Tuesday, May 5, 2020

A complicated commentary

This is an atypical blog post for me, which may whet your appetite to see what I'm up to, or you may be horrified at the unpredictability of it all. Whatever. Life is a journey.

We start with photographic images. We are surrounded by a near infinity of them, and that's before we become photographers. Then we start looking at all of our own images trying to winnow out the great mounds of ore to find a few grains of gold. I know for a fact that I have looked at nearly 120,000 images in the last few years, and that's just my own work. Then add in the work of other photographers, trying to figure out what's working for them, drawing inspiration, or coming to understand that what they're doing is not what you want to do.

It's easy to fall into a rut. I've heard photographers say they know perfectly well how to put images on Instagram that will get a bazillion likes, and they're bored with that. They want to find different ways of expressing themselves. One of my friends took the self isolation thing as an opportunity to break out of his perceived rut. He did 30 experiments in 30 days. Naturally, (given who it is) there were rules. If you haven't been following along, you might want to take a bit of a detour here to see the images. Feel free to click on the ones you like, it will get bigger.

Some people look at an image and they want to know what it is. Some ask, what settings did you use, which makes me a bit cranky, because the settings are almost irrelevant to producing the image. A more interesting question is, how did you do that? I love looking at images and figuring out how they did it. That leads me to think about how I would have done that. Or maybe it will spark something in my brain that leads to a tangent that brings about an image of mine that I might never have otherwise produced.

I'm the kind of guy that likes to look behind the scenes. I love watching 'the making of' extras on movies and tv shows. My one visit to the rodeo I watched everything except the actual show on centre stage; getting animals ready, dealing with escapees, getting the current act off stage, the entertainment between acts. When I'm with a group of photographers out to shoot a scene, I'm the one looking in the opposite direction.

So naturally I asked Sean if he was going to blog about the process, and being the obliging fellow he is, he did. Here. I'm going to read along, look at images, and comment. Feel free to follow along. Or not.

Ocean Tossed. There is video of this somewhere, so there is a dynamic element involved. It's only now that I realize the little boat is suspended by monofilament. This leads to an aesthetic choice for the photographer, leave such lines in, or do the work to make them invisible, or do the edit work to take them out. For this, leaving it in adds to the photo. I wonder if the waves machine was built for this photo or repurposed. Oh, and those little metal models are much harder to build than appears.

Under the Onions and I See You. I probably would have done this vertically, that is, laying out the subject in a desired pattern on a background, and shooting down onto it. Then again, that might not have given the sense of space that these have. Love the googly eyes, they bring a sense of whimsey. In our house I have sometimes been astonished at what we've found. We blame the cats for the imaginative storage discoveries.

The Old Globe Thistle Pigs. I had somehow missed this one, and am seeing it for the first time. I can see where playing with the lighting would take a long time. I've never been happy with my shots of Christmas lights. I think you've done really well capturing internal details of the lights, given the complexity of how camera sensors respond to different light wavelengths.

Discovery - What Happened? This is actually a technically brilliant image. Why? Snow is a bitch to photograph, particularly shadows. Nice lines leading up and to the right to the goal. Some interesting bits of show in the background. Nicely done on the depth of field issues.

Shattered. This would have been fun to watch. Even though the motto of many photographers is 'safety third', it makes me wince a bit. I've read too many industrial accident reports.

Stacked Primaries. As a way of experimenting with focus stacking, sure. It's something that I've tried a couple times with much less than optimal results. It seems like a lot of work.

With Apologies to Man Ray. I never would have thought about doing this image. I can see the thought, take an established thing and subvert it. Even if I had thought of it, I probably wouldn't have done it. Kudos.

Dryer Survivors. My first thought was, how long did you have to wait for that cloud? Glad you used wooden pegs rather than plastic.

Nearly Packed. Another image I missed. Damn you Facebook! At least that's the convenient thing to blame. Sometimes things scroll off my feed. The moving blanket I get. But there's lots I'm missing, since this appears to be a more abstractly literal image than what I'm familiar with. Abstract in that it's hard to be sure what we're looking at in terms of what's being packed. Literal in that there are books, a bowl, and some picture frames. Not sure if they are meant to be packed. There's just a hint of motion, maybe the moving blanket is alive and planning to engulf the objects?

Distant Party. Loved this image! Bright and colourful, with some water spots for interest. In photographic terms, (for non-photographers) water spots or raindrops make almost anything look better in a photo. I was more than a little surprised to see the fans in the pre-image. I was expecting balloons, given the spherical appearing shadows. It gives me some ideas.

Think Pink. I was thinking there was either too much going on, or not enough. The contrast between the big open space in the top left and the busier right side kind of discombobulated me. Either alone would have worked. I've often taken a series of shots of a subject, taking more to be sure I've got a good one, or to make sure I've nailed the focus, or to try some different compositions. Often the one I like best is one of the first shots. That setup shot is not at all what I had expected.

Unknown 01. I liked this because it wasn't a typical image. I was sort of reminded of a magic trick that looks amazing, but is quite simple when you know how it's done. Photographs can be like that, really stunning images can happen through a slightly different process, or outright mistakes. I've been wanting to play with double exposures, and I'm working into via reflections.

Spring Soon. Yeah, we all wish.

A Saw Scene. Macro photos can be really cool. There is amazing detail in all sorts of stuff. It had never occurred to me to shoot a circular saw blade, even though I have one, and have shot similar things. I suspect getting the light right would have been a bit tricky.

Temper Kept. I'm often fascinated with dead or dying foliage. It's a nice contrast to the broken glass. Glass is a fascinating thing. Those shadow patterns you seen when wearing sunglasses and looking out a car window? It's showing the stress patterns in the tempered glass.

Thoughtless? One of the reasons I got interested in photography is that I'm a terrible subject. I figured if I was holding the camera, there would be fewer photos of me in the world, which is a good thing. I do very little posed portrait work. I've seen some that just fascinate me, and would like to try more of it. However it's all to easy to end up with just another photo of the person. I'm not sure how you did the tiled effect, but it's really cool. That you have shots of your hands in the comments is interesting. I've often thought hands are as unique as faces, and people are considerably less fussed about hand photos.

A Neurosis or Two. I laughed out loud when I saw this photo one evening. Why? Spoiler Alert! If you haven't seen Big Bang Theory, and are concerned about having a minor joke spoiled, skip to the next paragraph. I saw this photo after the BBT episode where Sheldon has Amy drive him to his storage locker to deposit his dead laptop. In that locker are many of his former possessions, including a big ziplock bag of toothbrushes.

I would go mad trying to capture such an image. I'd obsess about the distribution of toothbrushes, considering size, colour, and shape. Making sure the lines hang right, and the spacing is correct. The background. I'm glad and slightly amazed you sold the image.

The Lost Expedition. I'm fascinated by wood grain. It took a while to notice the lego figures.

Torched. I went "oooohhhh!!!" when I saw this. It's right up there with the Distant Party image.

Salute to Duane Michals. I had not known who he is/was. I just liked the play of light on the texture of the pyramid. I'm not sure how a pyramid relates to a self-portrait.

Dunes. Coming as I was deep in editing New Zealand photos, many of which had sand in them, and some had actual dunes. Many photographers like to capture the light on sand dunes and can end up with stunning photos if done right. The curves and layers and shadows are nicely done here.

Crossing the the Sawtooth Range. Loved it! Was thinking it would go well with the similar snow shot, and might be part of a larger series.

Passing. I would drown in the images I'd produce once I got the lighting and depth of field right. I'd be trying different combinations of boat colours and arrangements. And yet it's all for naught, those boats will all sink eventually.

Arthur Looses His Hat. (sic) I did not get it until I looked him up. Even so, I'm pretty sure there are depths of meaning that I'm still not getting.

Bat Frog Will Save Us. Random things joined together can sometimes produce a startling image.

Disconnected. Love motion and colour in images.

Kitsch Kat. I suspected that this was a collection of white things, on white boxes, against a white background, with fairly even white lighting. Very difficult. I've never been happy with my still life photos. It's harder than it looks.

Pour. I expect this one was messy. And yet messy can be interesting. I'd have gone down the blue and orange rabbit hole.

Ciao. Clever.

Overall I quite liked following along with the experiment. I have several times attended photographic shows, or looked at photos I didn't like, in order to try to figure out why they were (or might be) good photos. I puzzled over several of these, and that's a good thing.

And for the first time in a very long time, there are no photos of mine in this post.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you kindly my friend for taking the time to write such a long response. The 30 days had an ebb and a flow to it that was expected. I wanted to make sure I would work through those difficult days, where I was just flat and drained. By the way here is the link to the movie (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KB3DpNxDjb0). Cheers, Sean

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