What am I looking at?

Before software adjustments

After software adjustments

My photography for years has been documentary – that is, my pictures merely document the fact I was standing in a location looking in a specific direction.  In film days there was the frustration of getting the images back days later, only to discover the composition that looked wonderful in the field turns out in reality to look flat and uninteresting on the print.  Nothing really to get excited about, just a snapshot of a waterfall, or mountain, or some other tourist scenic view.

From looking over what I considered great photographs, and reading many articles describing how to take better pictures, it was apparent my pictures weren’t telling stories about the scenes I was documenting.  There was nothing in the image to keep a person looking at it for more than a glance to acknowledge the subject (“Yep, that’s a waterfall.  Next.”).

So this remains my ongoing challenge for any photography I attempt – creating an image that evolves for the viewer into its own story.  A tale that compels further viewing, further exploration into the details of the photograph or the overall theme behind it.  Talking with other photographers I’ve learned that some of this comes from observing typical “rules” of composition but much of it comes from involving yourself in the scene – preparation, observation, contemplation – until the story is clear in your mind.  Then and only then do you pull your camera out and compose.

One way I’m learning this is to examine my photographs more closely, especially the ones where I just felt there was something in front of me – that something being a good composition.  Computers make it easy to crop, recompose, redevelop, etc., until what looked like a flat documentary image may take on some attributes of a photograph.

The images above, a before and after some software adjustments, are a result of this “image-mining” process.  I watched the windsurfer for a bit and remembered the feel of water, wind and wave from my sailing days.  My goal was to catch some of that feeling while giving other viewers a means to develop their own feelings about such a moment.  Not really a story, per se, but I feel it is more than a snapshot.

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