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Wednesday, 08 February 2023


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My success rate back in the film days for getting a properly exposed image of the moon came when it dawned on me that the moon is lit by the sun. I simply applied the "sunny-16" rule and eliminated all the problems of the meter being skewed by the large expanse of black sky.

It worked great as long as the moon was fairly bright and mostly near full.

Have you read about the moon substitution controversy? Interesting stuff, posing fundamental questions about the meaning of photography itself.

As for a personal style for one's photography, that's for sale too:


" ... one of the real surprises to me of living in the middle of what once was the future is that personal expressiveness and a stylistic identity does not seem one bit easier to achieve than it ever was... "

For some of us, that is the fuel for the never-ending fire. Best to you, Michael.

PS: How about an anthology of your moon shots in a small book or web gallery? It might be an interesting set of images, stories, and gear history.

“ ...But, of course, the real problem is still exactly the same as it ever was.”

In some ways, the real problem feels harder to solve now. I grew up photographically in the late eighties, when it took a lot more effort to view other photographers’ work. Now, my Flickr feed is filled with interesting and expressive work of photographers that I’ve chosen to follow. But sometimes when I press the shutter the thought does cross my mind that the photograph I took is in the style of someone in my feed. And I wonder whether that’s “influence” or mimicry. If it’s the latter, has the ability to view others’ work so easily made it more
difficult for me to create something truly unique? Sometimes I wonder whether my photographs that get the fewest “likes” are the ones that represent my unique style…


Absolutely somewhat harder, but not because of the iPhones and such and the higher technical equipment, but I think because of that there’s so much of everything out there that has been done. Sure, we’re not searching to be different, but just ourselves…

Lately, I spend my time, when not actually taking photos, studying books of paintings by landscape artists from a century ago, or so. Currently I have a copy of "Cezanne in Provence" out from the library. I'm constantly trying to capture scenes where the feel and the composition has the same quality of those masters. Whether I succeed is a constant question. Whether anyone will ever look at my best efforts and recognize that it's me and not just another copy of an obvious composition, is also always a question. But at least when I get something I'm happy with, I think I can recognize that the effort is paying off and that I'm making good use of the "magic camera".

I think that a distinction should be made between photographers and the users of automated cameras for everyday purposes.
By numeric count, most photos taken are not conceived as artistic statements or singular works of art. An ordinary family snap, machine vision or instrumentation photos, a product shot in a catalog, a celebrity photo spray on a red carpet, photos of damage after a car crash are now clearer and sharper than ever, without the photographer having to make adjustments on the camera or know how the camera works.
The actual "Art" Photographer still has the same job: To create an image (personally I'd make it 'printed image') that attracts the attention and fascination of others.

The last part is basically everything. You can't buy artistic vision, it comes from obsession or sometimes insanity. Without it, you're lost in the sea of the ordinary (but you can still have fun).

"How are you going to express yourself using photography in a way that is individualized or idiosyncratic to you specifically?"

Thanks to your recommendations, i'm now working with "The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes". I'm enjoying the process a lot, although it is harder work than just learning a few tricks to stand out on IG ;-)

Indeed, when you say: "such that other people can look at it and say "that looks like [X]'s work"?"
That specifically for me, and i suppose for humans with even a hint of ego, might be one of the biggest hurdles to go over.
I find that any specific goal or expectation i might have for my photography (like 'expressing myself' or 'be original') immediately makes it less personal and authentic, less "individualized or idiosyncratic" as you say.

Again, thanks for recommending a nice book.

Beautiful photograph.

I don't have an "artistic vision" but when I see something that makes me think "look at that!" I want to share it. It has been a point of pride to present technically competent images, and that certainly has become easier and more common. So now every one does it, often quite well.
All that I can provide is a point of view. I do process, edit, and organize things so that's different. We are becoming able to photograph in new ways but the problem remains of finding or creating an image. Get out and shoot. Right now, I'm thinking about the "multi exposure" options in the D850 and some tricks to try... I'm (almost) 71 and things are more fun now!

My dream: Trees in my garden under the moonlight

Do you really need to develop a personal 'style'? I've had a digital camera since 2002 (Pentax, Panasonic, Olympus), and amassed probably 50,000 or more shots taken in Europe, Asia, the Americas, Australia - all just instinctive travel shots with no view to any particular style. (Not to mention zillions of earlier 35mm slides.) But reviewing them country by country on Lightroom, and putting together a couple of photobooks for family and friends (on Singapore, where I lived for 25 years, and Italy), and picking out the shots that 'worked', a certain consistency emerges. Sometimes I find that I took essentially the same photo - in different countries all over the place - a hundred times. I'm not sure that consciously trying to find a style, in the way that YouTube videos advocate, is really going to get you anywhere. Too often, a personal photographic identity turns out to be just consistency, at worst idiosyncrasy, in post-processing. But if you just shoot what appeals, and go with your instincts, I think you sort of get there in the end.

If you're no good, of course that will also become obvious over time.

If the goal is for one to record a moment, technology has in fact made that possible for anyone to do at virtually any time.

But for the most part, that is not what we do here. The challenge is learning to see. Learning to see light. Learning to see composition. Learning how those elements can sometimes come together to make a good photograph.

Technology has made it very easy to "capture" a sharp and properly exposed image of what you point it at. I forget what photographer said something like "90% of my skill is knowing where to stand." I think of that quote very often when on assignments. Much of what I bring to the table is knowing where to stand to make a good photograph. The camera can't help you know where to stand.

Good point Mike, and a good photo as well! By the way, I have a song for that picture of yours:
I'm on bass, and the singer has seen the snow moon on one of her early morning walks in Wales...

This is so true.

I think your last paragraph represents what is so attractive about TOP.

Exposure for the moon is almost easy, just follow the sunny 16 rule. The only catch is that the moon is pretty dark, so maybe make that the sunny 11 or sunny 8 rule. One should keep in mind that it’s moving kind of fast too. I never understood trying to meter the moon. As far as I know lunar weather is pretty consistent.

I see the new Samsung phone has 200 megapixels, or should that be megaminipixels, and can probably take snaps of black cats in coal cellars except that no no one has coal cellars any more.

I am fair amazed at this as I always thought smartphones would adopt arrays of 3 or 5 or more identical cameras to achieve these wonders — I think Ctein was also of that opinion.

@hugh Crawford - my experience is that the moon is pretty light. Any reliance on automatic metering means that the details will be completely blown out, because of the dark surroundings. I find you have to meter it manually pretty much as a bright daylight object.

What a great shot! It's funny how the moon is one of the trickiest things to shoot. It's there every night, but that doesn't make it any easier.

@ Tim Auger
I’ve not been to the moon myself, but photos I have seen taken on the moon depicting astronauts in their white suits indicate that lunar soil, aka regolith, is about zone III at best. Pictures of lunar soil brought back to earth look like charcoal powder. Astronauts describe it as nearly black. I’m sticking to my opinion that the moon is a relatively dark object.

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