2628 – The Right Tool For The Job

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Dec 272013

Or maybe not. I saw this small forklift in front of a stack of overwhelmingly big containers, and what attracted me was the symmetry. It was raining and I took the image from under an umbrella.

The Song of the Day is “The Right Tool For The Job” by Marcia Ball. Hear it on YouTube.

May 222013

Ok, ok, it could be someone else’s ladder as well, I don’t claim to know, it’s only that songs with “ladder” in their title are exceedingly rare 😀

The Song that gave this Tuesday post its title is “Jacob’s Ladder” from Bruce Springsteen and the Sessions Band’s 2007 album “Live In Dublin”. I’ve had the song in “1961 – Jacob’s Ladder“, more than a year ago, and it was simply time again to hear it on YouTube.

Jan 072012

My father is a carpenter. Yesterday he helped me with two new cabinets and at one point we had to drive down to his workshop in Klagenfurt to fetch some things. It’s where I took the image of these old clamps.

The Song of the Day is “Between The Bars” from Madeleine Peyroux’ 2004 album “Careless Love”. Hear it on YouTube.

Oct 282009

These are tools of my father. My father was a master carpenter and entrepreneur, though his business never got even mid-sized. In a way he was – and still is – always the working man.

It is years ago that I took this image. Just look at the file name or the URL: mid-August 2006! That’s before I began this blog.

I’m still here in Carinthia, beautiful autumn days outside, the trees in their most glorious colors, I confined to the apartment, sick of being sick. Well, not much longer. But of course I was not outside yesterday, thus the archive image.

For no particular reason I began looking for an image from the beginning, browsing my early D200 images in chronological order and … they suck. They really do. Most of them do. No that’s not really differentiating, most of my images still suck, but on any given day, I can be sure that I will have a workable image.

Not so then. Oh my! Not only did my images suck, I made so few of them! I didn’t even properly try to make them not suck.

I can best see it in framing. Today when I frame an image, I normally know what I do. I attempt a certain effect, and this is so pronounced, that even after a long time, even if I don’t remember the exact incident, I can immediately see why I framed the image as it is, I understand what I wanted to achieve, even when the image was ultimately a failure. They are my images and I understand my images.

It’s not that I don’t recognize my early images, sure I do, but so very often I recognize them through the locations. I know the places, I can remember many of the incidents, but what I don’t recognize is the style.

Style? Huh?? Bold word for someone denying having one!

Indeed. Uhhh … well … there’s not only black and white, there are shades in between. I am slowly accepting the idea of style being more than a marketing instrument. I am still convinced that much of what goes as “style” is nothing but self-inflicted artistic petrification, annihilation of creativity from fear of changing from a formula that has been found to sell.

There is a deeper meaning though. While the word style is commonly understood as a characteristic of a particular artist’s work, that can be recognized by the recipient, even without knowing the artist, i.e. understood as a distinguishable property of the work, there is merit in looking at style from the artist’s perspective. Here, style is not a result, it is a process, and ultimately it is a way of thinking, a way of analyzing the world. I may frequently change tools, change between color and b&w, change between realistic post-processing and Photoshop plugins like Alien Skin Snap Art, I may do that from one image to the next, may do it within one post and change back with the next, but I change my way of thinking, of analyzing the world, only very slowly, and only due to an ever ongoing learning process.

This is what I mean when I say I don’t recognize my style in these old images. When I see them, frankly, I have no idea what I thought then. There is not much continuity with what I do now. The images could as well have been taken by someone else.

It’s pretty interesting to see how it all began and where the roots are of how I work today. I have not gone back to the early 5 megapixal Kodak images, I guess I should view them systematically as well, but I guess it won’t make much of a difference. What finally made a difference, was when I bought my second SLR lens.

My first lens was a Nikon 18-200 VR, and when I bought the D200, this long range was actually a step back from the even longer range of the Kodak. I was just used to zooming and to the universal availability of all focal lengths.

My second lens was a Sigma 30/1.4, my first prime, and though I can’t remember why exactly I bought a prime at all, I suppose it was the “myth of primes”, it immediately made a difference. Constricted to a frame of a certain size, I began to compose. Not being able to zoom, made me work harder, think deeper, and from that time on I see images that I can identify with. These are images that I have put thoughts into, and the ways of those thoughts are still traceable for me.

Now, what can be learned of all that? Two things:

Productivity may not be the only key to improvement, but it helps a lot. My productivity increased tremendously, when I began to publish a daily photoblog. If you want to get better, there is no better thing than practice, and the rigid discipline of a daily blog is keeping you practicing more than you otherwise would. It’s not as intense as doing it as a job, but it leaves you more freedom to explore.

The second thing is: the “myth of primes” exists for a reason. Restrictions make you work harder, and that improves your work as well.

The Song of the Day is “The Working Man” from the 1968 self-titled Creedence Clearwater Revival debut album. Hear it on YouTube.

Sep 222009

It’s stupid. I shouldn’t do that. I really should work on my new web site.

But then, how could I have passed this playground without noticing the kids sitting in the cage, on top of the goal? How could I not have taken the image, how could I have restrained myself from processing and uploading it?

Or the tools of that chimney sweeper, whom I saw in the morning, vanishing in a shop, leaving them out on the street, prey to my Sigma 150/2.8 Macro?

Yes, I use the 150 again and it’s pure pleasure. It’s an awkward lens in many ways, but once you get accustomed to the fact that you are always too near for what you see, once you have found out that even then it sometimes pays off to get nearer, once you have acknowledged how sharp it is wide open, once you have begun to see in this peculiarly tiny frame: suddenly it feels natural like any other lens. Well, heavier maybe 🙂

So often I see people ask on forums what lenses they should buy for good bokeh, and then they get all sorts of answers from 50/1.4 to – of course – 85/1.4, but what so many people don’t recognize, is that near focus beats wide aperture all the time. That’s why this lens is so useful and that’s why the Sigma 70/2.8 Macro wipes the floor with the Nikon 85/1.8, although they have so similar focal lengths and although the are similarly priced.

Yesterday was one of these days. I have more images. At least one or two, and each of those shown here would have made it for Image of the Day on a normal day. I relish those days, even though they make so much work and even though it is so stupid and I should work on my server 🙂

The bicycle made it today. I think, yeah, that guy’s really funny. I saw him, and for whatever reason, he reminded me of a clown. There was something in the pose, and of course for me there is something in it that you can’t see: he had an orange saddle (you see the color, but you wouldn’t have seen what it is) and he has red handles on the handlebar, a handlebar that reminded me of the cap of a jester. Well, it was impossible to fully isolate this guy, thus you only see what you see. For the rest you have to believe me. He’s still funny enough I think, isn’t he?

The Song of the Day is “He’s Funny That Way” by Billie Holiday. I have it in my cheap collection of 10 CDs with early Billie Holiday recordings. I have it by Ella as well, but Billie is what I found on YouTube, thus she makes it.

Sep 032008

This Sunday image was hard, and it also shows that Ted is right when he writes in a comment to “686 – Guardian Angel” that he is

… increasingly convinced that photographic art is a process consisting of an observation at the time of shutter release and discovery in PP. Thus art is a concept and that concept involves a process… which also means that I no longer think that epiphany is an instantaneous moment when the stars explode and Archimedes runs naked down the streets screaming, “Eureka!”.

Oh, perhaps in geological time the process happens in an instant, but in reality it can happen in hours or over days don’t you think?

Yes, that’s what I think, and sometimes it comes easier, sometimes it comes harder. This was hard.

This image of a hanger was taken on Sunday afternoon in Carinthia. Normally I don’t stop photographing until I have at least one safe bet for an Image of the Day, but on Sunday exactly that had happened. This was nothing but an uninspired warmup image in bad light. No problem, because I would go to a fair and there I would certainly find photographic opportunity aplenty, right? Wrong. It did not happen, and suddenly I found myself in an awkward situation with nothing but a hanger, not even inspiration.

This is the result of my third attempt at making it an image. The first drove all colors apart and to max, the second found this gaudy and converted to B&W, and the third revealed color again. Well, I guess I like it at last 🙂

The Song of the Day is “Struggle” from Apocalyptica’s 2001 album “Cult“. See them live on YouTube.