Monthly Archives: February 2012
That means that its Photo of the Week time. I am going to let you in on a little secret: I often write 2 or 3 of these posts in one sitting and then spread them over a couple weeks. I only bring it up because I just finished writing last weeks very dramatic and earnest post and at the moment I don’t feel like doing another quite so earnest. This weeks post is more fun.
This image makes me think of fairies…and I bet it makes you think something along those lines as well. It was taken on the same evening as the birdbath featured in my inaugural post. You may notice a similar glowing mist in the background. Both of them were taken in complete darkness in a beautiful little courtyard on the grounds of the house I was staying at. I have a couple more from that location and they will probably come up on future posts.
As is so often the case the two best things about this image are both accidental. Yeah, yeah, the lighting looks cool, but without two little accidents this could be a rather pedestrian photograph.
The first is obvious and really the main focus of the photo. Yes, i’m talking about the super cool purple glow caused by the strobe bouncing off of the flowers. I had no idea that the purple would come through like that, but man does it add a ton magical intrigue. To me it look like the light is not coming from the reflection of the plants but actually from a glowing subject out of frame to the right. In fact this image could even be a little story about the glowing being that flies around this dark stone courtyard at night and does mysterious things…like put big slugs in my photos.
Yup, there is a huge slug crawling on the stone wall on the bottom right of the frame. Guess what? I had no idea it was there when I snapped the shot. Granted, it was pitch black outside, the only light was my 430exii speedlite, and when that was firing I was looking at the back of my cameras internal mirror. (not actually the back of the mirror, the front, but I am taking poetic license thank you very much.) In fact, and here is where the genius comes in, the slug is really a more brown/gray color, a combination that is incredibly hard to see even on a 22Mpix image. When I found the slug I realized that I had found an awesome little detail that gave me some interest in working on this image. So, I changed the color of the little bugger and gave him/her/it(really not sure) the spotlight. With just a couple layers of blurring, sharpening, and hue/saturation, the slug pops right out and becomes a central part of the image. However I do think it is subtle enough to evade the very first glancing viewing of this image, especially with you eye drawn to the magical purplish light above. At least, that was my intention.
In the end this image is fun and made me smile, so my best hope is that it does you as well. Thanks for reading and see you next Sunday afternoon.
So far my audience is pretty small so the number of people who get to see all the little details is more or less one, me. I think of this fact as a reinforcement of my artistic honesty. You see, there is no guarantee that anybody but myself will ever have the chance to look close enough to actually see the little things. In spite of this fact, I have no power to stop agonizing over the details. If I am to continue making art I will continue spending hours making a mask or layer perfect. Since I intend to continue in this direction I have no choice but to come to terms with the frustration of not being able to get it perfect. On the flip side, ever once in a while you know when something works just right.
Getting back to artistic honesty. I like to think that my lack of restraint in beating the little details to death indicates that I am working from a place of true integrity. This could just as easily be false and closer to a psychological disorder than artistic inspiration, but I have a feeling that this is a chasm bridged by every person who thinks themselves and artist.
In so many areas of my life rationality is the best way to make my way. However, it sometimes seems that in the realm of artistic self esteem, logic and reason should be used sparingly at best. For example, if I truly examine the continuum of technical ability and artistic narrative skill that has existed, there is little hope that anything I create will be seen, even posthumously, as possessing of such an awe inspiring nature. If I base my self respect and belief in my work in any way on the context of history and previous genius, I will have none left. I are thus left in a logical conundrum, for I would argue that unless you greatly value your own work, and its creation, chances are, not many other people will either. So, in the face of this apparent contradiction I think that a minor abandonment of traditional logic is probably necessary in most instances of artistic endeavor.
All this is to say that this image was shot at sunrise on a beach and was created mostly with simple aesthetics in mind. When I got it into photoshop I could see that it had something to say so my question to myself was “how do I get you, the viewer, to listen and hear the thing that i hear?” As with every one of my images I try to create face value interest, and within that framework build meaningful things and hopefully a story. You will of course hear different things than I do when you look at this image. But, I think that if I can honestly hear them when I am making it somebody will notice that maybe there is something to listen for. I have decided to call this piece “We are the flying machines,” odd in know but for me the name of one of my pieces is often the context from which it should be viewed. All i can do as an artist is to trust my own judgment and inspiration because to rely on logic, history, and external validation is a recipe for spiritual anxiety that I definitely cannot handle.
this is one of my favorite images. It is so melodramatic that I get a huge variety of responses to it. My own response is “very cool” if I do say so myself. This image is also a very good example of my process.
I have always been fascinated by “droplet” photography. We have all seen amazing images of different colored liquids captured in exquisite detail as they are mixed and splashed. As cool as that is, I have always seen it mostly as a technical achievement. I wanted to explore this area of photography, but it has been done so well that I felt that I couldn’t really do it any better. Since it was not something I wanted to spend to much time learning I thought maybe I could take a decent droplet image and then incorporate it into something a bit more my style. So I started making photographs of droplets of different colors of water. When I got a version that was decent I processed it and filed it away for later inspiration.
Compared to the technical perfection of many other droplet photos mine was quite inferior. However, I realized this and thus it was an artistic choice to make it anyway. Besides, if it was going to be part of something else maybe the unrefined nature of the photo would be an effective tool.
A few weeks later I was experimenting with different lighting setups for photographing eyes. My lovely wife has very beautiful eyes and I am forever trying to capture them perfectly. She is very patient and always willing to indulge me.
So now I have on my computer these droplet images and also some interesting eye pictures. But still I had not connected the two.
As I was playing with the glass and the water dripping into it I realized that I could flip part of one of the images and make it look like there was something flowing into the glass. It all snapped into focus (to use a tired but apt cliche). Tears were perfect, and if I had tears I needed eyes. And guess what, I had some very interesting eye pictures. Working with digital images is truly a pleasure and within seconds I had all the image elements layered in my PS file. There was plenty of poking, prodding, painting, and many masks and adjustment layers.
After I was done with all that the image looked great…except, it looked a little out of balance. Its Feng shui was off. I experimented with several option to balance it out and make it feel right, but they all felt forced and wrong. In frustration I decided I was done and it was just going to be what it was going to be. I added my tiny signature in the corner and went to close the image. Hmm, I thought, what if I make the signature part of the image? Interesting…
Now the image is done and I realized something…this is a self portrait. Not in a direct sort of way of course, after all I’m not in the frame. It is a self portrait of my artistic “fingerprints,” my point of view. In a way all works of art are self portraits, but to me this is a piece devoted to that powerful and perhaps self indulgent subtlety. That is why it needed a big signature, to not only balance out the composition but also to overtly insert myself into the piece so that it would be become about me. To me this image says “Hi there, I’m Daniel Bloom.”
Thanks so much for reading!
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. First, because I think it captures a form of meditation that is often mislabeled and overlooked. Second because this image is the perfect example of why I love RAW image files. RAW, for those that don’t know is an uncompressed and unaltered map of the sensor of your camera. When you don’t shoot in RAW your camera or you make decisions about how the image should look and all the data that is not needed after you choice is deleted. Obviously this process is much more complicated, but this is not the place for an in depth explanation. The benefits of shooting in a RAW format are myriad, but the main thrust is that it allows the shooter to use all the information captured by the cameras sensor, thus giving more options later.
Now, after that distillation here is why RAW can be so awesome. This photo was taken at my parents’ house. This portrait is of my father reading in his preferred chair. He reads in this chair often and as such I am aware of this habit and have often thought it would make a good photo. However, it seemed to me that the most important part of making this work was having it be as natural as possible. Especially if I wanted to edit towards a more surrealistic style, but still have the photo seem relatable. So for the most part, staging this photo was not going to work. This mean that I had to capture under the natural light of the room when my dad was already reading.
I had my camera sitting on the kitchen table, as I often do when visiting my parents. My dad was sitting in his chair several rooms away from the kitchen. There is however, if the proper doors are open a direct line of sight from the kitchen to the living room and the chair. The only light on in the living room was the one in the picture and indeed most of the lights in the house were off as well. I put a telephoto lens on my camera and sat on the kitchen floor, leaning on a cabinet for stabilization. Even with the lamp right next to his head, my lens wide open and my ISO cranked I was still having trouble getting enough light. My lens had a stabilizer, but even with that I was having trouble getting a sharp image. I was under a time crunch and so didn’t worry about anything but getting a sharp and bright enough exposure. I ignored the white balance and any other in camera settings. Indeed, the cameras white balance was still set for golder hour, making all of the images on my LCD almost entirely red. Yes, I could have taken a second to properly set up the camera, but I knew that it did not matter and all these things could be adjusted later.
In general the phrase “fix it in post” should be used as little as possible, but in the case of RAW images it is often quite true. The key is knowing the difference between what you can fix later and what needs to be done right the first time.
Like i said above, this image captures what i would describe as a form of meditation. Not a traditional form, but i believe it serves the same purpose. After so many years of reading the actual act is more or less effortless. This leaves the mind free to visualize the story and the meaning of the words on the page. There is an psychological term called Flow, mostly used to refer to mental state of exceptional ”tunnel vision” experienced by artists at the peak of creation and creativity. I don’t believe this concept is reserved to “creative” or “artistic” people. Every person willing to open their mind enough to truly be enveloped by an experiences, whether is is art making, reading, playing or listening to music, doing someones taxes, or just sitting exploring your own mind, is experiencing Flow. To me this is the concept of meditation, a term that is often used in the context of a very narrow and exclusionary definition.
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