Sunday, May 24, 2015

Minimalism - or lightening the load

Partially on the behest of my aching shoulder, I have recently started looking more closely at ways to carry less gear while out and about, while still being able to effectively take/make photographs. Now, before I go much further I do want to clarify that I am not about to get rid of my Nikon dSLR; although on my next "refresh" I may downsize the body.
What I have been doing meshes with the saying, the best camera is the one you have with you. And with that being my Sony  WX350, or my HTC One, I just needed to look at options for editing on the go. Now luckily for me, Adobe recently released a mobile version of Lightroom that runs on Android. Now I know some of you are wondering "why is he not using iOS?"; especially as he has a Macbook Pro. Well, long story short, I have a large investment into the Android platform and prefer the products. Which I just expanded on by purchasing a Dell Venue 8 7000 tablet (the one with the funky camera). With the Sony camera, the Dell tablet and Light room I have a pocket sized digital photo setup with higher quality than a cell phone. And it's pretty liberating to not be weighed down with gear, unless I choose to be.
While on the subject of the Dell tablet, I have to comment on the camera. Now, while I'm not likely to use the tablet for taking photographs (outside of ID photos for model releases), it's lightfield (think Lytro) depth enabled features do provide a very interesting set of options for creative experimenting. The tablet is equipped with 3 lenses, which work together to create three images that are combined in software to create a photo that you can change the focus point of after the fact; it also allows selective de-focus (blur). While this sounds good, in practice the software is a little heavy handed on the image processing. It is best to not dial the de-focus up too high or you will get patchy results. This is early days and I am hoping that future releases of the software will improve the processing and that the technology continues to improve.

To give you an example of what is possible with the tablet's camera, here is an example of one of my first experiments with it - please excuse the photo frame, I was also experimenting with the built-in photo editing software.

I have to say that I am enjoying trying new things and experimenting with my photography again. There is a time and place to be all serious and business-like, and other than that just enjoy what you are doing regardless of how it turns out. It's only by experimenting (success or failure) that we can grow artistically.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Self doubt and working through it

Ah, the bane of the creative mind; self doubt. So many times we are our own worst enemy and our internal dialog goes from figuring out how to do something to questioning why we are even trying in the first place. And this is when our creativity tends to dry up, which just compounds the issue and gives weight to the voices of doubt. Of course, what doesn't help is that we are not only our own harshest critics, we also tend to strive for that elusive 'perfection'...something that if I'm being honest, is a huge stumbling block that will never be achievable without having the courage to make mistakes; as it's from making mistakes that we can truly grow as artists. But that pursuit of perfection, when combined with a unhealthy dose of self doubt will guarantee one outcome - the 'death' of your creativity.

I know, that's quite some intro into this blog post and kind of 'heavy' but I know I'm not alone in all this; and it doesn't just effect photographers. It doesn't just effect me in my photography, as I experience it is my other life, in I.T where I'm a Service-Now administrator. And it was as a part of this other life that recently saw me spending a week in Las Vegas for a big conference (and some training classes), where I took a little break from shooting with my Nikon gear; too big and cumbersome to take with me, on top of everything else I had to take. That and it wasn't like I would really have a lot of time to be a photographer. So I decided to just be a 'tourist' and took a small Sony point-and-shoot and have fun.

The Sony in question is a Cybershot DSC-WX350 with a 20x optical zoom; the first thing I did was to disable the digital zoom as I knew it would already be limited in image quality (as apposed to my dSLR) due to the smaller sensor and small aperture range. But other than that I just wanted to take some pictures and not care too much if they were blurry, grainy or otherwise poor quality; I had no plans to try and market them in any way. It was a chance to shoot whatever I felt like and not care about anything but having fun.

I will say it was pretty cool being able to just pop the Sony in my pocket and have it with me at all times. I even used it as a visual note taker during classes and presentations - which was a pretty useful feature. Hell, I even did something I have NEVER done before in all my time as a photographer...I set it to P (program) and let the camera make all the decisions for me. And do you know what, I don't (didn't) care! I tend to other think a lot of my photography, so it was liberating to not have to think above pointing the camera, framing/zooming and pushing the shutter button. Now, will I ever do that with my Nikon? Hell no! Where that beast is concerned, I'm a control freak and won't automate it above Aperture or Shutter Priority - or where my flash work is concerned, I'm in Manual mode. But for that week at least, I spent a lot of the time in P mode and took photos, lots of them and had a blast.  And more importantly, there was no nagging internal voice questioning my actions, berating my work for not being perfect or criticizing my work in any way. And that is the point about this whole post; we all need to step back and take a break, and just have fun with our art. So what if the photos are not perfectly focused, framed, lit, composed, grain free or so sharp you can cut yourself on them; because photos like that are often so spread out in your career that you have to accept that a good chunk of your time will be spent dealing with imperfection, that the great photos will really stand out when you make them.

Embrace the imperfection because in doing so, you will grow as a photographer and you will keep moving towards making better photographs, because it's only in taking lots of photo that you will improve yourself. Make mistakes, make lots of them...and above all, enjoy what you are doing.

Here is a photo taken at the House of Blues, in the Mandalay Bay hotel, taken with my Sony DSC-WX350.

And here is a couple taken while I wandered the Vegas strip, enjoying the sights and atmosphere.