A Good Photo

For my Deck Photo last week I used a black and white image of a bird walking across a wet expanse, one of my friends and fellow photographers told me that she didn’t like the photo, because it made her feel sad and lonely

When she told me that she didn’t like the photo, I was a little disappointed to tell the truth, but when she told me that it was because it made her feel sad and lonely, I was elated.


One of the things that makes a good photograph is the conveyance of some sort of emotion to the viewer.  For most photos, we look at them and move on, it was a photo of a sunset, or a flower, or an insect, or a door, or a building, or a bird, or any other subject you can think of, but when someone can say that a photo of mine made them reminisce or feel happy or sad, of any other emotion, then I feel that the photo was not only good, but better than I’d hoped for.


Each photo has the potential to reach past the optics of the viewer and into their emotions, when it does, then the photo was worth taking, it was worth the pixels that were spent on it, and the time it took to take and process.

None of these photos are new, but each one has had an emotive response from a viewer, it may not do it to everyone, but to me, that is what makes photography a challenge, to reach into as many of the viewer’s hearts as possible, but to even reach one, is usually enough for me.

As usual, click on the images to see them in their respective Galleries in the Collection.

Pro – defining and refining

Twice in recent times, I’ve been accused of being a “Pro”, as in a Professional Photographer, and both times I’ve been taken aback by it.  Me? a Pro?  Surely they don’t think so!

The first time was on a public discussion on the Guyana Tourism Authority’s Facebook page where we were discussing their Photography Competition, the unfairness of one of the “rules” and the general direction of the competition, the individual calling me a Pro thought that because I was a known name in Photography in Guyana I should not be questioning the rules of the competition (open only to amateur photographers), and stay out of it.  I humbly submit that I am not a known name… stop ten people on the street and ask them if they know Michael Lam, and they’ll all probably ask “Who?”  In the small, but growing, Photography world locally, yes, my name is known alongside those of Nikhil Ramkarran, Dwayne Hackett, Fidal Bassier, Ryan Dos Santos, Amanda Richards, Roshanna Mahadeo, Compton Sarabo, Vishnu Persaud, Philip Williams, Avinash Richard and countless others (sorry if I missed anyone).

The second time was in a newspaper article that covered the recently concluded Guyana Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition, in which I gained the Bronze Medal in the Photography category, the reporter referred to me as “Pro photographer Michael Lam”, again I felt that it was a distinction I could not accept or live up to.

Who is a Professional?  Generally you need to meet certain criteria to be a Professional:

“Expert and specialized knowledge in field which one is practicing professionally” I don’t possess that knowledge, certainly not to a degree to be teaching it or express an “expert” opinion on it, so that one is out.

“Excellent manual/practical and literary skills in relation to profession”, same as the first, not me!

“High quality work in Photography”, OK, if it’s good enough for the National Art Gallery at Castellani House to exhibit, then I suppose I have to acquiesce to this one

“A professional is an expert who is a master in a specific field”, definitely not me, oh no!

Let’s get specific to a Professional Photographer:  A professional photographer uses photography to earn money; amateur photographers take photographs for pleasure and to record an event, emotion, place, or person.  I have a day job, I’ve always described myself as a Photo-hobbyist, and I still see myself that way.  Photography isn’t my primary income, if it were I’d be starving.  Have I made money off of photography?  No, I spent more than I made.   I’ve been fortunate to have some of my images licensed for use in a few calendars, I’ve also had a few images sold for display, does this make me a Professional?  Simply because I’ve had some income from my hobby?

I have to admit, that this view was the one I had originally taken of Professional Photographers, those who have sold their services or products, so now I fall into that category, but I still can’t see myself as a Professional.

I look at Robert (Bobby) Fernandes, whose years of experience and his natural Photographer’s Eye, can capture a scene with a certain “Je ne sais quoi” that tells you its a great photo, and I think that’s a Professional!

I look at Delano Williams, who has been doing portrait and wedding photography in Guyana for many years, and I think that’s a Professional!

I remember Mark Yhap, who took portrait photos on Camp Street, he used SLR film cameras and light meters, and had everyone wanting their photos looking ethereal because of a “soft lens” that he used, and I think that’s a Professional!

I look at Dwayne Hackett, one of the only trained photographers that I know of, who does spectacular work for everyone from Corporations down to studio portraits, and I think that’s a Professional!  He knows more about lighting, depth of field, and most everything else, than I ever will.

I look at Fidal Bassier, who has taken wedding photography and portrait photography to a level Guyana has not seen before, and I think that’s a Professional!

I look at John Greene, who in a short space of time has carved out for himself a space in the Portrait photography world and is steadily expanding his repertoire, and I think that’s a Professional!  I certainly don’t have that business sense or attitude.

I look at my friend Nikhil Ramkarran, Gold Medal winner in the Photography Category of the Guyana Visual Arts Competition and Exhibition, whom I always thought “never had an artistic bone in his body”, but who read and looked at every single thing he could find about Photography and Photographers, and tutored himself (and me along the way) in the art of photography, and I think to myself that’s a Professional!  You could ask him almost anything on the subject, and you’ll not only get expert knowledge, but an expert opinion.

Do I rank with these people, or with so many others in the field now?  I am not sure, I’m happy to call them my peers, my fellow Photographers, and I am proud to be among the talented people of The Guyana Photographers.  Can you book my time for a portrait shoot? No.  Can you book my time for a wedding shoot? No. Will I ever do that?  I don’t know, it’s just not my thing right now, and I have a day job  🙂

Why do people think I am a professional?  I don’t know and it really does not matter in the long run.  I know a few things about photography, and I’m willing to share what I know, and learn from others in the process, but in the end, I merely shoot what I see, and sometimes people like what I shoot.


To the Photographs in this post…. both photos were taken during the first week of the year, and both were shortlisted along with two others for the first photo for the Deck Project, but I chose another, just because I felt like it.  The ;little icon of the Newspaper is the article which I mentioned, clicking on it will give you the full PDF version from the Newspaper’s website (Sunday Times Magazine).

Both of the photos are technically composites, that is they are High Dynamic Range (HDR) images each using three exposures.  Of the two, the seascape that I titles “The Lonely Sea” is my favourite.  HDRs are one of my favourite photographic techniques, but as with all techniques it can be misused.  Click on the images for a better view in the Gallery, along with other HDR images in my Scenic Experiments Gallery on my site.


Definitions highlighted in bold taken from Wikipedia.org

Expression

During this season when many people wish for World Peace, Goodwill among Men, we also see many young lovers finding new ways to express their love for each other.

Many novels and movies have lines like “I’ll shout it to the Heavens”, but it seems that in Guyana, we have a new method… “I’ll paint it on the Seawall!”

Some man (or woman, we are living in a new age) seriously meant for the subject of their amorous intent to see the writing on the wall  🙂

Click on the image above to see it in the Gallery along with other images done using the HDR (High Dynamic Range) multiple exposure method.


This image is an HDR composite of three exposures, I stood there waiting for the traffic to clear long enough for the three exposures  🙂


2012 Deck – Week 41

On a recent photo-walk with Nikhil and Sharon on the seawalls up the East Coast of Demerara, I found myself looking at the scenes around me and shooting without really thinking too much about it, almost on automatic.  I saw things to photograph, they caught my eye and I took a few snaps.

I wasn’t inspired, and I thought to myself that I’d be coming away with something “normal”, something that I would be happy with but not overjoyed.

On the walk back to the vehicle, I happened to walk under a fisherman’s shed, and the scene that caught my eye was different in a few ways from all that I had seen, nothing spectacular, but just different enough for me, and I stopped, took the time to set up the camera for a few bracketed exposures, and took two sets of exposures for later HDR-processing.

This was the result: At Rest.

At Rest

Click on the image above to see it better in the Gallery.

2010 – Flood Waters at the Park – HDR

As coastal dwellers we are always mindful of the flooding of our properties, growing up it never seemed that much of a problem, but now it seems more frequent.

Six feet Under –  A phrased usually reserved for the dead and buried, is also the correct description of Georgetown, the capital of Guyana.  The city is six feet below sea level, and all that protects us from the might of Neptune’s oceans is the famous Seawall, which was built by the Dutch when they colonized the area, back in the nineteenth century.  It’s a good thing the Dutch know how to build these things!

When rain falls heavily (sometimes it just has to drizzle) and the tides are high, areas within the city, and even along the coast, become flooded to various degrees, most times it may just be an over-topping of the drainage canals and trenches.  One good side effect of this is the lovely reflections of scenic places in the calm, still waters.

I’d shot multiple exposures for an intended HDR image, as these things turn out, I never got around to it until now.  I’ve gone into detail on what an HDR is and even twice detailed how I approach the processing, but since it has been a little while since those posts, I’ll just give a brief description on HDRs here.

HDR stands for High Dynamic Range, it is a technique used in imaging and photography to produce in the resulting image a wide (or high) range in the luminance of an image.  Simply put, it attempts to retain as much detail as possible in the lighter (brighter) areas as well as in the darker (shadow) areas.

These two images show (a) the underexposed image that is used to capture the detail in the lighter areas, notice that the rest of the image is very dark, and (b) the overexposed image that is used to capture the detail in the darker areas, notice that the sky and water in this are very bright and show little detail.

When these are combined with the neutral or “normal” exposure image, the dynamic range of the final image is increased.

After combining or layering the images in an HDR software, the process by which the photographer renders the final image is called tone-mapping.  In this process, various sliders are employed to adjust things like brightness, contrast, light, shadows, and, depending on the HDR software being used, a variety of “specialty” sliders.  The resulting image is usually to the photographer’s taste, some with a desire to approach realistic images with a higher dynamic range than a standard exposure, others go for a more surreal result, some can carry this as far as having a very high contrast, high saturated look that is more illustration than photography, but that’s a debate for others.  To the left is a small image processed for effect, very vibrant very “artsy”.  It is also possible to tone-map a single exposure to achieve some of the same HDR effect, although I do not personally call this an HDR, I refer to them as Tone-Mapped Images, another possibility is to use a single exposure to create the various over and under exposures in software, then combine them, this I refer to as a Pseudo-HDR, but these are only my terms and distinctions.

My preference lies in trying to produce an image that resembles the scene that I saw, but could not reproduce in a single exposure, for some scene this will result in a photo that may have people wondering whether or not it is an HDR, and in other cases it will leave no question that it’s not a standard exposure, but definitely and HDR, especially when I try to reproduce the great detail that is there in a cloudy sky (such as my “Doomed” from the Coastal Wanderings exhibition at the National Art Gallery).   The results of this particular HDR processing? I’ll let you decide.

Exposures on the Beach

Most times when I experiment with HDR (High Dynamic Range) photography, it is usually a static scene, with very little chance of movement between exposures, in as little of the scene as possible, like my recent Bamboo Grove image, this is to reduce ghosting and blurring in the final image, however, I do sometimes go for some scenes where there is movement, but these don’t always work out.

Last year I tried one and liked the results enough to use it for my Deck Project for the 19th Week, and whilst in Barbados I tried one down at the beach.  At the beach there was more movement that I’d have liked, with “everyone” in the water moving about.  As usual, I don’t try to be too ambitious, so I stuck with my usual three exposures for an HDR, each at about 2ev difference.

Using Nik HDR Efex Pro, I manipulated the ghost reduction feature until I had as little ghosting from the bobbing heads in the water that was possible  🙂  There’s really only one reason I chose this scene to try an HDR, the clouds!  🙂

Click on the image for a better view in the Gallery.

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