February 4, 2018

Light Snow, 30 Degrees, Calm Winds

Today’s walk was nothing short of lovely. There is something special about being out in a light snow. Everything has that hushed quality that makes things seem peaceful. It was warm enough that I didn’t feel under assault by the cold and I didn’t have to worry about Jamie being cold, so I relaxed and walked at a leisurely pace, observing my surroundings.

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Everything looks different during a fresh snow. This snow is a very fine one; tiny flakes that collect on everything. All of the millions of tiny branches in the brush and trees are highlighted and everything has a different feeling, so I shot a number of pictures of the wider landscape to record it. I’m settling into the rhythm of this project and accepting that it’s okay if I don’t make fine art masterpieces. It will be interesting enough to have a record of these woods for an entire year.

I have no idea how such a record might be presented other than through this blog. A book or collection of pictures would be pretty boring. I could make a small selection of course, but capturing the flow of an entire year would be impossible. I’d love to be able to show the same shot for every single day; the dirt road outside the woods, for example, or the point where I descend into the woods themselves. I don’t think it would work, but I like the idea. So the blog will be the medium, at least for now.

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The only problem with the blog is that only a handful of people are seeing it. A few friends and a handful of curious strangers see it each day. I wish it would reach more people. I guess I need to do some promotion beyond having the posts announced on Facebook. Regardless of any promotional effort though, it’s a thing only a few people would read. At least that’s how it seems to me.

I spent a fair amount of time photographing tree trunks again today. They continue to fascinate me. I’m beginning to see the tremendous variety of them. I am seeing more individuals and less examples of a species or variety. I’m going to keep shooting them as long as they attract my attention.

I’ve had this idea that I want to treat these tree trunks differently. I like what I did with the first round of images, but I’ve been having this idea that I want the trunks to more nearly fill the frame. I want them to be imposing. And I’ve had the idea of making them very dark, as if emerging from the night. I’ll try some of that with today’s pictures and see how they look.

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Different treatments of the same photograph. Makes a big difference.

How one develops and presents images is a big part of being a photographer and an artist. The original image is the raw material. From there I can lighten or darken, add or remove contrast and exposure. I can sharpen or soften the image. I can intensify or diminish or remove the color. I can tint the images in a variety of ways. All interesting possibilities.

Presentation is the other thing. These images look one way as little thumbnails, another way if you click on them and see them full screen. They look different again if you print them in a book and much different if you make prints. Big prints are different still. Even the paper you choose when you print has a big impact.

I am beginning to picture these tree trunks as big, dark images, printed big on the watercolor paper that I’ve used so much in my previous photography. In this way, they might have that mythic or timeless feeling I like. I always picture them arranged throughout a big modern house. I think they might be wonderful in a setting like that, but that remains to be seen.

Often, the way I develop photographs plays a part in creating a sense of unity for either a book or exhibition. I’ll apply similar techniques to all of the images in a show so they read as a body of work.

There’s one other element of developing images like these. Digital photographs have a distinct quality to them. They feel different from film images. They don’t have the distinct film grain that film images had. Each type of film had its own quality, as did different developing processes. Digital has none of that. Some people feel that this makes digital images feel cold. Mostly people who shot film early in their careers.

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Film has almost disappeared from the photographic world. You can still get some things I think, but the selection is diminishing and the art is disappearing. There will always be people who love and keep these previous technologies alive. There are still photographers working with daguerreotype, a process from the mid 1800’s.

Because of this nostalgia for film, there are actually software packages that attempt to simulate film qualities. It can be interesting to see what these looks can do to a photograph. I am not very comfortable with these simulations. It seems a little wrong to paste artificial film effects on top of digital images. But I’m not above experimenting with them. If I like what it does for the image, I might swallow my discomfort and use it.

Above are a variety of simulated film effects. Some of them are really cool. I might have to consider these. Click on the pictures to get the full effect.

I’m more about the results than the processes, I guess. If you get film looks by using old film cameras, that’s fine, but I guess I’m not above getting the look through software. Still makes me a little uncomfortable, but I’m open to the possibility.

There is actually a big movement toward crude old film cameras with cheap plastic lenses. People love the unexpected things that happen from lens distortion and even light leaks in a film camera. I guess that’s just as artificial as modifying digital images, though it seems a little more genuine. Check out the Lomography.com web site if you’re curious.

I have to admit I like the look of some of the images produced by these crude old cameras. There is that element of mystery that I mentioned in an earlier post. It would be something to mess with, but I can’t imagine the inconvenience of sending film off to be processed. And then what do you do? Set up a darkroom? Or scan the images and finish them digitally. Not worth it to me.

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There are other ways to get some of these effects as well. There are unusual lenses you can buy for digital cameras. Lensbaby is probably the best known. Check out their website at lensbaby.com. They offer a variety of lenses, most of which emphasize what they call selective focus. The means that part of the frame is in focus and the rest is not. You can place the point of focus wherever you want in the frame and control the extent of blur in the surrounding areas. The blur can be extreme. It’s not like what you get in a normal camera lens.

I own an old Lensbaby lens and have experimented with it a fair amount. It can do some pretty interesting things. It can feel a bit gimmicky, but it’s attractive to me too. The images can have that mysterious quality I like. I’ll probably dig out my old lens and give it a try at some point in this project. One nice thing about knowing you’re going to be shooting a single subject for a year rather than for a long weekend is that you can take your time messing with all kinds of stuff.

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Well, today I’ve stayed on the subject of photography, avoiding the torrent of personal background that I poured out yesterday. I’m sure there will be days like yesterday over the course of the year. Probably a lot of them. I always intended that this blog be more than a simple description of my daily walk. Anything that comes up in the course of the walk is fair game, so brace yourself for future episodes.

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