Sunday, March 22, 2009

Finding Hidden Gems

Sometimes, when I don't have any new images to work on (which is actually quite often since I don't tend to work much locally around where I live), I like to dig into my "digital negatives" of past sessions.
After a 3 or 4 day trip, I may have 150-200 exposures to go over(not that many compared to some people, I know), and I then go through a selection process where I assign star ratings to sort out the ones I'm pretty sure have potential, a second level that may or may not work, and finally, to leave out the ones that don't seem to have any potential at all. I'm pretty critical during this process; in the first go-round, I look only at the thumbnails, because I feel a really strong shot will come across even in miniature format, where you might not even be able to tell what it is... there's just something about the abstract shapes and tones that somehow works. Of course during the next phase, I might open a supposed winner to look in detail and find something that kills it, or a so-so looking image may come to beautiful life after a little tweaking. All of this is usually done in an inspired rush of first impressions and gut feelings when I get back home to the studio; the downside is that I sometimes pass over some good stuff, making it fun and productive to reprocess marginal images or even take a stab at some of the ones I completely ignored the first time around.
This is one of those... I took a second look at it after more than a year. Probably during the initial sorting process I was concentrating on bigger and more dramatic views and thought this was too simple or too flat, but after adjusting it to bring out the light and texture, I find this one really pleasing and peaceful, almost meditative to look at... there's a lot to be said for letting some time pass before you judge your own work.
This little piece of tumbleweed had blown down inside the canyon and lodged in a way that made it seem to be basking in sun from the slot above and growing right out of the rock. The textures of the rock remind me of a continuous brush stroke, flowing from lower left to upper right.


floreta said...

hmm i think i'm anywhere from 200-500 range when i take pictures! it's neat that you could look at this with fresh eyes and see what you had once overlooked.

storybeader said...

at first I thought it was a tree.... that's perspective for you! It's a wonderful image - the contour of the rocks are so alive!

Are you using Photoshop? It's way too expensive for me right now, but I was considering Photoshop Elements... said...

Wow Mark. Gorgeous! I love the simplicity of this and agree with you on the meditative quality.

Thank you for the tips, especially on rating photos. That will help me as I've sorely neglected the ole photo files!

Unknown said...

Another beauty Mark, great work in such a difficult light.




AND VERY SEXY!!!!!!(the picture)

roentare said...

Stone or Rock Surface are not easy to photography. The texture and the lighting are very important to render in the image.

You have captured the subtle lighting in this shot. I found it a very peaceful photograph with a touch of serenity

Mark Alan Meader said...

Floreta: Thank you.. Everyone has their own "pace" when they work, I guess mine is a bit slower, probably left over from using actual film in the "old" days.

Deb: Yes, Photoshop, for sure. I don't really know the capabilities of Elements, but I think most of the essential stuff is in there and you can upgrade it later to the full PS, I know. Another option; if you take any classes at a school that gives you a student I.D or have a relative or friend with a student I.D. you can buy software (or have someone buy for you) for almost nothing at a couple of places online.

Holly: Thanks. Using Bridge or Lightroom to sort your work is a HUGE help, especially if you're a "prolific" photographer and take lots of exposures. I'm not, really, but it's still a great tool.

Patrick: Remarkably little work necessary on this one, actually. There was more direct light in this spot than some others.

Elaine: Thanks and welcome. Wow.. the Faroe Islands.. you're definitely my first visitor from up there.

James: Thanks. Yes, this was a lucky moment where the light was just in the right position to complete the composition.Sometimes you're there at the right time, sometimes, you're not.

Unknown said...

This is simply stunning. What strikes me about this photo (and your others from this shoot) is the creamy-looking quality of the rock/stone. The details are so well-preserved yet there is a really pretty smoothness (creaminess is still the best word that comes to mind) about them.


Anonymous said...

My God, but you have some GREAT shots on this site! Wonderful.
--Mimi at

Lynda Lehmann said...

I do the same thing, Mark, although I tend to be so in love with the content (not with my shots, per se) that I may not be critical enough! I love nature and tend to be over-embracing; I like to record the beauty even if the shot could be better!

This image is wonderful. Until I read that it's a tumbleweed, I thought it was a tree. I agree that the lighting is beautiful, as is the texture of the rock. I'm glad you dug it out!

Lenox Knits said...

I love this shot. And I really appreciate you sharing your process. I love reading about how other creative people work.

betchai said...

i take a lot of pictures too, but a lot of times i just keep them and save in an external drive, i feel like i want to preserve whatever memories i had there, also, i do not know which one is more striking or creates a greater and better impact. i guess that is a skill that i had never learned. i really thought the weed grows there, and i said, "wow! amazing!" thanks a lot for the explanation.

Mark Alan Meader said...

GGirl: Yeah, the delicate textures of the swirls in the rock are unique.. kind of like melted chocolate that has re-solidified!

Mimi: Thank you very much.. I am familiar with your blog.. I stop by there frequently.

Lynda: You got to the real heart of my post.. I could do several more on the subject of self-editing. I'm pretty strict with myself because I have a specific approach in mind that certainly is not for everyone.

LK: Thank you, too! I'm with you.. I like to share my thought process and I like to know what other artists are thinking when they create their work, rather than just "here it is, take it or leave it..."

Betchai: I do the same.. I keep every exposure, actually multiple copies in different locations so that I always have all the originals safely stored. I only use a fraction of what I actually shoot. It's good that you save everything.. as your skills develop and change, you may go back like I did here and see something interesting or useful that you didn't see before.

Jackie said...

As a novice of all novices in this group of wonderful people I must say that I am trying to become much more critical.

I have so much to learn. Of course all of my shoots until now have also been confined right in my own yard almost entirely.

However, at first if it was a picture and it was clear I would post it.

Now I may take take 50 shots while out and only save 5 to 10 of those to look at later.

I don;t know know how you passed this one over. yes I too find it very calm and almost meditative.

But, Mark to me it is also dramatic in the way that it immediately jumps right out at you and demands that you look.

I think it is one of your best yet and I am so very glad you saved it too!

Oh my I have years ahead of me. My husband worked in film and is so much better than I.

But, I'm hanging in, slowing down on some other things, and allowing more time for practice!

I am so glad I found you....between you and Lynda I may become a true photographer someday!!


Andy Richards said...

Mark: This image, as all of your images are, is thought-provoking. A couple months back, I wrote about looking closer into an image for the details ("Get Closer"). This image is a good example of what I was trying to convey with those thoughts. These redrock formations and slot canyons are most certainly spectacular, and are sought and photographed by many photographers. Finding a unique perspective can sometimes be a great challenge. You have met that challenge here by finding an unexpected detail in a closer view of what is often attempted from a much more dramatic perspective. This is a wonderful study. Thanks again for sharing your images.

Mark Alan Meader said...

Thanks for the really thoughtful comments, guys.

Jackie: Since you have a visual arts background and obvious aptitude, you'll advance rapidly. It's just another medium after all.. many of the old technical barriers are gone. But, that is precisely the best reason to slow down sometimes, take a deep breath and try to figure out exactly where you want to go with it. Clarity of purpose is more important (and maybe harder to achieve) than technical clarity in your work. And.. even your back yard can be an adventure if approached right; have you ever sat out there before dawn to watch the sun come up and notice how different and special everything looks?

Andy: I appreciate it.. it can be difficult to put a new spin on a "mature subject" that has been covered (seemingly) in every possible way. Sometimes we succeed, sometimes we don't:) Sometimes just luck! For me it's often a quick "afterthought" shot that seems like it came from my subconscious eye or something.

Ashrays said...

A gem indeed sir, simplicity often speaks volumes! Mainly because hidden beneath the simplistic is a myriad of unseen complexities.

I like the way the tumble weed almost glows. Also your description of your thought processes! I tend to dislike my work after a week or two for some reason hmmm?

Dagrun said...

So beautiful, and simple!

Anonymous said...

10 out of 10.