Blogodocious ramblings of a landscape photographer living in Maine.
I opened the 'fridge and found the blog mouldering under some old lettuce so in an effort to keep the Google web crawler fed and to prove to the rest that I'm still alive, here's some content. The old before and after trick!
"The Cape", which is home to my Ma and Dad and where I went to High School- is always good material for landscapes (Cape Cod Massachusetts). Long sweeping sanding beaches, gorgeous dunes, extensive empty parking lots (in January when it's 20 degrees f and blowing 30 knots at least), and waves and old cottages and a distinctively different offering than my rocky coast home of Maine. That's the great bit about going back home with a new journey to explore- seeing the place in a different way for the first time, the only problem is that the arm of the peninsula that is the Cape is only so big that now after photographically exploring it for the last 10 years whenever I go to visit the folks, I'm starting to feel like I've been there and done that. But it's still fun to go try again. Another thing I try and do is to stop in Boston on the way through and park the car somewhere reasonable like at a meter or find some Sunday free parking and grab some awesomely awesome pizza in the Italian North End neighborhood- seriously I used to walk for a half an hour when I lived a few miles away going to college to grab some slices at those excellent and delicious little pizzerias- this time it was Ernesto's on Salem Street- and oh it was so good! Before the before and after Cape Cod shots here's some Boston's North End on a snow day:
Waiter on a smoke break.
Modern Pastry Shop.
Young smoking girl and bow-legged old guy.
Cool old stylish building.
Joey Cecco and his "boy"
And then I was off to the Cape- and here are the before and after images. For some I made some significant changes, for others just a quick buffing up and a trip over to Nik Silver Efex Pro 2, all of these following images except the first pair went to SEP2, the first pair was a more simple set up that I finished in Lightroom. My approach was trying to show and feel the harsh open winter cold beaches down there, I was hoping for some interesting skies with a more even light but faced a hard clear sky with full sun and strong cold winds for two out of the three days. Clear skies are always the bane of my existence when I'm out with the kit, but I had to take the opportunity as it was. If anything, clear skies always show you where the dust is on the sensor at a stopped down aperture and the good news is that I'm fairly clean in that department!
felt like some kind of Edward Hopper scene-
Sunset snow reflections
Off season feel-
saw this scene when I made the first shots of the weekend and went to make it two days later-
Snow beach fence shapes
A curve that reminded me of the shape of Cape Cod-
And there you have it. My basic workflow is normalizing the RAW file in Lightroom by setting white balance, white points and black points, contrast adjustments, a touch of clarity depending on the subject, and then going right away to the Nik Silver Efex Pro black and white converter. This is old news but the black and white converters (whichever one you happen to choose) do a great job of controlling the darks and lights but while maintaining and generating a glowing dimensional luminance- if you do it right. After the conversion ships back to Lightroom I'll make some further adjustments if necessary to anything that seems to be needing- then I'll round trip to Photoshop CC for further dodging and burning and a touch of sharpening using either the Smart Sharpen filter on a Smart Sharpen Layer or the Unsharp Filter. Lastly I'll check the toning as for the most part I like a warmer feel than a cold print and then it's done and it's on to the next.
Kind of waiting for the winter to break before considering more landscapes around here as nothing is really screaming at me to 'go make that photo'- so I'm thinking of using the still life studio some more. We'll see.
Until then, thanks for stopping by and have a good one! -Nate.
Deer Isle Ice Cakes
There's a popular photography euphemism that goes: "only show your best work". I get it. There's another that goes "your first 10,000 photos are your worst". And then there's another that's something like- "you'll be remembered for your worst photo?", and another that says "My favorite picture I'll make tomorrow". I get all of that. But it occurred to me after looking at the Ansel Adams calendar that my Mom gets me for Christmas every year that there are some images in those calendars that I've never seen before therefore aren't necessarily his most iconic and famous pictures, like Moon Over Half Dome or Moonrise Over Hernandez are. And I've seen a lot of other Ansel images over the years like his color panoramas when he was doing his ad campaign with Polaroid and close up detail images of barns etc that you wouldn't necessarily associate with Ansel. He produced a lot of photographs in his life and all of it wasn't always necessarily spectacular in the way those Moonrise Over Hernandez and Moon Over Half Dome are. But don't get me wrong, I love almost all of it. And it's the very nature of having a varied and diverse portfolio that makes those standout shots even more stunning and impactful.
If I were to stick by the virtue of only showing my "best work" then I would be a scarce entity around these parts. I hope for around 12 good shots a year which comes from another of those popular photographers euphemisms. I think it's more important to keep a presence and to keep a slow but dependable drip of content coming in these days of the social internets. My way of producing is pretty much make images around once or twice a week of maybe 3 to 12 scenes and then work on them over the next few weeks/months/years to nurture something out of them. After a while your work accumulates and makes for a body of work that you call a portfolio and which will have natural high points and low points. Just like a symphony, it's not always forte and in your face, sometimes it's the more quiet connecting periods that are more beautifully nuanced. And those are what makes it interesting to follow someone over a long period- to see what someone is going to make tomorrow, can they top that last awesome shot, what changes will you make over time, etc. And if we were only showing our "best" work then it would be a lot harder to get an average of the whole thing, to see the arc. Know what I mean? Now don't think I'm making excuses for boring content- every new time out with your kit and post processing session in front of the monitor should be another opportunity to do your best work, to keep the learning curve moving in an upward and or forward direction!
There's another reason why it's useful to show your work- to get feedback. Not just out of pride fluffing or on the other hand being dealt a pity party, but if you subjectively consider how your images are being received then you can modify accordingly. I find it rewarding to show my images and track the feedback and popularity of particular pictures sometimes out of just sheer entertainment but other times to see what people and other photographers like. Not that we should care what others like, or think, (make that work for you artist person: I dare you!) but it always gets me when I post an image that didn't make the initial cut and seemed to be a big mistake but which later is a big hit with everyone else. That always leaves me shaking my head. Therefore maybe your best photograph you have already made you just haven't realized it yet? Woah. That's heavy.
One more time: that doesn't mean that anything goes. Standards are everything. With every new image I'm giving it 'my best shot'. With every new image I'm continuing trying to master the workflow of creating a "fine art" photograph, I'm trying out new approaches and modifying technique that will hopefully all go to making a better image tomorrow. You see where I'm coming from here- you have to keep up with your game in order to build on where you've come from, and hopefully in the process there will be standout opportunities that make the definitive shot of the year.
Anyways- just goes to show that the "rules" are there for a reason but also are there to be broken and exploited and twisted and manipulated to our satisfaction. Just keep the Lolcats and duck face selfies and what we had for lunch to a minimum and everybody wins!
Life on the back of a lobster boat out of Bass Harbor in Downeast Maine- you'll never miss a sunrise. It's not the getting up early that's the hard part, all you have to do for that is be somewhere on time. And it's not the long days, the longest were in December bringing boat loads of traps in from the dark morning- rowing out to the boat because the outboard didn't start that day from too much cold over patches of ice freezing up the harbor, to 12 hours later tying up to the mooring an hour after sunset. It's not the waves or the wind making a pitching deck on those days that you just gotta get out even though there's a chop on. Or the stinks of this or that weird bait (600 pounds of herring is a delicacy compared to slimy bear and moose hide, and the pig hide just about ruined me for bacon) although after a few hot summer days redfish racks do end up fermenting into a retched wine and have a nasty habit of forming nests of maggots, and that's a bummer, there's no other way to put it than that- that's a real bummer. But I would offer that there's no job that'll give you a heartier appetite than than hauling 100 pair of traps on a lobster boat. The one thing that is kind of hard for me though is that there are so many awesome moments that I want to photograph but the kind of busy that we are out there makes it not completely appropriate not to mention the fishy fingers etc. But I have learned how to fit in the time to rip off a few iPhone snaps here and there throughout the day and maybe next year I'll get a used body and lens just for the boat, because although the iPhone is a rockin good camera and video recorder it still is really pretty noisy and very uncontrollable compared to a regular camera in manual mode.
So I've been working on this year in review video from the F/V Never Enough for the last month or so now on and off and I finally went crazy enough yesterday thinking that it still wasn't done yet to finish it and just upload it already so I can go on to something else because there's a bunch of photos still waiting to be worked on. So I finished it and uploaded it and here it is. The musics is that tune "Sail" by AWOL Nation off Megalithic Symphony http://awolnationmusic.com which I heard again and couldn't get out of my head after seeing that base jumper video of the guy crashing into the cliff and living, which was awesome-
Right then, I liked 2013, I hope it was a good one for you too. For more lobstering stuff you can go here: http://nateparkerphotography.com/blog/2013/6/scenes-from-a-maine-lobster-boat or here: http://nateparkerphotography.com/blog/2013/5/maine-the-way-life-should-be--working-on-a-lobster-boat
Have a good one!
Mellos Cove Sunrise Blue Hill, Maine. 2014!
Right then- so I would consider myself a landscape photographer. I love trying to make a good portrait and also endeavor as a street photographer as a sport sometimes, but the portfolio I show is made up of landscapes, and when you really get down to it I would say that I'm a black and white landscape photographer, but there is always a place in the catalog for a nice color image. Now the only point of using those terms "black and white", "landscape", and "photographer" are as qualifiers to describe in a capacity to explain in the end really nothing more: what you should pay me for. I've never really understood how some people like Rick Sammon or Joe McNally can be everything shooters and make such a killing at it- they are consummate professionals who can deliver to the likes of Nat Geo in the case of Joe McNally whatever you want on time with abundance- but it seems that the rest of the photographers that I look up to or other masters of their craft are dedicated to a particular niche. Consider the pianist Bill Evans who I'm listening to right now (Sunday at the Village Vanguard) he didn't play 2 hour long sets of exploratory deep and challenging jazz then go over to Madison Square Garden and play art rock with Jethro Tull and then New Orleans funeral marches the next day. Steve Jobs didn't design cookware for fun in his 'downtime'- unless he did? See where I'm going with this? Me neither- anyways, I have just found that in my experience (which mostly pertains to reading the internet and watching tv then going to my day job whatever it may be that day and maybe trying to quit smoking tobacco again-) that it's much more successful of an artist to have a concise and complimentary portfolio than that which consists of pets one day then black and white bridges with not level horizons the next, then selfies the next day, then a sunset, then more pets, then an on-camera-flash portrait of someone at a party, then some more party shots, woot!! etc. Hehheh. (Yeah I just showed some black and white party shots in my last couple of blog posts, so there is that). Extreme example I know. As an aside here: how many requests for to like somebody else's photography page on Facespace do you guys get everyday? Do you ever even look at the page? Aren't you just so sick of that?
Back to the photography talk- one reason I really love making black and white landscape photography is that no longer is it requisite to get up before dawn to chug coffee and then drive through the dark on deer filled roads only to trip and stumble on flashlight lit paths through the woods to a location that may or may not be beautiful at sunrise. I can make interesting black and white imagery at any time of the day- not to say that color photography is never an option to those skilled at doing that then, or to say that I can always make interesting black and white imagery, woah now!- I've just become more comfortable finishing a photo in monochrome that isn't supercharged by sky color and which relies more on texture and subtle tones. And I think that a nice subtle black and white print has more review quality than a hotshot pyrotechnic sunrise print anyday- it's all personal but those kinds of images which are always a knockout at first just end up feeling exhausting after a while- like I'm not always in the mood for a Red Bull, maybe I just want a glass of warm almond milk. Yeah that's the perfect analogy for a beautifully subtle and interesting black and white landscape print= it's like a nice cup of steamed almond milk! Heh.
But there is the occasion when the photo is all about the color, or to deny the color to the photo makes it less than it would have been. It's obvious when it happens just like it's obvious when you see the value of a good black and white image. I guess I would be a color photographer more than a black and white photographer if I had lot's more of these and in the end a title is only really just as good as the it of the thing that's described, and I do want to be a great black and white landscape photographer- but this was a gorgeous colorful moment that I really wanted to share with you all. And that's what I think about that. Have a great day- Nate from Maine, Usa.
P.s. Any of my good photographer friends out there want to tell me what they may have changed about this shot, or how they may have gone about approaching it differently? I'd be super chuffed to hear from yeh. I.e.: critiques welcomed whoever would like! See ya!
Another year down and another year closer to finishing our masterworks. In hindsight, which is the point of a retrospective after all, I liked 2013. Truth be told there is a touch of the superstitious in me and to that end 13 isn't always my favorite number, but just like the number that tells me how old my life is supposedly getting= it's still only just a number. Although ask Steven King, Maine's favorite author, what he thinks of that declaration and then go see "1408" with John Cusack about the haunted Dolphin Hotel in NYC, yeah... just a number. 2014? Still not rolling off the tongue. A yearly problem that, by the time we're used to it we have to take down last years Ansel Adams calendar and start all over again. Around and around we go. Speaking of Ansel- he has an adage where he says "twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop" (picture him saying that while sitting at his piano with that great big white beard fluttering). I finally had the chance this past weekend to do that critical considering- here's a quick little detail about last weekend: at one point on Friday the wind chill drove the temps down to -48 degrees f! -48 degrees! -48 degrees f! Woah, woah woah now winter, easy does it there! That's just crazy cold. There was some rocking sea smoke and purportedly one of the highest tides in decades here, the pipes froze briefly, my diesel wasn't even about to think about starting, and I took the opportunity to watch the entire first season of 'The Wire', which is awesome!
About the photographs: editing images as the maker of the images is always kind of a challenging endeavor. You have to think critically on these almost as a third party removed from the experience of making them and the satisfaction of that day and therefore the idea you have of them as a result. Time is always a useful tool then to put some distance between making the picture and considering it and the longer you have the better off you'll often be able to view them impartially. Then again the longer you look at it sometimes the more time you have to reinforce our own fantasies about how "good" it is and sometimes the only way to realize that it dearly lacks in substance is to have somebody else clue us in to that. Which reminds me of a pertinent problem among photographers on the social media circles- we don't tell each other that we suck enough. The Flickr fluffer phenomenon is still alive and well, your back patted and maybe you'll pat mine, ack that drives me crazy! Seriously though if you want me to really remember you then critique my images. I especially remember this one fellow this year telling me that one of my horizons was out of plumb to the point of me wanting to pull my or his hair out- it was an island on the distant horizon making an illusion of tilting, but it got me to critically examine my work and that's the point of the whole exercise= take stock of where we are, where we are going, and how to do it all better. Whatever, without too much more adieu, and hopefully with an abundant batch of keepers for me and you all to harvest digitally or analoguely or whatever in 2014- on to the pictures.
~My Top Twelve (and change) photographs of 2013~
"Snow Beach" January 4, 2013. Latty Cove, 'the backside', Mount Desert Island.
"Bass Harbor Marsh Snowfield" February 11, 2013. Bass Harbor Marsh, Acadia National Park, Maine.
"Jordan Pond Reflections and Ice Detail" February 20. Jordan Pond, Acadia.
"Cat Tails Ice and Snow" 3/5/13. Little Round Pond, MDI.
"Seal Cove Pond Ice Fog" 3/13/13. Seal Cove, Maine.
"Clown Smile Rock at Bodice Cove" March 25, 2013. Corea, Maine. (Downeast).
"Low Tide at Coast Guard Beach, Cape Cod" March 29, 2013. Truro, Cape Cod, Massachussetts.
"Eagle Lake Driftwood in the Fog" May 12, 2013. Eagle Lake, Acadia National Park.
"Hunter Beach in the Fog" July 11, 2013. Hunter Beach, Acadia.
"Maine Coast Cormorant and Rock Textures" Sept 12, 2013. Midcoast Maine.
"The Tarn in the Fog" September 30, 2013. ANP, MDI.
"Flotsam at Lopaus Point" October 22, 2013. Lopaus Point, Tremont, Mount Desert Island, Maine.
"Thunder Hole Storm Waves" November 18, 2013. Thunder Hole along the Schooner Head Road in Acadia National Park.
"Wonderland Winter Sunrise" December 29, 2013. Out at Wonderland off Mansett, Acadia National Park, Maine.
"Ship Harbor Sunrise" April 12, 2013.
Right then- so that's my official twelve and change photographs for 2013. They are really kind of arbitrary choices- meaning there could have been others that I liked as much in one way or another, these however mostly fit my catalog and the look that I'm trying to represent as a photographic artist for the most part. 2013 was a growing year for me though photographically and the end of the year leaves me in a much different state of mind than the beginning. Where at the start of this year I was rounding off my fog and seascape portfolios and continuing with the long exposure wide angle black and white bit, the end of the year is finding me more restless in my vision and I feel like chasing a new perspective visually. I also started working on studio still lifes with off camera flash trying a new thing that way in the warmth and comfort of my own studio, which is a nice change. 2013 was successful for me in print sales locally and a little bit more through the website, got my mat mounting and printing station standardized for 4 sizes and stocked with lots of materials. It was a great year to get out of town on a couple of short trips to New York City and make two weekends full of street photography and architectural studies. 2013 was a good year for features for me: I got into Outdoor Photographer, a magazine that I used to have a subscription to, for the first and hopefully not last time http://www.outdoorphotographer.com/how-to/shooting/pro-fall-color-hot-spots.html?start=1, a Nathan Wirth's 'Slices of Silence" ezine spotlight: http://nlwirth.com/blog/artist-spotlight-nate-parker (thanks Nathan buddy!), and some other things that I can't quite remember right now but then there's this mostly embarrassing Youtube interview with Tom Migot Photography here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OsikYGWKTSI&feature=c4-overview-vl&list=PL6BB546CC66A11A2F and if that doesn't crack you up than I don't know what will! Most definitely the biggest change for me for 2013 was my day job- as of May I went to work as a sternman on a lobster boat out of Bass Harbor on the "Never Enough" a 36 foot Jarvis Newman diesel built in 1976 and Captained by a guy almost half my age but who's as much of a go getter as anyone. A real downside to that one was having to get up everyday at 03:00 am and missing the chance to photograph dawn at my most favorite time of day, a real upside to that though was seeing every single beautiful sunrise (minus about 7 or so mornings over the last 7 months due to weather or whatever) so I ended up driving my iPhone camera to the max! And learning how to work around the limitations of the iPhone and learning how to use it as a 'real' camera was a fun and interesting challenge. And now here we are at the bitter and cold end. I have definite objectives to achieve for 2014 and a real sense of direction of how to go about advancing them. I feel confident and optimistic that there is still lots of room for discovery which is a good mix, now to just make some of that happen. How'd you do this year? You also don't have too wait for the very end of the year to do a retrospective, it's always important to check yourself and see where you really are. Let me know in the comments or link me to your retrospective round-up.
As an outro let's vamp on outtakes of other favorite images I've made in 2013- see you on the other side!
(a winter project begun a couple years ago on the character of the local ice fishing shacks)
Ice Shacks 2
Ice Shacks 3
Ice Shacks 4
Ice Shacks 5
Ice Shacks 6
Snow Shapes 2
Snow Shapes 3
Snow Shapes 4
Snow Shapes Diptych
Snow Shapes 5
Fall Color Gesture
Fall Color Gesture 2
~iPhone Abstracts from the deck of the F/V Never Enough~
(made using iPhone 4 then iPhone 5s with any combination of the following apps: Snapseed, Mextures, Slowshutter.)
Dawn to Dusk
Dawn Horizon Shot Through a Fish Scale. (I was wondering why my images were coming back all blurry that morning so I turned the phone around and there was a fish scale nicely adhered to the lens! Ah ha!)
Blood Orange Bay
Bass Harbor, Maine.
Hardshell Maine Lobster.
Carl heading out on the F/V Last Time.
Our third hand- Mr Jason Charles Bulger.
A little fella- not a legal keeper, we throw these back. Anyways, once I made the silly mistake of intentionally letting one of these little guys bite me (had a couple large ones get me this season and that HURTS, gawd!) figured the little fellow would just nip a bit- wrong: this guy's gonna be a killer!
Big Fella. (You definitely don't want one of these guys to pinch you.)
Jason with a good sized lady lobster.
We get these all the time out of our short warps. Woot!
Scalpin. We actually found one of these once with a really hard protruding bump in his belly- so Danny naturally cut it open to see what was inside- (every time I watch him do that there is a weird mix of fascination and revulsion and I usually say something like 'dood- what the hey now are you doing man?!) anyways this one time with the hard lump thing he excises a little 4 inch long whole baby lobster! Only just partially beginning to get soft claws from stomach acid digestion it was definitely one of the most bizarre things I've ever seen.
~Animals and Pets~
Grover my doggy!
So serious in the snow
He's really the best dog I've ever known. Grover!
Grover and his brother Andre.
Grover and Gus the cat. What up Gus!
Gus the cat posing in one of my square mats in the window.
~New York City~
(had the opportunity to go back to Manhattan twice this summer for two 3 day weekends, it had been twenty years since I had been there last living with friends, chased out of the Lower East Side by villains long ago I had been looking forward to return. Had myself a blast making street and architectural photography.)
The Chrysler Building.
Glass and Steel, Midtown Manhattan.
Under the Manhattan Bridge (Brooklyn side).
Klinger on Avenue A.
The bird guys-
Then there's This guy! See this is the New York that I remember and that I wanted to go visit again, trouble is: it's mostly all gone! It's now more a sterilized massive mini mall of American Outfitters and Starbucks's (that's where the bathrooms are at least) than the Taxi Driver Robert Deniro hustle streets of days gone by. They say that it's better this way. I say there should always be a balance. Maybe de Blasio will bring back some of the filth and edge of the 70's, they could sell tickets to that stuff- I'm telling' ya!
Midtown Brazil day parade-
Central Park busker.
Awesome 70's hairdo! Midtown. See the detail: gum on the sidewalks, now that's NYC.
The guy in white.
Midtown and Downtown from the 30 Rock observation deck.
Curtis Wells my neighbor.
Linda Perrin of Atlantic Art Glass http://www.atlanticartglass.com
Gene Thurston on Echo Lake.
Mom and Dad waving goodbye after a visit.
Soph and Anna.
Derrick and this guy.
And there you have it! A massive overload of imagery! If I've done my job correctly you'll neither need to or want to see another photograph for at least a few minutes! But don't you fear- I'll be back at it making more images photographing my way through 2014. See you hopefully at least at the end of next year, and good luck at it friends and readers, stay safe and happy out there!