Friday, July 19, 2019

Digital Camera Experiments

One of my projects over the offseason has been trying to improve as a photographer.  I've taken half-a-million pictures at Army Football games, but I don't feel like I've ever successfully captured the experience of being up in the stands at Michie Stadium.  That needs to change.

Alas, photography is a fully-formed and complex art form.  People spend their lives trying to take better pictures.  I'm not going to necessarily get where I want to be in a couple of weeks.  And yet, there is an enormous difference between wholly self-taught swimmers and those who've spent just a single year on an organized team.  I'm not looking to shoot at the Olympic level, but I would like to approach the comparative competence of a low-end high school letter-winner.  That seems doable, though maybe this is one of those occasions where I don't know what I don't know.

Seems possible.

My buddy Andy took this one at the 2018 Armed Forces Bowl.  He did a great job capturing the action, though I cropped it quite a bit for emphasis.  I also dialed the colors down a little to try to emphasize the drama of the action.  I like this 16:9 format, especially for football, because I feel like it gives the scene a scene of perspective and impending action.
As I've gotten into this, I've started to think that having a fully-formed writing style has maybe helped.  I am not a great writer by any standard, but I know what I'm trying to accomplish when I write, and I'm comfortable breaking down why things work.  I try to write simple sentences that are easy to understand, hoping that if I string enough of them together, I can create ideas that are insightful but still clearly articulated.  I also try not to write anything at random.

For better or worse, this is the approach I'm trying to take with photography, too.  I'm trying to frame shots so that they are about something, and I've been trying to edit and enhance my pictures with a purpose rather than at random according to what looks or feels right.

Took this at Mt. Snow last year on my phone.  I liked it
because it looked like we were riding the lift up into a cloud,
but I'm not sure how much this enhancement helps.
I have to say, though, that I don't feel like I understand nearly enough theory.  I'm sure there are basic structural things that I'm missing here out of sheer ignorance.  That hasn't stopped me from diving whole-hog into the medium, though, or from sharing my adventures with others.  Truth is, I'm enjoying this project.  But I have this sneaking suspicion that any real photographer will look at my stuff and see the flaws immediately.

I want you to know that I get that.  I made these mistakes out of love and ignorance.

I should say, too, that I hate explaining my work.  The work should speak for itself.  That's how you have your say as an author--in your writing.  Leave the arguments to the audience.  We do the best we can, but people bring their own experiences to their readings.  That's what makes art interactive.

With this project, though, I don't yet trust myself enough to let you necessarily just take what you will.  At least for now, I'd rather tell you what I wanted you to see and let you tell me whether or not that worked.  Hopefully we can move past this stage fairly quickly, but for now, this is where I am.

In writing, there are three levels of feedback:

  1. Is the spelling and grammar correct?
  2. Is the work structurally sound?  Do the scene structures work?
  3. What does this mean?  Was this a story worth telling? 

There's got to be a way to translate those concepts for photography.

Most of these are recent.  I've re-edited a few older ones for practice, but I've learned that nothing can save a picture if it's just not good.  I've been trying to be a little more purposeful with my photography, and it's helped a lot having a new camera.  For better or worse, though, some of the older stuff just isn't salvageable.

What can you do?

I took this in Rhode Island two weeks ago.  Cropped it just a little, and auto-correct suggested sepia-toning it.  Went with that.  This crop made it the Header on my Twitter profile.
Some experiments don't work.  This one, for example.  Took this shot in Manhattan on Wednesday using my phone.  Was trying to make the orange sign pop, but somehow I made the whole image muddy.  Gross.
Third Beach in Newport, Rhode Island.  Rare picture that came out better than expected.
I don't know that this is necessarily about anything, but I like the way the colors popped.
This is a walk-up bar on Water Island, St. Thomas.  So much of what I've edited has come out darker than intended.  My goal here was to capture the light from the original scene while enhancing the color.
Coral Beach, Water Island, St. Thomas.  I think that this is the best shot I've taken.  The scene itself was interesting in the moment, and I like this framing.  The enhancement successfully brought out the color.  We shot this at dusk.
More from Water Island, USVI.
Sally took this one of me body-surfing.  These kids weren't really watching me, but I wanted to keep them in the frame for balance.  I liked the original shot quite a bit, but I'm not sure I love the balance of colors in this edit.
From Miami (OH) at Army, 2018.  This was my favorite football shot from last season.
Took this with my  phone on Wednesday &
then edited to work on color and scale.
I took a bunch of pictures down at the Boat Club the other night.  This was my favorite both because Sally is very pretty & because I shoot so much that's far away.  I think this medium-close shot worked.
My coworkers really liked this one.
They say that shooting from weird camera angles helps you see the
world in a different way.  That turns out to be true.
The kids had been playing in the moments right before this, but they suddenly split up and went their separate ways.  I tried to capture the loneliness of that instant.
Fun fact: Army QC Coach Matt Drinkall was following me on Twitter.  Then I posted a bunch of these boat pics, and they scared him off.  True story.
Took this pic on Water Island, St. Thomas and then posted it yesterday as the new Header to my Facebook page.  My friends liked it.  I'm less sold, but the scene itself was certainly beautiful.
If you made it this far, your reward is a new
wallpaper for your phone.

That's all folks.  Let me know what you think.

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