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PIXelations 13

a leg to stand on…

by fotofinish , 06-04-2006 at 02:59 PM (316 Views)

I discovered recently that my 30 year old Velbon tripod leg is damaged. It still will hold together but I feel I can’t trust it. Also, it is very heavy, and recently I have been bringing it into work with my camera so that I can continue to add to my Hartford Reflections gallery.

Anyway, I put an order in for another tripod, but it is on backorder. I should get it in a couple of weeks. I ordered the Gitzo G1228 Mountaineer Reporter Mk2 Carbon Fiber tripod. I also ordered and received Acratech Ultimate Ballhead. This thing is really light weight and well engineered. From my readings in other forums, I am aware that it is not meant for much weight. It may not handle my 100-400mm L IS, though the Acratech site says it will. I just need something for those low-light shots I take that is light and very portable, even on flights. I also ordered but have not yet received the Acratech Leveling Base . This will help me with my panoramas.

Finally, I also ordered an “L” bracket, specially made for the Canon 20D. This will make switching from landscape to portrait mode a snap.

searching for a soul

by fotofinish , 06-25-2006 at 03:55 PM (251 Views)

Over the last few weeks, I became inspired to put together my first official gallery of images. But this has not come easily, nor without some soul-searching. Like so many fine art photographers, I have wrestled with the many questions of my value and my place in the world of photography where everyone who now owns a digital camera lays claim to a sense of legitimate presence.

I first started talking about this in a previous entry. What do I want to say? What do I need to say? Is what I say worth saying? Questions without answers; searching perhaps too hard…until the epiphany. I must give credit to Alain Briot’s latest article Being An Artist In Business. In this article he says…

I realized that I might as well choose to do precisely what I wanted to do, without caring much about what others thought or what my chances of success would be, because it was going to be hard no matter what. By choosing to do what I loved I actually placed one more chance on my side, and that chance was my extreme motivation to succeed, since nothing can motivate someone to succeed more than trying to be successful at doing what they love. I may or may not succeed, but at least I would have done something that I loved. If I did anything else, the same chances of success or failure were present, but without the reward of doing something I enjoyed doing.
Thanks, Alain, I needed to hear that said in just that way…

Having finally decided that my photography at least makes me happy, I also decided that I wanted to share my art and my view of the world with others. I realized that I also had the makings of a legitimate gallery. But what is a gallery? I found my answer in the latest issue of LensWork. In Editor’s Comments: Photographer as Director, Brooks Jensen describes the duty of each photographer to be his own director. It is not enough to present a block of work as a disjointed group of albeit technically perfect images. These must be woven tightly together under a common theme, the tools of which are defined in this article, and examples of which are found within this issue.

So, at least for the moment, I have found my soul and my voice. I have crafted my artist statement and selected my images. Once I have polished these, I will post them on on my website. Wish me luck!

Reflections Of The Hart

by fotofinish , 07-01-2006 at 10:43 AM (228 Views)

My first official gallery, at last! It has been a concept for the last two years, but finally a finished work over the last two months. And here’s my artist statement:

Reflections Of The Hart
A Tribute to What Was Once, And May Yet Soon Be Again In Hartford

I have worked in downtown Hartford for more than twenty years in the IT industry. People in this profession, including myself, tend to be nomadic in that there is frequent movement between the various insurance companies. No longer do people spend their entire lives with one company. After teaching for seven years, I changed careers and spent close to fourteen years at Aetna. Then, as all the major layoffs started in the 1990’s, I switched to my current IT position within St. Paul Travelers. Every insurance company has and needs IT professionals; at least they did until the recent re-fascination with offshore partnering.

During my time with insurance, I have always been captivated by some of the architecture which reflects the soul of the city. Hartford had been called the Insurance Capital of the World because of the high percentage of its population employed within this industry, and also because of the concentration of big-name insurance companies located, if not headquartered, here. The city’s population in the 1990’s shrank by eleven percent as the insurance giants downsized, merged, and relocated some of their businesses. In addition to insurance, there is also a significant banking and financial service sector presence. So what remains of the heart of Hartford is its buildings, monuments to what was once, not so long ago.

My Gallery should be viewed as a complete entity, rather than merely as a series of separate images. Just as the city is made up of many solitary buildings joined with the collective spirit of all those who once worked here, so, too, must my images be viewed in solidarity with its underlying theme. My goal was to photograph some of the sights of Hartford in a way much different than the typical straight-on, architectural shots. These structures are more than just intricate assemblages of concrete, steel, and glass. I wanted to show that the strength of this city lies within its many diverse types of people who have energized these foundations with some of the best years of their lives. I tried to select buildings reflected within other buildings that emphasize a distorted and ghost-like spirit of those days gone by, or the reflected potential of a glory that is yet to be. These windows reflect the eyes of the many souls of the business’s most important assets: its people.

I selected structures which show a sense of character and strength through repeating patterns of lines, shapes, and colors. My first few photos in the series reflect the promise of the Constitution Plaza urban redevelopment program from the 1960’s. My gallery ends with the new Hartford 21 apartment high-rise, the tallest apartment building in all of New England. Within it rests the tall hopes of a renaissance age which starts with bringing more people to live within the heart of the city, perhaps closer to where they work.

I am hopeful that the companies which remain in Hartford will experience a rebirth. Their current operations will morph like butterflies into something newer and perhaps even more exciting in the years to come, attracting a whole new generation of people and city life.

You can view my new gallery here. Please tell me what you think!

passing the time of day

by fotofinish , 07-05-2006 at 07:53 PM (246 Views)

Jayne and I were lounging around our pool on July 4th, just passing time. I was lamenting to myself that I had not gotten behind my camera at all during the holiday. Suddenly, there seemed to be a lot of activity at the feeders in my yard. So I grabbed by camera and 100-400mm L IS and snapped away.

Here’s a few examples:

You can see the rest of the gallery here.


by fotofinish , 07-14-2006 at 05:15 PM (252 Views)

This is my one-year blog anniversary, and thanks to all who have visited and continue to visit. So what better way to celebrate than with proud news: My first gallery is going to be shown!

The Hartford Welcome Center agreed to display my gallery Reflections Of The Hart for 90 days starting October 1st. It really isn’t a big deal, but it is to me. My photos will be displayed in a conference room at the center. To look at this room you might not think it is such a great place to have your first showing. But apparently, this is no ordinary conference room. Some of Hartford’s most prominent and powerful people host meetings there from time to time, so the Center wants to make this bleak, windowless conference room a little more comfortable by displaying bodies of work by individual, local artists, every three months. I am told I can post prices as well. If nothing else, at least someone will finally see fine-art versions of my work!

The only dilemma now is that my body of work consists of 10 scrutinized photos, carefully selected from more than 18 in total. The Center needs 20 photos. So now I have to add 10 more to the collection. I actually can add 6 more right away and have these still consistent with my artist statement. This will give me some time to collect a few more shots I have already had my eye on.

But tt never really sunk in how expensive a showing like this will be! I need 20 of everything: 16×20 frames, custom mats with foamboard backing, expensive Crane Museo II fine art paper, and Epson R2400 ink to print out 12×18 images. Total approximate cost: $800! I will try to sell each for $200, but realistically, I can’t imagine this happening. It would be nice, though, to recoup some of this cost…and maybe even get some constructive feedback. How else can I be expected to grow as an artist?

So although the venue is nothing to be impressed with, it is my first showing, nonetheless. Who knows, this could lead to something better yet!

a little light in the room…

by fotofinish , 07-26-2006 at 08:03 PM (220 Views)

The long-awaited Windows beta version of Adobe Lightroom has finally arrived here. I had to install Service Pack 2 for Windows XP before the software could be set up. Both installations went smoothly. What follows below are my first impressions.

Since I subscribe to Michael Reichmann’s Luminous Landscape Video Journal, I am already familiar with Lightroom. There was an entire DVD walkthrough. But watching a walkthrough and actually using the product yourself is of course very different.

Lightroom seems to be positioned as a photography workflow package, geared for the pro or anyone who has to process in the digital darkroom many photos at a time. The biggest advantage with this product goes to anyone who shoots in the RAW format, although jpg’s can also benefit from the enhancements.

All of the Lightroom magic does not touch the original photo. Any changes are noted in accompanying information files which are stored in its database. The actual file gets changed when you export (there is no SAVE command!) it to another format, ie, .psd, .jpg, or print it. I created a beta subdirectory and put a handful of raw images into it before I imported this directory into Lightroom and its database system. I would recommend this cautious approach, since this is a beta product, meaning the software, and many of its other features, is not finished being built yet.

This product is not meant to eliminate the need for Photoshop. Any masking adjustments are not possible in Lightroom. If all you want to do is fine tune or correct the image’s color and then sharpen for output, then this is the product for you. Also, if you want to change the image to black and white correctly, and maybe tone this result as well, then this is also the product for you.

I used Lightroom to develop several of my images that needed a boost in saturation. The Develop module is where you get to color tune. There are actually many different palettes, but the one which does this work is called HSL Color Tuning. This palette has three sections: Hue, Saturation, and Luminance. Each of these sections contains six sliders, each a different color range: reds, yellows, greens, cyans, blues, magentas. The granularity here is amazing! Plus, it is very easy to use, since these work with slider controls rather than, say, working with curves or levels in Photoshop. My current Photoshop workflow utilizes a convert-to-LAB mode in order to adjust color using the curves palette. And although LAB mode allows for great color control, it is not the easiest tool to work with. But Lightroom makes this easy!

The trouble with having six color sliders is knowing where (what color range) to make your changes. The best advice I can give is to move each slider, one by one, to one extreme end and then to the other extreme end of that color range and let your eye be the judge. It will take time for my eyes to get adjusted to working at this level of color detail, but I have to tell you that the end result can be very impressive!

On the workflow side, it is easy to copy the finished, adjusted image in the Library module (it is similar to Adobe Bridge in CS2). Just press the copy settings button on the Quick Develop palette, then highlight any other thumbnail images on the filmstrip, and press the paste settings button to apply ALL of your image adjustments to these other photos. You can choose to copy only some of the settings, if you want. This can be done very quickly and easily, since a dialog box pops up with all of the adjustment categories checked off. Just uncheck the ones you don’t want!

On the negative side (no pun intended! ), every time you move a slider or make a change, a little label appears at the bottom of your image which says “Working”. You can continue to make changes to the sliders, but the screen won’t catch up until it stops working. This slowness can get annoying after awhile. Did I mention this is BETA! This shouldn’t be a problem when the product is finally released at the end of the year.

Until then, remember, techies love toys, so I’m loving this! If you do download Lightroom, here is a nice and easy intro tutorial. Enjoy!

more light in the room…

by fotofinish , 08-02-2006 at 08:23 PM (241 Views)

I have been spending a little more time with Lightroom lately. It truly has some powerful features for manipulating exposure and color. Here is an abstract example, one I took poolside, over the weekend:
With this particular version, I used some exposure adjusting, as well as a bit of HSL Color Tuning to bring out the blues and yellows more.

For the finished web product, I exported at color space sRGB, jpeg, contrained the size to 640×480 pixels at 72 pixels per inch. I was forced to put the Quality setting at zero, since I was trying to get to a final file size near 150K.

After this export, I then exported to a psd file format, then opened Photoshop CS2 with this image, and experimented with some exotic filter gallery settings. I had no trouble with any of these steps. I would have preferred NOT to first export (save) to a psd and then open in CS2. Hopefully, when Lightroom ships, it will allow the export to open the psd directly in CS2, like Adobe bridge does, rather than saving to a file.

I am getting more comfortable with it…

dry-run struggles…

by fotofinish , 08-13-2006 at 07:27 PM (299 Views)

I have been spending a lot of time recently, preparing for my first exhibition, small as it may be. For me, this is a dress rehearsal, a dry run if you will, for the day when I actually get to show my work at a formal gallery. But I have to start somewhere, and this opportunity seemed like the best place to begin: a Welcome Center conference room which displays local art every three months. The draw is not the throngs of people who would come into the conference room to see this art, since the room is not in plain sight as one enters the Center. Rather, it is the people who hold meetings in this conference room, the powerful members of the Hartford Arts Council.

In order to prepare for the exhibition, I had to shoot five additional reflective images of the buildings in Hartford. I had only selected ten as my cohesive, thematic body of work. The Center requested twenty. Here is one of my new ones:

Read my artist statement and see the rest of these images here.

I ordered twenty 16×20 archival black metal frames. I opened the first of four boxes of frames I received from my local Arts store, to verify I received what I ordered. Unfortunately, as I started to assemble the frames with the images a few weeks later, I discovered that two of the boxes contained the wrong size, that half of my twenty frames! Mental lesson learned: ALWAYS check your complete order as soon as you receive it. The store did replace these with no additional charge to me.

Then there is the time involved to assemble the images. I had to use double-sided archival tape to apply to the edges of my archival mats, use archival tape to hinge the image to the mat, then press down the foam core board to the back of the mat with the image neatly sandwiched in between, forming a nice stand alone unit. I then placed the mated image into the frame. But the acrylic glass that covers the image acted like a dust magnet, so I had to be careful to keep it clean, and then protect each frame with the sheet of paper that came as a filler.

But I did reprint my twenty pictures on a new paper: Crane Museo Max. This time I went with the 365 gsm paper, rather than the 270 gsm with Museo II. I discovered I like this heavier stock because I liked the feel of it. This paper looks brighter than the Museo II, but has more of a texture. This paper is not for every occasion, especially if I wanted to show off something with intense detail. But most of my shot-taking is more impressionistic rather than detail-driven.

As a side note, I had to apply slight pressure by hand as each paper initially is fed into the Epson R2400 due to the thicker stock, or otherwise it would cause the printer to jam. This was very frustrating at first till I figured out how to work with it. But, knock on wood, I have been very fortunate of late to have my printing workflow down so that I am able to print each image once the first time, since my system seems to be properly calibrated, at least for my eyes.

The fact of this matter, though, is that had I known this exhibition was going to cost me more than $1000, I don’t think I would have done this yet. The good news is that now at least I have the frames I need and want for future exhibitions. These alone cost me more than $400. If I am lucky enough to sell five of my images at $250 each as a result of this exhibition, then maybe it would have been worth it to at least break even. Time will tell if this was a smart move on my part, or just another detour along the way. But for now, at least, I will know what the entire exhibition process involves. The exhibition starts in October and runs till the end of the year…

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