Thursday, June 11, 2015

256 Shades of Grey. ~

According to my little fantasies (and I have many), I strive to devote this humble blog to all things photographic, or at least many things photographic. Or some. Though from time to time I've wandered (both literally and metaphorically) off topic a bit, my intent has always been, like a finger aiming at the sun, to at least point in a generally recognized direction.  So today, we talk technical. But stay with me, it may start to make sense, because I'm going to try to answer a puzzling question posed to me this week. It seemed innocent and even a little naive at first, but there were intricacies embedded within it that gave me pause: what can you express with a jpeg?

This was not directly a question of RAW vs jpeg. This strikes right at the heart of what we do: can we find a way to meaningfully express our thoughts, our feelings, our world, in a mere 256 shades of gray? It seems like such a limited scale, 256 discreet steps ranging from deep black to pure white, but all digital cameras, of all makes, models, and manufacture speak this language.

And what a language it is. The entire universe -- the one outside, the one within -- exists within those 256 shades. From them, the camera's sensor (and a subsequent dip in the Dektol of photographic software) interpolate all that into a rich rainbow of colors or a powerful range of black & white values. Therein lies all those mountains and streams, the portraits, the nudes, the skylines, the beautiful art and the shocking images; they can all be found there. Heck, Christian Grey limited himself to just 50 shades, and look what he ended up with -- sequels and Jerry Garcia ties, presumably, and an interesting girlfriend.

English has but 26 letters, and it gave us Shakespeare; Spanish, with only one more, gave us Cervantes. You have a camera and an equally expressive language on a shelf right behind you.

Go jpeg the hell out of something.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Confessions of a Collaborative Wanderer ~

The three things most photographers, and certainly this one, celebrate are a good camera, good light, and good company. I'm blessed with all three. A good camera, of course, is whatever you make of it, and these days we have an embarrassing abundance of choice. Entire books of exquisite art have been published by photographers using nothing more than a smartphone, so honestly, there are no excuses. As for good light, well, I'm fortunate to live in Oregon, which hardly needs further explanation.  But good company, ah... that's something indispensable to me. I've become an inveterate wanderer, and it's good to be poked and prodded into action sometimes. Growing up I was always impressed with the collegiality I saw among the artists my dad hung with, and was often disappointed by the lack of that among the photographers I began my career with. Maybe the environment we worked in as photographers was inherently competitive; there were only just so many commercial clients to go around. But these days I relish the opportunity to hang with other like-minded souls. 

That was the case this week when I got the chance to go out shooting with two of my favorite co-conspirators, Chaz and Keri. Keri had recently returned from shooting in Hawaii, and Chaz, who works for Squarespace, has taken on the unenviable task of helping re-design my website (and took this great group-selfie.) Wandering the roads above Washington Park with them inspired some really fine photography. The old stairway you see here was one such hidden gem. So good company, clearly, and also a good camera and some of that delicious Oregon light (and some lovely rain) means I had hit the trifecta.

There's nothing wrong with going it alone, and we need to be able to find solace in lonely places; great inspiration comes from this, if we listen hard enough. I get that when I write, and in the wee hours in front of my computer with my unworked images; solitary endeavors, both. But other times when the clouds are just right and the planets align, it's time to seek out your friends and fellow crazies and light out for the territories.

You go on ahead. I'll catch up.