Archive for June, 2009

Terrestrial Astro Photography – The Moon

A new special workshop is being offered on how to find and photograph the Moon, and in particular, the new crescent moon.  To find out more information and to reigister check the Workshop Page on the Website and Register Today!  Only 19 days left before the next new moon!

Many Moons Ago

Many Moons Ago

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Rahima Foundation Calendar

The 2009 – 1430/1431 Rahima Foundation Calendar will be featuring the Organic Light Photograpy photo Calm Tarn shown below.

Cam Tarn

Cam Tarn

This will be the 10th consecutive year that Rahima Foundation has chosen one of Organic Light’s photos exclusively for its calendar. Rahima Foundation is a local non-profit food bank in Santa Clara County that partners with Second Harvest Food Bank in San Jose, CA. It has been serving the the poor and needy since 1993 with food and financial aid for medical and basic utilities and other need-in-kind services. It also provides education scholarships to needy graduating high school students to help them realize their dream of going to college. It is a top rate organization and one that I am proud to be a supporter of. Visit their website and consider making a donation. They really need the help in helping the poor – now more than ever.

Peace – Youssef

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Speaking Softly

Photography is an amazing medium to work in.  It takes planning.  Choosing a location is always a gamble.  Conditions change every moment.  The light, the very thing that is worked with, is a living thing that interacts with everything it touches, and yet you can’t touch it, hear it, smell it or taste it and for that matter you can’t see it either until it interacts with something.  I enjoy the light.  I chase after it as often as I can.  Using a big camera, like the 4×5, takes a considerable amount of work.  It’s fairly heavy and schlepping it around can be a job.  It is a slow camera to use.  It takes time to set it up, compose with it, focus it and even photographing with it as shutter times are usually on the slow end requiring a tripod.  Once it is setup, you have an investment in time involved that you want to capitalize on so you sit there and wait for the event you came to capture and hope it was all worth it.  It is very different than a digital camera or even a smaller format film camera.

Russian Ridge

Russian Ridge

 

With that big camera, you wait for the light to come to you rather than you trying to capture the light as it elusively slips by.  Smaller cameras on the other hand allow mobility and spontaneity.  They allow one to capture that decisive moment before it slips away.  And I think that is what has made small camera photography so popular and special, it allows us to capture that “Kodak Moment”.  Even though some of the best photographs made by some of the best photographers in the world were done with a 4×5, there is no denying the versatility and popularity of the small camera.

As I waited that evening for the new crescent moon to appear, I was glad to have a digital camera with me as well.  It not only allowed me to capture and share the new moon in the previous post the same night, but also allowed me to capture the subtleties of light that played in the fog mixing into the coastal mountains.

Softly Spoken

Softly Spoken

Yes large format photography is wonderful and becoming more unique.  It still allows the most stunning prints to be made.  It slows the photographer down in the whole process and, by necessity, forces the photographer to become part of the scene before it is captured.  But with both formats on hand, while waiting for the moment to trip the 4×5 shutter, the smaller format allows me to capture everything that is going on around me.  Do the smaller images compare in quality delivered from the 4×5?  No.  But none the less, words spoken softly can still have more impact than saying nothing at all.  And when what you say is said with light, you’d better have a way to say it.

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Rajab 1430 Begins

Rajab Hilal 1430

Rajab Hilal 1430

The new crescent moon (or Hilal in Arabic) of the 7th month of the Islamic Calendar, known as Rajab, was sighted this evening at 8:40 pm PDT from Russsian Ridge Open Space Preserve in the San Francisco Bay Area.  It was a perfect afternoon with subtle but stunning colors and atmospherics.  For moons, it just does not get better than this one.  More on the afternoon preceeding this photo in a later post.  Enjoy!

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The Necessity of Art

These days I make my living as an Artist and Teacher, which is strange given that all my training has been in science culminating in a doctorate degree in mechanical engineering from Stanford University.  It was during that time as a doctoral student that I became enamored with photography.  I have always loved the outdoors, and quickly discovered the natural and wild areas of the San Francisco Bay Area when I arrived.  My jaunts into the Santa Cruz Mountains were very threraputic in combating the stress associated with graduate study and work.  One day though I picked up a camera out of the necessity to defend my good word against claims that I could not have possibly seen the new crescent moon when it first becomes visible.  The camera was at first a scientific tool that I used to record natural phenomena, much like any other scientific instrument used in an experiment.  However what happened after that was pivotal in my life.

The light was transforming.  It was alive and changed its mood constantly and it brought me along for the ride with it.

Lagunitas Sunset

Lagunitas Sunset

I don’t have many photos from those early days any more but the above sunset was one that was hard to just toss away.  It had a quality of light that was just mesmerizing.  Light became my drug and I needed to chase after it often and capture it for my own edification.  For six years as a graduate student I pursued the light.  Capturing it as often as I could, wherever I happened to be.  I was an observer, I was a learner, I was a scientist with a tool in my hand that captured light.  Nearing the end of graduate school I met my future wife, who was an Artist and taught art at a local private elementary school.  It was exciting being around her when she worked.  She put her soul into her paintings and it came through in her work, it was her.  In six years of trying to share the excitement I found while out photographing the landscape, no one I knew shared my excitement until I met her.  She actually pushed me to achieve better results and was genuinely interested in the light I was capturing.

Fast forward to a time after graduate shcool, we are married now and things are different.  My photos were now obstacles that my wife needed out of the way.  Thousands of them, stored in boxes, were in her way as she moved through the house.  She brought an ultimatum – “toss out all these boxes collecting dust or do some thing with them”!  And that was the pivot that changed me from being a scientist concerned with observation into a artist concerned with expression.  For nearly eight years I had been in observation mode internalizing the natural world.  Capturing moments in time that caused my heart to flutter or that stole my breath away.  For eight years Mother Earth was the balm of my aching soul.  Now it was time to express to others what was arguably overflowing in my heart.

I have read many definitions of art.  None seem to hit the very core of what art is or what an artist does.  To me an artist is someone who expresses to others what is contained in his or her heart and art is that expression.  It can be beautiful or ugly, joyous or sad, and constantly changing.  By default the artist is a scientist because simply put a scientist is some one very skilled at observation.  The scientist internalizes observations and formulates theories based on those observations.  For the most part the scientist’s job stops there.  The artist on the other hand is also a skilled observer and internalizes experiences as well.  However the artist is also a skilled communicator and expresses what he or she has internalized through some medium, be it visual or otherwise.  And while formal science is fairly young in the scope of time, the skills of observation and expression used by an artist is as old as humanity itself.

The Hunt

The Hunt

Humans have been expressing their experiences through some moving means for a very long time.  Whether it is through pictures on a wall, or through the words of a story teller or author, or through rhythm and tones, the artist relates what is in his or her heart to others in moving ways.  In some respects art is what completes us as human beings.  It brings us together peacefully.  It lightens our circumstances and allows us to escape, even if for only a short while, the rigors of life itself.  It allows us to relate with our feelings and emotions – it makes us human.

In the world of today, where terror, oppression, tyranny, injustice, and greed dominate the public sphere it is even more important that we double, or even triple our efforts to include art in our lives.  I am afraid for the generations that follow me that are devoid of art.  How cold and lacking of compassion will they be?  Disconnected from their emotions like soulless robots running on automatic or worse yet with the intent on set to kill!  Art is not taught in schools anymore due to budget cuts.  It is seen as extracurricular and placed on the wayside.  If a young student has a special talent for expression it is not fostered in a meaningful way such that he or she might make an honest living at it.  It is truly a sad state of affairs.

In times of financial turmoil it is art that gets amputated and left to rot first – it being seen as not necessary in life.  However it is through art that we find respite from the worries and anxiety that comes from tribulations in life.  Is it any wonder that hospitals and medical clinics are chock full of art on the walls?  Illness brings our mortality center stage and nothing is more stressful and un-nerving than that.  And yet through the art on those walls, a climate of peace and serenity can pervade the heart.  Look at any piece of art you have in your own home, and observe how it makes you feel.  No, art is not only crucial now more than ever before – it is Necessary.

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Winter’s Last

Strange that it has taken me nearly all spring to bring out a photo of the last sunset of winter.  Although not entirely true, as I posted a version of this sunset in The Last of Winter.  It is amazing to me how different a few minutes can make in a photograph not to mention the few months that have transpired since I made this photo. 

Winters Last

Winter's Last

Time has a way of sneaking past you very quickly.  From week to week as I moved from show to show, filling orders made for photos of moments long since past, I had little time to work on new material.  When I do get the chance and inspiration to sit down and seriously work on new material, It is like I am looking at the scene for the first time all over again.  And although I can remember all the feeleings of elation and joy that coursed through me at the time I made the photo, seeing it again and now intimately working with it for hours to bring out those feelings I once had makes me realize how important photography is.  Not only is it a record of time, but for the photographer it is also a record of the experience.  So here it is, a recount of my thoughts as they come back to me as I look at this last sunset of the winter of 2009.

Wow, everything is really green this year.  The hills are looking good, wildflowers might be aboundant here this year – its to early now, maybe in a month or so.  I’ll need to come back.  Let me go over to my butterfly hill and see if the wild cucumber is blooming.  Nothing yet, but the hills sure are green.  What about down in the hollow down there, I can check if I see any poppy plants waiting to bloom.  None yet, Hmm.  Lets go back up and around to the trillium patch, wow I need to hike more, I’m getting winded to easily.  Hey what’s that – that tree is just glowing.  That back lighting is unbelieveable!  I only have a few minutes.  I don’t know if I can pull this one off.  Ok quick unload.  Let’s see.  Maybe the 300, yeah the 300 will do fine.  Let me check quickly with the digital, yeah about 100 mm I think the 300 will do fine.  I’ll need the ND – work fast.  Take care, don’t drop anything, but got to work fast.  Ok spin it around, get the dark cloth, Ooh that is nice.  I need the loupe, focus, tilting won’t help so check how much depth will I need, where’s that card….. f32 should do.  Wait let me get this sunset on the digital and zoom in on the sun.  OK got it.  Meter quick, the light is going fast, aaah… the lower right for the foreground, now the the sky, wait hit memory, now the sky – keep it plus one, there, its five stops brighter, no six – five and half, ok one stop up I need 4 stops of ND, good.  That 2 stop filter is bad all scratched up I need to get a new one – like I have $100 right now anyway.  Get the 3 in there, the 1 stop, adjust, oh this is going to be hard to see and adjust that tree is too high in the frame – ….let me see.  To dark, open the apeture, its still hard to see, hurry up the light is going ok there, that is good I hope, I wish it was as easy as it was with 35mm argh.  Ok f32 on foreground gives 1 sec.  Set it, close shutter, test it – good.  Uh! film, hurry…. holder, put film in, load in camera, wait, make sure everything is tight, back, tripod head, swings, good, put film in, pull the slide, cock the shutter, ok go.  Got it! quick, one more, get the film in – careful don’t move the camera, pull slide, shutter, and go.  Got it.  What a day.  That sunset is just awesome.  Let me get this tree on digital.  Get this big guy off, Ok, meter darn the light is gone, its totally different now.  Get it any way.  wow look at those hills , this is really going to be a great photo, that mist is pinking up real nice, zoom in and get that.  Wow its so nice out here.  Amazing tomorrow is the equinox, this was the last sunset of winter.  Its so quiet, so calm.  I hope the 4×5′s come out.  Well keep one behind in case exposeure was off.  It nice out here, alright lets load up.

It all comes screaming back.  Photography - memories & life on a piece of celluloid – amazing.

Enjoy Summer!  Peace.

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