Archives for the month of: September, 2009
A heavy, somber sky greeted as sun began to rise. Air thick with moisture, light fog softening the edges of things. I sipped my coffee and watched as other morning travelers stopped in, checked out. The regulars were in and out, we nodded and made our good morning noises as they passed my table. 

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172 – Sky Light

It’s been a week absorbed in thought. What shows after a week of thinking? Not much that you can lay on a table and point to. 

My eyes are drawn up as I walk home. The sun brightens the cloud cover, makes it less heavy for a moment. A blankness still prevails. Lines across the sky, a reflection of object and light as I pass a neighbor’s home. This one next door burned last week: no one hurt, but a faint acrid odor continues to drift in and out of it. A crow sits on the fence in front of it, preening and looking proud.

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173 – Crossings

No crows in the sky. The usual group of five who follow me are elsewhere, the air free of their raucous calls. I hear a plane higher up but still low, past the barrier of cloud … must be a C-131 coming in to land at Moffett Field, I’d know that sound anywhere. I remember flying on them once upon a time.

That made me smile on this moody morning. 
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… I’ve been away for a week or so. Not physically, just mentally. Decided to take a short break as I had another workshop to teach at the Media Center, and I  needed some mind time. Got back today, this evening actually. 

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Globe, Sidewalk, Wall & Hedge – San Jose 2009

The workshop was one I’d been hoping to offer for a long time, a workshop on using Adobe Lightroom for those who already had a lot of work in progress, a set way of doing things. It was fun, it was exhausting, it was energizing and a pleasure. There were four student participants in the room, two of whom I’d met last Winter and were fellow participants in the Modern Book Gallery exhibition “FOTO NOVA 19”. It was a pleasure to work with everyone.

Teaching like this, and doing photography, is very much where I want to be. And will be: I’m working with the Media Center to develop a small photography curriculum now. 

That’s enough for the moment, but there should be a few new posts over the next couple of days. Taking a hiatus worked … 

I’m back. And feeling good.

Quiet out this morning. No sound of wind, dim in the pre-dawn light. As I walked down the block towards the cafe, my usual walk, I saw what looked at first like a small pile of rags on the sidewalk. Coming closer, I saw that it was something more … not rags at all. It was a person, a woman, sleeping in the lee of a fence, almost lost amidst the rags that were her clothes and some newspaper she used as pillow and bedding.

 I’d seen this woman walking around the neighborhood a few days before, and sleeping on the bench at the bus stop. Her clothes always enshroud her, only the barest glimpse of her face is visible when she’s standing upright and walking. I had thought she lived in one of the houses in the neighborhood.

 Sleeping on the sidewalk, homeless most likely. I stepped off the sidewalk into the street to pass, did not disturb her. And thought of her off and on during the day.

 

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 The shipyard was across the street from the LensWork offices where I was attending a workshop last October. They’d just rolled the bow section into place that day on this rig tender and were welding it into the hull. The foreman was a good guy. “Hmm, pictures. Well, I’ll have to arrange it with the boss, you’ll need hard hat and steel toe boots, but if you have the time stop by tomorrow around ten, he’ll be in the office.”

 I didn’t, no time, but I walked back with my camera and tripod late that night and set it up to shoot the tender before its skin went on. The layers of bulkheads, passageways, structural supports … A marvel how everything fits together, joins up, so precisely.

 My mind drifted this morning as I walked, after I saw the woman on the sidewalk. I listened to the silence, the heavy air, and watched as a few lights went on here, and there again, and there … people waking up, beginning their day, beginning to move through their homes. The sun rose, traffic picked up, but somehow that dawn silence stayed with me.

 It wasn’t very far that I’d gone, but it was a long time before I wandered back home again.

I left the apartment for my walk this morning at 5:49 … two minutes after that fateful moment in time eight years ago when a jet plane met its final destination in the World Trade Center, three hours by time zone to the east. A moment of silence for the thousands who died in that fateful event, and for all the others whose lives have been irrevocably changed by what ensued in its name. Nine-Eleven Oh Nine. 

It seems something almost distant to me now, unreal; something out of a bad thriller that I might have read, put down, then forgotten. 

Sometimes the monsters are real.

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I was thinking about a podcast I’d listened to regarding the qualities of story in photo books, or rather the lack of it. We’ve all heard fiction authors talk about how the characters created for a story come to life and guide the author in the development of the very work in which they are a part. So I was thinking about how, indeed, we can make the visual language of photographs do that kind of “reality creation” … whether it is possible to do so entirely without words or whether words were actually essential to the task. 

Which brought me further into one of the bases of conflict in the photography world … the relationship between documentarian and art photography, between how much to manipulate versus how authentic, credible, true to life a photograph must be to be considered a photograph. By some anyway. 

The razor’s edge of veracity. Storytellers wander in the relationship to truth proffered by their stories, even casual storytelling amongst friends is rarely entirely accurate in the scenes it depicts. It’s all about mood, impression, an enjoyable turn of phrase, a depiction in the imagination about larger things than the events themselves – not whether forensics would find fault. 

This door and the ominous sign beside it popped up as I was thinking of this, of the 9-11 anniversary, and of all that has happened since. Somehow it resonated in my head. A door, a caution … bright and harsh. What story can it begin?

Maybe I should take up poetry.
As I drove down Mary Ave heading towards the highway, a C5A was coming in to land at Moffett Field, a scant four miles away. I watched the giant aircraft, looking for all the world like something out of a science fiction magazine from a century ago, float gracefully down its landing path. It seemed to skim the tops of trees and be reachable out of the windows of houses as it moved, slow and majestic, through the air. An amazing sight. 

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I sometimes think we photographers lose sight of the forest, the trees, and even the grass in our enthusiasm over equipment. Time’s coming up on another big photo product show and all the manufacturers are announcing their latest stuff. The equipment forums are full of excitement, people looking at this, ooh and aahing over that, celebrating … and condemning! … the latest marvels of the modern age of photography. Which one you’re going to buy, which one you’d rather have, what’s better than the other … on and on and on it goes. 

It gives me pause to think once more: what are we photographers doing, collectively? What message are we sending to the manufacturers, the creators of our tools? Is all this stuff really necessary to the fulfillment of our art, our work? 

I have been in a moment of doing some research on my cameras, measuring sensitivity, calibrations, etc. Studying the way my eyes work, what I see and what I notice. Not carrying my camera. The plane landing at Moffett reminded me of the time I worked for NASA and flew constantly as we developed the imaging radar system my group was chartered to produce. I spent countless fun days testing software, working on calibrations, analyzing the results. This stuff is fun to me. But it’s not photography. 

So yesterday I went for a walk and carried my camera again. I thought deeply of what my research had taught me … not much that I hadn’t already learned informally, really, but it made certain aspects of what I need to be thinking about as I set exposure more clear. I made three exposures in an hour’s walk, and liked this one enough to render it to a print. 

I could have made it with almost any camera. It says something to me, something quite special and unique, with a small, delicate voice. 

The Tao Te Ching fell out of my bag as I sat down to write this. It opened to a well worn page:

Verse 11

Wu is nothingness, emptiness, non-existence

Thirty spokes of a wheel all join at a common hub
yet only the hole at the center
allows the wheel to spin.

Clay is molded to form a cup
yet only the space within
allows the cup to hold water.

Walls are joined to make a room
you only by cutting out a door and a window
can one enter the room and live there.

Thus, when a thing has existence alone
it is mere dead-weight
Only when it has wu, does it have life.

Wise book. 
I’m very excited to be teaching another workshop next week at the Media Center in Palo Alto, California. It’s for all users, from beginner on up, with a special focus for people who have a lot of work already and are looking for the best ways to start using Lightroom. 

There are still a few seats available for those who’d like to participate … register soon, before it’s full up! 

Godfrey DiGiorgi

ADOBE PHOTOSHOP LIGHTROOM: “Starting In The Middle”

This is a three-session workshop for photographers interested in learning how to use Adobe Lightroom. No prerequisites are required, some familiarity with Photoshop and image processing workflow is helpful. 

“Learn how to transition your work from Photoshop into Lightroom, or start from scratch with Lightroom as the principal tool for your image processing workflow. Examine and understand the use of templates throughout the Lightroom modules to make your work faster, easier and more consistent. Explore how to use Lightroom’s image processing tools in conjunction with Photoshop. Learn how to use Export as well as the Slideshow, Printing and Web modules to output finished photographs. Time will be given, distributed through the session, for hands-on and Q&A.”

Length: 9 hours 
Class size: 3 – 8 
Tuition: $135
September 15-16-17, 7-10 pm

For more information, please contact Godfrey DiGiorgi at: godfrey@gdgphoto.com

To register by making a VISA or Mastercard payment over the phone, please contact Dave Sorokach:

650 494-8686 x10

Midpeninsula Community Media Center
900 San Antonio Road
Palo Alto, CA 94303
650.494.8686 

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Darker now when I leave the apartment on my morning walk. The season continues its march through Time, walking towards the Autumnal Equinox just sixteen days away. Has this year flown by or what? 

Many thoughts and ideas have been rolling around in my head this past week but the Writing Muse has been away. It’s as if a certain reluctance set in on top of my voice … why? who can say? A pressure, a weight of thought: it gets in the way of making words make sense, a certain reluctance sets in and nothing seems right as I type it. 

Press on. Press on. Must work through these moments of pause. 

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I was thinking about the street fair and street photography I did last week, and the importance of gesture. Looking at the still life work I do and thinking about gesture, expression. They’re still about gesture, form, shape and movement … Still Life: the life part is important. Hmm. 

What indeed do I see there, in those bits of flotsam and jetsam blown into composition by the movement of sun and wind? For the past week, I put the camera down and walked without it in the mornings: just studied what my eyes were doing as I looked at things, how they focused, how they processed the darks into bright and the brights into seeable values of light. A very interesting study. Can I combiine these observations of how my eyes work into an approach to making photographs … both capturing and rendering them? Hmm. 

It was time on Wednesday for the second part of my annual eye exam … a dilation so they could examine my retinas. I scheduled the afternoon free as once they put those drops in it’s unsafe for me to drive for at least two or three hours. There’s a movie theater in the complex where my eye doctor’s offices are, a fine place to relax and let the eyes recoup. 

Still sensitive after the film, I watched again how my eyes and brain perceived and processed the world about me. Fascinating how different my perceptions of space and geometry, light and shade were: I saw things in a completely different way from normal. I wish I’d brought my camera so I could record its view of the same scenes, which looked so interesting to me.  Can I retain the way they worked in that state and apply *that* to my photography as well? 

Wednesday evening, a friend I hadn’t seen in a score of years or thereabouts called. “Passing through town, let’s do dinner!” So I told him where a good Italian dive was, hopped into the car with Felipe, and rushed over. A terrific time, telling stories and coming up to date on each other’s life. In my objective mind state, I watched our expressions, the movements of hand and eye, the nod of head and shoulders. Gesture again. Fast, ephemeral … moments frozen in time and context with the snapshot of the mind’s camera. Freezing that context into memory to look at again. 

These leaves, this twig. It fell from a height, floated on the wind, then lay where Fate decided it would rest a while. The sun dappled it lightly against the textured asphalt. It was there for the moment, it will have been gone again soon. I’ll remember it now. 

The importance of fleeting gesture. 
I’ve always loved these Tibetan bells … Found them for sale on a crafts table last Sunday in Willow Glen. Beautiful things, and they sound wonderful.

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My August workshop  at the Mid-Peninsula Community Media Center in Palo Alto, California (http://www.midpenmedia.org), focused on Photoshop, was a great time with a fantastic group of participants. Let’s do it again! 

My next workshop at the Media Center is coming up in two weeks, September 15-17. I’ll be tackling an introduction to Lightroom … with a concentration for those who already have a lot of work in progress, but informative and useful for all levels from beginner to experienced user.

Here’s the description from the Media Center website … 

ADOBE PHOTOSHOP LIGHTROOM: “Starting In The Middle”
Instructor is Godfrey DiGiorgi.

This is a three-session workshop for photographers interested in learning how to use Adobe Lightroom. No prerequisites are required, some familiarity with Photoshop and image processing workflow is helpful. 

Learn how to transition your work from Photoshop into Lightroom, or start from scratch with Lightroom as the principal tool for your image processing workflow. Examine and understand the use of templates throughout the Lightroom modules to make your work faster, easier and more consistent. Explore how to use Lightroom’s image processing tools in conjunction with Photoshop. Learn how to use Export as well as the Slideshow, Printing and Web modules to output finished photographs. Time will be given, distributed through the session, for hands-on and Q&A.

Length: 9 hours 
Class size: 3 – 8 
Tuition: $135
September 15-16-17, 7-10 pm

For more Information regarding the classes, please contact instructor Godfrey DiGiorgi at godfrey@gdgphoto.com

To register by making a VISA or Mastercard payment over the phone, please contact Dave Sorokach:

dave@midpenmedia.org
650 494-8686 x10

Please drop me a line if you have any questions! I’d love to have you there. 
This morning’s walk, a cool and quiet morning. Two women dressed in mid-calf-length black dresses walked side by side up the sidewalk about forty feet in front of me as I was making my way home. One white haired, the other dark haired, hands held between them. Pretty sure it was a mother and daughter out for a morning constitutional.

My imagination was drawn, not unkindly, by the rhythm of their walk and the movement of their heads, to the crows’ stately parade from the other morning. 

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I’d been wandering through recent posts by my flickr.com contacts as I sat with my coffee. Some interesting photos of people surfaced this morning … they brought me back once more to thinking of Robert Frank’s The Americans. So much of these photos is all about gesture, the look with eyes or body from one to another, the context and situation of that look. 

Sunday afternoon … the last Sunday of August 2009 … I went to the Willow Glen neighborhood in San Jose . They’d had a street fair all day, an Italian Festival on the main drag through town. It was late in the day, things were winding down. 

A sense of witness, of distance-in-observation. I watched the sometimes random, sometimes not, interactions between people on the street as I walked around with my camera. This small boy and his father listened to the last moments of the band. Just a boy, tired, sitting his father’s lap, while his father watched the band. The expression of the boy’s arms and legs, the relaxed sense of strength and protection in dad’s hand. My shutter released almost before I was conscious of pointing the camera. I was there with a friend; we walked the length of the fair and back looking, making photos. We left as things closed down. 

The two women’s voices drifted quietly back to me as we reached my last cross street on the way home this morning. They turned right, I turned left. Across the street and down the increasing distance of the block, I stopped to watch them for a little while longer: they disappeared around the next bend, hands held still.

That intimacy of gesture.