Practice Makes Perfect?

I’ve been reading a lot this week about photography, and how we improve.  Practice is obviously the answer, but it is always?

When you go to a concert, you hear the singer, the pianist – you see paintings in a gallery, the prints on a wall.  To get this good, the artist must practice every day – to get out of form before a concert is unheard of (well maybe not always! but you get the idea)…  So when you look at images, you are seeing the end result of weeks, and maybe years of work, and practice.

I know it’s nearly impossible to get out and shoot every day, but what other ways are there to keep your finger on the button?  I think that talking about image making, talking about photography generally is practice – as is looking at other people’s work – visiting galleries – sharing images.  Even looking at images on Instagram, Facebook or even Google, is practice.  Every time you look at someone elses work, you are honing your own skills, mostly indirectly.

So, how do you practice with your camera ?  Well, there are a number of ways – you COULD just walk out the house and shoot anything and everything you see.  Is that practice, or just shooting for the sake of it?  Or, you could go on a workshop, and immerse yourself in the photographic life for a week, absorb, and create… that seems good to me… or you could set yourself a project!

A strategy is needed, and I think that the best way of learning, of moving on, is by ‘finishing’ things; and by finish, I mean print, or otherwise share your work with the wider world.  I prefer the former.  A book, a print to hang in your home, a set of images to a theme.  This makes it harder to do, but also offers a challenge to the photographer.

On the other hand, by sharing your images online, you leave yourself open to critique by others.  I’m intrigued by photographers (and I use the term loosely), who post images on Social Media, but who won’t accept that sometimes, not everyone will like them.  I like to ask people why they took an image, or why they processed it in the way they did.  The answers vary, but on ocassion, they take great offence that I had even the temerity to ask.  Why is this?

Back to projects.

As I said in a previous blog post, I used to be a one image producer.  I didn’t do projects, or even panels of three.  It was one shot, or nothing.  Since I became a member of the Linconshire Image Makers though, my whole ideal and attitude changed.  It’s taken months of talk, and work, (and nagging), but finally I’m seeing not only the results of the discipline, but I think my whole attitude to photography and art has seen a dynamic shift, and because I’m questioning my own work, I’m starting to question other people’s work too.

Within the group, it’s simple.  This is what we meet up for – we look at each others work, and work of the major photographers, and ask why this, why that, why this image, and not that one.  Outside the group, well, as I said, it’s not so easy.

I’m considering a Social Media blackout for a month or so – I need to get my head around where I want to go with my imagery, and I need to plan a strategy to get me through the winter, and maybe well into next year.  My website needs an overhaul (it’s long overdue), and I want to allow myself time to experiment more.  I’ve run through the multiple exposure sets, and I won’t stop doing these – they give me immense pleasure,  but I want to also run a set of images on a ‘what if’ basis….  What if I shot everything out of focus?  What if I did everything with a dutch tilt? (a type of camera shot where the camera is set at an angle), What if I photographed…………… (fill in the blank as you desire).  Maybe just 6 images – maybe a project of just one image, maybe 15 or 20.  What if I set myself a project to complete 100 prints in a twelve month period? (that might not happen)……. but what if it did….?

As someone said to me only today – “it’s only a photo”….. and when I questioned why denegrate it to “only a photo”…… I was met with silence….. and there the matter rested.

 

 

Photo Impressionism – Part 2

In my last blog post, I talked about my re-discovery of multiple exposure images.

Since then, I’ve worked on a good number of new photographs using this style, and a refined viewpoint.  I’m also starting to fully understand what works and what doesn’t.

My starting point was the artist James Abbott McNeill Whistler, and his impressionistic painting “Sea and Rain” – The dreamy effect of the lone man, walking along a foggy beach was remincent of views I see fairly regularly along the East Coast of England. It was paintings similar to this that encouraged me on my way to try and re-create photographically this style of art.

There is a book that I’m keen to get a copy of – it’s entitled “The Lens of Impressionism: Photography and Painting Along the Normandy Coast, 1850-1874″ and includes the beautiful mid-19th century photography of Gustave Le Gray, Henri Le Secq, and others.  The Normandy Coast is where Whistler spent time painting, and it is also the time when painters and photographers were trying to capture motion.  Whistler was trying to move away from conventional art, and experimenting with a softer style.

In the time following the invention of photography, there was controversy about whether art could be photographic, or whether photographs were merely recording a scene.  I would say that the photograph of the French Fleet, Cherbourg, taken by Gustave Le Gray in 1858, shows great artistic quality.

Screenshot 2018-04-25 10.04.32

So photography became the ‘new painting’. Did photography influence the painters, or did the painters influence the photography…….?  I don’t know the answer..

A trip to the Science and Media Museum in Bradford revealed images by Frank Eugene (whom I remember from my college days) who scratched his negatives, to give a softer feel.  As far as I know, no-one before him had tried this, and even the ‘purists’ of the day were said to admire his work.

Screenshot 2018-04-25 09.48.41

Nude Man by Frank Eugene

Eugene was one of the founding members of “The Linked Ring” – Also known as “The Brotherhood of the Ring”, a photographic society created to propose and defend that photography was just as much an art as it was a science.

You can access the Linked Ring exhibition catalogues HERE (It can take a while to load even with a fast internet connection, so be careful) – Sadly the photographs themselves are not reproduced, but you can access all the Salon members, and search for their photography.  You can also see many adverts for the various processing labs, and cameras that were available in 1903.

I did try searching for some of the images in the catalogue but without success.

So – to go back to the start, you can find more of my impressionistic images on Flickr, by checking the link on the right hand side of the blog, I do hope you enjoy them.

More to come on this topic.

 

Photo Impressionism

About six or so months ago, I rediscovered multiple exposure photography.

A good number of years ago, I was taking the ocassional multi exposure image, and putting them together in post production.  Once I got a Canon that could do them in-camera, I added a few more.  Time ticked on, and I was working for clients, and I didn’t have much time to make images for myself, and the experiment got put on the back burner….

Then towards the end of 2017, I was admiring the work of a Candadian photographer who was creating very impressionistic photographs using multi exposures.  He was not doing them in camera, as each image he created was using upwards of 30 exposures.  He said he’d been influenced by a photographer called Freeman Patterson – and after a short time, I was able to get hold of a book Freeman had written, called Photo Impressionism, and the Subjective Image.

Whilst the publication is quite an old one, and refers entirely to shooting with film, the actual process was easily translated into the digital world.  He talked a lot about shooting images that only gave an impression of the whole, and in the use of shapes and lines, focused entirely on texture, and the nature of the surfaces.

Absorbed in the book, and tracing other photographers who were working the same way – I started to look at how these fascinating images were actually created.

It involved a lot of research, and tracking down different methods of working within Photoshop.  Eventually though, I was able to work out how to align layers of images, and how to blend them together to give the kind of result I was looking for.

Once I fully understand how the layer stacking affects the final images, I’ll write a full blog piece.  In the meantime I’m looking at shooting all sorts of things, and seeing what works and what doesn’t.

Tree

This is one of the first images I made using this multi shot technique. It uses around 40 images – stacked and blended to give the impression of the tree in front of a building.  I’m working on refining the technique, and this next image is one of the town of Louth in Lincolnshire.  It’s the indoor market hall tower clock, on a busy Maundy Thursday, and a shot I shall try again on an even busier market day.  A mere 17 images this time….

Tree

The more images used, the finer the final image becomes, so somewhere in between there must be an optimum number of pictures to use.   I tried one larger image with nearly 70 images, but it did not seem to be so successful.   I have seen one photographer use this technique though with over 200 layers.   I can’t imagine how big the final file would be.

I have uploaded a number of images onto my Flickr page (see the link to the right of the blog), and more are on my website

http://www.dseddonphoto.co.uk/multi_exposure

I’ll keep working………..

Take a photo – Make a photo ?

Is clicking the shutter really enough ?  Do we spend too much time post processing ?   Should we be ‘pure’ in our art.  What comes in the lens, comes out in the print….

I’d say NO.  Clicking the shutter for me, is only the beginning of the process.

Whilst digitally enhancing images has become far easier, it’s nothing new.  The practice has existed since photography began. There was an exhibition in New York in 2012 which examined this whole thing.  Click HERE for the link.  The exhibition featured images created in the period 1840 – 1990.  Look again at the first date…… 1840 !!!  The photographs were altered using a variety of techniques including multiple exposures, combination printing (images used from more than one negative), painting, and retouching.   Nothing new really here, apart from the speed – it was much slower then to get the same results as nowadays.

untitledUnknown Artist, American School
Man on Rooftop with Eleven Men in Formation on His Shoulders
ca. 1930
Gelatin silver print
Collection of George Eastman House
Photo Courtesy: The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The earliest example I could find was this one…. a two headed man – created in 1855 !

untitled

So why is manipulation such a huge problem for some people?

My all time hero – Ansel Adams was one of the greatest landscape photographers of all time.  He was probably one of the perfectionists.  His images were printed, edited, printed, edited, and printed again.  His ‘zone’ system is complex, and, for his time, revolutionary.  Google him – look at his images before and after editing.  One of his most famous pictures – Moonrise over Hernandez, New Mexico’ – is a perfect example of his post processing skills.

So, next time the ‘purists’ start shouting about images coming straight out of the camera, because that’s how it should be done, just remind them that although sometimes it’s done that way – most times it’s not.  That old adage that ‘the camera never lies’ is bunkum.  It lies most of the time.

The reality is that the people who make the cameras in Japan, or where-ever are the people who are ultimately telling you what your image will look like – especially if you are shooting in JPEG.  They decide the colours, the saturation, the sharpness. You decide on the crop.

The ultimate decision of course is the photographers  own.  There is no right and wrong way to process (or not) your own images.  There is also no need to preach about perfect out of camera images – nor is there a need for people to stop manipulating images just as much as they would like.

There’s space for all of us…….

No go out and MAKE some photographs…………

untitledMaurice Guibert (French, 1856–1913)
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec (French, Albi 1864–1901 Saint-André-du-Bois)

Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec as Artist and Model
1892
Gelatin silver print
Philadelphia Museum of Art, Gift of Henry P. Mcllhenny, 1982-14-2

The Photography Experiment

It was a new year resolution this year that I would try to push the boundaries of my photography.  I decided that experimentation both in camera, and in Photoshop would be my goal; not necessarily to achieve competition worthy images, but to push my knowledge, and see just what can be done – especially in camera.

In the first instance I looked on u-Tube, and sought out photographers who were doing ‘different’ things with their equipment, and two particularly caught my eye.

A photographer called David Johnson – (Maxblack Photos) and another Dr Reinhold Adscheid of Germany and  I was intrigued by their work, and set out to have a go.

IMG_5932Firstly I stated looking a multiple exposures.  I know that you can do this in newer cameras now – but mine does not have that facility – and so I had to look for ways of achieving the same effect in Photoshop.

So far, I have learned how to use some of the blending modes in CS6 – and found that using the ‘soft light’ or hard light blends give the best effects.  The multiple images are brought into Photoshop in Layers, and blended.  You may need to tweak the ‘levels’ on each layer, as the more layers there are, the darker overall the image gets.  Playing around with the different blend modes can yeield some unexpected, and clever results.  The shot above of one tram on Piccadilly Gardens in Manchester was taken on my compact camera – a Canon G12, and blended in CS6, then taken into on-one perfect photo suite.

IMG_6065This second tram shot – taken near the Bridgewater Hall, on a bright sunny day was blended in CS6 using the hard light blend mode.

I’m also looking to experiment with camera movement, and zooming whilst taking a long exposure shot, and to do more image blending.

That’s for another post.