Random Sights and Diversions

Photography Media Reviews Commentary


Week Three – One Four Challenge, January 2015

San Bernardino Mountains III. One Four Challenge. Copyright Joanne Mason 2015.

San Bernardino Mountains III. One Four Challenge. Copyright Joanne Mason 2015.

For this week’s One Four Challenge (Week Three, January, 2015), I have gone back to color, starting with the original image again. On first glance, there may be little different from the Week One image. But I felt that the original image, and the Week One edit, lost much of the feeling of sunniness in the scene. I’ve tried to bring in significant sunlight to tis edit. That has also had a significant secondary effect: In the original, and the way I framed the scene when I shot it, the tree was not a main point of interest but more of a framing around the more distant mountain scene. By enhancing the sunlight on the tree, the tree becomes more of the main interest. I don’t know if this is good or bad. I like the results this week, but as always I’m eager for your comments.

For comparison, the original and weeks one and two (both versions):


Best Holiday and New Year Wishes!

Merry Christmas

To all my followers and those with who I’ve exchanged photographic images and thoughts over the past year, may I extend to you my thanks; and to you and your families my hopes for a very joyous holiday season. May 2015 be a wonderful year for you!


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Painted Desert

Painted Desert. Arizona 2012. Copyright Joanne Mason 2014.

Painted Desert. Arizona 2012. Copyright Joanne Mason 2014.

This image, of the Painted Desert in Arizona, is another from the “Desert Series.” The Painted Desert, much of which is in Navajo lands in northeastern Arizona, includes some of what I think of as the most beautiful landscapes in the US. This black-and-white image presents an interesting study. Of all the striking characteristics of the Painted Desert, certainly the amazing colors – in constant flux with the changing sunlight  – are among the most beautiful. Why would we give up that color for a black-and-white depiction? The answer, for me, is that we don’t really “give up” the color, rather we see it in a new way. In the black-and-white image, we see the textures of the color. The landscape looks even more like an otherworldly scene. The subtle contours of the land are more clearly revealed. Artistically, I think it looks more like a fine pencil drawing, with highly detailed features as well as shading, than a photograph. In my view, this is one of the core “purposes” of photography as art, namely to make it possible for us to see things in new and different ways. (For the color version, see the image in the Desert Series.) (Both the original color image and the subsequent black-and-white version have been subject to a fair degree of manipulation and editing.) Click the above image for larger.


Old Tree

Old Tree. Nikon D200. 22 mm. ISO 400. 1/400 sec at f/4.8.  Copyright Joanne Mason 2014.

Old Tree. Nikon D200. 22 mm. ISO 400. 1/400 sec at f/4.8. Copyright Joanne Mason 2014.

I am being driven these days to document the woods, the trees and other flora, and especially trees at different stages of their existence. John Muir said “The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”  Neil Gaiman wrote in The Sandman, “Trees there were, old as trees can be, huge and grasping with hearts black as sin. Strange trees that some said walked in the night.” About the woods, Stephen Sondheim wrote in Into the Woods,

Into the woods–you have to grope,
But that’s the way you learn to cope.



The Exakta Camera

For some reason, I’ve been seeing numerous references to the Exakta camera lately. Most recently, I saw that the Exakta was one of Vivian Maier’s cameras (see my last blog post).

Ihagee Exacta Camera

The Ihagee Exakta was a series of cameras manufactured in Dresden, Germany, beginning in 1933 (and continuing in various versions into the 1970’s). The Exakta was the first 35 mm single-lens reflex camera manufactured.

The Exakta was also the first SLR I ever owned (not the 1933 version, though!). That camera served me very well. I still have it (somewhere!). I recall that it was smashed years ago in a fall in the New Hampshire mountains, although, held together with duct tape (the lens did not break), the camera continued to function admirably for a while thereafter. The Exakta was all manual. There was no autofocus. The lens did have an auto-diaghragm lever that would stop down the lens, and it was designed so that you could push that lever in the same action as triggering the shutter. But you still had to set the exposure, both aperture and shutter speed. The film advance lever was on the “wrong” side and the film essentially wound backwards. But it worked nicely.

I have not shot on film for years and, today, feel completely committed to digital imagemaking. But I think shooting film for many years, learning photography shooting film, and learning photography having to work in completely manual modes served me well in developing my photographic skill and sensibility. Once in a blue moon, I used a hand-held exposure meter, but usually not. More often than not today I’ll shoot with manual focus, and I will often use manual or aperture-priority exposure (and possibly changing ISO each image). When cameras first developed automation (or at least I could afford to begin buying cameras with automation), I would frequently try to “second-guess” the camera, predicting the exposure by eye and then looking to see what the camera wanted to set. That struck me as a valuable exercise and a good habit to get into. It’s still a good discipline.

I’m nostalgic for that Exakta camera.  More information about Exakta cameras here.

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