The Artistic Transducer: Tales of Conjecture, Hyperbole and My Creative Process
This weeks image is a cool and interesting one. Its In this case there were two challenges. First, making a photograph look like what I actually saw with my eyes. And second, convincing people that this is actually what the sky looked like when this picture was taken . Seriously, it looked like that! I have made several digital adjustments but in this particular situation they were only made to make it look like what I saw. The only real artistic license I took was that everything on the ground that is not man made is in gray-scale and everything on the ground has a charcoal shading texture. Even this was somewhat in the service of replicating reality. There was this bizarre colorless effect going on. I think that it may have been because it was one of the most brilliant rainbows I have ever see and that in comparison perhaps the ground seemed pale and lifeless.
There are many, many small details that you will not be able to see on this small version. Like so many of my pieces this one was very specifically created for large format viewing. However, I think you can get the gist of it from this small version. One little detail that is easily noticeable in this version is the little black triangle in the top left corner of the frame. This photo was taken from the balcony of my apartment and that little black shape is the underside of the balcony above me. I was going to take it out, but I decided that to me it added a grounding point. So many photographs seem to be take from some magical vantage point that does not exist in reality. This is due obviously to the skill and vision of the photographer. In this photograph I thought it might be fun to subvert that tradition if only in the smallest way.
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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.”
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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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I can understand that, but to me works of art are like tattoos, as long as they are honest you never regret them. I firmly believe that there has never been a single human life lived without some regrets. As such, we must learn to “own” our mistakes, to understand them and to integrate them into ourselves as we move forward. In this context any work of art, no matter how dire or depressing or painful is an indelible part of the artist and indeed a part that should be embraced and exploited. I have no idea whether this applies to others, artists or not, but it definitely applies to me.
Back to the image. This piece was originality entitled “despair” a name that seemed rather obvious. As my relationship with this image changed over time (it has been some years since its creation) it became apparent that this name did not fit. Sure superficially it looks right, but ultimately despair was not what I was trying to communicate. So I renamed this “It Gets Better.” Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to say that there is hope somewhere represented in the frame, there is not. That’s the point. It needed a realistic name to accompany the surrealistic melodrama. Even for the most downtrodden life is not completely devoid of some kind of hope and it would be dishonest for me to imply it with this image. Especially as this is a self portrait and my life has been far, far from hopeless. This image is really meant to represent a moment. A moment we have hopefully all had and spend the better part of our live running from. The renaming of this image represents to me the integration of this moment into my conscious and unconscious view of life and pain, and struggle to separate the two.
I am not sure what else to say about this one. It has its flaws, technical and others, but I like it, and when I look at it I can still remember how I was feeling when I shot it.
P.S. – I have many thoughts on tattoos and tattoo artists, and I realize that I made some short reference that in no way did that subject justice, and rather than take that section out I added this one…maybe sometime in the future this blog will allow me to talk about tattoos. I can hope.
Thanks for reading.
This image is my nemesis(sometimes). Which is funny because I created it. It has so many technical flaws that if I were doing it now I would fix. And yet it is one of my most artistically and thematically concise images. This is the picture where I found my artistic voice. I am quite sure that I cannot put into words quite how profound that is. This was the first piece of art I I ever created that I truly thaught was exactly what I wanted it to be. It was the first image I was ever able to invest with enough meaning and emotion that I would call it art. It was also the first piece that I was able to take my technical abilities and use them to create something more than cool, more than interesting.
This is a simple image. Simple in theme. Simple in structure. Simple in concept. It is also a rather cliché technique of mixing color and BW in an image for emphasis. Regardless of its roughness and its simplicity and am very proud of this one in particular.
I have a few thank yous that I would like to formally make in regards to this image. I would like to thank my younger brothers Taylor and Michael who were so willing to help even when I was very poor at communicating what I wanted them to do. This shoot was very low tech and they both were able to execute their tasks with great skill. Not only that they were both great fun and hilarious. They have a small video production company with their friend Nathan Called Oak Croft Films that specializes in hilarious sketch videos. You can find their Facebook page at http://goo.gl/vM9cP and I highly encourage everyone to take a look as they are quite amusing.
I also must thank my brother Chris Bloom, the subject of this image. He is one of the most hard working and enthusiastic people I know. He is always willing to work with me on anything and he gives his all in absolutely everything he does. He is a dancer in NYC and a fantastic choreographer.
Well, this has been a rather heartfelt post. I know that this may not be the most information ridden episode of Photo of The Week, but sometimes there is just not that much to say about a piece. It’s also rare I think to be able to pinpoint the the genesis of something. In this case I am hoping that recognizing how big a deal this image is to me that I will be able to apply the same focus and drive to my future projects.
Obviously i have taken liberties with the color and shadows, but this is also a great example of how alteration is in many ways more descriptive than direct representation. The setup of this shot is simple. on a Sunday afternoon the garage i was in was deserted and the sun was out, but was somewhat blocked by these fantastically billowy clouds. The tones in the garage were all drab and gray and out the back was this astounding landscaping covered in hot but dappled sunlight. it was an awesome contrast with the industrial feeling of the garage and I think that was what i was trying to capture. when i got into photoshop i decided i wanted some more organic tones for the garage. I just liked the aesthetic. unfortunate that took away from the beautiful greens and yellows of the plants. I immediately turned the outside world red and added that tint to the light falling on the concrete floor. because i tinted the light hitting the floor the transition from the more realistic garage to the obviously surrealistic garden is far less jarring and the tones mix in a much more subtle way.
To me part of taking pictures is recognizing when you have interesting elements even if you don’t know exactly what they will add up to. we all see the beauty of a sunset and the beach or a lake nestled into a lush valley, but i try to see those interesting factors in different places and capture them as best i can and then later worry about exactly how they should relate and combine.
I also have to confess that this image is not completed. There is something about that irks me. I am not sure exactly what it is, but it’s one of those things that will have to stare at me for a while before I decide what I want to change. That is one of the best things about working in a digital environment, I can do it one way and then stare at it forever and then go back and adjust. It is also one of the worst things about working in digital.
Maybe by the end of this blog something will come to me.
The first thing I want you to do when you read this is look at this image for a while and try and decide what makes this image cool right off the bat. I have shown this around and without fail it take a couple beats for people to recognize the fact that the right side of the image is black and white, while the left side is in color. Cool right?
I had been wanting to try this idea out for a while, but I until this image I hadn’t found one that would work well without looking contrived and altered. Now, obviously when you notice the effect you realize that it has been altered on a computer. However, what I try to do is to not have that be first, second, or hopefully even third thing that you think. My goal, almost all the time, is to make the enhancements fit the piece well enough that in the context of the piece itself they are not distracting. I usually have little interest in replicating reality, but I also don’t want you to be distracted by the surreal additions.
This particular image is very good for this subtle BW/Color effect. First off, large sections are already somewhat monochromatic. In fact the sky is really the only section that really shows off any color at all. The second reason is the silhouettes. They are by nature black and so I didn’t have to worry about the contrast of skin tones and I also had an area I could use as a natural dividing line. The third thing is the nature of the clouds. The clouds themselves, even on the color side, are relatively grey-scale. Because of this the clouds are reasonably similar across the image and this makes the changing bluse sky less distracting. Because of these factors the blue sky is really the only major transition from left to right. Yes, the water is different on either side, but your mind wants to see the symmetry, so it does. The transition of the sky is also adjusted to follow both the cloud edges and the diagonal lines of the arm and leg as they extend towards the top right corner. All these subtle effects are enough to confuse a mind looking for symmetry and patterns, at least for a couple seconds.
On a completely different note, my favorite thing about this image is the droplet of water coming off the foot on the right side of the image. It implies motion of the leg rising out of the water and as such breathes that all important “life” into the photograph. My other favorite thing about the drip is that I never saw it during the shoot.
I think I will call this image “A Drop of Motion”
Anyway, please make any comments you would like and thanks for reading.
I am making a few changes to the format and I am hoping everyone will like them. This is going to be more of a blog than simply posts of photos I have taken. I am hoping to bring a little artistic incite to both the readers and myself. I am hoping that writing about my own work will help me focus the artistic style and general direction of my thinking.
So in this blog I am not going to focus on technical methods or numbers(but feel free to ask in a comment and I will answer) I am just going to try and give you general information about my mindset when shooting and editing as well as what I think of the finished product. I am going to try and be as honest as possible so there may be times where I notice something and continue to edit a photo after it has been on this blog. In fact this very first photograph, currently sitting on my left monitor as I right this, is going to be edited and probably re-posted later as a before and after.
I am going to refer to this image as The Fountain in the this posting. Although, it will probably not stay that way, it is the first thing that popped into my head. That and wizardry. It is however not a picture of a fountain, but actually a bird bath, albeit a very elaborate one. At the moment this photo has not had any significant digital work done to it at all. The specs of light you see are actually the mist in a courtyard at about 10pm on the coast of MA in August. The Fountain is back lit with a speedlight with a wireless trigger. To be honest I had no idea it was even misty out. It just seemed like normal humidity, cool evening. However, after seeing what the mist did in this case I quickly took pictures of several other subjects. Some of which you will see here on a later post. There is no front light at all, just whatever bounced off me and the mist.
This images makes me think of magic. I guess it looks supernatural in some way. Indeed, the speedlight and the mist give it an ethereal glow that makes it seem other worldly. It is interesting to me to see how a small light can transform our perception. My favorite thing about this image is that there was nothing added, nothing altered digitally and yet it looks nothing like the reality I saw when I was looking at it. I guess this enjoyment is mostly mine because you just have to trust my account of things, but if you do trust me it does ask quite an interesting question.
Oh, one final note, I am trying to keep this blog very conversational so please forgive me if there are any errors in grammar or spelling or they is occasional wordings nonsensical. I will of course be grammar and spell checking(I’m not an idiot) but those are both far from foolproof.
Thanks for reading!