Thursday, July 22, 2010

the Bar, July 16, 2010

I've been hard at work on the technical quality of these photos, and have made a good deal of progress, at least in understanding the source of the problems. It appears that I have set myself not one, but several tricky photographic goals. 
  1. I want a pure white background, which the camera will render as gray unless I fuss with the white balance on my camera and in Photoshop. I have also learned that one can set the exposure on the camera to somewhat compensate for this tendency to underexpose large fields of white. I learned these things in part from reading my camera's manual. Finally. After having used the camera for five years or so.
  2. I want bright, clear lighting with good color rendition. Finally achieved it with the OttLite bulbs.
  3. I want even, diffuse lighting with minimal shadows cast on the background. I've had some luck with the light box I built, but am still experimenting with the number and placement of lamps.
  4. I want every object rendered crisply. This is still challenging, and I think the solution will be a wider aperture. (Think of this assemblage as a cake, with the bottom layer being the white background and the top layer being the highest point of the biggest shell. When I take a photo the camera chooses a point on which to focus; it chooses only one layer of the cake. All the other layers are out of focus. If I work with the aperture I can tell it to include more layers. I think.) However, I need a tripod for that, which brings us to
  5. I want to shoot straight down over a large area, and a basic tripod can't get over the center of the assemblage. (The legs would be in the shot.) I have ordered a doohickey that will attach to the end of one of my husband's microphone booms and allow me to use it as a sort of long-arm-tripod. (I have also commandeered all his mic stands for the clamp-on lighting, so next time he has a gig my studio will be dismantled!) 
  6. I do not want to stand around fiddling with all the little buttons on my camera! I'm not a photographer, really, all I want to do is capture the image. I don't have enough patience for photography. I don't mind spending hours gathering tiny bits and bobs off the shore and then spending hours rinsing, drying and arranging them in grids. That's completely different. It's interesting. Cameras are boring. Patience is what you need to master things that bore you stiff. Obsession takes care of the other stuff.
Usually I'm drawn to an art form because I enjoy the physical process - the feeling of pen gliding across paper, the smell of wood under the chisel - and whatever I make comes straight out of that pleasure. This time it's all backwards. I have an idea, a very strong idea that I like a lot, and I have to master the physical process to make it real.
I guess I am more a product of my Generation than I ever realized: it really seems wrong that I can't just push a button and take the photo I want. On the other hand, the improvement is dramatic, and I can hardly wait for my tripod so I can attain perfection....

Oh, and the Bar is not a pub, it is a sand bar that is exposed at low tide and connects our big island to a small one (called, naturally, Bar Island.) It also gave our town its name: Bar Harbor.

Sea glass, antique bottle pieces, barnacles, seaweed, clam shells, fiberglass, crab shells, whelk(?) shell, china, beach stones, rusty metal, lobster-claw-band.

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