Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Some Macro

I really like macro photography too. I'd love to be able to get in closer, however. My 70-300 'macro' telephoto zoom can get decent photos of full flowers, but what I really want is more abstract compositions.


Eaten Leaf

Someday I'll get a proper macro lens or some extension tubes!


I like pictures of pigeons. I think they need unusual composition and some of their 'natural habitat' - the city:


Also, this is my shortest update ever! Woohoo!

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Kinvarra and Fanore

Some more photos taken - thankfully - so I can stop whinging about photography for a little while. Or maybe not. Again I wasn't particularly happy with my lot, and I still have the sinking feeling that I'm regressing rather than progressing with this photography business. I love landscape photography. It might be cheesy, or perhaps even in the main non-artistic, but it certainly is a craft, one that can to a certain extent be mastered through hard-work, perseverance and of course creativity. It usually gives tangible results; you can look at yours or other's work and to some degree say "that is good" or "that is bad". It relies slightly less on taste - at least as far as recognising the skill and talent that went into a particular photo.

My problem is in 'seeing' the picture well before I take it, and specifically, getting to the right location at the right time to take the picture. My trip to Fanore had all the right elements: we were by the coast in one of the most beautiful locations in Ireland. The sun was setting over the sea - it wasn't a completely clear evening, so there were dramatic hues and shapes in the clouds and sky. Further down the coast, well within reach, was the famous cliffs of Moher. All in all a landscape photographers dream.

All very well, but it's all useless if you don't know where to go. We drove too far, for too long, and it eventually got to the stage where you need to leave the car and just get the hell out and take photos. But why? I knew I hadn't found a good place, and I've taken a million sunset pictures before - no need for more boring ones - they need something else now. The act of taking photos was just a reflex; just going through the motions to prevent all the driving from having been in vain. Here are the 'results':



Interestingly, on the way home we came across this little valley steeped in fog:


Personally I don't think the photo does it justice; It was too dark by the time we got there, and the valley was completely in shadow while the sky was still quite bright. It was also far thicker than it looks on camera. I love fog - someday I'll take good photos in it!

Well, that's all. Hopefully my next post will be 100% whinge free!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Moment of Clarity

I was going to write a post with a couple of pictures - nothing special, but mainly as a celebration of how I had overcome a (fairly) lengthy period of photographer's block. But, I just had a slight epiphany while out smoking a cigarette so I felt I should commit it to virtual paper while it's still fresh in my mind.

I was thinking, as one does, about the reasons why I enjoy photography, and came to a somewhat depressing realisation, which may or may not be entirely true but certainly made me think. I've noticed a certain pattern in the way I take photos and my motiviation behind them. I spend a lot of time looking at photos I admire, and trying to emulate the ideas and techniques behind them. This I have no problem with - I think it's something everyone does and it is probably the best way to learn the craft.

My epiphany revolves around the way I do this, however. As I try to emulate these pictures, I will often try it out as a 'proof of concept'; I will attempt to take a certain type of picture, and even when I don't entirely succeed I am happy if I think that I have got the basic technique right and with a little more effort, or perhaps the right conditions, I could take a picture 'just as good' as the one which I am copying.

I think this probably started with those long-exposure water shots. I always wondered how they were done before I bought a digital SLR and was using a completely automatic point and shoot camera, and it was one of the first techniques I tried to copy when I bought my Nikon D50. I had some success, then read up on filters and bought a cokin filter set with an ND filter. Even though I haven't taken any photo of flowing water that I am particularly happy with, I am satisifed that I have the technique mastered, and unfortunately this has subconsciously made me think that this is ok - it's as if just believing that I could take a picture as good as one I have seen somewhere that impressed me is all I need to do. The picture itself has never materialised and up until now this didn't really bother me.

If the above situation was a one-off, then perhaps I wouldn't be worrying so much and writing a blog post whining about it, but the more I think about it the more examples I can think of. The following picture is a particularly good example:

Star Lines

As you can probably see, this picture is nothing special. However, it's perfectly indicative of my problem. I was always interested in taking photos of star lines, having looked at and admired many photos of the night sky with amazing circles of stars taken over a period of a couple of hours. So I researched what I needed - a tripod, a full battery, a wide-ish angle lens, a light-pollution free sky. I tried a couple of times with little success; I didn't realise just how bright the sky around cities is, or how much of a drain on batteries long exposures are. Finally, I was somewhere dark enough to take a picture, and I tried it out. I left the shutter for about half and hour or so, and got this. It wasn't very good, but I thought that if I had just left the shutter open longer, and perhaps composed the picture a little bit better, then I could have taken a picture just as good as those I admired. Again, unfortunately, the picture never materialised. This was enough.

Again, my infra-red pictures followed this pattern. I looked at photos. I read up on filters, which lenses didn't produce hotspots, and how to post-process the pictures. Eventually, after many failed attempts, I finally produced some pictures like these, which I blogged about in my last post:

Two Windows

I'm repeating myself now, but again, I wasn't happy with the picture as a whole - I don't think it has anything special. But, yes you guessed it - I was happy enough to leave it at that.

It's the same for others. Those ubiqutous long-exposure, sunset-and-rocks photos, the photos of a huge sun reflecting on the water, the list goes on. It's hard to believe that I've only just realised what I have been doing all this time, and worryingly, if this trend continues, I'll run out of techniques to try and stop having fun (I can't deny that I enjoy what I do - no matter what the problems are with it) That would be a disaster.

So I'm drawing a line in the sand. I'm going to take an infra-red picture that is as strong compositionally as it is technically. I'll do the same for good ol' sunset-water-and-rocks, and I'll take a well-composed picture of proper circular star lines. This post will remind me why I'm doing it, and I won't rest until I've posted at least one good example of everything I've tried. I've 'mastered' the proof of concept, now it's time for the real thing.