Photosjhoot: Blog http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog en-us Stephen J Herron stephenherron@icloud.com (Photosjhoot) Thu, 19 Apr 2018 13:51:00 GMT Thu, 19 Apr 2018 13:51:00 GMT http://www.photosjhoot.com/img/s5/v117/u826962416-o541551793-50.jpg Photosjhoot: Blog http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog 90 120 A little bit... disappointing? http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2018/4/a-little-bit-disappointing I recently picked up a Fujifilm XE2S for a steal from Adorama. I already had the XE1 and had been very impressed with it, so getting the last version of the camera before the more recent and lauded XE3 made a lot of sense.

It is a little bit disappointing.

For the XE1, I didn't have high expectations at all. It was an older camera, second-hand, and cheap. It did a really good job for what it was.

I may have had higher expectations for the XE2S, but so far it's been a bit grainy, a bit soft (with the 40mm and 23mm f/2) and just a tad on the "meh" side.

It's making me miss my X100T, which is going to be going back into my day-to-day bag again.

Having an exchangeable lens body as a back up to the XT2 is great, and with good lighting, the XE2S is likely to be perfectly serviceable. I had just expected a little bit more. 

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stephenherron@icloud.com (Photosjhoot) http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2018/4/a-little-bit-disappointing Thu, 19 Apr 2018 13:50:34 GMT
A Daunting Task http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2018/2/a-daunting-task It's something that I've been putting off for over a year, now. I've prepared for it, if on subconsciously, by organizing tens of thousands of files across multiple hard drives, with terabytes of data sitting waiting for my further attention.

The task? To go through 6 years worth of digital negatives and finally, permanently, forever delete the truly awful unusable shots.

Before I even got back into photography, my good friend Peter Clarke, told me that one should never delete one's digital negatives. You never know, he said, when you might need them. Certainly, I've returned to shots years later to see what I can do with improved skills and updated software (the shake reduction filter in recent editions of Photoshop has been a real eye opener, for example). 

But so many of those shots, especially in my first couple of years, are just bad. They are practice shots, out of focus shots, shots of me trying to get the exposure just right. So many accidental shots of pavements or my own feet, as I'm confirming that the autofocus is working.

There are fewer of those kinds of shots now, thankfully. I'm pretty sure that of my, say, 50,000 RAW and RAF files (for Canon and Fuji), most are from those first three years, and about 1/3 of them are either unusable, or I've already picked out the best shot from a series. 

Professional shoots are a bit different. I took many thousands of shots for Crain's Cleveland Business when I worked there, most of events and award ceremonies. The best of those shots have been published already. Are the rest of the shots really needed?

It's such a deeply ingrained instinct, though. I feel anxious even writing about deleting negatives. Other fellow photographers have made the valid point that if I didn't like the shot when I first looked through them, why hang on to it? Beyond the possibility of redeeming an "almost" shot with better skills and miracle photo processing options years down the road, it's valid.

Here are a couple of ways one can help make this process easier. I think.

Build the Purge into your Workflow

I typically import photographs into Lightroom and then quickly go through all the shots, scoring them 1 or 2 stars. This is a simple bubble-sort technique, with 1 star going to shots that are technically bad (exposure, blurred, out of focus, my feet) and 2 stars going to shots that are at least in focus and close to the right exposure. 

In the second pass, I uprate decent shots to 3 stars, leaving the "meh" photos at 2.

And then, yes, I go through all the 3-star shots, and I'll rate the shots I really want to work on at 4.  If I spot something that's clearly amazing at any stage, it'll get rated 4 stars right away.   Lightroom Scoring

I tend to not bother with 5 stars until all the processing of 4-star photos is complete.Any 5-star images are the kind of shots I will put in my portfolio.

Of the 4 and 5 star shots, I'll flag the keepers as well, since these are probably the shots that I feel the client should get. If the client is me, the "picks" are what will go up on Facebook or this site.

So, as you can see, I could probably just delete all the 1-star negatives right away. It's possible that even 2-star images could be deleted, but that's a tougher call. Sometimes it's worth going through the 2-star shots again, just in case there's something you missed before. Ideally, you'd re-score all the 2-star shots as 1s or 3s, but that's often a lot of extra work and by the time everything has been edited, you might not have the energy for this final pass.

I am not an expert in Lightroom workflows by any means, but I think these scoring passes represent the most basic helpful workflow that one could practice. Let me know if you have other ideas, or if I've missed something.

Wait and Purge

This other method, which is more or less what I'm planning on doing myself, is to wait a couple of years and then go back through your digital negatives. By this point, there's enough distance from the act of taking the shot to add a sense of detachment and hopefully bypass any paranoia about deleting something as important as a digital negative. 

I think this will be easier, as a quick glance will tell me all the 1-star shots without even having to look at old Lightroom catalogs. That's about as far as I'd be willing to go before needing to check old scores.

So wish me luck. This is going to be a time-consuming process, well-suited for Winter when it's harder than usual to get out and take pictures.

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stephenherron@icloud.com (Photosjhoot) digital lightroom negatives workflow http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2018/2/a-daunting-task Mon, 05 Feb 2018 11:40:00 GMT
The Duty to Share http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2018/1/the-duty-to-share (Content Warning - Domestic Abuse)

I've been exploring the idea of motivation when it comes to why we take photographs in the first place. I've talked about the photographs we take specifically to share, and those that we take for ourselves, perhaps never to be seen by others.

There are some photographs that need to be taken, and that need to be shared. They might deal with difficult topics, such as death, sexuality, violence, and other challenging concepts that we often try to avoid in our day-to-day lives.

Sometimes, you might take a photograph that captures something personal, like sadness, joy, grief, despair. Is it okay to share those photographs? If so, does the “when and where” matter?

Michelle Bogre's book, Photography as Activism: Images for Social Change is a very thoughtful exploration of how important some images are, despite being challenging or difficult to take or to view.

One of the photographers highlighted in the books is Donna Ferrato. A documentary photographer, Ferrato's book, Living With the Enemy, highlighted the stark reality of domestic violence.

It began when she captured images of violence between a husband and wife with whom she was friends. Despite being shocked when she first witnessed the husband (Garth) hitting his wife (Lisa), Donna instinctively took a photograph.  She was not merely a passive observer, however. When he went to hit Lisa again, Donna grabbed Garth's arm and pleaded with him to stop. He told her, "I know my own strength and I'm not going to hurt her -- I'm only going to teach her a lesson."
(Note that the names were changed in the publication, hence the different names in the caption below)

Ferrato became an advocate for the men and women who suffered domestic violence. For the next 15 years, she spent over 6,000 hours riding with the police, visiting families, shelters, prisons, and documenting the real people involved in domestic violence on all sides. Her book Living With the Enemy helped to change the landscape, shining a light on something that had been very difficult to talk about. Based upon her images, several states increased the penalties for men convicted of domestic violence.

It’s important to note that Ferrato wasn’t just standing back watching. Her instinct as a photographer was to capture what was happening. Not because she was thinking of how powerful the photographs would be later, or because she had some idea about publishing a book on domestic violence,  but because it was who she was, and what she did. She formed a non-profit called Domestic Abuse Awareness, Inc. and used her photographs to raise money for women's shelters.

"When people let you into their lives to photograph and what you see is hardcore, how can you not want to help them? Photographers should not be afraid to get their hands dirty. We have to stop thinking like dilettante photographers -- you know, the "my job is just to take the pictures" -- I don't buy it when you are photographing in tough complex situations." - Donna Ferrato

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stephenherron@icloud.com (Photosjhoot) http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2018/1/the-duty-to-share Tue, 09 Jan 2018 21:27:23 GMT
Photography and Motivation: Taking Photos for Ourselves http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/12/photography-and-motivation-taking-photos-for-ourselves In my previous blog, I started talking about our motivations for taking photographs. 

Vivian Maier is one of the best examples of "for ourselves" that I can think of. Her photography was very personal, and while she did take photographs of a more traditional ilk (pics of children for their parents, documenting her work as a nanny) most of her work was never really intended to be seen by anyone else. Indeed, there are undeveloped rolls of film that have been discovered, which means that Maier was taking photographs faster than she could (or would) process them and that even she might not have seen many of her own photographs as finished products.

So why was she doing it at all?

There's one photograph in particular that always evokes a strong emotional reaction for me. 

http://www.vivianmaier.com/gallery/self-portraits/#slide-13 

(Please click on the link: I've not yet received permission to reproduce the actual photograph.)

You can see it on her face, she knew that this was a good shot. That playful smile also speaks to her sense of humor. Perhaps she also realized that the shot was kind of a cliche, maybe even silly and frivolous. That makes it no less brilliant. And I have no doubt that her smile here was for herself alone, a joke shared with her reflection that no one else would ever truly get.

Vivian Maier took a lot of mirror selfies; you can see more of them here: http://www.vivianmaier.com/gallery/self-portraits - but importantly, I think her reflection shots talk as much about her place in the environment and the frame of the shot as they say about her. Susan Sontag talked about the camera as a barrier between photographer and the world; Vivian's selfies place her within the world, even as she remains slightly apart. A reflection is not the same as the thing it reflects. It is, like a photograph, a two-dimensional representation of a real thing. It's also reversed, setting it apart even more. But it's subtle.

Her shots where her presence is reduced to a shadow abstracts this idea of being a part of the composition even further.

This relationship between photography and her own reflection is a very powerful metaphor for me, speaking of the intimacy of the moment of capture, of the quiet triumph that comes with a good shot, or at least a shot that satisfies you, on your own terms and for your own reasons.

Sometimes a shot might be very satisfying technically; you know how hard it was to compose, or how difficult it was to get the lighting just right. It might not be very interesting to anyone else, but for you, it represents a step forward, growth in your skills or ability to capture your vision.

Some shots are very personal. Maybe too personal to share with others. Not because they are erotic or contain sensitive material (though they might), but because they are too emotionally intimate. Perhaps they might mean nothing to another viewer.

My father passed away in early November 2017. As I write this, it's still very recent, only four weeks ago. The day before he passed, I was wandering back to his room after visiting the little shop. I noticed this elevator door as it was closing, and saw the hand-print. At the time, it struck me as plaintive and lonely. It wasn't a large hand-print either and looked like it might belong to a child or teenager. 

I've taken photographs of elevator doors before. I am intrigued by the imperfect mirror of stainless steel, and the relationship between a lift door and the vague reflections within. One stands, waiting for the lift to arrive, or for the journey to be over once you're inside.

In this case, the hand-print was on the outside of the door, and I very much had a sense of the weariness that the owner must have felt to need to lean on such a temporary surface as an elevator door, a feeling born of illness or sorrow. It could have been my hand-print, given how I was feeling. They had been waiting for the elevator, I felt.

It had been a long wait.

 

I took the photograph on my iPhone because I wanted to remember how it made me feel. This photograph was for me. 

But I did share it on Facebook and Instagram. It was abstract enough to resonate with others in ways personal to them, while still allowing me to communicate my own sense of grief and sorrow in a way that words could not do justice.

There are other shots that I've not shared publicly. There's one I took of my father's favorite chair a couple of days after he passed away. The shot was unplanned. Technically, I suppose it's a decent shot. The lighting is interesting, and it's definitely moody. But the deeper level of meaning is so personal, and still so raw, that it's still too soon to share it. But I think that, at some point, I almost have to share it. So did I take it for myself? Or for others? If I do share it on social media or on this site, does that make it inherently no different from a photograph of my dinner at a fancy restaurant? Or a selfie? Why would anyone ever share anything so personal with strangers? 

This leads me into the final part of my series on motivation and photography, where I'll talk about the responsibility photographers may have to document the difficult and challenging, and to share those images with the world.

But I'll leave you with a question, and feel free to respond in the comments below: do you believe there are some photographs too personal to share? Have you ever taken any?

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stephenherron@icloud.com (Photosjhoot) blog motivation philosophy photography http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/12/photography-and-motivation-taking-photos-for-ourselves Sun, 10 Dec 2017 14:30:00 GMT
Why Do We Take Photographs? http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/12/why-do-we-take-photographs This is a huge question.

And, honestly, it's not one I'm really qualified to answer.  If you're looking for opinions on this, Susan Sontag's On Photography is an amazing book, though purposefully contentious, and while it's arguably not aging particularly well (her argument about photography being voyeuristic, or the camera as barrier to the world around us could not possibly survive the unforeseen coming of Instagram, Snapchat and the proliferation of digital images) it's still fundamentally relevant.

But what I would like to do is vastly over-simplify the issue down to two motivations; do we take photographs for others, or we take photographs for ourselves?

Taking Photos for Others
The drive to share an experience is noble and identifiable. It's why we take holiday snapshots, or take photos at a wedding. The ability to document big life events was enhanced greatly with the invention of photography, and once digital photography became commonplace and ubiquitous there was no longer any reason not to document the little life events, too. Selfies aren't remotely new, but they've never been easier. Taking a shot of a nice-looking plate of food at a restaurant might not have been worth the cost of film and processing (and the hours/days you'd have to wait to get the photograph back), but it only takes a couple of seconds now to have people all over the world clicking LIKE or LOVE. It's almost like they're there with you.

Technology is obviously behind all of this. A high-quality, simple-to-use digital camera is in the pocket or purse of about half the world's population.

A guy called Ben Evans did some research in 2015 (already two years out of date, so all these numbers are going to be even higher now). His estimate was that the total number of photographs ever taken on film ranged between 2.5 to 3.5 trillion. That's over a period of, say, 180+ years.

According to the report InfoTrends Worldwide Consumer Photos Captured and Stored, 2013 – 2017, 1.2 trillion photos will be taken in 2017. That's nearly double the number from 2013.

Let's assume that almost all of these images are going to be shared. Social media is highly optimized around sharing images, so let's also assume that the intent when taking the photograph was always going to be sharing it with others. 

There's immediate feedback when you post a photo on social media. Likes, shares, comments; these are all little instant psychological rewards for taking and sharing a photograph, and the more encouragement one gets, the more photographs one is likely to post.

It's a feedback loop encouraging the taking and sharing of more images and that's why these immense numbers are steadily increasing year-on-year. Instant gratification on multiple levels: you take the shot, you immediately see the image, you immediately share the image, you immediately get encouragement.

In the majority of cases, I'd argue that the vast majority of modern photography occurs after the thought, "I am going to share this."

This is what I mean by taking photographs for others. What we get from it is recognition and affirmation from our social media connections, in those immediate little brain chemical kicks that we get when we get a like or share. 

Sometimes I'll see something that makes me reach for my camera. Usually I am thinking, "what would x think of this shot?"

This imaginary audience is almost always a specific person, or a handful of people. Much less often, I have a generic audience in mind, and I'm thinking about if the shot is commercial or not; could I sell a prints of this? I'm rarely this calculating, though. That said...


Tree of Life (Purple/Green) (c) SJ Herron 2017

This shot is one I'm considering selling as a print, only because a couple of people saw it on Facebook and asked if they could buy prints. I added a color background to the shot mostly to see how it would look, but partially because I think that offering the print with different color schemes might make it more appealing to a wider range of potential customers. The more prints I can sell, the more camera gear I can purchase. It's really pretty straightforward in terms of a motivation for sharing an image.

Most rarely of all, I take a photograph because it means something tremendously personal to me. It might not even be an image I return to often, or want to look at much, but it felt important at the time. I have a few like this, that no one else will ever really see. But not many. In an ironic twist, I'll share one of these shots in my next blog, which will talk about that other motivation; taking photographs for ourselves alone.

 

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stephenherron@icloud.com (Photosjhoot) philosophy photography http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/12/why-do-we-take-photographs Sun, 03 Dec 2017 13:30:00 GMT
People versus Things http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/11/people-versus-things As you know from work and family, people add drama. All stories are based on drama of one kind of another.

No matter what you're shooting, when the photo includes people, it's probably going to be more powerful and tell a different kind of story. Perhaps multiple stories on different levels, not all of which will be obvious to a viewer. 

I took the photograph below in the Great Smokey Mountains, at Cade's Cove. It's an absolutely breath-taking location, but even where I was standing to take the shot were maybe half a dozen other photographers. Normally I'd not have bothered, but out in the meadow, a gathering was taking place.

It was a wedding, and I immediately knew that this was something worth shooting. The addition of the wedding party, mid-ceremony, turned a beautiful (if overdone) landscape shot into a unique image. Before, it was just a beautiful view. Now, there was a story.

The juxtaposition of small against large in a photography is often engaging. In this case a group of tiny humans against the majestic and vast mountains.

Likewise, there's a juxtaposition between the concept of people and humanity, fleeting and always on the move, against the static timelessness of the landscape. 

One might ask what these people are doing here. If you look closely, you might be able to make out a wedding dress. And this is at the heart of why I took the photograph at all. It's because I was there on my honeymoon.

For me, at that time, the concept of being married (or re-married) was very large in my mind, having gone through it a month before. So, I connected with this scene on a fundamental level. For me, even though the people seemed very small against the mountainside, what they were doing was so much bigger. As big as a mountain, in fact. So the juxtaposition wasn't physical, but metaphysical and spiritual. Marriage is as big as a mountain. 

The only way I could really communicate that with the photo was to make sure that the title reflected what was going on. "Cade's Cove Wedding" helps me communicate the significance of what was taking place, and can perhaps help communicate that deeper level of meaning to viewers.

Ultimately, though, I'll always connect with this image on that most personal of levels, and it will always remind me of my honeymoon and my wife. And that's about as pure a reason to take photographs as you can get.

One of my upcoming blogs will talk a bit about this concept of motivation, and I'll be talking specifically about Vivian Maier's photography, and why it means so much to me.

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stephenherron@icloud.com (Photosjhoot) composition drama people photography stories http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/11/people-versus-things Sun, 26 Nov 2017 15:00:00 GMT
Finding a Unique Take on the Commonplace http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/11/finding-a-unique-take-on-the-commonplace The cliched and commonplace isn't always as dull or "been done" as you might think. Photographers like Stephen Shore are able to capture the beauty in the mundane everyday, turning diners and living rooms into places where a story is taking place; because that's where most of the real stories happen.

Likewise, finding a place where tourists don't go or don't know about, can help you find a unique shot.

In 2012, I was visiting my family in Northern Ireland. One of my friends from high school told me about an out-of-the-way graveyard in the countryside he'd recently discovered, and suggested that we go take a look at case anything was worth photographing.

The graveyard was very old and very beautiful, but it was in the quarter mile walk from the road to the graveyard that I saw this:

Three Trees in AntrimThree Trees in Antrim

There was something about the three trees cresting over the hill that really struck me. In the end, it was an accidental find, given that we were there for something else entirely. Being open to possibilities is definitely a big part of being a photographer, and you should never be surprised when you find a shot in the least likely places, or even just in a literally different direction from what you'd expected.

Here are a few suggestions on how to find something else to say about a place that has had too many photographs taken of it already.

  • A commonplace landscape, but with something unique occurring, such as a weather phenomenon, or other visitors doing something interesting.
  • A tourist location, but taking photographs of the tourists taking photographs (like that Leaning Tower of Pisa shot).
  • Stand in the spot where everyone else is taking photos, and turn around, shoot what is literally behind the scene.
  • Focus on something small, like a single flower or rock, with the legendary scenery secondary in the composition, as a backdrop or even lost in bokeh.

Do you have any other suggestions? How have you found the unique shot hidden in plain sight?

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stephenherron@icloud.com (Photosjhoot) composition landscapes photography http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/11/finding-a-unique-take-on-the-commonplace Sun, 19 Nov 2017 14:30:00 GMT
Revisit Old Stories http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/11/revisit-old-stories If you're like me, you keep all your original RAW files intact. I have multiple external drives with 5 years worth of digital negatives copied, backed up, and duplicated. I also use Amazon Drive to store RAW files.

This allows you to go back and re-evaluate your photographs, even years later. Sometimes you've learned new tricks and want to see what can be done with an image that was previously beyond saving. Or perhaps Lightroom or Photoshop has added new features (like Photoshop's "shake reduction" filter, which is amazing) that might make a difference.

In this case, I wanted to see if I'd taken shots on either side of one that I'd previously published, just to see if I could tell a different story by adding the before and after.

Example

Here's a shot taken in 2013, on the Canon EOS M that I had at the time. A really nice camera, in fact, though I couldn't live with the lack of a viewfinder. I eventually traded the M and two lenses, and an L lens, for my Fujifilm X100T, and haven't looked back.

But despite terrible reviews, I really liked the EOS M. It's a nice form factor, and the lenses were sharp and clear.

 

Denial (Canon EOS M)

This shot was taken very carefully and quietly whilst sitting on the trolly service that loops around downtown Cleveland.

I think it's quite a powerful shot, considering I had the camera in my lap at the time. I am very nervous about street photography, for a variety of reasons, not least because I'm Irish, and I feel like we avoid getting into people's faces.

This picture tells many stories, except for the right one. I've long felt as if I've presented this image out of context.

Yes, the hand raised in denial is a powerful statement. That he's not looking at the camera whilst his hand is raised changes it from a confrontational denial to something more abstract.

Why is he doing that? It looks like he's aware I'm taking a photograph, but he's not engaging directly with me, just indicating "no" on some level.

But that's not what was happening. 

He had no idea I was taking his photograph. He is resting his hand on his walking cane and was flexing his hand, open and shut, since it was obviously giving him some trouble. He was sitting in the priority seating for those with mobility difficulties and was anticipating his stop coming up, preparing himself physically and mentally for the next stage of his walk, which would be challenging for him, at least compared to the rest of us on the bus. 

I was on the bus because I didn't want to walk back to my office. He was on the bus because he might not have been able to walk to his next destination, not without pain and discomfort, and without perhaps being late for whatever appointment or encounter he was heading to. 

There was no confrontation here. The gesture wasn't one of denial, but one of strength, of preparation. It was one word in a sentence, and one word doesn't always make for a good story.

I recently returned to the original digital negative for this shot, and for the one either side of it (I did take three shots over the course of several seconds). I edited them, aligned them to be a little more consistent, and then constructed this triptych.

What do you think? Is the image more powerful without the context of the other two? Now that the story has additional words on either side of the original shot, is it more or less powerful? 

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stephenherron@icloud.com (Photosjhoot) cleveland revisiting street triptych http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/11/revisit-old-stories Fri, 03 Nov 2017 11:30:00 GMT
Telling a Unique Story http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/10/telling-a-unique-story As I wrote last time, one of my personal challenges is trying to find something new to say when I take a photograph, especially if it's a landscape or tourist-type shot. Indeed, I'll often skip taking a photo if I feel like I can find it already on Flickr. 

Cleveland and Sky

Here's an example. A shot of Downtown Cleveland, a skyline that's been captured over and over again.
What sets this apart, for me? It's definitely the crack in the sky, the sunlight blazing through, like some kind of science-fiction space-time rift. That's the only reason I even considered taking the shot, let alone posting it online.

 

It comes down to having an absolutely unique take on something that’s already been done, and portraying that in the finished image.

Not in technical terms, not necessarily. Sticking a bunch of personalized presets on a RAW file (or an Instagram filter) isn’t what I mean by a unique take, though that can be a part of a unique personal style.

What I mean is the actual composition of the image, the thing that drew my eye in the first place.

I’m still figuring this part out. I’m trusting to my subconscious because I often don’t see "it" until the image is open in Lightroom, but there’s the sense of having taken the shot because it felt like something was there.

 

I have a lot to learn. 

Accidental Heart

Here's an example of something that I noticed, but didn't notice that I'd noticed. I was attracted by the dappled light playing across this window, but I didn't see the heart until I was processing it later. But I *did* see the heart when I took the shot, just subconsciously.

 

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stephenherron@icloud.com (Photosjhoot) blog cleveland composition street travel http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/10/telling-a-unique-story Fri, 27 Oct 2017 11:30:00 GMT
Travel Photography (and why it’s so hard) http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/10/travel-photography-and-why-it-s-so-hard I don’t travel a lot; my trips back to Northern Ireland aside, most of my jaunts are work-related, and tend to concentrate on Detroit, Dearborn, and other nearby urban locations.

When I do travel further afield, it’s always with my wife, and we might visit her sister in Washington DC, or decide that we want a brief overnight adventure somewhere nearby. 

Our last significant trip was to Niagara Falls, where we met with some friends of mine from school, who were en route to a wedding.

I always have a camera with me. Most of the time, it stays in my bag. I don’t take the usual tourist snapshots, concentrating instead on counterpointing something else with the ubiquitous scenic views. 

Sometimes, shots line up and I will take more traditional photographs, but unless there’s something different about them that I spot in post-processing, these shots will rarely see the light of day.

What it is about travel, and travel photography, that leaves me cold? Both in terms of taking these kinds of photos, and looking at them.

I have a couple of theories.

 

Childhood Slide Fatigue

You may be old enough to remember, as a child, gathering around a slide projector in a darkened living room. Then the slideshow began, with a friend, neighbor, or family member narrating the bright images, one at a time, sometimes going back several slides as the storytelling warms to their tale, and remembers anecdotes out-of-slide-order. 

This was probably as traumatic for you as it was for me. I was lucky enough to be the son (and grandson) of photographers, and so the childhood slideshows were interspersed with experimental macro shots of WW2 miniatures from my dad’s war gaming, or an aircraft from a military display, and so on. 

But still... there are only so many photos of people frozen in front of a mountain, lake, or old building, that one can endure before switching off entirely.

 

It’s Been Done

More often, when confronted with a beautiful landscape, I ask myself, “what do I have to add to the conversation?” Flickr and Google and Instagram are filled with such images, with a hundred different filters, and a thousand different edits. Ultimately, the mountain stays the same, and unless I feel like I can capture something unique about the scene, I sometimes don’t even bother taking a photograph. 

Someday I hope to visit the Grand Canyon. I’ll obviously have a camera or two with me, but I think that’s something I’d want to experience first hand, and not through the lens. This is a perfect example of a place that I consider to have been captured by others in ways I cannot even hope to achieve, and it’s a “conversation” to which I have nothing intelligible to add. 

I’d be more interested in taking photographs of other tourists and their faces when looking at the Canyon, or everything that’s behind the view, that we never see on Flickr, all the infrastructure and cogs and wheels that make it possible to even stand there. Even this has been done, I’m sure, and I’m not sure what I’d add to THAT conversation either. At least it would be new to me.

I think I’d rather enjoy a view than get frustrated worrying about getting a good shot. The good shot, the very best shot, has already been taken, probably years ago.

 

THE GLENS OF ANTRIM

I was very excited to take my new Fujifilm X-T2 out into the Northern Irish countryside. It had been raining for weeks before I arrived, and my guides (also photographers) took me on a very nice drive around the Glens of Antrim to show me their favorite out-of-the-way spots. This was edited on an iPad Pro while on vacation.

This shot might seem like one of those “overdone” photographs I’ve mentioned. In my case, I had a Canon 10-22mm EF-S lens and an adapter for the Fujnon mount. I had set it at f/5.6 before I left Ohio. So this was an technical experiment rather than an attempt to capture a view no one had seen before. 

 

That Said...

Sure, there are times when I am documenting the fact that I was there, or when I want to take a nice environmental portrait, really more for someone else’s Facebook than my own.

I’ll also take the shot if there’s something I want to explore in post-processing, like editing the physical landscape to take something out or put something in. 

And finally, if I’m off the beaten track, and I see something that genuinely appeals to me, I’ll walk around to “work the shot” and try to capture something that’s new, even if it’s only new to me.

 

Stranger in a Familiar Land

When I go back to Northern Ireland for visits, I’m conscious of being something of a tourist in my own hometown. I avoid the shots that I feel are overdone, but there’s enough context around my relationship with the country, in this case, to add some depth to a shot that might normally be tired or overdone. At least, I think so... I don’t know if that ever really comes across in the finished photographs, but I hope so. 

THE DOCTOR IS IN

This shot was taken in a coffee shop near Queens University in Belfast. It’s a good spot to watch the world go by, and as it’s beside a train station, there’s usually a steady stream of interesting people. This man clearly had a great deal of character. He felt like an amalgam of every surly Irish author or poet, with a solid dash of The Doctor, everyone’s favorite Gallifreyan. He moved through the coffee shop like he both belonged there and like he was instead a visitor from another time.

He felt like a statement about older Northern Irish men, and I felt for a moment like I was watching a far future version of myself, and I was alright with that. He was well dressed, his hair was fantastic, and he was observing everything around him with a careful criticism that felt completely authoritative.

I don’t do street photography very much, but this is what I’d do if I did more of it.

It's been nearly twenty years since I moved to Ohio, and each time I go home, I feel a little more distance, but it’s the kind of distance that takes something familiar and makes it new again. That’s a good thing for any photographer. It’s a little melancholy as well, and I hope that’s something unique and entirely me that I can add to the story.

I’ll write a bit more about that idea in the next blog.

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stephenherron@icloud.com (Photosjhoot) blog fujfilm fujifilm photography street travel http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/10/travel-photography-and-why-it-s-so-hard Fri, 13 Oct 2017 11:00:00 GMT
And Another Thing... http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/10/and-another-thing As outlined in the previous blog post, Limitations Help You Grow (as a Photographer), the idea of restricting one single aspect of your photography, either technically or stylistically, is potentially an opportunity for growth. We all have habits, good and bad, that could do with being re-examined or tested sometimes.

For me, one of those habits is the obsessive use of protective filters.

Whenever I get a new lens, I immediately purchase a higher-end UV or anti-haze filter, and I never even shoot with the lens until the filter is on.

This is entirely about protecting the delicate front elements of my lenses. Nothing else. I actually don't care about UV or haze at all, and would probably be better putting high-quality optical glass there instead of any kind of actual filter.

Fujifilm X100T front lens detailFujifilm X100T front lens detail

Shooting without a filter?
A terrifying thought, but will it improve our images? Time to find out...

 

I then tend to get sloppy about my lens covers after that, though I'm not as bad as I used to be. Now, 95% of the time, a camera in a bag will indeed have both a protective filter and the right lens cap.

I've rarely thought about how this habit could be impacting the sharpness and quality of my final images, or even how it could be affecting something as fundamental as focusing.

Ami Strachan is a photographer whom I greatly admire. Her street photography is outstanding, and I'm seriously considering trying to attend one of her workshops the next time I'm back in the UK. Ami recently posted about how she has had issues with her Fujfilm X100T and getting sharp images, especially with the telephoto converter lens. Her analysis is that it's the filters, and she is no longer using them.

This is a shocking thought, but it occurred to me that it's a great example of a self-imposed limitation that, despite having the best of intentions, might actually be negatively impacting many of my shots. I often review photographs and wonder if they could have been sharper, or why the focus doesn't seem to match what I was seeing through the viewfinder. 

The Fujfilm X100T's TCL has a big, wide front element that I am frankly terrified of leaving unprotected, not least from my smudgey fingers, let alone scratchy stuff out there in real world. But it's precisely that kind of fear that can hold one back from getting the images we're capable of capturing.

Taking the filter off of the X100T itself allows it to regain the slim-line look, and the gorgeous silver lens cap that came with it can now go back on, with no stepping ring and filter to get in the way. It restores the intended design and functionality of the camera (definitely fits in my pockets now) and makes it even more remarkable (perhaps too remarkable; it is literally the camera I get the most comments about, universally positive). 

It feels like trapeze without a safety net, but I'm hoping to see a difference. I'll post some shots in a couple of months and we will see just how much of a difference it really makes.

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stephenherron@icloud.com (Photosjhoot) filters fujifilm fujifilm x100t x100t http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/10/and-another-thing Sun, 08 Oct 2017 11:15:00 GMT
Limitations Help You Grow (as a Photographer) http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/10/limitations-help-you-grow-as-a-photographer Getting into a rut is all too easy, in any part of one's life. 

Photographers are not immune from this at all, and many of the leading professional photographers have written or spoken about the times when they have asked the question, "what am I doing?"

Assigned jobs are one thing; exploring your personal style and motivations for carrying the camera are quite another.

Taking on a personal project is often a good way to shake things up, or even just to explore different styles and techniques. 

For example, limiting oneself to only using prime lenses for a set period of time. Or even a single prime, such as a 50mm or 35mm lens. If you're typically shooting with primes already, perhaps it's the other way around, and you only use a zoom lens for a month. 

After listening to the fantastic podcast, The Candid Frame, I've decided to try limiting myself in this kind of way. At least on one of my cameras.

Fujifilm X100TFujifilm X100T This is my Fujifilm X100T, the subject of this month's experiment in limitation. It's a fantastic camera, once you get to grips with the somewhat intricate UI and functionality. 

So, for the rest of October, I'm only going to shoot at ISO 3200, no matter what. This will mean extra grain and noise in photos. It means shooting at higher shutter speeds, and higher apertures (f/5.6 and above).

When we're so used to shooting at ISO 200-800 and fearing anything about 1200, this is a bit of a challenge. I personally always try to shoot at f/2, which is so limiting already and just a bad habit I picked up because I have a bit of a hand tremor and prefer to shoot at 1/125 of a second or faster. And I'm as guilty of being obsessed with bokeh as many others are.

But these are limitations of a different kind; a limitation of imagination, and of faith in the camera (in my case, my X100T, which will be the only camera I'm limiting to ISO 3200 for the month). It's also a limitation of skill, and I feel like I need to break out of these kinds of limitations. Ironically, by setting another.

I'll let you know how it goes.

 

 

 

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stephenherron@icloud.com (Photosjhoot) fujfilm fujifilm x100t photography http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/10/limitations-help-you-grow-as-a-photographer Wed, 04 Oct 2017 12:55:23 GMT
Welcome to Photosjhoot! http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/6/welcome-to-photosjhoot My name is Stephen Herron, and I'd like to welcome you to Photosjhoot*.

I'm a 40-something photographer based in Cleveland, Ohio. I'm originally from Northern Ireland, and moved to the United States in 2000. 

I specialize in what some people call "fine art photography," whatever that means. I also take portraits and I have limited availability to shoot events. I've also found myself shooting in factories and at manufacturers quite a lot. Talk about a niche. 

Photosjhoot is my portfolio, and if you so wish, somewhere to purchase prints and more. I really hope you see some photographs you like. Maybe they'd look really good on a wall in your home or office! Let me know if you need headshots, an event covered, or if you'd like to commission some "fine art" of your own. 

*If you're wondering about the "j" stuck in the middle of an otherwise legitimate word, it's actually pretty straightforward. My initials are SJH. So, think of it as "photoSJHoot" and not actually a terrible typo.

 

Here's a color photograph. Enjoy it, since I don't think you'll be seeing that many of them on this website.

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stephenherron@icloud.com (Photosjhoot) blog hello introduction photosjhoot http://www.photosjhoot.com/blog/2017/6/welcome-to-photosjhoot Wed, 28 Jun 2017 17:00:20 GMT