Friday, August 26, 2016

Alcy had a couple of days off so we went to Galveston and stayed in the Tremount House.

As everyone knows the sun set behind the Island so sunsets are difficult to shoot. We generally go across to Bolivar but decided to shoot away from the sunset and I am pleased with some of the photographs. And of course we did the ferry a couple of times.

Being at the Tremont allowed us to do an early morning walk along The Strand before it got too active.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Briana and Black Tulips

A couple I did today using Topaz Glow, Adjust, Clarity, Impressions...

This is mostly Glow and then inverted. Don't know if Briana ever gets on the blog or not but if she does I have a number of photos from this shoot at Rod Flemming I would like to share.

This is the full enchilada; Glow, Adjust, Clarity and Impressions. I think of it as the black tulips shaking off all their color. Unfortunately because the new Glow 2 is so darn slow I did both of these on low resolution images so I won't be able to print them.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

A New Book, The Rule of Thirds and SOOC

Received a new book today, Rick Sammon’s Creative Visualization for Photographers. No, I haven’t read it yet but in browsing I have found a few things that to me are interesting…

First, I have recently been considering the thought that photography is presently in a period somewhat similar to the period of time when the f/64 School came to dominate Pictorialism which actually died early in the second decade of the Twentieth Century but amateurs continued the practice until well into the 1940’s. Actually we have been in this new phase for a while, everywhere except in much of amateur photography.A similar time frame may not be required for the current changes. However, it just might.

I am not sure which I find the silliest, the Rule of Thirds or SOOC but they both have their diehard enthusiasts.

Sammons at one point, I can’t find it again to do a direct quote, briefly suggests that reality in photography is dead—well, what so many photographers think of as reality (it’s actually verisimilitude, an illusion of reality). He tells a story that was relayed to him by an assistant of Ancel Adams (a member of the original f/64 Group). Apparently Ancel received a letter from one of his fans that had recently visited Yosemite. The fan wrote that he owned all of Ancel's books and was very enamored with the photography. However, on visiting Yosemite he had become very disappointed—to quote—“…the park doesn’t look that way”. Of course, it doesn’t. Being a member of f/64 did not stop Adams from applying the creative processes to his photography. So as much as many would like to think of f/64 as SOOC, it was a long, long way from it. I own two Ancel Adams prints—they are dark and moody, just like a Woodard.

There is also a photograph Sammons took of an African lion approaching through a field of tall grass. The original image placed the lion on the Rule of Thirds—the ‘corrected, enhanced, final’ version is cropped to place the lion DEAD CENTER. Oh my, oh my the sky if falling, the sky is falling—a photograph so perfectly composed ruined by moving the subject matter dead center. If we were not approaching the end times already that is sure to cinch it. We must all crawl under the bed.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Here I Go On Flower Photography Again

As most know I often take on flower photographs. Poor Alcy has to put up with my anti-flower photography tirades constantly because Alcy is and considers herself to be primarily a flower photographer.
I frequently use flower photography to illustrate what I believe is a big problem with much of amateur photography. I use flower photography as an illustration because everyone enjoys flowers, photographs flowers and can therefore relate to talking about photographs of flowers. It may be the closest thing to a universal them as can be found.
True flowers are naturally beautiful, they even sometimes smell good. But they do something that I find to be detrimental to the art of photography. They beguile the photographer. Nothing, short of a baby, can affect the mental capacity of a photographer as much as a flower (thank goodness there are not nearly as many babies around as there are flowers or photography as an art form would be totally doomed.
In my not so humble estimation a photographer has to be able to see a photograph, not a subject matter, but a photograph—there is vast difference between the two. It is almost impossible for flower photographers to get past the subject matter.
Now, I will admit that often Alcy gets a pretty decent photograph of a flower.  However, as much as she claims to want to do good flower photography, what she really wants to do is to document something she finds fascinating and quite beautiful—a flower. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It may even be laudable, enriching, life enhancing. But it flies in the face of her statement about photography. When it comes to Alcy photographing flowers, I have determined that the photograph will always be secondary to the flower and there ain’t nothin’ I can do about that.
How can I tell? It is much easier than you might surmise—just look at the area in the photograph surrounding the flower. I often say that when I look at a painting I want to see the bush or knife strokes because that is where I see the artist. In flower photography I don’t look at the flower; I look at what surrounds the flower and how the flower fits within the frame because that tells me whether the photographer is thinking about the flower or the photograph. I do not care about the flower; I care about the photograph.
I say that then I also have to say that I am the photographer that for two years in a row, and actually started a third year but didn’t finish—I spent six months of both years documenting the life cycle of a Magnolia blossom. The life cycle begins in April long before the bloom appears and continues into October long after it has faded. The blossom itself will only last for less than a day to maybe two or three days but that is only a single step in the process. I still have one photograph that comes at the end of the cycle which I have yet to accomplish. Hope is fading that I ever will since my neighbor cut down the Magnolia tree that did over hang my property.
The reason I do into this again is that last night at the camera club competition I came home with two first place ribbons. One was for something I dearly love—a street shot of people (I am not really sure that I consider a photograph that does not contain the image of one or more people--or something that looks like a person--to actually be of any value as a photograph). The other was for a photograph of a vase of dying flowers.
So, I am not opposed to flower photography—I am opposed to the general approach to flower photography. I am opposed to the general approach of much of amateur photography. Amateurs should be the freest the most adventuresome of all photographers but in many ways they paint themselves into a tenny tiny little corner and I find that very sad. Being a member of a camera club exacerbates the problem and you will forever after be fighting to get out of the bag. I know from personal experience, I’m still fighting.
Slowly Ending—after Alcy finishes with flowers I get to shoot. Actually that is okay because the are more interesting to me as they fade away. I do a lot of flower photography and this is one of my favorites.

The Critic—yeah, I stole the title from Weegee but I think it is appropriate. The most surprising thing about this photograph is that I took it. Street portraiture is easy for me. I have no problem sticking a 200mm lens in someone’s face from four feet away—I love it and I think I get some pretty good photographs. But this is imposing in someone’s personal life—that I find much more difficult. However, I think this photograph has more power and is much more ‘valuable’ than the street portraits that I do. 

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Glenwood Cemetery

I did something today that I almost never do any more--did a brief photoshoot by myself. I was helping Paula Powers deliver her images to the VAA juried exhibit and when I finished I was in the vicinity of Glenwood Cemetery. When I had passed earlier the light was interesting as there had been a recent rain and there were still clouds. By the time I got there the clouds had moved on and the light wasn't as interesting but still I wanted to give it a try. Instead of stopping on the west side near the Hill and Dunavant angels I decided to drive over to the east side of the cemetery and I am pleased that I did. The angels are not as impressive but I think I got some worthwhile shots. After all I have been photographing the Hill and Dunavant for what, ten years? It's about time that I tried something different.


Catching up again..

Taking photos along but few are making it to the blog...

Did a run to Galveston:




Antique Store on 2920

Galveston Church Tour



Alcy working in the stuudiol

Sunday, August 7, 2016

Getting a Jump on the Portfolio Review

Well, after a week the one item on my B&H order that was not in stock arrived and my order is at last on its way. I have never had B&H hold an order for an out of stock item before--very disappointing. Now it will probably be scheduled to arrive on the Forth and that means another days delay.

Had a productive day today for a change in spite of being hacked at B&H. I have been toying with a number of ideas for the portfolio review this year. I do a dozen portfolios a years--up to the point of making them into portfolios. So I just picked one, got all the images processed and off to the printer. l may do one or two more before October but now at least I have something tangible in case I go off into another blue funk.

This isn't one that made the cut for the portfolio but will give an idea of where I'm headed. Considered doing one on New Orleans at Halloween or on Small Manifestations or half dozen other things before I settled on the Via Colori from last November.

In all, I processed twenty five images, narrowed that down to fourteen that I sent to the printer and will probably narrow that down to ten or twelve.

Proposed Changes in Copyright Law Enforcement

Alcy needed to stop in Barnes and Noble so while she looked I browsed the magazines. Read a short but interesting piece in PDN regarding proposed changes to the copyright law. Always fun to read about copyright because in this society that wants to litigate everything it gets so many photographers up in arms.

As it is currently estimated, the cost to pursue a legal redress for a copyright infringement runs in the area of $30,000. Whereas the rewards average around $3,000—if there is a reward. Ten times as much to press the issue as you are likely to recoup even if successful. Good for the ego. Very bad for the bank account.

The proposed change is to set up a ‘small claims court’ to handle copyright claims specifically. There are limitations on available judgments, apparently in the area of $15,000. But without the cost of lawyers the savings to the photographer would be enormous. From what I read on the Internet, I can see a lot of amateur photographers palpitating over this possibility.

I see two problems. First if the standard is retained that the photographer has to actually show proof of an injury, something beyond their ego—most amateur and frankly Scarlet, most semi-pro or low end pro photographers would be hard pressed to prove any such injury resulting in at best little reward and most likely no reward for the time invested. The second problem would be that if every amateur photographer that I hear crying about copyright infringement were to press a suit the courts would be so backed up that most would pass on to the great beyond before it ever came to trial.

Copyright is good, where it is needed. But it’s a non-issue in 99.9% of cases that agitate photographers.

What I get out of photography is of considerable value—to me. But what I get has been achieved when I finish the processing or when I show it to another person. I think that occasionally I do a photograph that is pretty good but I can’t imagine that anyone else would wish to claim it. If they to it just proves to me that there are other people out there that have exceptionally good taste—or as a Woodardism, damn good taste. I feel much less lonely when they confirm that I am every bit as good as I think I am. And, lastly, their  vote of approval has added greatly to the value that I have gained from being an amateur photographer—that’s not an injury as best as I can tell.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Antique Store on FM2920

I sometimes ask myself how I am able to maintain an interest in shooting the same things over and over. I am sure others have that same question because I repeat myself frequently—shooting the same subject matter, shooting in the same locations. It is always a challenge to come up with new photographs when you do that. I only have one secret, I call themes. As I frequently mention I have several pockets full of themes every time I go out to photograph. Many of these themes I have been shooting since the 1950’s. Antique stores I probably started about four years ago, maybe five, okay six when Houston Photowalks scheduled a shoot at The Antique Center of Texas.

But to answer the question for myself. I stay interested in antique stores because I have four major themes. Each is different enough from the others that alternating prevents any boredom. And I always find a few thing to photograph that do not fit into any of the themes—simply targets of opportunity.

Juxtapositioning—this is a very old theme that simply happens to apply to antique stores. When I find interesting items that can be included in a single image I want to see if I can get them to make a statement. You would think that with all the interesting objects available in antique stores this would be a frequently used theme. Surprisingly it isn’t. It is actually fairly difficult because of the variety of objects. Finding two or more together that works and can be isolated into an interesting composition doesn’t happen that often. When I do use it there is almost always some religious connotations involved.

Freaky Toys—I am always surprised when I look at toys in antique stores that any of us grew up normal. Then again, maybe we didn’t. I love freaky toys and one day hope to do something with all the photographs I have collected. Freaky toys actually came to my interest one day when I wasn’t finding anything of interest in a very large antique store. As I walked along looking for inspiration I began to notice how strange some of the toys appeared. It wasn’t a matter of simply photographing toys, although I do shoot dolls frequently because of their human metaphor, it was the very strange toys and there is plenty in that category.

Religious artifacts—this is a theme that goes back to shooting in the Missions in San Antonio in 2007. It takes several different paths but usually involves Catholic religious artifacts, predominately the crucifix. The Price of Christ portfolio which I did a couple or three years ago can only be done in an antique store because it requires a price tag in each of the images. I have slacked off considerably on looking for crucifix with price tags but I still occasionally find one that I have to photograph. Themes never end or go away. They may go into a period of inactivity but they always there in the back of my mind to call on when needed.  

Artificial People—this is probably the most consistent theme. I generally call it Artificial Women but I do occasionally photograph a male manikin or bust. My favorite subject to photograph is people. Both Freaky Toys and Artificial People are to a great extent a takeoff on photograpning people. I will photograph anything that takes on the human form or features.

Alcy and I spent about an hour today roaming one of our favorite antique stores out on FM2920 near where she works. Today I didn’t find any crucifix or do much with toys, it was mostly manikins that caught my attention.

I know that shooting in antique stores frequently would not appeal to most photographers. I have frequently heard photographers complain about the price tags but they don’t bother me. Yes I don’t always include tags but when it is not avoidable it simply adds location.

I have found that shooting in antique stores is a great place to improve the way you see light, an excellent way to learn to extract your subject from a clutter of unrelated objects and an interesting place to practice composition. I personally believe that my photography has improved, is improving, as a result of working in antique stores. The truth is what I just mentioned applies to shooting frequently in any location of interest to you. At first you do the ‘usual’ but eventually you exhaust the usual and have to start looking for something fresh. The farther you get from the usual, at least in my opinion, the more likely you are to become a better photographer. At least that is what I tell myself when I am photographing in the same location for the umpteenth time.

Oh yes, I might mention that I was trying a new, for me, camera technique today. I generally shoot aperture priority or manual but I was recently reading a piece that suggested using Auto ISO, selecting both an aperture and a shutter speed and letting the camera adjust ISO. Never worked that way so I thought I would give it a try. Started out with f/5.6 @ 1/125 using the 35-100mm (equiv 70-200) on the Panasonic. The first results were too dark so I went to f/4.5 at 1/50 and that seemed to work well. When I downloaded I checked the ISOs and was surprised to see that none went over 1600. There was a time when anything but the native ISO presented a problem. Most new cameras handle higher ISO very well  and I was pleased with the 1600 on the Panasonic.  I have Topaz Denoise but only used it on one of the images. It’s a technique that I may play with a little more to see how I like it.