Colorful, Laskowitzpictures.com, Photographs, Pictures, Ray Laskowitz
Comments 8

Mid City View


How We Roll

How We Roll

Canal Street. Mid City, New Orleans.

There’s nothing like a little blue hour, wet streets and warm glowing lights in the background to make a place look enticing. If I was really working for — oh, let’s say — the tourism board, I’d clean up the foreground. There’s lots of trash there. One way to do it would be to just pick it up. But, that takes a lot of time and light is fleeting. Or, I could have retouched the image and spotted that stuff out. Much quicker and rain wouldn’t fall on my head.

But, that wasn’t my purpose. I was there to document the rebirth of the city. That new hospital, remember? I wasn’t trying to make this street look good, or bad. Yeah. Sure. I want my pictures to stand out. But, to a point. At least for this project. Eventually, I will offer a lot of the pictures from this project to one of my agencies. Then… no trash, no copyright notifications. Maybe not even the VW Beetle. Oh yeah, none of those power lines in the top right. Yes. I like to make power lines part of the picture since they are so ubiquitous. When they work. In this picture, they really don’t work. They need to come from some place and go to another place. They don’t.

Which brings me to… A lot of the work I see all over the internet.

Because we aren’t paying for film and processing, taking a lot of pictures has become the norm. We just push the button. We don’t think. We probably take way too many pictures. Then, we share them all over the place. I’m not exactly sure why. Most of those pictures that are sloppy at best. Many are under or over exposed. Many aren’t even in focus. I’m convinced that  some photographers do not understand their cameras. They just point. And, shoot. That also means I doubt they are noticing the little things. The power lines. The foreground details.

I once asked a photographer who was having an image exposure problem what his histogram data told him. He was working with a high-level Nikon prosumer camera body. Something like a D7000. He replied that his camera didn’t have a histogram. Huh? Until you drop down to the most basic of compact cameras every camera has a histogram. I don’t use that data often. But, it’s there when I need it. Especially, when I’m having a problem.

That’s just one example. I could go on. But, that’s not the point.

The point is really to learn about what you are doing. Practice it. Practice it some more. Practice so much and for so long that all the stuff you do to make a picture becomes so ingrained that you don’t even think about it when you do it. It’s part of you.

Gear too. Learn about what it can do. What it can’t do. How to work around what it can’t do.

Study your work. Study great work that came before you. Compare it. Contrast it. Learn from it. If your pictures hold up well, then show them. Post them. Invite comments. If it doesn’t hold up, well…

Be ruthless with your own work. That’s really what it takes.

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8 Comments

  1. Dear Ray,
    I clicked on the post for the photo and stayed for the advice. Your timing couldn’t have been better and your advice – perfect.
    I especially appreciated your perspective on power lines, point and shoot, and sharing too much. I’ll post my photos to go with a story, but I’ve been doing so less in other places because I know I need to learn more about the basics. The histogram? Yep, I’ve looked at it and have tried to decipher. I went to our local camera store and asked for one:one lessons – they gave me a book. I can’t learn that way. I have to have somebody show me…so, that’s my next mission.
    Still rambling here: We live where there’s a gorgeous pasture and pond behind us. The Eastern sky, so the sun rises over that pond and prairie every morning with the most beautiful hues of pink, gold, purple and blue. And every morning, those darn power lines obstruct my view. I appreciated your thoughts on that, too.
    Thank you for letting me ramble, Ray. I always learn good lessons when I come here.

    Like

    • Hi Michelle, we live in a more visual world these days so people post. In many ways that’s a good thing. At least we are all trying to speak the same language. And, I kinda of like seeing pictures of people’s families. Especially old friends who are separated from me by time and distance.

      I think I can help with the histogram. Reading about something visual can get awfully complicated. Sheesh. Try describing a tree in all its detail. Same thing.

      So.

      1. A histogram looks like a bell curve. The most optimum results come from a curve that is smooth and pushed somewhat to the left.

      2. That’s an average reading. In the old days, you metered for an 18% gray. Same thing. That balances the lights and darks.

      3. You can move the histogram, left or right depending on your intent. Want a light picture, move it to the right. Do that by setting you exposure compensation by something between 0 and plus one. Same thing for a darker picture. Just between 0 and minus one.

      4. If your curve is jagged, you have a contrast problem. You can ignore it if you understand that. Most of my work is contrasty, so the histogram hates me. If you are shooting into derect sunlight as I often do — the trombone player — the histogram will go crazy. That’s also why you see people shooting with a flash in bright sunlight. They are trying to balance the lights and darks. It doesn’t often work… flash can’t over power the main light which is the sun. Nor, should it.

      That’s it. Four things. Better than reading a book, yes?

      Country power lines are not a good thing, unlike urban ones which can add to the picture. Since retouching power lines out of a picture is a PIA, you can either switch to a longer lens or walk until you get under or in front of them.

      Liked by 1 person

      • YOU! You are so good to me, Ray.
        Thank you so much for the histogram explanation – even without the camera in front of me, I knew exactly what you were talking about
        Thank you for taking a significant amount of time helping me. You da best! Xo

        Like

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