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The Outcome vs. The Tools

Canon 5D Mark II camera and Canon 24-105mm L series lens

Photography has always involved a somewhat uneasy alliance between technology, craft and art. Indeed the very first photographers had to combine the roles of manufacturer, technician and artist (many were painters). This triad of seemingly disparate skill sets and mindsets, when kept in balance, is capable of producing truly beautiful images. But when one dominates, to the point that the other two seem to have been barely considered, then the image is likely to fail.

It seems to me that, in the face of a myriad of technological advancements available through ever new cameras and computers, software upgrades and snazzy tools like the Apple iPad, its never been more important to take a step back and remind ourselves of a critical fact: the outcome must transcend the tools used. Only then can that marvelous alchemy we know as photography, where technology and magic come together to create something that is greater than the some of its parts, enable us to create art. Keeping control of your own photography triad will help keep you on the path to this goal. Beautiful images will surely follow.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography


A few Words on Creation

Hasselblad 503CWi and Hasselblad 150mm Sonnar f4 lens with Kodak Portra 160VC Professional film

By living the life of the artist you add, on a daily basis, to the miracle that is life. Many say that the very existence of life is a miracle. While we tend to load the word miracle with religious connotations, the word itself is simply the ancient world’s way of making sense of the miraculous or unexplainable. And assigning responsibility for such events to an all knowing, all-powerful creator-being is not an unreasonable approach to take. I have no issue with that concept either historically or in contemporary societies. The problem is when politics and power are imeshed so deeply into the teachings that they become synomonous with the religion in question.

While I have an interest in world religions, as a fundamental component of culture, I do not personally subscribe to any one message or faith. And while I admire religious devotion I abhor dogma. My desire is for a multi-faceted approach to the eternal, one that has room for science and faith, expression and ritual, male and female. I encourage pluralism and debate and dream of a society where the only wars we engage in are against the terrany of oppression, corruption, hunger and disease, and our own innate negativity.

So, why we are not god’s, our choices, attitudes and endeavors can, at their best, be described as god-like. It’s about intent and energy. The purer the intent and the more focused the energy the closer we put ourselves to the source: the great, ongoing mystery that is creation. Creativity is taking the ordinary and making it extraordinary. And, through our photography, each of us has the choice to participate in the ongoing mystery that is creation.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

Family Photos_Snapshots or Art?

As most of you will know I spent a lot of December working as stills photographer on the Australian motion picture film Summer Coda. Most of the film is set in and around Mildura in far northwest Victoria. The film was somewhat of a family project with my nephew, Richard Gray, writing and directing the project. Richard’s wife, Michele Davies, was responsible for continuity and dialogue.

Towards the end of the project Richards family: his mum Maree, sister Rachel, their partners Trevor and Dean, and brother Pat spent a few days in Mildura. On a rare day off for me we all crossed the border into NSW and visited Trentham Estate, a vineyard, for a lovely lunch after which I took Rachel, Dean and Pat down the Silver City Highway, past Wentworth where the famous Murray and Darling rivers meet, and out to the Perry Sand Dunes.

Canon 5D Mark II camera and Canon 24-105mm f4 L series USM lens @ 45mm. Exposure Details: 1/200 second @ f11 ISO 400.

The above image features, from left to right, Rachel, Dean and Pat on top of the first dune surveying the surrounds. I love the warm colors provided by the late afternoon sun and the way they contrast with the blue of the sky. The shape and texture of the dunes are important design elements, although they’re somewhat diminished by the footprints, particularly on the right side of the frame. Here’s an important point to remember, if you’re looking for a portfolio standard image be sure not to walk into the frame. Occasionally your footprints can add a narrative element to the image, but usually they become a messy visual distraction.

The dunes themselves are actually quite small. You can gain a good overview of them by driving out to the second car park and, after about 1 minute of exertion, cresting the first dune.

We arrived late afternoon. It was hot, but the light Iooked very promising. I would have been happy to wait an extra hour or so and photograph at sunset and dusk, but I had to get the family back to Mildura to see the rushes (a rough cut of important scenes filmed throughout the week) with Richard, Michele and other members of the crew. So our visit to the dunes was probably no more than 20 minutes, not including the extra 20 minutes Dean spent trying to help a bunch of folks move their car that, somewhat miraculously they’d succeeded in bogging in soft sand at the very entrance to the car park. In the end, with plenty of other folk around to help, we got out (I have a 4-wheel drive) via a back track. The lesson is if you decide to visit the Perry Sand Dunes a low to the ground, hotted up car may not be the best option.

Canon 5D Mark II camera and Canon 24-105mm f4 L series USM lens @ 32mm. Exposure Details: 1/250 second @ f 11 ISO 400.

The second image features Pat at the dunes. I tried to echo the strong shape of his shadow, cast by the low angle of the late afternoon sun, with the V shape of two intersecting dunes on the right of the image. In this case I believe the warm tone black-and-white rendering and the relatively deep (dark) tones present in the background add a powerful mood that contrasts with Pat’s always happy and positive nature. I feel this duality (the contrast between the two) to be what lifts an image like this from a snapshot towards art, where the intention of the maker (the artist) goes beyond producing a pleasing likeness of the subject. In this case I think I have both, which should keep both the family and me happy.

I’m not saying that I’ve created great art with this picture. What I’m trying to outline is something of the process by which an artist makes art. There are things that need to be considered whenever a painting, a musical score or photograph is produced. Subject (theme or story), technique, design, tonality, color and meaning always need to be considered. If you fail with the first 5 the result will be a poor image. But if the image lacks meaning, either in your eyes or those of the viewer, then it will remain a snapshot. Ultimately it’s for all of you to decide whether you like the picture or not, and whether you’d describe it as a holiday snap or something more. I’d be very interested in your thoughts and comments.

Image processing was conducted in Adobe Lightroom 2 and Adobe Photoshop CS4.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

Making Metaphors from Metamorphous

Leica R8 camera and Leica 90mm f2 Summicron lens with Fuji Velvia 100F film

Leica R8 camera and Leica 90mm f2 Summicron R-series lens with Fuji Velvia 100F film

There’s a long tradition in fine art black-and-white photography where nature and still life genres come together. It’s the photography of dead things, whether located in the natural environment or after mummification. While somewhat morbid the best of these images, to my mind, are those that deal with the reality of life and death.

It was sad to see this little penguin lying dead on the rocks, just a few meters away from the sea. I know not whether its demise was due to natural causes or otherwise. Perhaps it died at sea and was washed up onto the rocks at high tide. In any case sadness gave way to a deeper inquiry as to the nature of things, which lead to the making of the above image.

I’ve long believed in the power of duality. The juxtaposition of two opposites: life and death, beauty and horror, evoke powerful associates and metaphors for the fine artist. As long as the subject is dealt with in a respectable manner, I believe such images deserve their place within the fine art tradition. In the process of making metaphors from metamorphous such images cause us to think about the bigger picture. And the more time we give to such pursuits the richer our lives will become.

The original 35mm color transparency was scanned and rendered into black-and-white with Adobe Photoshop CS4.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

Abstraction through Reflections

Canon G9 camera

Canon G9 camera

I’m doing some work for a very good friend of mine, a doctor who needs a camera/lighting system that members of his staff can use to photograph patients both before and after certain procedures are undertaken. As the staff members in question are amateur photographers there’s no chance of using a DSLR and either portable or studio flash to achieve the desired results. Similarly RAW shooting, with the need to process the images on the computer, is not an option. The idea is to be able to produce quality images with little more than a point and shoot approach. As you can image this is quite a challenge, but progress is being made.

Prior to this job I’d probably taken no more than 6 frames on a point and shoot digital camera. I don’t own one and have never felt the need to use my mobile phone as a camera. I guess that makes me old school. While I embrace technology I still prefer to use the tool designed for the job, rather than some hybrid device. This preference may well change in years to come, but that’s where I am today. And that’s not to say I won’t pick up an i-phone and new Leica camera down the track.

So, with little or no experience using digital point and shoot cameras, I needed to spend some time orientating myself to my friends Canon G9 camera. I was working with a group of students photographing architecture in and around Federation Square in Melbourne, Australia. Several of the students commented that they were concerned about an assignment they had for another subject dealing with abstraction. It seemed to me that the guys were looking for some inspiration. And as movement is often the best way to activate both the thinking and creative process, I whipped out the Canon G9 and, within a few minutes, had motivated nearby participants to action and had produced several publishable images which I’II share over coming days. I only wished I’d shot in RAW, rather then JPEG, but that’s just one of the possible consequences of someone else messing around with your (or, in this case, your friends) camera.

The original file was processed in Adobe Lightroom 2, prior to final creative effects being applied in Adobe Photoshop CS4.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

Metaphors in Photography

We are all aware of how metaphors such as ‘stubborn as a mule’ form part of our spoken language. But metaphors also permeate our visual language, providing photographers with a powerful means of communication.

Derived from the Greek metaphora and translating as meaning transference, metaphors allow us to compare seemingly unrelated objects and provide a window or association to an experience outside that of the object’s environment.

An image of a down and out farmer from the Great Depression tells us not just about the hardships of the individual, but of a whole segment of society. An image of a child ravaged by hunger or disease talks to us of the inequities that exist in our world.

Metaphors allow us to explore the Human Condition and provide an important connection between our physical and metaphysical worlds.


Leica M7 camera and Leica 35mm f2 Summicron-M lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

Leica M7 camera and Leica 35mm f2 Summicron-M lens with Kodak Ektachrome Elite 100 Extra Color film

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Welcome to the Blue Sky Photography Blog

Happy New Year and welcome to the Blue Sky Photography blog.

As the name suggests, this blog is all about photography. I’II be using the site to explore my views on photography and to help bring a deeper understanding of the art, and the techniques that underpin it, to as many people as possible.

I’m a professional photographer with a wide range of experiences and I want to share as much of what I’ve learned over the years. I will provide knowledge and insights that will be both informative and interesting. Over many years of teaching photography I’ve developed a style that is straightforward and to the point. I want to help people as quickly and as efficiently as I can. I work hard to explain seemingly complicated concepts in well crafted but easy to understand language.

To me photography is a kind of alchemy: a marrying of technology and magic. And, while not quite as accurate a translation, it might be more appropriate to substitute the word magic for mystery or spiritualism. Certainly the greatest pictures combine excellent technique with great timing and the power and transitory nature of light, without which neither photography nor life itself would exist.

This very first posting on the Blue Sky Photography blog site provides me with the opportunity to promise that I’II do all I can to keep up a constant dialogue with you that will explore the many forms of photography, the inspirational aspects behind great images and the passion that separates the would be from the great photographer.

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