THROUGH THE LENS: In search of engagement through photo and video
To say that Henry Goodman used his cameras to capture people engaged with life’s activities is part of the whole story. He not only searched for people being engaged, he created engagement in others.
He now produces award-winning photos of nature, but what a trip getting there.
While most of us were studying the usual subjects in high school, Henry had an opportunity to explore film with an unusually creative and funny high school photography teacher. His teacher introduced himself by showing a slide show of his morning ritual — brushing teeth, eating cereal, etc., hoping the kids would see teachers as people too.
They did, and had laughs, not only because it was surprising but also because of the medium.
Back in the ’60s, classroom media was the blackboard and occasional 8-millimeter movies. Henry learned basic photography back then, embracing it as a creative communication medium, instead of the prevalent, posed “high school class photo.” He remembers to this day the names of some elements of composition. They included “sensual surfaces,” “strong shapes” and “syncopated series” (e.g., a series of waterfalls that are alike but not exactly the same), and they were assigned subjects for weekly homework.
Another opportunity arrived when he attended Yale University and took a serious film class. Henry enjoyed the capability to capture movement, for example, the beauty of patterns on moving water or fall leaves in the wind were subjects for his Super 8 film camera (before home video). Adding jazz to a movie helped him win first place at the Yale Film Festival. (By the way, a favorite jazz musician was Benny Goodman, so guess what he named his son – Benny, of course.) Today, Henry’s stunning photo, Acadia Circling Leaves, uses movement as a key element and won Best Photo of the Year at the Nevada Country Camera Club (2017).
While in college, Henry was developing a philosophy of photography. He says, “the experience comes first, the photo itself is less important.” When an experience engages a photographer, whether a landscape or people, then there’s something to share. He says that post-processing (editing in a computer) should be to enable communication more than to create a pretty picture.
The opportunity to put his philosophy into practice came while at Yale. He helped lead a program to support inner-city fifth and sixth graders (in New Haven, Connecticut). For three years, he worked with kids and filmed them in group activities such as going to the zoo, enjoying music, playing, etc. His films were used to promote the program, but more importantly, the kids benefited from seeing a record of their special experiences. There’s nothing like the expression of delight in a youngster’s first sight of a mountain lake, for example Vermont Turtlehead Lake.
Travel became a big part of Henry’s life, including Europe and Israel during his sophomore year. He captured as much as he could and began to shoot more still photos with his Nikormat SLR (Single Lens Reflex) than movies. Having grown up in the Northeast where a high mountain is about 4,000 feet, he was so stunned by seeing the Alps that he changed his life.
MAKING A LIVING – ALMOST BIBLICAL
When he graduated Yale in history, he moved to Washington State to be in the Cascade and Olympic mountains which he compares to the Alps. So, what did he do with his degree? He became a carpenter.
The job flexibility and income were ideal for travel, and he loved to document the lives of local people. On a trip to Mexico, where he joined a religious pilgrimage, hiking with the group for 120 miles, he was able to experience close camaraderie with them and capture some of the cultural differences from ours. For example, advanced age was a source of respect and honor for a 75-year-old man whose life was spent as a farm worker. The culture encouraged caring for a woman, 84 years old who had done the same pilgrimage for 67 years, enabling her to continue. With other excursions, like climbing the 18,000 ft. Mt. Orizaba in Mexico, Henry amassed an engaging collection of slides and film clips that are still waiting to be digitized.
Typical of the ’70s, traveling was followed by settling down, getting married and having kids (three), and building a “green” house in our local forest. He needed the steady income, and continued to live his values of documenting the less fortunate. He taught at the Sierra Foothills High School for at-risk kids, emphasizing natural history and the experience of the outdoors. Although a notable challenge, he led excursions of small groups of students to Lake Tahoe, Monterey, Point Reyes, etc., while photographing the delighted engagement of kids who had never been to such places. Just imagine them seeing a scene such as Yuba Granite Turquoise.
FILM NO MORE
Time flew, and 35 years later he retired and overcame his resistance to digital photography. Studying with accomplished local photographers such as Ed Hensley, he accepted the digital imperative for fine photography: post-processing (editing in a computer). But he doesn’t overdo it as you can see in Owl’s Head Overlook Sunset in Vermont which captures dramatic color and composition.
The Nevada County Camera Club offered learning in a collegial setting.
“The Club offers photo competition, but the critiques are also encouraging and a learning experience,” he said.
Regardless of feeling non-competitive, winning a division Best of Month with Acadia Tarn Water Lilies & Reeds was rewarding.
Henry is now using advanced techniques leading to photos of such excellence they actually sell, like Yuba Monkey Flowers Sunset, juried into the SYRCL Wild and Scenic Film Festival.
For serious photographers, his techniques include “photo stacking” which increases depth of field (to keep photo elements close and far away in focus). Basically, he takes three to five photos that are exactly the same except each has a different focus (foreground, midground and distant) and then uses Photoshop to combine them into one photo with everything in focus. The beautiful Toiyabe National Forest Paintbrush Sunset (Nevada-California border) is a great example with both the close-in flowers and the distant mountains in focus.
Henry uses other techniques we can’t go into here (HDR, graduated filters, long exposures, etc.), and you can see many of them applied during his current photo show at Flour Garden Bakery, 999 Sutton Way, through Friday, Nov. 29. As we noted in previous articles, digital printing is a whole new challenge and you’ll see that Henry has mastered it — wait until you experience Yuba Monkey Flowers Sunset in a large print!
Jim Bair is a member and former vice president of the Nevada County Camera Club and has some of his award-winning photos at http://www.jimbairphotography.com
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