Wednesday, May 7, 2014

When a Photo Becomes the Canvas

Horse With No Name

I posted this photo on several photography sites and received great reviews.  Evidently the image was pleasing to some people other than myself.   

Question:  Is a pleasing image enough in and of itself, or, to be pleasing and acceptable, does the viewer need to approve of the way it was produced?   Does the artist need to reveal or describe the techniques and process used to produce the image, before the viewer can evaluate whether that image is good or not? Does a painter tell us the sizes and types of brushes he used, justify the reason why his abstract of a person only has one eye, why he painted tree leaves turquoise, or why his sunset is in black & white when his eyes see orange and red?  Does he need to tell us where his inspiration came from in the first place?   Do we need to know all this information before we make a value judgment about the finished piece of art???

Consider this situation:  Several times I have observed people discussing and admiring a photo image.   Then when one says something like, "oh that must have been photoshopped",  the value of the photo is dismissed as not being as worthwhile, despite the fact that it is a great image.  I think that while digital photography and using advanced technology to create beautiful art has opened up amazing opportunities for artists, the general public is not quite up to speed or accepting.  For many people, a photo is still just a photo and adding to it or taking away from it is cheating and devalues the finished piece of art. 

I wish these people could have been at the workshop I attended last week.  A professional photographer, educator and digital artist talked a bit about Ansel Adams and showed and discussed some of his most famous photographs.  He showed pictures of his original negatives and then what the finished, famous photos turned out to be, (which incidentally, looked nothing like the original photographs after he spent hours in the dark room)!  If the general public knew the extensive manipulation Mr. Adams did to produce his work, I would not be having this discussion since he is still one of the most famous and well known photographers of all time.  The bottom line is that photography has ALWAYS been about art, and has ALWAYS been about the artist's views and unique renditions of life and reality.   I've said this before, and this professional photographer echoed my sentiment, that if Ansel Adams were alive today he'd be an avid proponent of digital, Photoshop and every other editing program or medium that would make his work as an artist easier!

Now, even though I don't think you need to know how I produced the above photo to enjoy it,  for your amusement (I hope), I will show you my straight out of the camera shot and tell you the story and inspiration I had in going from the beginning shot to the final image above.  Drum roll please........expect to be wowed........here it is:




Wait for it.........wait for it...........here it comes.......




Is the anticipation building........





I won't make you wait any longer........





 TA DA!  What?  You're not wowed???  Didn't think so.  Probably even disappointed.  Well when I downloaded this shot on my big screen computer monitor I wasn't disappointed, in fact I was excited.  Because when I took this I already had the inspiration and vision of what my final image would look like and this was the perfect starting point.  In other words the photo became my beginning canvas.

But let me start at the beginning.  This is a roundabout (traffic circle), that I go through often when we are at our little casita in southern Utah.  The artwork of this roundabout is truly beautiful in reality.  The big rock outcroppings are all manufactured, (not real), although they look perfectly real, and all around the circle are beautiful wild stallions, horses in bronze, and on the side not showing is a handsome native American warrior galloping on one of those beautiful horses.  (You can just see a bit of him behind the right rock, that I removed in the final image because it was distracting.) 

One evening I was driving there at sunset, and in my mind's eye I could see a stunning image just waiting to be revealed.  I've had that image in my mind for several months, and finally a few weeks ago I grabbed my camera and decided I would make that vision a reality.  

Capturing the actual image was the hardest part.  After walking all around, I realized that in order to isolate one of the horses in the space between the rock outcroppings and still be facing the right direction to capture a silhouette image after the sun went down,  I had to be standing right in the middle of the street.  Of course there was no time to set up a tripod.  I had to wait for an opening in the traffic, run out and snap a few shots, then quickly get out of the way of oncoming cars.  I did this numerous times, from various angles and I still didn't get the horizon level.  I didn't worry about that or the lovely 'yield' sign I managed to include, because all that would be corrected later.  And believe it or not, because I have my camera set to shoot RAW images, there was still a lot of color left over from the sunset, that I was able to bring back when I was creating the final image.  It was still not as dramatic as the image in my mind, however, so I worked until I got the colors and mood I wanted.

That's it!  If you stuck with me through this, I hope you enjoyed my journey from beginning inspiration to end result.  For me, it is a very fun and satisfying experience!

P.S.  Here's a link to Scott's Sunset Sunday to see another beautiful sunset.

   

19 comments:

S. Etole said...

This is remarkable. Thoroughly enjoyed hearing about the process, too.

Robin Lamb said...

Karen, excellent! I agree with you! A carpenter has tools he uses to build thing! Why should't a photographer use all the tools available too!
That's a great image!

Robin Lamb said...

Karen, PS: I don't know if you have the link to my other blog, so I thought I'd share it with you:http://robinsdaily.wordpress.com
This blog is all my other images besides birds!

Laura~Pretty Pix said...

Wonderful post, Karen!
I agree completely. I see photography as an art form.. and in art anything goes.
As artists behind the camera and in front of a computer we create what our mind's eye sees. How we get to our final image doesn't matter.. what does is that image itself.
I'm an avid believer in this.
PS.. Your image is stunningly beautiful!!!

Montanagirl said...

Stunning outcome! I have photographed those same horses when we were down there. Now you've inspired me to go have another look at the photos - and maybe tinker a little. lol

Montanagirl said...

Stunning outcome! I have photographed those same horses when we were down there. Now you've inspired me to go have another look at the photos - and maybe tinker a little. lol

George said...

Your first image is superb. In my humble opinion it is not necessary to know all the technical details of how the image was created in order for it to be appreciated as beautiful art. This is a very thought-provoking post.

Thoughtfully Blended Hearts said...

Amazing....love it and I'm so glad you didn't get run over!!!

janc@mac.com said...

Fabulous picture and perfect discussion. I loved learning more about photography as art. I regularly use the enhance, crop, adjust, and straighten helps in iPhoto but I fear I'll never be an artist as a photographer :)

Anita Johnson said...

I'm not going to read the other comments until I'm done. I have struggled with the whole photoshop thing and photography. Ansel Adams did take the photo...and maybe added the drama that he saw with his own eyes. You did the same...the scene must have struck you as stunning (which the shot was by the way). I struggle a bit with the created photo...I once saw a beautiful shot of the moon over the blooming desert...it was excellent. And then I read the moon was added. I don't know...maybe I am an old dog that needs to learn a few new tricks. I must admit my opinion of the photo changed. Anyway, I am glad you left a comment, it has been way too long since I visited your beautiful blog!

Anita Johnson said...

I just had a cup of coffee and looked at your photography site...your work is beautiful!

Hilary said...

I'm really glad that you posted this.

There seems to be a certain mindset about Straight Out Of the Camera shots. Don't get me wrong, folks are rightfully proud of images captured with one click and without tinkering. But that's just one end of the photography spectrum. In varying degrees, there's a great deal more to it for many of us, as you've illustrated so beautifully.

I tend to simply crop, sharpen and bump colour slightly if I figure it needs it. I'll not hesitate to clone out something like the yield sign either. Then, I'm never sure what else I can do to improve upon it.. I'm just not that creative.

But I am always so impressed with what people can do with their artists eye. Art is art. It's in the eye of the beholder and in the hands of the artist. You did a beautiful job with what was already a fine image. Bravo, Karen!

Barb said...

I like knowing your backstory of the photo, but I don't think it's necessary. As I view a photo, my imagination creates a story that may have nothing to do with the actual image. The first photo creates a different storyline in my mind than the second. Congratulations on POTW.

Tabor said...

I probably do more photoshopped work than straight out of the camera because I like the tinkering and learning process from it. I think as long as a photographer is honest there is no need for feeling one process is talent and the other not. Yes there will always be purists, but they are not thefinal judges, the artist is. congrats on your POTW

TexWisGirl said...

i enjoyed seeing and reading this. :) great art! congrats on your POTW at hilary's!

Linda said...

That is indeed a piece of art, and I appreciate you sharing this perspective. I have learned a lot about what can make an interesting picture by looking at what others photograph, and sometimes take a step further.

Mersad said...

Amazing edit, and the digital darkroom is nothing to be ashamed of. It's to be celebrated. I agree with you fully there.

Mersad
Mersad Donko Photography

Scott said...

I really love your finished image and thanks for the reminder today, Karen.

I looked at this post last week and gave it quite a bit of thought. I'm one of those people who often get hung up on how something is done instead of the end result. In photography as in any art I believe in most cases it is the end result that really counts.

In my Sunset Sunday post today it is actually a blending of two images of the same thing. In one image I liked the foreground (everything under the sky) and in the other I liked the sky/sunset. They were just different exposures of the exact same shot and so I put them on top of each other and masked to create the blend.

I love your finished image though I have to admit that I wondered how you got so lucky as to have that perfect horse there and wondered if it had been inserted. I almost wish I had not seen the original to see that it was a sculptured horse which took away a little of the fantasy for me.

Photography is an art form for me and I LOVE the creation process, whether it is in the camera or in the "virtual darkroom" or, as in most of my own shots, a combination of both.

Jinksy said...

Brilliant explanation of how beauty in the eye of the beholder is what counts in any work of art. Thank you.