Friday, January 26, 2007

a game of chance by chaos

as if the sky was about to kiss them (by fernando [pixelstains])

«as if the sky was to kiss them»

For all the emotional content I like to pour into photography, I have a problem with chance. This is not quite like Henri Cartier-Bresson's celebrated «Decisive Moment», where there is a level of planning involved and capturing, intuitively, a good composition and a display that can only happen at a certain moment in time, and then it is gone. That is, the proper composition and emotional peak is available only for an instant. Another topic that deserves its proper attention. Now, take the single moment and leave it up to chance, or more properly, not chance but chaos. A subtle difference I have been frustrated for a while.

Consider «Mario's Bike» photo also from HCB, and ridiculed in Flickr. (However, that is not a surprise, since there so many equivalences in music as well.) HCB knew of the geometry and strong composition, and the decisive moment is the cyclist at the right place. That it was a bike speeding by, versus a person walking is even more impressive. Staged or not, not sure he did staging at all, there was not much left to a "chaotic" chance. Meaning, it was rather unlikely that the cyclist would turn around and fly, stop instanteneously, etc.

Now, in the photo above, which happens to be my "one hit wonder" at flickr, if one is to go by views and faves, in terms of general appeal -- and I hope it has more to do with the Velvet Underground having a one-hit, versus say... The Knack -- is a very troubling photo for me, in some regards. Yes, I like it. Yes, the post-processing is something that pleased me in many ways, and a way that I really controlled the mood. However, I feel like I had very little to do with what "makes" the image, at least on a first impression.

I was at the Parque de las Palomas in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. A great place to catch the birds in flight. I observe how, them being hungry when the park opened, they would take to flight in unison at certain intervals and I noticed the peculiar cloud formation, and the spot to stand on. Then I wait. No matter all of these realizations, if the moment the shutter was pressed, and I obtained some eight shots in short sequence; if the formation of "chaos" was not interesting, then there would be no photo.

I suppose it is like gambling, that one has to take a chance to get the right photo, and if not, well, too bad. This is, however, a part of photography that does not feel right, or my intuition has some problems, and some of it may be because of the "success" of this photo: I feel that I had little to do with it. People are enjoying and praising something that had much to do with chaotic chance. That aspect of photography, much celebrated as it is, does not interest me.

Perhaps, one thing is to coin a phrase not to be used again: «chaotic chance»

P.S. What differentiates this photo from all the others is that bird in the middle, that is not in silhoutte. So much chaos down to one simple gesture.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

what is it in a window?

dust at dusk (by ~ fernando)

«dust at dusk»

I think everyone has come to the annoying situation in trying to take a photo of a landmark (or a subject of interest), and there are signs in the way, . One idea I had in the past was to make the painted sign the main feature, with the object of desire as a prop (equal or lesser to the sign), or just compose with the road sign in it.

Something similar here. I got rid of the room's reflection in the window, and could do the same with the dust outside. However, the time of day was near sunset and the dust in the window was actually "sparkly." It was not a matter of capturing the dust's hue, but just thinking of it as "grain" -- very sparse at that.

I had already experimented with "blurred in the lens" architecture photography, but here it was rather monolithtic, and not of great form. However, it seemed to work when considering the sky's cloud formation, and of course, the dust being lit up.

There were various focal points that would blur the dust on the window, as was done in the sunset image from the same view point. Instead, this image makes the dust the principal protagonist, when you look up close. Reflections from the sunlight made the dust bright and so came the idea to photograph the dust, and just pick a background. In this case, the Bank of America building/monolith in the Financial District in San Francisco.

One aspect of the exporure to so many photographs in flickr is that, even when they are excellent in all aspects, one can see similarities between so many images. For instance, if it was raining, then this image would be one of so many -- 1086 images on flickr with the {water, window, drops} tags -- and the benefit would be (1) a different scene and (2) an emotional familiarity that is associated with these kind of images.

Now, how many people will have an emotional attachment to a dirty window? The implication to this image is that, while not part of that set of raindrops-on-the-window motif, the person seeing the image may have to work harder, and the blurred background's importance is important. I think it offers a way for the individual's imagination to settle into what they feel a lot faster and perhaps even engage the photo, rather than providing a infinite depth-of-field that tells the whole story and there is a nice "wow" moment if they like it. This is not too different to the sunset image linked above. Notice how a search with {window, dust} does not turn up the same type of images that are prevalent in the first search: the first search has the same image over and over again, with the differing blurred background, but in the case of dust, it is about taking a step back and showing how dirty the window is, or that it has dust in it, but the dust is not the only thing in focus. Just peruse through a few pages.