FLORAL PORTRAIT OF PERUVIAN LILYARTIC WITH PORTLAND'S LIQUID SUNSHINE : FINAL VERSION
This week I'd like to try to try and convince you that all you need to do to find something interesting to photograph is to go take a walk in the neighborhood. It's about that easy - all you need to do is open your eyes. Even Manhattan or Yosemite can become old hat if you are not willing to pay attention to your surroundings, but taking the time to look can deliver interesting images on a simple walk to the store.
ARTICHOKE THISTLES GRABBING THE SUN : FINAL VERSION
Most of my customers think that the nicest compliment they can make to me is to extol my "eye". I am not discounting my skills at composition, which led me to be an architect, nor all of the design training that can translate from the drawing board to the camera. But the biggest skill I possess as an artist is the ability to slow down enough to actually notice the world around me. I see things most people miss merely because I stop to smell the visual roses. After that my "eye" comes into play because I am willing to see things without caring to merely documenting my subject, but by expressing my wonder by interpreting it in my own way.
BEEBLOSSOM FLORAL DELICACY : FINAL VERSION
BEEBLOSSOMCANAN FLORAL DELICACY : B&W ALLOWS FOR EVEN MORE CONTRAST
These images were found and created on about three walks this past month as I "hiked" to the grocery store on Hawthorne Blvd. Thirty years ago our real estate agent apologized that our prospective house was eight blocks from Hawthorne - I replied that if I couldn't manage eight blocks that I would just stay in bed. All of these images were found on those eight blocks. I frequently get quizzical looks from passing pedestrians wondering what the hell I am possibly finding to photograph. And sometimes even I wonder what there is still to discover on that short walk, but inevitably I come across some little pocket of beauty I hadn't noticed before.
BUNGALOW CANADA LILY : FINAL VERSION
None of these images are earth shattering, but maybe that is the point. One of the reasons that I enjoy writing these essays is that it gives me the opportunity to create images that are totally divorced from any effort to sell them. The images that I exhibit at the market are all my "personal work", in the sense that I was creating them for my own amusement long before I imagined selling them. But I am not so divorced from reality as to understand what might appeal a little more to potential customers - my lack of skill as a businessman serves as a curb to any aspiration to "sell out." These images from my walks only need to appeal to me, and to possibly provide proof of my theories of what you can find out there on your own walks.
SEED PODS, COLOR AND B&W : FRUIT - IT'S NOT ONLY ABOUT THE FLOWERS
In a funny way my floral portraits are not commercial in that they are just too damn easy. A well exposed photo of a beautiful flower starts to lose its meaning after the first few hundred images. I could sell an unlimited amount of these images, but what is the point? Take photos of what you love, a wise man once said, and I love a pretty flower as much as the next guy, but not enough to actually care that much to make these images a large part of my work. I am not willing to obsess about flower imagery, which requires extensive lighting, carting along portable backgrounds, and heaven forbid, actually buying some flowers at a florist. So I take my casual "floral portraits", as I call these images, to emphasize the idea that it is my feelings about these blossoms that count, because it is hard to "document" something that you don't have a clue about. The only reason I can pretend to know the names of any of these flowers is because I recently discovered that Google images could reasonably tell me what the heck that particular flower actually was, way after the fact. I hope you can see that my portraits have very little to do with the documentary images that appear on Google.
FLORAL PANORAMA (BROOMRAPE) : FINAL VERSION
All of these images could have been taken on my iPhone. In fact, the only way you can make flower images much better than the output of your phone is by spending another thousand dollars for a macro lens for your "real camera" - the iPhone is that good at capturing nearby small objects in good light, which is kind of the definition of garden photography. My only advice is to get close, try to take photos in the shade, and expose for the flower, with the idea that the background can go dark. Just like a supermodel, you are trying your utmost to achieve separation of your subject from the background.
SUMMER LILAC (BUTTERFLY BUSH) : FINAL VERSION
All of this can be emphasized with your post-processing skills. Judicious saturation and brightening of just the flower, coupled with the opposite for the background, can give you the figurative spotlight that the star demands. Any way that you can heighten the contrast between your subject and its surroundings can help, but try to keep it subtle enough that your viewers won't notice your manipulation. Introducing vignetting, a subtle darkening of the exposure around the edges of the frame, can also contribute to separation. This is pretty funny since some portion of that thousand dollars you paid for your fancy lens was to correct for that same naturally occurring darkening of the edges of an image that plague cheaper optics. And you can always try for a black and white conversion, which can show your skill in pulling off an engaging image of something that seemingly was all about color.
A POX UPON YOUR PHLOX : FINAL VERSION
BANANA LEAF, ON THE PATH TO ABSTRACTION : FINAL VERSION
Since I am an architect, I also tend to notice the details that I find on the older houses in my neighborhood. Architectural details are always there for those that look, and can give you a measure of faith in human ingenuity despite the constant cheapening of our environment. These small bits of craftsmanship show the value of "vintage" construction, when people actually seemed to care about what they were doing while they made a living.
METAL SMITH TRYING TO COMPLEMENT, AND OUT DUE MASON : FINAL VERSION
SPOTLIGHT ON SHADOW ON STUCCO : FINAL VERSION
RECENT STREET MURAL : WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE CREAM!
I hope my short walk might inspire one of your own. Bring a camera, and remember my admonition that when someone comments "why the hell are your taking that photograph?" it means that you are more than halfway to achieving a personal "eye" of your own.
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