Lest we remember…

Sometimes I think we forget the sacrifices that the veterans made for us in the world wars; take for example the recent posting of pro-Nazi posters on the UBC (University of British Columbia) campus that hailed Nazi Soldiers as the ‘real’ heroes. As a graduate of SFU (Simon Fraser University), I can’t help but feel like the ‘rival’ university of UBC has dumber students, but they’re everywhere and it’s because we have the unnerving ability to forget things and disrespect people who make sacrifices…Just look at who’s the Canadian Prime Minister: he’s thought about taxing the military servicemen who protect this country!

If it wasn’t so sad, it might be a tiny bit funny, but this is the 21st Century and goodness knows we’ve lost almost all decency & respect for the generations that came before us; we want to do it all on our own. I hate to say this, but we cannot do this on our own…The past decade has shown us that we keep screwing it up. I’m just as guilty as the next person, but I think it’s time we forget about how important we think we are and really get in touch with those that came before us. Look at our news outlets like CNN: their front pages are all about the latest news that screams ME ME ME and nothing much about how others are being affected by our bad decisions. Both sides have got it wrong in one way or other and it’s becoming a daily contest of one-upmanship just to see who cane scream the loudest to get more views or website visits.

I’m tired of trying to have a kind of frosty view about the world around me when everything seems to be getting way out of whack. No wonder there are so many alternative news sites that barely research stories and then are counted as reliable by the public…In our rush to say anything, we’ve created the alt-right & alt-left just because we want to do whatever we think we should be able to do. In this day & age, I’m beginning to think we need a little more emphasis on inspiration & respect instead of all the emphasis of doing whatever we want. I want this to be more than just a morbid outlook on life because I don’t want to just accept things as they are, but do something that just might inspire someone…Maybe, just maybe, I might just inspire someone.

- Those Beams -
– Those Beams –
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Time…

It’s that time of year again: the leaves are fading, snow’s going to arrive sometime soon, and Christmas is like 8 weeks away. The commercialized holidays are coming and some stores have already started putting out Christmas stuff on display; we get so caught up in all of it that we forget to take a look around, causing us to forget what’s really happening. Just think, for every dollar spent, there’s someone being pushed really hard, getting told by their boss that they don’t think enough about the company and the bottom line…I truly believe that it’s that bad and we just gloss over Remembrance Day like it’s nothing.

- Those Beams -
– Those Beams –

It’s really ridiculous that this happens and I’m just as guilty of it as the next person…We pass by scenes like the one in the above photograph and don’t stop & think about what this means for us. I came to the park wanting to photograph something else and I wasn’t paying too much attention to this scene at all; if it wasn’t for others photographing the scene of the sun shining through the fog, then I’d never give it a second thought. We miss things all to easily because of mainstream society’s commercialization and the stupid politicization of every little thing around us. I totally forget to really stop & think so that I can inspire those around me and/or those that really need help.

I didn’t do much more than the normal clarity, tone, noise & mild colour adjustments to this photograph to really bring out what I saw & felt when I first saw it. And while it may not be the best of the batch I took that morning, it’s a good example of what we just might see if we stop falling for the commercialization of the upcoming holidays and start focusing in on the family & friends around us. It’s getting to the point that we’re getting on in life just to fall for whatever the media says to us and I’m going to try to shut them out and focus on the important things, for me at least, of faith & family. Remember what the veterans went through, their sacrifices, and focus in on the real meaning of Christmas, not just on what the latest tech & gear is or what the media says it is.

Why care…

Why care when it seems like nothing much is ever going to change? It’s a question that I’ve come to think has got some pull on me when it shouldn’t at all in the first place. What I mean is this: if we get caught up in the negative & in the labels that mainstream society throws onto us, then we just end up being part of the proverbial snowball that can easily get bigger & bigger, only harming us in the end. I’m beginning to think that no matter how much things stay the same, like getting sore after work, hearing all the crappy news, and realizing that the market may not be all it’s cracked up to be, I’ve got to somehow look to what I hold dear and hold fast onto hope.

For some people, it’s a matter of faith, and for others, it’s a matter of family, but I’ve got to say that it’s about 70-30 for me…Or at least that’s what it seems like at times. Sometimes, it comes down to greeting the morning with a little prayer and a smile on my face, something I think I’ve got to do a little more of just to keep myself to getting so negative at times. I truly believe that it comes down to the realization that we were created for more than just being negative every day, even though I forget that way too many times. In a way, it’s like the photograph below; initially I really responded negatively to this one, taken in mid-March of this year, but after going through it this week, I decided to give it another look through and I came out with one of my favourites, getting away from the negative response to it I had initially.

- Grass & Log -
– Grass & Log –

Situations change and we need to stand firm with what we believe, but work around them and really try our best to get through it without being all too negative. The above photograph was one that I remember being really upset with, but, after taking another look at it, I gave it a go and refined it, coming out with just how it must’ve felt at the time; I say that because it was taken seven months ago and the memory I have of the weather is that it was overcast and not too great at all. I don’t want to come out of this sounding sappy, so I’ll just say this: there’s more to life than just being negative all the time.

Stereotypes…

What really gets me ticked off these days are the many comparisons that so-called normal society makes about specific people and certain things; a big part of this is the stereotypes that are often implied when this happens. When we compare one person to the next person, we just might be saying that the one is a better person because of who they seem to be and what they say they stand for: a guy from the countryside isn’t as smart as the guy from the city because he doesn’t have the same education that the city slicker has.

- Raindrops on Purple -
– Raindrops on Purple –

This integrates itself into the various aspects of our lives in what we eat to what music we listen to, what we do for a hobby, who we vote for, and where we live; for instance, there are certain neighbourhoods where only certain people should go, according to so-called rules. Who says that the average joe with nothing more than a high school degree can’t live in a decent area of the city and vote more conservatively than the next guy? Stereotypes suck us in, thanks to certain changing rules & labels that mainstream society puts on us. The same goes for the arts: who says the average artist from the West can’t be drawn in by art from East & actively pursue that style in his art? I’ve got to make a disclaimer here: I’m really inspired more so by Asian painting than European sometimes because of the way landscapes are treated (just take a look at how ancient Chinese artists painted landscapes like the Huangshan mountain range).

- Raindrops on a Rose -
– Raindrops on a Rose –

The above photographs are a result of me tinkering with blur & distance, nowhere near the level of those ancient painters, but they are a direct result of seeing the ancient paintings of the artistic greats and wanting to do better, using blur to portray beauty & emotion while they, the ancient painters, used colour, or lack of,  & technique/style to get across the beauty & emotion of the landscapes they painted; I wanted to make the first about distance, on a small scale, while the ancient paintings were about using objects & weather (like fog) to convey scale, distance or size. The last photograph is more of me reverting to type and taking a photograph that doesn’t deviate from what I’m used to. What I’m ranting on about, and trying to get across, in my own nonsensical way, is that we sometimes need to take a peek outside our little world and see what others are doing, for inspiration, no matter who or what we are; please note that I’m not talking about matters of faith here, just matters of art & society outside of it.

Layers of sharpness…

What I’ve begun to start tinkering more with in my photography, at least when it comes to shots that are close-ups, is layers of sharpness using depth of field. With close-ups, I need to be wary of my aperture, especially because of the closeness of the subject to the lens itself. What this means is that f8 will most likely not have half the scene in focus, but a bit less than that; for full focus, I’d have to go down to something like f20 or f22. It’s tricky, but I’m still working on it; with so much out there to use as potential subjects, finding one, or more, is not the hardest thing to do.

- Purple & Shade -
– Purple & Shade –

The above shot is one such example because of the aperture which was at f8 and the shutter speed 1/200 with a low ISO. What I was trying to get at with this was to set the flowers against the wooden fence and I figured that by blurring the background, it would really set off at least most of the flowers against the fence and it worked. Looking back at this shot, taken midday & a little darker than normal to bring down the highlights, I did the usual refinements of clarity, localized saturation (vibrance in Lightroom), some contrast & noise, to really set out the colours of the flowers against the fence. It surprised me that it came out as good as it did, especially because I wasn’t working a polarizer; that was mostly due to laziness on my part, but it still worked out, thanks to some decent thinking.

We’ve been given so much by the Creator, so much that I can’t really see why I don’t try to get the most out of a scene and really work at presenting the beauty of the scene in front of me; even with this, I don’t always get it right. In life, we’re given things to work with them for the greater good and, even though I often fail at it, I hope that I can at least get it right more than a few times and inspire others to do the same. I don’t want to compete with others out there, nor do I want others to do that, but I want to bring something to the table that will cause us to look up once in a while or even just lend a hand & be there for others.

The mood…

Sometimes I get a brilliant idea, or I get bored and just decide to mess around with my camera to see if I can grab a few decent shots. The funny thing is, when the two collide, I usually end up with shots that I thoroughly enjoying and really learning from. The other day, for example, I was getting a little bored and wondering when I’d get a chance to get out and just photograph something, anything, of any decency. So, I went outside and found some hibiscus flowers to photograph in the evening light; needless to say, it had been raining & the sky was a little too dark, but it worked.

- Raindrops on Hibiscus -
– Raindrops on Hibiscus –

On the above photograph, I ended up tweaking the colour temperature, clarity, saturation, & using the tone curve adjustment apart from adjusting the noise levels. Sure, it’s a darker image & a moodier one than I’m used to, but it is a more emotional image than I’m used to; I could’ve lightened it up, but it works, in terms of feel, just as it is here. I’m never really even close to perfect with this, but I did score this one a slight touch darker than it was in reality and I kept it that way for this version because of the feel of it all…And it isolates the flower & raindrops just right for this specific composition. With other shots, I had them a bit lighter, but this one, at least for me, easily holds its own when put up alongside the others.

Personally, I just wanted to get something right on this shoot, so getting even one close to decent was good enough for me; getting several really good ones was definitely a good thing for me. To a certain extent, it’s like that in life because we need to be willing to go out there when the weather isn’t all that great and we might just be surprised; sure, we all need to take our time, but we need to be able to also reach out for help & inspiration. In a way, we, myself included, always need a little inspiration to get out there go about things with a positive mood, breaking away from defining ourselves by the labels that society puts on us.

Where’s the editing…

I thought I’d do something (kind of) fun this time around while I was revisiting some old shots from a trip to Cascade Falls in the province of British Columbia…In the image below, where exactly is the part of the scene that has a distracting element cloned out? I was finally able to muster up the concentration to be able to successfully clone it out; it was a small part of the scene, being a piece of trash, but it took up a large part of the balance of the scene itself, even though I only realized it after I had imported the photographs into Lightroom.

- Cascade Falls Creek -
– Cascade Falls Creek –

Now that the challenge has been dropped, it’s time to get on with how the image was edited, apart from using the spot removal tool. Using my powers of concentration (I’m joking here about having them), I used the split toning, noise reduction, tone curve & clarity tools to warm it up. Why? Because I wanted to bring it into the way it felt the minute I saw it and I used other edits done the day of the shot to compare it to. For me, it’s extremely helpful to have edits from the day of, or at least a day or two later, because it gives me something to compare later revisits to and something to work off of. This one, had a comparison image to work off of and although I did use it, I went about refining this shot differently, mostly because I had an idea to work off of…And I wanted to try it from a different angle, or approach.

It’s usually better to have something to compare an edit to when you’re revisiting a shoot you’ve done some time ago and that’s why I usually do a few first-run edits after I’ve imported the shots. It also becomes a learning experience for me along the way because it shows me how I would’ve originally refined a shot and what I would, or wouldn’t, do the next time around. Most of the time, I get into revisiting old shoots when I’m bored or wanting to learn, or try, something new, so having a comparison edit to use as a reference is a big help & bonus. So, I’m going to try my best to learn in the process and keep photographing!

Back to basics…

Thinking that I’m going to screw up sometimes comes with the territory when I go about photographing a small area no bigger than that of a football. Why do I do that? I do that as more of a training exercise to get my creative juices flowing; it helps to train me to see things that I would normally just pass up because of their small size. Shots, like the one below, help me hone my focus a bit and work on composition & colour in tight spaces.

- Raindrops & Flowers -
– Raindrops & Flowers –

The above shot had slight contrast, clarity, black clipping, vibrancy (called Vibrance in Lightroom 6), noise, & exposure adjustments to refine it, but it stayed totally true to what it had been when I first captured the shot. These flowers are tiny (about half the size of a penny) and have colour variations that are often tricky for me to capture, hence the colour & clarity refinements. For me, it’s about trying to capture the mood at the time in a small space; even though I was outdoors and free to move around, I confined myself to a space no bigger than that of a small vehicle in order to make myself get used to smaller, more refined movements & adjustments to how I was photographing. In a way, this kind of exercise forces me to get back to the basics & work with what’s directly in front of me.

This kind of thing is a way for me to continually make myself work on the basics so that I don’t forget them as easily as I usually do…This comes WAY too easy for me. Remember the old saying that sometimes we need something to jog our memory? Well, sometimes I need a good swift kick so I don’t forget. Another good thing about exercises like this is that they help to reinforce the basics through repetition that isn’t quite mindless, at least for me. So get out there & challenge yourself.

That one photograph (Part 2)…

Continuing with the topic from the last post (that one photograph), I’ve been thinking about just how many times I just go about taking photographs and then, when I’m going through them later, I completely miss some good ones. Going to a car show on the beginning of the Labor Day long weekend here, I was initially reluctant to go, but I figured that it couldn’t hurt, so I took my camera along and snapped a few photographs of the different classic vehicles on display; because I’m not one to ride motorbikes, I skipped photographing them and focused on the classic cars that were there, some of which dated back to Ford’s Model T, the vehicle that started it all in the US.

- 1940 Mercury Coupe Front End -
– 1940 Mercury Coupe Front End –

So why, when I’m talking about that one photograph, did I include two? The thing is, when I was going through the collection of what is now between 80 to 90 photographs, I saw the first one more clearly and worked to refine it more thoroughly while the second one was one that I missed completely on the first two go arounds. The second one became my favourite because it shows off the styling of the back of the coupe, a 1940 Mercury Coupe, in a close up, that, for me, symbolizes just how elaborate & unique the pre-WWII cars were that came out of the US. Along with the stylish art-deco dashboard, which I didn’t photograph because I really didn’t want to do it any injustice by trying, and failing, to capture it correctly, it was a car that seemed to really stick out for me among the other classics there, even the Ferraris. As a side note, I grew up around Porsches & VWs, so I’m not particularly fond of Italian cars or their styling, but, for some strange reason, I also seem to like the stock version of the Pontiac Aztec & the first generation of the Kia Soul (to each, their own).

- 1940 Mercury Coupe Rear Light -
– 1940 Mercury Coupe Rear Light –

Thinking about it, the second one is one of my favourites because it shows off the tiniest detail in the styling of the back light of the vehicle. Big bold styling is alright (hey, the DeLorean DMC-12 is amazing), but I tend to like the subtle touches, not just in cars, but in each photograph. Now I mostly will not be successful in doing this at least half of the time, but I’m hoping that I can at least get close to getting close to it, especially as I continue trying to get it right.

That one photograph…

Thinking about the one photograph that has always come back to either haunt me or inspire me, I’m in wonder at how much that one shot can inspire me. It’s not much, in reality, but it gets me stopping & thinking about just how much I admire the spot where it was taken and what it really means to me. Personally, it has changed over the years and has varied in its effect on me over the days & months; lately, it’s a photograph of a mossy rock with overgrown grass surrounding it.

- Rock & Grass -
– Rock & Grass –

Why does this photograph inspire me? This shot, taken at another angle of the spot in the botanical gardens that is so overlooked, makes me want to pause for a while and wonder just about where I am, who I am, and where I’m going. Other angles on this scene show only the rock, moss & grass, and yet they still have the same effect; they make me stop, think & want to do better just because it seems so peaceful, especially because the sun rarely hits it when the surrounding plants have come out of their winter slumber. The cool-hued shade, coupled with the sunlight that does break through on the scene, has a somewhat calming effect, especially when I actually stop to see it. Letting myself soak up a scene works much better with a scene like this and I’m thinking it’s because of the simple colour scheme.

Sometimes it’s a struggle to feel inspired, to feel something more than just okay, but that’s alright because it gets us moving & thinking; an elderly neighbour once said, without a little trouble, we don’t really grow. Of course, she said it in more of a metaphorical way, but it holds so true because without some struggle, we don’t really get a feel that we’re growing at all and we tend to become complacent…myself included. Sometimes, there’s a struggle to just get past that one photograph to make others and, for me, that’s as good a reason as any to keep trying; especially when I’m trying to learn off of what I’ve already done.