01, 2005 21:12 PST
I went for a short trip today to Beartown Rocks, PA. It is a
near Cook Forest and Clear Creek State Park. People coming to
Rendezvous should take time out to visit the spot. I posted a
the ENTS website last summer from the place, although the
necessary to make the photos fit the webpage and load in a
cost them some of their aesthetic appeal. I took a few pictures
with a family group visiting the there. One
photo I took today I am using
for a desktop image. As I am sitting and looking at it I am
many of the photo magazine editors would say about the image. I
looked at their markups of images sent in by various
photographers in a
monthly feature in Popular Photography. Various editors each
mark up an
image and tell the photographer how the image would be improved
if it were
cropped differently, or if certain areas were darkened or
even suggest distracting elements be removed digitally.
The photo I took (a small version attached - I will post a
bigger one to
the Beartown Rocks Gallery later this week - the size of the
make a big difference on how it is perceived) is of a group of
growing on the edge of a large rock. The ones in the forefront
the central ferns above are back lit by sunlight along with a
brown fallen leaves intertwined in the ferns. Out of focus twigs
trunks form a background. I am thinking if this image was
submitted to the
magazine for the review, I am sure it would not come close to
cut. If it did - the fern leaves are not perfect, the fallen
have stems jutting out at angles - twigs cross in the
background. What I
see in these magazines is in many cases a search for perfection.
the editors want images that are perfectly groomed, not a leaf
place, perfectly exposed, neat, and organized. As I look at the
took - I like it. I like the jumble of fern leaves. I like the
framing the back lit highlights. I like the disorder. The
is not as neatly groomed as an English Garden and to some extent
be reflected in the images we take of it. I can
look at an image like
this and with each viewing find elements of interest, things I
noticed before. It is not insipidly well groomed and bland. I
effort to frame the pictures to capture the image I perceive.
That is a
choice. Taking a picture is in effect an act of
"editing" when you choose
the composition, subject, and exposure. But while trying to
compose a good
picture I am trying to capture an essence of what I see, not
something that is untrue to itself.
What has this to do with ENTS? I suppose it is a comment on how
experience and perceive the world around us - What do you notice
visiting the forest.
02, 2005 06:43 PST
Your e-mail strikes a resonant chord with me.
Photos that are too perfect and give the appearance of having
been manipulated often lose their interest for me. The market is
flooded with postcard images that are just too perfect and
consequently are more about the process of photography, the
equipment, and the photographer than about the subject. For some
people it may be a spin off of the phony virtual reality thing -
a way of thinking that one is capturing essence without getting
mud on one's boots. That route doesn't work for me.
02, 2005 07:25 PST
By sending us a rectangular image, you (and every other image
regardless of medium) force upon the viewer rules of composition
affect our ability to enjoy an image.
Humans have wired into them a need for visual balance, either
symmetrical or asymmetrical. When a tree trunk intersects the
of a scene it forces us to see it in two halves. If the
does not compliment that separation, the image will seem
incongruous...as yours does.
Visual chaos is good - especially when dealing with the natural
The uninitiated see visual chaos as expressive chaos. I think it
(folks who love the visual within the natural world)
help the newcomer recognize that there is a sublime order out
But we have to do it within the visual rules we all live by.
I could recommend some books about composition and other visual
dynamics, if you like.
Photography and tuliptrees
02, 2005 07:31 PST
Your concept of "manipulated" is an interesting one.
Do you consider
James Balog's new book "manipulated" images of trees.
How about those
images of roots descending into the abyss in the book
about my stuff made of three separate images. Are Ansel Adams'
manipulated? Mark Klett? Michael Kenna? Linda Connor?
What is photographic reality?
Are "stitched" images made by our guys as they gaze
straight up a
monster, shoot multiple scenes and then ahave a computer
What is an image but the creator's reaction to things around
I find saccyrin (sp?) overly romanticized imagery boring. Others
accuracy over emotion. What's your take?
02, 2005 18:17 PST
I recognize that the image is not the ideal. I have enough books
composition. I favor in particular many of the books by John
computer desktop is rectangular, and therefore that is the
appropriate, in this case, for the usage of the image. Most of
interpretation of what is good or bad about a photograph is very
subjective. That is the point I was making. I like the image,
what is important in my comments. You are not required to like
I could make a plethora of arguments about composition, about
so forth and justify the composition of the picture in a rush of
terminology. I choose not to do it.
Images posted to the web are restricted by many factors. One of
important is size. I have limits on how big a picture may be in
kilobytes, therefore also limits in terms of dimensions, amount
compression, that is practical to post to the ENTS website. How
is perceived is dependant on the size of the image and the
medium in which
it is presented. Surely you can not argue that an image looks
if presented as a 3 x 5 photo versus a poster sized image.
In regard to comments about manipulating the image. You are
the image when you decide what you are going to shoot. You are
manipulating it when you choose to your exposure. You are manipulating
image when you chose your focal length. Do you want to have
distortion with a wide angle lens? Do you want to compress the
with telephoto lenses? Do you want to stop down to increase
depth or open
up to have a shallow depth of field? Do you want to expose for a
second to get the feather blur on that riffle of water or do you
shoot with a flash to stop the motion in a ten-thousandth of a
second? When you process the image you are manipulating it every time
whenever you dodge or burn in the darkroom to darken or lighten
the image. You are manipulating when you choose what tonal range
emphasized and play with extending or sharpening the contrast.
do this using chemicals in the development of the film and
printing of the
pictures, or whether you do it digitally with your computer. You
manipulating the image.
You said to Bob, "Your concept of "manipulated"
is an interesting one. Do
you consider James Balog's new book "manipulated"
images of trees. How
about those images of roots descending into the abyss in the
SUBTERREANEA? How about my stuff made of three separate images.
Adams' images manipulated? Mark Klett? Michael Kenna? Linda
don't know who most of these people are off the top of my head.
find them by looking on the internet. I would say Asel Adam's
his images. I would guess the others are as well. The stitched images are
manipulated - I do many of them myself. The images you sent for
website are in black and white, that is definitely a
manipulation of the
image as eliminates color from the photograph. Black and White
is making a
comeback these days. That is a fine thin, because it allows you
emphasize form, shape, texture, and contrast over color. Many images are
much more powerful in that form. But yes these are
There was a nice discussion on the rec.photo.technique.nature
discussion list a few years ago by a group pushing the idea that
having their photos labeled as not digitally manipulated. I
thought ut was
funny considering how many other ways they were choosing to
alter how the
final image would appear - a representation of reality as
reality. Alteration of an image to my mind is something
don't feel in nature photography that objects should be
digitally added or
subtracted from an image to make it look more
"perfect." I don't think
parts of the image should be stretched and elongated beyond
distortion to create an image. I don't think objects should be
from different skies, different foregrounds, and different
subject to make
a perfect nature image. These are perfectly valid forms of
art, but it is not to my mind nature photography. Honest nature
photography may emphasize certain aspects of an image, but
should not be
adding elements that are not there, and should not be removing
are to attain a more banal image.
Beartown Rocks/Photography MY TAKE
02, 2005 19:29 PST
Well said, Ed. As with all forms of art, the piece- whether it
be clay, oil,
paper, a CD, or a photo- are all personal representations of
reality. I like some, hate others. It is all personal and just
as an oil
painter painting a scene can add one more brush stroke or not
paint the leaf
in the view, a digital photographer can do the same. If the
ultimate goal is
to present a message and save a place of the Wild, manipulation
necessary. I agree with you about the depth of manipulation
types, and about
not adding features not inherent in the image to begin with. I
trouble deleting an errant limb or leaf that distracts from the
misspelling???) I am trying to deliver.
02, 2005 20:23 PST
The small image I posted was a reduced version of the full image
camera. I change my desktop image frequently. One thing putting
image on the desktop helps me do is to explore the image over a
time. I use a program called Thumbs Plus to make quick edits of
I take. As an image stays on my desktop over the course of
several days, I
can play with different crops that highlight different aspects
image. I may try ten different crops to look at on the desktop.
I am sure
there are better crops to be found in the image I sent than the
In many images when you take them and get them home or on your
they are right - they don't require much work. The image as you
in the field is close to the final version that satisfies you.
images, like the one I posted, have some quality about them that
I like. I
am not always able to point at it and say this is what I like
image...but there is something there. If I don't find what it is
image I like the first time around, I may look at it again
months later and
find the quality that attracted me to the image. I don't think
strictly about composition. Composition is not unimportant, but
it is not
the only thing, nor is it necessarily the most important thing
When you are out in the field taking photographs, you are
searching for a
subtle quality that somehow speaks out to you, that you strive
in a photograph. Photographs like the one I posted bother me.
some aspect of these image that draws me, I just can't always
what that factor is. I don't believe considering it from a
compositional framework will help me figure it out. One photo I
many times this year was a large rock with a tree growing on
taken on the Rhododendron Trail in Cook Forest. It never quite
A couple weeks ago while looking at the image, I desaturatd the
converted it to black and white. That was what the image needed.
I like the panoramic format, both vertical and horizontal, where
dimension is much longer than the other. But it is not
every image. I have some examples in the Beartown Rocks gallery.
It is a
matter of what you like. The toadstools at the top of the Newest
page are cropped to a much narrower vertical dimension than the
I liked this crop better. My mother for example is used to
photos with a normal aspect and liked the full image better. I
like to get
the widescreen version of the movie, so I can see what was
the entire movie, many people hate widescreen and would rather
view it full
screen and loose that portion of the movie, because it looks
to them without the letterbox.
There are other shapes than rectangular, but they just look odd
to me. Out
eyes don't really function like cameras. We glance around,
the individual pieces into one image and it seems if we are
area than we actually are. Some areas have more detail than
see a squirrel in the tree, your eyes don't zoom in like a
but your focus you attention on it, to a very similar effect.
shooting video or film, a zoom on screen is considered a no-no.
So you are
right when you say:
"Visual chaos is good - especially when dealing with the
natural world. The
uninitiated see visual chaos as expressive chaos. I think it is
who love the visual within the natural world) responsibility to
newcomer recognize that there is a sublime order out
But I do not believe your final comment is correct:
"But we have to do it within the visual rules we all live
There are certain arrangements that seem naturally pleasing to
the eye. But
most visual rules are not there because they are self evident
irrefutable, but are there because they are what we are used to
people are loath to see or do anything different than what they
done in the past. So overall I disagree. Our definition of art
context of painting has changed over time, from the classic
the Renaissance to the cubism of Van Gogh, to the
abstracts of Pollack. Our understanding of paintings as art has
Why should we be restricted to "the visual rules we al live
when there is evidence from other artistic endeavors that the
rules we live
by are mutable and subject to change? It is an arbitrary
in the end I believe an fruitless one.
Photography and tuliptrees
03, 2005 06:11 PST
Your questions have prompted me to reexamine
my thinking on the
subject of photographic manipulation and embarrassingly I find
thinking is literally all over the place and my real concern far
from the response I gave. First let me say unequivocally that I
and respect the work of James Balog, who incidentally, is a
admire your work and that of Pakenham's and others who seek to
understanding and appreciation of trees. So my objection is not
works of artists such as yourself or the techniques you employ.
So, if I'm not talking about how each of
you perfects his/her craft,
what IS my point? Well, in thinking about it, my main discomfort
from what I see lurking in the background and that is a growing
reliance on high tech gadgetry to be substituted for substantive
appreciation and understanding. That is happening in classrooms
the country. When the message starts to be the technology rather
the subject, I find myself beginning to squirm.
I think that what is at the bottom of my
disgruntlement is our
society's increasing propensity to substitute virtual experience
that of the real thing. This past weekend, a friend of mine gave
good example on his visit to the Smithsonian Museum of the
Indian. Actual artifacts in front of a visitor were hardly
visitor's attention was riveted to the computer images that she
manipulate by rotating and flipping the images of the actual
nice, how wonderful, the visitor was heard to proclaim. One can
the visitor murmuring upon leaving, now what was that thing I
playing with? Incidentally, my friend is a personal friend of
- not lightweight to artistry.
For the scientist, the capability to examine
items via computer
manipulation has become an incredibly powerful important tool.
the visitors, dazzling displays of technology are little more
entertainment, which is okay to a point, but when is enough,
Yet, I wouldn't want to forego the value of high tech devices
us to peer into places that formerly we had no chance of seeing.
In a circuitous route, I find myself at the
door, not of technology,
but of mass marketing of what substitutes for understanding and
corporate drive to turn what should be exercises in serious
into little more than entertainment. But then, maybe I'm just in