Saturday, June 06, 2009

A moment in Eden, where the animals are curious and unafraid

The Animals in Eden Are Curious and Unafraid
An incredibly beautiful walk this afternoon: On our way to Pluto (another story), we walked a few miles on the Military Ridge Trail into the afternoon sun west of Riley's. With the slanting, late afternoon light and the incredible greens all around us, it was like strolling through Eden. Bicyclists rolled by by quietly, and we passed the occasional pedestrian or runner. This doe seemed as entranced by the scene as we were. She stood quietly in the tall grass along the trail, watching the passing parade, unafraid, showing no inclination to run from the people passing by. We gazed at each other across the species divide -- two living creatures silently acknowledging each other. I raised my camera and squeezed off a frame.

The Spell Is BrokenIn the silence, my SLR seemed loud even to me. And with the mirror slap and shutter curtain snapping across the focal plane, the fallen world returned. This was not a sound the doe was familiar with. It spelled danger, and so she was off in a couple of great, leaping bounds. She raced across the open field and disappeared into the underbrush in the distance. The end of a magic moment.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Illusion vs reality in the sky over Owen Park

Photographer's Dilemma
These are questions photographers always face, not always consciously: Document reality, or enhance it? Record what the eye sees, or draw on the imagination? Shoot it, or fake it? Go with the way it really was, or create what should have been?

But what do we mean by "the way it really was"? Alterations and enhancements, often very subtle, are almost unavoidable. Even if documentation is the goal, color, exposure, composition, choosing the moment to click the shutter -- they all involve decisions that influence what the photograph expresses, which is why different people's photos of the same scene often look so different. When you try to capture it, reality becomes fluid and hard to pin down. Photographs are just another form of eyewitness testimony -- not terribly trustworthy, but better than nothing.

Of course, if illusion is your goal, the sky is the limit. Almost since the beginning, photography has been used to mislead as well as to inform, to create alternate realities -- first with retouching and other analog means -- now with computers.

As photographers, we each have to decide where to draw the line. As viewers and consumers of photography, we each have to sort our way through these issues. How do we know what's real and what's not? In the end, it probably comes down to the old principle, "If it looks too good to be true, it is too good to be true." For example:

Left: The way it really was -- moon and hawk over Owen Park, a plausible near miss. Right: A more dramatic composition. The way it should have been. And too good to be true, at least in this case.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Do yourself a favor, transform your commute -- bike to work next week

Wheeeee -- No Hands!
Bicycling in Madison really comes into its own once the weather warms up. Sure, there are hardy souls who bike year-round, but most of us put the bikes away during the cold months, and then it takes some time to get our biking legs back. After that, it's nothing but sheer joy.

That's why Madison's Bike to Work Week is a little later than usual, because it's been rescheduled for warmer weather than the national event, which was held a few weeks ago.
In the past, the Bicycle Federation of Wisconsin (BFW) coordinated the statewide bike week with the national biking day, the third Friday in May as chosen by the League of American Bicyclists.

That can be a bit chilly in our northern climes, so BFW put off the bike week until June 6. (Madison had a high of 62 on May 15, the third Friday of May this year.)

"Simply, the warmer June weather is going to draw out more people and encourage more first-time bike commuters," said Bike to Work Week project manager Shea Schachmeyer. "Numerous communities throughout the country have initiated this trend as well, moving Bike to Work Week to best accommodate the peak time of year to bike."
Check the Cap Times story at the link for events scheduled during the week, including free coffee, bakery and bike repairs along the bike paths. Have an overwhelming urge to pedal to work with Mayor Dave?
Biking commuters can join with Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 9, to "roll to work" with his honor. Bicyclist should meet at Hillington Green at Norwood Place to ride with Cieslewicz to downtown.
Recently I found a paper on the web about why walking and cycling are so much more widespread -- and safer -- in Europe than the U.S. It's interesting to ponder as Bike to Work Week approaches, a good time to think about how to make somewhat bike-friendly Madison even more bike friendly. Click here for Html or download pdf here.