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,....my process,...my 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.