Sunday, May 29, 2011

Drive by Shooting

Highway 128 © Maureen Hurley photo
When I travel to Bay Area schools to teach art & poetry, I spend a lot of time on the road, so I started a US Highway 101 drive-by photo shoot collection, but I also took pix on the backroads. This is on Highway 128 in Alexander Valley, by Jimtown Store, near the school.

Over the years, I've created my own digital virtual auto F-stop club. :-) My only rule: the car has to be moving. No pulling over to frame the shot. There's at least a 3-second lag between what I see as the photo, and when the camera records—because we're moving about a mile a minute. So I have to pre-guess as to when the best shot is—or, rather—will be. Knowing the road, and anticipating where the best shots will be, helps. Clean windows also helps. It keeps my mind well-honed and in racer shape—no soduku for me!

I am interested in the accidental distortions, blurring, color breaks, etc. I particularly like the painterly aspect of these digital shots. Shots into the light. Into shadow. Notice how the foreground is blurred and the sign has nearly disappeared because of the low shutter speed, yet the barn and vineyard are still in focus because I've used the landscape setting to increase a sharp long depth of field.

Highway 128 © Maureen Hurley photo
These photos are unretouched, other than cropping them. I shoot large and crop all my photos—if only to reduce the file size. I'm far too impatient to wait and frame photos with the zoom, it takes far too long, and you lose the picture. I'm interested in zooming in on that fleeting split-second when the eye sees something as art.

In fact, the digital camera is a poor substitute for what my eye really sees. It's always taking pictures. I'm definitely left-eyed when it comes to composition. Besides, I've not the luxury of time to zoom in on something.

A trick I learned while in Lima, Peru in the early 1980s, was to take photos without looking through my camera lens. When the army invaded the capital, with tanks and guns, I wanted to document what was happening, but I didn't want to be "disappeared" so I learned to shoot blind—sans viewfinder.

This was during the pre autofocus cameradays—so I had to guess F stop, depth of field and focus without raising the Pentax K-1000 to my face. My arm became an extension of my eye. I don't need to use the viewfinder.

Highway 128 © Maureen Hurley photo
My camera is an extension of myself. Another eye to render the world into form and light. One time I didn't have a camera on me, so I used my MacBook to capture a rainbow over Santa Rosa. There was a huge time lag between finger and shutter. Very accidental as to when and where the photo was taken. And very low resolution. So they are more like iPhone shots than anything else.

Highway 128 © Maureen Hurley I like the way this leans left.
I now use Nikon P-60s. I have two of them. Er, make that "I had…" At the end of one residency in April, a kindergartner gave me a great thigh hug for teaching her to make art—just as I was documenting their final art project—self portraits. And the LED cracked on the 2nd camera as I was carting toys in a drawing class at Alexander Valley school. Two dead cameras in two months. Ouch! The photo above was with my cheap nameless brand camera from China. It took amazing, if noisy, photos.

I can still use the Plan B Nikon via the viewfinder. But the other one has trouble focusing as the lens took a good hit on a cement floor. I am SO completely underwhelmed by the replacement Nikon L110. My first Coolpix L14 (7.1 MP) camera was far superior to this overinflated ego of a camera. Lack of saturation and inability to focus, for starters. But it was cheap. I mourn the loss of my cameras. Like missing a part of my eye.

Highway 128 © Maureen Hurley Despite the lack of light, it's in focus!


Randy "Lazarus"McAtee said...

Hi Maureen,

glad to happen upon your blog. enjoyed the reading and images.

Maureen Hurley said...

Thank you Randy. I had a blue truck named "Lazarus," I loved.

It was finally bumped off by a double-parked van—the brakes failed and the van gained momentum down the hill.The driver, an neighbor, rolled backwards into the side of my truck—everyone shrieking in Tagrinyi.

But the coup de grace was when a startled freerange dumpster from his apartment complex, took off down the hill and smacked into the back of my truck. A two ring circus. Lazarus couldn't resurrect itself after those cosmetic (or cosmic) insults.

I thought your name was familiar (not the Lazarus part). I just realized we went to high school together. We were in study hall and the late, great Archie Williams Foundations of Algebra class together. What do you remember of Archie?