The above image, “Fall” was an experiment from November 2010.
I played with double exposures in film many years ago, a technique I revisited again recently with my digital cameras. Today I was searching through my back catalogue in the newly installed On1 Camera Raw 2020, an excellent update to the existing software, and found this image that I created years ago. I had completely forgotten about it. It was the result of an experiment in double and then triple exposure. I was never satisfied with it. Back then could not figure out why.
I remember I liked the ambiguity of the title and the way the branches of the tree above and it inverted below interwove. I also was pleased with the repeating pattern of the logs behind too. But it just didn’t seem right.
When I reopened it today, the reason I was dissatisfied was obvious. I converted it to a negative and it changed it to something far more pleasing. That extra layer of removal from reality made it work far better.
I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I don’t mind that.
Walking away from an image and revisiting it weeks, months or even years later can completely change the way you look at it. Giving a photo time often results in a separation of emotional attachment to the original image. It’s almost as if someone else took it.
It’s not unusual for me to wait a week or a month before publishing images after a shoot. I know that if I publish now the images taken this morning, then next week I’ll be wishing I had chosen a different picture.
Are you reading this are wondering whether “Fall” is photography at all? Does the photographic purist in you make you insist, “That’s not photography?” It does? Good!
I have written before about reality and that was the theme of my roadshow presentations earlier this year. That image is clearly not real, but it is art.
Art should be challenging. Even if it is a simple emotional reaction such as “I don’t like that” or “that’s beautiful” then the artist has done his job. It’s up to the viewer to examine why they do or don’t like an image.
Analysing pictures, not technically, but figuring out what the photographer tried to say, the story they were telling, will help you improve your photography.
in 2010 I was visiting the wonderful country of Finland. Staying in an old wooden cottage in the forest by a lake, I wanted to capture the essence of what it was to be there. Then I noticed the diffused shadows from the late afternoon sunlight glowing through leaves being projected onto the walls of the cabin.
When I got the images home and uploaded them, there was something not quite right. I tried all different developments and crops and nothing seemed to work. Finding them on my computer today, it hit me. I changed the crop angle. Now I am happy with them.
Coming back to the photographs all this time later is almost like viewing someone else’s work.
Yet, despite that separation, there is still a fondness for these photos and the happy memories they bring. I still feel the Spirit of Finland when I look at the shot. This is probably a feeling unique for me and maybe for my family who were with me. These images would not mean the same to most viewers, even with the title or explanation to accompany them. A photographer rarely tells the same story as the viewer reads.
It doesn’t always need that time gap.
Deliberate camera movement, a favourite technique, also allowed me to record the essence of the Finnish forest. By keeping the camera still for half of the 0.5 second exposure and moving it for the second half the image revealed the rocks, log pile and ground foliage while emphasising the vertical lines of the trees. It gave the impression of double exposure when it wasn’t.
The series of images I caught like this appealed to me immediately and revisiting them almost a decade later still evokes the feeling of the forest.
Practising techniques for producing abstract images can help with other types of photography too. The skills of controlling deliberate camera movement are similar to tracking a moving subject. I followed the movement of one of the autumnal leave above as it blew across the ground by a swirling breeze. The camera’s movement made the subject appear still in the frame. Meanwhile, the rest of the image became blurred to a lesser or greater extent.
Likewise, this unashamedly blurred image of fast flying waders over the sea was taken in low light on a winter’s evening. The relatively slow shutter for a photo of birds in flight produced a far more interesting image than if I had kept the camera still, upped the ISO and shot it with a higher shutter value.
If you want make great photos, always experiment with creativity.
Try out different techniques that are new to you and combine them. Build up a portfolio of skills to work with. Experiment with photographic genres that aren’t your style. Look at what others do and learn from them.
Never criticise someone else’s style. They don’t have to like what you like or do what you do. If they like sunset shots, architecture or pictures of birds on a stick then that’s fine. It’s not up to us to judge.
Don’t be disappointed if you find that someone has gone before you and produced a similar image. There were about one and a quarter trillion photos taken last year so near duplication is inevitable. Learn from that duplication and introduce new elements to take it one stage further. Creativity is an evolution of ideas and rarely something utterly new.