In a rush to catch a bus, I stopped to take pictures of some stone benches and art that I’ve walked passed for years. Clicking away, falling into the bending light, a man yelled and told me that he had helped the artist who made them. Unfortunately, in my hurry, I did ask his name, but in a quick search I found out the work was done by the sculptor John Hoge.
While pushing and pulling the tones, I felt the images taking the shape of human muscle; the glow and reflections that came through are the energy and strength our muscles give us. Coincidentally, these stones sit in front of a hospital.
I revisited and edited some photos I took at the Rodin Museum in Paris. The museum is a converted mansion that became the house for his work. It is a lovely, intimate space. Seeing the natural light fall on the sculptures in a house-like setting was pure joy. This is just a small selection from the photos I took. For more photos, visit my Flickr album.
Every now and then I stumble across an image I forgot about or put aside because I knew I liked it, but didn’t do anything with it. I’ll start with one I found today that I have so many titles for, but I’ve taken to Don’t Look Down.
In high school, before digital, we shot black-and-white film. It was a meditative practice. Five years ago I took some photography classes and one of my instructors was an incredibly passionate and experienced photographer. No-nonsense, hard-core, bad-to-the-bone master printer, Jhanavi Lisa Barnes taught us the zone system and helped us understand highlights and shadows. How to accomplish these things in-camera (film), and later on in the darkroom. There is nothing like a print that comes from film and developed on paper. I do miss the luxury of it, and have a total respect and appreciation for the process. (Alas, I’m an impatient type. Also, the cost of purchasing film, paper, facilities rental, gas, parking, etc. just isn’t economical or convenient).
So, how do you visualize, take, and process an image so that it looks like it imbues the tonality and contrast of black and white film? I continue to hone and refine my skills in digital photography, and feel I have a good grasp on how to adjust tone, saturation, and highlights through the various color channels and tone curves. I push myself through the grey of an image. With the Zone System in mind, I work to keep, but not blow out, my highlights. I nudge my shadows, blacks, and exposure sliders to keep the shadows from becoming too muddy. However, if I’m going for a specific style, I will push the highlights and/or muddy the contrast if it communicates the feeling I want for it to radiate. Finding balance in the light is something I love to work with.
Here’s a little slide show of people and places where I’ve worked the light to suit the image captured; keeping in mind the feelings I remember having when developing black and white prints.
I jumped into the car this morning and headed for the local beach. I’d been inspired by a friend’s recent post of the grove of trees that sit in the middle of the Golden Gardens park. I wondered what I could capture on a cloudy grey morning, a lot different from the blindingly blue 70 degree days we’ve had over the past few days. While I was out there, I was thinking of a lesson I’ve been taking on Fine Art Photography by Brook Shaden (via Creative Live).
One thing she talked about was self-critique. After visualizing an image, photographing it, and processing it, think about what worked. What didn’t work? What could you have done better? What did you learn? Today was definitely a learning experience. Below is a selection I feel good about with some notes about why I like them, why they could be better, and what I feel I could do better next time, etc.
Note: Click on the titles to see bigger views of these on my Flickr site.
Things I like about this image: I like that I saw the shape of a whale. The trees, to me, look like a whale or fish’s skeletal structure. I took this with a tripod. Something I’m still not used to doing, being more of a spontaneous street and abstract kind of shooter. I also like that the clouds cooperated and I was able to draw their shapes out in post.
Things I don’t like about this image: The shed and basketball hoop. I really liked the tree on the very left and didn’t want to crop it out, so I had to sacrifice leaving the shed and hoop in to get that full shape.
Things I like about this image: I thought about my depth of field. I took a few shots at different f-stops. I wanted the focus to be the mountain peak and thought about the idea of looking through the trees. I didn’t want the trunks super sharp, nor did I want them so fuzzy that they lost the definition in their edges. And again, I love the cloud coverage.
Things I don’t like about this image: This image is cropped quite a bit. Looking back, I should have zoomed to get this crop in camera.
Things I like about this image: As soon as the sun started to shine through and the shadows came out I already had this image titled. I saw it, I pre-visualized it and processed it how I wanted. I also like the sense of movement going from bottom left to mid right. It’s like the trees are walking slowly toward the horizon.
Things I could have done better: Shot in JPG. This entire set was shot in JPG and I didn’t realize it until I uploaded them (it happens). I could have had a better file to work with to get the texture I wanted in the ground. I mean, I’m pretty happy with it, but I think finer adjustments throughout would’ve made this a stronger image for me.
What I like about this image: How the trees and the bird look like they are standing at attention. Like the bird is directing the trees somehow.
What I don’t like about this image: Another big crop. This was something I liked after reviewing it and wasn’t sure what I expected while shooting. In this case, I was not totally pre-visualizing in the moment while shooting it.
What I like about this: The creation of triangles by tilting the camera. The texture from bottom to top.
What I don’t like: The poles in the sand. The poles were actually what drew me, but then I didn’t like them, in the end. Overall, not a great image for me. The boats look like they’re slipping out of the frame, but the masts are small and I think I’m reaching with this. Meh.
What I like about this image: Not too much. I like the birds flying around and the edge of the beach.
What I don’t like about this: I had trouble editing it to make it look more dreamy and dreadful. And I think it would have been better if there were some birds at different distances from my camera to show more depth. That said, I’m smart enough to not get that close to crows!
What I like about this image: I do not consider myself a strong landscape photographer, so the fact that I actually got out of the apartment to shoot this this morning is amazing to me. But seriously, I like how the clouds were blanketing the mountain range at different depths and that the sun was highlighting the clouds in different shades. The choppy texture of the water adds to the overall feel of a blustery morning.
What I struggled with: I was using my kit lens to take this photo. Originally, I wanted the water to look more smooth, but I couldn’t settle into the settings of my camera and was impatient because it was really windy, cold, and I had a trouble seeing the screen on the back of my camera. Also, while editing I noticed lots of dust that probably came from the filter that I grabbed out of storage (dusty), so I edited a lot of those dust marks out. I also think I would define the edges of the range more, but still preserve the nice dark grey that separates each mountain from the other.
Overall, I had a decent time out in the cold and getting the chance to take advantage of a near-empty park on a weekday morning. I’ll keep learning and critiquing and giving myself the time to digest and understand why I make the images I do. The takeaway from Ms. Shaden’s lesson was that the better you understand your inspiration, motivation, and why you like an image, the better you can take negative feedback. That way, when you share your work, you can defend your work conceptually and technically to others. This way of thinking may come naturally to some, but it has completely given me a new way to look at what I do and why, and I’m so glad I found it! I think this advice is great for those starting out in any creative endeavor, when you feel art is an extension of yourself. Build your confidence. Understand your inspiration and motivation. Self-critique before letting others critique you.
In processing this image, I was playing with the idea of DNA running across a gel. It was a lab exercise I did in high school chemistry. My memory is a bit foggy, but if I remember correctly, DNA is negatively charged, and traveled across to the positively charged nodes in the apparatus. It was a really fun exercise. We took poloroids of the results, and this photo reminded me of how the DNA looked after “running” across the gel.