The third round of the ROC, congratulations to the winners, thanks to Peter Weaver for his work as the judge, and it is good to see that the overall level of technical achievement is going in the right direction. To those members who are convincing themselves that their work isn’t good enough to show, I have to say you are probably wrong about that. The competitive element aside, and the importance of that will be personal to each entrant, getting feedback from experienced judges is a good way to look to our personal development as photographers.
It comes back to that word “Because”. I agree with the judge, because … I disagree with the judge, because … are two great places to start. Personal development involves reflecting on the work we produce and putting it forward in the first place is a great way to see things differently. Seeing things differently, trying things differently is the deliberate act that fires that improvement.
As I said in the closing remarks, £2.95 for a re-usable 40 x 50 cm (20 x 16 inch ) mount to fit a 16 x 12 inch (40.6 x 30.5 cm) aperture from The Range (cheaper on line, but make sure you know what you are buying first) and £1.82 for a 16 x 12 gloss or lustre print from Keynsham Photographic Centre and we are in business. Give it a go.
It is, after all, about perception. The whole conceive, frame, light, shoot thing is to capture a perception of something we saw, no matter how real that actually was. The camera may never lie but photographs do, because they are about slices of reality, selected contexts and an impression of a thing. If the camera thinks 18% Gray is half way between black and white we are starting from something of a skewed perspective anyway (here for the science of it).
The danger, at least to posterity, lies in what we perceive as a photograph. It used to be a lot narrower than it is today. A photograph was the finished product held in the hand, hung on the wall, or mounted in the family album. Today we stop a step short of that. What we have with digital technology – and I speak here as a fan – is a computer file as a “finished” article.
Unfortunately these files we keep on computers and so need complex and expensive technology to view them.
The files themselves are subject to physical loss (hence the need for back up), damage (hence the need for back up), infection by malicious code (hence the need for back up), and eventually and probably sooner than you think, redundancy (hence the need for back up in more than one file type if you are being particularly cautious). The back ups are also prone to all of the above.
Keeping your treasured images on the Cloud is one answer to this. Except it isn’t. They are still computer files and still need expensive technology to view them. “The Cloud” is a fluffy marketing term for someone else’s computers. Someone else’s very, very, very expensive computers.
These very, very, very expensive computers are mostly under someone else’s legal jurisdiction, are only going to operate as long as someone, the people who own and maintain those very, very, very expensive computers will only do so as long as they can make a profit from those very, very, very expensive computers. They also makes you images easier to steal, but that isn’t their purpose.
Yes this also applies to “Free” services. “Free” is another fluffy marketing term which means “You pay for this another way” usually by your personal data, which you give access to in the terms and conditions (EULA’s as they are technically called, End User Licensing Agreements), and everyone you interact with which, they do not, necessarily. This as far away as it can be from the harmless fair trade it sounds and it massively profits the collectors of such data.
After all, these very, very, very expensive computers are run for profit and not for the well-being of their users, who, by and large, are well and truly in the dark as to the real value of what they like, share and post and whereas buying that data is relatively inexpensive the worth to end users is far, far, far higher than what is paid to collect. Allegedly, it has been used to select governments and policies.
The cost of storing and displaying our jpegs is far higher than we may have thought and there are important political issues surrounding our ability to do so, but there are also aesthetic considerations. Looking at a print is an altogether different experience than looking at an image on a computer screen. I find that, probably because of their relative scarcity compared to screen images, that looking at prints invites an altogether slower, more absorbing process.
The same goes for making prints, whether we do them ourselves or have them done commercially. Again this something connected to the print process. We are saying that this particular image has some more than usual significance for us, that we want to spend more time on and with it and that, maybe, we want to display it – on the wall at home or in the club competitions or even in an exhibition – but above all we want to keep it.
So, why not leaf through your favourites and select half a dozen for printing and mounting? Then choose your best three and enter them for the ROC round 4. If you need help members can us the Facebook page or have a talk with someone at the next club meeting. You will have something to keep and you will have some constructive criticism which you can apply to your photography and that then becomes a strong base for improving your photography over all.
Three club events to celebrate in this post. First up thanks go to club member Gerry Painter for the evening of how to make a people picture a portrait through posing. Our thanks to Gerry for the introduction and practical sessions after the break, a very enjoyable evening. The night before some of us visited Hanham Photographic Society and there were presentations there by our club members Chris Harvey, Alison Davies, Myk Garton, and Ian Coombs. This was an agreeable evening and we look forward to Hanham’s return visit on 12th November. Finally a welcome return to Marko Nurminen and his brief tour around just a few aspects of the revised Adobe Lightroom/Photoshop using some images supplied by club members, including Gerry Painter, which is where we came in.
The portrait is not just restricted to photography, of course, it’s an art form that predates it, drawing, painting and engraving were long the ways of committing the likeness of a person or prized animal to a two dimensional surface and still are. There is, however, a difference in our minds between what we would generally call a picture and a portrait and the difference comes with degree of anticipated artifice and convention involved. That’s how we know one when we see one. Of course, that doesn’t mean that they can only be taken in a studio, but the conventions that set out a formal portrait were the ones that meant that the subject was not moving anywhere anytime soon as the initial sketches and or being painted from life demanded that (though body doubles weren’t unheard of with the principal standing in for the face only in full length portraits).
That applied even more to the early days of photography where photographers studios were equipped with neck braces of varying heights to keep their subjects immobile whilst sufficient light was collected. Well, that and prop up the dead ones as, apparently, nearly a third of all Victorian photographs, especially early in the period, the subjects had actually pre-deceased the photograph. It wasn’t unusual for surviving relatives to be in the frame too, though they would usually be the ones standing up, I assume. Photographs were luxury items, and painting was held in higher esteem, at least by those who could afford it, though, possibly, as a mark of distinction from those who could not. Those conventions can still be seen in the rigidly narrow set of poses seen in corporate and other types of formal portraits. Gerry was after creating something a little more relaxed too. The materials are available to club members on his website www.ttassist.com (See Gerry for the Reflex password) and he particularly recommended Lindsay Adler’s materials (also blog and Facebook and check out this short video on creativity, spinning out a complete shoot from a single idea).
Light, camera, angles, props, location, environment, subjects, framing, moment. Pretty much sums up the mechanics of photography before the electronics take over. What it doesn’t cover is the relationship between photographer and subject. Posing is about creating a connection so that subject goes beyond just being that and becomes part of a conversation, part of a story, with the viewer, be that subject animal vegetable or mineral, though for our purposes, principally animal. As has been said frequently before, it doesn’t matter that that story differs between photographer, subject and viewers, but the connect is important to an image’s success. We are hard wired to react to body language, though there are cultural variations, especially over things like the acceptable degree of the body exposed and direct eye contact. About 55% of what we take from a conversation is through body language (but that’s a reassuringly round number and as such we should be sceptical of it). When the medium takes away the other 45%, as a photograph will, those aspects become more important. But light also speaks. Light and shadow affect mood, set a tone. We are all affected by colour, more often the combining of colours. These remain considerations, but it is the attitude of the body that we will take the bulk of our clues from.
And it’s quite a range of expressions that can be nonverbally expressed. The palate we get to work with is a broad one. This does not necessarily help, because there is a very important aspect yet to be considered, and that is the relationship between photographer and model. Though there are many other elements to a specific photoshoot get this basic wrong and everything else will fall apart, regardless. Concentrating on getting the basics right is a form of insurance. The pose conveys the essence of the story, the light, as we have said, the tone. There are gender differences between females and males, and again these are culturally driven and also between full length and heads and hands portraits. That doesn’t mean that the rules are rigid and unbreakable, but as with all rules, best know them and know how to work them before you go out and break them. We had a good second part of the session putting these things into practice and club thanks to the models.
Marko Nurminem showed his combination of know-how and wit to take us through another evening of post production skills. Being a professional he is a Lightroom and Photoshop expert and he took us through a couple of the tools in the updated versions (LR 6/LR CC). In particular he showed us the refined dehaze tool, which he used on more than just misty backgrounds to affect colour and tone. His mini tutorial on colour muting and boosting was also cleverly done. The things he was doing were pretty straightforward but it proves the point that to make things look easy you have to first have a degree of mastery over them and Marko comes with the added bonus that he is a good public speaker. In a second language at that.
This week we follow that up with editing in software that isn’t Photoshop……