Quo Vadis?

Tell 8126

I’ll be resuming shooting people if plans work out for a photo shoot on Sunday. I’ve shot this model before. He loves modeling and has few boundaries! He’ll do nudes as well as as portraits and fashion shots.

Two days ago I renewed my model website subscription. I plan to start recruiting models again but before I do I need to clarify why I want to shoot models. In my naiveté, when I started doing photography, I shot fashion-type images but I didn’t doing anything to market my photographs or images to magazines, internet or print. I expected the models to get themselves professional modeling jobs using the portfolio I created for them.

I was just learning professional photography. Every shoot I did was a lesson on how to use the DSLR, how to set up lights, how to process photos, how to pose models, for crying out loud, I was learning how to just work with models! The shoots were vehicles for acquiring core skills.

Today, after five years, I have learned enough to be more discriminating about doing shoots. If I continued to shoot editorial spreads I’d have to get serious about breaking into print. Right now I don’t want to enter into the fray; I want to shoot at my own leisure rather than work with deadlines. But can I do this? Can I do superlative work without having to stress about it?

I’ve been doing pro bono work. Maybe it is time I start charging for commissioned shoots. By the same token, maybe it is time I work not with just any model willing to do a shoot with me but work with the right model for the project I have in mind. I need to shoot concepts, not just shoot for the experience. It’s time for focus, for shooting as a professional photographer. If I am good at what I do then maybe it is time I make money! Getting paid is incontrovertible evidence that I possess skills that others recognize enough to pay for with their own hard-won rewards.

I’ve labeled April my “back to basics” month but it’s really time to move on. It’s time to take stock of where I am and where I have been but more important: quo vadis? Where am I going? Where do I want to go?

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Roses or A Different Order of Real

Arron 9401c

I enjoy company but there’s a tradeoff. I am not as focused when I am with others. My mind is not as sharp; I don’t see things as clearly. When I have company I do as much of the work before they arrive. Once they arrive I know I’ll be scatter-brained. My sauces are watery, my salad dressing bland. So I learn to do the work that requires precision before the company arrives.

On the other hand, when I am with one person whose company I enjoy, another kind of energy arises. I am more social. I take more risks. I worry less, I enjoy more. I am not as productive but I am more creative in the delights of enjoyment. I think maybe creativity comes in different kinds. Artistic creativity, for instance, may benefit from company because we exchange ideas and compete with each other but the actual work of creating we do in the quiet of our solitude. An artist may be a gregarious person but when creating he withdraws into himself. He becomes antisocial. Company is a distraction as anything is that is not part of the production process. Even preparatory chores like cleaning the workspace or changing clothes or getting a glass of water feel onerous. Creative energy is a monomaniacal master, jealous and unforgiving.

Last night I watched two videos from David Nightingale’s workshop on creating black-and-white images. I still find using curves and masks in Photoshop unwieldy. I get lost trying to understand what it is that I am doing, for instance when I am “erasing” or using a black brush as opposed to using a white one, what I am actually doing to the pixels of the digital file.

I did manage to produce this image of Arron that was encouraging. Using curves adjustment is considered by some to be one of the most advanced techniques in photo-editing because you have to rely on how you see the image. It’s something we learn to use better as we use it more and get a feel for the effect we create manipulating various points on the “curve.”

Processing digital images is very much like painting. I am not trying to recreate “reality” but make the image have a similar impact on the mind and senses as the object I photographed and those are two different things!

Slowly I am getting to grasp this and slowly understand a little more about the so-called creative process. Imitating “real” objects is not what it means at first glance. An artist works with his own mind as much as with the “thing out there” that is inspiring his creation. Art is a mind-to-mind transmission, just as Buddhism says enlightenment is! If it is not then real roses are better than a painting or a photograph of roses.

But roses wither and die while art works stay on and on, preserving their power to re-create the effect of vibrantly alive roses to other minds and they keep doing this into the foreseeable future!

One Step Closer

Angelina 1917

I can’t believe it’s more than a week since I’ve posted here. And I cannot write for long tonight either. I’m doing an update.

I’ve decided to split my personal from my photography Facebook page. I’ve been working toward this goal for months now. This morning I pulled the plug. From now on I’ll post my “serious” photography work and what I am doing in photography and video on my Duende Arts Studio page and post personal comments and reflections on my personal page. It is convenient to be able to share files between the two while keeping them separate. Now at  least I have clarity about why I am on Facebook. On my personal page, I post to keep in touch with friends both near and distant and family; on my photography, I post processed images as well as what I am doing to improve my photography skills and production.

I am very happy with my decision to buy a year premium membership at 500px. I have yet to set up the market side of my account so the site can sell my photos. That’s one more thing I need to do soon. I also plan to renew my activity on other photography/art sites that sell your stuff like Red Bubble and Deviant Art. There are many other sites but I have to choose just a few or I won’t be able to keep up downloads. Moreoever, to really make the sites work I need to post, comment, rate the work of other members so they’ll do the same for me! Then there are the two model sites I need to change my portfolio at so it reflects the images I am creating today and the direction they will be taking in the future.

I want to think that by May 2013, five years after I began my sabbatical, I’ll have reached entry level for commercially viable photography! Then it’s more work after that but just to keep pushing my limits. First I need to get to the starting line and I think I can do that by May.

I may have to rethink the reason for being of this blog on photography. A photography blog is part of any Internet-based marketing strategy for the arts but I don’t have to do creative writing on this blog. Creative writing I’ll do on my Orlando Gustilo blog. There, another piece of the pie clarified.

And this maybe is the raison d’etre to blog: at once to keep track of the process we undertake to make our work commercial-grade and meet our own artistic standards which should be, if we’re serious in what we do, constantly moving higher!

A Good Image Plus Post-Production


Producing a good photograph results from two learning two crafts: the technicalities of using a camera, lenses, settings, and lighting and the aesthetics of appealing composition, structure, color, and emotionality.

Producing a good image results in turn from learning two crafts: producing a good photograph and learning post-production!

Nowadays, in an age where digital photography has clearly won the field, post-production is almost de rigueur. Just a year ago, professional photographers all chorused their deprecating remarks about using Photoshop to enhance their images. Now more and more of these professional photographers are coming out of the closet: post-production is becoming essential to make their images stand out in the crowd.

No doubt an image is only as good as the photograph taken by the photographers with his camera but post-production has a lot to say about what images finally look like. It’s the details that make or break a good product.

Again no doubt about it I am still on this learning curve, learning the tri-fold craft of creating a technically good photography, learning the aesthetics that goes hand in hand with learning the post-production to create the final image.

To top it all off, the greatest teacher is experience or the time I take to actually do the work. There are manuals and workshops to take, of course, and they are instrumental but nothing takes the place of what one learns simply by doing, and doing is risking. It’s all about trying, failing and learning from both trying and failing, and celebrating when somehow I get it!

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Christmas Is for Children Is for Grownups

 

The Magic of Jack

 

I’ve done over 80 images from the Bernard family portrait shoot last Saturday when I discovered a whole set of additional images largely featuring the two boys, Ethan and Jack. Ethan has a narrower repertoire of expressions, probably my fault for not posing him better but Jack was a darling! I told his cousin, Emily, whom I’ve shot several times now, that at this shoot she was second place to Jack. The boy was a challenge to shoot but his pictures are the most fun to process and post! For 2011 I want to do more children portraits, in addition, of course, to doing more portraits in general. I love shooting models but I think, as my skills and experience in photography grow, my interest too is expanding! It’s exciting and validating.

 

Shooting Portraits with Children

The Family's Next Generation

Shooting a model for the first time in May 2008 opened a door that I didn’t know till then was there, and a whole, new world opened. A cliché but true, I felt reborn: a new me, a new way of looking, a new way of looking at me.

This morning, I shot a family portrait. It’s actually the second time I photographed a family but the feeling was much like how I felt in May. Maybe some doors take time to really open. Maybe it was having children at the shoot. I love taking pictures of children! They can be difficult but their lack of self-consciousness is a reminder of Paradise Lost. With experience they’ll collect hurts, regrets, losses, embarrassment, pride and they’ll lose that primeval innocence.

Watching children can take us back to our own innocence, back to a time when emotions were simpler, not fraught with the memories of the years. Children are so much closer to the heaven some of us believe we’re headed for. In children that heaven is still visible, a truthfulness we lose with common sense.

Picturing children feels to me a task with which to gift all humankind. We all need to be reminded of where we were and where we can be headed for. Not to be a child again, but to rediscover the wonder of childhood, the wonder of once upon a time that with William Butler Yeats we can sing:

Though I am old with wandering

Through hollow lands and hilly lands

I will find out where she has gone

And kiss her lips and take her hand

And walk through long green dappled grass

And pluck till time and times are done

The silver apples of the moon

The golden apples of the sun.