Mooning

Well, I was hoping I would be posting a really cool shot of the full moon rising behind a row of buildings on a ridge.  I had this really great image in my mind that I’ve been planning for the last few days, watching the moon’s path through the sky, looking at the moonrise and sunset times, and figuring out the best place I have access to shoot from.

The moon had an alternate plan.  It decided to hide behind so many layers of clouds that not even a bright spot appears in the sky.

The good news is that it’s supposed to be clearing up tomorrow, so I may be able to shoot a nearly full moon rising tomorrow night.  The bad news is that the moon won’t rise until after dark tomorrow, so I probably won’t get any of the twilight sky I was hoping for tonight.  Oh well.

Instead, I’ve pulled together some moon shots taken since the last new moon.  I find it fascinating to see how the craters flatten out and disappear as the moon waxes until it pretty much looks like an unevenly colored, smooth rock.  I am still looking for a great shot of the full moon.  I have one shot I like of the full moon rising through the red leaves on fall trees, but now I can’t find it.  I’m sure it’s in one of my photo archives somewhere.  It’s fun, but not sure it’s great.

I’ve been working my way through 10 weeks of an online photography class and, this evening, I had one of those moments when something I’d been taught turned into something I’d learned.  I was looking at some of my recent vertical landscape shots, specifically this one:

I was trying to figure out why it doesn’t quite work.  While I’m sure I will eventually figure out several additional reasons (like the cutoff aquarium building), what I suddenly realized is that I am focusing on the stuff in the background instead of focusing about 1/3 of the way in, throwing the clouds in the foreground out of focus.  This realization was like a giant light bulb going on.  I can’t wait to shoot another diagonal subject that crosses the frame front to back and see if I can get all of it in focus!

As I scroll through photos, I see this has been a consistent problem in virtually every image I’ve shot where there is something that should be in focus in the foreground.  There have been so many times when I’ve stared at a photo trying to figure out why it isn’t the amazingly dramatic image I envisioned in my head but not being able to say why not.

I can’t wait for the next ah ha moment!

Tisen is less excited about my obsession.  He’s getting tired of competing with the laptop for space in my lap.  I feel guilty every time he bangs his head against it.  Guess it’s time to call it a night . . .

The Digital Dark Room

I have previously resisted editing photos, feeling like it’s cheating somehow.  However, when one of my photography mentors explained to me that “editing” RAW format pictures is like developing negatives in a  dark room, I started thinking about it differently.

Unfortunately, I find that processing photos is not a task I really enjoy.  For one, I spend the vast majority of my waking hours at a computer for work, having personal time end up on a computer as well is a little depressing.  Second, when I’m on the computer, I’m not out shooting.  But, the thing that I am beginning to realize is that part of what changes a photo from a form of documentation to a work of art is what the photographer does with it after the shot is taken.

It’s possible that I may need to bite the bullet and take a class in Photoshop at some point, but for now, I am content to play with Aperture and see if I can do what I need to do with it.  So far, the one thing I know enough to miss is how to layer together two shots into one.  I suspect Aperture doesn’t do that, but it’s possible I just haven’t found it yet.  That would be handy–outdoor shooting often leads to having to choose between an over-exposed sky or an under-exposed subject.  Being able to combine two shots would solve this problem.

For today, I decide to play with a shot from our recent trip to the Smokies.  This was taken from a “knob” where there was an endless panoramic view of the smokies surrounding us.  While there is something about the shot that appeals to me, it completely fails to look like what I want to convey.  I’m not sure how to explain it, but the gap between what I see in my mind and what I see in the photo is large.  Normally, I would just trash this photo and call it done.  But, because there is that little something there that I like, I decide this is a good candidate to start experimenting with.

As I stare at this photo and start making adjustments, I think about something my brother once said to me.  I showed him a photo I was processing  with and without a certain adjustment and asked him which he liked better.  He said (roughly), “Which one is more like what it actually looked like?  That’s the one that’s better.”  I suppose on the surface this seems like a logical way to look at it, but his statement has haunted me ever since.

First, what does something look like?  Is that an absolute that can be monitored and measured and set objectively in stone?  Second, is capturing what something looks like the real goal of photography?  As I ponder this, I realize that it’s not about “what it looks like;” it’s about what I saw.  What I saw is probably a massive brain computation starting with light reflected into my eyes but then processed in the context of my personal experiences, interests, filters, and openness.

What I want to show is a new way to see the same thing.  When photography moves into the realm of creativity, you stretch your mind so you don’t ignore the shimmering light off one small leaf, miss the shadow of a soaring hawk that suddenly appears in your frame, fail to see the contrasting shadows under each blade of grass.  It’s not about “what it looks like”; it’s about learning how to see in new ways.

Having that realization, I find myself wanting to push myself out of documenting mode and into creative mode.  And I’ve realized that by concentrating solely on my shooting skills (which still have a long way to go), I’m completely missing out on half the formula.  So, today, I turn to my computer and play with what I can do in the digital dark room.