The scenery in most doctors' waiting rooms can usually be called, at best, uninteresting. Not so the office of Newport Beach obstetrician and gynecologist Robert Greenburg, which comes alive with 16-by-20-inch color prints of still lifes and nature scenes.
And all were shot by Greenburg, 42, who likes to share his creative outlet with his patients and friends.
He makes pictures that are both serious and humorous. An example of a studied still life is "Mirror the Sky," a photograph of a red liquidambar leaf on a mirror that reflects the deep blue sky.
On the humorous side are: "Pickle Split," a photograph where a pickle, rather than a banana, is used with ice cream, and "Honey, I'm Pregnant," a photograph of two bowls of corn flakes, one topped with sliced bananas and strawberries, and the other with sliced dill pickles.
"A lot of the patients see the photographs that are humorous and are put at ease," Greenburg says. "I also try to have serenity in a picture. Because when I'm doing the photography, my mood becomes one of serenity. And it carries me into this other emotional realm.
"So if I'm taking pictures of a humble little green pepper or the cathedral of Santiago in Spain or a lion, I try to catch or capture a moment of serenity."
Greenburg got into photography to relieve stress. "Several of my colleagues were having heart attacks from stress and other insanities of civilization and I didn't want to become a victim.
"So I decided to go on some photographic workshops to Yosemite and Alaska and fell in love with nature photography. It's a fantastic outlet for the stress and strains of being a physician because it's noncompetitive, it's non-goal oriented, so I don't have to jog 10 kilometers or 10 miles or play golf and beat somebody. (Photography) is a great hobby and I'm totally in love with it.
"I just live to take that next photograph. I have them enlarged on Cibachrome (Ilford's process of making color prints from slides), and share them with my friends and display them at Cal's (Camera) and here in the office for my patients."
When on the road, he's the typical tourist, looking almost like a parody with four pieces of camera gear lashed onto his back.
"Other people may laugh at me, but I don't take myself that seriously," he said. "It's fun--like a fisherman with the hat full of flies and everything.
"The minute it stops being fun is when I need a new hobby. When a person like myself starts to get some nice images you get all sorts of insane ideas about a book, posters, becoming a professional and selling your work. You need someone to put you back down to earth and say, 'Just go have fun, take pictures and hang them up.' "
Greenburg spends a lot of time coming up with the right titles for his pictures. He even places the titles under his pictures in careful penmanship, a rarity among doctors.
The title "combines a visual emotion with the emotion of the written word," he said. "It also transmits to the viewer what emotionality I wish them to be aware of. They can have a totally different impression and that's fine. Because that's part of the fun of photography. When I think of a title, that's how I wish the picture to be interpreted."
His favorite, "Mr. Onion Visits the Big Apple," depicts a single golden onion between two beautifully vibrant red apples. Another is an elephant face with its eye watering that is captioned, "I Will Never Forget You."
Greenburg also enjoys helping others with their nature and still-life photography. He believes you should start with something easy and work your way up.
"Don't start shooting a cheetah running at 70 m.p.h.; start with something that doesn't move, a subject that you can spend all day focusing on, that you can set up your tripod and take your time, compose and think."
Greenburg's tips for the beginner are: Use a tripod and a cable release so you don't touch or shake the camera, be patient, shoot something that's easy, practice your technique, study the work of the masters--and have fun.
The photography column, which runs each Saturday in Orange County Life, is intended to help both the serious amateur and weekend shooter. Questions and ideas are encouraged. Write to: Robert Lachman, Chief Photographer, The Times, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, Calif., 92626.