My new free screensaver features images and facts on Antarctica.
Antarctica is stunningly beautiful! Explorer Roald Amundsen said, “The land looks like a fairytale.” The coldest, windiest, driest, highest, most isolated continent contains 90% of earth’s ice and 70% of its fresh water, regulating global climate and sea levels.
May 31, 2012 | Leave a Comment
Artist’s often use consistent palettes for separate bodies of work, some use a consistent palette for a lifetime. This not only makes their work more readily identifiable, it also clarifies the nature of the statements they make. When an artist does this color becomes more than attractive, it becomes a message.
Joyce Tenneson has done this masterfully. Her typically airy palette both light and desaturated give her nude or near nude portraits a distinctive look. The delicacy of her palette not only makes a statement about the more sensitive nature of her subjects but also reveals her own sensitive approach and relationships with her subjects. Her high key palette suggests a concern with spirituality, perhaps more strongly than her occassional inclusions of painted light.
Tenneson often portrays figures in ways that defy conventional representations of the body, selecting alternate body types or ages, posing them in uncharacteristic ways that create expressively complex distortions, and including unusual props.
In Kristin Hands In The Air, the woman’s lack of hair gives this image an edgy undercurrent. Viewers would not be wrong to guess that the woman is struggling with illness. As with so many of Tenneson’s portraits, this image strips away the daily concerns of persona and fashion to show a deeper character in her subjects, tenderly but unflinchingly revealing both their fragility and an uncommon strength in these fleeting moments of grace made more durable by the act of photographing them.
The image highlighted is an outlier. While the rest of the images are shot aerially looking down, it’s shot at ground level looking up. It won’t fit with the rest of the images until more images like it are completed to balance the set within the set.
Outliers. They’re the images that don’t fit neatly in a body of work. Outliers test the code of a style or body of work.
Widely divergent outliers, if they’re good but not great, often indicate a failure to move beyond conventional to more personal ways of seeing. If they’re great, they may represent a valuable new area for discovery or even a breakthrough.
Moderately divergent outliers may be just what you need to advance a body of work by providing one or more valuable variations on a theme, adding new energy and content into the mix. This is particularly true if just one thing is changed from the characteristics of the larger set (angle of view, range, duration, etc), as what changes calls attention to itself and questions are asked about how this change expands our understanding of the subject or artist’s intent.
If outliers are included for the wrong reasons (like you can’t put the image aside for now or find another context for it), they often disrupt the tone and continuity of a collection of images. This weakens the overall effect. This is the jack-of-all-trades master of none syndrome.
If outliers are included for the right reasons (they display a different but related theme or way of seeing the same subject and provide new avenues for going deeper with your subject and your relationship to it), they strengthen both other specific images within a set and the group as a whole as well.
On occasion one (rarely more) outlier can work within a body of work, when presented as a prelude (before), turning point (middle) or after thought (end), to suggest other as yet not fully resolved dimensions within a body of work. Use this strategy carefully, as outliers draw a lot of attention to themselves.
Pay attention to outliers. They’re your worst enemies. They’re your best friends.
Images with lighter palettes tend to be brighter and less saturated (though driving colors towards white desaturates them), while those with heavy palettes tend to be darker and more saturated (though driving colors towards black desaturates them).
Brighter less saturated colors seem lighter, while darker more saturated colors seem heavier.
Colors can be matched or contrasted by weight to control visual dynamics. Here yellow and blue are matched in weight.
Many psychological attributes have been assigned to color, such as temperature. It’s so natural to think of color having temperature that we often don’t think about how this is an associative meaning rather than a physical fact. Physically a blue fire is much hotter than a red fire. Nonetheless, red is universally (in all cultures and periods of history) considered the warmest color and blue the coolest color. It’s quite likely that this comes from our experiences with fire (generally red, orange, and yellow) and water (typically blue in large quantities). You might think the ascription of temperature to color is particularly strong for photographers who assign white balances to their images based on the color temperature of the light a photograph was made from to reproduce color accurately. But, it’s equally strong with painters and designers who use temperature associations to create expressive color schemes.
One other useful psychological attribution to color is weight. Does yellow feel lighter than green? Does purple feel heavier than orange? Most people would say yes. Of course, our response depends on the specific variation of each broad color family. You can make a green seem lighter than yellow if you make it brighter, either with luminosity or saturation or both.
So how can you use this information? Here are four ways.
1 You can strengthen comparisons or contrasts between two image areas by making their relative weights appear more or less similar.
2 You can also set the tone for an entire image. Set a brighter airier tone by using lighter colors. Set a darker earthier tone by using heavier colors.
3 You can attract the eye more strongly to specific areas. Once a predominantly light or heavy palette has been set, you can accent it dramatically with smaller accents of contrastingly weighty colors.
4 You can create comparatively lighter and heavier palettes for specific areas of an image, such as a lighter color scheme for higher areas and a heavier color scheme for lower areas.
It’s useful to note that weight is also associated with gravity and thus vertical location.
That the word ‘light’ can be used to describe both the appearance and the mass of an image speaks volumes. Psychologically, color has weight. With only a little practice and more sensitivity, you can use this to make your images more effective.
Sensitize yourself to the weight of color by matching the weight of colors.
1 Create two or more colors. Match the weight of two colors from the same color family, such as blue.
2 Create two or more colors. Match the weight of two colors from different color families, such as blue and yellow.
Sometimes the things we resist influence us the most. For me, this was certainly the case with the paintings of Mark Rothko.
As a young man I found myself alienated from many modernist works. I felt they were overly intellectual; you needed a degree to begin to approach them much less understand them. They didn’t meet the audience half way. Some of them even needed critical interpretation to be fully resolved.
Nonetheless, my intensely emotional reactions to Mark Rothko’s paintings were undeniable. Standing before these fields of color produced a physical sensation, much like listening to music. Rothko was able to communicate powerful emotions with the simplest means. Often his canvases were composed no more than two rectangles inside the larger rectangular field of the canvas or as few as three colors. Unlike DeKooning, gesture isn’t what communicates emotion – Rothko’s canvases are stained. Rothko’s use of scale, quite different than Albers’, also impressed me; the large fields immerse you in the sensation of color, further intensifying it.
Rothko’s painting was more than an exploration of optics, it was also a spiritual quest. It’s not just color-for-color’s sake; it’s color placed in the service of the human spirit. Upon further study, I found that many early modernists shared a similar spiritual impulse and used abstraction in a quest for a universal language that reached beyond time and culture. For me this was the link between the modernists I appreciated and the ones that left me cold. It was a quest I resonated with. It started a chain reaction within my thinking about and appreciation of art. I continue to search for similar qualities in my own work.
Who are your influences and what do they mean to you?
Neil Gaiman offers sage advice delivered with humility and humor to the graduating class of the University of Arts and us.
Ansel Adams impressed me as a boy. What impressed me was the total package: his images (He helped codify a movement and a genre.); his technical mastery (He refined and disseminated the zone system.); his educational efforts through books (They are still in print today.) and workshops (He set up his own program and invited others to teach with him.); his environmental advocacy both locally (It’s hard to think of Yosemite without thinking of Ansel Adams.) and nationally (He had a strong relationship with the Sierra Club and many other environmental organizations.); his strong networks of friends in wide-ranging fields (They included the painter Georgia O’Keefe and the activist David Brower.). What’s more, all of these elements worked in concert with one another creating a marvelous synergy where each enriched the other. At the end of his life, he wasn’t the wealthiest man alive, but he was rich beyond measure in so many other ways and he left us knowing he had made major contributions. Perhaps more than any other photographer he influenced both his medium and his culture and he did so by empowering others.
Ansel Adams life and work challenge me to think about how to make my own life’s work more impactful and far-reaching.
Who are your influences and what do they mean to you?
John Sexton shares his favorite quotes.
This is my favorite.
“The harder you work, the luckier you get.” – Ansel Adams
Which is your favorite of his selected quotes?
Photoshop CS6’s Blur Gallery offers powerful, flexible tools for controlling blur in your images. You can see it in action in these three videos.
Having developed an international reputation for creating altered photographs with ecological concerns, in Antarctica I became interested in creating an editorial (relatively unaltered) body of work to compare and contrast these two modes of perception and expression. In particular, I was interested in seeing which mode of expression could be most effective for environmental advocacy, if this varies with the context they are presented in, and if they can strengthen each other.
A simple project initially, it continues to grow. A single exhibit and book has become multiple exhibits and books, lectures, a website and Antarctic workshop program.
I started using Photoshop 1 as an artist in residence at Kodak’s Center for Creative Imaging. I beta-tested Lightroom 1. I’ve used every version of Photoshop and Lightroom since their initial release. (Lightroom 1 was released during my second voyage to Antarctica.)
Compared to Photoshop’s capabilities, Lightroom’s capabilities are limited. Because the nature of my first Antarctica project was editorial, I was interested in working within stricter limits and Lightroom’s limits fit those. Lightroom also offered the promise of greater organizational capabilities and productivity, which was very useful while handling a high volume of images made on an extended voyage. Lightroom delivered.
Lightroom not only streamlined up my workflow and accelerated my productivity, it also helped me develop my projects conceptually by making it easier to find and organize patterns of thought and create continuities for their presentation. Collecting, comparing, selecting and sequencing images becomes much easier, and this in turn aids more sophisticated storytelling.
Lightroom helps me see my images better. It offers four ways to view your images: Loupe, Compare, Survey and Grid. Moving in and out of these views helps you see your images better both solo and in relationship to each other. Lightroom’s Collections are equally essential for seeing, creating, and refining relationships between images. With Collections I can easily group like images from multiple folders and hard drives, assessing relative strengths and weaknesses, identifying patterns of thought, and creating sequences to advance a story fluidly. Changing how you see your images changes what you see in your images. How you see your images is important. I can think of few things that are as important.
My Antarctica project and Lightroom brought me back to basics. This shift in focus encouraged me to further strengthen both my camera skills and my storytelling practices, and consequently my vision as a whole. This opened new avenues of discovery encouraging me to think about still images even more cinematically.
You can learn more about my Antarctica project – view images in galleries and slideshows, preview books, download screensavers, find facts about the region, read blog entries made live on site, and much more at www.johnpaulcaponigro/antarctica.com.
Sign up for my Antarctica 2013 digital photography workshop by emailing email@example.com.
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