Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Creativity Article and Candid Portraits

This week I came across a good article on the topic of creativity. This is something I try to write on and then only in specific areas. As far as I know there are no perfect formulae that all of a sudden will make you creative.

Being creative is mainly about doing. Doing things that help the creative ideas flow and at the same time reduce the interruptions or burdens of everyday life that wants you to be robotic. There are many people whose daily job it is to be creative and even these people I know have to practice at making the creative juices flow.

This linked article may seem a bit long at 49 pages, but I found the writing style enjoyable and with the added bonus of his comical drawings on the back of business cards, it increases the extra entertainment factor. There are many good ideas contained within and where there is a slant towards the advertising industry, it is relevant to photographers and other artists. I would encourage you to read it and pass it along to any others that you think might enjoy it.

Update: I inadvertently included the wrong blog as the source for the link. The article was from Pixelatedimage blog as the link can be found here and Chris Brogan is still a good read.

Chris Brogan’s blog is one of my regular reads. His blog deals with social media and community mainly at the corporate level but it is easy to extract material for our business and personal levels. I think it is important that being a photographer or any artist, that we explore more about business, people and customers.

The article I had originally planned was to deal with shooting completely black objects so now I have an article ready for next week. Feels good to be ahead.

I love this photo on many levels. First and foremost the expression of sheer wonder is what grabs you. If you take the time for a closer look you will see that red is the dominant colour, The red glasses, red chair and the pink bathing straps as well as the dark red in the background all help to re-enforce colour dominance. This is complimented with the green hat and also with its analogous colour of cyan in some of the background and with the reflection of water in her face and the lettering on the lens strap.

To many of my regular readers you are probably aware that most of my images are either landscape or inanimate objects and people rarely are the primary focus. This week I decided to show some of my pure people images.

In this image the colours on the shirt are balanced out with same colours in the background. In this shot I had the lions head on the background wall line up with the boys’ own wild main.

I had noticed the boy and his parents early in one of the rings around the street performers and when they started to leave I asked him and his parents if I might take a few shots. They were pleased by my offer.

A street party or event and this case both since it was a Buskers festival becomes a photo-rick area for getting lots of people in interesting images

The main focal point of this image is clearly the interaction between the 2 women obviously enjoying a good laugh. I removed the lower portion of the dining table as its clutter only detracted from the focal point. I also converted to B&W, as I did not want any background colours to lend the eye away. B&W does a good job of removing extraneous detail and clutter, especially when they are colorful

There are strong focal points for eye movement from first the eyes and then mouth, finger over to flower and then up to highlight on the top of head. I decided to leave in the tiny highlight on top of his head to ensure that you take in his whole portrait and take away from those intense eyes.

When I gave him my images of the evening’s event, both he and his wife enjoyed my images more than the professional wedding photographer.

While there is a pleasing smile, I really enjoy the brown tones.

Addiction Hint:

You know when you’re either addicted to photography or seriously challenged when you take photos of your own wedding. This was the case for me. During the actual ceremony I handed my camera to my son, but I took the before & after ceremony shots plus some group shots. This was an outdoor civil ceremony in the gardens and a fine hotel that night.

Niels Henriksen

Thursday, March 19, 2009

SoFoBoMo 2009

This year I am again entering the SoFoBoMo (2009) project and I decided to describe my experiences and tips to those of you who are going to or are still deciding to enter.

Last year was the initial launch for Solo Foto Book Month, which is an online event to create photo books as a community. At the same time, it was my first venture into producing a photography book.

These statues run along the front of the moat or second island, the 3rd being the castle of Frederiksborg. The first island contains the stables and rooms for other workers.

Never having created a book before and with the conditions that there where only 30 days to complete it did seem a bit daunting, at first. Now looking back, it seems easier than my insecurities/ anxiousness permitted.

While I can’t really help much with the selection of your topic regarding theme, there are a few suggestions that might make it easier for you and give you some flexibility with your approach.

The photo book project starts the 1st of May and you can, at your choosing, start anytime during the whole month of May.

My own approach is to plan as follows:

1st week to get out and get the images. For many who have working jobs during the week you could assign both weekends to this.

2nd week for photo selection and editing.

3rd week to layout the book and write a few words.

This gives you an extra week at the end to overcome any problems, like needing more images or more time in the other parts that always seems to go astray.

Taken on the Paris subway. I liked the expressions on the people in relationship to the poster behind them.

Be Creative and have a Backup Plan

My approach is to have several rolling projects that I could use for this year’s book. There are many themes I would like to explore and having several in the thinking about or initial planning stages gives flexibility to really select a topic I can be passionate about. It also gives me the confidence that as I set upon the quest to complete the photo book I have contingencies if the selected subject doesn’t seem to be working.

First week of May project 1 begins. The second week, project 2 could start and the same for the 3rd week project 3.

This may seem like a fair bit of work, but the main object is to have fun and if you’re busy or not excited about the second week’s theme, then skip and wait for the 3rd week. DO what you enjoy.

Some ideas I have this years are:

Along the Ottawa Valley to Algonquin Park

The emerging life in spring.

Still working on other themes.

This was my first use of the Di-GPS adapter for the Nikon camera. I was out on a friend’s property taking a few images as reference points on map he had. In this image I used the Orton effect by first duplicating the layer and then increasing size about 10%. The layer was then blurred (10.0) and set to overlay with 50% opacity. I wanted to create a glowing floor as we are heading down into a valley.

Book Publishing Software

I use Open Office writer to create the book. The main reasons I like this is first it has the ability to have 0.0 margins, which MS Word cannot. Second, and importantly, it allows you to save as PDF file.

I tried Scribus, as others are using it, and it works well but seems more complicated than I need. Also, if I remember correctly, image size was critical. I find Open office easy to use and meets the functionality I need. It you have used MS Word then most of the functionality is the same.

The problem I had with Ms Word is that I could not set the margins to 0.0. It always had a residual size with printer defaults.

I did enjoy creating the book last year but there was some self-imposed stress, as is normal, when you are undertaking some thing new.

This year I have no apprehensions about the approach or time limits. It should all be enjoyable.

I am not trying to create a book that will sell millions or even 10s, but a book that I will enjoy and in the process learn more about what it takes to make a book

Due check out Paul Butzi blog “Mussing of Photgraphy”as he has been instrumental in getting this going.

There is now a flickr discussion group where you can also post questions and share your ideas with others about the book project.

You can sign up for the SoFoBoMo project website to register your book

Niels Henriksen

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Why is bAd Art preferable to Good Photographs?

First I would like to clarify the title (bAd) I used, as I don’t really mean bad art in the technical sense, even though it may apply sometimes, but I was referring to impressionist or non-realism styles (heavy brush work where very little detail is present except fort the crude brush strokes with colour mixing).

Secondly this is not based on any scientific study but only from my own experiences in dealing with other people, both buyers and artists.

Raw layer (ACR) for sky clarity set to –10 to soften the noise, which always tend to show up in skies and dark and reduce saturation and luminance of blue channel as this was a bit underexposed.
Another RAW layer for land and water parts, increase clarity for more general contrast, increase vibrance; curves up for mid-tones; large increase in luminance of red/orange/yellow/green/aqua and reduce for green and blue; Increase saturation red/orange/yellows/aquas, reduce saturation for greens/blues. This enhances the turquoise transition zone in the water and for the foliage increases the colour contrast in the yellow/greens by making the lighter grasses stand out more.
Curves layer to lighten the sand/rock-face. Added a brownish-orange layer and set this to colour mode with mask for sand rock face (opacity 29%). Darkened border areas of hillside.

I am in the process of painting the above scene and in the end it may really be bad or mediocre artwork. With a bit of luck in picking the right bush techniques and colours I believe that many people will prefer the painting to a printed image in the same size.

I know that if I used the smudged technique to create a painting effect they might even like that version better that the original especially if printed on canvas.

The images in the article are taken from the north tip of Mors Island, which is situated in the middle of Jutland. Denmark is very flat, but occasionally there are these larger hills normally near the sea, which rise a few hundred feet at max. The next 2 images show the adjusted version, followed by the original RAW. Nothing great but I find a quaint charm in the country setting.

Once again 2 RAW layers. One as above to soften sky. The other increase clarity, luminance for red/orange/yellow. Added curve for white shed to lighten white and at the same time the yellow grass in front on the left. Cloned out a mud blemish in front grass and removed a white object in the back field. Added orange layer and set to colour mode and with mask used to tint the corrugated roof of shed. Lightened front of posts and darkened shadow parts.

This is the original RAW image unprocessed.

I wonder if in people’s minds a painting is perceived as a one-off and with a printed photo there can be many copies. I also have a opinion that people tend to think that with a painting a person is creating something new and unique, but with a camera, its the camera that is doing all the work and we are just along for the ride. As photographers we really do understand the work that can go into creating an image. Yes some are gotcha moments but we do plan for season, time of day, camera position. With studio work are not these one-off creations with all the careful placement of subjects and lightening?

I love the rolling texture on these hills.

I know with my own better photographic images I regularly spend 1-2 hours working on the digital file and this doesn’t include that time to plan and go out and acquire the image.

This is about the same time it takes to a one-session painting. Currently from 1-3 hours. So far my photos are better.

I just don’t know what all this really means to us as artists, but I do know that there is still al lot of work ahead to educate the public about our artwork and by that I mean the images hanging on people’s walls .

When the public sees the licensing of images at the ridiculously low prices which give the owner the ability to print many images how can we justify to them why the should spend more for just one printed image.

I do think, that in this is one area were we artistic control. It is important that we preselect the paper that enhances image qualities we are after and also to ensure the ink/archival qualities. We shouldn’t let the customers choose their own paper and ink system. These are a lot like the skills of a painter (medium and canvas). I think a lot can be done with marketing and branding of our work.

Reduced sky brightness and saturation. Darkened the rocks and increased contrast. Increased contrast of boat.

This image has do more with a standard joke we have in our camera club about judges always seeming to say for a water scene, if there was only a red boat it would add more punch. Well no there is lots of punch.

I would love to here your thoughts on this topic or any suggestion you have where we can promote some of our work more in the artistic vane.

This is a small 5”x7” study I did in preparation for the larger 16”x20” final painting I am in the process of completing (first image above). I wanted to check the balance of the various greens and also ensure that the front ridge (longer grasses) was separated from the middle ground foliage.

Niels Henriksen


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