Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Comment Commentary, a periodic feature

 As long time readers know, I love getting comments on the blog. There isn't much back and forth conversation here, which isn't a surprise. My readers are busy people, and the blog comment format sucks.

None the less, I appreciate and thank the people that take a moment to leave a comment. Occasionally there is a question or comment I'd like to respond to, but it isn't quite an AMA thing, which is upcoming soon. It's not too early to send in your Ask Me Anything questions.

So onto the feature. The last one was mid June, here, so I'll be starting with the comments after that. 

In early July, Janet commented on notebooks and pens, "...and usually have a plethora lying around..."

It's usually fun, and a sometimes a little horrifying to discover an old notebook, full of notes. I have unearthed evidence that I've written essentially same note to self about something, several years apart, and there is no suggestion that the later note remembered the earlier. 

One of my characters has been developed out further because of Janet's comment. I always knew that Ceridwen was a make lists and be organized kind of girl, but the comment helped flesh out a person that has lots of notebooks and lists on the go, with periodic attempts to consolidate or organize, and reluctant to toss out old paper scraps with writing on them in case that note doesn't exist elsewhere. It leads to a messy house with pens, and papers, and books, and clothing jostling for space on the furniture. She mostly knows where things are.

Janice commented here, "Awesome bee shot, my friend. Really love the composition and colours. Well done. (This is Jan, by the way. Not sure who's name will turn up when I hit publish.)"

Thank you! The bee shots are fun. Mostly I know who the commenters are, even though Blogger makes that difficult sometimes. I know perfectly well that this Jan is Janice, and not Janet, who lives just down the road a ways. For the longest time I was confused about which was which, but then I met them both and all has been good.

But there is an "unknown" who comments periodically, and I have no idea who that is. These are actual comments, and I think one of them is going to show up a bit further down, and not spam, which gets deleted before anyone ever sees it. I am curious...

In early September Sean commented "...I'm not a believer in conspiracy theories, as I am inclined to agree with your perspective that the only way two people can keep a secret is for one person to not tell the other. That said the current bombardment of caution, makes me think of some strange exercise in re-direction. Why would anyone need to be told that a very heavy machine that can melt and tear up a swath of pavement at walking pace has dangerous elements?"

Why indeed? Do you remember the Far Side cartoon with the dog holding a fear-o-sensor up to a guy coming in the gate? There are days I wish we had a wilful stupidity sensor. The people volunteering at the election poll stations could use it to weed out people that shouldn't be allowed to vote. 

I've said a number of times that I'd like to see people have to pass a test before being allowed to vote. Sample question, 'The elephant, a federal or provincial responsibility?' Yes it would slow down the voting, but then, rather than just a few people in the polling station, if we've got a UBI going, that could be one of the obligations of getting it. Rather than a few people, we could have a few dozen.

A sensor that measured the degree of belief in stupid conspiracy theories would be almost as good. Point it at them and ask: Shape of the earth? Humans landed on the moon? Cause of towers collapsing on 9-11? Is COVID real? There's lots of others. 

Mid September Sean commented, "One of things that I believe attracts photographers is character of form, line, and surface. This in turn leads us to older objects, and from there we get to time and refection. Or perhaps it is the other way around, time and reflection (inherent in the photographic process) takes us to objects of character. In actuality some days I start with the egg and somedays I start with the chicken. All that said I quite like image 2. I would though like a little more visual space around the Edsel."

One of the advantages painting has over photography, is the painter can more directly represent what their brain is seeing. They can paint the landscape without the power lines. They can look past that butt-ugly McMansion. They can arrange the trees and other elements in a more pleasing pattern. 

With photography, for better or worse, the sensor will capture the light it sees through the lens, including the power lines, ugly homes, inconvenient trees, and everything else. It's up to the photographer to carefully compose what is in or out of the scene, and if they want to badly enough, do further editing with Photoshop to remove undesired elements.

But that composition process can be tricky. Things do not exist in a vacuum or emptiness. Sometimes that leads to a pleasing situation, where the background can compliment the subject. More often we try to include all the subject and none of something else, which means the edge of the photo has to be exactly there. To make things more difficult, some camera viewfinders do not show the photographer exactly what will be in the final photo. There's lots of times I feel a crop has been forced on me because something I wasn't expecting or wanting, is actually visible. 

This leads to Sean's late October comment here, "One of the nice things about waiting to edit is that it helps to avoid the "pig" problem. I have at times been over eager to edit my images, and have spent too much time layering the lipstick (editing), only to eventually put my hand to my head with a loud thunk realizing that the underlying image is in fact a pig. No amount of lipstick will turn into anything but a pig with makeup." Note, Janice also commented here that waiting to edit leads to better results.

I agree with Sean that sometimes the photo is a pig, and no amount of lipstick or anything else will change that. Except, if the intent is to produce a photo of a pig, or you realize after the fact that such a photo has an unintended use. I've begun to think more about why I took the photo, and who the audience is. Many of them show up on the blog, and to do that they have to interest me for one reason or another, and be technically good, meaning in focus, reasonably correct exposure, and so on. Or not, if I want to comment on why not, or it springboards my mind to something I want to say. 

A client might want specific photos for a specific purpose, and have no interest in other photos no matter how good. They might even want photos I don't care for, perhaps even a photo of a pig. Photos for the community association could be for the cover, which needs to be high quality in several different ways. Photos inside the newsletter are often downsized dramatically, which has made me wince sometimes.

I'm trying to put a bit of delay in the editing process, and let's just say it's a work in progress. 

Again in late October here, Sean commented "...In terms of looking at the work of others, I am reminded of a quote that goes something like "it is important to look at great art, and equally important to forget you have seen it". This in some tangental fashion leads me to add to our discussion on Friday. A quest for uniqueness is a false god. Perhaps the more fulfilling quest is to be true to whatever we love at the time, and that can be anything from cracks in pavement to Victorian tea spoons. I still maintain that the photograph knows when we care, and so does the viewer."

And on the same post, Janice commented "...Look forward to seeing where you go with photographing people. Are you planning to set up a studio or rely on more natural lighting?"

I'm reminded of a famous story about a client commissioning and artist for a portrait of a cat. Time goes by, and no cat portrait. The client bugs the artist again and again, no portrait. Finally the client shows up and demands the portrait. The artist picks up a brush and creates the portrait on the spot. It's perfect, the utter personification of cat-ness. The client demands to know why it took so long to deliver if creating the portrait took only a few minutes. The artist takes him to a back room and shows him thousands of cat sketches.

There were a number of times I've taken photos purely for a technical purpose, to learn how to do a certain thing, or prove to myself that I knew how to do that thing. Skyline, for example. There's a dozen or more places to get great Calgary skyline photos, provided the sunrise or sunset cooperates even a bit. The resulting photos can be interesting and beautiful, but unless you're really into architecture or skylines in specific, or there is a full moon, or some really interesting weather, you do them and move on.

I like looking through photographic books to see what other artists have done, with the thought of applying that idea to my own work. Maybe it's a lighting trick, or composition ideas, or an example of how a group of photos gets tied together. 

In a book discussed in that post, Rainbow Revolution ties things together with the artists posing in a white frame box. I could build a similar frame, and paint it whatever colour I like, with whatever background I like, and bring in models to pose however they like or however I ask them to, but I think it would be derivative, and probably not particularly interesting. Unless I found a way to take that idea and develop it further.

As for people, for now I'm working on natural lighting, and a relatively informal pose indoors or out. I want my models to look like the people they are, rather than a model posing for a particular look. We see so many photoshopped images of people that it's like we've forgotten what people actually look like. I think real faces in natural light have a beauty about them that cannot be matched in the studio. I don't mean teenage girls who are the focus of so much photography. I mostly find their faces bland because there's no personality yet. I mean people that have some milage on them, some experience that shows in their eyes. 

To my way of thinking, doing a shoot in a studio seems very formal and posed, and is likely to make a non-pro nervous. There's times a studio is the way to go, of course, if you need to control all the elements (light, fog or smoke, clothing, makeup, props, wind, or other special effects) to get the desired shot. But such a studio setup costs money, and could be serious money to get a particular shot. At the moment I have no place to sell such a photo, or the track record to convince someone to bank roll me to make such a shot. I have some of the contacts needed, like a great makeup artist for as long as she lives in Calgary. (Hello Allyson!) I could borrow some of the equipment, but much of it would be rented. 

I enjoy the challenge of a 'live' photo session, where the models and I are each having fun and working together in the real world. A family photo session in Fish Creek or Waller Park in Okotoks. Aerial models in a workout space. A brass band in various places. Posed and unposed people at a community association event. Maybe the light isn't perfect, or there's other issues, but as long as they aren't show stoppers, we're working with them. Sometimes overcoming an issue makes for an unexpectedly good shot. 

Of the Day





1 comment:

  1. Ooh, so glad my comment triggered an idea for character development. Yay. Always good to read your thoughts on all of our comments :)


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