Category Archives: photography

Mare and foal, Payne’s Prairie

Somehow I think my experimentation with fine art (watercolors and acrylics) has changed my “eye” when photographing landscapes.  I’m not totally sure yet what the change is, but it has something to do with the overall “feel” of the image.  We recently travelled to Payne’s Prairie State Park in Micanopy Florida (just a bit south of Gainesville) and arrived on a day the wild horse herd was near the observation tower.  The ranger told us that the previous day the wild buffalo herd was nearby.  I was able to capture this scene of a new foal being led to a short grass area by the mare.  The main herd “off camera” to the left of the viewer where the grass was almost as tall as the horses.

We printed a 16 x 12 (300dpi) version of this image and have it on one of our living room walls above a small table lamp.  When the lamp is on, the image literally glows.  The 300dpi version can be seen here.

New Foal - Payne's Prairie 100dpi



I think I am seeing some of my previous photographs in a different light (no pun intended).  This is the original image from 2014, an altostratus cloud formation seen over the entire state of Florida.  I originally thought it needed to be cropped and an artificial (ie photoshopped) reflection placed at the bottom.  A local buyer recently asked to see the original — this image — after looking at the cropped version and immediately purchased a large reprint.  So I studied the original again, this time with eyes that have been struggling with painting, and saw much more drama and power in the original that I had thought was there at the time.  Gallery posting is here.

AltostratusPan small

Illusion of depth

A couple of days ago I took some handheld snaps (Nikon D5300) and stitched them together for a quick panorama of an area originally called Cherry Lake in Sumter county Florida.  I wanted to use the pan as the basis for a piece of artwork.

In painting, the teaching goes to lighten colors at the horizon and make them progressively more saturated as objects move to the middle ground and then to the foreground.

What struck me is that the photograph does not do that (unfortunately I have tossed the raw or NEF files so I can’t tell what the exposure etc. was).  Cherry Lake Pan 100dpi

So I wondered what would happen to the image if I applied those painting rules to it.  Here are the results … but I have no idea if this is something I should do in my photographic landscapes.  At least its an interesting comparison.  The edits were done in Photoshop Elements 11 using a50% gray overlay layer and burning / dodging as appropriate, plus slightly over saturating the left, right, and bottom edges of the original using the sponge tool.

Cherry Lake Pan edit

Do things smell better if your nose is held high?

I came across the most curious discussion.  I searched for a watercolorist presentation and discussion group on one of the popular artistic media websites.  What I stumbled into was an intense debate on the subject of “who *really* is an artist.”

It started with a discussion over whether a piece of work which was predominately watercolors but also included some ink lines was *really* watercolor art?  That moved on to discussions concerning *how much* of the work was ink and how much watercolors (ah, the artist ink police!).  Not stopping there, the discussion went one about whether one should use a pencil sketch as an underdrawing, and if one did were they *really* a watercolor painter.

That wasn’t the end.  The next subject concerned why watercolorists represented only about 10% of the marketable art world.  (Internecine fighting would be my answer)  Another way to interpret that was “are watercolors really art?”

So here’s what comes to mind.  Watercolors in basic sets are available to most kindergarten children, just as water-soluble finger paints are available.  The argument seems to be that if the medium is available at the kindergarten level, anything produced with that medium is probably not *serious art.*

Oh balderdash (I cleaned that up).  The result can be art regardless of how it is produced.  I would tell my new colleagues to stop trying to be so full of themselves, or to paraphrase Laura Ingraham — shut up and paint, don’t worry about what you use.

Sketching evaluation

For those of you who followed this concept, I began around the first of February — maybe a week or so earlier — to try to teach myself how to create pencil sketches.  Access to a learning center where I lived abruptly closed this year, so that left me to figure this out by myself with the use of those youtube teaching videos I could find.

I have just about completed my first sketchbook and I can look back to see how I progressed – a kind of self evaluation in some sense.  I began sketching things I could see, and noticed I was able to produce a recognizable hand — in proportion and with appropriate shading — right out of the barn.

I progressed to some landscape scenes and discovered that I was very heavy-handed with a pencil.  I had to go back and learn pencil use skills, something I figured I had conquered in first grade.  Pencil skills included the ability to reproduce four shades of gray which along with the white of the paper would give me five B&W tones.  That turned out to be quite a challenge which took a couple of weeks to conquer.

I progressed to portraits and found I had a real problem with proportions of the human body – I call this my “cubist” period.  It was necessary to study each component of the face (overall shape, hair, eyes, nose, mouth, and ears) individually.  It took quite a while to reach adequacy.

At that point my sketches began to look like human beings, just not the people I was drawing.  More practice and study led me to the concept of a very light sketch underlaying the sketch itself.  I knew painters often sketched a rough out of their work before applying paint, but it never occurred to me that a pencil drawing required the same thing — or at least in my case looked better if I did.

I discovered that all of this work about ways to affix a range of tones to the drawing really improved my photographers eye for lighting a black and white photograph.  And I also found that I can interpret a scene in color as gray shades, something quite new for me.

I’m returning to landscape drawings, but for those interested here is a link to those sketches I thought were good enough to post on my photography webpage.

Photographer’s Block Part 2

As Paul Harvey used to say “and now, the rest of the story.”  (I know, I’m the only geezer here old enough to remember Paul Harvey’s radio broadcasts).

I did the change of locale trick, taking a short vacation to Surfside Beach, SC.  While there I took many photographs — none I will say consisted of especially new techniques or image ideas, but the experience seemed to get the creative portion my brain restarted (regardless of how small that part might be, some would say).

I posted a skyline image of Myrtle Beach here.  Its a combination of photography and photoshop, but creates a kind of other worldly look to the image.  I also have this composition taken at Atalaya Castle, Huntington Beach State Park, SC.  The tonality and textures got my interest.  High resolution version is here.Atalaya 3_small

Moreover, I have an interesting idea that may allow me to directly print from an inkjet onto wood veneer.  I’ll post here how that idea works.

But to summarize, apparently there is a kind of creative block (be it photographer, novelist, poet, or for all I know quilter, clay thrower, or any similar endeavor).  The mind seems to circle in on itself and revisit neural paths already used, get tired of that circularity, and essentially go into pilot mode.

We look for something to wake up the creative pilot flame in our minds.

Photographer’s Block

I have spent some months now with not a single really creative idea for photography.  Sure, I had to take a month out for a medical crisis with an aging parent, but its more than just a time issue.  Its as if the right side of my brain has decided to take a vacation, creativity supposedly existing in the right hemisphere.

Yes, I made a couple of half-hearted attempts to use photoshop in new ways on some past work, just to see what the result was — but I felt this effort was more busy-work than anything else.

So I ‘googled’ the exact phrase “photographer’s block” and found 8,090 hits — when I finish this post I guess it will be the 8,091st.  At least it is reassuring to learn that others have experienced the doldrums of a creative or idea block.

I read a few of the articles and suggestions, which seemed to me in many cases to be kinds of pop psychology for photographers.  I wonder if the determination about whether one trick works or not is in fact a matter of chance.

One idea did seem to have merit — and its one I will try.  That idea is to make a forced change of locale — look at and experience something new and different to see if the mind can be stimulated back into productive ideas.

We’ll see.  I will report back.  Has anyone else experienced this condition?  Any suggestions on how to find a way out?