Photo Notes

December 27, 2016

On Editing

Griffith Observatory

I have been a working professional photographer for several decades. I actually started taking pictures much earlier. In all that time I’ve never lost my love of actually making an exposure. There is a hopefulness about each exposure: maybe this one will be great or maybe this one will please the client. The actual moment of creation is special.

The thing is, taking a picture is a personal moment. Inevitably there is something left out of the frame. It might be the experience of getting to the shoot or something completely unrelated. If I had a great breakfast before the shoot that part of my experience will never be part of the picture. Perhaps this is obvious, put most people taking pictures seem to miss this fact. One of the signs that the experience is outside the frame of the picture is when the photographer needs to explain the shot. Since most people take pictures to make a sort of visual diary of there lives this is a natural part of picture taking. Most people take picture to capture a part of there experience: this is what my child looked like at three or this is where I stayed on my last vacation. I think that this has a lot to do with the popularity of selfies. Of course I occasionally take pictures to capture moments of my life, but such pictures are not my business.

I make a lot of photograph for clients and for art. When I make a photograph I am shooting to communicate with the viewer of the photograph rather than trying to save a personal experience. This means that I must understand the way a viewer will see my photograph. The viewer will never have the experience of pushing down the shutter button. He or she comes to the photograph with a whole different set of expectations and experience than I had when I made the image. First the viewer expects to be shown something interesting. When I make photographs I am always involved in a process of discovery. I am trying to find what is interesting, compelling or just effective in an image. The viewer expects to be shown what I found; they do not expect to make their own journey of discovery. While it might be interesting to create art that requires such a journey on the part of the viewer, effective photographs present the viewer with the discovered.

Editing is the process of choosing what to share with the viewer. What I choose to share depends on the viewer. If I am working for other creatives, for instance an ad agency or a graphic designer I might share everything. Such people expect to go on to do their own process of discovery in my images. However if the images are for other uses, whether for business or for art, I need to choose images that will communicate with the intended viewers. I need to see my images as other people will see them. It can be very difficult to see images in this way. I must pay attention to what is in the frame, and how others see that content, and just what a photograph can actually communicate. This is a difficult process. Many good photographers are unable to make the shift to editor. I’ve often been shown images that represent something very special to the photographer, but weren’t effective in communicating to any one else. I’ve done this myself: tried to explain what was great about an image I made, only to realize that my audience was only concerned with the actual image.

When I edit my first step is to get rid of all the images that are so technically flawed that nothing can be done with them. While I don’t actually destroy any digital files or negatives, I don’t keep such images in the folder I’m editing. If I’m working with digital files my next step is to do basic corrections for color and exposure on any images that will benefit. Usually I can do this in batches, so it doesn’t take very long. If I’m working with another creative, or a client that wants to see everything, I may present all these images. I only present images at this stage if the client wants to be part of the editing process. The client often has special information they want to display or special insights into how they present their images. I never know everything a client knows; they always have special expertise. It’s important to use that information. So it can be very important to engage the client in the editing process. If I’m working for a client that wants to see only choice images I need to start to see like the client, and I have to start making more difficult picks.

On another pass through the images I’ll pick out any image that is particularly effective. At this point I am always looking for what is good about an image. I’m still trying to be inclusive. So I might keep an image that has a particularly effective portion, even if part of the image is flawed. If I have several images that are redundant this is the point where I’ll let some of them go. I’ll also pick out images that are grouped for special handling, say a group of shots that were made for HDR or focus staking. No part of photography is divorced from the technology of image making, but this process of examining images is effective if I’m using a loupe and grease pencil on a proof sheet or Lightroom. In fact I usually use Adobe Bridge and Adobe Raw to handle digital images.

At this point I begin to edit the actual image rather than the editing the shoot. This is a very important transition. Of course I’m going to continue to throw out images, for technical and esthetic reasons, but the next step is to begin edition the individual images. At this point it’s even more important to look at the images as a viewer would. Remember that the viewer won’t recreate the moment of capturing the image. Just like a client you have special information, but it may not be possible to express that experience in your photograph. So it’s time to get rid of the stuff that doesn’t work in an image. This means crop your image. There was an idea among photographers that you should crop the image in camera; that the actual image captured in the camera was almost sacred. One of the reasons for this was that we shot a lot slides, which were used for projection. You couldn’t edit these images, without a great deal of special handling: what you shot was what you showed. With current digital cameras there is no technical reason to shoot this way. In fact there are good reasons to shoot a little extra around your image, for instance you may need to do perspective control or compensate for lens distortion. It is also possible that an image may work best in another shape. There is nothing special about the 2:3 ratio of most digital sensors, square images or different rectangles may work better. It’s even possible that a circle or oval might be the best choice for the image. It’s important to be guided by the image rather than by a frame size or print size. If I end up with a special size image I can always mat the image for a standard frame.

Cropping is so important. It tells the viewer what to look at and keeps the viewer’s eye engaged with the photograph. I have seen so many images that would benefit from a little judicious cropping. There are probably a number of technical things I’ll do to an image when I first open it in Adobe Raw, but nothing is more important to the finished image than cropping. I may crop as a multi-step process, doing a rough crop in Adobe Raw and doing my final cropping in Photoshop. Of course this two-step process is particularly important if I’m going to be doing a perspective crop.

I think that Photoshop has had a more significant and lasting affect on image making than digital cameras have. The previous technology: either wet darkroom or offset printing, didn’t allow for much image manipulation, at least not without extreme costs. Photoshop allows us to get into the image and perfect it. As photographers we should use these tools to create a better visual experience for the viewer. There are so many ways to do this that are beyond the scope of this essay. However it’s important to be open to utilizing this tool kit. Whether you choose to do become a Photoshop expert or to send out your retouching you need to have an idea of the possible. There are limits for photojournalistic images, but those limits don’t apply to personal work, however it’s still important to keeps the viewer’s experience in your mind. Keeping a sense of the real is important to engaging a viewer.

If you’re still reading this you may want to share it. That’s ok with me, but please attribute it to me, for good or ill. If you have another opinion I’d like to hear it. You can e-mail me at john@siskinphoto.com.

My home page is at

http://www.siskinphoto.com/index.php

If you’re interested in more information from me you can find my workshops at:

http://www.siskinphoto.com/workshop.php

There are a couple of free classes that I used to offer through BetterPhoto, on the page as well.

You can read my magazine articles at:

http://www.siskinphoto.com/magazinearticles.php

There are a couple of dozen of them at that link, all free.

You can also find my books at Amazon, of course you’ll have to pay for them:

Understanding and Controlling Strobe Lighting: A Guide for Digital Photographers

Photographing Architecture

My blog is at

http://siskinphoto.com/blog/

and I’ve posted this essay at the blog.

And just for fun here’s a link to my do it yourself page

http://www.siskinphoto.com/cameraeqp.php

 

 

 

July 15, 2016

Rock House #5

Rock House #5

Rock House #5

One more image of the Rock House. Not quite in numerical order, but frankly I can’t remember the order I shot these in. This is the side of the building from the creek. There wasn’t always water in this area, but there often was. Rare for Los Angeles. This will be incorporated into the fine art site. Check out the earlier posts at: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3190 and http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3190 and http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3337. This place must have been amazing before the fire.

I’ve recently posted a couple of shots of a waterfall in Box Canyon (http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3182 and http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3176 ). Literally built into left hand rock, shown in Box Canyon #2, is this house. I came upon the place hiking down the canyon. I had no idea it was there, and there is much less than a quarter mile from where I lived at that time.

Shot with my Speed Graphic of course. I think I used my 135 f4.7 Xenar lens. This probably, certainly, isn’t the best lens Schneider ever made, but it’s a lot better than the lens that’s usually found on a Speed Graphic. I started using a Speed Graphic when I was in High School, back in the early 1970s. One of the things that makes large format shooting so rewarding are the great lenses, but not all large format lenses are good. My Speed Graphic really taught me to be a photographer, but it taught me the hard way. When you do large format photography mistakes are expensive, so you learn to be precise.

As you know I’m adding these images to my blog as part of my re-do of my fine art portfolio pages. I’m also doing it to make these images available. If you’d like an archival print of this shot, please order with the PayPal link. The image will be about 11X14 inches and mounted on 16X20 cotton rag board. I’ll even throw in shipping, if you are in the U.S.

One more thing I wanted to mention: I offer several workshops at my studio in Indianapolis. I hope you’ll check out the workshops at http://www.siskinphoto.com/workshop.php.

I hope you’ll also check out my books, use the links below:

July 14, 2016

Rock House #3

Rock House #03

Rock House #03

A third image of this amazing place. This shot shows how the native rock was incorporated into the wall of the building. They really don’t build them like this very often. This is the third post about this place in the blog and of course all of this will be incorporated into the fine art site. Check out the earlier posts at: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3190 and http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3190. I still wonder what the house looked like before the fire.

I’ve recently posted a couple of shots of a waterfall in Box Canyon (http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3182 and http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=3176 ). Literally built into left hand rock, shown in Box Canyon #2, is this house. I came upon the place hiking down the canyon. I had no idea it was there, and there is much less than a quarter mile from where I lived at that time.

Shot with my Speed Graphic of course. I think I used my 135 f4.7 Xenar lens. This probably, certainly, isn’t the best lens Schneider ever made, but it’s a lot better than the lens that’s usually found on a Speed Graphic. I started using a Speed Graphic when I was in High School, back in the early 1970s. One of the things that makes large format shooting so rewarding are the great lenses, but not all large format lenses are good. Some of the early problems I had were caused by the shutter.

I’ll add more shots from the Rock House soon.

As you know I’m adding these images to my blog as part of my re-do of my fine art portfolio pages. I’m also doing it to make these images available. If you’d like an archival print of this shot, please order with the PayPal link. The image will be about 11X14 inches and mounted on 16X20 cotton rag board. I’ll even throw in shipping, if you are in the U.S.


One more thing I wanted to mention: I offer several workshops at my studio in Indianapolis. I hope you’ll check out the workshops at http://www.siskinphoto.com/workshop.php.
I hope you’ll also check out my books, use the links below:

June 8, 2016

Roberts Park Church #6

Roberts Park Church #6

Roberts Park Church #6

Another stair case form Roberts Park Church. I already mentioned that I like pictures of staircases. I did a shoot a Roberts Park Church a few weeks ago. I was there with the 8X10 camera. Used Ilford HP-5 in case anybody is checking. This was the last shot of the day. I know it was taken with the 8.25 inch Gold Barrel Dagor, you can see the lens. Sweet lens. Shot between f32 and f45. There is an inherent composition in a staircase. A good one combines form, function and a sense of time.

set-up #6

I actually remembered to shoot a set-up shot with the phone. I should do this more often. You can see that the shift is used, pretty much all the shift on the camera. Of course this is because I’m only shooting one side of the holder. You can’t really see that the lens is tilted down, which allows the depth of field to follow the bannister. You can see the top of the Ries Tripod, great tripod. My Leica bag with all the accessories, and thither holders is in the background. Oh, the camera is the Toyo 810M. I think I got the camera back in about 1985? Lot of great stories with that camera and these accessories.

I’ve shot a lot of staircases on commercial jobs. I even did work for a client in Los Angeles that specialized in making custom staircases. You can check out a few of the shots: http://www.siskinphoto.com/architecture1q.php, http://www.siskinphoto.com/architecture1s.php and http://www.siskinphoto.com/architecture1u.php.

If you’d like print of this image, I’d like to send you one. The image will be about 14 inches tall and mounted on cotton rag board (the good stuff). If you use the PayPal link below I’ll even include shipping in the U.S. I appreciate your support.


Also don’t forget my workshops: http://www.siskinphoto.com/workshop.php.

I hope you’ll also check out my books, use the links below:


Now over 5000 registered users at this blog!!

June 1, 2016

Roberts Park Church #8

Roberts Park Church#8

Roberts Park Church#8

I did a shoot a Roberts Park Church a few weeks ago. I was there with the 8X10 camera. Used Ilford HP-5 in case anybody is checking. This was the last shot of the day. I believe it was taken with the 8.25 inch Gold Barrel Dagor. Sweet lens. I don’t know why I haven’t gotten around to posting any of the stuff I shot on that day. This shot was made in the choir loft.

I’ve always liked pictures of staircases, especially old stone staircases. Check out A Sea Of Steps by Frederic Evans or Spiral Stairs 1 by Linda Butler. Of course this image is really built around the handrails. There is an inherent composition in a stair case. A good one combines form, function and a sense of time. I’ve shot a lot of stair cases on commercial jobs. I even did work for a client in Los Angeles that specialized in making custom stair cases. You can check out a few of the shots: www.siskinphoto.com/architecture1q.php, www.siskinphoto.com/architecture1s.php and www.siskinphoto.com/architecture1u.php.

If you’d like print of this image, I’d like to send you one. The image will be about 14 inches tall and mounted on cotton rag board (the good stuff). If you use the PayPal link below I’ll even include shipping in the U.S. I appreciate your support.


One more thing I wanted to mention: I’m offering individual workshops at my studio in Indianapolis. I’m calling these One on One Workshops. You can choose the subject and the time. I’m hope you’ll sign up soon. How about a day spent working on lighting, or even large format photograph? I hope you’ll check out the One on One workshop at http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=2818. You can see other upcoming workshops on my site.

I hope you’ll also check out my books, use the links below:


Now over 5000 registered users at this blog!!

 

 

 

May 27, 2016

Shooting the 11X14 Camera Again!

This is another blog entry that will be part of my Fine Art pages, whenever they get finished. However I’m also going to add information about my evolving work with the 11X14 camera, which I hope will also interest you. I wrote about my first tests with the camera before: check out this entry: http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=2871.

The camera shoots an image area of 11X14 inches! Think about that as about 100 times more sensor area than my full frame Nikon D800. One of my goals for this camera is just working with an ultra large format camera. If you’ve never worked with a big film camera you probably won’t understand just how satisfying it is to successfully create with a camera like this. There is a joy that comes from making a photograph with this craft that I don’t get from just pressing a button. I’ve spent a large part of my life perfecting this work, and I just don’t want to stop.

Of course there is more than just being some sort of curmudgeon. There are a few things that you can’t do with a small digital camera. A lot of these involve inviting chaos into your images. I suppose this is why some people have returned to film photography, they don’t want instantaneous images so much as discovered images. My goal for this camera is to mix a high degree of craft and image quality with a process that allows chaotic intervention. So far I’ve been pleased with the results.

In this image you can see that the flowers are surrounded by a glow. This glow doesn’t continue around the shells and leaves the background largely black.

Shells #C v-1

Shells #C v-1


In this alternative version there is only a single flower and the glow is mostly confined to the background.

Shells #H v-1

Shells #H v-1


As I mentioned in the earlier blog, I am shooting Ilford Multigrade paper. I am processing the paper in the studio as I shoot. The exciting part, for me anyway, is that I am re-exposing the paper to light during processing. This process is usually caller solarization (sometimes the Sabatier effect). Usually it’s done on the print, which makes the light areas of the print dark or black creating an overall dark image. The original mid tones of the image preserve some or all of their tone, creating an image that is partially reversed. The image below is a traditional solarization.

Bonnie-Hand Solarization

Bonnie-Hand Solarization. This is a print solarization

By solarizing the negative I’m able to add light rather than black. Because I’m working on such a large negative I’m able to control where I put the additional light. Since I’m processing as I shoot make the negatives I’m able to see how the re-exposure and my image interact.

At this point I’m only offering 11X14 digital prints. The prints are mounted and matted, and the price includes shipping in the United States. Please support the work by purchasing a print! I am experimenting with creating transparent negatives that will enable me to create various kinds of prints in the wet darkroom. I hope to make some of these analog prints available soon.

One more thing I wanted to mention: I’m offering individual workshops at my studio in Indianapolis. I’m calling these One on One Workshops. You can choose the subject and the time. I’m hope you’ll sign up soon. How about a day spent working on lighting, or even large format photograph? I hope you’ll check out the workshop at http://siskinphoto.com/blog/?p=2818. You can see other upcoming workshops on my site: http://www.siskinphoto.com/workshop.php.

I hope you’ll also check out my books, use the links below:


Now over 5000 registered users at this blog!!

April 11, 2016

Box Canyon #6 (Face)

Filed under: Fine Art Portfolio,Landscape Photography,Large Format Photography — John Siskin @ 2:56 pm
Box Canyon #06 (Face)

Box Canyon #06 (Face)

Another shot from Box Canyon. For somewhat obvious reasons this is subtitled Face. When I was young, in High School, I saw some Edward Weston prints. I think I’ve mentioned elsewhere how much this affected me. As I looked at more of his images I became particularly fascinated with the dune shots. While I did experiment with actual images from the dunes at Pismo Beach, I also looked at rocks and other surfaces with eyes that had seen the dune shots. Light and shadow, texture and smooth, all these things fascinate me. I hope you’ll be interested as well.

I don’t think I noticed the shape of the face when I shot this, but memory is unreliable. I know that I used to climb between the rocks in Box Canyon looking for abstract compositions. This is from a 4X5 inch negative, so it’s certainly made with my Speed Graphic. I also had a Toyo 45C view camera at this time, but I didn’t take it out hiking. I love the Speed Graphic. I got it when I was in High School. I went to one of the old camera stores in Hollywood with my Dad. The guys at the store seemed very old, like they’d been in the store forever. I remember the sales person saying that the rear shutter curtain had been removed from the camera. He said that was a good thing, because no one had ever figured out a way to develop an image that had been exposed on the rear shutter curtain. Sort of an inside Speed Graphic joke. I didn’t really understand it at the time, but as I became acquainted with the camera I figured it out. Speed Graphics have a rear shutter, basically a long ribbon, also most lenses for the camera have a shutter. The rear shutter provided a 1/1000th of a second shutter speed, as well as other fast speeds, which was why the camera was called a SPEED Graphic. I must have got that camera about 1972, and people weren’t using the cameras to do press shots anymore, which meant that you didn’t need the high speeds from the rear shutter. Later on I put a rear shutter back into the camera so that I could shoot lenses that didn’t have a shutter. I wish I remembered more about that purchase, especially about buying the camera with my Dad. It’s been a while since I shot with that camera, but I still have it. Some of my favorite shots were made with that old Speed.

My Speed Graphic camera with the 135mm lens, not the 65mm Super Angulon.

My Old Speed Graphic

As you know I’m adding these images to my blog as part of my re-do of my fine art portfolio pages. I’m also doing it to make these images available. If you’d like an archival print of this shot, please order with the PayPal link. The image will be about 11X14 inches and mounted on 16X20 cotton rag board. I’ll even throw in shipping, if you are in the U.S.

One more thing I wanted to mention: I offer several workshops at my studio in Indianapolis. I hope you’ll check out the workshops at http://www.siskinphoto.com/workshop.php.

I hope you’ll also check out my books, use the links below:

One more thing: I have more than 4900 registered users at this blog. Wow! Thanks for your support!

April 5, 2016

Rock House #2

Rock House #2

Rock House #2

This is the second image I’m posting from this site. I think this image shows more about the house than the others I made. As I mentioned in the earlier post (Rock House #1). When I look at this picture I look for evidence about the house like the electrical conduit you can see in this shot. I really don’t know much about this site, so I try to extrapolate from the image. Look at the huge logs, I keep wondering where they came from, certainly they weren’t local. The house seems to have had two floors. The logs would have been the support for the second floor. I wonder what the house looked like before the fire.

I’ve recently posted a couple of shots of a waterfall in Box Canyon (Box Canyon #1 and Box Canyon #2). Literally on the other side of the left had rock is this house, or what remains of this house. I came upon the place hiking down the canyon. I had no idea it was there, and there is much less than a quarter mile from where I lived at that time.

Shot with my Speed Graphic of course. I think I used my 135 f4.7 Xenar lens. This probably, certainly, isn’t the best lens Schneider ever made, but it’s a lot better than the lens that’s usually found on a Speed Graphic. I started using a Speed Graphic when I was in High School, back in the early 1970s. I learned a lot about using big cameras through the problems I had. A big source of problems was the original lens I had, which was made by Wollensak. One of the things that makes large format shooting so rewarding are the great lenses, but not all large format lenses are good. Some of the early problems I had were caused by the shutter. I recently got a shutter speed app for my Andriod phone. I went ahead and got the optical sensor for the app; and I have to say it works great! I also really like the Color Temp Meter, Photo Tools, LightMeter & Lighting Studio. One more: Photog Companion, this has model releases that can be filled out on your phone or tablet.

I’ll add more shots from the Rock House soon.

As you know I’m adding these images to my blog as part of my re-do of my fine art portfolio pages. I’m also doing it to make these images available. If you’d like an archival print of this shot, please order with the PayPal link. The image will be about 11X14 inches and mounted on 16X20 cotton rag board. I’ll even throw in shipping, if you are in the U.S.

One more thing I wanted to mention: I offer several workshops at my studio in Indianapolis. I hope you’ll check out the workshops at http://www.siskinphoto.com/workshop.php.

I hope you’ll also check out my books, use the links below:

April 4, 2016

Rock House #1

Rock House #1

Rock House #1

I’ve recently posted a couple of shots of a waterfall in Box Canyon (Box Canyon #1 and Box Canyon #2). Literally on the other side of the left had rock is this house, or what remains of this house. I know depressingly little about it, other than it’s called the Rock House. Sort of the obvious name. At some time there was fire and the place wasn’t rebuilt. You can still see the blacked surfaces on some of the timbers. The place is built out of rough hewn timber and actual logs. Much of the cabin is the native rock, and, perhaps some of the rocks mortared into the walls are local. The place is absolutely fascinating.

I came upon the place hiking down the canyon. I had no idea it was there, and there is much less than a quarter mile from where I lived.

I have no idea who owned the land. I have no idea when the fire happened. I don’t know when the place was built. In some of the shots you can see flexible conduit for electricity, but I don’t know if the electricity was put in later. I also saw a water heater, but that isn’t in any of my shots. Anyway I leave for you the mystery of the rock house.

Shot with my Speed Graphic of course. There are shoots made with my 8X10 camera, as well as the 4X5, I might add those later. Regardless I’ll add more shots from the Rock House soon.

As you know I’m adding these images to my blog as part of my re-do of my fine art portfolio pages. I’m also doing it to make these images available. If you’d like an archival print of this shot, please order with the PayPal link. The image will be about 11X14 inches and mounted on 16X20 cotton rag board. I’ll even throw in shipping, if you are in the U.S.


One more thing I wanted to mention: I offer several workshops at my studio in Indianapolis. I hope you’ll check out the workshops at http://www.siskinphoto.com/workshop.php.

I hope you’ll also check out my books, use the links below:

April 1, 2016

Box Canyon #1

Filed under: Fine Art Portfolio,Landscape Photography — John Siskin @ 1:01 pm
Box Canyon #1

Box Canyon #1

This is about the same location of Box Canyon #2, but of course there is just a trickle of water. It’s amazing to think about: all this area is sandstone, laid down as ocean floor. Then it rises up and is sculpted by water. Photography gives me the chance to appreciate the beauty that time and water sculpt. I wonder if I would have learned to see the beauty in these places if I had never picked up a camera. I’m still learning to see, and to write with light.

I came upon this place while hiking down the stream. It’s invisible from the road. The Rock House, which I’ll be adding to these posts in a few more days, is built right against this stream. It must have been amazing to live in this house during a big storm.

As you know I’m adding these images to my blog as part of my re-do of my fine art portfolio pages. I’m also doing it to make these images available. If you’d like an archival print of this shot, please order with the PayPal link. The image will be about 11X14 inches and mounted on 16X20 cotton rag board. I’ll even throw in shipping, if you are in the U.S.


One more thing I wanted to mention: I offer several workshops at my studio in Indianapolis. I hope you’ll check out the workshops at http://www.siskinphoto.com/workshop.php.

I hope you’ll also check out my books, use the links below:

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