Archive for the ‘Nature’ 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

After

© 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.

Matt,

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.

The Big Easy   1 comment

St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans, LA

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

I recently returned from a trip to New Orleans with my youngest son during his senior year high school spring break. New Orleans offered a varied mix of culture, history, food and local flavor deserving of  any southern city of its size.

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

My son and I avoided the decadence often associated with the city and instead, walked along the alley ways of the French Quarter meeting a few of the eclectic people and places along the way. Street musicians dotted the streets and entertained passerby’s as the sun warmed the day. I have always been intrigued by street performers. These are individuals who do what they love and despite the obvious financial hazards of street performing, are willing to entertain with a smile in the hopes of a small contribution to their well being.

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

Eager to venture off the beaten path, we took a day to travel outside the city. At the top of our list of places to visit was the Oak Alley Plantation.  Cameras in hand, and tripod at the ready we waited until each room emptied or the view was unencumbered so that we could quickly set up the shot and take a few photographs. Strolling the grounds after our tour, we walked the length of the walkway lined by the live oaks, stopping as we went to photograph the plantation and take in the beauty of the magnificent trees.

Oak Alley Plantation

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2013 Paul Coffin Photography

The trip to New Orleans was a short one, but my son and I squeezed in a drive through St. Bernard’s Parish, a trip to a the marshes on Lake Pontchartrain, Oak Alley Plantation and plenty of walking through the city. We ate well and enjoyed each others company. It will be a lasting memory we will share.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Napa Valley in the Fall   2 comments

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

Napa Valley, like most wine producing regions has a mystique all its own. There is of course the wealth effect of fine wine and certainly Napa, like many famous wine regions, suffers the ills of the highbrow, that for me can sometimes be off-putting. Be that as it may, there are many welcome and hospitable vintners who, once past the pretense, proudly share the history, flavors and nuance of their wines. Fall in Napa is a sight and smell to behold. Driving along  Redwood Rd. towards Hess Collection winery, in the rolling hills north-west of Napa, the air is filled with the aromas of grapes crushed and fermenting as well as those still hanging from the vines.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

Honestly, I can’t say for sure what I was smelling but it was sweet and delightful. Late October generally marks the end of the harvest, so I was a bit surprised to see grapes still hanging from the vines.

Hess Collection is a winery owned by the Swiss art collector, Donald Hess, on land leased from the Christian Brothers, who occupy a nearby retreat and conference center. Nestled in the hills 7 miles from Napa, this quiet location offered a nice respite for a quick afternoon visit to the area.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

I quietly approached the chapel and found someone who kindly gave me permission to photograph the interior of the church. This image is composed of 9 frames so that I could capture all the highlight and shadow detail. Despite the lack of ornate architecture, the rich colors of the wooden pews and tile floor provided a pleasant contrast to the white walls  balanced with the wooden trusses of the ceiling.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

I was pleasantly surprised to see grapes still hanging on the vines, expecting to see empty vines with fading fall colors. Instead, I was greeted with plump bunches of  bright blue grapes, suspended against green, rust and orange leaves and twisted brown vines. After a light wine tasting I headed back along the quiet roads to make one more stop in Napa for a late lunch.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

The Uptown Theater, in downtown Napa,  made for one last series of photos before I left the area for the day. I could not help but add a duotone effect to add to the nostalgia of the art deco theater. For a brief moment, I was taken back in time and imagined the theater in its days of antique cars, wealthy local socialites draped in fur and black tie affairs that surrounded the Golden era Hollywood premiere. Those really were the days.

As always, thanks for stopping by.

Sunset on the Western Plains   3 comments

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

There are few of God’s spectacles quite like a sunset. My travels have found me among many as rich and as colorful as I can imagine, and that are truly awe inspiring. These three photographs were taken minutes apart as the sun gently slid beneath the horizon just outside the small town of Wala Wala, WA.  I was alone in an open field with only my thoughts to keep me company on a cool evening with a gentle breeze replacing the warmth of the glowing sun.  The fields had been plowed and the heavy impressions of the footprints of combines and tractors were all that was left on the rolling hills.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 
© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

These photos reflect the peaceful tranquility of life on a farm among thousands of acres of land. It was a nice respite from the hustle and bustle of modern life were I live, outside of one of our countries largest cities, Atlanta.

Although I didn’t have the opportunity to explore the local area further, this is also part of the Columbia valley wine region. Perhaps on another trip I will be able to visit some of the many vineyards to photograph the grapes as they cling to the vines ready to be harvested for another years great vintage.

Posted August 31, 2012 by Paul Coffin in HDR, Landscape, Nature, Photography, Travel

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Gently Sleeping   Leave a comment

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

 

A couple of weekends back, my youngest son and I went for a drive in the country. He told me a story of a friend of his who went on a date and simply drove until they got lost, parked and had a picnic for two. Once back in the car, they set their GPS to home and meandered along the back roads until they were safely at their destination.

My wife and I took a similar adventure in the country last weekend. We took random turns here and there until we stumbled upon a group of friendly horses in a pasture beside the road. I’m not very familiar with horses, so I didn’t venture too closely, but they certainly seemed friendly enough. This photo was snapped as one of them lie still in front of me. I think it was a blink, but it appears as though he is gently sleeping.

I live in an area not far from plenty of horse farms and stables and am anxious to photograph them again.

Posted July 13, 2012 by Paul Coffin in Animal, Black & White, Nature, Photography

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Sunrise Sunset   Leave a comment

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

In one of my early blog postings, I recall having mentioned the comfort the moon brought me on my first trip to the Philippines. It was a moment of recognition of the familiar amid the very unfamiliar. Every day and every night for millennia, the cycle of the rising and falling sun with the ever present moon continues to inspire and keep us comfortably in natures rhythm . The brilliant colors cast over the rippling water and painterly sky, a visual gift for all who gaze upon its glory.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

The color of light as the sun eclipses the horizon is like no other and the warm glow it casts brings beauty to any subject. The skies in Peru were among the most spectacular I have witnessed and the evening skies were filled with stars and the outer edges of the Milky Way. These colors are as I remember them, vibrant burning oranges, reds and purples mixed in the texture of partly cloudy skies and still waters.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

Machu Picchu   Leave a comment

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography
 

I recently returned from a two week trip from Peru, where I had two vacations in one. The first week I visited Machu Picchu and the second week, I traveled six hours up river from the city of  Pucallpa into the Amazon rain forest to help build a church in a Shipibo village along the banks of the Ucayali river. I’ll post more pictures from that part of the trip in the coming days.

After a plane to Lima and then the next day to Cuzco, we took the train to Aquas Calientes to spend the night before getting up early for the sunrise at Mach Picchu. Unfortunately, and I suppose as is typical, it was clouds, heavy fog and rain. The sunrise would have to wait for another time. After five hours of miserable wet and rainy weather, during which time my camera barely made it out from underneath my rain poncho, the sun finally broke through and my second trek through the ruins began.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

As many of my frequent blog visitors know, I am a big fan of HDR photography, and I knew the only way I was going to capture some new and unique images of a location that must be photographed thousands of times a day was to capture the place using this technique in liberal, albeit not over the top fashion.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

The most challenging aspect of my photography that day, was avoiding the many hundreds of visitors in the ancient ruins. In one instance, I waited for close to 40 minutes in the hopes of capturing the sun-dial without the distraction of the throngs leaning into it in the hopes of extracting some cosmic energy. I pulled two shots off.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

Machu Picchu is truly a magnificent wonder. The Inca’s were clearly master masons and their work remains today as a testament to that dedication. The Princess’ Palace is one such area that illustrates their mastery.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

At every turn the vista’s that greeted us were amazing and it is not hard to understand the many reasons the Inca chose this location to build the Palace. It was a sight to behold.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography

It was one of the most amazing places I have visited and will forever be an adventure to remember.

© 2012 Paul Coffin Photography