James Vedder Imaging

See deeply in order to better photograph; photograph in order to see more deeply. -JNV dates are upload dates

January 2017

Part 2- Add More Meaning to Your Photos

What is meant by "meaning" here? One can think of several different “Levels” ["Depths" or "Layers"] to photography. We can use photography to: 1) Copy, 2) Enhance, and 3) Connect/Communicate.

The basic "Copy" level involves trying to capture a subject or scene pretty much the way it looks to the viewer at the time. In this copying mode, the photographer strives to capture colors as they appear, an image that is not too light nor too dark compared to the perceived scene, and so on. At first, this sounds like there's no creativity involved,and for many folks there is none. But in fact there's still a lot of room for variation and creativity... in choosing which subject to shoot, what vantage point(s) to shoot from, what type of lens and focal length to use, how close to get, what's to be included in the image,  and how the included subjects  will be arranged in the viewfinder ("composition").  Backing up a bit, there were choices as to  which camera to bring, where to go, what time of day to be there, and so on. 

So even in "Copying", there are lots of choices.   But when these fundamental "setup" parameters are established, copying is fairly straightforward with minor variations among shooters. Now, the goal of capturing a copy of a scene is an imperfect science if for no other reason than because the camera "sees" differently than we do.   Nevertheless,  at the "Copy" level the goal is to capture an "authentic" view of the scene... nothing more, nothing less, and variations among photographers at the same scene will be smaller than for other "Levels,"  if for no other reason than the commonplace use of "automatic" camera settings. There's absolutely nothing wrong with a good copy of a scene. But it is also possible to enhance the scene.

  Enhance - Beyond the goal of copying a subject, the next level is to use photography to "Enhance."  The concept is simple: the photographer wants to add or subtract or in some way, to  change his photographic result in order to "improve" it beyond what a point and shoot picture would offer.  Examples:  Adjust the exposure in order to change the range of light and dark tones, perhaps narrower the range of light & dark tones to "High Key"(mostly light values), or "Low Key" (darker values).  Colors may be made more vivid (saturated) , either because it was a dull day or because the photographer wants to "boost" the reds and oranges in a Fall scene or to deepen the blues of the sky... or, when the situation warrants, convert what is a color scene  to black and white in the print, perhaps to bring out the subject's form and texture..   Still another example of Enhancement is found in many treatises on portrait photography: soften the  light in a portrait in order to reduce or remove what some may consider to be 'blemishes,' and/or make the the focal point the eyes, even if other features are not crisp, in order t emphasize them ...and so on.

 Connect -  Beyond wanting to Copy or Enhance, there's a third broad category: to  "Connect."   The idea here is to go beyond producing an image, whether enhanced or not, to communicate a message of some kind to others, such as a story, mood, puzzle, message, feeling, an emotion.... well, it's your choice!

  Ask yourself: what am I trying to do or be in this particular shot, or even as a general style for your photography?  Of course, you can mix them up - one shot could be "just" the usual capture photo; in the next you might wish to enhance some aspects of the subject and/or communicate a feeling.

. So when you are shooting something,  anything, ask yourself what you might do differently if you were to shift from "Copy mode" to "Enhance mode" or "Connect" mode.   Are there aspects of subject or scene at that moment or in general the world around you  that you would like to emphasize, and/or share with or tell to or surprise others? 

 If, as we described in Essay #1, you begin to see more and to see more deeply, then you are ready for exploring and using  photography's different modes.  Then your photos will have more variety, more meaning, and you will be communicating to others your perceptions, insights, values and personality....

    Next: Essay #3. Exploring further your full Potential

Part 6 - Continuing Learning - Some Sources to Extend and Deepen Your Knowledge Base

Selected Books and Web-based Sources

Don't stop learning. When a person begins to think that they know it all, or that they know "enough," ..... that's when they begin to wither.

 This listing includes items of a practical how-to nature, a half-dozen at least on what we could call a why-to nature ... (some philosophy-of-photography discussions),... technical (but accessible) works on areas like depth of field and equipment testing,  a couple on special situations like macro-photography, dim light work, and even one on photography projects.  Don't forget other types of books by the Masters - Adams, Karsh,.... from whom we can all continue to learn.  Enjoy....Grow... and Fulfill. 

Books:

Ang, Tom: Digital Photography Masterclass: Advanced Photographic Techniques for Creating Perfect Pictures; DK, 2013. Despite the word "Advanced" in the subtitle, this book is quite accessible. And, he covers everything!. Each section has an image analysis, where an image is shown, some areas for improvement in it are identified (helping readers to "see" better), with remedies explained along with their results. Besides exposure, it covers composition, & lighting and has discussions/ examples of travel, portrait, documentary, landscape, nature/wildlife photography, sports, architecture and fine art photography. "Advanced," yet very accessible and insightful for all photographers. This guy is good!

Barnbaum, Bruce: The Essence of Photography - Seeing and Creativity Rocky Nook.com, 2015. Barnbaum is recognized as one of the world's finest photographers. But he doesn't "just" take wonderful photos: he knows what he's doing and why. He says: "Achieving a great photograph requires thought and preparation, an understanding of the photographic process and a firm grasp of how light and composition affect a photo [and the viewer]." So, he's a Left Brain Guy? Wait: he encourages us to look inward and examine our own passions and motivations. More than 182 pages of insights and wisdoms. Sub-title: Seeing and Creativity

Barnbaum, Bruce: The Art of Photography - An Approach to Personal Expression Rocky Nook edition; 9th printing [2016 ISBN978-1-933952-68-0]. Wonderful book for photographers at all levels. Although the book has chapters on techniques for both traditional film and digital eras, I believe his main contribution is on discussing the expressive, philosophical and creative dimensions of photography. Just listen to these sections: Finding your groove; Your interests and your imagery; Finding inspiration…; The heart of intuition and creativity; and Breaking the rules and following yours. Sub-title: An approach to personal expression. Amen.

 Busch, David D. & Rob Sheppard: Your Photos Stink! .... lessons in elevating your photographs from awful to awesome: Cengage Learning PTR, 2015. Busch has written dozens of guidebooks on how to get best use out of many different models of cameras (and sold over 2 million copies!). But in this volume, he and Rob sharpen your eyes via their examples of photos by using a critical analysis of how the photos could be or could have been improved. Not only do they cover the "expected" topics: creative cropping, improved exposure, getting closer to your subject, but a few unusual: "Capturing the Spirits of People and Animals," "Visualizing in Black & White," and "Effective Lens FX." The book includes photos by more than 40 photographers.

 duChemin, David: The Visual Toolbox: 60 Lessons for Stronger Photographs; New Riders, 2015; the author argues that fancy equipment - cameras and lenses and filters...- are not enough to make you a better photographer. What will? You must understand your camera thoroughly; see and think differently; critically study the works of others (as well as your own); and take thousands and thousands of photos... trial and error. Besides "thinking" things through, you must develop passion, patience, imagination, curiosity, .... and a refusal to follow "The Rules." [In a similar vein, see the book by Gross and Shapiro] 

 Freeman, Michael: The Photographer's Eye: Composition and design for Better Digital Photos; Focal Press, 2007. Mr. Freeman has written a number of books on photography, including this one and the next two. Emphasis here is on composition, but he includes Intent, and all sections will aid the reader's "seeing" by making her or him much more sensitive to surroundings.

 Freeman, Michael: Capturing Light: The Heart of Photography; Focal Press 2013. The centerpiece of this book is, as you see from the subtitle, Light: waiting for it, chasing it, helping it. Perceiving and capturing all kinds of light - soft, wet, gray, sun light, window light, spotlight, filtered, storm light, and many, many more. In photography, you should fully understand light, because that/s what we are really capturing! 

 Freeman, Michael: The Complete Guide to Night & Lowlight Photography; this is about a special situation: low light is not only "low" in amount, but of a different color temperature, quality of shadow, and requires 'larger' light capture (higher ISO and/or slower shutter speed and/or wider aperture, and/or "faster" [wider aperture] lenses - usually prime [i.e. not zoom]), with consequent issues of blur, noise, need for tripod and so on. Talk about situations! Applicable to what many consider to be the best light: light that occurs at dusk and dawn. 

Gross, Philippe and S.I. Shapiro: Tao of Photography, Seeing Beyond Seeing: Berkley: Ten Speed Press, 2001.] This book brings the attitude of "Tao" ["Dow"] to photography. The Tao attitude helps the photographer break away from the restrictions and fragmentations of traditional judgments and rules. A most unusual and rewarding book (that includes great photos and enlightening poetry!) This book ties nicely to duChemin's book, above. 

Kelby, Scott and Matt Kloskowski: The Photoshop Elements 13 Book for Digital Photographers; New Riders Publishers, 2015. [There are books as well on later versions PSE 14 and 15;  I believe that version  15 is the last software version to be produced, and it is not known how long there will be support, fixes etc or how-to books like this one.    Scott is a Training Director for the Adobe Photoshop Seminars and has published numerous books on Photoshop products, writing in a very accessible style. So, a 'rare animal': an accessible expert!  The coverage of this book is complete for after-the-capture activities, covering the management of photos already taken, all aspects of photo editing and manipulation though fixing common problems, and printing. 

 Larson, Elsie, and Emma Chapman: A Beautiful Mess: 95 inspiring ideas for photographing your friends, your world and yourself; Amphoto Books/ Crown Publishing, 2013. Coverage includes pre- and post-capture: How to capture your favorite people and pets in creative ways; add backdrops and props; use beautiful lighting;...capture yourself;....show off your photos in invitations, locket, storybooks, fridge magnets, .... coasters... and on and on.... A fun, but useful, book that has great illustrations and is fun to read.

Learning about  Lens & Other Equipmen Quality: see

http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/lens-quality-mtf-resolution.htm 

 and magazines e.g. Popular Photography; Occasional paperbacks such as: PhotoPlus: "The Ultimate Canon SLR Handbook" with videodisk, Barnes & Noble, about $29.

 See "MagBook" on Close-up Photography. MagBooks: "The Essential Guide to Close-up Photography, Volume 2" edited by Daniel Lezano, Peterborough, England. As the title indicates, this book-ette is about Close-Up photography, what it is, how to do it, close-up equipment evaluations, and more than two dozen "Expert Tutorials" in photographing water droplets, flowers, insects, bubbles and on and on. Throughout, issues of lighting and solutions. Good stuff. 

 There are related volumes from MagBooks, such as "50 Photo Projects, 2nd edition" (148pp, $15) with indoor, outdoor, lighting, creative and Photoshop projects. 

 Nightingale, David: "Extreme Exposure: Pushing the Limit of Aperture and Shutter Speed for High-Impact Photography"; New York: Ilex Press but published in the US by Amphoto Books, 2010. David covers both ultra-long and ultra-short shutter speeds, as well as ultra-wide and -short apertures and, of course, the situations in which these extreme settings are necessary. 

Piper, David: The Illustrated History of Art..."; London: Bounty Books, 2000. Mr. Piper illustrates (with over 2,000 photos) art history from the Ancient World, Medieval and Early Renaissance through the 16th century [Michelangelo, da Vinci et al], the Baroque [Rubens & Rembrandt et al], Eastern Art, the Age of Revolutions [1789-1917: Goya, Constable...], and art since 1917 [Surrealism, Cubism etc] including works of Turner, Pollack, Francis Bacon and Andrew Wyeth. [I am proud to have an Andrew Wyeth egg-tempera print hanging in our home.] What’s this art book doing in an essay on photography? Simple, it’s all to do with seeing and representing what you see, in many, many ways. Can’t hurt, can help. 

 Sartore, Joel: Fundamentals of Photography - Course Guidebook; The Great Courses, 2012. Most people know that the National Geographic employs only the very best photographers in the world. Mr. Sartore is one of them, a regular contributor to National Geographic, and is a National Geographic Fellow. He has taken photographs from the arctic to the Antarctic, on all 7 continents and all 50 states. He often documents endangered species, and in fact has published another book: RARE: Portraits of America's Endangered Species. Fundamentals of Photography is exactly that, a book of fundamentals - necessary equipment, focal length, shutter speeds, depth of field, light, color, and other technical aspects, along with "Seeing Well" and "Telling a Story with Pictures...", but written by a true and accomplished expert. 

 Sholik, Stan: "Shoot Macro: Techniques for Photography Up Close"; Buffalo NY: Amherst Media, 2014. Covers five dozen situations and procedures in the field of close-up and macro photography. He covers, among other topics, extending close-up focus via focus stacking, light-source setups, Smartphone photography, lenses, focusing, and examples from bugs and coins to Wetting to increase color saturation, Concise and practical [each topic succinctly spans 2 pages]. 

 In your fave bookstore (where you can turn some pages), look at the works of renown photographers such as  Ansel Adams, Henri Carter-Bresson, Yousuf Karsh, Margaret Bourke-White, Imogen Cunningham, Philippe Halsman and so on, but also greats you may have not heard about - Steve McCurry took one of the most famous contemporary photographs “The Afghan Girl” which appeared in National Geographic. [In my view it is her haunting eyes that make this photo one of the greats] 

 Selected Web Sources: Photo Projects: 52 Projects, one a week: http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2015/01/06/52-photography-projects-a-photo-idea-try-every-week-2015/ 

 Common problems and how to solve them: http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2012/05/04/99-common-photography-problems-and-how-to-solve-them/ 

Depth of Field: About: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/depth-of-field.htm Depth of Field Calculator: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/dof-calculator.htm Exercises to make you a better photographer: http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2014/04/19/7-daily-exercises-that-will-make-you-a-better-photographer/ 

 Filters - what are they, how to use them http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2015/07/02/11-important-photography-filters-and-when-theyll-improve-your-images-cheat-sheet/ 

 How to use your digital camera: http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2012/05/16/digital-cameras-what-the-manual-doesnt-teach-you/ 

 How to use the iPhone Camera: http://ipod.about.com/od/introductiontotheiphone/qt/Using-The-Iphone-Camera.htm 

 Macro (super close) photography: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Macro_photography 

 Macro (super close) photography: http://www.dpmag.com/gear/lenses/intro-to-macro 

 Manual Focus - Why you need it, How to use it: http://www.digitalcameraworld.com/2012/05/03/manual-focus-what-you-need-to-know-to-get-sharp-images/ 

 Megapixels: How many do you need?: http://connect.dpreview.com/post/1313669123/how-many-megapixels 

 Middle Gray exposure standard: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Middle_gray National Geographic Photos access: http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/ National Geographic Photography Tips: http://photography.nationalgeographic.com/photography/photo-tips/ Shutter speed/ motion blur or freeze: http://www.infotor.com/blog/shutter-priority-for-action-freezing-creating-blur/ Still life photography: http://photography.tutsplus.com/tutorials/10-tips-to-get-started-with-still-life-photography--photo-8278 

 Taking photos in fog, mist or haze: http://www.cambridgeincolour.com/tutorials/fog-photography.htmy

Finally, all these sources may have you considering new equipment.  How do you go about screening and choosing equipment.  Well, consider Camera and Lens tests for your equipment or your intended purchases or gifts: Google "Camera" and "Lens" reviews and choose, from among the results, reputable sources including these: dpreview, dxomark, CNET, photo.net, photographylife, and a guy named Ken Rockwell who is very knowledgeable (and opinionated) and truthful.  When this broad search comes up with particular cameras and lens models, re-search these including the works 'review' or 'test'. 

Well, this listing should keep you busy.....  and growing in knowledge!   JNV