Wednesday, April 28, 2010

A vineyard Stills-In-Motion video; Need feedback

A Stills-In-Motion show. It's very late. The stars are out. My eyelids are closing. AT 10:30 last night the whole show crashed on me. The whole file disappeared during a save. The entire days labor disappeared as digit ether. Please note nary a cuss word leaked between my lips.

Today, redid the show between meetings. Now I need feedback. It's a Stills-In-Motion Ken-Burns style use of single photos.

The show is hosted at Vimeo:A Year in the Vineyard.

Please note that I made it for high definition 1080p. The original file size was just over a GB. You are seeing a very compressed to 320 pixel width version. I notice it runs slower in this compressed version.

What about choice of photos?
What about Length?
I know I need to spend lots more time with the audio. Suggestions?

Thank you for your help.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Need feedback: New work, New look

This image is from a new series of Vineyard Landscapes I'm dinking with. I would really appreciate any thoughts or impressions?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Photographing the edges of a storm.

It rained one early-spring day in Napa. Actually it poured. Tourists and locals (except drought-stricken farmers) groaned and moaned. Even the day laborers in the St. Helena grocery store parking lot waiting to be hired, huddled under their gray hooded sweatshirts, complained that the rain stopped most work projects.

I, on the other hand, was ecstatic.

The tempest would be short lived. Hey, this was Spring in Napa. It doesn't rain for long. And then, at
the storm's puffy edge, shafts of sun would blast through holes in the cloudy roof. The God beams would rake like a giant spotlight across the landscape. As a photographer, I can't afford that kind of large-scale dramatic lighting.

I raced up Spring Mountain to huddle
with my tripoded camera beneath an undersized umbrella. I got soaked. But I got an amazing series of images at the edge of the storm.

Just in case someone didn't get this photo tip: photograph the dramatic light at the edges of storms.

Please respect vineyard and property rights. I had complete permission to enter this vineyard area. But I've had the misfortune to follow in the footsteps of photographers who entered vineyards without permission. That ruins it for all of us who follow. As a thank you, I gave the winery some photographs.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Can lines & patterns survive the mid-life photo crises?

Have you ever had a mid-life photo crises?

I'm there. I want to re-examine my career, my future and what makes a strong photograph in the post-darkroom era. Can the old rules of photography still hold true in the digital age? And heck, what's the future of photography itself?

So in this agitated state, I avoid the future of photography question and get back to editing images for a print magazine. The idea of income to pay bills hasn't changed a bit. There I am staring at a couple of photos I like. So why do I like these photos?
Well, they have graphic lines and repeated patterns. I also like the human element.

What do you think? Can graphic lines and repeated patterns still make for an impactful (is that an official word) photo in the digital age? Or is that too old fashion?

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Failure, failure, failure, success: the power of composition.

While snapping this great graphic pattern in a naked vineyard, I wished there were a worker or something human to give the scene scale.

Thank the photo spirits or some higher power or something. While hiking back to the winery here comes the man-on-a-green-John-Deere answer to my wish.

I rushed back to my graphic line photo site to snap this photo. But the foreground was too cluttered.

Less foreground clutter, but still too busy. Visual simplicity makes for poetry.

Much better, but the tractor is headed out of the frame. Photo seems compositionally too heavy on the right. It wants to fall down to the right.

Luck (or the photo spirits) were with me. The tractor worker turned around to take another pass at tilling the road. Click. I like this view the best because it's: 1) balanced like good wine, 2) the tractor is angled showing action and 3) the tractor angle opposes the diagonal lines of the rows of vine.

Where does your eye wander in this photo? What first attracts your eye? What happens when you get to the tractor? Does you eye get kicked out of the frame?

Friday, April 9, 2010

Move over France, Chinese make wine barrels?

So here's a photo story that surprised me...

During my first trip to China, it wasn't until the second or third day of visiting Bodega Langes winery in Hebei Province that I found out. Toward the end of the day, the winemaker casually mentioned that they made their own barrels.

As a wine-type guy in total disbelief, I probably blurted something like, "What. Wait a minute. You make oak barrels?"

"为什么没有?" (for those unfortunate few who can't understand Chinese, I think that's "why not?"), replies the practical winemaker. "When each French oak barrel costs around 6800 RMB (That's about $1000 US), we look how to cut costs. The oak comes from mountain forests in northern China."

So off to the facility my volunteer driver, want-to-be sommelier interpreter and I go. We head to the industrial part of town. All the signs are, well, Chinese to me. This is not exactly the touristy part of town, or the entire Province for that fact. But our Chinese-speaking GPS indentified the exact location.

We drive through the gate of the cyclone fence. We're still not sure this is the right place. It's not exactly the romantic image of the little-ol'-barrel maker on the edge of the Burgundian
hillside village. From the outside, the cooperage looks exactly like the neighboring factories making hydraulic lifts, long-haul truck parts and steel trusses. The area smells like a factory zone.

But this is the place. They make almost all of the Bodega Langes' barrels and enough additional ones to sell to other Chinese wineries at a profit.

So here is the process, except for the factory atmosphere, that is duplicated in hand- crafting cooperages in France, H
ungary or the United States.

First the oak is dried, either outdoors or in a kiln, then cut into staves.

Then the wood is assembled into a barrel. Note the slow shutter speed to show hammer motion. That way the worker can show his boss he is actually working.

Like many things in life, fire and water allows the maker to curve the wood into a barrel shape. The fire heats the wood inside while the worker hits the outside with a wet mop-like brush. This allows him to bend the wood. After the barrel is complete, the inside might be charred according to the winemaker's specifications.

For photographers doing a story, it's always good to have B roll (film making for close ups and details) material.

Leaving the factory, I snap the "No Smoking" sign beside a Troll-sized butt container. This in China where smoking is a national epidemic.