“Art doesn’t just happen by accident. It is about pulling out new tricks and trying new things.”
Returning to work after taking a real, true break over the holidays combined with our wonky weather again limits the time I can spend working on my photography. But I am bound and determined to put in more reasonable hours at the office this year and to continue to shoot every day.
Last week began with thoughts about the latest DGrin challenge and some bits of slantingly bright late afternoon light across the fireplace mantle reminded me of a still life I’d once considered but put on the “backup shot” list in favor of then-easily-accessible subjects. Now, with scant shooting time during daylight hours and a wide open challenge theme, it seemed a good time to at least try it.
My camera will meld multiple images together to create just one so I decided to use that little tool to take this shot. It’s a marvelous way to create images of fireworks but now each image had to fall onto exactly the same spot in each frame so it was a bit of work for me to get everything locked down solidly since my normal shooting style, even with the tripod, is to have everything very loose so I can move fast.
After a couple of tries, I got it. I also attempted using HDR post-processing to achieve the same effect since I’ve been wanting to play with that, but liked the in-camera merge much better.
It’s pretty and I got the light I wanted, yet I wasn’t entirely sure about the second candle (on the left) so decided to restage and reshoot the next day using only one. After contemplating the results, during post-processing I carefully turned the reflection in the mirror into black and white in order to create a more specific focal point in the scene and help inject a sense of drama.
Nice and clear and nicely brooding. But I wasn’t sold on either one for the contest. The next day, a return to grey and gloomy daylight, I decided to once again try some HDR post-processing on a rather mundane, wee bit of perspective out in the backyard. Once again, I didn’t like the results but I did like one of the images and again chose to do a bit of additional post-processing to desaturate parts of the image. It’s a technique I like a lot but don’t use often unless, as especially in this case, it adds to the story element of what would be an otherwise bland and rather nondescript photograph.
I suppose it’s a good thing that my personal photography preference leans towards documentary instead of fine art; at this point I was starting to feel a little unfulfilled and antsy. But I needn’t have worried; whoever it is that seems to think documenting the hawks and squirrels in the ‘hood is my prime directive decided to shift my jealously-guarded shooting time back to feathers and fur and so it was that on the one truly gloriously-lit morning of the week I ended up with some really beautiful photos of our local red-tailed hawk.
This promptly became my choice for the contest. It would eventually have some of the upper branches cloned out so as to simplify the focal point but to find every bit of clarity of which Matilda is capable ringing through delights me to the point of feeling vindicated in my persistent efforts to harness her considerable powers over the last year and a half.
Then the weather turned on us with a vengeance. Another big storm began to brew and as if in some sort of pathetic consolation, the pace at work also picked up, pushing my Muse temporarily off to the side. No sign of hawks, no time to wait for the furballs to perform any kind of unusual antics; I was left with just our very small and now very bleak landscape and to reflect it, went to black and white.
All day on Friday the snow came down. First in fits and starts, then a steady stream of flakes accompanied by bitter cold. The hawks continued to remain absent, but the furballs were out and foraging earnestly in case they’d have to hole up for a day or two. Bob had dumped the last of the small gourds into the garden, and the weather apparently signalled the squirrels it was time to open them. This provided me with some great photo ops, of course, but to my surprise, a crop of one photo down to an unintended focal point left me with what has surplanted the red-tailed hawk as my final choice for the challenge:
I could nitpick this image from a purely technical perspective, yet even when all the nits are summed up they do not seem to override its unique quality and subtle air of charming unexpectedness. More snow and a cooperative model allowed a reshoot the next day and I got what I was after originally:
Although technically superior, the same emotional appeal seems to be lacking. It doesn’t seem to tell a compelling story or perhaps it is simply missing the vague sense of urgency as is contained in the accidental version. And it’s not just me. The “accident” has received an unusually large number of (positive) comments from the daily photo community.
Who’da thunk it?