. Robert has that most important gift of all — knowing how and when to capture the beautiful light. But that gift doesn’t come without hard work, work that takes time. In fact, at Sunday’s reception for his new show at the RiverWinds Gallery in his home town of Beacon, Robert emphasized that the most important “tool” in a nature photographer’s kit is time–time to return again and again to a specific place in order to scope out the best compositions and to wait patiently until the lighting conditions are optimum for your vision of a scene. As an example, he pointed to his stunning black-and-white image from Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia, taken during a vacation with his family, and recounted how it took four visits to that particular site before the light was right and he got the image he wanted. This is food for thought in a day and age when prodigious prolificness seems to be demanded of photographers; Robert shows that one needn’t buy into this.

And a gorgeous image this is. I find it interesting that many nature photographers are turning to black-and-white, not exclusively, but certainly a sufficient number of magnificent black-and-white landscape pictures are turning up that one can speak of a black-and-white renaissance.

My little snapshot at the top of the blog gives you a modest (very modest) idea of Robert’s work through the windows of the RiverWinds Gallery. If you have the opportunity to visit his exhibit, it will be at the gallery through March 4. Visit the gallery’s website for opening hours and directions. It is very easy to get to (if I say that, it’s guaranteed to be true), right off Route 9D from the I-84, and Beacon itself is worth visiting, especially for art aficionados and anyone who would appreciate amazing views of the Hudson River.

Wealth of Photo Potential at Highland, NY

It was by accident that I discovered what I believe is the only spot on the shore of the Hudson River that has a good view of both the Walkway over the Hudson and the Mid-Hudson Bridge. It’s at the new Highland Landing Park and is reached via a steep downhill drive from the main road. The fact that I arrived later than planned worked in my favor: too early would have had the rising sun glaring directly at me–maybe nice for a classic sunrise view from an elevated spot, but not when I’d deliberately chosen a vantage point from which everything I’d be shooting was above me.

With two bridges, a railway line, and a shore, there were plenty of lines to create interest as well as tension. I deliberately underexposed my first shot in order to emphasize these lines as well as to accentuate the moody sky (one of my trademarks).

In the next two images I used lines in a different way: to zoom in for close-ups, almost creating abstracts. This was a technique learned from one of my great mentors, Kerry Drager: virtually stop thinking of your subject as a particular object and conceive it, instead, as a pattern.  In both of these shots I moved the clarity slider in RAW way up to emphasize all the lines, and later, in CS5, applied some Unsharp Mask.  The first image I kept in color, having tweaked the white balance a bit in RAW to warm it slightly, but even so it resembles a tint rather than a true color image.

The second image, inspired by the work of another mentor, Harold Davis, I turned to B&W in CS5, experimenting with different settings until I decided I preferred the high-contrast red filter.

This industrial riverfront location offered still other kinds of photo opportunities. I’ll describe them in my next blog.

PRINT OF THE MONTH! My Print of the Month for February is Journey into Autumn, a favorite that has been exhibited and has just been purchased for corporate use. It’s available at a special 10% discount in three different sizes through February 29. To purchase, please visit my website. Here’s a preview:

New Year’s Surprise

Image“All is quiet on New Year’s Day,” the U2 song says. And so I decided to take advantage of the quiet to drive over the Newburgh-Beacon Bridge to check out a historic homestead in the Beacon area.

I don’t always listen to the little nudgings from the Spirit (usually to my great disadvantage), but this time when the little voice said, “Take the Canon G11 as well as the Nikon D90,” I did. And when the road to the historic homestead took me right through Beacon’s Main Street, and the little voice prompted me to park right there and check it out, I did so–there was even a parking space just waiting for me.

ImageBeacon’s Main Street proved to be a real photographic treasure. Vintage buildings with colorful storefronts abounded–just the sort of thing I love shooting, whether as straight architectural shots or for my “two for the price of one” reflections series. The lightweight, discreet G11 is ideal for this type of photography; no need to lug a tripod to ensure sharp shots or to call attention to yourself. One or more of my images from this shoot will find their way into my forthcoming Historic Hudson Valley photo book. Here are a couple of previews for you.

And the historic homestead? Actually, pretty much a waste of time, definitely an exception to the rule. The lesson? Never, ever ignore the promptings of the Spirit to take an extra camera or to make an unexpected stop. It could be the making of your photo trip.

My Favorite Photos of 2011 are now posted in their own gallery on my website. Check them out, and if you’re interested in purchasing any of them enjoy a 10% discount (for a minimum order of $10.00) by using Coupon Code NYSP12, valid until January 31.

Also, I’m selling some beautifully framed matted prints left over from an exhibition. If you’d like to check them out, please visit the online shop I’ve set up for this purpose.

A Happy New Year to all my readers! Thank you for your continued interest in my work.

The Hudson Valley and Catskills Post-Irene

Walkway 1Those of you who are familiar with my obsession for making funky images of paths and walkways won’t be surprised by this one — I took this picture yesterday while navigating the Walkway Over the Hudson, New York’s newest State Park, a 1.28-mile (each way) walkway connecting the historic village of Highland and the town of Poughkeepsie on the opposite side of the river.

But here’s another photo I also took yesterday from the new Walkway. It shows the Lordly Hudson, now muddy brown and with green debris–I think it must be some form of algae; anyway, my boots were full of it after I walked out of the now flooded and damaged trail that leads to the Saugerties Lighthouse–as a result of Hurricane Irene.Walkway 2

This is all I’m going to say in my photo blog this week. Instead, I’m going to direct you, no, ask, even beg you please to read my Hudson Valley and Catskills blog. You’ll find more pictures there.

Discovering a Neighbor

A biking/walking trail called the Heritage Trail runs close to where I live, connecting the villages of Harriman, Chester barMonroe, Chester, and Goshen. Normally I start my walk at the Monroe access. First, it’s the closest; second, the terminus of my walk is usually an ancient cemetery at a place called Oxford Depot, about halfway between Monroe and Chester. The oldest gravestone here dates from 1795; the majority of them are roughly from the Civil War era.  (Recently I was amused to read a blog that claimed that there is supernatural activity taking place at this cemetery; for one thing, strange orbs appear on photographs taken there. Well, yeah, I’ve had those orbs on my photos of the site–it’s called lens flare and it’s produced when your lens is inadequately protected from the sun!)

Anyhow, a couple of weeks ago I decided to start my walk at the Chester access, because I dimly remember, several years ago, seeing a lot of goldenrod along the trail in that area and I thought it might be fun to try to shoot.

American HouseIt turned out to be one of those delightful occasions where the shoot turns out to be quite different from, and better than, what I expected. Sure there was a bit of goldenrod, but nothing that made for a worthwhile photograph. But driving into town I was stunned by the historic buildings, especially near the old railroad station.  (Interesting how one’s photographic eye expands or changes with the years; on that first trip a few years ago the buildings wouldn’t have popped up on my photographic radar at all.) I made a few images of a colorful American-themed building right close nearby after having photographed several cyclists on the bike trail and then, because the light was starting to turn too harsh and hazy, decided to return another day to continue the shoot.Sunflower

This I did yesterday, and here are a couple of results. The sunflower was one of a few growing at the station, and I’m including her picture here because she seems to be saying, “Hey, look at me–I survived Hurricane Irene!” And so she did, she and her sisters with her in the little plantation.

Chester storefrontSome of my shots used my “two-for-one” approach in which the actual contents of a store window are combined with the reflection of what’s across the street. You see one of those here; I also made a sepia version (right out of my “faux vintage” school), and for that you’ll need to visit my regular website.