Photography should be about picture-making. That is, after all, why we get into it in the first place (well, most of us). This blog is for photographers, people passionate about making photographs, who want to share ideas and concepts, approaches and attitudes. And yes, there will, from time to time, be gear stuff. Oh, and by the way, while you can download and share this blog, all the material on it is copyrighted. All rights reserved, etc.

Monday, July 31, 2006

It's about Time

Kia ora tatou:

It has been quite some time since I made a post, and one or two subtle comments have made that quite clearly. Thank you.

I made the comment in a previous post about the transient nature of what we photograph. I think this is an idea that has been rattling around inside the Bridge head for some time.

One of the things we can do with our images( and should do) is to revisit them (assuming, of course, that we haven't suffered from a form of photographic self-mutilation and thrown them all out). Often it is the quiet pictures that can tell us the most, you know, the ones we tend to overlook, the images that sit politely in the background waiting for us to take notice, quietly confident, leaving it up to us to pay attention or pass by. Here is one such image, which has taken me some three months to come back to. May I extend my apologies to it.

I was walking on the beach at a place called Flat Point, which is in the Wairarapa, along with a friend and artist called Steve Lawrie. It is always fun to be out with a painter, because they see things you don't, and hopefully, you see things they don't. And here is an interesting point about the difference between painting and a photograph.

It's about Time, really.

A painter puts Time into his painting, both literally and figuratively. It takes Time for him to make the painting, and in doing so, he, consciously or unconsciously, puts an extended Time-Frame into his image. Because of that fact, and his awareness of it, it is very difficult for him to be really selective about a particular moment. Painters’ moments tend to be long, and tend to have a figurative nature that suggests things more universal than particular.

Consider this painting by the American artist Edward Hopper. The two people, a man and a woman, are sitting on a porch at night, having a discussion. They are illuminated by a light coming from the ceiling at center-left. The discussion is obviously serious. They might be talking about which McDonald's they will go to for tea, but somehow I don't think so. It seems to be one of those “relationship” discussions. It could be a photograph, a moment taken at a fraction of a second. But there is a sense of a wider Timeframe, and the sense that what we're seeing is the encapsulation of an event that somehow takes place over a longer Time period.

Of course it does.

Hopper may well have started from a photograph, or he may well have started from a simple memory.


The point here is that, in the process of making the painting, he must have thought about that relationship issue again and again and again. Every time he came to it, he might well have seen it in a different light, have seen a different interpretation of that moment. And of course consciously or unconsciously, he will have worked those ideas into the painting. Thus, the time taken to think about the moment has extended the moment, and the time taken to put paint on canvas has also lengthened the moment. It is the nature of painting.

Photography is radically and fundamentally opposed. Photography, by its very nature, is a documentary medium. We document moments in Time. Andre Cartier-Bresson, in his book The Decisive Moment, talks about this. Our selection of shutter speed dictates the slice of Time that will be recorded. Whether it is a fast or slow shutter speed, we're still really talking only about Moment. It has always been so for the photographer. A fast shutter speed slices the moment, very finely, while a slow shutter speed takes a bigger section. Either way, we do not have the opportunity to enlarge the timeframe post-capture in the same way that the painter does. Take this the next stage further and the crucial photographic issue we're really talking about is Time, and the exploration of Time.

Which brings me to the picture at the top of this post.

As I mentioned, Steve and I were walking along the beach, an untamed place, where southerly storms, still pumped up and ferocious, fresh from a wild ride up from the Antarctic, pound into the land. As we walked into the dunes, Steve pointed out these grasses. We stopped for a look, and there was a story writ small. In front of me was a narrative. The pattern in the sand told of wind, weather, and an event that had taken place over an extended period of time. The semi circular track in the sand resembled the face of a clock, the grasses the hands that described this event. As the grasses grew, the visual expression of this event would change. But the evidence was there, and no doubt had I chosen to look, I would have found its like repeated all over the beach. It is one of these wonderful times, when the part shows us the whole.

It wasn't a difficult picture to make, but it is taken me some three months to realise its significance.

Ka kite ano

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Lightroom 1.0 for Windows

Kia ora tatou:
It has finally happened. Adobe have released the Beta of Lightroom in Win. After listening to me foaming off about it for months, now you can get it here. I suggest you watch the video if you have broadband. It takes a little learning to drive, but once you get your head around it, nothing else will do..... Scott Kelby has released an EBook showing how to use it.
Be advised-theAdobe servers are running flat out, and downloading it may take some time!

BlueprintX Workshops

Kia ora tatou:

The new blog, BlueprintXworkshops, is now up and running. You can read about the Okuru workshop and see images made by the participants by clicking here.

There are a couple of articles contributed by Ian Walls, one of the participants, describing his impressions of the week as a whole, and of his feelings, visiting the Pioneer Cemetery at Jacksons Bay. A sort of online evaluation, if you like.

In the next couple of days I will add images and comments made by the others. Where they don't supply, I will fabricate a litany of lies (I love mixing cliches.)

Feel free to comment on the work. I am sure they would enjoy your feedback.

Ka kite ano

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Digital Intensive Workshop

Kia Ora tatou:

Last week's Okuru workshop was full-on, rained out and a lot of fun. When it rains down here, it doesn't muck about( although there is usually a lot of muck about)! The group produced amazing images, given the circumstances. Actually they produced amazing images period! I am in the process of building a companion blog to showcase their work and thoughts. I should have it up in a few days, so keep an eye out for it.

For those of you who can't get away to spend time down here, I will be doing a 5-day workshop at the University of Canterbury focusing on developing your skills as a digital photographer. the emphasis is heavily on workflow, RAW, and getting the most from your digital camera.

I will be (of course) running a number of cafe crawls (oops, fieldtrips), and at least one of these will be a get-up-early fieldtrip. The rest of the time we will be in the MacLab at UC, working on building workflows, learning new techniques and getting to know Lightroom. We PC drivers are foaming to see it out on Beta, so we can get into it. Frankly it leaves every other RAW converter in the dust. Actually, it is the first app to be able to take you from download to print in one go so it is more than a RAw converter. At the end of the week you should be able to use it with confidence. Which nmeans that when Lightroom of Wuin is released, you will have a head start.

But we will be doing other stuff as well. If you want to know more then look on UC's website
here. You can book online, or phone them. Call
(03) 364 2470 and ask for Shandley.

There are 14 places on the workshop, so if you want to come, be in.

Ka kite ano

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Kia ora tatou:

Over the last few months, as I have travelled, I have spent time amongst Maori communities, including Ngati Whakaue, Tuhoe and Taranaki. I have come to realise that for them their treasures are not so much material as historical. Their stories are what they really treasure, for the histories that surround them connect them to Place and Time. They do not give these lightly. Well, why would they? How ready would we be to hand our Ming vases to a stranger? And I began to realise how much the stories of a particular place inform my own picture making. I realised whenever I show my own work, there is a story I want to share. Which means that some memory or story however half-heard has an effect on my workflow and my ideaflow. Case in point:
We were travelling on a particularly inclement day up the Haast River when a slip on the road ahead meant we had to wait. So we took the time to make some photographs at a creek with the curious name of Roaring Swine (I would love to know the story behind that name!). I had been telling the others about Julius von Haast and his adventures exploring the region. Being one for historical trivia, I remembered the story as him and his Maori companion(s) along with a diminishing number of dogs as the food ran out, and how they would light a fire and then stand around naked while their garments dried. I imagined the thoughts they must have had as they made their way up an alien and forbidding landscape. It must have been quite horrifying at times.
As I walked around the area looking at the landscape, I looked at the forbidding and inhospitable environment. The clouds slithered and slunk their way along the ridges. In some way it reminded me of those old photographs from the 19th Century, made using orthochromatic materials, where the skies are white and it looks as if it rained every day, the ones where they print the details into the image and then make sepia prints. You might be interested to know that sepia toning was not a cool artistic thing, but was done for a very practical reason, namely to improve the lifespan of finished images.
Somehow the story and the memory of those old photographs came together. I wanted to show the landscape as a dark, gloomy and forbidding place, and at the same time reference both Haast’s experience and those old historical photographs.
So I made a number of photographs, looking at the cloud as it shambled like an ill-kempt dog along the hillsides.
Later I opened one up in PhotoShop. I converted it to greyscale, using the Custom RGB to Greyscale action in the Productions tab. I made sure I kept the sky values high and the shadows low by adjusting the sliders in each channel. I wanted deep shadows and slightly overbright skies.
I the added a curves adjustment layer. I pinned the shadows and highlight by clicking on those values in the image, noting where they fell on the curve and clicking those points on the curve. I then tweaked the midtones, trending them down. I finally flattened the layer.
The next step was to convert the image to a duotone. I used a Pantone mid-brown and again tweaked the curve to give a non-linear result.
Finally I added a text layer, and added some descriptive text, trying to emulate the effect of a hand-printed label. I lowered the opacity so the background image showed through.
A final flatten and save.
The point I am trying to make here is that there is another way of working. We have all heard of workflow, the process of editing and working to a final result. I would like to suggest that there is another equally important process-ideaflow. To have a satisfying result that informs, you need to spend time thinking through all the parts that inform the whole. Ideaflow comes before and feeds into workflow.
To do otherwise is to be content to place your feet in the footsteps of others and follow their path.
To share the grey joys of plagiarism.

Ka kite ano