Monday, December 31, 2007

The End of 2007

Another year has finally come to an end. Friends have been made and lost, the landscape of many locations around the world changed. Today as I write this I have just finished the last piece of artwork to be created by me this year. Somehow it is fitting that it has both an English theme, the flavor of travel and the feel of techniques of the past.

Captured by a digital camera, this image was converted to black & white and then altered to have the grainy feel of high-speed film. Because of the long exposure time needed to render the flame, ghostly images of people moving about the memorial have made their way into the scene.

As we're a long way from home, travel over the holidays helps to take our minds off not being with family and friends. Thanksgiving was spent in Paris having fine French wine and croissants instead of roast turkey with oyster stuffing and hours watching the Macy's parade. The connection to our temporary home country of England is obvious.

Titled "Ghosts Around the Flame" this is an image of the Princess Diana Memorial in Paris , France at night and as I stated, the last artistic piece I will create in 2007. It is available for purchase at my ImageKind gallery.

I wish everyone a safe and Happy New Year. Leave your bad memories and bad habits in the past where they belong, treat the upcoming year as the new creation that it is; devoid of mistake and folly until we bumble along into it. May God bless each and every one of you.


Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New Life on the Farm

One of the things that I most enjoy about living here on the farm is that there always seems to be something going on. Prepping animals for shows, feeding/cleaning, collecting eggs. On and on and on. But one of my favorite times is happening right now: lambing season.
The expectant mother sheep were brought in last week to help the newborn lambs survive the weather. As you might expect, they don't do cold and wet very well. Last night saw the first of an expected flood on new lambs born. I am always amazed at how they're up on their legs, looking for their first drink of milk 5-10 minutes after being born. Within a couple of days they're jumping and hopping around, playful bundles of energy.

Life on the farm is good.


Sunday, December 23, 2007

Merry Christmas from England!

Just a quick note wishing everyone out there a very Merry Christmas. We have gotten as close to a white christmas as we're going to get this year in the form of fog. Lots and lots of fog.

Remember the real reason for the season.


Friday, December 14, 2007

ImageKind Making a Great Photo Better

There's good news and bad news about the print I'm about to discuss, but in typical storyteller fashion I'm going to wait until the end before I let you know what that news is. Cheeky monkey, ain't I?

So back to today's topic: print-on-demand (POD) enterprises. Some of you may remember how excited I was about finding a company that made prints of my work that were just as good as if I had made them myself slaving over my own square-eyed monster (the computer). ImageKind has continued to prove themselves as a firm I can entrust my most prized images to for top-quality treatment. Case in point: my Mammatus and Crepuscular images.

This series of images was captured from the drive in front of my English farmhouse and lasted for, oh goodness, almost 2 minutes. Luckily I was able to capture a few that exceeded my expectations. One in particular I got my creative digital artist fingers into and made what I think is a stunning image very suggestive of an oil-on-canvas painting. So, off it went to ImageKind to be printed on canvas and shipped to me.

Awesome doesn't begin to describe what I pulled out of the shipping tube a couple of weeks later.

Rich colors, fantastic textures and the incredible feel of heavy canvas boasting an image I created on its surface. It went right from the Post Office to the Frame Shop at RAF Lakenheath(since this is a personal piece I can use their services) and now, hanging on my family room wall, it a piece of art I am very fond of.

Now, as promised: bad news and good news.

Bad news: this particular print is MINE and if you want it, you'll have to pry it out of my cold, dead fingers.

Good News: this particular image is available for you to purchase (along with many, many other of equal quality) from my ImageKind New Arrivals galleries. The print you see is 32 inches x 21 inches set in a 1-inch deep distressed black wood frame.

Well-done ImageKind and RAFL Frame Shop. You make my images (as well as my walls) look great!



Tuesday, December 11, 2007

I Wish I Knew the Story

If you're a regular reader of my ramblings or have the pleasure of knowing me personally then you will know how I get about stories. The goal of my photography is to allow people to look at my work and have it bring out memories that they pass along to those who surround them in the hope that THEY will pass the tales along in the future. One of my earliest posts in this blog helps you understand how the discovery of a small, seemingly insignificant item can suddenly take on a life of its own.

So imagine how chuffed I was (chuffed is an English term meaning excited and currently without a Wikipedia entry) when my wife called from the States saying she had found a large American flag at a second-hand shop. From her description of it, it sounded like a "casket flag" of the type used at the funeral of a US Armed Forces veteran upon their burial. Sadly, it was folded and hanging from a coat hanger.

Upon the flag's arrival back here in England I found it was indeed a casket/storm flag measuring 5x91/2 feet in size and manufactured by the Valley Forge Flag Company of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The stars are made of individual pieces of cloth sewn onto the blue field as opposed to being completely embroidered as most flags I've seen lately are. The two brass grommets have the number "2" stamped on them. Not sure if this gives an indication if it's age or not. Sadly, there were a series of stains (they appear to be from the flag being wet, perhaps stored wet) below the star field running through many of the white stripes. Happily, after numerous washings and a couple of attacks with a toothbrush and stain removed they're almost gone. I'm still in the process of trimming the stray thread from the stars. As far as age I can only say that it is a 50 star flag and dates itself to the post-1959 timeframe.

OK, you have a big American flag. So what?!?!?!

I photograph many US Armed Forces family members to include active duty Air Force members as well as a fair number of Boy Scouts, both of which look just cracking in front of a huge US flag. As this one was 1/3 the price of a new one, if nothing else it was certainly good value for money.

But here's the nostalgic part of me making an appearance:

What's the story behind it? The thrift store it was found in (Valley Thrift) is located just a few miles away from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio. Dayton has quite a large number of military retirees. Casket flags are used in the funeral service of an honorably discharged veteran and presented to the family at the conclusion. Was this flag used for this purpose? What was the history of this veteran; what had they seen, what stories could they (or did they) pass along to the next generation? Had the family member passed away and the flag been found and donated? Was it used as a casket flag at all or as a storm flag?

I wish I knew as I have mixed thoughts about using it. Am I showing disrespect by using it in the course of my photography (properly displayed according to the US Flag code, and only for the aforementioned purposes)? On the other hand, might it mean more to someone having their portrait made with a flag honoring a veteran?
Honestly, I'm just not sure. I can say I'm proud to own it and if nothing else it has been cleaned, mended and stored according to protocol. If you think this might know the history of this flag or have any thoughts I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Equipment Testing

I must admit that these days I take any manufacturer's claims with a grain of salt. In some cases with an entire handful to be quite honest. (I attribute it to being an "old grumpy codger" or at least aspiring to the title.) That is, with the exception of one company: Canon.

As I mentioned in an earlier post I've acquired the latest bit of digital camera kit from Canon, the 40D camera body. Having come up through the ranks with their previous offerings (Digital Rebel/Rebel XT and 20D) I knew what to expect for the most part. I had heard about how "noise-free" the newest DIGIC III chip was supposed to perform and decided to put it through some of the same lengthy exposure times I used when shooting Fuji Velvia slide film just for fun, to see if the reports were exaggerated or not.

Well, I have to say the excitement over this piece of equipment is justified. I set up looking out through a window here in England and used an exposure time of just over 11 minutes. I honestly have to say that for the first time, I'm beginning to see the gap between what digital can reproduce in night photography significantly closing! Compared to similar images coming from a 20D the difference is quite amazing and I fear this means more trips into the cold night air once again.