The Artistic Transducer: Tales of Conjecture, Hyperbole and My Creative Process

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This photo is the result of wandering around in rural VA looking for things to take pictures of…

 

 

For the first memorial day iteration of the Photo of the Week I thought something like this would be appropriate.

I have no idea what kind of plane this is, but I found it sitting at an airfield in the middle of nowhere in VA. It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon in the rolling hills at the foot at of the Appalachian mountains. I was traveling alone on my way home from something (I don’t remember what at this point) and I decided to take the scenic way home. I didn’t actually take many pictures that day, it was gorgeous, but the sun was blasting and not great for photos. Mostly I just drove on back roads and was content to take in the landscape and wonder about the people who live in houses, big and small, ramshackle and grand, nestled into the foothills.

Little “towns” perforated the winding road and I could not help but imagine these hills crawling with bayoneted muskets and and scarred by canon fire. Not too far from where I was driving there is an historic battlefield where I have watched many reenactments. This must have been a very different place back then…and yet if I saw a of regiment drum-lead soldiers, marching over the hill towards me, I don’t know that they would have looked out of place.

The history of this country lives in every rock on which blood was spilled; in the soil of every field planted in hope; with every brick laid for the future. Take a trip on the back roads, through the fields and rolling foothills, and image the beauty of our country marred by fear, and the smell of burnt powder. There are hundreds of thousands of men and women who work every day to keep the smell of death and burning towns, and the terrifying buzz of a Geiger counter off the shores of this great country. Many, including myself, tend to think of these men and women abstractly, a mindset we cannot afford to continue.

This is of course hyperbolic hogwash, and we modern, jaded Americans find it quaint. That does not make it any less true.

Thanks for reading.

Danielcbloom.com

@danielcbloom

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Sitting in a Starbucks in midtown…

 

 

I’ve been posting allot of digitally altered images. There is nothing wrong with them, in fact they are more or less my forte, but sometimes I want to show you something more “real.” One could have a long philosophical discussion about whether a photograph even represents reality, but for the purposes of this discussion I will say that I think a photograph represents a portion of reality, one of many pieces that never quite seem to add up to the whole. You might even say that obviously altered images still represent a portion of reality. In that case, rather than physical reality, emotional reality. Provided of course that they were created with honesty by the artist.

We humans, as the product of evolution may not be well disposed to view “thoughts” a part of reality, but they do “exist.” Perhaps art is the manifestation of an, as yet, uninvolved emotional sense. Clawing for life through thousands of years left us with an organ designed to keep us alive, but maybe human art taps into a part of our brain that is still evolving, still in its early stages of development. The implications of this idea are myriad, and though completely speculative, I find this concept oddly compelling. Perhaps this can explain some of the seemingly ineffable, yet extremely powerful, nature of the best art.

(I cross my heart, there were no drugs involved in this post. Though I do have I pretty vicious head cold)

All that being said, this week we have two images instead of one. There is a good(tenuous at best) reason for this. We are talking about images, altered or not, representing reality. The two photos from today’s post are practically “untainted” by my dirty digital hands, and thus should represent some portion of physical reality, right? Well here is another question: does artificial light count as altering reality?

These photos represent to different angles of the exact same object in the same location. They are lit entirely artificially by a singe strobe light which I placed behind the bench pointed directly at the camera lens. The fill light is coming from the bounce of the flash off the wall that was directly behind me. Both photos were taken after dark, on a very, very, dark night. They are also shaded from any light from the sky by overhanging trees. In other words, it was pitch black out side. In other words, the only light in the images is completely artificial and also slightly different for each photo.

Despite all of this “alteration” I would say that to be both these photos represent their subjects very accurately. In fact, I tried to take pictures of this bench during the day and I just could not establish the drama that simply oozed out of the ancient moss covered wood. When I looked at the bench, I could see its age, its life, its character, its creepiness perhaps. But, taking a picture communicated none of these things. It was not until I completely “artificialized” the conditions that the truth of the bench make it into the lens.

Objects may exist regardless of the consciousness that perceives them, but they are irrelevant without that consciousness. In other words, facts are useless unless they can be conceived, communicated and understood. Perhaps sometimes, in art, but also in life some portions of reality must be “adjusted” so that truth about another portion can be understood.

I apologize for the rambling and “deep” nature of this post, so very much, but that’s what comes out when I sit in a Starbucks in midtown and watch humanity rush past my window.

If anyone actually makes it this far please let me know so that I can apologize in person the next time I see you.

Thanks for reading!!!

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I would like to present to you an almost perfect equation: Sunrise in New England + Dancers willing to get up that early + Beach = if I can’t get something interesting/beautiful I need a new profession.

 

 

These are the exact parameters and pressures I was shooting under when I made this image. I got several great images out of that lovely morning and I am quite proud of some of them. At the time I was completely absorbed by the moment, but after staring at images on a computer for hour, it is hard to not let your mind wonder.

I occurred to me that sometimes a crappy shooting situation is less stressful because if you get anything that meets your artistic standards you can be very satisfied with the practice and skills that allowed you to work through it. However, working with the perfect parameters can sometimes make for stress of a completely different nature.

I don’t think that I am the only artist who has a large portion of self esteem inextricably intertwined with artistic endeavors. Given that fact a perfect shooting environment can be a very precarious position to be in. Not because of the fear of getting nothing; if you have any skills there will be some usable end result. No, its because the perfect situations is where an artist must navigate the treacherous waters of transcendence. What do I mean by that? I am referring of course to the question of true genius or great skill. Skill can be developed, and not just technical skills either, artistic instinct and eye I think can also be developed. But, there is another level I think. A level almost no one ever reaches, and even more rarely know they have reached it.

It seams obvious to me that virtually no artist can know if they have reached that level. Thankfully it seams impossible be that much of an objective observer of your own art or art around you. For this reason it makes no logical sense to even allow these thoughts to percolate in the brain, but I do it anyway. I think this may present a fundamental problem: The perfect environment for creating art has always forced questions of an unanswerable nature into my mind and I am not sure that I can change that. It has also crossed my mind that these questions may be the very thing that separates 10k hours from genius.

Thanks for reading!!!

@danielcbloom

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Photographing dancers makes life as a photographer pretty damn pleasant…

 

 

What more could a photographer ask for given that dancing is all about physical beauty and emotionally charged movement. If there was ever a recipe for engaging photos this is it. We have all seen hundreds of images of perfect bodies, frozen in astounding positions, floating effortlessly in mid air. The best of these images are truly breathtaking.

For the image in this post I wanted to make something a little bit different. I say “wanted” but in this particular case the intention was mostly subconscious or just luck. I had three dancer in a studio after a headshot session, and they all just happened to be working on a piece together. We were in a dance studio so naturally there was the required wall of mirrors. I have found that given these parameters it is all but physically impossible for an impromptu “class” not to break out. This was fine with me because I have my camera all ready to go and as I mentioned before photographing dancers makes my job easy.

The particular piece that these three were working on didn’t involve allot of leaping about or large lifts. The dancers stayed close and entwined with each other for big chunks of choreography. I was fine with this because it was quite visually interesting and I wasn’t really set up to freeze motion the way I would need to for the traditional leaping photos.

I have several images from that session that I quite like, but I think this one is my favorite for a few reasons. First, although the composition is a little messy, it is still well proportioned and interest is added by the asymmetrical line formed by the dancers heads. Second, the eyes locked on to the lens, casting challenge to the camera are extremely engaging and they lock in the atention of the viewer and ground the the center of the image. Third, and you may not even have noticed it, is that only color in the image is in the skin, hair and eyes of the dancers. The background is completely white and the clothing is completely desaturated. This was something I did in photoshop in order to bring more interest and contrast to the image. Removing the color from the clothing to me creates a great deal of emphases on the beauty of the human body.

I know I have missed the last two weeks, I am just super busy, but I will not let it happen again. Thanks so much for reading!!!

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Why would you put a very cute baby in a mailbox?

 

 

Well the answer is, you wouldn’t of course. This is a composite, of a baby in a mailbox. Why composite them you ask? Because this is my cheeky version of an Anne Geddes image. So sue me, its not quite as cute, or heartwarming, or just so precious you want to immediately run out and buy a child sized egg to stick you newborn in. My version is non of those things. Its quite amusing, a little chilly, and a little cute.

If i was better at this sort of thing the baby would have been sleeping, just as cute as can be, probably sticking out of a perfectly wrapped present, bound for Christmas cheer, recently delivered my a happy postal worker.

However i am not so good at unbearably cute. So you get a baby, on a cold winter evening, looking a little apprehensive because someone just put her in the mailbox.

Maybe this will only be amusing to me, and actualy i am fine with that, but i think there may be some othere folks out there who are not all that in love with babies in vegetable pods or giant uninhabited egg shells.

Its a light one this week, but i hope you enjoyed the image and the ramblings. I just got off a 15 hour flight from Dubai, so forgive me if this weeks discussion is a little short and a little loopy. oh, and i have nothing against Anne Geddes, she is a fantastic photographer. Thanks and i’ll see you next week.

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NYC on a gray day in the winter…

 

 

I recently found myself in NYC wondering around with a couple friends. I, as I so often do, had my trusty Canon 5dmk2 with me and was casualy taking some pictures. I am fascinated by linear perspective(mostly because I was always terrible at drawing it) and there are few places that offer a better study in perspective than the tall buildings covered in glass and scafolding and the dead straight crosstown Aves of Manhattan. There is also a visual and spiratual hustle and bustle about NYC that is palpable, but not easy to capture in a single frame.

Capturing the tall building and their colors and textures was a job best done using the HDR (hi dynamic range) technique. I think buildings are very good candidates for the detail rich and cartoony look of a heavly processed HDR image. However, as i have probably mentioned before in this blog, i am not a huge fan of simple HDR captures of scenes. There are very good ones out there, but it is just not for me. Still, they are a great tool to keep in my digital tool bag, and truth be told if I am shooting any type of scene who’s subject is not directly a person, I generally try and capture multiple exposures to be used in an HDR if I need to later.

So, for this image I combined 3 exposures to produce the HDR. I then took the orignional image and combined it wtih the HDR. The road and all the vehicles are from a single exposure. I did this partly in order to freeze the motion of the traveling cars, but mostly because in HDR they looked so artificial that I just could not take the image seriously(whatever that means).

I spent a long time making the transition areas from normal exposure to HDR. These hours are impossible to see in this format, but I am hoping that when its printed large format, you will be able to hunt for along time before finding those areas.

New York City is probably one of the most photographed places on Earth, so creating a new and interesting image of this ultimate metropolis seems an impossible task. For me this simply means ignoring the fact that I am climbing an olympic mountain of prior artistic offerings, and focusing on creating something that satisfies my artistic sensibilities. The idea of trying to avoid completely any similarities with previous artistic works can be a paralyzing and devastating undertaking for any artist. Especially when referencing subject like love, evil, the human spirit, pain, happiness, exultation, piety, or any small island where 8 million individuals make their home.

Thanks for reading and I’ll see you again next week.

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When all you have is a camera

 

, no diffusers or reflectors, the photographers worst nightmare is the cloudless sunny day. This photo was taken in MD in the dead of summer, and there was not a cloud anywhere in the sky.

After taking several test shots I knew this was a tough situation. Thanks to modern technology though, it was not the end of the world. I have mentioned HDR as an artistic choice before in the blog, but not as a survival technique. For the this shoot it was difinetly the later. There was no way I was going to capture the whole tonal range of the scene with on exposure. Lucky my canon 5D can be setup to shoot 3 different exposures in one second. It was a life saver.

I shot lots of photos of horses and their riders jumping, trotting, and just generally what they do at these events. I chose this image for two reasons. First the cloud of dust at the horses feet. It was super, super hot and dry. There was dust everywhere, but I was having trouble capturing in actually around the feet of the horse. The second thing is the perspective. You may not have noticed, but the trained eye will be able to see that the camera is positions at about the same elevation as the horses feet. If I were shooting a wide angle lens this would produce a severely dramatic image and a towering horse. I was however shooing on a 200mm telephoto lens and because of the spacial compression it causes the low perspective is much more subtle.

I was able to achieve this perspective because of the terrain around the jumping course. Near the exit of the ring there was a rather steep embankment. It was far enough away from the course that I still needed that telephoto lens to get the right frame size. I discovered that if I stood at the bottom of the embankment my camera was comfortably at ground level of the exit. The horses and riders turned directly towards me for just a couple feet while exiting and if I was quick I could snap 3 quick exposures before they turned away.

Combining 3 exposures of a moving subject is harder, but not at all impossible especially if you also incorporate a little PS compositing as well.

I think this is a very cool image and I think it captures an interesting perspective, optically speaking, that you don’t see that often.

Thanks for reading!

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The holidays can be a fun time of year.

 

Food, parties, family, and good photo opportunities. Family and friends gather together, and because you have spent the last decade or more with a camera in your hands, and in their face, they are very comfortable and quite willing to act completely natural. In these conditions sometimes there are some great shots to be had.

This particular one was so classic to me. A little girl playing with a music box with a ballerina on it reminds me of so many scenes in so many movies it is hard to even remember what scenes go in which movies. In most of those movies the music box was ceramic not plastic and didn’t have interchangeable figurines, but the concept is the same.

I have gotten several comments on the light falling the subject in this image. For this I can take no credit. That fantastic soft, but not that soft, light is coming from indirect sunlight coming through white lace curtains. I would have never thought of lace as a great diffuser, but in this case, with the already indirect sunlight it was just about perfect.

As you can see I desaturated the color quite a bit. I think it gives the image a more old school look. It helps express the iconic nature of the action in spite of the plastic hinges and obviously rubber figures. I also darkened the blacks both to give the image more drama and to help hide some of the stuff in the background.

One thing I like about this photo, that you would never know unless I told you, is that there is a lot of other stuff going on in the room. Its a holiday party and there are people snacking, chatting, laughing and generally making allot of noise and motion. But not in this frame. This moment looks snatched right out of an empty Victorian house, the only sound the melody of the music box. But, as with so many things in life, it is all about context.

I think the context of this image is very important. This image works on an entirely different level if you also picture the controlled holiday chaos taking place just outside the frame. This little girl is an oasis of calm happiness amid a sea of joy. I think that is what i’m going to name this image “Amid a Sea of Joy”

This blog is a very effective way for me to look critically and fondly at my own work. It help me understand my artistic voice and direction. So, I would just like to thank you very much for reading and please feel free to give may any feedback you would like.

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“Sun Bubbles”

 

Some of you have seen this image before. If you have, you probably know that there are two versions. This one is the version that shows up best on a computer screen. The other is more subtle and soft and will look fantastic printed on canvas in a large format.

This photo was taken at about 6am in MA and the water was very cold. I would like to thank Chris Bloom and Lauren Evans for agreeing to get up that early while on vacation, climb into cold water and put up with me asking them to hold various precarious positions while they tried not to look cold. Based on the final product they are both good actors because they were freezing.

I would also like to thank my assistants Taylor and Michael Bloom, as well as my lovely wife Megan, for dealing with me getting very cranky because one of my wireless flash triggers was not working. Oh, and getting up early and that whole bit too.

I had been planning to try and get some sunrise shooting done for several days, but was afraid to ask the folks on vacation with me to get up before the sun came up and indulge my artist obsession. It was completely unfounded fear as it turned out because everyone was on board from the word go.

This version of the image is the HDR version. HDR is the process of capturing scene by taking multiple exposures in order to capture a broad tonal range, and then combining those exposures later, with software. These type of photos can have a surreal quality to them that can make them look fake or like digital renderings. Depending on the situation they can be a very effective tool and I even like to use a normally exposed image in some areas and an HDR for other areas of the same final product. In this case though it is just HDR.

The pose was developed by the circumstances. in other words I had no idea what exactly i was looking for. We tried a bunch different things and finally we worked our way to this. This turned out to be one of those posses that looks completely different on camera than to the eye. In fact it looked like two almost random positions to the eye, but when compressed into two dimensions and onto a CMOS censor the compositions really flows.

The sun is obviously on the right side of the image and the “chi” of this image flows in an arc from the bottom left of the frame to the top right, the sun. Also from the foreground to the background. I added the lens flairs in post because I wanted the flow to be immediately apparent. To me they almost look like some sort of mystical tractor beam pulling the models towards the sun.

As I sit and write about it i have discovered several small  things I would like to change. They are minor, but I think that it is these minor changes that may be the difference between looking at this image one time and wanting to see at it often.

Thanks so much for reading.

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This week is going to be a little different.

 

We are going to cover a more “event” style of photography. Not like corporate event, I may touch on that later, or birthday party, again maybe later. In this case we are talking about a small coffee shop where a local singer/songwriter was doing set. I have several more traditional shots that are for promotional material for the artist. This image though is a little different. I had been to the venue before and had noticed its very cool decor. It has several very cool design elements that I liked and thought would make good shots. Some did, some didn’t.

The wall in this photograph is actually a chalkboard that is covered in different colors of some sort of iridescent sidewalk chalk. Because of its iridescent it had a cool almost 3d look to it. I knew that using some interesting post processing would make this wall look great in black and white. So I definitely wanted to to have an image incorporating this background and Joe Bloom, the musician.

In most photography situations I think about what I will need in post to create an interesting image, not what I can do in camera to get an immediately usable images. Really, good in camera images are important in many situations, but with the very streamlined and effective post production software available unless you need the images immediately after shooting I would always shoot for what you know will be useful later, on your computer.

So in this image I needed a couple things. First I needed a steady, evenly exposed background. Second, I needed an interesting shot of Joe that was caught just at the right moment. The framing you see is a compromise of needing these two elements. So in my PS project I had two photographs to work with. One with the proper exposure of the background and the other good shot of Joe. These two photographs had different shutter speeds and ISO settings so that they captured their priority properly. It was simply a matter of blending these two images and putting effects on them individually to bring out their attributes.

It turned out pretty much exactly as I had envisioned it and although it has an abnormal style of framing I think it works quite well in generating interest as well as differentiating if from other types of music images.

I had other, more traditional shots from the concert, but this one is bar far my favorite and I think represents my artistic style.

Thanks for reading and please check out Joe Bloom at www.joebloommusic.com

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