A big part of the visual impact of an image is the focal point. The focal point is the specific location that the viewer is lead to by the photographer. That point may be achieved through selective focus, light contrast, color, or some compositional device. Sometimes, the focal “point” may be a focal plane, a slice of the image that is somehow accentuated and made therefore, most important.
I like the visual impact of altering the plane-of-focus in an image beyond the normal parallel and instead creating a plane that is rather diagonal. It imparts a bit of an altered state feeling. It can also impart a bit of a dreaminess. This dreamy state is partially due to the defusing of an area of the image that is usually part of the normal depth of field. I like too, that the result is a simplification of the scene so that the specific slice I want to draw attention to is the only area in focus.
To achieve my desired result, I use a Lensbaby adapter which allows me to use Nikon lenses on Micro-Four-Thirds cameras. In the image below I used a Nikon 28mm manual focus lens (quite old) on a Panasonic G2 camera and set the plane of focus off to the side and down. It was a spring evening after a rain and the woods were vibrant green and smelled wonderful.
As a full time artist, I rely on the sales of my work to live my life. That means I need to be both an artist and a business owner even though at times those duties seem to conflict. As an artist I want to be true to my vision and create the work that I want to create. As a business owner, I have to at least consider whether any particular work is going to do well in the market place. I also need to be careful not to let the business side of my life pull be down or lift me too high. The art really needs to be my paramount concern if my business is going to continue to sustain me.
Smart business practices do not have to conflict with making the art I want to make. If I market my work in the right places and am conscious of the fact that I am not making work for everyone, I can both stay true to myself and find the collectors who match my style. I think that the artists who are able to find their niche while being flexible enough to accommodate the desires of patrons, can achieve both their artistic and financial goals. If I offer a new print for sale, it means that it is also a work that has satisfied me creatively. I think it is important that collectors understand that the artwork they buy represents something honest and fulfilling to the artist. My subject matter has always dealt with nature as the object of my images. My images have always been somewhat biographical in that they speak to a personal feeling, mood, or fascination. If they didn’t fulfill that aspect of who I am, I think I would have stayed in the corporate position I left 12 years ago.
The image below was made on a lovely summer morning in Acadia National Park. A telephoto zoom lens with attached polarizing filter was used to isolate a section of water lilies and keep the water a rich blue. The light hitting just the area around the water lily made me stop and go to work.
I believe that collecting art and creating art have a number of similarities. I see both as being creative processes. The artist creates work that is an expression of some aspect of who they are as a person, while the art collector expresses themselves through the selection and arrangement of art. In both endeavors the choices made are very personal.
In Erling Kagge’s book A Poor Collector’s Guide to Buying Great Art, he states “Building a collection is much like living life or writing your autobiography – it is intensely personal.” Kagge continues, “you need to follow your own path.”
I feel that the making of art is very autobiographical as well, and that following one’s own path in it’s creation is very important.
Kagge speaks too about being obsessed with the building of an art collection if it is to be of significance. He suggests that a collector’s budget must be secondary to the passion of acquisition. “I recommend that you just start buying, that you don’t spend too much time thinking” he says. In some ways this could be good advice for artists as well; just start creating, don’t spend too much time thinking.
I also like Kagge’s advice to just hang artwork in your home and office, allowing time to get to know it, and then evaluate more fully how you feel about the work. It is in that way he suggests, that a collector can develop their own tastes for what they want to collect. I do something similar sometimes when making a new print. I tape the print to my studio wall so that I can look at it often and with fresh eyes to determine if its my best work and pleases me. In that sense, I am also developing my own taste.
The image below represents my taste for minimalism, simplicity, quietness, and an appreciation of Japanese woodblock paintings. I enjoy the lines, the balance and tension in the image. I feel that it is simple yet engaging. A pigment giclee print is available directly from my website – HERE
One of my goals when selecting new photographic tools is to be able to do things that my current tools don’t allow or make too difficult. Last year I purchased a Nikon Coolpix P900 because I felt that its crazy 83x optical zoom lens which ranges from an equivalent 24-2000mm would allow me to compose almost any image I wanted. It also was said to have a pretty good image stabilization function which I knew would be necessary with 2000mm!
No camera can fill every niche, and the more any one camera claims to allow me to do, the lower the image quality tends to be. So I went into this purchase expecting the limitations of such a camera. Having worked with it just a bit now, I have confirmed my suspicions regarding its limitations but also what I hoped it to be – a go to camera when an image idea comes to me and there is no time or access to setting up “better” gear.
One of those “in the moment” ideas came to me during a recent evening and the Nikon P900 was the tool I selected to try to make the image I was visualizing. The moon was slowly coming over a ridge lined with trees. I wanted to compose a frame filling image of the moon with the silhouetted trees in front in a very flat, two-dimensional way. I ran inside for the camera and started composing. At 800 ISO I was able to get sufficient shutter speed to hand hold 2000mm I thought. But for extra security I found a post to lean on and stabilized myself further.
I took the meter reading off the moon to maximize my shutter speed and because I wanted the sky to go black. The image became a round, golden ball with some crater detail and bare winter trees silhouetted. Its the image I visualized in my head.
Prints in two sizes are available on my website – Here
People like to know what camera I use, I understand that. I have always liked cameras, I find them fascinating. I find lenses interesting too. I read the reviews and the tests and the comparisons. The thing I think about most however, is how does any particular camera-lens combination suit my needs to make the image I am envisioning. I need to take complete control of the process of composing, selecting perspective, deciding on depth of field, point of focus, color relationships, exposure implications, field of view, level of sharpness, and a variety of other variables which make photography an art form as well as a craft.
I work with a variety of camera types including a high megapixel DSLR, Micro-Four-thirds mirrorless, “bridge cameras”, “point-and-shoot” varieties, instant-film camera, and even an iPhone camera with interchangeable lenses. All of these cameras I use to create the art that I wish to make. Each camera is selected because it is the tool that I wish to use or I happen to have at hand. I have sold works to collectors with each of these camera types and have had images published from several of them. Its never about the camera.
I still really enjoy cameras though. My enjoyment is not because of what cameras can do for me, but because of what I can do with cameras! When I read about a new camera or lens, my excitement comes when I realize what I can do with them to achieve my vision.
The image below was made with a high megapixel Nikon D800 and an excellent Nikon 80-400mm G AFS lens on a tripod (of course). But I doubt this level of equipment was necessary to achieve my vision here. The location is Acadia National Park, Maine.
Wikipedia defines chiaroscuro as Italian for light-dark, in art is the use of strong contrasts between light and dark, usually bold contrasts affecting a whole composition.
Painters who employed this technique included Caravaggio (1573-1656) and Rembrandt (1606-1669). In modern photographic portraiture, “Rembrandt Lighting” is still a common device to add drama.
In nature photography, I can employ the concept of chiaroscuro by being very attuned to areas of light and shadow and emphasizing that contrast by exposing for the highlights alone and letting the darks go black. In the image below I was dealing with backlighting and a translucent subject which gives additional drama to the piece. Having such large areas of negative space (black areas) requires me to be especially sensitive to composition and balance in the image.
Photography as an art form is like any other two-dimensional visual medium. Many of the attributes of a successful painting need to be considered in photography. I strive to make images that are dramatic or peaceful, complex or minimalist, colorful or monochromatic. Understanding the impact of visual experiences on the psyche and how to employ visual tools, are all part of the process and fun of being an artist.
I love spring. The temperatures around these parts of Pennsylvania have been abnormally warm, and with Daylight Savings Time starting this Sunday, I am anticipating all that Spring has to offer. My creatively during the spring seems to get a boost from the new growth all around me. The break from the cold and colorless landscape drives me outdoors to express my joy without any particular image in mind, but just a desire to “sing” along with the returning birds.
Good, waterproof boots do help however, because it is going to be muddy!
The image below entitled Just Sing, was made in Bucks County, PA with a 500mm f4.0 lens and attached 1.4x TC (700mm equivalent focal length) on a beautiful spring morning. The print is available matted and framed from my website – http://tinyurl.com/z3u7ev6