A few weeks ago I did a post on the potential of photographic art using a before and after picture. The response was good enough to inspire me to do another. So this week we will look at a before shot of a tea rose I captured in a garden one very hot, muggy, and sunny day.
As you can see, this is a nice shot of a tea rose. It also, unfortunately, looks like millions of other tea rose photographs. We want to change that. One of the ideas behind photographic art is the use of a picture as a canvas of sorts. We want to enhance the subject and give it the power that photography has as an art form.
As is right now, this photograph has some challenges we need to address. Namely, because of the bright sun, I used a photographic filter on the camera that works like a pair of sunglasses. The upside is this filter allows for more detail in bright light, the downside is that it mutes the colors.
I also want to bring out more detail. So visit us next week when I post the results of this tea rose and discover what type of artistic flair I will bring to the image.
In the meantime, form a mental image of what you think we can do with this rose.
Peering from the darkness, the goddess Coyolxauhqui (coh-yohl-shau’-kee) is one of the most important deities in the world of the Aztecs. She is the moon goddess with copper bells on her cheeks. She is also the sister of the sun-god Huitzilopochtli and 400 star deities in the night sky. She is also the daughter of Coatlicue (coh-ah-tlee’-cooeh ) the Earth Goddess.
Her mother Coatlicue was busy sweeping her temple one fine day when a ball of feathers fell upon her bosom. Instantly she became pregnant. When Coyolxauhqui discovered this she became overcome with anger that her mother did not know who the father might be. Further, she felt her family honor was forever tarnished. So, Coyolxauhqui decided to kill her mother with the help of her star brothers.
When she cornered her mother and was rushing in for the kill, her mother, Coatlicue, suddenly gave birth to Huitzilopochtli (wee-tsee-loh-poch’-tle) god of sun and the war-god. He sprang forth from his mother fully armed and wearing battle armor. Using a fire serpent (sun ray) he killed his sister Coyolxauhqui and the 400 star brothers.
Standing over the dead body of the moon goddess, the sun-god cut off her limbs and finally her head. However, as Huitzilopochtli felt concern that his mother would miss her daughter he threw the head of Coyolxauhqui into the sky where she became the moon. He then threw the dismembered body of the goddess down the temple.
As the moon, Coyolxauhqui dies every month (the new moon) and because she is missing her limbs she appears in section until her face shines full. This myth also explains why the sun is found always chasing the moon everyday in the sky.
Also, it’s possible that the dismemberment ritual of sacrificial victims came from story. An Aztec human sacrifice entailed removing the heart of the victim, cutting off the head and limbs and throwing the body down the steps of the temple. Supporting this thought, the tongue of the goddess is also shown as a sharp obsidian blade often used for this purpose.
In today’s Latino cultures Coyolxauhqui is experiencing a revival as a quasi-patron saint of the overt rebellious woman figure. This view asserts that instead of seeing Huitzilopochtli as a hero saving his mother and defending himself from butchery, the story of Coyolxauhqui champions her rebelliously standing up to dominating society and perhaps a cautionary tale of what happens when you lose.
Politics and religious fervor aside, The Moon Goddess Coyolxauhqui makes a fabulous addition to our collection.
In part one of our journey of animal photography we discussed that perfect controlled conditions are often found in an environment like a studio. We also agreed that things such as fully monitored and controlled lighting and a properly handled dog may make our job a little easier. We wanted to make a more artistic approach to photography, so we are taking pictures from different angles or waiting till the dog performs different actions to create a message or story.
Now, let’s give it more of challenge by taking the dog outside. By doing this, we have now introduced some real issues to our taking the perfect picture. The biggest challenge in taking a photograph outside is the weather. No one wants a picture or the smell of a wet dog in the car afterwards. So generally, most people will choose a nice sunny day with no or little clouds. Of course, that means we have to deal with lighting in those conditions. What I’m referring to of course is the sun.
The sun is the bane of any decent outdoor photographer. But, there are tools and tricks to help. If you want a shot of the dog in the sunlight, it will be a better idea to take the photograph as early or as late in the day as the light will let us. During the mid-morning to late afternoon the sun is constantly producing a very harsh light. This type of lighting will easily produce overexposed areas on the picture and even worse it will mute your colors. So the best time to take your shot is early morning or evening when the sun is lower on the horizon.
But what do you do if you want to take a picture of the dog at this particular park, but the park doesn’t open till mid morning? Your answer lies in the use of a UV filter or a Graduated Neutral Density Filter. Think of them as sunglasses for your camera. They help take out the harsh light.
You can also try taking the dog into a shaded area where the sun is not so intense. If you have a team of helpers, you can also set up and use reflectors to direct the light on the dog just as you see fit.
Another issue with lighting outside is the sky. Watch your clouds. The minute a cloud crosses the path of the blazing sun is now a different amount of light to adjust the camera for.
Yet another problem is wind. Remember those reflectors used to cast directed light on the dog while it was in the shade? Well, in a nice breeze, those reflectors make fabulous kites. Worse, if you are trying to use those large umbrella lights and don’t weigh them down they will take off to the delight of everyone but me. So, now I not only have to time my shot for what’s in the sky, but in between gusts of wind.
It’s ok though, because I love the challenge. So I get the dog in the shade and I’ve chosen the shot I want to take. I’ve watched for the sunlight, put on a filter, worked the reflectors and even setup the camera settings for the proper aperture and white balance and here comes the fun part! I am so going to rock this thing.
Quickly, however, I realize that I am now not the only stimulus to the dog’s attention.
Indeed, the audacity! That cute puppy that viewed me as being the center of the known universe now has a myriad of shapes, smells, and movement competing with me for it’s attention. Trust me when I tell you that as important as you are to a dog as the provider of praise and tasty snacks, you will pale in comparison with the squirrel that just ran behind you or even the bird in the tree above you.
Other dogs nearby will cause problems and even other people can cause an issue. After all, according to a dog’s logic it only makes sense that I am a human with praise and treats; ergo all the other humans may have praise and treats too! The only answer to this is patience. I might need lots of it.
So, after outwitting the sun, the wind, rain, camera settings, types of filters and the natural instincts of the dog to want to investigate everything or just chase tasty squirrels, We now have a work of art you we are proud of. Or, you might also think about owning a cat.
Want a bigger challenge? This is still too easy? I admire your spirit. Imagine trying to do these things with a non domesticated animal in their natural environment that wants to eat you.
When a photographer/artist takes a picture like The Sunning Tree it only represents half of the overall work put into producing the complete work. After the camera shutter clicks the last picture of the day, the photographer goes home and usually uploads the shots to a computer for touch-up work. This is to enhance the magic that the artistic side of the photographer wanted to share with the world. It is in this place that the raw picture is subtly changed into a worthy piece of art.
Now, we are not talking about or even suggesting changing major elements in a photograph to a way that resembles the modern-day fashion industry. I prefer to stay out of that dangerous arena when dealing with my subjects. Not that a squirrel or lizard ever went viral on the Internet protesting that they are victims of overzealous Photoshop airbrushing, at least not yet..
No, the latest embarrassment of Target Corporation showing horribly amateurish computer edited sections of a swim model’s body on their website shows the dangers of over processing that I believe most artistic photographers would very much like to avoid. We all want recognition for our work, but the type of recognition is important too.
It is with the choice of artistic editing in mind that I present The Sunning Tree. One of the more difficult choices modern-day photographer can face is the choice of light and the colors contained in a particular shot.
Every picture I take has a specific item or thought behind why I take it. But, like a painter looking at a blank canvas and deciding on watercolor or oil, a photographer discovers a scene and decides on the type of post processing he wants to work with.
It is my belief that all photographers choose to use a form of processing. There is no difference whether you are dodging and burning in a dark room or clicking on software light curves in front of a computer monitor. Even if a photographer is a complete “only as the camera sees it” purist and refuses to use processing in his pictures that is his choice for processing.
In this case I turned the picture to black and white. Why would I do this? What was wrong with the color version? Well, honestly nothing was wrong with the picture in its original state. That is if you enjoy the color brown.
This lizard was a brown anole lizard hanging off a brown tree trunk. Uninspiring. Yet the thing that drew me to the picture was the lighting and I knew that only by removing the brown color could we really see the impact of what this little guy had to show the world.
The shades and textures of the sunlight both directly and indirectly give this photograph a sense of place and mood.
You see details it his face and the underside of his chin that blended and were lost in the original brown. Even his ribs become more pronounced and highlight the contrasting lines of the bark that he is sitting on.
Even the small and barely noticeable glint in his eye becomes a notable feature of this unique creature. But only in Black and White. So, I took this particular shot and earmarked it for conversion to the black and white print you see.
Will all of my pictures be black and white? No. Black and white is a method to help portray my “artistic madness”. Sometimes it works wonders and other times a subject is best left in it’s original colored state.
There are countless times when I believe that a photograph will look lovely in Black and White only to have it lose the very emotion that made me take the picture. It’s like a painter figuring out that they used the wrong paint for their vision.
Black and White conversion of photographs is a wonderful tool to have in your photographer’s tool belt. I hope that you see the results when its hanging on your favorite wall.
Walking along a lush tropical garden path we often find ourselves in the company of Warm Rocks and Cold Stares. This particular sunny morning we were not disappointed.
The warm Floridian sun had just begun to shine its way through tall trees into the lush green underbrush below. As pockets of the sunlight lit up this hidden dark world you could see life start to move again signifying the beginning of a new day.
This brown anole lizard has discovered the perfect spot to start warming her chilled and sluggish reptilian blood. The round white water worn stone provides the perfect location for her to warm herself to begin the day’s hunting.
Normally, these lizards will eat just about anything they can fit in their mouths. She will undoubtably go on to find a smorgasbord of mealworms, spiders, crickets, and anything other insect she can find. Anole lizards are also known to eat the young of other lizard species and strangely enough, they will even eat their own previously shed skin.
Life is not perfect for her though, she has to wary of a number of natural predators that would happily make her a mid morning snack. Snakes, larger lizards, and even birds would not think twice of devouring her.
To protect herself from these hungry predators, she has a series of defenses to rely on. Her first line of defense is to use her camouflaged body to try to remain unseen. The second defense is her unique ability to lose her tail.
This species of lizard are able to detach their tails at will. The detached tail will continue to wiggle and move hopefully causing the predator to pay attention to it while she escapes. Her tail will grow back eventually, however it may never reach the same length, as it’s original.
We know that this particular lizard looking at us inquisitively is a female due to the diamond-shaped colored markings running the length of her back. While the males also have a discretionary multicolored pattern on their backs, the patterns tend to be one of spots and not actual lines.
Like what you read about Warm Rocks and Cold Stares?