Photography, Seasons

Fall 2020

Fall leaves can look like fire. Here, I see a ring of fire circling a negative space. When we look into that space we see nothing but a blur of still-green leaves above:

These leaves, rustling in the wind, all the same shade of red, look to me almost edible, like ornamental candy wafers:

The branches and stems here call my attention to all the work that had to be done in spring and summer to bring moisture and nutrients to so many leaves, then young, now orange and resplendent and soon to fall away:

This image recreates for me a bit of the swirling sensation that I experience when, in a forest, I notice that even the things I thought were still are moving:

Taking a closer look at a cluster of leaves glowing in the sun, we find there’s still some green to be seen and remembered as it cedes the stage to brown:

Sometimes a photograph that seems a mistake turns out to be more than that. Here, motion blur combined with shallow depth of field creates a composition that looks chaotic, but for me the diagonal stems give it structure and the smaller leaves in the background that are clearly in focus anchor this image as a photograph. A photograph that reminds me of an expressionist canvas:

In this image I don’t see any one leaf that’s particularly remarkable. The leaf that’s most clearly in focus is also shaded, so we aren’t able to enjoy its full visual potential. But this image teaches me that a composition doesn’t need to contain a “star” to be effective. The shallow depth of field makes the background seem like a watercolor and I like how everything hangs from those two stems at the top:

Here is an enchanted forest. The original version of this image was pale and badly overexposed, and nothing is quite in focus, so I considered discarding it. I find that trying to salvage a flawed image is usually a waste of time; better to go out and take another. But there are exceptions. My efforts to vivify this image in post-processing resulted in a product that represents — pretty darn well — what I think I actually saw. Just the other week, my mother told me that one of my grandmother’s first jobs in the 1930s was colorizing black and white photos. I wonder what my grandmother might have done with the original version of this image, which was nearly black and white, and how much the end product might have resembled what you see here:

My eye is drawn to fall leaves that glow in the sun. Sometimes I have to remind myself to look at those beautiful leaves that don’t happen to be illuminated at the moment:

Of course, I’ll always be a sucker for sunlight, whether it’s lighting up a thousand leaves or just one:

The images here were taken October 17th and 18th in Hopkinton and Berlin, Massachusetts, though I feel like I’ve been collecting them — maybe just the idea of them — for much longer. Dear viewer, thank you for joining me on my Fall journey this crazy year, 2020!

Rudi

Photography

Jul 2 Fireworks

After years of photographing Boston harbor fireworks from my vantage point in East Boston with short exposures, I finally decided to work on the long exposure technique. Boston’s July 4th fireworks happen over the Charles River but this year there were also July 2nd fireworks over the harbor as the conclusion of Boston HarborFest’s Parade of Lights.

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Photography

Random Fireworks

On Thursday May 2, at 10:30PM, I was in bed when an unrelenting series of booms and thuds convinced me the world was about to end. It turned out to be random fireworks. Having lived near Boston Harbor for years, I’ve seen lots of fireworks and I know that these shows are sometimes put on by private organizations who see fit to use their spending power to inflict their own “private” celebration on the entire city. Still, I couldn’t imagine that such a thing would be happening at 10:30PM so early in the season with no warning. Once I realized that the world wasn’t ending, I got out my camera and took these photos.

 

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Photography

Fireworks

In the past few years I’ve enjoyed photographing fireworks when they happen over Boston harbor and sharing the images on Facebook. I feel these photos had become part of my Facebook identity. Looking back over my history there, I also see dozens of post about my musical projects and I remember struggling to describe the technical details of those projects in a way that might be accessible to my non-musician friends. With fireworks, I could just post an image and rely on the fact that people would want to see it because it’s the sort of thing people want to see. It always felt kind of decadent and fun to share something with incontrovertible popular appeal. Living in East Boston I have a good view of harbor fireworks and I end up seeing fireworks so often that I sometimes think “Not again!” But this past New Year’s Eve of 2019, the weather was rainy, the show was abbreviated, and I couldn’t get any decent shots, so I now feel a renewed interest in photographing fireworks the next time I have the chance.

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New Year’s 2018

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New Year’s 2018

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New Year’s 2018

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New Year’s 2018

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Aug 30, 2018

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Aug 31, 2017

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New Year’s 2016

Earth, Photography

Boston Flooding, 2018

Back in January 2018 my neighborhood in East Boston experienced significant flooding along with many other coastal parts of the city and region. At the time, I posted a few flooding-related photographs to Facebook and now, as part of my resolution to leave Facebook in 2019, I’m moving the material here. All three of these images employ the selective colorization technique that I wrote about in my post on Salient Color. They are all taken at the site of new condo developments on the East Boston waterfront near the Maverick T Station. The third image, “Sold Out,” was taken by Kannan T. and edited by me.

 

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The water does not favor one particular side of the construction fence.

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The best view of Boston is to be had in this lounge chair at LoPresti Park.

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Sold out.

Photography

15 Days, 15 Photos

My process for leaving Facebook will involve reviewing what I’ve posted there and moving the good stuff to my blog. So here’s a start. Back in September 2017 I challenged myself to post one photograph each day for fifteen days.

Although photography makes up a large portion of what I share online, I feel a lot of internal resistance to posting my photographs. What gets posted is a minuscule portion of my growing collection. The resistance comes from a sense that the online world is a spectacularly bad place for concentrating on photos, and that to do justice to the images I love, I should make the effort to print them, frame them, and find somewhere to hang them, rather than taking the easy route of launching them into the noisy, crowded chaos of the internet. The goal of my September 2017 experiment was see how it would feel to bypass this internal resistance, suspend all my doubts, and just freely share my images for a while.

It felt pretty good. I appreciated knowing that my friends were finding some interest or pleasure in the pieces.

Here are the photos I chose to share on each of those fifteen days. On the first day, September 1, 2017, I posted three images of the same subject so there’s actually a total of seventeen photos here. To be clear, the photos were not taken on the days when I posted them; they are all older photos that had been waiting in my archive for a moment on stage.

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September 1, 2017: Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, View 1

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September 1, 2017: Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, View 2

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September 1, 2017: Leonard P. Zakim Bunker Hill Memorial Bridge, View 3

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September 2, 2017

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September 3, 2017: “Crossing Borders”

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September 4, 2017

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September 5, 2017

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September 6, 2017: One of my interests in photography is finding and documenting unknown and fleeting works of abstract expressionism in dumpsters (example above) and other non-ticketed venues.

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September 7, 2017: Jantar Mantar (Garden of astronomical instruments), Jaipur, India, 2016.

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September 8, 2017

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September 9, 2017: “Gentrification”

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September 10, 2017

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September 11, 2017

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September 12, 2017

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September 13, 2017

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September 14, 2017: Here’s a beautiful and harmless Cross Orbweaver spider that’s been spinning and re-spinning its web in my garden in the past few days, catching mosquitoes and flies, and meanwhile being photographed by me. I’ve been doing a personal experiment this month, trying to share more of my photography — some images from my archives and a few new ones like this. I’ve really appreciated the feedback and commentary from everyone here — it has encouraged me to go out and take more photos. After tomorrow I’ll probably stop the daily posting for a while, leaving this experiment as 15 photos for 15 days, but I’ll be back…

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September 15, 2017

 

Photography, Signs and Ads

No Art Beyond This Point

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I saw this sign at Boston City Hall on November 20, 2018 at the edge of an exhibit of posters made by MassArt students to raise awareness about climate change. Many of the posters in the exhibit were ominous, like one poster that showed a human whose neck had been caught in plastic six pack rings as happens to turtles other animals when they encounter our dangerous waste. When I saw a sign with the words “No Art Beyond This Point,” I immediately interpreted it as if it were itself a poster in the exhibit, and I apprehended a message to the effect that “If climate change continues unabated, we will reach a point of chaos beyond which it will be impossible to make art.” Given this interpretation, the “No Art Beyond This Point” sign struck me as perhaps the most ominous of all the items in the exhibit. Of course, the sign was most likely posted by the exhibit organizer to let viewers know that they had reached the end of the exhibit and there were no more posters to be seen down the hall. Or perhaps it had been placed there by City Hall staff to the let the exhibit organizers know that they should not hang posters beyond that specific point. One thing that struck me as odd about the wording is that there seems to be an unofficial convention that signs of the form “No X beyond this point” mean that the thing in question, X, is not to be taken or done beyond a specific point. For example, “No alcohol beyond this point” means that you can’t carry your drink any further. “No fishing beyond this point” means that you can’t fish past where you are now. Considered out of context then, “No art beyond this point” should mean that you can’t carry your art any further? You can’t leave with art? You can’t make art outside these confines? Speaking of conventions and common assumptions, there seems to be a prevailing idea that photographs are “artistic” when they contain lots of bokeh. So, I thought it might be provocative to take a photograph showing the “No Art Beyond This Point” sign along with the nether region that is supposed to be devoid of art, with the quirk that this nether region appears “bokehfied” and, maybe, full of the intrigue that bokeh is supposed to supply.

Earth, Photography

My Spider

Considering that today is a holiday that has some association with spiders, I thought I would share some photos of a Cross Orbweaver that I took in September 2017. I found the spider one day in my garden, and it stayed there for about a week, building and rebuilding its web. I developed an obsession with photographing it. By the time it left, I had taken around 1240 shots and had begun to refer to the creature as “my spider.” I’ve been struggling to edit the collection since then, but with the impetus of Halloween being today, I thought I’d present an abbreviated version.

This first shot shows the spider with its legs outstretched, as if in shock, desperately grasping for something that’s no longer there:

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I just said the spider looks like it was “desperately grasping for something that’s no longer there.” Indeed, that’s what it was doing, and I’m to blame! You see, as I photographed the spider over many hours, I felt so much gratitude for the fascination it was affording me that I made a resolution that I would never do anything to disturb it, even if some disturbance would give rise to better photographs. My one manipulation of the environment was to mount a piece of black paperboard in the background to make the web easier to see. At one point, when I was probably five-hundred shots already into this photographic journey, I inadvertently violated my resolution. As I was adjusting the paperboard, I accidentally touched and jostled the web, causing the spider’s meal — a meticulously encased moth — to fall tragically to the ground. This photo shows the spider reaching for the meal that had just dropped from its preprandial embrace. I was surprised at how long the spider held this pose (maybe five seconds?) as if it simply couldn’t accept that moth was really gone.

Eventually the spider retracted its legs in a gesture filled with more pathos and desperation than I am used to seeing from an arachnid:

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The spider seemed to be feeling pretty bad, and so was I, for having put it in this state. Luckily I hadn’t entirely ruined the spider’s day. While I had caused it to lose one of its meals, there was another partially encased moth waiting elsewhere in the web. The spider eventually emerged from its curled-up lamentation and began heading towards the second moth as I watched:

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When the spider found the second moth, it decided that this morsel could not be left where it was (why?), so it began carting the thing to the other end of the web. Here you can see the spider pulling and swinging the second moth around with only two threads supporting the precious cargo:

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Now the spider begins to approach the precariously suspended moth as if ready to eat:

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But instead of commencing its feast, the spider decides that the moth must first be wrapped in more layers of silk (again, why?). Here you can see the spider secreting a “blanket” of silk from its rear end and wrapping it around the moth:

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After further encasing the moth, the spider again decides that the moth cannot be left where it is (why?). For some reason, another precarious transfer is undertaken. The moth, now hanging from just one thread, seems to be in danger of plunging to the ground at any moment:

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But spider’s execution is virtuosic, the silk is remarkably strong, the moth never falls, and finally in this third position, the spider begins to eat:

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Here’s a closeup:

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That’s the end of our little story of the spider losing its meal and finding another, but I do have a few more images to share. I should mention I don’t really know anything about spiders. I just love watching them. I’ve never studied entomology. But by taking photographs and looking at the photographs very closely, I’ve learned some interesting things on my own. For example, spiders (some spider) have claws. That’s how they’re able to grasp the strands of the web. Look at this:

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And as we saw above, spiders can “spray” a nebulous blanket of silk from their rear ends (technically, from their spinerrets) when encasing their prey. But they can also secrete a single, well-defined thread of silk. Here’s a nighttime shot of the spider pulling thread to use in rebuilding its web:

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Haven’t seen enough yet? Here’s what the spider’s underside looks like:

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I should mention that while the spider looks big and dramatic in these photographs, it’s really a tiny little thing that you might consider to be visually unremarkable if you didn’t get in very close. This next image shows my basic technique for photographing the spider. The idea was to position the black board behind the web in such a way that the board itself would be in shadow while the web and spider would be illuminated by sun. I got lucky with several days of bright sun. The photos in this collection were all handheld shots taken with a macro lens at a distance of only a few inches — basically as close as I could get.

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I’ll leave you with this closing portrait of our eight-legged friend:

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