Thursday, August 14, 2008

Photography to the next level, image selection...

I'm coming up on my 3 year anniversary on flickr, which is basically my anniversary of getting my first digital SLR (Aug 2005).

The way I first started shooting and posting was to take lots of shots, edit them, and try to learn from what worked well technically as well as what worked best on flickr.

Flickr is a brutal judge in some regards. If someone likes an image they will view it, and if they like it more they'll comment or fav it (or post an invite).
Posting things and getting little or no response is a real measure of how an image can evoke response. I'm not saying it's a measure of quality. It could be, or it could be some thing else entirely. But if an image doesn't go over well, the budding photographer should wonder why. And I did, and I think I've managed to learn a bunch about photography at an accelerated pace...

Fast forward a couple of years and here's how I generally shoot, edit and then post.

When I am out shooting I can usually get the camera settings right, not always, but most of the time. Lower light and I will boost ISO. I use a tripod a lot now. White birds and I compensate down. Overcast days and I adjust WB and don't protect the highlights (no harsh light = no harsh highlights). So, lots of lessons learned over the past few years of shooting digital.

Then I wind up with a lot of ok images, and I edit sometimes 50% of them, cropping and adjusting levels mainly.

During this initial edit session I usually have an image or two catch my eye immediately and I post one. But in this batch can be tons of good images technically.

Because I shoot so much, sometimes it is just this first pass that I end up doing in a timely manner. But later I look at the originals again (hopefully), and for sure I look at the images I've edited a second or third time.

By taking time to let a set of images soak in, and coming back to them repeatedly, I think I've managed to learn to be critical, and focus on what really makes an image work, for me at least.

And all too often it is behavior in a subject (animal) that makes something hit a nerve. Part of the problem of making all those judgements right after the images were taken is that as the photographer there's a huge amount of context already in your mind's eye. Images are but a moment in a timeline of a day or encounter. And seeing an image shortly after it is taken makes me recount the day and all of the context.

By letting time pass, and revisiting images, I think I've developed a more keen eye for what is in the image vs. what I recall from the encounter.

My goal is to tell stories, and provide glimpses in to nature and understanding of animals, so I can appreciate this place we all call home, and if I can share that moment with others too then all the better..


It's with all that context that I post an image from around 6 months ago from the foxes mating day at Bombay Hook NWR in Delaware. I've already now posted around 13 images, and this one caught my eye tonight. I had tried to crop it and make it work but something didn't feel right. It wasn't quite sharp enough for a close up crop, and the story of the moment seemed to be lost. So, this is the full frame version and I think I am finally happy with the image.

Red Fox Mates @ BBH NWR DE