Friday, December 26, 2008

Through A B & W Lens

What do you photograph when there is nothing to photograph? Well, one thing I like to do is to start looking around with my B & W lens. Yeah, you are right. There really isn't a so called black and white lens, but if I imagine that there really is such a thing then I can force my eyes - brain(?) - to see in B & W and forsee what could be.

These photos were taken on Christmas Eve while I was waiting for my wife to come out of P.T. Sitting in my jeep on a rainy winters day looking out through wet windows, there really isn't much color to see. This is when looking through my B & W lens becomes easier. The trick is to frame, focus and shoot between the wiper scraping across the windshield or roll down the window and shoot before to much rain or sleet comes in. It really helps if you pre-visualize, first, what the final image is going to be.

Did you know that if you would look at a negative of an Ansel Adams photograph you would not recognize it from the finished product? Ansel would first visualize what the finished image should be. Then he would expose for the look he was going for and in his darkroom he would use different chemicals, paper and dodging and burning techniques until the image would come out of the bath looking like he first saw it in his mind when he took the original shot.

With digital imaging we can do, basically, the same. Try it some time. Pre-visualize what the finished image should be and set your exposure accordingly, frame, focus and shoot. Then in your favorite digital darkroom software work on the digital negative until you get it to come out of the "bath" looking like it was when you first visualized it in your mind. This can go a long way in training your mind to see what others may not, and what you know is there. And, most important, shoot for your own enjoyment and not to please others.

Unless you are photographing for money what should it care if others don't like your work as long as you are satisfied with what you are doing? This took me a long time to figure this out and when I did photography became fun again. And isn't that why most of us do photography in the first place; for the enjoyment of it?

Hey, enough preaching from the pulpit. The photos are, from top to bottom:

Window Point
Pipe & Windows
Flags & Windows
217 Scratch
Icy One Way
Wrong Way

As usual, if you click on any photo you will see it in a larger version. All of these were taken with a DSLR and an 18 - 105 lens. And they were taken in normal priority mode. When I shoot for a black and white finish I try to do so with the look of something from the past, if I can. Even in B & W this is still my world.

Actually I grew up in a black and white world. By that I mean that the first TV's where in B & W, and boy was it great to watch; two channels and you waited between programs with a test chart on the screen. I still remember the Friday night fights, my Dad and his friends and Pabst. Once in awhile I even got a sip :-)

Anyway, this is my world, and even in Black and White I still love it, and you are welcome to it.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Eve Morn & Ice

Christmas Eve Morning came with freezing rain and ice. So, what else would you expect a photographer to do but to go out and photograph it.

I went downtown and found the foot mall a sheet of ice, which is what you would expect when it is below freezing and it is raining with sleet thrown in. There was some traffic moving but in the first pic, where you see the grey to black area on the foot mall, you see nothing but a sheet of ice. Naturally I have to get a closer look.

In photos two and three, which were taken from the town square, you can see the sleek & smooth ice. It was in photograph number three where I did the next wild, or stupid, thing depending on how you look at it with my age in consideration. Where it looks like it is just wet on the bricks was actually smooth clear ice. I was over on the left side next to the Gateway Center when I first noticed how slick was the ice.

I started to go across and at first I slide by accident. Then I tried on purpose to slide and when I realized how easy it was, my past came a calling. I looked around to see if anyone else was about and not seeing anyone, I did it. Just right before the brite red bricks meet the darker red ones I took about two quick steps and then one longer one and let it go and I slide almost all the way across the dark red bricks. What a rush. With a big grin on my face and heart beating fast I did it.

For the first time in about 40 years I slide on the ice. And I'm going to be 62 next month. Well, I always did say I will never grow up. No matter how old the body - my thoughts, my mind, what I feel is who I am. And I felt like being a kid again. And what better time for doing so than on Christmas Eve Morn.

I remembered the psychiatrist from MASH, Sidney Freedman I think, when he told the overworked hospital crew "Ladies and Gentlemen, take my advice, pull down your pants and slide on the ice". Well, it did release some pent up stress from work, but I did keep the pants up. I can just see an older man lying flat on his back with his pants down around his ankles. Now there is a picture :-)

Photo number four is just a shot that I wanted to record. The lights and color in what seemed like an otherwise dull scene just stood out and needed to be captured; and I did. Of course, in weather like this you really have to be careful of the other driver when out in you car, and pic number five shows just what you never thought you would see behind the wheel of the other car. Of course the fur coat looked really great.

As for the technical info on these they were taken with a DSLR and an 18 - 105 lens. In between shots I would keep the camera in my jacket and when I was ready to shoot I would take it out, frame and fire, and then put it back away. It didn't get wet to much but it did start me to thinking about getting a good raincoat for my camera. If anyone out there uses one and could recommend a good one I would greatly appreciate it.

The camera settings the photos were all shot in programmed customized mode, adding just a little in camera saturation. In photoshop elements I did Levels adjustment and then added a little sharpening and some vignetting; just trying to keep it simple.

Even though I now live outside of Cumberland it still is my city. Yeah, this is my world. It's great living and working here and I wouldn't move away unless I really had to. Actually I've been away from here at least twice and both times I came back; and glad I did.

As usual, if you click on any photo you will get a larger view and then you can hit your back button to return to the blog.

My world is great, it's colorful and you are more than welcome to it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Camera Doesn't Matter

Too many people are caught up in the "better equipment means better photos" syndrome. I've had people at youth sporting events tell me that if they had a camera like I have they could take photos as good as I. When they do get a better and more expensive camera they find out that their photos are no better than when they had the little "point & shoot" model and they cannot understand why. If I try to explain to them that the camera doesn't matter I usually get the response of "well look how good your camera takes photos"; and they can't understand that the camera is just a tool that the photographer uses.

Andreas Feininger the famous French photography once made the following statement:

"Photographers are idiots of which there are so many - say, "Oh, if only I had a Nikon or a Leica, I could make great photographs." That's the dumbest thing I ever heard in my life. It's nothing but a matter of seeing, thinking, and interest. That's what makes a good photograph. And then rejecting anything that would be bad for the picture. The wrong light, the wrong background, time and so on. Just don't do it, no matter how beautiful the subject is."

Yes, having a good camera can help in the process but it's the person behind the camea that takes the photograph. Just to give an example of this I've included this photo. It was taken on a back country road in Garrett County Maryland with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LC33 a 3.2 MP point & shoot camera through the front windshield of a moving vehicle. It was a scene that caught my eye and it looked like I was riding in a black&white photo, except for the little Red sign. So Many people have asked me how I got the Red sign in a black&white photo and they can't believe that this is a color photograph.

Camera manufacturers and retailers want you to believe that a more expensive and better camera is going to give you better photographs. However, if you can't take good photographs now a more expensive camea isn't going to help. You need to learn to use what you have now and then move up as you get better in creating your photographs. The camera really doesn't matter. What does matter is what you do, how you see, and having the ability to capture that moment in time.

If you would like some examples of what good photography looks like, check out the sites under "My Photo Links" and you will see some excellent examples of what great photography is when the photographer doesn't worry about his camera(s).
I do love my world, even the cold winters, and so will you. Yeah, this is my world and you are welcome to it.