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Welcome to the online blog for traveler/writer/photographer Steven Barber. Come in. Relax. Take off your shoes and socks -- or any other article of clothing, this is the internet. Have a look around. I hope to intrigue, amuse, entertain, and maybe provoke you just a little. I love to find adventure. All I need is a change of clothes, my Nikon, an open mind and a strong cup of coffee.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

A Moment in Time

Here we are. At the end of 2012 , looking to the new year with anticipation and hoping for the potential it has to make those bad things right and those right things permanent. It has become an almost ritualized time of optimism that coincides with a number of religious and secular celebrations of miracles and mankind.

It's also a time of reflection. Looking back at the last year, and perhaps further dependent upon your personal lot in life. In the week between Christmas and the New Year I'll be posting a look back at the last year in travel -- those places we've been and the experiences we've had on the road. A fair amount of territory, both familiar and new, was covered this year, though in a more concentrated geography than the preceding couple of years.

And plans are afoot for a fascinating series of trips next year. 2013 is shaping up to be quite active with three fairly solid trips already taking form.

Below are a handful of photos I've taken while on the road. Nothing in the last few years, but these tell stories to me if to nobody else, so I'm going to indulge in a little bit of looking backward at moments that hold a lot of meaning to me personally. That's the value, in my opinion, of photography. Each shot should tell a story, and preserve an instant of time. In time. And, as I note in my artist's statement at barbergallery.net:

"Much of the challenge (and pleasure) of photography is to give a sense of place. While the photographer may have concrete memories of a moment he/she has captured in time, the viewer does not. 

What has to occur for the viewer to appreciate a photograph is the triggering of a memory, thought or emotion. 

For a picture to be truly successful it must be visceral, capturing the essence of what the photographer saw, and melding it to a feeling the viewer once felt. 

I am drawn to take a picture as a result of a fraction-of-a-second emotional reaction. If I see something that attracts my eye it must, in that fraction, catch me and then tell me a story. 

For me to later select that picture -- among the potentially hundreds of others I have taken -- as one which I wish to share, it has to have a little something extra, a little something that brings me up short, makes me stop and look. 

And look again."

49th Street Station - New York City, 2010

I happened to be on walkabout late one night while in Manhattan. The activity level of the city was just beginning to die down on the side streets, though still in full gear along the main boulevards. As I was walking I happened to see this gentleman sitting on a stoop grabbing a smoke. It's a quiet moment in the midst of a busy Saturday night. Who is he? Is he just off the train or just before boarding? Does he work at a local business? Doing what? My mind conjures a number of responses, but for now he's simply a loner sitting on a step with his cigarette, lost in thought. 

Nothing But a Blur - New Orleans, 2006

Taken less than six months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Crescent City, this captures my attention. Most of us have had those evenings when we over-indulged. It's not a pleasant memory, if indeed we can even remember it. But in this shot I see a moment in time we (mostly) can share. When the battle cry was "one more shot", at a time when our bodies could handle those things. (Is it that my tolerance for alcohol has decreased over the years, or my tolerance for hangovers? Regardless, it's had the same effect.) For anyone who has had one of those "nothing but a blur" evenings, I hope you can relate. (I have added a good bit of grain to this shot to add a bit of a dreamlike texture, adding to the "blur" of the title.)

In Shadows - Palos Verdes Peninsula, 2001

The afternoon sun can give you harsh shadows and deep silhouettes. Rather than fighting it I tend to like to play with that lighting, using the sun to bracket a subject and let that tell me more that a close up or differently lit angle might have conveyed. In this case, a boy was riding his bicycle along the sidewalk in a park abutting the cliffs along the southern edge of the Palos Verdes Peninsula. There is a beautiful lighthouse in this particular park, so I was spending some time finding different angles and trying to create a mood -- this was taken before I'd made the full transition to digital, so each shot was a more labor-intensive effort than it would be today. The boy hopped off his bike to ask me what I was taking a picture of. I told him, and then asked if I could take his picture with his bike (a decade later this sort of thing might get me arrested.) He said yes, and this is the result. I like the body language and silhouette against the bright sidewalk. It might be a short story, but a story nonetheless. (Post-work includes a watercolor filter, so the image has more of a painted quality.)

Lap of Luxury - Boulder, Colorado, 2005

Springtime in Boulder is a beautiful time. The town nestles itself against the eastern edge of the Rockies, in a low valley between mountain and prairie. It's a quiet college town that prides itself on its colorful history, with a bohemian vibe out of step with the rest of the state. The most commonly seen car, I think, is a Subaru, indicative of the population's love of the outdoors. The mountains are a playground for Boulder-ites. Hiking, skiing, rock-climbing. Boulder is an energetic city, comfortable in its own skin and seemingly independent of the rest of the world. Even the homeless seem to be more at ease...

Two Sisters - Capala, Mexico, 2008 

I was on a trip through the foothills of the Sierra Madre. A brief but intense storm had brushed through the town of Copala, knocking out the power. In a lesson for stateside eateries, the restaurant in town -- an open-air patio overlooking the mountains -- fed a tour group of some forty people without an erg of electricity. The only challenge was navigating the pitch-dark restrooms if nature called. Once we finished with the meal, a wonderful repast of shredded pork on house-made tortillas, locally grown vegetables and a wonderful dip with the consistency of hummus but the flavors of Mexico, we wandered down the road a bit to see some of the local sights. (The rather unfortunate photo of the gaudily dressed tourist atop a small donkey -- used in a couple of previous blog entries -- was made at this same time.) Looking down the side streets, I chanced upon these young girls making their way somewhere, their cheery and bright outfits in contrast to the rust-colored wetness of the roadway, a self-contained world with a population of two.

Tears on the Sands - Santa Barbara, 2008 (below)

This shot is a little misleading, I will admit. I don't believe the two people in the picture are actually interacting with each other. I was out with my cameras early on a particularly bleak and gray day, frustrated at the lighting in a city renowned for its sunshine. As I was working to salvage what had, up to that point, been a series of dark and muddy shots of the pier and State Street, I happened to see these people on the beach. Using a long range telephoto I managed to capture what appears to be a moment of anger on the part of the woman in the foreground, and contrition in the silhouetted man in the background. Part of this was accomplished in post, reducing him to nothing but a shadows, while she stands in stark relief against the beach. It's a case of seeing an event and capturing it, and then finding the story it tells you, rather than what might actually have been occuring. 

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