Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

Four Types of Photographs

December 12th, 2015

Something hit me the other day on the way into work. That happens quite often. I mean I didn’t get hit by a car or anything. I got hit by an idea. And the idea this time is that there are four types of photographs. In this blog post I want to illustrate what I have in mind by showing you the same raw file rendered four different ways.


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Making a Photograph – The Technical and the Creative

January 13th, 2015

There’s no question about it; photography is very technical. There are many technical skills that must be mastered to become a proficient photographer. And they didn’t all just crop up when digital cameras came on the scene. Film cameras required a great deal of technical know-how also.

If you were taking a grand landscape photograph back in the days of film, a composition that had a very interesting foreground and a spectacular background, you had to know how to control your depth of field so that the foreground and the background and everything in between would be in focus. This required a technical knowledge of the three factors that affect sharpness; those being, focal distance (the distance from the camera to the object you’re focusing on), the focal length of the lens and the f-stop.

Exposure in the film era was perhaps even a little more intimidating. Your ISO was determined by your film and you selected that when you purchased it. But you had to set your shutter speed and your f-stop manually. Shutter speed wasn’t too hard to understand. If you decrease the length of time the shutter was open, you decrease the amount of light that passed through the lens by the same amount. A shutter speed of 1/30 of a second let twice as much light through the lens as 1/60 of a second. Pretty simple.

But f-stop didn’t make any sense at all. If your f-stop was f/8 and you wanted to double the amount of light coming through the lens, you set it to f/5.6. The amount of light was doubled but the number was smaller. And it wasn’t what you might intuitively have expected it to be, namely, f/4. It could be a bit baffling. And the only way to get a grasp on it was to memorize these weird numbers. With film you were stuck with manual exposure and there was no getting around it. With digital you can use one of the automatic exposure modes so you can get away without fully understanding this f/stop stuff. But it’s still best if you do.

digital-cameraThe coming of the digital camera introduced a whole new level of complexity. In the film age the camera was a simple mechanical device. You were responsible for doing practically everything – deciding where to focus, the shutter speed to use and the f-stop to use. The only role the camera played was to open the shutter for the precise length of time that you specified when you set the shutter speed.

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A Conversation about Fine Art

April 13th, 2013

What’s on your mind?

I’ve been thinking about ‘fine art.’

You’ve got to be kidding. I mean there are PhDs that study this sort of thing, masters of the arts that won’t touch the topic. What makes you think you can think about ‘fine art?’

I don’t know. I just wonder about it. I’m trying to be an artist and I wonder what it all means, if I’m truly an artist or if I’m getting any closer.

Ok, you’re a photographer, aren’t you? So you must be thinking about fine art photography. You must be nuts! Nobody agrees on what fine art photography is.

Yea, fine art photography, that’s it. What do you think? Do you have any ideas of what it really is? I mean I’ve heard people say that if you want your photography to be art all you have to do is to call it art and it is so. ‘My photographs are fine art.’ Lord knows you hear that enough. But that seems a bit too simplistic, a bit too easy. It seems like it should be more than that.  I mean, can you snap a picture, run down to Costco to get a large print and call it art?


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The Surprises in the Camera

September 10th, 2011

“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.  No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.”  Robert Frost

In my workshops I talk about feeling a place before you photograph it.  In fact we do an exercise.  When we arrive at the location I ask the participants to leave their cameras in the car for at least fifteen minutes and just quietly wander around the area until it speaks to them.  Only then can they get their cameras and try to capture what they are feeling.

This is a wonderful way of slowing down and getting in touch with the essence of a place.

But I must confess it doesn’t always work that way for me.

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Exercising Your Creative Muscle

October 23rd, 2009

Remember when you first started driving?  Just about everything you did behind the wheel was a conscious act – steering into a curve, breaking for a red light, backing out of the garage, whatever.  Everything required a conscious effort.  But now, those things are all automatic and you can safely drive from point A to point B without even once thinking about the physical act of driving.  It’s a part of you.

If you learned to play a musical instrument you went through the same process.  I played piano and at first had to think about every key I pressed.  But as time went by it wasn’t which key needed to be pressed any more but how to interpret the phrase.  The fingers automatically went to where they were supposed to go.

Athletes also experience the same thing.  For example a tennis player at first needs to concentrate on every part of a backhand swing or a serve.  But after a while it it all becomes muscle memory.

The single most important thing that causes this effect to happen is frequent practice, usually daily.

But what does this have to do with photography?  Well, this applies on two levels and I’m specifically referring to photography in the field.  The first is the operation of our instrument, our camera.  At first things such as exposure, focus, depth of field, filtration, etc. are all conscious acts.  And this doesn’t touch on all the additional functionality modern digital cameras provide such as highlight tone priority, high ISO noise reduction and on and on.

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The Photographer as Artist – Introduction

June 29th, 2008

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the role of the photographer as artist.  I don’t think there’s doubt in anyone’s mind that photography can be a sublime art form. 

But not all photography is art and not all photographers are artists.  Just about everyone has a camera these days.  In fact it seems you can’t buy a cell phone without one.  Virtually everyone is taking pictures but not very many photographers are trying to produce art.

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