Making Photographs Better

Yesterday I was sharing some of the difficulty I am having in deciding which photos should make the cut. I presented three photographs for you to look at and decide how they rate.

Well, today I want to take one photo and see if I can make it better. It happens to be the second photograph from yesterday. This first photo is the exact same one as yesterday. The photograph that follows is my attempt to make it better. What do you think? Is it better than the original?

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

Photographing an event is great. In fact, all photography is great! I love it. I love the challenge of trying new things and trying to record the events as they happen and preserve the precious memories. This love for photography keeps me going, trying new things, and helps me keep a fresh approach to an event or photographic subject.

One problem with photography that I find is when it comes time to pick and best photos for prints or for a book there are just too many to pick from and I have to make difficult decisions. I suppose this is the struggle for any photo editor. I only taste it once in a while, but the taste is sometimes bitter for me.

I am currently working on a project of baseball photographs. I have to narrow the selection down to only seven photographs from this past year. I like to call these the best of the best. Once they are printed, these photographs will hang on a public wall for everyone to see for years to come.  So making these decisions does not come easy for me.

What makes for a good photograph?

Of course, I closely study the focus to be sure it’s clear. I also pay particular attention to the background of the photograph, which can be extremely distracting to the main subject. But what else makes a good photograph?

Here are three photos of the many I am currently looking at for this project. Which of these three is the best? Why? How would you choose the best of these three?

Slideshows and Flash

Do you like viewing or showing slideshows of your photographs?

I definitely do, but a recent change has caused problems for me. Most all of the slideshows I created in the past were created in flash. This is fine for browsers like FireFox and Explorer to handle, but they cannot be viewed with an iPad or a smartphone. This new development seriously limits how I want to get my photographs out there in front of other people.

So what do you do? I am curious how you present your photos on the web for others to see. Do you still use Flash? Do you use slideshows? How do you like to get your photos in front of other people?

I know that things change all the time, particularly in the computer industry. I have used web galleries for several years and I still like to use slideshows. But now I am wondering if I should still do this on my web site since I will be limiting some viewers who come to my site via an iPad or smartphone.

Any thoughts, suggestions, or ideas?

Here is one of my slideshows, but I wonder if you will be able to view it…

If He Could Only Talk…

I remember Perk Nye who used to be a fixture in the elk culture on Winslow Hill. He named many of the bulls and cows and was more than happy to talk to anyone about the elk. He also captured some good video footage back in the days before HD and digital formats were even invented. It was a dream of Perk’s to one day ride on the back of a bull elk! It was an outlandish dream, of course, and yet I could identify with Perk’s dream. There is just something magical about the incredible creatures.

My question is: what could we learn if a bull elk could talk to us?

Imagine the possibilities! What could we discover about the patterns of elk if they could talk to us? What do they think about all these people viewing and photographing them? What do they think about the new Elk County Visitor Center? Would the elk have anything to say about the changing of the seasons or the elk hunt? What about the lack of food in the old growth forests? Just what would the elk talk about and what would they say? Can you imagine?

Here is a photo I captured this past month. When I see it, I sit back in my chair and imagine that this is talking to me.

If he could only talk, what would he say?

A Bull Fight & a Fight with Noise

Tuesday evening produced an invigorating scene for over a hundred spectators who happened to be at the Elk County Visitor Center. It was getting close to dusk and a herd of cows and at least 7 bulls were in the field to the left of the Visitor Center. The rut was in the air and the tension was thick with the anticipation of two elk battling it out for the cows. The tension turned to realization as two bulls met head-to-head. Cows quickly ran in the opposite direction as these two big boys fought it out. And fight they did! It was absolutely amazing to witness these large bulls push each other as they locked antlers. It was a fight that rivaled any other fight I ever witnessed between two comparable bulls.

The fight lasted over six minutes. Many witnesses to these elk battles often exaggerate the actual time because it does appear that time stands still during these bullish fights. But we checked the metadata in our cameras after the conflict and verified the length of this battle to be over six minutes! There was not a lot of clashing of antlers in this fight–it was more of a brutal pushing match. Other bulls were close by to witness the end result and all of us bystanders were amazed at the sheer strength of these amazing animals. It was a fight worthy of two royal bulls. In the end, one was the victor and the other walked the other way.

Photographers who shoot digitally face fights with noise especially as we increase the ISO settings in our cameras. This was necessary the night these two bulls fought because it was very close to dusk and light was fading fast. I actually shot this image at an ISO setting of 1,600 in my Nikon D300. I knew noise was going to be an issue with these images. Fortunately, the newer cameras handle noise better than the old ones ever did. I would never have thought about shooting at this ISO setting with my old Nikon D70. But the D300 handles noise much better. In addition, Lightroom 3.0 does a great job of noise reduction.

Here is one of the images I captured of the bull-fight that Tuesday night. It was shot at ISO 1,600 and edited in Lightroom 3.0. What do you think of this image? Did the newer equipment and software win the battle against noise?

Finding Lost Files

I’ve never had the experience of having my kids getting lost and separated from me. I am sure that is an alarming feeling to say the least. But just this week I did experience that pit in my stomach when I wanted to find one of my favorite photos. It was lost! I searched and searched but could not find that lost file.

Part of my problem is that I have two computers, two external hard drives, and a Drobo. I can easily find all of my recent photos, especially those shot since I purchased my Drobo. Previous photos are harder for me to locate sometimes and this week was a prime example. Which drive could the file be on? Which date was the photo taken?

I typically had named my photo files with a date in this format: “2010-09-09.” Then eventually I added the event or location to the end of the file. For example: “2010-09-09 Elk County.” This naming scheme still caused some problems for me because what if I knew a photo was taken in Elk County but couldn’t remember which date it was taken? This was my exact problem this week. I knew the photo was taken in Elk County, but I could not remember exactly when I took the photo or even which year it was taken. Most recently I changed my naming scheme to the event or location first and then the date like this: “Elk County 2010-09-09.” This naming convention must be used by more and more photographers because Lightroom uses this convention in their latest version 3.0. This protocol makes sense to me because now all my events and locations are grouped together by name and then by date instead of vice versa. Obviously I did not make this name change to all my old photos or I would have found the file I was looking for this week.

I eventually did locate the photo I lost, but it was aggravating. How do you name your photographs? Can  you find exactly what you’re looking for within a few short minutes? I was told a long time ago to pick a naming scheme and stick with it. I guess I haven’t found the best scheme for me yet. I am still adapting and changing out of necessity. Some day I will be able to not even think about this and it will just be second nature. In the meantime, I will continue searching for the best naming protocol that works best for me.

By the way, here is the photo that was missing in action until today.

I Like Lightroom 3.0

Two years ago, my good friend Dick McCreight, convinced me to download the trial version of Lightroom 2.0. I was hesitant because I had just starting using another software to manage my photos and I was not eager to shell out more money for another program. But after installing and trying the trail version of Lightroom I was absolutely sold. It also didn’t hurt that Dick is a guru with this software! Just watching him move around the computer screen and edit his photos was breathtaking for me. I still remember that day sitting in his office and watching in total disbelief at what this powerful software can do.

Now, two years later, I upgraded to version 3.0 and I couldn’t be happier. This software still rocks and has improved in some amazing ways over the previous version. The photo you see below was completely edited in Lightroom 3.0. I love the photo management that this software provides and I am slowly learning more and more about all the powerful editing features as well. Did I say Lightroom rocks? Well, it does!

Go Ahead, Print Some Photos

Digital photography is great. No more waiting for turn around time with developers or messy chemicals to play with. And you can see what you shot right away on your LCD screen. Shoot away–the only limitation is how many gigabytes of memory available. Another positive difference is that you no longer have to go through shoebox after shoebox to find the photo you are looking for. Yep, digital photography rocks!

And yet, there is still something about a print. No matter its size, a print is something special, something tangible, something unique. When you hold a print in your hands you hold a memory, a moment frozen in time forever. There it is right in front of your eyes. You see it but you still can hardly believe it. Precious time frozen in beauty. Touch it, hold it, stare at it. And if you are the photographer who created this photo that’s even better!

Sadly, far too many prints are in laptops, computers, external hard drives, and Drobos never able to see the light of day. They are stored digitally and even viewed digitally. It is like they are doomed to a digital existence for all of eternity.

No! Even digital photos deserve to be printed. So go ahead, print some of your photos. Hold them in your hands, touch them, stare at them. And then you will realize that there is something mighty precious about a photograph!