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PIXelations 14

On Being A Photographer

by fotofinish , 09-23-2006 at 02:46 PM (369 Views)

I want to take some time to summarize some tips I learned from a great book, On Being A Photographer. I have read too many articles on equipment and technique. Although I still have a lot to learn, I clearly need inspiration from time to time. Lately, I have been stagnant, directionless. Finding themes I am passionate about, architecting a plan for the next few months, have been difficult tasks. Staring at a blank sheet of paper, trying to determine where to begin, is a daunting task for a writer, and any artist, for that matter…

Photography is only a tool, a vehicle for expressing or transmitting a passion in something else. P.47

The basic principles of subject selection
Carry a notebook, as thoughts occur to you, compile a list of anything that really interests you, without regard to photography. P.50
Par down this list by asking yourself these questions:
Is it visual?
Is it practicle?
Is it a subject about which I know enough?
Is it interesting to others?
Be as specific as possible. P.52
Diminish the role of self and emphasize the subject alone. P.55

Pictures which are soley about pattern-making are pretty boring. P.74
The role of the “contact sheet”. P.81
Allows the photographer to be self-critical in attempting to analyze the reasons in the gap between expectation (what you expected from your shoot), and actuality (what you actually produced).

Image selection Steps p.87
Print 8×10 proofs of your images and tack them to a cork board; live with the images for a period of time before attempting to select the final proofs.
You can see at a glance how the images work alongside each other or in a sequence.
The pace of the project also becomes visible. P.88

It is not a learning process to wander around banging off pictures for the sheer fun of shooting. You learn by concentrating on a subject, planning the actual shooting, and critically evaluating the results. P.99

However, casual shooting of pictures is very useful if used as an exercise to keep your eye in practice, much the same as an athlete needs to practice his skills to stay in shape. P.114.


by fotofinish , 10-10-2006 at 09:06 PM (348 Views)

I used to feel guilty every time I wanted to take the camera out without something specific in mind to shoot. And although I still want to someday be at a point where I know exactly what I am after whenever I get behind the camera, I am not there yet. So until I can evolve to that point, I will continue to get behind the camera, even if only for eye-sharpening.

The leaves are beginning to change here. Jayne and I went scouting for locations last week in preparation for amassing some fall scenes. We ended up on the Appalachian Trail in Salisbury. There was very little color as expected, but the hike was just what was needed to relieve our stressful workdays. I will return here when the leaves change.

I also went scouting by myself a few days ago, checking the degree of the local color change. Again, we are about two weeks away, but I still found a few shots that have potential for my Forgotten Toil series. Here’s just one I found in my travels:

In 1975, while I was teaching high school English, I bought my first SLR, a Minolta 102, from the student editor of the school newspaper. My first series of pictures were on the grounds of an old church, from 1871, in New Hartford. And here are two recent shots from those grounds:

All three of these were processed using Lightroom Beta4.


by fotofinish , 10-22-2006 at 02:14 PM (267 Views)

To say trying to get noticed in an over-crowed art gallery industry is not an easy task would be an understatement, and perhaps even painfully obvious. One needs only to read any of the many photography forums to discover this easily known fact. But knowing this fact and experiencing it for yourself is just a little different.

When I recently decided to take the plunge into the public’s fickle eye, by chance I stumbled upon an opportunity to display my recently completed body of work. The director liked my proofs and agreed to let me show, starting at a certain date, but asked that I contact him two weeks prior to confirm. This preliminary date has come and gone twice now, with a tentative promise of a third date.

I am humbly grateful to even be considered for a showing, much less even be promised one, small as it may be. But nevertheless, it is still hard to experience the emotional highs and lows of these growing pains. Then there is the financial burden, admittedly self-imposed, of committing to a showing. Wanting to show my best as professionally as possible has incurred a price tag of over $1000. But I guess this is the expected part of the “baptism”, the paying of one’s dues.

The way I am trying to look at this, is to say that I will have to endure “X” number of rejections before I can experience triumph. I guess this will in time make it all the sweater. So I am X-1; and for now I can legitimately call myself an “artist”, because of it…

A good day

by fotofinish , 10-24-2006 at 08:04 PM (258 Views)

A couple of Saturdays ago, I went out to shoot the Farmington River near People’s Forest State park. I knew the morning might be something special, since it was the first hard frost we had after a very warm day. I was right. The mists were rising from the river:

But the one I am truly proud of is this one, called “Fishermen’s Paradise”:

Although I shot this in color, I felt that the image was not about the color and really did not contribute much to the scene. I used Abobe Lightroom beta4.1 to get the effect I had in my mind’s eye. What attracted me to this shot was the jewel-like surface of the river, the dream-like atmosphere created by the rising mists, and the overall sense of tranquil freedom represented by the fishermen. I gave it the slight sepia tone, the use of split toning, to encapsulate the image’s sense of universality. Lightroom is truly amazing for this capability alone.

You can see the rest of this gallery here.

Autumn 2006 has fallen

by fotofinish , 10-25-2006 at 07:19 PM (187 Views)

I have been very busy these last few weeks with my annual tribute to Autumn. Two separate shoots are documented below.

The first shoot category adds pictures to my Autumn series, mostly a collection of “pretty pictures”, for the purpose of sharpening my eye and my technique. The picture below…

…is probably my best from the collection this year. The rest of the collection can be viewed here. As always, I hope that someone reading this will view the gallery and tell me what you liked or didn’t like.

The second shoot is a new gallery centered around the waterfalls at Kent Falls state park. The picture below…

…is probably my best from this collection. The rest of the gallery can be viewed here. This collection is my first formal waterfall collection and was certainly challenging and rewarding. The shoot was made even more enjoyable by the accompaniment of my friend and fellow photographer, Mike, and his two dogs. The overcast day was actually perfect for this particular shoot. If it had been sunny, we would have had to contend with extreme dynamic ranges.

All images in both galleries were developed through Adobe Lightroom beta4.1. I am finding that even though this is a workflow tool, allowing me to very easily copy any and all settings between images and apply to any other image or block of images, I still find that I am too fussy to just do this bulk-applying alone. I enjoy tinkering with the image to get it to where I think it should be, to enhance some particular aspect. But I will and actually did do this bulk-copying for several groups of images for future shoots, but only for groups of very similar images, and only as a starting point.

I also still brought every image back into Photoshop CS2 to clone out some dust that got onto my lens, and especially for noise cleanup with Noise Nija, and sharpening with Photokit Sharpener Pro. Even though it seems like more trouble to deal with two image applications, Lightroom and CS2, the versatility and speed with which I can control color adjustments, for me, is worth the little extra time.

a killing of time

by fotofinish , 11-10-2006 at 07:35 PM (207 Views)

During a recent trip to Hilton Head, South Carolina, Jayne and I were stuck for seven hours at the airport for the return trip home. Fortunately for me, I had my camera with me. As the hours drifted lazily by, I suddenly remembered I had my camera.

First, I placed my camera on my knew and pointed toward the multicolored lights of the numerous food pavilions. With shutter priority around 1/6 second, I started randomly snapping blurred pictures of the people walking past:

As the sun began to set, I walked around capturing some reflections, like this one, called “A Terminal Waiting”:

…and this one called “Pianotop Reflection”:

The rest of the gallery can be viewed here.

While in Hilton Head, we visited two nature preserves. But because of the time of day and the time of year, there wasn’t much happening. I did manage to get one of a Great Egret:

He (assuming it was a he!) allowed me to walk up fairly close. But as soon as I crossed some invisible boundary, he took off. The rest of the gallery can be viewed here.

One Step Closer

by fotofinish , 11-14-2006 at 07:32 PM (208 Views)

Today I went over to the gallery to see if my tentative show date was going to become a reality, or suffer another postponement or worse. The secretary said the showing was definite and produced their date planner with my name entered for Friday, December 1st. I guess I’ll believe it when I see my work displayed, considering the past history of postponements.

Things left to do:
* Print my artist statement with large font and on paper larger than 8.5×11.
* Figure out a way to mount numbers on the wall below my images which will correspond with the order printed in the program I had printed.
* Repack the four boxes of five framed images so that each box can then be opened sequentially on the day of the show. This will reduce the time I need to spend setting up my display.

Yes, I think that I am one step closer…

First Steps

by fotofinish , 12-02-2006 at 01:28 PM (187 Views)

My first formal body of photographic work is finally being exhibited! For the next three months, visitors to the Hartford Welcome Center can view my work. In fact, every other week the Hartford Arts Council has a meeting in the room where my photos are being displayed. The conference room is very nicely decorated with live poinsettias for Christmas:

…and another view:

The view below…

shows my brochures and business cards on the lower shelf, the lower left of the picture.

The final view below…

shows my printed exhibition statement which is on a poster board on the wall to the left of the entrance doorway to the conference room.

These are my first steps as a wanna-be fine arts photographer. Now comes the hard part: what to do for my next body of work…

My exhibition gallery and statement can be found here.

I can see clearly now…

by fotofinish , 12-08-2006 at 07:25 PM (202 Views)

Within the last few months, my Canon EFS 18-55mm f/3.5 kit lens took some dust into the zooming mechanism, preventing full smooth zooming operation. Fearing that the condition may also jeopardize the clarity or focusing of the lens, I recently decided to replace it with the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L USM. The Luminous Landscape article here indicated that this lens was better than the 17-35mm f/2.8 L.

As soon as I received it, I went out onto my back deck one late afternoon and placed my 20D with the lens onto my tripod with cable release. I focused onto a bush three feet in front of me. I then tested it under the following conditions.

At 16mm f/22 1600iso
* Very little noise
* Softness to the farthest left or right edges
* Output sharpen brings it back except for farthest edges

At 16mm f/2.8 200iso
* Background very nicely blurred
* Narrow area of focus as expected
* Output sharpen brings out only a bit more detail sharpness leaving the
background blur alone as it should

At 16mm f/11 (the sweet spot for the 20D) 200iso
* Background softer as expected
* Softness to the farthest left or right
* Output sharpen brings it back except for farthest edges

At 35mm f/22 200iso
* Softness at very top and left and right edges
* Output sharpen brings it totally back

The ability of this lens to blur the background at a wide open aperture of f/2.8 will also be appreciated for closer, more narrow field images.

I have also tested the lens during an architectural shoot. As expected, at 16mm there was convergence of the buildings at the extreme edges. I was later able to recover some of this in Photoshop CS2 using the Filter/Distort/Lens Correction.

Overall I was amazed at the clarity and sharpness of the images. Although it is heavier than my kit lens with bigger glass (it takes a 77mm circular polarizer, the same one I use for my 100-400mm), I now feel confident that this lens will be a great tool for all of my wide angle needs. Its fast speed (f/2.8) will also help me for those low light conditions.

Introducing CS3…

by fotofinish , 12-18-2006 at 09:22 PM (200 Views)

Adobe Photoshop CS3 beta is being offered to licensed CS2 users till the end of May, 2007. There is alot of material available on the web already, but a fine set of preview videos is available here. I’m happy to see that the spirit of the Lightroom RAW converter made its way in, with even a few more features. The various forums are also reporting improved program performance over the sluggish CS2.

And here is a very basic overview. Enjoy!

Looking back at 2006

by fotofinish , 12-31-2006 at 12:00 PM (160 Views)

I have had another great year, especially with photography. Looking back through my blog entries, I have made progress technically and aesthetically.

On the technical side, I feel more at ease with my camera and its settings under a variety of situations and conditions. My new tripod and lens have already made my shoots more versatile. My final prints on fine art paper has allowed me to present my visions as I envisioned them.

On the post-processing side, the new Adobe Lightroom beta has revolutionized my ability to reveal with ease the true image of my shots amidst the myriad of raw pixels captured with my camera.

Aesthetically, I am finally beginning to discover, as I did at the airport, that image capturing truly has no boundaries and offers excitement through exploration.

As Brooks Jensen, editor of Lenswork magazine once said, photographers must be their own directors, producers, and salespersons when it comes to promoting their own art. I was fortunate to have my first body of work on exhibition in Hartford. What a way to end this year.

Also, with a healthy and happy family, except for my father who broke his hip and remains in a nursing home, I indeed have been blessed and have a lot for which to be thankful…

Happy New Year, everybody!

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