Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

October 3, 2015

Paris – the party Seine

Filed under: Art, Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 5:45 pm

The Party Seine_6988_Paris_Stockdale

Untitled (the party Seine, Paris, 2010) copyright 2015 Douglas Stockdale

In 2010 I had an opportunity to be in Paris during the summer and found a rite of summer (or anytime that is warm enough) that is frequently celebrated in this city; partying along the banks of the river Seine, thus the punster title of the photograph.

We had just completed a Seine river cruise in the later afternoon, but turned dark on our journey back. During our short tourist cruise, all along the banks of the river was a continuous party in progress; couples, small groups, big groups, usually toasting us with their glasses of wine. Really fun as everyone was really enjoying the balmy night and each others company.

As we walked the along the banks of the Seine after the cruise, I noted this one region across the river with a fun group and an interesting illumination of the party in progress. Unfortunately I did not have my tripod. Fortunately there was a waist high wall at this same location which did duty as my impromptu tripod. I also figured that I would not be lucky with only one exposure, so I continued to photography from this location for the next couple of minutes and was rewarded with this composition. With some careful cropping and tweaking in PhotoShop, I created a really great memory for me.

This image was just selected today by the Duncan Miller Gallery for their YourDailyPhotograph, so it’s available for a short time for a nice price from their gallery. So maybe some lucky person will have this print as part of their collection as a surrogate memory for a similar occasion.


Flying by the seat of my pants


Untitled (Over Oz, Michigan, 2015) copyright 2015 Douglas Stockdale

I keep getting asked how I am able to create my interesting aerial landscapes that I share here, such as this one and the one I posted yesterday. So here is the story about how I photograph landscapes while flying by the seat of my pants, thus I guess you could describe this article as a mini-photo workshop.

Since I fly frequently on assignment, I fall into that category of being a frequent flyer (yep, over 2 million miles on just one airline, and yes, the airlines does keep track). The favorites seat for most frequent flyers is an aisle seat towards the front of the airplane. On the other hand, I also go for the front of the plane, but a window seat that will be facing North (e.g. on the left of the plane leaving southern California). Two reasons, I want to be in front of the wing to maximize an unobstructed visibility of the passing landscape and if you are facing South, you will deal with the effects of constant sunlight. Most aircraft have been around a while, which means scratched windows, both inside and out which creates issues with flare and terrible reflections.

The creative corollary is that if you like to deal with the effects of sun as part of your image development process, then go for it and select the South facing window seats; I for the most part, don’t. Another reason to choose a South facing window is if you have a late afternoon flight and you think you might catch an aerial sunset, which at times can be very striking. But then I am not usually chasing sunsets.

As a last alternative, I may have to end up with a window seat at the back of the plane. If the plane engines are configured on the wing, then I try to get as far back in the plane as possible, as the hot engine exhaust can create a soft blur in the resulting photographs (optical diffraction caused by the hot rapidly moving air). Again, the corollary is that this optical effect can be used to creative purposes, but I prefer to get as straight of an image as I can, then work my creative options post-production in PhotoShop. I find it much easier to add a layer to an image and if I decide the effect does not work for me, to then delete the layer and start over again.

As to when to photograph, I think that there are three basic flying conditions; take-off, in-flight and approach on landing. For me, the best of these three conditions are the approach for landing as I am more interested today in the middle landscape, and not as much with the high altitude (30,000 ft plus) broad landscape. On approach, the aircraft will slow down to perhaps 150 mph, rather than the 350 mph plus while cruising. Unlike the take off which can be a rapid climb, the approach is a slow decline lining up with the runway, taking upwards of ten minutes or more in duration, which creates a lot of photographic opportunities. My other trick is to try to look far enough ahead to determine what might come into view by peeking out the window in front of my window, if I can. Even at 150 mph, the composition opportunities are rapidly fleeting.

One of the nice aspects of digital capture is to do a quick sanity check to see if you are picking up any unwanted reflections in the image, as the angle you photograph out the window can pick up some subtle’s that might not be evident in the viewfinder. Not unusual to find my hand or interior of the aircraft being picked up on the interior window reflection if not careful. Basic rule of thumb is to place the front of the lens flush on the window, because as soon as you start to tilt the lens down, the higher the probability you will pick up some window reflections. Since I usually do aim the camera down to capture the passing landscape, I complete a quick check on what angle I can use without picking up unwanted reflections. Always some compromises.

My last piece of advice is to have your camera ready after boarding, not in a never-ready case or in a backpack, as the images are literally fleeting and there is not much time to react to what is rapidly unfolding outside the window. Thus I like to take at least one or two images while the plane is still docked and starting to move out on the tarmac. It gets the creative juices flowing.


October 2, 2015

Serious fun

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


Untitled (Dallas, TX 2015) copyright 2015 Douglas Stockdale

I think that for me, it helps from time to time to just have fun. Sometimes messing around leads to an interesting project, as it allows my right brain to do what it does best; lurk, watch, listen, dream, free associate, and allow creativity to creep into my life.

So at the moment, my fun stuff revolves around using my SnapSeed app on my Samsung phone/camera. Yesterday I posted about finding the Grunge filter back in my basket of play options. One of the things that I liked about using the Grunge filter was how it allow the focus to move about, but it also introduces some textures and colors that I may not want to use. Especially when I want the image to look a “little” less manipulated. So on my recent assignment trip to Detroit (with a change of planes midway in Dallas), I started playing with some in-flight photographs using the SnapSeed Focus filter option in conjunction with my usual bag of tricks.

I think of this as a post-exposure LensBaby. Really tough to figure out where and how you want to tweak a LensBaby exposure when you are hurling along at 250 mph plus. And no going back to say: Oh Golly I need to bracket this exposure or maybe if I adjusted this and that for my composition. Just grab the image as life literally flies by. Thus, first things first; capture the image’s image as best I can, then while in flight on the next leg, proceed to tweak and play with the image.

This photograph might work with one of my lingering projects that investigates my personal travel and related to a project about identity. Plus, as a singular photograph, I find it to be an interesting graphic image. The lines, patterns and positive/negative spaces creates an interesting movement to this. The graphic aspect in mind helped guide my decisions as I tweaked this image. Enjoy!


October 1, 2015

OCMA update

Filed under: Art, Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:16 pm


Untitled (OCMA administration office, Newport Beach, CA 2015) copyright 2015 Douglas Stockdale

Last weekend was interesting time for me at the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA). First, the Deputy Director had selected one of my photographs to hang in the administration space, which I dropped off in the morning. This is the second opportunity to have my work hang on a semi-permanent basis here, earlier a selection of 4 of my landscape black and white photographs were here for about a year. This time a photograph from my Ciociaria photobook project was selected and best part was this photograph was already framed, as it was curated into an exhibition last year at Orange County Center for Contemporary Art (OCCCA).

After dropping off the photograph, I was then the event photographer for a “Family Fun Day” that the museum was hosting for the day in conjunction with their exhibition for Young Chinese Artists. It was a walk about while I captured candid’s of the families as they interacted with the various craft booths that the museum had arranged. Since I had to immediately leave town for an assignment, I am just now going through the first edit of the photographs that I captured. So wait to see what “develops”. One thing that we did come to terms on is that I retain the copyright on all of the photographs and they get some first time rights. So I will see how this aspect evolves.


September 30, 2015

Snapseed grunge filter – its back!


Untitled (Evidence #Evidence 081940-02-01-01) copyright 2015 Douglas Stockdale

One of my favorite photographic phone apps is Snapseed. Earlier this year I did one of my upgrades for the app, but then realized that the updated did not include the Grunge filter setting. Bummer. I enjoyed playing with the possibilities of this particular filter set as it allowed me to explore some options that were outside the box of “straight” photography. I could introduce some moodier effects that for me had possibilities to create interesting metaphors. Although sad that it was not updated, I pressed on. Just another bump in the road.

While investigating some Snapseed options for a couple of recent images that I realized that my little grunge filer was BACK! I have the phone set for this app to allow updates as available, thus I was not aware that a recent updated included bringing back this filter option. Nice.

I had been using the grunge filter extensively for my Memory Pod series to create some moody metaphors last year. Seeing that it was back, I had to pull up an image to see what little tweaks that had made to this filter set. Seems like it is almost identical to the previous, so not sure why it was not included with the earlier upgrade. Maybe they thought it was not that popular, so when I (and I hope some others) blogged about our disappointment with its disappearance, this may have got someone’s attention?

As to this image for my Evidence series, I had initially envisioned that like the popular TV series CSI, that I would use straight photographs that were similar to CSI evidence; literal, objective and appear like facts. The evidence would be laid out and the reader could complete their own investigation and draw their own conclusions. I have my own version of what the evidence points to.


September 19, 2015

Looking for Atget – Parc Saint Cloud

Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 12:25 am

07-25-10_Searching for Atget_8433_Parc_Saint_Cloud

Untitled (Parc Saint Cloud, France) Copyright Douglas Stockdale 2010

Just recently I was asked if I had any photographs that investigate the city of Paris, which it turns out, I do. Regretfully, when I was in Paris, I was not inspired to work on a personal project that included Paris as a location, so for the most part I really have a collection of singular images of the city.

What I was inspired to photograph over a couple of days was at a location adjacent to Paris, the Parc Saint Cloud, better known to photographers as one of the places photographed by Eugene Atget at the turn of the last century (about 1907 – 1926).

For a short time I was associated with a company whose French investment partner was located in Boulonge-Billiancourt, a city that is adjacent to Paris and it turned out, a short walk from my hotel across the Seine river to Parc Saint Cloud. The first time I ventured into this huge park, I only had memories of the photographs by Atget to draw on. My intent was to photograph this place over the next couple of days and then do some more research on Atget and Parc Saint Cloud when I returned to my studio. Then I might be much better prepared for my next trip back to Paris and another visit to this wonderful park. I was aware that Chris Rauschenburg had already produced a photobook about walking in Atget’s shoes in Paris, so that was not my intent. I was still working on defining my project when the company I was with went sideways and my return to Paris became ashes. Oh well, another bump in the road.

Thus I have a small collection of photographs from my venture into Parc Saint Cloud, perhaps not of interest to anyone but myself. This statue, like most of the others in the park, dates back to the early 1800’s. I did add a bit more reddish tone to this image that emulates the photographs printed by Atget as sort of a homage to him.

I will admit, I do not feel strongly compelled to return to continuing working on this series, but if someone wants to finance such a trip to Paris, I would gladly accept and lead the way. It could be a lot of fun!


August 7, 2015

Buzzz about Branding for artists

Filed under: Art, Art Market, Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 4:59 pm


Neighborhoods (LA, 2015) copyright 2015 Douglas Stockdale

Recently there has been a spat of articles recently published about the necessity of artists to “brand” themselves to improve their presence in the art world, which of course includes photography. This of course means that the galleries can increase the price of the artists works, which should benefit the artists as well. As to the collectors, this might benefit them too if they are into art as an investment.

So what does this all mean and is it good or bad for an artist? In the broadest sense, it means that you might instantly recognize an artist’s work at first glance. Jeff Koon’s bubble sculptures come to mind. The modern works of Ansel Adams are almost a trademark, e.g. Moonrise over Hernandez, thus an effective brand. I think the contemporary black & white dreamy photographs of Keith Carter and Susan Burnstine or the wide angle photographs of Lee Freidlander or the gritty black & white photographs of Roger Ballan as recognizable “brands”. It means that a photographer/artist has a particular way of translating what they feel or see into a visual record. It usually means that they do this somewhat consistently.

Yes and if another photographer thinks that this “look” is urber cool, they might try in some way to emulate this look, thus for photographers, a brand can be borrowed. I think of the number of long exposure black and white photographs of water that other photographers published after Michael Keena’s raise to fame. Nevertheless, they all found themselves being compared to Keena, much like my early black and white landscape photographs were compared to Adams. At first I took this as a compliment as to the quality of my photographic work, but then after a while, this became a detriment, as it implied that I did not have an original vision, but just copying some else, thus living in some else’s dead shadow.

The pro’s of a brand have been stated above, an artist becomes “recognizable”, thus a greater intrinsic value is given to their work and many good things can come from that. As to the cons, one that comes to mind is that like having a nice pair of well broken in hiking boots, you might find your self limited in what you can do. Can’t do much long distance swimming wearing hiking boots. Thus if your recognized style (brand) is black and white documentary photographs using very wide angle lens (my hypothetical), a color portfolio of non-documentary photographs might not be as well received. Thus the reason why some artists abhor being “branded” as a potential limit on their creative options.

If one really, really enjoys making photographs in a particular way and you like how the resulting photographs turn out with a unique set of processes, e.g. large format tintype portraits, then you might find your self creating a style or brand.

So to understand that the buzz about why an artist should have a brand (a particular visual appearance) can become a double edged sword if you are not careful.

For me, (yes, I have a MBA, thus graduate level classes on this subject), I am not sure that I have a particular look per se (I do enjoy looking at and creating both black and white photographs as well as color photographs), I would rather think that my brand is my conceptual investigation of memory and identity. Hopefully that will allow me a lot of latitude on how I choose to investigate this subject.


March 19, 2015

Budding Memory Pods – next version

Filed under: Memory pods, Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:36 pm


Untitled (Budding Memory Pods, March 2015) copyright 2015 Douglas Stockdale

Earlier this week I posted this same image, but a version with a very distinct blue hue. After having this matted blue version on my work bench for a while, it dawned on me that this was a nice Singular Image, but it would not eventually become part of my Memory Pods project. That said, I still might change my mind, again! I guess that a blue version might carry some metaphoric connotations of actually feeling “blue” or depressed, which is not what I am thinking. A budding flower is about expectations and hope. For me, this phase of the Memory Pods is when the memory is being formed.

So I tweaked this image some more, eliminating the blue hue for one that may read more like a Platinum print. I also worked on some options to introduce some grain, really pushing the limits and finally decided that if there is any grain, it should be minimal.

So now, all in all, I think that the resulting print reads like something that would be included in this project, thus a better print to bring to the print exchange tonight. As to the print; image size is 5″ x 5″ on matte paper. I will have to say that after over matting it looks really nice.

Meanwhile, my buddy with the 120mm Makro lens for my Hasselblad just realized that he had lent that lens to someone else. So if I want to use this combination for my project, I will need to buy one, pronto! I was hoping to try his lens out and see if I would provide me with something close to my visualized photographs before making this lens purchase. sigh.


March 18, 2015

Budding Memory Pods

Filed under: Memory pods, Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 4:36 am


Untitled (budding memory pods) copyright 2015 Douglas Stockdale

Earlier this week I had posted that I was finding myself being drawn back into my Memory Pods project. The photograph I posted was pretty close to a straight documentary image (which in retrospect is pretty boring at that). I was interested investigating the start of the whole memory pod evolution; the budding of the plant as the flower stems start rising above the plant.

Meanwhile, I have am also exploring some alternative ways to visualize this project, such as this photograph above, made the following day as the one in the earlier post. What a difference, eh?

I also found myself last year working these two visually different alternatives, “straight” and “interpretative” as I am just not sure where I will end up and maybe even have a mash-up of the two options. I will have to say, of the two images that I have recently posted, this is the one that has captured my interest. I tweaked the overall color slightly from a slightly greenish cast to incorporate more blue after posting this photograph earlier on Facebook.

Tonight I printed it to see what it looks like as an object on paper framed by a white four-ply white matte. Nice. Later this week I will be attending an annual print exchange meeting with some photo friends and I think that this will be my print that I will bring for the group.

For the reminder of the week, it will be sitting on my work table.


March 13, 2015

Budding Aloe Verde

120 03-13-15_Memory_Pods_3246_11x14_budding

Untitled (#120 Memory Pods) copyright 2015 Douglas Stockdale

Last year I found myself photographing of all things, plants. Not a genre that that I have been drawn to before, but while messing around with the macro focusing capabilities of my Samsung 4, I started to investigate some aloe vera plants that had gone to seed in my back yard. On reflection, I realized the conceptual possibilities to explore memory and its preservation. Memory Pods turned into a very addicting project and really consumed me for about two and half months. I did not complete very many photobook reviews during this time, nor work any of my other projects and stopped work on my self published limited edition photobook BlueWater Shore, the follow on book to Pine Lake.

I also spent a ton of time editing, tweaking and working the resulting Memory Pod photographs last Summer and into the Fall. I sensed some gaps in the project, so I have decided that I would resume this project again this year and take a couple of photographs of the flowers before the seed pods began to form. To facilitate this project I will also investigate the use of a 120mm Makro lens for my Hasselblad in conjunction with color negative film. Now a buddy of mine is going to lend me his 120mm Makro and if this lens works out, I will probably be on the hunt to purchase a used one in excellent condition this summer.

Meanwhile, this small group of plants are rapidly sending out shoots (yes, nice and warm here in Southern California, Spring has indeed sprung) and I am not due to obtain the 120mm Makro until late next week. So with opportunities quickly developing I will make due with the DSLR on work on some ideas.

Yep, more to come….


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