Sunday, January 30, 2011

It's all about manipulating the lights

Let’s celebrate…
The air, our breath
is bubbling
the water, our journey
is pouring
the earth, our home
is welcoming
the fire, our love
is burning
The aether, our life
is now

Lightness, Vesna (2010) 

Photography in a real sense is  about writing with light.  While it helps to capture the lights right at the very beginning, sometimes a little tweaking on an image can be a difference between night and day.  Notice I say here "little tweaking".  Some people who don't care about their captures and think that they can fix it in Photoshop are delusional.  A knowledge of composition and what works is essential in getting a good image.   

My friend Vesna recently shared with me her picture, which I tweaked in Photoshop Elements (PSE).  The image above was the final result.  I really like the way it turned out.  For a while Vesna did not want to post this image in the web.  She finally made the leap not too long ago and posted it with an accompanying poem.  I'm so glad she did.  Her inner beauty has been known by some but now I know that they can also see her outer beauty.  

Below is the original image she sent me.  I wasn't sure what camera was used here but I'm guessing a simple Point and Shoot.  (Contrary to conventional thought, using an expensive camera does not necessarily mean getting great image.  This is one example when an inexpensive camera can deliver the goods.)  

It was a great portrait to begin with.  The composition was good, and the good elements were already there and I just need to bring them out.  I just made a few adjustment as follows:

1.  The image was imported in PSE.  I felt that the orientation should be flipped.  In classical art, the portrait of a woman looks much better when the eyes of the beholder are going from left to right.  For some reason, it is just how our brains are programmed.  For a portrait of a man, it's the opposite.  It is more appealing to view a man from right to left.  Don't ask me why but that is the general norm.  (I've violated this rule of thumb a number of times so don't think of me as a stickler to this rule.)

2.  In PSE, I converted the image to black and white using Nik Silver Pro filter.  Although she look great in blue, I thought that a black and white rendition would give it a more "old-style hollywood" look.  Vesna probably would hate me for choosing the word "old" and "hollywood" but no not that trashy B movies... think Ingrid Bergman or those in that era.

3.  I played around with the contrast to even the tone.  It looked great after the conversion but her face was darker than the background so I increased the brightness selectively, applying only on her face.

4.  I could have use Glamor Glow filter to give the picture a dreamy look but it doesn't seem to suit Vesna.  She can be -- but not in this picture.  Instead I just applied a Vignette Blur using Nik Color Efex.  The effect seemed to have tamed the harsh background bokeh.

5.  The final touch was to crop it so it would look more intimate.

Some of you may admonish me for using Nik filters like Silver and Color Efex because that seemed like cheating.  But I could have also come up with the same results using layers in PSE.  It would just have taken me a longer time.  In fact, before I've used Nik filters, for the longest time I've used an old version of PSE and did my tweaking exclusively using layers.  That was how I learned about highlights and shadows.  

So there you have it.  Doesn't she look "muhhhvelous, duhhhling?" 

If you find this little post useful, drop a comment and let me know.  Cheers.

Friday, January 28, 2011


Old Town San Diego, Canon 5d, 35mm Carl Zeiss

“The cultural machinery that produces judgments about an artist's lifetime of effort has less material to process when that artist dies young. The wheels grind faster and on thinner stuff. And when that young artist (or writer or actor) is a suicide, the quality of the material is often overlooked because it is immediately more valuable. The lurching randomness of existence suddenly has a steady meaning. Everything done or said by the deceased seems to be a clue that will explain why someone would choose to die rather than live. The last act suddenly becomes the most important act.”   When One Act Colors a Lifetime of Work, Richard B. Woodward

Perhaps.  Although the only young artist I know who committed suicide was Kurt Cobain. Others like Hendrix, Joplin and Morrison seemed more like their deaths were caused by their own recklessness.  Either way, pop culture has a tendency to celebrate their life styles leading to their deaths. 

Woodward further notes, "The photographer Francesca Woodman has received far more attention from critics and collectors since her death in 1981 than ever came her way when she was alive. Indeed, before she threw herself from a New York roof at age 22, she was unknown as an artist."

I'm not sure what motivated her suicide.  Rejection?

Was Michael Jackson suicidal?  Who knows. Sadly, he probably sold more albums after his death (Thriller is the exception).

"Suicidal recklessness seems like an easy path to fame when you're young but when you're old it's pathetic." - Bor Ortsac

Boris may have a point.

Big wheels keep on turning... proud Mary keeps on burning... roll 'em by the river... (John Fogerty, Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

On duty

I really like the way this turned out.  Shot with my expensive EF 135L lens mounted on a cheap crappy Canon 350d... why I'm shooting with an expensive lens on a cheap camera? go figure.  The old man is serious about his work... whatever that may be. I think he's a security guard at the airport.  What is he guarding?  Who knows.  I just love the way the contrast came out.  Originally, the image was all washed out - overexposed but I was able to save it using the Nik filter.  I don't know how I can manage without it.  It's almost 2 AM as I'm posting this.  Couldn't get to sleep.  That's my problem.  My brain keeps working.  I can't help but be creative.  Time for another shot of bourbon.  Later.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Street Capture One Night at the Market

This will look mundane to most people but I really like how it came out.  Taken with my Panasonic DMC-LX3 after its baptism at Sebaste, Antique.  Heh.  I like it because of the process involved.  First, it was shot at night without any flash.  Trying getting a comparably sharp image with your point and shoot.  Second, the color rendition is vibrant considering that the only source of light was a couple of incandescent bulbs hanging over the ladies' heads.  Third, I like the near-candidness of the two women.  They obviously didn't know I was taking their picture.  Fourth, shooting the image required a long exposure.  It was taken hand-held while I was inside a stopped van with the motor running.  I held the point and shoot cam on the the window, which I thought was clever using it as a monopod.  Last but not least, I really like doing street shot.  The fact it was at night is extra.  Hope you enjoy my mundane monograph and the image the image.  Cheers.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Rambling after midnight

Yashica Mat 124G, self developed Fujifilm Neopan 400 120 film.
As I'm writing, I couldn't remember why I decided to blog.  After a few shots of bourbon nothing seems to matter... Okay so I'm writing this while piss drunk and I know I'm going to regret what I wrote when I read this tomorrow but... but... okay I'm still thinking.  I hate it when my art work gets ignored.  I hate it when I have to change the light bulbs outside.  I hate it when things don't go right... as I planned.

Things have not been a smooth ride.  Ho-hum... boring... okay I know what you are thinking.  But the fact that you are still reading this means somehow... somehow... maybe somehow you care.  Eh, wishful thinking.  Maybe I'll stick to posting images... it seems to get more hits than this silly banter.

I love you all!!! Okay, that's just the bourbon talking.  Will you ever forgive this old man geezer?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

A tale of two cities

Queen Elizabeth's fish pond, Anilao, Iloilo, Philippines

These were taken using my Panasonic DMC-LX3 point and shoot.  A few words about this camera: "it rocks."  While wading through a raging river, I slipped and fell with my camera on one hand.  I tried to break my fall and it was the same hand that was clutching the camera.  It probably soaked for 3 to 5 seconds.  I immediately took out the battery and the SD card.  Let the camera dry for a few days (the weather there was hot and humid), and to my surprise the darn thing was still useable.  The flash doesn't work anymore but everything else seems to.  My myopic eyes couldn't tell if the image quality deteriorated.  The first image (little red hut) was taken after the camera's baptism.  Born again, so to speak.  The second image (raging river) was taken seconds before the camera got wet. 

Sebaste, Aklan, Philippines

Monday, January 17, 2011

Local Butcher

He uses the hatchet very well.  He likes his job even though it's bloody (literally).  Taken at the street in Iloilo City, Panay Island, Philippines.

Dead for Sale and the State of the LA Art (Humour Alert)

I never really thought much about the Los Angeles Art scene.  The Online Photographer (TOP) article just confirmed my position. Heh. No, this image has nothing to do with the article but it has everything to do with what I think about pop art.

Soul Underground at the RedBubble Homepage

Visualizing Emotion - 16 January 2011 

My art "Soul Underground" is now on display at the RedBubble homepage.  Less than 3 in a thousand works make it onto the homepage. Yay! Many thanks to RedBubble, Simone Fisher and Martin. Cheers.
 see also my Flickr, JPG and RB

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lazy Rocks

Just a slight note on the Panasonic DMC-LX3: this inexpensive Point & Shoot Cam rocks.
 In the island of San Antonio, time moves very slow – including the waters on the ocean.  I wouldn't mind living here.  Who wouldn't?  Oh well, such fleeting moment... I enjoyed it while I can.  Cheers.

see comments at Flickr

Friday, January 07, 2011

Glorious Remnants

In the Island of San Antonio, the denizens love their beer - a luxury - they get to drink the San Miguel beer once in a blue moon - when there is a special occasion - preferably if somebody is paying for the beer.

History: Established in 1890, La Fabrica de Cerveza de San Miguel, Southeast Asia's first brewery produced and bottled what would eventually become one of the bestselling beers in the region. Within the span of a generation, San Miguel Beer would become an icon among beer drinkers... Read more

 See Flickr