Happy Accidents & Other Surprises


Were getting to the time of year when people review the year just gone and plan for the year ahead. I guess I’m doing the same, although I will leave the ‘my 12 best images’ post to others.

It’s interesting to look back over the last year and see what images I consider to be my best how these compare to last years work and how they relate to one another. I started the year with the intention of making a set of color images of the coast on clear mornings. This idea began to evolve during the course of the year as I made a number of images during foggy conditions, trying to make the most of my time photographing. Even with a clear plan of what you want to achieve, being flexible enough to respond to the situations you find yourself in, can lead you in directions you hadn’t expected. Perhaps for you, as has been the case for me, these photographs will be standouts and serve as jumping off points for new projects.

There’s Only Light

‘There’s no such thing as bad light, only light that’s inappropriate for the subject you’re shooting’.

Increasingly I’ve found that I limit my photography to the edges of the day. That’s not necessarily a bad thing but it is restrictive. Choosing the margins of the day for photography is largely because I have yet to figure out how to get the kind of pictures that I like in full sunlight without carrying around diffusers and other bits of gear. This doesn’t stop me from carrying a camera though. I’m particularly interested in what light works for what subjects.

I was pleasantly surprised that the reflections that I caught above we’re taken at noon on a bright sunny day. Something to store away for future reference. Naturally I’ll be back at this harbor, and others, on bright days looking for more of these reflections.

Rules are Made to Be Broken

I carry a camera around with me all the time, whether it is my iPhone, pocket digital – canon G10, or a DLSR. The more I look for images the more I find and with tools to capture them easily to hand the more likely I am to stop and try something. When I’m with others this is met with reactions that range from curiosity regarding what I’m seeing, tolerance for the tourist to outright disdain. Disdain, perhaps because I’m supposed to be paying attention to something else or that I’m not following expected norms of behavior. Breaking the rules, the photographic rules that is, is something that I’ve been thinking about recently. Something that has been encouraged by the photographs I’ve been taking with my iPhone. As a beginning photographer, you’re told shoot on a tripod, if you’re hand-holding then use a shutter speed of at least 1/focal length. I certainly have been interested until very recently in making photographs that are a sharp representation of life in front of the lens. When I was out walking this past weekend I was surprised at how low the light was even though it was the middle of the day. In order to achieve a shutter speed that would allow for a sharp image I had to be at a wide open aperture and iso 800. Which made me wonder what if I pushed in the other direction what would that look like. I played until I got a shutter speed of 2 secs and then looked to see what I could do. It was a fun exercise and one that I’m likely to repeat in the future. The image that I liked the best from the set is the one above. It really gives me the sense of water rushing by. What do you think? Any other fun exercises to keep things interesting?

There Are Images Everywhere – The Art of Seeing

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There are images everywhere. No really there are.

Regardless of whether you live in an area that people would travel to because of it’s natural beauty, or whether you live in an area that people feel they need to leave to experience natural beauty there are images to be made. The skill that we need to learn is to see them. This is something that takes practice. Freeman Patterson’s book ‘Photography and the Art of Seeing‘ is a great place to start. A new edition just came out – it’s exceptional and should find a home on every photographer’s shelf.

Learning to see the possibilities around you means carrying a camera around with you and using it every day. For me there are days when that’s not an issue at all and then those other days when I’m running to stay in one place, not so easy. But I keep trying.

I’m finding with the iPhone that I enjoy the exploration of image after taking it, at least as much as taking it in the first place. The image above was taken while I was waiting for my son to be released from school the other day. I played with it in photoforge and phototoaster.

A Line in the Sand

I recently signed up for the Fitts & Wolinsky portfolio review at the South Shore Art Center in early January.

With the review event as a deadline, I’m now working though my archives for a set of photographs that hang together as a cohesive set. I think that I have a reasonable nucleus of images that would work and I’m considering including the one above in the group. I believe that this was taken on the morning that I ended up in the water with my camera. As is the case with many of the photographs that I ultimately end up liking, this was a throw away shot. Not something that I tried hard for or thought too much about. I saw the wave, thought it was pretty interesting and made the photo. It took me longer to type that last sentence than it did to go through the process. I like the motion blur that I got in this image and also that the horizon is ambiguous.

I’d be interested in hearing what you have to say about it too.

Down The Tube Station at Midnight

20111115-221659.jpgI spend a lot of time traveling around Boston using the underground system which is locally referred to as ‘The T’. Even though I’d traveled around for years on the T it was only since my obsession with grungy iPhone photos kicked in that it occurred to me that there were some potential images to be made while waiting for the train. Initially I considered these to be sketches of what I might be able to do with my ‘real’ camera. Even so I quite like what I’ve been able to do so far and will continue to push the idea forward.

Contrast Masks: An Initial Foray

The more I photograph the more I become aware of what I want to achieve with a particular photograph. Often when a photograph fails to wow me it’s not because I didn’t get the composition right but rather it is because it doesn’t leap of the page in the way that I think it should. My big struggle has been that I couldn’t quite put my finger on what the problem is it not sharp enough, not saturated enough not enough contrast. What?

I’ve never been much of a student of history but I do enjoy understanding how other people work and what tools they use. Watching the Christopher Burkett video I posted recently there was the mention of his use of contrast masks and the impact these have on his images. So why not give that a go?

Using ‘The Google’ I found this tutorial on the use of digital contrast masks on the luminous landscape website. Just following the tutorial as described I was able to take the image from last week from this:

to this:

Which with some final tweaks becomes this:


What do you think? Seems like an improvement to me.

If something’s worth doing it’s worth doing to excess. I’ve subsequently tried this technique out on 20 or so images with varying degrees of success. The contrast mask, not too surprisingly, reduces contrast which may not be the appropriate fix for all of my images. I’m starting to have a sense of where this technique will work for my photographs, generally for images that I take within 10 – 15 mins of sunrise and will try this out before I do any heavy lifting in photoshop. Try it out for yourself and let me know how things turn out.