White Sands 16 by John Ellingson
John Ellingson's picture

White Sands 16

May 31, 2019

White Sands, NM

210mm · f/10.0 · 1/1600s · ISO 100
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Ruth Carll's picture

I'd love to see you posting things like this in Minimalism, Abstract & Experimental! As the moderator, I think this would be a welcome addition. We have a fair number of youth in the group and they could learn a lot from you as well! If you do, please read the second pinned post "Critique- Please Read" first then post and enjoy our group!

John Ellingson's picture

How do I do any of this? I'm interested and I'm at the point that I'm so old I forgot where I left my ego. I'm looking to give back and do have a number of blog pieces about photo skills, including the mundane like planning for your shoot.

Ruth Carll's picture

That would be great. You might consider looking into Joe Cole's Before and After group here. It might appeal!

John Ellingson's picture

My searches came up empty. Can you point me, please?

Ruth Carll's picture

(sorry - I was doing some work on the group and tweaked the name!)

John Ellingson's picture

Here is a sample: FINDING YOUR VISION

Probably the most difficult thing to do as a photographer is to find a personal vision. When we look at the work of famous photographers, we almost always recognize the work as belonging to a particular photographer. No one would mistake an Edward Weston photograph for a image from David Muench, or Karsh.

Most photographers never develop that look that is their own. Leaning to use the equipment of photography is like learning to play a musical instrument. But the instrument is nothing without the music. In the case of the photographer, you are not playing music, but composing it.

It took me at least ten years before I stopped trying to take beautiful pictures and learned to take interesting pictures that expressed my view. If you are standing at the rim of the Grand Canyon where a million others have stood before you got there, would anyone recognize your photo as belonging to you, or would it simply be one of the other million?

How do you find your vision? For me it was through two things – looking at the work of other photographers (and traditional visual artists) and determining what it was specifically that I liked about the work and how that made it different from other similar works. The second effort was trying to emulate those subtle differences in seeing or in technique. This is where the true mastering of the art comes in.

The question has been asked for years if photography is art. My answer is usually no, except in those cases where we can determine who the artist/photographer is by looking at the work. It is the vision of the artist that we learn to appreciate, not simply the product of their effort.

John Ellingson's picture

Here is another:Is There More to Photography Than Meets the Eye?
A Brief Discussion of the Rule of Three

'Consulting the rules of composition before taking a photograph is like consulting the laws of gravity before going for a walk.'
Edward Weston

I’ve learned (virtually everything from others) over the years (seven decades) that good (or occasionally great) photographs are made between our ears and not in cameras.

Even a casual stroll through any formal education in the visual arts – and I include photography – brings us in contact with the Rule of Three. The rule (actually a heuristic – more about this later) is simple: Interesting things that attract the eye are best placed at positions based on dividing the image in thirds. This generally is meant to have a top third, middle third and bottom third along with a left, right and middle third vertically. The truly powerful places, called third-points, are where these lines intersect.

If you play around with this concept by cropping your own work or better yet the works of the famous, you can demonstrate that the mind likes this rule or heuristic. Why this is seems a bit of a mystery. Some have speculated about it, but not very deeply. Most just peddle the concept because it works.

A word about heuristics. What is a heuristic? A heuristic is an ‘almost’ rule. A heuristic is a practical method of problem solving that may not be optimal or perfect, but works most of the time.

The rule of three is very similar to and often combined with the golden ratio, which has a precise mathematical expression (reference below for those interested). That our mind likes this rule or heuristic has been known for centuries. You can find examples in great art throughout history. Give it a try. I have found that looking (and ultimately coming to really enjoy) great art has done much for my own photography.

While I didn’t appreciate the value of it when I took a year of art history in college (I think I did it because there were a lot of cute coeds who took the classes), over the years I have come to appreciate what I learned (it may have been sleep learning in the dark lecture hall with all those slides of famous paintings).

I find after a mere sixty-five years of practice that I unconsciously compose either in the camera or on the computer screen using the rule of three. Most camera manufacturers supply grids in the viewfinder that place the rule in front of you where it is hard to avoid. Adobe provides it with their Lightroom crop tool in the develop frame.

I find today that I apply this rule most of the time without thinking and those times that I break the rule consciously – I am conscious of doing so. If there was one first rule of composition, I think this is it. Try it yourself. I am amazed that so few people posting photographs don’t crop them, but post them full frame and did not compose them well in the camera to begin with. Try using the post-production tools you spent all that money on and crop your images using the rule of three. If you don’t like the results, I’m sorry, but don’t Tweet me to tell me about it.

Attached is an image I recently grabbed in a snow storm and cropped on screen to fit the rule of three:

If you look at the vertical and horizontal lines you can see how the image is divided; white third on the bottom, dark masses in the middle and white on top (partially). On the verticals there is a vertical line (tree trunk) and a vertical white space. On the right there is a tree of interest located on the third points and two white areas that are the vanishing point of the perspective and a white mass above at the third points on the left.

In terms of the processing I was seeking to capture the sense of the heavy snowfall, the coldness of winter as well as the familiarity of a neighborhood street.

I wonder if the Impressionists were creating their art today if they would still be working in oil, or if they would be using Nikons and Canons? Of course, if they hadn’t painted in oils when they did we might not have tools like Topaz Impression to work with.

My workflow on this image was first to crop it to suit my vision. Second, I used the tone settings in Ligthroom to cool the image to what I desired (overriding the white balance the camera imposed). I then used Topaz Simplify to fractionate the image to give it a more geometric feeling. Then I used Topaz Impression to give it an abstract clutter (toned way down) and then Impression again to give it a pointalist presentation. My final adjustment was to contrast and brightness.

As an aside, I don’t typically use layers for this. I do everything in one layer and save each step in Lightroom.

Below are a number of links that might be worth your time taking a look at.