Saturday, December 17, 2011

It's Pretty, But Is It Art? No, Probably Not

So a friend and I were walking around a gallery a little while ago, looking at the art on the walls and judging whether or not it actually was art.  I don't have a great art education (that may or may not be an advantage) but I did learn the basic rules of composition: rule of thirds, using directors, creating tension with diagonals... And I was attempting to explain why some things worked, and some didn't.  My friend could have cared less about the rules; he only knew what he did and didn't like.

I was looking at my oldest son's blog earlier today (he is a photographer too, and a really good one) where I saw he had posted the following quote:

"Whether visual art is good or bad is in the eye of the beholder and a matter of opinion. Whether or not an effort is art at all is defined by indisputable laws of composition."

A nice summation, I think.  If you disagree, have at it.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

How Much Is Too Much?

Photographer or Graphic Artist? 

I followed a conversation on another website about photo editing, and one of the participants commented that "...after that much editing, you are no longer a photographer, you are a graphic artist."  So how much is too much? 

There are photographers that eschew any editing at all, developing and printing the image exctly as it is captured in the emulsion or on the CCD.  At the other extreme is the photographer who stages elaborate setups almost like a video shoot, and then heavily edits that image until it bears no resemblance to anything in reality.  One viewpoint refuses any editing or manipulation that was not available to us in the traditional "wet" darkroom: burning, dodging, solarization... If it could not be done under an enlarger it is not allowed today.  This is too tied to the past for my taste.  If I never get D-76 on my hands again it will be too soon.

I fall somewhere in between: every image  is evaluated on its own, and calls for a degree of editing that bears little relationship to the image that came before, or the one that comes after.  Presets are a starting point, rarely the solution.  I have only done one series of images in a "project," and those have not been published; probably never will be.

So I use all the tools that are at my disposal, but nothing to the point that an effect draws attention to itself or away from the image.  I am too much of a traditionalist for that.  Where are your limits?  Where is the line that you will not cross in image manipulation?

Monday, May 9, 2011

I Almost Went Home Early...

   But I didn't.  I knew I would have a very hard time explaining to my wife exactly why I had spent three hundred dollars for a weekend workshop, and had only stayed for three hours and one meal; not to mention having driven one hundred and seventy miles, only to turn around and drive home.  With gas at over four bucks a gallon, it seemed like a wise choice to avoid each of those discussions.

   So I stayed at a workshop I had no interest in. See -- I consider myself a Landscape Photographer,  and I have no interest in wildflowers. I had no interest in looking at them, in shooting them, or in framing and ultimately trying to sell prints of them.  Waste of time.  Give me mountain vistas, huge storm clouds, frost and morning mist and old barns.

   I ended up learning more this weekend than I have in the last year.  The instructor, Tom barnes, has a number of books published, all focussing on outdoor and nature in Kentucky. 

   So thanks to Tom and the rest of the group, I now adore shooting flowers and other small bits of nature.  I enjoy the technical aspect of capturing them, and the colors -- the way they seem to saturate the image. 

   The students were an eclectic group: hobbyists, pros and wannabe semipros like myself.   We hiked all over the top of Pine Mountain and Big Black Mountain.  We took pictures.  We looked at each other's setups.  We critiqued and we networked.  I got back Sunday afternoon and was exhausted. 

   Today I looked through the files, and I think I got four keepers out of the ones I shot; not a bad average at this stage of the game.  I will get them up on the website in the next couple of days.

Lessons Learned:

1. Keep an open mind when somebody suggests a new direction for your art. 
2. No picture is wasted.  Even the bad ones can tell me something about where I am in my learning process.
3. Have a good time.  If it isn't fun, find something to do that is fun.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Photo Pro or Midlife Crisis: You make the call.

I'm seeing a lot of people my age getting into photography at the semi-pro level, usually right after they retire or are downsized from their job of thirty-odd years. The pros even have a name for us: "Uncle Bob's Wedding Photography."  Granted: a new Pentax/Nikon/Canon DSLR and a 13" printer are a lot cheaper than a Z4 or a mistress (and no, I do NOT know that from experience!) but I wonder how many of us have gone through all of the steps of setting up a business and keeping the necessary records that go along with being a professional photographer/painter/jeweler/water-colorist/whatever.

For me, there are days of driving, sleep deprived early mornings and countless hours working in Lightroom and Photoshop to get one new really good pic on the website and gallery wall.  Also, if you do have a gallery representing you there is the additional time (and cost!) spent in printing and framing your work to get those compositions on the walls and  in front of the public.

Let's talk about being a professional.  Whether you are a freelance photographer, designer, painter or other type of artist: does the fun of being an artist outweigh the day-to-day, sometimes overwhelming details that go along with being a sole proprietor business?

Oh -- and welcome to my blog!