Simple…

Usually, life isn’t always so simple, or so the media tells us; I think this is usually a lie when it comes to reality because the media nowadays is so biased that there’s little to no trust left in it anymore. Most important things are simple in life, but we’ve been so bombarded with confusion that we forget just how to get back to a point where life could be simple. In photography, simplicity makes a scene much easier to comprehend & understand, something that I’ve not always been able to get done right. What it does do, by making things simple, is that the composition doesn’t scream out to the viewer, but it helps the viewer focus in on what should be focused on.

- Mushrooms and Grass -
– Mushrooms and Grass –

I’m usually not the kind to brag, and I’m not going to start one here, so there is something to be said by trying to learn through making simpler compositions. If we put way too much in focus that isn’t too relevant, then it’s like we’re just going around and pointing to random things in the scene, making them all seem as important as the main subject & theme. If we’re trying to inspire, then random pointing isn’t necessarily going to work…at least not logically. For example, if we’re trying to capture a mushroom in a grassy field, the best thing would be not to focus on every single blade of grass as well as the mushrooms; like the above photograph, keeping some of the grass in focus is a good thing for context, but making everything in focus, would easily distract from the mushroom, especially if it was black & white where tones are much more important. Distractions usually don’t help the photograph and, by concentrating on the subject, our vision for the scene can shine through much easier; I’ve goofed this up so many times that it’s just a bit embarrassing admitting it.

Thinking back on it, I’ve probably done more than one rant on simplicity and forgotten what I’ve said more times than I care to admit. The funny thing about it is that forgetting about it might be the one thing that actually helps because it means I’m always learning, or at least trying to, keep things a little simple that I end up stressing it quite a bit while maybe ranting about it way too much. There are so many amazing photographers out there, some of whom I know, who keep their photography simple, including those that don’t necessarily do it for a living, for reasons that I can only speculate, but I personally think that it’s because they want their photographs to mean something & inspire others in their simplicity.

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A walk through the gardens (Part 2)…

Getting back to the idea of a walk through the gardens, I’ve wondered what the cost of just putting aside my preconceived notions of what gardens should be; I go through the gardens expecting to see colors of a certain type & form, look for flowers that bloom a certain way, but do I really look at the gardens as they are or how they make me feel? At its core, photography should be about emotion, feeling, inspiration & impact, not just how something fits into preconceived notions & ideas. Sometimes, on a walk through the gardens, I’ve got to learn to slow down and really feel what the scene in front of me is saying or the way I photography it might just be way too shallow to be of any good use. For example, when I see a flower in bloom, am I seeing just the flower or how the colors of its bloom interact & contrast with the rest of the scene and what does it say to me?

- Moss in Battle -
– Moss in Battle –

The above photograph was of a scene I’ve only recently started paying attention to in the gardens over the last few months, even though I’ve passed by it for years; every year, the moss seems to crawl over this tree and this spot in particular, but when I first spotted it some months ago, it looked like a cloud creeping in over some kind of field, reminding me of an ever-encroaching fog in some battle in a fantasy story. However, this moss seems to be less malevolent than the fog of battle or darkness and it almost seems to be the exact opposite…I guess the green color of it has something to do with that. What gets me paying more attention to it is that I’ve come to remember the spot so that I look up & see it, I’ve come to slow down and take in the scene in front of me as I walk through the gardens, and I’m learning to take it all in & push my preconceived notions/ideas aside when doing so. When it comes to a walk in the gardens, looking back at this photograph, it’s about just being in the moment when I take the shot and not letting a preconceived plan get in the way.
I know I’ve said that going for a walk through the gardens is more about going without a planned course of action and I’m beginning to realize that it’s about more than that: it’s about being in the moment while not letting secular society & all the worries come flooding into my mind to distract me. I know the Creator’s given me one life to live and I know that I’m meant for so much more, so I don’t think that letting society get to me is going to help all that much at all. This time, a walk through the garden is going to help refresh  my mind, allowing the Creator to speak to me, guiding me, as I walk through it all.

Without the tree?

There’s something to be said by celebrating the holidays without the tree decorated in the living room, or even outside. What gets me about having a tree is the advertising from all the stores; if the tree we have means something to us, why do we need to go all out for some tree that we might just throw away at the end of the holidays. Having a tree in the living room, at least for me, is about having something for the family, or friends, to gather around, not to show off. I’d rather having something that means something than something that’s superficial. I get just as guilty as others do when it comes to being materialistic, especially when the latest sales are one or the holidays are approaching, so I’m not trying to blame anyone, just trying to point something out.

- Snow & Branches -
– Snow & Branches –

It says something when the weather outside isn’t too great and there’s snow on the trees, but it says something more when the tree inside is all shiny, but never really used or gathered around at all. Things like that tend to suck the meaning out of the holidays & out of Christmas altogether if we’re not careful. Sometimes, it helps to not have a tree because having one becomes a distraction from what Christmas is all about, making us think about the latest things we can get instead of the boy child in the manger. Christmas for me has become more so about the manger and recovering from any soreness from work (he last three months of the year are the busiest for me). The music playing around this time of year is just a welcome bonus, especially when it points me upwards instead of downwards.

It’s great having the days off, but for those that don’t, try not to make things difficult for them, because they’re working so that you don’t have to, or they’re there so that you can shop. We could all use a little more peace in the world, especially right now with all the crap that’s happening all around us. So, let’s just slow down, stop what we’re rushing to get before it sells out, and think about what’s really important this Christmas; let’s get past the abuses in Hollywood (by not letting them ruin Christmas for us) and try to salvage the holidays before we ruin their start.

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!

The 5th season…

Here in Canada, the concept of a fifth season can often sound strange to outsiders because it doesn’t refer to an actual season, but to sports, namely ice hockey & the NHL in particular. A league with more American teams than Canadians that’s yet about 49% Canadian when it comes to athletes. The fifth season is something that I’m not going to argue is a ridiculous term, but I will argue that it’s just something that might carry quite a bit more weight than it should; we get all carried away when our team loses (sorry Toronto, but it’s just funny when you lose), and we bond over a sport that can sometimes take our mind of off what really matters…Caring for & inspiring others. We get carried away by sports, only to forget about each other, something that I’m guilty of on so many occasions.

Thinking about it, and how sports can sometimes suck all the life out of us when we get too crazy about it, it seems like we, as a people, are so dominated by entertainment that we get drawn away from really thinking about each other. And, most of the time, it’s not restricted to the Fifth Season either because it seems like there’s no single time that we’re not bombarded with distractions, from sports, media, or otherwise. Where the Fifth Season comes in is when we get so caught up waiting for some action in the sports realm that we forget to get any movement, in any direction, from ourselves, planting ourselves down on the couch in front of the TV instead. I get guilty of this quite quickly, especially when the season passes halfway, mostly because it’s when the games tend to get more interesting & intense with the teams fighting for points needed to make the post-season.

Looking at it just before the media circus is going to gear up, it’s interesting how much is hyped up and just how much it flops when the actual regular season begins in September, when the teams begin playing for points. I’m not mocking the media circus so much as mocking the fact that it gets us to the point that we let the noise of it all distract us from what’s really important in life. So, here’s to the Fifth Season and not letting it distract us from helping & inspiring others.

Running interference…

Every time I hear the latest complaint from politicians, I keep thinking that their latest complaint is just a smokescreen for something else they’re doing that’s unethical; the scary thing is…it’s almost always true, no matter where on earth you are, or what the brand of the politician is. And, to make matters worse, we tend to easily fall for it ourselves (I include myself in this) and think that life is so depressing. To a certain extent, we need to get over it and at least try to be positive ourselves instead of being negative. When politicians run interference, ask why, what, where and how the complaints they raise are important.

We also should be asking why we’re running interference and what I mean by this is that we tend to want to do something else than address what is really bugging us and causing us to fail; I’m just as guilty as the next person of this and it sucks being stuck doing this. Sometimes we need to use a distraction to get ourselves out of a kind of rut/funk, but when we use a distraction just for distraction’s sake, with no other reason behind it, then we end up running interference when we really shouldn’t. It stinks not being able to get out of a rut, but it’s even worse when we run interference, distracting ourselves for no plain reason. I’m slowly getting better at not running interference, but it’s a long journey and, I guess, that’s just the way life is.

Sometimes, looking back on it, it seems as if it’s one distraction after another, as if life is one big occurrence of running interference, keeping us from being on track. There are times when they seem like the worst ideas and other times when they’re looking as if they’re the brightest of ideas; the problem is sorting out the bad from the good. Sometimes, the best solution is to ignore the outside world running interference and focus on why we are doing it ourselves while not getting too full of ourselves at the same time.

Staying an hour…

Sometimes spending more time with our photographs is a good thing…Actually, it almost always is because it can help us see where we went wrong, or right, as well as seeing what we were doing to get the shot. This isn’t specifically about editing, although taking time with editing is usually good, but it’s about examining what made us take the photograph the way we did. What makes us tick and do the things we do? How are we going to ever understand it if we don’t stay an extra hour (figuratively of course) and try to really focus on what we’re doing, what we believe, what we’re seeing, and/or why we’re taking photographs?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
– Overgrown Path –

For me, photography is like trying to get a breather, using my camera to capture a scene out in the natural world that will remind me that there’s beauty out there…And that there’s something more than just what I’m seeing & hearing in the news. Sometimes I’ve wanted to just stay an hour in the outdoors, until I remember that it’s either cold outdoors or I’ve got something that needs to be done and then I forget about staying that time. When it comes down to it, staying the extra hour sometimes helps in getting better photographs, especially when we take time to see the possibilities right in front of us and tinker with different camera settings or revisit old photographs & work with them differently in Lightroom or other photo programs like AfterShot Pro. Sometimes, the extra look over the photograph helps us learn from what we did, growing as photographers & artists.

Staying an hour extra, or any other length of time, also can help give us a bit more time to fully work out our vision for potential shots that present themselves. When we slow down, we tend to let things have another chance, or two, at making an impression and give us a feel for a photograph or more. In doing so, it gives us more time to look at the coloration in the scene, telling us if we need a polarizing filter (it will cut out the reflections in water, so beware of this) or if we can change it later in Lightroom. Making more time might just help us out, something I definitely need to remember, and it helps us stay more with each shot, getting us to concentrate a bit more on each one.