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.