Time…

Thinking aloud about what time really means, I’ve come to think of it as more than just the passage of events & moments. Photographers deal with scenes, photographing in on a set time like 1/500 of a second or even compressing 4 minutes into a single photograph. When certain events that divide or unite us, like the assaults in Edmonton or the shooting in Las Vegas, we either take time to slow down & ask why, or lash out, like the mainstream media has, at the politicians & those in charge. This post has taken some time for me to get to, not only because of a lack of time or my own laziness, but trying to find the right, or decent, words to say.

For me, personally, I do care about gun control, wondering why we’re so fascinated by weaponry, but I’ve come to realize that it’s the person who pulls the trigger; the paintbrush isn’t to blame when the painter has a painting that turns out bad, nor the camera when the photographer’s shot turns out crappy. For me, it’s about how much we’ve messed up that we want to blame others for our mistakes, something I do all too often. From the outside looking in, the mainstream media is always looking to blame and seldom looks to examine; I’m looking right at you CNN & company. I’m not going to walk further into the gun control debate, because, for me, it’s about the mentality behind the weapons, not just the weapons themselves.

Change begins with us taking a stand & doing what we’re called to do, which means not giving in to the ones who focus on the spur of the moment reaction. It’s not about popularity, it’s about doing, or at least trying to do, what should be done to lift each other up past the labels that mainstream society puts on us. It can really stink when we get caught up in the mainstream and feel like there’s no other alternative…And by mainstream, I mean both the left & right political ends of society. When we get stuck in that rut, we forget to inspire others most of the time and end up caring much more about personal standing than really caring for others.

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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.

The beat vs. the meaning…

Thinking about it, we often tend to focus on the beat compared to what the meaning of the lyrics are; I’m so guilty of this as well. We’re so taken back by how much a beat moves us that we don’t really think about the lyrics themselves. In this day & age, we’re focused on the beat & melody that we forget to dig a little deeper and find out what the song really means; I guess it comes with the territory when we fully adopt the materialism that mainstream media pushes our way, along with the shallow, biased news stories.

When was that last time we really stopped to tell someone we care about them and when was the last time we tried to inspire them? We’re so focused on our daily rhythm that we easily forget about those around us who just might be needing a simple word of encouragement or a helping hand. I’m not talking about the street hustlers here, but those people that come into our daily lives and seem to just be looking for a little help, but don’t really ask for it at all. If our lives are always go-go-go, then we just might be in need of a little breather from it all now & then to help us get a refresh.

Thinking about it, there’s so many wondering what’s happening that we might just need to stop awhile and lend a helping hand. Most of the time, it’s not our place to really ask why, but it might just be our place to really help out a person in time of need. There’s so much out there that goes wrong every now & then, especially in politics & money, that taking a time out with a friend might just be what we, and they, need right now.

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.

That dreaded day…

Recalling my days as a student, there wasn’t much that was as terrifying as the realization that summer break was going to be over soon and school was starting up. It meant homework, tests, readings, more readings and yet more tests; it wasn’t exactly something that was too eagerly looked forward to. But the back to school sales during my university years were good enough that stuff was cheaper, and less of a worry…It meant cheaper tech and less of a hit on the bank account. Nowadays, that dreaded day can be anything from coming up empty creatively, the day when the workload is way too heavy, or even when you realize that holidays are approaching fast and you’ve got a big list with no real way to satisfy everyone.

Coming up empty, creatively, tends to suck the life out of a person quite easily and has the tendency to make people just want to sink down on the couch. It has a habit of just sneaking up on me like some kind of bad nightmare and making me think my last decent day of doing something worthwhile has passed. It’s then that, while feeling bored, that I get the idea that maybe, just maybe, I should look through my previous photographs and see if I can’t learn something from them, tweak them, or just enjoy them. Sometimes that’s all it takes to make that dreaded day just a little bit better or put a little enjoyment into it; especially when I’m feeling a bit down, looking back at photographs can both make it worse & a little better because it helps me look at these images with fresh eyes.

Looking at things with fresh eyes helps us from making rush decisions, not just in photography, but in life as well, because it gives us some space from the initial shock/reaction and often gives us at least some perspective. It helps dumb down, to a certain extent, that dreaded day into something at least a bit more manageable, but then again, sometimes we don’t grow without a little bit of rain (a.k.a. trouble).

A moment…

Personally, a moment in time can make all the difference when it comes to photography, and I’m not talking about anything remotely close to capturing the scene in front of us. What I’m talking about is the kind of a-ha moment when you’ve been doing something else and you get an idea for doing something with a scene or a photograph you’ve already taken. For example, I could be reading a book or watching TV and then I suddenly get an idea for refining a certain photograph a certain way…That’s what I’m getting on about.

- Spots of Water, Spots of Colour -
– Spots of Water, Spots of Colour –

What got me thinking about that was when I was reading yet another badly written news article about politics and an idea came into my mind to revisit some photographs I had taken about a couple of weeks ago. It’s not like I get this kind of thing happening all the time, the need/desire to revisit my past photographs, but it helps me learn & improve (hopefully). If it works, then I usually don’t end up tampering with it, but, like usual, I can just as easily change my mind about whether or not it works or not; it’s part of the problem of double-guessing myself quite a bit. The thing is, I’m not always fully aware when it comes to colour in what I photograph, so revisiting the shots helps me learn to be better aware, even if it’s a little bit at a time.

- Spots of Water, Spots of Colour -
– Spots of Water, Spots of Colour –

The above photographs are easily an example of that specific moment when I get the idea to revisit them in post-processing, especially because I just as easily resisted refining them the first time through. Sometimes, all it takes is learning from past photographs to improve on new ones and, sometimes, all it takes is revisiting old ones to find gems that were covered in dust; it’s all a learning curve that I personally don’t think ever really ends. The thing is, I guess I’m going to have to keep on learning because that’s the only real way to grow & improve.