As you might have guessed from the lack of updates here, my job almost succeeded in eating me alive. Almost.
Oddly enough, it was my job that indirectly tipped off an identity crisis when it comes to photography. When I started training, I learned that two of my cohorts dabble in the craft. One of them happens to be really good at it.I’d rather not share his work here right now (as it will probably lead him here to this blog, which I’m not ready for him to find). Feel free to leave me a comment if you wish to see it. The thing about his portfolio is it made me feel like an inferior photographer. I saw through the fisheye lens and liberal post-production work to suss out solid composition and excellent timing. I am especially impressed with his shots of birds. Given how much I like birdies, I suddenly felt a bit unworthy. The praise posted did not help things. I had a bit of a meltdown over it, and only chats with a few different friends helped me determine what to do in regards to my future in taking pictures.
Long story short, I’ve started to really accept that I’m a technician and not an artist. When I raised the question of quitting photography on Facebook on Writing.com, the point was raised about artistic photography making a statement. Here’s the thing. I don’t always see photography that way, especially artistic works. When I view photos in a physical gallery or exhibit space, I look at how the photo utilizes foreground/midground/background facets of composition. I also consider how much I can immerse myself in the scene on a base level. Ultimately, that’s what I try to do with my photography. I aim to engage sense beyond sight. I want people to imagine the texture of flower petals, the scent of a goat’s enclosure, or hear the breeze jostling objects in a scene. I do this through various in-camera/in the field techniques. I feel that the vast majority of post-processing takes away from achieving this goal. Yes, this does apply to the work of the photographer I mentioned earlier.
When I’ve dabbled in competitions, I have had some success. Aside from my YBS Top 100 milestone, I have people favoriting/voting for my photos on I Shot It. I can’t say for sure if these people are experiencing what I share on a sensory level. It’s all anonymous, kind of like an actual gallery where I’m not around to directly observe their reactions. My photos seem to do things for some people, though. I guess I have that going for me.
Ultimately, camera technique interests me way more than post-processing (even if I can stomach Lightroom). I care more about finding lenses that will best fit my budget and subjects than I do about actions. Staying quiet to not disturb the wildlife I photograph is more important to me than staying on top of photo software updates. If these priorities mean I’m a technical photographer and not an artistic one, then that’s what I am. Why I keep trying my hand at artistic pursuits I’ll never know.
Being in the technical camp means I don’t have a whole lot of support out there, but I do have some. Ken Rockwell’s op-ed on RAW files echoes some of the sentiments I have when it comes to the craft of photography. I suppose it’s nice to see someone echo my thoughts when that person’s photography background is way different than mine. As I dove back into photography courtesy of working in a photo lab, I saw some lovely things come out of developing film by placing it through automatically timed chemical baths and nearly no interference in printing. Some customers I developed film for were taking photography classes and brought their film to my store. It was fun to see their work because it was really gorgeous. Because of that, I got to see stunning work created without post-processing meddling. If there was ever a moment that my anti-manipulation dogma took root, this would be it.
It all boils down to this. I’m a technique freak that’s been trying to bite off more than I can chew. I’ve gotten lucky in that regard in the past, but this time around it finally became too much. It’s in my best interest to stay focused on improving technique since my desire to make a grand statement on a topic with my photos doesn’t appeal to me. Here’s to actually staying true to my technique-oriented self. I hope I can do this.
I’ve gone on the record a couple times discussing why I’m not a big fan of editing photos. When I post things to this blog, I don’t retouch them. The material is all original and determined at the shoot. I take pride in that fact and am pleased when I get compliments for what is essentially fresh work. The fact that I can even get kudos for my unedited items at all is kind of amazing.
That said, I feel kind of weird when I lurk in photographer discussions that almost always end up including some discussion of Photoshop, Lightroom or another photo editing software. Editing photos is not my style. However, I’ve had a conundrum on my hands with a few photos in the last several months. I love one of the elements, but there’s a flaw that is too glaring to ignore. For me, this is especially annoying with composition, as that is something that really can be fixed from the getgo. On the other hand, there was a photo from my unofficial spring break that was an awesome accident (had the shutter going entirely too fast indoors) but had some stuff at the bottom that really detracted from the simplicity of wrinkled sheets and shades of blue. I really wanted to display this picture, so I had no choice but to do some cropping. It broke my heart to do it, but I got what I wanted. After that, I decided to work on lighting fixes in the editing room, as that doesn’t bother me so much. Lighting has historically been a little tough for me to grasp (although it’s becoming easier to manage now). When I did this tinkering, I found I was having to do less and less to refine the frame. It made me feel a little bit better.
I think that if I ever upgrade from PaintShopPro I will only get Lightroom. The reason for that is their chromatic aberration fix is simple to use. For the record, PSP does have this fix, but it is a nightmare if you do have to use it. Likewise, since the features are more focused on light refinement and less on manipulation of the image, Lightroom fits my mindset toward editing. I’m still not a fan of the editing room, but I can deal with it every once in a while. I never said I dealt with it well. I just said I can deal with it these days. On that note, here are some photos. Are they edited? I’ll let you make the call.
If I may, I’d like to take a quick break to muse on the love/hate relationship I have with editing photos. Simply put, I try to take the photo at the location and make it ready to print at that time. A lot of retouching happens on the professional side of things, but I found a quote on this site that comes from a pro who stands by the old school style of things. Have a look.
Being a photographer carries with the responsibility of never altering a photograph. (You can lighten, darken, sharpen, or crop the image and be safe. To alter is to “Make or become different in some particular way, without permanently losing one’s or its former characteristics or essence – either through darkroom techniques or digital “enhancement” – you are compromising the purity and integrity of the art.) Photography has an inherent quality of honest [sic] and you must have the courage to stand by the image.
The thing is, Western society is so used to alterations in photos that we don’t always notice when they’re being done. Since Photoshop is so ubiquitous in our lives, a lot of people tend to forget what an untouched photo really looks like. With the exception of my previous editing room entry, all of my photos are unenhanced. They are only resized to ease loading times. Otherwise, what you see is what you get. There is no digital alteration involved. For that matter, I don’t even use filters (and will only use a couple when I get a DSLR). My approach is minimal, yes. However, it allows for me to be more adaptable and be able to switch gears almost autonomically. I can be somewhat nomadic when I’m on a photography jaunt, as seen with the Light Rail project. I think nothing of walking three miles and covering multiple subjects along the way, all the while adjusting to countless shifts in light. These jaunts are definitely practice, but I’m doing more than trying out different composition when I’m out there. I’m making myself think on my feet and test the limits of my camera. Very, very few of my photos go to the editing room, and most of those are not selected for this blog. I may have a handle on editing, but I prefer to skip it because it doesn’t fit with my photography philosophy of getting the shot when on location. Perhaps in spite of all the new school equipment I have and will acquire as I get older and grow further into the craft I have an old school perspective on how photography should be approached. I think I’m more than okay with that.
I’ve mentioned my ambivalence about photo editing before. I do try to compose my shots in the camera so no editing is needed afterwards. The photos in the previous entry were all unedited. The black and white photos were taken in black and white with the only tweak being going for a simulated red filter. (FYI, I prefer orange but felt the image of roses in a dumpster called for something more dramatic.) After finally getting Paint Shop Pro for making my wedding invitations, I decided to try out the photo editing tools. This time, instead of going all out with filters, layers and dramatic techniques that warp photos into something that could be best described as hipster attention grabbing, I decided to be a little more subtle. I used light effects sparingly, played with contrast and amped up the hue just enough to brighten the photo a touch. Here are the results.
I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with photo editing tools. In the digital age it’s just too easy to take a junk photo and manipulate into a wannabe masterpiece. I’m not that way. Maybe it’s because I started shooting on film just before the digital explosion began. I’ve always wondered how photo retouching worked before the incorporation of the computer into the photography world. I also have operated under the belief that photo editing is a poor substitute for rock solid raw photography. When I add photos to my Facebook page, they are all unedited. What you see is what you get. On the other hand, I can understand the appeal and have used such editing tools to create photo based artwork, but it’s mostly for my own amusement. I play with them because I know whatever I create will not be considered my primary work. I try to avert common distortions when I initially compose a shot, and I’m slowly learning how to work with light so I don’t have to correct contrast after the fact. Simply put, I try to do all my corrective work with the basic functions of the camera and my physical photography skills. Yes, it sometimes involves contorting myself in odd positions, but if it gets the job done, I don’t really care.
That said, I’ve played with a few different types of software. I have yet to work with Photoshop and will not track down a pirated copy in order to have it. However, from what I’ve read around, Paint Shop Pro is pretty similar. I’ve worked extensively with Paint Shop Pro in the past. I actually didn’t like it at first, but I ended up buying it after going into photo withdrawal during the summer of 2007. It recently got uninstalled from my computer, and the disks went MIA in the midst of my two moves in two years. So I’m going to have to buy a new copy. I need it for making wedding invitations, anyway. It took some getting used to, and it might not be the best for the beginner. Even without a stylus I managed to do some interesting things with the program. Since I’ve been doing without for some time, I’ve been poking around Photobucket’s tools, which are designed for amateurs (at least in theory). I mostly just played with the effects, because I figured if I’m going to muck up a picture with digital manipulation, I’m going all the way. So have a few photos of the non-manipulated and manipulated variety.