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Tuesday, 11 November 2014


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Sunset pictures tend to read as easy cliches to me, much the same way, Mike, that I know pictures of cats and flowers do to you. (Well, they do to me, too, despite my unfortunate habit of shooting them from time to time.) Usually, there has to be something interesting in the foreground to make the picture more than a postcard.

This sunset picture, though, amazes me. I don't know that I could afford it were it offered, but damn, a print sale featuring this would sure as hell make me think.

The calm before the Polar Vortex storm?

As a followup to Mr. Tugwell's comment: ALL photos cannot and do not replicate the real thing; by definition. However I understand and agree with his (and Mike's) comments. So many "great" (in the eye of the beholder) landscape images do look like "landscape porn" or National Geographic postcards because that is, perhaps, the closest the photographer can get to the "reality" of what occurred in front of their lens. At the same time it is much more difficult, and therefore much rarer, to see a landscape image that evokes an emotion in the viewer (even one that the photographer may not have intended).

May the soybean field remain a agricultural cultivated area for as long as you dwell in your new home.

"The photograph is never a greater thing than the thing itself."

I think William Eggleston, Stephen Shore and the Bechers (and a number of other photographers in the contemporary art field) may beg to differ.

You could say they're looking for the sublime in the mundane.

The sunset seems to have been spectacular, but I cannot also help to think that camera technology has come a long way: capturing all those delicate hues and strong reds is not easy and I assume this was taken with equipment that's in the financial reach of most readers.

[It was taken with a 16-MP Sony NEX-6 and Zeiss 24mm E lens. The lens wasn't wide enough so it's several frames, stitched in Photoshop using Photomerge. --Mike]

I respectfully disagree. I've contrasted, darkened, saturated and printed more than a few sunset photo's from RAW that were a bit bland, forgettable and even drab, in person. Yes I "get" your point and I make mine tongue in cheek but there are a more than a few people who spend more than a few coins on what are (in my opinion) horrendously unrealistic HDR sunsets and landscapes.

This is why I don't do sunsets.

I was trying to explain this to a beginner photographer the other day. Now you've done all the work for me.

Thanks, Mike.

PS - A friend of mine used to call the more garish of these "placemat photos" after the gaudy plastic placemats you see in tourist cafes.

Never a great sunset photo? How about a moon rise photo? Oh right, never mind.

Mike wrote, " ... compared to the experience of watching a sunset sky, a picture of it is just a souvenir."

And after the sun has set, the experience is just a memory. The picture renews that memory every time you look at it.

A sunset or sunrise has a vastness about it that cannot be captured in a photograph although IMAX sure tries. This morning before the actual rise there was deep blue and several jet contrails stretched from horizon to horizon all pink and ethereal. Some were growing with blinking jets at their heads. Redeyes to the coast and freight to Europe.

Mike said: The photograph is never a greater thing than the thing itself.

I say: I beg to differ. Ever been to a fast food joint? Food always looks better in the photographs than the mess they end up serving you...

On paintings, I like Fire in the Evening, by Paul Klee, although I haven't seen an acceptable capture of it on the web.

The sunset pictures I like are pictures of other things, taken at sunset and using the lighting properties on offer then.

natural bridges

Sunrises and sunsets are best seen live.

We only get to see so many of them. Photographs are simply a way to remember them, and to remind others to look.

Mike: Thank you :)

Thomas Paris: "Martin Fiala's comment reminds me of the most important thing photography's given me: it's taught me to open my eyes. I now see things I probably wouldn't see had I not picked up this hobby. And the best thing? I do even when I don't have a camera in hand."

That's actually a very good point as well. While I've always been more of an observer, photography has certainly taught me to be even more observant and notice things other people seem to ignore, with or without camera in hand. Which, actually, may even lead us right back to sunsets and clouds and sky, my primary subject. On more than one occasion I have been quite suprised by the fact that many people tend to "ignore" or "tune out" such generic (from their point of view) things around them like sunsets and sky. But when presented with a nice enough picture of something like that, sometimes it actually sparks their interest and they can become a bit more observant themselves. Perhaps even pick up a camera and take a shot at it themselves. I've seen that happen a few times :)

Thanks Mike, I needed a challenge for the next year!

I have the camera & lens, my 6D & 40mm pancake, one print a day might be a bit difficult...I will have to think about that a bit more. Also a 'theme'...I also have to think on what sort of paper I am going to print on( I have a HP Z2100 44 incher) and what size....Early in December my wife and I are going on my annual photographic journey of discovery through my country, South Africa. This time we are going to travel right around a small country within our borders called Lesotho. So I have a month to sort out my one camera one lens challenge. We have also booked our tickets next year for 'crazy' Naples & Rome with a short excursion to Germany where my ancestors are from. I wonder if I will be able to hang onto my 'theme' from Africa to Europe...time will tell.

Bierstadt is well-known for some sunset paintings, in particular of (his imaginative vision of) Yosemite Valley.

"The photograph is never a greater thing than the thing itself. You can enjoy the experience just as much without taking a picture at all, and any picture you make, even a good one (this is a pretty good one, a stitched pano—and the colors are pretty accurate, too, they really were like that—) is just a token."

Mike, I don't know if you meant this to apply only to sunsets, but I strongly disagree with regard to photography generally. I have seen and personally created many images that were more impressive than the original scenes, and that includes landscapes. Just think of Weston's bell peppers. I guarantee that the actual peppers were not nearly as beautiful or emotionally moving as Weston's images of them.

[I *was* talking just about sunsets, and I'm not absolutist even about that. As you point out there are a great many photographers where the photograph is much greater than its subject. --Mike]

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