Tag Archives: Black & White

Playing with Shadows

Memorial Day
Memorial Day

This Memorial Day, I decided to get out on the road and visit a village which I have been anticipating visiting for quite some time – Northport. It was no surprise to come across a parade or similar celebration today. What was surprising to me was that I parked in close proximity of the route of where the parade was expected to pass through – talk about serendipity.  Without any time to waste, I set about taking photos of the moving parade of veterans, soldiers, scouts and others. It was during these shots I started to experiment with something that was ever present because of the sunny day and which I thought would make an equally interesting subject. I started playing with shadows.

It was while playing with shadows I noticed the silhouette of the American flag being hoisted by one of the uniformed soldiers. It was at that point the image in this post really coalesced for me . However, I wanted very much to anchor those shadows and tie them to something physical, or rather what created them. It was that thought which lead me to include the legs of the uniformed soldiers in the shot, thus completing the experience.  Of course, I took many other shots besides this one as I am never satisfied with a singular shot. But it was this photograph which I would say capped the event for me.  In a way, it symbolizes the current soldiers who are standing in the shadows of those who came before them.

In retrospect, I think the shadows communicate more in a photo than do the actual subjects. And, this is reflected in this photo where I was playing with shadows during the Memorial Day activities of Northport, NY. It is the one shot which stands out most for me because it is suggestive that the current soldiers are standing in the shadows of the ones who came before them.

Dances With Lions

Lion Dancer
Lion Dancer

No, this is not an introduction to a Kevin Kostner film about the Native American Indian experience. This is a photograph of the Asian American experience – Dances With Lions.

Last week Sunday, when I visited the egg cream/egg roll festival in Chinatown. I got exposed to cultural practices from both the Jewish and Chinese American communities. It was an exposure of music, food and religious practices. On Eldridge Street, the stalls were lined with pickles on one end and dumplings on the other. There were outdoor musical scores being played, first by the Chinese community and then later by the Jewish community accompanied by traditional dance.  However, the music that caught my attention was further away at a nearby park just of Canal Street.

I could not ignore the beating of the drum nor the beating of the cymbals. So with much curiousity, I made my way to the park where I observed a traditional Chinese Lion Dance being performed. It was just the sort of outdoor experience I was hoping for. I had always seen puppet shows performed on a small scale; This was the first I had seen it on a grand scale. Everything was well choreographed, the movement of the mouth, the winking of the eye, the synchronized movement of the legs. It was all well done. It was all accompanied by traditional Chinese music.

To some degree, I felt sorry for the performers.  It was 81 degree weather and it was sweltering. Consequently, the performers  could only do two performances with the costume on and it was later followed by uncovered performances. But, it was the covered performance which resulted in the photograph taken here.

As stated before, this was not a review of the movie Dances with Wolves. It is a post which was inspired by the merger of the Jewish and Chinese communities’  egg cream/egg roll festival. Although it was the egg cream/egg roll festival that attracted me to the city, it was the Dances with Lions which stole the show.

 

A Tale of Two Horses

A Tale of Two Horses
A Tale of Two Horses

The Sunday following my birthday I took a road trip into Upstate New York’s wine country, the Finger Lakes Region. The sun was out; There was a cool breeze; Everything was blooming. The experience was even much more entertaining as my friends in this adventure, Lynne and Joe, decided to go off road and take the more scenic routes. This placed us square into a lot of America’s farmland.  It was here that I saw the two horses which became the title of this post – A Tale of Two Horses.

The landscape was littered with barns, fields of corn, fields of cows, and stables. It was on passing one of many roadside stables that we paused to observe a solid black stallion. He was very active and was causing a commotion among the other horses. He became even more frantic when I ventured close to the enclosure. Consequently, as much as I wanted to capture him and his unique beauty, I couldn’t.

Instead, I saw two mares which were huddled to one side of the pen. I found them to be more cooperative than the stallion but it was clear they were agitated by his movements. I liked the fact that they were huddled together and I think that presented a unique composition that I probably would not have gotten at any other time. But shooting theses horses meant I had to work fast as I had another male to compete with. I took several shots but none captured the beauty or the spirit of the moment as the one I captured here. Yes, it was a frantic scene but for a few small seconds, things were calm and I was able to capture the two horses in a moment which I thought flattered them both. In my mind, I  captured them in what I believe is a very charismatic and yet a simple, elegant portrait

Sometimes, you don’t get what you set out for. Instead, life surprises you and you get something better, more intriguing, more distinct than you had experienced before. That is pretty much what happened in this trip to the finger lakes. Although I started out trying to capture a story about a single horse, a stallion. I ended up with a lovely, classical shot depicting a Tale of Two horses.

Bleeding Hearts

Bleeding Hearts
Bleeding Hearts

Memorial Day was established as a day of reflection for those who died in the U.S. Civil War. However, it has expanded to recognize the soldiers who have lost their lives in other confrontations that the U.S. has engaged in.  Of course, for every soldier lost there is a grieving family. And, I could thing of nothing else which quickly and symbolically communicates their loss than the Bleeding Hearts flower.

As depicted in this post, the Bleeding Hearts is a flower which has an uncanny shape like a heart. And, as it matures, the pointed end of the flower peels back to expose a white, pointy, bud-like shaped part of the flower which resembles a tear drop. Thus, we have the bleeding heart.

Normally, these flowers can range from red to pink in colour and may have variations in between. Contradicting its otherwise upbeat mood, I selectively chose to remove the colour to communicate otherwise. Instead, I chose to emphasize the sadness of Memorial Day in recognition of the fallen.

So, in a less festive and more spiritual recognition of Memorial Day, I have made two variations of the Bleeding Hearts available free for download as desktop wallpapers – Bleeding Hearts Black & White and Bleeding Hearts Colour.  If you wish to receive a signed and dated print feel free to contact me for details. I only plan to produce 25 prints of either variant – colour or black and white.

April Showers Bring May Flowers

April Showers Bring May Flowers
April Showers Bring May Flowers

April showers bring may flowers or so the saying goes. It is a common saying among persons in the English speaking world that marks the transition from April to May, from a month of rain to a month of blossoms. That is the thought that came to mind when I took the photo of this tulip right after the heavy rainfall experienced on April 30.

I had just arrived at work a day after some of the heaviest rainfall I had ever experienced on Long Island; I would say about three inches. Things were still pretty damp and the sun had not risen yet.  I took the time to walk the grounds with camera in hand and noticed a bed of tulips outside the office window.  The excessive rains from the previous day had weighed down the tulips causing them to lean over into the leaves at the bottom of their stems. Some had become contorted, and others had lost some of their petals, while others drew a beautiful contrast between their bright colours and the deep green folds of their leaves. The later was the concept I tried to capture in my photograph.

I chose to avoid the focus on the colour of the  elements in the scene but instead communicate the texture and form of those elements.  The folds of the leaves provide a somewhat painterly, dark backdrop to the light areas of the tulip’s foreground. The beads of water from the rain not only draw interest but emphasize the tulip bud as it is the only element in the scene which has it. The bud itself draws interest due it is brightly coloured, and almost fragile appearance. Collectively, they form a tapestry of contrasting yet, complimentary textures of that experience.

Indeed, April showers do bring May flowers as stated by the poem excerpt –

April showers bring May flowers,
That is what they say.
But if all the showers turned to flowers,
We’d have quite a colourful day!

There’d be bluebells and cockleshells,
Tulips red and green,
Daffodils and Chinese squill,
The brightest you’ve ever seen.

And, It was also apparent in the tulip bed outside my office window.

Fall Daisy

Fall Daisy
Fall Daisy

Thanks to hurricane Sandy, there were many other photographs I had celebrating Fall but had not published. I was much more concerned with following the weather and the developments as it pummeled the east coast. One such photograph is the one included in this post – Fall Daisy.

I had taken numerous photographs of this daisy which could only be regarded as boring. It was boring because it seemed like any other photograph of a daisy. That is, until I decided to break some conventions of photography.

One particular convention that I have always heard of is to never place your subject too close to the edge of your frame – broken. Yes, in experimentation I decided to jettison this convention in an attempt to draw attention to the subject. But, I decided to go one step further in breaking convention.

I also decided to shoot the photograph such that the daisy is facing the edge of the frame. It is convention to provide some space to your subject to allow it to face into the frame – thrown out the window. Here, I did just the opposite allowing my subject to face outside the frame. Indeed, I could have shot this daisy in such a way that it would provide more space to the left. But, It would have taken away from the mystery and interest I wanted to draw to my subject.

The combination of the tight framing and breaking the convention by having my subject look out of the frame made for a photograph that not only broke with convention but created interest. The composition creates a lot of tension encouraging the viewer to question what lies beyond the daisy’s left side, why such tight cropping and negative space. This, however, helped transform this image from an average daisy to one which calls attention to itself.

Jasper the Nipper

Jasper the Nipper
Jasper the Nipper

This post is dedicated to a friend and fellow photographer, Lynne Fordham, whose dedication to getting the story through the lens often means stepping in harms way and risking lens and limb while being ambushed by “animals.”

The title of this post, Jasper the Nipper, is a horrible play on words but with good reason. Jasper, the horse depicted in this photo, is notorious for nipping just about anything that he feels like. In petting him, he has nipped at my fingers; In photographing him, he has nipped at my camera. I don’t think there is anything that he has not tried to put in his mouth. He is a rescued horse and has not really learned how to be comfortable among people hence the compulsion to nip. And, his little habit got out of hand when both Lynne and I visited the farm where he was kept.

I can only assume that the animals were cranky the day we visited. Upon entering the barn where the horses are kept, we were targeted by a rooster which insisted on attacking us regardless of where we stepped. Although we kept our distance from the bird, he absolutely refused to leave us alone and followed and attacked us throughout the entire visit. The attacks, unfortunately, seem to have been inflicted more on Lynne than myself as she is the more adventurous of the two of us.

When we finally got to see the horses, Lynne decided to enter the stalls where both Jasper and another horse, Jill, were being kept to get a closer photograph. She incidentally was using a wide angle lens which required her to be closer to get a more flattering capture. While she was taking photos of Jill, Jasper crept up behind her. I was a bit confused by his advance and had not quite figured what he was going to do next. With her back turned to Jasper, she was unaware and perhaps unconcerned, that the horse had crept up behind her, lowered his head and with the affirmation of her scream, nipped at her posterior. I was both startled and amused at the site as Lynne quickly covered her mouth with her hand, surprised and perhaps a little embarrassed at the experience, but underttered.

Even now as I write this post, thoughts still run through my mind – what was he thinking? It was bad enough that we had to suffer the attacks by the farm rooster but now the horse? But then, that is to be expected from Jasper as he has a habit at nipping at everything. Consequently, he has earned my unequivocal respect as a nipper, Jasper the Nipper.

Two of a Kind

Two of a Kind
Two of a Kind

It is amazing sometimes to observe some of our human like qualities being reflected in other species. In the same way we care for our young, that behavior is exhibited in other species; In the same way we may groom each other, that behavior is exhibited in other species; In the same way we  cuddle when it gets cold, that behavior is exhibited in other species. These characteristics are observed in numerous species beyond our own and in this photo I have titled “Two of a Kind.”

On a rather windy day, I visited the zoo and upon passing the primate enclosure, I noticed two monkeys huddled together near a viewing area of the enclosure. The wind was not whipping, but it was certainly cooler than it had been for a couple of days and these two monkeys had huddled together, embracing each other to keep warm.

It was not just the huddle that caught my attention as this is quite common among monkeys. But, it was the addition of the stare. The stare which was directed right back at me through the window pane of the observation area. In one instant, it humanized that moment. For that one moment, I no longer felt that I was looking at an animal at a zoo, but a species that was capable of caring and sharing. To be frank, words are not needed to describe how they may have felt and what they were trying to do as this was already conveyed through their actions and their eyes. It was a warming embrace that is expressed through nothing short of love and concern for the other.

In all species of animals, there are certain behavioral characteristics that resonate with us as we exhibit the same characteristics given certain situations. Consequently, their behaviors also communicate, without words, certain things that we ourselves do. Things that are expressed in this photograph of two monkeys, “Two of a Kind.”

Stealthy Snow Leopard Cub

Stealthy Snow Leopard Cub
Stealthy Snow Leopard Cub

I decided to take a brief moment and step away from the western theme which I had been pursuing whole heartily and post an image which I had shot on a  recent trip to the zoo with fellow photographers Lynne and Joe. We had heard that there were two new additions to the snow leopard family as two cubs had been bred in captivity. They are expected to remain at the zoo for the next 6 months before being sent of to other zoos. Given the limited time frame and the limited time they are on exhibit on a daily basis – 11:00am to 12:00pm, I decided to take the trip and see if I could capture a keepsake.Thankfully, I did in this photo of a sneaking, stealthy snow leopard cub.

He had just climbed the rock face and was making his way to the front of the rock but not in a trotting, playful manner. Instead, he choose to sneak in. With his head down, eyes straight ahead and careful placement of his paws, he made his way slowly around the corner of the rock.

I tried to recapture that feeling of being stalked by a predator in this image and I will be the first admit that shooting him was no easy task. The snow leopard has a light brown colour with dark brown spots, And, in this man-made environment which simulates the same sort of habitat he would have inhabited in the wild, he  blends in very well – almost vanishing. In colour, it was almost impossible to distinguish the young cub from the rocks which surrounded him and, to me, would not have revealed him as much without the treatment I gave it in black and white. Besides makding the leopard easier to distinguish from the surrounding rock, I found that the black and white treatment helped the leopard to pop more in the environment. Of course, this is not how it would appear in the wild, and it should not. But it certainly helps the viewer to see the creature.

Had there been actual pray around the corner of that rock, it would not have stood a chance given the way the cub was creeping around the corner. But, given there wasn’t any, I guess I am satisfied in just capturing the movements of this stealthy snow leopard cub.

Kicking Up Dust

Kicking Up Dust
Kicking Up Dust

The atmosphere was humid, the wind was hot and numerous horses could be seen in the warm-up pen being run through their paces kicking up dust as they trotted by. That was certainly the scene visible at the New York State Fair as I visited once again to observe a horse show that was being held at the location on August 4 and 5. This horse show was being held by the Empire Appaloosa Classic Horse Show. To be frank, it was one of the better horse shows that I have experienced.

I think what made it special were the varied coloured horses that I observed at the show and how seriously that the participants took the competition. There was a lot of preparatory work that went on from grooming the horses, to choosing costumes and of course the warm-up.

The photo displayed in this post is a scene I captured during one of the practice runs in the warm-up pen as one rider readied her horse before entering the arena of the coliseum. I can only assume that the horse was a little hot and winded at that time of the day – I certainly was – as it created a trail of dust as it trotted by. However uncomfortable the moment, the scene did evoke a somewhat classic, almost iconic image akin to riding off into the sunset. And, I couldn’t resist taking the photo. I certainly thought it was worthwhile and that made the humidity all the more tolerable.