You have to water the weeds

Message from the President
April 2011

Watering the Plants

So, you may have noticed that I didn’t publish the Message from the President at the beginning of this month. The fact is, it’s been a little rough around the Kleb house in the past few weeks: two deaths in the family; my wife was laid off; my daughter was in the hospital twice with pregnancy complications; and a couple of 60 hour weeks at work led to a little burnout.

Go figure!

I intended to just skip this month and start fresh in May with all this hopefully behind me. But I saw something yesterday I felt compelled to share.

You see, last week, my father went in for a minor surgery. Nothing serious — it just means he needs to keep from lifting stuff or straining too much. My father spent the majority of his life as a farmer and rancher. That was the only job he ever had until his mid-40’s.

Telling him not to work too hard for a few days was like telling the tide not to move. So, I’m helping him around the house as much as I can.

Like a lot of people he keeps a garden. Unlike a lot of people, he keeps several gardens, needs a tractor to work all the grounds, and produces enough to keep three families fed (literally) and still give a truckload away to friends. On a good year there’s enough to sell the surplus to local markets too. To top it off, he started planting less after he turned 60.

Now, many of you may have noticed it’s been a while since we’ve had any rain. As a man who grew up raising crops, I can tell you this is quickly becoming one of the worst droughts in Texas for the past couple generations.

So, yesterday I came home from work and helped him water his potato patch. Keep in mind this involves a tractor with a 300 gallon water tank for “just four rows this year.” I filled the little tank (300 gal. is the little tank) for him and drove the tractor to the field while he followed in his truck. He had to explain precisely how much water to let out, in which gear and speed to drive, and what pattern to drive the rows in.

I don’t think it ever crossed his mind that I’ve been doing this with him since I was born and might have a pretty good idea of how to go about it.

The ground where I watered sucked up the moisture so fast you could barely tell that I was dumping water out with a 1-1/2” hose. Where it hadn’t been watered, the dirt is just a powdery dust. The only place in the garden that’s actually growing anything is where my father had been irrigating for the past few weeks. The rest of it is barren and dead.

And, then I saw it.

John Kleb - Watering the Plants

My father gets out of his truck and starts to pull a few of the weeds out from between the potato plants. It wasn’t enough to make a difference, but enough to keep him from feeling useless while someone else tends his garden.

I knew there was a lesson to be learned from this scene.

By the end of the row, I got it. There’s a dilemma in watering a garden. If you water the plants, you water the weeds. And, if you don’t water the weeds, the plants will die along with them. So, you have to feed them both and know the difference between plants and weeds.

The same is true with being artists and photographers.

We have to keep feeding our ideas and our creativity. Even if an idea or a theme ultimately turns out to be a weed, we have to travel down that path until we know that it’s not a plant — but, it is in fact a weed. The plants are surrounded by weeds. So are our good pieces surrounded by really bad ones.

Part of the journey to being a better artist is learning to cull our work without stopping the work altogether.

I hear a lot of new photographers say they get frustrated because they took twenty photos and only had one that they liked. To top it off, they didn’t get a good critique on it.

You’re not watering your weeds enough. Take a hundred photos, make each one a little different than the one before it, then separate the good from the bad, the better from the good, and the best from the better.

Think about why you chose the ones you did. Learn to distinguish the difference between a weed and a plant, but water them both. Without one, you can’t have the other. And, over time, you’ll learn how to make the plants grow stronger than the weeds.

That’s how farmers do it.

~ John Kleb, 2011 HPS President

Photo Outing – Galveston Island

Sunday, April 17, 2011 beginning at 9 a.m.

Join HPS members on a photowalk in various locations on Galveston Island. The plan is to meet at 9 a.m. at Saengerfest Park located on the corner of Tremont St (23rd St) and Strand St (Avenue B) and photograph around that historic area in the morning.

Then, we’ll meet up for lunch at a local restaurant (TBD).

Afterwards, we have several options for continued photography: historical district houses, Elissa (sailing ship), beaches, etc.

Join for a part of the day or stay the whole time. For more information including map and contact info, please download the PDF »

Portfolio Review – “Water Dance”

by Laszlo Perlaky

Laszlo Perlaky

One of the reasons I joined the Houston Photographic Society was for the Annual Portfolio Review, where members can show a body of work and can solicit critiques from fellow members as well as a panel of reviewers.

I remember when I showed my best images from my first portfolio, "Nature is My Friend." One of the respected HPS Fellows came to me and politely remarked that the photos were nice, but that it was not a portfolio. I had to think about this a lot, and I finally understood, accepted the teaching behind the opinion, and then re-evaluated my definition about what constitutes a portfolio.

This really challenged me to push myself and I started to work hard for my next year portfolio, "Legs to Wings." This was more of a body of work. However, one of the reviewers picked four images out of my twelve and said to me, "these are the images which I wish to see as a portfolio."

Once again, I received another strong critique which helped me to better review my own works, deepen my connection with nature, create previsualized images containing a story board, and I then presented my revised portfolio, "On Wings," the following year.

"On Wings" was a great success and generated many other new successful portfolios such as: "Nature Softies," "Hide and Seek," "Ripple Dance," "Invisible Angels," "Wichita Scapes," "Wabi-Sabi," and "Fragmented."

In 2010, on our summer photography trip, I tried something different. That is, I previsualized a series of images when I heard the music stemming from the water and rocks and I recorded this dance in an imaginative series of photographs. Nobody believed at that time that I photographed my "Water Dance" portfolio.

Portfolio Pieces
Click on Thumbnail to view full-size

Artist Statement:

"Water Dance" is part of my visual experiment to translate the sights and sounds of the dancing ripples of mountain springs, exploring the softness and beauty of our intimate natural world.

This series of images was taken on a recent photography trip to the Rocky Mountains at Snowy Range, Wyoming. The orchestra of the splashing, gurgling, running water over the colorful rocks lit by afternoon rays turned the scene into a ballroom where I heard a gentle voice ask me to dance. I was under this magical spell as I waded into the ice-cold, crystal-clear alpine creek. I heard the music of the water and rocks and started to move slowly, recording my feelings with each step – unique forms, colors and shapes documenting our dance in an imaginative series of photographs.

In all aspects of our natural environments, I seek and attempt to observe and feel the invisible. Each image captures fleeting moments and preserves them in a dream blur of color and shapes. The work represents a new direction in perceiving nature and challenges the viewer to enter into their own dance with our fascinating and always changing natural world.

My Mission is to observe, understand, accept, and create art which communicates between humans and nature.

Artist Bio:

Laszlo Perlaky is a Baylor College of Medicine faculty member at Texas Children’s Cancer Center during the week and an avid nature photographer on the weekends. He born and raised in Hungary, traveled throughout Europe, Japan, and the USA, finally settling with his wife, Alexandra Nemeth, and two children in Houston in 1990.

His high affinity towards both the natural environment and the camera helped him pursue photography and gradually perfect his craft. After 20 years of black and white photography, he has transitioned to and mastered the chrome medium, working with it exclusively for the past 15 years. At the present time, he uses a Nikon D-SLR system and for his landscapes, 4×5 and 8×10 large format field cameras, scans his color films or processes his high-resolution digital captures, and produces archival, pigment ink digital prints.

He is a member of several national and international photographic organizations and loves to teach photography. He leads monthly Photo-walks at Brazos Bend State Park, conducts his Naturalperl workshops, and teaches regularly at the Houston Center for Photography. He is the past editor and publisher of the Silver Image (2001, 2003) and Field Contributor to Nature Photographer magazine. He has successfully participated and awarded in international photography contests, published his images in magazines, books, calendars, and exhibited his work at major art festivals and print sales.

April 2011 program meeting

When: Tuesday, April 12, 2011 : 7-9 p.m.

Where: Tracy Gee Community Center

Topic: Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep (NILMDTS)


Donna Beard, professional photographer and Texas Medical Center area coordinator for NILMDTS, will present to HPS about their charitable foundation, what it is they do, and why they do it.

She will share special posing techniques and how to handle difficult scenarios.

This program will be primarily be centered on photography with newborn and infants facing a terminal situation and transcends anything you could ever imagine.

This is a MUST EXPERIENCE program that you will NOT want to miss — tears might be shed during this program.

Learn more about NILMDTS »

March 2011 print competition

When? Tuesday, March 22, 2011 : 7-9 p.m.

Where? Tracy Gee Community Center

What? Join us for our monthly print competition. HPS members may bring up to two total prints in their respective group (bronze, silver or gold – new members begin in the bronze group). All members may enter the monthly Special Assignment but keep in mind that doing so still counts towards your two total prints.

This month’s Special Assignment theme is “Ant’s Eye View.”

Afterwards, feel free to join us for the meeting after the meeting as many of us will drive a very short distance to La Madeleine French Country Cafe (10001 Westheimer Rd) for some social interaction and late night snack.

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