Words and Images from Ed Felker

Art

2012: My Year in Photos

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My favorite photos from this year feature more birds than dogs, surprisingly, and more dogs than people, not surprisingly. The picture above, a wild brook trout being released into the cold, winter waters of Cedar Run in Shenandoah National Park early this year, is my favorite. Holding a slippery trout in one hand while operating a DSLR with the other is a low percentage proposition. But luck is a big part of photography. At least it is in my photography. The best of the rest of 2012 are below, in no particular order.

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This misty photo of the so called Platform was one of the most popular images I shared on facebook this year. In fact, a few friends now have the print hanging in their homes, which is a great honor to me. This grownup tree fort is one of my very favorite places, a sanctuary in the truest sense of the word.

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I chased this impossibly vibrant sunrise around for a half hour before work one morning, looking for an interesting foreground to silhouette against it. When I came across this tree with a group of black vultures perched in it, I hurried to get this shot as the fleeting, red was fading with each passing moment.

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The blog post that featured photos from the falconry event I attended was featured on the WordPress ‘Freshly Pressed’ page, an incredible honor that brought many new viewers to this blog. Welcome and thank you to those who still follow from first seeing it there.

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Something about grey, snowy days make me want to capture them with the camera, but it’s challenging. I’m really going to put an effort into photographing some winter scenes this year.

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We are lucky enough to see bald eagles regularly where we live, but they are hard to get good pictures of without a zoom lens. I got lucky as I had borrowed a nice lens from a friend and had it when this eagle came around. Taken from our back yard in Virginia, that is the town of Brunswick, Maryland across the river in the background. I’m happy to report that my wife got me a 75-300 lens for Christmas! So look for more eagles and other wildlife pics in the future!

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A brown thrasher sits on her nest protected by the thorns of a lemon tree at Rose River Farm in Madison County, Virginia.

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None of my photos are technically perfect. But sometimes they are so flawed that they become interesting in a more abstract way than was originally intended.

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Low light photography is equal parts fascinating and frustrating to me, and extremely rewarding when it works out. This is an evening shot from our place looking out over the Potomac River.

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I wrote a blog post I’m pretty proud of about the space shuttle Discovery and what it meant to be present for this historic event. You can read that post here.

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Oddly, my favorite photo from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum shows neither water, nor a boat.

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I have better pictures of ducks, and better pictures of snow. But I love the mood of this picture of ducks in snow, taken at my next door neighbor’s pond.

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Same pond, different time of year. Here a green heron is chased by a female wood duck as they both try to escape a clod without a zoom lens trying to get close enough to take their picture.

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This is one of those technically flawed, lucky shots that turned out nicely. I was unaware as I was composing the photo in the viewfinder, that the balcony rail was aligned with the line in the background where the snowy foreground meets the woods. The result is an interesting effect, I think. I’m surprised at how many of my favorite shots came on less than pleasant weather days.

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These amazing miniature donkeys are hard to photograph in the same way puppies are: They are affectionate and curious about the camera, so by the time you get down to their level, they’re in your face wondering what you’re doing and if you have any treats.

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The Virginia State Police would surely be alarmed to know how many photos I have tried to take of my dogs in the rear view mirror. This is a challenge while parked, never mind while driving. But I love this one of Finn and remember exactly the day I took it because that’s my 3-weight Scott fly rod in the rack. We were on our way to the Rapidan.

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I love this photo of Winnie, taken on a summer kayak outing. You’ve seen a cropped version of it before, it serves as the masthead image for this blog, but I thought the entire image warranted extra mention here.

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My first, hopefully of many, trip to Yellowstone National Park was a life changing event. It is an extraordinary, magical place I will never forget, and a place I will long to return to more each day until I drive through its gates again.

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Another gloomy, blue-grey day, in the woods near our house.

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Ever tried to take one picture of four dogs? It’s not easy, but I’m really happy with this one. Clockwise from top left: Finn, Petey, Monkey and Winnie.

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2012 had a few amazing lightning shows. I was lucky enough to capture this strike from our deck. The rain had stopped but the lightning continued for more than an hour, the perfect opportunity to try to capture it.

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I love this little bird, walking on his tiptoes on a sun bleached dock at St. Michael’s, Maryland.

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A bull elk bugles in Yellowstone. I had never seen elk before this day, nor heard their bugle. I was very lucky to capture this on the first day I experienced both.

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My friend Anna and I stood in the bitter cold trying to capture a meteor from the Geminid shower in December. This was one of the brightest of the night.

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Driving on a Montana highway, when we saw this amazing old car with a tree growing out of the roof, my friend Joel turned the car around so I could get some pictures of it.

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We had the privilege of attending a local Mexican Rodeo, an incredibly fun day immersed in culture, food, drink and awesome people.

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In Washington, DC for Memorial Day and the mind blowing Rolling Thunder rally, I took hundreds of photos. But I like this one best.

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Fun with dogs, fly rods and waterproof cameras. I’m fascinated by the turbulence in the water and how the camera captured it.

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Another low light image I’m pretty happy with. This was taken from our yard, my guess is probably some time in early July.

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Nature is full of surprises. Who knew butterflies looked like this close up? Not me!

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Finn and I are similar swimmers. We dog paddle, poorly, and never open our eyes under water.

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Another accidental photo I ended up liking. While fishing for smallmouth, I wasn’t paying attention to my camera settings. I had it set on macro, so it kept trying to zoom in and focus closely. I couldn’t get a shot of the entire fish, but I love the textures of the fish and water here.

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It was hard to choose one photo from Slough Creek in Yellowstone. Simply the most beautiful place I have ever had the honor of being. We hiked in about six miles to get there, and the moment we arrived, I was sad at the thought of having to leave it later.

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Hiking with ‘Team Orange,’ my two Wirehaired Vizslas, has been a recurring joy this year. But I seldom come back from a hike with a photo of them I’m crazy about. This is an exception.

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On the same night as the meteor shower, I captured this peaceful image of a vintage tractor, quietly rusting beneath the winter sky.


Doggitude Giveaway

51m6W+lmtXL._SS500_Watercolor artist Carole Pivarnik has created a fun, beautiful book of dog portraits, each accompanied with a haiku, “What dogs really think, in 17 sassy syllables.” The book is called Doggitude, and I welcome my readers to visit the web site here.

I am especially excited about it because one of the portraits included in the book is of my one and only Winnie! And in honor of Winnie’s inclusion in this lovely book, I am giving away a copy signed by the artist/author! Five syllables, seven, then five again. Comment on this post with a haiku, and I will randomly pick a winner from those who commented and send a copy of Doggitude your way!

Below are some ‘in progress’ photos of Carole’s wonderful painting of Winnie. I couldn’t be happier with how this portrait turned out!

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Winnie

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Here is the model,
Posing with me and her book,
Which someone will win!

Comment in the form of a haiku by the end of the year and you could win a book!

UPDATE! Four people entered with a haiku, so I had Winnie choose the winner using the scientific Equidistant Milkbone Randomizer method. Congratulations to Christine! Email me your address to ejfelker@verizon.net. Thanks everyone, and Happy New Year!

dogg1

dogg2


Dispatches from the Potomac on Instagram

instaI’ve entered the world of Instagram and have been enjoying it! If you would like to follow me, the username is dispatches_potomac. See you out there!


Fish Eye


It was a fun morning, fly fishing the home waters of the Potomac with a friend. A few smallmouth were caught, but for me it was mostly these pretty little sunfish. They’re small, but they fight hard. The Jack Russell Terriers of the fish world, we decided today. The only interesting photo I took today was this macro of a sunfish eye. You can see my silhouette in the reflection.


Where the Wild Things Still Are


As I get older, as we all get older, early memories fade, naturally. As a result, most of the characters in most of the books of my childhood are long forgotten. The exception has always been those of Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, published the year I was born. Those illustrations, so often labeled as “grotesque,” were imprinted in my mind at a very young age and remain there still in vivid detail. I have no recollection, really, of the story. But I can clearly recall having dreams of these characters coming to life in my room. While the characters in my mind are in clear focus, their source is muddled. To me they are half memory, half dream, and whenever I see even a glimpse of a corner of a Sendak illustration, I am instantly transported to the utterly unique world he created. It was never grotesque to me, that world. The dreams were welcome, and the memories never fail to bring a smile. It may be that my early exposure to this particular art stirred my imagination so that I pursued art partially as a result of its impact. That’s impossible to say, certainly. But Where the Wild Things Are is an undeniable part of my childhood, and those characters — even if I don’t see them or think about them for years at a time — will always be a part of me. Rest in peace, Maurice. And, pardon the cliche, thanks for the memories.


And Dog said…


As this living dog art unfolded in my living room, I was reminded, of course, of the Sistine Chapel. I pondered the scene, trying to recall Michelangelo’s arguably more powerful original. I snapped a single picture with my phone, and when I Googled it, I was pretty surprised at the similarities in the composition.


The Fauna-tarium

My immensely talented friend Steve featured us and our entire crew in a comic for his web site, every nine minutes. Thanks Steve, I love it!

Please take a few moments and visit some of my Cool and Talented Friends linked on the right hand side of this page. There are amazing painters, innovative potters, dog loving photographers and watercolorists, wonderful engravers, brilliant artists who write about art, thoughtful photographers who write about the outdoors, and more. And I’m proud to know them all. Thanks for supporting them!


“You do art as your JOB??”

Today I read this wonderful interview of Pamela Wilson, a truly gifted and fascinating artist I admire greatly. In the article, she is asked to recount her favorite art memory from childhood. Click on the link to read her answer. As for me, a memory jumped to mind when I read the question, and has been in my thoughts all day. So I thought I would share it here.

I was artistic as a kid, always drawing. And my parents supported and nurtured that the best they knew how. They paid for and drove me to classes, where I underachieved, much as I did in school. I enjoyed it, but at some level I didn’t ‘get’ it. I didn’t see the point. I worked on specific things, how to draw with pen and ink, with charcoal and chalk, graphite. I worked on how to draw from photographs, from objects or places in front of me or from imagery in my head. But, big picture-wise, I don’t ever remember thinking about being creative, or what that meant.

One day, a Saturday, my Dad headed into his office at the Department of Interior in Washington, DC. He asked me to come along, and I jumped at the chance. Never mind that he never asked me to go to his office before, and never mind that he never went into work on a Saturday. Any moment with my Dad was relished back then, no questions asked, and though he died long ago — far closer to that day than to this one — all those moments are cherished still.

The Department of Interior in, say, 1974, was grey. Inside and out. Floor to ceiling. We walked down long corridors under bands of yellow, flickering fluorescent light. The first office building I was ever in. I wondered why my Dad spoke to some people, ignored others. We passed door after door and saw empty offices with grey filing cabinets and grey metal desks. Then we stopped at an open door and my Father spoke. “Bob? I want you to meet Eddie.”

I caught up and peered in the door as a man turned around to greet us. Not from a metal desk, but from an easel. The fluorescent bulbs in his office had been removed, and he had warm, bright floor lamps in their place. Covering the cold linoleum was an ornate area rug. He listened to music.

As I shook hands with wildlife artist Bob Hines, my Dad said he’d be back in a bit and continued down the hall. I was shy, not to mention confused. But it didn’t take long for my attention to turn from the empty doorway back to Bob and the easel.

I will never forget the painting he was working on. I didn’t know at the time what a bighorn sheep was, but he had several photos of them clipped to the side of the easel. His painting showed a mature bighorn not in any of the positions depicted in the photos. I was confused for the severalth time since breakfast. His words broke my dumbfounded trance. “Your Dad tells me you’re an artist too.” I remember being embarrassed, for some reason.

We talked, and I got more comfortable, and started looking around and soaking it all in. “You don’t have a desk.” He laughed, and threw a nod toward the easel. “It’s just different than everyone else’s.” As slowly as those flickering tubes of gas in the cold hallway first thing in the morning, I started to figure it out. “You do art as your JOB?” Another laugh.

Bob Hines, artist for the Bureau of Sports Fisheries and Wildlife at the time of our meeting, produced a huge volume of work. From conservation stamps to illustrations for dozens of books and pamphlets. It took me a while to figure out that the meeting was of course set up in advance. Why my Dad chose to play it off as a chance encounter I never asked, it’s just kind of how he did things. I continued to draw, and to some extent to underachieve, and I certainly never became a renowned wildlife artist. But until today I’ve never thought back to that day in enough detail to write about it, which is noteworthy in a couple ways. First, it points to the value of writing, I had no idea I remembered it in as much detail as I do. And second, maybe I didn’t follow down Bob’s path. Maybe instead of an easel in my office I have a desk. Maybe I never could study photos of animals and construct and illustrate a pose from that knowledge. But you know what? I’m a graphic designer. I do art as my job. And how many people get to say that?


Ceramics Experiment

I’ve been working with ceramic artist and instructor Amy Manson on translating some of my carved blocks into ceramic tiles. And even though I’m just starting to experiment, and working with clay is totally new to me so my results are pretty rough, I thought I’d share what I’m doing. And since I started a new project from scratch just as sort of a test, I’ll walk you through the whole process…

I started with a 4″x5″ linoleum block, and even though I personally get much better results if I take more time at this phase, I didn’t. A rough sketch of my image, reversed, from an old photo I have of Winnie as a puppy jumping off the ground toward the camera.

I carved away the background, very loosely, leaving lots of ridges and shapes that will show up in the clay.

Then I did some more subtle carving for the actual dog, I was curious just how small a depression could be and still show up. Very small!

Then, as Amy showed me in her studio and made it look easy, I covered a board with canvas as a non-stick work surface, got two slats and a dowel, rolling the dowel over the clay until it spreads to the thickness of the slats. I mentioned Amy made it look easy. I found the clay stuck to the dowel and I couldn’t get a nice even slab. So I basically got stuck on Step One.

But I had gone this far, so what the hell. I pressed the block into the clay and tried to apply even pressure. But the variation in thickness showed in some areas that didn’t imprint. Also, the sticky clay didn’t cleanly separate from the block, so there’s an area that’s just kind of a mess. I’m going to buy some different clay.

I also don’t remember what tool Amy showed me to use to cut the slab when I’m done. Did I mention I’m not a very good student? So anyway, this was done sloppily too, with the wrong tool. But there you have it, a clay tile.

At Amy’s studio, we made a few tiles from existing blocks, and then tried some different glaze combinations. This is my favorite, might be hard to see but the image is me shielding a puppy from the rain with an umbrella.

And here is a tile made from the Rose River Brown block I recently made prints from. I like some aspects of this, particularly the texture and that amber color. The rest of the background needs something more, but like I said, I’m just getting started with this experiment. I hope to have something cool to report soon about it, so please keep in touch!