A Lens with a View

Thanks for taking the time to look over my blog.  What I hope for this space is to think a little about what it means to me to share my photographs with you.  It means a lot to me that you would want to see my photos or even to read my blog.  Let's do interact as we think together about the artistic medium of photography.  I hope you see something worthwhile in the photos and will take a moment to share what you see. 

My Artist's Statement

August 05, 2012  •  Leave a Comment


My aim as a photographer is to create fine art photographs.  A photograph that is fine art manifests something of the truth and beauty of the world in which we live and move and have our being. 

A little more than ten years ago, I thought I wanted to document the world we live in.  I took pictures of everything.  My grandchildren soon grew tired of always seeing me with a camera in front of my face.  They did not want to be documented.  With their help, I slowly found documentation was not what I wanted to do as a photographer.  People need an opportunity to slow down and perhaps to see what might otherwise have been overlooked.  I found I wanted my photographs to reveal something about the world that otherwise might remain unseen.

Today, as my interests have matured, I find that I myself have slowed down so that I make fewer images.  My subject matter has narrowed in scope so that my images reflect what I see in a landscape, a seascape, a city scene.  Though my recent work tends toward landscape, I still am very much interested in the role we humans play on the world stage.  My photographs are, then, very much a personal expression, and here I have been influenced, as have so many in the 20th century, by Ralph Waldo Emerson’s recognition of the individual. 

For the last 20 years in my day job as a professor of writing and literature, I have given many lectures on the craft of writing and on literature and read many papers at literary and professional conferences.  I have published short stories.  Even the literary critical papers I considered a kind of creative production as I explored a writer’s world in words.  I finally decided to quit my day job, but the literary world I was so much a part of gives me a way of thinking about fine art photography. 

A fine art photograph is a poem, a visual poem.

A photographer pursues his work much as does a writer.  As a photographer, I choose my subject and the camera and lenses to capture a subject the same way I, as writer, choose a subject and make decisions about point of view and how the subject will be developed.  The image is composed like a rough draft. 

When my freshmen writers had completed a draft, they thought they were finished, but professional writers know when they have a first draft in hand the work of writing begins.  In the same way, what I envision in the photograph, what I want to show my audience, requires that the image be reworked after the image capture.  In the writing process we call this rewriting or revision.  The photographer rewrites, or re-visions, or re-imagines, the image until what was first envisioned in the original capture is manifest.

Such revising of the image requires the use of the tools now available to the (digital) photographer.  I am using my fifth camera, a Canon 5D Mark II, to capture images.  Digital imaging technology has developed so rapidly since 2001 when I bought my first digital that the first four cameras I used are no longer made.  I still use my Canon EOS 5D, but the others have found their way into my museum of the yesteryears of photography.  In addition, in my most recent photo shoot I worked almost exclusively with a telephoto lens.  Post-processing work is done with Adobe Photoshop, now CS6, which gives me the ability to adjust exposure, contrast, color balance, tone, and which offers me the use of tools such as filters (poster edges, for example) or the cloning tool (to clean up unwanted elements in the image) if they are needed to get the effect I am looking for.  Once the image is ready to print, I print each image on a Canon PIXMA Pro9000 printer, most often on matte paper.  I have been experimenting recently with various kinds of matte, and as a result I am eager to do a show with prints on bamboo.  I use two print softwares – Canon Easy Print and Adobe Photoshop.

One good photograph could, of course, be an accident, but I hope to do consistently good work so that my body of work would be thought something like the collected poems of Anne Bradstreet, or Emily Dickinson, or Robert Hayden.  It is a part of our humanness to create art, and art is the rare combination of truth with beauty through which, like an open window, we become aware of another world.

Hershall Spradley

August 2012

7th Annual Port Aransas ArtFest - May 2012

May 24, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

Wednesday, May 23, 2012, Port Aransas

The weekend past, Donnie and I put up our first show booth for hwsPhotoArt in Port Aransas for the 7th Annual Port Aransas Artfest.  In this adventure of becoming a fine art photographer, the weekend was a new experience.  We met a number of interesting people and were encouraged in that they seemed to appreciate the work we had on display.  Several people showed their appreciation by buying.  It is humbling to realize that some consider one’s work of sufficient beauty and meaning they want to display it in their home.  It is an honor.

We were encouraged sufficiently to consider the next step in this venture.  We learned about several upcoming art shows in the central Texas corridor from other artists and are now preparing applications for these shows.  We will probably focus on central Texas this year, though there is one other show outside the state I would like to go to – the hot air balloon festival in Albuquerque. 

We met several interesting artists and crafts people this weekend, one of whom was Eric Luplow.  His booth was next to ours, and he and his wife were quite helpful in suggesting shows to explore.  We observed a number of people who knew Eric and stopped by his booth to chat and to see his new work.  Over the years he has collected several collectors of his work.  I cannot imagine what it would be like to have people want to collect one’s work.

The weekend was the culmination of a series of incidents that seemed to lead us into doing the show in Port A.  In March, an email from the Port Aransas Art Center announced the show with application attached.  That email gave notice of an April 1 deadline for applicants.  I thought about it briefly, considered that I had no experience, no equipment to set up a booth, and dismissed the idea.  In late March, I was browsing titles in Amazon for a good history of photography and came across a book by Alain Briot, Marketing Fine Art Photography.  After browsing the Table of Contents, I decided to get the book.  Briot writes that being an artist involves people buying one’s art and making one’s art available involves, in part, doing art shows.  About the same time, an email from the art center pushed back the deadline to apply to April 24. 

Briot provided detailed information about the equipment needed to set a show – panels, lighting, arrangements – along with websites where I could purchase the equipment.  On a Friday afternoon in early April, Donnie and I sat down at our computers, and as I looked up prices on the internet, she constructed a spread sheet.  It would take about $1500 for an initial setup of equipment to do an art show.  We sat at our computers and talked over whether we could do it.  As we talked, I went to Craig’s List.  On Craig’s List I found a listing for an art show package.  A water color artist was selling his setup – the panels, his pop-up tent, all his lights – for $600.  That was amazing. 

He lived in Austin about 20 minutes away.  That was more amazing.

That weekend, our son Jon and his wife Maxine were moving into an apartment.  He and I went to U-Haul Saturday morning to pick up the truck he had rented.  We moved them into their apartment, and then I drove the truck up to the old Mueller Airport area and bought Greg Miles’s equipment.  Another amazing part of the adventure – I had means to transport Miles’s setup back to the house.

On Monday, I sent in my registration for the 7th Annual Port Aransas Art Fest.

A good friend, Robert McCandless, told me about Square Up.  Donnie and I investigated and settled on Intuit’s GoPayment.  We would be able to take credit cards.  Donnie worked in the book booth for the women’s conference at church and got experience using Square.  Robert and his wife Gail have provided invaluable help.  Robert helped me make concrete weights to stabilize the tent.  They gave us director’s chairs, and Gail loaned us her show work kit.  Finally, we needed a way to transport the panels, the tent, all the prints stored in plastic bins, and our luggage down to Port A.  The Helmers, also good friends, loaned us their Suburban.

I worked hard to build an inventory of matted and framed prints to bring to the show.  It was good work, working with my mind and my hands, doing the printing, matting, backing, framing.  And so, we have now done our first art show.  It was a good weekend, and we have begun a new adventure on the right foot.

We stayed in Port A the rest of the week.  Another part of the story that moved us in the direction of art shows is that we spent a weekend in Port A in February.  We stayed at the Tarpon Inn, which has some value in that the Tarpon Inn is an historic hotel and we can say we stayed there … once.  But once is enough.  When we got home, I got online and found a place to stay for the last week of mid-season.  We would come down for a holiday week.  It just so happened that the ArtFest would be the weekend during our planned holiday.

It has been a very good week.  Not quite the holiday we would usually plan for our time in Port A.  Instead, we have gotten to know Port A a little more, dedicating time to several photoshoots – in the nature reserve, on the south jetty, on the beach, and on a quick trip to the Lydia Ann lighthouse, named after the daughter of the first lighthouse keeper.  We have seen more blue herons than we have ever seen before on our trips to Port A; we have explored Mustang Island and come to know more deeply this area where we have been coming when we needed to get away since our honeymoon 44 years ago.

For those who might be interested, I have framed work hanging in the Port Aransas Art Center and a few matted prints in the bins.  As of June 10, I will have a work hanging at the Rockport Art Center, “Sailing to Byzantium 3”.


A Lens with a View

April 12, 2012  •  Leave a Comment

We use a lens to see.  Like a magnifying glass for example.  To see close up.  I have in my library the one-volume addition of the Oxford English Dictionary, that is, a 20+ volume work reduced down to one volume.  The one volume has 2371 pages, and each page has 9 pages of the 20+ volume work reduced to fit.  The one volume work comes with a magnifying glass.

Or like a telescope.  During the 2010 football season, I was watching an NFL game late Sunday afternoon.  At halftime, the announcers said they wanted to show something unusual.  One of the cameramen had been getting his camera ready for the telecast, and to check out his zoom lens, he focused on the moon, and then zoomed out past the moon until finally (as his camera test had been recorded and now millions of people were watching on television) we could see on television the rings of Saturn.  It was an amazing few minutes.

And so the idea of a lens has become a metaphor for seeing things, for bringing them up close, for bringing things into focus.  A lens helps us understand.

A photographer uses two lens to make a photograph, the lens of his or her camera and the lens of her or his eye.  We look through the photographer's lenses to see and even seeing is a metaphor for understanding.  There is a possibility that a well seen photograph can affect our own vision of the world.  A well-seen photograph could perhaps provide a better understanding of the world within which we all live, an understanding of what we may not have seen before.

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