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An ongoing series of informational entries

BOKEH OR NOT TO BOKEH, THAT IS THE QUESTION!

November 25, 2020

When we think of a good image, the words clear, crisp, or sharp might immediately come to mind. After considering the issue just a bit more, we’ll conclude that blur plays an important aesthetic role too. In fact, it might be the blurry parts of an image, and how they interact with the crisp parts, that result in an outstanding picture.


What does "bokeh" mean?

In the mid-1990s this Japanese term was first proposed to photographers. The original Japanese word can be translated to mean blurry, fuzzy, dizzy, or confused. These meanings can be helpful in designing images with compositions that are intended to convey a particular feeling or idea.


Most people who value the concept of bokeh will tell you that the term doesn’t simply refer to the blurry areas of a photo, but rather specifically to the aesthetic qualities of the blur. Bokeh can present amazing tones, colours, patterns, and layering. These aspects of the image create the feeling, the aroma, of a certain kind of light.


There are at least four types of bokeh:

i. Transition Bokeh: The first is transition bokeh. It’s the blur that results as the DoF gradually fades out, when sharp areas transition to being out of focus.


ii. Background Bokeh: The second type is background bokeh. Portrait photographers often use background bokeh.


iii. Foreground Bokeh: However, foreground bokeh is possible too. Some people think it’s too distracting and don’t like it as much as background bokeh. It seems to block the eye’s path to the subject that is in focus. But that’s not necessarily true in all cases. In fact, an eye-catching foreground bokeh might enhance the composition.


You’ll often see images involving an in-focus area that gradually transitions away from us into background bokeh, or one that gradually changes to foreground bokeh as it moves towards us, or one that does both. It’s an interesting effect. The in-focus area seems to resolve from or dissolve into the background or foreground blur, or it emerges from a sandwiched position between the background and foreground bokeh.


iv. Glint Bokeh: The fourth type is glint bokeh. It’s the blurry circles or patches of light from lamps, light bulbs, or small shiny surfaces in the background (and maybe sometimes in the foreground).


Subtlety and Distractiveness

If you want to keep the viewer’s eye on the subject that’s in focus, you might prefer the blur to be gentle and unobtrusive, as do many portrait photographers. If you want the eye to move around the image, or the blur to compete with and even overwhelm the subject, go for bokeh that’s loud. Keep in mind that the human mind usually tries to avoid the uncertainty and ambiguity of blur.


Layering and depth

Background and foreground bokeh can create a feeling of depth and layering. Bokeh can be layered or overlapped onto itself or other areas of bokeh. That also creates the sensation of depth.


Ambiguity

Some blurry elements challenge the viewer to figure out what the blur might be. How might that temptation affect the viewer’s attitude about the subject in focus?


Do people prefer bokeh?

It’s interesting how, when given a choice, people often prefer photos, especially portraits, that contain bokeh over those that do not. But that's not how our eyes see the world. Our eyes focus so quickly as they dart around a scene that everything seems to be in focus – unless you stare at something without letting your eyes move, as if you're slipping into a trance or dream-state. Then the background fades and smooths out, as in bokeh, leaving only the subject emerging in sharp clarity. Perhaps that’s what people enjoy, almost on an unconscious level: the trance-like focus on the subject, as the rest of reality dissipates into a dreamy blur.

With Vignette

No Vignette

VIGNETTING -  ARE YOU DARK AROUND THE EDGES?

November 16, 2020

Vignetting is a reduction of an image's clarity at the periphery compared to the centre of the image. It may be gradual or abrupt. Other forms of vignetting include photos with a periphery that fades to white, loses colour saturation, or generally looks “washed-out.” Blur in the corners or along the edges of a photo might also be considered vignetting.


Where does it come from?

A variety of factors contribute to dark vignetting – for example, optical limitations in the lens (especially in toy cameras with cheap lens) and lens hoods, filters and other lens attachments that reduce the angle of view.


Deliberately creating it

For artistic purposes, vignetting might be desirable and even added to a photo that doesn’t have it.


In portraits

Vignetting is often used in portrait photos, usually by creating an oval shape around the subject.


Vignetting as part of human perception

It’s helpful to think about vignetting in terms of the psychology of perception. If the vignetting is symmetrical, it focuses the eye towards the middle of the photo and creates a feeling of centeredness. Sometimes the effect can be quite subtle and not consciously noticed by the viewer. It mimics the cognitive process of concentrating on something while toning down attention to any distractions in the periphery of awareness.


In some respects vignetting mimics the way the eye works. The receptor cells known as “cones” are sensitive to colour and concentrated in the centre of the retina, while the “rods,” which detect light but not colour, are found on the periphery of the retina.


Feelings and ideas created by vignetting

Dark vignetting that is obvious or blatant creates the sensation of "looking in" or “looking out,” as if through a hole, window, or tunnel of some kind. With some subjects the feeling of voyeurism and even peeping might be quite strong.


When vignetting is not symmetrical around the periphery of the image, the off-balance feeling that results can enhance these sensations of a mind gone awry. Asymmetrical vignetting might also serve the more mundane function of focusing the viewer’s eye on an element of the image that is not at the centre, or of providing balance to other elements of the image.


White vignetting similarly helps focus the eye, but its other psychological effects can be quite different than dark vignetting. The image will feel more light, airy, and ethereal, as if in a reverie or dream. For subjects that are uplifting, happy, and joyful, as in wedding photography, white vignetting will usually be more appropriate that dark vignetting, which tends to create a more introspective, moody, or even sinister feeling.


Some people define the word “vignette” as a small, graceful sketch of a scene from a story. This too might be the emotional impact of vignetting in photography. We feel as if we are getting a brief but elegant glimpse into a scene from an ongoing story.

ON BEING SHARP

November 09, 2020


Everyone wants to see the world as clearly as possible. People function better that way. We appreciate the details of things. We believe we’re more in touch with the way things truly are. We feel like we see reality more accurately

Why we like sharp

The same attitude applies to photography. In a precisely sharpened image, we notice and appreciate the details of a scene. We may marvel at how closely it depicts reality. Often this is what a precisely sharpened image is all about: how close to reality is it. And if we turn up the sharpness just a bit more than that, the viewer might be captivated by an image that seems to enhance reality beyond the range of normal vision.


Some people love that aspect of photography. Some may even become obsessed with it. They strive for more and more clarity.


Technically speaking, image sharpness involves two different factors:

i. the resolution of the image, which determines how much detail it captures, and

ii. “acutance,” which is how well defined the edges are.


A high resolution image may not necessarily have high acutance, while an image with high acutance may not necessarily have high resolution.


In many ways, sharp is good. It indicates precision, clarity, discernment, a no-nonsense take on things. You notice the details.


The beauty of blur

Of course, good photography doesn’t always mean that images have to be sharp. Wonderful images may be something less than sharp, and sometimes downright blurry. Their beauty rests in the fact that they have a different psychological impact on the viewer than the sharp image. They may be softer, smooth, liquify, tender, and dreamy, suggestive of fantasy and distant or fading memories. They can make us feel dizzy, disoriented, like we’re floating, gliding, spinning, or drunk.


Super sharp

One popular technique in photography is to super-sharpen an image. The human eye is instinctively drawn to high contrasts and edges, so such images immediately grab one’s attention. Things look super-precise, super-real. The lines and textures are so crisp that they shout at us. We are drawn right in, even if it’s a bit painful, maybe because it’s a bit painful.


Texture stimulates the sensation of TOUCH. That makes it one of the most intriguing, even mysterious aspects of photography. It stimulates the sensation of touch. Whereas our sense of vision operates at a distance from the world, the sense of touch brings us up close and personal.


The sensations created by textures are almost endless. Sharp, silky, gritty, bumpy, scratchy. The memories and emotions they stir can be equally varied and subtle.


This is the power of using texture in photography. It can activate very personal, deeply felt experiences. Because textures stimulate tactile sensations, they seem to physically immerse us into the image. It’s a sense of being close to and “feeling” the subject.


Different light sources will draw out different texture qualities:

 Front lighting might emphasize sharp, bold, contrasty textures

 Side lighting creates fine shadows that accentuate detailed textures, as well as the surface qualities of an object’s three-dimensional form.

 Diffuse lighting helps us appreciate the subtle tones of smooth, silky textures.


Sharpening and Blurring

Textures can change subtly or dramatically with different levels of sharpening in photo editing programs. The more you turn it up, the crisper and then bristly the image becomes, in some cases changing the intrinsic nature of the subject.


Blurring

Textures can also change subtly or dramatically with different levels of blurring. As with sharpening, intense blur can change the inherent nature of the subject.


Experimenting with sharpening and blurring techniques will help sensitive you to the effects of texture.


Textures for Portraits

In portraits the qualities of the texture layer can either enhance the personality characteristics of the subject, or completely change how we perceive the emotions and character of that person.


The dance between texture and image

Depending on the qualities of the texture layer and how it is blended into the photo, the subject might appear to be constructed from that texture, emerging from it, receding into it, struggling with it, yielding to it, conjuring and mastering it, or even overwhelmed by it. The texture and the subject dance with each other, sometimes coming together, sometimes separating, but always forced into the predicament of finding ways to resist and cooperate.

THE PSYCHOLOGY OF LINES

November 03, 2020

Photography is psychology

Why? Because understanding the visual image is understanding the realm in which the psyche of the photographer and viewer intersect. Psychological principles about perception, emotion, creativity, personal identity, interpersonal communication, and human relationships help explain how we create visual images, how we share them, and how people react to what they see.


The Line

After the point, the line is the most basic visual element. It is fundamental to human experience.


The first thing any human drew was a line. It is the basis of all alphabets.


The two basic functions of the line:

i. to create a sense of direction, and

ii. to create a border between two spaces on either side of it.


The eye in humans, wants to follow a visible line. It is biologically programmed, probably for evolutionary survival reasons.


Geometry tells us the line has no width but only length. That kind of line in photography might manifest itself as an edge that has no particular character of its own other than its length and orientation. It serves primarily to mark the division between two areas. Two or more lines interacting form a shape. The outline of the shape tends to be more important to the eye than the individual lines themselves.


Types of lines

When a line in photography attains substantial width, it starts to take on a character of its own: tone, colour, texture. Even without a noticeable width, lines have different shapes and directions, which adds to the variety of their family.


They fall into the following types:

Horizontal, vertical, slightly horizontal, slightly vertical, diagonal, curved/circular, zig-zagging, s-shape, broken, and psychological

Each of these lines has its own unique perceptual and psychological characteristics.


S-Line

Of all the lines in an image, the s-shaped line is probably the most intriguing.


Unlike other lines, it changes direction: left then right, back and forth, here then there. For that reason it possesses a sense of dimension, rhythm, and vibration that other lines do not. It’s the line that keeps changing its mind, that might become unpredictable.


The speed of its movement may vary. Is it a slow, relaxing, and lazy S, like an old meandering river? Or an energetic almost zig-zagging streak, like a zany rocket out of control.


Whatever the speed, the oscillation of the s-line encourages the eye to notice elements on this side and then on that side. Psychology suggests that eye movements back and forth stimulate new ideas and emotions.


The Diagonal Line

The diagonal line is the line of energy, motion, and triangles.


Unlike the steady vertical or placid horizontal, it’s the line of dynamic energy and motion. It's the relationship of the diagonal line to the frame edges of the image that gives it energy. Something is going up, or coming down.


A diagonal line tends to create triangular shapes as it interacts with the frame, thereby creating the sensation of “three’s.” The number 3 is psychologically powerful, sometimes even mystical.


Diagonals are most interesting when they interact with horizontal lines and an opposing diagonal, which creates complex sets of triangles that may converge on an element in the image, lead the eye in different directions, or create an intricate mosaic and constellation of facets, like crystals. Long diagonals may create big triangles that act as arrows that lead the eye to the corners of the image, which may or may not be a good thing.


The Psychological (versus visual) Plane

There is also a psychological plane, containing psychological lines. Some people call them “transitional lines” or "implied lines." These lines don’t exist in any concrete visual sense, but rather are created by the mind’s eye according to our mental assumptions and expectations about how people and the world work.


Lines of Sight

One type of psychological line, and a powerful one too, is created by eyes and line of sight. Humans are extremely sensitive to the eyes of others and where they are looking. If a subject is looking at some object in the scene of a photograph, we cannot help but sense a psychological line between them. If a person is looking at another person, that line is even stronger because human contact is an incredibly powerful experience for us. If people are looking at each other, that line is so strong that it could easily overpower almost any line in the visual plane, no matter how long, thick, or colourful it is. If the subject is looking at the camera and therefore at both the photographer and us… well, then we emotionally enter the scene via an invisible but very powerful line that extends right out of the world of the image and into our own.


Implied Motion

There are many other types of psychological lines. Body language can create them, like a finger pointing or a head turned. Anything in an image that implies motion has taken place or will take place could create one.


Senders and Receivers

Similar to people looking at each other, these other types of psychological lines tend to be more powerful when there is both a sender and receiver of the action. When a subject is looking out of the frame of an image, we can't help but wonder who or what they are looking at. We search their face for possible clues to this little mystery. We might even sense a triangulated psychological line of connection between us, the subject we're looking at, and the unseen presence that exists outside the image.

Cirrocumulus Clouds

Altocumulus Clouds

Cumulus Clouds

Cirrus Clouds

HOW TO PREDICT DRAMATICALLY COLOURED SKIES

26 October, 2020

One question every child asks is, “why is the sky blue?” But let’s look at why the sky is red at sunset.


Light from the sun is made up of all the colours of the rainbow. As the sunlight enters the earth’s atmosphere, the short wavelength of blue light is scattered in all directions, more than any of the other colours, causing the sky to be blue during the day.


At sunrise and sunset, the light has further to travel due to the low angle of the sun in the sky. This causes the blue light to be blocked and scattered away, allowing the longer wavelengths or red and yellow to appear in the sky.


I don’t know about you , but I wish there was some magic formula that could tell me exactly the night for photographing a beautiful sunset, or for that matter, which morning is going to produce a stunning sunrise. Unfortunately, nature is not that easy to predict but we can, hopefully, discover some ways to increase our odds.


Let’s take a closer look at some other factors that will help us predict brilliantly coloured skies.


No doubt you have heard the saying “Red sky at night, shepherds delight, red sky in the morning shepherds take warning.” This saying can help you predict sunsets and sunrises if you know the weather forecast. Look for a red sky at sunrise ahead of a storm and at sunset after a storm. Knowing what to expect weather-wise is key to anticipating the right conditions for a shoot, so the first thing you need to do is find a good weather app or website (one that reports on factors such as cloud cover, air quality, humidity and wind speed.


Clouds and Cloud Cover

Clouds are a crucial factor to predicting dramatic sunsets, for without clouds there is not much to see.


On common misconception of brilliant sunsets is that clouds create the colours; in reality clouds only serve as the canvas to display the colours that the light is painting. High to mid-level clouds are the most effective canvases, as they will reflect the colours of the setting sun. Puffy clouds on the horizon at sunset will more than likely not allow the sun rays to pass through them, thus muting the colours. Lower clouds (such as dark rain filled clouds) are not very helpful at reflecting much light.


If the clouds on the horizon are low and thick, the sun will not be able to shine through them. It is also worth noting that too many or too few clouds can be detrimental for an optimal photo, so check out your detailed weather report for cloud cover percentages between 30 and 70 percent at sunset.


You can observe cloud conditions in the afternoon and if the sky looks favourable, you can hope that these clouds will still be present at sunset. No guarantees, but if there is not much wind these clouds may stick around to create a beautiful sunset.


A brief description of fair weather clouds that may produce dramatic sunsets:

 Cirrocumulus clouds – these look like ripples on water with blue sky as the usual backdrop.

 Altocumulus clouds – often occur in sheets or patches with wavy, rounded masses or rolls, like little cotton balls. They are generally white or grey and usually appear after a storm.

 Cumulus clouds – easily recognizable, large, white, and fluffy, often with flat bases.

 Cirrus clouds – generally characterized by thin, wispy strands. These clouds arrive in advance of frontal systems indicating that weather conditions may soon deteriorate. Nevertheless, these are one of the best kind for photographing dramatic sunsets!


Clean Air

Clean air is very effective at scattering the blue light. For this reason, one of the best times for dramatic sunsets is right after a rain or wind storm. While lower clouds rarely reflect brilliant colours note that where the lower atmosphere is especially clean, more vivid colours are allowed to pass through.


Humidity

The amount of humidity in the air will also have an effect on the colours of your sunset. Lower humidity will produce more vibrant colours. With higher humidity, the colours will be muted because of the water content in the atmosphere. The seasons of autumn and winter typically produce lower humidity than in the warmer seasons.


Wind

Wind is a factor that can either enhance or destroy a beautiful sunset. A change in wind direction can cause the clouds to develop ripples or billows, which can create a beautiful effect as the setting sun reflects a nice red glow onto the ripples.


Also, as established earlier, clean air will produce more brilliant colours, and a nice breeze before sunset can help clear the air.


Unfortunately, the wind can become a negative factor on those days when favourable clouds are present in the afternoon, but a weather front moves through with strong winds that remove those clouds and leave you with a clear sky at sunset.


This is another instance when a good weather app or weather website can give you an indication on its radar as to when a front may move through your area.


To summarize your sunset prediction, look for:

Mid to high-level clouds

30 – 70% cloud coverage

Clean air

Lower humidity

Calm winds

A final thought to consider when photographing sunsets – somethimes the afterglow of the sunset, which can occur 15 – 20 minutes after the sun goes behind the horizon, can be much more spectacular than the actual sunset.


Generally, all these weather-related rules also apply to photographing sunrises, but the visual signs are more difficult to spot since it is darkest before the dawn. A good time to photograph at sunrise is in autumn and winter when it occurs later in the day than in the summer months.

SELF ASSIGNED PHOTO PROJECTS

19 October 2020

We all have different goals when it comes to our passion for photography. Getting better at our craft is definitely something that most of us strive for. A great way to get better is to explore your own creativity by working on personal and professional photography projects. Personal photography projects are excellent for a variety of reasons. Since these are for the most part not client-driven, there tends to be less pressure to be perfect and more freedom to be creative.


Just like anything else in life, having a routine provides a sense of organization. Figure out what you want to focus on from a personal photography project, pick your best time to photograph, and then stick to that routine.


SELF-ASSIGNED PHOTO PROJECTS CAN EXPLORE VARIOUS GENRES

In my opinion, the hardest part of finding a personal project is deciding what project to pursue. You know the proverbial “What do I photograph?” question.


SELF-ASSIGNED PHOTO PROJECTS BRING A WABI-SABI APPROACH TO YOUR IMAGES

A wabi-sabi method requires a slower, quieter approach to life. The concept is very similar to Japanese Zen gardens that promote tranquility and calmness. Slow down and quiet your mind. When you apply this to your personal photography projects there seems to be somewhat of an ease from the pressures of perfection. You stop chasing that next award-winning frame for just a few minutes and instead open your eyes to all that is around you: Stop, look, feel, and then click. This will make each frame more meaningful and help you convey the story better once you understand what is unfolding around you.


SELF-ASSIGNED PHOTO PROJECTS GROW YOUR SKILLS

As I mentioned earlier, self-assigned photo projects can really help you grow as a photographer and an artist. Even if you do the same work for your clients and your personal projects, the fact that you are doing more and more of something brings forth many opportunities for growth and learning. You can experiment with new techniques, with new gear, with new ways of composing images, and with new ways of editing. Regardless, use your personal projects to push yourself to improve.


Regardless of the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of personal photography projects, one thing is certain. At times when you are in a funk and cannot find your groove, having a space and an opportunity to create without an agenda is exactly what you need to get your groove back.

ADDING EMOTION TO YOUR IMAGES - Part 4

05 October 2020

DECISIVE MOMENT


The term “Decisive Moment” was coined by some of the original street photographers. The term means two things: clicking the shutter at the moment of peak action, which in turn creates maximum emotional impact.


So, the Decisive Moment is really about timing and anticipation.


This is one of those aspects of photography that you can read about and study, but you will never master unless you’re out shooting.


The technical quality of a photograph is always secondary to the emotional quality. Get your shot first, and then worry about the details.


This is key to the Decisive Moment because in order to get the shot at all, you must anticipate and be ready.


The Decisive Moment is about capturing peak action. That doesn’t necessarily mean that something fast is happening.


When you set about trying to use the Decisive Moment to instil emotion into your photography, train yourself to think about “what could happen” not just “what is happening”.

ADDING EMOTION TO YOUR IMAGES - Part 3

28 September 2020

COLOUR

Humans have an emotional attachment to colour. Blue tends to make us think of cold or night. Red indicates danger, heat, or love. Every colour of the spectrum generates a reaction inside our head.


How can you put that knowledge to use?

1. You can keep your eyes open for colours that convey a certain mood.

2. You can introduce props of a certain colour to influence emotions.

3. You can manipulate colour in-camera through the use of filters or colour balance settings.

4. You can manipulate colour in post-production.

COMPOSITION

As you probably know, composition is the road map to your image. It tells your viewer where to travel within the photograph, and where to stop. Stopping points are where emotional responses are going to occur. You want these stopping points to literally hit your point home!


There are many rules and tools of composition that accomplish the same thing: guide your viewer.


Using composition to create emotion will often utilize other techniques as well as to

help boost the message.


Shape and contrast are important tools of composition that are often overlooked.

Always keep your eyes open for ways to instil emotion - without being overly obvious.

ADDING EMOTION TO YOUR IMAGES - Part 2

21 September 2020

Infusing emotion is a key element to a successful photograph.  Here we continue our discussion...


POINT OF VIEW

Point-of-view is probably the simplest method available to you when trying to establish emotion. Why is that? Because, you control it completely - your POV is uniquely yours.


Photographers often don’t explore this unique tool as thoroughly as they should.


So, how do you establish a point-of-view? And how does that point-of-view determine an emotional reaction?


First, let’s look at “how you establish a point of view”.

  • Your choice of lenses vastly affects the POV of a scene.
  • Your choice of positioning the camera affects the POV.
  • Your choice of positioning the subject also affects the POV.

If you don’t know much about lenses, keep these points in mind.

  • A telephoto lens compresses distance and spatial relationships
  • A wide-angle lens expands distance and pushes elements apart


Many photographers, myself included, tend to photograph subjects from eye level. Unfortunately, that is rarely the best angle to infuse an emotional reaction into a photograph.


When choosing an unusual angle for the camera, it can be extreme. Often times, however, even a slight movement on the part of camera placement can add emotion and drama.

Choosing an emotional POV doesn’t necessarily have to be ultra-dramatic. You don’t have to hang off of a cliff or wade chest deep into a pond, sometimes it’s just about eliminating unnecessary details until you have focused in on the true story being told in the photograph.


One last word on POV – CLOSE-UP. Remember to get close. People love seeing details in a photograph. Details can create strong emotions. Sure, there is a place for the wide-angle image. But most photographers have more of a problem going too wide, rather than too close.

ADDING EMOTION TO YOUR IMAGES - Part 1

13 September 2020

When we create a photograph, what is the primary outcome that we all seek? We want people to see, and remember, our images!


When we post our photos to Flickr, 500px, Instagram or Facebook, we don’t want people glancing at our photos in passing and then moving on. We want our viewers to really stop, and closely examine our work.


One of the main attributes that contribute to a photograph getting noticed is the infusion of emotional content.


When a viewer is emoted, that “feeling” is embedded in their memory and it causes them to pause. Even if that pause is only for a second, the infused emotional aspect of your photograph has done its job.


It doesn’t have to be a positive emotion. It can be anything from happiness to sadness, or amazement to anger.


Infusing emotion is a key element to a successful photograph.


LIGHTING

Lighting can create an emotional response. In general, broad, open even lighting presents a positive mood. In reverse, direct, contrasting, pinpoint, shadowed lighting creates suspense, drama or concern.


You should study the light that is available to you when you are ready to shoot an image and use it to enhance the mood that you wish to convey.


When attempting to use light as your emotional grabbing tool, bear in mind the following:

  • You can attempt to manipulate the angle of the light to the subject to create drama
  • You can choose a time of day to attain a certain type of light ··
  • You can use filters on your camera to alter what the existing light looks like
  • You can manipulate the lighting in post-production software to create a mood

DIGITAL PRACTICALITIES

07 September 2020

An image editing program such as Photoshop can seem pretty complex and bewildering. It certainly is if you try to take it all on board at once. I began by dealing with one stage of controlling an image at a time and learning the basic steps needed to achieve the result I wanted.


It really doesn’t matter if you don’t know all the short-cut commands – the important thing is to be able to see in your mind’s eye the image you want to achieve, and to understand what changes are required to bring it closer to this. The most important aspect of digital photography is not how adept you are at using a computer, or how knowledgeable you are about the technology, but how effective the end result is.

CREATING COMPOSITE IMAGES

31 August 2020

Building a composite image from a number of different elements has fascinated many photographers since the very early days.


The numerous ways in which images can be combined when dealing with pixels are simply astonishing, allowing a photographer to express their ideas almost without limit.

This is perhaps the aspect of digital imaging that provides the greatest freedom for personal expression and offers the most intriguing challenge to the imagination, as well as revealing a new way to recognize the possibilities when taking photos.


SEEKING OUT OBJECTS

As my interest in this genre of photography has grown, I now make it a habit to look for objects or details that might be useful in the future as an element in a composite image.

Things with interesting shapes are particularly useful, and if they are clearly defined against a contrasting plain background it is a relatively easy matter to select them.


DEVELOPING AN IMAGE

Sometimes an image seems to evolve: I have an idea, and when I begin to work on the elements a new direction suggests itself.


VISUALIZING AND PLANNING

Some of the best composite work is done by those with a strong sense of design who have the ability to visualize and plan their images. This is perhaps the most satisfying way of creating composite images, as the individual elements can be photographed especially for the purpose. In this way, objects can be made much easier to select by photographing them against a plain contrasting background, and it is possible to make sure that qualities such as lighting and perspective are common to all the images involved.


MAKING COMPOSITE IMAGES BELIEVABLE

One of the most difficult effects to achieve convincingly when creating composite images is to make the result seem like a straight forward photograph. Once you set out to deceive in this way, there are so many potential factors that can give the game away: discrepancies between lighting direction and quality, for example, or maybe inconsistencies in the perspective of objects, as well as the relative sharpness and the depth of field of different elements in an image. Achieving a believable result becomes more viable if the images you combine have a genuine unifying factor.


WORKING TO A BRIEF

One way of beginning the process of creating a multiple image is to give yourself a brief. Imagine that you are working with an art director who needs an image for a specific purpose. It often needs something like this to stimulate your creativity and can lead you to developing ideas in ways you may not otherwise have considered.

CREATING SPECIAL EFFECTS

24 August 2020

I am by no means averse to having fun with my photography and some of the effects which imaging software allows you to create fall into this category. But techniques discovered and learned in this context will not be wasted as they can often give rise to many other possibilities and can help you to develop ideas and establish a personal style.


BLENDING LAYERS

Image editing software like Photoshop, Luminar and ACDSee makes double exposures and similar techniques much easier and more controllable to perform than ever before and can also extend them in ways that are hard to visualize until you become aware of the possibilities. One of the most important and flexible aspects of creating images in this way is the ability to blend two or more separate layers in a huge variety of ways.


Technical note: As with many image editing facilities, there is almost always more than one way of creating the same or a very similar effect, or of refining the one you have achieved. When working with Blending Modes or Layer Options you can also try varying the hue, saturation, contrast, brightness and opacity of the individual layers to give further control over the final effect.


FILTERS AND OPTIONS

Blending layers can be another effective way of using filter effects, and it also provides a very controllable way of creating images with a more painterly or graphic quality. The Layers Options control can be a powerful tool when dealing with multiple layers.


BUILDING UP COMBINATIONS

It is usually a combination of effects which produces the most interesting results, but only when they are applied to the right subject – this applies particularly to effects filters.


The best way of using these effects is as an enhancer or to exaggerate a quality that already exists within the photograph, instead of simply imposing the effect on it.


FILTER EFFECTS

There are numerous techniques and filters that can be used to modify a digital image, often beyond recognition. Some of these are contained within software programs, and many can be bought as plug-ins. Although it might seem at first that there are thousands of possible effects, many of these are simply variations on the same theme and are often so crude and unattractive that it is difficult to visualise how they might be used to produce a pleasing image. But sometimes they can be applied in ways that emphasize a particular quality in an image, or that can be modified by blending layers in order to create quite interesting variations on an image.

ENHANCING YOUR IMAGE

17 August 2020

When the photographic medium was first discovered more than 150 years ago, the process of recording an image on a light-sensitive surface was considered to be little short of miraculous. Those early pioneers of photography would be astonished to see just how far the medium has progressed. But, in truth, fine control of image quality can be a frustratingly restricting process.


A digital image that is formed from pixels allows a vast new range of controls to become possible, from simple adjustments of density, contrast and colour, to the removal of blemishes, the conversion of an image from colour to monochrome, and the introduction of a wide range of effects.


CROPPING

While some photographers insist that their photographs are not cropped in any way, there are very few images that would not benefit from a little judicial cropping. In the field, it is best to exclude details you do not want in your image at the time of shooting, but there are occasions when the shape of the sensor format or the choice of lens means that some unwanted details appear.


The Crop Tool can therefore provide a good opportunity to see whether your picture may have more impact if a little less is included in the frame.


Technical note: In Photoshop, if the Delete Cropped Pixels option is ticked in the crop tools option bar, the image will be permanently cropped. If the Delete Cropped Pixels option is unticked it merely “trims” the image, preserving the image contents, including all the layers information – the pixels remain hidden, in case you change your mind and want to crop wider.


ADDING A BORDER

Even the best photographs can be enhanced by good presentation, and black and white workers often pay great attention to the borders of a print or image.


The opportunities to add borders and ragged edges are boundless when using an image editing program such as Photoshop, ACDSee, On1, Luminar etc.


BLEMISHES AND INTRUSIONS

One of the great advantages of digital photography is the relative ease with which it is possible to remove details within the image that are unwanted and intrusive, such as sensor spots.


ADJUSTING EXPOSURE

From a pictorial and creative viewpoint, the correct exposure is one that records a scene in the way that the photographer has visualised it, and even a small variation in exposure can make a significant difference to the quality and effect of an image.


With a digital image it is possible to see the effect of varying the exposure on our monitors and to make comparisons before deciding on the most effective setting.


CONTRAST AND COLOUR SATURATION

The quality of a photographic image is dependent upon the brightness levels of the subject or scene being photographed. If the brightness range is too high, detail will be lost in the highlight and shadow areas, resulting in a photograph that is harsh and unpleasing. If the brightness range of the subject is too low, there will be no solid blacks and the highlights will be veiled, resulting in a flat and lifeless image.


REDUCING CONTRAST

Decreasing contrast is not as straight forward as increasing it and the results are often less satisfactory. This is because when contrast is high, detail is lost in either the highlight areas or the shadows, or both, and if this loss is significant, reducing the overall contrast of the image is not likely to restore it but will only make the image appear degraded.


FOCUS AND DIFFUSION

Modern camera lenses are capable of recording images with remarkable sharpness but this is not always desirable.


With an image editing program it is relatively easy to soften or diffuse areas of an image that is sharp. The advantage is that the effect can be readily seen on the screen and varied according to taste. A further benefit is that the blur can be applied to selected areas.


Technical note: When applying filters such as Blur, it can be a good idea to make a copy of the image to work on and turn it into a Smart Object. This will allow you to revisit the amount of blur applied to your image without having to start from scratch – it also allows you to brush in the effect where you want it.

TAKING YOUR IMAGE FURTHER

10 August 2020

“The camera never lies” is essentially true in so far as a camera records quite objectively the subject or scene upon which it is focused. Any difference there might be between the image and the original scene is a result of the photographer’s intervention, or the shortcomings and characteristics of the camera.


Many of the photographs taken every day are designed to provide information, and it is important that they are as faithful to the original subject as possible.


But when photographs are shot purely for personal and artistic motives, it is often an important part of the creative process to distance the image so that it is more than a straight forward record of a scene. A photographer in today’s digital age has more opportunity to do this than at any time in the history of photography.


ABSTRACTING THE IMAGE

There are occasions when a sharp, clear image is undesirable: when attempting to create a particular mood or an atmospheric effect. One of the more appealing qualities possessed by a great many of the very early images created by the Victorian photographers was their lack of clarity and definition. This often gave them a slightly mysterious and unworldly quality, though it was probably due more to the shortcomings of the equipment and materials available to them than any creative intent.


Modern cameras are capable of breath taking clarity and definition, and to overcome this a number of popular techniques are often used as needed – soft focus, shallow focus, shadowy lighting, movement, blur etc. When used in-camera however, they can be a bit hit and miss, and they are not reversible. The ability to experiment with methods of introducing an element of abstraction into an image in a way which allows you to change your mind or modify it is one of digital imaging’s great strengths.


ALTERING TONE AND COLOUR

Image editing software can be effectively used to improve the quality of an image in a way that is undetectable – but these and other techniques can also be used to enhance specific image qualities and to produce effects that can add to the interest of an image and create greater impact.


MIRROR IMAGES

This is a lot of fun, but should be done in a manner that doesn’t show. An image editing program such as Photoshop or ACDSee makes this a very simple operation and provides the facility to make an undetectable join.


HAND PAINTING EFFECTS

The only means available to the early photographers of adding more than one colour to a black and white photograph was to apply paint by hand. Some of the images produced in this way were very beautiful, and this technique is still practiced by some contemporary photographers.


It does require a reasonable amount of skill with a brush, and like many other traditional techniques, there’s no going back – a spoiled print must be discarded.


A digitized image can be coloured in a similar way, and although some skill is required, there is the big advantage that the image can be enlarged to an enormous degree, making it possible to apply colour to even tiny areas very accurately. In addition, errors can be rectified easily, quickly and as many times as necessary.

ORGANISING YOUR IMAGE - Part 4

03 August 2020

Finally in our quest to finding our photographer’s eye we look at light and our image.


LIGHT AND THE IMAGE

While the choice of viewpoint and the composition of an image are vital to the effectiveness of a photograph, it is often the way in which a subject is lit that is the ultimate factor in creating a really striking image. The relationship between the subject, the light and the final image is perhaps the single most fascinating aspect of photography – and the most elusive (and frustrating).


There are three essential ways in which light affects a photographic image:

i. Intensity

ii. Direction

iii. Quality.


Light Intensity

Intensity is important because it determines the amount of exposure needed to record an image.


With a completely static subject and a tripod-mounted camera, long exposures can usually be given to compensate for a poorly illuminated subject, but with a moving subject or a hand held camera, a short exposure is necessary to prevent blur.


Light Direction

The angle from which light is directed towards a subject is a vital factor in determining how effectively the key elements within it, such as form and texture, are recorded.


But the direction of light in relation to the subject is also governed by the camera’s viewpoint, and the effect of light is often another factor which should be considered when choosing a viewpoint.


Technical note: The shadows in a scene are the best guide to judging the way in which the direction of the light affects the subject and the way in which it will be recorded. In many ways they are responsible for creating the basic structure of an image, and once you are aware of their size, direction and density, you can begin to see more clearly how effectively the image will be recorded, and if any changes need to be made in the choice of viewpoint and the way in which the image is framed.


Technical note: It is very easy to misjudge the contrast of a scene when viewing it in the normal way, because our eyes are very accommodating and can see clearly into dense shadows.  Looking at a subject on the rear screen of your camera once captured is a good way of judging the contrast of a scene more objectively. Beware that this will show more detail in shadow and highlight areas than can be recorded on a print.


Light Quality

The quality of light refers to the degree to which it is diffused and to its colour. The degree of light diffusion affects the contrast of a scene: the strongly diffused light from an overcast sky produces weak shadows and no bight highlights, and can make a subject look flat and lifeless, whereas denser shadows and brighter highlights created by strong light produces very high contrast and images with a harsh quality that lacks detail.


The colour of daylight can vary enormously, from the strong orange tint of early-morning and late-evening sunlight to the pronounced blue cast of light on overcast days and when light is reflected from a blue sky onto subjects in open shade.


The warm, orange tinted colour of sunlight when it is low in the sky can contribute to the mood and effect of some subjects, but a blue cast is usually less desirable. When working with digital images both the contrast and colour balance of an image can be adjusted relatively easily.

ORGANISING YOUR IMAGE - Part 3

26 July 2020

Having looked past the subject of an image, in our journey to train our eye to really see, we move onto composition and design.


COMPOSITION AND DESIGN

Those shooting subjects such as landscapes, architecture and nature are largely in the position of having to achieve a well composed image solely by their choice of viewpoint and the way in which the subject is framed.


But the advent of digital photography has gone a long way to providing photographers with the ability to combine images and individual elements on a computer screen in an almost limitless way. When using this medium, the photographer also needs to become a designer in the true sense of the word.


Technical note: The majority of photographs are taken from the photographer’s eye level when standing. But even just a slight change in the camera level can often make a significant difference to the composition of an image.


  • Viewpoint

The choice of viewpoint is perhaps the single most important decision to be made when considering how the image should be composed in the camera, as it establishes the relationship between the subject and the other elements in a scene.


When the camera is moved closer to the subject it becomes larger in relation to distant details and more dominant in the image, while moving the camera further from the subject makes the background details larger in proportion to the subject and the foreground less dominant.


Moving the camera to the right makes a subject in the foreground appear to move to the left of distant objects, while moving the camera to the left has the opposite effect.


  • Framing the Image

Having decided on the best viewpoint, the next step is to consider how the image should be framed. In order to do this it is first necessary to establish a focus of interest within the scene. Once identified, this detail can act as a fulcrum around which the other elements of the subject can be balanced, by deciding where the focus of interest can be most effectively placed within the frame, and which of the remaining details should be included or excluded.


  • Balance and Tension

The place within the frame where the main focus of interest has the greatest effect is said to be at the point where lines which divide the picture area into thirds intersect. There is no doubt that in many cases this produces a well-balanced and pleasing effect, and it can usually be considered a safe option.


There is more to it than this, and your aim should always be to strive for a sense of balance in the image – and this is dependent upon the size, shape and colour of the main elements of a scene.


In addition, think in terms of creating a sense of movement and tension within your images. Some contemporary photographers use techniques such as deliberately tilted horizons, distracting details at the edge of the frame, and images cropped in unexpected ways. While this approach can lead to rather contrived and self-conscious images, it can also help to open your mind to other ways of seeing a subject and of avoiding clichés.


Technical note: In most cases there is no best viewpoint or one perfect frame, and it can be very instructive to try several alternatives. This is a good way to develop a personal style and to avoid your images becoming too predictable.

ORGANISING YOUR IMAGE - Part 2

20 July 2020

In our quest to attain a photographer’s eye we look at texture, perspective and colour in this blog.

  • Texture

The way in which a photograph can recreate the texture of an object’s surface can be so convincing that it often invites a tactile response from the viewer.


Like form, the impression of texture is dependent upon the tonal range of the subject and in the way it is lit, and it is an invaluable aspect of a photographer’s ability to produce images with a powerful sense of realism.


Technical note: It is essential for the image to be tack-sharp if the texture of a subject is to be fully exploited and the finest details in the image are to be recorded.


  • Perspective

While visual elements such as texture, tone and colour help to establish the character of an image, perspective, like shape, is largely responsible for creating the image’s basic structure.


The effect of perspective is produced when the size of similar objects appears to become smaller the further they are from the camera. The effect is exaggerated when a wide-angle lens is used and objects both very close to and distant from the camera are included in the frame.


  • Colour

The key to good colour photography is to be fully aware of each and every colour within a scene, and to see how successful – or otherwise – they work together.


Most people are likely to be inspired to take a picture when confronted by a particularly colourful scene. Paradoxically, this is often a situation in which it is most difficult to produce a striking colour image. A subject that contains a mixture of bright colours will almost certainly produce a disappointing image unless a very selective and restrained approach is adopted.


Technical note: Images with a mix of bright colours can often be made to work when they have a bold design or shape that dominates the image. But very often the most striking colour photographs have just a single, dominant colour that is the main focus of attention, with the other colours and details of the scene creating a pleasing and harmonious balance around it.

ORGANIZING YOUR IMAGE

14 July 2020

It is significant that a camera lens is sometimes known as an “objective” as it sees in a very cold, dispassionate way. But we, on the other hand, see in a very subjective way, focusing on things that interest us and ignoring those that don’t.


Having a “good eye” is something to which all photographers aspire. Some, like Henri Cartier-Bresson, seem to have been born with it, but it can be acquired with a little practice. There are a number of tangible visual qualities that the camera will record in a way which can have a powerful effect in an image and create considerable impact.


This is what the next few blogs posted here will look at.


SEEING BEYOND THE SUBJECT

The most important step is acquiring a photographer’s eye is to look beyond the subject itself and to identify the crucial visual qualities that can be so striking in a photograph. Some of these can be inherent in the scene, such as colour, texture and shape, while others can be revealed or enhanced by lighting.


These key elements are effectively the building blocks of a photograph, and even if just one of these elements is particularly striking in some way it can create an interesting image. When two or more of these components have a strong presence in a subject, you are likely to produce a powerful image.


Let’s look at SHAPE, PATTERN and FORM here and the other elements (texture, perspective and colour) in up-coming blogs.


  • Shape

The dominant shape of a subject often can be the most striking element of an image. It might be the shape of a principle object; it can also be when a shape is created by an arrangement of objects or a shape created by perspective.


This element is much stronger and has more impact when the object in question is clearly defined and stands out from the background; this happens when there is a bold tonal or colour contrast between them, or when the objects outline is emphasized by lighting.


  • Pattern

The effect of a pattern is created when a number of similar shapes are placed together in an image, and it can have a quite compelling effect, even when the pattern is only suggested. But pattern alone tends to have only an initial impact, and other elements, such as a break in the pattern to create a focus of interest, are usually necessary to give a picture a more lasting interest.


  • Form

Although the shape of an object can have a powerful effect, and even a complete silhouette can have considerable impact, a more interesting and satisfying image usually results when the objects within a scene have a feeling of solidity.


The photographic medium is capable of creating an almost uncanny sense of depth, and can give the impression of being three-dimensional on the flat surface of a print. This quality is created by the tonal range of the subject, which is often at least partly dependent upon the way it is lit. As a general rule, a fairly gentle gradation from the darkest shadow to the brightest highlight within an object tends to create the strongest impression of form and solidity.


To be continued…

THE CAMERA AND THE RAW FILE

09 July 2020

Back in the day, which manufacturer of the camera you used did not matter as much as it does today. Camera manufacturers did not make film; they made lenses and camera bodies.


Film was interchangeable.


Today, things are different. Cameras are built around sensors. In a sense, the sensor is the film and the file that is produced is the digital negative.


What has remained the same is the same over-riding goal: always try to get it right in camera.


Raw processors are designed to help you get the most of your digital captures and ensure that when you get it close in camera, you can then make it right.


A raw processor is meant to get you your best starting image, not your final one. If you are looking for a higher level of control and quality, then the use of a Raw processor is just one link in the workflow chain.


Raw processors are not the ultimate in producing a final image because:

  • They do not have variable opacity on a layer mask that you can fine-tune
  • You can do brushwork, but once you do it, you cannot go back to it if you miss a spot
  • Adjustments are too coarse and tend to be too global

A raw processor is meant to get your best starting image, not your final one. However, if you have an image for which a Raw processor is adequate, stop and call it a day.


Never lose sight of the most important goal; to create an image that reflects your feelings at the moment of capture.


More on this in another session!

BEING PRESENT

29 June 2020

Say out loud to no one in particular

          “Hi. My name is…” and your name.

Then pause for a moment and say, again out loud

          “Hi. My name is Izzy Smith”.


Unless your name really is Izzy Smith, you should observe a difference in the way those two statements make you feel. It is most likely that the first statement felt comfortable and personal, while the latter felt empty.


The difference is that your real name is inhabited by who you are, and the latter is just some words with no meaning to you.


This is because your name is your personal icon; the representation of everything you have experienced up to this moment. Think of your name as having a shape that contains everything you have ever said and done, all you have ever seen and felt, and every lesson learned in your life.


The shape of your images should contain nothing less.


Be Present

What does this mean? To me, it means that you approach all experiences with no preconceptions and that you allow yourself to be open to learning at all times.


It means realizing that while any lesson may have specific and immediate significance, it may also have the same or greater significance for things you have yet to experience.


Life is dynamic and not static. Life is about the way in which our experiences interact with each other in a non-linear way, and it is that interaction that results in who we are. Just like a beach is made up of grains of sand, every experience we have is a grain that makes up the beach of our lives. They interact and shift, changing the landscape of who we are.


There are two ways to approach learning:

i. Granularly – we learn to do steps in a set way and sequence to get a prescribed result. Results are repetitive and without growth; become more about technique and stifles creativity. However, it is a good starting point as beginners.

ii. Globally – being open to something more – keeps us from experiencing creative stagnation. If you allow yourself this level of presence, everything you need to know, you will know when you need to know it. Allow yourself to take a piece of knowledge that you know works in one instance and generate a new train of thought.


The digital image allows anyone willing to take it, the pathway to unlimited creativity; a path to a place where impossible is merely an opinion – an opinion held not by the viewer of the image, but by its creator. This means that the photographer’s imagination is the only limitation.


Do not focus on technique for techniques sake, but to discover what it means to see rather than to merely look.


Once you discover that technique is merely a detail, you will be free to create images that will change the world of those who view them.

BELIEVING IS SEEING:  THE WAY THE EYE "SEES" WHAT IT SAW

21 June 2020

The human eye sees in a predictable manner. The photographer must decide what journey the viewer’s eye will take through their image because controlling that journey can strongly influence the viewer’s perception.


I believe there are two types of eye at play:

1. The unconscious one that sees the image

2. The conscious one that interprets the story that the unconscious eye sees


Seeing: The Unconscious Eye

The human eye is always in a seek mode; it tends to wander rather than to look at any one thing for very long.


One of our goals should be to create an image in which the human eye is compelled to linger in order to short circuit its wandering tendencies. The longer the eye looks at your image, the more likely you are to convey to the viewer the emotion that you felt when you captured it.


When creating an image, you must be totally engaged, all creative cylinders firing at once and as one.


In Japanese Zen Buddhism this is referred to as being in a state of Shibumi – the act of thoughtful thoughtless thought, or doing the right thing in the moment without consciously thinking about doing the right thing.


In this state of grace photography becomes not merely about looking, but about seeing, because to look is simply a visual experience. Seeing is a creative process.


Digital revolution has simplified the taking of images, but creating meaningful photographs is still a difficult creative process.


So, how do you get the viewer’s unconscious eye to stay locked onto your photograph so that their conscious eye can see into it?


We need to understand how the human eye ‘sees’.

The eye moves from patterns that it recognises first:

  • From light to dark
  • From high contrast to low contrast
  • From high sharpness to low sharpness
  • From in-focus to blur
  • From high saturation to low saturation of colour

The eye tends to see warm colours as bright and moving forward in an image and cool colour as less bright and receding.


The human eye is frequently compared to a camera, but it is so much more. It is an optical biological device that has the ability to record time and motion. A still camera can only record fractions of time and stops motion with stillness.


The human eye is completely light-tight except for one opening at the front of the eye; the pupil. The amount of light allowed in is controlled by the iris, which opens in low light and closes in bright light.


Images are projected onto the retina, upside down and backwards. This reversed image is then translated into electric impulses that are sent to the brain to be interpreted.


Believing: The Conscious Eye

The human eye is not unlike a camera, and the brain is not unlike a high speed, image processing computer. Together they make up the hardware of the human visual system.


Light travels to the eye, lands on the retina and then proceeds via the optic nerve to the visual cortex. This is where the first part of interpretation begins. Edges are defined as is what is light and dark. With this information these are translated into simple shapes.


In the parietal lobe and the cerebral cortex this information is compared to previously stored information, the resulting information is then moved into the temporal lobe (where it is assigned meaning) and then moved into the frontal lobe where feelings are added and then onto the pre-frontal lobe which is the point at which we are guided to doing or saying something based on what our eyes have just seen.


This means that what we believe we see is not based simply on what the eye saw; it is the raw data of the eye interpreted by the brain. So, in a sense, seeing is not always believing; rather believing happens after we see.


AN ASIDE:

The Black and White about Light and Dark

Dark is as important to an image as light. It is the understanding and controlling of the relationship between dark and light that results in more successful images.


In very low light situations we see only in black and white instead of colour. So when we look at a black and white image in the bright light of day with our full colour vision, there is a part of us that knows that we should not be able to do this. It captures and holds our attention because of this and gives us time to become emotionally involved with the image.

MY CREATIVE BELIEFS - Part 2

15 June 2020

THE PLEASURE OF CREATIVITY


When we look at the work of other artists we are able to decide whether we like a piece or not. Why are we unable to do this with our own work? If we constantly torture ourselves about our creativity why bother with this aspect?

I think it is too easy to spend too much time concerning ourselves with the notion that for our creative work to be valid, that others have to like it.


Every image you create is an expression of the artistic inspiration that moves you. You express your creative voice by developing the ability to show this without screaming for the attention of others.


Your goal should be to trust what you feel and constantly strive toward personal excellence. When your effectiveness becomes effortless, your images will move the viewer solely by the power that caused you to be moved.


Another thing, your work is only as good as the inspiration that you find in the life that you lead. What makes images even more successful is bringing life experiences and a knowledge base of techniques with you. This allows you to create an image that reflects what you felt when you were taken by the moment.


I know it sounds like a cliché but photography should not be about taking photos but about being taken by them.


Another cliché that I strongly believe in is that Photoshop is not the end, it is the means to an end, and that is a great image. In other words, you shouldn’t be capturing images to Photoshop them. Photoshop is a tool, nothing else.


Here endth the lesson!

MY CREATIVE BELIEFS - Part 1

08 June 2020

Why pursue creative, expressive work which may require effort and be less productive than pursuing easier work?


For me there are two reasons:

1. Most of the things that are interesting, important, and human are the results of creativity.

2. Creativity is so fascinating that when I am involved in it, I feel that I am living more fully than during the rest of my life. My excitement as an artist comes close to the ideal fulfillment we all hope to get from life, and so rarely do. This, to me, is worth investing some effort into!


When I am creating I am known to be “in the zone” to such an extent that nothing else seems to matter and all sense of time is lost. This requires an extensive amount of effort and attention and stretches my mind to its limits.


In Japanese Zen Buddhism this is referred to as being in a state of Shibumi…the act of thoughtful thoughtless thought, or doing the right thing in the moment without consciously thinking about doing the right thing.


In this state photography becomes not merely about looking, but about seeing, because to look is simply a visual experience. Seeing is a creative process.


With time, experience and knowledge I have learnt that to consider only the end product misses a more important point. That is, overtime the most rewarding and transformational experiences of creating come from the making – from the process – and not from the art itself.

CREATING A SERIES

01 June 2020

Creating a series is relevant because it allows the photographer to tell a meaningful story through images in an organic way. Instead of a portfolio or show feeling disjointed because of seemingly random images being put together, a series takes the viewer into a new world. Now each image expands upon the last and when the images relate, the story grows.


Compiling a series requires a different way of creating altogether. In some ways it requires deeper thought. However, that being said, a series does not require a specific type of shooting – the images must only make sense together in some capacity, no matter how they were gathered.


One way to create a series is to think of a story first. It doesn’t have to be literal, but should connect each image in a way that it is accessible.


Thinking of a series is more complicated than thinking of a single image, but the inspiration can be found in the same way.


A series can be very intimidating because an audience expects to be entertained by each photograph, yet each photograph must be similar in some way to the one before it.


There has to be a thread connecting each image in order for the viewer to understand why they are moving through the series. To incorporated story into the series, each image must continue the story, or provide the next piece of the through line.


As your story moves organically and logically each image will build on the story started by the one before it. Each image will carry the through line that brings the viewer to the end.

FAIRY TALES

25 May 2020

I often create images that are inspired by fairy tales, fables or myths. Fairy tales are a way of connecting us to our childhood and taking the mind to a place that it does not often get to experience as an adult. Photography, for me at least, is about learning how to access different types of creativity and how to apply those is physical photographic form.


Think about your childhood. I bet it was free from thinking about paying the bills, housework or being practical. Anything goes as a child, and why fairy tales are such inspiration. Fairy tales put us into the mind-set of a child, and there are few better mind-sets to inhabit when creating.

MAKING YOUR ART YOURS

19 May 2020

Using parts of dark art and surrealism can help you widen your visual skills and conceptual inspiration. To be able to see beyond what is obvious and into a more creative place is rewarding and beneficial to all artists, especially photographers.


With a photograph, the scene is laid out in front of us. While we can construct the scene however we want, it is rare that someone has a completely blank canvas to work from. If a photographer can transform their way of seeing into one similar to that of a painter, suddenly a world of possibilities opens up for us. By this I mean that painters start with a blank canvas and the only thing dictating what the final product will be is how the painter moves their hand.


Photography for me is a creative outlet without limitation – only those of my imagination. Much like a painter starts from scratch and then fills the canvas, I work from scratch in my mind to build an image. What I tend not to do is “take a picture”. I construct images instead, and whether the viewer sees them as art or not is a different matter.


All photographers can train themselves to think this way, and to see beyond the frame. By believing that anything is possible, a photographer can begin to construct their own reality. It might look very similar to the world we see around us, or be entirely different.


The logical question here is technical and lies in wondering how to bring these ideas together and into life – saying something and then doing it are two very different things.


By practicing, experimenting and failing, I was able to learn how to create my own world.

DARK ART AND SURREALISM

11 May 2020

A wee while ago I had someone approach me concerned for my mental well-being. Intrigued I asked why the question? Apparently to this person my photography was disturbing.


I guess, to be honest, dark art and surrealism are my passions in photography. Photography allows me to twist everyday reality into something more unusual enabling me to explore new worlds. Surrealism allows artists to bend truths and capture moments that could otherwise not exist.


While my images are conceptually dark, they are visually beautiful. I have been surrounded by death and dark things for the majority of my life – it intrigues me and I am not scared of the darker things in life.


The heart of surrealistic art is to create dream-like images filled with juxtapositions, to bend reality to my liking, and to capture what cannot be captured naturally. These are all different paths that surrealism can take.


Because surrealism deals so often with juxtapositions, it is easy to pair dark art with surrealism. So much of dark art is about understanding a different part of ourselves, either as the artist or the viewer. It is about accessing a part of the mind that gets used less frequently on a regular basis, and allowing ourselves to go there.


Dark art often has a negative reputation, as it can be misconstrued as grotesque, horrific or violent. While it certainly can be those things, dark art is so much more – it offers a different point of view seldom expressed and has the power to present something very different, thus standing out from the crowd.