Perfection, I believe, is an impossible objective. However I think it is a worthy goal. When I hold a camera to my eye I can’t help but imagining capturing a full frame image that is perfect. No cropping, no post-production and no change in the light on the subject. That moment when all elements come together in a cohesive story worthy of 1,000 words. Compromise is a reality everybody striving for perfection must accept. However, subjective critique of your own work should not just look at the negative or how it could be better. You must examine all that you like about the shot and weigh that against the flaws.
All of the images in this post are untouched. They are what I consider to be my best attempts at “full frame” perfection…so far.
Kayaking on Lake Skadar in Montenegro with my daughter was part of a grand trip. In my opinion I never truly visit a place unless you get on or in the water. During our exploring we sailed, swam & kayaked. Taking photos from a kayak presents numerous challenges & limited opportunities. I don’t need to see her face, nor do I wish the sky were a perfect blue. Her journey ahead has challenges she is more than prepared for.
Sailing in Seattle on the 70 footer Obsession was nice enough but the twilight & the reflection were an added bonus. The cityscape of this port town is almost void of signage on the buildings. I’m glad urban ordinances prevent the owners/builders from turning this great view into another opportunity for marketing. Could it be better…yes. Mt Ranier is off to the right of frame but their was clutter from the shipyards that distracted so I cropped with the zoom to eliminate the distraction.
Although this shot was almost deleted, something made me keep examining it. I was using my new long zoom, 100-400, for the first time & pushing my skills at full tight to try & get a tight shot of the athlete’s expression. (That was a humbling failure for the most part.) At first glance this is somewhat abstract. However, it shows aspects of the sport that clearly define what is happening. The blurred feet in the air pointing up & the strong hands holding the bent pole capture a moment unique to this sport. I will do a future post about pole-vaulting.
I am a huge fan of Frank Lloyd Wright. Maybe not a great man but an architect that has inspired me since a field trip to Falling Water in Junior HS. We were traveling in Wisconsin in late May & I insisted on going to Taliesin which was the home of FLW & later a school for Architects. Although I was compelled by the structures, the tour & the history, I couldn’t help but also be inspired by the landscape & the farming. Somehow, the natural setting along with the man-made trellis, plowed field and orderly orchard gave me a different insight into FLW’s use of space & style of design. I can’t fully articulate what it is about his work I enjoy especially since I am not fond of hard horizontal & vertical lines associated with buildings. Taliesin West in AZ is on my bucket list for my next trip into the SW.
I had to connect in VIE on a return trip from SJJ & (on purpose) had a 12 hour layover in Vienna. They have a quick/easy/cheap train from the airport & I hopped on to do a “down & dirty wander” around this historic center of European power. All to often I was distracted by barkers dressed in period-piece costume inviting me to concerts of Mozart, Strauss and Hayden. In my mind I kept saying…you’re here for your eyes not your ears. In one of the many parks I found this emotional statue with a wonderful floral background. The diversity of art in this city goes well beyond the music. I hope to someday go back & spend more time to enjoy the music & capture more of what Old Europe has to offer.
Wandering thru a market in Zagreb was a wonderful opportunity for street photography. The colorful produce was a backdrop for the diversity of characters involved in the hustle of commerce. This solitary vendor appears to have sadness etched into his face but in his eyes I see a peaceful serenity. Knowing the quality of his product he has a subdued confidence a buyer will choose his apples. The cane on the edge of the frame is not to far from his folded callous hands. Although his rugged coat helps keep him warm he keeps his head uncovered defying the harshness of the world. When I first spotted him I was drawn to the character of his face and stoic expression. However, as I waited for the passing crowd to give me a window to snap a portrait, I realized the more complete story was wider and included his environment.
I found this video from PBS. It’s only 3:02 & a very choppy edit style, but I found it an interesting look at the perspective of a photographer with 6 decades of experience.
The diverse forms of water provide different opportunities for subjects, activities & enjoyment near lakes streams & oceans. During the filming of CHASING THE RIVER I encountered ice, fog & flowing water demonstration the beauty of this basic force of nature. In video the characteristics of this life-sustaining element are more powerful. However, a still can capture the subtle singular interaction nature has with our lives.
Winter has never been my favorite season. But the lower position of the sun, bare trees, lack of haze and juxtaposition with other seasons can make compelling subjects. In this shot notice how the form of the liquids previous state & the sculpting of the wind in its current frozen condition. I considered B/W but felt the subtle grad in the blues along with almost zero saturation gives more impact to the sensory emotion of temperature. This still was grabbed from Varicam 720…slightly less than 1 mp…cropped to even lower 480X360. 1n 2004 HD video opened up quality for me I never dreamed video could reproduce. I am still amazed that now cell phone camera have more resolution that early HD cameras. OBTW eary 1080 is just over 2 mp.
In this shot from CTR, the water is reflective & creates an interesting perspective on a cloudless afternoon in February. Sometimes it is luck, other times knowing the angle of the light in conjunction with the position of the camera is the key to getting the shot. A few degrees difference in where you stand & the angle of the light can be dramatic. Water is transparent when still, opaque when moving & from the right position it is a mirror. In the 12 months shooting CTR I was constantly inspired by the variety of attributes stream and tributaries created.
We often take water for granted. For to many people in the world that is not the case. This link features the work of Drop by Drop photogs using their craft to tell stories of help to provide 3rd world societies with safe drinking water.
At first I was unsure as to the intrigue of this scene. In early Fall I stood on the banks of the Potomac and took in the sensory serenity the fog & the river created. The components of light & subjects were folded together. I realized I was seeing reflected light off the water bouncing thru moisture, the opposite shore was creeping out of the vapor & the partially submerged rocks were cloaked in a soft mist. A variety of strong emotions were emerging from a simple temperature difference between the air and the water. I’m glad I had my first cup-a-joe so I was awake enough to enjoy these subtle textures of the mourning.
Walking to work Sunday morning the sun had just risen. This familiar building caught my attention. I hadn’t had my first cup-a-joe so my mind was not fully engaged & I couldn’t quite understand what I was seeing. I grabbed a few shots & forgot about it. A few days later I was reviewing shots on my computer & did a forensic examination of the light. The sun was rising above the city to my back left. The fog was floating about 30 feet above the Ohio but not where I was walking. The early light was reflecting off the Trimont windows down at me. The building with its reflected golden light was distorted by the soft fog I was looking thru creating a halo effect. An optical game of billiards.
My daughter took my suggestion about buying art from different places she lives/visits. She told me she didn’t have a shot of Pittsburgh for her apartment and that it would be a good Christmas gift. She introduced me to the work of David DiCello. Although I believe photography post-production & HDR are over done, I found his finished images to be an exception. His work with subtly enhance the image. He doesn’t transform them into a fantasy world the eye will never see. Plus he has a passion about photographing one of the most visually stunning cities I have ever seen. OK, I’m biased because I’ve lived here my entire life.
I can easily amuse myself on a crowded street by observing people as they pass. My fascination with strangers began in the 60’s watching a live local TV show in Pittsburgh. As the audience was exiting the host gave the patrons a chance to say something to the camera on the way out. The emcee called it the Parade of Stars. I will send a free DVD copy of my documentary Chasing The River to anyone that can name the show, the host and the call letters of the TV station that produced it.
Since I enjoy watching people it shouldn’t come as any revelation I also have a good time photographing people on the street. Until recently I didn’t know this was a genre with sub genres including street fashion and street portraits. I just enjoy capturing candid images…Allen Funt…of people that grab my eye.
Unlike humans of NY portraitshttp://www.humansofnewyork.com/ which is portraits with stories from the subjects…Studs Terkel… I have no knowledge of the people so I make up my own stories. This man on the streets of Zagreb was taken in 2010. It was only the last 20 years of his life he had not lived under Tito Communism. In the Winter of his life he witnessed significant change. The contrast between him and younger Eastern Europeans coming of age after the collapse of “The Wall” was dramatic. His face & the way he dressed reminded me of my Grandfather’s brothers. I think he would have fit in at those big Christmas Eve dinners at my Grand Aunt’s house.
I saw these eyes coming from 80 yards away! As I was watching the diversity of people promenade on the streets of Sarajevo these two women grabbed my attention. Even though I have no real credibility to comment on fashion, these two had very distinctive Hijabs. Their fur & make-up set off contrasting facial expressions & authority. I imagine the woman on the left is an older & wiser mentor to her younger naive companion. She is about to extol insight into something they both are observing & the young-ling is eager to learn.
Speaking of fashion 2 things. First, I did once win “Best Dressed” at the Phil Simms Bowling Tournament so I do have an iota of fashion sense. Secondly, if you are interested in Street Fashion Photography I can recommend Bill Cunningham New York A quirky individual that still shoots of film.
I have sub genres including people on phones aka “The World Around Me isn’t as Interesting as This Little Electronic Device”. With a few exceptions I deplore the way some in society use smart phones as hypnotizing web portals & communication pacifiers. VERY few snap images using phones with consideration for anything other than diary-esk sharing via social media. Instead of freeing themselves from the office they take work everywhere they go. Gaming & mindless web browsing distract from here & now to a place that placates short attention spans. I enjoy the world and most of the people around me more than any device. For me, retirement equals flip phone!!!
This photo was taken in Balboa Park SAN. As I am prone to do when taking photos of people I found a spot to stand & blend in. I observed a few different traffic areas with good bg & lighting where I could snap portraits as people passed by. One of the 1st details to catch my eye was the “ink” on this woman. I hoped she would walk in an area where I could get a good shot of her tattoos. Ink is another sub genre of mine. After 20 min or so I was ready to wander elsewhere & she hadn’t taken her eyes off of her phone. I have no idea if she was texting, playing Angry Birds, searching top rated things in SD or reading Pillars of the Earth. I do know she was ignoring an inspiring public park.
Another sub genre of mine is echo/feedback of the world I capture. With the flood of cameras people routinely have, “People Taking Pictures” is one of my go-to subjects. Everybody is now a street photographer. Why not…I know I enjoy doing it. However, I enjoy the old-school hands on feel of a DSLR with optical options. But most importantly for me is connecting the eye into the viewfinder where final/critical decisions are made about framing or snapping. And, I still use the editing process to separate the wheat from the chafe to better polish the visual story I want to tell. For some reason these 2 remind me of a quote I associate w/Annie Liebovitz that every experienced photographer knows…”Sometimes the best shot is behind you!”
I can recommend a good doc about an unknown street photographer. Her work can be a template for anyone who wants to improve their urban eye. Finding Vivian Maier
One of the core aspects of photography I enjoy are the diversity of challenges different genres & subjects provide. Wildlife, & particularly bird photographers, capture amazing images. Not only are they knowledgeable about their subjects habits & habitats but they must have an extraordinary amount of patience. Many of these dedicated photogs use a 400mm as a go-to lens. With these 4 shots I was on the long end of my kit 18-135 lens that came with my 7D.
I got this shot off the coast of Belize. We were celebrating my birthday kayaking along the worlds 2nd longest barrier reef. The sky & water were a sapphire blue during the day. This particular evening, as Pelicans were feeding, the sun was setting & the water had lost the azure reflection. The color & the ripples on the sea seem to be an extension of the hue & texture of the birds feathers.
This Roseate Spoonbill was captured at Merritt Island Sanctuary in FL. Some might say this type of location is the best place to go to get pics of birds. However, I saw a display of shots from an amateur photog this past Spring at the Roger Tory Peterson Institution. I was amazed at her depth of knowledge of the species & their migratory patterns she had. Even more amazing were some of the shots an “amateur” could get .Her subject knowledge gave her an asset that transcended the fact that she did this as a hobby not for profit. She did use a 400 mm lens which wasn’t a surprise. What hit me in the head is when she shared some of her shots were taken in a graveyard. The stillness apparently relaxed the birds giving her a few more moments to snap the shutter. Sometimes it is that simple…find a quiet place where the subject is relaxed. http://galesphotoblog.blogspot.com/ is a link you will enjoy especially if bird photography is an inspiring challenge.
I have no idea what type of bird this lil tweet is. I do know I got lucky & I cropped. After watching the flight pattern of this sparrow-like bird, I picked an area with great light. I noticed it was a landing areas of his/hers. I kept checking my AF at various points in the scene & waited for a landing. I estimate that the time of the bird on the branch was less than 3 seconds. Luck occurs when preparation meets opportunity. Merritt Island FL
Of all of the advantages of digital photography I do believe the cropping tool is my favorite. It gives me an opportunity to refine the image I capture. I lack the experience of color correction and compositing that many skilled post-production artists have so the simple re-crop is my “comfort club” in my digital bag. That being said I did tweak the green & red curves of Bird on Golden Rod just a smidgen. After exporting at 908 x 626 I think it looks OK on my computer. I have serious doubts as to the quality of print repro any larger than 12 x 8. I will do a post sometime about the challenge of full frame perfection.
How you define the quality of your own work is a subjective perspective that evolves. I like to keep raising the bar & explore new subjects. Doing bird photography, if I can ID the bird from the photo that’s a good shot. Good light w/ soft clouds in the bg & a graceful wing-span. Yea, for me…after cropping…was the shot of the day. It is a White Ibis which is a wadding bird. I prefer locations for birds around water so Herons and Ducks are often the species that challenge me. Merritt Island FL
Traveling for the work on live sports broadcasts ain’t what many think it might be. This little story will use 4 photos that give a taste to some of life on the road…AKA First World Problems.
For a “street/of the moment” photographer signs can be a good “go to” subject. It can be the surroundings, the shape, the juxtaposition or sometimes the content. For me signs can force a vertical perspective. They also sometimes carry a significant weight to storytelling. A perk of traveling is that you get a new pisser every week.
I will be very glad not to have to deal with the numerous security inspections on my way to & from work every day. A perk of retirement. Yes I know they are doing their job! Do we really need security to be full of consistent inconsistencies with often a lack of common courtesy? Isn’t it bad enough without the common ignorance of the public? Wake-up folks!!! Work that begins with a security check can make for long and frustrating days.
I know their are people in this world that would love to have a safe clean place to stay. And I also know that their are worse hotels than where I was normally put up at. But, hotel hallways are monotonous & without interest. They are not the way I like to begin & end my day in the world. And don’t even get me started on the carpet!
I will end this short story with a positive. The approach of Spring from 4F. The flight to & from CLT is a glorious reveal of the spectacular seasonal transitions. Upgrades and frequent flyer miles are nice but the best perk of traveling is a springtime final approach with great lighting coming back to PIT. Sometimes life is like that!
For most of my career I worked in 3×4 then 16×9 horizontal video. So my vertical stills are an evolving perspective to translate from eyes to mind & then to camera. I have realized that sometimes the subject screams vertical. This stop on the NFL tour had whispers of Stanley K.
I used a 30th of a second at low aperture with the ISO cranked up. I would have loved f22 at 250 with 1000 ISO & full frame but that wasn’t going to happen. Both vertical & horizontal cropping are simple tools I use to emphasize what drew my eyes to the subject. The cropping was a step I had planned when I snapped & the end result was as I expected. However, the noise/grain of high ISO gave an accent that adds a texture quality I surprisingly like.
My travels doing sports broadcasting took me to many hotels. None had any courtyard or atrium as nice as the Brown Palace in Denver. However, it has the slowest most inadequate elevator I experienced in over 30 years of traveling.
To answer my own ?…photography is about capturing a moment & sharing it. Although I have reservations about social media, blogging seems an interesting conduit for displaying my images along with thoughts about visual communication. The downside of doing a blog is my spelling, syntax and grammar are casualties when ideas get transferred through a keyboard. I do appreciate feedback and critique of my photos. However, if you feel compelled to comment on my attempts at prose then I suggest you research Kurt Vonnegut’s novel SLAPSTICK and his correlation between a flying doughnut and the moon.
I will begin with a recent image. I had driven by the signs on the freeway far to many times without stopping. So my last trip returning from DC I went upriver alongside the Potomac with Antietam as my destination. I hadn’t wandered with my camera for a while & I enjoy the challenge of capturing a historic perspective. Its not urban, it’s not landscape, it’s not action, it’s not nature, it’s not traveling. This silent canon barks no more on a battlefield where over 3500 soldiers died in one day. My images & understanding are dwarfed by early photojournalists like Gardner and Brady.
In some locations I try to use the camera to look back in time. I framed & focused the canon with the red fall leaves to emphasize cause and effect.
This location for obvious reasons reminded me of a doc I shot for Mark Bussler at Gettysburg. We didn’t have post-card perfect weather then but it was consistent. If you always want perfect weather/lighting for outdoor photography you will end up disappointed most of the time. You need to see what the day gives you and take advantage of it.