WPC – Life Imitates Art

Is it life or is it art?

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The Bathroom

Life is full of art, it creates it, becomes it, displays it, and, yes, it even imitates it.

Are we awaiting the young Sorcerer’s Apprentice to appear on the scene to create mayhem with the best of intentions?  Will the broom get a life of its own?  Can a dustpan moonwalk?

A little background

This image goes back about 5 or so years, when I was still very active in photography agility trials.  Well before the action started on this fairground, I stopped by the bathroom, looked and saw this scene in front of me…  The way the light came in through the door and backlit the broom and dustpan; the lines working together turned this ordinary scene into an interesting sight…

I left the bathroom to grab my tripod and camera, so that I could get the shot I wanted before anyone would disturb it, or the light would change.  As I was setting up, a trial worker stopped by to hang up a sign; I got a bit of an odd look, but, as I was that weird photographer, no questions were asked.

Technical Details

Shot with a Canon 1D MkIII and a 24-70mm L lens.  This was a series of of 5 shots, each 1 EV (exposure value) apart around the correct metered exposure.  Processing was done with Photomatix Pro.

In response to Daily Post Photo Challenge – Life Imitates Art

Hope you enjoy!!

All who wander…

While lost, something new is found

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Exit

Urban exploration aka urbex has become immensely popular over the past decade to the point that it is mainstream photography.  When increases in processor power made HDR processing available to every photographer, dilapidated buildings could be made to look interesting in completely new ways.

Of course, I have been guilty of a little exploration myself, as I love wandering through old, abandoned sites and checking for some unique vista that speaks to me.  When moving through a building, I let my mind wander and lose itself within the possibilities of transformation through fantasy.

Part of my process relies on visualization of the alternate spin that I can put on the image, so that viewers can feel themselves transported into an alternate reality.  Allowing my imagination to roam free across the landscape of my mind is an enjoyable, stimulating aspect of photography, which is very much enabled by HDR processing, about which I will write more in a future post.

The site of this image was the farm for a state hospital; the structure has been razed since I captured this image.  On the day that I captured this image, the outside light was extremely bright and harsh, giving enough light to get the great definition in the floor and walls.

We’re looking past the animal stalls toward an open door, a possible exit from the dark, stark area, where we find ourselves.  Is it a safe exit, or will it lead into a dimensional trap/

Just for one day

Perseverance is in order as we move forward each day

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Persistence

It’s time to start bringing the mood up again from yesterday’s level of somber.

After a day of reflection, I decided to learn to play ‘Heroes’ on guitar; as always, playing guitar was a great way to unwind, and, while I may still be a novice, each imperfect rendition of a song feels like an accomplishment.

Learning to play the guitar is all about persistence, learning a bit at a time and slowly improving until even you, the student, can no longer deny that you have learned something.  It is about building up calluses, muscle memory, dexterity, strength and will power.  One item that you will not see in that list is something that is sizable part of my day job in high-tech: stress!  

For me, stress doesn’t come from unrealistically short timetables, or work load, but, rather, it comes from the inflexibility within organizations to recognize that new technology requires well-conceived, novel approaches that are founded in the laws of physics.  Challenge is great and welcome; rusty, stumbling blocks should be removed.

Today’s image is one that I captured just over five years ago, not far from my home.

My approach tends to be to allow myself to be guided by a sense of connection to the universe and its every component that surrounds me by staying in the moment; combining this sense with a healthy dose of observation helps me find things of interest.  Walking into the field, the first thing that caught my attention were the lines that presented themselves: horizontals, verticals and the slight diagonals in the sky.

Add the color palette with the warm tones of autumn and the cooler sky tones, and I felt drawn set up for a shot that has had me coming back to it over the years.

The tree’s exemplary stance against the elements brought the concept of ‘Persistence’ to mind, which I felt would be an appropriate title for this image.

Old Photos Are Fun

I’m sure that many of you suffer from the same photographers’ malady that I have: tons of images that you have forgotten about! Now, that is not all bad, because I have taken some bad photos in the past (and will take more in the future), which are best forgotten.

Bay of Fundy at Low Tide
Bay of Fundy at Low Tide

On the other hand, my photo editing/processing skills have expanded and improved over the years, so some of those not-so-great photos might benefit from a bit of this new skill level.  As I went looking for the source file for a reasonably nice landscape of Peggy’s Cove that I took in 2007, I stumbled across an image at the Bay of Fundy that just never pleased me.  If I would take it nowadays, it would be as an HDR sequence, so that I could really get everything I wanted in the image.

However, thanks to the wonderful folks at HDRsoft and the fact that I have played with Photomatix Pro for years, there was the possibility to come up with something new in this image.  It is no longer a pure photo, as I went rather painterly on this image, but I really enjoy the mood that is captured here.

Let me know how you like it and about the photos you have resurrected from the past!

HDR Imaging – An Introduction

Over the past number of years a tremendous amount has been written about HDR imaging and the state of the art has evolved at a rapid pace.  This blog contains some of my thoughts about this topic, some of the work that I have done in HDR and a tip or two.

First off, what is HDR? High Dynamic Range photography is a combination of photographic and editing techniques for extending the dynamic range of luminosity of an image.  What this means in real-world terms is that some of the darker parts of a scene can be treated with more light and some of the brighter parts can receive a bit less light, so that the overall effect results in a more complete viewing experience of the scene when processed.

A view over the Connecticut River at Turner's Falls.
A view over the Connecticut River at Turner’s Falls.

The concept of extending the dynamic range covered in an image is not as new, as you might think: in the 1850s, French photographer Gustave LeGray combined multiple negatives of sea and sky to create seascapes that are stunning to behold with dramatic skies.  Significant additional developments were made in the 1930s and 1940s through manual dodging and burning (increasing and decreasing of exposure) of areas in a negative to create a more dramatic print; Ansel Adams was a true artist in this process, as can be seen in many of his famous landscapes.

The advent of massive processing power in desktop computers combined with Digital Photography has created a new level of interest, which has allowed many photographers to capitalize on some of the algorithmic advances that have been made in the 1980s and 1990s in image processing.

Cape Neddick, ME, is the location of Nubble Light an oft-photographed landmark.
Cape Neddick, ME, is the location of Nubble Light an oft-photographed landmark.

At this point in time, there are also numerous cameras available, which do the HDR processing on-the-fly, taking multiple images and combining them into a single HDR image with preset processing settings.

As touched on earlier, the HDR process extends the dynamic range of luminosity in an image; this enables us to bring the range of image capture somewhat closer to that available in the human eye.  Camera sensors have gotten better over the past years, so that the range of the camera’s sensor starts to rival that of the human eye, which may lead one to think that the need for HDR is diminishing.  This definitely is true from the perspective of being able to ‘see’ as much as the human eye with the camera.

The fair bathroom is a piece of Americana that looks best in the early morning hours.
The fair bathroom is a piece of Americana that looks best in the early morning hours.

From my point of view, there is no diminished reason to use HDR imaging, as there are several benefits to working with HDR that cannot be achieved easily through other means, such as:

  • The setting of very specific moods within the image.
  • Creating that dramatic sky, which Gustave LeGray was after
  • Surreal, hyper-realism

There definitely are other great reasons for HDR, but these are some of my personal favorites.  I have included a couple of samples from my work with HDR in this post to give a bit of flavor.

I mentioned tips in the beginning of this post, so here are a couple from my experience with HDR:

  • Bring a tripod!  It will make your processing work that much easier later – the Cape Neddick image was shot free-hand with the camera on HDR, so it is possible)
  • If possible, meter the light, so that you can set your bracketing up correctly for a good range.  As a rule of thumb, I use -2, -1, 0, +1 and +2 for my exposure values in a range of 5 shots; more or less will work, depending on the scene.
  • Have a vision of what you want to achieve with your shot, before you process it.  Aimless HDR processing is never very fruitful, regardless of the quality of the software; with a vision in mind, you will know when you have arrived at the sweet spot of your endeavor.
  • Experiment!  Not every image will make a great HDR image, which can only be found out through experimentation.

And, of course, most importantly, have fun when working your images.  You’re not going to convince everyone that you did the right thing when processing your ‘killer’ image, but, if you’re happy with the end result, you can smile despite what someone else says about it.