WHY WE TAKE PICTURES - DO YOU REALLY KNOW?
Those who know my story know that I picked up my first SLR in 1966. After shooting the third roll of film, I was hooked. At the time, my photography was about capturing the moment; to have a permanent visual reminder of a place or a person. I had just gotten married so most of my people pictures were of my new bride. I recall how excited I was to go to the drug store and open the white envelope containing my pictures. After quickly shuffling through the pictures, I would then going through them again to examine them more closely, trying to figure out why some snapshots worked and why other were not as pleasing.
I'm happy to report, the thrill is still there. However, some things have changed. One change is now I'm doing my self-critique while looking at the digital files on my computer. Secondly, I have come to the conclusion that my motivation for taking pictures has changed over the years. For the past six years, my photography has been about trying to capture images that are worthy of hanging on a wall. Admittedly, some of the initial thrill I got from photography was being affected by the self-imposed pressure I was putting on myself to get the perfect, commercially successful, fine art print.
I have talked with other photographers who confess their motivation for photography has gone through changes. For some, their primary motivation is to see how many "likes" they get for pictures they post to Facebook and Instagram. Some admit they have allowed their definition of success to be based on the approval of others. I remember hearing Bill Fortney, photographer, instructor, workshop leader, and friend, make a strong statement that hit me right between the eyes. To paraphrase Bill, "You will have more fun taking pictures and your images will improve when you're not motivated by the opinions of others."
The Orchid on Green image is a favorite of mine. For me, the softness, the selective focus, and the texture of the background creates in me an emotion of calm and peacefulness. This image reflects how I felt at the time I was creating it, and that feeling returns every time I look at the image. For me, it would be defeating to allow the number of Facebook and Instagram "Likes" to influence my opinion of this image. Bottom line; my renewed motivation is about capturing images that reflect who I am, how I feel, and how I see things.
Don't get me wrong, I will always get tremendous satisfaction from the positive response of others regarding my photography. It's like icing on the cake, and I like cake.
I CAN'T EXPLAIN IT - MAYBE IT WAS A TRAP
I have been on a guilt trip for the past six months. I have been feeling overwhelmingly guilty that I haven't taken the time to post to my blog. The weight of that guilt kept getting heavier and heavier with each passing week. Like I said in the heading, "I CAN'T EXPLAIN IT", but actually I think I can.
My dear friend, business coach and mentor, Mark LeBlanc, describes the three traps that business owners tend to fall into. One of those traps is the value trap. We self-diagnosis and come to the conclusion that what we do is of little or no value to anyone else. We can begin to question ourselves as to, "why bother, does it matter to anyone else?" In reality, it doesn't have to matter to anyone else. Is what we do, the photographs we take, the images we create, does it matter to me. Do I still love photography? Yes! Do I still enjoy sharing my images and sharing the experience behind them? Yes!
Based on those two yeses, I'm back. I plan to post at least once a week; sometimes more, and occasionally, sometimes less.
P.S. If you're reading this, thanks for patiently waiting.
CHOOSING THE RIGHT PLUGIN - A TOOL FOR EVERY SITUATION
If you're into landscape photography you know that it can be frustrating to arrive at a great location, with a great subject, and then be faced with poor weather conditions. I prefer a partly cloudy day with big, fluffy clouds scattered about. That allows me several lighting options. I can shoot the scene, highlighting the blue sky and clouds, or I can wait for the sun to go behind a cloud and shoot in diffused light.
A total gray sky with no texture can produce a very boring image. That's when plugins can come to the rescue. I applied a texture layer to this image to create some interest and add some depth to the sky. Then I pushed the blue saturation slider a little to create contrast with the red roof of the lighthouse.
IT DOES NOT ALWAYS GO ACCORDING TO PLAN - DO THE BEST WITH WHAT YOU HAVE
The long-range forecast had predicted overcast skies. If you've been following me for awhile, you know I prefer cloudy days, as do a lot of photographers. Obviously, the forecast was wrong. Bright sunny day with patches of fluffy clouds. And with the location about 3 1/2 hours away, there was nothing to do but try to make the best of it. The forecast also indicated that the Japanese maples would be dressed in their brilliant red. That too, was not the case.
I'm beginning to realize I get motivated with facing a challenge, particularly with photography. So my idea of meeting the challenge was to rely on post-processing. I know, ideally you want to capture the shot in the camera, but I don't live in a perfect world and software and plugins are there for a reason.
A push of the vibrancy slider, a tweaking of the saturation and luminance sliders and a little texturing rescued the day.
GIVE MORE SPACE TO WHAT IS IMPORTANT - MAKE IT PART OF THE COMPOSITION PROCESS
This image has special meaning to me. This bridge is located in Duluth, MN. This is where my wife and I spent the first three years of our marriage So when we had a chance to return to Duluth, I already new the aerial bridge was a must stop.
Earlier in the day, we scouted out the locations to shoot from that would provide the best night view. Once there, I started setting up for the shot. At 33 degrees, I wasn't eager to spend a lot of time getting my gear ready. My wife was hoping I would just hit the shutter button and head for the warmth of the car.
The tripod was setup, the camera settings were dialed in, it was time to get the picture. Then the moment of decision came. How do I compose? Do I lower the horizon line to reveal a lot of the sky with the hint of magenta in the clouds? Do I raise the horizon line to reveal more water? So what was going to make the image? I decided it was the reflection of the colored lights in the water.
Obviously, this is a personal choice. A choice every photographer makes when preparing to hit the shutter button. There is no wrong answer here regarding the horizon. I simply chose to emphasize the reflection. My wife was quick to agree with my choice because it was 33 degrees.