Thursday, February 27, 2014

Winter Sunset - Zion National Park

Now Here's a Cabin With a View!!

Our little Casita is about a half hour drive to Zion National Park, one of my FAVORITE places of all time.  I've been anxiously waiting for spring to come when the brilliant green leaves of the cottonwood trees and grasses make such a striking contrast to the red cliffs.  But yesterday, I just couldn't wait. 

I discovered a back road that skirts around the edge of the park that I had not known existed and found some breathtakingly, majestic views.  I spent an hour or so at sunset watching these beautiful cliffs catch on fire as the sun moved closer to the horizon.  

I'm assuming the land in this valley is privately owned, and just outside the park, since there were several privately owned cabins.  What a view they have, even in winter!    

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Monday, February 17, 2014

Make a Statement!

Dare to be different, 
Dare to make a statement, 
Dare to stand up and be noticed,
Dare to stand for something. 

I was going through some photos I took last spring, (and longing for spring to come again soon), and this one reminded me of a lovely conversation I had with my daughter-in-law today. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

MORE Deep Thoughts from Cari and Me!

Thank you for all your thoughtful comments on THIS recent post.

I'd like to comment on Cari's comment, which was: "This was a big huge enormous deal when I worked at a newspaper. There are very VERY strict rules about how much a photo can be altered using software. Pretty much it boiled down to, "If you can do it in a dark room, you can do it to a photo in the newspaper." And pretty much that means using the lasso tool and some dodge and burning. Anything outside that was considered "unethical" and actually while I worked there, a fella lost his job because he altered a photo too much and put the newspaper's reputation as a trusted unbiased source in jeopardy. As a photojournalist, you had to be clear about whether or not your image was documenting something or whether it was a piece of art. If it ran in the newspaper it had better not be "blessed" at all."

Cari is absolutely correct in stating that a photojournalist has a responsibility to accurately capture an event honestly and realistically.  But that being said, even if a photo is absolutely accurate, it can still mislead or influence or sway the viewer in one way or another.

An unethical photojournalist still has the ability to alter a viewer's perception of an event even if the photos she takes are accurate.  Say for example, I'm covering a protest and the scene is one with policemen and protestors confronting each other.  I may choose a photo angle prominently showing an angry policeman's face with a club raised, (influencing the viewer to sympathize with the protestors and have negative feelings about police brutality), or maybe I will choose to shoot one of the protestors throwing a bottle at a policeman, (negative feelings toward the protestors).  Or maybe I take a shot in one direction showing beautiful blue sky and cherry blossoms in the background (happy feelings about the protest), or maybe I choose to turn the other way and take shots with the background showing a dark alley littered with garbage (negative feelings about the protest).  If I didn't produce photos that showed a balanced view of the protest, I'd be unethical, even without any post editing.

But what if I did edit my photos.  What if I wanted to use software to crop in tight to better see the subject or action of the story.  What if my best image came out a bit soft and I wanted to use software to sharpen it and make it more presentable for print.  What if I shot in color and I wanted to use software to turn it into a black & white image?  In my opinion, all these types of computer software editing would be perfectly ethical. 

Here is another example.  Say I'm a commercial photographer and I'm hired to take photos of a tropical resort for an advertising campaign with the goal of attracting more vacationers.  Of course my boss wants the photos to look beautiful and inviting, with azure blue skies and the turquoise ocean in the background.  No problem, because the resort is beautiful, the sky is beautiful and the ocean is beautiful, and I can get all that in a photo.  But what if there is a huge, stinky, garbage dump on one side of the resort, and railroad tracks with trains that run throughout the night along the other side of the resort?  Would I be unethical if I left those elements out of my photo???

Well, for me, the answer is Yes, and No!  Yes, this would be unethical if I knew my photos were being used to accurately represent what the resort looked like from the eyes of a paying vacationer, because even if the resort itself was beautiful, I know that vacationers influenced by my photos would feel disappointed if downright cheated seeing the surrounding area.  But if I was taking the photo to show the beautiful architecture of the resort and the crystal clear ocean, and my goal was to show my blog viewers a glimpse of the beauty in a certain place, then it would not be unethical to crop out those elements.

As photographers, we must compose every shot we take, and unless we are using a fisheye lens, (which also distorts reality, as do any kind of camera filters, black & white images, etc.), we always have to pick and chose what we include in the frame, and what we exclude.

So it all boils down to integrity, meaning we should be governed by the purpose and intent of the photo and the message or story we are trying to tell the viewer.  If I'm using my camera as a tool to document reality, (photojournalist, scientist, etc.), I will have a strict and stringent set of guidelines.  If, however, I'm using my camera as a tool to expand my creativity and artistry, then pretty much anything goes! 


Saturday, February 15, 2014

My Valentines!

When I posted a photo of my most recent granddaughter a couple of posts ago, Diane suggested that I post photos of all my grandchildren.   Asking a grandmother to do that is the granddaddy of all photo requests for me, as I'm sure it would be for any grandmother.  The following are random shots from this past year going from the oldest to the youngest.  (I won't post their names, as I didn't get permission from their parents.)  With Valentines like these, who needs anything else!!!!

This is the last photo I took of our little angel who passed away several years ago.

(This photo was taken by his Mommy)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Deep Thoughts.........

Jan's comment about my last two posts sparked a few thoughts I'd like share.

I mentioned that I had taken the photos with my iphone, and her comment was:  "Those are spectacular photos from your phone. Those little cameras do a great job but I'm sure you added some "blessings" to the final product."  

Jan was giving me a sincere compliment, (thank you Jan), but I began thinking about what she meant by adding some 'blessings' to the final product.  I don't know for sure, but I'm thinking she was referring to editing or enhancing the photos on the computer, which I often do.  But in reality, that's a minor part of the process.

I think that years ago, before Photoshop, most of us did not realize that many photos, back to Ansel Adams and beyond, were 'retouched' in the darkroom, and more recently with the invention of Photoshop and other programs, 'edited' on the computer.  In those days when we saw a photo of a beautiful portrait or a spectacular landscape, we just assumed it came straight out of the camera and we applauded the artistry of the photographer.

Fast forward a few years and now most everyone knows about Photoshop and the ability photographers have to alter their photos.  Plus, sophisticated digital cameras are now owned by it seems most everyone, not just professionals.  It is easy to suspect that now every beautiful photo has been edited and that photographers can give every photo the 'wow' factor with just a few mouse clicks.  This idea goes hand in hand with the idea that the bigger and more expensive the camera, the better the photos will be.  (I can't tell you how many people have said to me, "I really need to get a good camera so I can take pictures like that").  In reality, both of these notions are not accurate.

First of all, no amount of editing can turn a bad photo into a wow photo, (unless you are going for something abstract, fantasy or unconventional in some other way).  Second, even the most expensive cameras take bad photos, lots of them!

The bottom line is that the photographer taking the photo is still the major factor that determines whether a photo is mediocre or awesome.  Learning to 'see the light', learning to recognize an interesting composition,  taking the time to put all the elements together, being at the right place at the right time, etc., these are the most important things that will determine the quality of a photo.

Here is a repost of one of the photos Jan was referring to, and here's how I came to take this photo.  Late afternoon I noticed that the sky was lightly overcast with thin clouds which created soft, beautiful shadows on the red rock, unlike the harsh shadows and washed out colors that direct sunlight causes.  I knew the weather conditions were right for beautiful light.  I picked the time when I knew the sun would be low in the sky, just before sunset when the warm light would enhance the red rocks.  I looked for a composition where the red rocks were facing the right direction and were bathed in the warm sunlight. Then I looked for an interesting foreground object, (the cactus), and studied the scene from several directions.  When it all came together, I took the photo.  I did very little editing on the computer, mainly cropped out a rock I thought was distracting.  And since I used my iphone to take the photo, I didn't use any fancy settings, lenses or filters.  I didn't do anything difficult, just took a little time and used a little easily learned knowledge, and that's what counts.

Just to show you the difference, I went back to the same spot the next day, not giving any thought to the things I took into consideration for the first photo.  I just walked to the same spot in the middle of the day and snapped a shot.  This time the sky was heavily overcast but still much brighter than the scenery.  The camera automatically reduced the exposure because of the bright sky, making all the scenery look dark.  A large part of the composition shows an unattractive road and boring white sky. 

Bottom line No amount of editing can compensate for an uninteresting composition and poor light.  Thoughtful decisions made by the photographer are always the beginning of a great photo, and then sometimes, editing can make a great photo even better.  (In the case of the two photos Jan was talking about, the 'blessings' did not take place in the computer, but in the field!)


Monday, February 10, 2014

Winter Sunset in Snow Canyon - #2

A winter sunset warms the red rocks in Snow Canyon, Utah.
(Taken with my iphone.)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Winter Sunset in Snow Canyon

Snow Canyon, Utah

Snow Canyon is a beautiful little state park about 5 minutes away from our winter 'casita', (small vacation home).  The most prominent features in the park are beautiful red rock cliffs intermixed with black lava rock, which makes for a very striking combination.  Then seemingly out of context, white/yellow rock mountains appear.  In spring, the desert floor is often dotted with beautiful cactus blooms and wild flowers, but now in winter, the only color to be found is in the awesome rock formations enhanced to a warm golden hue by the setting sun.

(This shot was taken with my iphone on an evening walk last night.)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Beautiful Evelyn!

My 11th Grandchild!  Isn't she darling!