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

20111129-164218.jpg

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.

Back in the Saddle

After my moment of angst, self-doubt, call it what you will I was back at the beach again recently. I don’t think that I’ve ever managed to be at the beach at exactly the same point in the tide’s cycle and so I’m always surprised by what i find. On this morning there were sand bars that meant the incoming tide would be deep and then very thin giving rise to some interesting contrasts in texture of the water at the shutter speed that I was using. I’ll be back for more.

Happy Halloween

20111101-182558.jpg

I sincerely hope that your Halloween was less eventful than it has been for many residents of New England. An early winter snow dropped several inches of snow on the region, leaving many without power, prompting many towns to shift their Halloween festivities to the coming weekend.

The image above was taken before the games began, while my family were looking for pumpkins for the front step. Taken with my iPhone this image was processed with my usual lomography workflow.