The photographs

Photography is not new as a tool to produce some of the paintings seen here at riverdogstudios. A number of the paintings presented at this website began as a photograph; an instant sketch as it were: first the photo, then the drawing based on the photo, then the drawing again on the canvas, and so on. A recent example of this process is The Ohio River at Louisville - October morning that began as a photograph from an aerial photoshoot in 2005 (the Airshots folder below).

Around 2003, and 3 years after I'd retired from UPS, I joined the local flying club, the Bowman Eagles, at Bowman Field, Louisville's first airport (layed out in the 1920s). The club had a 4 seater tailwheel Stinson and a tough little Aronca Champ, a high wing, tail wheel, front and back seat 2 seater that was comfortable and easy to fly. But first I had to re-learn how to land a very light-as-a-leaf tail wheel after 33 years of large nosewheel jets and turboprops. A whole different ball game. Well, it was nerve wracking at first..and my instructor was very amused..

The Camp turned out to be a fine airshot platform. All the Airshot albums below, except for one, were taken from the Champ. The Stinson was more expensive to rent and you couldn't open the window completely for camera work as one could so easily with the Champ. I only flew the Stinson when family visited. The Champ was sentimental as well: at age 26 (1966 and after graduating from San Francisco State College) I took my first 8 flight lessons and solo flight in the Champ out of a small dirt strip at Fremont, California. At this writing the runway is now buried below housing tracts and long forgotten. The Champ, Cessnas, and light twins was the road to the airlines that began with TWA (Trans World Airlines) in 1967. I resigned from TWA in 1973 to paint full time. As far as I know I was the only pilot to quit TWA. A dubious distinction.

The Roadshots are just about all taken during family roadtrips and while underway. Some on the Interstates, others on two laners. This is not recommended however. Windows rolled down in snow, rain, or hot sun, camera in left hand usually, right hand on the wheel, eyes on the road, camera raised out the open window space and shoot in the general direction of what caught my eye coming down the road. And so it went through the beautiful speeding landscape. How can we resist? Usually there was no time nor place to pull over.

As said, the lens of the camera has been an opening, in many cases, or perhaps another road, to my painting. My Grandfather who was a pictorialist early in his career broke with this tradition of photography of the period. In the 1920s he became a pioneer of modernist movement: see BRUGUIÈRE - His Photographs and His Life, by James Enyeart, Alfred a. Knoph, New York, 1977.

For those interested in technical stuff we now use a digital Nikon D200 mounting a 35-200 zoom, no filters. My first digital was a FujiS1Pro. As for the darkroom procedures we use Adobe Photoshop for our "visualizations." Only traditional darkroom enhancements, or their digital equivalents, are used: cropping, checking values, shadows and highlights, density, dodging and burning; all to find what caught my feeling on the subject in the first place. Anyway, we don't cut and paste. My father said to me once that his dad, Francis Sr, told him, "'s in the darkroom where the fun begins." I believe this to be true whether the room is digital or chemical.

If you proceed through the collections below there will be other comments about the subject, and some background about the photograph: title, when and where shot, whether exhibited or accepted for regional or national exhibitions and so on.

To view some of these works just click on its Series' image below

RoadshotsKansas field with shadows I 70W


Airshots New Mexico Shiprock 4-08-06