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.

That ol’ drunk horizon…

Thinking about it, how many times have we taken a photograph without checking out the horizon line? I’ve done it quite a few times and, I’m ashamed to admit, it’s all about not paying too much attention to where it is in the overall composition. It’s all too common for me to ignore it and end up with a crooked horizon like that really makes it look like I was drunk at the time I took the photograph (just to be clear, I’m not one to drink booze). Sometimes, a little slant to a horizon is just a new perspective and in life we want to look for a new angle on things, but we need to make sure that we’re not far off or we’re going to really fall down. Considering what my personal tastes are, especially in music, I’m beginning to wonder if I’m not just more than a little crazy.

- Red Red Pond -
– Red Red Pond –

The above photograph does have a slant to the horizon, but it’s because it’s a broken shoreline and it helps aid the composition; or at least I personally think it does. Now I’m writing/typing this while listening to Good Charlotte’s Youth Authority album and it might count for some oddities in what I’m saying, but hear me out; the horizon has a great effect on the photograph, so we need to pay attention to its placement, but unless we’re going to the whacky & outlandish, we should be purposeful in our placement of it. If we’re going to be purposeful about it, we need (myself included) to realize that a horizon that is slightly off looks like we were drunk while one that’s way off can work if it’s meant to convey motion and doesn’t look like a total screw up.

The above photograph was recently taken and I have to say it took some time to refine it, mostly because I didn’t use a polarizer which meant that the reds were off, but I managed to correct for that with red & orange tweaks in Lightroom. That reminds me, when is Adobe going to wise up and release Lightroom 7? I sure don’t want to be restricted to a month-by-month subscription for something that’s the backbone of my digital photography when it comes to working on the computer, but that’s off topic (stupid Adobe). Until next time, keep the horizon straight, watch where it’s placed in the frame, and pay attention to what’s going on in the composition.

I got nothing…

Isn’t it always a real downer when we’ve got nothing to say, nothing to do? Sure, sometimes not having anything pressing to do can be a good thing, but sometimes it leads our minds to wander and then we get lost in that wandering. Sometimes all it takes is a good book, a good drink (the non-alcoholic kind), or even just a nudge from that still small voice inside, to get back on track & get inspired. Oddly enough, for me, it sometimes is a good song over the radio while I’m driving, or from some other music player; it’s some country song, some gospel song, or, on the rare occasion, a Good Charlotte song (I’m thinking of either The River or We Believe, or even something from their newest work) because my strange mind just works that way. While I’m not exactly onboard with everything about them, the band does inspire me a bit in their music.

- Tree & Flowers -
– Tree & Flowers –

The above photograph was taken a few months ago, but while I was thinking about the new album from Good Charlotte, Youth Authority, I figured that, in a completely unrelated way, I should take a second look at some of my photographs from the gardens where this shot was taken. This shot, and another that was similar, stuck out to me, but this one had a better composition so I decided to bring out what I remember feeling at that time when I took the shot. Did I get it? Maybe. Did it in inspire me to try it again? YES. With all the refinements that I made (vignette, clarity, vibrancy, noise & select color adjustments), I actually succeeded in bringing out my intent for this photograph, something I couldn’t do when I was going over this shot the first time.

Thinking about it, when I got nothing, inspiration can come from the most unlikely of areas, often from something completely unrelated. Inspiration can often show up when we’re not even thinking about what to do and sometimes we just have to ride that wave, or just remember what it was for when we’ve got time to get out and follow through on what inspired us. So, when we got nothing, sometimes I think the best idea is to just go back & learn from past things we’ve done to inspire us.

Worth…

It comes down to worth, for me at least…Is it really worth getting out there and using my camera, old by today’s technology standards, to capture a shot that might not be that significant? YES. Sure, I may not be anywhere near famous, talented or even anywhere near more than decent, but it gets me thinking and gets me to the point where I can unwind from all of life’s issues that the world seems to throw at me. I might not be the sharpest tool in the shed, but I’ve come to realize that I need to get to point that I’m able to not give a crap about how toxic the critics can be and try to do something that’s of worth. Personally, I believe we’re created to do something of meaning, something of worth, that might just inspire others to do better; the Creator’s calling us to really believe in him and he’s given us means of expression, whether that’s in the sciences, or in the arts.

- Tiny Blues -
– Tiny Blues –

It’s shots like the one above that really seem to get to me in a good way, especially after minor tweaking (after shooting it in RAW instead of the compressed JPEG format), because they show the beauty in the small things that can be so much greater than all the rest of the flashy crap out there in the world at large. The cool thing is that the center of the photograph isn’t the sharpest thing in the photograph, the spot on the right of it is; we’re drawn to the center and then left to explore the rest of the scene that the photograph presents. It’s about the exploration that just might make it worth it for the viewers and even if it doesn’t, it just might do that for me for even just one more time.

It’s not always about doing something of worth every single time, but about doing something that might just be of worth at one point or other. We stumble & fall all the time, but are we trying to at least get up and have another go of it, trying to do something of worth, not for ourselves, but for others? I’m going to make a go of it, or at least try to do just that, and maybe, just maybe, I might be able to brighten someone else’s day.

Patterns…

Every day we hear things about how we need to see the big picture and what the bigger picture means in photography, but I’m beginning to think that by doing this, we tend to lose sight of the little patterns in the scene by making everything in focus. When everything is in focus, there’s often somethings that get missed because it becomes harder to stick out among the rest of the noise around them. For me, I’ve been so guilty of brushing over the small details that it almost makes we wonder what was going through my mind when I go back & get a completely different shot the second, third, or fourth time around.

- Log Detail -
– Log Detail –

The above photograph was a recent shot where I finally did get the small detail in the log right for the first time in a long time. I had set out to photograph a completely different park in the city, but I changed my mind due to bothersome road construction nearby, so this park was a sudden idea; it was much bigger and presented a greater area from which to work with. This shot was of the detail of a log bench that has probably been at the park for quite a long time; with an overcast day, the shadows were spread out & faded quite well, so the textures were quite easy to bring out. As usual with shooting RAW, the image needed refinement and got a few tweaks (Tone Curve, Clarity, Vibrancy & Noise among them). Oddly enough, because of the duotone nature of the image, I could have gone black & white & then split-toned the image to get the same result, but that would’ve just taken the color out only to put it back in.

Nowadays, there are so many ways to process an image and many more ways to exhibit & show off what we’ve captured. It’s all about us in today’s society and so much to the point that we forget that it really shouldn’t be; nature doesn’t revolve around us, but it’s there, among other things, to allow us to explore it & take care of it. Constantly tinkering with what we capture can easily produce something that betrays how we felt at the moment of capture and something I too easily do. Photography is about producing something that says something and/or shows what, or how, we felt at the time of capture…The same goes for patterns around us; they’re there to say something & for us to say something through them in our photography. Like the above photograph, it’s not necessarily just about the greater pattern, but it can be about a small, isolated part of the overall pattern.

Good swift kick…

So, I’ve been working through the first couple of groups of photographs I’ve taken over the past 2.5 months and I’m beginning to notice something that I thought I’d never be able to get close to getting right…Lighting & mood. This might sound pretty basic, especially because I’ve been into photography for over a decade, but I’ve never quite figured it out when it comes to really integrating the two when it comes to personal vision. It was like someone gave me a good swift kick because I’ve somehow, with a little help from above, come to appreciate the moment & not think just of myself when I’m taking the shot; it just took time for me to get it right.

- Frozen Pond -
– Frozen Pond –
Now, before I get too far ahead of myself, I have to point out that, when making physical prints, I’ve set the brightness level to +7 in Lightroom 6.8’s Print module so that it matches what I saw at the scene & on my computer monitor. The above photograph was one of those that I chose to do this way…But why? Because the printer I was using tends to print a little darker than what I’m used to; personally, I think it might be because of the dye-based inks in the printer, but I could easily be wrong on that point, so don’t quote me on it. In the end, after about a week of procrastination of making a print, it took a good, swift (and figurative) kick to actually go ahead & make a print of it…I guess procrastination does have an effect on me (sarcasm implied). The trouble is that it’s so easy to just keep putting things off and then we end up forgetting about them.

I tend to think of the good swift kick being kind of like the voice telling me to get with it, go out & use the camera, capturing something. Sometimes, that’s all it really takes, getting out there with camera in hand, observing & soaking the environment all around us, to get us thinking creatively, capturing something that might just mean something. Looking back at the photograph above, taken at least a month ago, it was a push to get out & take photographs that got me to that spot; being too lazy to climb up the rest of the hill, I decided to focus on the frozen pond, working on how I saw the scene before me, translating that into the various photographs I took that day. The moral of the story: just get out and have a try, because you’ll never know if you don’t try!

For all the light’s worth…

For what it’s worth, I’m not totally convinced we’ve got this whole bit about light & photography down pat; mostly because there’s always something that’s happening in the atmosphere that effects the light itself, changing how we see it. We get caught up in chasing the latest gear & tech to supposedly help us adapt our photography to this that we forget how to deal with it. When we see something new come out, we tend to jump on it, instead of studying it to see what it’s all about and working with what we have to get what we see with, and within, our vision.

- Snowy Glow -
– Snowy Glow –

The above photograph came about when I was out trying to capture a snow scene at the local park and I realized that I could use the reflected light from the snow as my primary light source, instead of relying on the overcast, diffused light coming through the clouds. While I exposed for the snow at about +1 or +2, I worked with what the snow presented me with (simple white reflected light) to allow the rest of the scene to glow. It allowed the green branches to brighten up and seemingly glow in the scene, lightening up the scene & bringing it out as a subject, set against the snow. In simpler terms, I tried working it for all the light’s worth; whether it worked or not is not really for me to say, because it might look completely different by the next person that it did to me.

Photography is about getting the most out of light while saying something of meaning and, while the above image doesn’t directly say much, it was about the glow of a plant still very much alive despite the cold winter storm that it had just endured. It’s basically saying that after the storm has passed, there’s still hope that the greenery will return and, indeed, it already has as this tree has shown. So often we hear that we’re supposed to expose for the right (in regards to the histogram), but I’ve come to think that in shots like this, I’ll expose for the green at about -2/3 of a stop, or for the snow at about +1 to +2 stops, whichever one tends to work better for me. So, in conclusion, trying to get it right for all light’s worth is where we should be in terms of photography.

Where meaning & editing meet…

Personally, I tend to think about the meeting point between meaning & editing or, in simpler terms, vision & refining quite a bit, or at least I should. Out of all the things that frustrate me and cause me to go nuts, it’s this thing that drives me nuts every time because I never quite now if I’m going to be able to put up or shut up. And, to be honest, I’d rather put up than shut up, especially when it comes to getting it right when I match my vision to my refining in photography. Most of the time I don’t even come close and that’s what really gets me frustrated…Much more than it should.

- Q E Snow -
– Q E Snow –
- Q E Pond -
– Q E Pond –

These photographs have been festering for some time in my photography library for this year; they’re from at least a month ago and I haven’t touched the first one up for at least three & a half weeks and the one with the frozen pond is a recent edit, and a quick one at that, but that doesn’t mean I did it half way…I just used what I saw in the other edits I did on the photographs from that place and translated it onto this one. Personally, I hate photographs that have a strong blueish tint to the white balance because when I do get that, it looks hazy & weak to me; this makes winter photography a bit trickier than it should for me. I’ll be the first to admit that there’s some restrictions I place on myself I should be smashing down because all they do is frustrate me, and my preference for white balance should be one of them I should at least calm down so that it comes more in line with what I see in a scene.

How do I do that? I’m lost at times about how to do just that, but I’ll keep working at it, trying to get my brain to cooperate with my vision and then, just maybe then, I won’t get so darn frustrated when things don’t turn out. Like I’ve probably said so many times before, it’s a work in progress and something I should keep working at every time. So until I get it right, which I doubt it will ever happen, I’ll keep searching for where vision & refining meet.

Make it pretty…

I’ve been thinking about what it really means to work at photography and it definitely isn’t about making it look pretty. We spend so much time on the superficial that we miss what’s going on behind the surface and it’s like that in life as well; just look at all the books about eating to look good and compare that to the ones about eating to feel well on the inside, not just healthy. It almost makes me laugh, if it wasn’t so sad that we’ve lost ourselves in how something looks without making sure the meaning, or vision behind it is right.

How do we get it right the first time? We don’t always get it right the first time (I’m speaking from personal experience), but that’s alright because we’re supposed to be striving to get it right…It’s a learning experience. When I think of it, photography is about working through the image to show at least some vision or impact, not just make it look pretty. Sometimes, working through an image, thinking about how the tones & composition looks, rather than just the color, comes out much better than we think. Striving to get good bones for the shot is what we should be striving for, myself included, and we should be striving that way in life as well, going for what’s inside instead of what’s on the outside. I can tune an image until it looks great, but if there’s no impact, no vision, then there’s nothing really behind the image…And definitely no message and/or meaning behind it.

That’s what I like about musicians like Twenty One Pilots, Red, Darius Rucker, & Thrice; their music means so much more that…There’s meaning behind their songs, not like the general pop music that floods the airwaves these days. I’m usually one to groan & complain, but if I can do one thing to make the world a better place for at least one person, then I’m good with that. Not that I’d hope to stop after that, mind you. So basically, what I’m trying to say is that making it pretty isn’t the right way to go when it comes to life in general…Making things worth it is what we should be striving for, myself included.

A simple edit…

The last post was about all the bull we have to get past and it sure did turn into a rant, but I’m kind of glad it did, because it got a lot of things off my chest. Whether we’re thinking life or photography, we’ve got a lot of noise, or bull, to get through before we find what we even think we’re looking for. It could be that special something, or someone, or even a certain song, album or way of doing things, but either way, it’s something that will stick out at us when we’ve found it, right? Not all of the time, but most, if we’re paying attention or even just looking around for whatever it is. It might not show up right away, or it might seem as if it’s passed us by, but there’s always something we’re looking for.

- Food -
– Food –

It’s like the above photograph, for example, because, without the edit, or refinement, the bird mixed in a little too well into its surrounding environment; all I did, after tonal & noise adjustment, was bring it out with the adjustment brush in Lightroom. Sure, that might be making the bird lighter than it came out initially, but that is, after all the adjustments, the way it was when I first saw it. I had only a few seconds to respond in order to capture it and it worked out alright for me; life is like that, sometimes we miss an event if we’re not looking directly for it, or we remember it differently, but it comes and we’ve got to figure it out before it passes us by. It stinks when it passes us by, or at least seems to pass us by. We tend to think that once it’s passed us by, it’s gone, but we forget that we’re often given at least another chance to get something right. The analogy of the photograph may be tenuous, but it somewhat works for me; I say somewhat because I tend to want to visualize something, especially if it’s an analogy.

Picking up on the last post, it’s no wonder we see people leaving their traditions behind as a way to get past all the bull, even though the bull has nothing to do with tradition; I figure it’s because we’ve begun to think of them as empty ritual, and, in this current societal atmosphere, it’s a quick fix we’re after, not something that may have been tried, tested & true. In the field of photography, it’s the idea that principals are rules and should be discarded completely; while I think that’s not really true of principles, in photography, they should be held as helpful guidelines that can really improve how we capture a scene, subject or mood. We need to find a way that makes us do something that matters, not just for ourselves, but for others.