Yesterday right before the start of the Denver Broncos playoff game with the Pittsburgh Steelers, I posted this image that I shot back in November of the stadium all lit up during sunset. This was an awesome shoot, and yesterday was an awesome game. We'll just leave it at that for today.
One thing I have noticed in analyzing the website is that I tend to get a lot of traffic to my Black and White gallery. Over the years I have had a lot of friends ask me about my black and white images. I've even sold a few black and white prints. There is just something appealing about black and white to a lot of people. I like shooting for black and white, and it is something I consciously think about when I go out.
When I first saw the hoar frost on the frozen lake a couple of weekends ago, I had in my mind's eye that I wanted to shoot for black and white. I was careful in how I composed my frame, making sure on my histogram that I had a good tonal range, since that's important for conversion. When I got home, a couple of test conversions looked promising. Later on though, when I did it for real, I wasn't too impressed. All of my presets and filters seemed to make the image too cluttered, or too dark, and I wasn't happy with how they looked. They weren't representing how I was feeling when I was taking the images, and the emotional response I was feeling inside was not a pleasant one.
As you can see below, I processed this particular shot in color. I love how sharp these starbursts are, and how nice the contrast is between the lighter tones and the darker ones. The photograph has excellent detail in both the highlights and the shadow areas. I love how these little bursts of frost are sitting on top of each other, which is keeping my eye moving on the frame without getting lost. This gives the appearance of height, which is important on a 2D photograph. Also, there are essentially two colors here. One is obviously white. The other is the deep dark blue of the frozen lake surface. The dark blue is so dark that it appears almost black, so this is sort of like a black and white with a blue tint. I like it. This image resonates with me.
As I was writing this post though, I took one more stab at processing as a Black and White. Staying within Lightroom, I clicked on the B & W header. Just one simple click and this is the result. Thinking it looks pretty good, I finished the photo with a quick Vignette preset. This image kind of has a different mood than I was seeing before. The vignette that I put on blocks out most of the out of focus areas, keeping me locked on the sharp subject. This image is now speaking to me differently than those previous black and white conversions.
Before doing this, I didn't like any of the previous black and white conversions, and I had my mind set on the color one above. Now though, I'm torn. I kind of like them both. So...which one do you like? Make sure to let me know what you think. Black and White...or Color?
You heard it here first, I am bound and determined to accomplish all three of these goals in the month of January. I think the goals I've identified are approaching the point of being realistic, which is awfully important for being successful. So, without further ado, here they are:
Goal #1: Work
Get through Day 8 of 31 Days to Build a Better Blog. I am currently on Day 3, and I want to do at least another weeks worth before the end of the month. This will be the stretch goal for the month as I anticipate being very busy at the day job.
Goal #2: More Work
I will process a minimum of three more photos with the challenge/constraint of using completely new filters (except vignette. Every photo needs a vignette).
Goal #3: Still More Work
I will complete the reader vision statement that was supposed to be done in December. I will need to get 3-4 posts ahead for posting to the blog so I can have adequate time to sit down and put my previously completed outline into paragraph form.
I'll of course be writing on my current schedule, which is three times per week. Check back at the end of the month to see how I did. See you on Wednesday...
On Monday I posted one my favorite images from the previous weekend, when I went over to the South Platte River and ended up shooting the hoar frost on the ice of a man-made lake at the Adams County Regional Park. I shot at the lake for 30 minutes or so, capturing around 80-90 different frames. While I posted one of my best and most interesting compositions, I wanted to also share with you some of the frames that looked good in camera but didn't appeal so much when I got them home. This is a public self critique of these images. Self critique is an exercise we should all go through with each of our photoshoots. That we we can learn from our mistakes, because as much as we want them to be, they're not all keepers. All of these images are jpegs of the raw file. I haven't touched them in any way.
This first one is kind of bland. While it shows the detail of what the hoar frost looked like, and how it was clumped into these little puffballs on the ice surface, I don't like how my eye is drawn to the empty space in the lower left hand corner. I think the image does have good depth of field. Trying to imagine what it would look like without the lower left, I think the image would just turn into a white photo of nothing special.
Moving on to the second image, there is no clear subject. This is because there is not enough separation between the in focus clump and the out of focus clump in the background. My eye doesn't know what to look at. I want to say that the frost right there in the middle that looks like a tree leaf was intended to be my main subject when I composed this image, but it isn't strong enough. The shadow area in the upper right doesn't do anything to maintain my interest either. I took other images that isolated one clump against the dark ice, and those work much better. I will say that I am intrigued by isolating the in focus clump by itself in a square crop. That could have potential, as that might make the height of the puffball a little more evident.
This depression in the ice I am still trying to figure out actually. I took a lot of Chemistry classes in school, and never once did we learn about water freezing in a man made lake with a six inch diameter depression magically appearing in the ice. I'm not sure how this is even physically possible, as this was three feet from the shore and there were no rocks around it for a wind blown wave to cascade over and freeze. It's almost like somebody put a bowl in the water, and then came back after the lake froze and removed the bowl.
But I digress. I made this image mainly because of the oddity of it. The subject is clearly the hole. The little bits of frost clinging to the side of it give a little bit of visual interest. There is some potential here, but I'm wishing I would not have let the hole dominate the frame. I feel that it needs a little something more. I should have shot it with my wide angle lens on the full frame camera.
This is what happens when it's 25 degrees out a few days after a big snow storm, and the ice patterns you're trying to photograph are right at the shore line. Of course you don't want to kneel down in the snow to get as close as possible with your wide angle lens because your tripod needs an upgrade and doesn't go below 18 inches. So you hold the camera down as close to the front element of the intended composition as possible, and hope for the best. What this leads to is a shotgun approach and crooked horizons and a lot of not good photographs. This is another one that might look decent with a square crop cut off right at the depth of field boundary, but I have much better images that isolated the patterns.
Overall, I got four or five images out of this expedition that I like and will try and process. That's about average. When I self critique my images, I try and be pretty hard on myself. I have never shown my not-my-favorite images publicly before, but I really enjoyed this exercise. Describing in words what I don't like about these shots made me be even more critical.
That being said, what did I miss? Am I being too hard on these images? Do you agree with what I said? Please let me know in the comments sections how you would critique one or all four of these images. I really appreciate you reading today. Have a great weekend. See you on Monday, and Happy Shooting!
This will be just a quick roundup of last month's goals and metrics. The original post was here. Once again, I think I overreached a little bit and set some unrealistic goals. Since this is a self-critique (which is very important in photography by the way), we need to go through this exercise, so here it is.
Goal #1: Post three times per week during the month. You should see new posts every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. In order to be successful in this goal, on Saturday or Sunday of every week, I am going to plan what my posts are going to be about. That way I no longer will be sitting at my computer the night before (and after a long day of work), thinking about what I want to write about.
Assessment: This one I actually came pretty close on. I missed only three days, which is a vast improvement over November. I did a much better job of not only thinking of posts on Saturday and Sunday, but actually writing them. This helps a lot. I just need to make sure when I go to write on the weekend, I know what I am going to write about. That is half the battle.
Goal #2: I think 300 page views for the entire month of December is doable. That would be 10 per day. In order to be successful with this goal, I will need to continue to interact with other blogs and websites to build some community. If you come here from Google + or Facebook, or anywhere really, please drop me a line and tell me where you saw this blog.
Assessment: This is the unrealistic goal. I only had 137 page sessions (which I just noticed is not the same as page views) during the month, and about 40 of those came in just the last three days of the month. In all, I had 220 page views. This just reinforces the idea that blogging is hard, and I have a lot of work to do to build a community. I did get someone checking out my site from a comment I left on David DuChemin's blog, so that was cool.
Goal #3: I will write the Vision and Purpose document for this website. This will be my effort to define my ideal reader (and eventually customer), and put some thought into the kinds of content I want to create. I am going to get some feedback from a couple of friends first, but I do want to be transparent, so I will post it here, probably near the end of the month.
Assessment: I made some pretty good progress on this goal at the beginning of the month, and then my day job took over and I honestly forgot about it. This still needs to be written, along with other exercises from the 31 Days to Build a Better Blog exercise. It is something else to work on here in January.
These last two months have taught me a lot about building this blog and business. But every time I sit down at this keyboard I get a smile on my face and I can honestly say I am having fun. At this stage of the game, I think that is most important. I'll come up with some goals for January, and get them posted soon. In the meantime, if there is something you want to see me write about, please feel free to contact me. See you on Friday...