Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

January 28, 2009

Insomnia – Cinematic story?

Filed under: Insomnia: Hotel Noir, Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 7:55 pm


Bed Check from the series Insomnia – Hotel Noir  photograph copyright of Douglas Stockdale

Again, another comment by Anita regarding the development of this series and an observation about the cinematic feeling she is getting. Cinematic is just not a term that I casually drop into a conversation. So my first reaction was that this is an industry term of hers, working with the film studios in LA.

But subliminally, that term kept banging around and until it dawned on me, what was the big difference in this series that was so vague and lurking in the background, but yet because I was so close to the work that I was doing, that I was missing. (Okay, one of those Duh!  in the middle of taking a shower things, when I usually let my mind aimlessly wonder and free associate)

Egads, Anita was right, I was developing a kinda Cinematic storyline. Rather than photographing what was, e.g.  a Robert Frank or Friedlander series and the such, I was trying to photograph the experience it felt like, in a kinda Cindy Sherman sort of way. No wonder I was having such issues with this series, this was totally outside of what I thought I was doing, but in retrospect, exactly what I was in fact doing.  I was not thinking cinematic story in 2006 when I started this.

This is one of those Aha! moments. You know when you may be thinking you are photographing the urban landscape, but then you figure out it is metaphorically about your personal relationship with your Grandmother kinda of thing. (No, that is not what the urban landscape is about for me, just an example of what could be a weird Aha! moment)

So how did this come about, eh? Going from natural landscape photography to a cinematic story is a pretty big conceptual leap. But recall, when I started working on Insomnia, I was already into my series In Passing, the urban/rural landscapes series with the roadside memorials, which was becoming an introspective look at my own mortality.

I started the Insomnia series, trying to photograph places, events and people that were doing something that actualized my own feelings at the time. Really thinking a Robert Frank type of series, in line with my other urban landscape work.  Since I am not a people person photographer, or at least I sure was not at the time, I was very uncomfortable photographing someone doing something. So I defaulted to the next best thing, a patient model who could understand my silly directions & intent, I could photograph myself doing stuff. In retrospect, that was the Cindy Sherman moment.  And it seems one thing lead to another, where I eventually started pushing and pulling furniture, to help create the “scene” to be photographed. I would get an idea about a feeling or emotion, then I would kinda act it out for the camera. Yesheee.

Well at least I have found a missing conceptual link, that is at least starting to make this series easier for me to understand. About time, eh?

Thank you Anita, for your continuing feedback and comments on this series. I hope you now understand how valuable I feel your participation is.

Best regards, Doug

Insomnia – reception

Filed under: Insomnia: Hotel Noir, Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 12:38 am


Reception from the series Insomnia – Hotel Noir  photograph copyright of Douglas Stockdale

If a story needs a begining and an end, I think that the photograph Reception is where Hotel Noir starts. This is a nice lobby and reception area considering some of the places that I have been. When you drag in after midnight, pulling your luggage along, there are usually not a lot of folks waiting with open arms and warm cookies. sigh.

But sometimes there is that warm smile (especially if you have been checking in every Monday morning for about a year) and maybe some warm cookies. There is usually some human contact and the receptionist does want to make sure your stay is okay. So that is not so bad, but more reality, as the receptionist is not your family. You even miss your dog pawing and drooling on you, looking for a familiar scratch behind the years  & his favorite treat.

So however unintended, even with the brief personal contact, the feeling of isolation and disconnectiveness may increase. Perhaps you are lucky, you are traveling with a group or meeting up with a client, so there is still an opportunity for dinner to spend time with someone, avoiding the room and the pending night. Perhaps you are not so lucky and now you have to decied where to get eat by yourself.

Room service starts to become more appealing after a few nights going out to some nice resturaunts, but at a table for one. (Yikes, I just had a recall of a photograph that would fit in well with this! nice when that happens) More time by yourself in isolation, which why eating at the resturaunt’s bar is not so bad of an alternative. A chance to pick up a conversation with someone nearby or at least the bartender if he/she’s not that busy.

So maybe it would appropriate to add a little warmth to the person in this photograph? hmmmm. Meanwhile, the image as is has been added to the Booksmart template at the begining of the series, but it can be changed out if I decide to tweak the toning a little.

Now to go looking for that other photograph, as I know it is somewhere on my external hard disk…..

Best regards, Doug

January 27, 2009

Insomnia – potential prologue

Filed under: Insomnia: Hotel Noir, Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 5:43 am


In Transit from the series Insomnia – Hotel Noir  photograph by Douglas Stockdale

I think that one of my biggest weaknesses with the development of a photographic “story” is that I don’t know crap about writing a novel. Hey, that just might be a good thing, eh? So since I don’t know the rules, then I can merrily do what I like. nice.

But I have been thinking about the image sequencing, which I know is another way to say “storyline”. And while thinking about the earlier image of the person boarding the plane as a lead in, or introduction or prologue, I realized that I could pair it with another that I had made recently.

I have been experimenting for a while with panning and other camera movements, to create a feeling of time in a photograph. One thing that I do as I walk through airports and the like, is to have my camera at waist level and kinda point & shoot. Sort of like shooting skeet, as you really don’t need to have the camera at your eye, all you need to do is kinda point the camera with a wide angle lens. Wonderful stuff with auto exposure and auto focus, just use Av and stop the lens down for a 1/2 to full second exposure. When you get to your seat on the plane, see what ya got. Fun stuff.

And I remembered something from a walk about at Dallas DFW that could fit with this series. It was one of those occasions when you find your seat and look at your photographs and realize, oh crap, I had my zoom set at a normal focal length, now wide open. But there was something about the set of photographs that caused me to pause and not delete them on the spot. So I guess, I have to try this again at a normal focal length again, maybe there is more opportunity there.

But now, I have a pair of images that could be a nice prologue, for the body of the series. As a result, I then started to “build” my book, and preparing images for a Blurb large format hard cover book.  I already have my prints which I have re-sequenced a number of times and feeling comfortable with the progressive order. In the past, I would actually create a dummy book, but this time, I am a little more comfortable with the process and going to use the Blurb Booksmart software to create a virtual dummy. And once I tweak that, I will be able to quick go to publishing, if I chose.

And I have a work around for the Blurb picture templates that allows me to get my image exactly how I crop it in the book in its entirety. So I have concurrently been documenting that methodology for my workshop class. nice.

I am also back to thinking about contacting the traditional book publishers with this series. If so, then I will have a privately published softbound versions of the book and print some of these book “dummies” to send out for consideration. hmmmmm.

But first things first, I have to get my head around this series and finish it. I also have another set of images that I made during this series that I have not included yet, and I need to decide are they appropriate or not. More about that another time.

Best regards, Doug

January 25, 2009

Insomnia series – how narrative?

Filed under: Insomnia: Hotel Noir, Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 5:44 pm


Phone Conversation from the series Insomnia – Hotel Noir  photography by Douglas Stockdale

With the recent comment from Anita regarding my recently revised photograph from Insomnia, she stated that the photographs were less ambiguous and more narrative. Hmmm, did I really mean that to happen?

A narrative quality would seem very relevant to a story, .e.g a story line.  If I liken my series to a story in a similar manner as Titarenko and Fleuret‘s recent books, then it would seem relevant to want to create some kind of narrative quality to the sequencing of the photographs and subsequently the book’s design.  I should decide whose voice is providing the narrative, eh? With Titarenko, it was his own narrative interpreting his experiences in St. Petersburg, while Fleuret is striving for a narrative to be constructed by the reader with some visual clues he provides, like a Dadist exercise. So if I think of this series as a story, I need to consider the narrative qualities.

Likewise, the amount of ambiguity could make the series either harder or easier or perhaps, more interesting. I might create a very obscure story line, one that is harder to comprehend, perhaps because of unclear intent or weak structure. It also seems that some obscurity could help establish more mystery if that intent was supported by a good design and an appropriate flow of images. Thus I need to consider just how much ambiguity that I  introduce, and my purpose in doing so. Does it support or detract from the story line?

But that then begs the questions, just what the heck is my purpose in developing this series? And not to duck the question with an easy pass-off of that I was “just inspired” to do this.  If I don’t understand my intent, I suspect that my results may be less than stellar. Okay, even if I know my intent, it could still end up less than stellar. To know my intent also means that I don’t have to nail down this series in such a obvious black and white definition that I take all of the life out of it. Which is a risk I take in discussing it here.

The series did slowly evolve as I continued to photograph it.  First I was documenting my travel days on the road, almost like a photo of the day project. As I continued to work on this series of photographs,  I realized that I wanted to dig in and attempt to visually investigate my experiences. Concurrently, I was in the middle of my series In Passing, and my introspective feelings on that series also affected this series. 

I just wanted to get a visualization of my  feelings of detachment, separation anxiety, loneliness and sadness that occasionally came with my extensive travel. It is not a memoir, although it does have autobiographical elements, I want to create the experiences. You don’t have to go mad to be able to write about madness, eh?

So I am tying to create a series, that althought I feel that I understand some aspects of, that the reader can relate to and can make it their own story. So somewhere between the interpretative factual events of Titarenko and the abstract story line of Fleuret. But the concept of a story line that they worked with has become very appealing and one that has re-energized my feelings about the body of work that I created for the series Insomnia.

And so I take note of my developing narrative, analyzing the elements of the photographs to maintain a medium level of ambiguity and abstraction, with a whisper of mystery.

Best regards, Doug

January 23, 2009


Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 6:00 am


Departure, series Insomnia – Hotel Noir, photography by Douglas Stockdale

Well, I have competed a number of iterations on the this photograph, varing all sorts of aspects related to color and tonality. Sometimes you start to wonder which one is right, but then implies that you don’t know and someone else does. phooy. I keep making the changes until it just seems right. And I have the perogative to change my mind. Many times!

I am not very happy with the crude appearance of my earlier version of this image that I posted here, so I thought that rather than leaving eveyone with that dismal image, I needed to provide one of where I seem to be ending up at. Or at least it is a sight better than my earlier attempts. It is also more consistent with the feeling I have when I pack up and get ready to return home.

I am implying that Hope is in the room and related to the suitcase, but it may be the act of packing that suitcase, knowing that the packing and thus the packed suitcase is part of the process to get home and reconnected. So hope comes from many things, many angles and probably an openess to it and wanting to sense its presence.

And so I continue…

Best regards, Dou

January 20, 2009

Start of a journey

Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 11:28 pm


In Transit, photograph by Douglas Stockdale

First, because of a really nice suggestion, I am going to provide my working titles for my images on this journal. Just do not hold me to them, okay.

While I was journaling about my series Insomnia, one of my questions was when and where does the disassociation and the realization of being separated really start to occur? The answer then creates the question that if this occurs before I arrive at my temporary destination, should this be included in my series?

Perhaps for some that travel frequently, that emotional trigger may be the hug and kiss goodbye as you prepare to walk to the car for the airport. It may be at the airport or during the flight or even the drive through a strange city trying to find the hotel for the night. For me the emotional impact starts to occur during the flight out of town, especially if is 4 to 5 hours to the East coast, and most certainly if it is a 12 hour flight to Europe or 15 hours to Asia. I think for each of us, it varies a lot. Probably depends on how well you can keep your self distracted with other stuff, eh?

So I think that this photograph of In Transit works well with my series, but now where to sequence it? I think that while getting started on a trip, the warm glow is totally relevant, as all of my relationship is still very fresh in my memory. They have not begun to fade or be attacked by all of the strangeness and disassociations. I also like this photograph to represent a memory, that you use to call upon to get you through the trip. And it has a transitional feel to it, so perhaps somewhere in the middle of the story, a memory of a feeling being recalled.

Or as another alternative, maybe in the beginning of the story, as I am floating through time and hardly aware of my surroundings. I am confident in myself and my relationships, which are firmly entrenched in my memory. I can carry them with me, much like my wallet, to access as necessary.

Okay, I like this photograph, now I want to be sure of where it will work in the story. Nice, as no final decisions need to be made today…

Best regards, Doug

Metaphoric Hope

Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 1:20 am


Untitled, Insomnia – Hotel Noirseries, photograph copyright Douglas Stockdale

While discussing with Titarenko about his book, he was always emphasizing the region of warmth that he had brought into his photographs as metaphoric Hope of the Russian people. Then after my discussion with the French photographer Fleuret about his photographic (book) story Landmasses and Railroads, I realized that I could bring both of these concepts together with my then dormant series Insomnia – Hotel Noir.

Now part of the creative part was just how to introduce this warm tone area into a print. BTW Titaranko had the harder task as his prints were made entirely in the wet darkroom.

My decision is to apply the warmth in a region that would best signify where Hope could be found or where Hope was occurring. The balance of the underlying blue tone and the application of the warmer tone is the challenge. The nice thing about working digital, I can quickly work up a lot of options fairly quickly on the monitor before I start printing what I believe are my strongest options. FYI, the two corresponding tones are adjustment layers of Hue/Saturation in combination with masking.

Where to apply the mask, how much to feather the outer boundaries and then how much to pull back on the opacity slider for the adjustment layer has been a series of trial and error. And of course, this varies for each image and the emotional effect that I want to establish with it as the story develops.

This image is also looking to be at the end of the series. For some reason, I am working backward on this series, developing the end of the story first. As I think of it, that is also how I developed my how-to book, most of my presentations and how I was trained to develop operation project plans. Interesting insight.

So this photograph is about the beginning of the morning, preparing to leave, the period of insomnia and disassociation is slowly becoming a thing of the past, and Hope is becoming almost tangible, the opportunity to reestablish relationships is becoming imminent. Thus, I try to create a sense of anticipation.

So far so good, I think :- )

Best regards, Doug

January 19, 2009

Gas Station

Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: — Doug Stockdale @ 5:08 am


Gas Station, Valencia CA  photograph copyright of Douglas Stockdale

In between the Steelers winning and the Eagles losing their respective football games, I have continued to work on my series Insomnia. And on top of that, I should really be writing on my latest book on how to develop a photographic POD book. I think that I will defer to being an old tempermental artist and that I do what I want. I just hope that somebody agrees;- )

So I have now worked my way through twenty draft prints, as I prefer to lay out the prints on the floor and start re-arranging them, and then rearrange them again. I do this many times. I still have more to do, but then as I brought up one image, the gas station above, I just had to stop. I know that this one print that appears exquiste in color is not a good justification to rethink this series. And I now have a toned black and white version that is also nice, but not as wonderful as this.

I guess that this is one of those singular images that we find ourselves making from time to time. It does not seem to fit with any other series, but I find that I am just captivated by it. There is just something about it and I am not even going to try to figure that out, either. So one of the pleasures of writing this journal, is on occasion to just post something that I like, and hope you do as well.  Who knows when one day, something else will come along to be a good complement and it will all meld together.

So I have printed this and it now sits besides my monitor to be enjoyed. nice.

Best regards, Doug

PS I was thinking we were going to have a wonderful inter-PA football game in Tampa shortly, and I will admit, if one of the two teams had to win, I am happy that it is the Steelers. I was born not far from Pittsburg one day long ago.

And the current version that I am considering for the Insomnia series:


Insomnia series – development of a story


Insomnia – Hotel Noir, photographic series, Douglas Stockdale

I have spent a lot of the day printing variations of my photographs for the series Insomnia. I am still experiementing with the blue undertone and a spot of a warm tone selectively applied to bring to mind a feeling. But that means printing a bunch of variations as I adjust the color hue, saturation, opacity & fill. And depending where I want the image in the sequence, then I need to make additional tonality adjustments.

I sometimes wonder if the tonality treatment is tooo hokey or does it add another wonderful dimension to the print and subsquently to the series. The nice thing is that the changes/adjustments are layers and not permanate, which allows me to play with this. It will not be the first time that I have spent a lot of time on the development of a series, then at the end of the development, just trash all that work and start over again. I think that this process is called creativity, eh?

Case in point, the photograph of the luggage above is starting to look like the last image for the story. The traces of Insomnia are present in the room where it lurks in the edges. The suitcase is packed and now we ready to leave, possibly returning home or at least coming closer to the end of the week.  To once again be able reconnect with family and loved ones. The feeling of Hope is now becoming stronger and anything is now possible. I can sense that the mood is becoming more positive and upbeat.

Best regards, Doug

Quick note: having just published this post, I have a quick realization that I want the warm tone only inside the bedroom, not out the door into the foreground outside room. So now back to working on this image some more. Fun, eh? Yep!!!

January 15, 2009

Introspective Mirror

Filed under: Books, Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , — Doug Stockdale @ 6:33 pm

Nocturnal Watch

One of the take aways from my discussion with Titarenko last weekend at photo l.a. has been the reserection of my earlier series Insomnia – Hotel Noir. This series was developed somewhat concurrently with In Passing, with In Passing more of a window, while Insomnia leaning more towards an introspective mirror.

Perhaps I am somewhere in between the window and the mirror, such that I can see out the window by looking into the mirror. Or as I look through the window, I can see also see a reflection.

Susequently as I read Titarenko’s book, the need to continue my development of Insomnia has resurfaced. In the process, I am rethinking the whole blue tonality issue for this series. Perhaps like Titarenko, some element of the blue tonality can be introduced, but perhaps not create a blue tonality for the entire print. So now I am experimenting with my photographs, to see the effects as a printed image. This should be interesting this weekend as I work the various effects.

Likewise, having had the discussion with Bertrand Fleuret about his new book, I am also rethinking how my Insomnia book should be sequenced. Perhaps there is more of a story to tell, a progression and order that I have not fully considered in the past. One that is going to cause me to journal about my thoughts and feelings about the experiences. The potential is exciting!

Best regards, Doug

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