Nice weather arrived in the last couple weeks, so working on a computer has become second priority – I missed my last blog deadline. Sorry. It was so worth it though – being outside in the garden has been a gamechanger for my mood and attitude.
Also, our camera club season has concluded, lockdown is still in place and I’m now left wondering what to do with all my “free time”.
There is the aforementioned garden to maintain, a backyard pond to enjoy and summer breezes wafting through the air. True, but night falls eventually.
Early summer is often a time to take stock, to clean out, clean up. In 2014, I started the tradition of preparing a photobook each year of the images of mine that I felt most emotionally connected to through the year. That lasted until 2018. I have a few years to catch up on. What better time than now. So I’ve set that as one of my summer projects, along with producing some larger prints of these very same images.
Many photographers have commented on the value of a tangible book or print. It somehow gives life and depth to the images we capture. And if an image is already compelling in some way, personally or technically, a hard copy seems to double that feeling. Understanding why can be the first step in a wonderful journey of discovery – corny but true.
I really enjoy image critiques – no seriously, I do. I always appreciate an independent point of view, even if it is wrong. Ok, ok, but seriously again, I’m not talking about the criticism of a judge in a competition. I’m talking about the guidance from someone with experience in the same genre, who has discovered their own voice, and has the ability to see basic flaws in the work of someone who has not yet made that discovery.
I had that experience recently, attending yet another photography conference, where participants were asked to submit images for comment. The person who offered the critiques is someone I know and admire and who, in my view, has the infinite right to offer “coaching” to those less fortunate.
Although we all submitted images, only a few were selected for review and sadly, mine was not one of them. I had to live vicariously through others. But even that can be a good thing. Here’s why.
I’ve had the pleasure since 2014 of immersing myself in photography full-time. Prior to then, it was a hobby, indulged in only when other things didn’t demand my time. Since then, it’s been the other way around. I can honestly say that it is the one job I have had in my life that I have truly loved. It isn’t really a job, either, for the simple reason that I don’t depend on income from it to live.
You approach things differently when you love doing them. Everything about the subject fascinates you – even the mundane can have some appeal. But for me, every time I learn something new and am able to apply it, it’s better than anything else in the world (except family, friends, health and comfort, of course).
Acquiring lots of knowledge eventually labels you an “expert” and someone said that in reference to me the other day. I immediately corrected them and said I was still learning. But yes, in that particular area, I had pretty much figured it out. I stopped to think what it means to be an “expert”. The answer is interesting.
Sorry for the delay in posting this. A bit of rebranding for the website led to a new email arrangement which, despite all attempts to anticipate issues, went into the dumper on the day of launch (Feb 1). All is now fixed, but this article is late because of it.
It’s an interesting time for camera manufacturers and an even more interesting time for camera consumers. Simultaneously, on the same day, I read of Canon’s banner year, the problems every manufacturer has delivering product to market, the overall world decline in camera sales and Nikon’s gripping financial loss. The next day, Sony released a powerhouse camera with specs to entice any gear nerd.
But there is a most interesting irony in all of this: the as noted move away by consumers from conventional cameras, while at the same time the global glut of posted images that demand to be shared. It’s a bit frustrating, really, reflecting a society more focused (pardon the pun) on convenience, instant gratification, social networks and recordings of their personal experiences rather than on art, culture, creativity and expression.
Some of those posted experiences leave a lot to be desired. I must say that I don’t care to know what someone had for breakfast or how far they jogged that morning or whether they can balance their dog on their head. But, I must admit that even I enjoy getting photos of my young great nephews, smiling and laughing, occasionally while covered in food.
So social experiences definitely have their place. Some might even argue that they present a more creative outlet for everyone, not a less creative outlet. Coming up with an idea that makes us laugh at these most trying times does deserve applause. And especially when those experiences have to fit on a phone screen or be contained within 30 seconds of view time.
But artfulness is not art, craftiness is not craft. I still need my fix of both. And that is harder and harder to experience, I’m finding – not because of the pandemic.
Every generation of photographer has faced the same issues. Changes in technology lead to changes in what society finds appealing (although it’s a bit of a chicken and egg discussion about which comes first). The very fact that an image could be captured (after minutes or even hours of exposure) was the first great appeal of photography in the 1800’s. Then only the very rich could afford to do those captures, and the images memoralized either family generations or big industrial or political accomplishments.
“Instant” cameras and disposable cameras brought the same capability to the average consumer in the 1960’s and that was where I first discovered photography. I remember the square plastic boxes, with round plastic lenses and the flash “cubes” that attached to the top, fired once and were discarded. Then the big advance of 4 shots per cube. It was amazing. My family couldn’t afford film, so we have little to no such instant memories, so only when I got my first job and had my own money could I spend just a bit on this new “fad”.
It was incredible when I actually bought my first real interchangeable lens camera, a Yashica Tl Electro in the early 1970’s. I couldn’t really afford it, but I didn’t care. I wanted it, and going into debt was ok with me. My first taste of instant gratification and of compound interest! I only had one lens for it for a couple more years, but that was ok too.
Then, career and other demands took over and being immersed in photography was not really an option. Like everyone else, I took pictures on vacation and for special events. I always said I would get back to it and learn the “art” of photography, but never did, until I retired. I still have that camera, and it still works, although I don’t use it now.
It’s now been 6-1/2 years since retirement came calling. I’ve immersed myself in all things photography for that whole time, including two full years at school. It’s been glorious. And yet, I honestly can’t yet say that I am an artist. I love the technical challenge of taking a good picture, but so easily miss the best angles and perspectives and stories. I watch the true artists around me not worry about their gear (beyond the basics) and create magic with a unique view or dash of colour. That’s what I want, that’s what I need. Not the instant gratification of 500 likes.
But I honestly have no idea how to proceed. So I’ve been procrastinating more than I would like. Ideas for projects scribbled on paper but not planned or executed. Bits and bites of tabletop scenes loosely stowed in the spare room, waiting for ?
I don’t seem to be alone in this. Numerous admired photographers lament the fact that they are stifled right now, even when they have good ideas to pursue. Some of it is just opportunity – “stay at home” doesn’t provide much of that. But there’s a mind shift at work too. I’m worried that we won’t recover when the authorities finally say we can.
One idea is to try a new form of art for a while and see if that kickstarts the other. For the next few months, I’m going to try learning to play piano. And to get out my drawing pencils from school. Perhaps the emotional beauty of a piece (assuming I don’t butcher it completely) or finding just the right shading on a pencil sketch will bring back the brain cells that are stifled. Who knows. But I have noticed that the best photographers (those who make art, not pictures) are also artists in many other ways ranging from painting to the preparation of food. So let’s give it a try. I’ve always said I love learning something new. It’s time to put money where my mouth is. Come on brain, show me what you got!
Happy, happy New Year. I sincerely hope that wherever you are, you will have a safe, happy, glorious New Year. I think we all deserve it. My part of the world went into lockdown again a few weeks ago, and I’ve taken it perhaps more seriously this time, by not venturing out at all since its declaration, except to pick up something curbside that was ordered well before lockdown.
So that means a lot of time on my hands, right? Would that it were so. I’ve set myself a number of goals, and am moving forward on each one, perhaps more slowly than expected but moving. One of those goals was to make some artistic direction decisions about my photography. More on that in the coming weeks. In the meantime, I’ve also immersed myself in ideas that might set me in a new direction. This post is about one of those – rules in photography. Continue reading “If It Ain’t Broke, Maybe It Shouldn’t Be”→
Mid-December. Last blog of the year. Early darkness and grey, usually rainy days. Nothing to be glad about. Except that this year is coming to a close and Covid-19 vaccines have just been approved for both Canada and the US. This crap will soon be behind us. The only reason to rejoice. But you know what would be worse? Not adhering to public health measures, getting sick and dying a few weeks before you are scheduled to get a vaccine. That prospect should really make you determined to stick it out. And it would really really make your family angry if it happened. So don’t drop your guard now. Just a few more months. Hang in there.
And while you hang in, a little treatise on photography. There are many confusing concepts in photography. When I find one, I research it, then share it with you, hopefully making your photography life easier in the process. Today’s choice: colour, specifically colour profiles, colour gamut, the choices available and why one choice is better than another (or is it?). Read on to find out. Continue reading “The Full Gamut of Emotion”→
I suspect we will see a release shortly of Luminar AI, one of the most revolutionary photo editors to emerge in recent years. There is a special event scheduled for December 10. So I thought it appropriate to offer a commentary on the controversy surrounding AI in this week’s post. Controversy, you say? Read on.
It seems that everyone is weighing in on the move toward more and more machine-powered editing choices, also known as artificial intelligence or AI-based editing. What surprises me most is the number of commentaries where the writer admits to never having seen the capabilities being criticized, but the mere thought of machine-powered functionality must invariably mean both loss of control for the artist and cookie-cutter results.
I am not in that category. I have watched with glee and eager anticipation as companies such as Adobe and Skylum and ON1 embed more and more intelligence in their products. I have concluded early that there is no loss of control at all: nothing could be further from the truth. Continue reading “AI AI, Oh”→
I seem to be on a weird and wacky schedule these days – I routinely forget what day of the week or what month it is. But I am also getting busier, with online clubs and activities now going strong, in-person family visits a regular thing (which means driving) and solo outings wrapping up for the fall (somewhat desperately before the next lockdown comes). I don’t really feel like I am in control, although in reality, control is exactly what I do have.
But I digress, so back to photography. Have you ever stopped to consider the magical process that allows us to go from camera to screen to print? With all of us staring at screens so much more these days, I started to wonder about the specifics. I guess I have time on my hands and I am a nerd. So here’s what I found out…
Well ain’t this grand. I logged into my WordPress account today to begin to write my next post and found a completely new editor. I was warned that it was coming, but I ignored it. Far from being “easy” and “versatile” and “quick”, it requires that I select “blocks” of content types, arrange them on a page, fill in the content of each block and test the layout for views on computers, tablets and phones. I’ve never been good with puzzle pieces, and I won’t use more than half of the block types available, so the change was a less than stellar one for me.
I didn’t intend this to be the topic of my post, but somehow it is fitting. Being forced to change my paradigm is a good thing right now. Everybody needs a restart or a refresh from time to time. But my first reaction was admittedly “WTF”. I’ve had more of those moments this week too.
Ok, so the initial shock has worn off and I’m now getting used to selecting and dropping in content blocks. Even images drop in seamlessly. But I have to change the way I think about my post. I typically write the text, then drop in content. Not any more. Content placement first, then writing the text. Getting there. But on to something more important.
Apart from my YouTube cruising, looking for interesting photography experiences and inspiration, I indulge in several subscription services that touch on everything from photographic history to how today’s technical developments influence photographic arts.
Recently, one of these subscription channels included a short discussion on how Instagram has influenced the way photographers approach their art. The premise was that Instagram has completely changed photography. Their argument: its technical requirements and this generation’s social norm of wanting instant gratification and continuous stimulation of the senses has resulted in a new standard for photography. What is that new standard? Continue reading “Too Much Insta in my Gram”→