Friday, February 12, 2010

"House with Butterfly Roof at Sunrise"

Most snapshots simply document our experience. I suspect, though, that much of the time the snapshooters are secretly hoping to create something beautiful and lasting and even fine art with that casual click of the camera button.

In my heart, this image, made quickly after I pulled open the shutters to check the morning light, transcends the snapshot label.

Grabbing my camera and rushing outside in my pjs to catch the most vibrant rays of sunrise was an instinctive, pure moment, filled with unplanned intensity and creative energy. I wanted to create art with that capture. I wanted to convey the excitement and beauty that sunrise in Palm Springs brings to our mountains, which almost all residents can see from where they live.

I also wanted to include the Palm Springs Modern-style home to convey what we who live here see in most neighborhoods, period pieces that reflect a simpler time long past but somehow preserved here in this unusual desert town.

This home, right across the street from my own, is a "Meiselman." It shows the butterfly roof that was one of several styles that Meiselman and the more famous Alexander family used in their design of homes here around 1960.

Nowadays these homes (many of which originally sold for under $20,000) are revered for their simplicity and desert-friendly designs. In the late nineties these homes became very popular here in Palm Springs, and although they don't have the cache that our famous architectural masterpieces have, they do appeal to most of us in a subtle, almost visceral way.

By framing only this one home, carefully tended to and being warmed by the sun's first rays while its residents were possibly still asleep, I also hoped to reference the promise that each new day brings.

That's a lot to try to convey in one snapped shot. How does it resonate with you?

Saturday, February 6, 2010

"Sunrise from Water's Edge"

This image aroused curiosity and praise when I posted it as the 'New Image of the Day' on my Facebook Fan Page. One person called it a 'masterpiece,' which may have caused me to privately blush like the alpenglow I've recently photographed so often, and several folks wondered where this surprising photo was made.

I had considered naming it "San Jacinto Sunrise from Indian Lake," just to further complicate matters. For although that is indeed Mt. San Jacinto in all its sunrise splendor, there is no Indian Lake anywhere locally. That foreground is a puddle!

The day before I made this image, while I was speeding southward into Palm Springs on Indian Avenue, I'd noticed this large puddle alongside the road, still there from our recent winter rains. I wanted to turn around and check it out it for photographic opportunities right then, but I was rushing to get to work and couldn't spare the time.

It wasn't until the middle of the following moonlit night that I thought of that puddle again. I had happened to notice that the 3 a.m. moon was enshrouded in masses of puffy clouds. As I had nothing else to do besides go back to bed, I grabbed my tripod and a selection of lenses and went out to create some sort of masterpiece on the sidewalk in front of my home. (I plan to render some of those moonlight images into prints soon.)

And then I remembered the puddle. I wondered what might be reflected in it at dawn. Would I be able to get a good image of the mountains?

So I drove out to the puddle (near where Indian meets I-10) and awaited the light. I could see that if the wind didn't blow the water too much I might have a clear shot of the mountains in the murky, muddy water so I set up my tripod as close to the ground as I could get it (and made a mental note to bring my smaller, closer-to-the-ground tripod next time.)

While early-shift workers rushed into Palm Springs on the road beside me, I lay on the cold, wet, rocky, sandy asphalt and positioned myself, trying various lenses as dawn illuminated the mountains and windmills. It was exhilarating and challenging and fun!

I found that to create the composition I wanted I had to abandon the tripod, instead propping up my dear camera in the watery edge of the puddle itself with sand and pebbles. In order to accomplish this perfect mirror reflection of the mountains and windmills, I had to get very low, and yet to get the closest surface water to be interesting too, I had to have the camera propped at just the right angle.

I played with most of the camera and lens settings, seeking the optimum combination to stop action of the close-in water and the distant wind turbine blades (as well as I could make them out.) My test captures were dark and blue-grey and in varying degrees of focus and depth of field. I tried long lenses and wider angle lenses and ultra-wide lenses. I got very cold and dirty and wet. And I was very happy.

By the time the alpenglow had passed, I was secure with this composition. I loved every element, including the sign post, and the telephone pole, and even the little dark stone in the foreground. And then, finally, there it was: the warming of the lower hills and the concommitant bluing of the sky filled with more of those clouds (that had surrounded the moon several hours before) arriving just before hypothermia set in. (I made that last part up for drama's sake.)

After I made this image and snapped some handheld shots of that gorgeous sky, I then followed the early morning light back to Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage (watch for new Elephant Carwash Sign images soon). I was encrusted in muddy, still-wet clothes, and I was on a roll. The adrenaline from having created my 'masterpiece' kept me working until long after the best light was gone.

Now that I was warming up, it was time to get ready to go to Imageville to upload (and take the first look at) my files and then begin my day serving up framed photos to hungry customers.