Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Bit of Blue

Yesterday I was outside with my grandson in the foot of snow the weekend storm had dumped in my yard. As I cleared away what had accumulated on the back step, Brody picked up a smaller shovel and built a sailboat of snow beside the deck. To complete the picture, he gathered a few broken branches and a piece of metal that had fallen off my screen door to create the mast.
Awed by his imagination, I looked up at the sky and saw a vivid blue breaking through the clouds. Cheered by the sight, I ran inside, grabbed my camera and long zoom lens and ran up the outdoor steps to the second level.
How could I render it through the mass of branches, I wondered. Moving the lens closer and closer, I fiddled with the focus until this image came into view. With 2010 almost behind us--a difficult year on most fronts--I found hope and comfort in this bit of blue. I hope you do too...

Friday, December 24, 2010

Mug Shot

On this Christmas Eve, although I don't celebrate the holiday, I do rejoice in its celebration of family, its gravitational pull, the way the idea of Christmas brings families together against all odds. This morning I read about the travellers still stranded in London's Heathrow airport for days because of five inches of snow, longing to be home for the holidays. It made me feel so grateful to be here at home, two miles from my daughter--unusual for families spread around the globe these days.
Here's an image of my grandson taken a few days ago when he was under the weather and I was called in to watch him so his mom could go to work. For hours we played with his enormous fleet of cars, trucks, trains and planes. As he rolled around with them on the floor, I joined him at his level.
At first he was very aware of the camera, but then relaxed into a variety of poses. There were many to choose from for this post, but this one, the very first is my favorite. Full frontal, wife-beater, cowlick, furrowed brow.
"It's a classic mug shot," I commented to his father as we flipped through the images just before he too left for work.
"Great," he said. "I hope that's not what's in store."

If you have been directed to this blog as per my "Holiday" e-mail, it refers to "Miracle" posted on Dec. 17th just below. Although this one fits the bill as well...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Miracle

It's a miracle! That's the best way I can describe what I saw through my lens when I leaned over some shallow ice in my favorite park yesterday around noon. I had been circling the pond at Sears Bellows Park in Hampton Bays. With the temperature below freezing, I had thought I might find some interesting ice formations, but on my second loop around nothing inspired.
Then as my dog, Copper, skidded across the ice, I looked down and noticed an array of leaves frozen beneath the surface. Moving my lens in and out, from side to side, I started to create a variety of collage-like images.
Then this frosted heart appeared before my eyes. I know it sounds corny, like a bible story. But it was so divine Tiffany couldn't have come close. At first, I thought it was my imagination. I zoomed in closer and closer examining its many facets, its three chambers. It loomed larger, captured my fancy.
But moreover, it presented the perfect metaphor for this holiday season when so many have broken hearts, have lost hope for the future. Yes, times are terribly tough, many people has lost their jobs and their homes, the tides are rising, the war continues...
However, if we all just take a few moments to stop, breathe, and look around, miracles can happen and will if we just believe...

Please share this with your friends and family through e-mail or on your Facebook page if you are so inspired...the link is www.merylspiegel.blogspot.com

Friday, December 10, 2010

Obstacle

Earlier this week I was visiting a friend who lives in an old farmhouse in between some wide open fields in Southampton. When I was about to leave at around four o'clock, I looked out the window and was awestruck by the sky. Behind her house the sun was already sinking low, but shooting yet another sunset didn't interest me. So I swiveled around and peered out the front window where I saw the clear, cold light bouncing off a farm structure across the way.
Wrapping myself in my down coat, I pulled my hood on, headed outside, and trod across the frozen earth. When I got within shooting range, I peered through the lens and realized there was a wire fence between me and the image I had envisioned.
Hmmm....what to do? I thought for a few moments. I couldn't remove the obstacle, but perhaps I could use it to enhance the composition somehow. Zooming in closer, I threw the wire out-of-focus and moved to the left. I had created a frame within a frame and transformed the fence into an element that added interest to the image.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Tug-of-War

As Copper continues to grow so does his boundless energy and constant need for exercise. During the summer I would ride my bicycle around the block several times while he ran beside me on the leash. But with the cold weather coming on that no longer seems to be a viable option.
A few weeks ago, I joined a dog park at Bide-A-Wee, a local animal shelter and adoption center. As we approached the gate on our first visit, about ten dogs--all larger than Copper--came rushing toward us. For a few moments he hung back but then mixed right in, even with two towering Great Danes. Within fifteen minutes, he was circling the perimeter leading the pack.
This morning I brought my camera hoping to get some images of him stretching out in front. Today however, he spent most of the time playing tug-of-war with a large black lab mix. So I leaned in as close as I could.
For an instant he took his eye off the worn-out softball in order to strike a pose for me. Luckily, he was positioned on a 45-degree angle with the sun producing this dramatic Rembrandt light signified by the triangle of darkness covering his right eye.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving

Instead of spending the holiday out here in the country this year, I was invited into Manhattan for a city Thanksgiving with an old friend. So in lieu of basting the turkey and preparing all the trimmings, I arrived early with my camera hoping to spend the afternoon on the street with my camera working on a new project.
But alas, the weather didn't cooperate. On the ride in, drops of water covered the windshield. At 2:30 I found myself on the sidewalk in the midst of a light rain without an umbrella and with two hours to kill.
Where to go? I wondered; most everything seemed to be closed, even the Star Bucks on every other block. So I covered my hair with my silk scarf and headed toward the lobby of a nearby hotel. Once inside, I discovered that I wasn't the only one in need of shelter. Men, women and children were sprawled out in every direction. Luckily, I managed to find some space on the corner of a coach. For an hour, I tried to read a novel on my Kindle, but one eye remained fixed on the scene outside the front door.
Will my friend really care that my clothes are wet? That my hair is flat and frizzy? I asked myself. No, I answered rushing out into the rain to follow the umbrellas bobbing by.



Friday, November 19, 2010

On The Move

Back for two weeks from Europe and just now I'm adjusting to the quiet life here on the East End of Long Island. Looking out my back window, yellowed maple leaves cover my yard waiting to be raked. And in front, an empty lane snakes by my house toward the bay. Beautiful but a bit bleak this time of year. And quite a change from the busy streets of Barcelona where life buzzes by at an accelerated pace day and nite.
On foot or bike or moto, the people are always on the move. When in New York City with my camera, I'm prone to approach strangers head on and exchange a few words. But in Catalonia, I was not so bold, suddenly shy. I spent time standing on street corners watching life pass by in a blur.
Sure...there I was an outsider, and worse, a tourist. But I learned that my reaction was not unfounded. On walking and bike tours, guides talked about the Catalans, their fierce independence, their refusal to blend in with the rest of Spain, their struggle to preserve their separate language and culture. In the 17th century, some went so far as to ally themselves with the enemy in a war against France. Perhaps these warnings kept me at bay.
The city was vibrant, an architectural wonder, but the people were aloof, in constant motion, difficult to capture.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Dog Lovers

Somehow dogs provide us with a universal language. Looking at this image, is there any clue that this man and his dog is French not American, that this park is in Paris, not New York City?
A few weeks ago on my first evening in Paris where I was staying with friends, Helene and Bernard, we took a walk with their dog, Lumi, to Buttes Chaumont, a park nearby their townhouse that reminds me of Central Park with it's manmade lake, transplanted boulders and beautiful ironwork. As we traversed the park pulling Lumi along (he hates his leash), we noticed a man sitting in an open area on a hill with his terrier perched on his shoulder like a parrot. We too decided to take a rest there to let Lumi roam free.
Naturally, the little dog hopped down to play with Lumi and the man gravitated towards us. For half an hour, we shared our love of the canine. Even though my puppy, Copper, was at home thousands of miles across the ocean, his virtual presence made me feel like one of the crowd.
To give you a glimpse of Lumi, here's a photograph of him with Bernard and my daughter, Jackie, when we visited the castle in Chantilly the next day.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Neptune

Back at home after two weeks, I've returned with almost 300 images, a mix of sightseeing shots and the start of a new project that I'm excited about but not ready to unveil. Although this one fits neither category, it came immediately to mind when choosing one to show here.
"What is it?" I hear you asking. I thought she was going to Europe, not Yellowstone. Indeed, I did go to Barcelona, then Paris where we visited Versailles, Louis XIV's castle of castles. And I do have a photo of me and my daughter grinning in front of the gold-plated gate and here's one of me in the Hall of Mirrors. However, the fountains filling the grounds captivated me most.
Ten minutes before closing, visitors were told to gather near Neptune, a geyser on the far side of the estate near the exit. As we moseyed in that direction and the sun slipped down behind us, I began photographing the pink light cast on the buildings just beyond the gate. Then water shot up from a myriad of fountains surrounding me. With my left eye, however, I sensed something even more spectacular above. In his glory, Neptune was gushing high in the sky catching a beam of that pink light.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Last Supper

Sometimes a chore can turn into a delight than can be transformed into a photographic pleasure. For a week I've been preparing for a two-week trip to Europe where I'll be visiting my daughter who's studying in Barcelona; then I'll travel to Paris to visit friends.
As part of the endless preparations, I kept eying the food in my refrigerator hoping I wouldn't have to throw it away just before heading for the airport. Yesterday a friend and I were sitting in the sun in my backyard about to leave for a goodbye lunch when an idea popped into my head. "Let's just stay here," I said, "I've got all this food that I don't want to waste....why don't we just use everything in the fridge."
So two eggplants, leftover tomato sauce and mozzarella, and some parsley became my version of eggplant parmesan. We also roasted a few orange and yellow peppers, used half a container of mesclun for two small salads, and warmed the remains of a loaf of semolina.
An hour and a half later, this Mediterranean meal graced my table."Take a picture," my friend said, "it looks too good to eat."
But I'm hungry and tired from all the cooking I thought sighing.
"Com'on, do it for me," she insisted."

*for those of you who are enjoying Learning to See, I will be away until early November when I hope to return with some more photographic pleasures!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Treehouse

Trees, there's something wondrous about them. The way they stand strong, sway in the wind, grab the earth with their roots. So much like people, each with its own personality.
So on my visit to the Bayard Cutting Arboretum with a friend last Saturday, I was captivated by a very special tree, a huge weeping beech presiding over the back lawn. It's long, heavy limbs cascaded to the ground draping its trunk, concealing it from view.
As we neared, we separated the curtains of small green leaves. Beams of light bounced off the main trunk and the many offshoots popping up, some curving over head, others lending support. We had discovered a treehouse on the ground, no climbing required.
Afterwards, I inquired about the tree and learned that it's been there for 350 years. When I told my friend, he said "I hope we look that good at 350."






































































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Sunday, October 10, 2010

Nurture

Yesterday while wandering around the Bayard Cutting Arboretum in Oakdale, known for it's ancient weeping beech trees, my eye gravitated to a line of coleus plants popping up at my feet. I sunk down to my heels and moved in as if a magnet was pulling me close.
One, two, three...I counted three hearts beating against one another. I thought of my daughter, Lauren, her little boy, and the new baby now growing inside her. I thought of her vibrancy, her thirst for life, her relentless energy. I thought of her glittering smile mixed with quite a bit of mischief.
But mostly I thought about how she nurtures her child so seamlessly, is able to balance the demands of the outside world with her maternal instincts. And I'm thrilled that it's so much easier for her than it was for me...now that's progress!
Tomorrow is Lauren's birthday, she will be 25, what a beauty...

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Stoop

Stoops, they reveal much about the inhabitants. For years I've been looking at stoops wondering about the people inside. Perhaps, I'm a nosybody or worse, some sort of peeping Tom. But let's face it, aren't we all curious about others. Isn't that why we love biographies, novels, movies and yes, photography. They give us a glimpse into other people's lives.
So if you were passing by my house and saw my stoop, you'd learn that I love dogs, flowers, and autumn colors. And maybe if you're observant, you'd notice that my welcome mat is worn and my stoop needs repainting, that I'm in need of a handyman.
As far as the image itself, it appears quite straight-forward, but notice the high contrast between the left and the right. While the mums are in deep shadow, Copper is bathed in light. A lot to ask of any camera no matter how sophisticated. So I had to compromise, choose an exposure that provided enough light to see the flowers, but not so much that it would obliterate the dog. Either way, I had to sacrifice one for the other.
Setting my ISO at 400, I chose to expose for the mums, but about one stop 'under' so we could still see Copper. The result is rather haunting. Perhaps a precursor to Halloween. Doesn't he look like Snoopy with super-powers?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Off-Season

On the last day of September, this seems like the image to post. Most of the second homeowners have returned to the city or to suburbia. However, they've left their lounge chairs to us natives along with permission to roam free with our dogs. And while it's my favorite month here on the East End, it also flies by the fastest.
Each year at the end of the summer, therefore, I tell myself that I'm going to make an extra effort to savor September: walk on the beach everyday, swim in the warm water, take the time to sprawl out on the sand with a novel; ignore the fact that I might be the only soul sitting there under the sun.
Well I'm here to report that Copper and I did pretty well this year, as evidenced by the images posted in the last few weeks. While I've certainly dug deeper into work, spent more hours in front of this screen, and broken out my boots a few times, I've still been polishing my toenails and wearing sandals most of the time.
And look at Copper, he's trying to figure out where all the people went and why they left their furniture behind and in his way...

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Abundance



Something magical happens here during the first few weeks of autumn in a place called Cupsogue Beach County Park that I just became aware of after living on the East End for more than 20 years. As the Monarch butterflies migrate from Canada southward to Mexico each year, they stop there along the way to roost in the pines trees that line the path leading from the parking lot to the inlet.
Last Tuesday my friend, Joy, called inviting me to meet her there at 5:30pm to see the butterflies and "make sure to bring your camera," she insisted. So off I went with my dog, expecting to see a few fluttering around.
As we wandered down the path, I looked up and indeed there they were just as she had promised soaring in circles, dancing with one another, then landing between the pine needles where they perched to soak up the day's last bit of sun. Switching to my long zoom lens, I became mesmerized by the "abundance," a word Joy kept repeating in my ear. Grateful that she had lead me there, I wondered how many more marvels may be unbeknown to me. So for any of you reading these words, do keep me posted when you discover anything I might have missed...











Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Gazers

If you gaze out your window tonight, you'll see the Super Harvest Moon. It's a rare event when the autumnal equinox coincides with a full moon. I took this picture last evening while outdoors at dusk after photographing Monarch butterflies at Cupsoque Beach in Westhampton Dunes---to be posted soon.
Satisfied with the expedition, a friend and I were headed for the parking lot about to leave when I looked up and saw the moon hanging over the dunes. It was so vibrant I could actually see the man in the moon.
Immediately I thought of Serge Gal, director of Image Ouverte, a photography school in the South of France, someone who shared his passion for photography with me and many others. Serge passed away this past August. He spent his life helping others learn how to see. Today he would have been sixty years old.















































Saturday, September 18, 2010

Holy

In observance of Yom Kippur, this seemed like the right image to post today. Although I don't go to synagogue like I did in my youth and find other ways to connect spiritually, this highest of Jewish holy days still weighs on me. Marked as the day to atone for our sins and memorialize the dead, I still try to fast, but usually don't make it to sundown.
Interesting how this sad day falls in September, the most beautiful time of year here on the East End. The water has warmed, the air has turned crisp, and the ski seems bluer. As I walked along the beach in Westhampton the other day, I took pictures observing all three. But then I came upon this black rock that had washed up on shore and was shimmering in the sand, soft to the touch, filled with pores. I leaned in close, was again captivated by all the nooks and crannies.
Gazing at it now, I wonder if those are my sins or the people I have lost. Whatever the case, it's definitely holy...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Peach

Peach is one of my favorite colors. While most houses here on the East End are painted grey or tan, mine is painted a pale peach. And my living room which I redecorated about two years ago is covered in a more vibrant shade of that hue. After a few trips to Mexico, I was inspired to brighten up the long, wet winters here by the shore with some color from the tropics.
So when I was walking my dog last weekend and spotted this splash of peach, I stopped and sank down to my heels trying to get as close as possible with my camera. Within a few moments, I was lost in the color and texture; the nooks and crannies grew more interesting to my eye than the object as a whole.
While I usually specify exactly where I unearth my images, I'd like to leave this one up to your imagination. Leave a comment below telling me what you think it is and where it was discovered...

Friday, September 10, 2010

Leaving

While I try not to use this blog to showcase my family, I couldn't resist posting this image. Here's my younger daughter, Jaclyn, (my baby) at the airport a few days ago, about to leave for her semester abroad in Barcelona. Excited yet clearly apprehensive, she clutched her wallet and her rollie in the middle of the terminal just after checking her other two bags.
When I raised my camera, she covered her face and screamed, "Noooo, Mom, it's so embarrassing!"
"Come on, let me take just a few."
"Ok," she sighed and looked away."
At first I thought this image so aptly epitomized the moment. But maybe, it just mirrors the mixed emotions of the photographer who happens to be her mother. Even though separating has gotten easier, I must keep reminding myself that she's twenty years old not twenty months. Which raises an interesting question about portraiture.
Where do we leave off and they begin? Are we portraying how they feel at a given moment or how we feel about them?
For me, it's a dance of give and take, just like any relationship.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Engaged

With an autumn chill in the air this morning, I chose this image today, the official last day of the summer, hoping that the season will continue well into September.
Last week I met friends at Meschutt Beach, a narrow strip of sand on the Peconic Bay, where young families gather to enjoy the seaside. On Friday evenings, a band plays while adults munch on fried food and their children swim safely in the calm water.
As my girlfriend and I talked about our busy week, I had one eye on the kids running in and out and splashing about. Now that my daughters are in their twenties, it had been years since I had sat in that spot savoring the sight.
"Excuse me," I said to her in mid-sentence, "I have to go get my camera." Luckily, I had stashed it in my car, but left it there in hopes that I could just sit back and relax. Returning to my beach chair ten minutes later, I switched to my long lens and started shooting.
Quickly I focused on this group who had been seriously hunting for crabs since I had sat down. Because I like to engage with my subjects and capture their expressions, it's rare that I opt for a telephoto lens and shoot from behind. But in this instance, facial features were not required; their stance and the evening light warming their skin tells us everything we need to know.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Twofer

One of the first things I learned when I began to take photography seriously was that you have to take a lot of pictures in order to get one photograph. Years ago while in a workshop with Joyce Tenneson, who is now a renown art/fashion photographer, she said that if you find one good image on a roll of film with 36 frames, you're doing well.
After discovering the couple under the red umbrella that I posted last week, I was surprised, therefore, to find another captivating pair on a patch of sand adjacent to that same pier that afternoon. Spread out on their backs, scores of horseshoe crabs lay there glistening in the sun, their golden color so different from the steel gray, much larger specimens I had seen on that beach before.
"Look at the color!" I immediately blurted to my student.
"What happened, why are they all dead?" she asked.
"I have no idea," I said, "I've never seen this variety here; bigger, darker ones come here to spawn in the spring." Maybe it has something to do with climate change, I thought.
Lifting our cameras, we moved in close and started shooting. I was immediately drawn to this mother and her baby, cuddled together, soaking up the sun, perhaps hoping it would bring them back to life. The baby appeared to be smiling, maybe just happy to be close to its mother until the very end.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Seurat

Continuing my study of couples--a series that seems to be newly developing this summer--I was inspired to post this image taken a few weeks ago. When a student and I took a walk down to the town boat launch around the corner from my home, we immediately spotted the red umbrella and moved closer. I was excited to discover such a vibrant focal point amidst the panorama. Although it's quite dramatic and constantly changing depending on time of day and year, the wide open space that I pass by each day is difficult to photograph.
Lifting our cameras, I instructed her to play with the composition by deciding where to place the object (and therefore, the couple) in the frame. As she did so, I followed suite.
Afterwards, when reviewing the images, I was enchanted to find this one reminiscent of George Seurat's famous painting, A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte. I'm always amazed at how the French Impressionists influence my work and contemporary art in general .
To enhance its painterly effect, I can't wait to see how the photograph looks when I print it on watercolor paper.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Comfortable

At the reception for the Westhampton Artists Studio Tour on Friday evening which took place at the Full Moon Arts Center in East Moriches, I spent some time photographing kids, couples, and families in a treehouse overlooking a huge tent--where the artwork of about 50 artists (including me) was on display.
Mission accomplished, I was anxious to join the party that was winding down below. Coming down the steps, I spotted this couple nestled in a hammock. The light on their hats, the tilt of their heads, their comfort with one another warmed my heart. Scurrying toward them from behind, I tried to get close without intruding. But when I arrived, I found it difficult to focus on their faces due to a lack of light and the high contrast in the background.
Fiddling with my camera, I motioned to them announcing my intention and ultimately opted to use my flash for some fill. Luckily, they remained comfortable and continued to enjoy themselves and each other.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spinning

"My head is spinning." How many times have you heard that? I know I've uttered those words aloud and to myself quite often. Especially these days when we're texting, talking, driving, working, all at the same time. Multi-tasking, it's the mantra of our times. I wouldn't be surprised if the Earth's rotation has picked up speed.
So a few weeks ago for the final session of a kids workshop, we spent time experimenting with motion. After showing the group of 11-year olds one of my Manhattan images of a man leaping in Times Square that I call Billy Elliot, we stepped outside of Amy's Ark Studio in Westhampton. The girls ran directly up a hill toward a swing tethered to a tree. One jumped on and started spinning like a top.
As her long brown hair swirled around her, the rest of us started shooting, trying to freeze her in the frame as she spun by. Not easy since she was moving so fast. To exaggerate the blur and create a moire effect, I chose an extremely slow shutter speed--1/8 second.
"Just keep shooting," I encouraged them. That's the beauty of digital technology, no wasted film; you can keep going until you get a good one. And that's exactly what I did; of the twenty frames expended, I was satisfied with just this one.
So, don't be shy, keep shooting. But don't forget to edit by deleting all the bad ones from your memory card so you're ready to go next time.
If you're in the area this weekend, you can see this image on view during the Westhampton Artists Studio Tour at Amy's Ark Studio & Farm where I will be displaying a new series of prints from this blog called Texture. Call 288-1954x241 for tickets.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Reading Room

As we enter the dog days of August, the lazy days, when all I want to do is sit under a tree and read a book, I thought it fitting to post this image taken in Manhattan. Having just emerged from the Metropolitan Museum of Art where I saw the Picasso show with a friend, we headed into Central Park with our cameras.
Around 5:30pm, the sun skimmed low producing long shadows and dramatic afternoon light. While these conditions appeal to the naked eye, the high contrast can be quite blinding and difficult to render through the lens. Therefore, it's important to come up with an average light reading between the darker and lighter spots. While it's best to have a hand-held meter, you can compensate by bracketing, which means shooting the same image three times: first according to your automatic reading, then over and underexpose by one stop on the manual setting. Some digital cameras offer a compensation button which makes this simple. Later you can decide which one is most pleasing to your eye.
Strong light also requires a strong composition. As I moved closer and closer to the subject, I realized that I could use the limbs of the tree to create structure. In effect, they separate the light from the dark green and frame the girl off to the left in her own reading room.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Three's Company


"Two's company; three's a crowd." How many times have we heard that old adage?
As the oldest of three children, I can't agree more that three or any odd number is challenging when it comes to relationships between people. "The love triangle" and "the fifth wheel" are two prime examples.
However, when it comes to visual relationships in photography--or any of the arts for that matter--three seems to be just the right number. Unlike our psyches which strive for balance and symmetry, the eye seems to prefer when things are thrown askew.
So during a recent workshop on still life at the Westhampton Library when we took a walk down the street to a little farmstand, I pointed out these three onions thrown haphazardly into a basket to my teenage students.
Looking downwards, one lifted her camera and peered through her tiny viewfinder. The corners of her mouth turned up, then she nodded and pressed the shutter. What more could a teacher ask for? I haven't seen her version yet, but this is mine.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Double Duty


This month I'm conducting three workshops per week at various venues in the area. While I start each session with landscapes and progress to still life, students seems most interested in learning how to take better pictures of their loved ones.
My philosophy, however, is that one needs to learn about composition and light before trying to capture things that move. So as I began to plan the upcoming lesson on portraiture, it was apropos that my most active subject, my three-year-old grandson, arrived at my doorstep Saturday to spend the morning with me while my daughter went to work.
"Where's Copper?" he asked as my six-month old puppy bounded toward him. For the next few hours, they played like siblings indoors and out while I ran after them making sure that the dog wasn't too rough with the boy and visa versa and that Copper didn't eat Brody's toys.
When they finally relaxed, Copper hopped onto the window seat in my front room, his favorite spot, and Brody followed. Quickly I grabbed my Canon and set it on the portrait setting. No time to fiddle with the camera; just enough time to capture the moment.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Junked


Alas, I've finally gotten back to shooting film! Although I'm thoroughly enjoying the instant gratification of my Canon Rebel digital SLR, there's still nothing like film.
Taken with my Hasselblad which I was using almost exclusively before buying the Canon last summer, this is the first image I've selected for a new series I'm developing with two other women photographers, Elizabeth Holmes and Mia Wisnoski---who also continue to shoot film and share a love for the nostalgic aspects of the area. Decaying buildings, vintage trucks, rusted wheels; we all seem to be drawn to what's old or not too new.
Every few weeks since the summer started, we've been driving around, mostly on the North Fork, with our cameras with the idea of presenting the East End from three different viewpoints. To get back to film, I've decided to used this medium-format camera; notice the square format and the color saturation; a warmer yet more formal format to my eye.
Next June, we'll be mounting a show at the new Westhampton Library showcasing the results. While I love to wander on my own, it's nice to have a break from the solitude and enjoy the company of like-minded souls.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Spotting


People watching, it's one of my favorite pastimes and one of the reasons I started taking photographs in the first place. So when I went down to the Quogue dock with my friend, Julie, on Friday evening where I heard a Reggae band was playing to kick off the holiday weekend, I made sure to bring my camera.
Working our way through the crowd with the sun glaring in our eyes, Julie pointed toward the dock on the periphery where we headed and took a seat. Perfect, I thought, as the sun sank behind my right shoulder casting a crystal light. Men wore shorts, women donned hats, boys and girls pushed scooters and rode bikes; it was Norman Rockwell, circa 2010.
I waited and watched...then out of my left eye, I spotted them, the perfect family, some with two legs, some with four. Quickly I changed lenses to my long zoom and set my f-stop to F11 to ensure there would be enough depth of field for the foursome yet throwing the two posts, that framed the image so nicely, a little out of focus.
"Do you think they have kids?" I said.
"Nah," Julie replied, "looks like they've invested in dogs."



Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Swirl

Sunday was my daughter's 20th birthday. As part of the celebration, Jackie requested that we have brunch at Love Lane Kitchen on the North Fork, about half an hour from our home on the South Fork. When we sat down, I ordered iced coffee right away as the day was heating up. Ironically, I had been at the same eatery the day before when out shooting in the area with two fellow photographers, and was looking forward to the iced coffee again, half caf/half decaf.
When the server set it down before us, Jackie picked up the tiny vessel of milk and started pouring. "That looks cool," she said as a ribbon of white swirled through the caramel, "Mom, take a picture!"
Not a problem. I had been snapping away as I stared at her and her boyfriend, who was visiting for the weekend---not quite comprehending how 20 years had passed and what an amazing person my Jackie had become.
To avoid the flash I set the ISO at 800, the F-stop at 5.6 and had no choice but to shoot at 1/8 second, very slow to hand-hold. But I held steady pressing the camera body to my forehead. In this case, the show shutter speed and shallow depth of field worked to advantage, emphasizing the motion inherent in this still life.
When Jackie saw the image, she said "my nails look good; good thing I just had a manicure."

Friday, June 25, 2010

Out of the Blue

If you want to capture that special image that pops up out of the blue, the most important thing to remember is to carry your camera with you all the time. If I hadn't stashed my camera bag in the back of my car, I would have missed the chance to capture this magnificent sight.
As dusk descended one evening, I was driving home down Lewis Road where acres upon acres of farmland have been preserved by the town of Southampton. There hanging over the field, a tremendous cloud was set on fire by the sun that had just dipped below the horizon.
As I neared, the cloud loomed larger and more brilliant. Pulling over to the side of the road, I reached behind me pleased to discover that I had indeed left my camera in the car. Knowing that the color would soon fade, I quickly changed lenses to my long one, 55-250mm, pointed it out the window and zoomed all the way in. I also underexposed by about one stop to intensify the cloud color thus throwing the treeline into silhouette.
With more time to gaze at this image now, I'm amazed at what we can see when we keep looking. I see the profile of a man with a full head of curly hair--looks a little like Harpo Marx!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Peconic River Day


Between the forks on the East End of Long Island where I have lived year-round for over twenty years, there's the town of Riverhead where the locals travel from all directions to do their daily business. Once a thriving downtown center, the village has struggled for decades to compete with the big chains that now crowd Route 58 nearby.
Behind Main Street, however, there's a lazy river that delights each time I pass through on my way to Home Depot, Target, or some such place.
So when I was invited to participate tomorrow in Peconic River Day at a gallery called Art Sites that yes, is on the way to Tanger Outlet Mall, I was thrilled.
A few weeks ago, I began by photographing people enjoying the boardwalk. Relaxing on benches, reading the paper or strolling by, I approached them slowly asking if they'd like to participate in this celebration of the river.
To my surprise, no one refused. Then I crossed the parking lot to discover some children frolicking intheir front yard facing the river. Under the care of their grandpas, I was a hesitant to ask if I could photograph the children.
Yet again, they were most willing to oblige. Since then, I visited the places I frequent when in town, a riverside bistro, the arts council, the bank, and the library--where my close friend, Elva, works---to capture the faces of those who live, work and play along the Peconic River.
Here's the result. To view, just click the forward arrow at your own pace.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Saving the Seagull



Two weeks ago, I took a trip with my puppy to Cupsogue Beach at the end of Westhampton Dunes--a seaside park preserved by the county wedged between the ocean and the bay--to check out the venue for my next photography class. Moseying along taking in the sights, Copper darted suddenly toward the water, howling like the hound he is.

Flapping one wing, a large bird lumbered into the water; it happened so fast that it took me a minute or so to realize it was a wounded seagull. Quickly, I tied the dog to a post and rushed back to the bird who was struggling in the water. Reaching for my camera, I took one photograph before he emerged from the foam dragging a broken wing.

What do I do? I thought panicking.

Fumbling for my cellphone, I made a few calls and found the number for the Wildlife Refuge Center of the Hamptons. While waiting for the volunteer to arrive from Hampton Bays, I shot 66 frames as my dog continued to howl.
At one point a wave knocked the gull onto his back. I approached slowly and was surprised when he allowed me to gingerly flip him back onto his feet. Making eye contact, he reminded me of my puppy when I rescued him a few weeks before.
After that, he stood nearby posing in thanks as we continued to wait. Here are 13 images presented as a slide show; just one couldn't possibly do him justice.
To view, just click the forward arrow at your own pace.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Iris

As May comes to a close, it seems fitting to end with the iris, the most spectacular of flowers. Around noon one day last week, I couldn't take my eyes off the phosphorescent petals just outside my front window that had just bloomed.
Envisioning all the pictures of irises I had already seen, I was reluctant to grab my camera. "But these purple and yellow ones are so special," I thought, "and they're mine." Within minutes I was leaning over the tall specimen in the middle of my front garden experimenting with the composition.
As I zoomed in, I decided to focus on the purple patterns at F5.6, letting the yellow petals fall into a blur. However, the lightness of that blur overpowered the darker elements I was trying to highlight. So I set my digital camera on manual and underexposed by a little more than one stop. Presto...without Photoshop, I had toned done the yellow and created a more dramatic image.
It's no wonder that of all the flowers that blossom on Earth, they named this one after the color of the eye.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Timeless

Photographing children is an art unto itself. Since they are in constant motion and so difficult to predict, the secret is to take lots and lots of pictures.
Last week an artist friend invited me to participate in a project celebrating life on the Peconic River at a festival at Art Sites, a gallery in Riverhead set for June 19th. The premise is to photograph people living, working and playing along the river. So on Saturday we set out to find out if indeed anyone was enjoying the balmy weather along the boardwalk constructed there a few years ago.
After shooting a few strollers, we noticed a family with some young children playing in a yard across the way. "You ask them," my friend said afraid that they might refuse.
To her surprise, they were more than happy to participate. Thirty minutes later, we walked away satisfied with the more than 50 images we had taken. Then, one of the little girls jumped on her rocking horse and asked me to take some more, just of her.
Rocking back and forth, she looked directly in the lens. The light danced in her eyes and on the grass behind her. Now comfortable with me and my camera, she rewarded me with this timeless image. It's my experience that the best usually does come last.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

No Swimming?

Having slipped back into stillness last week with the study of light, here I am with more motion. Another walk in Sears Bellows County Park in Hampton Bays with my puppy, Copper, produced this telling image. Celebrating the season of renewal, it also validates the axiom "seek and ye shall find."
Upon entering the park, we proceeded on the path circling the lake that I have trailed time and again. Speeding ahead of me, Copper lead me to this spot where the water lapped against the shore more robustly than usual as result of the rain the day before.
It was as if the sign had been knocked over and submerged right there to attract my attention. Again I slowed my shutter to enhance the movement and mix of colors.
No swimming? In such a glorious place? Whoever heard of such a thing?

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Leaf Light

This month I've been taking my photography class on local field trips to take advantage of the beauty that abounds this time of year. Last week we took a walk to a little park down the street from my house. Created just a few years ago, this spot reminds me of public spaces in Europe where every square foot is utilized to the max.
Featuring a walking track, a playground, an amphitheater, a fountain and several lush gardens, I chose this place because it provides a plethora of subject matter to photograph. So when I became obsessed with photographing just one leaf hanging from a pear blossom tree, I'm sure my students were a bit perplexed.
As the late afternoon light flickered through the leaf from behind, I pointed out the detail it revealed. A sight so simple yet so easy to miss unless one is really looking. Soon some were just as enthralled and started snapping away.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Getting Close


After all that rain last month, this May is one of the most beautiful I can recall. The air is filled with the sweetest scent and wherever I look buds are bursting with color. However the problem with spring is that it passes in the blink of an eye. So while I'm blinking, I try to capture what's most memorable.
Last fall I planted a row of 40 tulips bordering my front garden. Having forgotten about them during the long cold winter, I was excited when they poked through the soil even though just a dozen appeared. But a week after blossoming, their petals were already drooping. Within a few days, they were completely spent. While tulips are one of the most fetching flowers, they are also one of the most fleeting.
To preserve the sight, I cradled one in my hands, carried it to my back deck and laid it out on a bench. Then I focused up close filling the frame with color.
Sometimes the secret to a good image is simply getting close.

Friday, April 30, 2010

More Copper



Lately, motion seems to be my mantra and the focus of my recent photography class, also called Learning to See. Until now, I've concentrated on stillness in my work, perhaps, because I've been practicing yoga for years. By staying still, looking inward then outward, I've developed the patience to wait and watch.
Now I'm using those same skills to study motion. By choosing a spot, standing my ground and shifting my shutter speed, faster or slower, the effects are eye-opening. The one on top of Copper romping up a hill in a nearby park was taken at 1/30 second at F11. Notice how his coat blurs seamlessly into the background. When he raced down the hill toward me, however, I selected a much faster speed of 1/125 sec, to delineate his face.
While my puppy continues to fascinate me, I mustn't let this blog become all about him, so I'm also including a reflection found in a huge puddle that blocked our path during a walk yesterday in Sears Bellows Park. Interesting how copper is the predominant color.






Monday, April 26, 2010

Passing

This month I've traveled to Manhattan by train more frequently than I have in the 22 years I've lived on the East End of Long Island. Usually, I use the two hours to catch up on my reading or my sleep.
But last week I turned my gaze to the slide show that sped past my window. To slow it down, I set my shutter speed to 1/25 second and pointed my camera outside. Warehouses, parking lots, strip malls and graffiti flew by. Instantly, I scanned the images I had collected so quickly on my digital camera.
While the blur created an interesting effect, I found nothing that inspired. Trying again, I tilted my lens downward toward the ground and kept pressing. Rails flashed; metal moved side to side, up and down. Life was passing and so was time.
Apropos after this past weekend when I traveled back and forth to the city to see old friends from Syracuse University and to attend a reunion we had been planning for months. Is life passing forward or backward? Sometimes it's hard to tell.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Copper

Since I lost my 11-year old golden retriever, Buddy, on New Year's Eve 2008, I was certain I'd never fall in love again. However, I guess whoever said "never say never" had a point.
Yesterday while driving through Westhampton Beach, I noticed lots of commotion on the main corner in the midst of the spring sidewalk sale. Cages full of puppies were on display and up for adoption by a local rescue group called Last Chance.
Parking quickly, I darted toward the puppies and immediately set my eyes on a brown and white beagle/retriever mix (or so they said). An hour later, I was driving home with a 12-week old in the passenger seat. Since then, he hasn't left my side.
When I sat down at the computer tonite, Copper curled up on the rug behind me just as Buddy was so apt to do. Grabbing my camera, I set the ISO to 1600 and focused on his soulful eyes. Photographing indoors at night is always a challenge, especially when you refuse to use flash.
ps...while I was busy writing this, he crewed my USB cord...

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Catch

Sunny and in the sixties, I donned my sunhat, grabbed my camera, and headed for the beach. Although I live just five minutes away, I hadn't been there since December.
Upon arriving, I marched downed to the shoreline aiming my lens at the surf. But the waves themselves failed to hold my interest. As the whitecaps moved in and out, my eye gravitated to the impressions left on the sand just as the water receded.
Then I started to see things, shapes that looked like fish stenciled in the sand. The more I looked the more I found. Schools of fish one after the other. Incredulous, I snapped away zooming in and out. I had to work fast since they dried and disappeared as quickly as I spotted them.
Once I was fairly certain I'd caught something worth writing about, I stored my camera in the bag slung over my shoulder and moseyed down the beach enjoying the long-awaited sun. About ten minutes later, however, I happened upon the most remarkable catch of all. So I reached back in and captured this.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Bowing Out

Yesterday afternoon while I was raking my yard and clearing all the debris cast upon it since the fall, I kept glancing towards the skeleton of snow-capped hydrangea towering over my front flower bed. The lacy flowers, once Wedgewood blue spotted pink, had faded to a translucent ivory so delicate I yearned to preserve them.
As I raked and raked, I decided to reward myself when the job was done by photographing them. But how could I do them justice? How could I transform the withered specimen before me into the object of beauty I perceived in my mind's eye?
An hour later, at about 4:30 when the sun was sinking behind me, I grabbed my camera and set to work. Choosing the largest cluster, I focused on the bottom pedal and the adjacent buds letting everything else fall into a blur. This time I chose an F8, however, to emphasize the flower yet include enough detail of the green growth coming forth from behind to take its place.
Hydrangea, they're otherworldly, especially when they're bowing out.



Saturday, April 3, 2010

Lanterns

As the harbinger of spring, forsythia is one of my favorite plants. Its delicate flowers and wispy branches appear magically like feathers just as the birds start chirping.
Throughout the torrential rain that hammered the East End this past week, however, I feared that spring would never come. Fortunately I had a project on the computer that kept me busy indoors for hours. But one evening I was so stiff I found myself knocking on a friend's door to ask if I could use her yoga studio.
As I waited on the doorstep, I noticed tiny yellow buds hanging from a branch that reminded me of teardrops. Pitted against the gloomy gray dusk, they cheered me somehow, seemed to be planted there to let me know that brighter times were ahead.
Originally I called this post Teardrops, but when a subscriber said they looked more like the little lanterns strung across yards in the summer, I agreed and changed the title.
To achieve this effect I opted for a shallow depth of field by selecting a F5.6 and focused carefully on the pedals, throwing the background into a blur.