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Personal Work
  • The creative process can be illusive, unpredictable. Sometimes, though, inspiration may arise from unlikely, unexpected sources.

    Most artists I know tend to draw ideas for their own work from a wide variety of places. Painting, music, photography, poetry, literature, dance, sculpture and theater all are fuel for their dynamic, evolving fires. For them, the quest to create is innate, and the wonder of the new is an important component of their muse.

    I passed this random arrangement of trash bins recently and immediately sensed a convergence of two of my own personal passions. My interest in music well precedes my chosen career, but it's something I've continued to explore in a quiet, personal way for a long time. The pattern of D, D, A, A, C, B struck a chord, and inpired me to try and make a small composition out of the haphazard collection.

    While it's not necessarily the prettiest musical progression in the world, I still felt inclined to spend few moments at the keyboard in an effort to give the temporary assemblage a little life. It's an impromptu, unrefined piece, and one that I may not spend too much more time on, but it does hint at what drives myself, and others, to create - and the interesting, unexpected touchstones that drive the process.

    Select PLAY > above to listen 

  • Sharing on Steller

    One of the benefits of working in a visual medium is exploring the continually-evolving landscape of publishing platforms. Came across Steller recently, and was drawn to its intruiging blend of traditional and digital styles. Offering a nice array of still, video and typeface components, I found it pretty easy to put together this little art piece of a few personal nature captures. It was really nothing more than initial test for me, but I was surprised to see it draw over 22k page views in a few days. I'll probably try a few more efforts in the future.


    Nature, Considered - Visual Conversations with the Natural World

  • Looking Back - Twenty Sixteen

    From tears to cheers, parades and serenades, 2016 offered up an array of unique moments which I was grateful to experience and fortunate to share. Here's a brief look back at a few of the images I was able to capture during the course of the year. The short presentation features primarily work done for the Wisconsin State Journal and is backed with a little original music which touches on another evolving interest of mine as well.

  • Coming Full-circle with Square Format

    Coming Full-circle with Square Format

    Really pleased to have three images selected for inclusion in the upcoming exhibit “Wisconsin Photography 2016” at the Racine Art Museum’s Wustum Museum of Fine Arts. The show, juried by Karen Irvine, curator and associate director of the Museum of Contemporary Photography in Chicago, will feature the work of 38 fine art photographers from across the state. It’s always an intriguing exhibit, offering a broad array of photographic visions and approaches.

    Inclusion in the show holds a special meaning for me on several levels. Racine is my hometown, the place I was first exposed to photography as an art form, and where I nurtured my early interest in the medium.

    In addition to my career as a working photojournalist, I’ve always tried to maintain a steady interest in non-documentary work as well. The set of images selected for this exhibit are representative of some of the personal art explorations I’ve continued to pursue outside of work.

    The portfolio I submitted for judging was comprised of a set of images all drawn from my interest in square format composition. As a relative newcomer to the Instagram phenomena, I’ve been intrigued by the platform’s 1x1 image ratio preference, and have been composing work with that format in mind for the last year or so.

    What I really like about the approach, though, is how it reminds me of my very first experience with photography as a boy growing up back home. I remember the first camera I ever held was a twin-lens reflex camera which my father let me experiment with. I don’t believe there was even any film in it, but I can recall walking around our home composing imaginary ‘pictures’ while looking through the vintage device’s square-formatted, top-mounted viewfinder.

    In a way, being part of this exhibit, with these images, kind of brings full-circle my passion for photography from my earliest exposures, to present-day pursuits. 

    The show opens August 28th, and continues through November 26, 2016.

    Racine Art Museum's Wisconsin Photography 2016

  • 2015 - The Year in Images

    Here's brief look back at a few of the things that happened in front of my camera during 2015. Some happy, some sad, but I'm still grateful for the opportunity to pursue my career as a photojournalist and share others' life experiences for the Wisconsin State Journal.

  • Zen and the Art of Nature's Transcendence

    I've been exploring the iPhone 6's slow-motion video capabilities recently and enjoying the results. The leaves in this short piece were actually fluttering wildly during a strong wind and steady rain. This minute-long segment was the result of only a 15 second-or-so initial capture. The zen-like result left me inclined to slow down a bit myself, and try and appreciate the wonders of nature more often. The audio track was recorded shortly after and features the sounds of the rain and nearby wind chimes.

  • Nature's Night Lights

    Nature's Night Lights

    Been enjoying the evening firefly spectacle in recent days and have managed to capture a few frames of these fleeting, flickering little harbingers of summer. It's turned out to be a fairly challenging effort, but after a week's worth of trial and error I've caught a few decent images and learned a few lessons.

    For the most part, there's about a 10-15 minute window a bit after sunset when the insects first begin their flirtatious flashing and there's still enough ambient light in the sky to offer a sense of the surroundings. I also find it much easier to track them at dusk as you're not stumbling around in complete darkness. Still, I find I'm stretching the medium a bit with camera ISO settings in the 4000 range and shutter speeds a 30th of second or less with the lens wide open. A macro lens is pretty key for close-ups, but there's a fine line between trying to get near enough for a good image and scaring the little buggers off.

    The main barrier, though, to photographing them has turned out to be the mosquitoes. They've been fierce, and I try to make sure I'm pretty well covered. I did break down and tried applying insect repellent for one outing, but unfortunately, it did repel the insects, fireflies and all. Since you're usually shooting at very slow, hand-held shutter speeds, there are times when you might be contending with a fair number of them buzzing around your head and attempting to draw their daily ration from your face, neck and ears.

    So, it takes a bit of patience and a whole lot of missed shots (I've probably taken several hundred frames and ended up with just a few decent ones) but they do offer a unique glimpse at this annual seasonal ritual.

     

  • On Shooting Stars

    On Shooting Stars

    Capturing images of night skies has been a long-time interest of mine, and when conditions are right, you can usually find me making an enthused effort to pursue these rewarding, but sometimes challenging pictures. When things work out well, the resulting photographs might appear serene and peaceful, but a lot of times, I find that photographing celestial bodies can be a fairly demanding endeavor.

    Surprisingly, one of the problems with photographing stars, planets, and the Earth’s sun and moon, is how fast they move through the sky. It doesn’t seem like it, but when you try to compose a night sky frame in a tight, aesthetically-appealing way, it becomes quickly apparent that our planet really is in constant motion, changing our perspective of the heavens every few seconds.

    Some of my favorite night sky photos often offer a hint toward man’s relationship to the cosmos, so when I can, I’ll try and incorporate Earth-bound elements into the frame. In fact, I keep a mental roster of potential locations as options for future images. Sites looking west, east, north and south, sites high on hills, sites illuminated, sites silhouetted. Farmsteads, windmills, church steeples, weather vanes and cityscapes are all potential foreground elements.

    I’ll track sky charts and space-oriented websites for potentially interesting sky events and I am usually generally aware of moon cycles and sunrise/set times. Over the years, I’ve had a number of successful efforts photographing eclipses, comets, planetary conjunctions, auroras and sun and moon events. Often, though, a preconceived idea for an image falls apart when I attempt to execute it. There are sometimes just too many unpredictable variables.

    Through trial, I’ve discovered that long lens exposures of more than a few seconds will begin to result in motion blur from stars and planets. That means that every half-minute or so, the celestial elements of your photo may not be quite where you want it to be. Long exposures at night are a necessity, which means I’m constantly moving my tripod to keep the composition intact. Add to the equation rapidly changing light conditions and broad luminance disparities between sky and ground elements, there’s a lot of potential for things to get difficult. Mosquito swarms, city light pollution and even suspicious rural neighbors and their protective barking dogs can all be unique night challenges. Those wonderfully clear mid-winter nights can be brutally cold, and don’t even get me started on clouds.

    At any rate, when things do work out and the planets metaphorically align, it feels wonderful to know you may be capturing a completing unique, totally spontaneous moment that can disappear forever in minutes. I was lucky to have that experience a few times last week, represented in the composite image above. The outer images were captured a several moments apart before a local fireworks show. A hot air balloon made an opportune appearance above the setting sun, and, shortly after I made the photograph of the same sun’s rays glinting off an adjacent lake. The inner images (Venus and Jupiter on the left, and the moonrise on the right) took a little more planning and some on-the-fly adjustments, but were taken within a downtown city block and 10 minutes of each other.

    For a few other examples of my night and evening sky images, have a look at the Our World & Other Worlds gallery of the website.

    Below: The light from a full winter's moon casts shadows under a backyard pergola.

    © 2014 John Hart Photography

     

     

  • Merging Muses

    Merging Muses

    Most who know me well realize that as passionate as I am about photography, it still probably rates a close second to my love of music.

    Had I been graced with a broader musical ability, I might have chosen a playing career over my present one, but unfortunately, it's probably not in the cards. Still, though, I’m steadily drawn to a diverse array of performers and performances, and admire the way accomplished artists are able to establish immediate and intimate connections with their audiences. Like photography, music really is a universal language and I’m envious of those who are able to communicate their craft in moving ways.

    Not surprisingly, I enjoy opportunities that allow me to photograph musicians I respect and admire, and relish chances to bridge these two primary interests. When capturing images of musical artists, my hope is to convey the passion they have for their craft, and the good ones make that very easy.

    Two performing friends of mine, emerging singer-songwriter Katie Scullin and seasoned blues guitarist Paul Filipowicz, may fall on disparate ends of the musical spectrum, but each harbor a distinct need to share their innate musical muses. Both are engaging, gifted musical artists, but I’m most drawn to their unbridled passion for their work. I’ve seen each perform many times, and it truly doesn’t matter if they’re playing to five people or 500 - you will get the same show regardless.

    As photographers, we’re often able to shoot, reshoot, edit and re-edit in an effort achieve our desired results. Musicians on stage, admirably, share their craft without a net. When it works, in the hands of talented, committed artists like Katie and Paul, the results can be uniquely immediate, moving and rare.

    A few more images I've captured of these fine talents can be found here: Katie Scullin and here: Paul Filipowicz

  • Black and White, 21st Century Style

    Black and White, 21st Century Style

    There's been popular trend making its way around social media lately which involves a challenge between photographer friends to generate images in a monochromatic style. I hadn't intentionally shot in black-and-white since the start of my career, and it was a welcome reminder of those early days when my eventual life's passion was new.

    While the capturing approach is decidedly different, the end result feels much the same as it did years ago. I can't say I miss the darkroom chemistry mess and the associated expenses, but I'm pretty sure I'll continue to venture into the monochrome profile on my digital camera a little more often.

  • 2014 - A Look Back

    Here's a short video compilation of some of my favorite Wisconsin State Journal images from the past year. I feel lucky and grateful for the opportunity to pursue my passion for visual storytelling. Here's to 2014 - and looking forward to seeing what the coming year brings! 

  • Expanding Horizons

    A recent trip to Michigan's upper penisula and lower western shore offered several opportunities to explore the idea of capturing images in a panoramic style. Probably inspired by the area's geography - the broad expanses of sky, water and sand along the area's shorelines - I found myself seeing things more linearly. What used to require specialized equipment or a little ingenuity - I remember as a youth trying to assemble multiple printed images together with tape - smart phone technology and image processing software advancements have made the once-unique approach commonplace. Now, the effect can be replicated in a several seconds. Anyways, as a photographer I'm finding that it's a great way to expand your creative horizons and offer viewers an enhanced view of your experience.

    These images also bring to mind one of my favorite pieces in my personal collection of photographic art. It's a large (48"x7") panoramic photograph featuring several hundred members of the Photographer's Association of America gathering for their annual convention in Milwaukee in 1910. Ironically, the dusty, warped and unframed photograph was salvaged from back corner of a Dallas antique store a number of years ago. I was intruiged by the local connection and drawn to the array faces of photographers as they turned the camera back on themselves. They're all gone now, but I'm comforted in the thought that many of these artist's images, and their unique visions of the world around them, still remain.

  • A Small Town's Place in Hollywood History

    Little-known fact: The first-ever public screening of the film "The Wizard of Oz" was at the Strand Theater in Oconomowoc, Wis. on August 12, 1939. The city was used as a test-market for the movie before an official Hollywood debut several days later. One theory suggests that the film's music composer, Herbert Stothart, who had a summer cottage in the area, may have had something to do with the city being selected as part of an effort to guage audience reaction to the big budget ($2.7 million) film before its worldwide release. The city continues to embrace that history, and this year's 75th anniversary of the event drew thousands to the downtown area for an outdoor showing of the MGM classic film.

  • Staying Open to Opportunity

    Sometimes, I'll find myself in need of a reminder to stay photographically driven when I'm away from work. This array of trucks parked on a rural road, which were spotted during my evening freeway commute, proved too interesting to pass up and offered an incentive I needed. Don't know the backstory on this, but the symemetry of the arrangement commanded my attention. Making the image involved a bit of backtracking but the I'm glad I took the time. Today's lesson for me is shoot first, ask questions later.

  • New State Journal Photo Blog Launched

    Pleased to announce the launch of the Wisconsin State Journal's new Photo Blog which will be updatded regularly with work from photojournalists Amber Arnold, Mike King and myself. Please have a look around and bookmark, follow or check in occasionally.

  • Winter's Wane

    It's midnight and it will be dark soon. 

    Before long, winter's perpetual evening aura will fade, and the new season's leafy textures will mute our after-hours surroundings.

    We'll leap blindly into the temperate cloak, embracing summer's nighttime ambiguity and aural renaissance.

    Reborn, we'll rejoice, knowing we were meant to wonder, dream and explore - outside our wooden skins.

  • Right Place, Right Time

    Right Place, Right Time

    A full moon ascends behind an illuminated sign atop the Iron Horse Hotel in Milwaukee, Wis. Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2013. Each year, portions of the marquee are intentionally darkened in an effort to celebrate the holiday season. John Hart, Wisconsin State Journal

    Sometimes you just get a bit lucky. Had a nice view of this full moon ascending over the Milwaukee skyline during a trip into the city this evening. I thought about making an image of it juxtaposed with one of the city's more iconic bridges. When I circled back to get a vantage, I happened to discover this nice coincidence near a building that has a little fun with its sign during the holidays.

  • A Camera is a Camera

    Granted, I'm a little late to the party, but recently I've been coming around to the potential that the iPhone camera posseses as a creative tool. Traditionally, I've left my 'serious' photography to my professional gear, but lately I've started to recognize the truth in the adage that "the best camera is the one you have with you." Here are a couple of images, snapshots really, grabbed with my phone during a recent trip to Arizona. As the image quality of cell phone devices continues to evolve, and my comfort level with the technology improves, I'm guessing I'll be capturing many more moments that I might previously have passed by. 

  • Converging Parallels

    Occasionally, I'll spot a potential photograph that I'm inclined to capture - if only for myself. While most of my daily work is assigned or geared toward the State Journal's daily editions, there are instances when I'll see something I can't pass up. This picture is like that. Our next day's local page was already filled and it's not necessarily the type of image I'd offer as a stand-alone, but I'm happy I grabbed it.

    I first noticed the juxtaposition of the converging cables of a construction crane with the painted lines of a roadway in my vehicle's side-view mirror while stopped at a traffic signal on my way to an assignment. But by the time I parked and re-visted the scene, the crane had moved and the picture was gone. A little patience, though, and the coincidence reappeared - just the way I initially saw it. Sadly, I couldn't do anything about the distracting utility pole just above the horizon, but I kind of like it anyways.

  • Apple device users: Add this site to your home screen!

    Just select the browser's arrow symbol at the top (iPad) or bottom (iPhone) of your browser's naviation bar. Then, select 'Add to Home Screen' and an icon linking the page you're on will be located on your device. Tip: Performing this function from the Blog page will offer you quick and easy access to the regular updates found here.

  • He Only Comes Out at Night

    Here's an interesting little coincidence that reveals itself each night near my home. The stones surrounding a building doorway shape rays from an adjacent light into the shadow of a Dickensian figure.

  • The Passing of a Legend

    Saddened to hear about the passing of this legendary Chicago blues artist. He was truly one of a kind and I feel privileged to have had the chance to see him perform a number of times. This image is from a Living Blues magazine story I contributed to a few years ago. Thank you, Jimmy Dawkins, for your passion and your music.

  • Heavenly View

    Made an effort to try and photograph the Comet Pan-STARRS the other evening without much success. It's located somewhere just below this nice crescent moon, obscured by the sunset's afterglow. Still kind of a nice image, though, captured near the spires of a local church.