ELEMENTS OF BLACK AND WHITE - Pattern

This is my 4th of 5 images for the Black and White Challenge.  I have taken some liberties and stretched a few days of rest in between so technically I am not following the rules which say I am supposed to post one image a day for five days.  But rules are just guidelines right?

Regardless, along with a new image, today I offer you another element of effective black and white - patterns.  It seems that pattern plays a very big role when colour is absent - providing interest and helping to move your eye through the frame.  Repeating patterns often show up in architecture and nature and without colour to distract us their beauty really shines in black and white.

I call this image “INTO THE WOODS.”  I joined a group of photographers on a hike in search of waterfalls but along the way came across several captivating miniature scenes like this fern vortex.  A collection of miniature frond ladders appeared and beckoned me to climb down the dark centre to another world. 

Again if I were following the rules, I would nominate another person to participate in the challenge but in this case would like to simply mention the gifted photographer and all round great guy who organized and led the hike that day.

+Mike Goodwin has long completed the Black and White Challenge (plus the Split Tone Challenge at roughly the same time) and his image “Looking Inward” inspired my own consideration of the million little worlds full of beautiful patterns that one can find if you dare to go hunting with the camera. 

Only one more image (and one more Michael to nominate) and my challenge will be complete.  I hope you find some fun things to challenge you this week my friends.

 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

ELEMENTS OF BLACK AND WHITE - Texture

Sometimes it's ok to flip things upside down.  

This is day 3 (or more accurately photo 3) of the Five Day Black and White Challenge for me. Though perhaps I should call it the white and black challenge today.  I've always thought that impactful black and white images skewed to the dark side but the image I made today proves this is not always the case.  Sometimes the exact opposite can be just as impactful.

ELEMENT #2 - TEXTURE
Monochrome is perfect for highlighting textures.  A smooth white space surrounding the rough base of the trees creates visual interest.  In the original photo above, the snow was littered with little bits of dirt which I carefully erased so that the eye can travel smoothly over the snow and linger on the coarse ridges in the cedar bark.

TIP:
There are many ways to clean up spots on an image - be it from dust on your lens or small bits of dirt or debris on the ground.  I like to start by removing any easy spots in Lightroom with the spot removal tool.  Sometimes this tool won't work on a particularly tricky spot so I then move the image into Photoshop and give it another go with the Spot Removal tool in the Camera Raw filter.  If I am still unsuccessful with that then I will give Photoshop's Spot Healing Brush tool a go.
If all this sounds like too much work, then I invite you to just stare at the image above for a bit and relax (if you click on it you can see it bigger).  However if dust or spot removal has plagued you and you long for more detail on how to out out those damn spots, Pye at SLRLounge.com has a tutorial that should get you moving in the right direction.

 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

ELEMENTS OF BLACK AND WHITE - Strong Contrast

DARK AND STORMY NIGHT IN BLACK AND WHITE

The first roll of film I shot was colour but the first photograph I fell in love with was a black and white.  It was the one known as "california kiss."  It kicked off a long run of creating colourless documentary style photos of my friends and family which ended when I shot my last roll of Ilford in 1999.  At that point I made the move to digital and recommitted my affections to colour.  

Participating in the 5 Day Black and White Challenge has inspired me to take a closer look at what kind of black and white landscape photos I like.  After collecting these on a pinterest board for study I've discovered that the ones I find impactful share some common elements. Over the remaining days of the challenge I thought I might share these with you.  

ELEMENT #1 - STRONG CONTRAST
Very black black's and very white whites are perfect for giving the image real pop.  Without colour to provide the vibrance, strong contrast steps in to provide that umph!

TIP:
When working on a black and white image in Lightroom, did you know that if you hold the 'alt' or 'option' key down while sliding the black or white slider it will give you a visualization of how your image is being adjusted.  You can then adjust the slider until just enough true black or pure white is showing in the image.  Here is a great article at digitalphotographyschool .com that illustrates what I mean.  So handy right?  I also watch my histogram carefully when I play with the adjustments and I have noticed that with black and white landscapes I prefer to have it skewed to the left or on the dark side.   Ahhh yes... the dark side is powerful.

 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

HOW TO HANDLE THE CREATIVE EBB AND FLOW

I have been pondering the way of things again.

I've noticed there is a constant ebb and flow to my photography passion.  During the "ebbing" (is that a word?) I am swept up in doubt which leaves me feeling lost and discouraged.  It's an uncomfortable place to be.  Not one I like to linger in. 

But serendipitous discoveries await in those moments.  In the pause lies the opportunity to take stock.  

Stop, look back, mark progress, recognize the accomplishment, then look forward, fix sights on the new horizon... and with patience and persistence the flow returns.

I hope this week finds you enjoying a positive flow of creativity my friends...  but if not perhaps a look back will help you to move forward.

 

INSPIRATION THIS WEEK:

  • Mykal Hall
    Mykal's post Looking Back to Move Forward on the Visual Wilderness site really helped me to clarify my strategy for moving forward after a period of quiet.
  • The Slow Regard of Silent Things
    There is nothing like a work of fiction that simultaneously transports you to another world and shifts your view of the real world.  Patrick Rothfuss' The Slow Regard of Silent Things introduces us to an endearing character that knows there is a natural way of things and that aligning oneself with the ebb and flow of life is to be at peace.  This book is a companion to his Kingkiller Chronicles (The Name of The Wind, The Wiseman's Fear) which I advise you read first  in order to tap into the richness of his latest work.
  • Black and White Photo 5 Day Challenge
    The ever inspiring Gage Salyards has nominated me to take part in a 5-day black and white photo challenge and I am going to give it a go. Since black and white is not something I've done for a while I've been searching online for some inspiration.  I came across a stunning image made by  Peter Zéglis and followed it to a collection of his Iceland images featured at twistedsifter.com.  Inspiration a plenty!
  • Silver Efex Pro
    There are many ways to make a digital black and white image.  For this one above I used Silver Efex Pro from NIK.  Of course this was only one step of many taken to get to the final image.  If you would like to know them all leave me a comment below and I'd be happy to share it with you.  Be warned though - I am the sort of editor (and cook incidentally) who likes to add a dash of this and a sprinkle of that - exact measurements are rarely recorded.
 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

FLEETING HAPPINESS

https://elle-bruce.squarespace.com/config#/pages/blog-posts|/blog-posts/2014/10/31/fleeting-happiness

Happiness.  It's a powerful thing isn't it?  We crave it, pursue it, endeavour to make it last once we find it and bemoan its disappearance when it slips away.

I recently came across this quote and it struck me.  

“When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” 
― John Lennon

Happiness is the goal.  The motivator and inspiration for all my choices and actions.  At times it seems fleeting or even unattainable but it's often only a choice away. 

Today I have chosen to do what makes me happy - creating this image and sharing it and my thoughts with you.

What choice could you make today to bring more happiness into your life?  Why not make it?

INSPIRATION THIS WEEK:

  • Marc and Angel Hack Life
    I would imagine like me you have already seen some of the inspirational blog posts from this husband/wife team float through your social media stream.  Their recent post  A Simple Thing You Can Do Today that Will Make You Happier dovetailed nicely with where I was heading with this post.  Isn't synchronicity wonderful?
  • 100happydays.com
    I love this challenge.  Love it.  But will I DO it?  Now that is the question.  How about you?  Let me know if you decide to in the comments below.  

     
  • Black and White
    Many photographers have been taking part of the "5 day black and white photo challenge" online.  My google+ stream has been full of stunning black and white work.  I love colour but have been inspired to try my hand at the black and white thing for these last two posts.  Here are a few resources if you are looking to try your own hand at it:
Darren Rowse - Key Ingredients For Black and White Images at Digital Photography School gives some basics on what to think about.
Varina Patel - Getting It Right: Black and White at Visual Wilderness gives some advanced techniques to enhance your work in the digital darkroom.

Elle Bruce - B&W Photo Inspiration Board at Pinterest.  Yes I have been making a collection of black and white images I have found particularly inspiring. 
 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

THERE'S A STORY TO TELL

Old World Exploration of Moody Milford Sound

I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of “story” lately.  In addition to photographer and artist, I call myself a visual storyteller so I suppose it's not surprising that I’ve put some thought into it.

I recall when I was in my twenties, noticing that the bulk of the conversations my then middle aged father and his friends shared centred around story telling.  In fact I remember feeling bored by it.  “Did I tell you about….” my father would start.  I would gently smile in hopes of taking the sting out of my response “Yes, you shared that one with me already.”  Is that all they do I wondered?  Swap and re-tell old stories?  Ugh,  isn't there more to life?

Now I am the middle aged storyteller and it's funny that as I have aged the value of stories has become obvious.  Stories are the core of life.  They give meaning, provide context and help us to connect.  

With vast quantities of visual media bombarding us daily - stories have even greater value than ever.  I crave the deeper connection that comes when a story is told alongside an image.  Listening to an artist share their experience of creating their work often will greatly deepen my affection for the work.  Does this happen to you?  I find I can even forge a connection to a subject I normally have no interest in - say for example tennis (no offence to tennis enthusiasts). If I happen to watch tv coverage of a tennis player's life everything changes.  Knowing the “story” - the athlete’s hopes, dreams, struggles and triumphs - connects me to them and suddenly I am engaged in watching a game I previously had no interest in.

But I call myself a visual storyteller but what story am I telling?  Of course each image has it’s own creation story - an account of the experience or moment, but I have started to notice that most of my images are part of a larger narrative. Looking at my work they make a collective statement: 

all natural landscapes contain a beauty that we need

The ones we find close by us as well as in more remote places.  As a photographer, artist and visual storyteller, I hope my images will remind others to seek this beauty, help them to find it and encourage them to preserve and protect it.  

In truth, the image is NOT what is important at all.  The image is the icing on the cake - but without the cake there would be no reason for it.

 

INSPIRATION THIS WEEK:

  • Trey Ratcliff
    Trey is the consummate storyteller.  His daily (so impressive) blog posts always include a new image from his travels with a bit of the story behind them. You can find him online at your preferred social media stream or at the hub Stuck In Customs
  • Karen Hutton
    Karen has a wonderfully unique way of posting.  Her beautiful images are paired with a creative bit of prose.  She sets the stage and then lets you in on the dialogue the characters of the image are having.  Sounds like no big deal… but here is the magic part… her images are mostly of landscapes. I follow Karen on google+ but you can also visit her blog.
  • Gage Salyards
    Gage describes himself as a "Gentleman explorer. World Traveller. Life photographer."  Having met him and followed his work ever since, I have to agree - he is all of those plus a man with an incredible personal story of resilience.  His latest postings on instagram @eyeamgage not only contain his beautiful images but also inspiring and thoughtful words.
  • Maptia - “is a beautiful way to tell stories about places”  They ask the question "Do you believe stories can change the world?"  If your answer is yes... then you are in the right place. http://maptia.com
  • Exposure - If you haven’t visited https://exposure.co yet then don’t wait any longer.  "Exposure is a tool to create beautiful photo narratives. It’s also a community of passionate photographers and storytellers. Exposure is a great place to tell your photo stories.”  This is the place where visual storytelling lives.  My first story is here.
  • Zaria Forman
    This artist and her hyper realistic works of art in soft pastel are incredible.  Their photo-like quality caught my attention but it was the story of what inspired her to create them made me love them.
 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

LIVING LIGHT - Drawn Towards Minimalism

After spending 5 days on a sailboat you start to appreciate living light.  In limited space, anything needless becomes a burden.  To my delight, I discovered I actually enjoy life more when there is less clutter.

Now I find I crave simplicity in my life.  It is a theme that is informing my every move these days.  I want less to maintain, I want less to carry, I want less to worry over, I want less complications… I even want less detail in my photos.

Could this be a natural outcome of my boating experience? Or perhaps of aging? Have I finally lived long enough to realize that there is a freedom that comes not from having more in my life but rather from having less?

Have you ever experienced this?  Have you ever felt lighter after a period of time away from “all the stuff of life?”

Thoughts to ponder as we stretch into the last hours of our final long summer weekend here in Ontario.  

SOURCES OF INSPIRATION THIS WEEK:

  • driving home the other day we listened to Stuart McLean on The Vinyl Cafe Podcast as we often do.  On the episode entitled “Defibrillator” he spoke of simplicity in his opening monologue.  If you haven’t listened to McLean before, you are in for treat - his stories and musical guests, available only in audio version are a change from the visually stimulating world.  Also perfect company on a long drive back home.
  • I have posted about how to increase the impact of an image by simplifying it (here) and so have others, including Varina Patel who recently reposted a link to this blog post at the Visual Wilderness website.
  • and finally I LOVE the simplicity of the artwork by creativeflip.  I think the Yoda is my favourite. You can see it here at www.crated.com - a fantastic place to find lots of artists, art and inspiration!  Even better - if you like what you see there, you can purchase it in poster, canvas or framed print form.  
 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

QUINTESSENTIAL MOMENTS

Summer is so fleeting. These days I greedily savour every warm fresh air moment I can.  Calm mornings at the water’s edge are among my favourite quintessential Ontario summer moments.  Getting up in time to make sunrise images means a very early start and though I am often still sluggish as I set up my gear, on calm mornings there is a peaceful energy that radiates from the quiet of nature and recharges my soul.  Perhaps it’s the promise of a sunny day ahead just waiting to be filled with warm weather pastimes.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend and had a chance to get out and enjoy your own quintessential moments. 

 

SOURCES OF INSPIRATION THIS WEEK:

  • I found myself wondering if my image above was a good example of "golden hour" but wasn't certain how that was defined.  The article by Germán Marquès at petapixel.com "Understanding Golden Hour, Blue Hour and Twilghts" was perfect for helping me out with that.

  • When it comes to quintessentially Canadian landscapes, round pink rocks and still clear waters definitely scream Ontario to me, but the Rockies must come to mind for many.  The mini film Mountains in Motion: The Canadian Rockies from The Upthink Lab does an amazing job of showcasing them.

 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

WARM SUN COOL RIVER - How to convey feeling in landscape photography

I've been absent from the online world lately - spending my precious warm summer days in, on and near the water.  Waterfalls, rivers, creeks and lakes beckon loudly to me when the mercury climbs.  

A few weeks ago I had the good fortune to join several very talented Google+ photographer friends on a hike to Tew's Falls in Dundas, Ontario.  It was a hot and humid day but we kept cool in the dappled light along the forrest path and sloshing around in the water of Spencer Creek.  

The hike to the main falls is moderately difficult. There is a path - but it weaves up and down the embankment, can be hard to find at times and is muddy and slippery in parts. With so many small falls along the way to photograph though, even if you didn't make it to the mighty ribbon falls at the end it would still be a rewarding outing.

The image here is from the lower falls.  A fair bit of post processing went into this one.  Mostly balancing out the dappled light and getting rid of hot spots.  I also warmed the light ever so slightly on the rocks in the foreground.  The contrast between the cool water on my feet and the warm sun on my shoulders was a strong sensation and I wanted that feeling to come across in the final image.

Conveying "feeling" in an image is often sited as one thing that can make the difference between a good and a great image. I heard Varina and Jay Patel speak about this once, and they called it the "emotional appeal" of an image.  When it comes to making images that have impact, sometimes if the emotional appeal is strong it can even compensate for poor technical and creative merit of an image.  

HOW does one convey feeling in a landscape image with no people?  I focus on making the viewer believe they are in or want to be in the image.  Sometimes, as in the case with the waterfall image above, it's a matter of enhancing the light and the mood.  Warm light, cool water, lush green, earthy forrest tones, silky water and strong textured rocks all of these contrasting elements enhance each other and help to transport us to the waterfall in the forrest on a summer day.  Getting right down in the water and placing rocks in the foreground helps to draw the viewer in and invites them to dangle their feet to cool off.

Can you feel it? Can you imagine sitting on those rocks?  I hope the answer is yes.  If you have other suggestions on how to convey "feeling" in landscapes then do be sure to share them with the rest of us in the comments below.

 

SOURCES OF INSPIRATION FOR THIS WEEK:

  • Jay and Varina Patel have lots of great information on their website, including some tips on photographing waterfalls.  Which you can check out here.
  • Fellow Ontario Photographer Wesley Liikane of Cowboy with a Camera was also out photographing a waterfall this week.  You can see his image on Google+ here.
  • I LOVE this article on how to connect with your subject from John Davenport at Digital Photography School.  He says "to truly capture powerful images we have to learn how to translate our emotions from the scene we’re photographing through the camera and into a still image."  Exactly!!  Best part is he offers more ideas on how to do that.
 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

ROSE COLORED VIEW - using filters real or digital to enhance the beauty

I have a pair of sunglasses with lenses tinted the perfect shade of rose.  When I wear them my view of the world is fantastic.  Everything looks picture-worthy.   These glasses are ridiculously big on me and my kids have informed me they lend me a certain air of wackiness but vanity and sanity be dashed - I’m hooked on the way they make my world look beautiful.

This enhanced outlook got me thinking about lens filters and my image making.  I don’t typically use filters on my camera. I tend to like to keep things rather simple when I’m out there - in fact sometimes I don’t even like to use my tripod or change the lens as much as I should.  But I figure if my world can look this good through a pair of sunglass lenses then perhaps I should try applying this rose-brown colour to some of my images.

So I spent a bit of time playing around with a few images I took recently, adding colour filter effects in post processing to see what I might be able to get. I found I liked the simplicity of using some presets I have from Trey Ratcliff’s collection right in Lightroom.  I always start with my images in Lightroom so testing out different ideas there was really simple and fun.  For the image below I started with Trey’s “Fading into the Red” and tweaked the sliders until it started to look like what I was after.   I then moved the image over to Photoshop to clean things up and make some final refinements (spot removal, Noiseware, Color Efex Pro and sharpening).  

I love the way that creative inspiration can come from the most unusual places sometimes.  Anyhow, hope you have something fun planned for the upcoming weekend. And if you find yourself in need of a bit of inspiration or a rosier view, perhaps consider trying out some filters (digital or real).  Or maybe just treat yourself to a pair of cheap wacky sunglasses.

SOURCES OF INSPIRATION FOR THIS WEEK:

  • This image from Kerry-Ann Lecky Hepburn.  I got to watch as Kerry-Ann tried out her new ND filter at sunset over on our Toronto G+ Photowalk a few weekends back.  In addition to the ND filter, she was also experimenting with what is called a black-card technique.  Here is a link to understand how this works.  
  • The rosy hues of this image posted by National Geographic Travel caught my eye and the article got me dreaming of travelling to a place where midnight safaris are possible.  
 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

SORRY NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC ... it's art.

I've slipped into my artist's smock again today to make this image.  I've been running across a lot of work that features waves lately and it inspired me go digging in my catalogue to see what I might have on the subject.  Turns out not much - which is surprising given my affinity for water images.  (Click here to see a collection of my peaceful water images recently featured on Photographyblogger.net)  But serene was not the sort of water images I was looking for.  I had it in mind to create an image with tempestuous waves and dramatic clouds.  It's the paintings of talented artist Samantha Keely Smith that planted this seed.  I have loved her work for some time now and was wondering if I might be able to create photographic art inspired by the sort of images she creates.  After several hours of experimentation I think I might be starting to get to something.  It's not all the way there yet but I thought I would share it with you anyhow.  

HOW I MADE THIS IMAGE
So I'll start by saying outright this image is a composite of two images.  I'm not very practised at composite work so this was a stretch for me.  Both the image of the sky and the image of the water were taken at the same beach on the same night, no more than a few minutes apart.  The sky is from a single exposure adjusted in Lightroom.  The water image had a bit more processing on it.  First off, it is a close up of the wave break at the shoreline and though the waves look very big in this image they were no more than 6-12 inches high.  To get the shot I was crouched down very low with my rear end nearly in the wet sand.  It too was a single exposure tweaked in Lightroom and then brought into Photoshop where I experimented with the tilt-shift blur filter and adjusted the colour and noise using Color Effex Pro and Noiseware Pro.  Finally I did a bit of blending on the composite to help the two mesh together a bit better.  I'm still not 100% happy with that part but I am letting it go.  It's early work.... and I'm ok with it not being perfect just yet.  Sometimes like the song says you just have to "let it go..."  (so sorry I've put that song in your head for the day now haven't I?)

So even though I'm not totally happy with this image and National Geographic would never accept it for one of their covers... I don't think all the time invested was a total waste.  There is much to be gained from experimenting and trying out new things.  And it was fun too!  Hopefully one day all the practise will help me produce something great.

Have a good weekend my friends - maybe take a bit of time to try out something new.  If you don't like the results don't worry - you can always call it experimental art.

OTHER SOURCES OF INSPIRATION THIS WEEK
As I mentioned I've been running into many "watery" themed works by other incredible artists lately.  Here are just a few that have inspired me:

  • of course the paintings of Samantha Keely Smith - I can't decide if "Yield" or "Harbinger" is my favourite.  How about you?
  • Ben Young's sculptures of waves made from cut sheets of glass are fantastic - be sure to scroll to the end of the article for a short video about how he creates these one-of-a-kind artworks
  • the beautiful and daring photos of CJ Kale and Nick Selway of Lava Light
  • and last week's viral video of passionate surf photographer Clark Little who heads out into the beach break to get some of the most stunning shots
 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

SERENE WATERSCAPES - FEATURED ON PHOTOGRAPHYBLOGGER.NET

Stephanie Kay-Kok did a lovely job of pulling together several of my peaceful water images for a feature at photographyblogger.com.  It caught me off guard to discover that I had such a strong theme of serenity in my waterscapes.  To see all the images in the feature online click here.  Thanks again photographyblogger.net!

 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

PHOTO TIP - Simplicity is the golden ticket to high impact images

One Rock One Bird One Sunrise
“Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes, it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward of art.” - Frederic Chopin

I'm beating the minimalism drum again.  One thing many high impact images have in common is simple composition.  In high impact visual story telling "less is more" seems to be the golden ticket.  It's not a new concept but it's not always easy to execute.   Here are a few tips I’ve picked up that might help you move your images towards greater simplicity.

DETERMINE WHAT THE VISUAL STORY IS
In it’s most basic sense this can be described as a feeling.  In the field this means being aware of what moved you to pick the camera up in the first place. What do you feel when you look at the scene and what do you hope others will feel when they look at your image of it.  In the image above I wanted the sense of serenity and peace I felt to come through.  

SELECT THE LEAD TO TELL THE STORY
What is the detail or subject here that conveys that feeling and tells the story best? Find the lead and compose the image so that it is central (not necessarily centered - but most important)  In my image above the story of a peaceful sunrise is told by the lead - the smooth water and the smooth blend of colour in the sky.  It is the prominent feature.  

HIGHLIGHT THE LEAD
There are several ways to do that both in the field and in post processing… here are a few that I use.
Crop - sometimes it's not always clear what that main focus is when you are out in the field but you instinctively know there is something and you may only have a fleeting moment to capture it.  Go ahead and take the shot and then don't be afraid to use your crop tools later in post to help highlight it.  Many times I end up cropping down to a much smaller final image in order to simplify it and to place the lead that tells the story in a spot of focus.
Give Space - let the lead of your image stand on it's own with a bit of space around it.  In the field try moving around until you can isolate the subject.
Selectively Blur/ Sharpen - Sometimes it is impossible to give the lead space, so in that case I try to give it importance and make it stand out in other ways.  This can be done by selectively blurring everything else, giving slightly increased detail to the lead (through HDR or sharpening).
Keep Away from the Edges - a small detail on the edge of an image can draw the eye away so I am often careful to either crop unwanted things out (like the rocky shoreline that was in the bottom left corner of the above image).  If it is a small distraction use the clone or healing brush in post to remove it.  You can also use vignetting (darkening the edges and/or lightning the centre or subject) to bring the eye away from the edges.

CREATE SUPPORTS FOR THE LEAD
This can be leading lines, framing elements, or objects that help to direct the attention to the lead. Again in the image above, the silhouetted shoreline and rock are the supporting anchors for the colourful sunrise giving a sense of place.  With their lack of detail they play a supporting role - more of a frame than a distraction.

Editing out, and boiling down a scene to a minimalist aesthetic takes a bit of extra time both in the field and in post processing.  But the results can be an image with a strong lead that really sings the clear visual story and has incredible impact.  That’s the prize I’m after and if you are too then hopefully you’ll find these tips useful.  

As I work on improving my own images I find inspiration and pick up photo tips from lots of different resources.  If you follow me on G+, Facebook or Twitter you may have seen my links to some of these articles already.  If you'd like to follow along with my discoveries then be sure to circle, friend or follow me at any of those places.

Here some of the articles I've read recently and photographers work that has helped inform my ideas about simplicity: 


Do you have any others to add to this list?  Please share them with us in the comments below.  Have a simply beautiful weekend my friends.  

 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

IN THE WEEDS ... IN A GOOD WAY

I had a lovely little "microadventure" last week.  And while I didn't end up sleeping on a river bank as Alastair Humphreys might recommend in his book Microadventures, I did end up at the water's edge at sunrise.  "In the weeds" in fact, though not in a bad way at all.  

Do you ever find that sometimes the best view is not a grand one, but rather something quite small and perhaps right in front of you?  On the shores of Georgian Bay I found just such a treat.  The beautiful gradation of sunrise colour reflected in the water, the quiet lapping of tiny waves illuminated by the sun and an interesting pattern of silhouetted weeds breaking the smooth surface of the water - all right at my feet.  

Have a great week my friends.  Perhaps this is the week to make space for a micro adventure!  Don't forget to look down - you just might find your own grand little view!  Be sure to let me know what you find won't you?

 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

THANK YOU 50+ MILLION VIEWERS

I am thrilled this image has resonated with so many.  It's had a mind blowing 50+ million views on Google+.  Were you one of them?  Yes?  Thank you!  Did you miss it?  Don't worry - you can see it here and read all the details about that very special night.  As I witnessed the beauty of this nightscape one song played loud and clear through my head.  Can you guess what it was?

 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

CREATIVE RUT BUSTERS - schedules and adventures

Do you ever find yourself in a bit of a rut? Perhaps just uninspired or seemingly too busy to be creative?  I've been feeling that way this past week.  Don't get me wrong.  Crossing stuff off the never ending to-do list does feel good... but being creative feels better... right?

It's easy to get trapped on the treadmill of to-do's and before you know it you're not creating at all.  Luckily sometimes the universe (or perhaps the subconscious) recognizes the signs of this impending doom and slump busting suggestions appear as if summoned.

Here are two I found helpful:

  1. Minimize Distractions
    Get control of the distractions and make time for being creative.  Schedule it if you have to!  This suggestion came from a great article on Chase Jarvis' blog. I love the idea of blocking the day into 90 minute segments and planning what you'll work on in each segment.
  2. Get UP And Go
    The second is get out there... get off your butt and say yes to experiencing life... it's the raw data that fuels the creative output. Again a suggestion from Chase Jarvis. 

Of course a grand adventure or trip would be great but if time or budget doesn't allow for that you're not hooped.  There is life and inspiration all around.  Why not have a Micro Adventure?  This completely do-able idea comes from Alastair Humphrey's article I found at maptia.com where he promotes the local adventure.  Go down to the beach at night.  Take a train to a new location and wander around.  Head to a local park and spend the day watching and documenting a day in the life the public park.  Get on your bike and go looking for beauty.

So that's my plan this week... minimize distractions, schedule creativity, get off my butt and have a micro adventure.  What are your plans this week?  Is being more creative on the list?  If you have some good techniques for inspiring your creativity don't forget to share them here.

Have a good (creative) week my friends!

 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

THE PROCESS OF MAKING ART - are you planned or spontaneous?

I have heard some photographers say that they knew what their final image would look like before they even pushed the shutter button.  They could see in their mind the image they ultimately wanted to create and so they set up everything - the who, the where, the when, the how - in order to gather the raw data they needed to create the image envisioned.  

I wonder… is that how it works for you?  

I don’t find that happens for me very much.  And often I find that if I do have a preconceived notion of what I want to create and I pursue that, I don’t end up liking it as much as when I allow for more spontaneity to come into the process. 

Other artists profess the way to find creative brilliance is to focus on the process of making art rather than the end result.  I do find that approach rather freeing but I’m not sure that exactly describes how things work for me either.

When I set up and took the image above - I most certainly had no idea it would end up looking like the finished product you see above.  The process in fact was one of chance for me. On the morning pictured I was awakened by stray sunbeams flooding through the hotel window thanks to me forgetting to pull the heavy curtains the night before.  When I looked out the window I noticed the light was bouncing off the glass and mirror of the buildings in interesting ways so I decided I would see if I could collect some raw data of that.  Now, months later I selected this raw file and started to work on it in the digital darkroom (Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop) with the hopes of creating a companion piece for my other new NYC image.  There was no plan in the initial capture of the raw data but there was some plan in the processing though admittedly it is not as I had expected.

Maybe how we each make art is a custom blend of planning and spontaneity.  And where the individual lies along the line between the two poles has something to do with the limitations or skills you have in the different areas.  

I know my own process both in the field capturing the raw data and later in the dark room creating art is a a constant shifting along a middle ground between planning and spontaneity.  
When I decide to go out to shoot, I try to set myself up to find beauty or a beautiful story.  I will check the time of sunrise or sunset (using the photographers ephemeris app) and the weather and if I heading to a new place, I will research what other photographers have done at that place to see if it can give me a clue as to where others have found beauty.  But then I just go because I have found that beauty is usually there - regardless of the time, weather and what others have found before.  I show up and stay in tune with what catches my eye.  
Later, when I open up the raw file to create an image, again this waffling between planned and spontaneous creating happens.  I will sometimes start out with how I want an image to look - but often the end image is a result of allowing myself to experiment and enjoy the process of making art.

So here is my big take away.  However you make your art - where ever you fall between planning and spontaneity - is the best way for you to make YOUR art.  The point is you are MAKING art.  I think it is definitely useful to understand how others do things… there is always something to be learned from others (particularly those who’s art you admire) but the best way for you is just that… the best way for you.  

Have fun creating this week my friends!

Sources of Inspiration:  
Many things help to inspire my posts - books, movies, conversations... this post I think was largely inspired by a few things I've been reading.

  • I have just started reading The Artist's Way - A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity by Julia Cameron.  I have owned this book for over 10 years.  For some reason I have finally opened it.
  • I recently watched a video by Miss Aniela in the Arcanum Grand Library in which she provided a link to this article she wrote.  I love her art but also how eloquently she expresses this idea of creating spontaneously.
 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

FIND ART FOR THAT EMPTY WALL!

Crated.com is a new comer to the online art marketplace.  It offers artists the opportunity to showcase their work directly to fans and buyers.  It also provides social art collectors a place to curate and share a collection of their favourite pieces from many accomplished artists and photographers including Karim Rashid and Kal Barteski.

I am currently featuring some of my most recently made images in my own gallery there.  In future I plan to offer complete collections of several pieces that will work together to tell a specific visual story.   There will always be a button available on my home page to take you directly to my gallery - though it's location may change as this site continues to develop.  

Check out my Crated gallery
 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.

EVERY IMAGE TELLS A STORY - daring greatly

Often when I make an image the story it tells is inspired by something I've read, heard or a song I've listened to.  I see the scene and it triggers the words.  Do you ever find that?

I came across this willow tree last week which seemed to be "daring greatly."  I imagined it's story to be one of risk and resilience.  Perhaps it got an unlucky start too close to the water's edge or was the unfortunate casualty of a summer storm.  Whatever the reason, this lone willow is now stretched precariously out beyond the safety of solid ground.  With its roots lashed to the ever shifting and rocky shoreline it seems to be... "daring greatly."  

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat."

THEODORE ROOSEVELT
Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic" delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910 

I was recently (yes I realize I am late to the party) introduced to these words while watching Chase Jarvis interview Brene Brown on his show.  It's a long format interview but I found it terrifically inspiring.  When it comes to making my art, I am inspired to be the "one in the arena"  the "doer of deeds" the one "striving valiantly."  Creating is risky - you have to be vulnerable.  But nothing risked, nothing gained.  In fact in the case of un-used creativity - perhaps much lost!

If you are curious or in the mood for a bit of inspiration I would encourage you to watch the interview or look up Brene Brown.  She has written several books, done Ted Talks and runs Creativity Workshops through Oprah's website.  

I hope you've had a wonderful weekend my friends... and if you are not daring greatly in your own life already, perhaps something you found here will inspire you.

 

MISSED A POST? Rats. SUBSCRIBE so you don't miss any more.