Thursday, September 25, 2014

Faces ~

More than most anything else in photography, I love faces. Even --no, especially -- this one, a colorful window-washer Whitney and I saw this summer plying his craft in the Village. It was portraiture that attracted me to photography in the first place, and the iPhone is a wonderful tool for getting away from the studio to get images I wouldn't otherwise see.

But I'm not able to leave it alone just there, oh no. There's something about the artistic potential of a portrait that harkens back to my early days, to my dad's art gallery, to the portrait artists past and present whose influence I only began to appreciate as I grew older. So part of my process involves a lot of layering to incorporate some of the painterly qualities I admire in fine art. Most of my iPhone portraits are initially worked right on the phone using Snapseed to crop and make a few other adjustments, and then re-opened in an app call Mextures which gives a fine patina to work upon. They are then brought into Photoshop (I'm using CS6) to add a painting under-layer using a tool called Autopainter; this provides a layer that I can then selectively blend to achieve a look that has a distinct painterly feel, but nonetheless retains an obvious photographic quality. I almost universally use my onOne plug-ins to fine-tune the image so that I can achieve a look that appeals to me.

In art, as in life, there really aren't a whole lot of absolute do's and don'ts to dictate what you see and how you work. If you have a vision, then use the tools and techniques that can help you realize it. Grow, experiment, change, adapt, listen, learn .... and stop worrying about your damn camera.

And if you're really, really, really not careful, you could end up making a selfie like this.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Upon Further Reflection ~

I think I'd make a great tourist. I'm already a pretty good traveler, but I think I'd make a great tourist. This odd reflection came upon me this past weekend when my wife and I took a few days off at the Oregon coast, and ended up doing an uncharacteristic, "touristy" activity that I would have normally looked down my nose at. There was a steam-train ride out of Garibaldi that sounded like fun. It even offered a senior discount of a whole dollar. Kid you not. Hard to pass that up, and I'm really glad I didn't, because I gave me the opportunity to see this gorgeous early-morning vista on Smith Lake. And no, it's not an iPhone shot; I had my Canon gear with me. That's really how dramatic the light looked that morning, and there's very little photoshop editing on these images other than cropping and some sharpening. Yeah, it's a tourist shot, but darn happy I took it.

I have no moral to this tale, it's just a personal observation and an admonition (to myself, mainly, but if the shoe fits...) to not be too serious, to be open to the new experience, the fun, the silly. Eat an ice cream cone. Take pictures in the rain. And for heaven's sake, take the steam-train ride.

You might get the senior discount.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Show of Hands -- Who Still Loves Medium Format?

Maybe it's the "throw-back Thursday" mentality I find myself in when I get around to working on this blog, but a conversation I had with a young photographer yesterday filled my nostalgia quota for the week. Although brimming with talent and the godforsaken enthusiasm only a twenty-something can muster (apparently at will) he had never heard of medium-format cameras.
I certainly don't blame him one bit; in this commercialized digital world, where is the room for this kind of knowledge? Our conversation fascinated him and interested me. And I'm as guilty as anyone when it comes to helping educate the current generation of photographers. I shoot exclusively digital, both in the studio and outside. And that got me to thinking about medium-format digital.

When I repped in the photo business, I had access to all kinds of incredible medium-format digital cameras, particularly Leaf and the oh-so-lovely Hasselblad HD. This image of the flowers was a test shot I made using the Mamiya ZD. I think some of today's higher-end DSLRs from Nikon and Canon can compare favorably to the image quality of those older medium-format digitals, but it was a real revelation to work in full 16-bit on their proprietary software. The images were amazing in their clarity of detail and sharpness. The current Hasselblad H4D-60 is, as the name suggests, a 60 megapixel beast; not sure even my quad-core Macbook Pro would keep up with that. Not to mention my bank account.

So I'll just keep thinking back to the old Hassy 500CM's we used all those years ago. And my Mamiya RB 67. Even used a couple of Bronica's back in the day, and I hang around a photographer who still occasionally uses his Contax 645. And if your bank account is essentially bottomless, here's a picture of the limited-edition Hasselblad HD-40 Ferrari. You should be able to pick one up for around $30K.

But look who I'm talking to. Photographers. As if.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Where Can a Guy Get a Little Inspiration Around Here? ~

Actually, I think the inspiration to create a beautiful photograph strikes me most strongly when I'm supposed to be doing something else. Like work. Emails. Marketing. And lord knows with a lighting workshop coming up in a couple weeks, there's plenty I need to get done down here at the studio. And this got me to thinking (a dangerous thing, I know) about the supposed dichotomy between work and pleasure, business and inspiration. If our eyes are open, we should be inspired every waking minute.
This struck me as I kept gazing on some flowers I picked out of our garden this morning. I thought they'd be nice in a vase down here, but it was hard to keep my attention focused on my "work". Honestly my "work" is taking pictures, so the rest of the morning was spent in flower arrangement and photoshop. And I feel pretty good about that.
One of the single best pieces of advice ever given to me, many years ago, was by an artist, a painter who frequently sold his work in my dad's art gallery. Everything, he said -- everything -- is visual material for a great image, if you just keep your eyes open and look for it. Every scene is a landscape, every face a portrait, every direction you look holds valuable promise. Use your mind's eye to make the adjustments, the calculations, and the decisions to take that picture. You don't always need a camera.

I bet a take a thousand pictures a day.

Yogi Berra tells us that you can observe a lot, just by watching. Wise man, that Yogi.