13 thoughts on “30 / Normal Skies

  1. This has been a wonderful series, John. I have really enjoyed the variety in the images, appreciated even more by the constraints of lens and monochrome. I started out on a similar project a number of years ago; mine didn’t end as well. My commitment crumbled quickly…

    #30 is a great image to finish with. Land, sea, and sky; beautiful tone and texture in each one.

    1. I really appreciate your comment, and it made me laugh when you said your commitment crumbled, because by the twentieth day I was contemplating calling it quits as well. The constraints you mentioned were definitely a factor, but even more so was the goal I’d given myself to shoot, edit and post by 9 am. It was a humorous conversation with my son at the breakfast table that kept me going.

      Having now completed the project, the enriching things that came from it seem to outweigh the negatives. In particular, I enjoyed the various sequences that seemed to present themselves (where one day’s image connects to the following in some sort of interesting way). I also liked the way you get a feel for the optical “music” of a lens by exploring it through a vigorous exercise like this.

      There was another inspiration (often experienced while driving to these locations before dawn), and it was the thought of all the essential workers everywhere driving to far more important tasks.

      Thanks so much Michael!

      1. Thanks for directing me to your conversation with Mic. First, I hear you about feeling deep appreciation for the people passing on the road but you must know that what you do is essential, too. The notion of the optical “music” of a lens is so interesting – that’s something to chew on. Discovering series the way you described it is something I have noticed and enjoyed a number of times – that was a nice benefit. The discipline of making a decent image each day, processing it, and posting it for a month straight is hard enough to imagine doing. I’m not the sort who thrives on routines – but add in the other constraints and it’s daunting. I hope you do more (even if on a more time-limited basis), and tell us more about the challenges and rewards as you go. Thank you.

        1. Thanks Lynn. I’m not one for routines either, but for me, it became an antidote for the relentlessness of the pandemic and the toxic election we just went through. Most of those days it was really inspiring for me, getting up before dawn to photograph. The constraints we’re discussing seemed to surface on certain days, and usually with editing. Day 20 was the most conspicuous of those.

          Essential work? Yes, of course…artists have always been doing it. 🤔😊

      2. Your story of waning commitment is interesting; the 9 am deadline really was ambitious. Please pass on our thanks to your son for encouraging you.

        I was going to ask about your take-aways when the project was done. Your description of optical “music” is intriguing; I hadn’t thought about it in that way. When I started back in the early ’70s a fast normal lens is what I had and it was “universal”. There is a certain spontaneity in taking a simple lightweight camera and going with it; I am trying to relearn that.

        Thanks for your retrospective thoughts on the project, John.

        1. I think we’ve been involved in photography for about the same number of years. Back in the 70’s, I could only afford a Minolta with a few prime lenses, so I grew to like that spontaneity you describe with a simple lightweight camera. As I started making a living at this in the 80’s, I avoided zooms: The main axe was a Hasselblad with 3 primes (along with two 645 Fuji cameras). Ten years later I bought the Contax G2 system with its three primes, so after 40 years I’ve never really worked with a zoom.

          I shot this series with a 20mm F1.7 Panasonic, a lens which is actually a bit-shy-of-normal, and close in focal length to my Zeiss 45mm on my Contax G2.

          Optical music: I like thinking of lenses as musical instruments each able to “play” a scene with different feel. This seems especially true for moderate focal lengths (28mm-90mm on a 35mm camera). Had I shot this final image with my wide for example, it would’ve included part of the bluff I was standing on and would’ve had a much more sprawling sky. To me, the wide is great at conveying a narrative. It also leaves a bit of a “footprint.” If I’d made the photo with a 90mm, it would be a cloud image, rendered with the elegance that I associate with that optic. To me, the normal is the shyest of the three standard lenses. It simply conveys the scene.

          About that 9am deadline… I was hoping it would dial in more spontaneity; help me make the best of wherever I was and whatever weather and light was there.

          I also wanted to get the posts up and running before everyone in Europe went to bed. 🙂

          Thanks for your comment Michael. Appreciate your thoughts.

        2. Yes, I started out in a similar way but with a Pentax and a couple of prime lenses. But by the ’80s family and work pulled me away (mostly) from photography for 15 years although I tried a lot of cameras and lenses during that time. I settled on 24-120 mm equiv. zooms mainly for logistical reasons; for what I do they’re ‘good enough’ although I sometimes wish they were faster and, more often, lighter weight. I think zooms are a lot better today than the few that were available back in the ’70s. 🙂 I also became committed to photography as an amateur.

          Thanks again for sharing your perspectives on all of this, John.

  2. A beautiful picture to complete a great series. I looked forward each morning in November to your postings. The sky, to me at least, offers a sorely needed ray of hope in this year filled with so much despair and negativity. From a young age, we’re encouraged to “look up;” don’t “look down.” Your pictures this month heed that advise. We see in the sky transcendence, optimism and peace. At least I do. Thanks for all the self sacrifice involved in rising at 5:30 on cold mornings to capture these images. A job very well done.

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