Learning to See


     There is a lot more to to taking pictures than meets the eye! And while I see the humor in saying that, I really am serious. A person would think that if you see something and take a picture of it, you will see what you saw in the picture. 'Taint necessarily so. And one might also think that if you are looking at something that would make a good picture you would see it. That also isn't always true. It seems that our brain has a way of seeing some things we look at but totally ignoring others. That's why modern cameras have all those dials and buttons and internal computer chips, to try and see what we see. And quite often they can, but the person using it has to set those dials and such so the camera knows what it is supposed to see. In order to do that he has to be able to see not just what the eye sees, but how the brain is interpreting that.
    Now this year I have been trying to see what I see and see what the brain sees and learn how to make the camera see what I want to have the picture look like. Not being an artist by nature, I often don't even know if I have accomplished that or not. The way I have come to judge most of what I get is if I would hang it on the wall. Of course some things I take pictures of for other reasons and I judge those by whether I isolated what I thought I saw from what was around it or captured all that seemed to be there. As I comment on the pictures on this page what I'm trying to say will become clearer, I hope.
Farms in the palouse

Farms in the palouse


     This picture hangs on the wall in my dining room.It isn't one I saw on my own. I was on Steptoe Butte in the Palouse country of eastern Washington mostly looking for birds but taking a shot now and then of the farmland below. And there was a lot of farmland. From my viewpoint I had a 180 degree view for as far as my eyes could see. I was trying to see a picture but not doing too well. While I was looking, several times I noticed a fellow below me taking pictures at different spots on the butte. When I finally happened along where he was working, I stopped to chat. In the next hour or so I learned a lot about how to do what I was trying to do.
    As we discussed the settings and shadows and colors he pointed out this little valley of farmsteads, probably less than 2% of all I could see. Thats on the cover of a book by a known Spokane photographer he told me. I looked and framed the shot in the viewfinder and snapped the shutter. I don't think I truly saw it even then, but when I reviewed it later on the computer I could only wonder why it had to be pointed out to me. He said that local photographers, including himself, came several times during the year to catch the changing colors and patterns in the scenes below. He made reference to various places and why they 'worked' under one condition or another. Also what to watch for that would spoil the shot. As I said, I learned a lot.
    I can't go back often but I will from time to time, hopefully in differing seasons, to try and catch more of the magic of the Palouse.
A Palouse Road

A Palouse Road


     I took this before the one above and I pretty much caught what I saw. Probably because its a pretty good example of what I'm there for. The road that is open and empty. The rolling hills that add interest and variety without closing in on you. The lack of human 'improvements' or litter. (although I did have to pick up a pop can from the roadside) The fluffy clouds that keep the sun from becoming a glare but leave plenty of light and color through. (If I haven't mentioned it before, I hate gray.) And the shadows changing the scene from moment to moment like a kaleidoscope controlled by an unseen hand.
    Probably I would expect the photo above is the better of these two, but if I had a book to publish I would be very happy to have this one on the cover. I could title it 'Joe's Travels' except that Joe doesn't seem to have the same flavor as Gullivar does it? Probably what would be more appropriate would be 'Places Where I Saw What I Was Seeing'!
    This one is also displayed on the dining room wall.
A reflection of trees on the river

Reflection


     Every September I end up at the Kettle River CG for at least a day or two. This year the wife and I pulled in on the 19th, just about half way through our one week fall jaunt. As you can see it was quite nice. It was warm enough in the afternoon that I spent a couple hours taking pictures of dragonflies, a favorite pastime in of mine. Just before the sun went down the water stilled and we had this mirror like reflection.
    But, unlike most years, the next day brought rain. The weather forecast had called for sunny and warmer so I guess they can be wrong there just like at home.
    This isn't much more than just a pretty snapshot but it is significant in that I took it at all. Normally when I have been shooting wildlife and such I don't see much of my surroundings. Here I was at least looking for the picture.
A rock appearing to keep watch on the beach

Watchrock


     You might recognize this if you've been to Ruby Beach on the Olympic peninsula. The beach has a number of interesting rock formations but this one, right near where the trail enters the beach, I found most interesting. As I looked at it from this angle I could see a rock matron watching over the little rocks at play. What I saw is here, but in real time the background was blocked out by my brain and didn't seem so busy as it does in the picture.
    If I had seen the background, there are a couple of things I could have tried that may have improved the picture. I could have used a much larger lens opening. I also had a longer focal length lens with me that I could have used from a spot farther away. Either one or the other technique or both together may have blurred the background to where the picture I was seeing would have stood out.
A hole in side of rock

Jagged Porthole


     If you moved around to what would be the back of the matron rock in the picture above, this hole appears. I worked at this one a little bit, trying different exposure and positions. Moving a little side to side, I could position the rock in the opening or have it completely out of view. Moving forward and back I could show more or less of the rock. Changing exposure, I could bring out more of the rock or the scene through it. I could have used the flash and had more rock detail and still retained the view. So I really worked to see and capture the picture I felt was there.
    I am quite satisfied with what I accomplished. It is not all that it may have been but it is what I saw and this is pretty close to what I wanted to take away with me. It may of been a trifle better had the horizon been a little lower but I'm not sure.
    This will never hang on my wall as a feature but it is conceivable I would use it as a small part of an arrangement.
Piebald Hill

Piebald Hill


     I really like this picture. I like the colors. I like the setting, I could live there. I got just exactly what I saw and wanted to capture. And yet, in spite of all that, there is something not right and I don't know what it is.
     I have tried different crops, showing more sky or less sky. I've moved the feature peak all over the place. I've contemplated what it may have looked like with a few more of those fluffy clouds. Perhaps more of the shadows would have enhanced the picture. Early morning or late afternoon light would certainly make it a different picture, but that still doesn't really tell me what's wrong here.
    I printed an 8 X 10 and considered a larger print to display but no, it just doesn't work. My daughter-in-law saw the print and I gave it to her but I bet she doesn't use it either.
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