Looks Like We Have Fallen On Black Days…

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Many of you might know that the title of this article refers to a song by Soundgarden. Some might also know that the lead singer, Chris Cornell died yesterday. While it is incredibly sad for such a great talent to leave us early, my life was impacted on a personal level by the death of a neighbor yesterday also.

Sadly, I was having an argument with my son, when my neighbor grabbed a gun and ended his life. I did not even hear the gunshot. For this, I feel a bit ashamed.

I suppose it is common for anyone who knows/knew someone who killed themselves, to feel some kind of guilt. You feel as if you should have known on some level. Yes, I suppose I feel that, even though I did not know him very well.

We had more in common than a lot of people I have met in my lifetime. We both were in long-term relationships. We both had physical problems that did not allow us to work. We both had issues with being home alone a lot. Yet, he is gone and here I am.

Why is this so? He was younger. He had a pig and a dog. He even had a car. He certainly had more to live for than I. Yet, he is gone, while I remain.

The only real difference between us, was that he drank alcohol and I do not. I suppose that was my main reason for not getting too close to him. I had been down that road for a very long time and was glad to be off of it. I don’t doubt, for even one second, that it was this one simple difference that determined our very different fates.

Alcohol has a tendency to elevate whatever emotions you are feeling at the time. Certainly, that had to be the thing that influenced his decision to end his life. In some ways, I should be happy that my thyroid went crazy and I decided to quit drinking.

But I would be remiss to act, as if I am certain, that is a good thing. Not his death, but my life I refer to. Had I not changed my ways, then I would have missed all the bad things I have had to experience since. Like him, I suppose, I want it to all just be over. When the black days never seem to end, it feels at times like the best option is death. Trying to shake the dark thoughts is not always an easy task and on black days like this, it is even harder.

However, there are things my neighbor will never get to learn, for he ended his life too soon to discover them. He won’t learn some the great truths of life, that only come with time. He will miss the moment of eureka that happens when you learn something profound, something life changing. He will never get to the other side of life, where you begin to see the guiding hand of the universe. He will never learn that there are reasons, there is a purpose, there is a plan.

Instead, he will be just a footnote in a life that barely matters. He will be a lesson learned, a truth given, a moment of loss…in an ocean of suffering.

…Goodbye my casual friend and neighbor. I hope that your black days have ended and that you find yourself at the gates with Chris Cornell. May you both find some peace of mind.

JB

 

 

The Art Of Creative Photography: Chapter 1

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(The above photo was taken with a Canon SL1, processed with Lightroom and then split toning was used to create the aqua water color.)

While it may be true that the mindset is the most important thing to a creative photographer, that does not mean we do not have to explore the basics. For every new thing constructed must be built upon a solid foundation. With that in mind, let’s begin with the tools needed for this path of photography.

I remember when I was a young man, one of my many step fathers telling me something that was actually of value. He said, “For every job, it is important to use the right tool. The right tool will not only save you time, it will save you frustration.” He was a carpenter and this line of reasoning, I suppose every carpenter uses, is very sound advice.

But how exactly does this common sense advice apply to photography? (You might ask if you were sitting next to me and actually cared) It is applied by the decision you make now. You must decide, first and foremost, what kind of photos you would like to take. I know this seems like a no-brainer, but really think about it and you will likely find it is much harder than it sounds.

There are many kinds of photos and many kinds of cameras, that each excel at their own thing. For an example, let’s say you wanted really detailed, almost hyper-real, photos. You would not use a Diana camera. More than likely you would be looking at purchasing a full frame or cropped sensor DSLR for taking those photos. Perhaps now you can see how important it is to have the right tool for the job.

I, personally, could never decide upon a specific type of photo. I wanted to have every tool in my box. It cost me over $3000 to do that. I would not recommend this path for everyone. Many photographers focus on one kind of photography and it seems to work for most of them. You must do what makes you happy, because in the end, it may be only yourself who is finding enjoyment in your creativity. You cannot expect everyone to like everything you do. It is an unreasonable and unrealistic expectation. All art is subjective and photography is definitely an art form.

So I challenge you today to go look at photos. Not just briefly but take your time, really explore the photos you see and decide which ones you really, really love. When you have found something you love, then begins the work of finding the right tools.

Do your research. Find a tool (camera) that you are comfortable with. Whether it is a cell phone or a DSLR, it must be comfortable to use. When I say comfortable, I am not speaking of the technical knowledge you will have to learn to use it. Every camera, even a cell phone, requires knowledge to use it properly. When I speak of comfortable, I am speaking viscerally. It must feel good in your hands. This is why I use a Canon SL1 DSLR to shoot with. It is one of the smallest DSLRs made and I have small hands. After you have researched cameras, nailed down a few you are interested in, and have hand-tested a few to find your tool, then you will be ready for the next step in the process.

To help you get started, here are some general guidelines for the types of tools (cameras) and what each is best at shooting.

(The above photo was taken with a Canon SL1. It was processed in Color Effects Pro 4 using ND filter, Pro Contrast filter, Detail Extractor filter, and Tonal Contrast filter. It was then taken into Affinity Photo, where the shadows and hightlights were dodged and burned to create even more contrast.)

Highly detailed: Full frame or cropped sensor DSLR–Modern day DSLRs are pretty expensive, but they have the most flexibility. You can take a shot, taken with a DSLR camera, and do almost anything to it with the right software. If you like that idea, then this is the path for you.

(The above photo was taken with a Diana F+ camera. The film was scanned and it was enhanced slightly in Lightroom to boost only saturation.)

Classic: Less detail, more feel-an old SLR film camera, a TLR, or toy camera–Technically speaking, the less detailed part is a misnomer of sorts. Old film cameras do contain as much or more information in the film than modern DSLRs, however, the cost of a scanner to retrieve all that information is out of reach for the average photographer. So because of that limitation, scanned film will USUALLY have less information after scanning than a typical DSLR. What film cameras do excel at, is feeling. The light fall off of film cameras cannot be matched by a DSLR or any software we have created to date. Yes, we can come close and for most people that may be enough. If you want the real deal though and know the difference, this is the best path to take for those wanting genuine feel.

(The above photo was taken with an I-phone 7+. It was processed directly on the phone using Photo Toaster)

Convenience: a cell phone–Carrying around a camera may not work for some. The best shot is always the one taken. It is never the one missed. There are some very good cell phone cameras out there today. Most have decent sized photos (12 MP) and get highly accurate, if not incredibly detailed photos. There are compromises when choosing this route. You won’t have the detail of a DSLR, nor the feel of a film camera, but you should never miss a picture. Some cell phones even allow you to shoot in RAW and that gives you more flexibility. Obviously, the most important aspect in a cell phone camera, is being comfortable so you will want to use it and take advantage of the fact, that you always have it.

(The above photo was taken with an Instax Mini 90 instant camera. It was then scanned at 1200 DPI to create a larger photo and that is all that was done to it.)

Instant Gratification: An instant film camera–These kinds of cameras have come a long way since the 80s but are still like any film camera. There is no fixing film and that is especially true of instant cameras. While the picture clarity is better and there are more options on modern day instant cameras, they lack simple things like image stabilization and auto focus. Taking a good photo with an instant camera can be satisfying and a challenge. Yet, some people like the forethought required in capturing a truly great instant photo. With affordable scanners that can scan at 1200 dps, now we can make photos of these instant pictures that are of acceptable size for viewing (8 x 10).

I will briefly go into generic cameras, such as head cams, super zooms, or point and shoot. While they do have their place and I myself have a nice super zoom, they are more of a supplemental nature. In other words, you don’t need them to begin down the path of creative photography. Head cams are great if you want to swim underwater or do daring feats. Super zooms are great if you want to shoot strictly wildlife and are certainly a much cheaper alternative to a DSLR lens that costs $1200 or more. Point and Shoot cameras do pretty much the same thing as a cell phone camera, and do not always fit as easily into your pocket. However, they are a cheaper alternative to modern cell phones, for sure. I am not saying don’t get any of these. I already said you should be comfortable with what you shoot with. I am saying none of these types of cameras have a particular strength that is needed to accomplish any kind of photography. Thus, you must find if these cameras will help you in your end goal of shooting creatively. Indeed money is always a concern, but if you look at any camera, you should see it as an investment into your happiness. I cannot put a price tag on that, can you?

In the next chapter we will discuss the software side of tools. So go out there, check out some photos, and find what kind of pictures you want to do. Go do your research! Go get a camera that fits your needs, and lastly, learn everything you can about that camera. Read the manual front to back, and back to front. Know your camera like you know the back of your hand (Does anyone really know the back of their hand? Where do these stupid sayings come from?). When you have done these things, you will be ready for Chapter 2.

In the meantime, you can check my gallery of photos, to help you decide which kind of photos you want to take. Here is the link- http://fineartamerica.com/profiles/jb-thomas

Have a great day and I hope to see you for the next Chapter!

JB

The Art Of Creative Photography:An Introduction

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The above image was shot with modern equipment and made to look this way. The how and why will be explained in this course. Now on with the intro, shall we?

I watch as the art of creative photography lies bleeding on the floor. It’s guts stripped from it’s insides, by sites that promote popularity, rather than the photos themselves. I see images badly taken, horribly composed, and incompetently edited, reach new heights, while photos that are beautiful, well composed, and nicely edited wither on the vine. It truly is a sad time for being a creative photographer. Your work and effort does not matter. Stock websites want plain vanilla pictures and individuals only care how popular an image is.

Why do I tell you these things? I must, for you should know what road you will travel down, and you will see that your work will mean nothing most of the time. Just like the days of great musicians has fallen to the wayside, so is the tale of the creative photographer. I would love to show some other people’s work that has been glorified and is absolutely terrible, but nobody is going to allow me to use their photos in that way. But trust me, once you begin down this road, you will find this out for yourself.

It is a hard road to travel, but I believe things are always changing and some things, like others, will always stand the test of time. Those who spent all their time working on gaining followers, instead of working the photos, will fall by the wayside. It is simply a matter of time. Though this road is a tough one, I believe in the end it is better to have the knowledge that you did your best. Having this knowledge is a reward, in and of itself. For it will give you the peace of mind when you are alone and allow you to face death with no regrets.

During this course, I will show and explain all the tools I use to create photos. However, I will go even further. I will explain the mindset I use when shooting. I will explain the why of it all. Rarely is this much ever asked for or revealed. But I believe it is so fundamentally important to this kind of work, that it must be explained.

I will present pictures and explain how they were created. I will explain how and what software was used. I will teach the techniques and reasons involved in my post-processing. While composition and mindset are so valuable in taking good photos, post-processing is the key to bringing out the intention you had, when you took the shot.

If you have not subscribed to this blog, now is the time. You don’t want to miss an chapter of this creative photography course. It will help even those, who only use their cell phones to take better pictures. True creativity starts in the mind, not with the equipment.

JB

 

Pictures and Posts…

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As per my previous post here, soon the photographs I have to post shall wane. As they do finally dwindle, I will begin only posting the photos directly to my photos site at Fine Art America. Those will be reposted directly to Twitter, but I will not be directly posting them anywhere else. Followers can still comment and share them, I just won’t be there any longer to RT or comment. When you realize that you are doing more Retweeting than ALL of your 15k+ followers combined, you understand it is time to move on.

So what am I moving on to? That actually is a good question. Being retired means I won’t have to do anything. However, I have never been one to sit around doing nothing. I will still be taking photos and I will have more time for other things, such as writing. Writing has always been a part of my life. That is why I am considering a basic principals guide to creative photography. It seems, only appropriate after I have shown over 200 photos, that I explain how I created some of them.

If you like photography and would like to learn how to be a bit more creative with this art form, this would be the series to read. While my photography experience is not as vast as some of the other professionals out there, my graphics experience is exceeded by none. I have been creating graphics for websites and other projects, since the first consumer level computers came to the marketplace.

I offer an unique perspective on it, and will reveal some of my many secrets, for making photos creative and interesting. The first article alone will improve your photography skills. The series will be completely FREE! There is no reason to miss this, and all you have to do to insure you don’t miss an episode, is subscribe to this blog.

I hope many of you join me on this next exciting venture! Take care and enjoy your weekend!:)

JB

Mr. Squawky

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As tales go, this is not exceptional large, but it is good and has a great moral. Thus, I believe it is worth the telling.

We wanted to get some beach and sunset pictures during our vacation, so naturally we went to Galveston Island. Upon arrival, we quickly figured out that we were not going to be able to get a sunset picture from any of the beach side of Galveston Island. It faces south and the sun has yet to set in that direction. Thus, throughout the day, we looked for an alternative. The other side of the island faced the right direction along certain parts of it, but everything we looked at was private land.

Finally, near Freeport, we found a small piece of land not private, and I got set up to photograph the sunset. As time grew on, I got bored and decided to see if I could get me some pics of seagulls in the area. I must confess I had to resort to bribery to get the pics, but it was interesting how it played out.

I decided to throw onto the ground some cheese crackers I had left over. I turned to hand the bag of remaining crackers back to my wife, and she says to me, “Honey, you are going to have to throw some into the air.” To which I replied “I don’t think so! Watch and see.” Just as I turned away from her, the first seagull swooped down and landed next to the crackers. What he(she?) did next was surprising.

Instead of delving into the large group of crackers, he began to squawk loudly. It seemed almost as if he was proclaiming that the crackers were his. None of the birds listened to this though. In droves they came, and ate his crackers, they did. He continued to squawk at them and they continued to eat his crackers.

By the time he finally shut up and ate some crackers, there were only 2 left. He’d wasted his time trying to stop them, and squawking, when he could have had all of the crackers.

Moral of this little tale…know when to shut up. In the above photo, he is caught in the act of squawking. Remember that image every time you consider talking and think about what your words will cost you.

Have a great day and thx for reading!

JB