Looking and listening this week

Just for a change I thought I would focus on something I did that you could look at instead of pointing you to other people’s work. Hopefully you will like it!

My final assessment for Summer school just went public on Pinterest this week. It’s an infographic  about the changes to family photography that have come about since the 1950’s curtesy of digital technology and the internet.

This image I showed a few weeks back was one of a series I made as part of the project to produce the final infographic. It a low-key lighting setup using a light tent to reduce reflections and form an uncluttered background for the text. That in itself was an interesting project.

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Looking at the cameras I used for the image it was also interesting to reflect on how much has changed with photography. I’m finding it is an odd sort of nostalgia though. On the one hand there is the

“things where much harder back in our day and you young kids don’t appreciate how challenging it was with all your new technology”

line of thought. I think this is flawed though. Sure there is a lot of new technology but as the saying goes “you can’t polish a turd”(not even with a good Instagram filter). I think what has happened is that one set of creative challenges have been joined or replaced by another set. As a result the way I create has adapted. For those of you who have been around long enough perhaps your approach to making images has taken a similar route.

Think about it. Once you load a film camera with black and white film, you limit yourself to that medium until you finish the roll (unless you have a camera with interchangeable film backs or carry a spare camera body). All the creative decisions and outcomes are dictated by that initial decision of what film to use. For me, that meant I would look for images based on film choice and pass up on opportunities that lent themselves to colour.

With digital we can record images in RAW format. That image can be processed as black and white, colour or even high dynamic range. It can be part of a photo-composite without the effort required in a darkroom. The image file can be subjected to multiple creative filters and plugins. The final image can be rendered and re-interpreted in a number of different ways. The creative decisions are not locked in up front. The only initial limitations are in the way you view, compose and expose the initial  image.

Sure, you could go out with an intention to record material that lends itself to a monochrome rendition, using contrast, texture, strong shapes but you are no longer locked in if an opportunity arises to do something else. That flexibility is a good thing but then along with it comes that little voice of indecision. Perhaps you have caught yourself thinking these same thoughts.

  • What approach will get what I want out of this subject?
  • What options can I automatically remove from the list?
  • Do I really want to explore all the remaining options?
  • If I don’t, will I feel that I have not taken full advantage of the opportunity presented?

I manage this by applying the same limitation I used to experience with film choice by only asking that first question. Occasionally I will revisit an image and apply another approach but initially I will be thinking of a path towards a particular result and map the journey out from exposure through process to end result before I use the camera. In other words, pre-visualisation is still important.

I suppose the other thing that stands out for me is scarcity. It seems I can always fit one more shot in from a different angle or do a seven exposure bracket for HDR instead of three. Knowing the number of images on a roll of film was finite made me more selective but also prevented me from taking risks in some cases. Today I manage that abundance through initial editing in camera followed by further screening after the images are transferred. That way I can take risks and prevent overload.

All in all it’s a great situation to be in provided you don’t let the complexity overpower you creativity.

Okay, that went a little longer than I intended, so another change of pace is required. I am a fan of fusion and I  like traditional Japanese  and classic Blues music. I was recently introduced to George Kamikawa and Noriko Tadano . All I can say is that you will be smiling or shaking your head after you watch this.

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