Monday, June 29, 2009

SoFoBoMo 2009 – A Walk around the Pond

Well I finally finished my SoFoBoMo 2009 project. It always seems to take more effort near the end, as those little finishing details do seem to add up.

A Walk around the Pond

This year, due to 2 unforeseen events, I was not able to truly complete it within the 31-day timeframe but I did make it by the closing date of end of June.

Since this is not a judged competition with strict rules I hope it is still acceptable since the primary driver is a self undertaking to learn and grow in your skills and have some fun at the same time.

Thoughts on this Year’s SoFoBoMo Book

As I stated in the previous article this subject material was not my first or even second choice but an opportunity that made itself available on one day. While in Denmark I knew I still wanted to make the book, but I wasn’t sure on the subject. Several things floated around in my head as possible ideas but nothing really gelled as I was not always in control of my destinations during this stay.

One day my brother and his wife decided to take all of us to see some water with high cliffs. At least that was my translation’s abilities. I initially had vision of jagged cliffs with large breaking waves along the bottom.

My translation was not perfect and we arrived at Maglose Lake completely surrounded by land and with no large breakers at the shoreline. In fact to me this was more of a pond than a lake.
It was as we started the walk around the pond that I thought I might be able to make the book out of this adventure and then focused on getting more shots that I could use.

It is not a great photographic book but I did manage to complete it and to tell a story at the same time so I was at least successful with that part.

To produce great photography books I do believe that it requires a great investment in time and perseverance. The time it takes to capture your subject in many lights, at different times of day and even in different seasons. Not an undertaking that normally can be completed, at least the photography, within a few hours.

With my second SoFoBoMo book, I realize you do get experience in creating books, which is more than just a compilation of images. There is a need to tell a story with the images in a specific sequence as they unfold. There is also the need to write prose to support the story.

I know that there are some participants that did not finish their books and I wonder if they felt that their effort was not going to measure up against others. I think it is a big mistake to measure yourself in contrast to the other books. Do it because you love it and others will find good parts if not the whole effort great.

The technical stuff about producing this ebook

I once again used Open office to create my document and save as a pdf file. The main reason is that border can be set right to the edge of the page, which I was not able to do in MS word because of printer default limitations. There was always a residual edge and if choosing a coloured background, the whole white edge would show.

Book format is 18cm x 23cm about 7” by 9”

I chose Century Gothic at 11pts as I find the serf fonts harder to read.

The one thing I forgot from last year’s experience was to set each image to anchor on page. In paragraph anchor the image would sometimes move around when changes were made.

I also inserted my text within a frame and anchored this also to page. This gave me complete control to position text anywhere I wanted without having to think about tabs, margins and line spacing. After all, this is mainly a photo book with some text.

I made jpegs with the utility ‘Instant Jpeg from RAW’ and placed into a folder. There I used Adobe Bridge with star rating to reduce the set. Any images with no stars would be deleted (only jpegs). I would keep doing this until I had a manageable set.

I then placed these all into the document and with view set to 25% I would position the images around as I though the story would unfold. This process would also cull a few images and once I felt the set was right I would then work each image in Photoshop for desired effect and size. At the same time I would start working on the text for the images.

Will I do it again Next Year?

Most likely yes. It does take a significant amount of time and energy but in the end it is worth it. If we are serious about art and photography then it will take commitment and determination to see it through to truly learn.

I had wanted a Top-of-the Chart type book with just exceptional images. I was worried at first that my effort would not be good enough and wondered whether I should still proceed or back out. The word failure was slowly rolling around in the back of my mind.

With some reflection I came to the conclusion that this is mainly a book for me, a project for me to learn and develop as a photographer and now a little as a book writer.

If you are being artistic then in my view there is no word “failure”. There is only your vision, skills and effort. If you worry too much about success then the joy and pleasure this should bring starts to disappear and re-emerge as negative thoughts.

It was an interesting challenge to compile the images from such a short excursion and duration. Not a challenge I plan to do again. Maybe next year I may be able to undertake my original theme.

I hope that in the book you find a few enjoyable images and find the excursion interesting and maybe give you a few thoughts about how the ordinary may seem interesting depending on the view.

Niels Henriksen

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Yousuf Karsh and SoFoBoMo 2009 update

I was very fortunate to be invited to the opening ceremonies, Thursday 11 June, for the Yousuf Karsh Image Maker exhibition which is coinciding with his 100th year birthday, were he alive today.

He is mainly recognized with his classic portrait of Sir Winston Churchill at the start of World War II. This is were Karsh had the audacity to rip the cigar out of his hands which left Churchill with the slight scowl on his expression.

The Science and Technology Museum was the first venue to open and the Portrait Gallery of Canada is opening a few days later.

The images are all taken with my iphone. My first real trail with the new phone, and while the images are not great, they’re not bad when you consider how dark it was. Though many were also blurred.

Mrs. Karsh (images above) cut the ribbon into hall and also gave a great speech on the legacy of one of the finest portrait photographers. There sure were a lot of people waiting to get into the exhibit. There is something special in gazing at the beautifully rendered Black and White images that hang through the museum. One room is all black and only large portraits are lit around this circular room. The white dots are the few ceiling lights that provide a measure of safety for movement.

Because it’s a science and technology museum, they not only display his photography but also the equipment he used in the studio.

The set of brushes were a gift from Karsh’s mentor, the Boston Portrait photographer John Caro. There was this giant, almost 9 foot enlarger in one of the rooms. And best of all, there was his 8x10 View camera There is even a positive photograph that is back-lit, of Karsh and Ansel Adams standing side by side and by their expressions, somewhat reluctantly agreeing to being photographed. There will be another exhibit at the National Archives. Mrs. Karsh indicated in her speak that they are now showing some prints from negatives that he had never made a print of before.

SoFoBoMo 2009 Update

Originally I had an idea for this years SoFoBoMo’s project, which was to do a photographic study both in distance and in time as I travelled from the Capital of Ottawa to Algonquin Park. The journey was to show how nature and people are viewed near urban centres and how their lifestyles (external) change as they live more in remote areas.

My trip to Denmark used up a lot of vacation time and I was unable to undertake this journey when I got back. While in Denmark, we went for a walk around this park with a very small lake, almost a pond. I thought at the time that if I got enough reasonable images I could do a book just on this subject. To try and show how one could capture many different perspectives and views from what may seem so ordinary at first.

Many of the images are not great to my standards and I had thought I would try and find another pond near where I live and that way I could do a 2 lake study and hopefully get a better set of images.

Part of undertaking the SoFoBoMo project is to enjoy the process and learn to be flexible in your approach. There are always some things that will pop up that causes a change in the course. If you enjoy what you are doing and are not concerned with what others are achieving or how they will view your book, then adapting should be part of the excitement and not a frustration.

After all it is only another form of a slide show with some text added and I am sure we have all created slideshows from some of our images.
This image shows how small the lake is with the other side being so close.

Niels Henriksen

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Blog Award and Photographs that You Need to Explore

I was very honoured last week to receive the ‘noblesse oblige’ Blog award from what I consider to be a very fine artist.

Life can seem strange in a good sense at times. Here is a blogger and artist whom I always visit to see his inspirational works of art and at the same time obtain motivation for my own creative juices. With this award from I now surmise that Lorainn finds my own artist interpretations, mostly with a camera, in a similar vein.

Do visit his site
loriann signori's painting-a-day as he has an excellent impressionistic approach to rendering landscape scenes. This is a fluid style that I hope to one day to be able to render in my own approach. Even on the web, which tends to dull vibrancy at bit with the sRGB colour space; his images are vibrant and alive. I can only imagine that to stand in front of the original works, the colours must just sing.

With the 2nd pat of the article title I hope to present some images that encourage the viewer to spend some time to take in all the elements. I’ll discuss my approach to creating interest and maybe one or two will create this effect for you.

Many viewers at first glance, especially if you’re looking for that ‘wow factor’, the above image may not grab a hold of you the right way.

If you do take the time to examine and reflect you will realize that this image has many compositional elements that does keep your eyes moving over the scene and that is what many of us try to achieve in our photographs. Wow is great but with my own tastes, this can become boring quickly and an image that causes me to take in the features is one I enjoy more.

At first you see the strong diagonal lines created with the cast showdown of the roof structures. The line of square box shape shadows form diagonal columns, which is repeated with the shape of the brick column. Next the sun lit part of these columns form triangles pointing back to the shadow patterns where texture and colour are strongest. The green bushes support the patterns of the light rectangular patterns and colour is complimentary to the Reddish (orange) brickwork.
The left and right side of the image has darker objects that help frame the pattern. At first, the viewer may be left wondering in what setting this was taken but upon closer inspection you will notice that on the right in the dark recess is a patio with tables and chairs.

The above image is simpler with its harmonious colour scheme. The focal point is the lamp and the texture on the grey pipe, but I am not sure if that is what the eye goes to first. I do find that the lower right pane in the window on the red wall does hold my interest. Working on an image, you sometimes tend to loose your own first impressionistic instincts. There is texture and lines on the left, which is repeated on the red wall but here, there are dark areas to explore and maybe gaze inside these rooms.

In this image, I enhanced the blue/grays of the bridge to compliment the yellow/greens of the distant sunlit area. I also wanted to create a little mystery with the blue cast of the shadow to make you wonder about going over the bridge.

The above bicycle image is fun on many levels. The blue and yellow are complimentary colours, and also, the red and green pair. The red of the bicycle is re-enforced with the red in reflections and on the signs. The strong reflection in window almost creates a portal down another street, like you are on an intersection, which is not apparent just seeing the store front.

I hope you enjoyed the images and the attempt to create a little mystery or intrigue with each of these photographs.

Niels Henriksen


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