Thursday, January 10, 2019

Wow. You must have a really great camera!

Happy 2019 to all my readers, their family and friends. 

If you want prosperity and success, I wish you that.
If you want recognition and a Nobel Prize or a Pulitzer, that too.
But mostly I wish you health and happiness and love, because if you have those, nothing else matters.

You must have a really great camera

As some of you might know, I'm a moderator on the really fine and popular Facebook group, "Photoshop and Photography". The group has just passed 400,000 members and it takes the efforts of a crew of moderators and administrators to keep it a friendly and helpful place. There are some people who come out of the woodwork (especially on holidays: the admins call it "the squirrel cage" at those times), but for the most part, it's a positive learning experience. It is Social Media so there are some nutbars out there, you need to ignore them sometimes.

Search for "Photoshop and Photography" in Facebook and join. You'll meet some interesting people and see some awesome work; and generally someone in the group will have an answer to whatever question you may have.

But I'm writing this because one common question bugs me. "What kind of camera did you use for this shot? What lens?"

OK, sometimes the question might have meaning. Like, "how did you achieve such a shallow depth of field", or "when I shoot at such a high ISO I get much worse noise..." so they want to know if it's equipment based. But usually it has to do with the old saw, "that's a really great photo, you must have a wonderful camera!". "That's a really delicious dinner. You must have fantastic pots and pans!"

I know artists who could create meaningful paintings using dollar store paints, a stick they picked up off the ground and an old piece of wood. Or sketch with an old #2 pencil they scavenged from the back of a drawer, and a piece of typewriter paper. Just sayin'.

One comment I read there this week pointed out that all those photos that inspire you as a photographer — the ones with that incredible "wow" factor, the ones that make you wish you had taken them — were made with equipment FAR INFERIOR to whatever you're using today. The resolution on your iPhone is better than any digital camera from the last decade, maybe up to 2013 or 2014. It's not about the equipment.

You've heard it before: it's about what's in that space a couple of inches behind the viewfinder. It's about you and your vision. And you can work on that by taking more and more pictures, and looking at other people's work, and not giving up because you get better and better every day. Want proof? Go look at pictures you made 5 years ago. Are they as good as what you're doing today?

One thing that's hard to get past as a moderator (or as a teacher or a judge): approving (or critiquing or scoring) images that are REALLY bad. Obviously taken by a real novice, sometimes presented with pride, "my first attempt in Photoshop". But then you realize that we've all started somewhere! I'm reminded of when I proudly showed Rosa (a former girlfriend who was an artist) my first sketch, and she deflated me by saying, "yeah, like a kindergarten kid's first finger painting."

What inspires me?

 I'm not going to write the long answer to that one, but I'd like to point you in one particular direction.

Turn on your TV. Watch any movie or show, or especially, any commercial. I get that it isn't still photography, but hit Pause. Marvel at the fact that there's NEVER a poorly exposed or badly focused shot, or badly lit scene. Look at the composition. It's all perfect.

Pick up a magazine. Look at the ads. Ditto. Any one of those pictures would get a 10 out of 10 in your club competitions. Analyse them and ask yourself "why" or "how"?

The people who make these pictures are professionals. REAL professionals. Yes they have huge equipment budgets and assistants and studios and... but give one of them an iPhone and I'll bet they'll create fantastic images with it. Learn from these people. Learn by studying their work.

Bruce Peters.

The world lost a really good guy a few days ago. Regrettably, I didn't know Bruce really that well. Bruce was a member of the Mississauga club, he was up here on a workshop and we stayed in touch. He came back and we spent some time shooting together up here a while ago, he ended up staying here for a few days and I don't think a smile ever left his, or my face. He had recently lost his wife and he threw himself into his travel and his photography as a raison d'ĂȘtre.

I think he split his time between Mississauga and his property in Penetanguishene (or Port Severn?). He joined us up at the Gales of November workshop in 2017 and ended up willingly chauffeuring Karen Young and her broken leg around. He participated enthusiastically in all our activities.

He was probably one of the kindest, most generous people I've met and in talking with others of our mutual friends, that sentiment was echoed by all of us. That said, he was sometimes bull-headed and opinionated but that was Bruce. Everyone agrees on that one too, Hilarie said "the club will be very quiet without him".

Please excuse the really bad picture (I'm not good at people pictures, as everyone knows!)

Thinking about Newfoundland again

I floated a thought about going to the Territories this summer, but I think that's not going to happen. However you know how much I love Newfoundland... so here's what I'm thinking.

Mid June through end of July?

  • I've never been to the Northern Peninsula nor to Labrador. That's where the icebergs are.
  • I love the Twillingate area. Maybe more time on Fogo Island this time.
  • Bonavista/Elliston. Whales and puffins. Maybe meet up with a friend from overseas
  • St. John's, gateway to the Avalon peninsula, urban and other photooops, meet friends.
As on previous visits, stay in rental cottages for the most part.

So: anyone want to spend some time on the Rock? I can think of one or two already. I know enough now to do some informal guiding... and I have contact with people who are even more experienced at it. Contact me.

PS: in 5 visits to Newfoundland over the years, I've seen exactly two moose. Don't count on it! LOL

An Oldie but a Goodie

This image of mine came up in an online discussion a few days ago so I thought I'd post it here again. A lot of work went into this image: would you believe I shot it in bright mid-day sunshine? Somehow I managed to make it look like what I had visualized.

Parting Shot

Here's a composite image I worked on yesterday. It's from my Newfoundland trip last summer (mostly!). If I had to pick my favourite image from 2018, this would be right up there.

The star trails are about 140 images stacked in StarStaX. I wanted to remove some detail and make it look hand painted, so I used Topaz Impression. I THINK it was based on the Georgia O'Keeffe preset, applied more than once. The lighthouse is the one at Cape Spear, shot at dawn and extracted from the background. Again I used Topaz to enhance the light and smooth things... might have even been based on the same preset. There's some canvas background texture in there I'll have to remove when it gets printed. If you've been following me, you'd recognize that the girl was created on my Wacom Tablet from scratch, based on an image I shot at Peggy's Cove in 2017 and it was used in another image with a brilliant sunset (and a painting!), with the same title. 

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