The Lilies of the Pond

Posted in On Tthe Road, Photography Tricks on April 9th, 2011 by MadDog
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Yesterday it was impossible for me not to think of Eunie’s death seven months ago. How I miss her. How I’ve changed. I’ve gone through another lifetime in the last few months beginning with despair and suicidal thoughts, stark fear and crippling grief. Much of that is now behind me, hopefully to return only in isolated episodes. Perhaps I am maturing in this strange new life. Loneliness remains my most troubling companion, but I’ve come to realise that it not need plague my future. My allies are my faith, my friends and naive hope.

Being here in Gympie for the last few weeks has been not unlike traveling to a different, less lonely planet. It has provided me with a wealth of distractions and allowed me to heal more rapidly. Certainly travel itself is stressful and I’ve had to make some major adjustments. The stress I felt in Madang was the pressure of the too familiar. Everything in life reminded me constantly of loss and provoked the aching in my heart. Here, at least, that is absent.

So, being in a reflective mood today, I naturally began to think about light. I think that may be a pun of sorts. I don’t usually contrive puns, because I’m no good at it. I suppose that I just proved that point.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking about light from the perspective of an artist, in particular, a photographer. It seems to me, and I know that it’s not an original thought, that we do not, in fact, see the real world. Perhaps that requires some explanation. What we do see is only light. Our eyes do not respond to objects, they only sense light. That’s all there is as far as our eyes are concerned. We see only photons reflected or emitted by objects. Though this may seem a very abstract, even meaningless distinction, it’s important in the sense that one who intends to capture the essence of an object must be very aware of the roll of light in revealing the nature of the subject. Indeed, it is all we have to work with. Try turning the lights out.

In this shot of a water lily, one of the better flower images I’ve produced lately, I was working with the light, molding it, in fact, to my will:

The flat, grey light of the overcast sky did not do what I wished. It provided only the colours and the shape. I had to create depth by digital trickery. The bright glow of the yellow centre washed away the detail which I saw with my eyes, but was lost in the electronically recorded image, a common fault of digital cameras. I had to find it in the information and restore it. I was completely unsatisfied with the lack of depth in the water drops. They looked like cartoons. It took some fiddling to make them drops again.

I am the proverbial guy who knows nothing about art, but knows what he likes. I have an idealised template of an image in my mind when I sit down to work with it. My camera provides a good starting point, sometimes better than others This is the beauty of photography today. A dabbler such as myself can produce images which, in another age, might have been presumed to be the work of a master:

I had similar problems with this image. I had to dig deep in the digits and grab back what the flat light took from me. In this case I took a more painterly approach, intensifying detail to the point of parody. At least the leaves in this shot have no serious imperfections.

In this shot of a blossom just opening, I went further down the road of recreating the image to suit my ideal of it. A trick of the light made the deep center seem to glow. Again, details were nearly absent. I struggled mightily to pull them out. I’m quite happy with what happened around the outer edge of the glowing centre:

The little puddle of water on the leaf under the blossom is also a gift.

I got another gift here in the form of a busy bee:

I’m pleased by this snap shot. When working with bees, one has to be quick. They don’t pose. I also like the stems flowing across the frame. “Angled lines” is a good compositional tool to keep in mind.

Voluminous tomes have been written about light from the perspective of the photographer. I’ve read a couple. Though informative, much of the information deals with studio lighting. Since I’ve never been attracted to that kind of photography, the information is mostly academic, but it does provide insights into things an amateur might do well to think about. My advice is to learn to enjoy playing with light. In this shot, which was hopeless with the natural light, I had to find a useful way to use the dinky flash on my Canon G11:

The camera wanted to put way too much light on the subject. I had to ask the long-snouted grasshopper to stick around for a while as I fiddled with the intensity of the flash. I finally found a setting that gave me a good exposure.

Here in this shot of a very fat spider illuminated by a flat, listless sky, the problem was to find a way to give the spider some depth:

Franky, this shot would have been a throw-away if done on film and processed normally. A genius in the darkroom could have pulled up from the negative the detail present in the underexposed body of the spider. With Photoshop, it was the work of a few minutes.

Photography is much more fun for me today than it has ever been before. I can’t believe I stuck with film so long.

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Posted in Mixed Nuts, Photography Tricks on August 24th, 2010 by MadDog
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Today’s post won’t be windy. I’m winded. I had no idea that I was going to be so busy and feel as if I’m accomplishing so little. Yesterday evening was our last night with Trevor and Karen, who came down to Cairns to visit us. It was, of course, bittersweet. We left Eunie alone for a while to get pizzas to bring back to the room to eat while we watched a couple of movies.

Naturally, I had my camera with me and there is no such a thing as killing time if you have your camera in your hand. You can divert your attention to creating something, even if it is inconsequential. As I saw the variety of lights on the Esplinade, I got to thinking about lights. Brilliant, eh?

Man’s lights and the lights of nature – both illuminate. Some of man’s lights are beautiful. Think of the streams of glory from a stained glass window or the adrenaline beauty of fireworks. Others are horrid, such as the deadly flash of a thermonuclear bomb. Nature too provides a variety of lights, benign, such as the moon, or nurturing or deadly as chance may be in the sun’s rays:

Some of man’s lights are open to a wide range of artistic interpretation. Here I captured the tail lights of passing cars in a fifteen second exposure with the camera rather shakily balanced on top of a post:
The cars are mere streaks. Most people have blurred into non-existence. As I looked at the image in the preview, the title came to me instantly. Watch Long Enough – Everything Changes.

But some lights are different. They illuminate, but not through the sensations of the eyes. They illuminate the soul.

I positioned myself quite a distance away for this shot, so I think that I can honestly say that it is candid:Trevor and Karen dropped everything that they were doing, blew a bunch of hard-earned cash, and came to be with friends to share our suffering, cheer us up , provide necessary counsel, cry with us, laugh with us and shine some much needed light on the subject of hope. This is not to mention the practical details which Karen helped Eunice with – ones which I am not yet ready to face.

How many friends can you count that would do that?

This is the light of treasure.

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I wish that I had some news today. Eunie stayed up late last night watching movies and went to bed happy. Her colour seems to be improving – she’s less yellow. Her appetite has also improved. These are good signs for her strength which she is going to need in the future. We have not yet heard from the oncologist about our move to Brisbane, but it is only Tuesday afternoon as I write this. My own condition is fragile and I know that I cannot allow this to continue. I know that I will be better able to cope when we are in Brisbane with our friend Val, because she is a strong, take-charge woman and takes no nonsense from me. I will have to toughen up considerably to keep her from beating me up for being a wimp.

After decades of softening myself, sensitising myself, growing absurdly empathetic and always, always, learning that the more I give the more of what I need that I receive, I find myself now suddenly weak and ineffectual in situations where I need to be forceful and decisive.

It is a puzzlement.

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