An Adobe Vanishing Point

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Those always arresting photographs of railroad tracks merging in the distance are often used by art teachers as examples of a perspective’s vanishing point.

The other day we visited the largest adobe building in northern California, an enormous hacienda girdled by long long porches. It’s called the Petaluma Adobe and is now a California state park. The structure was once the home of General Vallejo and the logistic headquarters for his 600,000 acre ranch that is now the city of Petaluma and much of the surrounding area.

I took this photo of my wife Sarah waking way ahead of me and suddenly realized the porch railing and the adobe wall had provided another effective example of a vanishing point.

The photo and the visit made it a double score. 

Looking Through My Antique Window

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There are many ways of seeing things. With intellect, with imagination, with love and as one gets older, these ways invariably take on the patina of age.

That’s not a bad thing really.

In fact it’s helpful.

While old age may take away the sharp, brash clarity of youth, in return it softens ones field of vision and allows the myriad shades of gray to add themselves to the picture. There is better balance that way.

Looking At The World In Black And White

With more time this winter to work on my photography, I am finding an increasing desire to work in black and white. Color is so seductive that a pretty hue on a flower or a sunset can turn my head so completely that I will fudge composition, balance and context just so I can use some gorgeous hue. Color in photography is like using glass in sculpture it can capture the observer so completely that an ordinary work can become special just by its presence.

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Take away color and the photographer’s “wiggle room” is lessened. Tonality assumes a very important role and proper balance becomes critical.

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And even in scenes where color is muted and not likely to cause the photographer or the viewer to misinterpret its importance, taking it away helps emphasise what really is there.

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At Drakes Bay Oyster Company Again!

I would like to thank Ginny Cummings, the manager of Drakes Bay, for her warm welcome and the fun tour of her operation I had the other day.

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Even though my wife and I come from coastal Maine and we do indeed have oyster companies there too, I have never had the chance to look at what goes into producing them up close. I was shown “french tubes”, the poles that the tiny oyster babies cling to as they grow into adulthood.

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I saw older methods where the growing platform is nothing more than a big old oyster shell.

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I met some of the hispanic women who break the individual oysters off from their growing media and get them ready to sell. Some of these ladies have worked at the company for decades.

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And finally I got a lecture on how important it is to keep these shellfish cold so they are at their best when the customer buys them. 

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Which I might add included me again as the first dozen I ate had now grown into a five dozen take home order for my stepson’s birthday party. They were as good as the first bunch. Though I confess that my shucking technique could use some improvement.

Which of course means, I need still more oysters! You know what they say, “practice makes perfect.”

The Judgment Chair

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Taking photographs of your kid, your cat, your friends or your trip to Hawaii is worlds apart from taking photographs that others, most of whom you don’t know, consider of high enough quality to buy or exhibit in some public space. To be successful with any kind of art, it’s always best to ask the following questions.

Do you respect who’s sitting in the judgment chair and are you satisfied they see what you want them see?

This two person answer comes from decades running commercial art galleries and serving on non-profit art institution.

In reality, two people judge your work. You the artist AND the art dealer, potential customer or museum creator. BOTH of you need to be satisfied. If either one isn’t, walk away and go back to work. 

The foundation of any good art should be the need of the artist to create it. Not their desire to sell it or have others like it.

Of course the general public regularly equates “successful” with making money and public acclaim which can be a terrible problem for any creative person who buys into that way of thinking. In fact if you think that way you might consider quitting right now because you’re in for a terrible time.

One last thing. Art is always looking through a glass darkly. Often it’s hard to see where you’re going. But have heart, show up every day and keep putting in the hours.

Nobody knows the future.

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The One Armed Pinky’s Pizza Parlor Lady

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I don’t claim to know that much about advertising. But would suspect that a one armed woman hanging on the side of a building waving her empty sleeve at the passing traffic is not terribly likely to cause a lot of people to pull in to buy a pizza.

Get you into a traffic accident by staring too long? Maybe.

Drakes Bay Oyster Company

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In our travels we like to look around for fun places to visit that are somewhat off the beaten path. In the North Coast area of California there is Drakes Bay Oyster Company which is on the way to the famous Point Reyes lighthouse. You get to it down a long gravel road. The locals certainly know about Drakes Bay as you will read about later however, we, casual visitors that we were, didn’t. 

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The company’s work site is pretty messy. I suppose partly because Drakes Bay may not be allowed to continue growing oysters in the area where they’re now located. They need their federal permit to be reissued and they may not get it. This fight seems to be headed for the Supreme Court See my link to their website to learn more about the company and their struggle to stay in business:  http://www.drakesbayoyster.com

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In my completely biased opinion, closing them would be a terrible shame for those of us who love tasty molluscs because this ramshackle place, on the edge of a small, historic clean water bay, harvests the most delicious ones I have ever eaten. (See below for confirmation.)

 

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One VERY happy tourist!

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