Paying Homage

031_SFCoastalLightsCROPHave you ever felt like you were stuck in a nighttime photographic rut?

Feeling stuck technically or artistically, not knowing what to do next, what to look for, or even how to go about it?

Kind of like writer’s block, maybe you were experiencing cam-jam, or just a simple case of lens-cringe.

Well there is an easy exercise that will help you get past your night-fright and get a quick pic-fix.

If you are feeling uninspired, select an image by someone who inspires you. Then come up with a way to duplicate it in order to pay homage to both the artist and the image.

Choose an image that captures your imagination and creates a sense of wonder. Pick one that introduces you to new subject matter, or exposes you to a new way of seeing.

By emulating another, you shift your picture taking habits, and open your eyes a little wider to the possibilities beyond your current visual practices.

Paying homage to another can take many forms. It can be a literal interpretation of a time and place. It can be similar types of objects or a comparable setting. It can reflect the same style of lighting. It can mimic the aesthetic to convey the same kind of impact. Or you can dream up your own approach to mirroring that which inspires you.

When you are done, compare your image to the inspirational piece. The similarities are a good indication of your visual attention. But more importantly, the differences you see are an even stronger indication of your own artistic style and vision. What you introduced to the so-called copy is evidence of your personal contribution to visual expression.

IMAGE : Inspired by Kenna, Coastal Lights, San Francisco, CA

Years ago I attended an excellent two weekend workshop in San Francisco led by Michael Kenna, one of our contemporary masters of night photography. On the last night we all met at the Cliff House near the northwest tip of the SF peninsula.

I wandered out onto the patio behind the restaurant and found Michael taking shots of the rocks and ocean to the west. I set up my camera and tripod facing down the coastline to the south with lights running along Highway 1. We visited as we took our long exposures.

I had never shot ocean waves at night before. I actually expected the water to appear as a complete blur in the final image. I was shocked when I first viewed my negatives to see that the surf seemed to almost stand still.

I bracketed as usual but all of my exposures of the breaking waves were pretty much the same except for the shape of the white water.

I realized after the fact that the water was captured during a long exposure only as the swells broke. Other than that the ocean was dark and undetected by the camera.

This image is the result of a 30 second exposure shot at f8 with TMAX 3200 film.

IMAGE TINT : GallerySilver

A cool silver tint was applied to the image to enhance the look of the damp ocean air, and provide tonal separation in the coastal waters.

This B&W image was toned in Adobe Photoshop with an ICC Profile derived from the “GallerySilver” Color Map created in Mac App SuiteProfiler.

Click these buttons to download the ICC Profile and SuiteProfiler Color Map:

EXERCISE : Paying Homage

Pick a nighttime image that inspires you, possibly one by your photographic muse. Decide what it is about the image that turns you on the most. Then go out and capture a series of shots that capture the essence of the provocative image.

Afterward examine the similarities, and the differences, between your image and the inspirational one. Also look for inspiration in your own image, and see the potential for future photo ventures into the night.

Be sure to review the Safety & Precautions page.

FEEDBACK : Paying Homage

Leave comments on this post to share your ideas and experience, or ask questions.

NEXT TIME : “Winter Nights”


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