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!

Trying something different…

While this isn’t a new topic by any means, I thought I’d try my hand at it once again and, by that, I mean thinking of a new spin on something I’ve already done before. There are basically 3 places trying something different can come into play: capture, post-processing (editing), and printing. In this day & age, printing hasn’t the exact same pull as it used to have, because of the race to make everything digital, but it serves to provide us with something tangible from our photography. So I guess I’ll work at it from the first point to the last (I’m trying to sound nonchalant about it, so excuse me if it doesn’t work).

When it comes to capture, we tend to think of using the rule of thirds or centering the subject, but why not move it somewhere in between? Sometimes it works, but other times it doesn’t, mostly due to either the frame or how the eye perceives the scene with a subject in either spot; placed along a third, the subject is more dynamic, and, placed in the center, it becomes more static. When a subject is in between those two points, it can look a bit sloppy, but not all the time; the trick is finding out when it works and that requires experimentation & letting the scene speak for itself. We can change this in post-processing by cropping the image, but then we lose out on detail because we’re discarding data captured from the camera; instead, dodging & burning, strengthening or desaturating colors, and even working with contrast adjustments allow us to try something different with the shot after capture than we would normally do.

- Log & Leaf -
– Log & Leaf –

Printing, however, can be an entirely different kind of beast, mostly because external factors come in to play (paper, printer, & color translation). The above shot is an older one, a shot that I’ve just now looked again at to really see what it was & what it said/showed. I didn’t quite center the subject, or place it on a third, and I haven’t printed it yet, thanks to just getting another look at it after ignoring it for at least a month or two since capture. I’d probably choose a matte paper or canvas for it though, because it’s not the kind of shot that I think would work well with a glossy photo paper…I might just change my mind on that though.

Taken into account, all three areas or places (capture, post-process & printing) can & do leave us with more than enough time to try something different. We just have to go for it and really try to do something different with our photography.

An afterthought…

The dictionary defines an afterthought as a thought added after the fact, but how does that relate to photography? Simply put, it’s just another shot taken that doesn’t mean much and/or it’s just another shot added to a collection (or album) that just there because it was put there. Personally, I’ve struggled with this so many times that it’s getting quite annoying because I literally have to force myself not to leave images as an afterthought without thinking too much of them. I can learn so much from these shots because they’re mostly taken on impulse and they show me what my gut reaction is when I’m not really concentrating on a shot.

The bad thing about even just entertaining the idea of an afterthought in photography is that it allows for us, me especially, to just take a photograph without much thought of it at all. It allows for a who cares attitude in our photography and has the uncanny ability to make us complacent in how we go about our photography. The sad thing is that it’s all too natural to become complacent, something I’ve done all too easily and all too often. It’s almost a disease because we can easily get stuck in place and accept that we’re not going to get any better as we get older. It’s something that can really hurt our chances at growth, photographically speaking, in the long run.

One thing I’ve attempted to do (twice now) is a square composition, but so far I’ve only done so after printing out the shot; it was tricky, but it helped me to see just how a different perspective worked, not just as an afterthought & done for the sake of doing it, but because it helped me learn just how much a different view impacts the vision I had for the shot. The image began as a kind of afterthought (“Why don’t I just get out and take a shot or two of those flowers for the sake of it?”), but it quickly morphed into something stronger (“How can I make this work and how do I say something with this?”). The afterthought quickly became more than just an afterthought in this case and it helped me learn from it.

On the print itself…

So this topic has been dealt with before (paper choices), but I figure that I would resist it once again. So that I don’t sound like a broken record, I’m going to focus more on the print itself and why making one in the first place. Perhaps the best reasoning for doing so is that it gives you something to look at that’s removed from the screen, something you can feel in different light; what this also does is give you a bit of space to see how it would look in different environments with different surroundings outside of the frame.

Why would this be so important? It helps show you/me what kind of impact the print/shot has when displayed in different conditions and can also give you/me other ideas for making shots work. It does this through making you/me think about how we display/use our shots after we take them; for example, putting a photograph of a gentle white bird next to a collage of tigers on the hunt for food is going to look out of place, or draw more attention to itself. If that’s your intention, to draw it out, then contrasting it with its surroundings is the way to go, but if it’s to blend in, then such a contrast wouldn’t be necessarily a good thing.

Making a print also has the effect that it puts something physical in your hands (obvious, I know) that you can critique much easier because there is something tangible that’s not modified by a glaring screen/monitor. Critiquing, especially self-critiquing, helps you examine what the impact of the photograph is and how it looks like once laid out on paper & a different media than just the computer screen. What it really comes down to is the purpose of the shot, what is to be done with it, how it looks & what the impact of it is. I know I’ve said this before, but I thought it was worth repeating.

On paper choices…

I figure this topic might just be a bit easier to tackle, especially because it’s purely about how photographs are presented; just a side point though…Glossy photo paper is generally cheaper than matte, especially if you’re only printing out 4×6 or 5×7. Personally, thanks to buying ink cartridge combo packs, I’ve got more than enough 4×6 glossy paper, but if I’m printing out larger photographs, I prefer matte paper because the shine can sometimes be a bit too much, especially with multiple light sources in the room/place your are looking at the print. There’s so many brands out there, especially from the consumer printer companies (Epson, Canon, HP, etc.), that it sometimes sounds like there’ll be no end to it at all, thanks to the push for so-called green products.

For me, I’m more interested in the higher quality papers like those glossy & matte papers from Epson & Canon, but again, glossy if I’m just doing the smaller prints & putting them in albums; which I have to admit has been some time. Hahnemühle has some good papers for those willing to sink in some money ($45 CDN for 20 sheets when not on sale…I ended up finding it just over $30 on sale) for gallery-style sheets (they’ve been around since 1584) and their photo rag paper, of which I’ve just started trying, has good smooth texture & thickness. The only thing with these kinds of paper is that the printer profile (if doing the prints from home) have to be configured; the photo rag paper needs to have the contrast slightly bumped (a tiny amount) in my opinion, but the saturation is quite good and it dries quite quickly, good if you don’t want to wait around for too long, unlike glossy papers.

The funny thing is, it all depends on how you want to display the prints that really matters what kind of paper you end up using. If glare doesn’t matter, then go for the glossy paper, but if it does, then try to find something that’s either classified as matte or exhibition matte; the higher the brightness & GSM (grams per square meter), the better…For clarity of the whites & the thickness of the paper (just make sure it’s not called cover-stock because that usually doesn’t mean photography-type paper).Whistler Waters