Friday, September 1, 2017

August Image of the Month

The choice for Image of the Month was easy this time. Here I thought I'd be agonizing over these two images, both taken the same day early in the month, and getting great reviews all the way along.

I had got lucky and found the light for another try at the red begonia, and managed to bring up a bit more of the texture in the petals and played with the contrast a bit. It's similar to the earlier, softer image that I liked so much last month. Poor begonia, always a bridesmaid, and yet I might get this one printed. There's a space just to my right where a 6' x 4' print would fit nicely.

Yes, it's been a smokey month in Calgary and all the photographers are sick of it.

Then there were about a dozen other images throughout the month that I thought were quite striking, but didn't quite displace either of those first two. I burn to show them to you, but I think all are on the blog throughout the month. Finding them is left as an exercise for the student.

Then on the same day, again, near the end of the month I got this, totally by accident. I didn't even see the bee while composing the shot. And yet, there it is, perfectly spaced between the sunflowers, and showing off it's wings. This one is already cropped in a bit, and one of the people at the beers and camera event last night suggested cropping in on it more to focus on the bee and just a bit of the sunflowers.

And here we are at the image of the month. This at least is my intended shot, but there is an element of luck involved. As you probably guessed, I'm using my new macro lens that I've been burbling about all month, at about 3x magnification, HAND HELD. The reason I say there is an element of luck is that the depth of field is so shallow that it's really difficult to hold the camera still, at exactly the right distance from the subject. That right distance is about a mm forward or back, which is why macro shots usually have the camera on macro rails which are mounted on a tripod. This image is not cropped. For both these last two, embiggen and enjoy.

I think Mr. Travis Bee (You talking to me?) would look stunning in a big print, but I can see where that eye might make some people nervous.

You might have missed yesterday's blog where I mentioned going to the beers and camera event that the Camera Store puts on. This was my first one and I had fun. I wasn't out do do serious evening and night photography, so I played with the settings and tried for some motion blur shots. I haven't done much of that, and it turned out ok.

But I want to burble about becoming a better photographer. There are sort of two branches of this. One branch is people using whatever camera and lenses they have and learning to take better pictures, often yearning for better equipment.  The other branch is people using cameras that some people would think are technically obsolete, or out of the mainstream. Several were shooting film. (Film is, is, oh heck, google it for yourself.) There were a few medium format cameras there. I saw one Leicia M that I suspect is north of $10K if you include the lens.

But for that second group, the idea isn't to get an image of something and run to the next one. They are usually more about the process, taking the time to compose their shot, knowing that the results they get will be subtly different that what I would get with my basic camera. I chatted with one guy using a twin lens reflex camera, though I forget which brand. He had grown up with film, went to digital for a while, but then realized he wasn't having as much fun, and wasn't getting images he liked as much as the film. So he sold the digital equipment and bought really nice film equipment. As he put it, "I got it for a song and a smile." And he's happy.

Lots of the photography books I've read talk about taking the time to think about the point of the photo, and taking the time to compose it. Not your kids playing of course, there isn't the time. But other images where you might be trying to create a particular look, or capture something deeper than the surface image. In the film days every shot cost time and money, so you had to think about it.

Now in the digital world you can fill up a camera chip with images as fast as you can press the shutter button, on the assumption that one of them will be right. Maybe so. I've done this, and scrolled through dozens (Hundreds? Thousands?) of images that weren't good. I'm trying to get into the habit of thinking about what I'm trying to do, figure out what settings will do that given the conditions, and seeing if it works. Then fine tuning. Then getting ruthless about passing over images that are ok, or almost right, in search of the 'Ah!' image.

Another part is using the camera every day. One guy was chatting about how he wasn't getting the results he wanted, until he started shooting every day. It almost didn't matter what the subject was; there so much to shoot without leaving the city, or even your own yard. He found his camera skills improved dramatically. He got better at seeing a shot, understanding where to be for it, what settings were needed, and physically operating the camera.

When I started I said I was going to try to post a photo every day on the blog, and I've pretty well done that. There are far more photos than days, of course. I've run nearly 29,000 photos through Lightroom, though of course nothing gets done with most of them. In case you've missed it, my best images are over on my photoblog, and I'm now trying to get in the habit of updating it every month or so.

I should probably go back from the beginning and examine the old photos with my new standards, deleting liberally. There are nearly 7,000 that I've edited, and many of them I've looked at, thinking about what works, and doesn't work for them.

Then I started thinking about what the best image was each month, and that's been even more interesting, figuring out which one, and why. Now as I'm shooting, I'm thinking about the bar that's been set, working to create new images that are as good, or better than the ones I've already done. It's fun!

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