Tarmac ribbons criss-crossing the landscape, dusty back roads twisting between the cool shadows of ancient pines, and less traveled pathways connecting present to past, all I wander, seeking, seeing, with my keyboard and camera capturing scenes and stories to share with you.

Now in its seventh year, this venue has become an important part of my life, a place where I can express my thoughts and feelings about the things I see and do, hoping the process brings me a bit closer to friends and family who enjoy sharing my sometimes chaotic and often nonlinear observations and ideas. A journal, I suppose, but one with which I find pleasure in thinking others are alongside me on my journey.

Comments, thoughts, or just a friendly chat, use the response box below or email me at patrickgroleau@gmail.com.

February 28, 2012


... vernon, "mr. jackson," was performing a renewal ceremony at smith cove, i was serving as driver, gopher, and witness ... after the affair, while the couple, family, and guests were mingling off to the right of the picture, i noticed this man and his son watching the sun set ... "framing" was done even before i brought the camera to my eye, the problem was exposure ... as you can imagine, the shadows in the scene were very, very dark, especially the backs of the man and boy ... i had only my camera's tiny pop-up flash to fill these dark areas ... before taking the picture, i pointed the camera forty-five degrees from the sun and set the shutter/aperture, then turned and snapped the picture, making sure to focus on the man and boy ... all this took only a few seconds ...

... this is the "before" shot ... it is as it came out of the camera ...

... this is the same image, processed in photomatix essentials to create a tone-mapped hdr image, then opened in photoshop to remove a dust spot (in the digital age, sensor cleaning is a new must-learn skill), modify the color saturation, and to isolate the man's shirt so that it could be separately color-corrected ...

... is it of any importance the things i did after i took the picture, absolutely ... but none of those actions would have mattered much if i hadn't seen the picture, pre-visualized it, framed it, and exposed it so that the image would be one capable of being properly processed ... 

... of all this, the best remains that this image will always bring to my ears the soft sound of the waves caressing the rugged ironshore, accompaniment to the gentle strength of vernon's voice, "we are gathered here, where the sun meets the sky, and the sky meets the water, and the water meets the land" ...

NIKON D100-SIGMA 18-50@F5.6-1/100th-ISO200

February 26, 2012


... this is one of my first experiments in high-dynamic-range multiple-image photography ... with the brightness of the parking lot lamps and the darkness of the shadows and the distant trees, it was impossible for my camera's image sensor to capture the extreme variance between the high and low light levels in this scene ... this is known as "dynamic range" ... imagine a foggy, muted landscape, with no shadows, everything grayish ... that's "low dynamic range" ... imagine a brightly lit snowscape, with glaring reflections and extremely dark shadows, that's a "high dynamic range" ... our eyes deal with the latter by constantly darting around, from dark to light and back to dark again, adjusting constantly so that we can perceive everything ... in a sense, we take "multiple images" of the scene, but we do it so fast, and our brains integrate the images so seamlessly, that we're unaware of the process ... for high dynamic range scenes, what our vision handles with relative ease neither film nor digital sensor can do with a single glance ... so, the trick with hdr photography is to take several pictures, each exposed for a specific light value ... here, i took five images in rapid succession ... in the first the picture was almost totally black, but the lamps were correctly exposed ... in the last the picture was almost all white, but the details showed clearly in the dark areas ... i then used a special program, photomatix pro, to combine them and make all sorts of adjustments so that the final image was as i desired ... HDR, including its extreme manifestations, can evoke seriously negative emotional responses from some photographers ... i used to hear the same diatribes concerning "black & white vs. color," "large-format film vs. 35mm," "kodachrome vs. fujichrome," and, of of late, "film vs. digital" ... all foolishness, as far as i see it ... seeing the world, trying to share your vision, that's all that counts ...

NIKON D200-SIGMA 10-20MM@14MM-F8-2 SEC TO 1/8TH--ISO 800

... p.s. ... so you'll understand that my "foolishness" comment is factually based, examine this image:

"The idea of using several exposures to fix a too-extreme range of luminance was pioneered as early as the 1850s by Gustave Le Gray to render seascapes showing both the sky and the sea.  Such rendering was impossible at the time using standard techniques, the luminosity range [ed. note: "dynamic range"] being too extreme.  Le Gray used one negative for the sky, and another one with a longer exposure for the sea, and combined the two in a single picture in positive."  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_dynamic_range_imaging

"Most photographers found it impossible to achieve proper exposure for both landscape and sky in a single picture.  this usually meant sacrificing the sky, which was then over-exposed.  Le Gray's innovation was to print some of the seascapes from two separate negatives - one exposed for the sea, the  other for the sky - on a single sheet of paper."  http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/s/gustave-le-grey-exhibition/


... from the beginning, with clear thoughts as to the future towards which they were growing, i tried to raise them as a pair ... while always respecting their unique individualities, i often reward them as a team, punished them as a team, and encouraged them to function as a team ... yes, i probably broke more'n a few of those "how to" rules, and, no, i don't care ... i would say to them, "whatever else, you're always going to have one another" ... here, the grand canyon's south rim only a few hundred feet in front of them, as they walk away to explore their world my little girls are beginning the process of breaking my heart ... i knew that was to happen, of course, as i understood it must, but when i snapped this image i was still blissfully unaware as to how painful the process would be to me ... now, however, i'm pleased to say, this is how i picture my most wonderful little girls ...



... winter of 1958, our first in alaska ... mike had just attained tenderfoot rank, by the time he left scouting he would have earned pretty much all the merit badges, ribbons, and ranks ... coming from florida and knowing nothing about snow, i had learned quite painfully that going outside in the cold with my feet clad only in my red rubber boots, sans socks, was not exactly the smartest thing to do, to the point that i froze all my toes so solid that ma had to thaw 'em out in a pail of warm water ... to this day i have to make sure my feet are warmed up before i go out in the cold ... alvin the wonder dog had just joined us, not as a "pet" but as the fourth sibling in our merry little band ... seeing him here in mike's arms, it's hard to believe there would come the time he would put his life at risk to save me from a ravenous grizzly bear, or that i would remain forever sad at his leaving ...



... this picture serves well as example for the adage, "it's not the lens, it's the eye behind the lens" ... it was taken with a single-use disposable 35mm panoramic camera ... the negative is long lost, so i had to do a scan from a 4x10 print, otherwise this would be a much sharper image ... put a single focal length lens on your camera, or, since those're become rather rare, tape your lens' zoom barrel so that it is fixed at its widest angle-of-view ... sitting in your living room or study, look through your camera's viewfinder, then, without changing the direction of your gaze, lower the camera ... try to "see" the frame of the lens ... repeat the process, over and over, until without the camera at your eye you can visualize this framing ... now, go picture taking ... remember, you can't learn this with a zoom lens ... once you've mastered the widest angle of your zoom, try the same thing with a mid-range setting, then with the lens set at its "longest" (most magnification) ... remember, becoming proficient at "pre-visualization" is an essential element in the process of mastering photography ...


February 11, 2012


... a picture is worth a thousand words, it is said, and surely the tale explaining this little scene must be a great story, but, for the life of me, i cannot recall what it was i did that earned me one of ma's death grips ... whatever it was, i must've been guilty, since if innocent i would've been struggling instead of surrendering with only a rather pathetic limp-shoulder form of passive resistance ... mike's off in the background, carefully distancing himself from my walk of shame, so it's likely he was somehow involved in setting me up for capture and disgrace ... as for the toilet paper in ma's hand, that's a real mystery ... i'm grown up enough here, nine or ten years old, that whatever my misdeed i'm sure there's no chance it would've involved any sort of personal hygiene mistake on my part ... of course, ma was one of those women who like magic seemed always to be able to conjure from thin air a fresh roll of bathroom tissue ... boy scouts we were, me and mike and pa, but it was always ma to the rescue when it came to that sort of emergency ... perhaps it was one of the nosebleeds i used to get every now and then when i was a kid ... if more of my face was showing we might be able to see that ma used the paper for one of the its many alternative functions, cramming it up into my nostrils seemingly to where it pressed against the bottom of my brain, then uttering that which was of the most depressing things a kid could hear, "breath through your mouth until it stops" ... i would pull out the blood-soaked wads too soon, naturally, if only to gross out my little sister, at which point i'd have to move up to the front seat and sit next to pa while he drove, one of his stubby fingers pressed lengthwise against the bottom of my nose ... it always felt that i was going to end up looking like willey coyote after the steamroller flattened his face, but i didn't care because even with that, and a dripping blood nose, with pa's arm around me and a view out the front window all was right with my world ...



... over coffee yesterday robert, roger and i were talking about maine's disastrous april fool's day flood of 1987, and i remembered that during the crest of the event i walked out onto the two-penny bridge and took pictures of the kennebec river as it surged almost to the floorboards of the historic structure ... at this spot just above the ticonic falls, almost exactly where benedict arnold and his men completed the first of the many portages they would have to make on the march to quebec, the flood level was almost twenty-eight feet above the normal surface of the river ... standing in the center of the span and looking down was like leaning over the rail of a fast moving ship, and i can still hear the explosive sounds of iron rivets popping loose as the old bridge successfully resisted the river's destructive force ... these pictures were taken late in the evening just before it got too dark for photography, it's hard to believe that when it crested the next morning the river was even higher than you see here ...



February 10, 2012


Sydney Adamson

... at the ticonic falls benedict arnold and his soldiers labored the first of the many portages necessary to navigate the kennebec river on their march to capture quebec ... the 1070 feet of elevation change it flows and falls to tidewater from the height-of-the-land required they propel their bateau against its powerful currents for one-hundred miles ... they began this first portage near the left edge of the picture below, near the mill's parking lot, then put their tiny craft back into the river slightly to the right of the railroad bridge ...

... courtesy of microsoft's bing (believe it or not), this is a great shot of the falls today as well as a nice view my front and back yards ... i'm the red brick building facing you slightly to the right of dead center ... with a grocery story moving into the empty strip mall at the top of the picture, my little world's becoming a bit more perfect ... friends, family:  i've a 180 sq. ft. "closet" that doubles as a guest room ... !!! ...

"A small town is a place where there's no place to go where you shouldn't."
Burt Bacharach

February 5, 2012


... worth the minute or two it might take to download, this is a panorama composed of eight individual images ... for those of you interested in doing this sort of photography, the "secret" is to set your camera for manual exposure ... use your camera's light meter to determine the darkest and lightest areas of the scene, then set the shutter speed/aperture/iso so that there will be a minimum of overexposure (for black and white, of course, you can allow for more white in the final image) ... use that setting for all the photographs ... this hand-held image shows that a tripod pan-head isn't as necessary as some might claim ... bonus points: can you name the road where this was taken ...

NIKON D200-SIGMA 17-50@33MM-F/6.3-1/250th-ISO100

February 1, 2012


(0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34 ...) or (1, 4, 1, 5, 9, 2, 6, 5, 3, 5 ...)
... apparent pattern versus seeming randomness, legions of mathematicians and sub-atomic physicists debate the question ... photographers, of course, know the truth, that the underlying structure of reality is a function of both order and chaos, each serving to define the other, our universe the music of their delicate dance ...

NIKON D200-NIKKOR 18-135@100MM-F/9-1/250th-ISO100