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Motivation is a photography blog that discusses the creative aspects of photography. The posts will include thoughts about images and their interpretation, photographers and their work, technique, workflow, my ongoing projects, and perhaps even the occasional off topic rant.

Image Fatigue

There was a time in the not too distant past when a photograph of a beautiful sunrise seen through fog surrounding a mountain range, complete with alpine glow on the tips of the mountains, would be an image that one would ponder for a bit of time. One could well imagine it hanging in a gallery. As a stock photograph it could be expected to draw two to three hundred dollars per sale. Maybe more. That time has seemingly come and gone.

One need only direct their browser (you don't even have to leave the house) to Flickr, Facebook, Instagram, or Google Plus to see hundreds, no, thousands, of photographs like the one described above. True, some are better composed, better processed, or convey feeling better than others.....but there is no denying that there are still many thousands that can be reached with a click that, frankly, are really, really good!

And as one  browses through such images they might find themselves scrolling through them faster and faster and faster. I believe it's image fatigue.......we get used to seeing so many images, photographs that in another era, before the internet was able to feed us image after image after image, we would have spent time pondering...... that we now just zip through spending a second here or two seconds there. Even photo genres that wowed us just a year or two ago (think milky way across a navy blue sky with a well light-painted foreground) are now available in profusion.

It seems that the strategy for some is to go photograph in ever more exotic and hard to get to places. I'm not saying that this is a 'bad' strategy, it's just that one has to have a good deal of time, money, and good health to make it happen. And, of course, while everyone wants to see something or someplace they haven't seen before, rare or unusual or far away doesn't necessarily make the images 'good'; it just makes them images of someplace most people haven't been to (think Antarctica or Iceland). And the more these destinations catch on, the harder it is to be original, even in distant locations. How many pictures of ice on an Icelandic beach have you seen, for example.

Image fatigue.

Others try to photograph from more and more precarious and dangerous viewpoints (think of those photos shot by folks standing on a wall at the edge of a skyscraper with no tethering or protection from a fatal fall). Yes, everyone wants to look at them, but doing these sorts of things to get more 'likes' is just plain stupid.

Lets face it, everyone with a cell phone is now a photographer. And I don't mean that in a negative way. "iPhoneography" has become a medium in and of itself, and there is an incredible array of apps and post-processing possibilities that enable one to make art (as opposed to snapshots of your lunch - I still don't get why people do that and why they think others care about it - but maybe that's just because I'm old). 

So......what is one to do to avoid having their work get lost in a sea of images, in order to try to maintain some artistic individuality, and to have one's work seen, and, dare I even say, to stand out from the crowd? I certainly don't have all the answers, but have been thinking about this quite a bit lately. Here are some of my thoughts on this, but please feel free to comment and chime in with some further suggestions. In fact, I would love for you to do so. Here are some thoughts and ideas:

  • Not to state the obvious, but shoot what you love, not the hot subject of the day. Only by shooting what you love will you make images that might move people
  • Shoot projects - I'm not implying that one shouldn't take 'best of' images that are meant to hang on a wall, but also do some 'project photography' - examine a person, place, topic, or subject in depth. I think that by photographing projects you are more likely to make meaningful images that reveal more of yourself
  • Consider learning a new technique to see where it takes you - for example, extreme macro, very shallow DOF, long exposure, stop-action, etc
  • Don't fret about having a huge audience - worry about having an audience that really cares about your work
  • Think about trying to have your work published - I think that we tend to look longer and harder at images that are in print, as opposed to flipping through those on Instagram and Flickr. Well, at least that's true for me, though I'm not sure about millenials who grew up with the internet. Images that are published also seem to carry more 'weight' 
  • Learn the art of making prints - yes, I know it's somewhat last century :), but the fact is that it is an art unto itself and, in my opinion, more difficult than making an image look good on screen. It gives the image a physical presence. Holding a print made on a fine art paper is a very different experience than viewing the image on a monitor. And it does set you apart from the many that don't make prints (or don't make them well). I believe it is an art worth learning

Please chime in.....

Mirrorless vs dSLR

I had been thinking for some time about purchasing the Sony A7RII, but ultimately decided not to. That decision was not so much because of the cost of the camera, but because of the cost of buying a full complement of native mount lenses. Sure, it is possible to use a Canon to Sony adapter, but that carries its own set of problems.  In addition, as the highest quality lenses started to come out, it seemed like the size/weight savings were not as large as I had hoped for compared to a dSLR.  Frankly, the strongest argument I could make (and I think it's still a good one) to purchase the camera was the Sony's high ISO noise performance and dynamic range of the sensor vs my Canon 5DSR.

Well these size/weight and native lens mount issues have turned into quite a healthy argument by a series of articles that explore just these hesitations and are written by folks that have far more actual experience with these cameras than me (as I have never so much as touched the A7RII). If you haven't seen these, they make for quite interesting reading and so I thought it would be worthwhile to post links to them.

First we have the article that expresses my concerns entitled "Why Sony's Full Frame Pro Mirrorless Was A Fatal Mistake" by Sator.  After that came the rebuttal entitled "In Defense Of Sony's Pro Mirrorless Cameras" by Andrea P.

Who is right? Well, I don't think there is a right and wrong. Ultimately I think it depends on what you expect out of the camera and what its intended use is. As for me, I don't plan to purchase it and will chug along with my fabulous 5DSR and an array of Canon lenses. I am interested in what the Canon 5D Mk IV will bring though!

How To Build A Photoshop Optimized Computer - 2015

I recently wrote a post about purchasing my new computer and mentioned that back in 2010 I had written a series of posts about optimizing a computer for Photoshop usage.  I also mentioned that some things have changed since then and that I would write a new post about the current status of optimizing a computer that is mainly to be used for editing images in Photoshop.  Please note however that, while I have some degree of computer literacy, I am certainly not an expert and this post simply compiles data from several locations. I would welcome any further comments or updates from readers about these recommendations. In addition, since I happen to be a Windows user this information pertains specifically to computers running the Windows operating system.  

CPU: Faster = Better. More cores = Better.....to a point. There are diminishing returns after about four cores (editing video using Adobe's Premier Pro is a different story). So the performance boost by moving from 4 to 6 or 8 cores is very small.  Save your cash after 4.

RAM: No surprises here. More = Better, depending of course on your file sizes.  If you are working with very small files then massive amounts of RAM won't speed things up terribly.  But if you are working on very large files having enough RAM to avoid having Photoshop write to the scratch disk will be one of the biggest improvements you can make.

Hard Drive: Installing Photoshop on an SSD will allow it to launch faster than if it were on a spinning disk. But what about the scratch disk?  Back in 2010 I had assembled a RAID 0 array to serve as a fast scratch disk, which of course increases the cost and the complexity of the system.  That type of setup is no longer needed.  Having the scratch disk on the C drive will be fine as long as the C drive is an SSD and it has plenty of empty space.  In this instance there isn't much to be gained by putting the scratch disk on a separate SSD drive.

I had no plans to put the scratch disk on a separate drive but happened to see a great sale on a Samsung 850 EVO 500GB SSD for $150 and grabbed it as an add on.  I decided to use it to save the files I am currently working on so that they can open and save very rapidly (I work on large files) and so, with that large and near empty SSD in place, I decided to use it as a scratch as well.

Storage is relatively cheap, so I recommend getting a large mechanical drive or two for storing your files.

Graphics Card: Here is another place that going top end doesn't buy you very much more in performance (assuming you are not planning on any serious video editing).  Although modern versions of Photoshop do use the GPU, it doesn't do it intensively.  I went with an Nvidea GeForce 960 with 2 GB of VRAM.

Looking for more detailed information?  There is a lot of good stuff out there!  Start with these:

I hope this is useful information for those that might be looking into purchasing a new system for image editing.  I should also mention that my prior system was running Windows 7 and I was extremely happy with it.  Because I anticipate the new system lasting another 5 years, it was with some trepidation that I ordered it with Windows 10.  My daughter has a Windows 8 laptop and I can't even begin to use the thing. She hates it as well.  However, I do have to say that Windows 10 is a joy to use so far and I have not had any compatibility issues with any Adobe Products or plug-ins.  I may actually prefer the interface to 7, though it's a little too early to tell.

Technibition

Technibition......sure it's a word.  But I wouldn't try using it in Scrabble just yet because I just coined the term.  So do your best to make it go viral and don't forget to attribute it to me! What is technibition?  It is when the various choices made available by technology leads to the 'paralysis of analysis'.  Perhaps it can best be explained by example.  You are out in the field and presented with a beautiful landscape.  In the old 35mm slide days you found the best composition and took the shot after deciding on the appropriate aperture and shutter speed for the exposure. Maybe you take two or three photos, bracketing the exposure. After all, film is expensive and in the end you can only choose one exposure (of course, as we moved later in time there was the opportunity for scanning the slide and making more decisions from there).  But these days, if one is technically savvy, there are more options. One can do exposure bracketing for HDR, multiple exposures for focus stacking, and since there is no cost for each exposure why not multiple shots changing the point of focus a bit to see what works better in the final image.....same with the aperture and depth of field, multiple shot panoramas, multiple shot HDR panoramas,........you can get a headache just thinking about it.

And then when you get home and download the images you will have a whole array of the same shot to choose from.  And that is where things get difficult, because it is now work to choose the 'right' one from the bunch.  Do you compare every single one to see which is sharpest.  Do you really need focus stacking or did that shot at f16 have adequate depth of field?  Is that f22 shot better or is it softer because of diffraction?  Or maybe the image is good, but not good enough to merit going through the work of doing all those comparisons.

There you have it. That last sentence is the result of 'technibition'. Technology has thrown a sandbag in your path because of all the options it offers and perhaps for that reason you end up not making a print at all.    And technibition is far more common when the lighting is perfect or when you are on that once in a lifetime trip.....because you want to make sure you got it right. I know, because I have been 'technibited' many times!

Having been technibited, I have given this some thought.  I believe the answer is not that there is too much technology at all.  It is simply the result of the photographer's uncertainty as to what the goal or endpoint is.  If one has a better idea of what their vision is and exactly why they are making an image then the technology becomes a partner to achieve a superior result.  If the vision isn't clear, then the technology becomes a confusing distraction.  That is not to say that one can't have a clear vision but also have more than one usage in mind and therefore make the photograph using more than one technique or technology.  But in my mind, the key is to then have multiple discreet, thought out ideas and not do random shooting.  One thing is for sure, it isn't always easy!

Well, that is my opinion.....and it is just that, one person's opinion.  I would love to hear other opinions.....what do you think??