Sunday, October 12, 2014

Where am I at?

First let me address the title of this blog post: grammatically horrible! I was torn between that and "Who do you make pictures for?", equally bad! It's just that "For whom do you make pictures?" makes me sound like a high school English teacher and "Self Assessment: an analysis of one's personal growth" is just plain boring and pedantic.

The Question

"Where am I at (y'all)?"!

Here's where I'm coming from. I recently submitted a couple of pictures to the RHCC monthly competition and while the scores were predictable (not great), one judge's comment put me on this track. It was innocuous: "Looks like new paint program from Topaz". But it got me thinking about something.
First of all, let me digress for a second. Judges: remember your training. You're there to judge the image,
not how it was made.
My friend Ron asked me a while ago whether I was going to put some serious entries into the competitions, and I nodded and smiled and was deliberately vague. Probably not. Because the big question is, "for whom do you make pictures?". Not for them. Not any more.

So I got to thinking (Gawd, what's wrong with my grammar today? LOL) about where I'm at. I'm writing this for two reasons: (1) by writing it down, I might be able to understand myself more clearly and (2) to get you, my faithful readers, to think about your own place in the world.

The Answer

I want to say that I'm making pictures to please myself, not other people. I would be lying, of course, the world isn't black-and-white and it's gratifying when people say, "Wow, you must have a really good camera!" (photographer joke). Sure, it's nice to be appreciated. Maybe one day people will look at my body of work and say, "he was an artist". 

When I make a picture that works for me, I'm satisfied. Why? Because my standards have changed, I've grown and when I meet or exceed my new standards, I know I'm doing well. By the way, a corollary to that is that I hate my earlier work. I've said elsewhere (maybe not out loud!) that a lot of it is amateurish and just plain banal. 
As we speak, I'm working on a Blurb book, my "Best of 2013". I don't hate all the pictures in it, but I certainly think I've grown since then. It's a lot of work, I'm about ¾ of the way through. A few more days work.
I have two goals: to make pictures that convey what I pictured in my mind when I took it and when I finished it, and to increasingly improve what I'm trying to convey. Does that make any sense? Let me give you an example.

Sunset shot from the Schuyler's Island Causeway and rendered with Topaz Impression. FWIW, I started with one of the Da Vinci presets, added back some colour and some other minor adjustments. Click the image to blow it up.

Some background. Cheryl Goff was up from Oshawa and we went off in search of a sunset. We tried several locations, and I wasn't really satisfied with any of them. Sunsets are hit-and-miss, of course, they may not work out and I figured this was one of those nights. Then we saw the way the sun hit the trees across the water, the reflections, the clouds.

When I viewed the scene, I got to thinking "if I was painting this scene instead of photographing it, what would I do?" This. And I took the picture with this in mind. No, not the 'da Vinci' brush strokes, the composition. Framing it with the foreground plants. Capturing the reflections in the still part of the water. The leading lines created by the clouds. The balance. I'm really quite satisfied with this composition and happy that I was able to make it work.

It's interesting that when I joined the Richmond Hill Camera Club a decade or more ago, it was with the intent of learning more about composition. And yes, I used to enter competitions with the goal of getting peer approval (not peer: my betters!). Now I have more confidence in my own vision. So what would a real artist  say (see? I still don't think I am one!)? Would they agree about the composition? 
What about the brush strokes? They're just fun. Why do I like this "Topaz Impression" plug-in so much?  I am definitely a frustrated paint media artist who still can't draw if my life depended on it, but I think I'm getting closer to picking up a brush and giving it a try. 
Where am I at? About halfway to where I want to be. Better than where I was yesterday. 

Guest Photo

Here's a rare picture taken by someone else. Photo credit goes to Fred Pyziak, VP of the Haliburton Highlands Camera Club. It's a picture of me and Steve Hill, curator of the Haliburton Museum. We were at the museum and I was taking his picture. Why am I posting it? Because although it's a great photo, the caption is what tickled my funnybone. Well done, Fred!

Going door to door selling photography is a tough sell up here in the woods 

Yesterday wasn't such a great photography day.

But it was a good day. I managed to spend a little time with some people I enjoy, I did get out to shoot some pictures and share the odd bit of knowledge, but none of the pictures worked out except for the sunset one above. I even stopped at a spot that intrigued me after dark, on the way home and tried a little light painting but it didn't work out and I discarded the whole batch. But in doing so, I figured out why they didn't work and perhaps what to look for and do next time.

Thursday was, though. That's the day Fred took the picture above, we were at the Haliburton Museum and Steve Hill was kind enough to play blacksmith for us. I got a few pictures I liked, one of which I'm very satisfied with.

Another one of those Topaz Impression, "Da Vinci" style images. What I like about this one is the composition and the dynamic of the light.  

This is what the HDR process was made for. The crisp detail is brought out, there's a depth created by the lighting, and the bright exterior in the window and doorframe are retained. I think it's a good technical image although it lacks some artistic impression (should I add brush strokes? Hmmm...) 

And finally, this one. This is exactly what I was going for when I came out on Thursday. 

If you're a photographer, I'd like to direct you to a tutorial-style writeup that I did about what went into the making of the Blacksmith image. I think you'll find it instructive. If you don't care how the picture came to be, well, just enjoy it for what it is! Here's the link, I put it on my Tech Blog so as not to bore my non-technical readers.

Onward and upward. I noticed that this is my 301st blog post, not bad! I do go on, don't I?

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