Windows From Walls
I am making very good use of the fact that there are some very good photography courses available online at the moment. I have signed up for a few and am having a great time. I feel stretched in many different ways and it has made me appreciate the need to set projects, goals and deadlines. Once these courses finish I am hoping that my approach to many aspects of my photography will change moving forward, it's going to be important to maintain momentum.
One course I am thoroughly enjoying is focused on 'Cultivating Creativity' and is run by the excellent BaileyChinnery. The first project set as 'homework' was to take a single image and to process it in numerous ways for presentation. I wasn't sure about this task initially as it obviously doesn't mean getting the camera out as there was no specific requirement for the selected image to be taken specifically for the exercise. The parameters were that there should be no use of Styles or Presets unless you have created them yourself, and no use of software packages other than Photoshop or Lightroom (or CaptureOne for me not being a Lightroom user). The objective was to develop creativity by pushing you from the obvious to the less obvious within the bounds of a single image. It also tests your Photoshop skills extensively. The use of programs such as Photoshop is always divisive and there are plenty of opinions as to whether a heavily edited image is still 'photography'. Without getting deep into the debate, my view is that Photoshop is a tool which is an essential component in my workflow. Used carefully it can contribute to the production of images I am thrilled with but it can also be used to generate abominations. Exactly the same can be said of a box of paints and some brushes. That's all I will say…
This is the image I started with taken on a recent trip to India… I include it here exactly as it came out of the camera so this is the Raw file in all it's glory (or not!!). I chose this image precisely because I thought it would really challenge me, there is no obvious image here for me to be happy with at the start of the process and without some real creativity it would likely languish on my hard drive for a few years before being assigned to the trash.
After a few false starts I started to feel I was getting somewhere. Playing with changing colours and tones, cropping and blending in Photoshop and plenty of variations across the layers I gradually built up a series of images which I am absolutely thrilled with. It honestly feels that these images are somehow 'freebies'! I didn't think there was much in the file to work with but by setting aside a couple of hours over 2 consecutive days I have some images which I would never have had before.
What has this taught me. A number of things...
- Firstly, I need to set aside time to properly explore the potential in the images I take. I typically work on a very small number of files and produce something (or not) and then move on without seeing if there is a different interpretation, not necessarily a better interpretation, just different. I have plenty of files which have had the 'single' treatment but may have further potential as yet untapped.
- Secondly, I have many more images on my hard drive than I thought I had! If I can tease out 12 variations (and I am sure there are more!) from this single, not particularly special image I am excited about what I may now have that I didn’t have a few days ago, and all without changing the contents of my catalogue!
- Thirdly, be very careful when deleting an image on the basis that it has no potential. This is something I do very readily as I often feel weighed down by images I think have no mileage. I suspect I have been merrily deleting files which may have had potential given this approach (Oasis: Don't look back in anger!).
- Lastly, the importance of both boxing yourself into a corner (single image) and forcing yourself to play and try things or combinations you haven't tried before with the sole objective of producing something different. With these parameters any formulae or methods that you may be in a rut with will get you one or two variants which may be OK but that's not good enough. Stepping outside the box is critical.
I am super-excited now to go through my stored images with new eyes and set myself the same project with different images and force myself to think differently. I didn’t really know what I was going to get from this course but just this exercise this has been worth it's weight in gold.
Love this idea and what you have created! Think the learnings you have taken from it will potentially change your practice a lot it’s exciting and I look forward to see what comes next.
Thanks Susi, It’s such a simple concept but I agree, I think (hope) it will change my approach moving forward, exciting times indeed 🙂
Of course I am bound to say how delighted I am that you found the potential in what is seemingly quite a pointless exercise. It will doubtless lead to a reluctance to delete anything ever again, for which I take no responsibility whatsoever.
And the resulting panel (a shame we cannot see it in its entirety here because it looked so compelling on the screen this morning) is testament to the fact that we are only constrained by the limits of our imagination. The Photoshop steps are rudimentary – a couple of tools with myriad variables. Nothing more.
Thank you for your kind words.
Thanks Valda, And yes, storage might be cheap these days but I fear the efforts to manage the catalogue have gone out of the window!!
Good point re the Panel though – I might add that to the blog…
Linda. What a wonderful blog. Exploring in depth rather than skimming the surface is a valuable lesson learnt. Your stunning results are testament to that.
Thank you for taking a look Hugh, I am so glad you like what I am trying to do… i certainly am 🙂 x
Amazing Linda! You are incredible. Talented beyond belief.
haha… thanks Karen 🙂 xxx
Linda–These are super special. I am taking the course too and amazed at what might be possible–however, I am having an envy attack as my rendering of that exercise doesn’t seem to me to be nearly as wonderful as yours. However, it will serve as inspiration–the antidote to envy.
Hi Peggy, so pleased you like them… I think I lucked out with the image I chose to start with 🙂 It was great fun though… fantastic course – hope you are enjoying it too… xx
This is very interesting. I think my imagination has gone off to self isolate somewhere far from me. I love the fact that you found so many images just by playing with one, and one you felt had little potential. Just by using layers and blend modes i assume? And colour shifts etc. They’re all fascinating to look at and ponder over…thank you!
HI Dominique, thanks for your lovely comments… very much appreciated 🙂 I think mine was a bit shot given the current climate but having a challenge and a deadline was shot in the arm that I needed to get going. And yes, layers, colour shifts and blending – I am not a PS expert so this is the space that I am comfortable playing in, I rarely do much else… xx
Hi Linda, I am on approximately my ninth hour of this exercise now and ready to throw both camera and computer out of a window. The image just won’t come to life like yours do, build up of layers seems to lead to cartoon ugliness or mud and I seem to have run out of things to try! I must be missing something. Was your original image a multiple exposure and / or ICM? I know that does create colours and textures that are a little different from “standard” shots so I’m wondering if that helps 😏
Thank you so much for taking the time to get in touch… all I can say is please don’t give up…
The image I started with was a Multiple Exposure so some of the work was already done in-camera. I spent a long time working the file before things started to happen. I think the first resulting image that I was even vaguely happy with was probably the 5th or 6th iteration of the file and it was after quite a few days… don’t give up and keep playing. At some point you will exhaust all the obvious things you can think of and will start to try new things – that was the turning point for me… try all the different blending modes and don’t be afraid to mix things which shouldn’t obviously work. Don’t think that it all came easily, there were many, many hours spent on this project before it started to come together… it is worth it but it will take time and it will be a roller coaster…
Stick with it… and have fun…
Thanks so much for the encouragement Linda. Two weeks on and *some* images are giving up their treasures a little more easily, although i don’t think i have a single one yet where the colours are as jewel like as yours are. I’m wondering if knowing which images to quit on is an important part of the process, do you ever start on one and just get bad vibes that it isn’t really suitable for the treatment?
Anyway, please keep blogging, i’m really enjoying your work.
Glad you are making progress – it’s a question of just putting in the hours until things start to happen. And yes, absolutely, I have lots of images which I have started to play with and have realised that they are not going to produce the goods – sometimes this is quite early on in the process but more frustratingly it can be after quite a considerable period of time which feels like time wasted but I am sure it isn’t in the wider scheme of things. It can also depend on your mood, I am finding it hard to find images which ‘work’ at the moment but I think that the effect of the lockdown where I am finding it difficult to focus on anything creative so maybe it’s got nothing to do with the image… who knows…
Carry on though, it is worth it 🙂
Thank you so much for the encouragement! I’m starting to get there i think – sometimes a bit of a whack to the Saturation slider is in order, which i have never used in my life for “normal” photography, but definitely helps here when none of the blend modes are showing much promise.
It seems as though there are some files which just don’t work nicely with an ICM / layer / texture approach, and maybe learning when to quit and when to persist despite poor early results is part of the skill.
Please keep blogging though, I’m really enjoying your work 🙂