Andre Cantelmo Photography
Come on in, I'm glad you are here. Within this blog I express my thoughts and opinions about the creative process, photography, and my artistic approach to navigating from day to day. I like to keep this medium on the conversational side, as if you and I are just sitting around talking. I am very interested in the creative process, as well as the mindset that goes into making a fine photograph. I make no claim to having "the" answer, this is just my answer. Those who know me, know how much I enjoy a good conversation, and this blog can be just that. Feel free to e mail me about any topic in my galleries, or blog. My photography, this website and blog are an expression of how I visually approach my art. You are all welcome here as are your opinions.
One of the great drives in the United States, and designated a National Scenic Byway by the U.S. Department of Transportation is named the “Kancamagus Scenic Byway”, or the Kanc as locals refer to it. On your map it might simply be called NH112. The eastern portion of NH112 runs 32 miles through the White Mountains from Lincoln to Conway and is the section of 112 known as the Kancamagus Highway. This wonderful road opened in 1959 when two stretches of road were connected, and was paved in 1964. This two lane highway attracts people from all over, especially in the Fall when the trees are in full color. The Kanc runs through the White Mountain National Forest and follows the Swift River valley. If you are a camper, then you'll love the fact that there are six White Mountain National Forest campgrounds right on the KSB, (Kancamagus Scenic Byway). They all have bathrooms, drinking water,open fireplace, and picnic tables available. They are as follows; Hancock Campground, Big Rock Campground, Passaconaway Campground, Jigger Johnson Campground, Blackberry Crossing Campground, and Covered Bridge Campground. In addition, you can find lots of off KSB campgrounds available. Dogs are allowed on leaches at all times, and no alcohol is allowed.
Sabbaday Falls, Rocky Gorge, Lower Falls and Champney Falls are the most popular of the waterfalls along the KSB. Rest assured that there are many more, most with no names and waiting for you to discover them. If you are smart, you'll dress for hiking. This means a pair of good hiking boots and sensable clothing. This short blog is aimed in the direction of photography. My recommendations work for me and by no means are the only way to approach this subjectmatter. I prefer to travel as light as possible without leaving necessary equipment behind. I always take a tripod on these types of hikes. I will be using small aperature settings and longer shutter speeds most of the time. My wireless timer and remote control is a must for me. Once I've framed my shot, hands free shooting lessens movement with slow shutter speeds. I also carry a B&W 6 stop solid Neutral Density filter. This allows me to use shutter speeds of ½ second or slower. I also pack a circular polarizer. I do not use filters much these days, except for the two above mentioned ones. Most of the time I pack my gear into a photographers vest and leave the bag in my truck. The two lenses I love most and rely upon are Nikons, the 18mm to 105, and the 70 to 300mm. In addition I have a macro lens for closeup work if I see something I want to capture. Make sure you have a sturdy camera strap attached, and looped around your neck to check falls.
Pay some attention to the clothing and personal items you choose. With me, no matter the temperature I always wear long pants to cut down on scratches and insect bites. Even in the deep shade I consider a hat necessary. It keeps all kinds of things out of your hair. Obviously, dress for the season, with comfort and flexiblity in mind. Bring drinking water also, you will need it. I stay away from soda and any other drink that does not quench my thirst. Another item I do not go into the woods without is a Leatherman multi-tool. It has almost any gadget that I might need unexpectedly.
The choices that I make as far as what comes with me on a hike are based upon comfort, appropriatness, flexiblity, and necessitity. For me, I want my attention focused on looking around me and keeping my mind on what will eventually wind up in the viewfinder. I have spent too much time in the past managing stuff, and missing a composition that was in front of me. I travel light because I want to spend time looking around at all the colors, textures, and compositions. I stop frequently, and take in the sights and sounds around me. One composition I make a point to look for is an open spot near water, with perhaps a branch or boulder that I can place in the foreground. It takes looking and moving around for the photo to take shape. I move the tripod frequently and check the viewfinder making sure to look all around the edges of the frame for unwanted elements. As stated earlier, small aperatures, and slow shutter speeds my choice here.
There is a difference between a hike involving a group of friends or family, and one with photography as its main purpose. Both are rewarding, but require different enviorments. Time spent with the people you love on a nature trail is valueable and will be remembered long after your trip is over. Solitude in a forest with the purpose of capturing a landscape for your home is also a rewarding, and time well spent. There are plenty of photographs to be captured in all seasons if you are motivated.
One of the fringe benefits of reaching the birthday count that I have achieved is the view. Perspective is everything, they say. I'll set my time frame by revealing that my first camera was a Brownie Hawk eye. A bit later, thanks to my Dad, I began my passion for darkroom work. At first, I was Dad's assistant, then eventually worked alone. As you might expect, these days I'm a digital devotee. My SLR gear is all Nikon. In my pocket, sits a Samsung S7. While my SLR equipment is my favorite gear to use, I do not walk around with it twenty four seven. In those moments when an image presents itself and I'm without serious gear, my phone is right in my pocket. To refer to this wonderful gadget as a phone is to mislabel it. More accurately, it is a handheld computer that can make phone calls.
Just recently, Nikon announced that it is closing its China factory that manufactures entry level point and shoot cameras. In a single year, Nikon’s expected digital camera sales will be 24% lower than the previous fiscal year, with compact camera sales being the hardest hit. Camera manufactures are all having issues with this slice of the camera market. Entry level cameras have been largely replaced with cell phones. Most of us carry our cells everywhere we go. They are always with us, and can produce very clean snapshots. The digital SLR product market is about to change also. Rumor has it that by 2020 mirrorless cameras will overtake the DSLR market.
Change is always with each of us, and so too with corporations. More and more we live in a society where everything seems temporary. The slideshow of life seems to click by faster and faster. The skill that gives us a bit of insurance against the shock of change is to be flexible. Nikon could have been more flexible. They should have seen the writing on the wall and adapted to this market shift. It would appear that the cameras that will survive, are the ones that offer something that the cell phones can't deliver. To that end Nikon is making a large investment in its next issue, the Nikon1. The new factory which will be built in China is 93,000 square meters, and will have 10,000 workers.
In my early years of creative photography, I eagerly fell in love with my latest camera acquisition. I tend to hold onto my gear, so I am nowhere near an early adapter, however each issue of new and improved gear did make photography better in lots of ways. At one point, as the pace of change increased in speed, I found myself becoming annoyed at the cost of staying up to date. I then started my transition of beginning to not be so emotionally invested in what gear I owned. My attention focused increasingly on the image I committed to paper and frame. It's amusing to think about my relationship with camera gear, and so obvious that what is in the frame supersedes the tools that created it.
The skills that are most important to me are not newly discovered. They are the same today, as they were years ago when I was using my cherry wood 4 X 5 field camera. Issues that I've worked at for a long time like, stay flexible, be open to what is in front of you, keep my camera always ready to shoot, look for effective compositions, keep my attention focused and on task, and keep my gear clean and ready to go. Nowhere on that list is there anything about my gear limiting my potential. The most important tools are imagination and vision. At some point soon the cool gear I now use will be obsolete, and the next change will wait in the wings. If I pay attention to what is really important then my photographic skills will be sharp and up to date. As long as I can get a sharp, crisp, clear, and well composed image into a frame the gear I use is secondary to the image. I have no idea what camera I'll be using five years from now. It matters less than the creative side of my work. I'll just have to keep up to date and stay flexible.
Every once in a while, life places you in a situation that serves as an epiphany. You recognize those moments by how suddenly and intensely they pass over you. Just recently one such moment arrived in my life in the form of the passing of a dear lifelong friend. I began my friendship with Edna, through my then girlfriend and now wife of fifty years, Patricia. We were quite young, in fact Edna was just fourteen at the time. Our friendship lasted a lifetime, and along the way gathered a rich patina of color and flavor.
Across our society, each of us has our own way of saying goodbye. Up front, is the extreme sense of loss. My life will be diminished by not having Edna in it. Even as I attempt to console the family, I know deep down nothing I might say will ease the grief. Arranged carefully around the funeral parlor are photographs that mark a lifetime. On a monitor, photographs dissolve one into another, with Edna's favorite ballads as a soundtrack. In this room full of emotion, it is the photographs we cling to.
The significant events that pass through our personal calendars are often marked with photographs. These photos gather their worth as a result of the passing of time. Often a casual photo, will not be thought of much at first. Decades later, it sits in a frame in a funeral parlor. There is Edna, and her father standing in front of a vintage automobile. It looks like the photo was taken in a rush, almost an afterthought. Now it helps mark her life. Another photo, in a back yard, Edna seated with two other people, all in the clothing styles of the day, sparks a brief smile even as we morn her loss. The slide show continues on the monitor and tears run down my cheek.
The job of selecting photographs for Edna's funeral was taken on by a small committee of which I was part. A brief search, and several boxes of photos found their way to the kitchen table. We worked our way to the bottom of each box, as we sorted through the memories that made up Edna's life. The emotion that coursed through me is difficult to describe. I felt hollow and empty, and yet still was able to smile at our foolishness captured by the camera. What a miracle it is to freeze a moment onto a piece of paper. Each of us selected our favorites. There is always one photograph that speaks to the person who selected it. The one special photo that shows the Edna we loved.
Every family has boxes like these, filled with treasure. Among those treasures there are a few that have become badly damaged and need restoration. I selected one photo of Edna that shows her full of life and optimism. It looks like a studio shot with professional background and lighting. Her pose looks natural and relaxed, her expression one that is familiar to me. An expression that I know well. Looking into the image only serves to increase my sense of loss. I cling to the photo despite the sadness. On the hard drive of my computer this image waits for me to restore it. I've started, however it's a tough go for me.
Moments pass, and are strung together bit by bit. Most of us have a casual relationship with the present moment. We tend to value the past, or anticipate the future. We live our lives in present time. Everything that happens, only happens in the present. Those casual photographs that you snap today, will gather value as the years pass. One day a rather small grouping of images will define your life, and will be treasured by people who love you. If there is a lesson to be learned, it is to live each day with awareness. If you become aware enough, you'll realize that you are surrounded by miracles, and people you love. Live an intentional life
An idea or message behind a photo is what is referred to as creative vision. It adds meaning and depth in a photo. When a photograph is creative, it elevates ordinary objects. Our world is full of objects that take up space around us, we are also surrounded by the negative space between all those objects. When we make a photograph that is creative, we use the unique parts of ourselves to juxtapose the positive and negative and create a composition.
I am an observer of the world around me. Not only do I constantly look for objects to photograph, I observe human behavior. One particular type of behavior that fascinates me is the way children look at our grown up world with fresh eyes. I gave my young grandson my cell phone camera to use for a short while one day. The only instructions I gave him was to take photographs and not break my phone. About an hour passed, and I sat with him to see what photos he created. In all there were two of them that stood out as photos that I'd print. One, a photo of a door knob was shot from his eye level. It showed his world, from his perspective. He filled the frame rather well, and the photograph was composed vertically. The other photograph was a floor level view of his dogs face as she slept, her face filling the frame horizontally. His chances for success were increased because all concerns about equipment were non existent. His only concern was what was on the LCD screen.
There are lessons to be learned from this exercise. There is a difference between how an innocent child views their world, and the way adults do. Chiefly, we have memories and assumptions carefully gathered throughout our lifetime. Over time we have given meaning to information as we ingest it. Visual stimuli gets judged as good or bad, and we change our thoughts and behavior to become more efficient or to protect ourselves in some way. A child may look at an object and be fascinated with all the different colors and shades. An adult might be concerned with a schedule and being on time, and bypass beauty right before their eyes. Presence is the difference between these two approaches. The mind of a child lives mostly in the current moment. Adult minds much less so. A child has a well developed sense of curiosity. I'll state the obvious here and say, the more curious you are, the more you will notice, the more you will learn, and the more meaningful your experience of each day will be.
The world around us is filled with wonderful things to look at and enjoy. Ordinary objects, with texture, tone, color, and shape. Our world, right where we live is full of richness. Our challenge is to slow down, look and listen. This process is one that takes time to learn, and cannot be rushed. We might notice a meadow as we drive by, however stopping and really looking brings us a visual treat. So many different shades of green, and oh look at all the texture and shapes there are. You have just been given a gift of awakening. Many of us find standing on a beach and looking into a vast ocean inspiring and even meditative. We've taken the time to slow down, stop, look, and listen. We have given ourselves a gift. The gift of a wonderfully beautiful sky, deep blue ocean, white foam at our feet, a sandy shore, and the rhythmic sound of the waves Take the time to really wake up. Notice what is all around you. Photograph it and spend some time with your work and think about how it makes you feel. Attach that feeling to your work, and next think about what you can do to enhance your message. People experience photographs on many levels. It is a representation of some thing, it conveys emotion, or a message, and successful images pull you into the composition and enhance your experience. You are more awake.
Long ago, I trained my self to think in terms of visualizing framing my subjects. Practicing this skill has served me well over the decades. At this point in my development it has become a reflex that I rely on without much effort. This was not always the case, as I had to practice to acquire this skill.
Looking at a scene, being attracted to parts of it, and composing a photograph in my viewfinder took practice to learn to do well. I spent more time in the darkroom than in the field when I began my journey of photography. In those days I printed contact sheets of every roll of film I exposed. I studied those contact sheets and refreshed my in camera editing. I readily saw the progression of thought that each frame captured. I was fortunate in that my Dad was an accomplished photographer of seascapes. He emphasized to me the importance of spending time studying each frame I exposed, and why I chose that composition. He showed me that I could use two cardboard L's to practice crop images on my contact sheet to improve the composition by eliminating unimportant elements that did not support the subject. I then took a marker and drew a frame on the photograph that I would print out later in my darkroom.
Placing a frame around a subject gives the image power. It eliminates visual elements that distract from the photographers vision. The approach that has always worked for me was to think in terms of what can I remove from the scene to make it more powerful. Our eyes focus on an object of interest, but they also include everything in the periphery. Our brain has the ability to block out what we don't consider important. This is a survival trait we've developed early on. The camera, on the other hand, will render all that is included in the viewfinder. When I began creative photography I was frequently surprised by the scope of what I included in the viewfinder when I edited my shoot. Learning editing skills payed off, and as time went on my “keepers” outnumbered the rejects.
As time progresses, the framing skills you worked hard at teaching yourself begin to form patterns. These patterns reflect how you tend to visualize the world in your viewfinder. Other people recognize this as your style. It is the frame that is the one element that brings everything together. The power of the frame strengthens the decisions I've made about things like, depth of field, color or black and white, wide angle or close up, composition, and other things as well.
The way I decide to frame an image changes the way the viewer of the photograph interprets that image. By selective framing the photographer has the power to imply meaning to their work that otherwise might not even be present at the time it was captured. This is extremely liberating, and emphasizes the fact that things are not always the way they are, but how we see them can be fluid and subject to manipulation. Framing a photograph facilitates a photographer's vision, however, the person viewing the work also contributes to the process and its interpretation, they in essence become a partner in the process. There once was a time when people considered a photograph, evidence of truth. The common accepted thought was, “the camera never lies”. Well truth be told, the camera always lied, it is just easier these days to pull off a lie. A wonderful inspiring landscape can be a distortion of reality. A photograph created to produce an emotion. It does not have to be accurate. Evidence photographed to be part of the judicial system must be accurate, as should scientific or journalistic work. The simple act of framing a photograph is not as simple as one might imagine. All of us that work behind the camera have opinions, biases, and sometimes an agenda. How we frame an image is affected by our individual humanity. The power of the frame is underestimated, quiet, and overlooked.
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