Thursday, November 20, 2014

Tweakable Software ~

Sometimes I just like to tweak the hell out of my photos. This frame of mind is either the result of a misspent youth, or growing up around artists. And upon reflection, I think those are both the same thing. Even a good "straight" image, like the one above, has a lot of image manipulation applied, since many years ago I realized I was less interested in reproducing what I saw than interpreting what I felt, and discovering along the way a lot of the mystery that was hiding in the image. That's why I do photography. And you? What's your excuse?

I just recently downloaded onOne Perfect Suite 9, and have been a big onOne user for a few years now. It's very robust software, and has given me so much more freedom to work and explore an image than I've ever experienced before. It's the sort of thing that keeps you at the computer until the wee hours.

But wait, there's more. As you by now are aware, I take a lot of iPhone photos, too. One of the creative apps I frequently use is called Mextures, which has some wonderfully crafted presets. And as if this all wasn't enough, if the image is appropriate I will layer it with a treatment in Auto Painter.
Because, you know, sometimes you just have to go nuts.  The wisest words ever spoken on the subject are attributed to Ansel Adams: Expose for the secrets, develop for the surprises.

Well, here's to the surprises.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Old, older, oldest ~

I have many passions (far too many, according to some) but the one that has captured my soul in photography for as long as I can remember is a passion for antique and non-silver photography. I'm an ardent collector of old photographs (but oddly not so much old cameras; I'm more a "software" guy than a "hardware" guy, I guess) and have at times been a dedicated practitioner of the arts, working in platinum and gum dichromate. The juncture of history and photography is fascinating. The one above is a salted-paper print; the inscription on the back, carefully recording the family names, is dated 1865. And why that fascinates me is this: the actual light that made this photograph reflected directly off those people, and I'm holding that light in my hand. That thrills me right down to the bone.

I had a contract for several years with Whitman College in Walla Walla, restoring old negatives and prints.  We had a beautiful old Elwood 5 x 7 diffusion enlarger, so we were able to print directly from some very old glass plate negatives. Bringing an old colloidal wet-plate negative back to life can really change the way you view photography's history, as well as your own.

The people you see reappearing on such a print, long dead more than a century,  would have interesting things to tell us if we could only listen. It makes me wonder what sorts of things we may want to tell some future restorer, a century from now, deciphering a by-then obsolete digital file.

Hope it's worth the telling.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Life in the Abstract ~

As someone who was raised in the arts I have a special fondness for the abstract and expressionist image. Photography, oddly enough, lends itself to this surprising well. We make a photograph by focusing in on a minute speck of time and space, to the exclusion of everything around it. What could be more abstract than that? We only think we recognize the trees and clouds. So I really enjoy looking for the image that has abstract, painterly qualities in itself. Like the one above: it's the side of a steam locomotive, painted in a brilliant orange, shot just above the drive wheels. By excluding the obvious and peering in on just color, line, and composition, I ended up with something that, to me at least, holds more visual interest than a simple picture of an engine.

And then there are those happy coincidences of graffiti and billboard that can end up looking like the expressionism of a troubled painter. I love discovering these serendipitous gems and trying to do them visual justice with my camera.
I always have, at the very least, my iPhone with me, and often as not even my mirrorless little Fuji camera. There's never an excuse not to constantly scan horizons near and far for art, fine or otherwise.

That little voice in my head is telling me (among so much else) to pay attention to everything, the big and the small. You never know what you'll see, but I bet it would make for a great photo.