Image Management

This isn't what you think it is.  It's different.  Like many other professions photography requires continued education.  This comes in many forms from surfing the web for the latest news, to workshops featuring the latest products/techniques, to a reading list.  On my desk sits no less than 20 volumes on photography waiting for me to have the time to read.  And this isn't light reading like the latest Tom Clancy adventure novel, this is the sort of reading you need to think about and perhaps even experiment with.

The book I was reading today was Ansel Adam's "The Camera."  I have a strong interest in obtaining an 8x10 inch view camera sometime in the future.  An 8x10 negative is truly a thing of beauty.  This is an excellent book for explaining and comparing the features and capabilities of these types of cameras.  More, it talks about why you would use each type of camera as it pertains to the 'image'.  And there's a section that talks about "image management."

Image management is about being able to isolate the essential elements of the image and manage them for the best effect.  The book goes on to talk about these elements and my mind locked on one of these elements like a heat sinking missile up the tail of a F-14 on afterburners.  The element is "the essence of the image."

This isn't about focus, or sharpness, or depth of field, or noise or any sort of 'technical' feature concerning image quality, and it's not about the rule of thirds and the other parts of a solid composition.  It's about the essence.  That one thing you want the viewer of this image to notice above every other part of the image.  It's the message, the reason you pointed the camera, the soul..  Do you think about these things when you take a photograph?  Perhaps not conscientiously, but maybe sub-conscientiously?

I think if we self-imposed a requirement on ourselves that we'd only release the shutter when we were capturing "the essence" as we'd thought it out.. we'd take precious few photographs.  However, I'd bet they'd be damn good ones!

So.. I was thinking.. how I could isolate "the essence" of a sample photograph to share with you what I was thinking when I made the capture.  I scanned some negatives, used Photoshop to make outlines, and tried all sorts of things.. but none of them seemed effective.  And then I made this image.

 

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Canon 1ds Mark II, 300mm F2.8 IS  F4  1/4000th  ISO 100

 

Stripped of all image quality features of sharpness and clarity, yet with the bare minimum of features to show the essence.  Excuse me if I'm just being nuts here which is entirely possible.  As far as I know no one as ever done this before..

What do you see in this image, what was "the essence" I was trying to show.  I've shown this image to a few dozen people and most seemed to like it for various reasons ranging from it's animated look to a youthful appeal.  Only one person saw the sadness in his face and posture.  His eyes and mouth and slumping shoulders are showing the essence of this image.  The element I wanted to share with the viewer above all else.

 

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Canon 1ds Mark II, 135mm F2  @F2.8  1/40th  ISO 400

 

What about this one?  Once again I stripped out any image quality factors and left only the essence.. the feeling.  This is/was an environmental portrait.  A professional at work, doing what she was born to do.  Doing what she loves.  Look at the eyes.  They're not detailed, but you can't miss the focus and direction.  The upright posture of someone supremely confident in their abilities.  The body language speaks loudly.  She's in her element, totally confident and comfortable, and she loves what she's doing.  Would it help to know she's a conductor rehearsing before a concert?

Image management.  The management of the essential elements within an image.  The "essence" of every image we capture should be known before we effect the capture, so we can use the other elements of the image to support the essence.  Image management.  It was a very worthwhile lesson.

 

Until next time..