Friday, April 22, 2016

Published 9:57 PM by with 0 comment

Image Acquisition - Best Practices

I think it's fair to say that, for most people, the immediacy of digital photography is preferred over the film equivalent of the good old days. It's certainly less expensive than film, costing virtually nothing to shoot as many images as we please. This can also lead to the side effect of amassing gigabytes of unneeded and unwanted image files.

Recently, I began to run out of space on my two main hard drives. I examined the data in greater detail and found that I had tens of thousands of photographs just sitting there unedited. The actual quantity of images didn't really surprise me but it was a wakeup call nonetheless. I realized that I'm shooting more photographs than I can ever mentally or digitally process. So it made me think about changing a few of bad habits.

1. Slow down and pay attention - When possible, I will put on the brakes while photographing a subject. I will try to imagine only having 12 exposures on a roll of film so that every shot counts. Each composition needs to be studied and fully contemplated before I press the shutter (assuming it's not an action or event-based scene). This is a good exercise in general because it will yield fewer photos and more "keepers".
2. Keywords - Most all photo editing software allows you to add keywords to the metadata in your image. It's wise to do this at the capture stage so that image of your dog in Barbados can be easily found amongst the thousand shots you took of your cat in Barbados. I haven't been doing this consistently so I will fix that right now.
3. Delete, delete, delete - When I have thoroughly reviewed and chosen my best shots, I will trash the rejects. I'm a photo hoarder, never wanting to delete anything for fear I'll need it for some abstract reason in the distant future. In the 15 years I've been shooting, this need has never materialized.

There are those who say that large hard drives are cheap and there's no need to worry about storing thousands of photos. That may be the case but, with some simple media management, I can spend more time editing and less time sorting. That's what I want.

Digital photography is a truly amazing medium and we have all the tools needed to manage our photographs efficiently. I think a marriage of today's technology and some time-honored principles from the past will make the experience more productive...and enjoyable.

My Adobe Spark (formerly Slate) presentation of this post is available here

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Sunday, April 17, 2016

Published 11:52 PM by with 0 comment

Down by the Sea - An Ode to the Golden Hour

One morning I walked along the shore on a favorite beach of mine. I still had a lingering cough from a recent illness. Breathing in the sea air felt good. There was a tiny glimmer of life in the far distance, a man and his dog, but that was all at this early hour.

The landscape feels truly primitive when I'm alone. I'm reminded of the massive shift in time when grains of sand sift through my fingers. Any worries I had that morning were caught up in the undertow and sucked away. I felt free.

I took another breath, deep and slow, and could taste the salt. There was a slight breeze on my skin that had a rhythm to it, echoing the ripples of the water itself. It was all in perfect harmony as I continued my ramble, dodging the incoming waves.
The old man and his dog passed by and we exchanged a friendly nod. It was like we both recognized the privilege of having this place to ourselves. Like we were a part of some secret society.

I walked unsteadily across smooth rocks, partially submerged, slippery with seaweed. Soon the first fingers of light gripped the horizon and edged their way upward. The texture of the sand stood up in sharp relief as the entire landscape morphed into a different version of itself.

Continuing its ascension, the sun forced its way past the thick marine layer and shone with all its might. I, standing by a cave-like structure, watched as the glow found its way inside the dark rock.

The breeze faded and the chill of dawn slid back into the shadows. It was time for me to leave. Morning had arrived and, at that precise moment, I knew it was going to be a good day.

My Adobe Spark (formerly Slate) presentation of this post is available here

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Published 12:29 AM by with 0 comment

Through a Pinhole

I'm always experimenting with lenses, old and new, in my attempt to capture a presence or soul in my work. Most recently, I've even attached an old bellows camera from the early 1900s to my camera.When I look back on these photographs, each has their own personality. To me, they are not a mere reflection of the everyday world, rather, they are altered versions of the familiar. 
I'd heard of a thing called pinhole photography over the years but never thought about applying it in a digital context. The pinhole method, in itself, is a fascinating process. Basically anything that can be light-tight, such as a cookie tin or a wooden box can become a pinhole camera.
Originally discovered centuries ago, it was observed that light coming through a tiny hole in an otherwise dark enclosure would project an upside down image on the opposite wall. This became known as theCamera Obscura (dark room). During the Renaissance, artists used this principle to create what were known as Perspective Instruments. They traced the projected image onto paper or canvas to create a realistic depiction of the world.
Fascinating, you say, but what has that got to do with pinhole photography? Everything, actually. By removing the lens from my camera and replacing it with a body cap, it becomes a light-sealed chamber. By creating a tiny pinhole in the cap, I have my own Camera Obscura. Now I have the ability to capture images without using a lens at all! There's something magical about the process.
By its nature, especially in the digital realm, pinhole photographs are not sharp. In fact, that's part of their charm. Also, because the hole is so tiny, only a small amount of light gets through to the camera. It takes much longer to make an exposure than using a traditional lens. Exposure times can range from a few seconds to hours.
These long exposures provide many creative opportunities. In a fun shot that was 30 seconds long, for instance, I stood on one side of the scene for about 12 seconds and then quickly shifted to the other side for another 12 seconds. The resulting photograph looks like there were two people present.

Pinhole photography has a strong community of inventors. Entire rooms have been converted to pinhole cameras. People have even transformed their cars into image-making devices.

While the genre itself is traditionally more associated with film photography, digital does occupy a small and growing community.

More than other traditional methods of photography, pinholing lends itself the most to creative expression. Search any pinhole photographer on the Web and you will find images as individual as the artists who made them. 

A big part of the appeal for me is that I never know exactly what the final photograph will look like, especially if there's motion involved. I particularly like slowly shifting my body in a self portrait to create a ghost-like presence. It expands on the notion that photography captures a single moment in time. When using a pinhole, it's more about recording the actual passing of time.

When we finally settle down from our life on the road, I may make my own pinhole camera and try using film. I'm definitely tempted to turn my RV into a camera but I don't think Linda would be too keen on that. In the meantime, I'm happy to have found yet another way to create images that feel more imagined than real.

My Adobe Spark (formerly Slate) presentation of this post is available here

If you would like to keep up with my travels, sign up to be notified of new posts. Peace.

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