The statement in this post's headline is one that I hear quite often when I show my pictures to people, whether it's family or friends.
Usually, I quickly switch to something else on my phone or computer, or whatever I was using to present my pictures on, and change the subject. Because I know what the next part of their sentence is going to be, if there is one: "but it doesn't look like the real forest/street/beach/sky".
It's never a good thing for an artist to have to explain their art to the viewer. If they don't get it, they don't get it. Not everybody has the same taste. You can't please everyone. Yada yada, yada.... But I can't help feeling that they are missing the point. My objective when creating an image is not for it to exactly resemble what I saw with my eyes, it is for it to resemble what I felt in my heart and soul... and to have the viewer feel that too. If you are not open to letting yourself be emotionally affected, but only look at whether or not it matches what you perceive as "reality", it's your loss.
The thing is, if I look at a picture that exactly resembles what I saw with my eyes, it will not affect me in the same way it did when I was in the situation. Why? Because it's a picture! It's not reality. Reality has so much going for it that it becomes an uneven match against an image on a screen or on a wall. Reality has size, it has three dimensions, it has movement, it has sounds and smells, it has the viewer being in the middle of it.
So, in order to compensate for those deficiencies, an image must have something else that reality didn't have, and that's where in some cases additional colors can be a tool. It could also be to add some romantic blur, or make the clouds a little more dramatic than they really were. For instance, if, in the situation, the "scene" felt dramatic, but the image doesn't show it due to its single-dimensional and single-sense qualities, there is nothing wrong with emphasizing the things in the image that at least point in the right direction, such as making clouds grayer and more defined than perhaps they actually were.
Another point I would like to make is that I actually want to question the so-called reality that many people seem to subscribe to. It seems to me that some people think that an unedited photo, per definition, is closer to reality than one that has been edited. The truth is that one is the camera's interpretation of reality and the other is a human being's interpretation of reality. Do you really think that the camera's interpretation is always more accurate than the human being's who took the picture? Maybe neither one can be completely accurate, but in that case, I will usually find the human being's interpretation more interesting. Of course, a human being can completely ruin a picture with too heavy-handed editing, and I'm sure I have been guilty of that too in the past. Some would say I still am, but I choose to believe that, as I have become more and more conscious of what I want to achieve, it doesn't happen quite as often.
When all is said and done, I can't rule out that I'm just not very good at conveying what I want to convey with my images and that the "but-it-doesn't-look-like-reality"-segment of the population is right. Or that, realistic or not, the same people would totally get the image if I was just better at editing. But I also have received enough awards and love on places like Viewbug and GuruShots that I feel fairly confident that I'm not completely hopeless at what I'm doing.
In the end, I do with my images what I feel is right and what brings up the same feelings in me that I had in the situation. Whether it brings up any - or the right - feelings in anyone else is another matter. All I can do is try and hope that what I do strikes a chord with you.
Every time I upgrade my camera equipment or achieve some new insight into photography, I joke to my wife that now I have to go back to every interesting place we've ever been and re-shoot all my photos.
Well, last month I got the chance to go back to a place we have been to several times before, but which I never quite conquered photography-wise: Oslo, Norway. Each time we had been there in the past, we'd taken the Copenhagen-Oslo ferry, which is a 16-hour voyage advertised as a mini-cruise. This time was no exception. I love this form of traveling. You can walk around the ship, eat great food, watch the ocean, chill in your cabin, and just relax, knowing that you are completely off the grid out there in the middle of the ocean. When you arrive in Oslo, you have 6-7 hours to explore the city before going back on the ship for the return voyage.
Now, the purpose of this trip was relaxing, first and foremost - not taking pictures. But of course, there's nothing wrong with bringing your camera just in case some good opportunities should arise. And they did... Of course they did. In fact, we hadn't even left the harbor in Copenhagen before I started snapping away from the stern of the ship and captured some of the surrounding architecture.As the ship made its way out of Copenhagen, we passed a few points of interest. First, an old, wooden ship returns to a more modern world.
Then, with no time to change to a longer lens, the below image of a long string of wind turbines in the distance would have to do. But I kind of like the minimalism of it and the clouds. Sometimes you have to make the best of what you've got. Several hours later, after emptying the famous restaurant Seven Seas all-you-can-eat buffet, we went back on deck to get some air and look around.
With gray clouds having covered the sky most of the day, I didn't have much hope for a sunset, but I got something that seemed at least as spectacular, and something you might only experience at sea: a narrow orange strip of sunlight lined the horizon and served as the backdrop for a couple of far-off freighter vessels. Above the orange light, dramatic storm clouds loomed low. It was an incredible sight. Again, I might have benefited from a longer lens than my 24-70 mm, but the sense of scale may have suffered as a result. Showing how small the ship is in the hands of nature is one of the picture's strengths, in my own opinion.The next morning it was time for one of the scenes that I had been looking forward to revisiting: the approach to Oslo through the narrow parts of Oslo Fjord. Here you pass by small idyllic islands and hills dotted with colorful Norwegian villages.
Unfortunately, while the clouds had scattered somewhat, the sun was already so high in the sky, the light had turned harsh and difficult. I was still using my 24-70 mm kit lens since my much sharper 16-24 mm requires more of a foreground than you will find shooting these landscapes from a ship. I took numerous pictures, of course, but very few of them turned out well. Here's an exception, although it's still not quite what I had hoped for.After arriving in Oslo we caught a hop-on-hop-off bus in order to get off at the Vigeland Sculpture Park a little ways out of downtown Oslo. Despite having been in the city several times, we'd always skipped it even though every guide book describes it as a must-see attraction in Oslo.
Well, it turned out the guide books were right. The Vigeland Sculpture Park is definitely worth seeing, even for someone like us who don't get terribly excited when we hear the word "sculpture". First of all, it's huge! You can easily spend half a day there. Secondly, the sculptures are... different. You won't see any statues of kings and generals on horses. Whoever this Vigeland was who created all the sculptures, he had a pretty unusual mind. Some would say pretty sick.
Anyway, from a photography standpoint there were lots of tempting motifs. Plenty of sculptures would have made for interesting subjects. However, to me, just taking a picture of someone else's piece of art is not very appealing. As a photographer you need to add to the experience and create something new by including the surroundings and the atmosphere at that particular moment. And that's exactly what I think I did with my personal favorite image from the park below. It's also one of my rare vertical images.
The next image is of a waterfall/fountain in the middle of the park. I didn't bring my tripod - only a monopod - so I couldn't make a true long exposure, which seems to be the agreed-on standard for waterfall photography. Personally, I think a faster shutter speed can be quite impressive too.The last image from the park shows no sculptures (except for the tiny ones separating the benches), but there is plenty of beautiful landscaping going on too. This scene was just too beautiful and harmonic to ignore.Next stop on our Oslo journey was the viking ship museum, which, like the Vigeland Park, was a first for us. Photography is always difficult inside a dim museum, but I got a few fairly good shots of the ships, including this one.
When we returned to downtown Oslo, it had started to rain so there wasn't going to be much photography happening. I did capture this image of the waterfront area as the rain moved on. By then it was time to go back to the ship, so except for a few more insignificant images from the walk back, that pretty much concluded the Oslo part of our journey.The ship, by the way, was this beauty. It looks impressive, but compared to real cruise ships, it's a dinghy. Still, it was plenty big for us and constituted a fine floating home for us during our voyage.Exiting Oslo through the fjord presented a new opportunity for some great fjord photography, but again, it wasn't really happening. The light was dull, and I was again struggling with the dilemma of whether to use my sharp Sony 16-24 mm lens, resulting in distant subjects, or my 24-70 mm kit lens that may bring the subjects more forward, but is just visibly inferior in image quality.
In the below image I obviously used the former, and it works okay with the clouds and the little ferry and all, but again... better light, like a sunset, would have done wonders. So, note to self: next time we go on this Oslo trip, make it coincide it with early sunsets and late sunrises. Not that photography should be the main purpose of these trips... Perish the thought!Later on, the restaurant where we were having dinner offered a great view of our trusty ship heading towards a storm. This is a picture taken with my cell phone as I didn't have my real camera on hand. Still, the result was one of my favorite shots of the day.The above picture only marked the beginning of what was probably the photographic highlight of our two-day excursion. After dinner, like on the previous night, we went up on the deck to catch the sunset, and this time our faith was rewarded. I took numerous pictures as the sun disappeared below the horizon, but these two tell the story of a magical evening that put a perfect end to our trip. Actually, it wasn't quite the end. We still had one sleep left before arriving back in Copenhagen, and the next morning we, again, had a little time to go outside. Our intention was to have a look at Kronborg Castle as we sailed past, which we did, but it was too far away for me to get any interesting shots of it. Instead I caught the below image of the Helsingborg-Elsinore ferry tasting our wake.About an hour later we arrived in Copenhagen and departed the ship for the last time. We'd had a great time relaxing and being tourists. Photography-wise I still didn't quite get the ultimate pictures of the Oslo fjord, just as we didn't spend enough time in downtown Oslo to improve on my existing pictures of the city. Still, I was happy with seeing and photographing new locations in Oslo and getting some really nice ocean shots.
I'll be back!
As of today KSA Gallery will be known as Plain Exposure. I was never too happy with KSA Gallery. Not sure why. I wanted something a little "cooler" and perhaps more ambiguous.
The site also got a new sub-title: "The Life and Struggles of an Amateur Photographer". Of course, it's somewhat ironic. Mostly life as an amateur photographer is quite rewarding, but much of what I write about - and will be writing about in the future - is the struggling with everything from lack of self-confidence to unfair algorithms on social media.
But most of all, now as in the past, this site is just a way for me to put my images out there for everyone to see. In other words... plain exposure.
Bruce Springsteen once said that as a young, unknown rock band you need to both think you are the greatest thing in music since the Beatles... and that you suck. The former gives you the confidence and attitude to maybe make others believe it too, and the latter makes you work harder at actually getting better.
This is not unlike how I feel as a photographer. In my own mind I am among the world's most underrated photo artists, but most external evidence tells me that I'm just another mediocre face in the ever growing mass of mediocre middle aged men with expensive cameras resting on their pot bellies.
When I look at my pictures from maybe just a year ago, I can see that the evidence was accurate: most of the pictures I thought back then were masterpieces, I now realize were nothing special and that the world's indifference to them was quite reasonable. On the other hand, the pictures I took today are mind blowing and will finally give me the recognition I deserve.
But then fear strikes me. What if in a year from now I can see that the pictures I now think are mind blowing are just as unremarkable as my old pictures? What if my pictures are not improving at all? What if the only thing that's improving is my state of denial?
As an amateur photographer, you don't have very many solid indicators to tell you if you're getting better. You can't measure it by sales since you're not selling. Friends and family may just tell you what you want to hear. And your own gut feeling and tastes prove worthless as images you wouldn't be caught dead having taken receive more votes/likes/awards than yours on GuruShots/Instagram/ViewBug.
Whatever the case, as of right now, in the confines of my own deluded, self-absorbed brain, I believe that the last couple of months have produced some of my best images ever. I have not written about it due to being
busy tired, but November and December have been very productive in both quantity and quality with several photo outings, each of which brought forth sure additions to my portfolio should I one day get around to updating it.
Since I may still write more extensively about those outings, I will only post a few of the best shots here. The first two images are from the same day in November, a day that was split in two with the first half spent at the beautiful Bøllemose area with a low sun creating magical light between the trees, and the second half on the coast, including a blue hour to die for at a nearby marina. The next image is from my local area where, one Sunday afternoon, I spent the hours around the early Scandinavian sunset on a rugged, muddy field, almost ruining my boots, but capturing some pictures that I was really happy with., including this one.Also from my local area is the below picture of the weirdly curved tree on the edge of the forest. I absolutely love the colors and composition in this one. Last but not least, from a trip into Copenhagen and beyond, this image was taken at a part of the city called Ørestad, which has only existed in the past 10 years or so. The picture of a train leaving the station was very nicely captured, in my own opinion, with the exposure length at a perfect 0.6 seconds, which added juuust the right amount of blur... again, in my own opinion.I took several more top-notch pictures on all of those trips, but they will have to wait. These are just examples of what I've been up to in the last few months and hopefully a little bit of evidence that both my mastering of my camera and my ability to capture the beauty I encounter have indeed improved.
I guess we'll see in a year from now.
January and February are horrible months for an outdoor photographer in this country. Seems like weeks since we saw even the tiniest ray of sunshine. We've been shrouded in gray grayness that is as inspiring to a photographer as Chicken McNuggets is to a Michelin inspector. So what better time to go through your old photos and updating your portfolio?
Well, that's exactly what I did. I picked my favorite 20 pictures out of my Master Collection of 25,000. Actually, it's not that simple. I had a few more criteria: 1) I wanted to include pictures from throughout my "career" as a photographer, 2) I wanted some variety in the subject matter, and 3) I wanted a mix of plain personal favorites and pictures that have proven their worth in public, two factors that may or may not overlap. In other words, compromises had to be made, and every picture left out that I wanted to include was a struggle, but overall what I came up with is a good representation of what I consider my best work.