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A different perspective

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A different perspective


Postby brightncheerful » October 27th, 2017, 1:59 pm

Re-reading something on my blog on another site, I came across the following that might interest you. (I have edited and changed some wording to confine what I wrote to photography.)

Amongst my spare-time (if only!) interests is photography. I became interested in photography as a quick way to write poetry. I wrote reams of poems during my teens (1960s), my writing style a combination of description and humour. In my late teens. I performed readings on theatre stages: there’s nothing like standing in front of a live audience hearing them laugh and groan.

Before the advent of digital photography, my knowledge of photography was limited to the basics: put a roll of film in the camera, look through the viewfinder, press a button, take pictures, wind on, then wind back and remove film, travel to a chemist and days later return and pay for prints and negatives. Look at the photos, keep a few, chuck the rest. Cost divided by the number of photos I’d keep resulted in an expensive exercise. My knowledge of the technicalities has always been lacking. For me, composition comes naturally, but the technicalities, f-stop, shutter speeds, exposure, all that sort of thing, is hard work. I can just about explain to others what I do understand provided any questions are within that understanding.

In the hope of making my fortune, I held a week-long exhibition at Lauderdale House, NW London of my photos and poetry under the title ‘Poetry in Vision’. I bought 100 picture frames and framed each photo with a poem which I priced at £10 each. I sold enough to cover the cost of the exhibition but not the frames. In the hope of at least getting my money back, I covered the walls of my home with the framed pictures and poems and whenever I had visitors I’d encourage them to buy one or two. A friend put it nicely “sitting in my living room was like being inside a gigantic ego-trip.”

My first digital camera, a Fuji compact, had 1 million pixels. I used it for property work, photos of shops. It was great to take as many photos as I liked without having to pay for any I didn’t want. Realising there must be more to it than pressing the delete button, the more I read about digital photography the more confused I became as to the best way for me to approach the subject. Most people, so I read, are no good at composition, but that not being a problem for me did not overcome the difficulty I had with the technicalities. It got so bad that, on one occasion, while doing some property work for a member of the Royal Photographic Society, I was hesitant to take photos of his shop and studio while in his presence. The public area of his studio was adorned with photos of people and pets (his ‘bread-and-butter’ as he put it), but in the back room out of public sight was where his passion lay: brilliant, fabulous, photographs of buildings and street-scapes. The subjects that enthralled me. Sensing my discomfort, the client enquired and when I told him, he told me to forget about trying to understand all the technicalities: what would be better would be to find a subject that I enjoyed taking photos of and learn about the technicalities for improving what I was good at.

Over the years, his advice has held me in good stead and I have applied the principle to other interests, including property advice. One thing I discovered about digital cameras – since my knowledge of the technicalities is limited, I forgive myself if I’ve got this wrong – is that to overcome limited knowledge most people had about developing and processing film the photography industry came up with the jpeg, Joint Photographic Experts Group, a technique for lossy compression of colour images. In layperson’s terms. a digital camera doesn’t just capture light, inside the body of the camera is post-processing technology for displaying the end-result.

With jpeg, what you see when taking the photo isn’t necessarily what you get. What you get is what the camera lens sees combined with what the jpeg allows. A lens isn’t able to see everything you see of the scene (presupposing a sighted person), because all cameras have their limitations, also the dynamic range of a camera is less than that of the human eye. A jpeg doesn’t show all the detail, because some detail is lost during the process of compression. Whether any of that matters depends upon what you want to achieve. You may be content for your photos to be souvenirs of an experience. If like me you want your photographs to stand out from the crowd then not only does it pay to use a camera and lens capable of raising the standard of your photos to a higher level, but also an image system whose post-processing can be done by you, not the camera, separately and non-destructively with software; getting the most out of software is another potentially steep-learning curve!

The recommended way to minimise post-processing is to have an understanding of the technicalities for adjusting controls and settings on the camera before pressing the shutter to take the picture. If you only take pictures in automatic mode, the quality of the photos would depend upon the quality of the camera manufacturer and/or the particular camera model. If you play with the settings without understanding what you are doing, then you risk the photos not coming out properly. Most consumer-market cameras, including smartphones, can take photos of anything, but some cameras more adept. When choosing and buying a camera and/or lens the first question to ask is what type of photos is the camera and lens designed for.

Over the years, my interest in photography has ranged from thinking myself a warm weather sunny day amateur to semiprofessional, and back again. For a while, I regarded photos for property advice as paid employment, my photos have been complimented by judges in court, and I’ve contributing to friends’ photographs in exchange for invitations to their weddings. Apart from turning down an invitation to take photos of a dog trained to appear in TV dramas, the nearest I have come so far to being paid to take photographs was being invited by professional publishers (not self-publishing!) to author a local history book, one of a national series of local history books, obtainable via Amazon, etc, for which I now receive royalties, a sum that sometimes amounts to the cost of filling up the car’s petrol-tank once. The theme of the book, which includes snippets of local history, is to portray an old scene with the same scene more recently. For the selection of approximately 180 photos, 90 old, 90 new, I rephotographed more than 1000 old photos. The size of the images my camera (Nikon 800E) takes is approximately 35MB each; the difference in sharpness and detail is striking. When after a few months of preparation, the book’s content layout and photos were stored on a USB inside my shirt pocket, I marvelled at how far technology has advanced.

For me a camera is a tool, a means to an end. My knowledge of photography has not improved much beyond, as the client advised, the sort of photos I enjoy taking. With the exception of clouds in the sky, I rarely take photos of anything that moves (so no people, flowers, plants, wild life, sporting events, etc). I don’t profess to anything like the depth of understanding that photography magazines give the impression at least to me others have. I have stuck to my knowhow for composition. I know that whatever I am pointing at with my camera will result in my desired outcome. The art is a form of self-expression. I want others to be emotionally-moved, whether to say it’s a lovely photograph, and as a friend says 'what on earth is that?"

I have discovered that for me the secret of successful photography is to wait for the subject matter to come to me. I am not equipped for too much of a hurry. By forcing the timing, rushing can spoil the subtly. Photography is also an art but which it seems to me those into technicalities and logic attempt at every opportunity to turn into a science. To my way of thinking, composition is not formulaic. Not about rules based on what others have found works for them as if it is only others that should be allowed to go first, but about taking the lead and knowing when to stop.

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