Non-Abstract Abstracts

Reflections No.1 — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

Not too long ago, a short discussion in the blog was devoted to the idea of a Non-Abstract Abstract as a simple way to describe a particular type of image that has managed to find its way in front of the camera quite often over the years. In the past, I generally referred to them as “Natural Abstractions”, but have also seen them referred to as “Natural Extractions” or simply abstracts, and I’m sure there are many other monikers for this type image taken directly from a landscape. It’s difficult to provide a specific definition since a descriptor is better suited to convey an understanding of just what is meant by this term.

Trio of Trees

It seems that when one of our photographs is considered successful by our own definition and standards, if afforded the opportunity, we often attempt to relive that success by revisiting the same location to hopefully produce another successful image. But it is nearly impossible to be at the same location and have a duplicate set of circumstances (atmospheric conditions, lighting, season, etc), as when the original image was created. And even if the location is nearby, one that’s easily accessible on any given day, and conditions are pretty much identical, replicating that image might not be as easy as first thought because, you will be a different person on the day of the second encounter with the same photographic subject.

Stages of Seeing

© jj raia

For those of us who are blessed with the sense of sight, we are able to look out into the world and see what surrounds us; it is truly a gift that we all too often take for granted. For the most part, sight is used simply as a mechanism to maneuver through our lives, getting from place to place, performing tasks, or simply indulge in the pleasure of reading. There are no limits since we can turn completely around 360º and perceive what lies in any direction. We notice and recognize the objects before us, not really giving much of our attention to them. But when we observe, we gather much more information from what we see, more of the details and differences, which then might internally register with us, such as how a particular person among many can be singled out as someone we actually know.


Tree Bark — Yates Store Road © jj raia

Inspiration is an important motivator in making any kind of art; it’s what gets the creative juices flowing regardless of its origin. It may originate from among our own ideas or thoughts, or from beyond, where something or someone has triggered an internal response which almost requires us to create. Whether your pursuit is painting, writing, sculpture, music or photography, to mention just a few, what drove you to take up the tools of your craft, and begin to form that inspiration toward its physical manifestation, is a uniquely powerful force; one that speaks directly to you, and possibly no one else. And once the message has been received, it can’t be denied and will gnaw at you like an unscratched itch, until it is finally acted upon and satisfied.

The Significance of Luck

Foggy Sunrise No.2 — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

To be a better photographer, stand in front of better stuff.”

Jim Richardson – National Geographic photographer

Only five days into the new year and I was wondering if the string of good luck from the previous few months would continue. For successful landscape photography, good fortune plays a significant roll, and cannot be overstated. I’m not referring to the “seeing” of smaller subjects that would make fine photos, but rather the conditions encountered at a particular location while looking for a wider, more grand view of things. This past October, on a trip to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, conditions were excellent to make good photographs of the ocean almost every day. Plenty of clouds provided subjects in the sky on which the colors of the morning could be painted, which in turn reflected those colors onto the sheen left by the surf, and the ocean itself. With a blank, blue sky, the same scene would have been uninspiring, seriously lacking any drama, and may have caused the camera to remain inside the bag.

Winner Announcement

SouthPoint Abstract © jj raia

In a recent post, an offer was made for a free, limited edition print simply by entering your name and selected image in the form at the bottom of that post, with the winner’s name picked from a hat today in a video during the inauguration of our new president. However, since readers can determine the number of applicants by simply looking at the image above, that selection became unnecessary.

Intimate Encounters — 2020

Ridgelines – Cowee Overlook — BRP, NC © jj raia

There is a general feeling throughout the country, and I’m sure throughout the world, of some measure of relief and joy that 2020 is finally behind us, and looking forward with hope and anticipation to improving circumstances as we progress through this year. It’s a time for us to reflect on these past 12 months, identify and give thanks for our blessings, and do all we can to make this year healthy for not just ourselves, but for everyone.

I hope that this final video of photos taken this year will encourage folks to take notice of the under appreciated people and little things in our daily lives, and realize they are more deserving of our thoughts and attention. I also hope that, after watching through to the end, and listening to the music, your spirit might be lightened a bit from the darkness we have endured for what seems like such a long time, that you will feel as uplifted and joyful as I did when making these photographs, and that it might serve as a few moments of escape from time to time when needed. Even the simple exercise of putting it together has helped me feel encouraged about the prospects the future holds for us. I pray it will bring that same feeling to you…

j.j. raia

Click the photo to go to the video

Final Vision vs. Final Version

Rain-Soaked Forest — Chatham County, NC © jj raia

The image above was not what I had in mind when I tripped the shutter. What was there was something completely different from the final vision I wanted it to become; the frame is simply how it appeared to the camera.

On the day in December I went out, it was supposed to be a foggy morning, and there was fog around after some pretty heavy rains the previous day and through the night. But the fog never really reached ground level, remaining just above the treetops when viewed from a long distance. So I drove around, searching for a location where there was thick fog at ground level, but just never came across any. So that idea was a bust.

2020 — A Tough Year

Rothko — Blazing Sunset – Isle of Palms, SC © jj raia

Outside times of world and civil wars, Twenty-Twenty has probably been one of the most difficult years experienced not only in America, but across the planet. The continuing assault on our health and health care systems has wreaked havoc on the world’s economies as well. So it seems a bit frivolous trying to reflect back on the year excluding the effects of COVID-19, and merely focusing in on photography.

Because of the virus and limits for safe travel, no major photographic trips were scheduled during the year, and the annual trip to New Jersey to visit family for the holidays was cancelled due to a major surge of infections beginning late October/early November. But a short, spur of the moment, two-night camping fall color trip to the Blue Ridge Parkway did make it into the year, along with a pre-virus reservation for an early fall week in North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Each was met with a bit of anxiety; casual conversations with other folks were curtailed, and dining out was certainly out of the question.

Other than those excursions, all the other photography for the year centered around nearby Jordan Lake, Raleigh, and my kitchen for a few still life images. But the isolating circumstances caused many to focus inward, to learn new post processing skills or looking back through our files to reconsider images that languished in the netherworld of computer memory. Experimentation also found its way into some photos this year with some successes and some abject failures. Hopefully it was time well spent.

As we enter the next few months, with high expectations that vaccines will pave the way forward out of this dark year, a new government administration, and a deep hope for a return of some semblance of “normal life”, I wish everyone Peace, Health and Happiness for the coming year!!