For once I was in town for the salon and I liked the digital topic, so I was hoping it would be a good night!
Prints: Open monochrome
I always struggle with monochrome. Most of it is an inability to “see” in black and white, but I also have some technical challenges getting the tones I want out of my printer. (My printer doesn’t have black or grey ink, so getting the right blend of colors to create true black or grey can be tricky.)
Abandoned fish shack
I shot this picture along Stoney Point Road (north of Duluth) a few years ago and have edited it in a variety of ways in the time since then. Nothing I tried in color worked very well, but with the dead sky, a straight black and white wasn’t very interesting either. I probably created at least 20 versions of this image before I found a monochrome balance I liked.
Fortunately the judge liked it enough to put it in the awards with a score of 8.
I was really excited about the photographic possibilities when we visited 1880 Town (in South Dakota) last fall. However, I was a lot less excited when I got home and took a good look at my images.
I knew the harsh midday light wouldn’t be good for color images, but I was thinking I could get some great black and whites out of it. And I got a few things that sort of worked, but nothing I really loved . . . except for a series of grab shots taken near the “homestead” at the far end of the site.
The trick with this image was the processing. I wanted it to look like something I found in a box of my grandparent’s photos. I wanted it sharp and a little contrasty, but also sort of flat and minimalist.
Although there is one shadow I don’t like (and couldn’t successfully remove in Photoshop), the end result is exactly what I had in mind. So that was a success no matter what the judge said.
But it was nice that the judge not only liked it enough to put it in the awards with an 8, but liked it because it looked like an old photo! Can’t beat that.
Digital: Artificial light
Primary light source is illumination by some source of artificial light. Examples, but not limited to: strobes, flashes, lamps, head lights, light fixtures.
When I started thinking about this category some months before the salon I thought it would be easy. After all, I love taking night shots in cities where artificial light abounds. However, as the due date approached, I begin thinking I needed to enter something where I was lighting it, not just shooting something that was lit.
But I hadn’t shot anything that way for the competition and I don’t ever use a flash anymore (my Nikon had a good enough pop-up flash that I could throw a diffuser on it and get decent shots, but the Olympus doesn’t have a pop-up and the flash it does have is horrid, horrid, horrid), so I didn’t have anything around that I could use. That left me with the sort of illuminated subjects I’d originally planned to enter.
Niagara Falls colors
Personal friends and followers of this blog know that I have been less than impressed with the reliability of my Olympus OMD EM-1. I got that camera back from being repaired just before heading out to Niagara Falls last fall. At the falls, we had one perfect night and two days of rain. So it should have been good that I had plenty of time to shoot the first night we were there.
Except I’d missed resetting a key setting (they delete all your settings when they work on the camera), so all of my pictures from our one nice night were pretty low resolution jpgs. That means I got to go out and try to re-shoot the best of them in the freezing rain and gale force wind the next night. (It also meant there wasn’t time to get over to the other side of the falls at all that night.) Thank you Olympus.
This is actually one of those jpgs from the first night. I can’t blow it up very big, but it is big enough to print at 8×10 or maybe 11×14 and it is big enough to enter in the digital salon.
If you’ve been to Niagara Falls at night, you know that they light the whole falls with a changing array of color. That’s cool, but it’s not that interesting in a static photo. (Or, at least, I don’t think it is that interesting.) To get something more interesting, I used trees and other plants to create a bit of texture in the foreground to contrast with the smooth colors of the falls. Of course, I could only do that the first night when the wind wasn’t howling, which is why I had to use a shot from the first night.
The judge hated it. (I think he gave me a 6 or maybe even a 5.) He wanted no tree and all waterfall.
I planned to enter a city night scene as my second image, but decided to enter an interior scene with challenging light instead. And what’s harder to work with than stage light?
Looking through my images, I decided that some of the dancers I shot in Vietnam might be good subjects. I particularly liked the set from My Son, where a front row seat made it easy to sit on the floor and experiment with camera settings that would balance the light, noise, and motion. I timed my shots to coincide with the moments when the dancers briefly held a position. That took care of grain and blur, but it still left me with a lot of light balancing to get the colors right.
I’m really happy with the result, as the image is sharp, but you can see the motion in the drummers and the whole scene just pops from those luscious colored lights.
The judge said these situations are really hard to shoot and I did a good job. He didn’t explain why he gave it a lousy score.
Based on the winning images, the judge wasn’t interested in photographs that just did a good job of capturing subjects lit with artificial light. He was looking for images where the photographer manipulated the light to good effect. And most of the images he selected were wonderful examples of that.
While I would have liked more meaningful feedback on my images, I don’t feel at all bad about losing out on this month’s digital competition. Most of the winners were creative and amazingly lit. That’s a real skill – and it’s one I do not have.