What people like, face to face

Last Sunday (May 23, 2010) I had the pleasure of spending the afternoon sitting in a beautiful garden and talking for most of the day to strangers about a few of my photos. I was there as part of the East Dallas Gardens and Artisans Tour. My wife and I have been going to these art fairs for as long as we can remember, but this was the first time I’d taken part in one myself as an “artist” or exhibiter or (as I would prefer) a craftsman. And it was a treat.

In this post, I simply want to comment on a few of the photos that I was showing that day. If you came by, you will already have heard some of this from me in person.

The Grand Canyon photos

I was quite sure that people would comment on this photo, taken at the start of our hike down into the Grand Canyon last December.

Bright Angel Trailhead, South Rime, Grand Canyon, December 22, 2009

I expected it to get comments in good part because I’d made a large (20″ x 30″) print and had it beautifully custom framed by Decor Art & Frame on Greenville in Dallas. Frames matter! But I’m proud of the photo. Most of my Grand Canyon photos look like everybody else’s. It’s hard to take a striking photo of a cliche. But we had the good fortune (as well as the challenge) to be hiking down the Bright Angel Trail last December during a fairly significant snow storm. And this gave me a view of the canyon that, while not unique, isn’t very common, either. I was happy to get the Kolb Brothers historic photographic studio into the photo. For the same reason, I’ve always been fond of this photo, taken five years ago from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, on a day when clouds had settled into the canyon:

Grand Canyon from the North Rim, with clouds

If you want good photos of a popular place like the Grand Canyon, one way to increase your chance of success is to keep going back.

White Rock Lake

In my tour display the other day, I also included a couple of my favorite photos of White Rock Lake. I had a couple of the Mockingbird Lane foot bridge. One in the fog, taken with an ultra-wide angle lens:

And another, one of my favorites, taken with a telephoto lens and from a slightly different vantage point, during a rare snowstorm in Dallas (February 11, 2010):

Mockingbird Lane foot bridge over White Rock Lake, in the snow, February 11, 2010

I think it’s interesting to compare the photo above, with this photo that was taken just about the same time:

I like this second photo, too. I like having the jogger in the photo, for scale and also for color. Wish that the car was missing, though. And this second photo has too much going on: the tree, the jogger, the car, the snow. The first photo is, well, simpler: it’s a picture of a bridge in a snowstorm. There’s a tree in it, too, but the tree is way off to the side and not really part of the “subject.” I mean, if you are going to photograph a tree, photograph a tree, like this:

Or this, from the Dallas Arboretum:

Of the photos of White Rock Lake in the snow last February, next to the bridge photo (above), this was probably the most popular photo among my visitors:

That’s Lake Highlands Drive, just east of the Bath House on the east side of the lake. Actually, I was taking a photo of the Bath House and the lake, and I wasn’t happy. Then I realized why: the lake didn’t have snow on it. I turned to the left, and got the photo above. Maybe we have a special appreciation for the beauty of snow here in Dallas. We don’t see much of it.

People liked the photos of the lake in the fog, too, including this photo of the old boat house near T. & P. Hill:

And this picture of the boats at the Corinthian Sailing Club:

That photo, like the photo of the bridge in the snow, was not “Photoshopped.” Fog is a wonderful artistic filter.

My favorites

Perhaps my favorite, of the photos I displayed last Sunday, is this photo that I took several years ago of my dog Abby running in our back yard:

The technique here is simple: pan the camera sideways to follow the movement of the subject. The background inevitably blurs. Here, it produces a very painterly image.

Kids liked the running dog. But this seemed to be the favorite photo of many of my adult visitors:

Many people assumed it was two photos, stitched or “Photoshopped” together. Nope. That’s my mother-in-law on the left, and my daughter on the right, and the photo was taken at my dinner table. I looked up from dinner, saw the photo, and snapped the shot. That white, blank wall behind my mother-in-law really is that white, blank and lonely. And behind my background there really is a shelf with dishes, a hallway with a photo, and a bedroom door. But of course what really make the photo is, first, my mother-in-law’s expression. She’s not actually unhappy. She just doesn’t want to expend the effort to smile. And the second key element is my daughter’s hat. Yep, that’s what she wore to dinner. What can I say? It was a new hat.

What’s the lesson here, boys and girls? Keep the camera with you, even at the dinner table. You just never know…

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