Thursday, December 30, 2010

Getting Involved

Ansel Adams once said...."Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.

Creativity, by definition, would imply that SOMEONE is involved in the was not an act of chance or fate.  I have championed for some time now my belief that "true" photography is not limited to the image that comes out of the camera.   Rather, it begins there.....and the image that has been captured can then be translated into any number of expressions that express a mood or emotion or focus of the artists choosing.

This image, taken about 3 weeks ago, is one example of what I'm referring to.  While sitting having a coffee, I noticed this particular clock that stands in an area of town that is gone to great lengths to preserve the beauty and character of the surrounding buildings.  Both the clock and the structures reflect an era of craftsmanship that is now being recognized and appreciated.  I knew when I took the shot I wanted to express a "vintage" feel to the finale image.  And without becoming too metaphoric, I wanted the finale image to have a timeless quality to it.   An understanding of appreciation there is a place in the present for what is now past.

There were some artistic issues I thought needed to be addressed to create the final image as well.  There were few vantage points for me to capture both the clock and the buildings in such a way as to not include taller more contemporary structures in the background or the clock being obscured by numerous tree branches.  This ended up with an alignment issue between the clock the the background building being more centered than I would have liked.  So, by adding more "grunge" and shadowing across the bottom and left side of the image, it helped the overall image to feel more asymmetrical.

Here is another shot from the same day and almost the exact same spot, but looking up the street.  The thing that was capturing my attention at the time  was not so much the details of the scene ( where there were many) but rather the shapes of the scene.  The long angle of shadows and how they seemed to match the angles of the railings and the awnings.  I loved the repeating curves from the rows of draped lights and the balancing softness they brought to all of the hard lines and angles.  Clearly, in my mind, the most interesting parts of the image were up by the father and daughter and the details of the lights over head. 

By adding a graduated blur across the bottom half of the image before texturing, I retained the more important pieces of information.....the railing draped in garland and long angled shadows....and obscured the less desirable bits like all the sidewalk cracks and the label covered trash bin on the left.  The softness helps to draw the eye up toward the parts that are more interesting while giving context to the scene as a whole.

I started out by quoting Ansel Adams and I finish doing the same...."Photography, as a powerful medium of expression and communications, offers an infinite variety of perception, interpretation and execution."  I couldn't agree more.  But it rarely happens by chance or straight out of the camera.  You certainly do not have to employ the methods I do to create artistic images.  Whatever your preferred end "look" might be, it takes your involvement.  We learn to train our eye for what to look for when taking an image and then train our ability on how to enhance what we have captured.  Sure, it takes some time, but with each step it becomes a little easier.

Here's wishing a wonderful and creative experience for you in this coming New Year.  May you learn, discover, and grow more in the months ahead than you have ever experienced so far.  Thanks for joining me as I continue to do the same.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Dawn.....more than a moment.

I have been following Dawns' work for some time now.  I find her imagery to be a fresh and fascinating expression of the world around her.  I asked if she would be willing to write a piece for my blog explaining a bit about herself and her approach.  It is a wonderful addition to what I'm trying to offer here......enjoy.

A lot of people tell me that my images remind them of something they have long ago forgotten,
or that there is a sense of timelessness or memory in my photographs.  I think that the experiences that each of us have as children, becomes an important breeding ground for how we view the world and then later, how we interpret that world...whether through music, art, dance or writing.  The way that I shoot images is deeply connected to a way that I am needing to express myself at that time.  Often the subject and processing of the image is the way that I express the emotionality of what I am currently experiencing.  I have realized that the subject matter of many of my shots directly relates to my experiences as a child and still remains important to me today.

I like the intimacy of a shallow depth of field. I like to absorb the world around me in small ways, so I
photograph in the same manner.  Often times, I will shoot an image knowing exactly how I want it to be processed and the mood I want it to portray.  I might play with blurring the subject matter, over/under exposing it or shooting with other lenses like my lensbaby to get the effect I am searching for. 

There are other times that I shoot just because the sheer colors or light catches my eye....usually when I am outdoors.  The light is so the key element, but I also look for patterns and repetition.  When I shoot outdoors, I usually shoot many different perspectives and entertain people nearby when I get down in the dirt and wallow around on my belly.  I have ruined clothes, gotten spider bites, and suffered through poison ivy trying to get the perspective I was looking for, but I think most photographers do.

I would encourage other photographers to always be aware of why they are drawn to what they're shooting.  Be aware of the perspective that feels best to them, the mood, the lighting, the colors, the subject matter.  What is it that compelled them to shoot the image in the first place?  And, to be aware of the themes that seem to come up for them as they continue to shoot.  Lastly, of course, to shoot, shoot, shoot!

 - Dawn Hanna

To see more of Dawn's work visit her website at....

She also has a beautify blog of images and writings at....

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Potential

Potential.....the possible as apposed to the actual....capable of being or becoming.

As a photographer, there are any number of things that capture my attention and give me reason to pause.  Now understand, I'm writing from the perspective of someone who goes out into the urban and natural landscapes LOOKING  for opportunities to shoot.  I don't create still life settings, or do wedding shoots or any of that sort of thing.  I prefer a more "candid" nature to the images I produce.  I suppose you could say, I'm always looking for the potential of a scene.  What opportunity waits in what I can or have captured? I posted this image several days ago on my Flickr site and thought it might be a good one to show the before and after of to better examine this idea of potential.  

As most of you are probably very familiar with now, photo opportunities are more times than not fraught with difficulties.  This one was no exception.  I took it several weeks ago while on my way to shoot the interior of an artist's studio whom I'd met.  This old scooter had been in the same place each time I'd been in the area and every time I saw it I'd think to myself, "You should get a picture of it sometime."  Well, here was my chance...I had my camera...capture the thing.  It proved to be more difficult than I first thought.  The street is actually quite narrow with cars passing mere inches from the street side.  The sidewalk side is not much better....narrow, crowded, and loads of glaring light pouring in from over the buildings on the other side as the afternoon sun sank lower in the sky.   I kept searching for a good angle to capture the scooter with out being killed in the street or banged into by some passerby  on the sidewalk....and this was the best I could come up with......

Not exactly what you would call a "stellar" image is it?....with the post in the way and the raised curb in the front.  The other thing I found quite annoying in the image once I got it home, was how un-related the scooter seemed to it's surroundings.  The scooter was from one generation while the buildings and cars were obviously from another.  How can I get the two to "generations" to work together and somehow salvage my efforts?  

It was at this point I noticed the passing black vehicle and it's blurred condition caused from its movement.  What if I treat the whole of the background in the same way?  Blur the buildings and vehicles as "passing by" while the scooter remained undisturbed.  So, after cropping the image to remove the post and un-needed space in front of the scooter, I duplicated the image and then treated it with a "motion blur" filter in PS, masking out the effect on the scooter its self.  

That helped, but there was still a problem.....the strong "red" of the scooter as it was being blasted with reflected light from the windows of the building behind me made it too contrasted to the surroundings.  So, I used an "aged" black and white filter from Tiffen Dfx and sucked out 75% of the color from the original image.  This now brought the foreground and background into the same tone.  At this point, I began to texture the shot to reflect the same age worn appeal the scooter reflected.  

One more side note....texturing a shot can have a color intensifying effect on an image.  Even with most of the color being stripped away, I still had to run the post textured image through the same black and white aged filter to drop the color level back down to a more faded and appropriate level. 

Looking for solutions to the problems we face as photographers is frustrating and exhilarating at the same time.  But working out those solutions is what helps us to better photographers.  Working on this shot I discovered in a fresh way, there is a lot of hidden potential in the shots we take if we are willing to take the time to discover them.  I wonder how many I have thrown away before giving them a chance to reveal themselves. 

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Creation In A Day?

First of all, let me apologize for taking so long to bring a new post.  "Writing" is not what I would call one of my strengths, so it takes me a while to try and decide what it is I should be "writing" about.  The challenge for me is something of a learning curve as I struggle to put into words the observations of my own work....why I do it,....what I look for, process, choices of color and so on.  There are several dozen decisions that go into any one image and as many reasons "why" any of those decisions have been made.  To try and explain any one portion of my work is not an easy task for me....for my desire is to be as relate-able and understandable as possible while at the same time giving you enough room to discover what you are capable of on your own.  I CREATE IMAGES....I do NOT take images.  The act of photographing something is one of the first steps but a long way from the finale piece.  So, let's get on with it.

As I mentioned above, I CREATE images.  I decide the "what","how", and "why's" of each portion of the image.  The reason I'm harping on this idea of "creating" has to do with my desire to change a mindset I believe some of you have toward your own photography.  For too long at the beginning it felt more as though other things were in control of my shots than I was.  It seemed the more interested I became in photography, the more external things began working against me to keep me from creating the images I wished to create.  My frustration level grew as environment, time of day, my camera, my software, and any number of other things stood in the way.  I was certain I was alone in my frustration while other photographers I was following were merrily wandering about, always at the right place at the right time as they clicked their shutters intuitively, coming up with what I regarded as one masterpiece after another.  I know now, that is simply NOT true.

We live in such an instantaneous based society, it is hard for it not to creep into everything we are or do.  We want things to happen "right now" and a false expectation taunts  us we need only to discover the equipment list, time of day, and methodology of our favorite photographer to begin clicking off one sensation after another.  

Photography is an art form, a trained thing. You train your eye were to look.  You train yourself to be selective.  You gain understanding for the "rules" that help make a better image.   

In the beginning I used to be ashamed of the fact I was using a point/shoot camera rather than a fancy expensive one.  I see now, it worked to my advantage.  Having less equipment to lug around  gave me the mobility to shoot in areas I would have been reluctant to try with heavier expensive gear.  And, after going on a few outings with photographers who carried stacks of expensive equipment as we hiked across the countryside only to look at their images later thinking...."whoa, really?.....too dark....out of focus....bad composition".  The reality that it wasn't the camera that makes the image, it's the person....really sank in. 

Give yourself the room and chance to grow.  Free yourself from the lie "this should be happening faster".  Fruits and vegetables  forced to grow and ripen quickly do not have nearly the flavor and enjoyment of those that have been allowed to develop naturally.  Your images need the same.  Give yourself and your images the chance to develop.  You are creating something special....a look....YOUR look.....and it won't happen in a day.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

A Fascinating Talent

As I mentioned a few days ago, I do not wish to be the only source of information here in this blog.  There are so many amazing talents I have had the good fortune to come across over the last few years.  I wish to share them with you so you might be as inspired and challenged by their insight and wisdom as I have been.

Today I am interviewing my friend Jill....or borealnz as she is known on Flickr.  I have been admiring her images for quite some time now and she has kindly agreed to answer a few questions here.  
So, here we go.....

1.  How long have you been involved 
with photography?
If you mean photography as in taking photos, well I’ve been doing that since I was about 10, but photography as art; I’ve only been doing that for the past 4 or 5 years. 


2.  How long have you been doing the type of photographic work you do now?
I’ve been using textures for about four years –texturing was virtually unknown when I first started. 


3.  What or who most influenced you to change to your present pp style?
It was the work of Linda Plaisted (  That was the inspiration that made me start using textures.  Nowadays it’s Paul Grand ( and Flypaper Textures ( that are my main inspirations.


4.  What do you feel your images communicate now that they didn't before you went to your present style?
They’re definitely more painterly and rich and they often have a more illustrative look to them.


5.  What main idea do want to come across with your images?
Not so much an idea but a “look” and it depends on the image but on the whole I want atmosphere.

6.  Could you explain a little about your work-flow?
I always take Raw files, so my processing starts in Camera Raw. I process each image individually and often use some of the Raw presets I’ve created to get the toning that I want. That done, I open the photo in Photoshop and usually start with cropping an image square, then it’s just a matter of trying textures and blending modes until I come up with something I like or something that works with the particular image. I know my textures fairly well now so I have a fair idea what will work with a photo. 


7.  How did you learn to do the things you do in your pp work?
I’ve mostly learned how to do things by trial and error as there weren’t many others using textures when I started. Online tutorials and books have also been helpful.


8.  When you go out to shoot....roughly how many shots do you take?....and how many of those become a finale image? 

I’d probably take 20-30 maximum on a shoot, though of course this varies. Of those I may use 5 if I’m lucky or more if I’ve struck gold. With my “studio” type still-life of floral shots I take a few then check the photos on the computer to see which compositions/light works the best and then go back and take more. Strangely it’s often the photo that on the surface is perhaps the most unpromising of the shoot that I choose to work with, I guess this is because it’s “different” and I want to avoid the contrived look.

9.  Your work has a mixture of outdoor and macro shots. Do you have a favorite?
I think I prefer my indoor/studio shots at the moment because I like setting up a controlled shoot and even on cold damp days I can still take photos, but having said that, you can’t beat a stormy day on the beach for atmospheric photos :-) 


10.  What would you say is the main reason you decide to capture an image?
Hmm...not an easy one to answer. Perhaps it’s a need to share and then show it in an original or different way so I usually shoot with the thought of adding texture in the processing later.

If you have never had a chance to see more of Jill's work, please visit her site ( 

Also, take some time to look at her blog page...Flypaper Textures (  which she co-produces with another amazing artist, Paul Grand.  They have a wonderful and affordable selection of textures available for purchase with detailed tutorials of how to use them.

Well, that is about it.  I hope you have enjoyed this installment.  Keep shooting and never stop exploring.




Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Making the Cut

Today I would like to look at the idea of "the crop".  How do you decide what to cut out and what should stay?   There are loads of wonderful articles out there via the internet or your local library which will help teach the "rules" for cropping, so I will not go over those here.  My intention for this blog is more to help give some understanding as to my particular methodology for creating an image. A number of the traditional "rules" are observed ....some are broken....but there is always A REASON for what I have done and why.

Recently, I was inspired by a friends' capture of a "big top tent". I loved the look of the undulating curves and peaks.  The picture was taken looking down the the length of the tent so as to capture several of the peaks across the top.  As well, I found it quite interesting that focusing only on the top details of the tent took nothing away from my imagination for what the remaining unseen portion of the tent looked like.  My brain understands there is a whole tent.  But as in real life, when we look at something dramatic, there tends to be one piece of the drama that captures our attention more than the whole.  Cropping helps to pull out this element and expand on it.

The show "Cavalia" is currently playing here in Denver in this remarkable and dramatic tent.  With the idea of the tent tops in mind,I went to shoot knowing I was looking to come away with a series of captures I could work with.  I wanted different configurations of peaks as well as different amounts of sky showing. 
This is one of the shots I came away with.

Now, I had already created one image of "tops" from another shot taken early one morning incorporating three of the tops of the tent.  I didn't want to duplicate that idea, so using this shot with the late afternoon sun, I looked for another way to express the beauty of the structure.  There are a number of things I liked happening in the image....the glow of light hitting the left sides of the two right tops.....the look of the flags on the two right tops....the soft glow of the canvas across the foreground.  However, the most important feature for me in the scene was the glow of the sun coming from behind the left side of the tent as a whole.  As much I hated the idea of losing those beautiful details happening on the right side of the scene, I wanted to focus on the MAIN drama.....the interaction of the tops of the structure and the time of day.....and that was clearly happening on the left side of the scene.

I still struggle at times when I'm cropping an image with..."but this part is so beautiful"....kind of thoughts.  But I have to force myself to go back to the question of what do I want to communicate most?  The pretty scene of light and canvas was not ultimately my goal.  The goal was more about expressing the dynamics between  the curves of the structure and the drama of the sky.  So, when I found my eye jumping back and forth between the things I like within the scene as a whole, it alerts me to understand at times....something is probably going to have to go.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What's in a Term?

I have on a few occasions now used a term "story" and I would like to give a little more understanding as to what I mean.   First, let's look at the literal definition of the word...
An account of an event or a series of events, either true or fictitious.....a narrative intended to interest....romantic legend or tradition.

While working on a image I find I have a continuing narrative that seems to run in the back of my mind asking the question...."what is this saying to me?"  Textured images have become a passion for me for translating in a visual narrative  a story of emotion...of drama....of mystery.  It allows me an opportunity to combine what is true (the original photograph) with fictitious elements (the multiple overlying textures) to create a feeling of history and imagination.  

A good starting point with an image might have something to do with the light.  Does it seem bright and glarey, making me want to squint my eye's?  If it does, I find myself remembering moments in my past of when I was in the same kind of situation and recalling how it felt... was I anxious, annoyed, relaxed, nostalgic?  What ever the answer....which of these feelings best matches up to the current image I'm working on?

With this image, I knew it brought back memories of childhood.  Playing outside on a early summer morning while dew still hung on the grasses.  There was a sparkling quality to world around me and feeling of freshness that filled my imagination with wonder.  
I liked where I felt the "story" of the image was heading so, everything I did from that point on had me evaluate...does this add to the story....change it in some way....or distract?....and I made my choices from there.  

If you've never thought of looking at your images in this way....try it.  I think you will find if makes them far more personal to you.  Be willing to go beyond simply struggling to give an accurate account of a particular moment or event. 

I would like to let everyone know I will sharing with you the insights of other photographers it has been my good fortune to have come across and learned from.  Their skills and abilities far surpass my own and I know you will gain immensely from them.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Gaining a Fresh Perspective

Continuing on from my last post, I want to look at the value of "scene" and "subject".  Notice I didn't write "or"....but rather "and".  Now I know....a scene certainly has a subject or a main focusing element (or at least I would hope it does).  The thing I would like to look at has more to do with thinking about gaining a fresh focus on what you want to express.

I took the image above while driving up to capture some of the fall color.  Now, this is just your basic HDR shot and has had no other "tweeking" going on with it yet.  I will probably do that at a later date, but sharing it, helps to explain what I'm getting at.  

The rail fence is certainly my main subject.  But equally important is the overall scene....foliage full of color, leaves on the ground, dried and dieing grasses and so forth.  As I looked at the fence I kept thinking...."how can I say this better?"  How can I capture the character of the fence, with this interesting rail wrapped in wire, in a way that makes it feel more....interesting?  There are loads of old fence shots out there, so what perspective will make this one fresh?

So, if you want the subject to become more up close and need to get up close and personal to shoot it.  So that is what I did.....

Please notice that pretty much all of the elements that made the first shot "autumn", are included in the sceond image....or at least you are aware they are there.  But the complete focus is entirely on the fence and that interesting top rail.  The focus of the top image is of an autumn scene.  The focus of the bottom image is all about the fence.  I think both images have a "story" (a term I will explain in more depth at a later time for those who aren't quite sure what I mean)...
but the "story" the second image has to tell was a more interesting one for me.

I have  often found it necessary to get a little dirty to obtain something fresh.  If you are more in the habit of capturing a scene as demonstrated in the first shot, experiment with the idea of pulling your focus even tighter into that most important part.   If you are in the habit of always being nice and tight....maybe it's time to step back a bit to loosen your gaze.  I have found that both perspectives gain a freshness when we learn to spend time expressing them both.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What's in a Picture?

I suppose one of the most obvious things you have to decide about an image is having an image.  I mean, how do you craft something if you haven't captured it first? 

I was speaking to one of my contacts w/in the Flickr community a while back and realized during the conversation that while out hiking, he wasn't in the habit of taking images of things along the way, only of the destination.  The hassle of  taking out his camera gear or setting things up kept him from thinking about capturing images along the way.  Then, once at the destination, if the weather had become bad or some other factor occurred that turned capturing that image into a "less than ideal" situation, the whole trip felt like a bust.  The only thing was, it was obvious from his descriptions of the trip, he was observing things all along the way he appreciated..,,,the light in the trees, the shadows across the trail, the look of light across the water, and so on.  I challenged him "Why aren't you capturing all of these things along the way?  They obviously capture your just don't realize they do." 

This would be one of my first challenge to you as well.....what I would call "learn to give yourself pause".   For some, this will come more readily, and others, it might take some time.  But whether out hiking through the woods or window shopping down a crowded street, different things capture our attention for one reason or another.  I would say each time this happens.....that can be a picture.  Maybe not something everyone is going to appreciate or even needs to be captured.....but  it is a picture.  As an artist and a photographer we learn  how to frame that to cut out all the extraneous  other information and give focus to that one important thing that captured your attention in the first place.

This ability is so wonderfully demonstrated in the beautiful photo streams of others I have contact.  It is a wonderful thing in this day and age we now have the ability to gain inspiration from such a huge population of gifted and talented people.  Looking through the eyes of other creative individuals gives new "sight" to your own.  Take some time to really look through the images of people whom you admire.  What angle or level of sight do they tend to use?  Is their view very wide or very close and focused?  Is there only a portion of an object of thing in the image but it is clear in your mind as to what the remaining unseen portion is?  Then, think about these things  the next time you are out and that "moment of pause" happens.  Allow the new vision of others to be seen through your own eyes as you look.  Begin practicing capturing these things in a new way.  There may still be more cropping for that finale image to make sense....but you will be on the path of giving focus to the things that capture you.....and that is a very good thing.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Day 1

Well here I go....adding yet another layer of input into the sea of information that exists within the internet world.  I know there are numerous others out there doing the exact same thing and in the exact same area.   And from the ones I have come across, they are extremely talented and far more advanced in the use of the whole "blog world" technology.  I have however, found a following within the Flickr community of individuals who seem interested in my particular take of expression.  I have tried from time to time to share some of the "parts" of what make up an image for me.....what I look for, what captures my attention while I'm out, what I look for once the image has been loaded on to my computer....and on and on.  But giving so much information within the Flickr community under every image can have it's draw backs.  So I offer this format to not only share some of these things, but to answer questions and offer the chance for others to express their thoughts as well.  

More than anything else....I want to encourage and inspire the artist within each of you.  I have gained so much from the numerous individuals around the world with whom I've come in contact.  I will be sharing with you those I find to be particularly inspiring and why I find them to be so.   For I believe the development of our ability to observer to be the most fundamentally important thing we can do to it in art, or in life.  
Publish Post

Well, I guess that is about it.  Thanks for reading.