Archive for the ‘Flower’ Tag

Does artistic value diminish with ease of creation?   1 comment

I am a frequent reader of a variety of blogs that provide helpful tips on how to use tools like Photoshop and Lightroom, two of my primary post processing tools. I recently commented on one of those blogs on the topic of  the authorship of an image which can be found  here.

My response, as you can read below was my attempt to bring to light a broader issue facing photographers today. The question of “ease” and the value we place on our images relative to the circumstances which placed us in front of a scene and in front of our camera, pressing the shutter release at a moment in time. The photographic community apologizes far too quickly for the ease with which the art we create is in fact created. I think that fact is what devalues the art form and it is time we allow the image to speak for itself and we stop speaking for it or at the very least excusing it.

Before I get to my comment, I thought I would share the before and after of a picture I recently took on a visit to Gibbs Gardens with my wife this past weekend.

Before – Straight Out Of Camera (SOOC)

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography


© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

It is clear (at least it is to me) that  the second image is superior in many ways to the image that is not processed in any way. If I said I worked on it for 8 hours perfecting the color and contrast would that mean it had more artistic value than the first? If I said it took one click of a button in Photoshop would that devalue it? What if, as it happens is the case, that it was my wife who suggested I take this particular picture from this particular angle. Does that fact make me any less a photographer and the image any less brilliant? I think not.

Perhaps I have been hanging around other photographers too much and my bias on ease is formed from that dialogue.  In the end, I would suggest it doesn’t matter any more or less than the size of the paint brush for a painting or edge of a chisel used on a marble sculpture.

I am thrilled with the latest technology and relative ease with which an image can be truly transformed in post processing and make absolutely no excuses for it. All I can hope for is that when you look at the second image you say wow and that it moves you emotionally in some way. At that point, I hope, how I made it is less important than that I made it in the first place.

Here are my comments from the blog I mentioned above.


You pose a great inquiry and offer an even better debate on the very nature of photography as a form of artistic expression. I would suggest this predicament is no different than the much debated question “is photography art”. The availability of the tools to the masses to make photographs has been around since the time Kodak gave away thousands of Brownies. Anyone can “take” a photograph but not very many can make art from a photograph. That for me is where the line is drawn.

Whether in the plane or on the conference floor, the real question is not “the how” but “the what”! As photographers we seem to be constantly apologizing for the how or at a minimum explaining it. Why does the how matter to anyone but ourselves as artists. The how is a mystery for me when looking at the folds of fabric carved in marble, and while fascinating, my mind dwells more on the subject, the pose and the beauty of form than the chisel, hammer and sand paper.

So it is with your photo from the plane. The fact is, the very moment you finger pressed the shutter release, something special happened. Could the person beside you have pressed their button at the same time pointing their lens in the same direction, sure. Does that make it any less special, I would suggest not.

It’s true, there is a technical element of the mastery of photography that we all must overcome to create great art, no different that the mastery of hammer and chisel or paint and paint brush. The various incarnations of David each with its own unique interpretation of the “original”, and I use that term carefully, are masterpieces in and of themselves. The ability to repeat “the how”, as is the case with the wedding photographer example, is meant only to demonstrate to the consumer the ability to achieve the technical capability of the toolset and nothing more. The real mastery comes from the subtle use of these tools to capture a moment in time that reflects back to the audience an image the moves the viewer with emotion.

That it was “easy” for you to press the shutter because the circumstances that put you there were not of your own doing is no different than the presence of a magnificent sunset that just happened to occur when you were about to press the shutter. The difficulty of the capturing of the moment, for me at least, is of much less importance, than the fact that you captured it in the first place.

Here is something else to wrap your noodle around. What if you had a time machine and went back to the very second Henri Cartier Bresson pressed the shutter on his infamous photograph, Behind the Gare Saint-Lazare, in 1932 and took the same picture with your D800. Which photograph do you think would be considered a masterpiece, yours or his and would the other be any less for it?

As always, thanks for stopping by and please, your comments are most welcome.


Stargazer Lily   2 comments

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

As many of my fellow photographers will attest, we tend to suffer from what my sons refer to as, GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome). I have also discovered this affliction in musicians, which both my sons happen to be.

Nikon has recently released their much-anticipated prosumer camera the D800, with a whopping 36 MP, driving the need for many of us anxious to upgrade, to examine our supporting cast of gear, not the least of which is the glass we put in front of it. In anticipation of the eagerly awaited D800 I have upgraded my lenses and have begun to put them to use in the studio on my aging D80. The reputation of Nikon lenses is second to none and Nikon continues its long tradition of making exceptional quality glass.  This studio  shot of a Tiger Lily and bud was taken with a very simple setup. One overhead softbox against a black seamless background. A few small adjustments in Lightroom 4 to push the highlights and pull back the shadow detail and voila.

I am very fortunate to be married to a fellow artist, who completely “gets me”, and understands the euphoria that accompanies the creative process that yields the artistic expression of our inner selves. Did that just sound like Lil’ C from You Think You can Dance? Oh well, it’s a pretty cool thing.

Posted April 6, 2012 by Paul Coffin in Nature, Photography, Studio

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Beauty and the Beast   Leave a comment

The Bud

I’m not one to over analyse my images, however I have found that since beginning my blog, I have tended to, and have on occasion, skimmed the edge of falling into art speak. A critical review and examination of ones work is important, even if it is self-reflective and while I can provide some meaning to what I see or feel about an image, ultimately, the image does speak to each of us in its own way, independently of my intent, though shaped by it. Artistic interpretation, is for me, second in line only, to the catharsis of making art.

Take the image above for instance. When I took it, I was focused on lighting, composition and color. I didn’t lend much meaning to the flower bud vs. the flower, and yet now, upon reflection, it is an interesting juxtaposition. The irregular stem, as if hunched over, apologetic, flanked by the confident, perfectly straight elder. The impending metamorphosis of the bud into flower. The blandness of the green bud against the vibrance of the purple petals. At the moment the shutter was depressed, intuitively and subconsciously I may have recognized these elements.  I can over intellectualize with the best of them, but more often than not, when I am in the field or in the studio I don’t. Thank goodness for that. 🙂

Posted January 12, 2012 by Paul Coffin in Nature, Studio

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Had to get this out of my system.   2 comments

Dry Falls, NC

I think every photographer has to take a picture of flowing water falling gently over a waterfall with a slow shutter speed. There is something surreal about the experience of a waterfall. The sounds, the smell of moisture in the air and a light sprinkling of mist coating your glasses. I’m not sure how to bring original thinking to the photography of waterfalls, but I do know that the timeless beauty of images like these remains awe-inspiring.

This waterfall can be found in Dry Falls, NC and is just outside Highlands, NC. Mary and I traveled here in 2010 to drive through the rolling mountains and visit the waterfalls. There are many in the area and we had several healthy hikes getting to them. This trip was particularly fulfilling photographically. On the way home I stopped along the edge of the road to take pictures of wild flowers. Mary is so patient with me and never complains when I want to stop suddenly because my eye catches something interesting.

The joy of photography not only comes in the moment of capturing something extraordinary, but the journey to get there. Having Mary with me makes that all the more sweet.

The wild flowers filled  a field on the side of the road. I spent almost an hour surrounded by them and the occasional bee that got my attention. It’s amazing the beauty we so often drive by and never stop to enjoy.

Posted December 22, 2011 by Paul Coffin in Nature, Travel

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Flowers in the Studio   1 comment

Purple Dahlia

I am slowly adding to my studio setup and am beginning to experience the joys and challenges of studio lighting. I experimented over the summer with flowers from Mary’s garden. I’ll post more pics in the coming days. Here is one I am particularly fond of. As spectacular as the front of the flower is, I was delighted to see the beauty of the back. Sometimes, turning things around makes all the difference.

Posted December 21, 2011 by Paul Coffin in Studio

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