Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Macro Manipulations

As with any of my projects there are usually multiple stages of design and iterations within each stage. The photography stage wasn't too difficult. A macro lens with good studio flashes permitted a small aperture of f32, yielding a decent depth of field (DOF). Since my subject was held flat with a piece of glass DOF was not as critical and difficult to maintain as 3D subjects. I might go back to the studio to use a single side flash to bring out the texture of the scales on the wing.

For now, I'm satisfied with the images and have progressed onto abstracting them using Photoshop, Lightroom, and other plugins. The detailing, color gradations and hue and tonal variations are critical since the final prints will be 20x30 in size. I'm going for a Chuck Close Meets Impressionism style where at a distance things look somewhat normal, but you are drawn into the image with an ever deepening realization of the detail.

You have to imagine the image at left being 20x30 inches and the 3rd image down being what you see when you walk up close.... Chuck :)

Having the DOF just right accounts for much of the detailing. You can see every scale on the wing, pieces of dust, dirt and hairs, and collectively these produce the texture, hue and tonal gradations that hold your interest. If the images were not sharply focused the detailing would be lost and the gradations and textures would become large uninteresting patches with few color shifts.

I put these images and other butterflies on my site where you can use a Zoom tool (similar to MapQuest) letting you zoom in and out of the images.

I will most likely go through several iterations of composition and design styles, but that is not the hard part. Nor should the printing be difficult if the final images are fantastic.

The challenge will be to see if certain unknown judges will still consider this photography? I would like to use the final images as part of a grant competition in photography. This is a highly subjective and almost philosophical question. What do you think? Are these photographs?

To be honest, I really can't tell you, and anyone that does have a qualified answer is simply working from a particular aesthetic or technical context. That is, judging from a certain frame of reference. The question is as nebulous as what is art, what is fine art, and when does craft become art?

Is the first image a photograph that is just colored funny and the last one is not because it is too abstracted? Are very grainy black and white images not photography because the grain (an aesthetic quality) is not realistic? Many people don't believe photography is art and maybe that is the rub of these photographs.

What do you think? Are these art?

Along with my lifelong predisposition to dislike self promotion is my dislike of labels in the arts. Regretfully, the reality is that labels and who is labeling does indeed matter, and can profoundly affect you and how you approach your work... if you let it.

My answer to all of that is Designs For Good where I simply make stuff, sell it for enough profit to pay for materials, and forward the proceeds to a good cause. That is a simple model to avoid a lot of the distractions the art world imposes on its participants.

However, even with that there are many practical concerns and questions like how can I maximize the proceeds, or, if you want grant money you have to play by the rules, their rules.

Backing up 10,000 feet. All of the above is really about values - what and how, we and other cultures, value certain activities and objects. Values and categories are closely intertwined.

For now, this post must come to an end, leaving the discussion of values for another time or better just left to philosophers.

You might think it would be simple just to give stuff away. But not really. Not if you want more of a result than just throwing all your money off of the tallest building in town.

I value my time/work more than that.

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