The Poppy Seller

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There is a part of me that definitely prefers doing long exposures in black and white. I could say it is partially due to the colour shifts I get from filtering through stacked NDs, but I have largely wrapped my mind around those. No, my reticence comes from my frame of mind when I stop to make these types of images. One of the big reasons I do these long exposures is because of my interest or fascination with time. Often, but not always, time is what I am making a photo of here. Time is usually my subject. So when it comes to composing these images I generally think in terms of working to get rid of elements that don’t belong. And if I am building an image about time, I want to get rid of things that don’t relate, because if they don’t support then they distract. Often colour is not in this equation. It is easy to be enamoured of colour and to include it simply because you like it, but if the photo is not about colour. If it is about other things, such as time, then colour becomes a layer atop your subject that to some degree or another obscures it. So while colour is always tempting to add, I have to be careful to actually make images that make use of that colour as part of the message, thought, subject, what have you. I have to make sure that I want to direct some part toward that colour. So usually I don’t want the colour to be overtly important in these types of photos… it is not what I am trying to impart. But there are occasions where I want to mix colour and time. This is one of those occasions.

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Random

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The basic ingredients for this image look a bit like this: Nikon, Daguerreotype lens, Rollei Retro 80S film, Hoya R72 filter. But for spice I involuntarily added some grain issues, which left a texture across the image, and throw in a healthy dose of chance timing. So once framing and focus are achieved, you are flying blind in terms of the exact timing of an image at the moment of exposure. But I have learned many things over the years. Patience is one of them. I know few other things as patient as Mother Nature. Also the fact that nothing is ever certain, that the wind will change and nothing remains static for long. So if one opportunity is missed, it is only a matter of time ‘til another comes along. And that there is beauty in the random. One has no control over how the wind churns the waves or how the trees dance. Yet the resulting random mix of influences can create unexpected and beautiful confluences of events.

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Nowhere Now Here

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Over the years I have noticed a trend in my photography. To be fair, I notice many trends. It is sort of how I work: I make photos over a long span of time then see where the pictures settle and read them like tea leaves. It gives me a perspective on what I am doing that I don’t have while I am out doing it. But I digress. It is a lot about feeling, mood, perspective or whatever other abstract ideas you want to associate with what guides us through the creative process. I tend to be more in a black and white mood, for lack of better words. I love the simplicity of black and white. It pares the world down a bit to more essential elements. It makes things a bit simpler, a bit quieter… in a way. And that is a big part of what is driving me. I appreciate that simpler rendering.

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I think part of it is also the timeless nature of b&w film/images. Colour is date able, by which I mean, you can generally tell when a colour image is made by its palette. The colour films of the 1970s look like the 1970s, just as the colour palettes of today’s images have a distinct look that is temporally anchored. Black and white eschews this dating to some degree. And I appreciate this too. That I am more easily able to make an image that is not anchored to a particular time, because sometimes the image I am making is not about a specific time at all, and if that is the case I don’t want that association to be baked into the photo. If that makes sense. But I do just like the concept of time as this slippery, amorphous, crazy notion of a thing and so if there is a way to set it aside just a bit, to make a photo that isn’t necessarily of a certain place at a certain time but perhaps somewhere sometime, then I enjoy doing that as well.

So there it is, just some of my thoughts hammered out in a bit of a stream-of-consciousness manner.

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Ragged Glory

As mesmerising as the Mont is at a distance, and trust me, it is completely entrancing even from afar, Susan and I were eager to head closer to it. So that is where you and I are heading now.

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Mont Saint-Michel is currently connected to land via a dry causeway, which is causing all sorts of problems, namely the fact that it is changing Saint-Michel from an island to mainland as silt builds up on one side of the causeway and cannot be washed away by the tides.

The causeway itself is roughly a kilometre long. There are buses that trundle along it every few minutes transporting visitors, but we preferred the walk on the other side of the canal. Getting to know Mont Saint-Michel step by step was an enjoyable process. And it is something else to see it grow steadily in front of you as you get closer and closer; there is certainly more gravitas to it than zipping up in a bus crammed full of tourists smashed up against the windows with camera phones out and the reflected backwash of flash lighting everything up. Although, that is an experience of its own.

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Especially on a misty afternoon like this though, with only two other individuals to share the road with and this beautiful and famed abbey rising slowly in front of you, it wasn’t hard to imagine the experience of past pilgrims to this site. Though I think my journey was a drier one.

To state the obvious, France is a land of fairy tales. Walking under the Eiffel Tower. See Mont Saint-Michel rise out of the fog above the tidal plains for the first time. Running your hands along the many rough, ruined stone walls. I am thankful that such places exist. Even more amazing that they were built by people. But I guess when you think about it, in one sense or another, all the best fairy tales are created by people. We create the stories that we make appearances in.

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And as a new year starts for me and with it new stories, that I’ll share some moments from this particularly lovely fairy tale of a trip that was momentous and fleeting all at the same time.

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Like Dean Moriarty’s ghost I came in quest of secret knowledge
in the winter of my journey to a crumbling Granite college .
I saw three crosses pierce the sky above that distant hill
the sky burned red as I turned my head and I left that scene behind
I took another god to be my guide, the one inside
our destinies entwined

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A Pretty Picture

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I chose this image not because it is really all that remarkable. At least not in a unique way. It is just a beautiful image. Sometimes the large amount of photography I produce conflicts with the small amount I decide to share that I pass over some of the images of mine I feel are more generic but still pretty. I let these collect digital dust in favour of the images I see as more unique and that isn’t always fair. Or rather another way to think about it is the reason to pick an image for sharing doesn’t always have to be based on creative uniqueness or even technical accomplishment. Sometimes it is worth sharing something because it is a nice reflection of a beautiful place and time.

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Fear

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The truth – I have always been afraid. It is a painful feeling, fear. It sits deep in the bottom part of your stomach and hurts. But it is the energy of survival. I have always been afraid of fear and at the same time grateful for it–afraid of its pain and grateful that because of the pain I can take steps to eradicate it by overcoming that which frightens me.

One who is afraid reacts to it as any animal. If one is a rabbit, one runs into one’s hole and hides. If one is a turtle one pulls back into one’s shell. We have all known people who react to their fear in this fashion. Some call them shy. Some, wrongfully, call them cowards.

But some people react to fear as a wolf reacts. We get angry. It is easier to be angry than to be afraid. It is less painful. The frightened wolf attacks whatever frightens him. But it is fear, nevertheless.

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Fear has been given to us so that we may recognise that which endangers us in this complex world. To avoid injury of one kind or another we need to recognise the danger, whatever it may be. Fear permits us to ask ourselves: what are we afraid of and to evaluate it. It gives us an opportunity to say to ourselves, we don’t need to be afraid of this person or that situation. It is something we can handle. It gives us an opportunity to understand that the other person may be as afraid of us as we are afraid of them. It gives us a chance to deal with our fear.

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Fear is also the stuff of courage. We cannot be brave without fear. One who faces unreasonable danger is not courageous unless that person has first felt fear and overcome it. He is only foolish. I know of no persons who are brave who are not first afraid. So, at last, fear is our friend. Listen to it. It speaks loudly to us. It is not to be ignored. It is to be cherished as our protective partner.

In the end, fear is a gift.

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