Channeling Dylan Thomas (Whoever he was)
Channeling Dylan Thomas (Whoever he was) avatar

Friday March 20, 2015 – midafternoon. The vernal equinox is due at 6:45 PM – yes spring is due in less than 4 hours! But old man winter is having none of it.2015-03-20_15-04-37_01

A biting wind, freezing temperatures, and a light – barely perceptible snow forms a haze on the horizon. And winter gives breath to Dylan Thomas –

“Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

A tug boat that hails to “8th Sea” lies locked in ice on the Hudson River – not yet ready to ply summer’s waters.2015-03-20_15-04-27

A small tree is gnawed nearly bare by hungry deer.2015-03-20_15-07-38

A bench sits empty by the cold, cold, cold ground of an old cemetery.2015-03-20_15-08-32

New snow forms wispy drifts on the frozen surface of the pond.2015-03-20_15-14-00_01

Spring will come to the registration desk tonight and find that her room is still occupied.

Oh! “TRANSITION”
Oh! “TRANSITION” avatar

I thought you said transmission.01-Transmission

O.K. the March photo contest theme is “Transition.” I hope you understand my confusion.

I thought a bud on a tree branch might do – but that’s too clichéd.02-Bud

Besides some of the trees are confused too. The Red Oak never completed the fall transition and now it needs to start the spring transition.03-Tree

Ah Spring! The season of things ephemeral like the pot holes that mark the highway department’s transition from winter plowing to summer repaving. While drivers face the confusion of selecting a safe non-damaging path along the road.04-PotHoles

In winter the clear frozen pond is a place to skate.05-WinterPond

And in summer Great Blue Heron – and young boys – find it an ideal fishing spot.06-SummerPond

But in spring it is a confused sheet of unsafe ice and water.07-SpringPond

Even the sign posters are confused by the pond conditions.08-PondConfusion

Then there are the “Vernal Ponds” – existing only in the transitional period between frozen snow covered ground and soft summer ground.10-VernalPond-209-VernalPond-1

Imagine the confusion of the outdoor person’s closet floor. What footwear can be stored away, what can still be used for awhile longer, what needs to be dug out of winter hiding places. O.K. the skates can go away but I might get another backcountry ski in. The packboots can get stowed unless it snows tomorrow. The bike shoes can come out ….11-Footwear

Now if I could get a person undergoing “Gender Reassignment” to pose – that would be a transition that could provoke discussion.

Nope – I got nothing for this month! What’s up for April?

 

What if Georgia O’Keeffe was a Photographer?
What if Georgia O’Keeffe was a Photographer? avatar

This post is based on a artists talk at Cohoes Artist Showcase V (CAS-V Friday March 6 & Saturday March 7, 2015).

Georgia O’Keeffe was a twentieth century painter best known for her flowers and southwest landscapes. In many of her canvases the background is a solid color. This isolates the subject from the context that it exists in. The four pieces that I’ve entered in this year’s showcase are a bit of an ‘ommage to Georgia O’Keeffee. All are flower images and all have been isolated. What I want to talk about today is a series of techniques that a photographer can use to accomplish that objective.

Let’s start with the obvious and least technical approach – which actually has a few variations. Only photograph objects that have a solid background.

In these first two images the background was a nearly featureless sky.

Slide 01

Slide 01

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Slide 02

Or at least use a background that can be rendered as a fairly solid out of focus area by using a rather shallow depth of field.

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Slide 04

Or get close enough to your subject to eliminate any background.

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Slide 04

The second technique is to use a solid colored backdrop.

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Slide 05

If we pull back the camera a bit you can see the set up that was used for the roses image.

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Slide 06

Ah – but what if your subject isn’t as portable as a vase full of rose buds? How about these tulips with the chain link fence, the dead leaves, and the grass behind the fence.

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Slide 07

Here are the same tulips 4 years later. In one I slipped a piece of white mat board between the tulips and the fence, in the other I used black mat board. I got tighter to the tulips to reduce the amount of ground clutter that I had to pluck out of the way.

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Slide 08

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Slide 09

The third technique may seem purely contrived and there will be some that say it’s not “real photography”. But if Georgia O’Keefe can paint her bare canvas with a solid color and then add her flower on top of that because it is “art”, then I say a photographer can use whatever tools are available to create the art image that the photographer desires. Here is a flower shot that I took while wandering around Cohoes one day – I believe it was at Canal Square. I didn’t happen to be carrying a 32 by 40 inch sheet of black mat board so I shot it “as is.”

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Slide 10

I then used the paint bucket tool and the clone tool in Photoshop Creative Suite 5 to remove the portions that I did not want in the image. By creating a much higher contrast between the flower and the background the colors of the flower seem more vibrant – the image has more “pop”.  I also cleaned up the bit of spider web and few white spots on the petals, but did not try to increase color saturation in the flower. The actual color of the flower does not change from one image to the next.

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Slide 11

The fourth and final technique I want to cover is what I like to call controlling the light. If the subject is well lit while the background is in deep shadows – the background will disappear. Most of the time this will be achieved by using artificial light to illuminate the subject – but it can happen naturally too.

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Slide 12

I left the top part of the background in this image to point out that there indeed was green vegetation behind the flower. The flower itself was in strong sunlight while the background was in deep shade. Properly exposing for the brightly lit flower caused the background to be a nearly featureless black.

In this next shot despite being tight to the back lit subject, there is a lot of extraneous clutter in the image.

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Slide 13

In this next image I’ve closed the drapes to eliminate the back light, switched to a longer lens, moved back, and lit the scene with an off camera flash. As you can see the spill over from the flash is still lighting extraneous objects, including the now dark drapes in the background.

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Slide 14

In the next shot I moved the flash more to the side and a bit higher. As you can see, we still have flash spill issues.

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Slide 15

In the final shot I’ve lowered the camera position to crop out the table top and other extraneous items.

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Slide 16