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Planning and Serendipity

February 10th, 2014

Photography Blog for Feb 10, 2014

To plan or depend upon Serendipity for Photo Opportunities.

It was some time in the 80's, can't remember the year, and I had my trusty Canon Cameras with me as I drove around Northern Saskatchewan selling Pharmaceuticals for Smith Kline and French. The idea being if I saw something interesting I could take a picture of it and get something unique and beautiful. I was relying entirely on serendipity. Schedules got in the way, there was never any time to stop and do a good job, I never had the right mix of equipment for the opportunities that did arise and more often than not the lighting was poor. In short my lack of planning yielded very little in the way of results.

I still carry my camera with me and sometimes something interesting happens but more often than not the photos that I really enjoy are the ones that had at least some level of planning involved. A recent example would be a trip with my family to Lake Louise in Banff Alberta. I had spent many hours in this area hiking and taking pictures in the past and I knew a little of what to expect. I checked the weather because I knew that the sky could become dramatic if the right kind of cloud cover was expected and I also knew that at the height of the winter months the sun barely rose above the mountain ridges to the south of the lake in a sense making the whole day the golden hour. The family wanted to take the trail up to the tea house which allowed a view of the mountain ridges to the east and south of the lake nicely framed by the tall stands of evergreen that grew near the trail. I planned to bracket my shots and use HDR techniques to bring out the colors of the rock, the ice and the trees which when viewed with the naked eye can be quite monochromatic at this time of year. Other things that I knew I would need included a back pack for the various lenses, a tripod and a camera harness that would allow the camera to be ready and available but not swinging all over the place while I walked. As it turned out I was able to get some very nice shots for the day's trek.

So the planning involved a variety of issues: a. Knowing my location, b: knowing what kind of light to expect, c: knowing what kind of equipment I would need to get the shots that I envisioned, d. checking the weather to further help me with what to expect and finally planning ahead of time the post production techniques that I would need to produce the results I wanted.

All this doesn't mean you can't be successful using serendipity but I believe you up your chances if you spend time planning a shoot.


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Tax Time and Productivity Lost

January 22nd, 2014

Tax Time and Productivity

Like most people I do my own taxes and if it wasnít for software available from the various financial software companies I would be totally lost. Even with the software it takes a considerable amount of time to organize the data from the past year and get it into a form that makes it easy to enter all the various numbers into the tax software. Over the last few years the results havenít been pleasant. My wife and I almost always end up paying more and paying a fine for not having paid enough over the course of the year. This happens in spite of following the formulas available to calculate the needed monthly deductions.

I have begun to wonder just how much productive (money making, tax paying) activity is prevented by tax time. I am using time that would normally be used creatively to add material to our web site for sale. The productive activity ranges from being out taking photographs to doing the post processing and submission to the web site. For the next while much of that time will be taken up with taxes. If one takes all the people who are involved in the non-productive activity of tax preparation and makes an estimate of how much money is lost in non-productive effort I would bet that the amounts taken out of the economy would be substantial.

This, in my mind, is a strong argument for a flat tax of say 15% and everyone pays. Equal sacrifice on the part of everyone and the tax would be payable as the money is made so there would be no tax time at the end of the year.

How Much Do You Fiddle With the Image?

January 7th, 2014

How Much Do You Fiddle?

My wife and I get into a discussion on a moderately regular basis about how much you manipulate the world around you making it somewhat different from reality. This includes flooring, using real wood as opposed to laminate, creating a wall that looks like stone but really isnít and of course just how much do you post process an image before it no longer looks like what the naked eye actually saw?
I argue that manipulating images has a long and honoured past. Ansel Adams, whose photography is iconic, was a master at dodging and burning in the dark room. ( http://www.amazon.com/Print-Ansel-Adams-Photography-Book/dp/0821221876/ref=sr_1_10?ie=UTF8&qid=1389104670&sr=8-10&keywords=Ansel+Adams) Mr. Adams was also very good at manipulating exposure perhaps being the first person to write about the Zone System. (http://www.amazon.com/Negative-Ansel-Adams-Photography-Book/dp/0821221868/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1389105042&sr=1-1&keywords=Ansel+Adams+the+Zone+System) One could argue correctly that Mr. Adams was a master manipulator and the results speak for themselves.
A second issue that modern digital photography has brought to us is the ability of the camera to do a certain amount of post processing at the time the image is captured. JPEG files, the most common file type used in camera, are processed and the camera often gives the photographer a variety of choices about sharpness, saturation, luminance, contrast, white balance etc. In some respects the argument about processing vs not processing is moot.
I used to carry my camera with me in hopes of getting serendipitous images that were worth hanging on my (or someone elseís) wall. While I still have my camera with me I spend a great deal of time now planning what I am wanting to take with a picture already formed in my mind and it is this mental picture that I push the newly captured image towards using the software tools now available to us. At times the captured images need very little manipulation. Often however the conditions that I would have liked for an image did not exist when I got to the location in spite of planning. As a result I am not above replacing a sky, using adjustment masks to change lighting, using gradient tools or anyone of the tools available in Photoshop or software like it.
The amount of fiddling I do is determined by what my mindís eye saw before the image was taken. An example of the kind of thinking I do could be illustrated by a recent trip to Lake Louise in Banff National Park Canada. This may be one of the most photographed lakes in the world and itís a place that I have repeatedly visited over the years. I was there most recently on January 1st of 2014 with my family. During the winter in the high mountains scenes are very Monochromatic and at these latitudes the sun has a rough time getting high enough during the day to provide sun light to the lake itself. There can be at times very dramatic skies and cloud in mid-day with the sun just peaking over the southern rim of the mountain ramparts that protect the lake from the south. It was this that I wanted to capture and I also wanted to warm up the sky while improving the colour of the rock and glaciers.
To do this I relied on 3-image HDR series taken from a tripod and in some cases I used Photomatix 5ís new process where a single RAW file can be milked for all the necessary data to produce good HDR results. (http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/philipkaren-rispin.html?tab=artworkgalleries&artworkgalleryid=346248)
So my conclusion is that manipulation is important particularly if you want to produce something that you find pleasing and matches your view of the image you wish to create.

Phil R.

Marketing a New Skill to Learn

November 22nd, 2013

November 18th, 2013

So how does one start a blog, I am told by marketing people that blogs are important for business and I do want to sell my images. Who would be interested in my opinion on anything or who would be interested in my personal life? So where to start?
I turned 60 over the weekend and frankly I find that more than a little troublesome, mainly because there is so much left to try or learn to do. However as I grow older the time left to do some of these things is growing shorter. For instance Iíll never be in shape enough to climb Everest so that is out. A Fly Fishing trip to New Zealand while possible is not likely because family and time with the grandkids is paramount and they live 1600 miles away in the other direction. There always seems to be a good and reasonable reason not to do something.

Iíve been taking photographs and spending a lot of time and money on photography ever since I was in University in the 1970ís. Itís only recently however that I have wanted to sell my work. I have done a few weddings and Iíve done a little bit of portraiture but never with the intent of making a living. Now approaching what has been considered retirement age for some decades now I am thinking that I would like to take this hobby and turn it into income. To that end I have published one magazine article this year about Aviation Photography and another aviation magazine will be publishing pictures of mine in the next month or so. Iíve also joined FINEART AMERICA paying for their pro-services and spending a fair amount of time going through my large collection of images and posting anything that I would like to put on my wall hoping that others might feel the same way. I watch the listing of images that are being sold and while I rejoice with those who have sold their work, at the same time I wonder why mine are not getting any financial attention.

It turns out that one of the skills I need to learn is marketing, the act of selling yourself and your work. So where do you start? Apparently you start with your friends and others that you have some connection with. I worry about this because I have other friends who have taken this idea to heart and I am inundated by email and on FACEBOOK with pyramid sales material from people I have liked in the past but I am now seriously thinking about preventing their stuff from ending up in my mail box. If there are many others reacting the way I do then the notion of promoting your stuff to your friends may not be very productive and in fact may be producing some irritation if not out right anger. So the question becomes how do I get my material found by people who might actually be interested in buying it. A mystery I have yet to solve adequately.

Phil Rispin