Tag Archives: evolution

Do Not Make Excuses

Let’s talk about art. Fine art photography to be exact.

To be honest, I don’t quite understand the meaning of art. Some people say that art is this or that. There are several interpretations and opinions on this terminology. Some are even conflicting. Well maybe it does not mean anything in particular and people are just naturally argumentative.

I do know what I like in fine art photography and I do have my own (strong) opinion on what is good art. Examples of the type of photos that I truly appreciate are those that you find in http://1x.com. I could literally spend the whole day just looking at the fantastic shots on that website. I admire the likes of Ansel Adams and Henri Cartier-Bresson as well as the modern photographers Ken Duncan and Peter Lik. I have contacts in Flickr and close friends who are very very good photographers.

What do I like about their photographs? It’s quite difficult to explain. I could start discussing about the techniques of composition that they use, the mood, the colors, the contrast. The problem with such kind of an explanation is that I am using the components of art to explain art which is a bit of a circular argument. It is the kind of explanation that can be easily refuted by silly arguments such as “does that mean that a crappy photograph captured by a monkey isn’t art?”.

So let me try to explain good art by using something that everyone can appreciate. Good art requires EFFORT.

It is very easy to make bad photos. Anyone can do it. But it takes a tremendous amount of time and effort to create a pulitzer.

Anyone can sing, in tune or otherwise, but it takes effort to be like Frank Sinatra.

A lot of people laughed at the Gursky photograph that sold for $4.2M because they think that any mortal could have captured it. The reason it sold for that much was because of the name behind the photograph. It took time and tremendous effort for Gursky to make a name for himself. Because of his name, critics will also make an effort to explain why the photograph works instead of dismissing it as something very ordinary. If I had captured that shot, people would still probably buy it just for the frame if the price is right. See the difference?

Some “photographers” say that my art is too rigid. That I follow rules too strictly or that I am too dogmatic. Well they are right. There is a reason for that. I have set my own goals in photography. I would like to become the next Ken Duncan or Ansel Adams. It takes enormous TIME and EFFORT to get there yet there is no guarantee of success. I am just starting out. I still have a very long way to go.

Consider yourself for a moment. What do you hope to achieve? The fact that you are reading my blog probably means that you should try your best to follow the basic rules of photography before breaking them.

Anyone can make bad photographs. I have been there and I still continue to make bad shots intentionally or unknowingly. I am not an expert. Far from it. But I do make an effort to make pleasing photographs.

Just because art is a word that has no concrete definition does not give you an excuse to make bad photos. A bad photo is a bad photo. Call it art if you like but I have much bigger dreams and will not tolerate your quest for mediocrity.

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Evolution of an Amateur Photographer

Stages in the Evolution of an Amateur Photographer:

1. The Point-and-Shoot stage:
Buys a point-and-shoot camera on impulse for a holiday trip so he can take snaps to post on facebook. Gets tricked by the sales guy into buying the obsolete camera sitting in the corner because it’s got lots of megapixels. Tags his officemates in every photo to show how much fun he is having while they had to cover the half-finished project he left behind.

2. The Point-and-Shoot Upgrade stage:
Decides that 10Mp is not big enough and tricks his clueless brother to buy his point-and-shoot camera so he could upgrade to a whooping 12Mp … well… point-and-shoot camera. Forced to buy a new storage card because that previous camera only accepted XD card.

3. The Megazoom stage:
Suddenly, 5x zoom is too short for anything so he goes out to buy a 24x zoom. Learns how to RTFM and thinks he got a bargain because the effing manual mentioned a 100x (digital) zoom. Of course this new camera has a lot more megapixels…14Mp this time. His girlfriend quickly learns how to inhale very deeply every time he takes a photo of her at full wide angle or else the terrible lens distortion will make her look like a rhino.

4. Rule of Thirds stage:
Learns about basics of composition. His subjects are now positioned quite nicely where those stupid lines meet. Thinks that any photograph that’s got the subject or the horizon at the center of the frame are horrible amateurish shots. Makes fun of Gursky’s photo that sold for more than $4 million USD. His camera fires the flash every time he takes a photo of that iconic bridge at night.

5. The DSLR (aka fourth upgrade) stage:
Gets amazed at how some photos seem to have their subjects pop-out of the frame. Learns from his friend that he needs a DSLR for that. Tricks his clueless brother for the second time in buying his P&S camera so he can buy a DSLR. Learns the meaning of P&S and DSLR and completely ignores the compact interchangable lens cameras because they are not DSLRs. Lurks in photography forums and asks for advise which one is THE BEST DSLR. Gets a dozen different answers so he decides to head for the shop anyway and gets tricked by the same sales guy into buying the obsolete model sitting on the corner. Goes home smiling ear-to-ear with a twin lens kit.

6. DSLR Frustration stage:
The mode dial is still set to the green square like the day it was bought. Shoots his DSLR with outstretched arms looking at the 3″ LCD screen as if he is holding a baby’s soiled diaper. Wonders why he’s not getting those photos that pop out of the frame. Occassionally gets his subjects to pop out when the camera struggles to shoot and opens up the aperture in low light conditions but the photos are blurry. That darn flash still pops up every time he takes a photo of that iconic bridge at night.

7. Bokeh Honeymoon stage:
Finally managed to Google about aperture and shallow depth of field. All his shots now have that 3D effect. Photos of his girlfriend now have only her nose in focus but he doesn’t care. Shallow DoF FTW!!! Sorry, I meant Bokeh FTW!!!

8. Fast Lens Envy stage:
His twin lens kit that goes from f4-5.6 are no longer enough. Anything less than the holy trinity isn’t good enough. If only he has those lenses then his photos would be a hundred times better. Experiences frequent wet dreams of his dream lenses.

9. The 50mm stage:
Getting the holy trinity is out of his league but he quickly finds out that the nifty-fifty is the cheapest way to get more bokeh. Every photographer has to have THE standard lens so he buys one … after spending countless hours in forums arguing whether he should get the 1.8 or 1.4. Ends up getting the 1.4 because it is way faster. Shoots wide open at f1.4 all the time and wonders why he could not get anything in focus. Not so frequent wet dreams of the 50/1.2.

10. HDR stage:
Almost crapped in his pants when he saw Trey’s HDR photos. This is the next evolution in photography!!! Downloads a pirated copy of Photomatix. Pushes all the sliders to 11. Halos and bleeding bluish shadows abound. Perfect!!! Posts his “photos” in every group in Flickr. His Flickr photostream is full of blinking comments and invites from other HDR fanatics.

11. Flickr Explore stage:
Discovers this magic thingy called Flickr Explore. Dedicates all his time into getting at least one of his photos into the top 500. Comments and likes every photo he sees. Uses Flickr Scout to keep track of his images in case they make it. Almost fell on the floor when the Scout showed all of his photos are in Explore and posts his excitement in the forums only to find out that everyone in that forum have all their photos in Explore because it is April 1st.

12. Full Frame stage:
High ISO, noise free, more shallow DoF…full frame is the most obvious next step into becoming a pro. Buys a full frame camera on impulse and wonders why all his shots have a weird black ring. Dumps all his crop sensor lenses except the nifty-fifty which happens to be his only usable lens. Evangelizes about the 50mm being THE best lens ever and opens his own group in Flickr dedicated to 50mm shots.

13. Full Manual Macho stage:
Real photographers shoot in full manual mode ONLY. Mode dial is now glued on M mode. Struggles at first in lining up the exposure slider. All his photos on Flickr are now proudly described and tagged with “exposure: manual”. Creates a new thread in forums asking everyone which mode they shoot in. Grows a hatred of anything by Ken Rockwell.

14. Sunny 16 stage:
Learns about correct exposure and sunny 16 rule. Still lines up the sliders in M mode but a lot quicker now. That thumb dial is almost worn out. Makes fun of others who shoot in full auto mode. Keeper shots have improved. Grows a hatred of anything unrealistic like those horrible HDRs.

15. Strobist stage:
Learns about this blog called strobist and buys several flashes and brollies and light stands. Does not have a clue about his flash’es GN and thus the complete reliance on TTL. Does some portraiture here and there and sometimes gets lucky enough to be hired as a backup wedding photographer…for free.

16. Holy Trinity stage:
By now he’s saved some money to acquire the ultimate photographer’s arsenal: the Holy Trinity of lenses. Lots of sleepless nights shooting test charts. Sharpness is everything. Advises the n00bs to buy the best lenses or else. Very adept at interpreting MTF charts. Posts comparison test images in forums. Keeper shots have improved in ratio because total shots have dropped considerably.

17. Leica Lust stage:
He is willing to sell his kidneys for an M9. Buys a Fuji instead to satisfy his lust for a rangefinder. Defends his Fuji from all the forum bashers. Sells his Fuji after discovering that his cellphone is so much quicker at taking photos. Lusts for the Fuji successor.

18. The Realization stage:
Very quick to judge others in forums with the immortal words: “It’s the photographer, not the camera”. Starts to hate his heavy equipment and decides to invest in compact interchangable lens cameras. Does a lot of Googling about the advantages of MILCs to justify his new purchase. More time spent in forums than actual shooting. Gets involved in conspiracy theories such as why only Canon shooters ever win in contests sponsored by Canon.

19. Boredom stage:
Gets bored and creates his own photography blog.