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!

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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.

Jain Nuns, the Second Documentary

My friend, Babu Banthia, asked if I would like to interview Jain nuns again on video. The short preview video I posted on YouTube received the most number of comments and views of the dozen or so videos I have edited and posted. I told him I’d like to have another go at an interview since that first video was made under constrained circumstances. I had locked my gear in the car and shot with a handheld camcorder, the subjects outdoors in the shade against the wall of the house. Not the best images but the content was excellent. One of the nuns, Samani Charitra, was especially good at communicating information about Jain practice, and she was one of the two nuns who came to my studio today for what I hope is a better video. I took a few still pictures but because of he subjects posing was limited.

Exploring Black and White Conversions

Converting a color image to black and white offers many more possibilities than I thought possible. Shades and tints can vary and Photoshop offers several ways of achieving effects, including what commonly is called “high contrast” processing that is so popular nowadays  especially among young people conditioned by images in magazines for young fashionistas, both male and female. Here’s an example:

Yielding to contemporary tastes in portrait imaging

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If you can’t beat them, join them. The saying dates me and that’s ok. I’ve been processing my portraits and model pictures with traditional color correction but it seems everyone likes their pictures to look like what glamour and edgy for-young-trendsetter magazines display. Images are not longer for showing people’s “true colors” but for showing them in highly unusual color. Color is taking center stage, not far behind the actual image itself. Frankly I kind of like the new trends. My interest in photography started out as interest in simple shapes and color. When I got into people pictures I found out about white balance and skin tone corrections. Now finally I am coming back to my first love. People looking like Dracula, like the vampires that are popular with young moviegoers and novel readers. Maybe realism is getting to be too much with the plethora of reality TV! So, I’ll keep on exploring “special effects” on Photoshop because they seem to be what clients want and it’s going back to my first loves!

Austin head shot

Believe it or not I am just discovering the color possibilities of photographic images! My favorites are often model shots so I look to web and magazine print galleries for what other photographers are doing and what these markets are buying for their products. I’ve avoided doing trick shots, creating mostly traditional poses so these are what I have to work with. I’ve paused my lynda.com subscription to work on two excellent books on digital photography by Scott Kelby. I need to do more with Photoshop, as well as do more lighting and exposure projects. I think I’m getting to the point where I should explore creating tangible products with my photo images, like books and DVDs. Before the year is out I think my activities can start generating income. That’ll be sweet!