Burden of Beauty

Rick Schwartz Florida, Landscape, Macphun, Nature, photography, Sarasota, SonyAlpha, Sunset 0 Comments

When I see a scene like this I want to capture it with my camera. That’s great if I have my camera, it’s stressful if I don’t. Its what I call the burden of beauty. Photography has opened my eyes so I am more aware of what’s around me. When I see something interesting or pretty the inclination is to take a picture. So now I not only appreciate more, I want to capture it. As problems go I suppose its a good one to have.

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Burden of Beauty

The burden of beauty demands that I capture scenes like this

I took this in Sarasota last week as the rain clouds were clearing. There is a special quality to the light at times like this. I feel the need to capture elusive light. Sometimes the photos are simply clouds, water and sun. Generally they never make it to my collections, maybe they lack that little something extra of interest to a wider audience. That’s okay, I’m glad I captured it all the same.

“Capture” is a funny word. We cannot capture anything as ephemeral as light, we record it. But I try to convey a little of what I felt or saw at the time. So when I say I capture an image, that’s shorthand for recording a scene and trying to convey a sense of the moment. It’s not easy but I try.

Sarasota Gallery

Have you ever been away from home, seen something you’ve never seen and then call home to talk about it? That’s how I can feel even just walking the dog, I want to share it. It happens all the time. I think that’s because I have a heightened appreciation for moments like this; that’s the burden of beauty.

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Miami to Dallas

Rick Schwartz beach, Florida, Landscape, Manatee County, Night Photography, nightphotography, photography, SonyAlpha, Tampa, travel 0 Comments

I took this one night on a pier facing the Gulf of Mexico. I only noticed the streak of light after I returned home. If I had to guess I’d say it’s a commuter flight from Miami to Dallas. Sometimes when I travel out west, I go to Miami first and then fly back over my town in central Florida. I have no way of knowing for sure.

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Miami to Dallas

The commuter flight from Miami to Dallas

I sat on this pier, the only person at the beach in the late hour, aiming at the heavens with my camera and tripod. At fifteen-seconds, this is a relatively short exposure for night photography. But I planned it that way because anything longer than about 20 seconds creates star trails with the rotation of the earth. To get this I set the ISO to 1600 and my lens aperture to f2.8. That lets enough light in for the stars and causes the water to appear flat.

I like taking photos at night, especially of I can capture stars. But I’ve never gotten a great image of the Milky way. I have plenty of opportunities, it’s just a matter of knowing when to drag myself out at night and point the camera in the right direction. There are plenty of clear nights where I live so I’m beginning to think I should work on that.

night photography

The other day I wrote something about the number of stars in the Galaxy and the universe. Suffice to say it’s a number too large to comprehend. That being said, I can think of no better way to try than to sit out on this pier at night and see how many I can jam into my camera. And who knows, I might even catch a commuter flight while I’m at it.

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Lost in Thought

Rick Schwartz B&W, california, monochrome, SonyAlpha, streetphotography, Urban, urbanexploration 0 Comments

I can get lost in thought just as much as the next guy. We lead complicated lives. Breaking free of that is a theme with me and reflected in some of my photography. I look for and capture simplicity in a complex world. How did it get this way? We might as well ask why it rains. I think we pile on complexity as we go through life. We do it to ourselves without realizing the consequence. The more we maintain complexity inside, the less we are aware of simplicity around us; at least that’s my theory.

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Lost in Thought

Lost in Thought – Taking a walk and looking for clarity

Taking a walk can help clear the cobwebs. But how did the cobwebs get there in the first place? For me it can be emersion in something to the point that I associated with it rather than the real world. We all do that. If we can at least recognize that then we can know when enough is enough. By detaching from a problem at hand we’re open to things we might otherwise miss. Complexity is self defeating, it works against itself.

I believe that thinking too much is the source of discord. For example, they say money is the root of all evil, but maybe thinking about money is even worse. Thinking too much creates constructs in our minds that are no less real than road blocks in a construction zone. The key to clarity is, well, not thinking. That’s easier said than done. If I could not think for five minutes a day that would be something. Thinking is a tool, but incessantly revolving around something is how blocks occur. So many threads, so much to hold together, something is going to fall.

urbex in the gallery

Anyway, I took this picture of a man walking alone, surrounded by blocks, and only steps away from a clear pool. And that got me thinking….

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Into the Scene

Rick Schwartz Architecture, california, photography, san francisco, SanFrancisco, travel 0 Comments

Whenever I see a photo of a bench I unconsciously project myself into the scene. It’s something I realized early in photography and a theme I’ve repeated through the years. An empty bench can be a metaphor for many different ideas. This one was at the base of the Coit Tower in San Francisco. In fact there was a girl sitting here earlier but I didn’t like how it turned out so I opted for the empty version.

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Into the Scene

It’s easy to project yourself into the scene

As I was saying we tend to project ourselves into photos or scenes. I’m not sure we’re aware of it but it’s a natural consequence of seeing. Where we put our attention is where we go in our mind. You can say a lot of things about what and who we are, but one thing for sure is that we experience things. We experience things physically in the world and we experience things in our inner world of thoughts and feelings.

If we see a bench in front of us, whether we are standing there or seeing it in a photo it’s nearly the same experience. So if we walk up to the bench physically or in our mind it is of little consequence. We don’t need to be somewhere to experience it. This is the essence of projection and it is something we do all of the time, whether we realize it or not.

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If we can pause momentarily and experience the sensation of looking out the window, in some small way we will each have shared a common experience.

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Heading Out to Sea

Rick Schwartz california, Landscape, san francisco, SanFrancisco, SonyAlpha, Sunset 0 Comments

A ship heading out to sea from the San Francisco Bay. I have been fortunate in that when I come to this spot there are colorful clouds at sunset. As I live on another coast I know that it’s not always the case and sometimes it’s just the luck of the draw. I’m not adverse to a little luck.

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Heading Out to Sea

Heading Out to Sea from San Francisco Bay

There are places known for sunsets and this spot at at Lands End is one. From my own experience it seems the conditions are conducive for colorful displays like this during the golden hour. Another place that comes to mind is in Texas. I’ve not spent a lot of time in Texas but the few times I’ve been there I noticed colorful sunsets.

Not to be outdone, we too have sunsets in Florida, but often there are no clouds so the colors can be limited. We do get spectacular sunsets, it just seems maybe fewer than California, but I could be wrong, it might just be a matter of my luck.

I noticed this ship close to the Golden Gate Bridge earlier and I was surprised to see it still heading out to sea an hour or more later. These large vessels seem to move very slowly, but could just be an illusion created by their size and the distances involved. This is zoomed in almost 200 mm, so it is a long ways out.

seascape images

Once I was at the waters edge at the entrance to the bay in Vancouver BC. It was late at night and otherwise quiet as I watched a large container ship pass under the bridge into open waters. It passed close to where I was standing and the vibration of the engines left an impression on me. For whatever reason I am struck with fascination whenever I see these lumbering giants.

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Like So Many Grains of Sand

Rick Schwartz beach, california, Nature, san francisco, SanFrancisco, Sunset, travel 1 Comment

People dot the beach like so many grains of sand. A few weeks ago I was looking out over Ocean Beach from the Cliff House in San Francisco. When I first looked I was met with this spectacle. That got me thinking about the age old adage about grains of sand on a beach. And from that my mind took off on its own, not waiting for me to catch up.

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Like So Many Grains of Sand

Like So Many Grains of Sand on the Beach in San Francisco

It seems people and technology have been recalculating the size of the universe lately and we now know its much bigger than we thought. To put it in context I’m not even sure our planet would amount to a single grain of sand on this beach.

According to estimates there are about 200 billion stars in our galaxy. That would mean our star was one of the grains of sand on this beach. But that’s just referring to our galaxy, the Milky Way. Now scientists say there may be one trillion galaxies in the universe. That basically hits it out of the park, so to speak.

It stands to reason then that there might be as many stars in the universe as there grains of sand on Earth. So that is even remotely true, then what’s the point of ever trying to comprehend it? Just trying to fathom the grains of sand on this one beach is futile to say nothing for the number of stars in the universe.

beaches in the gallery

So, for me, the only thing left to do is turn away from the beach and eat a bowl of soup. That’s the one thing I can handle.

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Interesting in Some Way

Rick Schwartz beach, Florida, Landscape, Tampa 0 Comments

Sometimes I’ll take a photo and then look at it a year later only to find it interesting in some way. Case in point, I was looking through my viewfinder when this boy ran across the field of vision with a bird looking down at him. It’s easy to get these kinds of quick vignettes when you are prepared. By just being somewhere where things happen you will see unexpected scenes and events. This is not an unusual scene yet it reaches a certain threshold of interest. The setting, people, bird and pier all combine into a story somehow.

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Interesting in Some Way

Boy on a pier in Florida

In truth there were a lot of people here, but by narrowing the view the lens the scene is simplified. Simplified scenes leave more room for imagination. That’s not so say that scenes filled with a lot of details are’t interesting as well, there is a place for everything. For instance big cities scenes often contain a wealth of detail.

A painter makes these choices and so do I as a photographer. Choices like simple, complex, action, atmosphere are all things to consider while composing. I’ve had this image in the back burner for almost a year before I decided to explore it in my digital darkroom.

more shots with piers

My creative decisions are as fickle as the wind, and what I decide today will be forgotten tomorrow. That’s the enjoyment of what I do. I can explore a new aspect every day and never repeat myself for the rest of my life.

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Photos from Amsterdam

Rick Schwartz amsterdam, bicycle, bikes, europe, netherlands, streetphotography, travel, Urban, urbanexploration 0 Comments

It seems every time I look at my photos from Amsterdam there are bicycles. Any direction you look people are going this way and that on bikes. It’s refreshing to see especially from a North American perspective. The only way I can relate to this is having grown up in suburbia where, as kids we rode bikes everywhere. Here, they just keep on doing it as adults.

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Photos from Amsterdam

Photos from Amsterdam

From a photographic perspective it creates ideas for images. One of my favorite is riders in motion. To do that you have to pan the camera along with the rider. If the shutter speed of the camera is set slow enough you get a blur like this. It’s an effect that evokes a sense of motion.

This is a type of street photography that I practice when in urban settings. Photography is the art of noticing things. When you have a camera and are purposely looking for scenes you notice more. On the other hand, if you are walking to the store and have your mind on what to eat for dinner you might miss a lot. Photography is a practice of being present in the moment and open to things going on around you.

Amsterdam gallery

In this case I was standing around and noticed the stairs and horizontal motion of cyclists which created an idea in my mind. I took several shots panning my camera right and left depending on the direction of the cyclist. This was my favorite of the bunch.

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Chandelier in the Cathedral

Rick Schwartz Architecture, california, photography, SanFrancisco, SonyAlpha 0 Comments

This is a large chandelier in the Cathedral of St Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco. Without a doubt it is the first think you notice when you walk in. It’s positioned above the alter and reflects the light from the windows of four corners. When I walked in it was all I could do to stand there and look up. I imagine that’s the intended effect; to give pause and a feeling that this is an extraordinary space.

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Chandelier in the Cathedral

Chandelier in the Cathedral of St Mary of the Assumption in San Francisco

My Sony A7rII camera has a silent shooting mode. I turn that on whenever I enter a house of worship or any place where the sound of a shutter might break the mood. I try to respect places like this even though I want to take photos. My desire to get a good photo does not trump my manners or sense of reverence. As much as I love to get a good photo, I’ll walk away if I feel I’b be crossing some line.

That’s not to say that happens a lot. In the vast majority of cases its cool. Even if I have to take a few chances, sometimes it’s better to get forgiveness than permission. But invading someone’s space when taking photos is not cool. If I find someone in contemplation when I walk up with my camera, I’ll walk away if I cannot capture the scene without disrupting it.

abstract gallery

For me it’s as much about the presence of mind as it is about the picture. That sometimes involves being respectful of other people’s space.

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City Across the Bay

Rick Schwartz bridge, california, Landscape, san francisco, Urban, urbanexploration 0 Comments

Here is an image of the city across the bay in California. If I recall I took this from a spot just below the Golden Gate Bridge. But I could be mistaken, it could have been from Sausalito, I’m not sure. Normally I use an app on my iPhone to geotag images so that I won’t forget when writing about it later. In this case I forgot to do that or was just lazy. It doesn’t matter that much, it’s a picture, not a survey.

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City Across the Bay

City Across the Bay in California

Speaking of surveys, I met a retired surveyor a few years back who now lives on a sailboat in Florida. He used to do arial surveying with a medium format camera. That’s because back in the day’s of film, the highest resolution images came from medium format cameras. Today that’s still the case except everything is digital and hundreds of times more resolution. Anyway, the guy was selling his old Hasselblad cameras and lenses. The only problem was, nobody wanted to buy them. I think he ended up donating them to a film school.

california gallery

So while I was here in San Francisco I was walking near Union Square and a photographer was setup in a mini street fair selling his prints. He still took all his pictures with a film Hasselblad camera. I told him the story of the surveyor in Florida and he understood exactly. Film photography is a dying art and the equipment, if you can find it, is dirt cheap. Of course, you still need to develop the film and process it in a dark room. And that, is something of a lost art these days.

Having said that it seems there is a small renaissance in film photography. I’m curious to see where that goes.

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