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Author Topic: Photographs of beautiful places, taken in perfect light, expertly composed...  (Read 2524 times)
kencameron
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« on: July 24, 2013, 12:26:15 AM »
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...often leave me a little bit cold, and I have been wondering why. Respect, yes, admiration, yes, envy, certainly, but also a subtle disappointment.

There are many fine photographs of this kind posted on LuLa, by skilled photographers who may have traveled and waited for days to get the shot. It's not that I kid myself that you just have to be there with a camera. I am sure that is no more true of beautiful scenes than it is of beautiful women. Nor is it only that such shots often look over saturated to my eye. As a lifelong outdoorsperson, I know that nature exaggerates shamelessly.

I think the problem is that for me the image can never escape an implicit comparison with the actual scene. Looking at a picture is ok, but being there would have been amazing and the image can't help drawing attention to its own limitations. I suspect that some landscape photographers try to overcome this by printing large, but for me this sometimes only makes it worse. As has been exhaustively covered in other threads, we have to be careful with claims that photographs depict reality, but I think we also have to admit that they can't escape it either.

By contrast, the images that delight me and that I try to emulate are almost always the ones that extract beauty and meaning from ordinary scenes.

I suspect this is another hardy perennial but have gone ahead anyway, on the basis that if a subject is worth doing, it is worth doing to death.

What do people think?
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kaelaria
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« Reply #1 on: July 24, 2013, 01:18:49 AM »
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I think you are jealous Wink
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Slim
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« Reply #2 on: July 24, 2013, 01:55:21 AM »
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Our planet has so many great things to see, it might take 100 lifetimes to see everything.
I think we are fortunate to live in an age where with some means, we can go to many of these places that was not possible 200 years ago, 100 years ago, heck maybe even 50 years ago.  I try and take advantage of this as much as I can.
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Slobodan Blagojevic
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« Reply #3 on: July 24, 2013, 02:11:05 AM »
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.... the images that delight me and that I try to emulate are almost always the ones that extract beauty and meaning from ordinary scenes...

Start a thread and lead by example.
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kencameron
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« Reply #4 on: July 24, 2013, 02:12:36 AM »
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I think you are jealous Wink
You are not wrong, and I admitted as much. But less jealous than I am of the best examples of the kind of shot that I like.
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kencameron
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« Reply #5 on: July 24, 2013, 02:31:09 AM »
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Start a thread and lead by example.

A fair challenge. My own efforts usually disappoint me. Below are a couple that are as close as I got in July.

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luxborealis
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« Reply #6 on: July 24, 2013, 07:53:07 AM »
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What you've expressed, Ken, is exactly the way many photographers feel. It takes money to be in the right place at the right time with the right equipment - so no matter what people wish to think, there is a "high cost of entry" into the market.

While I have worked and saved to afford the equipment I have, I won't "wait around for days" but will do the best work I can given the conditions that exist at the time. Much of my Africa, UK and European work was done with a family waiting for me, so it's not impossible to get the great shots "on the fly", so to speak.

That being said, I am equally appreciative of the extracting beauty from the mundane. I'm a great proponent of "doing the best with what you've got" with respect to equipment, conditions and time. As well getting to know "my own back yard" is also a favourite theme.

Nicely done, Ken - thank for putting it out there.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2013, 08:04:37 AM by luxborealis » Logged

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« Reply #7 on: July 24, 2013, 08:56:12 AM »
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By contrast, the images that delight me and that I try to emulate are almost always the ones that extract beauty and meaning from ordinary scenes.

Perhaps it is all just an indication of the type of photography that has your preference. Perhaps landscapes is not your cup of tea while street-photography is more to your liking. Could be something to think about during your next camera (related) purchase.
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« Reply #8 on: July 24, 2013, 09:12:43 AM »
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Sounds like you have been reading TOP.
http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2013/07/are-you-real.html

http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2013/07/photography-is-difficult.html

These two very thoughtful essays this week have me thinking about the same things.

The processing (or over-processing as the case may be) isn't about interpretations that lack substance. It is about a popular aesthetic in today's photography.  With the ubiquity of filters and plugins, there are many aesthetic trends going all directions at the same time.  There are these high-contrast hyper-saturated scenes you are talking about and there are those silly 70s-style filters (at first it was mostly instagram) that emulate an old faded print.  These two effects are definitely at opposing ends of the continuum.  

A few months ago a friend posted pictures of her new baby held in her father's arms.  This posting was the first image of the child, and would conceivably be a pretty important image to a lot of people.  I was endlessly amused (or bemused) by the fact that she chose to apply that instagram filter that made the image look like a faded photo from the 70s.  WHY would you want to lay a veneer of misdirection over an image that will be a family heirloom without it?  I can't imagine. Her choices in the use of interpretive tools was poor.  Few would have said the same if she used a gentle application of soft focus, or a black and white image, or a naked baby on a blanket images or etc....  

Unsophisticated photographers use their interpretive tools (compositionally or in post processing) in clumsy and careless ways.  Nothing is new here accept for the sheer volume and accessibility of all the dross that sometimes seems to drown out the good stuff.    
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Chairman Bill
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« Reply #9 on: July 24, 2013, 09:22:13 AM »
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I just thought I'd point out that I've taken loads of photographs of beautiful places, perfect light, expertly composed ... but I'm not going to share, 'cos they'd only leave you cold  Wink
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Isaac
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« Reply #10 on: July 24, 2013, 11:48:19 AM »
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...if a subject is worth doing, it is worth doing to death

Did someone call my name?

...often leave me a little bit cold, and I have been wondering why

Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.
...
Enough; no more:
'Tis not so sweet now as it was before.



Respect, yes, admiration, yes, envy, certainly, but also a subtle disappointment.

A little while ago Hi Tide was the LuLa cover photo.

I see warm colours progress to cool, strengthening impression of depth.
I see wide horizontal ripples become narrow, strengthening impression of depth.
I see the bright snags contrasted against the shades of distant trees and reflected in the foreground, leading us across all of the picture surface.
I see the shape of the foreground snag mirrored and reduced a little further away -- a shape reflecting another shape in a photograph full of reflections.
I see the bright snags that lead out of the picture, turn into chevrons that point into the picture.
I see a complex mosaic in the foreground where there might just have been a dull symmetry.
I see that the photo is good, but I couldn't say 'I like that photo!'.

Maybe it's just that I'm unfamiliar with tide-water areas, so there's no recognition of previous experience to make an emotional connection.


...but being there would have been amazing...

Only if we'd already learned what we must do to uncover what really was extraordinary.

Galen Rowell wrote several columns on that theme - 1998 "Diffraction Fringe" is one example (sorry but you'll have to scroll down-page and click on the article title).


By contrast, the images that delight me and that I try to emulate are almost always the ones that extract beauty and meaning from ordinary scenes.

Scenes which you can more easily imagine seeing? Scenes which are similar to those you have seen? Scenes which you did see?
« Last Edit: July 24, 2013, 05:28:53 PM by Isaac » Logged
kencameron
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« Reply #11 on: July 24, 2013, 05:41:14 PM »
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I just thought I'd point out that I've taken loads of photographs of beautiful places, perfect light, expertly composed ... but I'm not going to share, 'cos they'd only leave you cold  Wink
...but no doubt full of admiration and respect as well... Wink
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kencameron
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« Reply #12 on: July 24, 2013, 06:34:35 PM »
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Thanks for some thoughtful responses to what seems something of an eccentricity. Maybe I should try therapy, if I can find a therapist who specializes in subtle aesthetic disappointment.. A few more thoughts below.


Perhaps it is all just an indication of the type of photography that has your preference.

True, but for me that restates rather than answers the question. I love beautiful scenery and spend time seeking it out and take a camera with me. What I am on about here, though, is a subtle disappointment in my response to certain very good photographs taken by other people. And it isn't that I have a problem with landscape photography as such - just with shots of spectacularly beautiful scenes, particularly if they are highly saturated and have amazing skies.


Did someone call my name?

 Grin


A little while ago Hi Tide was the LuLa cover photo.

I see that the photo is good, but I couldn't say 'I like that photo!'.

Maybe it's just that I'm unfamiliar with tide-water areas, so there's no recognition of previous experience to make an emotional connection.

I like that one (quite), for the reasons you list and also because of something a bit weird about the (implied) lighting. It meets my criterion of extracting beauty from an ordinary scene.

Scenes which you can more easily imagine seeing? Scenes which are similar to those you have seen? Scenes which you did see?

Closest to the last. Scenes which I do see. Any old scene. I don't think that not making an emotional connection with the subject is the reason for the lack of enthusiasm I am talking about. On the contrary, it could be that there is too much of an emotional connection with the subject (extreme beauty in nature), so the photograph seems to be a let down. Sort of like no photograph of my wife could possibly do her justice.


These two very thoughtful essays this week have me thinking about the same things...

The processing (or over-processing as the case may be) isn't about interpretations that lack substance. It is about a popular aesthetic in today's photography.

Interesting links, thanks. But I am not just talking about the processing. The  lack of enthusiasm is there even with images that I consider to be perfectly processed. Although, thinking about it more, it is much less likely to be there with B&W and probably does correlate with the degree of (over)saturation.

...I was endlessly amused (or bemused) by the fact that she chose to apply that instagram filter that made the image look like a faded photo from the 70s.  WHY would you want to lay a veneer of misdirection over an image that will be a family heirloom without it?  I can't imagine.

Great example. I guess a good, or at least a postmodern, reason for applying that filter would be if you wanted to distance the image and relate the shot of your baby to your own baby shots from the 70s - or maybe even your Mum's baby shots, thinking more about the relative dates and remembering how young some grandparents are these days.  Inadvertence or fashion would probably be more likely reasons.


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Isaac
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« Reply #13 on: July 25, 2013, 12:46:57 PM »
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On the contrary, it could be that there is too much of an emotional connection with the subject (extreme beauty in nature), so the photograph seems to be a let down.

otoh Maybe there's something a little odd about your expectations :-)

Quote
..."Your visual prowess is nowhere more impressive than when you view a natural scene." This is true because our visual system has evolved to interpret just these kinds of scenes. Photographs of natural scenes, as opposed to the scenes themselves, hold a greatly impoverished range of visual cues. What's more impressive to me is that we can look at a strange, two-dimensional pattern of inks or dyes on paper and reconstruct a meaningful image that triggers emotions similar to those we feel when we directly observe a natural scene.

"Preface" page 18 in "Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography"


otoh Maybe "beautiful places, taken in perfect light, expertly composed" is not enough --

Quote
A great landscape photograph of a national park radically simplifies that park... it evokes the essence of parkness through the photographer's intentional choice of subject matter and how it is arranged, much as a single great quotation without one word too many is far more memorable than an entire book of accurate explanation.
As with a memorable quotation, a great photograph of the natural world sums up our own feelings in a way that we instantly recognize and accept.

"Preface" page 19 in "Galen Rowell's Inner Game of Outdoor Photography"
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« Reply #14 on: July 25, 2013, 01:06:19 PM »
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otoh Maybe there's something a little odd about your expectations :-)


otoh Maybe "beautiful places, taken in perfect light, expertly composed" is not enough --


I really like your thinking...very postmodern.  I always tell people that any photographer has dramatically manipulated reality as soon as they choose to narrow their focus on one little part of the environment (whatever the it is) and then replicate it onto paper (or screen). 
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« Reply #15 on: July 25, 2013, 01:49:31 PM »
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In my native language, there is a poem with a line like this:

"When heart screams, a thought is to blame"

You guys are over-thinking it and over-intellectualizing it (and providing a perfect sandbox for Isaac along the way Wink)

It is much simpler:

1. If you shoot for yourself, shoot what you like

2. If you shoot to sell, you have two options:
 a. shoot what most people like
 b. still shoot what you like and hope you'll be discovered one day as the next A. Gursky
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« Reply #16 on: July 25, 2013, 02:15:56 PM »
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In my native language, there is a poem with a line like this:

"When heart screams, a thought is to blame"

You guys are over-thinking it and over-intellectualizing it (and providing a perfect sandbox for Isaac along the way Wink)

It is much simpler:

1. If you shoot for yourself, shoot what you like

2. If you shoot to sell, you have two options:
 a. shoot what most people like
 b. still shoot what you like and hope you'll be discovered one day as the next A. Gursky
+10.
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« Reply #17 on: July 25, 2013, 02:58:50 PM »
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1. If you shoot for yourself... 2. If you shoot to sell...

As most of kencameron's comment was about his response to other people's photographs, you're under-thinking it ;-)
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« Reply #18 on: July 25, 2013, 03:17:21 PM »
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This discussion reminds me of why I hate Jazz.

<ASIDE>Everyone is now thinking "Wow, he hates jazz.  If he hates Jazz, then he is an idiot."  It is so ingrained that sophisticated or intelligent or thoughtful people must love jazz.  I do not. Now I fully expect everyone to stop reading.</ASIDE>

Some of the worst of art is technically brilliant.  Some of the worst artists are virtuosos.  When people become soo proficient that their practice of the craft (photography, music, cooking, whatever) becomes so perfect that they need to make it faster or brighter or spicier, or more complex--turn it up to eleven. Their work lacks soul.  To continue to torture my music metaphor, Blues has soul.  The greatest blues musicians aren't the ones with the fastest fingers or the silkiest voices.  They know pain and suffering and joy and rapture and they express all those things in their art.  "Great" Jazz musicians at their pinnacle of greatness/badness are masturbating.  They are doing it for only themselves.  They don't engage with humanity. 

Many photographers fail to imbue their work with soul.  They have reached the top. They lack insight.  They lack soul.  They are amazing at what they do, but they are playing Photographic jazz to prove how awesome they are.  Shiny.  Bright.  Edgy.  Perfect.  Worthless.
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« Reply #19 on: July 25, 2013, 03:34:16 PM »
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... Everyone is now thinking "Wow, he hates jazz.  If he hates Jazz, then he is an idiot."  It is so ingrained that sophisticated or intelligent or thoughtful people must love jazz...

+1

 Grin
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