Be a part of Buffalo Photobug!

I live in a wildly visual place, blessed with hulking grain elevators, historic streetscapes,
downright crazy weather and many-an-interesting character. I’ve always been
enticed to explore it with a camera and try to capture its imagery. I love to
photograph – and do it for just that reason. I have no clients, no expectations
for “results” or “success.” The joy is in the process.

Yet, of course, I love to show my work —I’ve had several photos exhibited and published, and have placed in a few contests. And, yes,  I photograph when I travel, but I find deep inspiration throughout the Buffalo/Niagara region and environs (sometimes just across the border in Canada).

This blog is all about giving you – the amateur photobug – some ideas and inspiration for capturing the Buffalo/Niagara area (visitors — and even pros — may find it of interest, as well).

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The Shoot List: National Historic Landmarks in Buffalo, N.Y.

Fewer than 2,500 historic places bear the distinction of being National Historic Landmarks. According to the National Historic Landmarks Program, these are nationally significant historic places designated by the Secretary of the Interior because they possess “exceptional value or quality in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States.”

Significantly, there are eight National Historic Landmarks within the city limits of Buffalo, N.Y. Have you seen them all? My goal is to photograph each of them. I’ve made good progress, but still have some exploring to do. Sounds like a fun to-do list!

Martin House designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, Buffalo, N.Y.

Darwin D. Martin House Complex, 125 Jewett Pkwy. — Recently renovated and open to the public for tours.
Buffalo, N.Y. National Historic Landmark.

Tiffany window in St. Paul's Cathedral, Buffalo, N.Y.

A TIP: Enjoy eautiful music in a beautiful space! Each Friday (except in summer) the Cathedral hosts free half-hour recitals at 12:30 p.m.

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For Love of Weather — Lessons from Charles Burchfield

“All weather is beautiful and full of powerful emotion,” said Charles Burchfield, a brilliant painter who spent much of his life in Western New York.

He embraced weather, waiting so he could capture “the moment of change.” Many of his paintings depict eternal themes — cycles of nature and transitions of seasons and light.

He refers to (and paints) “the rhythm of rain.” He describes autumn as “the dignity of October” and sees in September “the wideness and completeness of Nature.” He writes the word “Nature” with a capital “N.”

At the Burchfield Penney Art Center on Elmwood Avenue on the Buffalo State College campus, several outstanding examples of Burchfield’s reflections on weather are accumulated in the current exhibition, “Charles E. Burchfield: Weather Event” (on view through Feb. 26, 2012).  In addition, Burchfield’s doodle-filled journals and diaries hold clues to his mindset as an artist. Various entries on display add to the experience of viewing his art at the museum that bears his name.

I was struck by how Burchfield somehow manges to re-create the dynamic movement of nature. His two-dimensional scenes are multisensory; looking at them, you can feel the biting winter wind or the cool summer breeze, the searing heat of August or the frigid cold of mid-January.

I empathized with a lone figure trudging through high snow banks in a sleet storm–I’ve been there!

Weather comes alive in his paintings–in all its dimensions. He painted the angry fury of weather: the wind and storms and dark forboding skies. Yet he also depicted the peaceful stillness and stark, bare landscapes.

Lessons for Photographers

These regional treasures hold myriad examples for photographers—especially those who live in a weather-driven place where Mother Nature holds an “event” on a regular basis.

The lessons are many, but here are a few I’ve gleaned and hope to put into practice with my camera (weather-permitting, of course!):

  • Celebrate weather: enjoy the change of seasons and don’t be afraid to wait out the storm or bundle up with the camera on a cold, snowy day.
  • Capture the quality of light and the intriguing colors at dawn, dusk, twilight and sunset. It’s easier to do in the winter, as the sun rises later in the morning and sets in the early evening.
  • Capture the shapes and shadows in nature, as in Burchfield’s arching trees in “Spring Silhouette.”
  • Try different perspectives: point up to capture interesting cloudscapes; get low, as in Burchfield’s wind-blown asters, sunflowers and fluffy dandelions, painted from the flower’s “point of view.”

  • Try to capture the mood and emotion in weather, through light, movement, the “moment of change,” and the transition of seasons. Capture a landscape you love (urban or rural) in each season and in varying weather conditions.
  • Incorporate people or animals in your nature scenes.

A TIP: While you’re at the Burchfield-Penney, take in another exhibit “Rapt in Beauty” in the Wendt Gallery space (through Feb. 19, 2012). It’s lovely, depicting local natural and pastoral scenes that offer a peaceful respite.

Also, take in the building itself. Walk around it, view it from across Elmwood Avenue. I never appreciated the stark beauty of the center until I took some time to really observe and photograph it. I realized how it reflects (literally) the nature that Burchfield so loved and painted.

What’s your favorite weather shot? Where were you and role did light play in the image?

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WNED’s Horizons Gallery Welcomes New Artists

Start planning for the new year!

Did you know WNED Public Broadcasting, located at 140 Lower Terrace in downtown Buffalo, has a community gallery space (Horizons Gallery) that is open to the public weekdays during usual business hours? Artists, including photographers and school groups, are welcome to host exhibits there.

WNED’s Horizons Gallery recently hosted “Artrageous,” an art exhibition featuring the work of WNED employees. That’s me (I’m the communications coordinator there) with my photo of a reflection in Delaware Park’s Japanese Garden. Planning and hosting the staff show was great fun!

The exhibitor is responsibile for hanging and taking down the show, and can have access to the gallery space for an evening  opening event (public or private).

Although much of the art has a local theme, just about any (tasteful) subject matter is welcome. There is no charge to mount an exhibit and WNED provides some publicity through its Web site and a news release.

To find out more, email the coordinator (that’s me) at skashuba at wned dot org. Think about what type of imagery you (or your group) would like to exhibit (have some samples ready) and what timeframe you would like for your show (exhibits typically run for about a month, but this is flexible).

A TIP: Consider organizing a group show with several of your photobug friends. It’s much less expensive — and more fun. Also consider a theme for your exhibit.

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Buffalo City Hall: A Photographer’s Delight

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Buffalo’s art deco-style City Hall is a special treat to photograph in any season. From within and without, it is elaborately embellished with carvings and symbolism. Highlights include:

  • Interior lobby area with massive murals depicting Buffalo’s major industries/contributions
  • Sunburst stained glass window in the City Council chambers
  • Observation deck with views of downtown, the vestiges of the city’s radial street plan and the Lake Erie waterfront

This eagle was one of my favorite architectural details. I see more every time I’m there. What one detail did you notice that intrigued you most?

A TIP: Buffalo Tours (a service of the nonprofit Preservation Buffalo Niagara) offers free tours each weekday at noon, with access to all of the above plus fascinating historical information about the building and its architectural and social context.

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Photo Op: Niagara Holiday Market

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 It finally snowed in Western New York! Now that the white stuff looks lovely, grab that camera, bundle up and head outdoors to capture it.
One of the best bets of the weekend is the Niagara Holiday Market between the falls and the casino in Niagara Falls, N.Y.  along Old Falls Street. Aside from the venders (some great local shops/foods are represented!), there’s a skating rink, lights of the season and (on Saturday, 12/10) an ice sculpting contest from 1 to 3 p.m. (with judging afterward).
Read the Buffalo News article.
Here’s the full event line-up.
If you miss it this weekend, it runs through Jan. 1.
And while you’re there, capture the beauty of the falls in winter–it’s a spectacular sight that not many experience.
If you go, what did you find to photograph? Would you return?
A TIP: The falls are illuminated at night, even in the winter. On the U.S. side, see Niagara Falls in color through Dec. 30  from 5 p.m. to midnight and on New Year’s Eve (Dec. 31) from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. What a way to ring in 2012!
To capture these nighttime scenes, use a tripod and a fast (at least approx. 1/60) shutter speed.
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Share Your Love of Upstate NY

First Niagara has a new Facebook page that encourages you to share your thoughts and photos about the Upstate New York region served by this growing bank. Contribute yours. And see what others have posted. You’ll probably get some great travel ideas, too.
Check it out!
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Tifft Nature Preserve: City Views

Explore the scenery in winter from Tifft Nature Preserve  (operated by the Buffalo Museum of Science) and you’ll find there’s plenty to draw your eye. Walk the trails, climb the mounds and enjoy the natural setting and wildlife. But definitely take in the spectacular views of the grain elevators and the city. I’m reminded that the grain elevators are Buffalo’s ruins (just a few are still in use). What a dramatic contrast they make to the serene preserve!

A tip: You’re sure to encounter the resident deer. They are beautiful, plentiful and not camera shy! Get close!
The preserve is just south of Buffalo, off the skyway.  View a map here.


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“Wright in Buffalo:” An Architectural Portrait

One of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterworks sits harmoniously on Jewett Parkway in North Buffalo–and it’s a photographer’s delight. You can tour the interior (but, as of yet, no photography is allowed). However, the grounds are accessible anytime and the Carriage House/gift shop and distinctive glass-box visitors center are open to the public whenever the site is open.

Look for Wright’s distinctive use of geometry (curved urns, horizontal lines and roof planes; and interplay of natural and architectural design). Early morning and around dusk give you lovely plays of light.  And you’ll see more season after season.

Where is the Darwin D. Martin House Complex?

A Tip: The site may offer tours that allow interior photography in the relatively near future. Occasional photo workshops are offered for both kids and adults — check the Web site for “events.”

Learn behind-the-scenes information about the Darwin Martin House and its historic restoration-in-progress by following the curator’s blog, “The Weekly Wright-Up,” each Friday.

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Buffalo’s Wildly Visual Zoo: Enter the Contest!

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Have fun with this one — the animals at the Buffalo Zoo are ready for their close up and you could get that winning shot for the zoo’s photo contest. This annual contest just for amateurs awards prizes in four categories: mammals, birds/insects, reptiles/amphibians/fish and “zoo humor,” a cateogory that requires an amusing caption to accompany your visual.

There’s a small fee per photo, but all entries are displayed at a reception for contestants and the public. Entries from the contest were recently compiled into a 2012 zoo calendar.

Although the giraffes and the bison are my favorites, I captured some beautiful and amusing critters  in Rainforest Falls and the Heritage Farm (see slide show above), and was quite entertained by a polar bear doing the backstroke. What are your favorite zoo spots?

A Tip: Winter is an interesting time to see the zoo — and it’s much less crowded. Gates are open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily in December (but closed Mondays and Tuesdays in January and February). Bring your tripod and try to get there early in the day or close to sunset. Park free in Delaware Park and enjoy the walk to the entrance.

Are you shooting a wedding? The zoo accepts reservations for indoor wedding photography in Rainforest Falls, offering some truly distinctive backdrops.

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Art for Inspiration: “Full Color Depression” Captures Everyday Life

Go see “Full Color Depression,” an exhibition of color photographs at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. It’s up through Jan. 22, 2012.

Chosen from  the iconic Farm Security Administration’s collection that documented hard times in the heartland, this exhibition may inspire you to capture (and, yes, even document) everyday life around you: people, landscapes and  signs-of-the-times  — warts and all– in your own neighborhood and family.

These photographs are stark, yet human. They helped me put the current economic downturn into perspective. Two of my favorite images: a formal, though deteriorating, Queen Ann-style house with laundry hanging all about; a mom-and-pop store selling oranges for a penny.

A tip: The gallery is open free the first Friday of each month, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., so even if you’re not a member, you won’t have to pay to see it Dec. 2, 2011 or Jan. 6, 2012.

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