Monday, August 6, 2012

Evolving Style

When I started with digital photography I shot mostly color images. At the time there were limited means to convert a color raw file into an acceptable b/w image. I tried to emulate the look and feel I had created when I was printing in my 'wet' darkroom, but I just couldn't get it. I tried desaturating the color in Lightroom. I tried various means within Photoshop - guided by digital gurus - but I got too deeply tangled in technique and became frustrated at not getting the results for which I was looking.  And then I discovered Nik Software - in particular Silver Efex Pro. I felt at home with it because the control the software afforded me enabled me to bypass digital tricks and manipulations and to work intuitively as I had learned to do with an enlarger, chemicals, and silver gelatin paper. The software translated the adjustments from the controls in the interface into digital magic that did what I expected the controls to do. With Silver Efex Pro I could recreate, and even surpass, what I had done in the darkroom.

Then came Silver Efex Pro 2. The new digital controls allowed for more than I ever could have accomplished in my analog processing. So I went a little crazy with it. I went overboard and over-processed my images, posted them on a photo website every day, and the feedback I received was very gratifying. I liked hearing people tell me that my images were instantly recognizable. I had arrived.

But the processing fast became formulaic.  I have no prejudice against HDR processing. I enjoy playing with it sometimes just to take a break from the intensity of feeling I invest in my street work. For a few months, when I first started using Nik's HDR Efex Pro package, I became fascinated with urban exploration (urbex). I spent quite a bit of time hunting down areas of urban decay, shlepped a tripod with me to shoot bracketed exposures, and experimented with the style and subject. When I got back to my b/w work, it had a look that seemed imitate an HDR quality. I often got comments like 'nice b/w HDR', to which I felt impelled to respond 'It's NOT HDR!' I needed to move away from that look. My strongest motivation to create b/w images was to focus the viewer's attention on the characters and feelings, but people were noticing the processing more than the content in the image.

So my style continued to evolve and I have arrived at what I feel, for the present time anyway, best focuses the viewer's attention where I want it. The style is most evident in my most recent previous posts here, here, and here. There's a simple straightforwardness to those images that allows the expression of the subject to dictate the story of the moment - and, as I so often write, my images are all about story and feelings.

I regressed a bit to my previous style for this shot. I thought it would best capture the levity of the moment. A second before I took this frame the two gentlemen played a playful practical joke on the young lady. I wish I could have gotten that shot too, but it happened way too fast. I titled this shot 'Yeah, you laughin' now .....' (the implied message is 'but wait till tonight when you wanna snuggle up to me!').