Saturday, February 28, 2015

R.I.P. Leonard Nimoy

Leonard Nimoy, best known for playing Spock in Star Trek, died yesterday at the age of 83. Unless you've been out in the wilderness, you probably already know that. What you may not know is that Nimoy was a talented and accomplished photographer. His photographic work can be found in multiple galleries and books. That's something I bet you didn't know about him.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Take Your Time - Don't Spray And Pray

I recently had a conversation with someone about frames-per-second shooting. The person said that they required a camera capable of quickly exposing multiple frames.

You see, this person photographs their kids sports and dance events. Kids are quick. The photographer's solution is to spray and pray. That is, to speedily expose as many frames as possible and hope that a few good ones are made in the process.
Jackson Wedding - Tehachapi, Calidornia
The person told me that they typically capture over 1,000 images of an event. The person will end up with 10-25 photographs that they are happy with. That's crazy! I didn't expose nearly that many frames at the last wedding that I photographed and I delivered well over 100 images to the bride and groom.

The problem with the spray and pray method is that it relies on luck and not skill. Instead of using photographic vision to capture the decisive moment, this method uses volume and odds.

The other problem with spraying and praying is logistics. You have to consider battery life and storage. You have to go through all of those exposures! It requires plenty of waste.

Instead, I suggest slowing down and being more purposefully with each exposure. Pretend that each frame has a real cost. Try to cut back on rapid fire and take a little more care ensuring that everything is as you want it to be prior to opening the shutter.

Less is more in photography, and in this case it means fewer frames exposed. Don't spray and pray.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Today Is The Day That The Internet Changed

You can mark it on your calendar. Go ahead, circle today in red ink. Today is the day that the internet changed. The world wide web will no longer be the same.

The United States of America's federal government, through the executive branch, by the means of the Federal Communications Commission, will begin to regulate the internet. No one knows exactly what that means, but there are a few guesses that we can make that time will likely prove true.
The Compaq Desert - Mojave, California
First, as with any regulation, there will be new taxes. The growing FCC will need to pay for new employees and new systems to run this new division. It's not going to pay for itself. The internet users will be made to pay for it. My guess would be that companies who do business via the web will be charged a fee, and of course (like every business) that fee will be passed on to the consumer via higher price tags.

The consumers might also be directly taxed, but I'm not sure how likely that is. Governments like to hide taxes. For example, in California, a new tax on gas went into effect on January 1st, but because the tax was on the gas companies and not at the pump, not many noticed it. But those paying close attention realized that the consumer is still paying the tax because gas stations have passed it along to them via higher prices.

Second, I think free internet will be a thing of the past. I think at some point free WiFi will go away. Free websites like this will go away. Google (through Blogger) gives me this space for free. If I had to pay for it The Roesch Photography Blog (and also The Urban Exploration Photography Blog) wouldn't exist. I give away for free my thoughts and opinions. Nobody pays me. But I'm not going to pay money to share my intellectual property. My only hope is in point three, which is a two-edged sword.

Third, companies will try to get special waivers from some of the regulations. If Google manages to get a waiver, freeing them of some of the taxes and regulations, then perhaps they can keep Blogger free. But with exemptions come expectations. The FCC is going to expect something in return. It might be political support, financially or otherwise. It might be in censorship. There will be a price for Google to pay if they choose that path.

And why wouldn't they choose that path? The chance to get an advantage over competition is a no-brainer. If Google gets the waiver and some other company doesn't, Google wins by default. It only makes sense to play the game that's handed to you, even if you don't like the game.

Next, with regulation comes thought police. If the FCC disagrees with what you put on the web, they will have the ability to shut it down. I doubt that is much of a worry for a photography blog, but even a post like this could potentially be red-flagged. I think censorship is most certainly on the horizon, and politicians (and others with power) will somehow find a way to use it to their advantage.
Classic Television Set - Rosamond, California
Finally, I think TV will also be affected by this. Companies like Netflix will have something coming their way, no doubt. But not just them--all television, which, anymore, travels over the web at some point, will have some sort of impact. Just how much is completely unknown.

Now it will take time for all of this to happen. I doubt much of anything changes in the next year. It will likely be five years before everything gets rolled out. And it will surely be rolled out in small bits so that it's not really noticed.

What's amazing to me about all of this is that three non-elected government employees are the ones with the authority to make these vast changes. I would say that this is taxation without representation, but they were hired and given this power by an elected official.
Every Cloud Has A Silver Lining - Tehachapi, California
Now every cloud has a silver lining, and if there is one in this it is that perhaps the internet will get cleaned up. There is a lot of absolute filthy garbage on the web. Maybe, just maybe, some of that will go away. And perhaps some of the criminal activity that happens on the internet will also be stopped. While I certainly hope this happens, I have my doubts because these kinds of people seem to always find some sort of loophole. They may have to change how they do what they do, but in all likelihood they'll continue doing it.

Today is the day that the internet changed. There might be some good (let's all hope that there is some good), but there most certainly will be some bad. Thankfully, there is still some time before any noticeable changes come.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Cloud Photography

Lenticular Sunset - Cantil, California
In my post 25 Photography Subject Ideas To Get You Out of That Rut I suggested photographing clouds. Now clouds are often featured in photographs, but I don't see a lot of photographs that are just of clouds and nothing else.

I've thought many times that a potentially interesting project would be to photograph clouds--the sky would be the subject. That's something I haven't really seen done, at least not to the extent that it deserves.

A couple of weeks ago I was returning from a photography adventure when the sky turned amazing. The colors became brilliant and the lighting revealed some great design in a couple of lenticular clouds. I pulled my car over and captured the photograph at the top of this post. I didn't even leave the car. I simply rolled down my window and opened the shutter.

As quickly as the sky turned great it returned to "normal" (uninteresting). If I hadn't been watching the sky, if I didn't have a camera with me ready to go, and if I wasn't decisive, I would have missed capturing the image. Always be prepared, and don't be afraid to be unconventional.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Someone Is Using My Photographs

Trailer Train In The Tehachapi Mountains - Bealville, California
After a blog post of mine went sort-of viral, I decided to do a Google search of my name to see what might come up. It turned out to be an interesting exercise.

One thing I found was that The Bakersfield Californian newspaper used one of my photographs on their website. They didn't ask for permission, but they didn't have to. You see, several years back I submitted some photographs to potentially be published in a book. As part of that, in the fine print of the agreement, I gave The Bakersfield Californian the right to use the submitted photographs without any compensation.

The lesson here is to be sure you know what you are agreeing to. There might be something in the fine print that you disagree with. In this case, I really don't mind.

If you are wondering, the photograph they used (which is seen at the top of this post) was not selected for the book. However, a handful of my other images were published in it.
Westbound California Highway 58 - Tehachapi, California
I found a different website that also used one of my photographs. They didn't ask for permission to use it. I didn't give anyone permission to use it. It was, in fact, stolen. At least the image was attributed to me.

I don't necessarily mind that the photograph was used, but what I don't like whatsoever is that nobody asked first. That is common courtesy.

The article that the photograph was used in was interesting, except for some inaccuracies. Here's a quote that accompanied my image:
"Like a scene out of a modern-day western, nothing goes down California's Highway 58 anymore except for tumbleweeds and dust devils. To be fair, it's nothing but an empty highway with nothing but desert and mountains surrounding it anymore. There used to be the occasional gas station, but after the highway proved to be less efficient than others surrounding the area, it was left to waste away in the desert heat. It's still easy to access, but make sure you have a lot of gas before heading out that way" --Matt Teaford
Those are beautiful words, no doubt. But it is quite obvious that the author has never been anywhere close to Highway 58. The highway is alive and well! A significant portion is freeway, and it is one of two major routes that connect the Central Valley with southern California.

To be fair, there is a section of the highway that goes between Highway 99 and the Pacific coast that's not necessarily a busy road. It's a one-lane-each-way highway that twists through the coastal mountains. But, beyond that, Highway 58 is a major thoroughfare.
Forgotten Highway 58 - Mojave, California
There are a few small sections here and there that have been abandoned due to realignments. The part of Highway 58 you see in the photograph above (which is the same image used by Matt Teaford in his article) is an old alignment that is found just north of Mojave. When they made Highway 58 a freeway through this area, they moved it a little to the east and bypassed the town, leaving this small section to slowly be swallowed by nature.

Oh, and the gas light in your car could be on and you'd be alright--there are several gas stations just a few miles to the south of this location.

I guess the moral here is don't believe everything you read on the world wide web. There's so much nonsense. Even people who seem to be on the up-and-up may not be.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Thoughts: Samsung NX500

Samsung announced earlier this month that they'll be releasing a new compact interchangeable-lens camera called the NX500. Internally it's the same camera as the NX1, which is pretty highly regarded with a 28-megapixel APS-C sized sensor that is back-side illuminated. It also can record 4K video.

As you may know, I've owned two Samsung NX cameras: the NX200 and the NX210. They were both good cameras, but ultimately I decided that the low-ISO image quality wasn't quite what I was after (it was close) and the high-ISO capabilities were not quite good enough to make up for that. After using them for awhile, I thought if Samsung could make the image quality just a little better that they'd really have an excellent product (I moved on to some other cameras).

So the NX1 comes out and it has improved low-ISO image quality and significantly improved high-ISO capabilities. They made some other improvements, too. It's an all-around better camera than the two that I used to own. But it's also a bit bulky and has a $1,500 price tag.

I'm not exactly sure what the differences are between the NX1 and the NX500, other than the NX1 is capable of 15 frames-per-second and the NX500 is capable of nine. Oh, the NX500 doesn't have a built-in electronic viewfinder (this will be a deal-breaker for some, and completely unimportant to others). Just quickly looking over the data sheets on both there wasn't a whole lot else to differentiate between the two cameras.

The two biggest differences are size-and-weight and cost. The NX500 is significantly smaller and lighter and will run you $500 less. The NX500 sure sounds like the better bargain to me.

Honestly, I think (and I'm saying this having never used the camera) that this new generation of Samsung NX cameras are every bit as good as those by Nikon, Canon and Sony, and perhaps even better. Samsung is making a push to be the best, and only time will tell if they succeed commercially.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Viral Thoughts

The Compaq Desert - Mojave, California
The Roesch Photography Blog sits on the outer fringes of the photography blogging world. Yes, I do have followers and some people make this site part of their regular web reading, but by-and-large this blog is small potatoes. Some photography bloggers would be disappointed if one of their posts received in a day as many views as this blog does in a month.

Sometimes, though, a post of mine goes viral. Not really viral, but sort-of viral. When I think of viral I think of millions of views, or at least over 10,000 views. I've never had anything like that. My most viewed post (listed on the right side of the page under "Popular Posts") has been viewed about 7,000 times total. That's not bad for a little guy way over on the edge of internet nothingness, but that's a very small number compared to what the "big boys" get.

What I would call "sort-of viral" are posts that get shared and receive attention and get significantly more views than would be typical. For example, and this is the most recent example, a post of mine from back in 2012 has been viewed over 1,500 times in the last week. That's viral for me, but it is difficult to call that "going viral."

When a post goes sort-of viral it might be because someone shared a link to my blog on a popular photography forum, then several people on that forum shared the link on other sites. That's happened several different times. A couple of times social media (specifically Facebook and Pinterest) has made a post go sort-of viral. More than once a blogger more popular than I has linked one of my posts to one of his or her posts. Most recently, a website (actually, it started with one website and at last count is three websites) linked my blog in an article.

I'm happy for the views. Hopefully those that come to the site take a look around and see other posts. That sometimes happens. If that's you, welcome! Take your time and enjoy the site.

To sum all of this up, having a post go sort-of viral is cool, but I still remain on the fringes--on the outside looking in. That's alright, I don't mind at all. Perhaps that makes my voice just a bit more independent and a bit less biased. After all, no one is paying me to do this, which means that I'm not influenced by the ideas of advertisers.

UPDATE:

Interestingly, just 24 hours after publishing this post, the page views of the post mentioned above jumped from 1,500 to over 5,000. And, while it seems to be slowing, over 50 people viewed the post in the last hour (as of this update).

Of those who viewed that post, about 8% clicked at least one other post on the blog. About 5% clicked at least two other posts. About 2% clicked on three or more posts on this blog. Those percentages may seem small, but I would say that is pretty typical. If I'm lucky, 10 or maybe 15 people (of that group) will follow this blog (or at least regularly visit it).

Friday, February 20, 2015

The Best Camera Is The One That's With You (Nokia Lumia 1020)

Old Broken Hinge - Mojave, California
On my other blog, The Urban Exploration Photography Blog, I posted about some abandoned houses in Mojave, California. There were a bunch of photographs in the post. What caught my attention was that the majority of photographs were captured using a cell phone--the Nokia Lumia 1020 to be exact.

Renown photographer Chase Jarvis said, "The best camera is the one that's with you." That's also the title of his book featuring cell phone photographs.

The way I'd put it is: a camera in hand is with 200 cameras at home on a shelf. If it means getting out and creating images, what difference does it make what camera is used? It doesn't make any difference. What's important is the getting out and doing.

As long as you have photographic vision, the camera one uses makes no difference. Any camera is a capable photographic tool in the hands of a skilled photographer, including cell phone cameras.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

25 Great Photography Quotes

Brownie Target Six-20 - Stallion Springs, California
"In photography there is a reality so subtle that it becomes more real than reality." --Alfred Stieglitz

"I think that emotional content is an image’s most important element, regardless of the photographic technique. Much of the work I see these days lacks the emotional impact to draw a reaction from viewers, or remain in their hearts." --Anne Geddes

"The camera makes you forget you’re there. It’s not like you are hiding but you forget, you are just looking so much." --Annie Leibovitz

"There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer." --Ansel Adams

"In photography there are no shadows that cannot be illuminated." --August Sander

"Photography helps people to see." --Berenice Abbott

"Photography is a love affair with life." --Burk Uzzle

"A landscape image cuts across all political and national boundaries, it transcends the constraints of language and culture." -- Charle Waite

"A photograph is a secret about a secret. The more it tells you the less you know." --Diane Arbus

"Photography for me is not looking, it’s feeling. If you can’t feel what you’re looking at, then you’re never going to get others to feel anything when they look at your pictures." --Don McCullin

"One should really use the camera as though tomorrow you’d be stricken blind." --Dorothea Lange

"To consult the rules of composition before making a picture is a little like consulting the law of gravitation before going for a walk." --Edward Weston

"The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words." --Elliot Erwitt

"I am not interested in shooting new things–I am interested to see things new." --Ernst Haas

"It is the photographer, not the camera, that is the instrument." --Eve Arnold

"To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition in a fraction of a second of the significance of an event." --Henri Cartier-Bresson

"Which of my photographs is my favourite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow." --Imogen Cunningham

"Don’t pack up your camera until you’ve left the location." --Joe McNally

"Of course, there will always be those who look only at technique, who ask 'how', while others of a more curious nature will ask 'why'. Personally, I have always preferred inspiration to information." --Man Ray

"With photography, I like to create a fiction out of reality. I try and do this by taking society’s natural prejudice and giving this a twist." --Martin Parr

"You have to keep changing, keep pushing yourself, looking for the new, the unusual." --Rankin

"If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough." --Robert Capa

"The eye should learn to listen before it looks." --Robert Frank

"Only photograph what you love." --Tim Walker

"Photography is a small voice, at best, but sometimes one photograph, or a group of them, can lure our sense of awareness." --W. Eugene Smith

See Also:
25 Quick Thoughts On Photography
Great Photography Quotes
My Greatest Photography Quotes

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Urban Exploration Photography Blog

Tungsten Mining Structures - Atolia, California
About a month-and-a-half I started a brand-new blog called The Urban Exploration Photography Blog. I encourage you to take a look. There are plenty of good posts already and lots of exciting things going on over there.

For example, the photograph above is from an article on the abandoned town of Atolia. The Flickr Friday Favorites posts have been very popular. There are plenty of good reads, too.

So if you have a few minutes, go on over and take a look. Be sure to follow that blog (it's on the right side of the page once you get over there). The Urban Exploration Photography Blog even has its own Facebook page and Flickr group!

Friday, February 13, 2015

News: Sigma DP0 Quattro

Sigma just announced the soon-to-be released DP0 Quattro camera. For those who may be unfamiliar, Sigma uses a three-layer sensor in their cameras, capturing the full image in each of the red, green and blue channels. There are some advantages to this and also some disadvantages.

One bid disadvantage is that you must use Sigma's incredibly slow software, which will bring your workflow to a crawl. Also, the sensors are not that great at high-ISO.

Anyway, the DP0 is a fixed-lens camera. The lens, which I'm sure is excellent, is 14mm (21mm equivalent). It has a maximum aperture of f4, which is surprising and not particularly impressive.

Sigma claims that the Quattro sensor has 39-megapixel equivalent resolution. That may be a slight exaggeration, but it is a high resolution camera.

It's not known when the camera will be released or how much it will cost. If I were to guess, I'd say June and $999.

If you are looking for something a little different that will produce excellent image quality while not breaking the bank, this might be the camera for you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Canon 5DS Thoughts

I've waited a few days to comment on the up-coming Canon 5DS DSLR camera, mostly because I wasn't sure what to say that others haven't already said. I'm not going to say something just because other people are already saying it.

For those that may not know, Canon is releasing in a few months a new full-frame DSLR with a 50-megapixel sensor. There will even be a version without an anti-aliasing filter.

50 megapixels is medium-format resolution. The Pentax 645Z has 51 megapixels, for example. That's a lot of resolution, more than what most professional photographers need. But, still, lots of resolution is tempting.

What I'm curious about is whether or not Canon will get lots of dynamic range and high-ISO capabilities out of the sensor. This is something Canon has struggled with over the last five or so years--at least on their sensors that have a lot of light-sensing-pixels on them.

Canon was on top of the photography world 10 years ago. Their product was superior to the competition. In the time that has passed since they've made slow progress while the rest of the camera manufacturers have made giant leaps. Instead of improving image quality from the sensor, Canon has focused on silent motors and multi-layer sensors and things that are not really all that important but perhaps in time will pay off.

So Canon has been coasting, mostly living on past successes. Then, seemingly out-of-the-blue, they drop on us 50-megapixels. Is this in response to Nikon's highly successful D800 and D810? Or is this a real advance?

When the camera comes out and people get their hands on it, we will know for sure whether this is a high-resolution wonder or a high-resolution pig. Will it have similar dynamic-range and high-ISO capabilities as the Nikon D810 and other high-resolution full-frame cameras? Or, like some of Canon's other cameras, will it fall short in those categories?

If 5DS lives up to the early hype, this will be a huge deal and will be a tempting alternative to medium-format. This will ensure that Canon stays at the top and that the fierce competition doesn't overtake them (at least for a few more years).

But if the camera doesn't live up to the hype, Canon will give the competition more ammo to try to displace the digital camera leader.

Either way, it will be interesting to watch.

Monday, February 9, 2015

What Photography Is About

Fallen Angel - Stallion Springs, California
Recently someone's not-very-good photograph was selected for something instead of mine. They received praise and money. I didn't receive anything, and I was upset by this.

I don't want to get into the details except to say that the photograph was underexposed, poorly composed, uninteresting and was otherwise a thoughtless snap. It wasn't a good image. Someone must have thought it was good, but it was obvious to me that this "someone" knows nothing about photography and art in general.

At first I was confused. What is it about this photo that someone would think that it's better than mine? Next I was angry. Why did someone pick this obviously inferior image? Then I was jealous. Why does this person deserve to have their photo selected over my photograph?

I went through a bunch of different emotions before I realized that I was reacting completely wrong to this whole thing. I had to do a little soul-searching and to try and understand what this whole photography thing is about for me.
Light Rays - Stallion Springs, California
There are, I decided, three types of photographers: those that do it for money, those that do it for art, and those that do it just because they have a camera.

Those who are photographers for money are professionals. These are people who get hired to capture something (weddings, portraits, products, etc.). Someone else has the initial vision and they hire the photographer to fulfill (and often refine) that vision. The photographer produces on-demand photographs to meet a buyer's expectations and gets paid for his or her effort.

Those who are photographers for art are artists. These photographers are not hired by anyone to create anything--they do it on their own and for themselves. While the artist-photographer would love to be paid for his or her work, there is not a demand that requires the art to be created, and there are not (usually) buyers lined up to purchase the work. The artist-photographs hopes that, with time, reward and recognition will come as people begin to appreciate his or her creative genius.

Those who are photographers just because they have a camera are amateurs. No one is paying them to capture images, and they are not doing it as an expression of art, either. They are doing it because they want to create a memory. They want to document their children or vacation. They want to put together a scrapbook. They are snapshooters.
Flag & Flare - Barstow, California 
I fall into the middle category. I am an artist, and I'm a photographer because I express my creativity through photography. There is nothing wrong with any of the three categories, and it is possible to sometimes fall into different categories at the same time. I have found myself in all three categories at some point, but primarily I'm an artist-photographer.

So what is photography about for me? I want to stretch my world into yours. I want to give you a hint of how I see and interpret the world around me. It's a desire to communicate in a deeper way than I am capable of with words. My photographs are an expression of me.

I'm not doing this whole photography thing for fame and fortune (although I wouldn't mind if that happened). I understand that a lot of artist-photographers received recognition long after their images were captured, and sometimes after they were dead. Some never received any at all. But I do hope that I can reach someone. I hope that I can bridge the gap between my mind and yours, and perhaps make some sense out of things that make no sense. Impossible tasks, but the impossibility of it is what drives the artist forward.

So it is completely alright that some other photograph was selected and my photograph was not. I did not capture that photograph for the purpose of that thing. Perhaps it would not have been understood by those viewers, and the point of it would have been lost.

I just hope that when my photographs are seen that they are appreciated. I hope that the purpose that they were created for is fulfilled. I think that the Roesch Photography Blog and The Urban Exploration Photography Blog (which is my "other" blog) are outlets for that. Likewise for when my images have been found in publications. Those things, though, are perhaps the metaphoric tip of the iceberg compared to what I hope is waiting just around the corner.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

When Is Too Much Post-Processing Too Much?

Inorganic Boy - Palmdale, California
I had a discussion two days ago with a friend about post-processing photographs. We talked about what is an appropriate amount and where the line of "too much" is.

We have different opinions on this subject, but we're also not that far apart, either. He likes his photographs to look "natural"--they look like the scene as he remembered it looking. I like mine to look like film, as if they were organically created with traditional photographic processes.

But where is the line that, when crossed, the photographer has gone too far with his or her editing? Does such a line exist? What happens when the line gets crossed? When is too much, well, too much?
Vintage Abandoned Ranch - Rosamond, California
In my post Five Essential Elements of Photographic Vision I said, "Some people prefer photographs with little or no manipulation. That's fine if it fits the vision. But if the vivid and imaginative conception requires editing, then by all means edit! It is art, and the artist is who determines what the right amount of post-processing is for each image."

I took a relativist approach in that post. The line of too much post-processing is different for each person. My friend and myself place the line in two different places (although, really, they're not that far away from each other). Some other people place the line in wildly different places.

Is there some universally accepted place that we can say the line goes? No, but there is an old saying: "Moderation is a wise ideal."
Photography Is A Drug - Stallion Springs, California
I see a lot of people who I believe under-edit their photographs, and I think their photography could be better if they'd post-process a little more. Then I see some people who I believe over-edit, and I think that their photography is no longer photography, but some kind of digital cartooning. But does what I think matter?

What I think both matters and doesn't matter. It matters in that photography is nonverbal communication, and the interpretation of the photograph by the viewer is a part of the process. It doesn't matter in that the artist's vision ultimately trumps whatever the viewer thinks about the photograph.

So post-process as little or as much as you'd like. You just need to make sure that the finished photograph falls within your personal photographic vision, whatever that may be. Who cares about lines anyway?

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Sunset At The Bench - Stallion Springs, California

Sea of Clouds At Sunset - Stallion Springs, California
There's a great little place near my home called "the bench" that I like to photograph at. A few days ago I saw that the sunset was going to be nice so I grabbed my camera and headed over there.

When I arrived I found that fog was covering the Central Valley below. On a clear day you can see The Grapevine and even beyond that. It was a sea of clouds instead. But that made for an unusual scene.

What's interesting about these photographs is the changing light and color. Only four minutes pass between the first and last frame, yet there is a noticeable difference between them.

I used a Nikon D3300 DSLR to capture these. The lens attached tot he front of the camera was a Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX f/2.8 Micro.
Sunset, Clouds, Earth - Stallion Springs, California
Volcanic Sky - Stallion Springs, California
Captured one minute after the top image. It looks identical at first, but upon close inspection you can see the subtle changes.
Sunset & Sea of Clouds - Stallion Springs, California
Red At Night - Stallion Springs, California
Rock, Clouds, Sky - Stallion Springs, California

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Photography Is About Subtraction

Less is more. Simplicity is better. Photography is more about what isn't included in the frame than what is.

Photography is more like sculpting than painting. A sculptor chisels away everything that doesn't belong until only the finished sculpture is left. That's what photographers must do: remove everything from the frame until only what is necessary to the photograph remains.
A Bakersfield Sunset - Bakersfield, California
Nikon D3300 with Nikkor 40mm AF-S DX f/2.8 Micro lens1/125, f5, ISO 800
Take the photograph above, for example. It's an oil pump at sunset. Very simple. What you don't see is that this was in the middle of a city. This oil pump was found in a shopping center parking lot. There are trees and buildings and telephone lines. There's a tall fence in the foreground. This photograph was not about the city, so all the things that said "city" would have been a distraction. I removed all of that clutter from the composition.

It wasn't easy to remove all of the unnecessary stuff from the frame. I had to hold the camera up above my head to remove the foreground fence. I then had to find just the right angle so that the trees, buildings and powerless were not included. Those things are out of sight, just off frame (to the left, right and below).

The photograph is so much stronger without the distractions. It is much better as a simple image.

Bakersfield is known for oil and agriculture. Those two things are huge in the area. Because of that, air quality isn't great, but those particulates in the air make for great sunsets. Oil and sunsets are two things that symbolize Bakersfield.

There is a secondary meaning--one that is more metaphoric. Falling oil prices have hurt the local oil business. There's been a reduction in production, and that has meant layoffs. The sun is setting on the oil industry in Bakersfield, California--at least for now.

All of that is found in a simple image with a simple message. A small change in the composition would have meant a big change in the outcome of the photograph, and it would not have been for the better.