Sunday, December 31, 2017

Happy New year!

Another year has zipped past both of us, so glad we are both still right here, right now. With a number of not so good health conditions under control thanks to a fistful of prescriptions, i plan on continuing make photomontage digitally even though my bad back has forced an end to traditional darkroom.

My New Years wishes?

I hope i keep seeing things that tickle my creative nerves.
The verb to 'see' is an onion - many layers, literally the eye sends signals from the retina to the brain.
But that's only the beginning. After the seeing ends, the perception begins...

I hope i take the time to 'stop, look, listen'. Carefully.

Not just once, but often. And at great leisure.

I hope to apply whatever skills and wisdom 
i have acquired to good use.

I hope my dreams remain sweet.

And i hope i always keep this saying, or prayer as it is called, close to heart.

The Serenity Prayer is the common name for a prayer written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1892–1971). The best-known form is:

"God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
Courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference."

So right now you're thinking "uh-oh, is this guy some kind of evangelical religious ranter, standing on a soap box?"

No, only "sort of".

My parents made us say the Lord's prayer before bedtime, go to church and sunday school. Age 10, i was sent to a boarding school, mildly religious - a short (10 min.) chapel service every morning, a long one on sunday, complete w/ sermon.

Did it all sink in?
"Sort of".
The essence of the teachings is right on target, but i would delete any reference to an anthropomorphic 'God' or 'Lord'.

I think Buddhism gets closer to the truth = there's no 'higher power' but perhaps there is a deeper resonance in the universe. 
And in us, all of us.

I'll end w/ a very short bit of wisdom, a Warren Zevon song lyric:

"We contemplate eternity under the vast indifference of heaven"

Enough said - Thank you Warren, you left us too soon.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Seven sisters

If i come upon a few negs months ago, and make a montage, ...and then come back to the same negs/montage months later, unknowingly and most circuitously, and do another somewhat different montage.... am i repeating myself, wandering in the woods?
Or rather recirculating, revising, updating, improving?

This collection of rocks is called 'seven sisters', there are of course,
seven of them, all 50 ft. tall.

Here's the contact sheet:

I'm not sure, not sure i care which is which.
The color version was first, the B and W was second.

Just switching the orientation of the octillo (?)(foreground) changed everything.
Now the highlighted upper branch extends into the rock at the left in a different way, it's the same image, sort of, but not the same.

Soooo... here's 'hats off' to a second time 'round.

In the 'whatever catches my eye' file:

On Stephen Shore, and Looking for America
Nov. 9, 2017


Maybe it's time we Homo sapiens re-evaluated our relationship with the oceans of the world.

"Prehistoric, Dinosaur-Era Shark With Insane Teeth Found Swimming Off Coast of Portugal"


Mystery 'Shadow Patch' in Pacific Hasn't Moved For 1,000 Years And Scientists Finally Know Why

Please take a few moments to check out my self published books:

'California Beach Trip':
On Amazon:

'Desert Trip'
On Amazon:

'Seeking the Vibe'
On Blurb:

Previews of all at:

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Some Spooky stairs

This is one of the last two prints i will make in the darkroom - old age, in the form of a bad back (sciatica! Yeeoowch!) - has gotten the better of me, just can't bend over those trays or the enlarger easel and grain focuser.

There are two reasons why i am entranced by this print:

#1 - it goes to show something i have believed for a long time - montage isn't about lots of fancy darkroom tricks, at least not for me. It's about having the right negs, and finding/choosing them from amongst the thousands i have... and then composing very, very carefully. And then printing/exposing negs with some amount of care, but w/ some variation, improvisation. As an old song lyric goes 'hold on loosely, but don't let go'. Sometimes a mistake is a mistake, sometimes it's a blessing in disguise. Figuring out which is which, now that's the hard part.

The top part of this one is simply two monster sculpted rocky orbs w/ a space between them in Joshua Tree. The place is full of impossible jumbles of rock formations. 

The frame at bottom right, some machinery at the Wall St. Mill:

The legacy of one William Keys, this was his ranch:

And one notation of his handiwork, the place was lawless.

Another thing? ...they didn't have triple A out here in the early 40's.

#2 - This is the perfect image to end my darkroom work with - the stairs lead up.. and disappear into... the rocks? ..the space between them? Will i find myself between a rock and a hard place, going digital w/ my montage??

The answer is ...NO! Since the aborted-on-account-of-sciatica darkroom session, i have done over a hundred new images. Yeah, i know, my old photog. friends are saying 'what took ya so long, dummy-dude?'.
I really like the limitations darkroom imposes, they make you 'shit or go blind'. Good training. And as I've been saying for decades 'it's the most fun you can have with your clothes on'.

I took a stab at digitally coloring this one, w/ mixed results:

Digital coloring has a 'fake' quality to it sometimes, this is a good example.


In the occasional 'whatever catches my eye' file, as i cruise towards my 66th B'day, this one sure did:

What Happens to Creativity as We Age?

Gray Matter

By ALISON GOPNIK and TOM GRIFFITHS AUG. 19, 2017, New York Times

There's a lyric in a Jefferson Airplane (?) song, Grace Slick sings it:
'You're only as pretty as you feel'.

You're only as old as you feel, too.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Encryption machine

The basic/most important neg was shot at the 'Musee Mechanique' in SF/Cliff house, 
which was situated below the classy restaurant level:

Yes, this is the montage, sand and sky:

Cliff House over the years.

Don't know where the idea for this one came from, after all i did it many years ago, in 2008.
The basic shot is of the guts of an old fashioned player piano, you wind it up somehow, the wheels start spinning, and the perforations in the paper roll in the middle strike the keys of the piano. The clouds and the sand, above and below? Which is being recorded?... or played back as the case may be? A tantalizing enigma, come to your own conclusions.  

"A player piano (also known as pianola) is a self-playing piano, containing a pneumatic or electro-mechanical mechanism that operates the piano action via pre-programmed music recorded on perforated paper, or in rare instances, metallic rolls,............"

Another great item to be experienced here:

Here's more from the Musee Mechanique:

'Pick a card, any card'


Wednesday, July 19, 2017

A digital montage that looks like darkroom

I've been doing darkroom/film montage for 3+ decades, i've developed a sixth sense for what i shoot on film, and a similar gut-level compass for finding the right two or three negs to weave together.
For the last few weeks, i've been wallowing in digital montage, color pix & symmetry, i stopped and wondered - "i am losing my B and W bearings?". 
So one Sat. AM i opened up a neg i'd made in Joshua Tree, and looked for it's 'companion', it didn't take long for one neg to step up to the plate, volunteer, and fit right in, nicely. It's sort of a sandwich in that the lower layer is 'normal' but the next layer up is on 'screen'. Yes, there are blending masks going on.

Here's the negs:

And here is the montage, it feels a whole lot like my analog darkroom work!

Making this confirmed my faith that some skills ( photomontage among them) are like riding a bike - once you learn, you never forget. Old muscles may be dormant, but only that - "dormant" - waiting to be used.
And those instincts lead me to make images that have some marvelous details - in this one, the rock formations at the top blend into the clouds on the bottom neg, most 'serendipitously' - if that is a word Webster's would accept.

Here's a screen shot of the PSD file:

The layers from the bottom up:
1 The Joshua tree 'window'
2 The Joshua tree 'window', cleaned up
3 A black gradient, making the bottom pretty much pure black
4 A levels layer, some contrast, the hi-lites got a kick in the ass
5 The Red Rock canyon landscape, with a mask layer blending out the bottom
6 One final levels adjust, that increases contrast on layer 5

This blog software won't show this at the size i loaded - if you'd like a larger view? - click on it, drag and drop it to your desktop, open that in a browser.

Several rules you should observe while building come thing like this:
• start at the bottom (obviously!) and add a layer at a time, don't change the order, that will affect the effect - yes, i am wording that correctly.
• good idea = to double click on the layer title, name it appropriately. I don't always follow my own rules if the layer palette tells me all i need to know.
* Third rule - TAKE YOUR TIME! Save... and return again, later.

Finally, to tackle the big question 'what does it mean?'.....
Sometimes i have something resembling an answer, sometimes not. I don't like to try too hard on that one, it either happens or not.
There is a lot of tension in this one - at the bottom you are looking out from a cave, from under an overhang, of sorts. At the top you are looking up, at towering eroded cliffs. Maybe there isn't a simple answer, but something more complicated - a question - can radically different points of view coexist?
There is one spot in the center where the two images flow together.
And maybe that's what this means - there can be some unity, some confluence amidst the turbulence, the contrasts, the antagonisms of images, and landscapes before us.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Old muscles never need a tune up

Where do ideas/images like this one come from?
Where does inspiration for images like this reside?
Ask me no questions, I'll tell you no lies. Perhaps it comes from pondering our recent drought... which has now reversed itself, and may well become floods this spring/summer. The west has been shaped by water, you can't help but look at the desert and not see that no matter how dry it is now, it's sloping playas were formed by water, massive amounts of it.
In this image you are looking at Mono Lake, the horizon in the middle, and what's called tufa rising from it.
Just below the horizon, a few tumbled boulders leak a bit of the water into the foreground - the lake is ...drying...?
The tumbled boulders are from Tioga Pass (above Yosemite), at 8,000+ feet elevation. What and how does anything get tossed around at that elevation??
Don't ask me, ask a geologist.

Here's the contact sheets:

And here's a digitally colored version:

I've always liked this one frame, just one person, sitting... thinking, i suppose., or hope.
A tree grows behind him, several 'rolling stones' frame him.

From the 'whatever catches my eye' file, this one deserves your attention:

Many of the other creatures we share the planet with are a lot smarter than previously given credit for.
And we are plundering the planet in more ways than you can imagine:

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Symmetry - Let's go digital for a change!

I've loved mandalas since i first set eyes on one. 
Incredibly detailed, psychedelically colorful, mind boggling, and entrancing.

"A mandala (Sanskrit: मण्डल, lit, circle) is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, representing the universe.[1] In common use, "mandala" has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe.
The basic form of most mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. Each gate is in the general shape of a T.[2][3] Mandalas often exhibit radial balance.[4]
The term appears in the Rigveda as the name of the sections of the work, but is also used in other religions and philosophies, particularly Buddhism.
In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of practitioners and adepts, as a spiritual guidance tool, for establishing a sacred space, and as an aid to meditation and trance induction".
A few years ago i started doing symmetrical images in Photoshop:

I have loads of sky photos, that was the starting point. Then I continued adding things to the images:

And reshaping them any which way that occurred to me.
I quote Robert Rauschenberg in my artist statement:

"I think it was Robert Rauschenberg (correct me, someone/anyone, if my attribution is wrong) who said it best - "It starts by YOU telling the picture what it will be -- in the end, THE PICTURE tells you what IT will be...".
I also have several boxes of things I've collected thru the years, from walks on the beach - stones, bones, shells, these are a small part of my 'visual library' so to speak.

I guess maybe i could call them 'modern mandalas.'

This takes you to a portfolio page of images:

This goes to a 'how to' page, showing how i built this image:


And now a few words about my books:
(Check 'em out - i doubt you will be disappointed.)

After many years of making darkroom photomontage (since the late 80's), and not being able to get arrested for it except for a few appearances in competitive group shows, and some assignment illustrations in various magazines ....I am designing & publishing books I make at Blurb with 'Bookify' - two of them are on Amazon, one is at Blurb.

'California Beach Trip':
On Amazon:

'Desert Trip'
On Amazon:
This includes an image i have recently posted, titled 'Desert Time'.

'Seeking the Vibe'
On Blurb:

Previews of all at:

As the Terminator most famously said: "Ah'll be back"