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.

Thoughts…

Color can be a tricky thing to get right when photographing various subjects; I can just hear the gearheads saying that all that’s needed is the latest camera. While that’s nowhere near the truth for the most part because there’s usually a way to achieve it through the use of computer programs, correct filters, or even cleaning the glass; it’s more so about interpretation into a workable file for printing. We’re supposed to be translating what we felt when we took the shot, not necessarily transliterating it; like life, photography is all about feeling, not tired formulas.

In life, we get stuck when we get the two mixed up (transliteration vs. translation), because we forget to bring across what something makes us feel…I’m so at fault for this most of the time as well. Most of the time, we can’t just say “here you go” and then just leave it at that; for me, at least, it doesn’t quite work that way because, half of the time at least, I want to know why, or at least some attempt at the answer to my questions. There’s so much out there that has literally no depth to it (i.e. pop culture), so why intentionally add to the noise? This is one of the things I end up struggling with because I don’t really want to be adding to the noise, but inspiring someone.

In the end, for me at least, the biggest reason I began this blog was to not only air out the odd grievance or two, but try to reach out & inspire someone…by my photography or otherwise. I’m not one for making a point too quickly, so most of the time, these posts turn into a rambling rant and, maybe they do add to the noise, but I at least hope that they add to it in a positive way. The idea that color can easily be transliterated in a photograph instead of translated just right does get me at least a bit upset, mostly because I’m so guilty of this, and doing this can easily make something uninspiring, but that’s my personal opinion; it’s one that I can’t necessarily flesh out in an argument or debate, so I’m just going to leave it at that. So, get out there & inspire!

- Tree & Flowers -
– Tree & Flowers –

Left behind…

We tend to worry that we’ll get left behind and forgotten because it shows that we’ve not done enough or well enough, but we couldn’t be more wrong. Why? I guess it’s because we always want to be the center of attention in our own ways sometimes. Now I’m not saying we’re all like this every time, but we usually go this route every now & then…We all have our moments I guess, myself included. Sometimes, we need to just get out & try to be ourselves so we don’t get lost in the feeling of being left behind.

- Holding Snow -
– Holding Snow –

While the above photograph isn’t directly about being left behind, it shows the snow left behind when the rest of it falls off the branch…Ok, so that was a bit of a stretch linking it in with the theme of being left behind, but it works, barely. I went out on a snowy, and icy, day to get into a floral conservatory that was indoors, but I got a bit lazy seeing all the snow on the ground on the way up to the spot, so I changed gears and decided to shoot photographs of the nearby pond that was frozen over; this shot was of a small section of the shore of the pond (it’s not at all visible, but it was off to the upper right of the frame). It was refined with the usual adjustments (Clarity, Tone Curve, & Noise adjustments) to really bring out what the scene felt like to me; it was a kind of vision refinement in post-processing I guess.

It gets annoying when we seem to get left behind, but what I find often gets me back up is just getting a shot or two that really shines (for me at least). Not bragging that we got that one shot also works really well because it keeps us on the good side of humble, not the wrong side. For me at least, staying on the right side of humble is a challenge and not worrying about being left behind in various ways is even a greater challenge, but sometimes we just have to let all the worries go, trusting that, in the end, everything will work out.

Thinking out loud…

For me, photography is a way of thinking out loud because it’s a kind of attempt at visual translation of what we see in our minds. This may sound basic, but let me explain: we see a scene with our eyes, our mind processes it, we adjust the camera settings, and then we press the shutter button. What happens afterwards is the translation of what we saw to the shot, or print, itself.

There are multiple ways this can be done afterwards, be it in a specialized photography cataloguing & editing program like Lightroom, AfterShot Pro, or Aperture (I know it’s been discontinued, but it’s still quite powerful, even compared to Lightroom 5) among others, or something akin to Photoshop or PaintShop Pro. The problem is that we tend to focus on what these programs can do instead of what we could do with & through because, in a way, we think out loud through them, showing what the scene felt like to us through our use of these programs. What I’ve been trying to do is think out loud through my use of these programs, asking myself if I’m going too far with my edits…Are they betraying the look & feel of the scene as I saw & felt it?

- Q E Park Sunrise -
– Q E Park Sunrise –

What sticks out for me when I’m doing this is that it becomes a way of holding myself to what I felt & saw, instead of just going for all the controls & tools without any thought at all. The above photograph was one of those shots where I could have gone way off on the controls, but what kept me from doing so was desire to make it evoke feeling without looking contrived or fake in any way. Going way off from my initial capture would’ve made it untrue to what it was really like; sure, it looks a bit like a sunrise shot when in fact it’s a sunset, like the last shot I’ve posted here, but I didn’t want to make the colors untrue to the feel of the moment. I wanted to think out loud, so to speak, without yelling out, and I think it came out alright…But only time will really tell.

Stuck in the depths…

It’s probably one of the worst feelings, being surrounded and wanting to say something, but you can’t, or you feel like you just can’t seem to find the right words…Not just with our photographs, but with our lives. We’re all looking for something important, something that will make us feel something other than stranded without hope. I’m not talking about the greater picture here, but the smaller one; why not do something that positively lights up the moment?

The hardest thing is really doing something that matters, especially for someone else. I mean, why worry about the world when you’ve got so many things going on yourself? Sometimes, spreading a little cheer is all it takes, letting someone know you’re there for them, giving a shoulder to lean on. In photography, the closest thing I can think of off of the top of my head would be sharing a photograph (without bragging about how it was taken) that would make a person smile who hasn’t smiled in a long time because it could just take that one image to brighten them up. After all, isn’t it doing something that matters to someone that really matters in the end?

- Lily Pad Flower -
– Lily Pad Flower –

The last verse of the song Words In The Water (by Thrice) ring true because when we decide to shine a little light in someone’s direction, it brightens their day and can help them get out of the funk they’re in. The song may mean something greater, but even just applying it to the little acts of kindness or brightening up some’s day, it still works. When we, or they, are stuck in the depths, shining a little light helps, no matter how big or how small when it comes from the heart. The problem we all have (myself included) is that we sometimes have a difficulties doing just that because, in this day & age we’re so focused inwards on ourselves.

Gear hunting…

For one thing, it’s not the gear that counts so much as how we use it, but that being said, isn’t it fun, hunting for more & more gear? Wanting & getting the latest gear, spending ever more money thinking that it will make our photography better? It sure is great, isn’t it? Bragging about how we’ve got the latest & greatest stuff from who we think are the best & brightest companies in the field.

In case you haven’t clued in, the above is nothing more than a joke, a sarcastic rant (apart from the first 16 words). There’s really nothing much more than the continual quest for more gear, latest & greatest, that really pollutes photography at its core. We’re the ones actually taking the photograph, using the gear, not the gear taking it for us, because we decide when to press the shutter, to capture the moment. Gear is good, but what we do with it, what our vision is, is greater. When we fail to realize that (as I have done some times), we forget what makes a photograph stand out, what makes it say something. No one really cares about our photographs (a point made by Ted Forbes of The Art of Photography YouTube channel), but they care about what we have to say with them; we need more that matters. Only when we work at our vision, our intent, then our photography can & will shine through the array of others out there.

Why would my shots matter to me? They’re an outlet…a kind of release from the day to day grind during the week and they help me, in a way, to get just a little lost in the moment. Gear hunting, while it seems like it helps, only keeps me from really enjoying photography because it takes time away from actually photographing a scene & makes me worry about my gear more than worrying about composition…Gear hunting is more than a distraction most times because it takes from more than it gives to actual photography. Photography is more than staying within the strict rules, it’s doing something that matters, saying something that matters with the images we take, regardless of the gear we have, or the rules…And being respectful while we’re at it.

Taking a stand photographically…

Where do we stand when it comes to photography & our beliefs? What’s our relationship between the two and how does it form, and how does it influence, what we take photographs of & how we take them? For me, the one thing that couldn’t be more disastrous is when we completely forget to incorporate ourselves into what we do & what we shoot. Images without impact are just an arrangement of pixels, meaningless to the eye because they don’t move us deeply or say anything to us, or others.

Nature & landscape photography should be about the beauty of nature, the wilting of the flowers, or the intersection of beauty & grace; if not, it just might as well be a small kernel on the sands of time. Architectural photography should be about lines, curves, colors, or the impact of buildings on their surroundings. Portrait & sports photography should be about the person and what he, or she, is feeling or doing. Why just say “I was here and saw this” when you can show how it felt & what it was like? There are plenty of images out there that are just plain snapshots (not that there’s nothing wrong with that), but I don’t think we should be adding to the noise. Now, I’m not perfect and I’ve made more than my fair share of shots that don’t say much, but I hope at least I’m striving to capture something with at least a little heart to it.

When we begin to separate ourselves from what we shoot, we end up with shots that don’t really say or mean much and come across as just more photographs. Following compositional rules for rules’ sake is the same thing because they aren’t made with any emotion, just mathematics or cold, distant logic that tends not to mean much to the heart. I’ve made way to many of those images and I hope I’m not just adding more to the bin; bracketing doesn’t always fall under this method, mostly because it’s either making sure to get the right lighting/exposure, or more leeway in case editing or image combining (HDR) is needed/wanted. Taking a stand isn’t pushing others aside or bragging about how great we are, it’s making an impact with what we do & what we shoot.

Colors of Autumn…

So I’ve used the American spelling here, does that really matter? Nope. Does getting the color right matter? Only if you’re trying to go for feeling & impact. This means bright, saturated colors and, for some, a polarizer or modifying the saturation in post-processing; while I’m partial to either, using the vibrance & definition/clarity sliders (sparingly of course) work almost exactly like a polarizer without diminishing reflections in water.

For me personally, I tend to take out the polarizer only when it’s bright outside, the rest of the time, I’m using a UV/Skylight filter; many professionals will say this degrades the image because it’s basically a protection filter, but it does filter out some UV light…Each to his/her own on this opinion. Just don’t go for the cheaper filters; I prefer Hoya because of the good quality and I haven’t had much luck with Tiffen because they tend to seem cheap to me. If you prefer always using a circular polarizer, then go for it…Pros like Art Wolfe & David duChemin do and they’re among the best out there. Sometimes, it helps to work at it the way you feel more comfortable doing, but taking into consideration other possibilities (in camera or otherwise) while doing so. Could I have used a polarizer and not been so darn lazy? Sure…But that would mean pausing for a bit to replace the UV filter with the polarizer, something I’d have to admit I’m most often way too lazy to do.

Colors of Autumn
Colors of Autumn

Being lazy is no excuse, I know, so now my post-processing might involve slightly tweaking the clarity & vibrance sliders like I’ve done in the shot above, but they were close to what I hoped for in the original. In doing so, I brought back the shot to how it felt & looked like as I worked with the image; the colors were quite important and the raw file was quite close to what it looked like, so I just boosted them slightly to make the image shown above. In the end, it was about staying true to the scene and how it looked, so I didn’t use a polarizer because of laziness and the fact that it can cut out reflections & possibly saturate the colors way too much. The lesson here: just go with what works for you and learn something new along the way.