Friday, January 20, 2017


I picked this title for my tip of the month as a play on words. No, this is not a commercial for a fast food place.

I've noticed that, especially with the advent of digital photography, we have become obsessed with creating images that are super sharp, super saturated, super HDR-ed, super everything. I have seen too many attempts at showing the bolts on a bridge, colors that look totally unreal and off the color wheel, images that seem one dimensional because every
part of the image has been "flattened" through HDR.

I am not saying we shouldn't do this. It all his its place in photography, business, and marketing. What I am saying is that we should consider adding a mix to our photography so that not every image has the same "look."

What I like to mix into my repertoire are images that elicit feelings, thoughts, mood, and sensations. My goal is not to create work that always results in perfectly executed pictures of subjects. Art is much more than producing photographs or paintings of subjects. The "wows" should not be limited to technical execution.

I always wonder if Georgia O'Keeffe's fans and followers ever asked her at a social gathering, "You are so good. You must use high quality paint brushes." 

Okay, with that introduction, let me share a few images to illustrate my points.

Early morning fog surrounding a small lake near Hot Springs, Arkansas. Sharpening details and saturating colors would have ruined the feel of this soothing and relaxing place.

The Red River separates Oklahoma from Texas at the northeast corner of Texas. Like the image above, it was very calm that morning. There was no need to lighten the exposure to get more detail in the old fishing pier wood supports or the trees--no need to disturb
the cloud of "peace." I did use an FLD filter so the colors more closely reflected what
I was feeling. My point here is the absence of saturation and sharpness.  

I call this "Watercolor Willows." Willows in winter are bare, exposing sharp and colorful branches that form tumble weed-like shapes of burgundy, orange, and yellows. Yes, I could have zoomed into them and honed in on the texture of the branches. However, the sensation I got when I looked out at them was that of watercolor paintings I used to create during my college art days. Using my photographic tools as my paint brushes, I decided to do a double exposure to create a soft "watercolor" look and feel to an otherwise contrasty and detailed subject.   

The contrast between the foreground and the background gives this image a sense of depth, and therefore adds mood/feeling to the scene. I want to walk into the deep soothing woods and relax. If I attempted to create a technically "correct" image, I would have decreased the variance between darks and lights, which would have made it more one dimensional. The end result would be an image that seemed technically "correct," but aesthetically weak.

This last example falls under the category of "Don't try this at home." I was driving down a less-traveled country road in the Ozarks of Arkansas. It was an early May morning with a thick fog hanging over the low tree-covered mountains. I saw this awesome scene and quickly decided to carefully back up to get a better composition. I then drove very slowly, about 5 mph, down the road and shot this through my windshield. I quickly discerned that, at a shutter speed of 1/13, the trees would be blurred. That's what a wanted-- a painterly mood of dark greens as the mysterious road led you to somewhere peaceful.  


So, in summary, of course sharp detail and vibrant color is essential to create great photography. But, those aren't the only characteristics or variables that can create great images. Follow your feelings, sensations, and moods, then translate them into what we call a photograph.

If you are already doing this, please continue having fun with it. If not, challenge yourself-- go against the grain. Go outside your comfort zone. Above all, have fun!!