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Cuba.

© Nevada Wier   Camagüey, Cuba.

Canon 5D MarkIII

Canon 16-35mm f/2.8 II USM        19mm  0.6sec at f/6.3   ISO 800

Aperture Priority. Evaluative Metering

No flash fired, on a tripod.

I don’t remember who said, “If your photographs are boring then find a better subject”. I certainly cannot argue with that statement. Most of us search for interesting landscapes, story and project ideas in our hometowns. However I have an opposite problem: Because of all the place to which I travel — I am overflowing with interesting subjects, in fact, sometimes I think I am cursed with them.

I think travel photography is one of the hardest genres because of this. I have seen some of the best editorial and commercial photographers show some of the most boring, mundane travel images in presentations. The elation of travel trumped the artistry of photography

Travel is an elixir. I am addicted to travel; I am a sensory junkie. I love the smells, the feelings of adventure, newness and self-discovery. I revel in the unknown and being off-kilter. I love meeting new people, eating unusual foods, and not knowing what the next minute will bring my way. Photography is fine friend with which to travel – it has forced me to interaction intimately, non-verbally, and honestly with strangers. I am forced to come in close and initiate the relationship. I have become a better person because I travel.

So of course we are emotionally attached to our travel photographs. They are snapshots of us, the ultimate selfie. When we exhibit a photograph made during our travels, we are showing a little bit of our soul. However, honestly, any photograph is a bit of our soul. It is not enough to render an image of an interesting person that we met, or a stunning statue, or intricate architecture. Our job as a photographer is to make an interesting image of whatever we decide to immortalize. There is no such thing as a boring subject, just boring ways of photographing it. An interesting subject also demands an interesting or unique viewpoint.

I have the luxury of traveling to some of the most intriguing places in the world, primarily to photograph the cultures that live within.

Cuba is on the photo radar! And, it is a photographers dream: imaginative decay, intriguing people, unexpected color, and exuberant expressions! Color, light, action, pattern! And, plenty of gestures!

It is too easy. Just walk down a street in Cuba and without thinking you will find your hands on your camera “click”, “click”, “click”. It is infectious and joyful. There are very few shy people and very few “no!” I open my arms and I feel as if I can hug Cuba. That is a great travel feeling.

Yet, as a photographer I have to not only feel, but think. I have to not only experience, but also interpret. I have to make an interesting image of an interesting subject.

This is a long preachy, preamble to talking about the above image. But it is part of its anatomy.

The image above was taken early in 2014 when I was traveling throughout Cuba with a two photographer friends, American and Cuban. Carlos, my Cuban friend, had met Luis Antonio (80 years old) on previous trip. He lived in a one of those sad, beautiful, decrepit, extraordinary, run-down, “how-can-anyone-live-here!” houses that is too prevalent in Cuba.

If you are only a street photojournalist, trying to be an unobtrusive observer, then you can wait find the “decisive” moments. I have a bit more in repertoire and often find that I have to compose a portrait, and that requires extending myself in order to create a relationship. This time I had an entrée, and that makes it easier of course. Often times I have to be open and outright, and invite myself inside someone’s home (“Puedo?”). Often amusing (or horrifying) them with my pathetic Spanish (or non-existent language since I primarily travel in Asia).

Luis was charming; his neighbors were charming. I loved the entire experience. But, I wanted to make a different portrait of him. I walked all around his decaying house. I marveled at the colors in the “how-can-he-cook-here!” kitchen. It was dark. I had my workhorse Canon 5DMarkIII but photographing handheld would have required cranking the ISO to such a high degree that I knew the image would fall apart upon close inspection. I rarely travel with a tripod but this time I had one with me.

I decided to photograph Luis from the within the kitchen with my widest-angle lens. The colors were a subtle pastel palette. I used the highest ISO that I knew would hold the most detail with the least amount of noise. Since it was still image I knew a slow shutter speed was fine… but not too slow.

I like environmental portraits where the environment is as important as the person within it.

So tomorrow I head to Cuba again. And, it WILL be fun!! And, I will enjoy being a traveler there. And, I will also have to see differently and make images with impact, intent, and originality. Not an easy task!

I’m honored to be featured in the new Craft&Vision digital magazine, PHOTOGRAPH. It is a gorgeous 250-page ad-free digital magazine for creative photographers, downloadable in PDF format. This issue is dedicated to travel and adventure and features 4 photographers – myself, Chris Burkard, Richard Salas, and Richard Martin. It is only $6 at the moment (regularly $8). However, it is worth getting a subscription; it is a stunning magazine.

http://craftandvision.com/products/photograph-no-14

Please note that the webpage has my name spelled incorrectly but it should be changed in the magazine by now. (No worries, wonderful people at Craft&Vision…everyone spells it incorrectly.)

and YES, I’m gearing up to begin contributing to my blog again. Watch for an upcoming Anatomy of a Photograph soon!

4_Nevada_yukophoto

I had a wonderful reception in Santa Fe, NM for my new exhibit – INVISIBLE LIGHT: The World in Infrared. The room was packed for over two hours. I was so glad to see many good friends and gratified that the Santa Fe community came out in droves. Of course, it helped to have fellow Santa Fean photographers, Janet Russek & Alan Perlman, also exhibiting their wonderful images. I can happily say that the Verve Gallery (the best in the world) and I have had many sales and I hope they will continue throughout its run (ending November 2nd) and beyond. Cheers and a toast to the Love of Art! (and thanks to Yuko Hirao for making most of the images)

7_Nevada_yukophoto 3_Nevada_yukophoto21_Nevada_yukophoto 26_Nevada_yukophoto

Please visit The Verve Gallery of Photography to peruse the images

or

www.nevadawier.com – Invisible Light

and here’s an interview Janet Russek and I did for Arts Beat KVSF 101.5 Santa Fe

and here is an article in the SantaFean Pasatiempo

Please take a look at the new Nevada Wier Artist Video from Verve Gallery of Photography in Santa Fe. I think they did an excellent job making this short piece.

My new show “Invisible Light: The World in Infrared” will be showing September 6 – November 3 at the Verve. Opening September 27.  I will write some more on this later. In the meantime, enjoy the video!

Nevada Wier Artist Video from VERVE Gallery of Photography

Check out my new blog post on the B&H InDepth Blog! Enjoy!

WAKE UP AND FORGET THE COFFEE

Nevada Wier

Cuba. Havana. Ballet Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba. Digital Infrared.

© Nevada Wier 2012    Cuba. Havana. Dance Studio. Digital Infrared.

Canon EOS 5D   EF 24-105 f/4 IS USM  (80mm)

0.6 sec.  f/6.3   ISO 1250 

I’m on my way to Cuba tomorrow with another Santa Fe Workshops People-to-People sponsored tour of Havana and Trinidad. So I feel it is appropriate to discuss an image I made last year in Cuba.

I’m in the process of printing for my new exhibit featuring only digital infrared prints that will premier at the Verve Gallery in Santa Fe on September 24, 2013. So I have infrared on my mind and want to share this image with you. It will be featured in a summer show of Verve artists titled “Figures Studied” Friday, June 28, 2013 – Saturday, August 31, 2013

For those of you who are not familiar with the digital Infrared process. I sent a Canon 5D (I am now using a Canon 5DMark II) to www.lifepixel.com to remove the hot mirror filter in front of the sensor that blocks infrared light and replace it with a custom manufactured infrared or clear filter filter. To read more about this mystical process please go to their website. I have the Standard Conversion. I love that I am creating an image of a subject that I can see in visible light but I am really making a visible rendering with invisible light; mildly surreal and metaphysical.

The above image was made in at the Ballet Lizt Alfonso Dance Cuba studio in Havana, Cuba. We were graciously allowed to photograph for a couple of hours in a two different classes. There were obvious limitations; primarily we did not want to disturb the class in any way.  Even though our group of eight was split up we also were conscious of sharing a limited space. Since I was the coordinator of the group I was especially concerned not to wander into anyone’s frame. (If I was a paying member of the group I sure would be annoyed if the guide was consistently in the best spot.) We also had a limited amount of time so we had to work very, very quickly.

I crouched down in the back of the room, and then consciously moved to either side of the room. We had our own choreography of movement around each other as we photographing the student dancers.

When I have a limited amount of time I work really quickly and try a myriad of combinations of shutter speeds and apertures. Since the image was about movement and expression there are basically two approaches: use a fast shutter speed to stop the action or a slow one to blur the movement. The first choice is the easiest and produces good but often-predictable images. I am a big fan of slow shutter speeds, yet there is more chance of failure. Conversely, there is also more chance of creating a singular personal image. Working in dim light means it is more difficult to use a faster shutter speed; another reason to experiment more with slower shutter speeds.

The room did have a bank of windows coming in from the right side so it wasn’t too dim. Nevertheless, I used 1250 ISO that was amendable to the use of a wide range of shutter speeds without producing too much noise.

One limitation I have with my infrared camera is the unpredictability of the focus. Infrared light does not focus on the same plane as visible light. In the old fixed focal length lenses there is an infrared scale on the front of the lens. However, with zoom lenses this is not possible. My 5D was calibrated for the 35mm focal length on my 24-105mm lens. Nevertheless I try to stay as close to f/8 as possible, and will the 5D I try hard never to go above 1600 ISO.

In this particular image I edged close to the front of classroom on the left side and framed the image through the mirror, hence the graduations in the light across the wall. Most the images when I used shutter speeds close to 1 second were too blurry or just didn’t have the definitions in the torsos and limbs that I prefer. The truth is that I only needed one image that worked. Just one. There are other images that are good but this one is my favorite, primarily because the lead dancer is so sharp, and the other dancers are distinct enough.

Digital infrared allows a bit of the visible light so there are touches of blue and yellow within the image. (Each conversion has different color palettes and there are choices when one processes the image. You can swap the blue and yellow color channel, but I rarely do this. And, occasionally there is a reddish color instead of yellow.)

The image is in the final stages of perfecting the print. For me, printing is like sculpting. I have to create depth and dimension on a piece of paper. I am also there, just a bit more fine tuning in the “burning and dodging”.

However for now, I’m off again to crumbling, fascinating Cuba. I have a new Olympus OM-D EM-5 that I’m using for color photography (usually I take a 5D Mark III but I’m testing the smaller, lighter mirrorless Olympus camera, more on that later). However, I have a Canon 5D Mark II for infrared images. I don’t go on any trip now without my infrared camera.

Here is a preview of another Infrared image I made in Rajasthan, India.

I love the Invisible Made Visible possibilities.  

2011_Rajasthan

© Nevada Wier 2010    India. Rajasthan. Pushkar Fair. Digital Infrared.

Canon EOS 5D   EF 24-105 f/4 IS USM  (24mm)

1/60 sec.  f/7.1   ISO 800

Little Rann of Kutch. Dasada Village. Rabari Tribe.

© Nevada Wier    Gujarat, India 2012    Little Rann of Kutch. Dasada Village. Rabari Tribe.

Canon EOS 5D Mark II      EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM  (365mm)         1/200 sec;   f/16;   ISO 200

I did it! A new blog post. A promise actualized. It is a beautiful thing. I hope you enjoy it. Happy 2013.

I’m off to Nagaland, Assam, and Arunachal Pradesh, N.E. India. Sitting in the Newark airport waiting for my flight to Mumbai and then Kolkata. I’m a happy gal.

I know all the reasons we often use not to photograph. “The light is terrible”. “Nobody wants to be photographed”.  “I don’t have the right lens”. “I’m tired”.  As a professional you HAVE to overcome all these fake excuses. Especially recognizing that it is my projection that someone doesn’t want to be photographed when I haven’t even approached him or her.

When I am not on assignment it is easy to let that devil in my head take over.

I call this “inertia”. Trust me, there is always a good reason not to photograph. I know all the excuses; I know them intimately and they haunt me.

And, then after I have swum past all those blockades, I still have to make an interesting image out of an interesting subject. I have to make extraordinary ordinary images. Photography takes mental and physical effort, as well as exercising creative muscles.

I’m am on my way to India, so it is appropriate to reflect on an image I made last year at this time. I was in the lovely western state of Gujarat. It doesn’t require much effort to make a striking photograph in India; it is so darn colorful, vibrant, and exciting. It is too easy to photograph an interesting face in front of a azure doorway, and, voila, the interesting subject carries the image. But that is just another form of inertia. My mission is to look beyond the obvious and find the gem within the gem. My challenge is to make an interesting image of an interesting subject. I think that is the difference between a good travel photographer and a great one.

It is late afternoon in a small village in the Little Rann of Kutch. The light was lovely, soft, and inviting. I was at the river while women were gathering water. It was a feast of color and activity. My first inclination was to gravitate to the women washing the clothes. However, I don’t trust my first inclinations, they are usually based on images that I (or someone else) have already made. I want something different. I’m internally muttering “Where is the unique image? Where is the unique image?”

I decided to photograph into the sun with the river in the background to turn the water bearers into silhouettes.  A silhouette needs to be crisp, clear and have a special clarity of its own; people can’t merge into each other or other objects. That is a challenge when people are milling about. If I do manage to isolate someone from others, then it is also important that the arms and legs are separated and not look like sticks. I also realized that the riverbank was cutting the frame horizontally in half, definitely a compositional problem. I needed to get higher. I had to eliminate the ground and only have the river in the background. (Where’s that ladder?).

I saw an abandoned well just behind me with a raised rim four feet high and about 6 inches wide. I climbed up on the rim to the horror of Manoj, my Indian friend, (some of you might remember that I broke my C2 in a car accident a few years ago) and he pleaded with me to get down. I am sure he was visualizing my paralyzing plummet into the well behind me. However I have great balance and knew it wasn’t a problem, but to avoid Manoj having a nervous breakdown and assure longevity in life as well as on the rim, I asked someone to brace my legs.

Excellent, now I was high enough so I could frame people in front of the backlit river without the ground interfering in the frame. I needed my 100-400mm lens from this distance and now I had to think about my exposure. I learned from my film days to get the exposure right and not depend upon software. I appreciate that training, but I also appreciate the relief  of the  versatility of RAW processing. The background river acted as a giant mirror; it was bright, very bright. I had to open up my exposure compensation +2 stops and then I waited for “a moment”. I was ready but the water-gathering ladies were diminishing in number. The few that arrived merged into each other and looked like two-headed blobs in the frame. I am not averse to setting up a photograph but I much prefer a natural moment. So I waited.

My legs became exceedingly tired of balancing on the narrow ledge, so I got down a couple of times and shook them out for a while. But, I knew I didn’t have a usable image yet, so I clambered back up. I was aware that the reflected setting sun was so bright that it would refract at the edges of the silhouette, but I didn’t realize that it would rim the body with a multitude of  mini “sun stars”. The image above is one of the last frames of the day. My legs were turning to Silly Putty, my spotter was distracted, and it was clear it was time to leave. “One more, one more!” And, that “one more” is the image. It is the only image that had a clear profile of person, a reasonable separation of the arms, and a provocative expression with the legs, and complete rimming of diffractive light. It was worth the time balancing on that rim for 45 minutes. I knew I was in the right place. I was just praying for the right person and gesture. Most often perseverance pays out.

I could have easily photographed the women washing clothes in the lovely direct evening light. It sure would have been easier on my body and Manoj’s heart rate. However, I have a zillion of these kind of lovely images and the world has a zillion squared of them. The trick is to find one that is singular and impulsively unique to that moment in time.

So off I go again, in search of a personal, evocative moment and interpretation. Let’s hope that I don’t succumb to the myriad of to avoid the effort it takes.

© nevada wier 2012 Iceland, Skogafoss Falls

iphone 4s; App: Camera Bag, Italiano processing

Whoever said “the best camera is the one you have with you” hit it straight on the mark. Recently I was in Iceland, enjoying its summer of eternal daylight and plethora of amazing waterfalls. I shy away from deeming myself a “nature photographer”. One either is extraordinarily lucky to be in great location with amazing light or they are persistent in order to be in that great location and finally have amazing light. I am not that patient and luck is fleeting. However, in Iceland there I was, on a tripod (ack!) photographing its abnormal number of incredible and accessible waterfalls. It felt as if every day I was at the bottom or top or side of yet another mind-blowing thundering cascade. At the first one, I used a neutral density filter for that languid slow shutter – de rigeurs for any water enthusiast. At the next I made panoramas. At another I played with multiple exposures (actually I really like what I did with the multiple exposures; it sure took Canon a long time to put that feature on the 5D camera!) and at yet another I even tried the new HDR feature on the Canon 5DMarkIII, even though I am not a fan of HDR. Finally I thought “Screw it, I’m just going to go look at the next waterfall!” But, grabbed my iPhone at the last minute. And, of course, at this particular waterfall I had the best photography opportunity of all because there was a wedding party of hardy Icelanders braving the cold spray for their photographers. People! My métier! Naturally I tagged along… with my iPhone. In my opinion, the iPhone is as “serious” of a camera as my SLRs. What type of camera one uses is irrelevant; it is how you use that matters. So there I was making the best waterfall image of the trip with my iPhone.

After my initial frenzy of photo app buying and fiddling with photos in a ridiculously small screen, I decided that I only have the time and patience to use with two apps that does the processing for me. Since I don’t crop my images I found that Hipstatmatic (usually John S lens and Kodot film), or Camera Bag (I use Lolo, Italiano, and occasionally Magazine). that I liked best for my images. I have zero desire, or time, to spend messing about with other app processing. I already spend too much time in front of the computer editing my images and processing the RAW images I use in my assignments and personal projects. Two apps are plenty for me.

During my travels I am usually carrying a Canon 5DMarkIII, with a retinue of lenses, for color images and a converted Infrared camera (I have a Canon 5DMarkII with a standard IR conversion and a Canon 5D with an enhanced IR conversion). And, I have the iPhone. That’s a lot of cameras to keep track of but I enjoy all the creative challenges.

I’m heading off to China today to photograph the hill tribes in Guizhou. I have my arsenal of SLRs, lenses, flashes, accessories… and my iPhone! I bet I use it a lot, and not just because I left my other cameras behind.

The following is another images I made this past spring in India at a vintage car museum in Gujarat. I used my iPhone4s to create a preconceived collage of images.

© nevada wier 2012 India, Vintage Car Museum, Gujarat

iphone 4s; App: Camera Bag, Lolo processing

© nevada wier               Peru. Paucartambo. Virgen del Carmen festival.

Canon 5D Mark II Canon EF16-35mm f/2.8 II USM (18mm) 1/30 sec;   f/7.1;   ISO 1600

Shutter Priority. Evaluative Metering. Daylight white balance

I’m on my way (literally, in the air right now) to Peru so this is the perfect time to write about an image I made last year at the fabulous Virgen del Carmen festival in the pueblo of Paucartambo. If you have been following my posts about photography you know that I enjoy photographing at night with fill-flash. Of course, this is not easy (another reason I enjoy the challenge) and I am used to making a lot of mistakes. In fact, I mostly make mistakes; but that is part of the process. There are a lot of inhibiting factors photographing a festival at night. First of all, at Paucartambo, it is extremely crowded and you never really know what is going on (even if you speak Spanish well, which I don’t). I am used to “wiggling” myself into a good location. I knew where the dancers were coming from (inside the church) but not when, so it was important to find a good location early, and maintain it. That wasn’t easy. I was in a great place and then, just before the action, the police (kindly) moved me. I wiggled back into another location that I actually liked better, and crouched low, so as not block anyone behind me. (I bless my good knees.)

I was aware of the yellow temperature of the incandescent streetlights. Even though it was dark they provided plenty of ambient light. I usually work with Daylight White Balance and decided to keep this setting to maintain the yellowish light temperature. Instead of putting a balancing warming gel over my flash I just used a dome diffuser with the flash straight on, to throw a whitish light onto the warm scene. I hesitated using a high ISO with the Canon 5D Mark II (I preferred to stay at 800 ISO or less), but I knew at night I needed 1600 in order to preserve some depth-of-field since focus was going to be tricky. So, it was very important to have the correct exposure; I didn’t want to have to open up any of the shadows in the RAW processing and expose distracting noise.

Certainly, I wanted a bit of a slow shutter-speed to have a bit of blur in the background for the appearance of action since I knew that my flash burst would preserve sharpness on the actors/clowns/dancers. 1/30 of second seemed perfect with a -1 EV on my flash set on TTL exposure. I was sitting on the curb so I was about 10 feet from the performers in the parade (praying the police wouldn’t move me again). I felt good about my location because I saw I had a bit of the dark sky (it was 6pm, more than an hour after sunset) and if I could place a dancer right there in the dark sky I felt it would have impact. And, there they came! I glanced at my histogram and flash exposure. I worked with different shutter speeds. I panned. I stopped action. I maintained my position, against many odds, until the police moved me and 20 other people, kindly, across the street. Oh well, I thought I had my image. And, I did.

Any questions? I’m back at it again this year!

Hasta luego amigos y amigos!

India.  Nagaland. Aoleang Monyu festival. Wakching Village. Naga tribe. Young boys in front of Murong. 2008

Canon EOS 1Ds Mark II     Canon IS 24-105 mm (58mm)    
Camera Setting: 1/125 sec. f/10         ISO 400    
 

I have the good fortune of traveling to a myriad of remarkable places in the world. And, India certainly has its share of remarkable places and cultures!.

I have been to Nagaland in the far northeast, near the Myanmar border, a number of times. In 2008 I visited the northern area of the Mon Nagas during their festival period. In addition to visiting the communal tribal festival gathering in town of Mon, of course, I traveled to the villages.

At Wakching I spied two boys in their traditional festival garb wearing Spiderman masks. I beckoned to them to stand up near the traditional Naga murong (meeting place for the men of the tribe) that is decorated with carved wooden creatures.

I always ask myself before clicking the shutter. “What is the problem?” There is always a problem that might require removing a piece of trash, or adjusting my position to eliminate a disruptive element in the background, or … oh there are so many possibilities. In this case, the light was even because of a subtle fog but that meant the sky was bright white. Since the eye is attracted to the lightest thing in an image it was important to incorporate the white sky as an effective design element.

I motioned for the two boys to move slightly over so that the left most boy was fully in the white sky helping to tone down its predominance. I wanted the right boy to maintain a presence in the murong so that they were bodily connected.

I was acutely aware of the pattern that the wood and sky were creating. It was clear to me that the composition had to be impeccable. Obviously the boy’s facial expressions were not important, it was their total body language that had to convey impact. I noted that their legs were separated and arm positions were natural. They were definitely confident and willing to be photographed. But one always has to work fast with young boys; they can bolt at any moment! So all of this happened very quickly in my mind.

But it had to right in the frame because I do not crop or change any content in my images!

This photograph became part of an exhibit/book work-in-progress called Outer India. I had a showing of its first phrase at the Verve Gallery in Santa Fe NM in 2010 (I have another show coming up at the Zia Gallery  in Chicago this coming September 7 – October 13, 2012.) I decided when I began printing for the show that some of the Northeast images would be selectively de-saturated. This is a gritty, tribal area and a more muted look suited the area. I did a mockup in Lightroom as a guideline then started from scratch in Photoshop—layer by adjustment layer (sometimes over 40 layers), to sculpt the image. It was a painstaking process but I am very pleased with the prints for the series. And, I especially love this one.

Printed in my studio with the HP Z3200 printer on Hahnemuhle Photo Rag Baryta paper.

Any questions?

Good idea Candance!

Here’s the color image with a minimal of work in Lightroom.

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POLL – August 3, 2009