A few years ago I wrote up a Digital Primer to help one of our nieces learn how to use her new camera. In it, I explained the camera in terms of various Components, explaining what each is, and what factors have to be considered for each.
Here’s a sample:
What: That glass thing in front that forms the image, just like you study in science class
Focallength – measured in mm
a longer focal length brings objects closer (telephoto) but takes in a narrower view
a shorter focal length is the opposite – smaller objects but wider view
telephoto lenses have less depth of field, meaning there is more in front of and behind the subject that will be blurry. You can use this to isolate the subject e.g. portrait in focus with flowers etc soft-focus in behind.
A zoom lens has a range of focal lengths, usually from somewhat wide to somewhat telephoto – good all-purpose compromise
Quality – almost any modern name-brand camera will have a good-quality lens, and you can upgrade over time
Until a couple of years ago, the Ontario Society of Artists’ annual Open Juried Exhibition (OSAOJE) had a theme each year. In 2013, the theme was Unintended Consequences, and that tied in with some things that were running around in my head at the time. For some reason, I had read the Michael Kalashnikov regretted inventing the AK-47, as it had been used for so many awful things that he never intended. Not everyone believed his regrets, but still – interesting link for Unintended Consequences.
Here’s the final image. I’ll go through my thinking and some technical aspects below. Note: All the images are from the Internet; I was unable to get clear attribution on any of them, since various organizations had re-posted the images without attribution.
From the beginning, I wanted the child soldiers represented in overlapping ranks, with colouring that would look like a flag. I started with a single image and trimmed out all the background. Overlapping was much harder than I expected, especially since I wanted the central child soldier in each rank to be in front of those to each side, as you can see. There was a lot of positioning by pixel coordinates, then grouping, copying and pasting in new positions. The colour bands are rectangles, sized by pixel dimensions and partly transparent. I also checked to make sure that the colours I had chosen did not match any existing flag, because it’s not about any specific conflict.
The AK-47 is simple isolated from its background and given a golden glow so it floats above everything else.
My original thinking for the left side was to have a map of Europe at the end of the Second World War, with AK-47s pointing out from the USSR like the defensive line Kalashnikov wanted. There was a little infographic comparing intended defence and unintended child soldiers. It just didn’t work.
Then I got the idea to have the 3-frame graphic novel you see in the final version above. Turning a photo into an image that looks like it’s from a graphic novel took a lot of interesting learning. Here’s a clip showing the third frame’s layers.
You can see that there are two layers with the base image of his face (which I tilted to reflect how traditional portraits are made, and to add a sense of motion). The upper layer is partly transparent so that, when the modifications are added, the unaffected bottom layer still shows through. This adds a little definition to the final result. The three adjustment layers are, in order, brightness/contrast, threshold and posterize. Together, they create the pen-and-ink effect I wanted. The top two layers are for the thought clouds and text.
This is one of my favourite images, not just for the technical difficulty and the learning I had to do, but for all the thinking I had to do to relate it to the OSAOFE theme. I hope it makes you think, too. I doubt it will ever sell, though.
(BTW, I have another Unintended Consequences image in mind, based on the American Constitution’s Second Amendment, layered with their Founding Fathers and maybe a single day’s worth of American gun violence.)
I have been investigating how we see landscape now. In the past, in Canada and in North America, landscape imagery has had a heroic aspect. Landscape paintings, mainly by the early Group of Seven, have formed our concepts of who and where we are. In reality, very few of us have been to the places shown, and nowadays we see landscape, if at all, whizzing past our car windows.
It’s not just that I used a low shutter speed here, about 1/6s. I had to use a wide-angle lens with a neutral-density filter, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get that low a shutter speed.
To me, a photographic artist tries to show things not normally seen, or to show the mundane things we overlook. With the Modern Landscape series, I’m trying to do both: show you the landscapes you drive past, but make you realize that they are worth looking at.
In photography, showing motion and time is usually done by controlling the shutter speed to blur motion or freeze it, or by creating a series of photographs. I have done all of these, but new technology brings new techniques, and recently I have been shooting from moving cars and trains, using the camera’s panorama settings. The motion is too fast for the camera’s processor, so I get the slicing you see here. This gives a time-sliced, jittery view of the passing world: a sequence of suspended motions.
So here it is at last – Aug 31, and I just set up the linking so pixsilver.com shows my new site. I will add more galleries, change up the images from time to time, continue writing, and get guests to write.
It’s still a work in progress, but so is my art. And so am I…
Please leave comments to let me know what you think.
It’s August, 2017, and I am re-creating my website. Again.
I was showing off to my computer studies students… I don’t do that any more, so, you can see why I’m rebuilding it.