“Variation makes us feel free.” ~ Robert Hass
What we do with our images becomes our art.
Play while you’re shooting—and while you’re post-producing your images. Give yourself permission to experiment. I’ve heard this over and over and believe it to be true now more than ever.
It’s the same with my writing. Words are words, until you breath life into them in your own unique, quirky, dramatic, unexpected way.
Take this image—a lovely focus stacking result during a visit to a North Carolina water garden.
I like it. A lot. Its not perfect, but I’m getting better at capturing sharpness throughout a three-dimensional subject.
However, the dreamlike quality of that day still wasn’t singing to me. And I need some healing botanicals to for some upcoming stationary projects—printing bright and shiny and eye-catching on linen and other fine fibers—and I wanted just a bit more from this captured moment.
So how about these?
Same image. EXACTLY the same post processing—with the exception of custom filters I’ve worked with recently in Topaz.
Oh, and the barn in the lead image? Here’s its beautiful “source” capture…along with it’s black and white and watercolor variations, side by side.
Again, the bulk of the work went into composing and capturing the image, and then working with it in Photoshop until I was satisfied—in this case, I was thrilled, because I FINALLY had a historic red barn in my collection that I adored.
I DO NOT see packages like Topaz as a “fix” for poor composition or detail or visual interest.
Yes, I’m writing this post because I’m a firm believer in the artistic value (and necessity) of improving your post-processing skills.
However, my process begins with capturing a solid, well-composed image first.
THEN, I put my creativity to work , in the field, “seeing” where my post abilities could take the image—as I’m working in-scene.
I see myself as something akin to a plein air painter, studying and interacting with my landscape, visualizing and imagining something into being with careful preparation and applied skill.
I’m mindful of doing as little modification to the actual image as possible in post. I want to enhance what’s there, not take away and alter until something totally different remains. Otherwise, my post work becomes a scrub brush that wipes away almost all of where I began.
Like the texture and color of this barn image.
I shot the structure from the other side, without all the brush around it, so that the tree and building and the mountains beyond took center stage.
But something about THIS unkempt, bucolic scene called to me. What an amazing truth it held, speaking to the the glorious, slow fading of a time gone by.
Our guide that day wasn’t impressed. It irked him a bit, my taking so much time with this alternative view.
The result would be messy and distracting. Look at all that wild overgrowth in the way. You can barely see the barn from this vantage point. And the barns where the point of our venture.
But he didn’t see what I saw coming, once I had the chance to play with the my vision…
Our art is what we see—during the beginning, middle and end of our process. What we foresee, what we capture, and what we create.
It takes a good bit of planning and effort to add “dreaming” to your creative process, long before you
load your images onto your computer and set them free in post. Trust me, though, it’s a skill set worth developing.
Here’s the “Nailed it!” shot from the day I captured those last variations. It’s all there: the barn, the tree, the mountains, the setting. I love the result, and I’m sure I’ll sell it.
But the other variations… They have a home, too.
One they’d never have found, if I hadn’t given that “other” vantage point a chance to become all my heart and soul and vision knew it could be.
So, the next time you’re out. Shoot well. Grab that “money shot.” Put all you know into composition and camera settings and lens choice and angle of view, etc.
Just don’t forget to set your mind free. Remember to create and move around and dream of what could come from investing time and skill into the many variations and alternatives each scene offers…
I promise you won’t be sorry!