Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Stream: wading through the known to discover the possible, with faster shutter speeds.

While shooting the stream last week ( see previous post) with slow shutter speeds I was reminded that the direction and nearness of the subject matter had a lot on influence on the end result. Whether the falling water was shot from in front or from the side for example, or if the the main movement was very near or far away  -  the actual amount of relative motion. Today this reality was also evident when shooting the same subject with fast and faster shutter speeds.

Close and fast and moving across
 my line of sight.
 Fast shutter created a different effect
 from a slow one. Interesting!
 ps. the blur
 is from a shallow field of focus.

Pushing shutter speeds of course is done at a price, noise (or graininess) becomes more and more evident with higher iso's and faster speeds so knowing what result one wishes to obtain in the finished photograph is important. Noise can add to certain images while it is nasty in others; there is no overall rule. The iso must be raised as speed increases because it compensates for the smaller amount of light that comes with faster speed.

I used a fast shutter here but really did not need to do that,
 there is no motion!

There is motion in the foreground but it
 is not near and is towards my line of sight.
A fast shutter speed was not needed and
I had to compensate for noise later in my
 'Lightroom' program.

Sometimes though, one can hold shutter speed and sensor sensitivity to a minimum if movement in front of the lens is away or towards it or if it is more distant. That way I capture a sharp photo of motion at a minimum shutter speed and can also control the amount of blur within the image - super fast is by no means always super desirable just as very slow is not. Like cooking, done just right is what is we should aim for. And that is a very personal decision.

A very fast speed is wasted here,
 there is little motion.

A slower shutter speed works just as well,
even better.

In my photographs of the stream I was purposely reminding myself how the instrument in my hand must be understood if I wish to get predictable results. The best way for me to work is to understand the theory and play with as wide range of photo - situations as possible. It is at the fringes of what is possible that exciting things happen and that is where I like to be. Getting there though also means wading through the regular and the known first.

Same subject, very fast and semi fast.
My preference is for the slower one
 -  it is more natural.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Stream: Control, and objective and subjective approaches in photography

I have been photographing big mountain rivers lately, heavy winter rains and massive flows - all very dramatic and exciting. The little stream that flows down the hill on my own property has been ignored, even if those same rains have it rushing down the slope just as fast as it can run, so the other rainy day I took a tripod and an umbrella to protect the camera and decided to experiment with slow shutter speeds. The tripod dealt with camera shake but the hassle with the umbrella seemed hardly worth it. I am glad I persevered however, the results were excellent and my camera remained ( mostly) dry.

Shot with a fast shutter speed.
 (Compared to the one above).

Hand held slow shutter.

Slow shutter on tripod

By taking control of the process, setting myself a technical challenge and then using my camera with specific intent and limiting myself to one subject and one technical problem to explore I was increasing my chances of success; this time photography was to be no casual stroll in the park snatching images on the run.

To obtain the necessary slow shutter speed I dropped the iso sensitivity to 100, closed the aperture to 20 and began to encompass .... click zzzzzz click.... a wider slice of time. The rushing waters were transformed into curtains and swirls just as I had expected. Now to play a little with less obvious watery subjects, the tree shadows on a flat, rain-pocked pond for instance. Here was the more interesting and unpredicted results from my camera set up, less dramatic but stranger. A step beyond. Where I do like to be!

Tree shadow on pond pocked by rain. Slow shutter.
These matters of more or less control and objective versus subjective are the meat of making or taking photographs. Being objective and having specific intentions: choosing my subject matter, controlling my camera settings to achieve a particular result and polishing them later in 'Lightroom' produced a predictable result. But when I used the same camera settings for subject matter that appealed to me in an intuitive, subjective way the results were unpredictable and poetic: open ended and creative with more potential for future work.

Control over the process is like a slider in your photo program, there should be no one set 'proper' position: as in our wider lives where the bounds between objective and subjective should be elastic and situation or subject related!

Thursday, February 5, 2015

To be an Artist or follow the foolish way.

 There are two ways to take care of your life – you can develop yourself as an artist, or you can forget yourself and devote your life to art. There's a big difference. The first is to enslave yourself to your ego. It feels good for a while but it doesn’t last for long. This is becoming a host for the guest. The second way is to become a host for the host. You must turn your ego into fuel and burn your life for the benefit of all beings. You will become a kind of fool. But this is the way to find peace. Just climb the mountain, everyday.

'You have to say something' by Dainin Katagita

I was speaking to a friend tonight who had hit a down day in her painting process. She had been looking at artist's websites and had become depressed by the self promotion and repetitiveness of imagery that was being presented as art. I tried to explain that the commercial museum and gallery world was like that: we live within a consumer society and art was not a separate thing removed from that. And then I remembered this quote of Katagita's and suggested that one could try to become an artist or one could be a servant of Art. In that case one might never 'make it' commercially but sleep well at night all the same - sound, foolish sleep and peace filled days.

These photos might fit into the later category, taken casually while on a walk with my wife and with no anxiety that they should be prize winners, they never-the-less have their say in an unpretentious way. They even may be art, Katagita style.