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Author Topic: Photography Class 101 in an Internet Forum  (Read 1789 times)
jww_40
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« on: June 13, 2012, 07:15:48 PM »
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Hi All!
One of my co-workers asked me to publish a Prudhoe Bay, Alaska calendar and I agreed (silly me!). I've taken lots of pictures over the years and am working on paring down to 13 keepers. This isn't the problem.
The angst I have is over a photo that I really wanted to BE something and I don't think it is.
 Hence the Photography Class 101 thing. I was wondering if you could educate me on how to make this scene work... or why it doesn't... and where to send the check (nobody rides for free  Grin). What I was wanting to create was a sense of drama I guess...
I'm posting a color and a b&w version.
Thanks for reading this!
John

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jww_40
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« Reply #1 on: June 13, 2012, 07:17:04 PM »
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OOPS!
John
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #2 on: June 13, 2012, 07:42:23 PM »
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Creating drama when none existed in the first place is a tall order, even for experienced photoshoppographers™. Where exactly is the drama in the man-made log sticking out of a calm water, against a backdrop  of a featureless sky, and slightly blurred, yet equally featurless foreground?
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Slobodan

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Tony Jay
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« Reply #3 on: June 13, 2012, 08:06:48 PM »
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I have to agree with Slobodan in principle.

For this image to potentially work everything in the image has to play its part.
There is nothing wrong with a minimalist composition - in fact they often produce the most striking images of all.
In the case of this image though, I am not sure that any of the elements really work together.
Additionally, the foreground, a crucial contributor to the success of the image is not really in focus.
Combined with the more distant elements that are very high contrast one is not left with much to focus on, so to speak.

We all have image like this that don't quite meet our expectations.
I have a sneaky suspicion that the very best photographers of all have lots of these sorts of images on file.
Their value lies not in the end product but rather the learning curve provided by the "almost, but not quite" nature of experimental images shot by very creative image-makers pushing the boundaries of the craft.

Thank you for the privilege of allowing us to view your work.

Tony Jay
« Last Edit: June 14, 2012, 06:50:37 AM by Tony Jay » Logged
Tony Jay
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« Reply #4 on: June 13, 2012, 08:10:44 PM »
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experienced photoshoppographers™...

Rats, does this mean I need to pay royalties to you for using this wonderful terminology Slobodan?
Maybe your talents are wasted as a photographer - looks to me like Wilbur Smith has competition at last.

Regards

Tony Jay
« Last Edit: June 13, 2012, 08:44:31 PM by Tony Jay » Logged
Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #5 on: June 13, 2012, 08:44:44 PM »
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Rats, does this mean I need to pay royalties to you for using this wonderful terminology Slobodan?...

Hell, yeah! Grin

That is what I call myself, and only half-jokingly, after all! That term beautifully encompasses the whole dichotomy and ambivalence we've been discussing in recent threads, about photography and (photoshopped) reality.
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Slobodan

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jww_40
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« Reply #6 on: June 13, 2012, 08:52:04 PM »
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Slobodan,
Blunt but honest question. The answer is that there is no interest in this photo.
I'd like to ask you a question... If you took this photo, would you return and explore a little more and try to make something of this scene? Or just move on...
Thanks again,
John
Tony,
I can't help feeling that a nice photo is there somewhere, but I haven't been articulate enough with my camera to express it. The hardest thing for me is understanding what makes a photograph great. I see great ones here, and have gotten some great advice here, but none of that seems to penetrate my stubborn skull  Undecided. For someone who isn't artistically inclined, it's a struggle. Also, I don't think I"m alone in this (as you pointed out). I may never become a great photographer even though I'd like to be. What keeps me going is the elation of finding the occasional keeper.
Thanks,
John

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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2012, 10:03:21 PM »
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... The hardest thing for me is understanding what makes a photograph great...

Ok, the question was to Tony, but allow me to pitch in (and sorry for my bluntness, I sometimes forget to notice that someone is a "newbie" on the forum, and adjust my bluntness accordingly).

What makes a photograph great does not start with Photoshop, though it might end there. It starts in your eye and heart. There must be something in the scene that moves you initially on an emotional level. You do not start by coming to a place and say "ok, lets do a great photo". It does not work that way. Try to feel the place, try to understand what is it that moves you while standing there. So, instead of asking how to make a great photo, ask yourself what makes this place feel great.

The place seems to exude calmness, not drama. If that is the case, if calmness is what makes you feel great while there, then work with your camera to convey that. A log sticking out breaks the calmness, so exclude it and concentrate on other elements, simplify the scene (busy scene does not say "calm"). Include just three elements: sky, water and horizon.

If, however, drama is what you are after, wait for a different time of the day and whether conditions: storm, clouds, daybreak, sunset. Then we can work on amplifying the drama in Photoshop.

If there is something with that log that attracts you, tell me what it is (perhaps there is some local meaning to it, event, legend, etc. If so, than you can concentrate on it by perhaps making it the dominant part of the image (telephoto lens?) and waiting for the right light to add texture and shape to it.
« Last Edit: June 15, 2012, 11:26:36 AM by Slobodan Blagojevic » Logged

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Tony Jay
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« Reply #8 on: June 13, 2012, 10:09:35 PM »
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John, I detect a hint of disappointment in your post.

But I say to you don't be disappointed.
Most of what I articulated was encouragement.
By way of clarification, if you do not already own some of LuLa's video tutorials (Lr3 and CPS are my two favourites) do yourself a favour and get them.
In the context of what we are discussing, while the technical information in those videos is very valuable, seeing what the two worthies, Jeff and Michael, have secreted away in their harddrives is most illuminating. While many images are brilliant so so many of the images that I saw displayed in library module are just the sort of near misses that you gave us the privilege to view.
These two gentlemen are world-renowned photographers yet they suffer from the same malady that you refer to - it takes a lot of shooting to produce a real keeper.

I am no one in particular, but, in six years of shooting I only have about 30 images or so that I consider portfolio grade quality from about 15 000 image captures. Not fantastic percentages.
Ansel Adams apparently used to say that 12 significant images in a year was a lot - this from a man who was arguably the greatest landscape photographer of all time.

You refer to yourself as not artistically inclined - if I may be candid, that is a lot of crap. It may be true that your artistic intent is not represented by many or any others but that is of no consequence. Pursue your interests and perfect your craft. Things will grow and progress. Enjoy the journey. One small suggestion - whenever shooting work your subject - shoot lots of different compositions with different intents.

As a small aside, my inside track into the possibility that I might really be able to use a camera to express myself creatively came quite by mistake.
I, and my other half, were in Africa on safari. On a game drive one day in Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve we were confronted by a bull elephant. Playing it safe the driver of the Landcruiser put the vehicle in reverse to keep a certain distance between this bull elephant and our vehicle. So, there we were bouncing in reverse down a steep hill with this elephant continuing to plod after us down the hill. I was trying to shoot events with a 500 mm lens. Much later, when I got to review the images that I had shot over a ten week odyssey in Africa nearly all the images I had shot were standard record shots of very interesting African wildlife and landscapes. Some were OK, most were average. One image that really stood out was shot from that moving Landcruiser. All the images except one were hopelessly blurred, no surprise there. The one sharp image had captured just a part of the elephants right eyeand eyelashes, cheek, ear, and trunk with some intriguing side-lighting. As I stared at this astounding abstract portrait of this bull elephant, fully comprehending that the capture itself was a complete and utter fluke, the idea was planted in my brain that I might be able to achieve similar results with intent rather than by chance.

And so began my photographic journey. I wish I could report that everything I shot turned to metaphorical gold but that has not been the case. I found I needed to learn an astounding amount about cameras and optics to allow me express myself creatively. Even then my attention to detail was often found wanting so good compositions were torpedoed because of depth of field and critical focusing bloopers. Good lighting is also ephemeral - weeks might go by before the light would be cooperating especially considering that one can't spend all one's time in the field.
Slowly over time I began to see progress, interspersed with long periods of complete creative drought.
Buying an excellent printer has really allowed me to critically appraise my work both technically and aesthetically. The result has been a slow but definate improvement in my image-making.

Like you, I am on a journey to try and express myself through a camera and a lens. Like you, this journey has been a slow and meandering one. Like you, I suspect, I have learn't the most from my mistakes rather than my successes. Again, like you I suspect, I have been frustrated by my lack of progress and apparent inability.
Yet, I do have images that I conceived before I shot them, that rival any that I have ever seen in any gallery at any time (who would have thought) - just not that many yet.

This weekend I will be out and about with my camera, perchance I may have an opportunity to capture a significant image. Even if I don't I will enjoy myself and I will take the opportunity to fine tune some or other technique so that when it is mission critical I will actually get the shot.

John, stick to your guns.

I fully expect to see images that you have shot in the future, on this forum or elsewhere, that move and delight me.

Humbly

Tony Jay
« Last Edit: June 14, 2012, 06:05:18 AM by Tony Jay » Logged
jww_40
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« Reply #9 on: June 13, 2012, 11:37:17 PM »
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Slobodan,
Your bluntness is fine (as long as it's heartfelt).  It's your honesty that's golden!
A little history... I work in the oilfield at Prudhoe Bay and most times bring a camera. The landscape is extremely flat and featureless except for some buildings and rigs. Snowy about 8 1/2 months of the year. The photo was taken there during the summer.
What struck me about the log was that it made a "v" or an arrow in combination with it's reflection on the somewhat calm water. Kind of an abstract thing.
All I had with me was my Panasonic LX3 with a 24-60 lens. I tried cropping it severely to just get the "v" but I wound up with much less detail than I wanted. Also, it seemed to lack "something" but I'm not sure what... like it needs a foreground or background element to "place" it or anchor it.
I'm going to re visit this scene and try a telephoto to isolate the "v" (weather cooperating  Smiley) and also move farther back and use a telephoto to compress the scene and try to get something interesting (secondarily) in the foreground and background. Neither may work, but why not try?
I truly appreciate your opinion!
Thanks,
John
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2012, 12:09:52 AM »
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Ok, now that we know what attracted you, let's work with what we got.

Let's reduce the scene to two essential elements: calmness and the arrow/v shape and make them dominant. The square format projects balance, stability calmness. The v shape is placed classically, in the intersection of thirds, thus the center of attention. I played a bit with contrast, but not much. I decided to stick with that heavy grayness, as it contributes to the calmness and accentuates the v shape. I also added some vignetting, to concentrate the attention.
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Slobodan

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jww_40
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« Reply #11 on: June 14, 2012, 01:08:23 AM »
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Tony,
Many thanks for the encouragement!
The story about the 500mm lens and the Land Rover had me laughing. Things rarely cooperate... But when they do, Wow!
I am definitely not giving up on photography and am actively searching for a photography course/tutor that will work with my 2weeks on 2 weeks off schedule. I feel that this will speed things up. Any recommendations?
Thanks again!
John
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jww_40
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« Reply #12 on: June 14, 2012, 01:12:13 AM »
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Slobodan,
Nice job! Much better composition.
Thanks for taking the time!
John
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Rob C
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« Reply #13 on: June 14, 2012, 02:53:42 AM »
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Why couldn't you guys just accept a quiet shot of Nessie on holiday, away from those tourists in Scotland? Now you've ruined it for her - and for the oil company too.

Leave well enough alone, I always say.

Rob C
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« Reply #14 on: June 14, 2012, 04:01:20 AM »
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John, thanks for this opportunity. Tony has shared some very sound and humble advice... and Slobodan has pipped me to the post with his square crop. Your initial recognition of the 'V' is what called you to press the shutter. ...so that is where you attention must be focussed (Smiley) ...andything that does nnot support the form of the "V" must go...and that includes the rocky foreground which is a distraction. Your premise that it needs a foreground /background to anchor it, i don't think is quite correct. It doesn't need 'anchoring' if it is strong enough in itself...and then it will be it's own anchor and just be 'supported' by any other elements.

What I suggest to my students apart from learning to use your equipment, good camera technique and processing skillls - is to become aware of oneself... and to observe the signs within your body and your reaction when something takes your attention...when you feel that spark of inspiration. Often that is the most difficult thing to recognise, and can be easily missed in the endeavour to create that 'amazing/dramatic/powerful etc.."...and why there are so many computers filled with terabytes of 'unfulfilling' images.

Julie
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Dave (Isle of Skye)
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« Reply #15 on: June 14, 2012, 05:53:35 PM »
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Ok, now that we know what attracted you, let's work with what we got.

Let's reduce the scene to two essential elements: calmness and the arrow/v shape and make them dominant. The square format projects balance, stability calmness. The v shape is placed classically, in the intersection of thirds, thus the center of attention.

I entirely agree with all of what Slobodan has said above and this is my version of what he's suggested. Not much good for a calendar layout though.

Undecided

Dave
« Last Edit: June 14, 2012, 05:58:34 PM by Dave (Isle of Skye) » Logged

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jww_40
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« Reply #16 on: June 14, 2012, 09:00:18 PM »
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Julie,
You are right! Slobodan and Dave's re-do are much more like I envisioned.
One of the hardest things to come to grips with is that if you want to make images that will make "young girls cry and old men weep" you have to invest a proportional amount of yourself. Which is hard to do... Especially if you are lazy like me.  :) I have new found respect to those images I've seen here and other places.
Thanks so much for your input!
John
p.s. Here's a few of my lucky shots... Hope you like them!
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jww_40
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« Reply #17 on: June 14, 2012, 09:02:43 PM »
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Dave,
I've cropped that picture 'till I was blue in the face and never came up with that one. It's really good!
Thanks for your help!
John
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« Reply #18 on: June 15, 2012, 10:53:23 AM »
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John, The thread's full of good advice, and here's some more, not from me, but from Henri Cartier-Bresson: "Photographing is nothing. Looking is everything." Now, Henri wasn't often a landscape photographer, though occasionally he did some quite interesting landscape. But he's certainly one of the most successful, and arguably the most articulate photographer in the history of the art.

Slobodan hit the nail on the head when he said, "What make (sic) a photograph great does not start with Photoshop, though it might end there. It starts in your eye and heart." I think the "heart" part applies to whether or not you were born with an art gene in your makeup. But assuming you have the "heart," the "eye" then becomes paramount, and the eye needs to be educated. You learn how composition and the other elements of fine art work by spending a lot of time looking at the paintings and photographs of the masters.

I like the original color version of your photograph. The B&W doesn't make it because it needs some serious tone adjustments. But the shot reminds me a lot of some of Josef Koudelka's work (q.v.).

By the way, Tony quoted Ansel Adams's statement: "Twelve significant images a year is a good crop." I'd go further than that and say that an average of one photograph a year upon which you'd hang your reputation as a photographer makes it a good year. (we like to avoid the term "crop.") You can see an expanded argument about this at http://www.externalconnections.info/Articles/OnStreetPhotography.html. The article's about street photography but the principle is the same no matter the genre.

Welcome aboard, and keep on snapping.
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popnfresh
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« Reply #19 on: June 18, 2012, 09:37:55 AM »
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Both crops are an improvement on the original, but I prefer Slobodan's.
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