Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night

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FrankParis
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Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night
10 months ago

Does this type of photography grab anyone besides myself? All images taken in the solitude of the dead of night in the forest of Powell Butte Nature Park, Portland, Oregon, U.S.A., with the E-M1/12-40mm at f/2.8. Naturally I was completely alone, and it was awesome being so isolated. Illumination is supplied by direct blasts from the Metz 58 AF-2 Shoe Flash. This will probably put some people off in principle, but I'm willing to try anything new. This is only my second attempt at this radical flash photography and I personally find it dazzling in the way it showcases the specimens with such striking colors and contrast in the dead of night, with spooky hints of the forest in the background. Post processed from the raw images by the latest Lightroom 5.3 download.

Western Red Cedar

Douglas Fir

Douglas Fir

Douglas Firs

Douglas Fir

Western Red Cedar

No evidence of background but this was taken in the dead of night, of Douglas Fir tree trunk close-up

Western Red Cedar Base, about six feet in diameter

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jl_smith
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Re: Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night
In reply to FrankParis, 10 months ago

Well Frank, I have to say they don't do much for me, but kudos for trying something a bit different for sure (though I'm not so sure I'd call it "radical" )

One think I would say, though, is that some off-camera flash would improve these shots tremendously, and if you got creative with some flashes behind the trees and casting side-lights, you could get into some really neat stuff.

As they stand now, though, the direct flash pretty much kills any dimensionality, but again I applaud you for sharing your concept and shots!

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FrankParis
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Re: Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night
In reply to jl_smith, 10 months ago

jl_smith wrote:

As they stand now, though, the direct flash pretty much kills any dimensionality, but again I applaud you for sharing your concept and shots!

I don't want directionality in the subjects, only color patterns, which fascinates me about something as prosaic sounding as tree trunks. Dimensionality comes in with the spooky background, which the flash barely reaches.

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LincolnB
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Re: Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night
In reply to FrankParis, 10 months ago

Yes, I love night photography but I find these rather static and uninteresting. The compositions are too symmetrical and the subjects are not displayed well. Think of it this way - would you photograph people like this? Probably not.
The problem with light at night is that it is often just as dull and boring as many lighting situations in broad daylight. Often it's either too diffuse or too harsh or too mono-directional. But often the light at night can be unusual or dramatic. If you bring your own light, you can get total control of the light too, which is not the case during the day. There's opportunity there, at times.

Trees at night:

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Bob Tullis
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Re: Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night
In reply to FrankParis, 10 months ago

I want to, but I don't get what you do from these.

But don't let that stop you.  Often genius goes unrecognized.  

I have a sense of the impression you're experiencing, however. I've recently done a full moon session, very engaging in practice - but I need more practice [g]. What I've been wanting to make time to do, for a long time, is to find a location and use a paint with light approach. But I expect that will take a LOT of practice to get out of it what I have in mind. Something of this nature:

http://www.50contemporaryart.com/sites/50contemporaryart.com/files/image/Charlotte_woods.jpg

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FrankParis
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Re: Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night
In reply to Bob Tullis, 10 months ago

Bob Tullis wrote:

"I want to, but I don't get what you do from these."

Not sure I understand this. Is there a typo? Did you mean "I don't get what you are trying to do from these"? If that's what you meant, let me try to explain, after reacting to your next statement.

"But don't let that stop you. Often genius goes unrecognized. ;)"

Your "winky" reveals you're just trying to be generous and trying to take the sting out of criticism, but looking at what I'm doing objectively -- and have been striving for over the last 18 months -- there might be something in what you're saying here.

I don't seem to be able to get enough of what I've been doing all this time. Over the last 18 months, I've taken thousands of photographs of tree trunks in the forests in and around the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area. Most reactions I get don't seem to have the slightest idea of what I'm trying to do, and I'm reminded of what one of Richard Nixon's cronies said back in the sixties: "If you've seen one tree you've seen them all," in justifying the rampant cutting down of our forests without an understanding of the damage this causes to our environment. My motivation isn't ethical or to "help save the environment"; it is purely aesthetic, a reason that obviously escapes most of my viewers, since they complain that these photos are just "ordinary," or prosaic.

Nevertheless, there are three of my regular viewers who really "get it." These are all women, which may or may not be relevant: two of my sisters and the best friend of my wife and a very dear friend of mine also, a woman we've been very close to since 1974. What may or may not be relevant is that at least two of these women have strong artistic temperaments, and one of them paints natural subjects in watercolors all the time, and the other -- one of my sisters -- is positively awed by what I'm doing and really looks forward to my "tree bark" pictures. If nobody in the world had the slightest notion of why I took all these pictures, it would be discouraging and I would probably stop showing them to people. But I would continue doing it for my own satisfaction. So now I've been driven to analyze why I do this. Still, stating what I'm "after" remains elusive. Certainly however, I "can't get enough of" whatever it is that I'm doing.

The title of my OP is "Forest Specimen Photography." Specimen photography has a specific "subject" it is trying to reveal. My subject is the incredible variety of details, patterns, and colors of tree bark. If ever there was a subject that begs to be "pixel peeped," this is it. That's why the images I posted in this thread are full frame. I don't know if any of the posters who replied to my OP even noticed this, and if they did, they were probably more puzzled than ever over why I would waste the bandwidth.

Specimen photography is only interested in revealing the details that are present in specific subjects. Usually, the specimen is an obvious "whole" and its environment is largely irrelevant. Therefore, its environment is completely de-emphasized, often by centering the subject in the image and throwing the background out of focus with large apertures, hard to do with 4/3 photography let alone point and shoot photography.

Oddly, the above discussion does also applies to "standard artistic compositions" containing a set of aesthetically arranged and balanced separate "atomic" subjects. Here the whole "subject" is the entire image that is of interest and the "specimen" is captured within and consists of the entire set of "atomic" subjects arranged as a whole "thing." This is what critics of my "tree trunks" often suggest I am "missing" in these images. So I can turn their criticism around and claim that what they are asking me to do is what is just "ordinary" and prosaic. Literally, they are missing the trees for the forest, and what they want from me is the standard -- I would say, ordinary and prosaic -- "specimen" of a set of atomic subjects arranged in an aesthetic "whole."

Actually, sometimes I try to do this, capturing an arrangement of several trees in a single image, related to each other in a single, aesthetic whole. But most of the time I'm only interested in the beauty of a single tree trunk and want to isolate that tree trunk as much as possible from its environment. My recent discovery is that nighttime flash photography can perform this isolation magnificently, and so I'm going to continue this exploration in spite of its easy dismissal by those who only see beauty in the aesthetic arrangement of all elements in an image.

Photographing my subject (the beauty, variety, colors, and patterns of tree trunks down to the pixel arrangements in this subject) in the darkness of the forest with frontal electronic flash is a magnificent way to do even better what is accomplished through the subject isolation of the extremely large apertures available in full frame cameras. In fact, my nighttime flash photography isolates my specimens even more thoroughly than a full frame f/1.4 shot of an atomic specimen: the background fades into invisibility.

Then there's the criticism that my frontal illumination hides the three dimensional modeling of my specimens, that it makes my subjects "flat." Well, my "subjects" are the abstract patterns and colors of these tree trunks, and the fact that they are round and in a 3-dimensional setting with other objects is totally irrelevant to what I'm after. The suggestion was made that I put my flash highly "off axis" to reveal this 3 dimensional setting. Photographers who suggest this obviously haven't tried this or even imagined what the results would be: extremely harsh and unrealistic shadows that would completely distract what I am trying to call your attention to. Sure, you could overcome this with extremely complex lighting with multiple sources. But there's no way I want to bring the many light sources and diffusers that would be required. I might as well wait for daylight and let nature do this for me. In fact, this is what I have been doing these last eighteen months, and have only recently discovered that there is a much better way to capture what interests me, whether it is of the slightest interest to those with more conventional expectations, those married to the standard aesthetic clichés.

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Wormsmeat
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!!!
In reply to FrankParis, 10 months ago

I'm afraid the King is in the altogether...

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Ontario Gone
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Re: Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night
In reply to FrankParis, 10 months ago

If you were a plant, it would be portraiture.

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Peter Del
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Re: Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night
In reply to FrankParis, 10 months ago

Yes

but I prefer to take pictures during the day

bark has to have a quality of its own, it can't just be bark

Peter Del

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Bob Tullis
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Re: Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night
In reply to FrankParis, 10 months ago

FrankParis wrote:

Bob Tullis wrote:

"I want to, but I don't get what you do from these."

Not sure I understand this. Is there a typo? Did you mean "I don't get what you are trying to do from these"? If that's what you meant, let me try to explain, after reacting to your next statement.

I want to appreciate these as you do, but I don't. I think I understand the motivation, but the results are not appealing to moi. Just like attempts I've done of this nature that don't appeal to me either.

"But don't let that stop you. Often genius goes unrecognized. ;)"

Your "winky" reveals you're just trying to be generous and trying to take the sting out of criticism, but looking at what I'm doing objectively -- and have been striving for over the last 18 months -- there might be something in what you're saying here.

Yes, I was being generous in part, but also suggesting you just keep at this if it suits you. Keep on as you are, or keep on to develop your expressions of this nature further.

Wow (below). It hurt when it was said in relation to something I was offering, but it's true - if it has to be explained, it has failed for the observer. There's many tastes, some will appreciate what many don't, but I can only address what I experience and bring to another photo as I regard it.   I have an initial reaction, then it turns to a peer (photographer) reaction and analysis, and then there's trying to put myself in the taker's shoes to understand what it is they're trying to convey in case some part of my mind is shut to something I don't normally consider in my own practices (including assessing the skill set and experience of the practice behind the resulting expressions).   I try to be as objective as possible - because I want that same consideration from peers, hoping for more than the knee-jerk and fleeting reactions for the less common aesthetics.   Yet, again, if it has to be explained. . .

I don't seem to be able to get enough of what I've been doing all this time. Over the last 18 months, I've taken thousands of photographs of tree trunks in the forests in and around the Portland, Oregon metropolitan area. Most reactions I get don't seem to have the slightest idea of what I'm trying to do, and I'm reminded of what one of Richard Nixon's cronies said back in the sixties: "If you've seen one tree you've seen them all," in justifying the rampant cutting down of our forests without an understanding of the damage this causes to our environment. My motivation isn't ethical or to "help save the environment"; it is purely aesthetic, a reason that obviously escapes most of my viewers, since they complain that these photos are just "ordinary," or prosaic.

Nevertheless, there are three of my regular viewers who really "get it." These are all women, which may or may not be relevant: two of my sisters and the best friend of my wife and a very dear friend of mine also, a woman we've been very close to since 1974. What may or may not be relevant is that at least two of these women have strong artistic temperaments, and one of them paints natural subjects in watercolors all the time, and the other -- one of my sisters -- is positively awed by what I'm doing and really looks forward to my "tree bark" pictures. If nobody in the world had the slightest notion of why I took all these pictures, it would be discouraging and I would probably stop showing them to people. But I would continue doing it for my own satisfaction. So now I've been driven to analyze why I do this. Still, stating what I'm "after" remains elusive. Certainly however, I "can't get enough of" whatever it is that I'm doing.

I understand that more than you know.

The title of my OP is "Forest Specimen Photography." Specimen photography has a specific "subject" it is trying to reveal. My subject is the incredible variety of details, patterns, and colors of tree bark. If ever there was a subject that begs to be "pixel peeped," this is it. That's why the images I posted in this thread are full frame. I don't know if any of the posters who replied to my OP even noticed this, and if they did, they were probably more puzzled than ever over why I would waste the bandwidth.

Specimen photography is only interested in revealing the details that are present in specific subjects. Usually, the specimen is an obvious "whole" and its environment is largely irrelevant. Therefore, its environment is completely de-emphasized, often by centering the subject in the image and throwing the background out of focus with large apertures, hard to do with 4/3 photography let alone point and shoot photography.

Oddly, the above discussion does also applies to "standard artistic compositions" containing a set of aesthetically arranged and balanced separate "atomic" subjects. Here the whole "subject" is the entire image that is of interest and the "specimen" is captured within and consists of the entire set of "atomic" subjects arranged as a whole "thing." This is what critics of my "tree trunks" often suggest I am "missing" in these images. So I can turn their criticism around and claim that what they are asking me to do is what is just "ordinary" and prosaic. Literally, they are missing the trees for the forest, and what they want from me is the standard -- I would say, ordinary and prosaic -- "specimen" of a set of atomic subjects arranged in an aesthetic "whole."

All you can do is offer your work. It's rather a waste to defend or foist it on unwilling recipients. I just yesterday happened upon specimen photography, where the takers were entomologists and when they attained the ability to get high resolution results they were awed at their subjects. They posted work on Flickr, and they went unnoticed until someone posted a link on Reddit. They've become sensations since, without having to explain their intentions at all.

Actually, sometimes I try to do this, capturing an arrangement of several trees in a single image, related to each other in a single, aesthetic whole. But most of the time I'm only interested in the beauty of a single tree trunk and want to isolate that tree trunk as much as possible from its environment. My recent discovery is that nighttime flash photography can perform this isolation magnificently, and so I'm going to continue this exploration in spite of its easy dismissal by those who only see beauty in the aesthetic arrangement of all elements in an image.

Photographing my subject (the beauty, variety, colors, and patterns of tree trunks down to the pixel arrangements in this subject) in the darkness of the forest with frontal electronic flash is a magnificent way to do even better what is accomplished through the subject isolation of the extremely large apertures available in full frame cameras. In fact, my nighttime flash photography isolates my specimens even more thoroughly than a full frame f/1.4 shot of an atomic specimen: the background fades into invisibility.

Then there's the criticism that my frontal illumination hides the three dimensional modeling of my specimens, that it makes my subjects "flat." Well, my "subjects" are the abstract patterns and colors of these tree trunks, and the fact that they are round and in a 3-dimensional setting with other objects is totally irrelevant to what I'm after. The suggestion was made that I put my flash highly "off axis" to reveal this 3 dimensional setting. Photographers who suggest this obviously haven't tried this or even imagined what the results would be: extremely harsh and unrealistic shadows that would completely distract what I am trying to call your attention to. Sure, you could overcome this with extremely complex lighting with multiple sources. But there's no way I want to bring the many light sources and diffusers that would be required. I might as well wait for daylight and let nature do this for me. In fact, this is what I have been doing these last eighteen months, and have only recently discovered that there is a much better way to capture what interests me, whether it is of the slightest interest to those with more conventional expectations, those married to the standard aesthetic clichés.

I don't think you understood what I meant by painting with light. Yes, it's to get a studio like lighting arrangement that would be precisely and elaborately arranged, but PWL can be done solo, out there alone with a shutter open, walking/working the scene with a speed light and/or one or two flashlights working the scene from several angles/positions.

Thinking I understand the passion for this subject in you, I still encourage you to chase it. It may only have a few followers, but you're shooting for yourself here, and that has to be considered. I shoot for myself, and some of what I do isn't as universally appreciated as some, but I've come to understand the difference in how and why certain things I'm passionate about don't receive the reaction I'd like. So it goes. Struggling with acceptance is a waste of time/energy.

Here's a shot from that full moon session I mentioned earlier. I'm pleased enough with it, though I could do better. It evokes various memories and feelings from the decade I would hike from sun up to well past sundown once a week, but I don't expect more than a few to think this is 'brilliant'. As far as other observers go, I've had work that was due for the trash bin that was noticed by family and friends that bowled them over, demanding prints for themselves. Go figure.

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GeorgianBay1939
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Re: Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night
In reply to FrankParis, 10 months ago

I liked your work. Using a flash in that manner is effective.

It seems risky to put specimen photography on this forum as it appears to be oriented towards conventional "artistic" photography.

As an amateur naturalist and scientist by training, I continually struggle between capturing specimens of wildflowers OR giving an artistic impression of them.

[Some folks call that the left/right brain struggle but I think that the whole theory has been debunked , again, like phrenology, (except maybe in "colleges of art ", especially in their marketing campaigns.)]

An example of the wonderful intersection of specimen and artistic photography is the work done by Kenneth G. Libbrecht with snow crystals, which I've found to be very instructive.

http://www.its.caltech.edu/~atomic/snowcrystals/photos/photos.htm

When all else fails we can always seek solace in Robert Browning's Andrea del Sarto :

I, painting from myself and to myself,
Know what I do, am unmoved by men’s blame
Or their praise either. Somebody remarks
Morello’s outline there is wrongly traced,
His hue mistaken; what of that? or else,
Rightly traced and well ordered; what of that?
Speak as they please, what does the mountain care?
Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?

Fun, eh?

Tom

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clengman
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Re: Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night
In reply to FrankParis, 10 months ago

I hope you don't mind if I make a couple comments. I can see a couple things that, personally, I think might improve these within the framework of your vision.

First, if the idea is to emphasize the texture and pattern in the bark, this kind of stark flat lighting makes it a little more difficult. Similarly, I find photos of a full moon far less interesting than a photo of the limb region of a partial moon. That said, I understand that this was the look you were going for, but I think different processing might help a little. I would try to increase the internal contrast a little in some of the photos by expanding the tonal range within the subjects, either with the tone sliders or the clarity slider.

Second, in a few of the photos, the lighting is off center relative to the subject. I find the assymetrical and very harsh shadows to be distracting. If the subject is not going to be dead center in the frame, you might think about rotating the flash head or taking the flash off the camera and setting it up so the lighting axis is on a radius centered on the "taking position" and passing through the center of the subject. This should minimize the amount of very harsh black shadows in the immediate vicinity of the subject.

Just a couple of thoughts.

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FrankParis
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Re: Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night
In reply to clengman, 10 months ago

clengman wrote:

I would try to increase the internal contrast a little in some of the photos by expanding the tonal range within the subjects, either with the tone sliders or the clarity slider.

Even more than I did, eh? I set clarity to at least 25. Interesting that you think even more would benefit. I'll be less shy about turning it up even more next time.

Second, in a few of the photos, the lighting is off center relative to the subject.

I am so much aware of this! I actually took over 200 shots in this session. So many were way off center, because I couldn't get a good view of what was in the viewfinder. If I raised the camera near my eye, it blocked the headlamp I was wearing and then there was not enough illumination on the subject for the camera to fire the shutter because it wouldn't focus.

I find the assymetrical and very harsh shadows to be distracting.

Me, too.

If the subject is not going to be dead center in the frame, you might think about rotating the flash head or taking the flash off the camera and setting it up so the lighting axis is on a radius centered on the "taking position" and passing through the center of the subject.

One of my goals is to achieve the results I'm looking for with minimum of fuss. So no complex lighting requiring flashes on tripods, etc., or multiple flashes. My approach is shotgun. If the monkey types enough at random, a few words might come out. One of my long-time mottos is: "The art of photography is knowing what to throw away." I probably didn't throw enough away, but I wanted to get some out to get some feedback with what I have.

I have another idea to achieving more accurate frontal lighting. Two ideas in fact:

1. Shoot with the Olympus 75-300mm so the flash is closer to on-axis.

2. Continue shooting with the 12-40mm but using the Metz 15 MS-1 Macro flash that surrounds the end of the lens barrel for shadowless flash. Unfortunately for this solution is that the Metz 15 is not very powerful (and doesn't need to be for near macro results) and so I'm constrained to short distances between the flash tubes and the subject. I've been shooting at ISO 100. I could up this to about 800 to make the flash more sensitive, at the expense of resolution, and this type of photography just begs for exploration around the image by peeking at the pixels.

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Frank Paris

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FrankParis
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Re: Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night
In reply to Bob Tullis, 10 months ago

Bob Tullis wrote:

if it has to be explained, it has failed for the observer.

Excellent observation, and of course I knew that. The explanation was more for myself than for my critics. It can help if the artist is self-conscious about what he's doing. But the attempt to explain has a greater chance of success in the mind of the creator if it is addressed to an audience rather than making personal notes. It forces the author to be more precise in his formulations. So, sorry, I wasn't trying to convince you. I was trying to conceptualize for myself more clearly what I was attempting.

There's many tastes, some will appreciate what many don't,

Oh, but tastes can be enlarged through study and education, and what at first is off-putting can soon because seductive. Surely you realize this. If I hadn't worked at getting to know a wide variety of classical music, I'd have precisely two recordings in my collection, the Tchaikovsky 1812 Festival Overture (hardly a particularly edifying work) and the Ravel orchestration of the Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition (which does happen by chance to be a great work), instead of the 1,800 carefully selected CDs, SACDs, and Blu Rays that I do have that I have collected (and kept) over the years, and that I now positively swoon over.

All you can do is offer your work. It's rather a waste to defend or foist it on unwilling recipients.

How am I "foisting" these images on anybody? Whose arm am I twisting? Viewers on this forum choose of their own volition the posts they read. If something doesn't grab them, they can hit the cancel button. And as I explained above, my "defense" is simply a rationalization (in the literal sense of the term) of what I'm doing, for my benefit, not yours or anybody else's.

I just yesterday happened upon specimen photography, where the takers were entomologists and when they attained the ability to get high resolution results they were awed at their subjects. They posted work on Flickr, and they went unnoticed until someone posted a link on Reddit. They've become sensations since, without having to explain their intentions at all.

Yup. And I do have viewers that I don't have to explain anything at all about my images. They either gradually get into them or the images grab them from the start, without any rationalizing on my part.

I don't think you understood what I meant by painting with light.

Well, I know what that expression commonly means.

Yes, it's to get a studio like lighting arrangement that would be precisely and elaborately arranged,

I'm just not interested in this level of lighting effort. If I can't get excellent results by pointing and shooting, I don't even try. As you've intimated, it's a matter of "taste" whether my images are judged to be "excellent." But tastes can be refined, educated, and even revolutionized. People who know what they like and like what they know are at a dead end and what they like is not alive in them.

Struggling with acceptance is a waste of time/energy.

Now you're being imprecise in your thinking -- or lack of it.

Here's a shot from that full moon session I mentioned earlier... but I don't expect more than a few to think this is 'brilliant'.

And to me, that's nothing but a confusing mess. I take images like this in daylight all the time. It looks good in person and perhaps even in the the frame but then I have to sigh and toss it when I'm looking at it on my computer.

As far as other observers go, I've had work that was due for the trash bin that was noticed by family and friends that bowled them over, demanding prints for themselves. Go figure.

Also a common experience for me. The reason "there's no accounting for taste" is we're not familiar enough with everyone else's expectations and past experience.

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Cliff Reiter
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Re: Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night
In reply to FrankParis, 10 months ago

Hi Frank,

When I first looked at your images I thought you were trying to convey "trees within forest", rather than "pattern". So I was most attracted to: the firs with one fallen, the u shaped fir with companion, and the last one with very compelling roots. I suspect all three of those would have been improved in my mind by shooting from a lower position, but who knows. Seeing your goal is pattern, I was going to suggest cropping so that only part of a trunk was visible. On second look, I see you did that with the close up. Given the goal, I like that photo although I suspect it might benefit from a bit greater depth of field. Sounds like you have a fun project. Enjoy, Cliff

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Wormsmeat
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Re: Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night
In reply to FrankParis, 10 months ago

yawn - pompous, moi?

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Vlad S
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Not sure about the execution
In reply to FrankParis, 10 months ago

FrankParis wrote:

Does this type of photography grab anyone besides myself? All images taken in the solitude of the dead of night in the forest of Powell Butte Nature Park, Portland, Oregon, U.S.A., with the E-M1/12-40mm at f/2.8. Naturally I was completely alone, and it was awesome being so isolated. Illumination is supplied by direct blasts from the Metz 58 AF-2 Shoe Flash. This will probably put some people off in principle, but I'm willing to try anything new. This is only my second attempt at this radical flash photography and I personally find it dazzling in the way it showcases the specimens with such striking colors and contrast in the dead of night, with spooky hints of the forest in the background.

I have been interested in taking pictures in the forest at night, but I am more drawn to the mysterious atmosphere, rather close-ups of individual trunks. I have to admit, that your idea made me curious, but your execution left me cold. I do not see striking colors in them. I think I would like to see the flash dialed back, and probably taken off camera. The flat light that the head-on flash creates really robs the bark of the texture. In general, my feeling is this: you have though why you want to do this kind of photograph. But how much did you think about making it most aesthetically appealing?

Anyways, here are results of my experiments. I am not sure this is the final result – I have been modifying them every time I open the files.

Vlad

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Wormsmeat
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Re: Not sure about the execution
In reply to Vlad S, 10 months ago

The 2nd is beautiful. The light has a haunting quality creating atmosphere and drama. The stars underline the sense of night-time and the fallen trees lead the eye into the shot. Well done.

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Bob Tullis
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Frank
In reply to FrankParis, 10 months ago

Enough of this. . . the previous response was initially quite short, but I thought I'd respect all you had to say by not glossing over it. I believe we're on similar wavelengths about such things in general - but not with regard to this series. For all that you're conveying, I can't get past the harsh lighting.  Different strokes, that's all.

And, that's all.

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clengman
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Re: Forest Specimen Photography -- in the dead of night
In reply to FrankParis, 10 months ago

FrankParis wrote:

clengman wrote:

I would try to increase the internal contrast a little in some of the photos by expanding the tonal range within the subjects, either with the tone sliders or the clarity slider.

Even more than I did, eh? I set clarity to at least 25. Interesting that you think even more would benefit. I'll be less shy about turning it up even more next time.

Maybe. Or maybe pull back the highlight tones a little more on some of the trees with white lichen. The highlight detail, especially on the lighter colored trunks looks a little washed out, but like I mentioned before with the straight ahead flash, picking out the fine detail is just much harder. I know you're probably not into it, but using an adjustment brush to add a little selective shading might make these look a little nicer, too.

Second, in a few of the photos, the lighting is off center relative to the subject.

I am so much aware of this! I actually took over 200 shots in this session. So many were way off center, because I couldn't get a good view of what was in the viewfinder. If I raised the camera near my eye, it blocked the headlamp I was wearing and then there was not enough illumination on the subject for the camera to fire the shutter because it wouldn't focus.

I find the assymetrical and very harsh shadows to be distracting.

Me, too.

If the subject is not going to be dead center in the frame, you might think about rotating the flash head or taking the flash off the camera and setting it up so the lighting axis is on a radius centered on the "taking position" and passing through the center of the subject.

One of my goals is to achieve the results I'm looking for with minimum of fuss. So no complex lighting requiring flashes on tripods, etc., or multiple flashes.

Sometimes a little fuss does wonders. I'm no lighting genius, but it's a skill I'd like to work on. Unfortunately, with a full-time job and a three-year-old, I have precious little time forpracticing photography.

My approach is shotgun. If the monkey types enough at random, a few words might come out. One of my long-time mottos is: "The art of photography is knowing what to throw away." I probably didn't throw enough away, but I wanted to get some out to get some feedback with what I have.

I have another idea to achieving more accurate frontal lighting. Two ideas in fact:

1. Shoot with the Olympus 75-300mm so the flash is closer to on-axis.

2. Continue shooting with the 12-40mm but using the Metz 15 MS-1 Macro flash that surrounds the end of the lens barrel for shadowless flash.

That occurred to me. You'd still have to place your subject dead center in the frame to avoid ugly shadows.

How about taping a laser pointer to the flash head? Then you have a focusing aid to use in the dark and you'll know when your flash gun is on axis with your subject.

Unfortunately for this solution is that the Metz 15 is not very powerful (and doesn't need to be for near macro results) and so I'm constrained to short distances between the flash tubes and the subject. I've been shooting at ISO 100. I could up this to about 800 to make the flash more sensitive, at the expense of resolution, and this type of photography just begs for exploration around the image by peeking at the pixels.

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Frank Paris

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