USA

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.

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.

DO YOU EVER CRAVE SOLITUDE?

Do you ever feel like sometimes you just need a bit of alone time?  Maybe a few moments to unplug.  This little fellow and I seemed to be on the same wave length (yes - I know - pun intended).  On the beach one evening, we were both enjoying the company of our own shadows when we crossed paths.  We stopped, I took his photo and then we each moved on.

If a bit of solitude is what you seek this weekend, then I hope you find it or it finds you.

TECHIE DETAILS:

I was travelling light that evening, carrying my Sony A7r paired with the nearly as heavy Nikon 85mm 1.4 lens (which is still a lighter combo than my Nikon body with any lens).  I was having a tough time learning to love the 85mm lens at first, (earlier post on this here) but lately it has been my go-to.  On the Sony I have to dial the aperture manually on the adaptor and as you can probably tell from the shallow depth of field in this case it was wide open (or small f-stop).  Nailing the focus (also manual) I still find quite tricky - even with the focus peaking on.  The number of keepers is still pretty low but every now and then I get one good enough to get me trying for more.

As for processing - I started out with some minor adjustments in Lightroom - lowered the highlights, upped the shadows, lowered the clarity to get a softer look.  Then moved it into Photoshop and used Noiseware and Color Efex Pro.  Also ran a blur filter on the ocean and sky to further soften them so they would be less distracting. Finally sharpened up the bird a bit.

 

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

HOW TO CREATE A MAGICAL IMAGE OF NEW YORK CITY

The thing I love best about a city is the lights!  A city at night is a magical thing... the grit and grime gets washed away by the shadow of night and bathed anew in the multi-coloured glow of lights.  Alright, I admit -  that's a bit pollyanna but you know what I mean right?  I was in New York City a while back and couldn't help but snap a bunch of photos of all the lights.

I've been working on this image (which is looking towards the epicenter of lights at Times Square) for a while.  It's the result of my attempts to blend photos that are related to create a new image with greater impact. In this case I took several photos of the same thing - 5 focused exposures tone mapped in Photomatix, and 2 out of focus images of the same thing with nice round bokeh of the lights. I played with the with bokeh to get the right intensity on the colours, then created a tilt filter effect on the in-focus HDR layer using Topaz Lens Efex and and finally stacked them up and used the lighten blend mode in photoshop to give the feel of a double exposed image.

If I've lost you now, my apologies - go ahead and skip down to bottom of this post (below the video).  BUT if the last paragraph got the wheels spinning in your brain... read on to find out what inspired all this plus a cool how to video.

My new experiment on this New York image was inspired by several things - a love of bokeh lights, tilt shift and double exposed images.

I've been playing around with creating bokeh images for a while now.  Between holiday time and the ice storm I've been served lots of opportunities lately to experiment.  You might remember images from some of my recent posts - like this one? And this one?

Add to that my recent discovery of takashi kitajima, who's tilt shift, bokeh, city lights photos I find nothing short of captivating. Go ahead - google him, circle him, plus one him or follow him - I'll wait.  Just make sure to come back here afterwards. :-) 

Then layer on the idea of making "double exposure" images.  Yes - I came across some beautiful examples of this recently made by Dylan and Sara Photography and then found their video below of how to do this in camera!

So I got wondering what would happen if I combined all these things I loved.  Bokeh, tilt shift and double exposure ideas.  My image posted here is a first crack at it.  It's not 100% there yet but it's moving in the right direction... it has the right feeling... a little bit magical.

Which is exactly what I wanted - 'cause that's what I love best about cities.  

What about you?  Do city lights captivate you?
Have you ever tried to blend a few different techniques on a single image?  Did it turn out the way you had planned/ hoped?

Go ahead and let me know in the comments below, and have a magical weekend everyone!

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