Posts Tagged ‘farmland’

Sometimes change occurs as a paradigm shift, more often, it’s just one piece of a grand jig-saw puzzle dropping into place. I experienced one of the latter yesterday.

My friend Clay Wells, made a comment about about the preceding post, Making NJ Farmland-Redux, that really set off a cascade of mental sparks for me, and I wanted to share them with you.

Clay said “When I looked at this I got the feeling of riding in the back seat of the car looking out the window.”

I read this and it was for me like “DING! DING! DING!” going off in my head and I said to myself “Yeah, that’s exactly what it is – what I was seeing was the view out the window on those rides my Grandfather used to take the family on,” and with a little pause, “and so is the picture of the lake, and so is the picture of the diner…” 

We’d pile into Granddad’s Oldsmobile and he’d hit every country road in every area he could think of – mostly trying to get my Grandmother lost, I suspect. That field shot in NJ Farmland? Just the type we’d see; soybeans as a rotation crop – they’d be a big draw for pheasants too – come hunting season.

Often as not, we’d stop at some lake or stream somewhere – maybe wet a line, catch some sunnies or catfish, or maybe try to coax a bass to hit a plug as the shadows grew longer. And while I was on the ride where the photos were made I just happened to stop by a lake. Just happened? It’s like I know how to do this “ride in the country” thing – I was taught by a master; automatic water-seeking is part of the program.

So, I “just happened” to strike up a conversation with a guy on the dock in the photo. He thanked me, by the way, for announcing myself from shore before disturbing his reverie while reading. He explained that most fishermen would just walk out and stand a few feet from where he sat and start fishing without saying a word. In the light of self recognition, once upon a time I would have been a kid tagging along, and my dad or granddad would be the ones there striking up that conversation, and respecting the rights of another. And likely as not, the various mom’s would all be back in that cavernous car enjoying the view and the company, just as my mom did on that day.

To complete the metaphor, what then would have been more natural on one of Granddad’s rides than to stop some place for dinner on the way home? This ride with mom happened to stop at one of the landmark modern diners in central NJ.

So, what I was doing was documenting a “ride in the country”. Funny, that. I guess anyone out on a journey; a vacation, business trip, excursion, or a walk to a neighborhood market, who stops along the way to photograph things is in effect making a documentary – making little story-boards for the movie about the event that plays in our heads when those particular photos come to mind. Moreover, I really enjoy telling stories with photos – photojournalism. Look and Life Magazines from the fifties are seared into my consciousness. My work as a pro when I was very young was all of this sort.  So, I guess, why should I be surprised to learn that’s what I intuitively and automatically do today? However, my goals for individual images is infinitely more expressive than utilitarian.

I also remind myself that the name of this blog is “Still Learning How to See”, and this posting is a case in point. I learned a little bit more about me, and seeing oneself a bit more clearly, understanding why I’m making a photograph, helps clarify my vision. Which iterates the most basic point of technique: the most important component in your camera system is you.

So thanks Clay, for the comment that got me thinking… :-) 


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NJ Farmland – Redux

Originally uploaded by chris_rutkowski

I uploaded the contrast corrected version of the original then decided to experiment with the B&W a bit as Jeff suggested. Found that a medium-strong Rose filter effect supports the composition without getting overly dramatic. Yellow filter makes this sci-fi… This version "reads" right; that is the perceived brightnesses are similar between the two versions. This has a nice dimensional effect, which a touch of trapezoidal edge burning enhanced.


Comment Thread from Flickr

Other very minor thread topics have been excised for clarity.

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Jeff Engelhardt   says:

define "overly dramatic" . . . . ?

Not looking for black skies? :). I suppose they do have their place. I do like this as black and white, definitely, but surprised you didn’t push it a little bit further . . for example, I see no "true blacks" here – which a normal levels adjustment is used to accomplish. I’m guessing, perhaps, the intent was more of a "light" feel?

I’m curious along this line, because the clouds in the sky hint at drama, and often good skyscapes over farmland tend to be dramatic (but that’s just how "everybody" tends to do it) – can you talk more about your intent with the picture? Curious the inner workings of your mind (I love to unpack the photographic process) . . . please discourse, and I’ll return soon to see . .

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chris_rutkowski   says:

Actually you hit the nail pretty much upside the head: the intent was indeed more of a "light" feel. Specifically, this is New Jersey. New Jersey has a very different sky than the West: lower, brighter, glarier… (not smog for the sarcastic wits out there. Well, not always). That “very-bright but low-contrast” feel is the NJ I grew up in: this is the early fall when the muggy air of summer has not yet been fully vanquished by the crisp cool air masses that will spill down out of Canada in the coming weeks.

One problem is “scale effect”. What looks good small may not look so good large, and vice-versa. In this case, in smaller versions the tiny amount of black is rapidly lost. If you look at the original size you can about see small black areas of shade in the tree-line and around the house. They are very small. But in a 16×24 print – they’d be pointillist pepper to spice things up and make the tree-line look real.

This rose filter choice was done viewing side-by-side with the color version and homing in on a translation that felt “the same”.

It was in that context that “overly dramatic” came to mind. Effects that would turn the sky black would come by and I’d be saying “no, no, no, no, no…” Definitely not for this piece of New Jersey I’m showing in this shot.

I also admit to a bit of deliberate avoidance. Black skies can be (are?) a cliché – a visual crutch, so I sometimes set up rules for myself like “no black skies” just to make it more interesting. I also sometimes avoid certain places: while on a trip to NM this time last year: no photos of either the St. Francis church or the Taos Pueblo. No Yosemite. No Brice canyon. But a piece of flat land in NJ… sure. At least I can say with some certainty that this is the best photo ever made of this spot :-)

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chris_rutkowski   says:

Mental ruminations:

Subject: Overly Dramatic:

Postulate: All perception is a result of contrast.

Hypothesis: Contrast exists within and/or between 4 visual domains (brightness, shape, color, texture) and 2 emotional domains (content, context).

Dramatic = Strong contrasts among and/or between domains.

Overly = Strong contrast for the sake of strong contrast – any effect for the sake of the effect. Specifically as it relates to the intent of the shot.

Appropriately: No effect is inherently wrong. Even an "effect for the sake of an effect" if that’s the point.

This is based on a "making and viewing photos" rubric I’ve been working on – thinking about – for a while. Initial thoughts on the model?

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chris_rutkowski   says:

This version adds that bit of contrast – Photoshop curves layer with Black input set to 8 and white input set to 249. Crisper, brighter. but it didn’t feel like what I had in mind.

Is this a left over trace of "straight photographer" principles, or a cop out? Giving up before the best possible picture – the strongest visual statement – is achieved? Is it valid to use a single shot to produce multiple visual images which tell a different tale? My brain says yes, but my heart achieves "maybe" at best.

In the spirit of stepping out of my comfort zone (my favorite admonition to others) a "black sky" version will be forthcoming

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