I see that the last time I posted an in-focus straight-ish picture was around April.

I’ll just sort that out then.

Hogweed in flower (great for the insects). I’m sure some bits of it are in focus.

Perfectly fine picture, but probably not an unusual picture in any way. The only enjoyment I can personally take from it is that it was my version and it’s quite nice. But it’s certainly not one unlike anything else you’ve seen before. It’s just sort of… competent.

I will not say that I am competent at all the disciplines that photography encompasses but I do know how to end up with the image I am trying to get when I start. Once you are skilled enough at observation, you start to see the contrasts and shape, lines, colour and light that will all make a competent image, or maybe even an arresting one, if you do it right.

The challenge, when you get to know how it’s all done, is how to create an image that is definitely yours and couldn’t be anyone else’s. One that isn’t your own version of something that was already taken and yours doesn’t make better or worse. It’s just pretty much the same.

So how do you do that, once you’ve managed to learn how to turn out pictures that are just like those you wanted to learn how to take?

Personally I am drawn to the absolute chaos and unpredictability of the Intentional Camera Movement technique. Although you might aim at something with the intent to make an image – and you have half an idea of what you’ll probably get – there is no way to predict exactly what you’ll get.

I like that anarchic element.

As an example, here’s a view over a gate from a walk we took yesterday. It’s a stand of young trees, in a meadow of some yellowing grass with some flowers popping up in it, all swaying in a light breeze. It was an attractive visual scene because of the light play and colour combinations but a straight photograph of it… Well, it was pretty boring as it was and no straight photograph will show the energy that drew my eye in the first place.

So this is when I reach into the bag and fit my ND filter. I set the ISO manually to 100 (or I leave it on Auto and the camera whacks it up to 3200, I wonder why it’s gone up so high and then realise, remember and then set it manually…) and then I start taking pictures while waving the camera about a bit.

Is that any better? Possibly not, for many tastes, but it is certainly a more interesting result than the straight shot to me.

Possibly I should have been a painter instead, but in the end it’s all about getting or making an image you like. I just like one’s that are a little bit different.


A couple more variants are below. Click on any image to see them full screen.

PS: Sorry for not posting much recently, I had a bit of an accident, followed by a bit of a quiet spell brought on from healing from the bit of an accident. Hopefully I’ll get a bit more enthused and creative and post a little more often soon.

If anyone else wants to share a link to their own blog or images, either using this or other abstraction techniques, then please feel free to drop it into the comments below.

18 thoughts on “Hogweed and Competence

  1. It’s a funny thing that when you’re learning any sort of art form (or at least when I am), competence seems like it would be such an accomplishment and it’s the only goal you can imagine. And if you ever get there, you shrug and say, “Nyeh. Now what?”

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  2. I am no photographer, though, I suppose, given the right equipment, and some basic knowledge, I could probably be a competent one. I liken what you have expressed with the drawing from the left side of the brain, or is it right? (part of my charm to mix those two) It is the old artist’s trick of turning something familiar upside-down, and drawing from that. Gone are all the familiar nooks and crannies that we have ‘learned’ to glaze over. What results is something far more interesting than a straight on approach, which is something you steer away from. Whenever I become too pedestrian (which is often), I will revert to this process to unclog some logjams in my brain. It IS never too late to learn new things and therein can be excitement and a measure of joy.

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    1. As you are well aware Wilt, like you I also like nothing better than to take the normal or expected and give it a good irreverent mucking about with, with words or pictures.

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  3. Very interesting topics Bear.
    I think sometimes we just want to make a pretty picture of something, any originality is irrelevant. I’ve made a few pictures almost identical to yours above too. Unless we start to apply radical colours and/or contrast, or unusual crops/framing, I’m not sure how you could make an image of this kind of subject any different otherwise.
    If I think of photographs that stand out as original (and not just beautiful, which is often enough) then the composition and style stand out as key factors. Something like Eggleston’s Red Ceiling, which is very unusual in composition, and very striking in colour.
    I wonder if it’s more important to find our own voice, one that we’re happy with and enjoy making images with, rather than finding a searingly original voice?

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    1. It’s always so hard to answer your comments Dan!
      I looked at that Red Ceiling picture… It’s done alright for an accidental picture taken while he was putting the camera over his shoulder, hasn’t it?

      I don’t know, this post was set off by me having some cracking poppies blooming in the garden, taking some nice, dreamy, limited depth-of-field shots which I thought were creative-ish and then, because it’s poppy flowering season, finding everyone and his dog filling all the socials already with images pretty much the same as mine.

      That was when I was thinking, well, if I want to have a poppy picture, just do an image search and soon I’ll be sick of the sight of them!

      I got to thinking that only pictures of people, and whatever events they are part of, are truly personal and unique in some way these days, everything else has been done. So all I can do to get something different, without getting into digital art so manipulated it’s a whole new thing altogether, is something where not even I know what is going to happen exactly.

      Yes, unique, or at least different in some way, may not be everyone’s aim. Perhaps just competent is good enough for many, it’s their own competent at least.

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      1. But then with the people pictures, is it just the fact that there are unique people in them that makes the photograph unique, rather than any particular style or approach of the photographer?

        I’ve dabbled in a few art forms over the years – poetry, music, painting, now photography. Photography is by far the most difficult to be original with, because you’re always working with something that’s already there.

        With those others I mentioned you start with a blank canvas and do what you like. With a photograph, the canvas is already painted. You can only choose which part of it to photograph, at what angle, at what depth of field and so on. Far fewer variables to be creative with.

        If you’re making a photograph of something beautiful (like a poppy), then your main intention is to enhance and present that beauty. You’re not creating your own beauty from nothing, you’re trying to throw the spotlight on something already beautiful, so others can appreciate that beauty too.

        The only way to get closer to the blank canvas of something like poetry, music or painting, is to go very abstract, so the objects you start with become completed distorted from their original recognisable form.

        Which is similar to what you’ve been doing with your abstracts.

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      2. Exactly, yes, the uniqueness is the who, or combinations of many who’s, and the unrepeatable elements of the point in time that has been captured. I do like street photography and photo-journalism for these reasons, where the photographer is the observer and not the reason for it happening.

        I like unrepeatable. A still life studio photographer would have the heebie-jeebies and cry about the lack of control. They would be the direct opposite of me.

        I joined a local photography club, the first homework assignment was a still life. Mine was… competent. But I didn’t enjoy the process in the slightest. I knew how to do it and what would ‘work’, and there was some pleasure in building the set-up, but this was an ideal job for robots I felt. Arrange everything into pleasing shapes, control all the light and other variables and then shoot… *shudder*…

        Yes, creating something from what is there in front of me is what it’s all about but I use black and white or abstraction to make my images both from what is there but not what you’d see if you were there. Does that make sense?

        Hopefully the above post showing something more visually interesting – but still with what is actually there – makes the point.

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      3. Interesting. I quite like still life, but only found still life, like a stack of old tyres abandoned in a forest or something. I don’t ever stage anything, like a bow of fruit.

        I also like returning to places I’ve photographed before to see how they’ve changed, again especially decaying things in the countryside that are disintegrating in slow motion.

        I do see the appeal of the unrepeatable ever flowing scenes of street photography. And the challenge of capturing a moment within that constant rush and surge that makes sense and offers something worth freezing in motion. But generally I like my compositions to be of static objects so I can take my time in finding and capturing them.

        Yes I understand what you mean about making an image from what’s there. I rarely take a dead straight exactly as the naked eye can see photograph. Even manipulating the point of focus and depth of field results in an image you couldn’t actually see with the naked eye. And yes adding motion blur and other further abstraction takes this even further down the line, using the raw materials (light!) there, but making something new with them.

        I remember as a child being fascinated with photographs taken at night on busy streets with light trails streaking through the scene but the vehicles virtually invisible. I couldn’t understand how the photograph could work such magic, bending the laws of physics!

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      4. It must be something about using a tripod.
        I do have a tripod, a Benbo I bought with the intention of capturing a meteor shower once. I did get a couple of shots with a meteor in it too. However, it is now a Benbo branded hat stand.

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      5. I think I’ve only used a tripod about twice in my life, both times for family shots I wanted to be in and where there wasn’t a table near enough to stick the camera on! I had an old tripod I found in a charity shop for a few pounds. Then gave it away a couple of years later after forgetting I had it for most of that time. Hand held all the way!

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  4. Your photos and posts always inspire me to try. I have a terrible eye for photography, in that my photos never seem to be what I imagined when I took them, or even what I saw, just like your tree photo here. Interesting to the eye but boring as a photo. I loved the next image with the changes – all those wavy lines looked like a tree with curly hair. It looked alive and dancing. The photo captured, for me, all the movement of trees in the wind. Hope your healing continues well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Lisa. Yep, the injuries are gradually turning into memories.
      Yep, it was the movement that I was trying to create, glad to know it works.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m sure I’ve previously expressed my personal preference for photos which make me feel something. It needs to trigger an emotion of one sort or another. Having said that, I also appreciate a good composition, something beautifully balanced and aesthetically pleasing. You always tick one of those boxes. 😊

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  6. Wooohooooo!!!! This is so cool!! Just looked at your RB portfolio. It’s gorgeous, intriguing work! “Chaos” & “unpredictability” – I know them well. After an existential upending of my life I’m reinventing things (i)again.(/i)
    I look forward to seeing more of your creations! 🙂

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