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Author Topic: The Plantation at New Mills  (Read 7408 times)
John R Smith
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Still crazy, after all these years


« on: May 21, 2011, 12:05:28 PM »
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In about 1978, when I first came to the valley, the Strongmans established a new larch plantation on the hillside overlooking the stream just up the road from my cottage. The trees were tiny at first, but eventually reached maturity and I made several photographs inside the dark woodland which they had become. My favourite is attached below. Then, late last year, the whole stand was felled, to become fence-posts or pulp or perhaps planks for boat builders from the largest trees. So I recorded that moment too, in the second picture. And now the the hillside is bare again, as I remember it all those years ago when I was younger and life seemed much simpler.

John
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louoates
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« Reply #1 on: May 21, 2011, 03:58:30 PM »
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Although the logs shot wasn't from the same spot as the first they could probably be displayed together effectively as a commentary statement. Stronger still would be a third shot of the empty area after the logs were removed and all three shown as a triptych. If you could also add a shot of some reforestation there it would make a nice re-cycling grouping.
In any case the first shot is very nicely done.
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SJ.Butel
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« Reply #2 on: May 22, 2011, 05:14:39 AM »
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I really like the first one alot!
I came across a scene like this (though i didn't capture/pp it this well) yesterday where the sun lined up perfect with a whole in the trees.  Really creates a great effect how it hits the line of trunks and casts the long shadows.  Thanks for posting this it helped me with PP.
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John R Smith
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Still crazy, after all these years


« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2011, 05:38:15 AM »
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I completely agree with you both that the first picture is in a different league from the second shot. I knew this when I posted them. I included the second, which is really a documentary picture (but nonetheless fine for a book or magazine illustration) just to accompany the narrative.

I have since tried to get a concluding image of the bare hillside spread with tree-stumps, but have failed. In B/W the brown tonality of the scene doesn't give me enough contrast and separation to make a convicing picture - I need some exceptional light to make it work.

John
« Last Edit: May 22, 2011, 05:40:06 AM by John R Smith » Logged

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Josh-H
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« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2011, 06:48:50 AM »
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John,

The first photograph is wonderful. The composition, lighting and processing are delicious. Thoroughly enjoyable.

The second is a nice follow up to the first - but pales by comparison.

Kudos on No. 1 - its a great photograph.
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William Walker
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« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2011, 09:51:12 AM »
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John,

The first photograph is wonderful. The composition, lighting and processing are delicious. Thoroughly enjoyable.

The second is a nice follow up to the first - but pales by comparison.

Kudos on No. 1 - its a great photograph.

My thoughts exactly! As I commented some weeks ago - polished.
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« Reply #6 on: May 23, 2011, 01:06:06 AM »
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John,

The first photograph is wonderful. The composition, lighting and processing are delicious. Thoroughly enjoyable.

The second is a nice follow up to the first - but pales by comparison.

Kudos on No. 1 - its a great photograph.

Well said!
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Eric Myrvaagnes
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« Reply #7 on: May 23, 2011, 08:49:26 AM »
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Such unanimity of responses is unheard of on LuLa! I'd love to add a dissenting view, just for variety, but I'll have to admit that I, too, agree with what Josh said.

But I hope you'll still find the right light for the "after" shot some day.

Eric
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« Reply #8 on: May 23, 2011, 10:24:38 AM »
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Such unanimity of responses is unheard of on LuLa!

Eric, The only reason there's no dissenting view is that some of us, or, at least one of us, doesn't want to spoil the party. I grew up among jack pines and tamaracks, but a jack pine or tamarack is just a jack pine or a tamarack. In my summers I was near logging operations and saw lots of logs, but to me a log is a log is a log. I don't want this blanket to sound too wet, so I'll add that in my not terribly humble estimation some of John's work, especially his still life, is quite good.
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Rob C
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« Reply #9 on: May 23, 2011, 02:38:07 PM »
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Eric, The only reason there's no dissenting view is that some of us, or, at least one of us, doesn't want to spoil the party. I grew up among jack pines and tamaracks, but a jack pine or tamarack is just a jack pine or a tamarack. In my summers I was near logging operations and saw lots of logs, but to me a log is a log is a log. I don't want this blanket to sound too wet, so I'll add that in my not terribly humble estimation some of John's work, especially his still life, is quite good.


Why do I think camera clubs and other MASocieties? But not being a regular commenter (commentator?) here in Critics Corner, I reserve the right to suffer quietly. I've already fallen foul once by biting my tongue too hard... I do learn from experience, really, honestly I do!

;-(

Rob C

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John R Smith
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Still crazy, after all these years


« Reply #10 on: May 23, 2011, 02:45:34 PM »
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Well Russ (and Rob), with all due respect, I’m going to be totally unapologetic for this one. The first picture represents one of those rare occasions when I managed to pull off the vision I had for the shot and achieve it technically. I get maybe two or three of those a year, at best. And it represents exactly the kind of photograph I want to make, and wish that I could do so far more often.

Actually, in a very real sense it is a still-life, as so much landscape work is. It’s just a very big one.

John
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« Reply #11 on: May 23, 2011, 05:35:40 PM »
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John, I have to quote the words of a very good professor, speaking on the history of Impressionism. He was talking about Cézanne's painting of the valley near Pontoise: "The subject of the picture is ... completely banal and boring. Yet it exists as a painting because the artist makes it beautiful, and the artist makes it strong, and the artist constructs it."

The point I keep making about landscape photographed versus landscape painted is that a painter can make the banal and boring beautiful, because he can construct it. But you can't really "construct" a photograph, and when the subject you're photographing is banal and boring, the photograph continues to be banal and boring. I remember a comment on an early portrait made during the period of the Pictorialists in which the subject was portrayed as a Biblical figure. I don't remember the exact wording of the comment and I don't have time at the moment to look it up, but it was to the effect that "you could still recognize the subject as miss Johnson." The photographer tried to "construct" the picture but his construction collapsed.

Now, I don't doubt that in your eyes the New Mills Plantation photograph is something special. I look back on certain places and events in 1978 with nostalgia too, and I have photographs from that period and earlier periods that are very precious to me. Some of them are technically excellent; but that doesn't make their content photographically excellent. I even have landscape photographs, and pictures of rocks in mountain streams from the early sixties that a couple of my sons dote on. But they don't dote on them because they're interesting in a general sense but because they remember them hanging in their home when they were very young. They have an emotional connection with them that no one else could have -- not even me.

But let me make a final point: When you put landscape paintings or photographs on the web, made small and heavily compressed in a lossy format, and displayed on a 72 ppi monitor, the viewer can't even begin to evaluate what the picture would look like in a 16 x 20 or 20 x 24 print or painting. I can see that the first New Mills Plantation photograph is technically excellent, and it may be that when it's well printed in large format, it's a knockout. But I'd have to take that on faith, and I just can't do it.

In a way I'm sorry to say these things. I liked your still lifes very much. I think you're a good photographer. But when you put a picture on LuLa in a forum called "User Critiques," I have to assume you're asking for criticism. So far, in this thread, no one else has given you criticism. Just saying "I like it," or suggesting a way to make a pile of logs less banal and boring, doesn't get the job done. I see this happening more and more on here, and, worst of all, I see people whose opinions I value and whose work I often admire, starting to do it. But I'm not Doctor Feelgood, and I won't do it.
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John R Smith
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Still crazy, after all these years


« Reply #12 on: May 24, 2011, 12:33:13 AM »
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I remain unapologetic  Wink

John
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« Reply #13 on: May 24, 2011, 02:27:41 AM »
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John, I have to quote the words of a very good professor, speaking on the history of Impressionism. He was talking about Cézanne's painting of the valley near Pontoise: "The subject of the picture is ... completely banal and boring. Yet it exists as a painting because the artist makes it beautiful, and the artist makes it strong, and the artist constructs it."

The point I keep making about landscape photographed versus landscape painted is that a painter can make the banal and boring beautiful, because he can construct it. But you can't really "construct" a photograph, and when the subject you're photographing is banal and boring, the photograph continues to be banal and boring. I remember a comment on an early portrait made during the period of the Pictorialists in which the subject was portrayed as a Biblical figure. I don't remember the exact wording of the comment and I don't have time at the moment to look it up, but it was to the effect that "you could still recognize the subject as miss Johnson." The photographer tried to "construct" the picture but his construction collapsed.

Now, I don't doubt that in your eyes the New Mills Plantation photograph is something special. I look back on certain places and events in 1978 with nostalgia too, and I have photographs from that period and earlier periods that are very precious to me. Some of them are technically excellent; but that doesn't make their content photographically excellent. I even have landscape photographs, and pictures of rocks in mountain streams from the early sixties that a couple of my sons dote on. But they don't dote on them because they're interesting in a general sense but because they remember them hanging in their home when they were very young. They have an emotional connection with them that no one else could have -- not even me.

But let me make a final point: When you put landscape paintings or photographs on the web, made small and heavily compressed in a lossy format, and displayed on a 72 ppi monitor, the viewer can't even begin to evaluate what the picture would look like in a 16 x 20 or 20 x 24 print or painting. I can see that the first New Mills Plantation photograph is technically excellent, and it may be that when it's well printed in large format, it's a knockout. But I'd have to take that on faith, and I just can't do it.

In a way I'm sorry to say these things. I liked your still lifes very much. I think you're a good photographer. But when you put a picture on LuLa in a forum called "User Critiques," I have to assume you're asking for criticism. So far, in this thread, no one else has given you criticism. Just saying "I like it," or suggesting a way to make a pile of logs less banal and boring, doesn't get the job done. I see this happening more and more on here, and, worst of all, I see people whose opinions I value and whose work I often admire, starting to do it. But I'm not Doctor Feelgood, and I won't do it.


Given the choice between reading that again or looking at John's picture again, I know which I'd rather do.
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William Walker
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« Reply #14 on: May 24, 2011, 02:41:43 AM »
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Russ states his opinion on landscape photography clearly and well, and he has every right to do so. Although I may not agree with his opinion, I still respect it.

I am not speaking for John here, but if this were my picture, I would be quite happy to take this comment from Russ:


 I can see that the first New Mills Plantation photograph is technically excellent, and it may be that when it's well printed in large format, it's a knockout.

That, and the other comments from everyone else, would be enough for me to go forward...

William
« Last Edit: May 24, 2011, 03:00:35 AM by W. Walker » Logged

stamper
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« Reply #15 on: May 24, 2011, 03:00:17 AM »
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If I went into an art gallery and saw someone looking at a painting and did the same and then stated to the person it wasn't as good as a photograph,what would be the reaction? At the very least a look of utter disdain. I think this "connection" is taken too far. Personally I look at photographs as photographs and paintings as paintings and I don't try to make a connection. Some would say that I am lacking because of it. There are enough differences between the two for to be judged by their own merits. Smiley The images aren't world beaters. They are very pleasant and I don't see anything to fault them but John has done better and I think that is the correct way to describe them? Wink
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Rob C
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« Reply #16 on: May 24, 2011, 03:03:43 AM »
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Given the option, which I have anyway, I know which option I have chosen.

I see the problem almost exactly as Russ describes it. I used to drive through France a hell of a lot in happier days; we used to go north/south and the reverse on trips from Spain to Scotland, always avoiding Paris by cutting west. Once, for a change and in order to see the source of the Dordogne, we went up to Brive as usual and then cut eastwards towards Auxerre. Never did get to the actual source of the river at Le Mont Dore, but stopping for a pee on the roads up there towards Bourg-Lastic (near Clermont-Ferrand) I found myself parked in the middle of forests. The feeling was of a distinct unease. I was no more than twenty feet from the car, but those trees closing in on me were horrific. Did I take a picture? No; not because of fear but because I knew perfectly well there was no point. You can’t show that emotion in those circumstances: you just show trees.

Exactly the same sense of apprehension came to me between Monpazier and Gourdon: smaller, lighter woods but the same claws frozen in time. No pictures. Same reason.

That’s the point I believe that both Russ and I see and make, not just on these specific images, but genre-wide. It isn’t an attack on a specific emperor’s clothing, just that I think neither of us accepts intention as being good enough without the result showing as much. To do so would mean justifying a deed that hasn’t worked, bringing everything down to the condescending, kindergarten level of marking that oh well, his intentions were good!

Rob C
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stamper
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« Reply #17 on: May 24, 2011, 03:09:06 AM »
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Quote

The feeling was of a distinct unease. I was no more than twenty feet from the car, but those trees closing in on me were horrific. Did I take a picture? No; not because of fear but because I knew perfectly well there was no point. You can’t show that emotion in those circumstances: you just show trees.

Unquote

I agree about the fear. I once got lost for a couple of hours in a forest. The photographer can't show emotion but can evoke emotion. Looking at the trees brought back memories of being lost.  Embarrassed
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Rob C
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« Reply #18 on: May 24, 2011, 03:15:31 AM »
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If I went into an art gallery and saw someone looking at a painting and did the same and then stated to the person it wasn't as good as a photograph,what would be the reaction? At the very least a look of utter disdain. I think this "connection" is taken too far. Personally I look at photographs as photographs and paintings as paintings and I don't try to make a connection. Some would say that I am lacking because of it. There are enough differences between the two for to be judged by their own merits. Smiley The images aren't world beaters. They are very pleasant and I don't see anything to fault them but John has done better and I think that is the correct way to describe them? Wink


But stamper, this doesn't apply in the direction you make it.

The argument about landscape photography and painting is distinct; it's based on the notion that painting demands creativity from the painter because he starts from nothing whereas photography simply demands ownership of a machine and being there, skill a given with both.

In the case of John's woodlands, it's merits appear to depend on the images/feelings he had in his mind at the time of shooting; these do not really appear in the pictures we see. At least, not without a certain amount of explanation and hope. Come on, you've been to the Trossachs as often if not more than I have; what's so especially cool with John's little corner of trees? Take all the Getty and Corbis shots of redwoods and you are neither any more forward nor worse off; they just are.

Rob C
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Rob C
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« Reply #19 on: May 24, 2011, 03:21:34 AM »
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Quote

The feeling was of a distinct unease. I was no more than twenty feet from the car, but those trees closing in on me were horrific. Did I take a picture? No; not because of fear but because I knew perfectly well there was no point. You can’t show that emotion in those circumstances: you just show trees.

Unquote

I agree about the fear. I once got lost for a couple of hours in a forest. The photographer can't show emotion but can evoke emotion. Looking at the trees brought back memories of being lost.  Embarrassed


But that's you, a Pavlovian reaction that anything connected to that memory will inspire.

Woof, woof!

Rob C
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