Monday, November 30, 2009

Obsession, Madness or Just Good Photography

The other day, while sitting on the back patio enjoying the late warmth in November, I saw this singular leaf sitting on the patio stones. You might rightly think, “well this is fall, what do you expect?” but there was something different.

It could be that the leaf was all alone but what really caught my eye was these huge rain drops sitting on top and from the angle I was looking, each drop radiated brilliant crystalline light.

The sky was lightly overcast and the droplets where reflecting the bright white sky in my direction. As I moved around the leaf the droplets would change from a silvery white to magnifying (like a lens) the patterns and textures contained under the droplet.

I wonder if I could make something wonderful with my camera and ran inside to get the camera. There have been times when I have waited too long to go back to photograph an item, only to find that the conditions have changed and it was, now, no longer possible.

There was nothing really unique about the leaf or the stone background in itself, to make an interesting composition. I decided maybe with some close-up shots I might be able, with unique perspective, to capture an interesting composition.

With that view in mind I grabbed my tripod and 90mm Tamaron Macro lens.

With the aid of a cushion, I explored every inch of that leaf and probably did it several times over. It was until I was finally finished that I realized that I had taken 313 images.

This is where the title links in. Was this an obsession or just good work on my part?

As yet, I don’t know. To be fair to myself, I was shooting macro mode and therefore focused incrementally over all parts of the leaf, in case I wanted to combine them into one clear image with greater DOF.

I wanted to create the effect of a snowstorm in a globe that contrasted against the delicate and muted tones of the rest of the leaf.

I did 3 different scans with the camera over the leaf and few others for artistic effect.

The one good part is that while the shooting was going on I was completely lost in my world, exploring different angles and lights and that alone was fun.

Now, what to do with all the images. I have learned not to be too obsessed with previously taken images. One day I may find a good reason to dust them off. I just need that brilliant idea to mirror with the right images.

I enjoyed playing around with changing the colours of the drops.

For this set, I decided to select a few and see what I could do with them as I am not sure that they will all stand on their own without some retouching. There are interesting patterns and textures and in some parts, subtle colour transitions.

This is part of what makes photography interesting for me.

Niels Henriksen

Related Articles

How to adjust any color without effecting other colors.
Adjust any Colour of the Rainbow with Blend-If type Sliders

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Night Photography – Ottawa’s Lumière Festival

Once a year in Stanley Park, Ottawa has a festival of lights, music and magic. This grand visual display is called the Lumière (French for light) Festival. This large park along the Rideau River is bedecked with all shapes and sized coloured paper candle lit lanterns.

The festival organizers, I imagine volunteers, create some rather stunning and tall (over 7 ft) coloured paper lanterns in the shapes of fairy like objects. Local supporters, and I know because I’ve seen some regulars, have their own light displays set up along the many paths in the park.

The visitors make and bring their own lanterns and there are a few for sale at the site as the bottom image shows.

75mm, f5.0, f5.0, iso 400, 1/60 sec

The festival starts to get underway around 4:00pm with only a few people starting to arrive. The main event doesn’t happen until after dusk (9:30pm).

Lens Choices

While the night shots would involve the use of the tripod and long exposure times, I chose a heavier lens for the first part of the evening. There is still natural light however, that light is obstructed by the many trees lining the pathways.

The lens used was a Nikon 70-200mm f2.8 vr to give me the extra light capturing ability around dusk, as I learned from pervious years that when there is a lot going on, this allows me to quickly point and shoot. I also bumped up the iso to 400 for more light as with this setting there is no noticeable noise with the Nikon D300.

When I switched to the tripod I chose the Nikon 18-200mm, f3.5 vr lens. I knew for some shots, with all the people around, I would need a wide-angle lens and get in close to not have people block my view.

200mm, f5.6 iso 400, _1 ev comp, 1/125sec

At first impression you might think that I have oversaturated the green in this many-sided triangular hanging. I did increase saturation but only slightly because if you start to over sat then you also loose the subtle tonal transitions, here in the greens and yellows.
I used a technique form my painting experience where you can alter any colour by what is placed next to it.

I darkened and de-saturated all the green foliage to make this object appear more vivid. I increased the saturation of the purple flower slightly to give some balance with the strong green colour. If all the remainder of the scene were de-saturated then the green object would seem out of place. Almost cut out. It needs some anchor points in the scene. I did also rotate the direction of the person on the right, to be entering the scene as opposed to leaving it.

handheld, 18mm, f3.8, iso 400, .5 sec

This is a 6 ft display of skyscrapers made of blue tissue paper with other colours glued on. One benefit of this time of night, while this path is packed elbow to elbow because of the darkness they don’t show up unless they are carrying a lit lantern. I had several versions of this location, but I chose this because the dark blue sky helps to add some abstractness to the already abstract blue towers. You can see the other lanterns dotting the pathways.

Tripod, 26mm, f3.8, iso 400, 2 sec

One of my favorites of the evening is this image where the petals are picking up the glow from the yellow light. The yellow tip of the flower is 7ft tall with the petals going higher.

This image is 2110x 350 when you click on the above thumbnail

A composite of the many different hanging lanterns found along the paths. In the last image, the cones are 6ft tall.

The Grand finale

tripod, 150mm, f10.0, iso 400, 5 secs

This festival is really about the grand finale, a baseball diamond filled with brown paper lunch bags with sand in the bottom and a lit candle that, in all, form a giant walking maze. All the kids and parents snake in a long procession through the intricate loops in the maze.

tripod, 150mm, f10.0, iso 400, 5 secs

If you examine carefully near the top left, you will see ghost like outlines from people who had lighter clothing on. People with dark clothing don’t show up at all. From this viewpoint it almost appears as there is no rhyme or reason to route through maze.

With a slightly different camera angle some of the curved paths start to show up.

tripod, 150mm, f10.0, iso 400, 2.5 secs

This festival is a huge hit for parents with kids. Before it gets totally dark, there are numerous entertainers from outdoor plays. Some with stilted costume performers, singers, folk dances, jugglers, and many other strange things you find at lighted fairy nights.

For camera buffs, and there are many that show up, this is a great chance to photograph very unique and colourful people and objects and later on some truly great night photography.

Niels Henriksen

Related posts

Ottawa Luminère Festival a Night of Magic Light

Night Lights – Slow Shutter

Ottawa Lumiere Festival

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Are All Photographs Works of Art?

The images in this article are from the Ottawa 2009 Lumiere festival which I will be describing in the next article, as I will have too many images to show, I will therefore focus in this article on the some of people who help make this festival such a joyous event.

On first reflection I was going to say “yes”. It seemed easy to state with how I thought about art. Art being that ‘thing’ when something unique is created by any person. You will note that in the title there is no adjective describing whether the work of art is either good or bad. Value is different as those who would prescribe a monetary amount in order to preserve the artefact define this.

It seemed to apply to photography since it requires a person to make a conscious decision to capture a moment in time from a unique perspective. The person may not know it at the time of taking the image that they were even creating a piece of art. But I believe that even then there was some creative process that urged or guided the person to decide that the image now composed in the viewfinder is the ‘one’. The original intention, either as a memory aid or used with others to help tell a story or convey emotions about a specific place and time, is not important.

Some of you might debate there should be more than just the snapping of a photo to create works of art. I don’t think that’s the case. I know my own biases creep in from time to time and I think that there needs to be an artist, a person driven to create, to show the world a new way of looking.

We call cave paintings works of art and I think that at the time these were meant more as sign posts to show events of locations for food. But these people did create a unique way of looking at the life that unfolded from their daily lives. I wonder what the others thought when gazing at these paintings, as there were so few around. I think almost mystical.

When I started to think about some photographs that had no human intervention, I wondered whether this type of image would also be applicable. In our society there are many forms of surveillance and these, as a unique image or sequence (movie), are not in my opinion, works of art. It doesn’t mean that some person later may not go through a large database of images and from that set create a perspective that is somehow unique.

I think even photographers who, without looking at their viewfinders and walk through a market and snap images from their hips, as still creating works of art. Now some may be poorly framed, wrong focus and ill-defined subjects. But somehow a person is trying to capture fleeting events and in that process creates works of art. The process can become part of the how the work of art is defined.

It will be up to others to really define a value. You can set a price, but the real value is defined by individuals who collectively determine its worth.

So even if you decide to set up a camera at a spot to take images randomly or on intervals while you are not around, I still think these are works of art. Will I buy one? I don’t know but you never know, as one image might just impress enough that I feel a need to have it.

So in summary, I now think that not all photographs are works of art. There are times when the capture of the image is for the most part only being captured mechanically and the human touch, however light, is just not present. Now if a person were to sift through all the pile of images and select some for the telling of a story, then at that point those images would form a part of works of art.

Niels Henriksen


Related Posts with Thumbnails