Winter weather…

Now that I’ve got the last post off my chest, I figured that I would get back to really focusing on photography, and watching a few Dude Perfect videos online; those guys are hilarious…and talented. With winter still hanging around for a little while longer, I was aching a bit to get out there yet again and work on my photography; I usually get some photography done every two weeks, with short excursions (<1 hour) in between then. Snow doesn’t come often enough to the northwest, but when it does, the roads aren’t exactly the easiest to get along because of the slick roads, but they’re simple enough for most of us to get around in. Sometimes you just have to marvel at how much people get caught off-guard by snow and with photography it’s the same because we don’t always remember exactly the right settings for snow exposure (+1-2 stops to keep the snow white)…Something I’ve done too many times to keep track of.

- Snow &amp; Green -
– Snow & Green –

Snow is never really the easiest thing to remember what to do with when it comes to exposure and, sometimes, that’s what exposure bracketing is good for because it can show us, especially in this digital age, what the settings will do while translating the scene into the image. The above photograph, while it’s nothing special, shows what is possible when the snow is exposed for at +1 or 2 stops and used to focus on; with the snow being sugar-like in appearance, the focus needs to be in the right spot so that when it brings edges into focus, it doesn’t fade or blur at the wrong point, leaving the edges too fuzzy with any lack of contrast to their surroundings. In this shot, the snow itself, while having its sugar-like composition, makes focusing a little harder because the depth of field is much more important, especially because this is a close-up shot. What worried me the most about this shot was indeed the focus because I wasn’t shooting with a high depth of field in order to get a good background blur, so I think it actually turned out quite decent.
Now, what matters is not that it turned out quite decent, but that it turned out the way the photographer (in this case it was myself) had envisioned it; it would’ve most likely needed tweaks, being a RAW file, but it came out the way I had roughly envisioned it. Brightness & exposure were barely touched in the refining stage (+0.2 for Exposure in Lightroom), so it came out pretty darn close to the way I had hoped it would; this seldom really happens with most of what I photograph, but it worked. I, personally, think that we stress a little too much on technical perfection and not enough on vision & what the image says. What else can we do when society is so focused on the material side of things? We can start by listening a little less to the noise of material perfection and more on message & meaning.


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.


Now it’s almost that time of year again…Christmas time! So I thought I would, instead of talking on and on, give a list of favorites. So here’s a list of stuff that really works for me:

-The Art, Science, and Craft of Great Landscape Photography (Glen Randall)
-Landscape Photography: Art & Techniques (Neil Chrighton)
-A Beautiful Anarchy: When the Life Creative Becomes the Life Created (David duChemin)
-Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision (David duChemin)
-Photographically Speaking: A Deeper Look at Creating Stronger Images (David duChemin)
-The New Art of Photographing Nature (Art Wolfe & Martha Hill)
-The Art of the Photograph (Art Wolfe & Rob Sheppard)

-Darius Rucker
-Twenty One Pilots
-Thousand Foot Krutch
-Flyleaf / Lacey Sturm
-The Fray

These lists aren’t exhaustive by any means, just stuff that comes to mind when I think of that inspires me to do better photographically. They aren’t all about photography, especially the musicians, but it’s the creativity in the music & the message in their songs. The key in all of this is creativity & meaning, something that’s been hammered into me over the years, even if I haven’t always followed it all that well. That’s what we should all be striving for in photography…Making images that count for something and say something. Christmas is about so much more than just meaning something, but that’s where it should start…meaning something to us more than just gifts & money.

It’s the holidays and for what it’s worth, it’s time spent with ones that care about you & the ones we care about. It’s not about chasing the latest gear or the latest shot that might just get us famous, even if that would be kind of cool. Sometimes, myself included, we lose sight of what matters: spending time with the ones who care about us and the ones we care about.

Not gonna take it…

Okay, so I can just feel the eyes rolling at the mention of the above quote from the iconic We’re Not Gonna Take It song from Twisted Sister, but bare with me. In photography, we’ve got people that say you’ve got to do this and take that in order to get somewhere; I’ve dealt with this before but I’ll put a different spin on it…when it comes to subject matter. Do we have to take shots of certain subjects a certain way, or is that too restrictive in that it dictates how we do things? In short, the answer is yes. Who’s to say, for example, that a photographer, who mostly does nature shots, can’t do fashion shots or automotive shots? That photographer will bring something entirely new to the shoot, especially in how he/she approaches the subject; it may not work, but it just might turn out brilliantly.

Sometimes what we need is to get outside our comfort zone and this definitely applies to not just life in general, but photography as well. Just think about the implications: a nature photographer photographing the hustle & bustle of a car show and how the shots would most likely focus on tone, not just color & form, or the urban photographer taking shots of the rural life with it’s farms & towns where everyone knows each other. The results could be messy, but they might just turn up a few surprises…It was that way when I photographed the old stone buildings at the University of British Columbia (not my choice for a post-secondary institution, but it’s an institution nonetheless); working through shots helped make me more comfortable, not only with a new lens, but with a different subject matter (‘heritage’ buildings).

Not taking the rules that are placed on photography, apart from the ones that are made to protect people from exploitation & keep people from being spied on, means working outside the imposed boundaries of what is put in place. Go ahead, use a wide-angle on a building to make it look like it might be leaning over, or place a subject in the center, but do it for something other than just doing it for the sake of doing it…Do it for the impact, feeling, or message you want to get across to the viewer.