Yin and Yang

Yin and Yang © Steven Willard

Taoists teach of the need for balance, not only on a universal scale, but for individuals, too. To strive to balance the dark and light within us. To accept our need for action with reflection. To recognize both the male and female sensitivities that exists in all of us. And yes, to realize that there are limits to how much burden we can carry and when it’s time to unload. To realize we have been holding our breath and it’s time to exhale.

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Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park, California © Steven Willard

Located in the high desert near Twenty Nine Palms, Joshua Tree National Park is a treat. I had been curious about this place for years. With its collection of unusual plant life and other-worldly rock formations it is a photographer’s dream. I only had two days and it just wasn’t enough, I would be happy to spend a week there.

Olympus OMD EM5 with Lumix 20mm f1.7 lens, processed in Snapseed.

Transitory

Transitory © Steven Willard

Do you sometimes feel as though you are being given a message but you don’t hear it until later? When I happened upon this small scene I had the impression it was more than just some vines and rocks topped with snow, but at the time all I saw was lines and textures in muted colors. When I came back to the raw image recently I saw something else; a message about the transitory nature of things. In the case of the snow, it was gone in a matter of days. The vines will last a little longer, for a season at least. The stones that make up the wall have been around for eons, but even they will succumb to the effects of weather and will eventually be reduced to sand and returned to the soil.

We exist here like the vines, going where we want with no real concept of permanence, marking time with the passage of seasons as the snows come and go. We give little consideration to the earth which was here at our beginning and will be here after our passing.

Richmond Revisited

Richmond, Virginia © Steven Willard (Click to view full size)

As happens to everyone, everyone I know at least, I’ve found myself in a bit of a photography slump lately. I have experienced this enough times not to be concerned about it, but it is frustrating to want to make photographs but just not able to press the button. Sometimes I can force myself into making photographs by telling myself that I’m not going home without making at least one exposure, and this can work, but not always. Another strategy of course, is to go fishing in old files in hopes of snagging a keeper that had gotten away the first time.

Last December, while visiting friends in Richmond, Ronnie took me on a walk along the James River. When presented with a water scene I usually turn my lens on the water, but in this instance it would have meant shooting more or less into the sun, and I wasn’t drawn in that direction. However, turning away from the river presented me with a composition I found much more appealing. The nearly bare birch saplings with just a few orange leaves still clinging to branches stood in contrast to the concrete retaining wall in the background. The colors were subtle but I knew I could boost them in post processing, and I knew the soft light would allow me to bump the contrast up a bit without blowing out the highlights. What follows are samples of the image as it progressed from the RAW file to completion as seen above.

 

The raw file

The RAW file has no punch, but potential.

 

Opened in PS Express

I opened the original file in PC Express where I added contrast and saturation, and most importantly sharpened the image.

 

After processing in Stackables

I knew I wanted to add some texture to the concrete wall, and that I could use one of the filters to add color. There is also a slider that allows one to adjust gamma.

 

Finished in Snapseed

I finished in Snapseed so that I could use the brush tool to empathize the blue band just left of the larger tree, and to warm the right hand wall up a bit. I then used the “selective” tool to bring up the yellow patch in the upper right corner, and to add a little more saturation to the leaves. At this point I realized I had gone too far in overall saturation so I dialed that down a notch or two and decided it was finished.

What I had seen while I was at the river was something that reminded me of a Japanese print, and my ambition was to try to enhance that impression.

Panasonic LUMIX GX85 kit zoom.   (Correction: the lens used was the Panasonic 20mm f1.7, one of my favorites.)

 

 

 

 

Amazing Grace

 

In the presence of Grace.

Serious Grace VanderWaal fans will recognize the girl in this screenshot taken from the video of Grace’s first performance at Austin City Limits (ACL) last year*. In the ten or so seconds she is on the screen you can almost feel her desire to be just like Grace, who was only thirteen at the time. In the short time since she won Americas Got Talent in 2016 she has already demonstrated that she is worthy of the position of roll model she has taken on. I won’t go into Grace’s biography, there are plenty of places you can get that, but I would urge you to watch her music videos on YouTube, including her most recent release “Clearly”, a re-write/cover of the 1972 Johnny Nash song, her most impressive release to date in my opinion.

For another look at her talent you can watch her first appearance on the ACL stage.     https://1drv.ms/v/s!AqTC2VVR90CD9lPWyXt9lIFkmLvt    Thanks to Jerry Hatfield for the share. How a little (and at thirteen she is little here) can draw this size crowd and keep them entertained, singing her own songs for almost an hour is….well, amazing, but that’s who she is. Amazing Grace.

*Did you catch her appearance at 6:35 ?

Huh?

Huh? Roxbury, Connecticut © Steven Willard

I’m sure there is some logical explanation for this boardwalk, but I’m damned if I can figure out what it is. Still, it does make an interesting counterpoint to the row of birches in the background.

Olympus OMD EM1 with 12-40mm f2.8 zoom, processed in Snapseed.

 

Out of place

Brick steps, New Haven, Connecticut © Steven Willard

On a trip to New Haven, I found myself with some time to kill and a camera on my shoulder. What to do, what to do? Rather than spending time walking around the Yale campus as I frequently do, I decided to check out some of the alleways. It was down one of those alleys that I found this rather unexpected scene. The pipe railing and concrete retaining wall were common enough, but who would spend the time and money to build this brick stairs only to gain access to a little used back door? Why not concrete steps? The mix truck must have been there to pour the retaining wall. I love mysteries like this. Was somebody’s relative in need of some work and knew somebody? I’ll never know.

Well, whatever the reason, I liked the mix of colors, shapes and textures, and I couldn’t have asked for better light.

Pentax K10D with kit 18-55mm zoom processed in Photoshop and Snapseed.