Pecking Order

Pecking Order
Pecking Order

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Feel of the Paint


The photo above is an extreme close up of my newest effort. The varnish is still drying on this one. If you cannot yet tell, the bird is a Sandhill Crane. I like these highly magnified photos because they show the raw texture of the acrylic paint that I use in my paintings.

Adding my signature is the last step in the painting process. Some paintings are so bad that I do not ever sign them. In fact I have signed many paintings in the past that I wish I had never signed. 
I was happy to sign this one. Whether I paint well or totally fail to achieve the results that I desired, I am compelled to keep at it.
Why do I keep painting no matter what? It is the love of the process of creating something using just clumsy brushes and a few basic colors. There is joy in mixing and applying colors and feeling the painting slowly come to life. It is intoxicating to me. It is in some way a very selfish act.
There is nothing intellectual about it for me. My head is full of incoherent mush. It is all organic emotion, satisfaction, creation. Something beyond just me.
This particular painting started out with me trying to create the look of snow covered mountains soaring up into the clouds. It is a look that I have revisited many times in earlier paintings.
The interesting challenge of it is to paint a flat background and create the look of atmosphere, contours and depth using only snow.
Sandhill Cranes are also interesting to paint because of the subtle tonal variety, and texture of their plumage.
There are two main cranes in this painting with flying cranes in the background.
So finally, this is the whole painting. It is 16x20". I am proud of it. For now anyway.
This photo was taken in a different light. What should I name it? Niel Young did an album called, 'Ragged Glory'. I like that name but I already used it as a title for another painting. The ruffled feathers at the tail end of the cranes reminds me of feather dusters. Feather Dusters is also the title of another painting. How about, 'Ruffled Glory'? No, that's stupid. Any suggestions?

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Some Recent Activities

The best thing ever; Spring is springing, (a little at a time). There is open water in a few spots, like Spenard Crossing.
But not so fast. Most of the lakes are still frozen over. It is solid enough that airplanes can still land on them. 
The word has spread among bush pilots about all the fun that Scott Christy and crew have been having on the outer coast of the Kenai.
Scott's wife Jean gets towed on a makeshift sled. The temperature was in the mid-forties farenheit, warm by our standards for this time of year. Soon it will be unsafe to use skis, or wheels on the planes when they land on the lakes.
The ice formations keep changing shape over the course of the Winter.
Jean shows off her ice axes.
Now back to Spenard Crossing. I managed to go by there on Wednesday. At one end there was a sliver of open water. We saw Mallards, Common Mergansers, and a few Buffleheads. There were some gulls just off the coast, but the Canada Geese have not made it up here yet. Any day now.
This is the best photo I could get of a male Common Merganser.
I tried to get some decent photos of the Common Mergansers who were demonstrating courtship behavior. As is typical with mergansers, the males kept their distance while the females boldly came closer.
This is a better photo of the Nyala painting. I still do not know which painting I will enter into the Artists for Conservation show.




Saturday, March 29, 2014

Singing In the Spring

A few years ago I photographed the singing, (calling) male, Golden-crowned Sparrow in the photo above. It was high up in Turnagain Pass on the Kenai Peninsula. The month was June but Spring comes very late to the high country.
Golden-crowned Sparrows are large sparrows that breed in the mountains of the Pacific Northwest. They have a simple but elegant three note call, not unlike the territorial call of a Black-capped Chickadee.
On Monday and Tuesday of this week I did not feel like sitting down to paint after work. I had the day off on Wednesday so I got started on this 9x12" painting. I worked about an hour on Thursday and again on Friday. Today I worked another three or four hours and it was finished. That is fast for me these days although it was my typical fast pace in past years.
I am still toying with a possible name for it. 'Singing in the Spring', 'Calling for the Spring', 'Joyful Spring'. Something along those lines. Any ideas out there?
Now I am going to sit down to a nice dinner of home made Kalua Pork that my Samoan neighbor just brought me. YUM!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Undertaker and the Nyala

When I lived in Eagle River a few years ago I went for a short walk through my neighborhood with my camera. Half a block from my house I shot this reference photo with the idea of using it in some future painting.
This is the first painting that I did using the photo. A Snowshoe Hare, 8x10". Clearly I paid no attention to the the size ratio between the hare and the rest of its surroundings. I figured that the viewer would have no way of knowing how much I changed the composition from the original photo.
'Meet the Undertaker', 16x20". Wolverines are the scourge of many animals in the northern wilderness. They even drive wolves and bears from their kills.
I finished this painting last Monday. It took six days, working a few hours each day.
A close up of the fat Wolverine in its thick Winter coat.
This is the painting that I just finished today. Nyala - alayN, 11x14". The actual painting is darker that this photo indicates, blame Blogger for changing the photo when I uploaded it. In the painting, the female in the back is in deeper shadow and much less visible than in the photo. Why did Blogger change this photo but not the Wolverine photos? This painting also took only six days to paint.
Anyway, Nyala were the most impressive of the antelope species that I saw in Africa. Very beautiful animals.
Next month is the deadline for entering the big, Artists for Conservation show in Vancouver B.C. I intend to enter one of these paintings into the show. Which painting do you think I should enter? I will post better photos of both paintings when I get them professionally photographed.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Into the Wild

Scott Christy and Mark Clark took a wilderness journey along the outer coast of the Kenai Peninsula. First they flew over to Big Johnstone Lake, (above). They had to wait weeks for the weather to be stable enough to fly.
The next challenge was to find a safe place to land the airplane on the frozen lake.
They survived the landing, put on their skis and set off into the frozen landscape.
It's all pretty to look at, but so cold. They kept warm through the physical exertion of cross country skiing.
They came across these Wolverine tracks. Right now I am painting a 16x20" Wolverine between uploading these photos.
You can't help but wonder about the forces of nature that resulted in an abstract sculpture like this. What a playground.
My guess is that the fierce winds of the Kenai's outer coast had a lot to do with these ice formations. It is stormy most of the time. That is why no one lives there.
So beautiful it kind of feels sacred.
A great day out in the wild. Mark and Scott had to hurry back to the plane ahead of an approaching fog bank. It would not be a good place to be stranded for who knows how long?
In the meantime my friend Gary has been down in Washington State. He went to the Skagit Valley were he saw hundreds of thousands of Snow Geese and other waterfowl. They will be headed up to Alaska in about another month.


Saturday, March 8, 2014

Featherweights and Heavyweights

The varnish is still wet on this, my latest painting. Featherweights, 10x8". The birds are Common Redpolls enduring a typical Winter's day.
This is a better photo of the last painting, Tundra Blonde, 14x11". Obviously it is the 'heavyweight' of the post title.
The rest of this post will cover a basic overview of my introduction to photography. Just a way to flesh out this post.
Recently one of my childhood friends reconnected with me. That is him with the snakes in the old photo above. By the way, he kept one of those snakes as a pet and it lived for 25 years. His name is Don, for years he thought I was dead. The other boy is Bobby and we have lost contact with him. We all lived in Carpinteria, California.
Both Donny and Bobby had Kodak instamatic cameras which they used to document our favorite activity, catching snakes. Those are Gopher snakes in the photo.
This is my current inventory of cameras, excluding the Sony Cybershot that I used to take this picture.
Anyway, back to my childhood; I wanted my own camera to take photos of the reptiles that I was obsessed with in my youth. I knew absolutely nothing about cameras and although I wanted one; it was not bad enough to lay out actual cash for one. My parents never felt that it was something that was important enough to buy for me. I could save my money and get my own if I was serious about photography.
My first camera was a 35mm, Canon TL or TX, whatever it was. I got it from a pawn shop when I was about 18. It did not even have a light meter but I did not know that there was such a thing as a light meter. When I bought my first roll of film I pulled the film out of the roll and asked my father how I was supposed to load it into the camera. He showed me how it was done and tried to explain about film speed, aperture and shutter speed. I understood none of it.
If one half of the photos of a developed roll of film came out as something recognizable I was happy. When I was twenty, someone with enough patience was able to sit me down and explain basic camera function in a way that I could grasp it.
I lost the first Canon in Mexico and my next camera was a used Pentax K1000. It had a match needle metering system. Very simple to use. I used that camera until it fell apart. Then I got a Practika which soon died. Then a Yashica which I hated, then a Konica FS-1, that broke about a day after the warranty expired.
The next camera is the one in the photo above; A Canon AE-1 Program. It still works. At the time I got it in the 1980's, I thought it was the ultimate camera. You could set the control dial on program and forget about the exposure.  
Camera technology advanced and I just had to have a Canon T-70 that had a built in motor drive. It did not last long so I went back to the AE-1 program until autofocus cameras came into vogue.
I upgraded to the camera above, a Minolta XTsi. Autofocus, motor drive, auto film load, rewind, ASA etc. I was perfectly happy with it. I fully intended for this to be my final camera unless it broke, which it never did.
By the time I got this camera, digital cameras were taking over the market.
I did not care about digital cameras but film became harder and harder to find. Photography magazines only talked about digital cameras. Even Luddites like me eventually get dragged into the modern world.
I bought my first digital camera, (above) at the same time that I ought my first PC. It is a Lumix FZ-30. After about a week of learning to use it, I realized that I would never go back to film photography again. It was vastly superior to film cameras. My first one gb memory card cost 90 dollars. (How times have changed.) It broke in Ecuador. My own perspiration shorted it out.
I brought the FZ30 into a photo repair shop and learned that it would cost as much as a new camera to fix it. So I ordered a new one. By then the next generation had come out, FZ-50, (above), ten megapixels instead of 8. This is a truly great camera as far as I am concerned. I dropped it into the water in Peru but it still works.
I do not know why I felt the need to get this Fujifilm HS10 which I wrote about in the last post. It must have just been the more powerful zoom that tempted me. It is better than the Lumix.
My current favorite camera, the HS50. It may be a bit self indulgent to go over a subject like my old cameras, but I see one purpose of this blog to be a sort of (public) personal journal. I will never be likely to write any other kind of autobiography. It was fun to reminisce about old cameras. 

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Evil Amazon


It all started something like this; I just finished booking my big Summer adventure,( I'll tell you what that is when I get back in July) when a treacherous thought entered my brain. It seemed like such an innocent thought at first; "Would'nt it be nice if I had a great new camera to bring along?".
So I went online to read reviews of the latest new cameras. "Just browsing" I lied to myself'. There was one quote by a supposedly objective camera reviewer who wrote,"This is the last camera that you will ever want or need". What camera is that? The Fujifilm, HS50 EXR.
My main camera has been the Fujifilm, HS10. See the comparison between the HS10,(rear camera), and the HS50, (front) in the photo above. I was mostly pretty happy with the HS10, just not quite enough megapixels for a manly man like me.
The two HS cameras, showing their manly parts, er I mean zoom lenses. The HS50 is the front camera.
What is the difference between the HS10 and the HS50 EXR? The HS10 features 10 megapixels with an optical zoom of 30x, (24-720mm). The HS50 features 16 megapixels and an optical zoom of 42x, (24-1000mm).
It also features many new bells and whistles which mostly equate to a bunch of gimmicks in my opinion. Some are more useful than others.
There are other superzoom cameras that have bigger zooms, up to 70x, but most of them lack manual focus or manual zoom. These features are essential in my opinion. The Fuji HS cameras do have them. The HS50 is considered to be a bridge camera, whatever that is.
So why is Amazon.com evil? Because they made it so easy for me to get the new camera for less than I paid for the HS10. They gave me free shipping in about three days.  I have to admit that this was an impulse buy on my part. 
It is a heavier, sturdier camera, much faster to focus than the HS10. It seems to be lightning fast to me.
This morning I made a few comparisons of the performance between the two cameras. These are all un-retouched and un-cropped photos. I used many different photo modes with both cameras and posted the photos that looked the best from each camera.
The gorilla above is part of an 8x10" painting, photographed from about 8' away at full zoom. This is the HS10 at 30x. The original size of the photo was 4562 kb.
The same painting using the HS50 EXR. Depending upon which mode I used, the original size fluctuated between 2942, and 6588 kb.
The HS10 at approximately 100mm.
The HS50. Pretty much the same. After I put away my cameras and went to buy groceries, I saw a huge Moose. It was browsing in someone's front yard. There was a bus stop with several people waiting for the bus only about twenty feet away. It would have been a quintessential Alaska photo.
A distant shot of the Orthodox church from across the field next door using the HS10 at full zoom.
The same shot with the HS50.
A chickadee shot with the HS50 from 30 or 40ft away. It would not sit still. Not a great photo but I would not have even tried to get this marginal photo with the HS10. The appearance of willow catkins are the first hopeful signs of an impending Spring. Yippee! 
I think that the good ol HS10 is going to be put out to pasture. I still need to do a lot of testing with the HS50 to see which of the many different camera modes will be the most useful. It is a very sophisticated camera. I like it.