My Blog

What It Means to be an Expert

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.

Continue reading “What It Means to be an Expert”

I Can See Clearly Now

If you are reading this on the day it is released, then I am or will have been in surgery for a cataract today. It’s the ultimate irony for a photographer to lose their vision, but also a reality for many of us who are older. In my case, it is doubly frustrating. Other eye issues I’ve had since 2014 mean that the eye being operated on today is my only “good” eye.

I’m titling this in the hope that this will be the outcome. Of course, every surgeon has to apprise you of the risks, which even for routine, production line surgery like this are still somewhat frightening. Bleeding, swelling, damage to other eye structures, infection, reaction to the materials that the new lens is made of, and on and on. But it is “routine” surgery, sometimes even performed with the aid of computer guided instruments. Hope that computer doesn’t have a crash today.

Continue reading “I Can See Clearly Now”

Attending Online Photography Conferences

With the second year of Covid lockdowns and restrictions upon us, many photography professionals have turned to online delivery of presentations and workshops. Whole multi-day online conferences have emerged, bringing together talent from across the world. These professionals have innovated and adjusted, bringing what would normally involve hands-on guidance to the small screen.

As the Program Director for our local camera club, I have had two “challenges” arising from the lockdown. The first is providing meaningful events and entertainment to our club membership online. The second is finding ways to transfer knowledge when hands-on in-person options don’t exist. These new photography conferences would seem to serve both purposes amazingly well. Or do they?

Continue reading “Attending Online Photography Conferences”

How Many Lenses are Enough?

A bit of a different approach this week. Instead of a written blog, a video blog or vlog.

Many of us analyse, assess and re-assess the decision about which camera to buy. Not sure we apply the same level of introspection to lenses. Yet some lenses can cost as much and more than the camera body they are attached to.

I realized recently that my lens collection needed a thorough look. Some of the factors I considered at the time of purchase have changed or are no longer relevant. Especially true as you get older.

This vlog is about my introspective look through my lenses. And the decisions that resulted. Let me know if you find this helpful and I’ll do more of these types of introspective looks in the future.

Also, I would really appreciate it if you would consider subscribing to my YouTube channel. It is free to do so, although it requires a Google account. My goal is 100 subscribers, after which time our friends at Google will allow me to configure the channel exactly as would like. I guess that’s an incentive to try harder when starting out. I won’t bother you for anything else. Promise.

Too Noisy? – Adjusting the “Volume”

One of the areas that frustrates me in photography is adjusting a photograph that is “noisy”.  Even with dedicated tools, I find it hard to make any meaningful improvement in the quality of the photographs I adjust.  My noisy photographs seem destined to be noisy.  When I adjust the sliders, the edges I want to be crisp and clear are often muted, while the remainder seems unaffected.  Not at all the outcome I want.

shutterstock_105461507Even more baffling is sharpening.  Related to but opposite in intent to managing noise, applying sharpening leaves me even more puzzled, since I often see little to no change in my photograph.  And then there’s import sharpening vs. creative sharpening vs. export sharpening.  Sharpening for screen vs. sharpening for print.

How to make sense of it all? Continue reading “Too Noisy? – Adjusting the “Volume””

Times They Are a’ Changin’

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.

https://www.sony.ca/en/electronics/interchangeable-lens-cameras/ilce-1

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.

https://petapixel.com/2021/01/20/canon-camera-sales-will-soon-be-8-of-what-they-were-a-decade-ago/

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!

Jumping Into the Deep End

Senior CitizenI’ve decided in 2021 to step out of my comfort zone and try new things.  Why?  The residue of 2020 and its horrible effect on my well-being, plus the fact that in 2021, I will officially become a senior citizen.  Both have been and are scary.  But in some way, both have inspired me to fight back.  Getting older reveals obvious changes in body and mind, and I want to control both of those if I can.  My biggest fear, revealed only to all of you, is that I might start to lose my rationale self, lose my curiosity about the world and start to forget people, places and events.  There is a history of that in my family.  I can’t have that happen.  What better way to address that than to try new things, learning as I go, keeping the mind fresh and tuned.  So what’s the plan? Continue reading “Jumping Into the Deep End”

If It Ain’t Broke, Maybe It Shouldn’t Be

photo of fireworks
Photo by Anna-Louise on Pexels.com

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”

The Full Gamut of Emotion

shutterstock_121309360Mid-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”

AI AI, Oh

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”