What is "the Eye"? (cont’d)

Even though black and white is driving me these days, I wanted to compare these photos in some way. These are some pretty tasty colors and contrasts here. It’s a sunrise “golden hour” image made in Grand Isle, LA, where there is some really amazing light during these times, both morning and late afternoon. It’s a place I’ll come back to. I’m particularly happy that this didn’t really need a lot of post production tweaking, except for a bit of color cast removal. All that blue water and sky, etc. My camera is particularly good at this sort of lighting condition, really reaching into the dynamic ranges and laying them down in 1’s and 0’s like no other. To answer the inevitable question, it’s a Nikon D3s, which I love with all my heart. It captures, more often than not, exactly what I am ‘seeing’, and of course, what it see’s as well. No camera sensor made yet, has the dynamic range of the Mark I Eyeball, connected to a brain. That’ll be a scary day when that happens. FYI, for those of you who have heard of HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, and wondered what it is, it’s a technique that is done through various software manipulations that approximates (or tries to) present to the computer screen (and a print) a representation of that very dynamic range that our eyes/brain sees. Now, the limitations of this are the computer monitor, and the printer which we use to print said image on photographic paper. It gets sorta close, but it’s not exactly accurate. Pet Peeve time: Those who think HDR is that horribly over tone mapped acid trip looking crap (yes, I have strong opinions on this matter). Some think that is what HDR is supposed to look like. Now, I’ll grant anyone artistic license that wants to make some sort of artistic statement using this. However, every Joe Shutterbug out there who has heard of this, has interpreted this to mean that this assault on my retinas is what HDR is ‘supposed to look like’ and there has been a plethora of such hideousness posted on nearly every photo sharing site to share with all their friends and relatives. Please. Learn what it’s supposed to be before you ‘break the rule’. I briefly toyed with the idea of putting up an example of this affront to visual acuity, but I just can’t make myself do it. /rant off/ Sorry to go all Ken Rockwell on you. 😉

OK, tasty black and white time. Again, I’m no Ansel Adams, but I am so happy with how this turned out. Yes, I processed it first as a color image, with lots of tonal range, and then, ‘poof’, ran it through my black and white conversion software (Nik Silver Efex Pro, highly recommended) and after again, very little work, came up with this tasty treat of tonality. Lest I forget why both these images needed little post work, I was using a Singh-Ray LB Color Combo Polarizing filter. Yes, they are pricey…yes they are worth it. No, I am not paid to recommend them, unfortunately. They could pay me in filters and I’d be a happy man. Best ones I’ve ever used.

This is what I ‘saw’ when looking at the color image, and I am happy to report, this is exactly what I was looking for. Even a blind squirrel finds a nut now and then.

What is "the Eye"? (cont’d)

A disclaimer here… I never have considered myself to have a lot of artistic sensibility. Until someone pointed out to me that as a photographer, I am an artist. What? Really? Well, that debate raged on in the early years of photography until one day “they” decided that a photographer was indeed an artist. Really now, anyone can point a camera and fire off a photo. In this digital age, it’s even much easier. Crazy easy. There are some pessimists out there who feel that the days of photographic artistry are over, that the days of photojournalism are over, due to the plethora of cameras. Anyone with a cell phone has a camera in their hand. Some of these cameras aren’t even half bad. I personally feel we are on the edge of a whole new era in photography. The new digital SLR’s coming out are in short, astoundingly good. Tony Sweet, a well known pro shooter, has been having tons of fun with his new iPhone…and of course creating some beautiful images with it. To paraphrase John Lennon… “I’m an artist, give me a tuba and I’ll make something out of it”. Yea, it’s also a line from “The Departed” but he really said it.

Well, we all know that the artistry of photography happens…somewhere else. Really it begins in the eye of the photographer. It comes to fruition in the darkroom, whether it be a wet or dry one is irrelevant. Not many people are using wet darkrooms these days. To my regret, I never had the fun of inhaling those chemicals to process my own images. I’ve watched the process and found it fascinating.

These days, I get nearly as much joy out of sitting in front of the computer and processing images as I do out of the shooting. Almost.

The last image I posted here was in color. As I looked at its thumbnail on Facebook, I was suddenly struck with a thought of how it would look in black and white. So here you are, the previously mentioned image, in black and white. While this isn’t quite what I saw, I really wanted to post this to make a point. Your ‘eye’, what you see, your vision, can often change. I’ve had images that I’ve taken in years past, that for one reason or another didn’t speak to me. Then later, something about them, well, did speak to me. Or I remembered why it is that I took that image in the first place. Or I saw another way to process it, according to how I ‘saw’ that image later. Hell if I know. I just saw it differently and said ‘hmmm…’. What I saw, in that color image, was textures, shapes, lines, gradations. It was small enough that the details weren’t overshadowing everything else I guess.

That boys and girls, is yet another aspect of what makes our photographic eye. It’s somewhat of a misnomer, because it starts in our mind, our vision of what we saw, or how we wanted it to be seen by…everyone else. That is art. Who knew?

What is "the Eye"?

My posts have been…worse than infrequent, for which I apologize. My work assignment has kept me from doing a lot of new photography, I get bored going through my old stuff, and I’ve been feeling ‘under-inspired’ as of late.

A friend gave me an idea when he complimented me on a photo, saying he wish he had my ‘eye’. This prompted a response that this can be learned and developed, which then led me to the idea of this blog posting.

Just what is that ‘eye’ that photographers speak of? Well, it can be many things. For this post, I’d like to boil it down to composition, and some simple concepts.

First of all, lets look at the Rule of Thirds, and this image. Wikipedia gives us this definition: The rule of thirds is a compositional rule of thumb in visual arts such as painting, photography and design.[1] The rule states that an image should be imagined as divided into nine equal parts by two equally-spaced horizontal lines and two equally-spaced vertical lines, and that important compositional elements should be placed along these lines or their intersections.While this image isn’t one of my favorites, it’s essentially covered by this rule. The egret is in the middle of the frame vertically speaking, but it’s in the left third of the frame horizontally. It’s generally a good idea to leave space in the frame in the direction that your subject is looking, in this case, the bird, looking to the right.

Generally speaking also, in a nature/landscape type photo, you want to have a good foreground element. Something that conveys depth, or that will lead your eye to the main subject. Taking a photo of a mountain range is a great example of most complaints I hear, i.e. “I can’t do them justice”. Well, the mountain range is spectacular but… what is in front of it? Give it context by a strong or even ANY foreground element and you get a sense of depth and grandeur in the case of that mountain range. A decent example is this: http://www.bokehimages.com/Landscapes/New-Zealand-2009/10319617_3h4L8#713449288_TajDA

The beach rocks and the shape of the water leads the eye to the sharp peaks in the distance. I’ve sort of broken that rule of thirds here, because the peak is centered. It works compositionally due to the foreground elements. I believe there were some distracting elements to the right and left, which forced the centering. You have to know the rules before you can break them, as the man said.

Next post will be some other subjects that will hopefully help you make your images ‘pop’ a bit more.