Earlier this summer we took a afternoon excursion to Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose, TX. Even as an adult seeing the footprints of dinosaurs along the riverbed of the Paluxy River was an exciting experience. Even with recent rain the water was still low enough to allow us to walk along a good section of the riverbed and view many of the footprints. We then took a hike along the Cedar Ridge Trail in the park and enjoyed getting away from the crowds to enjoy the scenery. Though there was a fair amount of hiking on inclines the panoramic views were well worth the walk. For being one of the few state parks near the DFW area this park seemed to offer a less urban feel for a nice getaway from the city life.
It is my last week of having mostly free days; next week I start working full time day hours instead of my night shift. I figured I would put up the images I captured during my last week of being able to go out and shoot everyday. I has been a lot of fun getting out in the afternoons and exploring Ellis County with my camera bag, a tripod, and a map of the county sitting on the passenger seat as I search for scenes to capture with my infrared Nikon D200.
I have been out using my infrared converted Nikon D200 for another week and here are some more results. The infrared spectrum definitely gives the world a more dream-like look with the different color spectrum it provides. It intrigues me that with such technologies (infrared cameras, x-ray machines, ultraviolet cameras) we are able to view the world in ways our eyes are unable to perceive. Just because we don’t see our surroundings in these ways does not make them any less of a reality. All deep thought aside, here are some more images.
I went out today with my D70 and an infrared filter and decided to play around a bit more with digital infrared photography. Infrared photography is always a finicky and tricky thing to do (especially well), whether it be film or digital. Most people find it hard to believe that this is how the images come straight out of the camera; no editing is needed to create these surreal images. The filter used for infrared photography simply blocks normal daylight (uv light) and only allows infrared light to pass through the camera’s lens and reach the digital sensor or film. Infrared filters are impossible to see through and make shooting a challenge as any framing has to be done before the filter can be put on the lens. The other challenge is that the focus plane of infrared photography is different than that of any other type of shooting. Most lenses have an extra dot, but it is still not precise and often needs adjusted to reach any kind of sharp focus. As with any digital shooting it is always much cheaper to experiment and try new things. I do still have some 35mm infrared film packed away to use at some point, but for now I am enjoying the ease of doing it on a digital camera. These are by no means exemplary, yet turned out better than expected. Infrared photographs create a dreamlike reality within the everyday world with the whites created from grass, leaves, and other plants. It makes an ordinary summer day seem like a world away in a place you only see in the deepest sleep. These photos are all taken in Maypearl, TX on a driving adventure I took today after the rain cleared and the sun came out (you really need bright sunlight to have effective infrared photos.
A little over a month ago I took a vacation to Texas Hill Country (south and central Texas) with my wife and dog. This was our first venture out of the DFW metroplex, and we were in shock at the beauty of this region of a state we had come to view as a brown scar of cattle land. We drove through winding hills and dense forest vegetation to get to Colorado Bend State Park in Bend, TX. The drive into the park was slow and rugged on a minimum maintenance dirt road (I would call it a car trail) in our Toyota Yaris. After what seemed a long drive, though it was only 6 miles at low speeds, we came to a paved road that rapidly descended into the Colorado River valley. The camping area was itself a wonder of wildlife and beauty. Our tent sat within throwing distance of the Colorado River and we watched deer walk through our site in the evening hours. We took a walk along the river on our first night in the park and were amazed at the abundant wildlife. We saw deer, big horn sheep, cardinals, vultures, and our first armadillo sighting since moving to Texas. During the first full day at the park I took a side hike out to Gorman Falls; the main attraction of the park. I hiked a mile and a half through terrain that would have looked right at home in an old Western movie with horses and cowboys riding across it. As I came to my destination it was a sharp downward hike on limestone to the base of Gorman Falls. Once I reached the bottom of the hill I was taken aback at the beauty that lie in front of me. The array of colors within the moving water were well worth the hike to get there. Calcium deposits built up over thousands of years to create the 60 ft. waterfall that looked like a shimmering rainbow as the water mist over the the deposits. Even though the park was in a six year drought there was still plenty of water flowing along the rock face from Gorman Creek.
Photography in itself is magic. You capture a space and time as it once existed, and will never exist exactly the same again. Recently I was reading an essay from Minnesota photographer Alec Soth. Soth discusses how photography is a hoarder’s way to the world.
“I think photography is the most anti-Zen activity. It’s all about stopping time, possessing things, holding onto them. And you know, if my goal was to be a healthy person, photography would not be the thing. I have this joke about becoming a binoculographer: you go around and look at the world without photographing. That would be a spiritually healthy way of taking things in. But this wanting to possess it is not so healthy.”
This is true of most art, but especially photography. The artist is collecting as many images of the world as they can, trying to hang on to the place and moment that was in their sight. This recreates what all humans do in collecting memories, only it serves to visually reproduce the past.”
The way I most enjoying capturing the world to collect images is through night photography. These images represent a period of time in a specific place. The period of time can range anywhere from a few seconds to hours entirely depending on where you are and the amount of available light. In the past I have greatly enjoyed working in urban areas where there is ample light and my exposures range from 30 seconds to a minute. Recently, upon moving to Texas, I have found peace and solitude in working in rural areas where there is much less light for the camera to take in. This not only pushes my exposure times up, but also allows from movement in the stars and clouds above.
I originally drew inspiration from two artists when I began capturing night images while attending Anoka-Ramsey Community College in the Twin Cities. These two artists have very different bodies of work, but both work with film. Film has a certain magic that will never be met by digital. The fact they you are holding something tactile throughout the entire process and seeing the image appear in the liquid is an experience only somebody who has worked in a darkroom can understand.
The first artist of the two is Brassai. This artist photographed Paris in the night between the two World Wars. In his 1933 book Paris de Nuit (Paris by Night) he successfully captured the essence of Paris after dark. His images have a sense of feeling and emotion in them. Often they capture seedy locations in the veil of mist and fog using the ambient light to showcase particular parts of the image. As a student I took to the cities nearest me in search of something similar and began photographing the Minneapolis/St. Paul neighborhoods I knew and loved.
After several years of shooting night images a friend showed me work by a Minnesota photographer Chris Faust. Faust does a lot of night work in smaller towns that dot the landscape of Minnesota. He uses a panoramic medium format camera, which allows the capture of an intense amount of space and detail in each image. The photographs he creates give an incredible sense of the cold, quiet solitude of these off the beaten path locations throughout Minnesota. I felt fortunate being able to discuss process and technique with Faust through an exchange of e-mails a few years back. The communication taught me a great deal on exposure and alternative processing methods to create the desired contrast. These images have pushed me to recently get away from the cities and work in areas less traveled, which is a natural transition now that I live 45 minutes south of the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex in Waxahachie, TX.
As with any artist my inspirations are endless and would bore anybody to hear about them all, but this is a basic grasp at what pushes me to create and a quality I strive to rival.
Before moving to Texas I always envisioned the wide open desert and cattle lands. Part of this image is the roads and trails that led to the American West.
Once you are off the major highways and interstates in Texas you suddenly find yourself on small rural roads. This quickly amazed me. You are almost instantly surrounded by fields and ranch land. In Minnesota there seems to always be many main roads off of the highways. Texas seems to forego these “extra” roads and build everything directly on the highways using frontage roads.
On some of my afternoon drives I find myself enjoying the sunlight beating down on the seemingly endless roads through rural North Texas. The roads are all lined with fences and trees, yet are all unique. The obvious history of the railroad is also omnipresent. The rails cross roads everywhere showing a link to the past and how people, livestock, and product moved through the vast expanse of the American West through the mid 1800’s until the demise of mass rail transit in the mid 1900’s.
These afternoon drives in the midday Texas sun are not only great to relax, but are also photo scouting for locations for night photographs (such as the Forreston bank building: Abandoned and Forgotten Remnants of the Past on the Roads of Small Town Texas). These winding, forgotten roads hold many pieces of the past that have often been left to the elements and now hold a beauty in their rugged state.