Friday, 31 July 2009

What is eternity?

...and how can it be captured?

There's a proverb out that informs us that only two things are certain: death and taxes.

I may have a problem with the latter and hold a blithe indifference towards the former, but I believe that more than simple human interaction with the system of life is both certain and perpetual.

As a photographer, I need to look for more than simply composition in a shot - it needs to speak to me. Moreover, I have to be able to infer the thoughts and perceptions of those who will eventually see the finished product. I've said this before - there's no point in taking a picture and giving it a status that says, "This has meaning" when no one can understand it. Although not all meanings are apparent, there must be at least some faint aspect of a message or meeting to cause people to search a little more, look a little deeper.

Love is a powerful emotion - those who haven't experienced it can't relate and those who have can't describe it. Although my primary purpose in visiting China back in June was as a student, I also intended to find great photographic opportunities as much as possible.

It is a tradition for those who live near - or even not so near - to the Yellow Mountains (Huang Shan) to put a padlock on the chains between the fence posts up there.

The tradition started some time ago, and symbolizes the perpetuity of love in a committed relationship. China, with a divorce rate nowhere near ours here in America, views the social life of married couples much differently. Once one has found love, it "binds" him to the other for eternity.

This photo is in honor of my girlfriend's and my six-month anniversary.

The meaning behind a photo is important. I loved the way this was set up and loved what it stood for. It's not even folklore or a legend (which account for the reasons behind most of China's little rituals and customs), just an idea - the idea that love endures forever.

As it should.

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Shanghai revisited

The river tour I took in Shanghai was probably the best overall photographic experience of the trip.

The 45 minutes we spent on the river observing the city at night was great. In that space of time, the sun set dramatically over the city. It looked like this:

My computer decided it ought to look like this:

But really, it looks like this:

Currently, I'm in the mountains with internet filtered to block deviantART. I'll be uploading again on Monday.

I got my picture DVDs from China in the mail on Monday, so I'll be going through them for a while and posting the best ones all over.

That's all for now.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Casual Modelling and Human HDR

Before I say anything artsy at all, I feel as though I should apologize for not making the weekly posts I'd promised. I'd also like to apologize for the absence of every single other contributor, but I won't. They'll be back soon, I hope.


Glamour modelling isn't as hard as it's made out to be. For a lot of my teenage years, I was told I ought to be a model. And no, it wasn't just my mother, it was anyone: people in clothing stores, people in coffee shops (the most awkward conversation starter EVER)...I never followed up on that suggestion; as someone so perpetually self-conscious and not always confident in my appearance, I found it hard to accept that I could model clothing. I know I wear clothes well - modesty aside, I tend to be a well-dressed person (generally). As an artist, I know about color co-ordination and complementation, what clashes and what doesn't; not walking in a straight line tends to contribute to my fashion choices and consciousness anyway. It stands to reason I'd be willing, if not eager, to intern at a portrait studio of some sort.

I've always hated the typical female model figure. The pencil-thin body, artificial tan, professionally done hair, fake boobs, all that crap - hated it. That sort of image has become a false idol for young girls everywhere - they see some perceived reason to aspire to that kind of skin-deep view of themselves and their peers, and aspire to emulate every aspect of the typical mainstream female fashion model.

I'm of the opinion that anyone can look good if they put their mind to it. With the value our society places on appearance, it's important to at least try. And come on, you know we all do a bit of camera-whoring when we get bored.


"Human HDR" is in the title because I was always fascinated with the possibilities of HDR imaging, but never was able to make a human look good with higher-dynamic highlight processing. I decided to link the possibilities of human HDR imaging with the possibilities of casual modelling.

There's definitely some kind of message in the fact that two self-conscious people wind up with each other. There's a moral there. maybe it's the kind of problem that needs worked out together.

The raw camera file is below. I used full manual on my D60, 18-55 DX VR G ED basic lens.

There are several problems with this shot that become apparent. One of them was the wall of the house to the left, now cropped out. The other is the radio antenna going through her right arm. The sky's also pretty flat but that's alright when our subject is wearing such a busy outfit. I'm not a fan of flat, boring skies, but I can learn to deal. The last problem is those tan lines...kidding...

Photomatix Pro 3 allows the user to, instead of generating a full HDR with detail enhancing and tonal range compression, simply combine exposures of two or more images with S/H processing ranging from basic to intensive. I did a simple gamma pull on the raw file (after I removed the antenna with a brush tool - flat sky comes in handy for once!) and then combined them.

Technically, this is not "Human HDR" but it's close. Skin highlights are always interesting to deal with because the computer registers the skin as mainly reds and oranges - the same colors most often highlighted in direct-natural-light images. Notice the roof behind her - it got really vivid, which was a necessary sacrifice because those same settings brought out her natural skin glow so well.

Such circumstances make people look so pale. Can't have that. (In the raw file, she appears much paler than she is. The processed image is almost true-to-life!)

The final image is not only a great study in spontaneous modelling, but also great practice at achieving more realistic, higher-dynamic images.


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