Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Photos Accepted for Exhibition

I'm really excited to report to you that I've had a couple of landscape photographs accepted for judging and exhibition at the Yeiser Art Center in Paducah, Kentucky. The show runs from July 18 through August 29. The competition, called PaducahPhoto09, has been in existence for 34 years and has attracted participants from all over the country. This years entries have been narrowed down to about 40 photographers.

The two pieces that I was honored to show were ironically both shot in Kentucky on a couple of different trips to Lexington. My personal favorite of the two accepted is titled "Three Trees and Seven Horses". As the title suggests this was originally a simple shot of some horses gathered around some trees on a nice December day this past winter. The shot was originally produced in color and had some remarkable clouds cast across a particularly blue sky that afternoon. I had drawn the attention of the horses when I first arrived. Once they were satisfied that I had nothing for them to eat they again began their casual grazing on the hillside. As quiet I as was the shutter of my camera got the attention of one horse. You can see him staring back at me in the photo above. He raised his head just above the horse in front of him and watched me intently while the others seemed disinterested. After about a half dozen shots I slipped back into my vehicle and drove away satisfied with the photos that I had made.

It was a several days later when I began processing the shots of the horses. I didn't like what I was seeing. Even though I had been fairly pleased with the shots I was making at the time for some reason it wasn't translating the same way as I had originally thought. Disgusted, I filed the images away.

In early March while working on some other images I revisited the horse photos. I decided to experiment with some color enhancements which also failed in satisfying my hopes for the photo. As a last ditch option I decided to produce the image in black and white. Upon first look I thought the shot had improved somewhat but I was still a little disappointed in the results.

I remembered a trick that John Lucas, a former employer, showed me years ago when I worked at The Crittenden Press in Marion, Kentucky. I was a rookie photographer in high school back then and was learning the trade from the ground up spending a lot of time in the darkroom. John introduced me to a photo chemical called Farmers Reducer. When processing a B/W print in this chemical it would essentially make parts of the image disappear creating a high contrast effect. Obviously, since I strictly shoot digital now-a-days there is no chemical darkroom and no Farmers Reducer. Instead, today, I use the the digital darkroom which in this case allowed me to not only convert from color to black and white but to also pull a very high contrast image out of my original color shot much similar to the old days of using the Farmers Reducer. I immediately fell in love with the image. Thanks for the tip John.

After some additional work cropping and adding a nice black stroke line around the image I gave it a title, "The Gathering Spot". I never really liked that name and as a result about 4-5 weeks later as I was looking at the image again it hit me as I was counting the number of horses in the photo. For some reason Lincoln's opening to the Gettysburg Address came to mind, "Four score and seven years ago...". Naturally, from that came "Three Trees and Seven Horses", possibly a bit of a stretch but Lincoln was born in Kentucky; work with me here, it's a left brain thing.

The second selection of my accepted photos is called "Kentucky Snow Farm", another play on words usually reserved for the phrase "Kentucky horse farm" as there are so many farms around the Lexington area that raise horses instead of plants and vegetables. On this day there were no horses, plants or vegetables, just snow.

My good friend and co-worker Mike Coster and I were heading over to our office in Lexington and got caught in a heavy snow fall, so heavy in fact that there was a limited sight distance while driving even with the windshield wipers on. Just a few miles from our office we decided to pull into the Keeneland Race Track area where I wanted to make a picture of the Keeneland clock while snow was falling on it. As we were leaving I saw a beautiful farm house across from Keeneland but didn't think I could get a good clear shot because of the dense snow fall. I was also disappointed that there were also no horses out and about; they had apparently made a good decision to stay out of the mess. I made the shot anyway and we left.

Upon returning to Nashville a couple of days later I pulled the image up and began processing it. I was right, the image was not very clear. I decided to once again ditch the color information in the file and turned it into a standard black and white image. This allowed me once again to begin manipulating the contrast levels which I did to the point of really bringing out the black detail of the house, trees and fence. I decided that I would really focus the image around the house as the anchor and use the lines of the fence and trees to balance the image. After experimenting with a few different crop positions and adding a black stroke line I decided to go with the panorama image you see to the right.

If you have a chance to be in the Paducah area stop by the art center and take a look at the originals. Below is a link for more information.

Wish me luck!!


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