Saturday, December 10, 2011

Are You Missing Opertunities?

Opportunities? They are all around us.  There is power lying latent everywhere waiting for the observant eye to discover it." Orison Swett Marden

A number of times over the past couple of months I've received comments from photographer friends regarding the "before/after" shots posted on my Flickr site.  Mostly, they are amazed at how relatively drab the original image is compared to the finished one, often adding... "I would have never taken the shot"....

I was surprised at first by the comments....not regarding the amount of change that had occurred because it is in most cases dramatic.  But rather the idea that one would pass by a scene simply because the light was not optimal or it was too cloudy or some other misfortune was plaguing the scene.  I had to remind myself I've been on this journey for a while now.  It is only natural I would be looking at the world around me with a different perspective.  There is an expectation of what I'm feeling or want to feel already being applied in my minds eye as I gaze through the view finder.

I recalled the countless times in the beginning I clicked on the "delete" tab in frustration as I poured over the thumbnails of the day's capture.  A false expectation clouded my perception that the perfectly finished image would be lying there waiting for discovery.   That moment has yet to occur.

However, what has occurred is an ability for me to begin recognizing the "good bones" of a scene....something that I can build upon and hopefully make into something memorable.

A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.    -Ansel Adams

I believe a photographer must at some point learn to move beyond the mechanics and into the artistry of what we capture.  We capture a beginning.....we develop the opportunity....and in the end  we are left with something memorable.  Don't be too quick to discard what you have already captured.  There could be something wonderful there....waiting to be discovered.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Looking for a start

Hi everyone.  I hope your week has been a good one and you've had a chance to get out and explore, shoot, and experiment with your images.  I was asked this week if I knew how I was going to process an image when I was capturing it?  My answer at the time was "I rarely think about the way I will process the shot but always think about the crop of the shot when I'm shooting."  But thinking back on that answer, I would say that is only partly true.  The reason being, the crop of the shot I am already seeing in my minds eye is including processing possibilities my experience has taught me to look for.  Hopefully today's post will help you both when you are out shooting and back at home working on your images.

The image above was taken a couple of days ago at one of the local reservoirs.  The sun was just coming up and the scene with it's muted light and patches of snow against the rugged browns was very striking to me.  But as I looked through the view finder my circular  polarizing filter added such a striking depth and drama to the sky and color overall, I knew the image would have numerous possibilities for processing.  Once home I began studying the scene for possibilities and there were several that came to mind.

As I've stated in earlier posts, I first create a subtle HDR of the image.  The layering of exposiers help to  soften out the darkening depth created by the filter while bringing up details in the foreground.  I loved the rounded bulky look of the snow on the ground and when I arrived home noticed the similar look in the surrounding vegetation and terrain.  Again, the HDR helps to bring out these characteristics.  I knew when taking the shot I wanted the lone tree to be the main player in the final image so I tried to shoot it in such a way as to be able to incorporate a fair amount of sky to either side for adding an interesting movement of texturing later on.

Coloring and contrasts is always the next step.  I find that when I begin working on the image with the actions I have on file, the changes in mode brought out by this step, help me to "see" the image in different ways.

As with this unused version here, while gaining an aged feel from the faded color and softer contrasts, I decided I preferred the the darker mood reflected in earlier image and wanted to bring out that character.

So now with the depth of shadows returned to the ground cover and a warmth brought to the sky and over all color, I knew this would be a good foundation to begin from for texturing the shot. 

So, crop became the next issue.  Now, I've talked about crop several times before and I know there are those who do not care for a square crop, but I do.  The square crop was giving me options in different parts of the original image.  I decided to work on two from this image that I felt worked best.

I finished this crop because I love the bouquet of textures and shapes created from all the foliage and trees.  I loved the rounded punches of white created by the clouds and snow.  And I loved the color combinations of rust, browns, gray blues, and cream.

This crop, while also flipped....was all about the dance between light and sky.  The textures, shadows, and colors were all there from the first version, but the character of the image I feel is much different.  To me, it doesn't even feel like the same time of day, much less the same picture.  The different character of clouds with the way they are streaming in....creating a leading line for the light streaming across the foliage and ground.....I loved it and wanted to bring out those characteristics as well.

Well, I hope this has helped you to take a second look at some of your own images.  Not all shots are going to have multiple options for you, but a lot of them will...if you are looking for them.  Don't feel as though you have to choose between on them all and see what they have to reveal.

Happy shooting.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Getting Moody

Hi everyone.  Over the past week or so I have received several comments regarding the mood I create in my images.    I have begun posting my original shots along side the finished shots on my Flickr site.  A friend of mine had been doing it and I really like the message I felt it sent.  Not so much of a "hey, look at me and how wonderful a job I think I can do".....but rather...."if you are willing to look a little deeper, look at what YOU can do."

The primary reason for writing this blog is to inspire.  For those that need fan that spark of imagination and creativity that is already there and help it blaze into something more than you might think it can become right now.  For others, I share bits of my particular processing style and thought in gratitude for the many who have freely invested themselves into me.  So, let's get to it shall we?

I went out this past weekend to get some images of a local pumpkin patch and some fall colors.   I had a few ideas of shots of pumpkins in the fields I wanted to try and capture.  But, I'm always on the lookout for an interesting scene. 

The Denver Botanic Gardens has a farm they operate throughout the year.  They have a corn maze and pumpkin patch (shown here) that is well attended and surrounded with a lot of fan fare.  So, it was easy to get caught up in the mood on such a beautiful afternoon as families wandered about the fields with their young children looking for just the right pumpkin.  The air was field with the smells of funnel cakes, kettle corn and other goodies and music played in the background as flocks of red winged black birds moved like a small cloud from one area to the other searching for seeds and bugs.

I had to capture at least one shot of the scene as a whole if for no one else but myself.  I really didn't know if I would do anything with it or not.  But as I looked at the image back at home, I thought about the sounds, the smells, the feelings of family and thoughts of childhood and autumns long ago.  I'm always trying to create a feeling of history....a story along with the image of a journey that has been taking place for some unknown span of years.  I love that feeling from actual older images.   Amidst the wrinkles, splotches, creases and faded color comes a feeling of nostalgia.  This image meant something special.....means something special....needs to be past along.

One of the primary rules of thumb I'm always working from is....IS IT NATURAL?  Meaning....would this coloring, crease or scratch happen naturally over time and if so....where would it most "naturally" happen or how?  The second rule of thumb is how to use those unnatural "natural" elements to your give interest to an uninteresting area of the image.  To give focus to a idea where none really exists.

In the above image.....crop, coloring, and contrasts set up the frame work for these two rules of thumb.  The crop still communicates the vastness of the scene.....the expanse of the field and the grandness of the sky....while eliminating the peripheral information.  The foreground pumpkins now help to lead you into the people in the field.  The color and contrast are now more akin to an image taken on film whose color is now degrading with time. 

But, there are some problems.  It is too pristine for one.  There is little chance that a snap shot taken of an afternoon family outing would remain so clean.  Typically it has moved from lying on the kitchen table, to being used as a bookmark, to lying in a cigar box and eventually ending up in a scape book or album.  All of that handling, sharing and abuse takes its toll.

Secondly, after cropping....the foreground is helped but the sky is not.  I'm now left with this big gaping whole of  nothing on the left and some clouds that are really not that interesting.

Now with the texturing applied, that idea of years of handling comes alive.  Notice also the addition of splotches and darkening in the blue sky above the people help to give both interest to the open sky and greater focus to the fact there are people in the field.

With a bit more tweeking to the contrast  and coloring.....and bump in the sharpening, I ended up with this....

Darkened, dirty, and creased from years of being least that is the idea.  A heightened feeling of nostalgia and slightly romanticized ideal of family, home and togetherness.  I'm not trying to create fakes....but rather...create memories we can all relate to in one way or another.  The scene might not be familiar, but the mood will be.  Am I getting moody?  You bet.....and I love it!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Stay true....

Over and over I have felt compelled to relate to the artist in others....that spark in fellow photographers to refuse settling for the "norm"...That idea that "straight out of the camera" is the only true ideal for a "real" photographer.  Don't get me wrong....I love photography in all of it's expressions.  I just happen to have settled in on a combination of expressions of HDR and Textures.  There are so many variations of this medium, each carrying a voice of expression that is unique, dramatic, informative, and inspirational.

But for me, the combination of these techniques has given me an expression that I feel, for now, expresses what I FEEL for what I see....and not just a "true" expression of what I see.  I'm not interested in showing exactly where I've been.  I want others to gain a taste of how where I've been moves me....capture my attention....affect my emotions.  Each image evolves. 

Please!!!!....understand, if "out of the camera" works for you....expresses what you meant to say....the reason for why you felt to capture the image in the first place.....fantastic!  Keep it up, and learn all you can to perfect that voice of expression possible.

But, if you are anything like me, and the image the camera collected just isn't enough....than explore.  Search out images....ones that move you...make you linger....make you think.  Don't allow yourself to just pause for a moment while thinking in the back of your mind...."I wish I could do something like that".  Ask questions.  Look for answers.  Be willing to learn.

I was sure in the beginning I was stuck with what I was able to do.  I hid the reality of being self taught as some kind of shameful past.  I was embarrassed to ask questions of other photographers because I didn't want to appear stupid.  I was certain that everyone else had years of experience behind them.

What I found however was quite different.  People are willing to answer questions....they are willing to share their secrets....the things they have learned.   I haven't always been the least experienced one in the crowd.  When I was, it really didn't matter, because they all knew what that felt like.  The other photographers I've shot with have been more interested in sharing what they've come to understand than hide it away.  Oh sure, people are people, and there is always going to be one along the way that you can't wait to get away from.  But from my experience, the vast majority, even if they are locked into this idea that there is only one way to express photography....have been an interesting and generous lot.

Don't allow what you don't know to hold you back.  If your images are not expressing what you think they should, put yourself out there.   Ask questions.  Experiment.  Learn.  If you have discovered and grown to love this world of photography, the greatest thing I can offer is to learn your voice of expression in this art form and then......stay true to that voice.  Leave that legacy of expression others would otherwise miss.

Friday, September 23, 2011

What are you looking for?

Before I begin...let me just say a word of thanks to Mehreen  from "the perfect line" blog,  for her note of encouragement and prodding to get busy and write.  When I started this blog about a year ago, it was at the prompting of other photographers that if I wanted to move forward in "the business", it was something I needed / was expected to do.  Truly, it was not because I felt I had so much to say I needed to create a platform to get the information out there.  Frankly, figuring out what to write is and has been one of the biggest problems.  When I do come up with a topic, something in the back of my mind convinces me...."no one is going to be interested in this"...or..."people already know how to do that..." and so I end up not writing anything.  

Well, thank you Mehreen for your encouragement.  I appreciated hearing what you had to say.

Do you know what you are looking for?....a question I have asked myself numerous times when either out shooting or while working on my post processing work. What is it I'm trying to get across with an image....what kind of image am I looking for....why?

When I first started out in photography, completely by accident by the way, I got involved in one of the online groups like "Flickr".  I was astounded by the extraordinary talent I found there.  I had never seen such creativity in photographs before.   I longed for my images to gain even a portion of the impact I felt so many other photographers seemed to capture so effortlessly.  (strange how it always appears to be effortless when you are not involved in the process...)

The other thing I noticed was how focused many photographers seemed to be regarding subject matter.  They were brilliant at what they did, but the images were all the same....people, landscapes, sunrises, flowers...whatever....beautiful, but the same.  I tried for a while to stay focused on one subject matter, but no matter how I tried, I just couldn't.  If I tried to focus on the wide open landscape, I ended up feeling pulled toward the close up....

After a half dozen close ups, I would begin thinking, "I don't have any shots of architecture or structures" off I would go looking for the next building or windmill to capture...

Structure shots might lead to people shots, then back to landscapes  then off to macros and so forth and so forth....always finding myself challenged to rethink how I was looking at my framing of the shot or the angle or direction of the sun or light source.

Beyond subject matter, I have found myself exploring a variety of directions regarding my post processing work.  I would become fascinated by others ability with black and white images.....or their ability to create this feeling of intensity to an image....turning what was a relatively simple image into one that evoked an emotional level I could hardly believe.

Other times I've been mesmerized at the hyper-real look brought on by a well done HDR.  I love the intensity of detail that seem to explode off of the page and worked to harness the skills needed to do something similar.

I'm never tired of the beauty that can be drawn out of familiar shapes masked in a cloak of haze or fog.  I've marveled at images that seemed to be so permeated with a dreamlike quality it seemed impossible to have captured them with a mere camera.

As I jumped from one subject to the next, or one type of post work to the next...I would think..."I'm all over the place.  Surely no one else has this much trouble figuring out their sense of style or voice."   It wasn't until one week some time back I finally realized I didn't need to "figure out" my style or voice as a photographer....I already had one.  That one week I received a half dozen or more comments for different contacts I've made around the world all saying a similar thing...."I would recognize your work anywhere"...."you and your famous tones"....."I love your keen eye for a scene".....

I stopped looking at the latest image I was working on and stepped back to look at the whole of my body of work.  What was it about what I was creating that others had noticed and I had failed to realize?  What I found was a part of me.  My emotion, my perspective,....that bit of romantic and sometimes somberness I embody.  A somewhat melancholy nostalgic take on the world that captures my attention.

I found that as I journeyed to discover the ways other photographers expressed themselves, I found the way I wanted to express myself.   The images I've shared here are all my own.  Taken of things and places that mean something to me.  Expressed in a way that....well, means something to me.  Hopefully others find themselves able to relate to what they see....connect with my images in a way.  And, apparently, some have.

What was I looking for? voice of expression.  What I found was that and a lot more.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

OK.....I Suck!!!!

I realize titling a post in such a disparaging way might seem kind of ......odd?....self absorbed?....depressing?  Whatever term you might decide or add for yourself the point is this, however good an intention I might have for staying consistent with my posts here, I continually seem to fall WAY short.  It has been over 3 months since my last post?   Aaaaaaagh!  Really?  Please accept my apologies....especially if you are (trying) to be a regular follower.   Hopefully I can make up for it a bit.  :)

I had a lot of response from people regarding having more step by step information of how I do what I do.  While I hadn't really intended for this blog to be devote to exact "step by step" posts, I can understand how some of my theorizing posts might have been less helpful and more frustrating if you are just beginning with textures or post processing in general.  So, I'm going to be about as detailed as I can with this one.

WARNING!!!!  My methods are VERY time consuming.  But, I have grown to embrace the time as well as the process I have developed for acquiring the look I have.  It is something of a journey where discoveries are made all along the way.  Each new layer brings me closer to that place where I look at the image and finally say to myself...."that's it....I like what this one is expressing."

So let's get to it...
This is an image I took while on a shoot in Arches National Park in Utah.  The view is from an area known as The Devil's Garden.  This is a JEPG of the original, untouched, RAW file.  I took the shot because of the varying angles of cloud, rock formations, and terrain.  Also, I am not one of those who will only go out and shoot in the very early morning hours or late evening.  Life is not like that....and just as my explorations are done at all times of the day, I want my images to express the same.  I absolutely believe in the understanding of capturing the magic of the quality of light.  But I have also come to believe that magical quality can be as much created as it is captured. (I will try and explain some of that as we go along.)

One of the first things I will do when working on an image is create an HDR (high dynamic range).  Using PS Bridge, I create 3 exposures, usually no more than +/- 1 stop.  Using Photomatix software, I then create either an exposure fusion of the 3 images or true just depends on which I like the look of more once it has been done as to which one I keep.  The reason for this step is because it helps to bring out details and dimension in the scene that can sometimes get lost in the texturing process.

The next step is to make a duplicate, run a level 6 noise reduction, and then flatten the layers.   I then like using one of a variety of  photo actions on the image to begin a bit of recoloring and adjustments in some of the contrasts.  Apples and Sisters has some marvelous actions that I find brilliant for this part of the process.  Below is the results of this portions of the process along with the image cropped into a square.

Now is time to begin texturing.  One of the reasons I decided to do this post is because I wanted to share with you one of the "tricks" I utilize with textures....that is doubling...or sometimes tripling a texture. These are the three textures I utilized for the finale image, however, they were used a total of 8times.  The idea can be applied to any texture layer, you just have to experiment.  I collect textures from all friends, CG Textures,  HRT, Texture Lovers....etc.   There are tons of sources out there.  Just try and get the highest resolution possible.

The first thing I did was apply a layer of old film stock (middle one) to the image with a setting of Overlay at 100/50.  (btw...the number system I show here with the "/" is referring to both Opacity and Fill levels)  I will always adjust the Fill level first, as it tends to remove the "bulk" of a texture, while the Opacity levels tend to remove the "details" of a texture.

This is how the image changed......

Notice it has brought a bit of de-saturating of the "reds" in the image, a little more pale green tones and some vertical texture elements have begun to show up.

Next, I doubled this layer using a setting of "Linear Light" at a level of 50/50.  Which gave the image this look.....

Now the vertical elements of the texture are really coming out in the image along with a faded/glary quality to the light and coloring.  In my opinion, this helping to add to both the feeling of age and of height.
TIP!  One important thing I have found helpful is to always add textures from the bottom up....or just above the original image.  This way you get a truer idea of the interaction between layers than when adding them from the top.

Next I added the "scratchy" texture.  Now, I hope I can explain this in a way that is understandable.  First, I applied the texture to the image and "married" the sides like normally would.  I duplicated that layer but then pulled the sides out slightly wider than the original image and then used Clipping Mask" to the first one.  I then duplicated that layer repeating the process again of stretching and clipping.  Each of these was set to Color Burn at a level of 30/30 and then merged together.  However this time I did move it to the top of the stack.  Here is the result......

This has now added the faint scratchy texture to the sky area that extends across the total sky instead of being so concentrated.  Also, using Color Burn in the texture, bumps up some of the contrast in the shadow areas.

Next, I used the old paper texture.  I applied the texture first as an Overlay at 50/50.   But then I once again doubled the texture and clipped it, again with Overlay, but with a level of 100/50.  However, to the second layer I applied a B/W layer with a level of 100/50.  By doing this, it helps to pull down some of the over-concentration of the yellow/orange coloring of the texture that can come from the duplication.  

I then applied a third layer of the same original old paper texture....but this time with out clipping it to the other two layers.  I then flipped the layer vertically and stretched it to the left until the inner crease lined up with the outer crease.  I set it to Overlay with a level of 60/50.  This has two effects, it brings up the coloring and light of the old paper while de-empathizing the creases of the old paper. 

Here is the effect of all of this.....

The textures of the shot were now at a place I was happy with so it was now time for a finale bit of "tweaking" to the color and contrast.  After flattening the image, I duplicate it once more and ran another layer of Noise Reduction at a level 6.  After all, there has been a huge amount of noise re-introduced to the image and it needs to be calmed down a bit.  I then sharpen that layer and then flatten.  By sharpening at this level, the "softening" to the textures that comes from the noise reduction along with the sharper elements of the original image, all become sharper at the same level.....make the sharpness of the image feel more joined naturally.

I then applied an antique b/w layer at 50/50 and a minor curves adjustment to pull down the yellow saturation a bit more while bumping up the whites of the clouds.  

Here is the finale version......

Now then.....wasn't that easy?  Yea right.  But that is basically the kind of things I do with each and every shot.  I told you it was time consuming....and you got the shortened version to boot without all the experimentation.  Mostly, what I wanted to share was how many ways you could use the same texture but create a different effect to the overall image.

I hope you have enjoyed this "little" exercise.  Now go give it a try for yourself.  Enjoy!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Work Flow

Today I thought I would give you a glimpse into my usual work flow.  Numerous times I have been asked about how I achieve the color tones I gravitate towards or my particular "soft contrast" look, along with the textures used.  The only way to answer that is to say "it is a process".  Labor intensive?.....definitely.  But one that works for me.  These steps developed each time I learned something new or purchased some new software.  Rather than eliminating something, I just keep adding it to the mix as I like what it was adds to the overall outcome. goes.

I took this picture while driving from Texas to Colorado where I live.  It was taken while driving through the Texas panhandle region, an obviously very flat and treeless expanse.  This image is actually a combination of three images I joined together in PS CS4.  I then cropped it to the 16x9 dimensions you see here.

In order to gain more contrast and definition in the clouds and foreground, using PS Bridge, I created two additional exposures (a +1 and  -1 full stop exposure) to combine with the earlier image.  Using Photomatix HDR software, I layered the three images to create the subtle HDR image you see here.   Notice the improved clarity and highlights in the sky?  I  wasn't completely satisfied with the crop, so I cropped it a little more with the same 16x9 dimensions.

Using one of the actions I acquired from Apples and Sisters, I softened the contrast and warmed the coloring to begin reflecting the feeling of age I wanted to get from the scene.  I used to rely only on the textures used to gain coloring changes, but I have found this method to work better for me.

Now I begin texturing the image. I believe I ended up with 7 different texture layers to create the effect you see here....3 old paper textures and 4 images of various concrete and plaster walls.  Choosing textures, for me, has as much to do with maintaining the "direction" I want the image to have as it does the feeling of character I want the image to have.  This is an obviously horizontal piece.  If I were to add textures and turn textures so all the lines of character were running horizontally as well, the image would start taking on an elongated effect and start looking "stringy".  Also, all the horizontals in the image between fence, horizon, sky and textures would then become a distraction.  By adding a few vertical textural lines in such a long image, it helps to counter act the elongation of the image and maintain the lofty relationship between land and sky.  Also, some of the paper textures add some more softness and brightness to the scene as well.

The last step is my use of yet another bit of software called Tiffen Dfx.  Choosing from an array of over 300 different filters, I then bumped up the contrast and then added a black and white filter called "silver gelatin" at 12% opacity.  This pulls out the over saturated look the colors can take on when you bump up the contrast.  I believe it also keeps the coloring more accurate for an image that has aged naturally.

And that is how I went from this....

To this.....

I hope this helps. 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Determining A Look.......

Technology is amazing.  Communication via cellphones and internet are so commonplace now that is hard to imagine going back to how it used to be 10 - 20 years ago.  I'm in regular contact with people all over the globe and I rarely think about the reality of it.  Separated by entire continents, oceans and time zones, and yet we are able to exchange all sorts of things as though we are standing next to one another.  I'm writing all of this because over the last 24 hours, I've been working on some images a friend of mine in Poland sent to me in Colorado (US), which he had taken in Italy a week or so earlier.  All of which would have been totally unheard of little more than a decade ago.  It's been immense fun working on images I would not readily have  the opportunity to  shoot for myself and which are still "virgin"....meaning, unlike an image sitting in some stock image site, I'm the only one who's had a go at .

Tom, my Polish friend, as been a huge supporter and encouragement regarding my own work.  He asked if I would mind doing some post processing on one or more of his images and, I agreed.  He gave me free reign to do whatever cropping or adjustments I wished.  So, I thought I would share some of it with you in hopes it would helpful for your own work.

In this shot, taken high above treeline, I love the scene....row after row of undulating mounds of nothing but snow with three tiny figures off in the distance.  Everything is a softness of tone on tone of white and soft blues.  There were two primary things I felt I needed to address...1. Keeping the feeling of vastness while pulling in the three people....and, 2. Addressing a resolution problem with the clouds which came up as a result from transfer of the file.  So, here is what I came up with.....
The crop is pretty self explanatory, so I won't go into that.  The sky however was a bit more challenging.  The solution I came up with was to mask in an image of sky I had taken a couple of years ago.  I was then able to retain the original feel of tone on tone and softness.  I also lightened up the scene and tried to give it a feeling of (slight) warmth.  In my opinion, this helps the scene to feel less hostile over all and lends to that vintage look I try to achieve in all of my images. Being a little less intimidating of an environment also, I think, helps it to be more relatable in a way.  With no context of the scene, the version to the right could just as well be some rolling field rather than an isolated mountain's all a matter of interpretation.

Next are a couple of shots he took while in Venice.

In this scene, there were a few things I wanted to address.  First, I couldn't do my normal square crop.   I didn't want to choose between the statue or the building and gondolas, so I went with a 16x9 crop which then also gave the image a "cinematic" feel.  Second, I loved the scene, but it was too dark from my taste, so I created multiple exposures in PS Bridge and turned the image into an HDR using Photomatix.  This helped to bring out the definition not only in the statue but also the sky, buildings, etc.  Third, there were some things in the image I felt did not need to remain...the trashcan, the blue gondola cover in the lion's mouth, and some little gold bottle someone had stuck in the right hand of the figure.

So as you can see, the scene feels less like "last week" and resembles more the time frame of the pieces in the image.  I tried to use textures which also resembled some of the water stained aging going on in the bronze of the statue.

Now for the last of the three......
Again, another beautiful scene from Venice.  There was nothing in this scene I wanted to get rid of.  It was also already conveniently cropped into a square.  The primary thing I wanted to achieve was to reflect the sun-washed coloring of the buildings.  When I texture an image, there are two things I am continually asking myself.... 
1.  Does it look natural?  Would this coloring, crease, or scratch happen naturally in the course of aging?
2.  Does the "shape" of the texture its self add to the "motion" of the image or take away from it?
For example...with this image, being a square, the outside shape of the image is neither vertical or's neutral.  With all the sides being equal, it tends to add a focusing quality to the scene, similar to cupping your hands around your eyes.  That is one of the reasons I like to use it.  But while the shape of the scene may be neutral, the "direction" of the scene is vertical.....meaning it is running mostly up and down.  So, I wanted to reflect that feeling of height with the indication of shapes and coloring within the textures.         Here it is......

As you can see, with the creases and stains running primarily vertically, it accentuates not only the height of the buildings, but also the lifting feel of the clouds.  There are a couple of  scratches added horizontally at the top because it felt as though your eye was getting pulled off the page, so these were added to counter-act that issue.   Also, using a sepia tinted b/w filter at 20%, gives the picture a more even aged tone....pulling out the cold of the water and sky and giving everything a feeling of bleached colored plaster.

Well, I hope this has helped.  Just so you know....I rarely know exactly what the end image is going to look like.  I may know the initial things I want to take away or make sure are there, but aside from that, I discover it as I go.  That is part of the fun of it for me....that feeling of discovery as one piece after another is figured out and the idea of the final image is determined.

Have fun.

Friday, January 28, 2011

What We See

It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

– Henry David Thoreau

Today, I want to talk about the "simple scene" and  your imagination.  In the spring of last year I posted this image in my Flickr account.  And, as images go, would be considered a "dud" if rating purely on the amount of activity it received.  Understandable, for when sitting in a sea of thumbnails, why would you click on something like this unless it was purely out of curiosity for what you were looking at?  I have found though as I continue to grow in my expression as an artist and a photographer, I must explore ways of capturing visually this narrative that begins running through my head when I come across a scene like this one.  A simple scene that has caused me to linger but could be easily dismissed as too "uninteresting" to be photographed.   But if it were truly "uninteresting", what caused me to linger in the first place?  It suddenly dawned on me  I need to recognize these meaningful moments.  There's a beauty happening in this small sliver of a scene hiding in the midst of a larger perspective.  What is it?  How do I capture it?  How can I make these feeling come alive?

I sat by this little stream for some time wondering about these things.   I remembered countless times as a child by other streams, building bridges and roads along the shore.    Maybe it was something about the light.....warm and caressing in way as  it came streaming through the branches and caused the water to sparkle.  These was a softness to the elements that was bringing all these memories to life.

Or, as in this image.... I was kneeling in a field capturing some macro shots and when I looked up, this is what I noticed.   This glorious clean morning light igniting the dew and bright greens of spring.  It was magical and there was such a feeling of innocence to it I found myself mesmerized.  I thought again of childhood, squinting at the glare of the morning and the sparkle of little moist jewels on the grass.  Again, it was something about the "softness" in the light over all I needed to capture and then translate in a way that would "feel" like the memories it was igniting.

I debate at times of whether or not I can capture this "reality", this it possible?  Well, I'm not sure if it is or not, because no matter how progressed the skill might be, if I'm not looking for the scene layered beneath the image, I'm not going to see it.  Most will probably only see a small bit of stream, a hazy field of grass, or small waves breaking on a shore and, that's ok......that's pretty much what they are.  But hopefully for those who take the time, they will also see another place....another reality, and remember.  Remember their own places of wonder and imagination.   Be stirred to not allow these places to remain hidden, but look for ways through your post work to cause them to come to life.  Just be aware, they may only come "alive" for a small few, but that's ok.  It is not an easy thing to translate things like "emotion" and "memories".  There is no button in Photoshop or process action to download  which will magically bring this translation.  The things that move my emotions in an image will not be the same for everyone and the same will be true for you.  For me, it's a combination of a softness in the contrast, a faded quality in the color, and a glow to the light that with the simplicity of the scene bring the emotional element I try to express.  A feeling that years ago the picture was taken and then stored away in some cigar box with other treasures collected along the way.

The important things are these.....recognize, capture, and experiment.  The more you do these three things, the better you will become with expressing yourself in all of your images, much less the simple ones.  Just like the quote I had at the beginning suggests...."It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see".....and then taking "what we see", and helping others to see it.