Thursday, January 25, 2007

Fine Art Photography -- What is it, really?

While I'm sure this is a question that has nagged at many photographers, the answer seem to be as elusive as ever. It seems there is no hard and enduring definition, but a few points do seem to surface over and over again.

I'm going to list what I believe are some of the more important aspects, and I am going to do it without images to support the text. If you know enough about photography to even care about a definition for "fine art photography," then you should be comfortable enough exploring the canyons of your of own mind in search of supportive imagery.

The image must be in black and white or some other monochrome tone.

This point is subject to debate, of course, as I'm sure lots of fine art photography is created in color, but for me one of the more salient points of the "fine art" definition is that it be "black and white." Color is fine when it's not used as a crutch, as is often the case.

The image must be evocative.

Again, subject to debate, but for an image to be successful I feel that it has to touch you on a gut level. It doesn't have to do it right away, but it should stir you up a bit inside emotionally. How an image does this is varies greatly. Some are subtle, some are downright harsh. And while responses will vary, and not every image will work for everyone, the better ones will often have a broader appeal.

The image must be printed in an appropriate size.

I feel that some images actually gain strength as they are printed larger, while some hold more appeal in smaller formats. It all depends on the image.

The image should not be offered for sale at a "cheap" price.

It's an interesting bit of human nature that an items price tag often carries with it a perception of worth. It doesn't have to be real.

These 4 points, for me, spell out the essence of how I view fine art photography. You may see my viewpoint as shallow since it so clearly revolves around "commercial" appeal. So be it. But for an image to be successful it has to be seen. To be seen it has be on display. And to put ones work on display one should always present in a manner that is consistent with their own beliefs.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Adventures in Wiki Land

A few days ago we set up a wiki at my workplace and I'll be responsible for populating the thing with our technical help documentation. I'm excited about the project and hope that it can give us better access to our materials.

The first hurdle comes with getting the existing documentation into the wiki. Some of it is in MS Word, but most of it is bound into a couple of help utilities that simply don't work well. The Word docs are easy to drop in and don't require much massaging (wiki formatting is not nearly as labor intensive as html) but the other stuff will probably need to be formatted more extensively to retain a uniform look. This will be no small task, and has had me scrambling for any helpful utilities I could find.

At present I'm experimenting with WordtoWiki, a Word macro that does much of the markup for you. It does a fair job, but the resulting documentation still requires so much cleanup (I'm picky) that I may simply start performing all the wiki markup by hand.

I also tried, and quickly abandoned, a similar macro called Word2MediaWikiPlus. It works, but I didn't care for all the "extra" html markup it generated. Wiki markup accepts a lot of plain ol' html markup as "valid," but it looks messy, and in the interest of future editabilty I wanted to keep the text as clean as possible.

The next step will be to start uploading images and graphics into the wiki, and figuring out how to get it all playing well with the text.

Now that sounds like fun, eh?

Friday, January 12, 2007

The part-time photographer

That's me, the part-time photographer.

I have a pretty good assortment of camera lenses and a good DSLR but I rarely take up the opportunity to use them these days. Still, I do think about photography a lot, like all the time, usually trying to come up with a suitable project to work on next. Part of me understands that this is just a game I am playing with myself, that the real reason I don't pick up the camera more often isn't for lack of dedication to a particular project, it's laziness. Knowing this, however, doesn't seem to help much.

It might be different, I suppose, if I was depending on this hobby to generate any real income; but I'm not, and I prefer to keep it that way. No financial pressure keeps my efforts anchored to being just a hobby, and allows me the freedom to pursue it or ignore it as I see fit. I do charge a modest amount for portrait services and sell the occasional print, but I do the work more for kicks than to try and turn a buck.

Part of my problem is simply lack of focus (no pun intended). I first picked up a camera to shoot landscapes as a relatively carefree college student that spent a large amount of free time in the woods. Few of my pics back then were that great, but I knew what trying to accomplish, even if I didn't hit the mark that often.

These days my interests have shifted considerably. I rarely bother to get out and capture landscapes anymore, and I'm finding that I like getting people in the picture more and more. Either in portraits or simply as another element of the composition. I also enjoy taking still life images, especially food (not sure why, exactly, but I love the shallow DOF effect in the best food photography), and I still shoot the occasional urban landscape. Most recently I found that I like shooting live music shows as well.

Whatever to pursue with this eclectic mix swirling around in my head?

Frankly, I have no idea. But I do know I'm looking forward to this new year in hopes that I will find some direction. Something that will get me excited about shooting again.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

What's up with the multiple at&t bills?

I guess I'm a bit old fashioned, but it really chaps my ass to have to pay two bills every month to a company that goes by the same name. Seriously AT&T... lets hurry up and figure out a way for the customer to get these charges rolled into one bill.

On the one hand, I suppose I should be grateful that the bills arrive in differently sized envelopes--this at least gives me a fighting chance of keeping the two properly sorted. It also helps that the account numbers are just "slightly" different. But what I don't get is why it's taking so long for a company so large to figure out how to get their respective billings in order and present their customers with a single bill?

Now, just so we're clear, I'm not talking about consolidating accounts that carry different names or different addresses, or even different numbers... just accounts that fall under the same number, name, and address that have several different services attached, such as basic phone service, long distance, and DSL.

Also, given that it's all coming from a single company, you might think it would be simple enough to get online and manage your accounts from there. Well, good luck. I have been trying to do just that since the merger was announced. No luck so far.

Enough already. I have never seriously considered the idea of using my cable company for phone and internet service until now. Which, except for the setup hassle, its looking more and more like an attractive option.

Monday, January 8, 2007

What's in a Title?

Once I decided it was time to sit down and create my blog, one of the most daunting questions of all came up as soon as I began the process... what would I title the thing?

Up until that point I had given no thought to the title whatsoever. My mind was racing as I fished around in there for something suitable (I always feel a sense of urgency whenever engaged in any sort of login process... you never know when it will time out). Did I want to "theme" my blog around photography, which happens to be my favorite (and most expensive) hobby? Did I want to choose a more esoteric title that would more appropriately describe what I really felt I would be doing with my blog? Or did I simply want to choose something in-between that didn't sound too stupid and get on with it?

So I decided on "Tripping on Through." Not a great title, perhaps, but for the purposes of this blog it will do. It won't take a degree in psychology to see that I'm mostly referring to the act of "stumbling through life." But wrapped up in there is the "tripping" part that carries the dual meaning of "tripping the camera's shutter." Yes, it's all rather hokey, but it gets the job done.

Also, just so you know, I did consider that some folks might read the title and surmise that I was some sort of acid freak. And though I doubt many acid freaks are out there reading blogs... I could be wrong.

Opening Post

Oh well, I've done it now. I was still trying to evaluate the available template options when I clicked on "continue" and the next thing I know this blog was created. I was thinking of going with this basic template anyway, and I guess I can always change it later.

So why a blog? I feel this is an important question. Although, for me at least, it's a difficult one to answer. I have been thinking about it for some time, and I'm not sure why. I suspect my primary goal is one of personal therapy, regardless of what hobbies or pastimes are used to provide the veneer. After all, there is nothing quite like reading yourself think to help you unlock the mysteries of your mind.

Then there is always the off chance that someone else will stumble across these ramblings and find something useful, something that has some relevance to their lives. One simply never knows. The world can seem such a small place, sometimes, despite its apparent size.