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Shapes_Curves and Shadows in Architectural Photography

Shapes and Curves_Etihad Stadium_Melbourne

Canon 5D camera and Canon 24mm f1.4 L series USM lens. Exposure Details: 1/200 second @ f16 ISO 800.

Here’s a photo with which I’m happy. It’s nominally an architectural photograph, as it features the bottom part of a sculpture at Etihad Stadium in Melbourne, Australia. But really the image is an exploration in abstraction utilizing shapes, curves and shadows to shape the image.

In fact the shadows have been used to link individual man-made elements within the frame. And, of course, there’s no shadow and, therefore, no shape, without light.

So, while I prefer to photograph under low light conditions, both indoors and also outside in the landscape, the above picture is an example that, with care, it is possible to make compelling images outside under very bright conditions.

Basic image processing was conducted in Adobe Lightroom 3. A warm tone and gentle glow were applied in Adobe Photoshop CS5.

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Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

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iPhone Photography_Moving into Abstraction

Apple 3Gs iPhone photograph of Stairway Detail

For my third installment of pics from the Apple 3Gs iPhone I thought I’d venture into the world of abstraction.

The way the human brain works is that it looks for the familiar in what it sees. For the sake of this discussion we can refer to the familiar as the subject. The eyes move quickly over a photograph so as to locate a familiar point of reference that enables the viewer to identify the subject of the photograph and then to understand the context into which that subject has been placed. Let’s look at how changing one element in a picture can produce a very different context.

Little Johnny is standing alone on the beach on a beautiful sunny day. This image might suggest the joy of youth and a long and positive life ahead. An alternative scenario might feature Little Johnny standing alone on the beach with dark storm clouds approaching from behind. You could easily read this image, possibly influenced by the day’s doom and gloom in the media, as a metaphor for dark days ahead. But what happens to the viewing experience when there’s no recognizable subject?

Apple 3Gs iPhone Abstract Fence Detail Photograph

From my point of view abstraction simply means presenting elements of the world in such a way that the viewer sees the abstraction before they begin to identify what has actually been photographed. In effect the abstraction becomes the subject of the photograph. One way to move towards abstraction, and produce a more visually interesting image, is to move in closer and base your composition upon the design elements inherent to the subject. In this case the viewer will notice the design (e.g. line, shape, texture, color, balance or shadow) before they think to identify the subject (e.g. interesting pattern on a fence), thereby breaking there usual way of seeing, processing and understanding visual stimuli. As a consequence the photographer has allowed them to think less literally and provided them with a heightened visual experience.

Each of the images that illustrate this article was made by emphasizing particular elements, within larger scenes, that attracted my attention while scouting for locations with my photographer friend, Bill Poon. The vibrant green of a stone staircase, the textured patterns of paint forming in bubbles on a metal fence and the circular anti-slip dots, laid our in a series of straight lines, on a staircase.

Apple 3Gs iPhone Abstract Photograph of a Hardening Covering on a Stairway

Photography is a wonderful activity and there’s no reason why the production of art can’t be fun. The journey into abstraction is one way by which photography becomes art.

All images in this article have undergone fairly significant processing in Adobe Lightroom 2 and Adobe Photoshop CS4. I don’t plan to process all my iPhone images in this way, but the nature of these images indicated to me that their journey would not be complete without a little hocus pocus. What can I tell you, it was fun.

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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

Rock, Wood and Water_Central Victoria

Canon 5D Mark II camera and Canon 24-105mm f4 lens

Canon 5D Mark II camera and Canon 24-105mm f4 L series USM lens Exposure Details 1/8 second @ f5.6 ISO 400

I’ve just returned from a great weekend away. I ran a natural light workshop in and around the town of Chewton, near Castlemaine, in Central Victoria. The weather was bleak with heavy, overcast skies and cold conditions making life difficult for facilitator and participants alike. Fortunately all that was required to turn a potentially uncomfortable experience into one of joy was a positive frame of mind and a measure of physicality in the way we all approached our photography.

Of course the great thing about winter skies, even in the middle of spring, is that they provide lovely, soft lighting and, as a result, lower the Scene Brightness Range (contrast) to a degree that allows for the camera to be able to hold detail from shadow to highlight.

The above image is one of a number that I made late on Saturday afternoon at the rarely running waterfall that cascades down over the spillway from Chewton Lake and flows into Forest Creek. I have visited this lake on possibly 70 occasions over the years. From all those visits this is only the second time I had seen the waterfall flow. As you can imagine it was quite exciting to behold and great fun to photograph. I will post more images from the weekend over coming days.

Adobe Lightroom 2 and Adobe Photoshop CS4 were employed to process and render the original color files into black-and-white.

© Copyright All Rights Reserved

Glenn Guy, Blue Sky Photography

Kangaroo Bones

 

Canon 5D camera and Canon 180mm f3.5 Macro lens

Canon 5D camera and Canon 180mm f3.5 Macro L series USM lens

I had a lot of fun making this image while running a photography workshop with my good friend and colleague, photographer Joseph Tompa, in Central Victoria. I had taken the group to an old gold mining area for some landscape photography. It’s a tough environment and the stony, red cracked earth and big blue sky is reminiscent of Central Australia. In addition to a hat, sunscreen, drinking water and solid walking shoes the bright ground reflects so much light that, to be able to see what’s in front of you, sunglasses are required. Similarly, the use of a polarising filter is essential to prevent the inherent color and texture in earth and leaf being reflected off their surfaces and producing a flat relatively colorless result.

It’s tough wondering around such a location in the middle of a hot day. It’s the time of day any self-respecting landscape photographer would be resting or reserving their energies to basic reconnaissance, so as to determine the locations best suited for photography under more forgiving light.

While we all want to photograph beautiful locations and can all make great photographs of interesting subjects under ideal conditions, it is a hallmark of an accomplished photographer to be able to make a great photograph of an otherwise banal subject or scene, even under less than ideal circumstances. And that’s the reason why I take folks to this location. Because it’s outside our normal experience it’s interesting, but photographing it is challenging and requires energy, technical competence and a unique approach. It’s a great feeling to know that by pushing yourself, both physically and mentally, you’ve done your best and, through the art of photography, employed the subject to explore larger themes.

One of the greatest challenges facing photographers is the need to control lighting contrast. I have a range of mantras that help me demonstrate essential photography truths. Here’s one:

The brighter the light (therefore) the darker the shadows.

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