Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Results Most Scenic Napa Vineyard competition

#6 Spring clouds hang over the valley view seen from Newton Vineyard in the Spring Mountain district.

Hands down (3 to 1 if your into numbers) the above photograph of Napa's Newton Vineyard in the Spring Mountain district was the winner in our Most Scenic Napa Vineyard competition. Respondents commented on the Springtime feel, clouds and distant valley.

While only a few comments were posted on the blog, both my assistant's and my own email boxes
were inundated with votes. It seems that many of you do not want to become Googlers. One typical comment was: "I don't want to get more accounts and have to remember more passwords." Amen.

One comment by a famous Napa winemaker declared than none of the photos could be the most scenic Napa image because they do not really show the valley. He reminded me that it's Napa Valley.
My under-the-breath response: shucks, while growing up in Napa I hiked all over those hills so I must be a hillbilly who just
likes pretty pictures.

Here's the distant second place:
#1 Spring-time mustards grow between the rows of Screaming Eagle vineyard from Silverado Trail, valley floor looking west.

Nervous about new Mandala-Photo work at gallery

A new group of photo images I call the Mandala series will be shown for the first time ever at the Art Elements Gallery in downtown Newberg beginning Thursday August 26. The free-wine opening is Thursday evening from 5 to 7.

Frankly, I'm a little nervous about reaction to the works as they obviously do not look like traditional photographs. I'm putting it out there.

This Mandala–
a Sanskrit word meaning circle–series is inspired by the meditation art in the Hindu and Buddhist religious traditions I first encountered while traveling in the Himalayas in 1976. The basic form of most Hindu and Buddhist mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. Each gate is in the shape of a T.
While the Buddhist and Hindu mandalas have spiritual and ritual significance, as a grasshopper-like novice, I simply tried to work on a theme and chose images in a synergistic way. They became like meditations while doing them.

In various spiritual traditions, mandalas are employed for focusing attention of aspirants and adepts, as a spiritual teaching tool, for establishing a
sacred space, and as an aid to meditation trance induction. According to David Fontana, its symbolic nature can help one "to access progressively deeper levels of the unconscious, ultimately assisting the meditator to experience a mystical sense of oneness with the ultimate unity from which the cosmos in all its manifold forms arises." The psychoanalyst Carl Jung saw the mandala as "a representation of the unconscious self," and believed his paintings of mandalas enabled him to identify emotional disorders and work towards wholeness in personality.

I'm excited about where this Mandala series might go with future work. Naturally, I would appreciate any feedback. Come to the show.

Tamarah, my digital asset manager delivering the new Mandala work to Art Elements Gallery.

Oh yes, Gallery address:
604 East 1st Street (The main drag going north)
Newberg, OR 97132
(503) 487-6141

Monday, August 23, 2010

Ouch! Getting ready for China

To find out what shots I needed for China, I made a quick call to Kaiser Permanente Travel, my health care provider. After our thirty minute depressing conversation, I wasn't sure I wanted to go. Here's what they told me I could get, especially since I was headed to Yunnan province.

Dengue Fever,
a virus-based disease spread by mosquitoes (specifically the little blood sucker Aedes aegypti), begins with a sudden high fever in the 104 - 105 degrees Fahrenheit range. Then a flat, red rash appears over most of the body 2 - 5 days after the fever starts, and then a second rash, which looks like the measles, appears later. Other symptoms include: Headache (especially behind the eyes), Fatigue, Joint aches, Muscle aches, Nausea, Swollen lymph nodes and, of course, Vomiting.

Malaria. I remember guys in Africa telling me about getting the disease. Not fun and many die.
It's caused by a parasite called Plasmodium, which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes. These are different mosquitoes than the Dengue Fever carrying Aedes aegypti suckers. No offense to the species, but all mosquitoes look the same to me.

Encephalitis literally means "inflammation of the brain" resulting from a viral infection.

Avian Flu. Yes, that's bird flu. The Kaiser nurse told me not to come in contact with birds in the Yunnan province. But I eat chicken.

I've forgotten the rest, except I'm not suppose to pet or touch pigs.

I wonder if wine helps thwart these diseases?

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Searching for Chinese wineries along the ancient Silk Road.

For my upcoming China winery trip–Sept 17 - Oct 13–it's high mountains, dry deserts, the Silk Road and ancient scrolls about wine. So here are my current winery choices rationally arranged by province. Follow along on the map but remember that China is disputably about the same size as the USA. Any suggestions or insights gladly accepted.

Shanxi province. On the thoughtfully provided map look for a vertical fat-pinply-hot-dog shaped yellow area at the top center-right of China hanging like an udder below Inner Mongolia.
The dusty Terra Cotta Warriors march here and the ancient Yellow River Bed meanders through
Here I already visited one of China's most highly regarded wineries in terms of drinkable wines, Grace vineyard.
On this trip it's Jade Valley winery for it's scenic location and famous architect owner. Perfect photo combo.

Ningxia province. On the map look at the left side of the big green Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, located at the top of China. The Yellow River and the Great Wall of China flow through the province. While it's sparsely populated, probably because it's mostly desert, the vast plain of the Yellow River in the north has been irrigated for centuries through an extensive system of canals. Wine production flourishes in the eastern part of the Helan Mountains Region, so that's where I'm going. Jancis Robinson–a famous wine writer–says that Ningxia seems to be a seriously up and coming region for vineyard investment. So we will find out if lots of money guarantees great, even good wine.
Targeted wineries include Helan Mountain, operated by Pernod Ricard–my how those French get around, Dragon's Hollow, which surprisingly produces mostly for export and Silver Heights, where Emma Gao is winemaker.

Xinjiang Province That big orange amoeba-shaped area on China's far left side, is Xinjiang, which literally means "New Frontier." It's home to the restless Muslims you might have read about in the news. It's also home to the largest vineyard in all of Asia. Lots of ancient history here, incl With the Silk Road trekking right through the area, there's lots of ancient history, including mention of wine in the BC time. This province, containing the Gobi, is renowned for its grapes and, no sunny surprise, raisins.
Summers tend to be hot and dry, so the grapes have higher sugar content and fewer problems with disease than in coastal regions, though they sometimes lack acidity. Winters are extremely cold and the vines need extra protection to survive by being buried with dirt, which then blows away later.
Wineries under scrutiny– Loulan and Suntime–are located way to the center left of the oversized province.

Inner Mongolia Autonomous Province Crowning China on the map, the big green squished water balloon-shaped area is Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. (Why certain provinces are called Autonomous is a topic for another blog.) While there are some wineries in this sand-dunned area already, some growing adapted vines that can withstand the -35 degrees C (-31F), I've heard about a mega project near Bayan Nur City to create a vineyard in the Ulan Buh Desert. According to the municipal desert control authority–how would you like to be in charge of shifting sand dunes, the project will cover a total area of 26,667 hectares (65 895 acres), yield 600,000 tonnes of wine grapes a year. Will that help quench China's thirst?

Yunnan Province Finally, the orange squished amoeba looking province is Yunnan. Here one winery is suppose to be at 3000 m (9000 ft) elevation.
Here I'm looking at Shangri-la Winery and Sunspirit, where one winery building is Tibetian style. More about this later.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Wine's Unsung Heroes

You don't see their names on the bottle label. You don't hear visitors talking about them in the tasting rooms. To most wine drinkers, they are invisible. Yet the manager of one of the world's 100 best vineyards says they are the winemakers. He's talking about the vineyard workers, the unsung heroes of wine.

They know the vineyard more intimately than most winemakers. In the dead of winter, they prune the vines. During long summer days they pull leaves so the sun ripens the grapes. In the hot summer sun they weed, often by hand with a hoe. They thin by cutting individual clusters of fruit to maximize the quality. And finally, sometimes in pouring rain or scorching sun, they harvest the wine grapes.

I've been fortunate enough to meet and photograph quite a few vineyard workers around the world. Can you tell which country the photograph is taken?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Which is Napa's most scenic vineyard?

Yesterday, Tamarah, my Digital Asset Manager, and I were pulling photos for an upcoming gallery show. Besides the new Mandala-like images and visual illusion composites, we wanted some straight beautiful images of Napa vineyards. As we pulled the photos, we got into a debate (again) as to which of these photos depicts Napa's most beautiful vineyard view. Please help us settle the debate by voting in the comments.

Which one of these photos is your favorite Napa vineyard view? (For you Oregon wine lovers, Napa does have some nice scenic views. I grew up there, but matured in Oregon.)

Since I'm trying to learn how people respond to my photos, please comment with a Tweet-sized note explaining your choice.

#1 Spring-time mustards grow between the rows of Screaming Eagle vineyard from Silverado Trail, valley floor looking west.

#2 Shafts of evening light, breaking through a cloud crack, hit Oakville Ranch Vineyards' Summit Vineyard looking NW up valley.

#3 View from Graeser Winery vineyard on Petrified Forest Road, near Calistoga in the Diamond Mountain District, looking across the north end of Napa Valley.

#4 Edge-of-storm scattered clouds allow spots of light to drop over view from Artesa winery of red barn-like Blue Creek Vineyard building surrounded by vineyards in the Carneros AVA.

#5 Diffracted sunrise seen from Cain winery's vineyards overlooking St. Helena at the top of the Spring Mountain District.

#6 Spring clouds hang over the valley view seen from Newton Vineyard in the Spring Mountain district.

#7 Napa Valley in the distance with Hess Collection winery and Christian Brothers buildings (on right) in the lower hills seen from Hess Collection winery's Veeder Summit vineyard on Mt. Veeder.

#8 Spring-time view of John William's white barns and water tower seen from mustard-flowering Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard next to Del Dotto Winery along Highway 29.

#9 Soft sunrise light over winter-bare Saintbury's vineyard in the Carneros AVA.

Do you trust photography?

Nice Photoshop work, eh?

Actually, this is the real thing taken 42 years ago
by Colonel William Anders during the Apollo 8 mission on December 24, 1968. This was the mission which put humans into lunar orbit for the very first time and gave human eyes the opportunity to see the far side of the Moon for the first time ever. (Robots had taken photographs on previous lunar missions.)

This image is declared by many as one of the most influencial photographs ever taken. Some credit the whole earth movement to this one image. Most of the time, however, we see this famous Earthrise over the Moon with the moon horizontal for the earthrise. (Tip your head sideways.) Actually, Anders took the original as you see it here.

Here's the rest of the story:
In order to take photographs of the far side of the moon, the Apollo spacecraft had been rolled so that its windows pointed towards the lunar surface. During this time, the Moon was between the spacecraft and Earth, cutting-off all radio communication with Mother Earth. As Apollo 8 emerged from the far side on its fourth orbit, crew commander Frank Borman rolled the spacecraft so as to position its antennas for radio contact with mission control. Looking to the lunar horizon for reference he exclaimed - "Oh my God, look at that picture over there! Here's the Earth coming up!"

It turns out that in fact, three photographs were taken, one in black and white and two in color. The black and white shot was taken first - by Commander Borman, and the two color shots were taken moments later by William Anders.

So we have two photographers, each with different perceptions of the same view. Frank Borman saw the 'Earthrise' as a moonrise on Earth, with the lunar surface horizontal and the Earth rising above it.

William Anders, however, framed his photographs from the perspective of being in orbit about the lunar equator. So his horizon was the plane in which he was traveling. This meant he framed it so the edge of the Moon was vertical, with planet Earth a little to the left but with its North and South poles aligned the same way as the North and South poles of the Moon.

So even in space, two photographers see the same subject differently.

Regardless of which way the photograph was taken, the image shows our Mother Earth from space. No Photoshop at Mission Control 42 years ago.

Has our perception of photography changed in 42 years?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Find 5 differences between the two photos

As part of my day job, I'm just in the process of finishing this photo assignment for one of the largest franchises in the world. The client asked me to make 4 big changes to the photo. Then I tweeked a few other things to make it a more exciting image. OK you eagle-eyed photographers, can you spot the differences between the before and after snap.

A clue to one change: they did have a problem with swallows making nests toward the top of the building before the mitigation. The client asked me to remove the bird stopping mitigation.

This is the RAW file from Adobe Raw Converter.

Alas, the above photo is the final optimized image.

For those with short attention span because they constantly watch their in box or have carpel tunnel thumb from texting, and thus are not willing to actually look to find the differences, here's a screen shot of the adjustments to the final photo.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Is Vineyard photography more than f16 and be there?

Back in the old film days when I did heavy-duty studio advertising photography, when one art director found out I did landscape photography for fun, he told me that landscape photography was simple: f16 and be there. I didn't try to convince him otherwise. For example, even the being there is most often more than mere chance. I watch weather and especially like the drama found along edges of storms.

This photograph is a perfect edge-of-storm example. This is in the Umpqua region of southern Oregon. It had rained all day, but the forecast called for a small chance of some clearing. So I drove up into the mountains to this private little vineyard called Ferris Wheel owned by the kind folks at Brandborg winery and waited. Sure enough the clouds started to break–for about 15 minutes. I shot like mad everything I could think of.

Here's the RAW file of one shot:

This is one of the two RAW layer exposures I used. Please note that I open the RAW files as smart objects, but in this case had to unsmart the layers to combine them in the way I wanted.

Here's a screen grab of the work I put into this vineyard landscape.

Here's the final photo as I originally experienced and visualized it.

So was the pimple-faced art director right? I was there, after asking lots of people where I could find the most scenic vineyard, some careful listening to the weather forecasts and lots of luck. I didn't look in the EXIF file, but I probably used f22 on my 18mm lens to get both the foreground leaves and the distant clouds stuck in the Doug fir covered mountains all in focus.