Real Expression

Using a camera to reproduce what our eyes see is a technological challenge that seems to get easier every day. But putting into pixels what your heart feels as your finger hovers over the shutter button – now that’s a different story.

For those who have worked with me, such musings may seem a-characteristic. I’m a very technical person; someone who loves figuring out how to make something work, and not sleeping until I do. Be it a camera, computer or new piece of software, technology has a way of making my brain happy.

Even still, as I write this, I’m carrying around a nearly four-year-old iPhone. I guess…technology for technology’s sake is not my passion. I’ll be the first to jump to the next new thing, but there’s one caveat: I should need it in my work, in my art.  For me, imaging technology is the tool I use to share with others the world as it appears to me. It’s my version of the painter’s brush; the musician’s instrument.

west virginia photography victoria weeks verglas media
essence of autumn

Sometimes the client or the project calls for capturing “reality.”  But we’re not really capturing “reality,” only an image of it. Using every tool of technology and technique, we attempt to convey a moment’s unique visual experience to someone not there. Was this not the initial promise and allure of photography…to be able to share an experience of the eye? It remains a worthy goal of the camera-person, and done well, it is magic.

I remember clearly the moment I learned that Picasso’s early paintings were wonderfully true-to-life. Only later did he choose to explore and focus on the abstraction of life. For a while, this left me puzzled about what defined an artist. At the time, I strove to re-create reality using pencils and paint…and almost missed out on what I now see as the artist’s greatest gift: expression.

I also vividly recall when I realized it was time to pick up a camera. Surely the knobs and glass and rules and film would help me wrestle this reality beast a little more forcefully. At one point, I was drawing a scene lit with a candle – a common  art school exercise – and struggling at recreating its “realness”.  Somehow, I thought a camera would make this easier. So I learned the tool. Easier? Not so much.

west-virginia-photography-verglas-media-victoria-weeks
soul sisters

Almost two decades later, and low light situations still have a way of driving me crazy. But I’m not about to write a camera review touting ISO limits or lens speeds. Nor am I promoting a preference for ambient light vs. flash vs. continuous.  Though to make any photograph or video all of that tech stuff must happen, and to tell the truth, to me it’s fascinating. But even more satisfying than understanding the technology, is using the camera to tell a story, share an experience, offer a new perspective or sometimes just coerce a smile.

Ahhh, the smile. As the old saying goes, heating with wood warms you twice – first when you cut and stack it, and later when it burns. Something similar happens with photography, when it comes to smiling. When I work with people, I find there’s a smile on my face during the shoot, and often on the face of the subject. Then, later, in the editing process the happiness, success or passion in peoples’ eyes brings another smile. Later – and this is my hope – a smile will soften the day of the person who sees my work. That’s a lot of smiles.

Unfortunately not everything brings a smile. Documenting our world with photography and videography can reveal many truths: truths and realities that do not bring smiles. In many ways, capturing life’s realities on film, digital, still, or video may be photography’s noblest goal. Photography can educate, inform and inspire. It can also bring people to action, begetting change: Perhaps an even nobler goal.

Yet as a photographer, reviewing this year’s work, I can’t help but notice I was lucky enough to be around a lot of smiles, and things to smile about. For that, I’m thankful.

-vw

photos © 2014 Victoria Weeks/Verglas Media

For the Love of Art

Art is a sharing of the soul that is not to be taken lightly.  Each creative act has its own risk and reward. And the ratio is never predictable.

So why do we keep at it?

As a lone painter, a dance group, a production company, a species –  why do we keep going back to the fire? I don’t think there’s a single answer, one that applies to all those who create.  But, based on my own experience, I feel it’s a question worth examining. Continue reading For the Love of Art

Science or Bust!

For an artist, I’ve been thinking a lot about science lately. Perhaps it’s not too much of a stretch, as Leonardo da Vinci and Carl Sagan showed us, the two often go hand in hand.  However, they are also fundamentally different.  Art is subjective.  Science is not.

I’ll start with art.  H.G Wells put it nicely:  “Beauty is in the heart of the beholder.”  Powerful in its simplicity, and a concept to which we can probably all relate.  For instance, have you ever come across a painting, a sculpture or a piece of music and stopped in your tracks?  It may reach into your soul and grab for the air in your lungs. Or have you ever walked out of a movie theater with your head spinning as you wonder how in the world this filmmaker knew to make a movie about your life?  Maybe there’s a tear or two involved, it was just that great.

So you decide to share it.  However, you soon find out that your mom, friend, coworker…whomever….well they just don’t see the big deal. That’s art for you. Subjective.

Science is different. Very different. Continue reading Science or Bust!

12 Inspirational Views of Earth From Space | Earth Day 2014

The 44th Earth Day is here, so take just a few moments to consider these game-changing views of our planet. Why? Their significance begins in the visual statement created through science and technology and persists through cultural awareness and human action.

The first Earth Day in 1970 symbolized the beginning of the modern environmental movement.  It galvanized the growing awareness and recognition that our species’ survival on this planet requires the planet to be habitable, the air breathable, the water drinkable. Continue reading 12 Inspirational Views of Earth From Space | Earth Day 2014

Who Needs a Total Lunar Eclipse When You Have Daffodils?

It turns out I do. Maybe what I really need is a little expectation management, a skill which continues to elude me.

So, maybe the day did not offer the perfect lunar photographic opportunity I had hoped for, but it did present a beautiful alternative in its overcast hand.

Around here, yellow is the first truly vibrant color we see as the snows melt. A common wildflower, Coltsfoot, small and unobtrusive, suddenly pops up holding out hope in its tiny bloom.

Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)
Coltsfoot (Tussilago farfara)

However, it is always overshadowed by the ornamental Daffodil of seemingly endless variety. Intentionally over-planted, they carry us through the first month of spring, giving us a reminder that the rest of the yard, let alone the forest, is about to burst.

As am I.  Could the clouds be clearing? Maybe, maybe not.  But so far it’s been a nice day behind the camera.

Narcissus.
Narcissus.

Wanderlust: Going West: The Movie and Locations!

An inspirational journey through the iconic beauty of the American West.  In just four minutes we hope to transport you through space and time, without ever leaving the planet, or, for that matter, your chair.

Wanderlust: Going West, a new short by  Verglas Media, uses time-lapse photography to take the viewer across landscapes as iconic and colorful as the history of this country. National Parks  seem to serve as sacred land to many Americans, and National Forests add to the opportunities for preservation and recreation. These protected areas, in some ways, are able to escape the endless march of progress.  For me they represent a chance to experience the natural beauty and human stories that are quintessentially American.

Our last post explained the inspiration behind the film, so here I’d like to get down to the nuts and bolts:  location, location, location.  As humans, we are inevitably connected to place. When we leave the most familiar place, home, our eyes can’t help but open wide as our brains swell with new input. It’s my belief that this is why we leave home and travel to strange places, to be inspired, to expand our beings as much as our list of places, to become more than we were when we departed.

Not everyone has this opportunity. Many Americans, let alone much of this planet’s population, do not have the time, means or even physical ability to make such a trip as this film covers.  It is not without a profound sense of luck of circumstance that I look upon my travel experiences. The dedication at the beginning of the film takes particular note of one of these people of whom I speak, whose circumstances did not permit them to exercise the wanderlust passed on to me.

Okay, I did say nuts and bolts.  Here we go:

Canaan Valley, West Virginia – Almost heaven in my book, and a place I now call home.   When I was struck with a particularly strong bout of home-sickness in West Texas, I thought of the coming winter’s first snow in the mountains. Instant peace.

I-90, South Dakota – It stretches out for quite a way, passing along endless fields and eventually dumping us into Wyoming. Wide. Open. Space.

Bear Lodge, Devils Tower National Monument, Wyoming –  This is truly sacred ground to various tribes of Native American Indians, such as the Lakota and Arapaho. Its original name varies as well, but it belongs to a bear or a buffalo, not a devil. A hike around it reveals many, many more prayer bundles than climbers.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota – A  huge, gaping gash opens up in the northern Great Plains.  There is some serious vertigo and geological history to be experienced here.

Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming – The country’s – and world’s – first National Park is full of American icons: Old Faithful, Yellowstone Falls, buffalo herds, elk and boiling rivers.

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming – Hard to imagine a  more magnificent set of peaks existing in the Lower 48, with such striking views for miles around. We stayed in the area for over a week, enjoying the park after attending the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival. Snowy peaks, amazing films and filmmakers, and Jane Goodall added up to one fantastic week in September.

Bell Rock, Coconino National Forest, Arizona – Right outside of Sedona, this butte conjures up special connections to other corners of our galaxy.  Or does it? Hard to say for sure, but its towering presence can’t be denied.

Gooseberry Mesa, BLM, Utah – Not far from Zion National Park, this mesa is a little plateau of starry nights and amazing mountain biking. You’d never know it from the road!

Arches National Park, Utah – We happened to be leaving Moab just as the park was re-opening after the partial government shutdown of 2013.  No politics here, just a simple observation: the line of cars at the gate stretched on for half a mile!

El Morro National Monument, New Mexico – Quiet, and seemingly off the beaten path. However, one hike around El Morro rock and you’ll see carvings from centuries of travelers – from Anasazi (Ancestral Puebloans) to Spanish conquistadors to good old modern graffiti artists. And for good reason: El Morro’s huge water hole served as a refuge in the desert.

Very Large Array (VLA) National Radio Astronomy Observatory, New Mexico – 27 radio antennas with computer controlled tracking systems are nestled in Plains of San Agustin about 50 miles out of Soccorro, New Mexico.  Jodie Foster, star of Contact, filmed here for five days among fog, rain and cold. Here’s a great overview of the making of Contact!

Fajada Butte, Chaco Culture National Historical Park, New Mexico – One of the original American astronomical observatories, and site of the famous Sun Dagger.  This famous butte in Chaco Canyon, surrounded by the crumbling ruins of some of the most phenomenal Anasazi architecture, holds an ancient astronomical marker of the seasons.  These people were star-gazers – and artists.

Speaking of artists, the film’s music is by DB Kaufman, entitled “This Was Never Our Mountain.”  Photography is by Victoria Weeks and Eric Erbe, with editing by Victoria Weeks.

Enjoy the video and please share with others!  Be sure to visit some of the links to learn more about each location.  Better yet: visit some of these locations for yourself, and see many of these very angles. No climbing rope or ice axe needed!   And if you’ve been there, done that – feel free to share with us in the comments below!

Wanderlust: Going West: The Inspiration

Growing up on the East Coast of North America, I’ve always found myself at home on the seashore. Upon visiting for the first time in a while, my preference is usually marked by a large intake of briny air; relief and reverence in one: Ah, the ocean.

I’ve seen many a sunrise from the Eastern Shore of the U.S., and each time it’s worthy of the alarm clock waking me, pushing me out the door, pre-caffeinated and barely aware. Cutting through the wind and cold or heat and humidity I can always find beauty and peace on the beach. There is also a very simple truth attached to these moments:  Wherever you are, the sun will rise in the East. And later, it will set in the West.

So, what else happens in the West?

Long ago, I had the chance to find out for myself. I hopped on a plane, and five and a half hours later, landed in California. The wonders of flight – I’d found another ocean! I get this, I thought, this is the West!

In the years since I’ve traveled to various western states: Colorado, Nevada, Washington, Wyoming, Montana, Texas…the usual suspects. Many of these trips were short visits, a few days or a week, for either work or play, or a little of both. Focused and intentional, yes, but always short-lived. Even longer trips to Arizona and Utah were always truncated by the need to move on to the next location, or simply to go back home.

Recently, I did something a little different. I covered this country in a two-axle vehicle, never leaving the ground. I didn’t even make it all the way across, but often felt as if I’d traveled through time, sometimes to another country, even to another planet. This is a striking phenomenon. When we step off an airplane, we expect to be somewhere else. Someplace different. It’s jarring. Very. But expected.

A road trip is different. As my favorite travel partner, my husband,  piloted the van I could put my feet on the dashboard, or camera out the window, or even take a cat-nap. In-between map reading and iPhone wrangling, the external scenery continually morphed in front of me. I experienced a gentle internal transformation, and with it, an even greater appreciation for this country and the vast spaces held between its borders.

As visitors we were presented with many a Louis and Clark monument, and once, overlooking the Missouri River, we stood paralyzed with awe as we tried to comprehend their journey. There were close encounters with sacred sites, accompanied by fierce wind and passing storms. We spent a week with the jutting peaks of the Tetons overtaking our view-shed, and the bold wildlife of Yellowstone National Park had a way of reorganizing our day. As the autumn progressed, long, clear nights revealed the Milky Way, and our awareness of the lunar cycle was re-awakened. We talked a lot about the Anasazi – where they traveled, how they slept, what they might have talked about on such a night.  During the day, we walked gingerly through their crumbling masterpieces. We had an un-nerving campsite outside of White Sands National Monument, reminded that rockets are used for other purposes besides propelling scientific instruments into space for the good of humankind. There were sobering moments looking out over the Trinity Site, followed by our own personal scene from Contact as we watched the Very Large Array in a slow motion dance. And always – always – we passed through a small town that seemed straight out of another decade, some aching and left behind while others were thriving and revitalized. We had destinations, yes, but we also had aimlessness. We had freedom.

This is what happens in the West.

Oh, and did I mention we had cameras?

This gallery serves as a sneak peak into a new short travel film that we’ll be releasing very soon. Wanderlust: Going West. Please, enjoy these stills and stay tuned. There are time-lapses, sunrises and even buffalo herds to follow, along with a fascinating overview of our locations.

-vw

Art. Life. Science. Tech. Just like the varied forms of precipitation, they are all related.

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