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!

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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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!

Dodging Burning Duckling into Black Swan

So, okay, I may have gone hog-crazy with the dodge and burn tool in the second photo but it’s, hey, an exciting learning exercise for me. I would have avoided all this work if I had taken the time to set a larger background for the pot of amazing lettuce. Instead I used a trifold pasteboard background that showed the folds since I had a wide-angle umbrella to filter the Lowel V light. The lettuce is from last fall’s planting. I nursed it on my south-facing window all winter and when I took it outside earlier this spring Ugly Duckling turned Swan!