Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Light: The Defining Factor

Robert Adams has said that light is the fundamental element central to our understanding of life and our response to it.

As light is fundamental to photography and our visual interpretation of society, I would go so far to say that as photographers, photography defines our understanding of life and our response to it.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Alternative Editor

It's hard to edit your own work. It’s too easy to get stuck on the images you like and mistake those for your best work. That doesn’t mean your favorite images will never be your best work, but selecting your strongest images for a portfolio or a presentation often means letting go of many of those favorites.

A good practice is to have someone else take a crack at editing your images. However, it’s not always easy to find someone who has the time or inclination to help edit your work. This is where joining a Flickr group can be a big help.

If you’re a Flickr user you can join any number of groups that range over a huge variety of interests. Some groups are very serious with very specific criteria that must be met in order to post images to the group’s page, while others may have a single criteria as simple as the type of camera used to make the images being posted.

Some groups are juried. In other words a moderator will select images from all those submitted and decide which pictures will actually be posted to the page. This is in effect a seriously practiced editing process. Over time as more of your work is selected for posting to the group you may find that those are some of your strongest images and a good representation of your over all body of work.

Of course it depends on the group you choose to join as to the results you can expect. But if you join a group that is seriously dedicated to presenting the very best of the type of photography you’re interested in pursuing, chances are you will have chosen a good editor.

I joined such a Flickr group some years ago and since then more of the images I have submitted have been rejected than selected for posting. But I have enough images in the group that I can now step back and take a look at what someone else considers by strongest work. And frankly I’m impressed.

I’ve been planning to submit a selection of images to a publisher of post cards, but dreading the selection process. So the other day I went to my Flickr page and went to the group Film is not dead, it just smells funny. On the left side of the window there is a list of the top contributors and at the end of that list is always the word YOU. Click on YOU and all of the your images that have been selected for the group will be displayed with the most recent post first.

Doing this I can see that I have successively contributed 92 images to the group. A quick look tells me two things, first that indeed my strongest images are represented and second that the moderator has a soft spot for pictures of pretty girls. Be that as it may, I now have access a to a well edited selection of my work from which I can now select images to submit to a publisher with a greater level of confidence than if I had tried the entire editing process on my own.

To preserve a copy of this record I simply go to File > Print and than select “Save as pdf.” Now I have an easily accessible thumbnail list of all 92 images to refer to when making my selections for the publisher.

I can’t tell you how much time and anxiety this has saved me. It really is very hard to be a ruthless editor of your own work. Fortunately image sharing sites like Flickr provide a variety of editing options that can help you move your work to a new level.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Finding the Image

When you see a scene that appeals to you you make the photograph. But sometimes you look at the print or the image on you screen and it doesn't look like what you remember or you see the scene as you first did but the friends you are showing it to don't see it the same way, they don't see what you were seeing when you made the image.

These are clues that the final image contains more information than it needs to convey the true message of the "Image" as you perceived it.

Take a look at the overall composition and ask yourself, "Where is the image in this? What was I seeing that attracted me to this?"

Often you will find that the real image is only a part of the composition and the solution is getting closer to the real subject of the image or choosing another lens or focal length when photographing, or actually cropping the image in post processing.

Here's how I deal with this situation…when I'm out shooting. Recently while photographing in the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park I came up to this statue of a Buddha. I've photographed this statue many times, but I've never been satisfied with the images I've come away with. This day I took more time to work with it and figure out what really attracted me visually to statue.

 I made this frame of the statue and its environment, but I knew this wasn't a defining image.

I moved closer looking through the view finder and the 28mm lens. I stood back and switched to a 55mm lens and made this, the second image. Looking at the statue from this perspective I realized that it was the gesture of the Buddha's hand that attracted me most.

I looked more closely, turning the camera to compose a horizontal frame. Here was my image. I knew now that I had it. I saw the folds of the statue's robe flow into the gesture, guiding the eye to the hand and tips of the fingers. I moved a bit to the left including some of the trees in the background to provide context that wouldn't distract from the graphic power of the overall composition and made the image.

This whole process took much less time than has taken to explain it. The most time consuming part of making the image was the one lens change. Finding the image and making the final frame took only seconds. This is what comes with practice and making photography a practice.

Photos: ©2012 David W. Sumner