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A Stylistic Departure. October 21, 2012

Posted by littlebangtheory in Art and Nature.
Tags: , , , , , ,

Yes indeed, a departure from both my obsession with Mother Nature and the landscapes she surrounds me with, and the hyper-intense palette of Autumn in New England.

This past Saturday I headed down to Springfield MA to see a show at the Valley Photo Center, facilitated by local photographic luminary Gene LaFord. Gene works way too hard to bring quality work from world-class artists to Springfield, and in this case outdid himself by bringing in the amazing work of world class printer Bob Carnie and his wife, Laura Paterson, both (duh!) from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Bob is among a small handful of printers who get to work with the Beta versions of new photographic papers which might hit the streets. Try to imagine what that means in terms of his knowledge about what goes into making an excellent print even better.

At any rate, the show was jaw-dropping, both for what Bob does in his printing (and photography) and what Laura does with a plastic Holga camera.

As I stumbled dumbstruck through a room full of their work, I wrestled with the question of whether to just throw my kit off the South End Bridge or TRY HARDER, and opted for the latter.

Google any of the names I just dropped and you’ll see just what I mean.

This comes at the heels of coming to know the work of Manuel Vilanova, a co-conspiritor in a Facebook Photographers’ Group to which  I belong. Manuel does a lot of black and white photography, much of it portraiture, but some of it landscape/architectural, and all of it an instant lesson.

So on the way home from Springfield I stopped in Holyoke, where their City Hall had long intrigued me, but for the visual translation of which I lacked a language.

Manuel’s photographic style had suggested a certain set of motions between the objective lens and film plane which Elliot is capable of, and a brief conversation with Bob Carnie made me want to check out the “curves” tool in Photoshop. I employed all of that and some other stuff I’ve gleaned from more experienced photographers to take this shot (converted to B&W) of the Holyoke City Hall:

Elliot’s tilt-shift functions delivered this composition thusly: I aimed the camera (on a tripod) considerably more skyward than what this capture suggests, then scrolled the “shift” function downward to achieve this view (well, ok, I scrolled first and aimed second, but I want you to understand the optics of shifting.) This exaggerated the “vanishing point” effect of looking up at a tall building, making it soar beyond what the naked eye would see. Then I tilted the objective lens downward a degree and a half, laying the plane of sharp focus along the line running from the (red) rose in the foreground to the top of the clock tower.

That gave me the composition I was looking for; the tonal range from blacks to white was achieved by adjusting the values in a B&W layer in Photoshop, bringing up the levels of the red foreground rose and the intermediate yellow leaves until they glowed, then using Bob Carnie’s “curves” advice to bring the mid-tones up.

I know, that’s way  too much information for those of you who come here for “eye candy,” but I’ve had requests for “how-to’s” from photographers who want to improve their art, and while I feel under qualified to be their guide on that journey, I feel that I ought at least to try  to be of some use…

So there it is, a B&W urban image, one which I’ve wanted to capture for a while now, but until this weekend felt unqualified to attempt.

I’m almost satisfied with the result.


1. Clair Z. - October 22, 2012

Thank you for the explanation and the beautiful photo. I wonder if you might show us a photo of the same scene taken without tilt-shift. That might help me better understand what you are achieving with this technique.

2. littlebangtheory - October 22, 2012

Sorry Claire, that’s the lens I had on, and I had no reason to shoot that particular scene without both the tilt and shift – all of the parameters which matter change during both operations, including exposure, focus and composition.

I’ll try to do a side-by-side comparison of another subject closer to home in the near future, so check back regularly. 😉

3. susancrow - October 22, 2012

That is an exceptionally stunning image.

4. TheCunningRunt - October 22, 2012

Why thank you, You of the Discerning Eye. 🙂

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