Doug Stockdale's Singular Images

November 25, 2015

Descanso memorial – Halloween

10-17-07_Halloween Costume - I-15 Frontage Road - Victorville - California 0845

Untitled (Halloween Costume, I-15 Frontage Road, Victorville, California) copyright Douglas Stockdale

While researching my In Passing – Lest I Forget project, I came across an interesting term; Descanso memorial. This is a Spanish derived word, literally meaning “to rest”. It originates from the old Spanish practice of marking the place where a coffin was placed the ground along the route to the cemetery, allowing the coffin bearers to rest. As the photographer Dave Nance states about the Descanso memorials, “The association thus created between the road, the interrupted journey, and death as a destination, eventually found expression in the practice of similarly marking the location of fatal accidents on the highway.”

Descanso now appears to also designate those memorials which are decorated for each of the holidays. Which is the case of the I-15 Frontage Road memorial that I photographed near Victorville, above. I had photographed this memorial about mid-October, just prior to Halloween. Not evident in the photograph is a bowl of candy nestled within the flower arrangement at the base of this memorial, along with a memorial plaque, which from the wording was probably placed there by the mother of the individual who died at this place.

Best regards

November 4, 2015

Juggling Photographic Projects – Just like Life

Filed under: In Passing, Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 10:57 pm

Plastic Lei - Maui - Hawaii

Plastic Lei, Maui Hawaii, 2006 copyright Douglas Stockdale

So the issue with refocusing my earlier project is that this results in having two photographic projects in progress. My Ciociaria memory book is published, but I have not obtained any meaningful exhibitions of this body of work, thus if you take into account that I will be looking for exhibition venues for Ciociaria, that places three photographic projects on my plate. All of this in conjunction with the fact that I have a full time (non-photographic) day-job and a loving family to attend to. And lets not forget my photographic book reviews on The Photobook blog that I like to fit in. At times, it all feels complex, layered if not outright overwhelming.

This is where my day-job does help as a large portion of what I do entails all of the aspects of project management, which provides much needed experience to lean-into in order to keep on keeping-on. The skills of project management help me get organized and probably keeps me decently focused on what tasks needs to be accomplished next. The draw back is that getting “too” organized can creative limits, box me in, thus I try to stay “messy” organized, more of a loose project structure rather than try to have a rigidly defined project. Another way of saying that I try to be flexible; time, goals, tasks, relationships, etc. I need to allow some give and take and know my priorities, such as family comes first.

One key aspect of project management that has helped me is to set goals, both long term as well as short term. This helps me organize what tasks are needed and what time frame I would like to complete them in. Such as for each of my projects, one long term goal is have it published as a book, which for one project, this is complete. Nice. Another is that I would like to have one solo exhibition of each body of work, which is a goal that is in progress.

Meanwhile, I am reevaluating the photographs for In Passing, while still composing and developing my Memory Pods photographs. It has been a while since I examined all of the photographs that support the In Passing project, so I am giving them a fresh look and finding some pleasant surprises. I am not sure why I did not realize the potential for a number of these photographs, but nevertheless, I do now.

For Plastic Lei, Maui Hawaii, above, I have dramatically modified the cropping of the photograph; from a vertical image to a square image. Earlier if I had composed a subject to be contained within a photograph, I would do my best to keep it intact in the final version. Not so now. I realize that for this photograph the emotional aspect was preserved even if I lost the top portion of this memorial. This is one of the few photographs that include a vehicle, as I had accidentally made an exposure while a car ran through the composition, but I liked the ghostly (blurred) appearance. I then made another half dozen exposures with various vehicles moving through the frame until I obtained this exposure. Nice juxtaposition of the two key elements and creates just enough visual tension. And like many of the photographs that I am reworking for this project, I adjusted the overall nicer tonality, which I think is a nice improvement over my earlier version. Nice.


November 1, 2015

In Passing – Lest I Forget

Randy - Route 179 - Nevada

Randy, Route 179, Nevada, copyright Douglas Stockdale

Reading the recent October issue of PDN magazine, which is their annual photobook issue, I found myself thinking back to my real first photographic project, a series of roadside memorials. As a quick recap, it was a series that I became very fascinated by in late in 2006. This project gained real momentum in 2007, as I made note of each various roadside memorial we came across and I quickly tried to figure out when and how to photograph each one. This Black & White photographic project, In Passing, was subsequently published by LensWork magazine in their Jan/Feb 2008 #74 issue, then I self-published a hard cover photobook  of In Passing using Blurb (which was juried into a self-publishing photobook exhibition in Portland, OR) and one image, Winter Field, Route 30, Indiana was published in Brooks Jensen’s Looking at Images in 2014.

During the publications, I had read Nathalie Herschdorfer’s book Afterwards (Contemporary Photography Confronting the Past) and began rethinking my earlier decision to convert my photographs to Black & White and that using the original color could be relevant. Meanwhile I still found myself photographing road-side memorials, but now staying with Color, not transforming these photographs to Black & White images. Concurrent with the color decision I had also decided to rename the project to Lest I Forget.

So I am now back full circle, with the project again in Black & White. And reconciled that the project should have a combination name; In Passing – Lest I Forget.

In the next couple of weeks, I plan to write more about the continuing metamorphose of this photographic project.


October 25, 2015

Getting back on track

Filed under: Instant Nomad, Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 8:50 pm

10-11-15_Garden_District_NoLa_153321-02-01_St_Charles_trolley way

Untitled (Garden District, St Charles trolley way, New Orleans, LA October 2015) copyright 2015 Douglas Stockdale

Today I seem to have a case of the blase, so I feel a off. Usually one good cure (for me) is to jump back in the fray. Thus a great reason to finish the development of this image above I made earlier this month in New Orleans. We had taken the St Charles trolley line out to the Garden district to investigate a cemetery and to just poke around. After lunch and waiting for the arrival of the trolley to go back into the city, I played with some possible compositions, while thinking ahead about my Instant Nomad project. I was also considering the use of the lens blur app at the time I made this photograph, so this is one version that I developed. I may tweak the lens blur a bit to bring into focus a little more of the trolley post that is in the middle area near the palm tree.

I am already feeling a bit better as a result and back on track (yep, pun intended!).


October 8, 2015

Somewhere over Oz

Filed under: Photography, Projects/Series — Tags: , , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 11:57 pm


Untitled (Michigan, September 2015) copyright 2015 Douglas Stockdale

I was surprised at the end of my photographic tweaking as to how this photograph is pulling me in. To be honest, it was one of series of grab shots that I made on approach while landing at Detroit Metro airport. Having made this landing recently, I was getting prepared to photograph some industrial buildings that I knew were going to pop into sight shortly. So I was making some test exposures to make sure that I was not picking up any unwanted window reflections, so I quickly captured this and a couple other images to frame my final compositions. But then this image started to intrigue me, so I spent a little more time tweaking it. Surprise, a photograph that I am really enjoying.

I don’t usually make a lot of grand landscapes (which I consider this photograph to be in that category), but occasionally I will just to try different things. In some regards, I am suspecting that this photograph is a bit auto-biographical, as this small Midwest town or maybe even a village has some attributes of where I grew up, probably a three hour drive from this place. I am thinking of this photograph is capturing the essence of a “Midwest Anyplace”, a typical middle America town. A main drag coming into, through and then out of the town, which is lined with churches, storefronts and at least one gas station somewhere in the middle, with homes lining this street on both side at either end.

I just may trying to photograph something similar again on my next journey.


October 4, 2015

Lens test: 70-200mm on Canon XTi

Filed under: Photography — Tags: , , — Doug Stockdale @ 7:48 pm


Untitled (Canyon crest home, San Clemente, CA 2015) copyright 2015 Douglas Stockdale

Zach had a pending flag football night game and the following afternoon a swim meet this weekend and I had been thinking about the possibility of mounting my Canon EF 70-200mm f/4.0 L lens meant for my Canon 5D on my Canon XTi body. Used on my 5D at 200mm, this lens has an acceptable reach, but I’ve been curious about getting a bit “closer”. Thus mounted on my XTi (10 Mpx) with the smaller sensor, I picked up about another 40% in magnification, thus I had an equivalent of a 280mm lens. Seemed reasonable to me.

I had not played with this combination before as a telephoto image was not usually of much interest to me. But after looking at some of my sports images of Zach from last year, I felt it was time to try this combination out. And yes I did not want to purchase a fast 300mm for the 5D just for this occasion. I do crop my photographs and that could lead to potentially a similar image, but I felt it was better to get a higher resolution image before I started cropping. Second, the smaller sensor should be fine as for my personal family mementos, I usually do not print any larger than 8-1/2 x 11″.

So this back-yard landscape, above, was my initial image test with this combination at 200mm (280mm equivalent). The image is also slightly cropped after getting the horizon adjusted, so a good test image. Initially I was satisfied with this landscape when viewed in camera, thus I decided to use this camera/lens combination later that evening at the football game. Now looking at this landscape photograph after some PhotoShop tweaking, it confirms my suspicions that this camera/lens combination works decently together.

I knew going into the evening game that this had some limitations for a night sports event, e.g. the f 4.0 lens is pretty slow for this type of event photography, and the XTi did not have a lot of dynamic range for the sensor (e.g. push the ISO beyond 800 stats getting image distortion). Added to this I would be have to use hand-held exposures since I do not have a viable mono-pod for camera stability and support. Nevertheless, by carefully choosing to photograph at the right moment, this combination could obtain some interesting photographs of the action on the field.


October 3, 2015

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 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 20, 2015

Neightborhoods – Walk about

Filed under: Photography — Tags: , , , — Doug Stockdale @ 7:20 pm


Untitled (Neightborhood, Rancho Santa Margarita, September 2015) copyright 2015 Douglas Stockdale

One of things I enjoy are my walks around the neighborhood. During which, I like to photograph the things that I find interesting. Sometimes after a while the things I have photographed start to hint at something that I might not be aware of or eventually lead to a more specific project. I do not have a specific project right now from my various walks, other than I am usually in a neighborhood. Thus I have loosely been collecting the resulting singular images in a folder with that title.

So what is a neighborhood and why might this be interesting to me? To use contemporary terminology; a neighborhood is an urban collection of man-build structures. The structures are relatively permanent, lasting for 50 to 200 years and in some places, perhaps hundreds of years. These are dwellings in which people take up residence and transform a house into to a home. Thus indirectly, the structures embody the local social culture and by observing the structures, we might obtain some insights about that culture, or just maybe, some interesting photographs about our culture.

For the most part my urban neighborhood photographs do not include any people. Not that I am unsocial, it is just difficult for me to include people in my neighborhood photographs. I also understand this, so it is something that I have been thinking a lot about. Looking at many photographs by others, seems there are two basic camps; photographs with and those without people.

So why this neighborhood photograph interesting to me? I notice that most homes have a public persona and possibly a private place, a sanctuary if you might. Both how the public persona and private sanctuary’s are constructed and maintained are interesting as a reflection of our local culture. This photograph includes someones back-yard, perhaps only a small porch area, which is directly adjacent to a public walkway and street with a constant amount lot foot and car traffic. It reminds me of the old saying “good fences make good neighbors”, sometimes modified to “tall fences make good neighbors”.


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