Monthly Archives: April 2011

Impact of Photography, and Tone – Lisa Mercer

Last week, I FOUND this image in a bunch of prints. It was a club print competition. When I came to this image I felt something weird. It was definitely an interesting image but not straight forward. Then I started analyzing the photo and I was thinking what kind of effects had been used on the horse. Eventually, I found out the image was upside-down. I was totally tricked. Then I started wondering “Is this Lisa’s image?”. Yes, it was. Now I would like to talk about two points from this experience.

Jazz, especially after be-bop age, seems to force some sort of training on listeners to get a point to appreciate the form of the music. “A love supreme” by John Coltrane may be so esoteric for some people if they have not already had some jazz albums in their CD collection. Now, think about Mozart’s Requiem (I think most of you know about this legendary piece through the movie “Amadeus”). It is a Requiem which is supposed to be dark, sad, and heavy. However, when I listen to the piece, I sometime feel heavenly and feathery, and it is beautiful.

Back to photography, when photographers Judge or critique some others’ photos, “beautiful”, “gorgeous”, and “Wow” images tend to get rated higher. So called “wow factor” is the one we are looking for. But wait a minute, why cannot it be “Hmmm” factor or “Ah-ha!” factor? Or even “Ewww” factor? It is not doubt
that everybody likes colorful sunrise landscape shots of the Rocky mountains by
PROFESSIONAL photographers. They are gorgeous. But think about a quality of some images appearing in my head and forcing me to think about the image before going to sleep. Don’t you think they are very successful images in terms of communication to viewers?  This photo by Lisa is one of them, really.

2nd point. This is good opportunity to talk about what I have been thinking about lately. I mentioned, in the first paragraph of this posting, that I could tell it was Lisa’s image; actually, I could tell both of her two images. So how can I do that because I can see her own tone in image (In this article, tone will be dealt differently from style). I like to call it “Signature Tone”. Possibly, it is similar to “touch” which painters refer to, or distinctive sounds which musician make from their musical instruments. When looking at master photographers’ works, which of course recorded on film, I am often impressed by their signature tones (To me, extreme examples are Daido Moriyama and Joseph Sudek). Now, in the digital age, what we can do on images on a computer are limitless. Nowadays, you can easily find so many HDR photos, and the technology, quite easily, allow us to achieve these outstanding HDR images. Most of times, what we have to do is find a preset of the tone mappings you like, and click the button. But can you say it is your signature tone? I am not saying HDR is an evil; actually I could not complete some of my images without the HDR method. I believe we, as artists, should try and experiment new techniques, and it is fine to publish the results on any occasions. But to make it your signature tone and style, we need further steps and time to digest the try and errors. To be honest, I cannot answer how to develop own tones of images. Often said that to develop own flow of processing leads to own tone and style, but I feel it is not that simple.

Anyway, I am glad to show you Lisa’s very artistic photo here and I AM honored she joined the members for the “Ethereal” Photographic gallery group show in fall. Here is her comment about her photo as well.

This photo was taken in May 2010 at the farm next door to my acreage.  There is a small wetland on the front pasture there, and I usually enjoy shooting various waterfowl, but the horses were walking around in it this day. This horse’s name is River, and I met him the day he was born, also next door – we are friends with the neighbours.  The horse will be 3 this coming July.


My little one – Pika

Recently, I  have been quite busy for the gallery show and post processing for bunch of photos. But here is my cute animal portrait. This friendly pika was taken in my 2nd Lake O’Hara trip with a bunch of camera club members. I hope you like it.

Hey, I am here!

Oh, one thing I can mention. Do not trust auto focus for these situation. Rather than chasing a target with auto focus, waiting an animal to come into a frame tends to result in more successful shots, in my experience.

Roll over the rule of thirds!

Eaug(9)(11), this truly unusual chord is the one that a famous British rock group used in one of their songs. I wrote about consideration of Rhythm and Light in my previous post. This time let me take the occasion to talk about composition since there was a discussion about composition in one of my photos.

As you may know, the Rule of Thirds is considered to be rule of thumb for composition in photography. I do not have to explain what the rule of thirds here since I think readers already know what it is. About one and half years ago, I traveled to Jasper and was taking pictures at Patricia lake. The water was very quiet and smooth. It was perfect condition to shoot reflection images of Mt. Pyramid. And below is the image I got in the morning. Typical landscape photo based on the rule of third composition.

Then I had a little conversation with a lady who was a professional photographer from Sweden. She showed to me her images which had just taken at the same location with her Nikon D3x. Her image taken by her fisheye lens had Mt. Pyramid on very bottom of the frame and majority of the frame were occupied by interesting shapes of clouds lighten by beautiful morning light. I would say it is rule of tenths composition. It was eye-opening for me. I had not thought about such a way to compose images.

Unfortunately, the moment was gone at the location so I wrapped up the morning shoot. But while I was driving after breakfast, I saw an interesting cloud pattern on the lake. I picked up the widest angle lens, 21mm, and attached polarizer to the lens. This is the photo.

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I used layering technique to control contrast, which is the same technique  used for multigrade paper in darkroom.

So what was the discussion about this photo? Some people think the clouds were too dominant in the image, on the other hand other people think it was fine since
the clouds pattern was main subject in this photo. What do you think? Do you think bottom image is more interesting, or do you prefer top one?

My point is the rule of thirds does not make an image interesting. It may be safer to get ribbons at contests, though. I personally do not think about the rule of thirds; I tend think about leading lines and combinations of the shapes in a frame. For a power point, I use golden ratio rather than the rule of thirds. Darwin Wiggett wrote an very useful article “Break the rules” in Outdoor Photography Canada issue 12 Winter 2010.

By the way, which rock group used the wired chord Eaug(9)(11)? It is The Beatles. The song is “All I’ve got to do” in Album “With the Beatles”. Beatles music is full of unusualness and surprises. Roll over the rule of thirds!