Motivated with new tools

A mantra I’ve often said is “I Love Digital I Hate Digital!” It’s as true today as when the phrase first entered my mind. (Click on any image to see full screen.)

One street lamp 40,000 ISO

If I capture something with my camera like my eyes saw I’m quite happy. Noise/grain that accompanies low light is a side effect of the digital settings necessary to capturing dark environments. Although I accept noise as part of the feel of that environment it’s a distraction I’d be glad to eliminate.  

Nicole Ivan REALLY?! Bodiography Contemporary Ballet Choreography Maria Caruso

Images from a production of the Bodiography Contemporary Ballet motivated me to do a test drive of noise reducing software. I was very happy with how the blacks surrounding Nicole’s form became transparent. The software did indeed reduce grain but added what I describe as a “painterly look.” I kinda liked it! Since I also like what 40,000 ISO can do, I recognized this software would allow me to experiment more in low light situations.

A preset “look” look dramatically improved the spectrum of blue.

After exploring the noise filter for a trial period. I added the entire Topaz collection to my editing toolbox to see what else I might use. As learning by trial & error will do, I found interesting tools.

A light touch softened the harsh elements that had overpowered the main subject.

Finding the images that benefit most from my new digital tools is a learning curve. I realized some filters have the ability to take “so-so” shots & improve the basics of form, light, color or texture. The right tool for the right job is where decision-making is important in achieving an image that correlates with my vision when I snapped the shutter. In doing this, I contemplate the Ansel Adams quote “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.” I often wonder how he would embrace digital tools.

The result of digital manipulation added to my appreciation of the strength of the form.

This result, in my mind’s eye, crossed over into a different dimension. Not a photograph but not a painting. In some respects filters made elements more natural while making others bizarre. It seems like I found some handles on mood & emotion. I soon saw a use for these tools with some specific images in my archive.

My 1st reaction was a feeling of summer. (The sails are masked from the effect.)

In previous attempts at chasing sailboats with my camera I was less than thrilled with the results. I had a few not-to-bad images but weather had an impact, as did my learning curve on my overall satisfaction. I liked the form within many of the images but they just didn’t “pop.” Using Photoshop I removed some elements I wasn’t happy with but nothing reached a level of  “Nailed It!” These images became my guinea pigs for venturing into artificial intelligence in photo software.

My next step may be trying to remove all the sponsor text on the hull & sail.

As is often the case “Less is More.” A slight use of a “designed look” diminished the visual strength of the bridge in the background while giving energy to the boat. That is more like what I envisioned.

My”old school” roots make it easy to reject this & other effects.

As with any effect, it’s easy to get ridiculous. But I did find “looks” I thought added a layer of enrichment not just change.

The elements in this image never did balance to my liking.

From what I know about AI using that term seems to be more hype/marketing than actual operation. The “looks” I felt had the most impact on improving the images fell into one category…dead painters with names like Degas, Van Gogh, Monet & Renoir.  However, with some images no amount of important artists do more than make a mediocre image more mediocre.

Over saturation is a common technique to grab eyes. I prefer a powerful subject.

Not surprisingly adding a filter does not rescue a shot that really doesn’t have much going for it. An effect just for the sake of an effect is only a crutch supporting a problem.

In the “before” image on the left, Empire Sandy lacked wind in her sails making her look flat & lifeless. Running the image on the right thru a few “looks” gave me something a bit more interesting. In this case the software added a classical feeling to a subject with historic roots. This effect works with this image.

Re-cropping to 30% of image gave better balance to elements that caught my eye.

I’ve overcome my “journalistic” concerns about altering an image. Now, reducing/removing visual distractions or enhancing details are things I routinely do in Photoshop. I especially enjoy how a simply re-crop gives a shot more emphasis.

From a sophisticated perspective I would critique this as just yukky!

I find myself in digital conflict again. Some of these clicks in Topaz software take an image into an entirely different cosmos. These images are far from a painting & my eyes don’t see a photograph. Frequently, like the image above, results scream NO! It feels disconnected from what inspired me. Occasionally, I discover a layer of emotion or mood that’s in sync with my original motivation.

LOST POND by J

My visual perception has yet to fully integrate how all the aspects of digital editing can assist with realizing that vision. I am continuing to learn the appropriate situation of what & when to dig into my digital toolbox. To ensure I don’t go to far I went back to some of my favorite shots. LOST POND is one of my few landscape captures I really like.  Could I make it better? The results…different yes better no!

I’m sure Monet himself could do better.

I love much of Monet’s work & I thought simulating his style might take the image to a higher level. Nope! The good photo, with some enhancement in Photoshop, is much better than the “Monet look”. Learning what I don’t like is valuable to me. It gives me incentive to pursue the vision of my mind’s eye with new tools, new perspectives & new failures, at my fingertips.

Glass Gallery

This blog posting goes back to one of the earliest visual inspirations I remember.  In my childhood home we had a stained glass window that  caught my eyes.  That window now hangs in my home.   Early tabletop video experience taught me to look, light & shoot glass with many different perspectives and angles. I had my bare eyes, 3 lenses, & my “over 60 reading glasses”. So with 5 sets of eyes I began to examine the fascinating work of world-class artists.Lifeforms 04 072

In advance, I confirmed it was OK to photograph the artwork at the Pittsburgh Glass Center. My first impression was the consistent color temp of the light. The gallery had almost no exposure to outside windows; traditional white walls & the lights were mounted high enough for flexibility in focusing. The 55 pieces on display made the room seem small but not crowded. I was double cautious making physical moves.

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This piece “Cupped Up” by Sam McMillen is a bird I am fortunate enough to see frequently. The perfect shape & coloring of the head of the solid sculpted glass caught my attention.

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A roommate majoring in architecture introduced me to the beauty & function of this structure. (Thanks Pete for opening my eyes to space in form & function). I tweaked “Half & Half” a Pâte de verre work by Rachel Mary Elliott to emphasize the perfection of the Sacred Geometry of a mollusk still inspiring artists after 500 million years. Speaking of opening up your eyes, I found this website about Monet very interesting especially since his paintings are some of my favorites.

 

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All glass models in Lifeforms compettion are mandated to be of specific species made in the spirit of the Blaschka’s. This is a flame-worked glass replica of an almost microscopic mineral skeleton called “Radiolari” by Lisa Demagall. Of all of the spectacular pieces I saw this one I would love to spend a day with in a controlled studio.

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The background was the motivator of this shot. “India Blue Peacock” by Karen Willenbrink-Johnsen was one of the few sculptures far enough away from a wall allowing me to separate the intensity of lights. Her blown, sculpted glass with powder drawings was magnificent but this photo does not show the peacocks signature train of colors. Sometimes life is like that.Lifeforms 05 073_HDR

This is my first attempt at incorporating HDR filters.   I don’t believe this flame-worked glass entitled “Lovely” has been overly enhanced so the artist Bronwen Heilman would object. When I compare it to the original, the subtle effects emphasize positive aspects of the original without creating surreal changes.

If UV photography is different perspective you would like to explore this website a variety of simulations of the spectrum of light unseen by the human eye.

Forms of Water

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.

CTR ice

Ice CTR

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.

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Bridge CTR

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.

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Potomac Fog

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.

 

Reflected Fog

Reflected Fog

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.