Sunday, November 19, 2017

Looking at you

Today is a reflective post, and might be long, so you probably want to go get something to drink. It started with my realization that 2017 is my most prolific blog year to date. The previous best was in 2013 when I posted 283 times for no particular reason I can remember. This one is number 285 and I will probably top 300 blog posts for the year. (The peanut gallery and their comments about quality and quantity can stifle themselves.)

When I started photography as a serious hobby about a year and a half ago, I had no idea where it would go. You might remember a goal I set myself to try to post a photo a day from the good camera. It's safe to say I've exceeded that goal by far, and I've learned so much doing it. My readers have said many nice things about my photos and thank you very much. Maybe I've posted too many photos and some of you are bored but are too polite to say so.

I'm getting a bit more reflective about my photos, though. I'm trying to think through what makes a good photo, and being a bit more thoughtful about clicking the button. Sometimes of course, it's a no brainer. I'm not talking about those. I'm talking about more ordinary scenes that need a bit of thinking  to find the angle, to find the light, to find the hook that drags people into the photo. Why lying on my belly instead of standing up? Why this lens or that lens? Why one particular set of exposure settings and not another? Why edit it this particular way and not any of the nearly infinite other ways of doing so?

The way to get better at anything is to practice being better, and not be content with the same old, same old. There are books to read, photos to look at and think about, photographers to talk about the craft with. Then go practice some more. This is the main reason I started doing Image of the Month, to make me look back over the month's work and think about what images are best and why. I suppose if I wanted to get carried away I could do best within categories, such as best landscape, skyline, sunrise or sunset, reflection, action, or macro, just to name some of the things I've photographed. But really, a good photo is good, no matter what category.

Part of all that is thinking about what I want to accomplish. I'm slowly narrowing down to deciding I want to be working with the limitations of the real world and my camera equipment. So for example, the full moon rising over downtown. I've been out for this shot a few times, and have never been entirely satisfied with my results. It being hard is what makes it worthwhile.

I could shoot a full moon against a dark background, blow it up to any desired size, and composite into a shot of downtown. If I did it just right it would look real. Do it sightly differently and while it would look stunning, people would realize it wasn't real. Done slightly badly and it becomes one of many photoshop fails.

Since my photoshop skills are nearly non-existent, I'm not going to do that. If you see a shot of mine with a moon and the downtown skyline, it's going to be what you would have seen standing there, within the limitations of my skills on the camera equipment I'm using that day.

I happen to really enjoy discovering new locations to shoot from, or discovering new things to shoot at locations I know of. Looking at the work of other photographers is great for that. It's always giving me new ideas. If I asked nice, I could probably get my photo buddies to show me their secret sites, but I'd rather discover them for myself. I'd like to think other photographers wonder where some of my shots are done.

There's a fine line here. My buddy Neil Z has produced some stunning work, and no, it's not luck. He researches, he plans, he gets his butt out there in all weather at all times of day to get the shot. Now, some of his shots I know to within a few inches where he was. Any local photographer would know. I could set up there, and take an identically framed shot, but it would look different. The sky and weather would be different, and if they're in the shot the skyline and water would be different. That camera and camera settings are different, and I would edit it differently. Am I a plagiarist? No. The world is there for us artists to interpret. Trying to pass it off as a Neil Z work would be a clumsy forgery.

People will see a particular scene slightly differently, given the exact state of their eyes, any corrective lenses, and how their brain interprets the signals the eyes send. Now we add camera equipment in, and things can get really different. A JPEG from an iPhone might look better than a RAW from my camera, or maybe the iPhone won't get the shot at all. Then we add in software to manipulate the data and who knows where that will end up?

My choices now are to generally try to make the scene look like I remember seeing it. Every now and then I'll push the software a bit to make the scene look like what's in my head. Usually this will mean pushing the colour and brightness a bit, but I try to keep it to what it could look like given specific lighting.

Then there is art, usually an abstract. I haven't worked on any of these for a while, and I'm looking forward to getting back to them. I'll push the software and change colours, sometimes running things through again, and pushing it even more, just to see how it turns out.

It's a different sort of creative process than writing. To write something you have to choose specific words in a specific order for the readers to make sense of it. Writers are making something up out of nothing. Photographers start with the world, and tweak from there. In either medium, if well done there is always something more for the viewer to enjoy.

I got this shot of Curtis while experimenting with the then new tripod and head. I totally love the way the camera can click in and click out of the head. Of course, any shot with Curtis in it is likely to be good because he's the most photogenic mammal in the house.

1 comment:

  1. Such a handsome kitty. I have been enjoying your photos a lot, I hope image of the month will continue into 2018?


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