Stephen Kirkpatrick

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Daybreak

#13 On A Roll is etched in celluloid memorial.

13)  Sunrise  
 Madison County, MS
May 28, 2012 - 6:01 am
Clear, 72 degrees
500mm w/2x TC, 1/40@f8, Tripod

Friday, May 25, 2012

Hanging Around

The morning’s first hour yielded nothing. Not a single thing. I was amazed at the lack of insect life in the vegetation on this cool, dewy morning. 
I headed to another favorite area, where I searched for another hour before I finally found a small butterfly covered in dew. But as I was trying to get my camera into position, I touched the surrounding grass causing the dew to fall, the tiny droplets raining out of the scene. The morning looked to be a total wash.
I had all but given up when I spotted something shining in the wet grass. A closer look revealed a delicate dragonfly hanging on some small fleabane flowers. I was setting up to shoot it when something told me to look a little harder. I found another, more photogenic dragonfly 50 feet away. 
My reward came just because I kept hanging around. 

#12 is in the books. Two images in two days, man I'm On A Roll.

Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata)

12)  Dragonfly & Dew  
    Madison County, MS
   May 23, 2012 - 7:39 am
   Clear, 59 degrees
   60mm, 1/8@f22, Tripod

Black Saddlebags (Tramea lacerata) & Fleabane

(all photos taken with Nikon P7000)

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Bountiful Morning

Captured #11 for On A Roll this morning and what a bountiful morning it was.

11)  Cypress Swamp Light  
      Madison County, MS
   May 22, 2012 - 7:21 am
   Clear, 66 degrees
   17-35mm, 1/2@f22, Tripod

Dew on Leaf

Argiope Spider & Web

Buckeye (Junonia coenia) & Dew

Sneeze Weed (Helenium flexuosum)

Lace-lipped Ladies'-tresses
Spiranthes laciniata)

Great Blue Herons at Sunrise

(all photos taken with Nikon P7000)

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Gentle Giants

National marketing campaign for NRCS’ Longleaf Pine Initiative features photo by Stephen Kirkpatrick.

A poster produced by the Natural Resources Conservation Service promoting the conservation of the longleaf pine features a photograph from my most recent book, Sanctuary: Mississippi's Coastal Plain. The poster will be released in June 2012.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

It's All Between The Ears

A question I’m asked a lot is, "Why do you still shoot film?" In these days when everything is digital and old-fashioned film has actually become hard to find, it’s a logical question. 
The answer has nothing to do with pixels and grain, sharpness or softness, or shadows and light, but goes deeper than that. Film informs the way I work. Film makes photography an art form built on patience, on meticulous planning and anticipating before taking the shot rather than simply grabbing it and “fixing” it afterward. 
 As I stated in my first blog entry, "I’ve participated in many film vs. digital discussions with other photographers, and realized that while one is not better than the other, the thought processes behind using film or using digital are very different."
That's right.  It's all between the ears.

I ran across this blog recently and the thoughts expressed here are very near to my own. Oh and by the way, I love the term "Chimping."

Why I (still) love shooting film

In the beginning, there was only film. And it was good.

And on the second day (actually the year 2000), digital cameras started appearing in the consumer market and film was virtually left for dead in less than a decade, a stunning turn of events considering that film was the dominant photography media for eighty years.
Today, the dwindling demand for film has killed off many emulsions, leaving the selection of film stock limited and ever shrinking. However, there is a small renaissance of film by photography enthusiasts who appreciate the experience of shooting with film.
Digital offers a lot of advantages for the photographer, and like most I do shoot digital on many occasions and assignments. However in my spare time and capacity, I enjoy shooting film for my own pleasure, and here are some reasons why film continue to appeal to me…

Feelings of permanence
In that fraction of a second when an image is exposed on film, I know that the moment is captured eternally on emulsion, forever etched in silver. When the image is immutable and unchangeable, encased in a strip of celluloid, it gives me the feeling of permanence and importance accorded to a single unchanging moment.

Feeling of being there
I came across an article that resonated with my experience with film. The author came across some old film taken by his dad during the Vietnam War. The awareness that the piece of film in his hand actually came from the battlefield and passed through his dad’s hand as he loaded it into his camera connected him to his dad and the war. Likewise, holding the film I shot when I was much younger brings back much nostalgia.

Deliberate consideration during shooting
Each 35mm roll holds a maximum of 36 images, with medium format yielding much less. The realization of limited opportunities, coupled with the rising prices of film, makes one more conscious and selective about composition, lighting and subjects before the finger hits the shutter button.

Instills discipline to get it right
Of course one can digitize film images through scanning and edit the images digitally, but the tonal range is much more restricted by the scanner quality compared to shooting digitally out right. That makes digital editing more tedious, and instills a little more discipline in getting it right during exposure. It’s not such a RAW deal after all (pun intended).

Second-guessing is not an option
Incessantly reviewing digital images after every shot is so common that there is a name for such behavior. “Chimping” is named after the “ooh” and “aah” sounds that photographers make when reviewing their images, remarkably similar to the calls of excited chimpanzees. Film photographers are forced by the lack of instant review to be surer of their techniques over time, forces you to be better technically after every roll. To be fair, they “chimp” when they get their film or photos back from the lab.

Delayed gratification
Many film photographers accumulate a few rolls of film before heading to the lab, which means we usually do not get to see them till a week or a month later. According to famed street photographer Gary Winogrand (who had 9000 rolls of unseen images when he passed away), waiting to see your images makes one more objective when you do go around editing them, and I kind of agree with him.

Zen clarity of a blank slate
This is a difficult point to discuss with photographers who have never shot film. When you load in a fresh roll of film into a camera, there is a certain focus and “quietness of the mind”, like a fresh canvas placed in front of an artist. Some might rubbish such a notion, but like I said – you got to try it to feel it.

The dark art of film
It is possible to process film and print photos by oneself, and with monochrome it is actually pretty simple for the basics. Some do not like the smell and duration in a darkroom, but the moment of seeing your images appear in front of your eyes is magical. Digital retouching might be more powerful and consistent, but the satisfaction of creating a great image in the darkroom is immense and beyond words.

Mechanical cameras
A big reason why I love film photography is because I get to use mechanical cameras and manual lenses. You know, the solid chunks of metal that operates with buttery precision, offering tactile feedback that makes film photography all the more enjoyable. Philosophers had always said that life is about the journey and not the destination. It is equally true for photographers then – enjoy the experience and not just the final image.

At the end of the day…
I love digital photography, and I am relatively competent in digital editing. But at the end of the day, photography should remain a passion for me, and that is stroked by the archaic art of film, mechanical camera and wet processing. Not everyone who tries film photography will love it, but not giving yourself the opportunity to try it is to deny yourself the chance to the poetic and beautiful craft of silver halide imaging that generations of photographers had experienced and loved.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Floral Arrangement

Things have picked up for On A Roll, two shots in the last week.

Also, a recap of all ten shots On A Roll so far.

Great Egret in Water Hyacinths

10)  Great Egret & Hyacinths - (H) ---Floral Arrangement
 Madison County, MS
May 8, 2012 - 4:25 pm
Partly Cloudy,  85 degrees
500mm w/2xTC, 1/200@f8, Tripod

Alligators Resting on Log

9)  Alligators at Rest  - (H) --- Give Me A Break
 Madison County, MS
May 3, 2012 - 4:01 pm
Partly Cloudy,  81 degrees
500mm, 1/3@f10, Tripod

Previous Shots:

1)  Stunning Sunset - (H) --- Patience Please
Madison County, MS
December 18, 2011 - 5:03 pm
Partly Cloudy, 57 degrees
17-35mm, 1/10@f8 w/split ND filter, Tripod
2)   White-tailed Deer Buck - (H) --- The Buck Stops Here
Madison County, MS
December 24, 2011 - 12:13 pm
Partly Cloudy, 48 degrees
500mm, 1/200@f4, Tripod  
3)  Grebe & Snags in Fog  - (H) --- Shrouded
Madison County, MS
January 9, 2012 - 9:27 am
Foggy, 63 degrees
500mm, 1/250@f4, Hand Held
4)  Thistle & Leaf with Frost  - (H) --- Cold Prickly
Madison County, MS
January 13, 2012 - 7:58 am
Clear, 27 degrees
60mm, 1/3@f18, Tripod
5)  Red-tailed Hawk - (V) --- Waiting Game
Madison County, MS
January 19, 2012 - 7:37 am
Clear, 37 degrees
500mm w/2xTC, 1/1600@f8, Tripod
6)  Tree Seeding - (V) --- Silver Spring
Madison County, MS
February 26, 2012 - 3:13 pm
Clear, 66 degrees
500mm, 1/500@f8, Tripod

7)  Blue Jay in Crabapple Tree - (V) --- Blue Jay Way
  Madison County, MS
  March 2, 2012 - 10:23 am
  Partly Cloudy, 76 degrees
  500mm, 1/200@f4, Tripod

8)  Thistle Seeds & Dew --- Order In Chaos
Madison County, MS
April 19, 2012 - 7:45 am
Clear,  49 degrees
60mm, 1/30@f20, Tripod

(all photos taken with Nikon P7000)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

In The Eye Of The Beholder

Meadow Beauty (Rhexia alifanus)

Before dawn Tuesday morningI headed out on a scouting mission for On A Roll, exploring the fields and swampy woods near the Ross Barnett Reservoir. Springtime has arrived here, ushered in on the fresh green of new leaves, the songs of migrating birds, and the fuzzy backs of caterpillars soon to become butterflies. While searching for something for On A Roll, I snapped a few shots with my Nikon P7000 point-and-shoot, enjoying these signs of spring.

Green Tree Frog (Hyla cinerea

Early May in Mississippi also brings a profusion of flora in every stage of bloom, which while lovely to behold, is also a terrible trigger for my allergies (yes, I know – a wildlife and nature photographer allergic to the outdoors – the irony has not escaped me), so I wasn’t surprised when my eyes began watering and the sneeze attack started. But I wasn’t prepared for what happened next. 

                                                                                Spiderwort (Tradescantia ohiensis)

As I wiped my watery eyes, my left eyeball suddenly exploded with searing pain. Instantly both eyes were in full-blown wash mode – to describe them as “watering” would be a gross understatement. My first instinct was, of course, to rub the eye vigorously, which, of course, made it worse.

I made it back to my Suburban and used some clean towels to wipe my face, but the damage had been done. My eye was already swollen shut and was still swelling, as though I’d been punched. I drove out, feeling as though I had a jagged edged rock rolling around beneath my eyelid.

Fortunately, my optometrist is also my neighbor and a friend. I headed straight for his office, arriving just as the doors opened. A variety of eye drops and an ice pack later, he sent me home, where I laid in a dark room and reviewed the morning, wondering what I’d stumbled into.


Flipping through an ID guide, I found the culprit. That cute, prickly caterpillar I’d photographed – and nudged, just before touching my eye – was a buck moth caterpillar (Hemileuca maia), one of the 20 most venomous, “stinging” caterpillars in North America. The buck moth doesn’t have a stinger like a wasp or bee, so it didn’t sting me “on purpose.” Instead, its venom is contained in glands which bear stiff, hollow hairs or spines like tiny hypodermic needles through which the venom flows upon contact.  These special venomous spines are called urticating hairs, a name from the plant family name that includes nettles. Obviously, at some point my hands or clothing came into contact with the spines and I transferred them into my eye. Mystery solved.

Two days later, my eye is almost back to normal, and while I regret the pain it caused me, I do have a cautionary tale to go along with my photos of the buck moth caterpillar.

Moral of the story – sometimes beauty is literally in the eye of the beholder.

Buck Moth Caterpillar (Hemileuca maia)

(all photos taken with Nikon P7000)

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