8 Guilty Pleasures of the media-wise socialite

None of the following is meant to be taken seriously. It is merely a series of observations of trends which I have partaken in photographically since joining the ranks of social media some years ago. Many of these trends result in photographic popularity, fewer of them critical acclaim and possibly even fewer have resulted in a ‘purist’ type of personal satisfaction. Comments in italic are my real thoughts on the subjects after the opening frivolity.

1) So sharp it slices my eyes!

You know that fluffy stuff in the sky? It needs to be sharp enough to cut through aeroplanes flying through. You know that long exposure water, sorry, not sharp enough, give it a knife edge to deal with those seascapers who dare venture in!

Sometimes a differential sharpness may help with images? A judgment call.

Sometimes a differential sharpness may help with images? A judgment call.

[I believe that not every part of an image needs to be tack sharp. Clouds being one and any kind of water exposure that results in trailing being another. Representing reality isn't a common goal for all photographers but next time you take a look in the sky or sea, do you get the 'screen' experience of sharpness? Canvas prints are probably an exception for me as the sharpness certainly gives a palpable texture. ]

2) Bleed me into ecstasy!

Oh what a lovely glow of light from the sun. Oh what an even lovelier glow of light from those wooden reflections. Oh wow, even the dark sides of the mountain are bleeding now, what a rapturous world we live in!

I overdid the Orton effect in this one to garner a response!

I overdid the Orton effect in this one to garner a response! Do you see shadow bleed?

[The orton effect or other blur methods are frequently being used on highlights to give a sense of light bleeding from a source. I wonder if we should be a little more judicious so that the same effect is not visible from dark areas to give a ‘shadow bleed’. Like many photographic trends, moderation is probably the key.]

3) The stars illuminate us all!

The cosmos shines upon us so brightly as if it were day, so brightly as if the stars clustered together as one to bring twilight to universe and earth as one. What harmony!

Painted Hills landscape with  Great Ocean Road stars!

Painted Hills landscape with Great Ocean Road stars!

[Milky way twilight exposure blends are definitely ‘in’. While the images can be striking , a few post processing factors arise when viewing this new subgenre. 'Lighten' blend mode is one of the methods which are used to blend these images and when composited from a different scene, it's interesting to note stars in the land!  Transitions to the sky can also look pasted in with odd transitions between sky and land and often a washed out kind of look of the land itself. Last of all, many shots appear to have a point source of light from a shot taken in sunny conditions. All this might not matter but it does cause me some confusion and takes away from plausability. ]

4) I demand your attention, I repeat, I demand your attention!

The first image of the scene was amazing, the second amazinger, the third amazinger still and the fourth the amazingest yet. Oh man, they all look the same, but they’re all amazing. YOU are amazing <3 .

Multiple version of this tested waters, one version is up at everlookphotography.com

Multiple versions of this tested waters, one version is up at everlookphotography.com

[Displaying portfolio images of multiple shots from the same scene is pretty commonplace. I personally do it up front before culling down on the platforms of display that ‘matter’ ; for example our print website. Personally, I find it a little less impactful when viewing a portfolio that is led strongly by the one scene with multiple repeats. I make sure that nothing goes up on our ‘proper’ site without at least having to stew about various versions for a few months. I wonder if the approach of multiple images gains more interest from the general public while the approach of limiting images from a scene may gain more respect from one's photographic peers. To that end, whichever approach you choose probably needs to be tailored to the demographic of the social media platform chosen. ]

5) So  creamy yet so crispy!

Wow, look at that amazing stripy sky and the crashing waves. Nature at its finest no doubt!

Long exposure sky, crisp water action -what's going on?  I thought it looked good !

Long exposure sky, crisp water action -what’s going on? I thought it looked good !

[Another trend for seascapers is to include an ethereally exposed long exposure foreground with smoothed white water motion but then a crisp dramatic sky that is clearly a very short exposure. Sometimes it is also done in reverse. These images have an undoubted impact but once again, like the milky way twilight issue, they tend to confuse me past the original wow factor]

6) I’ll call it moody.

So dark, so colourless, so contrasty, so awesome!

Light was bland at midday so I never really had the intention of doing this image in colour.

Light was bland at midday so I never really had the intention of doing this image in colour.

[Have you ever turned an image into monochromatic format just because the colours didn’t turn out right? I definitely have and I reckon probably none of those images are ones that I would consider portfolio worthy. Most of the monochromatic images I have set out to do have been shot in conditions which had me thinking mono to begin with. Also, just as a personal preference, what’s with the blue skies that are pitch black (not just dark) in the mono conversion? ]

7) A perfect reflection!

Wow , such a perfect reflection ! Must have been awesome to be near that dead still pond of water!

I wonder if reflections are more impactful when broken up by foreground matter as a reference point?

I wonder if reflections are more impactful when broken up by foreground matter as a reference point?

[Reflection shots can be dramatic but often you can tell when it is too perfect. A dead horizontal line at transition is a good way to shoot for presenting this style of image and is reflected in the final presentation. I have yet to see an unaltered image of a perfect milky way reflection to date but this is also being done with more frequency]

8) I live under a bridge, throw me some scraps!

I finish this post with the ultimate confession of occasionally trolling for responses with posts that are said in a light tone but may provoke responses by those who think I am directly targeting a piece of work. Rest be assured that anyone reading this post could believe this post is about them given the frequency of the above #hotphotographictrends so this is not about you! .   I firmly believe that the more one reviews one’s own work and practice with a critical eye, the more one can correct errors or traps which one  may have unknowingly fallen into. Some of these traps though are nothing to do with images or scenes but rather a desired personal goal or direction. Perhaps THE most important point I would like to make is somewhat of a broken record: as a group of artists, we can push the direction of our field any direction we like. I do however fear that the appreciation of our end results may soon become an appreciation of the final ‘arty’ product itself rather than an appreciation of the natural world. I can appreciate the beauty of the Painted Hills of Oregon at twilight. I can appreciate gazing at the stars of the dark southern sky milky way. But is it to our benefit or detriment that we now have the ability to appreciate both at once no matter how naturally impossible ?

And now to finish off on a musically historical note from Carly Simon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mQZmCJUSC6g



It’s all in the delivery…..

With increasing internet access comes increasing availability of information. In fields such as photography, this has definitely increased the number of pictures available for viewing online as more people inform themselves on the basics of photography and set out to fulfil their visions. I am sure that this has increased the absolute number of images available but less certain about the relative increase in quality images available. Likewise, the amount of interaction with particular images has increased though quality interactions such as meaningful critiques would still be at a premium.  The delivery of images and subsequent interaction is constantly evolving and in many aspects, not necessarily for the better.

At around 30,000 views it is one our most viewed images yet not personally one of our most precious.

Increasingly, the online photographic world seems to be caught up  in lay-consumerism where popular images are not necessarily those most artistically valued by either the photographer or so-called expert critics. Popular methods of commenting with monosyllabic acronyms far outnumber well considered responses.  By stark contrast, many forums exist which encourage ‘proper’ opinion and discourage any ‘like’ or ‘fave’ type of comments.  In this setting the opposite may well occur as described by a previous post regarding the issue of the ‘armchair critic’ . The unfortunate result of such extreme variations of feedback is that the creator of the image may have to spend time fending of spam or taking on unnecessarily caustic and unhelpful remarks.

This image drew all manner of accusations of falsehood which were incredibly unfounded yet convincingly delivered!

 From the artist’s perspective, it is increasingly difficult to achieve recognition for producing something which stands out from the crowd. Some go to the extreme lengths of deception to do so, while others are so caught up with protecting ‘industry secrets’ such that precious little information is provided about the photograph with its initial presentation or  on polite request.  Let’s face it though, there are more ways than ever to generate appropriate complex masks and achieve high dynamic range and most of these methods are available in some form for free on youtube or vimeo. Who can blame photographers for this self promoting practice though. Everyone needs to make a living somehow and if landscape photography is your sole source of income, it’s going to take some originality of work or marketing to sustain your profession. I do however get despondent after viewing an inspirational image, only to read a caption that states ‘please buy my tutorial /attend my workshop’ with no other descriptors of the image.

Believe it or not, images of Kirkjufell were once relatively rare even as early as 5 years ago.

What is common then, with all of these varying , sometimes drastically opposing points of view? Communication. I feel that in this current day and age, communication has never been easier nor more accessible yet these factors have ironically been its downfall. How many times have you written an email or a tweet in the spur of the moment which has ended up with regret. How many times has it  been easier just to click a button (‘fave’) rather than to express why you like an image.  How many times have you seen critique that was assumed to be provoking in nature when it need not have been? How many times have you seen an artist spin a tale of wonder and intrigue regarding certain images in order to win an audience ? How many times have you wanted to find out more about an image only to find that there is no accompanying caption nor a reply when asked about details for an image. Finding the middle ground between these extreme examples is a difficult one but one that I feel is important.

I tried to make it clear that the swirling trails was done in post processing for this scene.

What’s my approach then?I like to keep things simple.  I ‘like’ or ‘fave’ an image when I truly like an image enough to view it again for inspiration ; either to one day visit that location or to study what makes it  a successful image in my eyes. I may like an image to support artists who I feel are underdone with exposure but I don’t do this in the hope of a return favour. What’s the personal point of having a favourites collection that spans 50000 images (as many users of 500px do)? When giving critique, I try to make sure that in some way there is something constructive to be gained and that it is clear that my critique is just opinion. I try to give an honest account of my experience with creating individual images (where it was taken, the conditions, if it is a multiple exposure blend or composite). I create links to our various sites and tutorials but as an adjunct to some actual useful information about the image itself. But remember this ; I do not rely on photography to make a living. I do not have to do the hard sell to keep my family off the streets. Would my delivery of images and interaction with the wider wold change if I did become a full time photographer? I could not hope to answer that until the pressures of this theoretical lifestyle erode at my current principles!

This image is our top selling post card to date but its earnings might support us for a week!

Your thoughts in the comments below are more than welcome!

The Great Ocean Reprieve

Exactly 30 months ago , Charlotte came into this world. Exactly 30 months and 1 day ago was the last morning that Marianne and I had without having to worry about being woken up or waking up Charlotte. While that sounds negative, I have to stress that parenthood itself has been filled with so much joy and life experience that there really are no room for regrets, just opportunity for reflection. With our second child due to enter the world in a few weeks, we decided to try something different : a holiday without Charlotte. We had all sorts of concerns ranging from how Charlotte would cope without us , to how glum we might feel without her boundless toddler energy (she’s past toddling now really) . I am delighted to say that Charlotte treated it as  a holiday to our grandparents’ house (whose assistance was greatly appreciated). Marianne and I almost didn’t know what to do with ourselves with the sudden degree of freedom to do as we pleased! I would have usually considered photographing most dawns, dusks, nights and travelling through the day tiring but compared to raising a young child, it is nothing! I think this is a hard concept for those without children to grasp but if you are a landscape photographer and plan on having children in the future, take full toll of your freedom now!!

As for the Great Ocean Road itself, we were visiting with two frames of mind. The first was that of a keen tourist. I had not been down here for many years and definitely not without the knowledge of how to take and create images so I was excited to see what ‘all the fuss’ was about. From this perspective I was not disappointed as there were just so many walks and places to visit and revisit. The second was that of a photographer. The worldwide portfolio of images from this location is outstanding and possibly even intimidating. However, there is a ‘sameness’ to such popularly shot icons and I wondered if it would be possible to come back from the trip with the personal satisfaction of creating a set of unique images. I’ll let you answer that question for yourselves at the end of this post but I’d say I was only partly satisfied :) And now for the pictures:

Our first evening at the 12 apostles , fresh off an 8 hour car ride took us to the twelve apostles, the most accessible of locations.

12 Apostles (minus a few)

During the next morning, there was little light on offer but we visited the Loch Ard Gorge area.

Just south of Loch Ard Gorge

After some wanderings around the Bay of Islands and  the Grotto, we had a great lunch at the ‘Fat Cow’ at Timboon.

The Grotto and a splash!

That evening, we witnessed some amazing light having split ourselves between the apostles themselves and Gibson’s Steps

Golden drama at the twelve apostles

The light from Gibson’s Steps

The following morning saw a return to the Bay of Islands before venturing out to the Otways. I had thought that the closed waterfalls meant no access but apparently photographers have still been getting to Hopetoun and Beauchamp falls! If only we had known!

Triplet Falls, and a wandering photographer

That evening, Marianne took a break from proceedings while I found my way down to wreck beach and the 366 steps down. (366 steps is not actually as many as it sounds). The anchor of the Marie Gabrielle stood waiting as the tide retreated.

Shelves and reflections at Wreck Beach

Resting place of the Marie Gabrielle

The following morning saw a return to Loch Ard Gorge with some golden light after sunrise.

Loch Ard Gorge by moonlight

The end of Loch Ard Gorge

The last evening was again spent at Loch Ard as Marianne had not been there thus far.

Loch Ard Gorge at sunset

Knowing the weekend of freedom was coming to an end, I took advantage of a seemingly clear night to photograph the stars. Unfortunately, the cloud blew in just as the moonrise was occurring which meant that I had to take a foreground exposed shot several hours after the star images.

Milky way over the apostles

Last golden light before leaving

And with that, concludes our last photographic trip for quite some time as we are expecting to be taken up with parental duties from after early April :)


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