Monday, December 1, 2008
“Surrealizing” The Landscape
To create this Gates of the Valley image, I first exposed five frames in a bracket at one-stop intervals. I set this up on my Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III using the auto-bracketing feature set to record five frames. The bracketing range can be set from .5 to 3 stops between each exposure. The wider the contrast range of the scene, the wider the exposure range needs to be in order to capture all possible detail in the highlights and shadows.
In postprocessing, I used Photomatix, the most widely used software for “extended range” photography. The five frames were simply selected in Lightroom and dragged onto Photomatix’s Generate HDR Image box to start the process. There are many options in the software for various creative directions. In the case of this image, the image was “double-processed,” meaning it was tone-mapped twice to get a surreal look.
When I posted this image on my blog, the response was dramatically opinionated! It’s certainly not my normal style! I didn’t create this image with the intention of it looking realistic, believable or otherwise accurate. I wanted this “surrealized” look, and I know that it certainly doesn’t look like a traditional landscape. I’ve been intrigued by the HDR imagery of other photographers, so I wanted to experiment with it myself. This is the first successful (at least to me!) surrealistic landscape using Photomatix.
Even though I’ve photographed this location often over 31 years, I only have a few I really like. Those I’ve made with a wide angle look much like everyone else’s. I have three decades of trying to create fresh work in Yosemite, and this HDR is just another effort in that direction. Whether this image endures for me is yet to be determined. Time will tell.
I’ve taken all sorts of creative tangents as an artist. I experiment and try out many options when I photograph and so have plenty of failures. By sharing new work such as these HDR experiments here and in my photoblog, I expose my creative efforts, whether successful or not. My hope is to portray a process that I think all creative artists must go through—explore and stretch and grow.
John Sexton once said, “The only difference between me and my students is that I have made more mistakes.” Failure is a natural and vital aspect of learning. Here’s another quote for you, this one from John Paul Caponigro: “…failures aren’t failures if you learn from them—they bring confirmation and direction.”
If you’re willing to experiment and risk failure, you can tap into creative growth! As a teacher, I often see this—students unwilling to take risks, and this inhibits their creativity. Take a chance. Don’t fear failure. Turn your mistakes into learning experiences.
To learn about William Neill’s new e-books, Impressions of Light and Landscapes of the Spirit, Digital Edition, visit his photoblog or sign up for newsletter updates on his courses with BetterPhoto.com, go to www.williamneill.com.
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