Monday, February 27, 2012

Winter in the Highlands

That's actually the title of my new Blurb book. I've been procrastinating forever, every now and then selecting some images to use in a book, wanting to do something limited to images up here in the Haliburton area... too many images! So with the impetus of a Richmond Hill Camera Club competition, I finally got around to it.

The book is only about winter up here. City folk are always asking me how I can stand it up here in winter and my response to them is, "did you know snow is actually white"? I love it up here and winter is a candidate for my favourite season. Anyway, the book isn't quite ready for public viewing. The competition required that a 40-page minimum book be uploaded to the Blurb site by the end of the day on the 24th of February. Believe it or not, I started working on it on the 22nd. I made it! There are lots of things to polish before it's ready, but it's there.

I'm not going to show you images from the book here today. Actually, you've seen most of them over time but they're together and form a story in the book. You'll just have to wait for it!

An Artist's Vision

Rosa and I talked about artist's vision last week. I was thinking about my music. When I sit down to a keyboard, or pick up a guitar or harp, I know what I want the music to sound like but I'm not good enough to make it happen. I can't convey the emotion that I feel inside, and that frustrates me. I wondered if a skilled artist can render on canvas, or paper, or in sculpture or in digital form, the picture that he/she has in mind. I was having doubts, you see, about my skills. She told me, "yes, almost all the time". That didn't make me feel any better.

We had been looking at a Picasso painting — "Court Jester" or something like that, I don't remember the exact name — and she told me about how the lines flowed and the eye moved along the curve to a specific point. I said, "yes, I can see that, but surely Picasso didn't plan it that way, he didn't think that through before putting a brush on canvas". "Yes he did. He knew what he wanted to do before he did it" (I'm paraphrasing: a woman can remember exact words, but I can't!).

How many of us do that with a photo? "I want the light to flow exactly like this. The composition should be just so, in order to lead the eye where I want it to go". I'm rambling and maybe not making sense, but a lot of my pictures are accidents. I don't often have a vision in my mind and go out and capture it. Rosa pointed out that a painter or sculptor has much longer to think about it than a photographer, production of their work could take days or months and since it's really easy to push a shutter release, serendipity figures into a photographer's work more often than not. Making any sense?

That's the direction I'm striving for. At the very least, when I'm standing at a scene, camera in hand, I should know in advance what I want to achieve, rather than bang off a bunch of shots and then say, when looking on computer, "oh, there's a good one".

I'm going to show you an image that I posted last week again: but I spent some more time on it. When I stood and looked at the scene, I had a vision of what I wanted to achieve. And although it took a lot of Photoshop and desktop effort, this was what I saw in my head:

This is what I had in mind. Not what I posted last week. I used some Photoshop effects, like Gaussian Blur, brush strokes and selective sharpening on different masked layers. Most interesting to me was the sky which I created using the mixer brush in CS5 after watching a tutorial by Mike Hoffman. It's exactly what I saw in my head even though the sky was just grey that day.
Along the same lines, I went out on the ice on 12–Mile Lake today (really yesterday because it's 2:00am), braving temperatures down around -20°C. I didn't know what I wanted to shoot until I got out there, then I saw the sky and I saw an ice fishing hut made from a blue tarp, through which the light glowed.

Was the sky that brown? No, but there was the diagonal line of dark and light streaks of cloud that you see. I knew that I had to shoot an HDR to capture it, and again I needed to re-tone the image so that the light glowing through the walls of the hut was more obvious. I softened the focus of everything but the hut to make it stand out even more.
So I didn't plan this shot before I walked a mile out across the ice, but I did plan it before I pressed the shutter (5 times! HDR, remember?). Here's another image that I took with a different perspective. This one wasn't planned, it was pure luck.

HDR again, of course. Processed entirely in Lightroom and NIK HDR Efex pro.
Don't leave home without it

This was another one of these moments. At the last second, I threw the camera, with the 70-200mm lens mounted, in the car. I was just driving into Minden for some supplies, with a stop at the garbage dump. Remember I said I liked living up here in the winter? Where else would you see scenes like this:

There are 10 deer in this picture. There were another half dozen there as well, but I couldn't get them to pose for the camera. It's hard to shoot a whole herd. It's like hunting, when you get a whole flock of ducks in front of you: you have to pick one, you can't shoot at a flock. I was tracking that deer that came in from the left and suddenly, there they all were! 

Here's another shot:

Deer are incredibly curious. Their ears perked up and they looked at me at the sound of my shutter releasing. I shot this with my 70-200mm lens from about 20 feet away. They weren't afraid, just curious
These two deer shots were at the dump, as I said. I did a lot of work to conceal that fact by cloning out and desaturating the detritus of man.

Enough for today: off to bed. See you next week!

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