Category Archives: Photography in General
Having taken a week-long photography workshop in Paris, one of the most intriguing locations that we visited for a shoot was Pere-Lachaise Cemetery. It is the most visited monumental city of the dead in Europe and covers over a hundred acres of hills and woodland. The property was once owned by Pere de la Chaise, confessor to Louis XIV, but in 1803 it was ordered by Napoleon to be put to use as a cemetery. Early on, there were few burials there, so to add appeal, the developers relocated tombs of the famous dead to the cemetery. The monuments, compared to what we most often see in the United States, are quite elaborate including sculptures, a faux pyramid, and even a three-story temple. Some of the famous whose resting place is here are Frederic Chopin, Moliere, Edith Pilaf, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein and Jim Morrison.
We spent about an hour and a half and saw only a small fraction of the cemetery. I used a rather heavy hand while processing most of the images as HDR’s since I thought it was fitting for the subject matter.
I joined a Facebook photo walk group a while back that was organized by Valerie Jardin, a local photographer and teacher of international acclaim. This group has gotten me out more often to shoot, and at new places. Valerie finds us locations and is usually there to offer help and advice when she is not traveling. This past Saturday a group of us met up at the Minnesota state capitol building in St. Paul, Minnesota. I remember visiting when I was in grade school, but my ten year-old self had no appreciation for the grandeur of the place. Built in 1905, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a real gem.
There are a lot of photo opportunities outside, but it was an unseasonably cold day with a foot of snow on the ground, so we headed indoors. The attendants were friendly and helpful, told us that we could use our tripods, and offered us tours. Since we arrived just as the doors opened, we had the whole place pretty much to ourselves for an hour. Then families came in and after that a whole wedding party with a contingent of photographers and videographers arrived.
There are so many grand rooms, beautifully decorated halls and staircases, rich with architectural details, lovingly crafted and cared for. I plan to go back again soon since I barely scratched the surface and want to do some more exploring. All of these images were the result of a one-hour shoot.
I went out one morning last week after another one of the two-inch snowfalls we’ve received this month and traveled one of the Wisconsin designated “Rustic Roads”, the same road I must travel to go anywhere from home. This road passes over the Willow River twice…over the river itself, and then a few hundred yards away the “race”. The race is a fork in the river that rejoins the main flow after a short run. This was a familiar scene to me, but that morning everything in sight had this wonderful coating of fresh snow. In the 20 minutes or so that I took pictures, only one car passed by and I felt I was in this winter wonderland, a special place I had all to myself, a pristine fairytale landscape untouched by car exhaust, deer tracks or the melting off by the sun.
When I downloaded the photos onto my laptop, I was disappointed, of course.
My mind’s eye, once again, had seen something that the camera did not.
It seemed to be overloaded with detail, and I tend to like simpler things. So, I went to work on the raw file, hoping to recover what I had seen, what I had felt.
Pleased at what I had accomplished, I sent a before and after to my husband, expecting his approval. I was dismayed by his reply that he preferred the original. OK, I thought, “He’s not a photographer, he’s not an artist, I’ll send it out for some other opinions.” Out of the handful of people I sent it to, only one had a preference for the image I’d worked on!
I slept on it, but not very well, I admit. The very next morning I looked at my email and there was a message from one of the photography blogs I follow, Light Stalking. One particular article that was referenced seemed to be talking to me and was on composing fine art photography by Alain Briot.
To paraphrase a couple of Alain’s points, he said:
“that when creating fine art, anything can be the right thing. He added that images need to be optimized and that there is no such thing as the “right” color balance.”
His color balance statement resonated with me since I had submitted an image at my photography club recently, another snow scene, for which I had purposely balanced the color towards blue to exaggerate the coldness of the scene. One of the judges had said the color balance was off and gave me a low score. Alain’s article lent legitimacy to my vision.
Part Two of this article will soon follow with the details of how I arrived at the final image.
I have been involved with a fundraising project for my garden club, “The 2013 Hudson Area Calendar”, and it has taken much of my time working with the photographers and getting it all ready for the printers. This year I made a conscious effort to take some pictures for the calendar and was pleased when the committee chose one of mine for the cover. The committee felt this photo had the nostalgic, small-town, historic and patriotic feel that we wanted for the cover.
While babying myself with a summer cold, I decided to start watching a series on photography at Lynda.com by Ben Long. I don’t know if Ben coined this phrase or if it should be credited to someone else, but it struck a chord with me. People will say about almost any endeavor that, “Wow, how lucky you were!”
When you see a really great photograph, it has very little to do with luck. People who make (not take) great photos know their equipment like the back of their hand. They can operate the dials and buttons blindfolded, as if the camera were an extension of their body. They know what their equipment is capable of and they know the shortcomings inherent in photography in general. If they are wildlife photographers, they have learned the habits of their subject matter. Landscape photographers have an intimacy with their subject matter, too. It’s not unusual to return to a scene at different seasons, different weather conditions and times of day to realize the vision. And it is no surprise that the president of my photography club excels at architectural subjects; after all, he is an architect. Great photographers have experience and a patience and readiness so that when a magic moment happens they can get their shot.
Another one that photographers often hear is
“You must have a really good (or expensive) camera”
as if it doesn’t matter who presses the shutter. Honestly, really good photographs can be made with just about any kind of camera. And even the most expensive and elaborate equipment will not guarantee a great shot. It all comes down to the person who is holding it – their experience, their knowledge, their dedication, their practice.
So practice, practice, practice!
By the way, Ben Long’s photography classes at Lynda.com are first rate. I highly recommend them.