Category Archives: mood

My Photographic Niche

If you’ve followed any of my work you’ve probably noticed by now that I am hooked on a few subjects.  Landscapes have always been a passion of mine.  Military aircraft, especially WWII Warbirds on display in an air museum or an air show are something I really enjoy.  But lately I’d have to say that my niche is black and white photography.  It’s not that I’ve lost interest in my other photographic interests, black and white has just taken a front row seat.

One of the benefits of black and white is that I can still work on my landscapes and also the aircraft.  Since I shoot about 95% color (I do switch the camera over to black and white occasionally), I have the best of both worlds.  It’s after I’ve taken the shot and have it available for post production that I can begin to transform it.  Sometimes when I’m out and working a scene I can even picture it in black and white. Ansel Adams described this as previsualization where he defines it as “the ability to anticipate a finished image before making the exposure”.  This may sound a little corny, but it works for me.  There are some scenes that just seem to cry out to me – “black and white”!

Here’s an example.  This shot is of the Imperial Beach Pier, just south of San Diego.  Whenever I’m down in the area I try to make a sunset photo side trip.  I was trying out my new Sony RX100 and got lucky to have a very pretty sunset.

Not bad, and I think most folks would probably just leave it as is.  But there was just something about it that made me wonder what it would look like in black and white.  I think the result gives this shot a completely different mood.  It’s been transformed from light, colorful and even cheery to dark, moody, and somber.

There’s one more aspect to my black and white obsession, and that’s adding a vintage look. I’ve been fortunate to have access a family travelogue from the early 1900’s. The book is called “Around Arizona” and chronicles my great-grandparents and very young grandfather’s 1000 mile journey around a very rough and wild Arizona. Being over 100 years old it’s not in the best shape and I’m in the process of scanning all of the pages and copying the photos. I’ve always admired vintage photos and like to study them to try and duplicate their unique look and feel. Having access to some that have a direct family connection is just icing on the cake.

To give you an idea of what I’m talking about, here’s an example:

As you can see, this photo is far from perfect. It’s faded, scratched, blotched, etc… etc… And I think it’s absolutely perfect with all of it’s imperfections. Looking at it takes me back to simpler time, when there were no superhighways, no air conditioned cars, no fast food. Photography was very primitive compared to what we have today. The camera my great grandmother used for this shot was an Eastman-Kodak No.1 Pocket Camera. It used A-120 roll film and had an autographic feature that allowed the photographer to actually write a note on the back of each frame of film using a little stylus.

That’s enough history. My point in sharing all of that is to say that I use this as my inspiration to further transform some of my photos into something similar, something with that same vintage look and feel. I’m not always entirely successful, but I enjoy the challenge. Here’s one of my more recent images:

To sum it up, I’d say that black and white, including vintage images have more character than those technically perfect shots that are cranked out today. There’s nothing wrong with a perfect digital shot that is flawless down to the last pixel, but most of them lack character, or a soul. A photo doesn’t have to be perfect to convey a feeling, a mood, or tell a story. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with those that want to create that technically perfect image. I’m just going in a different direction, towards my niche.

If you like black and white photography and want to see more, check out my new Black and White Gallery!

That’s it for this post. I hope you find your photographic niche! Until next time, Happy Shooting!

What’s New Is Old

If you’ve followed my work on either Google+ or Facebook, you know that I’m very interested in black and white photography.

Not only am I interested in black and white photography, I’m branching out and doing my best to recreate the same look and feel as some authentic,  antique black and white and toned black and white photos.  You may even think I’m obsessed with it (and you might be right)!

I’m not going to go into the mechanics of how to do black and white, or processing to give an image a vintage look.  There are plenty of resources available for that.  Youtube is one of the best places to start.  This is more about my thoughts behind the pursuit of creating these type of images.

To start off, what makes a good candidate for black and white?  For some folks, it’s a street scene.  For others it’s an interesting face.  For me, it’s old buildings, aircraft, and other antique or abandoned items.  That’s not a hard and fast rule, just something that works for me.  Every once in awhile a seascape or landscape will also work in black and white.

There are many tools available to help you create the perfect black and white image.  Yes, some cameras have this feature built in, and sometimes you can get some good results this way.  Personally I find shooting all originals in color and in RAW works best for me.  I prefer to do my conversion on the computer.  It’s very easy to convert a color image to black and white, but very difficult or next to impossible to convert black and white to color.

My favorite tool for black and white work starts with Photoshop.  But while Photoshop is very versatile, there are some plugins that make it even better.  Perfect Effects by OnOne Software is one of my most used tools.  Nik also makes a plugin called Siver Effex Pro that I like, but lately I’ve been using another Nik tool called Analog Effex.  These plugins also work with Lightroom if you happen to have it.

In todays world of bright vibrant color, why work with black and white?  It’s hard to explain.  I’ve always been amazed with the work of Ansel Adams.  The mood that he created with his richly toned black and white masterpieces was amazing.  In some ways, he captured the raw drama and emotion of a scene without color getting in the way.  Sometimes the tone and textures of a scene are brought out in a way that color just can’t do.  And when it’s done right you may not even notice that it’s black and white.

One last thing regarding the tools – which camera did I use?  My opinion is usually that the camera doesn’t matter, and I’ll stick with it here too!  Most of these were done with my Canon 40D, but in one case, I used my Olympus E-M5.  I really don’t think it matters that much.  I could just as easily have used my wife’s Canon S95 point and shoot.  Just use what you have and concentrate more on capturing the scene rather that what you have or don’t have in the camera bag.

While black and white isn’t for everyone, you may still want to give it a try.  You just never know when you are working an image and it jumps up and grabs you in a way that it just couldn’t when it’s in color.

Before I close, I want to let you know that the good folks at OnOne are still giving away Perfect Effects 8  for free.  That’s right, FREE!  Just click on the link and you’ll be able to download your copy.  Try it, use it, love it!

Here are some of my most recent examples:

That’s it for now.  Until next time – Happy Shooting!

Capturing the Moment and the Mood

Hopefully this won’t get too deep or sappy!  I was thinking about what makes a good photo.  There are a lot of pretty pictures out there, but some just seem to reach out a grab you.  Why?

To anyone concerned with making more than snapshots (and that’s ok too), this is a tough question.  I post a lot of images on-line.  Some seem to take off, and people like them, share them, etc….  This is actually easy to see on websites like Facebook and Google +.

I can also get a  good idea on another site called ViewBug.  In fact, ViewBug is very active with people sharing all kinds of images and it has contests.  Flickr is another site I post on, but it seems to be fairly slow there lately.

While I don’t have a concrete answer to why one image is more popular or appealing than another, I do have idea.  Mood.  When one of my images is more popular than another, I thinks it’s because it goes beyond just being a pretty picture and evokes a certain mood, or feeling.

Here’s an example:
The Cabin

I’ve  called this one “Warm and Cozy”, and it’s done quite well on the various websites.  There really is something warm and cozy about this shot.  That little cabin in front of a pond with the warm inviting lights shining.  Kind of makes you want to go in, sit in front of a fire and have a cup of hot cocoa.

How do I know this image works compared to some of my others?   It was my most popular post on Facebook, got a lot of attention on Google +, has done very well on ViewBug, and made a good showing on Flickr.

Getting it right isn’t easy (and who’s to say what’s right anyway).  Its more a matter of connecting with your intended audience.  There are plenty of technically perfect photos out there that suck.  Why?  Usually because they are boring,  don’t draw you in, or lack an emotional connection/mood.

Other than making family memories or snapshots, I try to think more about the “why”  when I’m making a particular image.  What is it about the scene in front of me that is compelling or what is it that makes me want to press that shutter, and share it?  Sorry, its starting to get deep!

In an attempt to illustrate this, here’s a more recent image:
Imperial Beach Pier, Sunset

I made this one on Superbowl Sunday, late in the afternoon on the beach next to the Imperial Beach Pier.  The sun was setting, and the light was starting to fade.  While the sunset itself was just ok, I noticed the cloud formations.  This was the edge of a small storm front that was moving in.  The tide was out, and the clouds were reflecting in the wet sand, almost like a mirror.  I took a lot of shots moving from one side of the pier to the other, trying to capture what I was feeling.  That feeling was one of amazement and awe!  I was amazed at what a beautiful scene was in front of me, and in awe of the size of it.  The sky seemed to go on forever!

Looking at this shot brings me right back to that day, that moment when I was there standing on the beach.  The equipment I used is unimportant.  It could have been anything from a simple point and shoot to a large view camera.  The more important thing was that I had a camera with me and was able to capture the moment, and the mood.

Hopefully this was helpful.  If nothing else, I’m hoping to get you to take a moment, and think about why you’re going to press that shutter.  Who is your audience and how are going to connect with them?  Did you capture the moment and the mood?

That’s it for now.  Until next time – Happy Shooting!