Do you have a regular process you undergo with your photography? How often do you get your images past the in-camera stage? I was thinking about these things as I processed images this weekend from an early-morning photo safari.
I got out Saturday to Lake Pontchartrain’s edge at a couple of my favorite spots. It’s easy to get up for sunrise right now since we’ve only just recently switched over to Daylight Savings time and the sunrise is so relatively ‘late.’
I was fortunate too as I drove the 20 minutes to the water: I could see that the clouds overhead would make things interesting, not so thick as to obscure the sun but enough there to make the light maybe special.
First light is one of my favorite times of day. Getting outside and out of my daily routine, hunting photographs at first light—what could be better? I can’t think of a thing.
I went first to the Mandeville, Louisiana public boat launch, down at the eastern end of the town where the back-down ramps for the fishermen and the sailboats all converge. The area has almost completely recovered from the ravages of Hurricane Katrina, which put 8 feet of water across the road I was driving. Now there’s a pretty new park with gorgeous gazebos next to the water. I was drawn to the canal leading out from the fisherman’s put-in to the lake itself: steam and mist were coming off the surface, adding a layer of magic to what was coming alive around me.
These photographs are always ones I like to make, although often they don’t get past the initial computer edit. As photographers out seeking beauty, we work through endless piles of stuff, looking and hoping for the one special image, the one that distills all that we saw and felt into something tangible, there before our eyes on paper (or screen, as the case may be).
This day I found myself attempting panoramas. The scene was wide and large and somehow the pans were what I found interesting.
Once the actual ball of the sun hit the horizon, the magic sucked right out of the scene. It just became a cliche sunrise, pretty but uninteresting. I decided to move west along the Lake’s shoreline to Madisonville, where the Tchefuncte River’s mouth meets the lake south of town. Here the convergence of the river and the lake bring a different feel, one filled with more wildness. Tall dead canes and cypress trees line the old broken roadway, which goes underwater whenever a high tide and a south wind push water. I managed to park my car in a tiny pulloff next to a bridge and walk backwards up the road, interested in seeing if I could make any photos along this stretch. The flotsam left by the last high water immediately caught my imagination: such a mixture of things, some natural, some manmade, left by happenstance together once the water receded. Glass jars reminiscent of terrariums were washed up, things that may have been underwater in the river for a long time, next to driftwood specimens.
I think each of us has our own unique creative process we use to make images. But while unique, we’re all working with the same things: machines (cameras) to interpret our vision; light, the ever-changing, ever-challenging element, and time: what to shoot, what moment in time to make everything stop for all eternity when we press the shutter.
Later in the day back at home, I started working my way through what I had shot, doing the initial edit. No surprise to me, some of the things I most enjoyed shooting weren’t worth toning. Other things which hadn’t been all that striking when I was shooting were now things I wanted to work on. None of the images from the first location–which I had thoroughly enjoyed shooting–made it past the edit stage.
This photo processing: hunting, shooting, editing and then toning and maybe, just maybe, printing, is the hard work of good photography. I know that in my case, I need to establish a regular printing routine, since this is the area I’m least likely to get around to doing.
Hi, I’m Andrew Boyd, a.k.a. The Discerning Photographer, and I hope this post has been interesting and informative. Please leave me a comment about it, let me know what you’d like to see more of on the site! You can also sign up for email delivery of all future articles or my RSS feed. Thanks!–DiscerningPhotog