Friday, November 23, 2018

Traveling the South East: Macon County Store in Macon, Tennessee

Macon Country Store: Macon, Tennessee
Small town cooking and hospitality

Happy Friday, everyone. Well, you will see on the photo thumbnails this story is 3 years old: simply, I forgot to post this after writing it in 2015. 

Max and I spent two days on the road through Memphis and outlining country, mapping Sprint towers we are contracted to perform. As always, we are always on the look out for local BBQ.

Approaching a rural three-way intersection at Highway 194 Macon Drive and Oakland Road, I applied the brakes when Max announces, “I see a smoker!”

We walk through the already open door into a small convenience store and combination restaurant: a few tables and chairs are set up near the rear. The store is empty, as we are driving through the area long past normal lunch hour. This is fine because we get to meet and chat with owner Emmitt Kimble sitting in a lounge chair, and his wife Cathy behind the meat counter preparing some of the fresh BBQ just out of the smoker.

Emmitt Kimble owner of Macon Country Store - L. A. Lewin 2015
A sight one can only see in rural areas of our country: Kimble stretched out in this lounge chair like he is in his living room: “Howdy.” Kimble greets us. We learn Kimble, a construction worker for the better part of his life, is developing a little arthritis; the chair gives him a break from being on his feet running the store. He gets up as a customer comes in to buy some drinks from the cooler. Max and I turn to his wife, Cathy. Cathy lists what is on the menu; Max orders pulled pork and I take a smoked Turkey sandwich and fries.
Macon Country Store -L. A. Lewin 2015

Kimble returns to his chair. He explains he and his wife bought the Country Store three years back to slow down. Kimble is slowly fixing up the store and eventually will have seats for 24 instead of the current 12. As Max and I sample our lunch plates it becomes apparent why the Kimble’s need to expand the seating capacity. Though past the lunch hour, during our stay customers came and went with smoked meats and sandwiches to take out. We are sure the billowing smoker attracts locals on a daily basis, indeed. Our lunch was fabulous.

Kimble and Max Lewin - L. A. Lewin 2015

Before we leave, another customer and a friend of Kimble comes walking in: Kimble introduces the man as the “Major”. A short stocky fellow with crisp-small eyes, blood shot from allergies, or I suspect, perhaps a few swigs from a mason jar filled with crystal clear juice. In any case, a colorful character whom immediately upon entering the store nods to us a greeting and plops himself down in Kimble’s lounge chair. We all playfully bicker accusing the “Mayor” of unlawfully occupying Kimble’s precious space. We all laugh - then Max and I say farewell, and head back onto the roads of Tennessee and perhaps run into another small town gem.

The Macon Country Store: a simple way of life among good people and small town cooking – come visit and try really good smoked meats and engaging conversation with Emmitt, Cathy and their neighbors.  

(Digital photographs:Canon 5D Mark II F/2.8 16-35mm lens BW conversion via Silver Efex Pro2)

Lance A. Lewin – 2015

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Photography Tech Corner: Using Natural Layers for Creative Photography

Using Natural Layers for Creative Photography: Rain, Sleet or Snow - Perfect!
Red Top Bridge
Hello, everyone!  I know - it has been a while since I posted anything here - and I apologize. But moving forward from here, I will begin Blogging more regularly.
First, like to wish everyone a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving weekend coming up - can’t believe it is this time of the year again - and a great time to capture really cool photos as the weather begins to get a bit more miserable - What!?  Look outside: is it raining, snowing…than grab your gear and get a move on - oh, and perhaps an assistant to follow you around with an umbrella, suggest feedback on your compositions, and help switch out lenses and cameras.
Red Barn Cartersville Ga
A lot of us are turned off by the weather - well, as it relates to going outside to capture photographs, that is. But, this is actually a really good time to experiment with Photoshop, via “Mother Nature’s” way, as it were. Yes, it is a funny way of looking at this, indeed.  Instead of planning a certain “look” for your composition in post-production, alternatively, let the weather add a layer of texture - than make subtle adjustments in post-production for your final piece.
Red Top Mnt Scape
 Examples here were taken in both pouring rain and snow: the resulting compositions received color saturation, but only slightly. Some of the Photoshop tools used: De-hazing, adjustments to luminance and saturation, dodge and burning, and overall corrections to exposure if needed. 
Route 52 Snowscape The point I am trying to explore with you is, we want to convey more of what we saw through the viewfinder - as opposed to spicing it up with a heavy hand in post-production: instead, make calculated adjustments so not to abandon (or stray) too far from the natural qualities captured on site - we are letting Mother Nature basically dictate the mood, flavor or emotional impact captured through the viewfinder with this exercise.  We also need to use a tripod (if necessary) and bracket your shots making changes to only shutter speed, aperture and exposure-compensation for each composition. Each time you change a lens and recompose, go through the same bracketing again. Well, that is all for today - Happy Thanksgiving!!
Cooper Furnace River Landscape
As always, please, contact me via Facebook messenger or email me:
With questions, comments and suggestions. Thank you.
Lance A. Lewin

Sunday, November 26, 2017

Visualizing Art Series: Post-production software use in photojournalism and fine art photography: Believe what you see?

In my opinion, culturally, we have entered into a paradigm shift in how we approach and look at photographs.
Using an assortment of post-production software - and even some in-camera programs - a plethora of different image file manipulations are at every one’s finger tips. Thus, the temptation to use (or abuse) these tools is seemingly hypnotic: from the casual cell phone camera user to professional photographers, there seems to be an urgent need to morph almost every picture that populates review screens. In my opinion, and within certain genres of photography, post-production manipulative tool usage is not just prolific, its more abusive than ever, making us question what is genuine photographic art or what is real in newspaper and magazines articles and the photographs that accompany them.

From the removing of dust particles to distorting the original psycho-physiological photographic characteristics in “realist” style photographs (these examples commonly seen as High Dynamic Range compositions, where ordinary portraits, structures or events is presented in a hyper-reality), we are inundated with these altered realities being published and promoted (and accepted by some), as a new norm. Another software example that was created to take the “artist” out of photography (in my opinion) is “LandscapePro”, an advanced post-production software created by Anthropics Technology Ltd, in London, had me falling off my office chair in anger (not shock!). The software can change almost any landscape photo into a fully realized balanced composition with just a few clicks! Amazing, yes! Disturbing, genuinely!   

And addressing the manipulation of images in photojournalism – it has been well documented, indeed. Believing Is Seeing (Observations On The Mysteries Of Photography) by Errol MorrisPenguin Press 2011, investigates topics such as, ‘intentions of the photographer’, ‘capturing propaganda and fraud’, and ‘photographs reveal and conceal’, documenting cases of journalistic fraud with text and accompanying photographs. This book is an eye-opener on the prolific use of manipulation in journalism to twist or otherwise obscure the truth in trying to create alternative narratives that only serve the authors' left or right wing agenda. 

In my opinion, culturally, we have converged to a paradigm shift in how we approach and look at photographs: we are now conditioned to stop and look at a photograph and ask, was it captured naturally or digitally manipulated to create the final piece of photographic art or the news photo and accompanying text. In fact, this is so prevalent, when visiting galleries and museums - especially when viewing new fine art photography from photographers that have been shooting, maybe the last 20 or 30 years, a disclaimer is often posted along with their bio stating all photographs are rendered without extensive post-production manipulation! Something the photographic artist never had to think about, even as late as 12 years ago.   

There is a lot more for us to discuss and debate here, but for now, I am suggesting that a cultural shift, if you want, is making us question the “narrative-validity” of most photographic art and news related photos: from so called “fake news” to the morphing of reality through the use of techniques like High Dynamic Range (HDR) photography in creating hyper-realities, we can no longer freely interpret what we see and read as real, but instead, pause and contemplate the validity or authenticity of a piece of photographic art, and photojournalism that inundate our space through television and more perversely through social media outlets. 

As always, I look forward to hearing your response: whether you agree or have alternative points of view - I hope to hear from you, all.  Thank you.

Kind regards,
Lance A. Lewin 

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday's Photo Tech: Fine Art Photography Technique & Inspiration

Photo1: Portrait: Beverly Appell Witkin by L.A. Lewin 2012
Photographer, lecturer and professor at the College of DuPage, Jeff Curto, asked four questions in one of his classes: intrigued, I decided to present my thoughts that best answer these questions giving the reader insight into what I believe is currently defining photography in our digital culture.

1. When does a photograph cease to be a document? It depends upon what is being recorded: 1. If we are looking at journalistic type photographs, once the image misleads the viewer of the actual event, person or location – the photograph ceases to be a document. These types of pictures inundate us everyday – most commonly seen in tabloids where the meaning of the subject (commonly, a person) is purposely twisted: the photograph is either captured or cropped to mislead the true context in which the subject is surrounded, thus the photograph and story behind it becoming ambiguous: misleading the reader towards the magazine or newspapers alternative agenda.  2. When traditional fine art photographs, including landscapes, street, and portrait photography is altered by digitally manipulating pixels, the photograph is no longer a document. That is to say, when the portrayal of the subject becomes abstract or otherwise change the overall appearance of a photograph to the extent of transcending its original psycho physiological photographic characteristics engenders digital art, and in some cases obscures the truth or altogether changes it, in my opinion. In both of these examples the documentary is falsely presented thus rendering them useless as a document. 
Photo2: Digital Art
2. Should altered photographs come with warnings? Well, “Warning” is a bit too strong for me, but include in the photographs description a statement indicating the use of heavily pixel manipulation or simply: present the work as digital fine art, as apposed to fine art photography.

3. Why do we want to alter the real? 1. For the corrupt journalist it may be a matter of getting the “Big scoop”, as it were. Altering a scene to help enhance a story or worse, crating a fictitious narrative. (For example, the manipulated photo credited to Ben Curtis capturing the Beirut, Lebanon conflict in 2006: additional smoke was added to photo to make the scene more intense then it actually was. The photo cited below.)  2. The “real” can also be heavily (digitally) manipulated the purposeful attempt of a digital artist creating an alternative reality, for example. (See Photo2 and Photo3)
Photo3: Michal Macku's Digital artistic interpretations
4. Where is the digital photography revolution taking us? Beyond boundaries: stretching our boundary of knowledge in photonics to unravel mysteries that lead to solutions in the creation of new ideas. Surrounding our world with an uncompromising wealth of creativity bringing beauty in the visual arts and scientific achievements yet to be envisioned.

Again, these are my opinions and you may have your own thoughts on how photography has changed as the digital culture around us continues to influence artistic expression and how we communicate.

I look forward to reading your comments.  Ciao.

Best regards,

Cite 1. From Errol Morris "Believing is seeing (Observations on the mysteries of photography) The Penguin Press 2011
Beirut, Lebanon, July 26 2006

Monday, April 20, 2015

Sunday's Photo Tech: Looking back at 1982 Amish Country

Amish Lad Photo & Text by Lance A. Lewin 2015

I stare at the image below often – the 16x24 print sits propped up against a wall left to my desk – the rosy cheek lad forever looking back.  He speaks to me – eyes so riveting as to seemingly pierce me – deliberately painful – as punishment for infiltrating his space and snapping this image.  

Amish Lad Photo by L. Lewin 1982
You see the young boy is fishing with his brother’s are in Lancaster county, Pennsylvania: Amish country.

Lancaster Pa - L. Lewin 1982
For the most part the countryside is flat and dotted with farms with old-order Amish men plowing fields – standing or sitting behind horse-drawn blows turning up the earth in preparation for spring seeding.  If I remember correctly, we turn right onto a smaller – narrower – paved road when we see six young boys dressed in traditional old-order long coats and straw hats scamper across the road in front of us.  We drive slowly towards the spot they disappeared.  

Now, I was well aware the Amish populations, especially the old-order Amish families, do not respond well to outsiders photographing them.  However, while Anne waited behind the drivers seat I followed three of the boys. The image was so inviting: three straw hats atop of identical long broadcloth coats, each boy carrying a simple fishing pole.  I snapped off two or three shots (Minolta XD-11 affixed with 100mm lens and loaded with K64 Slide film.). They kept moving about, but I was confident it was not from being pursued, but rather finding the right spot to settle down and cast their lines.  However, feeling their uneasiness I kept my distance.  The 100mm lens was perfect in this situation. 

Lancaster Pa - L. Lewin 1982
As close as I was going to get – I stopped and arranged a composition through the viewfinder – the lad turned and looked through my lens – It was the shot I was hoping for – I pulled the trigger.  In an instant I pulled my eye from the viewfinder and gave the young boy a smile.  I hear yelling behind me – father was calling the boys – I quickly pulled myself up the embankment  - the father was toting a rifle and yelling at me to leave – sliding into the passenger side of our car – Anne made a quick u-turn and we were gone.

However, if my plan were to visit the region again to complete a photo-essay – perhaps following one family for several days or weeks – I would work hard to introduce my intentions, gain their trust and hopefully be rewarded to follow and photograph their lives.

And so, the endless one-way exchange between the Amish boy and myself continues: does the Amish lad – now a grown man likely in his 40’s – remember me?  If we met would he nod and approve of the photograph, or would I be lectured, or worse, quietly admonished through his stare. 

“Amish Lad” Captured in the Amish landscape of south-central Pennsylvania – L. Lewin 1982

Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Merry Christmas in NYC

NYC skyline seen from the Brooklyn Bridge - 2014 L. Lewin
Anne and I enjoyed a few (cold) days in New York City.  There is something special experiencing the Christmas holiday season in NYC - nothing like it, indeed.

Whether while sipping hot chocolate you view Macy's holiday window exhibits or gaze at the magnificent tree at Rocker Feller Center (along hundred of thousands of others), there is an excitement one experiences no other location in the world can provide. 

After the sun fell behind the tallest buildings and eventually below the unseen horizon, the lights of New York City come alive and take over illuminating the greatest city in the world. On this night brightly colored-luminescence from the dozens of electronic billboards that encircle Times Square and line 34th Street reflected off snow flurries sprinkling the city landscape - tickling our nose and cheeks seemingly with multicolored glitter. It was magical - it was fun.

Holiday travelers: Grand Central Station, NYC - 2014 L. Lewin
And the most fulfilling emotion we experienced was one of hope. It did not take long for Anne and I to sense the love the world is really capable of: whether we were briskly walking up 43rd Street, scooting around another hand-clenched couple, meandering around hundreds of people making our way towards Macy's on 34th Street, or stopped, watching thousands of locals and visitors from all corners of the globe mingle like brothers and sisters as we all tried to get a closer look at the magnificent Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, it was clear something special was going on here, indeed. 

Visiting the city that took the brunt of terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001 and the subsequent coming together of NYC, as a family, to rebuild their broken city has a profound effect on everyone that walks its streets. A Global Family: multiple ethnic groups representing religions from every corner of our small planet, harmoniously shared each others voice as one: we were here to 'never forget'. To celebrate the rebirth of a city, and show the world the steadfastness of its people overcome adversity, rebuild and forge ahead. A wonderful feeling. A memorable visit to one of the greatest cities in the world we will soon not forget.

Hope you all enjoy a beautiful holiday with your family, friends - and the world.

Happy New Year, everyone!

Lance and Anne Lewin  

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Sunday's Photo Tech: Fine Art Photography Technique & Inspiration

Bowman Lake L.A. Lewin 2013

One of the most popular lessons teaching how to create powerful compositions is known as the “Rule of Thirds”. I do not teach the art of composition using this convention. Instead, through the practice of visualization, we learn to interpret what we see and feel – from behind the lens - into a balanced, dynamic composition. Such is “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, the photographic artists may choose to present works as abstract, impressionistic or more closely to realism. How we “see” the subject or event through the viewfinder is our personal vision - our interpretation . Regardless on how the artist presents his or her photographs, a well thought out composition – including the effects of light onto the scene - is key to a successful piece.

No doubt our senses and brain function incredibly efficient as a team, taking in and then processing data and presenting us a front row seat to the world. But how do we capture the “Grandscape” of seeing through the lens of our camera?

Sometimes a solitary subject can lack the presence needed to throw forth the impact the artist intended when composing a scene. As an instructor, my lesson plans always includes discussions on the use of “space”, an essential component in creating dynamic compositions. Elaborating on the environment surrounding the subject within the frame , thereby projects the full emotional value envisioned by the artist.

The following examples illustrate techniques used to create a “sense of space”. They can vary, used individually or in combination, they capture the impact of what we experience in person, hence, generating a more complete visual experience for those viewing our work.

An hour North of Atlanta, Georgia is the city of LaFayette. Known for its numerous caves, including PettyJohn’s Cave, for beginners, and rock climbing and rappelling, my son, Max and his wife Ashley, ask me to join them to capture images of them enjoying their sport. From roadside we hiked a mile – wish I had remembered to take my hiking shoes – big mistake, as the sneakers had little in the form of grip. Max and Ashley took the high path to the top of a beautiful waterfall – from there they gave me a demonstration on rappelling to the river floor. I hiked along the riverbed and took position. I shot off about 24 frames and chose the one illustrated in Fig. 1 and Fig. 2 for our first example.


The cropped photo in Fig.1 illustrates a nicely composed picture. The subject is off-centered to allow the viewer to see the rock formations identifying the space in which the person is rappelling, but something is missing to fully engage the impact I sensed on location.

On the other hand, the image in Fig.2 projects a more complete emotional experience for the viewer. Here, we can immediately sense the danger involved rappelling this waterfall. The image reveals height, menacing jagged rocks and cascading water confronting our subject.

Backing off the subject and taking in the whole scene captures the moment as experienced on-site. I captured the scene with a Canon f/1.4 50mm lens; though not a wide-angle lens, formatted vertically – holding the camera in a vertical or portrait position - captured the impact of seeing the subject skillfully, and I may add, carefully, rappel the jagged 70 foot waterfall!

Before we continue, let me share a painful reminder when not being careful during a photo shoot can get you in trouble: sitting on top of a small group of rocks layered on the river-bed, just outside the full spray of the cascading water, I just finished capturing the photograph in this illustration, and not paying attention after sitting so long, standing up, I slipped, dramatically falling 4 feet onto my back - cushioned only by solid rock! My Canon 5D Mark II flew in the air and landed some 10 feet to my left – thankfully, free from the gushing water – but, broke the 50mm lens! Banged up, but functional, I limped out of the forest and spent the next week recuperating in bed. Lesson: be cognizant of your immediate surroundings, not for just taking great photographs, but keeping yourself and your equipment safe from harm.

Fig. 3
From the road where we parked our rental vehicle, high above San Francisco Bay, we strolled a mile across, and through tall grass, ragweed and sticker bushes, where the late afternoon sun lavished the rolling meadows in a sea of golden light; a beautiful place, indeed.  Above, Fig. 3 is a cropped version of the final (represented as Fig. 4) and robs the viewer of a full breath of this magnificent landscape.

Fig.4 Tech: ISO 100; 1/100 sec; F/16.0 @22mm
Fig. 4 exemplifies the opening description above. Two key components that helped translate what I saw and felt was one, applying a wide angle lens and two, and just as important, staying back and waiting for the two hikers to proceed far in front of me. Using a wide-angle lens allowed me to encompass a wide scope of landscape representative of my interpretation of the moment. In the distance we see two hikers making their way up towards the ridge; their distance from the lens – from my position – references the vastness in front of me. The hikers are used as point of reference against the rolling hills. Without this reference my interpretation of this grand-view would not be realized.

As always, I love to hear your comments and answer questions! Thank you.

Best regards,