Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Near Zero...A Foggy Day in Michigan

The Fog

The fog veils the dawn
With fear and anxiety, cloaking
Moor, meadow and me in mists of mystery
And moist smoke and mirrors.

Muzzled by a heavy shroud
Of whiter shades of pale,
Birdsong and bubbling brook
Fall silent as if to warn.

Green fields seem grey,
Flattened stems seem weighted
By the compassing cloud
That has sunk to earth
To swallow me whole.

I cannot see beyond
The damply masking fog
In mind and moor
To the sharp mountains beyond,
Wild and free,
Bright and clear.

©  2009, Inspired Writing

I've driven past this rural landscape on my way to a weekly destination and always enjoyed the atmosphere. But now this day was somehow different.  The normal December weather did not greet me, but rather I was embraced by a low dense fog, rain, and moderate temperature.  Yes this was the perfect time for a few roadside stops to take it all in.  Luckily I was able to approach within close proximity an abandoned farm house I discovered years ago but somehow the ambience just wasn't right...that is until this day.  Plus the weathered and worn summer grasses just radiated a warm glow in this climate.  Another treat was the large scale art that is routinely scheduled for this remote rural setting that oddly seems an appropriate destination.

Overall this strange winter weather in Michigan presents opportunities where moments of wandering and hidden treasures await.  Ultimately this experience and brief imagery resulted in this short video; enjoy the fog that veils the dawn and beyond.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

First Time in Black/White Magazine

I announced a few weeks ago that I was finally accepted into the fine art publication Black & White Magazine.  This was cause for celebration since I finally attained acceptance after four years of rejection letters, plus the fact that BW Magazine is the ultimate standard for black & white images within select circle of fine art photography collectors in the art world; indeed a worthy goal to set.

So today I'm happy to report an update on my news of winning entry into the esteemed Black & White Magazine's Special Issue #95, February 2013 Single Image.  I just received my copy in the mail yesterday so I'm guessing if it's not in bookstores today it will be before week's end.  I'm honored to be in the Landscape/Nature category with my image, Axis Mundi 3 displayed on page 44.  All in all 2013 is indeed starting off in the right direction; always a good sign.

This image Axis Mundi 3 came about as an assignment for a class I was taking with an award-winning expert in neutral density filters to document dramatic landscapes and architectural subject matter.  It was taken in mid-March 2012 at a nearby county park on a cold, rainy day; perfect for capturing the drama of black/white.  This is one of several I took that day that eventually became a new website gallery, Axis Mundi or the "Cosmic Trees of Life".  Go to my website homepage of www.joannescherf.com or directly to the gallery page of http://joannescherf.photoshelter.com/gallery/Axis-Mundi-Cosmic-Trees-of-Life/G0000tRcfW37SrY4/ for the full Axis Mundi gallery.

I hear the wind among the trees
Playing the celestial symphonies
I see the branches downward bent
Like keys of some great instrument
                                                                        -Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Clouds appear
And bring to man a chance to rest
From looking at the moon
                                                                                     -Basho haiku

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Image of the Month: December

It's that time of year when the holiday decorating reaches a fever pitch. With all this unusually warm weather it has provided even more time to put up just one more string of lights.  Well that's all fine for the amateurs but I've found a professional in a nearby neighborhood that trumps all attempts to exceed at this truly American competitive event of holiday decorating.

This particular house has been on my radar and shot list for years and through a convergence of circumstances I arrived at the house yesterday to catch the owner in the midst of putting on the final touches.  I didn't get his name, but he had a full white beard, stocky physique and very jolly demeanor; no joke!  He was assisted by his great-grandson "Peanut" and Rottweiler dog "Charlie" who politely made sure I kept my distance. His lot is an unusual shape and quite large but every inch is filled with a creative display of makeshift arrangements and scenes of Christmas.  The display is up for just the month of December probably because the electric bill is equivalent to most people's yearly bill.  Since it attracts throngs of people, cars, and assorted chartered buses arrives non-stop to catch a glimpse of his creation, it's an annual event I'm sure the neighbors have mixed feelings about.

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

That said, I'm definitely going back for several more trips to explore this rich opportunity for adding to my urban/street photography.  It will be a nice addition to my ongoing book on the quirkiness of our American culture.  Since I just had my iPhone with me I took just a few shots but I think you'll get the idea. In keeping with the quirkiness and kitschy theme of the site I used some apps to make it look nostalgic and vintage...hope you like it.

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Image of the Month: November

For me the basis of my entire photographic approach has always been from the perspective of a portrait artist.  Meaning that I view all images as portraits even though the subject matter is landscapes, urban environments or anything but people that is typically associated with the term 'portrait'.  With that mindset and approach I also feel that lighting is a critical element and perhaps the tool of priority when it comes to eliciting the best possible portrait of said subject matter.  Lighting and portraits go hand in hand.  In essence light becomes a tool used to heighten the visual intent and communicative potential of an image.  Since most of my photographic adventures occur in the outdoor environment I'm totally reliant upon natural light and always mindful of how the natural light is a major ingredient in my overall composition.  To use light to my advantage I have to consider the direction, angle, quality and intensity of lighting just like one would do in a studio environment.

Another basic photographic principle I follow is to just keep it simple.  I prefer to casually direct the viewer's focus by manipulating the staging, overall composition and lighting rather than overpopulate the scene with extraneous peripherals.  This flower image was taken outdoors with natural lighting documenting the first dusting of the winter season years ago.  But by using the lighting to my advantage and creating a dark background I was able to offer opportunities for the viewer to linger on the details of the leaves and overall ambience the image conveys.

© 2005, Joanne Scherf

This is actually one of my favorites because it is simple, uses natural lighting, a little selective soft focus, and organically combines the two seasons in one image; a summer hydrangea cascading with the season's first snowfall.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Emotion of Architecture

Bricks, mortar, steel and glass.  We walk by buildings all the time and yet do we appreciate when a building's personality is conveyed through what I refer to as "emotional architecture"?  Since another fascination of mine is architecture I'm often scanning buildings for details and creative interpretation that sets it apart from other more mundane structures.  Like any other art form there's always going to be periods of design that embrace similar artistic concepts or building materials, but beyond that what catches my eye is building emotion into the facade or soul into the building.

To blend my love of photography and architecture I wanted to challenge myself to see if I could interpret the design intent and take it further in terms of an emotional message.  The basis of my theory is that architecture is more about documenting building structures or monuments; it's basically a portrait of humanity itself.

The building I chose for this experiment is the Holocaust Memorial Center located in Farmington Hills, Michigan.  The building itself is a basic, non-descript rectangular design with nothing special, that is until you focus on the walls themselves.  The emotional messages are not so sublime.  A small vertical portion of the building uses a familiar colored striping akin to the typical prisoner clothing of the holocaust camps.  In case that subtle hint at the building's interior escapes the viewer, the barbed wire strung along metal fence posts on the building's facade drive the message home loud and clear

To enhance the visual message intended by the architect I chose to go with a black & white treatment rather than color.  My special tool of choice was limited to basically the use of natural light along with a little gestalt for creative tension.  How could I use the light and enhance it to guide the viewer's eyes to focus on the architectural message via the strong design elements of the building (striping and barbed wire)?  The answer was the application of neutral density lighting to create just the right mood and atmosphere to further the emotion of the building's original intent and interior space.

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Award Winner....Women in Photography International

Just received notice that one of my images, Illusions, won an award from Women in Photography International (WIPI).  It's always an honor to be recognized, but the WIPI is a wonderful organization composed of some of the best professional women photographers worldwide, so it means even more.

This image was taken on a cold, rainy October day in a beautiful cemetery with the sunlight just beginning to stream through the trees.  The soft focus only illuminates, figuratively and literally, the natural light emerging from the background to create the burst of color rays streaking forward.  Also this soft approach I felt added to the ambience of the location and emotional equivalent of the image.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Image of the Month: October

With the latest technology literally at our fingertips and options for creative expression endless, when is enough just that...enough?  I keep asking myself this question as I continue to explore the seemingly endless possibilities when I use an iPhone to take images.  Unlike when using my digital pro level camera and follow-up with post production in Photoshop only, the same is not true when I use the iPhone.  Using the phone as my camera, I tend to use not just one app but a mixed bag of apps sometimes resulting in as many as seven apps for one image.  That I believe is the case because I treat each app as providing a specialty or niche that other apps don't perform as well or don't even offer as a feature.  My use of the variety of apps tends now to be more akin to using these apps as if switching between different brushes as a painter would do.  I actually much prefer this method of continually swapping my tool selection as dictated by the creative path the image dictates.

But with the plethora of an ever-increasing quantity of apps, can it be just too much?  In other words does there come a point in the post-production process when one should put the brake on and say, "enough is enough"?  Or should you keep on using more and more apps until one has exhausted all plausible outcomes, if that is even possible.  To visualize this point, I'll show the creative flow of one very ordinary image and the outcomes of the variety of apps used in post-production.  Four different apps were used, but within each app an average of three functions were applied, resulting in twelve different creative twists.

So determine for yourself where in the flow of creativity you would have stopped and said, yes this is a finished image.  Would you have stopped at the first, second, third, etc. manipulated image or continued onward to infinity?  Ultimately I think it depends on the desired outcome or vision so the endpoint will vary, but it's a fair question to be asked over and over again.

Original Capture

1st app treatment
2nd app treatment
3rd app treatment
4th (and final) app treatment
I think one can make the case that the original image had good composition, perspective, and great complimentary colors to add to the gestalt and tension.  However, one could also argue that the successive post-production steps using a variety of apps also provided different and unique outcomes, perhaps one more interesting than another.  All said and done, I do think one can become overwhelmed and overdo the post-production, but as I get more comfortable with knowing which app to use when, I find that the end result comes naturally and not forced.  It's a learning curve, and with more and more practice, with time the organic endpoint will be an achievement of satisfaction punctuated by an "ah ha" moment.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Translating Emotion

Even though my passion lies with photography, as a visual artist I'm drawn to the art forms and design approaches to gain an edge or add to my bag of tricks. My thinking is that it significantly helps develop the creative and visual muscles in different ways that can only benefit my seeing as a photographer.   After awhile without purposeful intent to challenge my photographic approach or vision, I find the descent into the comfort zone of normalcy and auto pilot is just beyond the precipice where one doesn't take the time to visually problem solve and in effect truly think and create. To that end then I'm taking another graphic design course to further develop my creative muscles in the hopes I find a few moments of wow and attempt to translate and implement that concept into my future photographic vision.

Case in point.  I just experienced an amazing exercise using just typography, spacing, sizing, and placement to elicit the emotion or meaning of a single word or idea.  Say for example you have the word "horror" and using a font that was designed with dripping blood or such would easily convey the meaning of the word.  The significant word here is "easy" as anyone can use one of the thousands of fonts available, and without any thought or design skills convey the word's meaning.  However if you are restricted to just a plain typeface font the exercise becomes more challenging perhaps on the same level of brain teasing puzzles.  Take a few minutes to really see what's behind my design of the following three word examples and see how white space, placement and sizing play a part in creating the illusion of the word. Without getting too deep, even consider the psychology of the design and why it works in conveying the meaning of the word.

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

So here's the other challenge.  Based on this graphic design example of using very basic design elements, can this concept be translated and applied to photographic use?  Unless one is shooting in a studio environment where the beginning is a totally blank space such as the above exercise (blank white sheet of paper), the photographer typically is out in the environment doing a deconstructive approach to narrowly focus on the subject matter.  So basically how can one convey an emotion of a word or concept using the physical 2D aspect of photography?  Challenging yes, impossible no; it just takes a little creative muscle to convey an emotion or essence of a concept as applied in the above examples.  To me this is where photography becomes exciting and more challenging for me personally when I have to go beyond the medium and really stretch my creative muscles. 

Historically it's already been done in photography, perhaps the most famous being that of Alfred Stieglitz and his Equivalent series or the mastery of Minor White's work.  Stieglitz was the pioneer in "emotional photography" and he obtained the desired result by freeing the subject matter from literal interpretation thus rendering the image as an abstract form.  In his Equivalent series of cloud images, Stieglitz destabilized the viewer's relationship with nature in order to obliterate all references to reality thus forcing one to think more about the feeling the image invokes.  Minor White, the master of this genre typically focused on subject matter of everyday mundane objects such as barns, doorways, water, sky and such.  However he successfully achieved the "emotional equivalent" concept by using a special quality of light and captured a sentiment or emotionally symbolic idea using elements that carry a feeling or sense of recognition.  In the imagery of both Stieglitz and White, they rendered the specific objects themselves as of secondary importance to photographer and viewer alike.  White said of his photography..."recognized an object or series of forms that, when photographed, would yield an image with specific suggestive powers that can direct the viewer into a specific and known feeling, state, or place within himself."

So with Stieglitz and White as my inspiration here's two examples I captured years ago of my personal version of taking a 2D object and capturing it in such a manner as to imply a feeling, state of mind, or place within oneself.  I also like to use the captivating nature of natural light and image abstraction to achieve the essence of the concept.

© 2009, Joanne Scherf

© 2010, Joanne Scherf

"When you approach something to photograph, first be still with yourself until the object of your attention affirms your presence.  Then don't leave until you have captured its essence".  Minor White

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Image of the Month: September

Serendipity.  The accident of finding something good while not specifically searching for it.  In other words, a "happy accident" or "pleasant surprise".  I experienced this chance encounter recently when capturing images along the beach of Lake Michigan.  More specifically I was focused on a cairn (towering stones forming a directional landmark) located at the water's edge.  With my iPhone I typically take two images of the same scene, one for highlights and the other for shadows, then merge the two for the best of both.  I must have been distracted between the two images and pointed the camera on a totally different scene altogether for the second image.  Still unaware of my slight of hand, I merged the two different scenes together and then discovered an effect that was more interesting and stunning than I initially intended.  Furthermore, I did nothing else, no magical apps to enhance the final outcome;  just merging the two separate images as one image.  In hindsight, the first image was focused on the Cairn structure and the second on the "polka dots" on the face of the large base rock supporting the cairn, thus the polka dots in the sky.

© 2012, Joanne Scherf
"Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes.  
Art is knowing which ones to keep." .... Scott Adams

So, yes there are situations when moments of serendipity happens and wonderful results occur.  I'm sure we could all share stories about our happy mistakes.  But instead of waiting for this happy and pleasant surprise can we as artists do something to encourage its frequency without jeopardizing its random forces?  In other words can planned happenstance be cultivated?  Just so happens, that Kathleen Miller has proposed a four-step process (that I've tweaked slightly) she advises her clients to enhance the possibility of serendipity to occur.
  1. Be curious
  2. Remove blocks
  3. Expect the unexpected
  4. Take action in the face of uncertainty
Basically the approach boils down to taking action in the face of uncertainty.  More importantly proceeding even when you don't know how it will turn out.  Random experimentation at its finest.  Making "mistakes" and "failures" and transforming them into new techniques or approaches is another step in one's artistic journey.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Venus Rising: New Images Added

I just introduced my latest project, Venus Rising, as the newest gallery to my website.  Well, it's only been a few days, but I've just added six more images; go directly to Venus Rising Gallery.  This project is coming along nicely and am having tremendous fun, pursuing a totally abstract approach with unlimited creative freedom.  I hope to enhance the gallery images even more in the months ahead, but for the present moment I hope you enjoy my creative efforts thus far.

Venus Embrace

© 2012, Joanne Scher

In case I haven't mentioned it, all the images within the Venus Rising gallery on my website were done with just my iPhone and creative application of some apps to get the desired effect.

Go directly to Venus Rising Gallery.  Click on the thumbnails for larger images and descriptions.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

8 Types of Seeing: Are You Up for the Challenge?

Even with an abundance of camera equipment and the latest technology it is still imperative that a successful photographer must still have an eye, or visual acuity, for composition.  I was reading a Clive Scott article on The Spoken Image - Photography and Language and it referred to the types of vision identified by Maholy-Nagy.

Basically Maholy-Nagy summarized eight different types of vision.  Although he created this list decades ago, the types of vision is still applicable today, albeit with somewhat different tools or approaches.

  1. Abstract seeing (photograms, smartphone apps, etc)
  2. Exact seeing (reportage, documentary, photojournalism)
  3. Rapid seeing (snapshots)
  4. Slow seeing (long exposure, time lapse)
  5. Intensified seeing (micro/macro-photography, filter photography)
  6. Penetrative seeing (radiography, infrared)
  7. Simultaneous seeing (transparent superimposition; collage, double negatives, layers, etc)
  8. Distorted seeing (tilt-shift lens, pinhole, Lens Baby, smartphone apps, etc)
After viewing the list I thought it might serve as a wake-up call for those who have fallen into a comfort zone of always doing the same approach.  What if next time you ventured out to capture images you thought of these eight types of seeing.  So here's a challenge and exercise in stretching one's visual muscle.  


Identify and restrict yourself to only one subject matter across all types of vision.  In other words, take that one concept/subject matter and capture eight images, one for each of the eight vision types.  Upon viewing your eight images, ask yourself the following questions:

Questions to Ask Yourself:
  • What was similar among the eight images taken with eight different visions?
  • What was different among the eight images taken with eight different visions?
  • Was there something you experienced that you could apply to future images?
  • Was one type of vision more of a challenge for you?  If so, why?
  • What does this say about your style?
  • Did the eight different images evoke a variety of responses or emotions?  If so, explain or reflect.
  • Were your visionary skills enhanced by being forced to slow down and think before executing?
  • What will you do differently the next time you venture out to capture images?
Maybe this was just what you needed to think outside the box and free yourself from the constraints of normalcy and the usual routine.  Happy shooting.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A NEW Website Gallery...Venus Rising

Where to begin?  I have a new website gallery titled Venus Rising.  My goal was to not capture the objective reality but rather getting closer to the essence of a woman's beauty and expressing it in an abstract manner, revealing the brilliant core and colorful soul of a woman's body.  In brief, I immersed myself in this exercise to fine tune my creative vision and play with transcending the reality to disclose the genuine essence of a woman's vagina, revealing it's beauty, mystery, and magic.  Also to accompany this work I wrote a 5 line verse further enhancing the visual by lines describing the essence.

You've heard the axiom....life imitates art or art imitates life.   As I was in the process of artistic experimentation of this project, the parallel universe of the current toxic political reality was exhibiting draconian theatre.  Recent political news has been overwhelmed with coverage on the war on women's bodies and reproductive rights; specifically regarding, yes wait for it....the vagina.  Apparently the majority of male members (and sadly some women) of the Republican Party and extreme conservative idealogues at the state and federal levels seem hell bent on taking away women's reproductive freedom, civil rights and overall ownership of our bodies; battles that had been fought and won decades ago.

So with the juxtaposition of these parallel universes in my life of art and the toxic, anti-women political environment, I created a second verse to the original one verse statement which is targeted, yet brief in it's political stance.  As an artist I felt total creative freedom and yet as a woman in today's political climate I felt the total opposite. With politicians passing legislation that attacks my womanhood, my body, my life, I felt the need to embrace my creative freedom to express in both images and words my thoughts on the beauty and voice of the vagina.  Basically, if you can't even say the word "vagina" when debating (that's even questionable) on legislative floors, then "if you can't say it, you can't legislate it'.  Better yet, if you don't have one (vagina), hands off my body and my rights as a woman.

So, as an artist I embraced my creative freedom to express in both images and words my thoughts on the beauty and voice of the vagina.  Here's one image sample, but go to my website at http://joannescherf.photoshelter.com/gallery/Venus-Rising/G00003AWoSd.wfng/ to view all 13 images of the Venus Rising gallery in its entirity.  This gallery is dedicated to Venus Libertas, the Venus goddess of freedom; freedom of action, freedom from restraint, independence, rights, and related forms of personal and social liberty.  Sidenote:  The most famous of the Freedom Goddess' American depictions is Lady Liberty herself, the Statue of Liberty.

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

Venus Rising

Venus rises in her glory
Lips of grace welcomes
Butterfly warrior wings unfold
Root soul of strength and power revealed
A velvet purse of beauty awaits.

Women united in sisterhood 
One heart
One voice
One choice.
              © Joanne Scherf, 2012

Share this site with others in the hope that this may motivate some to perform one's civic duty and VOTE in NOVEMBER, or in the very least appreciate my artistic interpretation.

Image of the Month: August

Another month, another new image.  This time I'd like to present to you for your viewing pleasure not one, but two images.  The reason for this is that the same artistic approach was taken but with a difference.  The image content varies only slightly, however the image sizing is quite different between the two images.

Beaches #1
© 2012, Joanne Scherf

For both images I used the same approach.  Basically I took about 40 image captures then stitched them together to create one final panoramic view.  As you can see for only one image I kept the panoramic perspective (above), but for the second image (below) I decided to crop out the periphery acquired from panoramic capture and went with a square cropped format.  Again, this look was the result of stitching 40 images together and not from some expensive panoramic lens.

Beaches #2
© 2012, Joanne Scherf

Both images were taken during the final phase of a sunset in early July.  I particularly like the warping effect, muted glow of color and saturation levels at this evening hour.  My only disappointment is perhaps the clarity is a bit too soft in some areas for me.  But overall I'm pleased with the effect of taking 40 images and stitching them into one image with a somewhat special twist.  I think it offers a little interest to what could perhaps be just an average image.

Question for You:  Of the two images which do YOU prefer, #1 OR #2 ....why?

Monday, July 23, 2012

Layers of Creativity

I'm often perplexed with the line between being a "purist" versus a license to creative freedom.  As I continue to fine tune my craft I have pursued a more flexible approach to my imagery that now includes a more robust toolkit that I use appropriately when the image calls for it.  As any other artist, I have built the contents of my toolkit as I continue to learn new techniques, styles, or as tools are introduced for my exploratory discovery. I believe a photographer's toolkit includes much more than the camera.  In these times of accelerated technological advancements one would typically have a toolkit of favorite applications.  Much like I originally fine tuned images in the dark room using a variety of techniques and handmade tools I now perform post-processing on the computer.  I personally don't see it any differently as a painter using a multitude of brushes to achieve the final outcome.  It just floors me when the artistic credibility of photographers are usually called into question especially when something more than a camera is used.  Whereas on the flip side a painter or sculptor is typically never asked what tools they use to achieve the final piece of art.  Is that because photographers usually use a mechanical device rather than traditional hand tools?  Perhaps.

Case in point.  With more use of the iPhone I find myself using a few apps that allow me to use it in a manner of an artist by re-shaping or re-interpreting to enhance the original image.  Some apps are best for traditional tonal adjustments, whereas others are best suited to more creative freedom where I can totally rearrange the visual content to my liking.  I know there are some apps out there that with one click of the button one can sometimes obtain a rather cheesy interpretation....to each his/her own.  My current inclination is to go to those apps that require several passes at an image by creating multiple layers of creativity.  I then import that image into another app to use it for its special feature(s); continuously building upon the image until I'm satisfied with the new interpretation.  Consider it similar to a painter using a variety of different brushes for different effects.

Regardless of your position on this matter I hope you enjoy this new image.

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

Friday, July 20, 2012

Detroit....An Eagle Eye's View

Detroit is definitely attracting tourists from around the globe and I got to play tourist myself when I attended a 3-day destination wedding in the "D".  Being a proud Detroiter I always like to share positive images of my time downtown. I had a chance to view Detroit as never before, up on the 73rd floor of the Ren Cen and at the riverfront at night; both a special treat! The previous posting of the video at the Detroit River Walk's fountain was evidence of how exciting Detroit is becoming, plus I have another video on the way from a cruise I experienced on the Detroit River, looking at our skyline. Anyway, I just thought I'd share just a very few of the images and keep in touch to see the future posting of another Detroit video.

© 2012 Joanne Scherf
See the "necklace streets" of Jefferson, Michigan, Grand River and Woodward Avenues
© 2012 Joanne Scherf
From 73rd floor of Coach Insignia, looking at Belle Isle

© 2012 Joanne Scherf
Garden Center in Ren Cen looking out towards River and Canada

© 2012 Joanne Scherf
Looking up at Ren Cen from the River Walk

© 2012 Joanne Scherf
View from 58th floor of hotel room in Ren Cen, looking at Canada's casino

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Image of the Month: July

I find myself  in sort of a new mindset lately.  One that is hungry for applying my photographic skills in a more adventurous manner, one considered atypical of the routine capture of a "straight" image and minor tonal adjustments.  That's often the reason I turn to creating abstract imagery because it forces me to become more creative and likewise provides an opportunity for the viewer to become more engaged in the process.  I previously touched on this concept with the June 4 posting of "Poetic License of Abstraction" discussing the importance of feelings over subject matter and the value of searching for the hidden meaning and appreciating what is not visible.

Tapestry, © 2012 Joanne Scherf

This image, Tapestry, is easily categorized in the same genre of the "poetic license".  The original is actually a typical landscape that I've used as raw material for creating a totally different outcome. Perhaps in a later posting I would like to share the "before" image so you can compare, but for the present moment I believe more value resides in total immersion of this creative interpretation of the final result, Tapestry.  So for now, concentrate on Tapestry and immerse yourself in the surreal, mystical, and abstract interpretation of this image.  Ask yourself:

  • What is the spirit of the object(s) revealed?
  • Does this image bear any resemblance to anything recognizable in my world?
  • Does my aesthetic appreciation depend on finding an identifiable form?
  • Is there a combination of styles within the same image?
  • Does this "photograph" feel like another art form?
  • Would my level of appreciation increase if I saw the original "straight" image?
  • Will this image cause me to view future images or real life objects differently? 
I'm always up for an exchange of thoughts; conversations most welcome.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Launch of Video Series: "On Location"

Just returned from New York Finger Lakes region where I eagerly used the video camera on my iPhone for the first time.  Being a photographer I was intrigued about the transition between still and motion images.  The video camera has limitations as it has a fixed lens and close-ups/zooms are limited to the length of my arms.  As you'll see there's room for improvement in both capture and editing, but overall I was pleasantly surprised that the video appears to have potential.

So based on my first blush of experience I'm creating and launching a video series "On Location" that will expand my creative outlets for visual imagery.  The occasional postings of this series may present a destination for a variety of reasons:  recommended place of interest for photography, hiking experience, or just a behind the scenes look of me working in the field capturing still images.  I think over time it will settle down and have greater focus and vision, but for now I'm having fun sharing on a more spontaneous nature.

For Watkins Glen State Park I have created two videos.  The first is a 2-minute trailer that provides the highlights of the hiking trip through the gorge.  The second video is a full-length 6 minute presentation of the full experience available on VIMEO...see link below the trailer video.

A 2 minute highlight of the hike within the Watkins Glen Gorge. Nineteen cascading waterfalls, 800 vertical stone steps. An amazing natural gorge is a hidden treasure of the Finger Lakes region of New York

*** FOR THE FULL 6-MINUTE VIDEO GO TO ***https://vimeo.com/joannescherf

Monday, June 4, 2012

Poetic License of Abstraction

Does creativity involve both art and craft, or imaginative and constructive dimensions?

Does this abstract image bear any trace of resemblance to anything recognizable?

Is the spirit of the object revealed behind the visual world of matter?

Does the aesthetic value depend on finding any identifiable form?

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

As an artist I choose to take poetic license and complete freedom to explore the unconstrained elements of the subject of my image.  This oftentimes leads me to be more engaged and interested in feelings and shape versus subject matter.  Like poetry, I’m asking the viewer to look for hidden meaning and appreciate what is not visible.  Rather than capture a pure form of reality, this image can be seen with fresh eyes without contamination by a reference to reality.  The following quote (regarding Cezanne paintings) best captures the true meaning of "abstract".

"When you look at, say, the apples and pears of C├ęzanne, your mental energy mostly goes to processing the images: the fruit, the plate, the table, and the background. However, when you look at "Lavender Mist", you are not distracted by meaningful images, so virtually all of your brain power is devoted to feeling. You can open yourself, let in the energy and spirit of the painting, and allow it to dance with your psyche."  Harley Hahn, painter.

So in my humble opinion.......
Abstract art cannot be understood but must simply be experienced.
Trust your intuitive reaction to the artwork.
The experience of abstract art is highly personal.
There may be no "correct" interpretation, or all interpretations may be "correct"; but who cares.

For those really curious, send me an email to joanne@joannescherf.com, or reply to this post and I’ll divulge the subject matter.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Image of the Month: June

This image of the month has an unusual influence, not exactly the norm, so let me explain.  I recently spent some time in New York and had the incredible experience on several occasions to observe the delicate art of hot glass blowing.  The demonstration was more akin to watching a performance artist create a studio glass object while the process unfolded and a contemporary fine art sculpture was the final outcome, greeted with a sound round of applause from the audience.  After dwelling on my hot glass experience I began contemplating how I could approach my photography in much the same way.  Rather than begin with a small glob of molten glass at the end of a pipe, I would begin with a straight image of a rather traditional object or landscape, and like the glass blower, skillfully shape my initial image into something abstract and quite unlike the raw material I began with.

I'm in the experimental stages but I think it is worth pursuing as a long term project resulting in a complete photo essay/portfolio.  My process again involves beginning with a simple raw image and then shaping the image over a period of time to skillfully create the abstraction, or photo sculpture, so the literal context is completely removed and art is the end result.  The process itself requires more of a free form approach where there is no preconceived plan and I build on the spontaneity of the discovery until I feel the ultimate art form has been created.  The raw material for this image began the journey as two incomplete pieces of bowls in a tabletop format.  The end result image is an abstracted sculpture that I manipulated, much like a glass blower, to create a flowing form or photo sculpture from basic raw material.

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

As always I'd love to hear any feedback particularly since this is such a new approach for me.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Snapshot, Picture, Image?

Out on location recently and in my attempts to create art I kept having an internal conversation with myself regarding the output of my efforts.  This led me to toss around terminology that is typically used as interchangeable, but is it really?  I'm talking about the difference between the terms of snapshot, picture, and image.

For me snapshot infers a documented record of a scene; a literal record of time and place, a moment in time to cherish as a memory.  It brings to mind for me at least, a "Kodak moment" that was typically found in photo albums with the paper corners holding the snapshots in place.  Or oftentimes the glue had aged to a point where the snapshots fell out of the album as you gingerly turned the pages.  Snapshots typically documented treasured family moments; birthdays, holidays, and vacations to name just a few of the normal events captured.  Snapshots typically consist of either candid approaches or orchestrated gatherings by getting everyone in the picture to smile and "say cheese".  In today's terms it's the volume of what is found on flickr, Facebook and other digital media formats where the digital photo equipment promotes an unlimited quantity within seconds and sites permit global sharing.

This brings me to the next level, pictures.  Again this is my interpretation but I think pictures represent a level above snapshots.  Pictures seem to be a straight, literal shot of "just another pretty picture" of a scene typically of nature, landscapes or some portraits.  There is an aesthetic value but no emotional connection is established with the viewer.  There seem to be an abundance of tasteful and even masterful pictures of sunsets, starry skies, water, etc.  But again, it may make one stop and look for a moment of bliss but the viewer is not emotionally engaged and quickly moves on to look for the next pretty picture. There is an absence of artistic intent and composition that quickly renders the picture as a "drive-by" unworthy of more devoted time by the viewer.  In the realm of our visual world I think the majority of visual stimuli would be considered pictures.

Onto the next level of images.  I can clearly differentiate between snapshot and pictures, but images takes it above and beyond where we're getting into more esoteric ground.  Subject matter is endless and interpretation is only limited by the artist's creative potential and conceptualization.   I think images are elevated to a level of art by an emotional connection with the viewer as predetermined and created by the artist.  The image transcends a literal translation and can often deal in abstraction by extracting the literal context. It doesn't have to be an abstract, although this clearly makes the point.  Images have artistic intent, purposeful composition using design elements to convey a message, and makes an emotional connection, an engagement that lingers long after viewing the image at first glance.

After ruminating about the terms of snapshot, picture and image I can clearly see they are not interchangeable terms.  It's not a question of one being better than another.  The underlying theme is that they are distinct in their approach, audience, purpose, technique, equipment, and outcome.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Ellipsoid... A New Gallery On My Website

I just added another new gallery on my website, www.joannescherf.com.  This one is called, Ellipsoid and is a very abstract composition of circles and spheres.  It was taken in Ann Arbor at the Matthaei Botanical Gardens when they had erected a dome-like, igloo-shaped structure made of aluminum cones.  As soon as I saw the structure I knew it would make a fantastic abstract of random dancing patterns of light and metal scattered about on multiple planes.

Go to my website  www.joannescherf.com .  Access the new gallery, Ellipsoid from my home page.  Either click on the featured gallery Ellipsoid at the bottom, OR the top menu button of Gallery.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Another AWARD: International Awards Announcement...WIPI

I'm proud to announce I've just been awarded two Honorable Mentions in the Women in Photography International (WIPI) 2012 Competition.  The two images, Wavelength and Quiver, were chosen by jurors Susan Spiritus of the Susan Spiritus Gallery and Jean Ferro, Photo Artist and President of WIPI.  This WIPI Awards of Honorable Mention breaks new territory for my work, gaining an international audience and global exposure.

Go to WIPI's website link ... http://www.womeninphotography.org/wipihome.html

My two images, Wavelength and Quiver are on PAGE 3.  Access Page 3 by scrolling to the bottom of the Top Ten images.  Also check out my WIPI Professional Profile page...click on WIPI PP underneath the images. 

Pass this great news along to your friends and colleagues in your daily conversations or social media. Thanks again for your continued patronage throughout the years.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Image of the Month: May

Art is a hard concept to define clearly.  What makes something art?  Does it have to be beautiful or visually pleasing?  Do all photographs have to be "picture perfect"?  What separates art from the mundane nature of daily life?  Can an object or experience I encounter in my daily life and mundane environment be classified as art even if it's "not pretty"?

Enough with the questions already, I think you get the gist of where I'm going.  I know the medium of photography is typically viewed on a linear spectrum of documentary on one end, and the polar opposite being the interpretative, with a variety of storytelling narratives in between.  So I think the expectation is if one is not doing documentary work, or real, unaltered imagery, then the opposite should be visually pleasing and artistic. To that end I challenge that general assumption and believe one can capture images not typically considered "pretty" and create a beautiful interpretation.

Case in point.  If you're familiar with my work you know I'm not globetrotting around the world capturing glamourous images of lush, magical landscapes, or inviting ethereal spaces of remote locations.  Rather, my scope is typically more limited in distance.  So every so often when not out shooting locally or spots around the USA, I like to challenge my eye to see with more creative intent; a good exercise in fine tuning visual acuity.  So sometime this past winter I challenged myself to stay inside my house for my photo assignment and only capture images out of daily, mundane objects and transforming them into artistic, beautiful images.  This again, without re-arranging objects surrounding me, or going to the extent of building artificial studio scenes.

© 2012, Joanne Scherf
At first glance, this may appear as an imaginative image, specifically one that creates a new world in the viewer's imagination, or is considered "unreal".  However upon closer inspection it might be more apparent that this creation is just a normal, average, everyday element in one's home.  One without any re-arrangment, but rather something we walk by in our homes on a regular basis.  A flower vase of nearly dead flowers, (daffodils) ready to be pitched into the compost pile.  What's different is the view (aerial rather than the typical frontal plane), approach (soft focus that blurs the edges), and juxtaposition of primary elements (bright, colorful flowers with the background of the monochromatic black and white chess board squares).  So while limited to the confines of the interior of my home, without any re-arrangement of artifacts, I was able to translate this simple scene into a "work of art" by a creative approach.  What first attracted me to this potential image was just the bright colors, then the unusual play of the colors upon the graphic element of the black & white chess table background.  I was particularly intrigued with making "dead" flowers look beautiful beyond the inherent limitations of cut flowers life span.

My overall message is that even with limitations of location, or abundance of mundane artifacts of daily life surrounding you, one really can improve visual acuity and actually see beauty out of normalcy without ever leaving home or taking flight.  It just takes practice, patience, imagination, and the ability to really see your immediate world as something other than.

Monday, April 30, 2012

1 Tree, 3 Interpretations

The beauty of photography are the endless possibilities in the interpretation of a single vision; black&white vs. color, straight vs. soft focus,  rectangular frame vs. square format, and the options go on and on.  Now using an iPhone to capture this image I was able to play around even further with a variety of apps to process (in camera/phone) three distinctively different creative effects for a single image.  Not that one or the other is better, it's just that viewing them in relationship to one another I think you as the viewer can further appreciate the possibilities....the mind is the only barrier to one's creativity because the technology is certainly here.  I don't view the iPhone advanced technology for capturing AND processing the image as a fleeting moment in the history of the medium of photography.  Rather I view this as an incredible opportunity to further demonstrate the artistry of photography when one uses this technology as just another tool in one's toolkit of again...endless possibilities.  It certainly does not replace my other tools, it just enhances my ability as an artist to selectively identify the appropriate tool for achieving the artistic vision I began I with.

Tree 1, 2012, Joanne Scherf
Tree 2, 2012, Joanne Scherf
Tree 3, 2012, Joanne Scherf

Friday, April 20, 2012

iPhone Artistry Images

Well I just recently completed an intensive and mind-boggling 3 day workshop on iPhone photography. The camera is actually a high caliber quality instrument, but even more thrilling is the ability to process and do all the post-production on the iPhone without ever having to rely on your computer.  Think of it.  Within minutes I can capture and create a finished product of professional level quality ready for printing.  Saves my body from continuously hunching over the computer and frees me to be creative wherever I choose.  I'm still playing around with quite a few apps and discovering new techniques every day.  Don't take my word for it, I'll let the images convey my thoughts.....here's a few samples of my iPhone images.  Another nice sepia sample is on my Facebook page of Joanne Scherf Photography.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

New Website Gallery: Axis Mundi

Trees.  Clouds.  As an avid hiker this subject matter has always captivated me, providing me leisurely moments of staring off into space or contemplating life's journey under the protective canopy of a variety of trees.  This new series, Axis Mundi:  Cosmic Trees of Life, was just loaded onto my website for your viewing.  Go to the large, red S on the top right corner of this site for quick access to my website.

While trees are the main focus of this series I am also transfixed by the swirl of clouds that provide a natural and dramatic backdrop.  Axis Mundi:  Cosmic Trees of Life, is a photo essay that I will be adding to on an ongoing basis with the hopes of publishing a book down the road.  As you'll see from viewing the new gallery, I chose to display the images in only black & white as I think that format adds to the overall drama and abstract quality. With this topic I thought the use of color might distract from the visual majesty of the trees and magical illumination of the trees backlit by the clouds.  No trickery or nothing extraordinary was done in the capture of these images. I'm just taking time to witness the beauty of nature that surrounds us which we so often pass by in our pursuit of life in the fast lane.

As for my artistic intent, basically Axis Mundi:  Cosmic Trees of Life is the "world center"; a connection between the sky and earth.  The trees unite the three planes: sky (branches), earth (trunk) and underworld (roots) thereby creating a space at the "center of the world".

I hear the wind among the trees
Playing the celestial symphonies;
I see the branches downward bent,
Like keys of some great instrument.
                     - Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Clouds appear
And bring to men a chance to rest
From looking at the moon
                    - Basho; haiku

© 2012, Joanne Scherf
Go to my website at www.joannescherf.com to view the other images in this NEW GALLERY.....Click on the large, red "S" in the top right corner of this blog site.  That gets you to the website directly and quickly.  Click on Galleries, then Axis Mundi:  Cosmic Trees of Life.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Adventures with an iPhone Camera

I'm about to take a 3-day intensive workshop on iPhone Artistry and had the pleasant opportunity to be playful with this new technology before taking the class.  What fascinates me about the iPhone is not the phone and all it's functionality.  Rather it's quite simply the camera.  The new smart phones now have cameras with the capability to surpass even the best of small point-and-shoot or entry to mid-level digital cameras on the market today; and they are getting better every month!

The phenomenal thing about the iPhone camera is that it's not just a camera, but a mobile darkroom that allows one to process in-camera with high quality apps the level of Adobe Creative Suite, without using any computer.  The range and variety of apps is astounding allowing I think much more creative freedom than being tied down to a computer.  So not only is the image capture mobile but the processing is as well; all functions in one.

Below I've included a few of my first images I've captured using an iPhone.  Check out the direct, original capture, followed by a version using apps to process the image directly in-phone/camera.  Again, all without any computer! Granted some apps are in the "cheesy" category and take the image without any processing, but on the flip side there are some pretty amazing mainstream apps that you use in post-production, after taking the image.  So enjoy the few samples below of post-production processing using in-phone/camera apps.

© 2012, Joanne Scherf
© 2012, Joanne Scherf

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Image of the Month: April

Another black & white image that I think is worthy for consideration for "image of the month".  This one captures dramatic clouds to create an ethereal ambience.  It was taken on a beautiful sunny afternoon with temperatures hovering in the 70's and the sky a brilliant blue with a few puffy clouds overhead; a typical spring day.  I am intrigued by the concept of taking these surreal images during full daylight that transform the viewer into a night time scene.There are no tricks with long exposure.  It requires an in-depth view of the weather forecast as one hopes for puffy clouds, a little wind to move the clouds along quickly and patience taking images ranging from 30 seconds up to 5 minutes exposure time.

© 2012, Joanne Scherf

Overall I think this image presents the house as the focal point with leading lines coming from the stone wall on the left and the limited view of the sidewalk on the bottom right of the image.  These leading lines focus the viewer's line of site directly to the house which emits an eerie glow.  The sky overhead adds a dramatic flair and the white clouds provide the perfect background for making the huge tree just pop from the image, ultimately competing with the house for attention.  The intention of the image could be bewitched, haunting, or perhaps just ethereal; you decide.