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Author Topic: Mike Johnston's Scenic Fatigue.  (Read 32512 times)
Paul Sumi
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« Reply #20 on: June 17, 2004, 04:57:55 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']
Quote from: Willowroot,June 17 2004,12:34
Quote from: opgr,June 17 2004,10:18
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Also, a comment out of left field: I find that many if not most landscapes share a common flaw, that of being overly complex.

Seems to me that "complex" in this context means "not well composed."  Someone trying to photograph everything one sees, rather than concentrating on those visual elements which create the interest.[/font]
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howard smith
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« Reply #21 on: June 21, 2004, 08:22:07 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Ray, if I could paint or draw like I wish I could, I wouldn't even own a camera.  Funny, but one of my favorite painters is Robert Bateman, well known for very fine details.

Detail can certainly enhance and might even be essential to a subject as you mentioned.  I wont agrue that with you.  It is deatil for detail sake that I can't agree with.  On the subject of depth of field, not every piece of a photo need be in focus (show detail).  In fact, lack of focus can add depth to a scene, or render a sense of "something" to the viewer without much detail at all, direct the viewer from an area of lesser importance to the subject.  The lack of detail can tell the viewer there is no subject in particular, but view the entire "canvas."  If the field of wild flowers had sharp details everywhere the viewer might miss thephotograph while digging through a mass of unimportant details.[/font]
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ctgardener
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« Reply #22 on: June 06, 2004, 01:46:38 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\'](Whoops - change "top rated photos on dpreview" to "top rated photos on photo.net" !)[/font]
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poliwog
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« Reply #23 on: June 08, 2004, 07:16:34 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Hi!

I am one of the guilty posters on photo.net. Yes, I have some nice, postcard-y scenics in my portfolio. As a gallery owner said to me recently, while signing me up for a show (!), "Postcards sell." I also have a few interesting, non-conventional shots, but those are not a well-rated by the reviewers at the site. So what?

The fact is, most of the "real" world loves beautiful pictures. Scenics and nudes/babe shots come out first in this category, with old people a close second <g>. Now it is arguable that either of the following is true. A) The majority of people do not have a developed artistic sensitivity, which must be nourished like the taste for fine wine. Because of this, they prefer the merely pretty to works of true artistic merit.  The Emperor is bloody starkers. Success in the "fine art" world is dependent on how well one masters its gibberish.

Q: "What is the difference between a commercial photographer and a fine art photographer?"
A: "The commercial photog sets up his camera carefully, paying attention to all the fine details of composition, meters precisely, pulls the darkslide, and makes the exposure. The fine art person sets up his camera carefully, paying attention to all the fine details of composition, meters precisely, pulls the darkslide, kicks the tripod and makes the exposure."

By the same token, the commercial guy might say, "Look, the yahoos buy this crap. I just crank it out."[/font]
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howard smith
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« Reply #24 on: June 09, 2004, 01:34:14 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Hank, a few of comments to concur with your post.  First, when I was in school, we were given an assignment to interview a professional photographer.  y thoughts were "Why would a real photographer want to talk to me?"

I interviewed Art Wolfe.  At the conclusion, I asked him why he would agree to talk to a no-name (not even a tadploe, but a polliwog) like me.  He said something to the effect that when people like me lost interest in him or he lost in people like me, he was in real trouble.

Second, I took another look at a couple of photos I took.  One was the big pretty Alaska sunset.  The other wasn't really even a pretty sunset - taken at Joshua Tree looking into the LA smog.  I like the Joshua Tree image much more.  Then I concluded it isn't a sunset at all, but a photo of a Joshua tree AT sunset.  It has impact.  It is fun to look at the old photos with a new perspective.

Like the article or not, agree or not, at least it makes me think.[/font]
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scott kirkpatrick
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« Reply #25 on: June 10, 2004, 04:12:02 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']I think the "dilution of effort" sermon, while laudable in many ways is off the mark in its summing up and too simplistic.  There are viable working methods lying in the middle ground between one picture after three days of scouting and frame selection from a digital video stream of consciousness.  The point I agree with is that what matters is how deeply you manage to engage with a subject through capturing it in images.  And I think that with modern equipment more shooting, if accompanied by reflection at some point, does improve the connection you can make.

MJ in a better article a little while ago talked about characteristics of great photographers -- he included obsession with photography and a deep love for their subject.  I think a characteristic style is a result of those qualities rather then being an end in itself.  And I am not ready to let the obsession take over my life to the extent that it did with truly memorable photographers.[/font]
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howard smith
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« Reply #26 on: June 14, 2004, 08:45:52 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Actually, after some thought Ray, I would tell you that when I use my shot gun, I get sloppy with the aim and wound a lot of grouse, but never kill one.  When I use my .22, I take more careful aim, and when (if) I hit a bird, well, it's on the table.  So for me, a bird on the table is better than three in the bush.  It's just me and the way I do things.[/font]
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #27 on: June 16, 2004, 10:12:58 AM »
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It's really all about the right tool for the job, and the better artist will make a conscious effort to choose the right tool, instead of suffering with limitations and whining about how living with limitations makes him the better artist.
(Apologies in advance for lowering the signal to noise ratio and for further detouring from the original subject of this thread)

You've hit on the key point, it's all about using the RIGHT tools.  But the "right" tool doesn't necessarily mean the most expensive, nor the one with the most bells and whistles.  Take a look in Galen Rowell's camera bag.  You'll notice that the plastic Nikon FM-10 and FE-10 ($260 at B&H with the kit lens) were among the cameras he used.

Rowell wrote:

"Nikon FM-10 and FE-10
These inexpensive, lightweight, plastic, manual focus bodies accompanied Galen when he needed to go ultra-light on climbs and trail runs. These cameras prove that the priority is to be there when the light is right even if only with a simple camera and lens. The top of the line quality of modern professional; cameras and lenses often comes with a weight penalty that can incline the photographer toward photographing from the roadside, rather than going further afield for a better position and a superior photograph."

Obviously, he used his other equipment when appropriate.  But Rowell clearly understood the value of the right gear as opposed to the mere cost.[/font]
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image66
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« Reply #28 on: June 17, 2004, 12:50:55 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Consider that his last trek in Tibet (published in National Geographic) was extremely demanding on man and equipment he shunned lightweight and carried two Nikon F5 bodies and a contigent of big glass.

I doubt that an FM-10 was anywhere around in that kit.

He would write about his "grab a fanny pack and go running" kit which would be as light as possible.  But when it came down to his "money trips", it was the serious gear.  His livelyhood depended upon making the shot--no matter what.

To bring this back to the original topic...  Galen's photographs, as good as they are, when in quantity will also result in MJ's Scenic Fatigue.  There is a saying:  "Familiarity Breeds Resentment".  Too much of anything can wear on the viewer.  I like going to art museums, but after two or three hours I've had enough.  Even originality and extreme creativity in quantity will fatigue you and you end up returning to a tried-and-true picture to calm you.[/font]
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howard smith
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« Reply #29 on: June 17, 2004, 05:21:43 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']A lasting photograph will have a subject, not just a buch of detail.  If I want to see the Grand Canyon with all the squires, pine needles, gum wrappers, and details, I'll just go there.  When I look at a photo of the Grand Canyon, I only want to be reminded of the scene, not shown all that stuff again.[/font]
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LoisWakeman
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« Reply #30 on: June 25, 2004, 07:45:14 AM »
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You mentioned familiarity, too ... I remember an article on familiarity written by Rowell.  I think that article helped me be content with photographing locally and not trying to turn every travel expedition into a photographic expedition - I'm going to get far better images from places I know well, and while it's not true for everyone, I enjoy those images better - Dennis
Dennis: I am delighted to hear you say this.   I also believe in celebrating the local and familiar rather than needing to travel all over the world: and then I can come here and enjoy the images taken by others in their home locations too. In fact I wrote a short article on this very subject:

<shameless plug> A sense of place </shameless plug>[/font]
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Tonysx
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« Reply #31 on: June 06, 2004, 02:18:42 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Hi, Dennis, a nice interesting (what shall I say?) interpretation of the article. Personally, I'm not offended in the least but I am offended by the (mild) attack on image posters. I concur that everyone has to start somewhere and 'newbies' are the most likely to deserve some CONSTRUCTIVE criticism, so where better to go than an image site? As I pointed out, I do not require any laudatory or other comment and the pics are there so friends/relatives elsewhere can get a glimpse from our deck. I also posted some images from scans of 35mm negatives for MR's benefit, since he is currently contemplating a workshop in Algonquin and these are from there 22 years ago. They are for interest only to show that a scanner can salvage your negatives. And yes, they're all shots of pretty trees. I lived in England and my chances of returning to such a landscape were slight. So I took a lot of photos of trees. When I look at them, I don't see that this bit is out of focus or that bit could do with a colour correction, I remember staying up at night wolf howling, and sitting for hours at an enormous beaver lodge waiting. In vain I might add.
And on that subject, I appreciate posters saying that they've modified the shot when they have.
But back to my gripe, I agree that most of us can learn and would do well to accept that. I still think that MJ was over-harsh. As you so rightly pointed out, we are all excited amateurs and should be allowed to behave that way. Negative criticism achieves nothing. Constructive criticism on the other hand......

Tony.[/font]
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« Reply #32 on: June 09, 2004, 01:06:51 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Being a new guy on the block, I probably have about as much voice as a tadpole.

Mike Johnson's article was pointed out to me and I have to say that I concur with Image66's comment on both agreeing and disagreeing with his thoughts. Parts of it, I could relate to; other parts sound more like a form of burn-out, crumudgeonry, as someone put it.

It just seems that he's dancing around a bigger issue. Both, at the beginning and at the end of his essay, MJ indicates that he hasn't thought long enough about the issue. But perhaps the bigger question to consider is this: What is beauty?

One guide (of many) that may be helpful with regard to this question within the realm of the "Philosophy of Art" is Jacques Maritain. He wrote an amazing little book, long out of print, entitled, Art and Scholasticism and the Frontiers of Poetry. It contains two foundational chapters: "Art and Intellectual Virtue" and "Art and Beauty." Maritain expounds on Thomas Aquinas' definition of the beautiful, as that, which being seen, pleases: id quod visum placet. Maritain's conclusion is that it is generally not good when "what pleases" brings fatigue.

If "prettiness" is in some way congruent to "beauty," then MJ's fatigue seems to run contrary to "what pleases." To be unpleased with what pleases doesn't make a whole lot of sense, unless one is burnt-out,  needs to reformulate one's set of values (i.e., a paradigm shift of some sort), or is in the midst of some kind of mid-life/spiritual funk.

I've never met Mr. Johnson, so I have no clue which it is, and I wouldn't presume to try to guess. But I do encourage him to take his own advice and think more about it.

The bottom line has to do with whether public photographic forums have the capacity to inspire. Rather than emphasizing the fatigue, how about the intrigue?

Okay, this tadpole is done. I won't speak again until I learn to croak...

MacP[/font]
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howard smith
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« Reply #33 on: June 10, 2004, 11:43:19 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Bruce, I like the articles.  Of course, I don't agree 100% and I got a good laugh at maybe inappropriate times, but who cares.  The dilution of effort is right on.  I call it "drive by shooting."

One of the main reasons I use medium and large format cameras is they require me to slow down, think and plan what I have in mind.  Not at all because I need that big piece of film (except tosee it better at hme) or like to carry all those extra pounds.  I have said before that the "shoot 10 rolls and sort them later" method does not lead to consistent results.  For one thing, it's hard t remember what you did right to get it.  And the positive reenforcement of a good shot in 350 or so keeps the practice alive and well.

How many painters paint as fast as they can so they can make more paintings in a day, to increase the chances f their masterpiece?

A good exercise might be to go to the Grand Canyon or Yellowstone with one shot left in your camera.  Most of us would be pretty careful about what we are doing.  Not because that one frame is expensive, but because it is down right precious.  Film is cheap and digital memory even cheaper.  But I would rather take 3 images and get a good one, than 1000 and get 3 good ones.[/font]
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Scott_H
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« Reply #34 on: June 14, 2004, 10:58:16 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']The M-16 used to be fully automatic.  In Vietnam The US Army found that no one was hitting anything because they were using the 'spray and pray' method of aiming.  Basically pointing the weapon in the general direction of your target, holding down the trigger, and hoping you hit something.  A lot of ammunition was being wasted, and the amount of ammunition individual soldiers was carrying was escalating, all with less effect.

The weapon was changed so that it fired a three shot burst.  Accuracy improved and the amount of ammunition used dropped drastically.  The soldier had to aim the weapon to hit anything.

There are times I shoot more than one frame of something.  Sometimes I'm not sure about lighting and exposure.  Often I find myself working towards a composition I like as I work a subject.  I can somtimes look at a sequence of frames and see a composition evolve.

I think a lot of people fire off a lot of frames because they can.  That doesn't mean they get more good shots than I do, it just means thay take more frames.  Sometimes this can make you lazy, almost a spray and pray method of photography.  It still takes thought and deliberate effort to create a good photograph.[/font]
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Jonathan Wienke
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« Reply #35 on: June 15, 2004, 02:07:49 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']I guess this goes to show that the old adagium still applies: talent is inversely proportional to equipment...[/font]
[font color=\'#000000\']This position seems to be primarily held by people who have neither. Poor quality equipment can be just as detrimental to the final outcome as bad technique or poor creative vision. A deficit of any of these factors will negatively impact the result; all are equally important.[/font]
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Ray
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« Reply #36 on: June 16, 2004, 05:04:40 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Obviously, he used his other equipment when appropriate.  But Rowell clearly understood the value of the right gear as opposed to the mere cost.[/font]
[font color=\'#000000\']Quite true. But don't we all know there's a distinction between the 'right' tool and the cost of the tool? This applies across a whole spectrum of situations and is hardly worth debating. If I want a hammer to knock a nail in the wall, I would hardly say the the salesman, 'give me the most expensive hammer in the shop'. I might end up with a sledge hammer.

I suspect if Galen Rowell had been given the choice between the cheap Nikon FM-10 with kit lens and an equally light but better quality and sturdier camera with superior lens, he would have chosen the latter.[/font]
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Paul Sumi
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« Reply #37 on: June 17, 2004, 12:45:34 AM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']To continue the digression, in terms of absolute image quality a film camera body is just there to hold the film in place. Since you've conceded that Rowell probably didn't use the kit lens, then a light plastic body was no great sacrifice. He saved a few ounces for the penalty of maybe slower autofocusing and slower continuous shooting.

Opting for the D70 as opposed to the Kodak 14n would have involved an unavoidable loss in image quality, whatever the lens. Do you think Rowell would have sacrificed that to save a few ounces?[/font]
[font color=\'#000000\']Well, the FM-10/FE-10 was a manual focus film camera with no motor drive option.  I presume it had auto-exposure modes in addition to manual metering but I don't know.  You're right, a film camera just has to hold the film in the right position, no megapixels to consider, so the plastic body wasn't a great sacrifice.

I didn't see any mention of DSLRs on the equipment page of the website.  But since Rowell mentioned that wide angle lenses (20mm/24mm/35mm) were among his favorites it seems doubtful he would have made the trade-off of a 1.5x crop to go digital.  Unfortunately he, his wife Barbara and 2 others were killed in a tragic light plane crash in 2002, so we'll never know if he would have embraced the full-frame digital Kodak.[/font]
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howard smith
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« Reply #38 on: June 18, 2004, 08:12:54 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']The portfolio has 40 images.  I move images from the front and back toward the center as I ungrade the book.  I agree too many mediocre images are a problem.  I think 40 is about right for me.  They cover a large variety of material.  If I were preparing a portfolio for a particular purpose, it would be much smaller.  Even if there were only three images in the portfolio, I would still put the weakest one in the middle.[/font]
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Julian Love
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« Reply #39 on: June 06, 2004, 03:40:20 PM »
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[font color=\'#000000\']Tonysx, I wouldn,'t get too sensitive. I am an amateur, and I certainly recognise the symptoms of the search for "prettiness" that MJ describes in his article. For me it was a useful reminder that prettiness is not enough. For many of us, we first go out to get the pretty shots almost to prove to ourselves that we can. Its only when we have the self-confidence that we can take pretty shots of most subjects, given good light etc, that we go and seek something a little more challenging, and those are typically the pictures you end up remembering.

Just my 2c.[/font]
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