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“Playing” with Photographic Imagery

Daffodil Closeup Copyright  Andy Richards  2015

Daffodil Closeup
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

As I have said here before, I started seriously shooting in 1977, using mostly color transparency film as a medium. After a hiatus in the 1980’s (some casual shooting only), I rekindled and embraced the new equipment then available, eventually moving on to digital in the early 1990’s. As I got back into the swing of things later in the 1980’s, I developed a fascination with close up flower imagery – not necessarily true “macro,” but close up.

One of the cool things about digital is the freedom to “play”

Maybe it was because it was an easy subject. Close up on the frame, flowers are colorful and there is much less work trying to isolate the subject, place it properly in the frame, and eliminate distracting or detracting elements. And, it was a great way to “study” all of the foregoing. As you examine a close up shot, you begin to see details (many of them unwanted in the image) that your eyes may not have seen. Because of the close proximity, you quickly learn about depth of field. At the same time, you see the beauty and advantage of a lens that renders nice bokeh. In the early years, I used to keep a notebook on conditions and go back to the same place and subject and re-shoot. I still use them as a primary “test” subject when trying out new lenses, and cameras. Flower close ups are a great learning tool, and sometimes make great art.

But after a while, it seemed like it was time to move on to “bigger and better” things. When I cannot get out to somewhere photogenic, but get the “itch” to shoot, I still seek the backyard flowers that are ubiquitous. But I don’t shoot them with the “innocent” joy I once did. I find that these days I discard many more than I used to. Sometimes the images I retain are marginal.

One of the cool things about digital is the freedom to “play.” I mostly don’t, because I mostly prefer more traditional photographic presentation. But the image here, seemed draw me to want to “play.”

Cropped Daffodil Closeup Copyright  Andy Richards  2015

Cropped Daffodil Closeup
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

A few years back, I grew lazy (for good reason, I think). I had worked to learn selection, blending, masking, and other Adobe Photoshop skills to work with my imagery. Then along comes a company called NIK Software, and takes all that work and does it for me, with a simple, easy-to-use, interface that works 96.49% (I measured it) of the time. I still need to resort to PS for some things, but less and less. Again, I use my NIK (now Google-owned) package primarily to make traditional photographic adjustments to images. But there is plenty of room inside the software bundle to “play” (it is worth noting that there are a number of other “plug-in” software programs out there today that do similar, or complimentary things. Most of them are made to work with Photoshop, LightRoom, or both).

One of the NIK programs that I use occasionally is ColorEfex. It has functions, like one called “detail extractor” which allows you to make images appear similar to oil paintings. Of course the capability already exists in PS, but again, the NIK program makes it very easy to use and “play” with. I have an image of a Venice canal that looks like a blend between an oil painting and a photograph. It hangs in my office as a 24 x 36 framed and matted print, and it came out pretty nice.

Daffodil Close Up - ColorEfex Copyright  Andy Richards  2015

Daffodil Close Up – ColorEfex
Copyright Andy Richards 2015

The first image here, is the uncropped, image, originally capture as a raw image, and post-processed to look as good photographically as I could make it. It has some issues, including composition and critical sharpness. I have learned that yellow flowers (and white is a close second) are very difficult to expose and get sharp looking, particularly in contrasty or bright light conditions.

Canal, Venice Copyright  Andy Richards  2013

Canal, Venice
Copyright Andy Richards 2013

So, I cropped it, which is the second image. I like the composition better here (one thing that I dislike about he image as a whole, is that the flower just seems to “float” in mid air. I wish I had done a better job of portraying the stem to anchor the flower to something). To me, it was still kind of “eh.” Certainly, it was not going to make it to my wall or to my website.

San Francisco Fishing Harbor Copyright  Andyr Richards  2011

San Francisco Fishing Harbor
Copyright Andy Richards 2011

Time to play. For the third image, I took the cropped image and used the NIK ColorEfex “detail extractor” tool and began to play. The result looks something like a chalk sketch. I would like to have the petals a bit whiter, but that was more work than I wanted to do for this exercise. I rarely like these “play” results. But this one, I kind of do like. I can only think of two other ones that I have felt were successful – the Venice image, and an image of fishing boats in the SF commercial fishing harbor. Both made successful prints.

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One Response

  1. Explains well what I often do…

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