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.

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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.

Stop & learn…

It’s not exactly something that I’m good at, stopping & learning, but it’s something that I know that I’ve got to work on. I see all the crap that’s happening out there in the wider world and I can’t help but wonder how I’m avoiding adding to the noise and how I’m actually doing something that’s of worth. I want to be able to portray the beauty in nature with my photography, so I need to constantly be learning how to do that better; personally, I want to be able to do this to inspire at least one person to get out there and see that there’s more to it than just himself/herself. It’s not necessarily stopping to learn, but taking some time to stop for a bit and use that time to improve & learn how to do what I feel I want to do, and what I feel that I’m meant to do, at least a bit better than I did before I took a breather & stopped to learn.

When it comes to looking through my old photographs, I’ve come to see just how I’ve grown & moved on from thinking of either muted or saturated colour and begun thinking more of just how each has its place in saying something through the image. Personally, I think we’ve got to start taking a look at the consequences of either side in an argument & choices before the time actually comes to make that choice or take on that argument. I’m not one to have any special privilege that lets me judge, so I think I’m just going to say that this is our best chance to stop & learn from our mistakes because we can then learn & move on from what we’ve done wrong and what we’re doing wrong.

I’m still learning more about my vision & style, especially my tastes when it comes to colour & combinations of colour; it goes the same way for how I treat colour when I photograph or how I deal with certain situations in my everyday life. I’m finding new appreciation for bands I still enjoy (Flyleaf, Red & Thrice to name a few) and new approaches to how I look at situations that I come across, not just how I photograph scenes. It’s about time that I look at the man in the mirror (to borrow a phrase & song from Michael Jackson) and do something that can at least try to make it right.

Honestly (Part 2)…

In reality, all we seek from the artist, be it musically or photographically, is honesty & reality in how their music, or photographs, are done/presented. The issue is that we need to define whether it means emotionally or visually and if it’s making something exactly how we felt, or something exactly how it looks. I’d show another one of my many photographs to help me argue this point, but I’ve done that so many times before that I don’t really want a single photograph to speak out for the entire discourse (it’s more of an argument, but discourse sounds fancier), but I’d rather just use it without really including it in the discourse itself.

To a certain extent, it’s like the song from The Fray, Heartbeat, because we’ve got to go after the heartbeat, feel that heartbeat. I know I’m stretching the lyrics to something that they’re not originally meant to be about, but the song is about a person being able to really feel another’s heartbeat and that’s what we should be after…We should be after some kind of heartbeat in the work(s) of art. It won’t always come so easily to us, me especially, but that’s the challenge and what, in the end, makes it worthwhile…to me at least. My take on it is this: what does it make me think & feel when I look at this photograph that I took? With all the superficiality out there, on both ends of the political spectrum, I think we need a little more honesty, heart & soul in what we’re doing in our daily lives. It’s supposed to start with us and maybe, just maybe, it might not end with us; in doing so, we’re not just inspiring others around us, but it’ll eventually grow to those outside our little circle of friends.

With all we have at our fingertips, we don’t need a little electronic chip in our bodies to improve things, we just need to get out there and do something, make something, that might just inspire someone, or even help them along the way. Looking at all the news & ads about how the latest piece of tech is supposed to solve all our problems, I realize that it’s not going to do that, because it’s either one little tool or one piece of the distraction that keeps us from moving on in life, as well as our hobbies. There’s got to be some balance after all, or we’ll end up going off the deep end & spending way more than we can afford or should be spending to begin with, but that’s just my opinion…And I’m sticking to it.

- Burnt Red -
– Burnt Red –

When all else fails…

Thinking about it, I can’t help but wonder why the last thing I do when I’m struggling with something is to look up (aka pray). Why can’t it be the first thing? I mean, c’mon, I know I can’t do anything decent on my own because of just how much I’ve mucked things up, so I should be thinking three steps ahead, not three steps behind. This goes for everything I do, not just in life, but in my hobbies as well; I guess it’s just the fallen nature in me that doesn’t think things quite through. It’s sad when I see that others are suffering and I’m the one thinking that woe is me; I’m NOT judging anyone but myself in this (it’s happened a few times to me and a certain instance has brought this topic to mind).

- Lynn Canyon Rapids -
– Lynn Canyon Rapids –

The things that I’ve seen around me makes me wonder what on earth I’m doing to deserve even another chance, let alone a second chance, but that’s just the depressing voice in my mind. I’m not going to dwell on it, just take it for what it is and then try to make something of it that might just turn into something of worth to someone…It comes down to inspiration with me. Do I think I’m there yet? Maybe, but I’m going to keep trying. It’s kind of like what Winston Churchill said about success: Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm. I’ve just got to say that we’ve got to rethink what success really means because I sure don’t think it’s about things or how we’re feeling at the moment, but it’s about reaching out to others and walking with them, inspiring them, and confiding in them. I just have to say this: If you ever feel like nothing’s worth it, seek out help, especially that of a good, solid counselor that can show you that life is worth it. That’s what I love about the Good Charlotte song, Hold On: it’s about not giving up, because it will get better.

We’re going to fail & fall flat on our faces, wondering what’s going on with us, but the key is to NOT give up; it’s a message I’ve got to keep reminding myself of daily…And yes, it is worth it, even if we don’t see it at first. We’re at the point that we need to learn from our failures and move forward, not dwell on them or get more things to fill our time up with the shallowness of materialism. This all is just my take on things and my way of ranting out my thoughts on the matter.

Progress…

It’s actually quite funny when we hear talk about progress in photography; cameras are getting larger sensors, more megapixels and lenses that are supposedly better. The automatic modes are getting smarter and the need to override the modes is shrinking by the day. While this is an old argument, it’s often resurfaced over the years when people brag, or complain, about equipment; I’ve sure gone over it a few times before. We still don’t quite get it, myself included, that we need to say something with what we shoot, taking the camera off of auto (putting it into something like M, A/Av or S/Tv mode). There should be something behind it because technical mastery means nothing if that’s all there is.

I succumb to this frame of thinking (that new gear is better) so many times that I begin to think that I’ll never get out of it, but then, seemingly out of nowhere, I get a shot that works & I have no clue why I did what I did; technical mastery had nothing to do with it at all, just plain intuition. It’s not any measure of technical mastery that can be the major part of a profound photograph alone, because then emotion wouldn’t have any input. When the two work hand-in-hand, with emotion having a strong pull, then an impactful shot comes as the result; this is real progress, in my mind. It’s not something that always sticks around either, but it can come in waves.

Lean with it, rock with it,
When we gonna stop with it,
Lyrics that mean nothing,
We were gifted with thought,
Is it time to move our feet
To an introspective beat,
It ain’t the speakers that bump hearts,
It’s our hearts that make the beat.
-Holding On To You (Twenty One Pilots)

This happens because, as I figure it, because we all, myself included, are looking for the easy way out, not necessarily the right way. We need to at least strive to make something that says something. Like the above lyrics from the amazing band, Twenty One Pilots, we should make something that says something meaningful from within…That is real progress.

On the purity of the image (Pt.2)…

While part 1 focused strictly on why editing & purity were too closely tied (sometimes), this one’s a bit different because I wanted to delve a little deeper into the purity of the feel of the image, regardless of editing (for the most part). It’s at this point where the image can cease becoming a photo and morph into more of a photo illustration because of too much editing; it’s editing to make the feeling true (or pure) to the original scene. What’s trying to be accomplished here is the attempt to make the image more faithful to the feel of the scene than technically perfect.

- Blue & White Streaks -
– Blue & White Streaks –

Like in the above photograph, I could’ve adjusted the aperture to focus more on the central flower, but I found that working just with the Clarity Slider & Adjustment Brush brought the shot closer to the feel of the image. By pushing the Clarity down, I lowered the localized contrast across the entire image, while the Adjustment Brush was used to bring the local contrast up in the single flower. The purpose of the shot was to bring out that single flower in good, crisp focus, the way it was by looking at it, without making the rest of it a blur around it. While we don’t see scenes like this in reality, scenes can often feel like this when we focus on one part or section of them…And that was what I was trying to go for with these edits. It may not be technically pure, but it’s as close to emotionally pure as I feel I could have gotten it.

It’s a kind of balance that is often a struggle to maintain, mostly because the feel of the image isn’t exactly what comes right out of the camera, especially when it comes to the localized contrast (Clarity) of the shot. It’s something, as the photographer, we struggle with when presenting our images because if we push our editing too far, then it becomes less of a photograph and more of a photo illustration. The balance of the two forms of purity in the image (technical vs. emotional) is one that can change the presentation from a photograph into an illustration…and which one we favor over the other is what makes the difference.

What it means…

When it comes to life & photography, it’s like we can’t get out of what mainstream society wants us to be like: buy this, do that, accept everything, and don’t look up. It gets annoying to the point that we forget what it really means; we buy in to the rampant materialism and abide by the set rules of society, forgetting that there’s something more than meets the eye. It’s like we forget about the past and repeat the same mistakes over & over by not really learning to be creative in what we see & do when it comes to expressing ourselves the way we were meant to.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Taking pictures of the small birds at the Bloedel Floral Conservatory in Vancouver helps remind me that there’s more than just the latest gear to be had. Because it takes patience & sometimes stubbornness to not give up on capturing them, it forces me to slow down and appreciate what I’ve got already. It doesn’t always help when they fly past you & their small wings brush against your ears, but it mentally wakes you up & it can help put you in the moment by making you away of your surroundings. The beauty of being lost in the moment while photographing something is that we forget about making the technical and end up focusing on the emotional aspects of it all…It’s when vision takes over, or at least the feeling of the moment.

It means that sometimes focusing on the moment in time, with the camera out, and letting vision & intent come to the forefront. It means that there is something more than just the technical and it comes out with each photograph; sure, the photographs we get during these times might not be more than a 1 or 2 out of 5, but they’re filled with more emotion & impact than just the technical. So get out there, stay safe, and speak through the image; watch your surroundings for danger and make sure you’re not letting the technical get too important, something I’m not always good at.