My Creative Process
I was recently asked about my process in creating the photograph, “Blue Skies” (out-of-camera original image is below), and so I will oblige… The artistic process is so personal – different for all artists, regardless of their medium – but always begins with a desire by the artist to translate what they feel about the world they live in. The main difference between artists besides style, is the medium that the artist chooses to interpret and communicate their desire and world to others. That might be done in verse, sculpture, drawing, painting, photography, dance, song or any of the many other arts. However that “desire” is typically to give birth to something, to create. Some days it whispers quietly and on other days it ceaselessly chatters, but it always calls! My medium just happens to be photography.
EMOTIONAL PROCESS: Oddly enough, my emotional process in preparing to photograph is simple; it involves this seemingly quizzical precept: empty mind, open vessel. I have no preconceived idea of what I will create. I head out, happy to meet with Nature, allowing it to call to me and lead me where I’m supposed to go. Only when I become aware of light, reflections, shapes, textures and colors is when I’m stopped to look deeper and then begin to consider creating. I do my best to leave ego out of my process, therefore, I don’t take a photograph, instead I allow myself to receive what nature gifts to me – gifts, not gives. I align my mind, eye, camera and heart to create images that appeal to myself first, and I hope will appeal to others.
ORIGINAL, OUT-OF-CAMERA IMAGE: In the instance of this image, the texture of the boat, the texture of the water being licked up by the wind, the reflection of the sky and the color of the boats, the way the light danced on the water…it stopped me in my tracks; I could not walk by. All the beautiful elements called out to me, and I answered.
TECHNICAL PROCESS: My technical process is swift and happens intuitively. When the scene calls, I look and determine how I want to interpret it. Do I want to use selective focus or expansive depth of field…what do I want the viewer to know and experience about my subject…what part of the subject is most important to me? In the case of this image it is all about the light and the texture. It is quintessential Provincetown – the sea, the boats, the fishermen, the light, the beauty. I hope you’ll agree that the true essence of all that is Provincetown truly shines through in this one image.
The textures and light reflecting on the water were the call that stopped me to look deeper. Because I’m a detail person, most often I want to “get in closely” to my subjects, but certain situations don’t allow for it, like where a boat in a harbor may be docked, so I saw value in getting the whole scene knowing I could crop into the image in post-processing. Once I’ve been stopped by the elements of a scene, my thought processes intuitively shift from emotional to technical – what do I want this particular scene to be in-camera that might allow for more creativity later? By the way…Because I was formally educated in photography I’m a stickler for photographing in Manual (M), no Av, Tv, green square or Auto for me, ever!
So, scene, thoughts of possibilities and then the technical aspects: I want to get the width of the back of the boat, but I want to eliminate the visual distractions on either side, so I need to be tight enough to eliminate, but wide enough to get what I need: 38mm, which is considered a wide-angle lens (I was using my 24mm to 70mm f/2.8 Canon lens). I chose an f-stop of f/3.5 because I know that value would offer me enough detail, selective focus / depth of field to get those textures and enough of the water that was of interest to me. I had set my ISO to 200 because I was shooting in various and changing light; it was enough light sensitivity for the light that surrounded me. I clicked my shutter once and moved on to a different scene. It was the only image of the back of the boat Blue Skies that I made that day. I did get other aspects of the boat, because again, I’m a detail-oriented person who does a lot of documentary photography, so that comes through in my art photography as well!
POST-PROCESSING: When we used film we would send it out to a lab that would post-process for us. Now that we predominantly use digital cameras, we must be our own lab – few images come out of the camera perfectly, they must be processed to bring out the best in them. In post-processing, I refine and enhance the image to what I feel is a balanced and pleasing image, based on sound photographic processing techniques. Color is balanced, density is balanced, highlights have detail, and detail can be seen in the shadows – all this depending on what the subject matter is and what I’ve intended to communicate with my viewers. I go for balanced and beautiful imagery in the end. It has to be pleasing to me, but I have two rules that I always apply to help me achieve that final post-processing balance: “less is more” and “just because it can be done, doesn’t mean it should be done.” In my professional opinion, over-done simply doesn’t work, in art or in cooking! One must understand photographic technique and printing principles to know when to stop, when to add and when to take-away.
The final image was processed to bring out the delicious textures and colors that I originally saw and under-exposed for when photographing so I could be certain to have all of them for my post-process work. I work in Adobe Lightroom for quick management and slight processing, but always refine my images in Adobe Photoshop, which has been the industry standard tool for all professional photographers. I work in layers, so as not to degrade the image during processing, adjust levels or curves, color balance and then use Nik to do the final enhancements, which is what you see in the initial image posted. Once the full-frame image was processed for all I mentioned above, I then determine what should be seen by my viewer. Those textures and colors, of course!
I have a certain style of seeing…it ranges from very orderly, where horizontal and vertical lines are readily visible, to the extreme abstract where nothing seems discernable. Motion and blur are freeing for me, but I do love an orderly image as well. The line of the boat against the rough texture of the water was, I felt, one of the strongest elements of the full-frame original image, so I cropped in to make that piece the most visible. However, all of those delicious textures of the boat had to be seen, so I further cropped to create the final Triptych seen here!
I do hope that you’ve enjoyed getting into my photographic process from start to final image. Again, I encourage any and all questions that you may have, or comments about the images. And if my process resonates with you, please feel free to share how!