Mistakes & madness…

Thinking about all the times I get frustrated when an image doesn’t turn out alright, I usually end up forgetting about the photographs entirely; the easier thing to do would be to see if it didn’t turn out right because of settings, or if it’s because I’m just not looking at it right. I mean, it’s not always evident that I’m looking at a mistake or something that just needs a bit of a boost because I’m dealing with a RAW file that needs refining; RAW files contain quite a bit more info than JPEG, but the flip-side is that they will usually, if not always, need refining to get the shot out to where we want it to. Personally, the refining means that more skill & time is needed, something that’s more of a learning challenge, making each shot more of an investment than your typical JPEG.
When it comes to revisiting old photographs I’ve taken, I’d rather have the RAW versions because they’re easier to work with and give me more of a leeway when it comes to making any adjustments. This way, if I make mistakes, I have a base image that’s not affected because I’m using a format with more give & take in terms of the information contained within it; RAW files are usually at least 7x the size of JPEGs and require time to go through them, needing programs like Lightroom or Photoshop to work with. I’d rather get it right in camera, so RAW files help me better in this because they give me more base information to work with and they don’t lose quality each time I save them to a new location or make refinements. Sometimes, it creates a bit of madness because those files come out looking a bit murky, but when they’re properly interpreted (saved to a file format that everything can read rightly), they come out just as good; RAW files are basically the digital version of film negatives, so they require lab time…In this case, it’s digital darkroom type programs like Lightroom.

- Out of the Tree -
– Out of the Tree –

Mistakes are also easier to overcome in a RAW file, but that never means that the format is a cop-out for getting things right in the first place, it just means that smaller mistakes are somewhat easier to correct. These days, when we have so many options of what we can do, mistakes come easy, and so does the madness, but if we’re really serious about it, we can take the time to learn from them. Like the shot of the leaves in the above photograph, we can come out of a rough spot and grow, if we want to learn…We just need to get past our own mistakes, something I’m still struggling to do most of the time.


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.

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.


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.

What I’m working on…

I figure that’s it’s time I show what it is I’m working on at the moment and stuff that’s come out of the works so far. The thing is…I’m always working on some images, constantly tweaking them in one way or other. Sometimes, like in the photograph below, I’m revising the edits I’ve done; this one’s had the tone curve changed more times than I care to admit…And I’ve posted it with a much darker background already.

- Tiny Strands -
– Tiny Strands –

Most of the time, I just decide to revisit an edit on a whim and see what can be worked on & what can be improved or changed. Call it paranoia, which I sometimes think it truly is, but I’d rather be sure or work at it than ignore it…One & done just isn’t me most of the time. For me, going back to it a few times or more opens me up, usually, to trying other things with the photograph, not to necessarily change my vision for it, but to allow the photograph to speak to me from a distance that time away has provided. Now, will I go back & revise the above shot? I probably will, not just because I can’t seem to make up my mind, but because I’m constantly trying to refine my vision & work on my technique.

- Tiny Strands II -
– Tiny Strands II-

However, the one above, taken at roughly the same time as the first shot, will most likely be the final edit, mostly because it had a stronger negative (RAW) file and was much easier to work with. I also went to refine it after working on the first shot multiple time, so, by then, my vision has become much more firm for the photographs I took in that area. All things considered, sometimes I go back with multiple edits & revisions, and sometimes I don’t. It really depends on the shot…The first one seemed to warrant multiple revisions because of the way the first revision turned out & how I felt about it when looking at it with new eyes, while the second doesn’t really have that because the first revision summed the feel of it up just right.

A thought…

Sometimes, just a single thought can direct us into a direction that we didn’t think we could go with our photography and it’s there that we find ourselves taking some photographs that turn out really good. What do we do with this? The thing about it is that we find a fad, or path, and then we tend to use it for all its worth without learning much from it; something that I can easily be guilty of. Sometimes we learn and sometimes we end up way too darn lazy to do any such thing.

- Blue & Light -
– Blue & Light –

Take for example the above photograph; I chose the subject as light & dark among small bluish purple flowers. I took a bunch of photographs of these kinds of flowers in the small surrounding area, but did I really learn from the experience? To be honest, not much at the time…Only later on when I decided to revisit the shot. This is why revisiting a shot can come in handy because it has the possibility of showing us something we didn’t notice before; I ended up actually realizing that while exposing for the right side of the histogram might have produced a lighter & brighter photograph, it could have gotten rid of the mood & saturation in the shadows, something I was going for in the shot when I took it. For me, in this type of situation, the darker colors work well because I tend to favor the mid-range of saturation; any brighter for me and it would have ruined the contrast from the beginning as well as messing up the shadows. Capturing it this way cut back on post-processing time and made it easier to work with because the majority of work was done with the colors, not the brightness. This all started with a thought & challenge: can I actually get a shot or more of the interplay of light & shade on the small flowers outside?

What I’m getting at is that sometimes thoughts can lead us way off track and will be more harm than good or get us shots that we didn’t expect that end up turning out really well. Even though I’ve focused on the positive, the negative is still there; we can let a thought get in our way and miss an amazing opportunity, or we can think it out like I did (or at least attempted to) with the above photograph.

Staying an hour…

Sometimes spending more time with our photographs is a good thing…Actually, it almost always is because it can help us see where we went wrong, or right, as well as seeing what we were doing to get the shot. This isn’t specifically about editing, although taking time with editing is usually good, but it’s about examining what made us take the photograph the way we did. What makes us tick and do the things we do? How are we going to ever understand it if we don’t stay an extra hour (figuratively of course) and try to really focus on what we’re doing, what we believe, what we’re seeing, and/or why we’re taking photographs?

– Overgrown Path –

For me, photography is like trying to get a breather, using my camera to capture a scene out in the natural world that will remind me that there’s beauty out there…And that there’s something more than just what I’m seeing & hearing in the news. Sometimes I’ve wanted to just stay an hour in the outdoors, until I remember that it’s either cold outdoors or I’ve got something that needs to be done and then I forget about staying that time. When it comes down to it, staying the extra hour sometimes helps in getting better photographs, especially when we take time to see the possibilities right in front of us and tinker with different camera settings or revisit old photographs & work with them differently in Lightroom or other photo programs like AfterShot Pro. Sometimes, the extra look over the photograph helps us learn from what we did, growing as photographers & artists.

Staying an hour extra, or any other length of time, also can help give us a bit more time to fully work out our vision for potential shots that present themselves. When we slow down, we tend to let things have another chance, or two, at making an impression and give us a feel for a photograph or more. In doing so, it gives us more time to look at the coloration in the scene, telling us if we need a polarizing filter (it will cut out the reflections in water, so beware of this) or if we can change it later in Lightroom. Making more time might just help us out, something I definitely need to remember, and it helps us stay more with each shot, getting us to concentrate a bit more on each one.

Looking over it…

Okay, so reviewing photographs after some time isn’t a novel idea, but it’s good to do that once in a while, even if it’s just for a quick, second glance at a shot. Sometimes, the passage of time will change our views on shots (i.e. should’ve done it brighter, darker or moodier, or even black or white), but it’s always a good thing to look at it again and see what the shot was like, even if only to recall the moment. Sometimes, just recalling the moment is good enough, but other times, it’s better to work on the shot to refine it; I’ve focused on editing before, but this time, I’m thinking that it’s better to argue against it…to begin with.

Little Blues
Little Blues

Sure, I could’ve done this one brighter, ‘fixed’ the contrast (there’s nothing wrong with the contrast), or made the blues stick out more in Lightroom. Doing this would’ve definitely changed the mood, making it even more relaxed than it was; with others I did at the time, I did do the above mentioned adjustments, but with this one, they just seemed out of place and it would’ve altered the color temperature way too much for my liking. I could’ve done a deeper depth of field, but this one worked better, for me, the way it was and, often times, second guessing doesn’t help, especially while going for the shot, but, doing so afterwards can sometimes show why the choices were made and how to try them differently the next time. Compare the above with the one below, taken recently, where I did do adjustments (Clarity and a bit of both Exposure & Highlights), and you get an image, like the first one, but this one was mildly refined to help with impact & vision; I usually don’t get it right the way I would like it, so the one below was refined a bit so that it would be closer to what the scene was (I underexposed for the entire scene, but not the subject) while still going for the impact of the flower itself.

Purple & Yellow
Purple & Yellow

The one thing that always seems to amaze me when I do go back on look through each shot like the first one is that there’s always some distance that gives some objectivity to it, helping give some perspective on the photograph. Sometimes it doesn’t bring any encouragement to see the old shots again because it can bring back feelings that the best has come & gone, but, on the flip-side, it shows how good things once were and how we can learn from past decisions we’ve made. It’s a two-sided coin, but a good oneif you see it through.