Sunday, September 9, 2012

See it Slant

Sometimes it's easier to notice important notable things if you can't see well. Take peripheral vision for example. No one can see well out of the sides of their eyes. Yet, there is a tenderness in peripheral vision.

My eyes fell to the left of this scene but felt a tug by the blend of subject and textures. It felt so classically painterly that I couldn't help but look closer. This photo is my attempt to capture that tug, both just after and before you notice something from a slant.

Embrace the Surprise

Imagine my surprise when I started my run, iPhone in hand, with a W40 lens and film combination and some time later discovered that each of the photos I took along the way had a different lens and film combo with no intentional intervention on my part. After some head scratching I discovered that running with the Hipstamatic app open leads to random changes to the film lens combination. When I locked the phone and resumed running, no such changes happened.

At first I was annoyed at my lapse but when I thumbed through the stream, loved some of the resulting images!

There is a long running argument in photography between those who are proud of how well they can control the photographic tool and those who open themselves to chance and surprise and often throw the "best" tools and techniques of the other camp out the window. As someone who has walked, stood and sat on both sides, I believe they both have merit as well as their own time and place.

The first photo below is one of the surprises from that run that I absolutely love. The stark industrial crane and perfect symmetry bring a sense of order to the surreal result. I loved this surprise so much that I tried to recreate it on my way back.

After carefully selecting the film and lens combo, I shot expecting the same result. What I got was the second surprise! And I love it too.

All I can say is Embrace the Surprise in your work.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Bullseye Editing

How do you get from original shot to what you feel about a scene, moment or story? Bullseye editing is often a process of experimentation. Here's one example of the editing process and thought behind it. You can see all the photos below.

1. I shot the original photo using Hipstamatic's James lens and new W40 film. Loved the softness with which it rendered this architecture.

But this isn't what impressed me for this shot. I noticed the vaulted structure but I noticed more the lone person at the end of the corridor in front of the window. Although the fantastic sweeping lines and lovely light are breathtaking, it's her I want you to notice.

She is what gives this space scale and emotion. We can't lose her.

So how do we do that? One way is to reduce the distractions. Big Lens is a great app for this with many options.

2. Use a blur vignette to release focus on the corners. My use of it doesn't do much to achieve the goal.

3. Remove more detail by blowing out the highlights. Better but she still isn't the main thing.

4. Leave only the main subject untouched by blur. Much better.

5. Darken the corners to reduce their drag on the eye. (Lomo4)

6. Take out all the color except for the figure to sharpen the focus on her. (Gray BG filter)

But wait, we lost the beauty of the space. Is this photo about the space or the person or both? Much of the meaning to me is about her but in relationship to the vast structured space around her so we need to find ways to bring that back.

7. Introduce a dreamy feel over the whole image. (Dream filter in Big Lens)

This might be too much.

8. Try a contrast between a warm space and a cool figure to accentuate the figure in relationship to the space. Better.

You can see how the editing process allows you to refine and clarify your thinking about an image and what you want it to communicate.

My favorites are 7 and 8. How about you? What speaks to you?

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Without My Glasses

Karen Walrond of The Beauty of Different fame has nudged me one step closer to looking at my near-sighted ness as a gift, a unique perspective. Plenty of sharp-eyed artists of fame have reached the same conclusion. Imagine Monet's Water Lillies with perfect vision. Much more work.

So for this photo I took out my contacts and left my glasses on the cake pedestal. It was an in-focus shot but in editing I chose to soften many of the edges but not all to give the feeling of not being able to see clearly, moving in for better sight and then back out again for the whole.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Teaching a Skillshare Class on iPhoneography

I took the plunge and signed up on to teach a class called "iPhoneography - Editing Photos onYour iPhone."

The whole idea is to help people make more awesome photos.  I gave the class once for free just to make sure it worked for people.  It did, so now I'm doing the next step.  Same class but to a broader audience.  I've already got more ideas for other classes that would be fun.  If this Skillshare thing goes well, I'll consider adding another class with new content.

Here's to Sister Corita Kent's rule #4, "Consider everything an experiment!"

Sunday, September 2, 2012


Masking is a practice that comes from printmaking. You mask off parts of the print that you don't want colored on that run. On the next run, you pull off that mask and add another color to that area while masking off others.

In photography and iphoneography, you may have elements in two different photos that you'd like to combine into one.

In this case, I had one version of the photo on my iPhone in which I liked the fish and another version in which I liked the background. In the app PhotoForge2 I added two layers. The first photo I loaded was the favorite background. The second photo I loaded was the favorite fish. But PhotoForge2 uses a last-in-first-out method so my top layer is now the last photo loaded! The favorite fish!

The order matters because it dictates which thing you mask out. Since the favorite fish is on top now, I have to mask out the background of the favorite fish in order to let the background come through from my favorite background now in the bottom layer.

Here's an easy way to look at it. Cover up with a mask what you don't want to see in the top layer. This allows what is in that area in the bottom layer to come through!

Masking is a pretty useful and critical skill. If you can master this one on your iPhone or iPad a whole new world of iphoneography possibilities opens up!