I’ve told you that I am enamored of digital photography. How could a person who loves taking pictures—but is too confused by the functions and uses of a ‘real’ camera, and far too lazy to do anything like the intensive study required to become skilled with said functions and uses, let alone learn how to process photos afterward—how could I not love digital cameras and photo processing?
One of the bonuses of the ability to revise and improve my photos digitally is the element of surprise that comes when I’ve taken very dark photos (at night or in poorly lit places), open up what looks like an entirely black image in one of my favorite editing programs, brighten it and change the contrast, and voila! there’s that thing I was looking at and had entirely forgotten by then. Sometimes the photo turns out to be something I had no idea I’d shot, too, but even those pictures can be interesting in their own ways.
Take this particular black rectangle from our recent time in Prague. I knew I’d taken photos on a couple of evenings when we were out and about with our compatriots, but couldn’t necessarily say exactly what the subject of them had been. A little tweaking brought the memory out of the dark.
Gnats! There was a flurry of gnats flitting around a lamppost and making a tiny but lovely little display of sparkling fireworks, and when I took the photos I had no clue whether they would actually show anything at all, given the intensity of the surrounding darkness. But my hopes were rewarded, if not with a magnificent set of photos, at least with a welcome memory of that beautiful evening that even a clueless picture-taker like me could enjoy.
I live in my imagination. And I’m an artist. And further, I want to invite others into my imaginings, at least some of the time. I haven’t got endless resources when it comes to the skills and tools and knowledge it might require to make images that other people can indwell in the same way I experience them. When I ‘go to my happy place’, so to speak, I’d like to be able to take others along with me. It’s always so magical there that I want to share the delirious sweetness of the experience with anyone else who might like to try it.Much to my surprise, I discovered recently that one of the characteristic things I do, and have done for as long as I can remember, is a technique that is now embodied in a photographic format so tremendously popular that it’s taken even to the point of software being developed to help accomplish the trick for you and dramatically called HDR (High Dynamic Range) imaging. I am less dramatic myself, apparently, as I’ve always simply thought of my little tweak as good old-fashioned exaggeration. What this discovery (at this late date) says the most is that I’m slow to catch a clue. But it’s also somewhat heartening to me to think that despite my lingering ignorance of HDR–among innumerable things of which I am miraculously ignorant–I have actually been practicing techniques aimed at accomplishing what is newly center stage again in the visual art world. Who knew. Me, being fashion-forward. Ha.I’ve long since striven to bring out the contrast and depth and the separation between different components of my visual compositions by intensifying various parts of the art a bit beyond plain statement of fact. I suspect that most of us at least feel that we see (never mind experience) the things we see with greater intensity than we could hope to fully convey to those around us. A little push might be required to help others to enter into our worlds fully. More saturated color. Wider contrast between the lights and darks. Sharper definition of edges, even to the degree of incorporating bits of ‘outline’ to imitate the separation our eyes naturally make in transitions between unlike values and textures and colors in the real world. And, in photography, since I can manipulate my pictures readily now that I’m a digital shooter, exaggerating those qualities in various parts of the photos by changing the pixels.The joke’s on me, of course, because lacking either a camera that has HDR bracketing and stitching capabilities or the know-how or software to use any sophisticated quick-click methods to accomplish this look, I still plod through it by selecting the tones and textures, the areas of emphasis and low-contrast, and saturating or desaturating different parts of my pictures all by laborious hand-tooled means. My true artistry may be my unique ability to be both forward-thinking and backward-doing at one and the same time. But I’m okay with that, if it makes it easier for other people to find their way into my images. You’re all welcome in here too, you know.