Archive for the ‘philosophy’ Category

Reflections: Narcissus   8 comments

A single wild pony gazes at his reflection, at Shackleford Banks, Cape Lookout, North Carolina, NC



It’s been an interesting week. I’d like to thank all who came by to visit. I’m very happy that you’ve taken the time.

As we wind down a week of pony pics from both Shackleford Banks and Assateague Island, perhaps we can take a pause for “Philosophy Friday.”

For those who stop in briefly, this is the dominant male of a group of wild ponies encountered on Shackleford Banks near Cape Lookout, N.C. He’s the same pony featured earlier in Bad Hair Day. The ponies have been on the island ‘forever’; it’s believed that they swam ashore from distressed Spanish galleons in the 16th century. Not these particular ponies, of course, but their ancestors. 8)

If you’ve been following from earlier in the week, I mentioned this posture that the male was taking. As I very slowly and quietly (yeah, right) moved to get closer to the herd — which included a young foal — this male dropped his head and pawed the ground. Not aggressively, mind you, but enough for me to get the clear message that I shouldn’t get any closer.

I’m good with that.

My friend Mike “Saddleguy” Scott suggests that it was an accurate read of the horse’s behavior, so I feel good about my decision to back away slowly. Shortly after I backed off, the herd sauntered toward the beach, then up and over the dunes. Photo op over.

Now, on to the latest of the ‘Reflections’ series and why I called this “Narcissus.”

You might recall from Greek mythology the story of Narcissus, a young man of not inconsiderable good looks. He was exceptionally proud, and shunned the advances of those who would love him, including the nymph, Echo. Nemesis saw this action and attracted Narcissus to a pool where he saw his reflection in the water and fell in love with it, not realizing it was merely an image.

Any time that Narcissus tried to touch the beautiful image in the water, it vanished, only to return a short time later.

He brought his lips near to take a kiss; he plunged his arms in to embrace the beloved. It fled at the touch, but returned again after a moment and renewed the fascination.

“When I stretch forth my arms you do the same; and you smile upon me and answer my beckoning with the like.” His tears fell into the water and disturbed the image. As he saw it depart, he exclaimed, “Stay, I entreat you! Let me at least gaze upon you, if I may not touch you.”

By degrees Narcissus lost his color, his vigor, and the beauty which formerly had so charmed the nymph Echo. She kept near him, however, and when he exclaimed, “Alas! Alas!” she answered him with the same words.

Absorbed in his splendid isolation and unwilling to leave the beauty of his reflection, Narcissus withered and died. A flower named for him grew on that spot.

I’ve long believed that there is more to the story of Narcissus, a deeper meaning that we can take away from it. This is the nature of all good fables, myths, and parables: Read between the lines to find something much more than just an interesting story.

We are social animals. We are conditioned to be in contact with one another. To love, to grieve, to share, and to live in relationship with others. This can be seen everywhere among sentient beings — in our own circles of influence; in the way that groups of species move in the environment; in the herd of wild ponies that traveled together and worked carefully to protect the young foal. A pony doesn’t know what he looks like, but he well knows that he should stick together with other ponies instead of hanging with humans.

In our world and modern culture, we sometimes tend to lose that innate sense of contact. The current world environment that we’ve created seems to encourage distancing ourselves from one another. Nations quarrel with, and plot against, other nations. Leaders bark orders from their high places and people suffer as a result. Areas of the planet are now so toxic that we can’t walk near them, separating us from our very environment. Our media culture bifurcates opinion into left vs. right, liberal vs. conservative, ‘right’ vs. ‘wrong’, and focuses the little attention we still have to give on the friction between the poles. All of this causes a sense of separation between our internal notion of “I”, and the rest of the world. Is it ever more palpable than when contestants on ‘reality’ shows take the solo walk of shame off the set, are voted off the island, or are branded as “The Biggest Loser?”

Even if you care not to buy into that polarization, sometimes it seems we have to work so hard to keep up with life that we simply don’t have time to nurture relationships. Whereas front porches used to be the up-front feature of a house, those have been replaced by the up-front garage, which discourages casual, chance, nurturing discourse between neighbors and isolates us even further as we drive in, hit the zapper, and close the door behind us.

‘Social media’ venues, I think, are a reflection of our attempt to get beyond these influences and make contact with others, to develop relationships that are valuable and rewarding based on similar interests or ideologies. In a world where our culture serves to divide us one from another, it’s a way of reaching out to others to share something that might nurture us.

But perhaps too, I think, it’s our way of not hating ourselves for what we could become…

To go against the grain of what we are — social creatures — by living in the modern world, we sacrifice something very important to us. The singular focus on “I/me” and the exclusion of love killed Narcissus. An interesting interpretation of the story of Narcissus is not that he was so in love with himself that he couldn’t bear to leave his reflection, but that he hated himself for spurning the affections of others. In the self-created absence of healthy, loving relationships with men, women, and nymphs, he retreated to a place at the pool where each approach to his beloved was met with an equally loving response, and yet it was fleeting and unattainable. If he reached out to embrace, the reflection reached back. If he leaned over to kiss the reflection, it was right there for him. But he couldn’t actually make meaningful contact with it.

Without mutual contact and relationship, we suffer negative psychological effects and the brain is rewired. In extreme isolation — without feedback from others — we can begin to doubt that we even exist. We can’t ever see ourselves (physically), and in isolation, we can’t perceive our own sense of self (psychologically.) In a world that sometimes seems to encourage us to backpedal away from one another, we need even more the contact, love, and nurturing relationship that can only be found in healthy social interaction with others.

I think it’s best to do this in person, but sometimes sharing in online activity can bring us partway there.

Do you like what I’ve created here from my imagination? I love what you’ve done, and I’m remiss for not telling you that more often.

Are you a good person? So am I.

You’re trying your best to find your voice in creative work, sharing it with others? Yah… me, too.

Do you see me? I see you!

Can we band together like a herd of ponies — sharing, loving and nurturing one another in the face of a world that would have us attack one another?  God, I sure hope so, or else we might suffer the fate of Narcissus.

You can hit the Like button or ReTweet this if you wish, but I’d much rather hear from you directly. As I said in the first line, I’m so very glad you’ve taken the time to visit.

Love and Peace to you,

Rest Stop   16 comments

Rest Stop


It hasn’t rained in eastern North Carolina since April. I mean, it has, but only in homeopathic amounts. It’s a very unusual weather pattern for our part of the country, and it wreaks havoc on animal and foliage alike.

This little girl came along on Saturday evening after we had watered a patch of lawn. She was not to be dissuaded from taking a long drink from the ground, and stayed there for over an hour, sipping from various parts of the area. It was only when I took out the long lens and honed in that I noticed she was dropping water back on the lawn.

Now, I don’t know much about butterfly biology, but either the water is running through her like cheap beer, or she used the infusion to help her lay eggs, which I think is more likely the case. Either way, she seemed desperately in need of hydration, so I made sure she had plenty of water.

Dopes anyone know the species?

Nikkor 70-300mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at ISO 400 f/5.6 1/60s 300mm


Over the weekend, some friends over at One Stop Poetry released the first of a two-part interview with yours truly, featuring a few of my images. The cool thing about this site and their Sunday Photography Interview is that they present a poetry challenge for the members. Using one of the images, the poets apply their own creative interpretation of the image in verse. Each contributor posts their poem and comments in an easy-to-access grid, and I must say, many of the poems just blew me away.

Those who know me know that I value Creativity. The great thing about this challenge is that Creativity didn’t stop when the image was finalized, but continued on in the poetry of those who wrote.  A friend of mine once told me, “The essence of creative expression is taking two or more everyday things and combining them in new and interesting ways.” To witness such talented poets taking two different forms and combining them in a new way was a delight to see, and I appreciate everyone who took part in the challenge.

To see the interview, and more importantly, the poetry that goes with the images, please take a moment to visit One Stop Poetry.

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Reflections: No Ordinary Moments   24 comments

A serene view of Moosehead Lake, Maine, with mountains in background.

No Ordinary Moments


In the midst of all that is going on in the world, I zigzag a path between wanting to stay fully informed and yet wanting to step back to a more peaceful time and place. It’s as though the news of the day — whatever it is today — overwhelms the senses. People are unemployed, the economy is tanking, China might acquire the U.S., we’re living in a climate of fear, Trump’s hair moved, governments are falling, Obama greases Osama, Peak Oil has come and gone although we have no shortage if we just scrape it off our shores… The list is endless.

I think it’s a natural, human inclination to retreat from this type of onslaught. The problem is that although we would seek a serene center in our lives, we have a strong desire to know what will happen in the future and yet we pattern our time based on premises from the past. There’s a tendency to either gather information so that we (think we) know what will happen, or to run back to what is known and comfortable, even if it wasn’t perfect.

Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed by ‘current events’, I like to go back through my library of images to find something more calm and serene. (See image above.) One can feel righteous about it when seeking a balance in life. In doing so today, though, it struck me: Even that retreat is an avoidance of what is happening right now.

“There is never nothing going on. There are no ordinary moments.” — Dan Millman

Every moment of experience is all that we really are. Sometimes the experience is placid, at other times chaotic. Either way, it’s our experience, and surely that should not be avoided. While we might cringe at the thought of some possible future event, or reminisce fondly about the perfect campsite on a remote lake, doing so pulls us away from whatever is happening now, and it is only our resistance to what is happening that causes discomfort.

Millman also said, “The world’s a puzzle; no need to make sense of it.”

The key is to stay awake to what is happening, to watch, and to experience it fully. Any resistance to that awareness — any drifting to the future or to the past — creates suffering.

Today, I needed a reminder of that, so I wrote this.  Thank you for reading it.

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Entangled   5 comments

Trees and vines intertwine with a rusty tobacco harvester in eastern North Carolina


I hate to tell you this, but I’m very, very happy.
I know that’s not what you’d expect from me at all. — Don Henley “Everything is Different Now”

Where does the vine begin, and the metal end?

I looked for a while when I was there and couldn’t really tell. The trees and vines twisted around the rusted frame of an old piece of farm equipment. A seat is recognizable here; a chain and pulley reveal themselves out of the form; a shovel hangs off the frame. In some places, the wood and metal have coexisted for so long that the trees enveloped the steel, looking like some futuristic hybrid machine-tree. Taking a few steps back, though, it seems less like an invasion of vines over metal, or metal over wood, but more of an artistic balance between the two. Although Clyde Jr., the owner, has plans to remove the wreck, I have to wonder: Since the two are so closely incorporated, can one survive without the other? If we pull the metal out of the wood, the trees will likely die. And without the trees, the equipment will just be something to recycle, and will lose the beauty of the pairing. There will be two new things, perhaps, but the delicate balance between nature and machine will be lost.

Everywhere in nature opposites coexist harmoniously. Wherever there is light, there will be dark. Where there is up, there must be down. Where there is winter, summer will eventually come. It’s my observation that a balance of opposites creates the best situation for harmony and calm.

I’ll admit that I had to muster up some fortitude to publish yesterday’s post, Feeling a Bit Rustless. While it was cathartic to air my thoughts, clearly I run the risk of alienating some people who might prefer something other, or those who check in to see pretty pictures without commentary. If you’re still here — or perhaps visiting for the first time — thank you. I appreciate the support and the words of encouragement, both public and private.

You can expect to see lots of different stuff here, with some things seemingly contradicting others (I love paradox), but hopefully over time a harmonious balance will reveal itself.

For me, balance does not occur by avoiding ‘bad’ things and gathering ‘good’ things toward me, although that’s a natural inclination. Doing this causes me to navigate only within a very narrow spectrum of feelings, limiting the potential both for unmitigated joy, and crushing despair. If I’m not prepared to fully engage both polarities, life becomes a bland mush of minutes passing by, dreading the next ‘bad’ thing to avoid, or clinging desperately to the ‘good’ things that come my way. With this approach, too, life is “something that happens to you,” but if I’m willing to jump up and down on the wire more vigorously, embracing the polarities that are inherent in all things, I might find that that moving within these currents is actually quite a bit of fun.

That’s why, despite what some might think, I’m really very, very happy.

Nikon D7000, Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 at 16mm, f/6.3, seven exposures +/-1EV, center at 1/15s. Merged with HDR Express, processed with Nik Silver Efex Pro, Nik Color Efex Pro in Photoshop CS5

Feeling A Bit Rustless   11 comments

A rusty old lock and chains on a farm in Pollocksville, North Carolina

Feeling A Bit Rustless

Why is there so much miscommunication these days? Why is it that the national and world mood seems to be one of contention and hatred? Why do we feel such a need to segregate one’s opinion from the opinions of others, and then argue about it? Is this our current form of entertainment? Is this what makes us feel alive and engaged? Or, is there a better way?

Okay, I’ll admit that my day isn’t off the best start ever, and I’m feeling a bit restless as a result. Maybe it’s this interminably long winter. Maybe it’s what I’m reading. When that happens, rather than ameliorate my feelings with beer or chocolate, tempting though that may be, I tend to turn directly toward the issue to discover what lies beneath in hopes of finding a better way to do things. This post, I think, is the result.

I was recently on the receiving end of someone’s projection. Not much fun. I floated an opinion out to the world — it was nothing at all consequential, and largely ignored, as it should have been — but someone projected their own feelings and assigned them to what I said. Though I tried to point this out, it apparently wasn’t received too well. I might’ve suspected; it’s not easy to look at your own schtuff.  Problem is, I consider this person a friend, so I find it rather unsettling and unfortunate.

I’ve been watching some news, lately, and I’m astonished by the vitriol and hypocrisy present in the national dialogue. Even though people are using the term, “A new era of civility,” it’s quickly followed by, “BUT…”  You don’t have to watch a ‘news’ channel for more than five minutes before you’ll hear something that sounds like, “We need to elevate the conversation, BUT… those people over there are Nazis.” In fact, that N-word has been used far too often lately, and it’s a very dangerous term, for the first step in creating an enemy is to dehumanize the opposition, and this is usually done by assigning a label, an epithet.  Look at any war: Each side has a particular derogatory term for people on the other side of the conflict. This makes it easy to think of them as something less than human, and we are thus able to kill them without much remorse.

My day took a further turn when I tuned in to two opposing articles on Digital Photography School. One disparaged the use of HDR techniques, invoking the term “evil” (as if an inanimate object could even be evil!)  These days, “evil” is a term that has been so misused to segregate ideologies and even entire countries from one another that we can’t help but consider it a charged term, one that is bound to invoke a reaction from someone. Why did Shrub use the term “Axis of Evil” except to generate a knee-jerk reaction and galvanize public opinion against those whose ideologies conflict with ours? Mind you, some of “those guys” won’t qualify for sainthood any time soon, but still, the term doesn’t usually invite measured dialogue.

The other article brought up some interesting points, and actually served to expand the conversation, in my opinion.  Problem is, the title even had the term “tired debate.”

When will we stop going ’round and ’round, shouting opinions as though they’re facts, all while not listening much to the other side?

I recognize that this can be difficult. As I noted under one of the articles, our very nature is dualistic. From birth, we are conditioned to separate one thing from another, making distinctions, and this is how our world functions. These letters and words you’re reading (hopefully) are different than the background of the page; that’s why you can even see them. Hot is not cold; up is not down; here is not there, and so on. From the start, we cleave our experience into parts, so that we can know one from an-other.

But, in a very real sense, we are all swimming in the same sea — The sea of our experience.  Though we create arbitrary boundaries based on preferences, opinions, ideologies, nationality, race and darned near anything else that comes to mind, each and their other are two sides of a single experience, with one complementing another, and so to kill or destroy one side for the sake of the other is folly at best, and impossible always. Duality doesn’t work that way. If you get rid of ‘hot’, you can’t know ‘cold’. If nothing is ‘up’, then there is no ‘down.’ For too long, we’ve lived with the notion that in order for us to succeed, someone or something else must fail in a zero-sum game.

I’d only ask: Where has this gotten us?

As I mentioned at the start, I always like to look for a better way, and will continue to do so. Even though some may consider my comments to be a hyperbolic reaction to simple discussions (okay, fine), if it informs me and tells me where to move next, then I consider it to be good.

Even though my cornflakes have been thoroughly ruined for the day, this line of thought has compelled me to look for new ways of approaching my own work, which is a form of communication, my conveyance of something ‘inside’ to the outside world. (There’s one of those darned dualities again!) You won’t find me arguing the merits of HDR against more standard photography, nor standard photography over black & white shooting, nor film or digital or tin-type, or whatever is next, being ‘better than’, ‘worse than’, or more or less ‘evil’ than another thing.   Art… is Art.   This is one ocean. There is only one, collective, shared experience, and we’re all taking part in it. The separation we feel is created only in our minds. Wherever possible, I’ll be looking for the things we have in common, rather than the things that are different between us. We all realize that “everyone is different”, so why would we feel a need to argue about it?

It’s only when we start discovering what we actually hold in common that we can get beyond our differences and live more peaceful lives.

If you’re still here, thanks for reading. I’d love to hear and share your input on this, so please do feel free to drop a comment.

My day’s looking up already for your being here. 🙂

Posted January 22, 2011 by Rob Hanson Photography in philosophy

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Artisan Series: The Metal Artist   2 comments

Kirk Davis sparks it up in his ArtForms Studio in Morehead City, North Carolina


Meet Kirk Davis.

Just don’t catch on fire.

I met Kirk when we were working on separate projects in a large house renovation. The owner was recreating a Tuscan Villa/Castle/Art Gallery (I don’t exactly know how to categorize the place!) Kirk was fabricating and installing a large number of iron pieces, and Susan and I were creating decorative plaster finishes inside. Overall, our parts in the project took up a large chunk of 2009, and we were all appreciative of the owner’s desire to let artists do what they do best: Create Without Limitations.

Kirk, operating as ArtForms Studio in Morehead City, NC, designed and installed custom pool railings, huge exterior lamps, door straps and hinges, wine racks, Gothic gutters (to go with the gargoyles), window guards, and other important elements of the house. He wanted to get some pictures of his work for his portfolio, and I wanted to visit his studio to see where he works. This is the first image from that session.

I can appreciate how Kirk approaches his art. Anyone who puts such thought and effort into their creations, and strives to develop unique interpretations while living in a world of mass-produced garbage, has my support. Over time, we’ve all become accustomed to settling for crap products, so I celebrate those who won’t sell out their creative efforts just to make a couple of quick bucks.  Slow down, take your time, put care into your work, and it will be a reflection of who you are, and will serve as a footstep in the sand that lets people know, “I was here.”

From Kirk:

“As an artist, I am profoundly influenced by space and my surroundings. I endeavor to communicate to others the power of art objects, creating bold new works that make a positive statement and contribute to the overall aesthetics of life.

“For over a decade the focus of my work has been the design and execution of unique sculpture, furniture, and architectural metal work. I encourage a collaborative design process with clients so that they may understand the possibilities of material and thus commission a body of work that meets their specific aesthetic ideals.”

We’ll likely see more of Kirk and the art he creates in future blog posts. To see the kind of quality that Kirk produces, please visit the private gallery that I’ve set up for him, Located Here.


Taken from a single exposure: Nikon D7000, Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 lens at 45mm, f/7.1, 1/8s, 2EV. Camera mounted on tripod behind a piece of plexiglass, fired with remote shutter release.

Influences   13 comments

An old, dilapidated farmhouse in eastern North Carolina, as seen through the front door.

Open Door Policy

Our experience is influenced by many different things: Who you are with; who is not with you; what the weather is like; where you happen to be; what music you have on your iPod; even what you last ate. Any number of factors determine how we perceive and interact with our environment. Considering that array of variables, it’s no wonder that each of us has a unique photographic interpretation of the world around us.

Because of recent influences of some friends who shoot amazing grunge images, I found myself on a search for Urbex in the area in which I live, which is decidedly rural. Here in the south, unused commercial buildings quickly become flea markets and antique (junque) stores. A small, empty metal building becomes yet another church. We have no abandoned asylums or penitentiaries that I know of. Finally, I found a target that met certain requirements: It was solo, with no other active buildings around. It was a real pile. There were no dogs roaming free. It was ‘right close’ to the road, and the front door was already open… That’s not trespassing then, is it?

As it happened that day, I was alone, which is unusual. Though my radar was up, I was more relaxed and less rushed than I sometimes feel. I had my headphones on — another unusual move, as I usually listen for barking dogs and irate farmers. Perhaps this change of factors caused a shift in my awareness, influencing my perspective. As I looked into the building, rather than just pointing the camera and firing off the brackets, I found myself wondering, “How would my friends see this scene, and what would they do with it?” I wasn’t alone after all! All the friends whose work I admire were influencing the moment every bit as strongly as the other factors. I decided to move into that feeling.

Rather than staying safely ‘behind the lens’, which is where many photographers seem most comfortable, I wandered further into the environment while the Promote Control was doing its thing. I considered the old building, its history, and the lives of those who had once lived there. I stopped to smell the musty air coming through the boards. I looked at details with curiosity, wondering who would have left their boots in the hallway like that. I took a deep breath to connect with what I was feeling, and how the building itself was influencing my experience there. I realized that the experience I was having was just another passing moment in the long history of that building, in that field. I tried to imagine what it was like coming down the stairs for breakfast before going out to work on the farm, or how I might have dropped my muddy boots in the hallway after a long day, or what the farm was like before the highway off in the distance was built, or if I could have imagined a day when a photographer would wander in uninvited.

My perspective became less that of a photographer out looking for a neat shot, and more about being part of the ongoing experience of the house and its people, even if I was there for just a few moments. Further, the differences between that day and an “ordinary” shooting day helped me to understand how the images I see and the people I communicate with on a daily basis can influence how I perceive an experience.

It seems to me that this awareness is one step toward being able to effectively communicate that experience to others through photography.

More on this later, I’m sure.

Nikon D7000, Nikkor 17-55mm f/2.8 lens at 23mm (34mm), f/9, 13 exp. 1/125 – 2s. HDR Express merge, multiple tonemaps, Nik Color Efex Pro

Reflections: What Are We Doing?   4 comments


“And now, my friend, the first-a rule of Italian driving: What-sa behind me (breaks rear view mirror off and tosses it behind him), is not important.”

— Franco Bertollini (Raul Julia) in The Gumball Rally

There have been a slew of 2010 retrospectives on photo blog sites, and I found all of them to be wonderfully heartfelt, insightful, and revealing. Each gives a peek in to the feelings and motivations of a friend.

I had strongly considered not doing one of those write-ups, as I usually like to maintain focus on the current moment rather than revisiting the past or anticipating the future. As I took a quick walk through 2010 on my Flickr photostream, though, it did seem a good time to take stock of what happened in 2010, even if just for a moment.

There are several shots (okay, many) that I’d take down, but I’ll leave them as they are as a testament to experiments that didn’t quite work out. These are the ones I learn from the most, as they inform me of things not to do. Some images serve as a chronicle of where I’ve been this year, from a broken truck window, to a waterspout (tornado) nearby, to a run-down Texas shed that made me want to bathe in Purell.

Other images have ‘hit.’ At the very least, I was pleased with how they came out. Yet, a curious feeling wells up whenever I see them again, as they always represent a moment that has already passed, a moment which has nothing to do with Now other than the fact that I’m looking at them Now. Like I said, curious. I should blog about that someday. ;^)

I’ll need to reconcile that in 2011. I label myself a ‘photographer’, after all. These Now moments matter, because moments are what people remember. Although we’re all just swimming in the river of time, we each carry a history with us that becomes the story of Who We Are.  Or, were. Or, who we are yet to be. By taking photographs, I think we create a vision of who we are or want to be, chronicled on a daily basis in a very public environment. It has been my great pleasure to learn more about the people I admire through this process, to see who they are, where they’ve been, and how they transmit their vision of the world around us. It floors me, really.

My fondest photography memory of 2010 was when Susan said to me, “That looks cool. You should try this — what did you call it? — HDR thing.”

Without any further adieu to 2010, here are a few of my favorites from the past year. I hope you enjoy them, even if only for a moment. Tomorrow we’ll see where the river next takes us.

My thanks to all who come by to visit.


Flagstaff Lake Sunrise

Far and away, my most requested image. I’ll never gripe about waking up early again.

A gorgeous sunrise after a storm at Flagstaff Lake, Maine, from Cathedral Pines Campground

Purple Phase

Some are destined for greatness. Others are destined to be eaten.

An HDR macro of a baby purple baby bok choy

Rip Van Winkle Gardens

This was one of my favorites, although it seemed to pass without much fanfare. In my view, this is what HDR is all about: Capturing all of the dynamic range in a scene, without blowing out the white building or losing those beautiful tree trunks in the shadows. Could it have been better? Sure, but I think it demonstrates what HDR can do for a given image.

The Jefferson House at Rip Vank Winkle Gardens, New Iberia, Louisiana

Pull the Tail

Another thing that HDR can do is to really funk up an image. Sometimes, I just like to take a walk on the wild side of processing. I think this helps to take an extraordinary scene such as a massive cannon blast and impart that feeling to the viewer, adding emphasis to what a typical camera sensor might be able to capture.

Ashley Brown pulls the tail on a 10-pound Parrot cannon in a Civil War reenactment

They Never Call

HDR processing can call out details rather nicely, whether it’s the grit and grunge of an old scene, or the withered postcards from friends tacked to a wall. These techniques invite the viewer to stay a while, soaking in all the particulars, making the moment last just a bit longer.

An ancient telephone and old postcards at Peter Limmer and Sons Bootmakers in Intervale, New Hampshire

Endless Summer Pier

HDR processing can also create something that the eye didn’t see at the scene. When I showed this result to Susan, she said, “That was from yesterday? I didn’t see that.”

An HDR image of the Bogue Inlet Fishing Pier as clouds clear, Emerald Isle, North Carolina

Reflections: Creativity and Certainty

Lest one think that all I do is HDR processing, let it be said that I enjoy many different techniques. This was one of my favorite exercises in “let’s see how far I can take this.” Perhaps I also pushed the limits of what people want to acknowledge about their own motivations in the associated blog post, although I do know that some were able to grok it.

A high-key image of water birds at a National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware

Enough reflecting. Let’s bring on the New Year! Best wishes for a happy and prosperous 2011.

Posted December 31, 2010 by Rob Hanson Photography in HDR, philosophy

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Artisan Series: The Bootmaker   8 comments

Peter S Limmer works at the Limmer Custom Boot company in Intervale, New Hampshire


Peter Limmer works away at the Limmer Boot Company in Intervale, New Hampshire.

“They don’t make ‘em like they used to,” is a well worn and time-honored phrase. I’m happy to say that in some cases, they do still make ‘em like they used to, and I’m out to find those artisans who continue to create high quality products and art, regardless of the cost. Come to think of it, if any product is made with skill and love, is it not art in its own right?

On a whim, I typed “cheap Chinese products” into Google and got 33,400,000 hits, most of them rather proudly touting their ‘cheapness.’  Perhaps not so curiously, this is 27 times fewer hits than if you enter “Justin Bieber cheap product.” I’m just sayin’.

We’ve all had the experience of buying something that breaks shortly after purchase, or worse, shortly after the warranty expires. Check the label, and you’ll see an obvious trend: It’s a piece of mass produced garbage made overseas that sacrifices quality for the corporate bottom line. I’d rather pay much more for something that was made with skill and love, by someone who pays attention to each item, than to live a life with garbage-to-be.

The following is proudly displayed on the Limmer Custom Boot website:
“Our boots are a sound investment whether stock or Custom as they offer extreme durability and reliability. It is not unusual to have boots in our repair department that are 50+ years old and still going strong. With over 30 years of experience in making boots, Peter S. Limmer, grandson of Peter Sr, will put the same painstaking care and effort in making you the best pair of boots you will ever wear.
“Simplicity, practicality and painstakingly wrought quality are fundamental to an understanding of the uncompromising standards that have gone into the creation of all Limmer boots and shoes.

“Born from a family tradition that was firmly established when it was carried across the Atlantic Ocean and launched in this country in 1925, Limmer represents a unique combination of old fashioned family pride and the humble dedication that comes from devotion to craft.
A name that says hard work and meticulous effort, Limmer is your guarantee of quality in every purchase.”

That’s music to my ears. So, here’s an image to celebrate the hard working and dedicated artisan who still makes something to be proud of. Part of a waning culture, Peter continues the family tradition of producing a quality product — “Art” by any other name.

The Shadow of Coincidence   6 comments

Photographer Rob Hanson catches his own shadow at Otter Point, Acadia National Park, Maine


You think the shadow is the substance — Rumi

Like the shadow
I am
I am not. — From “Love Poems of Rumi”

Recently, I was flipping through my library of shots from the fall journey to coastal Maine, and found this one. I thought I’d post my first “self-portrait” of sorts.

The day I was going to put it up, though, fellow HDR fanatics Jacob Lucas and Bob Lussier did an interesting cross-post that involved shadows. I figured I should wait a bit, so as not to interfere with their fun.

I’ve long thought that shadows were an interesting concept. We point to them as though they have substance. “That’s MY shadow.” “Look, there is a shadow over there.” As though shadows are a thing. Yet, they are no-thing; only the absence of reflected light.

Keep up to date with our HDR friends: Follow Bob and Jacob on Twitter. I’m there, too.

In other news, good friend Captain Kimo just dropped his new e-book, Mastering the Secrets of HDR Processing. Click Here for more information.


This was taken from a single frame which, sadly, was rather washed out. After a little work with ACR and multiple exposure files, fed into the usual HDR programs, something interesting came out of it.

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