Thursday, April 10, 2014

Photography is the perfect existential activity.

Photography is the perfect existential activity.

Photography transcends physical reality without escaping it. It requires an act, motivated by will, of a human in a world that is indifferent to our understanding of it.

Humans are the only animals that take pictures.

It's not the taking of the photograph, it's the act of will making something out of a moment in time. The photograph is always just an artifact.

And I love the photograph.

Saturday, October 20, 2012


Ah, good ol' books. I have bookcases full of them!  At one time the use of written language was restricted to a privileged class of people.  Nowadays anyone can own a book. Some say we are moving toward a post-literate society where written language will be replaced by video. As soon as humans think up an improved way to communicate, other humans try to control and dominate it. Other humans put themselves in this struggle. It's human nature.

But, think about this: we were educated with books at a time when every class of students, for years, used the same book. We all learned the same World History, from the same book, which provided a uniform interpretation of what happened in the past (indoctrination?).  Nowadays, students have unusual, unprecedented access to world history in so many different interpretations. All that is needed is access to the internet & the ability to use it. For maybe the first time in human history, children have a chance to know more about something (using the internet) than their elders do. People are using their smartphones to instantly upload video to the internet, including the abuse of power by police. History is being documented even as it's happening & before anyone gets a chance to control it.

In the midst of this revolution, there are people who have no interest in the internet & who do not own a smartphone. People who do not read, who own no books. People with limited verbal skills & terrible handwriting. People who get everything they know from the television. Somehow, they are all getting by.

My point is that people in control tried to control the use of written language and failed. Other people will try to control the internet, video, & smartphones. Some people will be players, other people will have no interest in the struggle. It is a good and interesting time to be alive!

Saturday, June 16, 2012

I Love Photographs

I don't especially love photography, or the camera. Fundamentalist photographers do not like my work. I've been looking for recognition from the wrong people.

Reality is just a starting point. Reality exists only in the mind. People think the camera captures reality, but it doesn't. It captures reflected light. We can't see the light. We can only see reflected light, we make up our own story for what it means to us.

The silver fork reflects light. This one is reflecting the light of my bedside lamp. The chiffon scarf is reflecting light in a different way. The exposure is .8 sec, & in that time I twisted the camera as I was moving it closer to the subject. This camera refocused in that .8 sec to catch the details of the fibres woven together to make the scarf, adding interesting details.

I love photographs. Don't love photography that much.

A digital camera makes a technically impressive image possible for anyone. All it takes is the money to buy one. Digital PP takes money and time, but there are plenty of plug-ins & actions to buy that shorten the learning curve.

The result is an ocean of technically impressive photographs that leave nothing to to the imagination of the audience.  I suspect that most people want nothing left to their imagination because they don't have an imagination, but that's another soap-box.

The photographer went there, did that, & has the pictures to prove it. The photographer never gave the audience a thought. The audience gives a quick, possibly admiring, glance & moves on, never thinking of the photographer.

With the same digital camera it is possible to create photographs that give the audience something to do, and a reason to do it, to react to the image in a personal, unique way. An incomplete, or flawed, or ambiguous image offers the viewer  a personal experience, a chance to create a way into the image that makes it more personal, memorable, more powerful, different each time, different for every person who views it.

The photograph should evoke something outside the frame. A really good photograph will turn its photographer into a participating audience member.

Friday, May 18, 2012



On an evening when I'm not usually home, on a whim I went out to get some food with someone I don't usually keep company with. On a whim I took my cameras, thinking I might just look over the day's shots. It was a clear night. On the drive, we noticed a small carnival set up in a parking lot. While we were in the restaurant, without warning, it started to pour down rain. My companion offered to drive over to the carnival so I could get some shots in the rain. So, we did.

This was my first carnival in the rain, at night. A delight, as I enjoy motion-blurred shots & capture them with the Lumix every chance I get, usually while driving home from work at night. The shots on top are those I got w/the Lumix.  The car wasn't moving, of course, but I got the motion blur by moving the camera as I usually do.

I had a bit of a learning curve with the Sony, as I had never used it to capture night shots. It's too big to operate safely while I drive. But this time, I was lucky, I had a driver. I found I am at a point with the Sony that I can operate it fine in the dark, by memory. At first my shots weren't working out. The white lights were blowing out. Then I remembered the camera can do in-camera HDR, so I set it for that, & it worked. These are the shots I got w/the Sony.


I did not use motion blur with the Sony because I was shooting with a competition in mind. The deadline for entry was 11PM. It was 10PM when I got home. I am used to taking much more than an hour to PP my shots & decide which to enter.

The whole thing felt like an incredible coincidence, but you know I think every moment of life is an incredible coincidence. We don't usually acknowledge it, is all. I have spent my entire life to get to this point that I'm at right now. Made many sacrifices, spent a lot of money, traveled great distances to get right here where I am now. Every moment is deserving of my rapt attention, I wish I could remember to live each moment of my life with rapt attention.

Friday, February 10, 2012

The Things I See

My eyes can see, but my brain is not always paying attention.  I didn't see the praying mantis when I took the shot. I missed it when sorting thru my shots for something to edit. I only saw it tonight, a year later, when looking for something to experiment PP techniques on, & saw the praying legs first.

Even though I know the garden is full of bugs, I miss so many. I try to go slow, to just not think at all, just be, just see. I think I'm doing that & then I find I missed something like this. So of course I have to pick up my camera, go out, & try again. The outdoor environment offers an overload of interesting subjects.

I googled 'great flower photographers' to see what I could find. Nothing. I know that although he was famous for erotic BW photos, Robert Mapplethorpe also photographed flowers.  So did Imogen Cunningham.  Georgia O'Keefe painted flowers. They saw & exploited the eroticism of flowers. Flowers do have a lot of eroticism to offer, but  is there anything photography can tell us about flowers that we don't already know? What is it that we think we know about flowers?

As a photographer, I am fascinated by the interaction of sunlight & flower petals--& the way this sends me off doing research to discover that flowers don't just reflect light, they also emit infra-red or ultra-violet light which can cause problems in photography, especially with red flowers & more research on the way human vision works. I am comfortable with the curves in their shapes.  I am intrigued by the challenge of their circular symmetry as it interacts with the rectangular shape of the camera's 

I read a lot out there aboutt he suspicion & distrust people have for Post Processing.  People think of  PP tools as 'tricks' because of a lack of understanding of how they work. A tutorial will list the steps needed to get a certain result, but not the reasons why you get the result. So, it looks like a trick--push a button, get an effect, with no thought or intent involved. Not necessarily true,but not an idea that is accepting of change either.

A straight documentary shot of a flower is not original & not very interesting.   I'm thinking that a unique PP is the only hope I have of creating a flower shot that will hold my interest. I want emotion, desire, ego, intensity.  I'm working in a square frame for discipline. Exercise. If I crop it any way I want, I'm not learning anything.  I'm using the square crop because it avoids the classic Golden Ratio which is a too-easy answer to composition. The square makes me think about the compositional elements of the flower. For this shot, my eye starts at the left out-of-alignment petal and moves in a counter-clockwise spiral. The soft tones, soft focus create a restful, contemplative feeling. Like a perfume label.

This star magnolia blossom was captured in the shade, on a sunny afternoon. There wasn't much contrast in the original, so I tone-mapped it & added a layer of Curves adjustment to improve the contrast.  I want emotion & drama, though, so I added a BW layer created by Silver Efex Pro2, in dark sepia and blended it on multiply. This created the smudgy shadows & a general feeling of grungy mystery. I cropped to a square last.

Then I duplicated that layer & blended it on screen to brighten it up a bit.

I love white flowers as a photography subject, I think because I can see the shadows easily & they separate themselves from the BG. They reflect the light so nicely. They respond beautifully to PP, too.