Wednesday, November 25, 2015

I Am Thankful!


Today was busy!  Shopping, cleaning, cooking... all the preparations for our Thanksgiving celebration tomorrow.  My mom taught me that setting the table the night before company comes not only saves time on the big day, but also creates a peaceful feeling and a few minutes to reflect on the reason for the celebration.  I continue my mom's tradition.  After setting my table tonight, I lit the candles and took a few minutes to enjoy the quiet and to say a little prayer of THANKSGIVING for all of my many blessings, far too many to name, and far more than I deserve!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

She Bows in Submission

She bows her head in submission 
to her inevitable fate as winter finally arrives. 
 I hope she knows I still see beauty and grace in her old age. 

It is a blessing to see the beauty in nature 
in all seasons of life and death. 

This was shot out of my bedroom window yesterday, 
documenting the first snowfall of the season 
at our northern Utah home.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Tech Talk Tuesday - Are You a PHOTOSNOB?

As noted in my last Tech Talk Tuesday, we all have our own preferences and personal style of photography, just as we do with other art forms, such as painting.  In the past decade photography has evolved and diversified rapidly into many new and wonderful art styles.  In my opinion, we have a responsibility to NOT be 'photosnobs'.  By that I mean, our own preferences should not be seen as superior, or of greater value than someone else's preferences......only different!

This week I've encountered several situations where photographs and/or photographers were judged solely on how their images were produced, not on the merit of the images themselves.  In other words, the process was viewed as more important than the result. 

For example, one might think the work of a photographer who composites several images into one shot, or who uses focus stacking to create a sharper image, or who digitally creates a beautiful 'painterly' look to a photo, is superior because that photographer has developed exceptional skills over and above the basic photography skills necessary to produce a traditional SOOTC image.  They view their computer and editing expertise as advanced photography processing skills.

In the other camp, the SOOTC shooter may think of himself as a purist, and he believes 'getting it right in the camera' and using traditional techniques should be the only way to create 'real' photography that holds the most value.  He may feel his photography skills are superior because he thinks the digital photographer is cheating or making up for poor photography skills by fixing bad photos.

In my opinion, both of these extreme attitudes show disrespect for personal artistic expression.  In my mind, this would be like saying the painter who uses something he sees with his eyes as his inspiration, is better than a painter who uses something he sees in his mind as his inspiration!  Ultimately, it's the end result on canvas that matters!

Consider the following.  You might be a 'photosnob' if:
*  You feel the need to ask a photographer if his image is edited. 
*  You tend to be critical of certain photo and editing techniques or methods used by digital photographers today.
*  You think that how a photo or image is made, does affect its intrinsic value.
*  You think that photographers who do not use Photoshop or other computer editing programs are old fashioned and are afraid to learn new skills.
*  You have changed your opinion or were disappointed in a photo you initially admired, when you found out it was produced in a way you think is unacceptable.

After many years as a photographer, (first traditional, now traditional and digital), I try to keep what I feel is a healthy balance between my 'in the field' skills, (just me and my camera), and my 'in the digital darkroom' skills, (just me and my computer).  There are many photographers I admire.  Some of my favorite photographers produce images that are minimally edited, and some produce images that are way over the top and blatantly manipulated.  I love them all!  I know the majority of the photos I love have been processed, some in traditional ways and others with modern technology, but often it is impossible for me to tell how they were edited, or how little or how much.  I don't know, I don't ask, nor do I care, because for me: 

 The beauty is in the image, regardless of how it was produced!!


To check your 'photosnob' meter,  decide how you feel about the following photo then answer the questions below:

*  Do you love this photo?
*  Does this photo not appeal to you?
*  Does it look like a SOOTC shot?
*  Does it look like a composite or heavily edited image?
*  Would you like it less if I told you I added the background?
*  Would you like it more if I told you I added the background?
*  Would it be easier to decide if you liked it if I showed you the 'before' shot to compare?
*  Do you want to know if I added the background?
*  Do you like it less because the background makes it look more like a painting than a traditional photograph?
*  Do you think I shouldn't call it a 'photograph' because I digitally manipulated the SOOTC original and didn't tell anyone? 

Only two of the above questions are valid to me.  Guess which ones!!!  
If you guessed the first two, you are right.  These are the only questions that determine if your personal preference is based on how you feel about the image itself, and not on any prejudice about how it was produced.

(All right, a few of you might actually be curious to know if this is a SOOTC shot, or if I added the background from a second exposure in post processing.  Keep scrolling down and you'll find the answer.)


This is a SOOTC shot, with a slight crop.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Powell Plateau Wild Flowers

 Powell Plateau Wild Flowers

We were on a RZR ride late last summer near Bryce National Park.  One day we explored some of the surrounding area, and found beautiful 'secret garden', even though it was very late in the season for most Utah wild flowers.  (Would it spoil this picture for you if I said there is a very, large, very ugly cell tower right next to where I was standing!)

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Tech Talk Tuesday - Edit to Enhance or Degrade

As photographers, when do we know our work is done and our photo or image is ready to print or to publish on the internet???

This decision can truly be confusing for photographers.  Back in the day, we would choose what kind of film we wanted to use, we'd take 36 shots, and then hope that a few would be 'keepers' when they were developed.  Pretty simple!  (I'm talking here about the average amateur photographer who did not have their own darkroom and did not develop or retouch their own work, which in those days, took considerable time and effort.)

With the technology of today, the possibilities are endless.  We still have the option of printing or publishing SOOTC (straight out of the camera).  But with the editing programs, plugins, apps, that are readily available today on our computers, pads and phones, the sky is the limit.  We can alter our images in minor ways, or we can create composites or manipulate our images so they are unrecognizable from the original shot.

Here are some questions:  When is enough, enough?  How much manipulation should I do?    How many editing programs should I buy?  How many different 'looks' should I create before choosing the 'best' one? How much time should I be spending on the computer to edit an image?  Do you find yourself sitting at your computer, looking at your images, and asking yourself some of these questions? I do!

The variety and complexity of the choices today's photographers have to make can be mind boggling, because as you already can guess, there is absolutely no correct answer to any of these questions.

The following is a good example of what I'm talking about:

Here is my original image.  It is acceptable, but for me, kind of boring.  I tend to not like totally out of focus backgrounds.  So it's time to start editing and experimenting.

Adding Bokeh
Since I'm a big fan of bokeh and interesting lighting and lens effects, I came up with this.  I think it is a bit more interesting and holds my attention a bit more than the first image.  But is this the best I can do?

 Softened and Topaz Impression
Recently I've seen some beautiful images on the internet where the artists have used the Topaz Impression editing program, so I downloaded a trial version to play around with.  I softened this image, while keeping the ladybug sharp, then added a texture.  When I manipulate a landscape or nature shot, I usually want to viewer to feel the image is 'believable' and could be SOOTC, so I strive for editing that is not blatantly obvious.  This treatment created a different and interesting look, but was not quite believable to me.

Blended in a Second Image
I often shoot out of focus images of foliage, flowers and other nature scenes to use as background interest.  This is what I did with this photo.  For me, adding some form and a hint of background foliage makes this image more believable and interesting. 

Of course this is all personal preference.  Some would prefer the SOOTC shot, others might prefer one of the other versions, and others would have a totally different editing idea.  But at some point we all have too decide when enough is enough.  We need to develop the ability to learn when our editing improves an image, and know when to stop before we over manipulate and ruin an image.