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.

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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.

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!