Quick Quotes: Minor White

Posted in Photographers, Quotes on July 23rd, 2014 by Howard

“When you approach something to photograph it, first be still with yourself until the object of your attention affirms your presence. Then don’t leave until you have captured its essence.”

Minor White

I ran across this quote and had to write about it because it reminds me very much of my teacher, the late Nancy Rotenberg, and her philosophy about photographing …… that to make a good photograph you must go ‘beyond the handshake’. It is, of course, extremely difficult to capture the essence of a subject, but being still with yourself certainly seems like a very, very good way to start.

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Posted in Abstract Images, Black And White, Botanicals on July 17th, 2014 by Howard

In my post entitled “Interesting Things Everywhere”, I described how using Photoshop’s invert command converted an abstract image I had made into a much more interesting photograph.  As such, I thought it might prove interesting to try it with my black and white flower images, perhaps one that was particularly abstract appearing. The inversion yielded quite an interesting result with this mum, at least I think so.

As a friend of mine pointed out, the inverson seems to really make the spirals far more apparent than in the original, which is below the inversion. I wonder if that is because the inversion removes the idea of the photograph being a flower and allows our brain to now see more, without it being constrained with  pre-conceived ideas about what the subject is. Once free of the label perhaps we can become more aware and start to see shapes and patterns.  I don’t know…..just a thought.  But I think this may be something that is worth trying on subjects that have a particularly abstract appearance to them.

mum copy Inversions

Inverted Mum

Copyright Howard Grill

20131027  MG 9932 orig as Smart Objectsilver toning copy 2 Inversions

Mum….The Original

Copyright Howard Grill

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A Request

Posted in Announcements, Websites on July 11th, 2014 by Howard

Lately I have been rethinking my website options.  A few years back I designed my current website using Dreamweaver in order to creat a site with my own vision.  My idea was to present more than just images……to also present some of the thoughts and ideas behind the projects as well as specific information and stories about each image to allow greater reader ‘involvement’.  However, the downside to this approach is that it is more difficult and requires more time to update in terms of adding new images, removing older ones etc.  In addition it is difficult to keep up with new coding like HTML 5, SEO issues, adding sharing to social media etc.  It is just more labor intensive than I had anticipated, though I do continue to add to this blog regularly.

I have therefore been considering migrating to a more premium but ‘template based’ site, such as those offered by PhotoShelter or SmugMug.  My request to you is for some feedback.  Given that I think most people ‘surfing’ the web are looking at things for a relatively short period of time, I am wondering if what I had perceived as the benfits of  the individualized website are outweighed by the relative non-updating of the site, blog notwithstanding.  Also, are the template based sites to similar to each other compared to the type of individual coding I had done.

Any input would be very much appreciated as it would be quite helpful to me before I make any decisions.  My current site can be seen here.



Posted in Essays, Technique, Technology on July 5th, 2014 by Howard

Technibition……sure it’s a word.  But I wouldn’t try using it in Scrabble just yet because I just coined the term.  So do your best to make it go viral and don’t forget to attribute it to me!

What is technibition?  It is when the various choices made available by technology leads to the ‘paralysis of analysis’.  Perhaps it can best be explained by example.  You are out in the field and presented with a beautiful landscape.  In the old 35mm slide days you found the best composition and took the shot after deciding on the appropriate aperture and shutter speed for the exposure. Maybe you take two or three photos, bracketing the exposure. After all, film is expensive and in the end you can only choose one exposure (of course, as we moved later in time there was the opportunity for scanning the slide and making more decisions from there).  But these days, if one is technically savvy, there are more options. One can do exposure bracketing for HDR, multiple exposures for focus stacking, and since there is no cost for each exposure why not multiple shots changing the point of focus a bit to see what works better in the final image…..same with the aperture and depth of field, multiple shot panoramas, multiple shot HDR panoramas,……..you can get a headache just thinking about it.

And then when you get home and download the images you will have a whole array of the same shot to choose from.  And that is where things get difficult, because it is now work to choose the ‘right’ one from the bunch.  Do you compare every single one to see which is sharpest.  Do you really need focus stacking or did that shot at f16 have adequate depth of field?  Is that f22 shot better or is it softer because of diffraction?  Or maybe the image is good, but not good enough to merit going through the work of doing all those comparisons.

There you have it. That last sentence is the result of ‘technibition’. Technology has thrown a sandbag in your path because of all the options it offers and perhaps for that reason you end up not making a print at all.    And technibition is far more common when the lighting is perfect or when you are on that once in a lifetime trip…..because you want to make sure you got it right. I know, because I have been ‘technibited’ many times!

Having been technibited, I have given this some thought.  I believe the answer is not that there is too much technology at all.  It is simply the result of the photographer’s uncertainty as to what the goal or endpoint is.  If one has a better idea of what their vision is and exactly why they are making an image then the technology becomes a partner to achieve a superior result.  If the vision isn’t clear, then the technology becomes a confusing distraction.  That is not to say that one can’t have a clear vision but also have more than one usage in mind and therefore make the photograph using more than one technique or technology.  But in my mind, the key is to then have multiple discreet, thought out ideas and not do random shooting.  One thing is for sure, it isn’t always easy!

Well, that is my opinion…..and it is just that, one person’s opinion.  I would love to hear other opinions…..what do you think??

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Interesting Things Everywhere

Posted in Abstract Images, Black And White on June 30th, 2014 by Howard

One can find interesting things to photograph anywhere!  It is just a matter of seeing.

Taking a break from photographing old cars, I took a short walk down what looked like a pretty bland street.  I am by far not the greatest ‘see-er’ but I happen to be in a creative mood and one thing did catch my eye.

There was an old store that was partially boarded up with plywood sheeting that had been painted white.  The wood was old and the paint was peeling.  Underneath the peeling portions the wood was black and made interesting patterns.  I took a series of shots thinking they would make interesting abstracts, but when I processed the images I couldn’t quite draw out of them what I was hoping for. The large expanse of white paint made them look too bland despite the abstract patterns.  Until I tried inverting one of the images……

wood abstract1 Interesting Things Everywhere

Wood Abstract

Copyright Howard Grill

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Quick Quotes: Jay Maisel

Posted in Photographers, Quotes on June 25th, 2014 by Howard

“It’s not about going to new places, it’s about seeing with new eyes”

Jay Maisel

Another great quote in support of the idea that your best images can be made close to home.  They can be made at places that you can visit in all seasons and at all times of day. They can be made when you allow yourself to really ‘see’.  Seeing is a skill that isn’t easy. In fact it can be among the most difficult of things to do. It seems to sometimes come only to leave a short time later.  Best to work with it when the muse arrives!

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Rolling Hills Of The Palouse

Posted in Abstract Images, Nature Images, Palouse, Workshops on June 20th, 2014 by Howard

As I mentioned in my last two posts, I recently returned from a superb workshop in the Palouse region run by John Barclay and Dan Sniffin.  The workshop started with a visit to a location meant to orient us to how to see and photograph what is so characteristic of the area…..rolling hills that seem to go on forever.  The best way to portray them, at least in this particular area which did not have barns or grain elevators (and, yes, we visited many areas that did have both and that added another dimension to the photos), was as abstract images using a long lens.  The long lens (in this case a 400 mm f5.6) was able to isolate interesting areas of the landscape while also ‘compressing’ the distance between the hills.

As you can see from the crop, even a 400 was barely long enough on my full frame camera.  So if you visit, bring the longest lens you have and/or a body with a crop factor that uses less than a full frame sensor.

hills2 Rolling Hills Of The Palouse

Rolling Hills

Copyright Howard Grill

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Ansel Was Here…Probably…Maybe

Posted in Palouse on June 15th, 2014 by Howard

One of the many nice things about going on a workshop run by people devoted to teaching and ensuring a great experience is that they have plans ‘up their sleeve’ about where to go in order to get good shots in any weather condition.  So when the weather was less than optimal, in this case bright sunshine, blue sky, and no clouds…….John and Dan took us out to two superb ‘old car graveyards’.

I don’t necessarily present the image below as ‘fine art’, but I do present it because of its very interesting history.  Does it look familiar to anyone?  How about that roof rack?

Well, this car supposedly belonged to Ansel Adams and that is his signature roof rack.  Now I don’t say supposedly in an idle, matter of fact way.  Once again, supposedly, the vehicle VIN numbers have been matched to the car he owned in order to make the ID. Apparently, the front of the car had been replaced at some point so the license plate may not be helpful. Is it true?  Who knows (well, maybe somebody does) and in reality he left us so much that it really is a triviality as to whether this is truly the car he photographed from or not.

Still, the idea of him standing up there in Yosemite………

ansel Ansel Was Here...Probably...Maybe

Copyright Howard Grill

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Where I’ve Been

Posted in The Palouse, Workshops on June 10th, 2014 by Howard

It has been quite a number of years since I have been to a photography workshop….but that is exactly where I have been for the last week.  I just returned from an absolutely wonderful workshop in the Palouse led by John Barclay and Dan Sniffin.  They truly exemplify what a well run professional workshop should be like.  More specifically, they had been to the Palouse many, many times before and knew where the excellent shooting locations were. Moreover, they had a plan for every and any weather situation.  And by that I don’t mean just overcast vs. sunny.  They had pre-arranged locations in mind for that, but also for blue skies vs. cloudy skies, chasing the changing light etc.  And even though this was theoretically a photo ‘tour’ as opposed to a workshop, there was really no difference.  They both made themselves readily available for any and all questions in the field and also had several didactic sessions that contained tidbits that would be helpful to those at all levels of processing experience.  Perhaps most importantly, they were both an absolute pleasure to be around and, needless to say, are superb photographers.

I certainly plan to attend more of their workshops in the future and would highly recommend them to anyone.  It was both a pleasure and an honor to be photographing with them as well as with the many other very talented photographers who were participants with me in the Palouse!

I hope in the next few weeks, as I go through the many images that I took, to have many to share on this blog.  I just have to get through the keywording, editing, and processing stages first!

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Black And White Cleans Up

Posted in Abstract Images, Black And White, Botanicals on June 5th, 2014 by Howard

There are many reasons why a black and white presentation might be a good choice for an image.  One, which was the reason that I converted this image to black and white, is that it tends to simplify the scene.

The shape of the tree branches and the echoing of the branches by the smaller tree in the lower right hand corner is what attracted me to this scene.  It is the reason I took the photo. At the time I made it I had fully intended for it to be a color image.  But when I looked at it on the screen it simply didn’t work.  There were too many shades of green and too many leaf shapes distracting the viewer’s eye from the broader lines and shapes.  It was the larger shapes of the trunk and branches that drew me in, not the micro-details in the leaves.

So I decided to give it a try in black and white with a higher key effect to help lessen the details in the leaves.  It worked for me.  The image became much closer to my original vision. Black and white saved the image…….or at least allowed it to transmit what it was that I was feeling and what it was that made me take the photograph.

tree Black And White Cleans Up

Copyright Howard Grill

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