Thursday, July 17, 2008

Size matters

I suppose I'm being somewhat unnecessarily provocative of the title but there's a meme going around the sex blogosphere that piqued my interest. Chelsea commented about it a few weeks back and at that time I paid it little attention but now having seen it elsewhere now, I've decidedly formed an opinion about it.

Supposedly this chart gives the definitive answer to whether size does matter to women. I won't go into a discussion of the chart or its implications other than to say that the data in the chart (and all of the supposed facts on the accompanying site) is merely opinion dressed up as fact, that (if you'll pardon the pun) the Emperor does not have any clothes. However, whatever the numbers there is a kernel of truth in that size does matter (to some people some of the time). It's the transformation of the caveat from being a statement of preference (to which Chelsea puts it rather eloquently: "I wish I didn’t have a preferred size/shape/dickly configuration. I am not part of the dick size solution; I am part of the problem. And I am sorry.") to a statement of universal truth that is disquieting. Not in the sense that it evokes a sense of inadequacy on my part (which will not be discussed here as it's not really relevant) but rather in its reduction of the truly wondrous human organ (the brain) from being a complex and individual thing to the common tiny scrap of tissue at the base of the skull we colloquially refer to as the lizard brain.

How does this relate to photography (particularly my photography)? The reality of it is that when it comes to physical parts, we all have preferences. I must shamefully admit that I too have my preferences. That though I've been exposed to enough of my preferential body part configurations so as not to be a slavering idiot when confronted by them in the flesh in the midst of a shoot, when confronted by them in a civilian context where I need not be professional I will stop and stare. I apologize here for my preference and for any unwelcome intrusions into another's privacy that it caused. But it also does play into photographic philosophies as well. I would divide the photographic world into two basic philosophies: those seeking to find the "beautiful" and capture it and those seeking the beautiful in everything. When it comes to photography, my goal is to fall into the latter category more than the former. In that sense, I hold to a tradition of photography more akin to Joyce Tenneson than to Suze Randall. Sometimes, this means that I do quash my own preferences in favor of achieving something interesting photographically that others might find appealing. Other times I do things despite others finding it not appealing simply because it should be done. I think where it matters the most is when a model asks me if her look is what I'm looking for. I'm not looking for anything specific -- I'm trying to find things worth showing the world in everyone I work with. When it comes to photography, my only preference in the body part configuration wars is the configuration between the ears -- a willingness to explore ideas and possibilities.

Monday, July 14, 2008

In the night (Photo of the week project #4)

Ok -- we missed another week. Bad weather and general busyness. This one didn't turn out like I expected (not surprising really) but it's still valuable. I'll probably revisit the idea with a wide angle lens.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tutorial: Layers and Overlay Blending

I'm slowly starting to use Photoshop more and more -- not because I want to create a whole bunch of fake looking images but simply because photographer is two parts: the part behind the camera and the part in the darkroom. Digital has meant that the darkroom has shifted from a place of acrid smells and eery glows to monitor glows and sterile air.

Here's a tip for changing how light falls in an image.

Consider this image:

This lighting is flat and despite the foreground face being the most important element, our eyes are drawn to the guy in the background because he has a white shirt and is lighter than the overall tone of the image.

So in Photoshop, we create a layer above the image and paint the layer like so:

Then we set the layer to blending mode overlay and change the opacity to taste (in this case 30%).

This gives us this image:

The effect is subtle but keeps our eyes on the foreground face as we've changed the tonality so that now it's a gradient from light in the foreground going to dark in the background (which is what we generally expect to see).