7th Annual Abstract Exhibit Open

“I’ll get out there next week,” John stated.
“But by next weekend it will be gone,” replied Carla.

Annual Photography Exhibit

For our 7th consecutive year our exhibit is live and in progress.  As of Saturday, 6 May, the 7th Annual Joseph Miller Abstract Photography Exhibit is open.  The exhibit hall is open from noon to 5pm every Saturday and Sunday in May.  We will also open it one last day on Monday, 29 May 2017.
There is a fantastic collection of abstract photographs at the Center. Some people create their art at the snap of the shutter. Creating an abstract vision from something they’ve seen or created. Others create a new vision from their extensive collections of images. Applying filters or processing techniques to portray what they’ve seen in their mind.
This exhibit allows for unlimited adjustments. Relying on the final image to express the maker’s concepts. The one rule is that the original work must have come from a photograph. Any technique is possible, with Rounding filters, Reverse Montages, Solarizations, or Swirl filters. Some in-camera techniques are intentional camera movement, textured glass, smoke, and architectural details.
Each exhibit has a unique flow, and this one is no exception. Curator Amie Tannenbaum does an exceptional job creating a museum-like experience. She produces an environment where drastically different images work side-by-side. This is definitely the finest Abstract Photography exhibit in the Washington metro area. It may be the finest exhibit in country.
If you have the opportunity, you should come by the Artist’s Reception, beginning at 2pm on Sunday, 7 May 2017.
You don’t want to end up like John, a day too late to see the exhibit in person.
For those of you who do miss the exhibit? We expect to have all the images posted on the NVACC website, along with previous years.

How to get there

The exhibit is in Gainesville at the Joseph Miller Center for the Photographic Arts.  The address is 4811 Catharpin Road, Gainesville, VA 20155.
Tell Joe that you heard about it here!


SoFoBoMo 2016 – Finally Finished

I had my doubts right up until the last minute… but was able to finish.

Finally Finished

I started my SoFoBoMo 2016 book on 3 July, a holiday weekend when I had three straight days to work on the book.  I shot quite a bit on the 3rd and 4th, but had other commitments the following weekend.  I had a week of leave planned starting on the 16th.

Interrupted by work demands, my week of leave turned into a single day off.  I spent that day at a motorcycle racetrack trying to see if I could go as fast as my motorcycle.  No wrecks but I did run off the track once.  Not terrible for my second time on a road course.  Especially with a ten year gap between the two days.

My point is, if I can get back around to it, life happens.  I got one more weekend to work on the book, 30 and 31 July.  I had to process my photos in about a day, sequence and produce the book the next day.  I finished just after midnight on Tuesday, 2 August.  Exactly 31 days from when I started.

Is it the best work I’ve ever produced?  No, it isn’t.

Am I happy with the result?  As happy as I could be.

Life has continued and I’ve been too busy to write anything about the experience.  But I’ve got a small gap in feeling overworked and I figured I should put some thoughts on paper.

  • Even as stressed as I’ve been about work over the month, I was still able to find a little time.
  • Books do not take as much time to create as we tend to believe.  Our preconceived notions are often overkill.
  • No matter how much time we spend on something, we feel like there is more we could have done.

So I guess I’m saying if I had it to do over again, I’d do some things different.  And I’m still happy with the result and the fact that I did the work to finish the book.

SoFoBoMo 2016 – The Artist Statement

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started. The secret of getting started is breaking your complex, overwhelming tasks into small manageable tasks, then starting on the first one.”

— often attributed to Mark Twain in error

Working my book like all my life.  I tend to grab something that makes a big dent first, then knock things off one small item at a time.  It is the method I’ve developed for accomplishing a lot in a short period of time.


Artist Statement

I chose triangles as a unifying theme for my book.  It is a subject from Freeman Patterson’s book “Photography and the Art of Seeing.”  We find triangles everywhere and they are an important element of composition.  From a psychological perspective, we ascribe male or masculine attributes to triangles.  I favor abstract representations in my photography.  For this book I chose to include a wider variety of techniques.  I have included landscapes, nature and architecture as well as abstracts.

I create my photographs with a range of digital cameras from Canon and Sony.  I photographed all my subjects with a Sony NEX-6 compact, mirrorless camera.  To process the photos, I used Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop and Nik filters.  Viveza and Color Efex Pro are the filters I used most.  When processing images I go for the feeling I recall when looking at the subject.  This process leads to variations in the adjustments that may be unacceptable to some.

Photography reduces the stress I feel in my life.  It is one of the few pursuits in my life that has no purpose other than my pure enjoyment.  It gives me an outlet for emotions long divorced from conscious self.  For that reason I strive to present that emotion in my images.

I ended up being happy with twenty-three of the images I took on Sunday, but narrowed that down to eighteen.  So in two days, I’m almost halfway to done.  I doubt that I will use all eighteen, but I would not feel bad if I did.

My SoFoBoMo 2016 Project Begins

“What was that you were saying, asked Fred?  I’ve got so much on my mind I can’t seem to get anything finished.”

“If you’re feeling overwhelmed, why don’t you go take some pictures?  You know it relaxes you replied his girlfriend Kathy.”

Today I am starting my SoFoBoMo 2016 project, I’ve decided to work on a personal project of Triangles.

I tend to shoot abstract photographs when left to my own devices.  But for this project I have decided to mix it up a bit and include a variety of techniques.  With each image I am trying to build in a triangle as a dominant design element.

triangles-179Today I visited a local park where there are playing fields, lots of trees and a stream.  Of the images I shot this morning, my favorite is the one on the right.  I am intrigued by the triangle created with the two sprinklers as they cross over the bench.  It directs my eye up into the leaves of the trees in the background.

For landscapes I use triangles as a base for my image more often than any other way.  But for this image, I like the positive message created by an upward-pointing triangle.

Of course I could not resist abstracts completely.  I took several, some stairs, close ups of playground equipment, some motion-blurred trees.

Only time can tell what will make the final cut.  I’ll be working on an Artist’s Statement for my book over the next couple of weeks.  I’ve found that often images I like will not fit the statement and I must cut them.  I also find this to be an essential aspect of developing a “body of work.”  The Artist’s Statement drives my final edit.  Much in the same way a magazine story will dictate the images that get selected.

SoFoBoMo 2016

If you are looking for something constructive to why not start your SoFoBoMo book?

SoFoBoMo 2016 Starting Soon

“I can’t do that, exclaimed Valerie!  I don’t know enough about publishing to write a book.”

That is the initial reaction of so many of the people I’ve spoken with about SoFoBoMo. The Solo Photo Book Month is a project that pits you against yourself.  Pick any contiguous thirty-one days between 1 July and 31 August 2016.  Choose a subject, photograph it, edit and arrange the images, and create a photo book.  No fuss, no muss.

The cold reality is that most of us are just not motivated to deal with the potential pitfalls.  We find it hard to get motivated.  We find it hard to maintain focus.  We find it difficult to get done!

But that is one of the greatest aspects of SoFoBoMo.  There is no time to worry about what MIGHT happen.  There is no time to choose the BEST format.  There is no time to doddle.

Because you only get thirty-one days to complete the project, you have to keep moving.  You can shoot something with which you are familiar and cut your learning curve.  Or you can crash on something completely new to push the envelope.

Planning for SoFoBoMo

You must develop the entire book’s contents within the thirty-one days of SoFoBoMo.  But you can prepare for the event.  Consider the following before you start:

  • Subject – What do I want to shoot?
  • Theme – How and where do I want to shoot it?
  • Software – What software do I need?  What do I need to practice in that software before the event?
    • Photo editing software
    • Book editing software
    • Slideshow software
    • PDF conversion software
  • Hardware – What hardware do I need?  What do I need to practice with that hardware before the event?
    • Camera
    • Tripod
    • Flash / Strobe
    • Remotes
    • Scrim
    • Reflector
    • Etc.

SoFoBoMo Ideas

Some subjects / themes that I have seen:

  • My local area – shot as street photography
    • Uses “normal” lenses
    • Monochrome is pretty standard
  • My dog / cat / pet
    • Can be indoors, outdoors or both
    • Can be with or without people / family
  • Selective color – digital darkroom technique that still requires some form of subject matter
  • Macro – field technique that still requires some form of subject matter
  • Travel – document your vacation in book form

The most important part is that you sign up for SoFoBoMo 2016.  We look forward to seeing what you can create.

Darkroom Equivalents

For all of you who never knew the wonders of a B&W darkroom, here is a video about the darkroom equivalents of some common Photoshop tools.

This week is Photoshop’s 25th anniversary and Lynda.com has produced a free video demonstrating some wet darkroom techniques that are commonly used in Photoshop’s digital darkroom.  It is great to see the dodging and burning techniques that were so common in the wet darkroom demonstrated by a master printer like Konrad Eek as he works his magic to produce a fine art print.

Nearly every tool in Photoshop has its roots in the wet darkroom and I love the comparison of the contact print to Bridge (or the Library module in Lightroom). Even the Unsharp Mask, which I have frequently heard attributed to Adobe making up names (thanks to Beyond Monochrome for the excellent resource) was invented, and named, in the wet darkroom.

Seeing the work that was involved in the wet darkroom is such a great reminder of the simplicity of performing effectively the same action in Photoshop.  Konrad has it right when he talks about the time and effort involved in retaining the information to create the same print a second time.  The notes and masks all had to be filed and managed, when Photoshop (and Lightroom) allow us to save all of that work within the file (or catalog) so the second print is the press of a button.

I personally never had much of an opportunity to work in the wet darkroom, however the few times I did, I remember being able to watch the print develop before my eyes.  And although I appreciate the speed and efficiency of the digital darkroom, there is something magical about the wet darkroom.

I feel a little bit of pity for today’s photographers who will never know the joy of seeing the image appear from that blank white sheet of paper.  As if it was always there, just waiting to be, if you’ll pardon the pun, “exposed.”

ReBlog of Past Tense: Film’s Special Quality

I noticed this article on Andy Beel’s blog feed today, a short discussion on why film still has a place in so many of our hearts.

The original article, written by Kenneth Wajda, describes the feeling that film embodies that makes a film image mean more to use than a digital image.  Not necessarily true for everyone, but there are times when I grow weary of all of the super-saturated, ultra-sharp images that crop up in every possible form of media.

Here’s an interesting perspective about film vs digital imaging. Film looks like past tense, and digital looks like present tense. Here’s an example that everyone will instantly understand. If I switch on the TV and the movie The Natural or Angels In the Outfield, or Bull Durham or any other baseball movie is on, in a scene of game action, no one will see the players and think they are watching the sports highlights. They can tell it looks like a movie, and not video from today’s MLB broadcast of your team, whatever city you’re in. It looks like a movie, like it was recorded and saved some time ago. Past tense.

Digital imaging looks like present tense, like surveillance footage, really. Just what you shot is exactly what you got.

Film has a dreamy, slightly soft quality, that looks like a moment stored, saved from the past. That’s . . .

Read more

Tuan Pham – Photography as Zen Art

My friend Tuan Pham is at it again.  Back by popular demand he is providing his class Photography as Zen Art again at the National Arboretum throughout September and one running in October.

The National Arboretum only updates their website quarterly, so the class will not be posted there until September, but the link will work once they update it.  Here is their write-up that should be posted soon:

Workshop: Photography as Zen Art

September 13, 20, 27 and October 11 (4 sessions)

9:00 am – 12:00 pm

Using the Arboretum collections as inspiration, enhance your photographic vision and produce more meaningful images with lessons from this four-session workshop. Built upon the common denominator of photography and Zen – wise attention – this program incorporates several Zen creative practices, including relaxed awareness, mindfulness of perception, seeing with one eye, and more. These techniques enable you to find beauty wherever you are, loosen the grip of preoccupations and attachments, and capture images that reflect your true nature. For more class details, call the instructor at 703-855-9888. Required: digital camera, tripod, and means of sending digital images. Registration required.

The last class filled up fast, if you or someone you know might be interested.

Tuan is a lifelong practitioner of Buddhist meditation and his creativity in photography exploded when he began to apply the concept of “wise attention” to his practice of photography.  His story about how he discovered the beauty in his “photographs of nothing” is both entertaining and enlightening.  Traveling all that distance to produce photographs that he could have created anywhere is an amusing reminder of the beauty that surrounds us every day.

Tuan’s photography is now not only technically sound, it is emotive.  He has modified his perception so that he is not taking photographs of beautiful things, he is taking beautiful photographs of things.  It seems like a subtle linguistic difference, but the difference in his work is substantial.

A student, who must have been in the class with me this last spring, wrote this testimonial after the class.

Don’t forget to register in advance!  There are usually no seats available at the door.

Zen TTL Poster

Close-up Photography at VPS

Lying in the snow beneath the jungle gym I was reliving the days of my childhood, where my biggest concern was whether we’d be having brussel sprouts with dinner.

As I was putting together the Close-up Photography presentation for the Vienna Photographic Society I felt that I needed to add some new work that demonstrated the abstraction of photographs.  The pieces of the whole that reflect what actually attracted you in the first place.

Playground Straight Out of the Camera

I chose to spend some time at a playground near my house after a fresh blanket of snow.  Playgrounds are full of unique shapes and bright colors that are incredibly fun.  Bright blues and yellows were the choice for this playground.

As I work a larger scene like this, I follow a principle laid out in “Contemplative Photography” and discussed with Tuan Pham at length.  I work on silencing my inner monolog and removing myself from my hectic life and schedule.  And to concentrate my thoughts on what brought me to this place on this day.  Some deeply suppressed flash of inspiration that caused me to choose this location and this subject.

I also practice something that I learned in high school related to weight lifting.  Our PE teachers called it lifting “everything that you can, plus one.”  The theory was that if you lifted until you could not lift the weight again, after putting the weight down and resting for 1/2 a second, you could lift it again.  In photography this means that I will work a subject until I am completely drained of ideas about how/what to shoot.  I’ll sit down for a few minutes and review what I have so far, then I’ll go back and work the subject some more.  Often my most compelling work will come after I’ve taken that break.

Playground Detail
Playground Detail – Straight Out of the Camera

I find the simple contrast of warm and cool colors to be extremely soothing, and I favor simple designs with few shapes/elements.  I believe these designs are much more straight-forward and appeal to a larger segment of society.

The image to the left brings two different concepts to mind for me.  The first is a wave flowing from right to left, preparing to crash onto the beach.  The other is a shark’s fin swimming from left to right.  Depending on your point of view, this image could produce a wonderful visualization of a day at the beach, or our worst nightmare, the thought of a shark hunting us down.

Back to the point of the post, I will be giving a presentation on Close-up Photography at the Vienna Photographic Society on Wednesday, 5 February at 7:30 PM.

An Abstract Photography Presentation at MPC

“Could you speak at our club about Abstract photography on <insert date here>?” is the question that I am hearing more and more frequently.  Clearly Joe Miller’s impact on our local area camera clubs is becoming more tangible.

McLean Photography Club

has invited me to speak at their club on Abstract photography and provide critiques of club members’ images on January 8, 2014.  Two other clubs invited me to do something similar the same week, with the same subject.  I believe that the cause of all this excitement over Abstract photography has a direct correlation with the annual Joseph Miller Abstract Photography Exhibit, which will be celebrating its 4th year in 2014.

As the popularity of that event has grown, so has interest in the programs that I had developed discussing abstract imagery and visual design.  As a reformed “hater” of abstract art I feel that I have a special relationship with abstracts.  And I try to help people understand the elements that make an abstract art, particularly as it relates to how lines, shapes colors, texture and perspective affect our perception of art.

Image of Composition VIII by Wassily Kandinsky
Composition VIII – Wassily Kandinsky

Ed Knepley has written several blog posts about abstract photography recently, he tells me that they do not attract nearly as many visitors as his posts on technique.  Ed and I have differing opinions about the use of post processing in photography, but the articles are all well written and persuasive.  In particular, Ed refers to a book written by Kandinsky in this post, of which I had never heard before,  Point and Line to Plane.

Kandinsky’s quote, “Objects damage pictures,” is a constant reminder to me that subjective imagery can be as effective as objective imagery.

So am I being pigeon holed into an Abstract Photographer, perhaps.  But I could think of a lot worse reputations to have.