The Art Of Distortion

January 10, 2019 | Leave a Comment |

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1          Correct lens distortion

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2b_20100924_AFRNamibiaSossusvleiAerials_0024

2          Remove or reduce panoramic stitch distortions

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3          Modify proportion globally including the aspect ratio of the frame

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4          Modify proportion locally within the frame

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5          Change proximity

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6          Enhance gesture

We accept the distortions angle of view and lens choice create without a second thought yet rarely do we give a second thought to the possibilities of expressively distorting our photographs during post-processing. The dazzling array of new tools at our disposal begs us to reconsider this. You need to know what’s possible, whether your goal is to correct the distortions introduced by the tools you use or to aesthetically refine or expressively enhance your images, a little or a lot, or to simply know what other photographers have done so that you can understand their creations better. Learn to see with new eyes and a vast new horizon of possibilities will reveal itself to you.

Awareness of the distortions produced by an angle of view and lens choice is the beginning of using them creatively. Curiously, permission is the beginning of using distortion in post-processing creatively. Many people have been told that it’s inappropriate to do so. Why? Why accept an unintended mechanical bi-product but not a consciously intended effect? Why take such a powerful tool for expression off the table? While you can, you don’t have to distort your images to the point that they look like they’re being seen in a fun house hall of mirrors. Even the subtlest applications of distortion can produce powerful results. Once you understand what kinds of distortions are possible in post-processing you’ll frequently find yourself changing your angle of view or repositioning yourself during exposure.

6 Strategies For Using Distortion In Images

Here’s a short list of six strategies you can use when considering distorting your images creatively.

1          Correct lens distortion; straighten a horizontal or vertical while correcting barrel or pin cushion distortion.

2          Remove or reduce panoramic stitch distortions; undistort edges or smooth out uneven horizontals or verticals.

3          Modify proportion globally including the frame; make images more or less horizontal or vertical or even turn one into another.

4          Modify proportion locally within the frame; adjust the height and width of both objects and areas.

5          Change proximity; push together or pull apart items.

6          Enhance or change gesture; make a leaning object more tilted or straighten it out.

Photoshop's 11 Weapons Of Mass Distortion


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Best Of Best Photographs 2018

The new year is a wonderful time to look at great photographs!

Dozens of media outlets collect their best of the best.

You’ll find links to the best of the best below.

Enjoy!

Pulitzer Prize Winners In Photography 2018

Time Top 100 Photos Of 2018

NY Times The Year In Pictures 2018

Magnum Pictures of the Year 2018

International Photography Awards 2018

World Press Photo 2018

The Guardian Best Photographs 2018

The Atlantic Top New Photos Of 2018

Reuters Pictures Of The Year 2018

The Atlantic Top 25 News Photos Of 2018

Bloomberg The Year In Pictures 2018

NY Times Best Travel Photographs 2018

CNN Best Travel Photos 2018

National Geographic Best Photos Of 2018

Sony World Photography Awards 2018

Lens Culture’s Favorite Photographs Of 2018

My Modern Met Top Photographs From Around The World 2018

Huff Po iPhone Photography Awards 2018

Drone Awards 2018

Audubon Photography Awards 2018

Nikon Small World Photography Winners 2018

The Guardian’s Astronomy Photographer Of The Year Shortlist 2018

Sports Illustrated's Best Photos of 2018

Car and Driver's Hottest Car Photos of 2018

Berify’s 11 Famous Portrait Photographers Of 2018

My Modern MET 20 Best Architecture Photos 2018

Best Photography Books Of 2018 - Part 1

Best Photography Books Of 2018 - Part 2

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01

Constellation

02

Constellation

03

Constellation

04

Constellation

05

Constellation

06

Constellation

07 (1)

Antarctica

10

Land In Land LXXIX

09

Land In Land LXXXIX

08

Land In Land LXXVI

11

Land In Land LIII

12

Land In Land LXXVI

This is a selection of my top 12 images of 2018. This selection doesn’t reflect sales, publication, or activities on the web. It simply reflects my opinion. Click on the titles to find out more about each image.

Geography

The locations include Antarctica, Spain, Arches National Park, Scoresbysund Greenland, and Maine.

Process

Continuing the momentum from the previous year I completed my first seriesof finished works with my iPhone – Land In Land. Processing images on location, sometimes seconds after making exposures, is a gamechanger. Even more interesting is the sense of seeing the image better at arm's length, allowing me to see the composition and the subject simultaneously.

I was pleasantly surprised when another experiment worked as I combined images in the public domain from the Hubble telescope with my own exposures, expanding the images in my series Constellation to add images of deep space to those of stars observed with the naked eye.

Concepts

I continue to explore presenting many moments in time simultaneously to see one aspect of land through another. In more recent work, the detail and the overview are united in a single integrated experience. As ever, what's behind and beyond shows through.

My use of abstraction has expanded from minimalism to include more complex maximal patterns.

Magic Moment

Perhaps the most sublime moments were found in Greenland's, Scoresbysund, as the weather shifted to winter conditions creating dramatic katabatic winds and unusual ice conditions found only at the beginning of the season. Being on the only boat (a three-masted schooner built in the early 1900s) in the fiord system heightened the sense of adventure.

It was a very productive year; more than 75 new works released; more than 150 new studies made.

It’s challenging to choose so few images from so many – but it’s insightful. Try selecting your own top 12 images. Try selecting the top 12 images of your favorite artist(s).

View more of my Annual Top 12 Selections here.

View more images in my ebooks here.

View my full Works here.

View my Series videos here.

View new images in my newsletter Collectors Alert.


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1_top

Top frame of a panoramic stitch

2_bottom

Bottom frame of a panoramic stitch

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Panoramic stitch

5_filled

Panoramic stitch distorted

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Panoramic stitch cropped

5_filled

Panoramic stitch cropped and retouched

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Panoramic stitch retouched

The strategies above are not limited to panoramic stitches.

We’re responsible for everything that’s in the frame. We’re also responsible for everything that’s not in the frame. Deciding what’s in the frame and what’s out is a critical decision that can make or break an image.

Here are two essential framing strategies.

One. Use the frame to eliminate distracting information around a subject(s). Take extra care with image information that touches the frame, as it will draw extra attention. Do this with significant compositional elements.

Two. Eliminate excess space around a subject(s) to focus the attention of the viewer. A lot of surround space between the subject and the frame can be used to use to call on psychological associations with space, such as freedom or isolation. Some space between the subject and the frame can give the appearance of the subject resting gracefully within the frame. Touching the subject with the frame strongly focuses the attention of the viewer and may seem claustrophobic. Cropping the subject with the frame can focus the attention of the viewer on specific aspects of the subject and/or give an image a tense quality, evoking evasion and incompleteness – this often seems accidental if less than half the subject is revealed.

Cropping is extremely simple to practice. (While cropping techniques are simple to practice, the reasons for their application and the choices made about how to apply them as well as the final effects may be exceptionally complex.)

Here are two cropping choices.

One. Reposition the frame before exposure.

Two. Contract the position of one or more of the borders of an image after exposure, generally with software.

Because distorting an image during post-processing, by expanding or contracting one or more sides or corners, is a relatively new possibility, most people don't think of exercising this option. Ironically, anyone who uses lens profiles distorts their images in post-processing to correct lens distortion. Consider this a creative supplement to and extension of that practice. While cropping potentially changes the aspect ratio of an image, distortion does not.

Here are two distortion choices.

One. Use Photoshop's Edit > Transform to distort an image. Push the areas you wish to crop outside the frame. Move one or more sides by pulling the point in the middle.

Two. Use Photoshop's Edit > Transform to distort an image. Push the areas you wish to crop outside the frame. Move one or more corners by pulling the corner point while holding the Command key.

Retouching used to be complex. Today it can be simple. Never before, has retouching been so easy to do or the results so sophisticated. (To be certain, not all retouching is simple. You can make retouching as simple or as complex as you choose to make it. Retouching is an art that continues to be elevated on a daily basis. But what once required specialized tools and a Herculean effort can now be done with standard software in seconds.)

Here are four retouching choices.

One. There’s cloning. Simply use the Clone Stamp Tool set to Current and Below on a new blank layer. (This will ensure that any retouching can be removed or redone at a later date.) Hold the Option/Alt key and click to sample information to copy, then move the cursor to the area you’d like to copy the information to and click and drag. Repeat until a desired effect is achieved. Typically, donor information is drawn from the same document but you can also clone from one image or file to another.

Two. There’s healing. Use the Healing Brush Tool as you would the Clone Stamp tool. Or, use the Spot Healing Brush, which will automatically select the information sampled for you and can be used within a selection to contain the results. Or, finally the Patch Tool, which will copy information selected with it from or to (depending on whether you check Source or Destination) wherever you drag it to. Healing can’t be done on a transparent layer, so work on a copy of the layer you’d like to retouch. Click on the layer and select Duplicate Layer from the Layer menu or palette. If you need to heal image material contained on multiple layers, create a new composite layer by holding the Option/Alt key select Merge Visible from the Layer palette.

Three. There’s copying and pasting. Just select a region of an image with any selection tool. Copy it. (Edit: Copy) Paste it. (Edit: Paste) Then move the resulting layer into play and mask as needed. (Click the mask icon at the bottom of the layer palette and use a black brush at varying opacities to hide the information.)

Four. There’s filling. Select a region. Fill with Content Aware fill. (Edit: Fill and select Content Aware from the drop down menu in the dialog.) (This feature was introduced with Photoshop CS5.) Photoshop will automatically create an appropriate random texture in the selected area. Like healing, this feature won’t work on transparent layers/areas so, again, use it on a new merged layer.

Software routines such as lens correction and panoramic stitching may distort the frame, subtly but sometimes significantly distorting a composition, and requiring additional measures to restore a rectangular frame. When solving this challenge, you may get better results if you don’t contract the frame as aggressively as you once did and retouch rather than crop to fill in the gap and/or eliminate distracting elements.

Your choice of practices or their application may or may not change the nature of the artifact that you finally create. And, whether the means you choose is appropriate for your objective, the practices you adopt may or may not be accepted by the community of artists you choose to work within – some are more permissive than others. Nevertheless, you should explore your options. You simply won’t know whether it’s for you until you try it for yourself.

Learning to think within the frame is an essential skill for creating strong photographic compositions. But today, learning to think within the frame is only the beginning. You can learn to think outside the frame as well.

It’s a new mindset. Once it becomes second nature, you’ll not only find you have more options for visual problem solving but you’ll also find your visual horizons will have expanded – significantly.

Learn to see in new ways. Combine them with old ways. You’ll find you’ll make images that you once passed by, leaving them unmade or even unnoticed. As a result, you’ll make many more successful images.

Read more in my Exposure lessons.

Learn more in my digital photography and digital printing workshops.


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“Imagine a neuroscientist who has only ever seen black and white things, but she is an expert in color vision and knows everything about its physics and biology. If, one day, she sees color, does she learn anything new? Is there anything about perceiving color that wasn’t captured in her knowledge? Eleanor Nelsen explains what this thought experiment can teach us about experience.”

Find more Creativity videos here.

Learn more in my Creativity workshops.


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Watch Your Process

December 1, 2018 | 1 Comment |

Alignment IV

Do this one thing and your creative life will be transformed. Watch your process.

One of the assignments I often give my workshop participants on location is to watch your process and take notes. Notice what you do and the way you do it. After every observation ask why. “First I do this. Why? In this way. Why? Then I do this. Why? In this way. Why? Next I … etc.”

First note what you do – and don’t do.

When you watch your process carefully you become aware of every step in your process and everything involved in it. Actions and things that went unnoticed before will become clear to you.

Second note how you do it.

You probably have a choice to do the same thing in many different ways. You may be used to doing things in certain ways, without realizing it. Maybe you made an assumption. Was it necessary? Maybe you developed habits. Bad habits prevent you from getting the results you want? Are you taking shortcuts? Are you doing something a certain way because someone else told you to? Good habits help you do things efficiently after you’ve practiced them. Are they still serving you? If so, keep doing that! If not, stop doing that! Sometimes what works in one situation doesn’t work in another. Are your habits serving you when things change?

Third, ask why you do what you do.

Behind every action there’s a goal. You eat, drink, breathe, sleep to stay alive. You photograph to … ? Your most basic motivations are fairly simple. Some of your other motivations are much more complex – and it’s likely you do many of them for unconscious reasons and your conscious mind has a lot more to learn about them. If you really want to get to the core motivations behind the things you do it can be helpful to ask “Why?” five times in a row. Ask the first question. Then ask “Why?”. Respond to that answer with “Why?” and repeat this a few more times. Often our deepest motivations don’t reveal themselves until the third, fourth or fifth time you ask “Why?” If you find asking “Why?” is getting in the way of your observations while you’re practicing your process, ask it when you’ve finished and are reviewing your notes.

Watch your process. It seems simple. It is. But like meditation it’s not easy. Because we quickly and constantly fall back into our habits, which is exactly what we’re trying to notice more carefully – and potentially change.

There are many more benefits to taking notes about your process. Because I write …

I constantly generate new ideas.

I’m rarely blocked.

I’m more productive.

I’ve streamlined my systems.

My technique is better.

I recognize the ideas and practices I’ve inherited from others.

I'm aware of what's influencing me, for how long, and why.

I’m clearer about what works and what doesn’t, for me.

I’m aware of my self-talk.

I’ve identified my goals.

I understand more about the personal reasons behind the things I do and the ways I do them.

My work has more purpose.

I enjoy my process more.

 

I could go on and on about the many benefits this practice brings. But don’t take my word for it. Try it!

I find I write the same things down time and time again. This has lead me to create a master process list, which I can copy and modify or add to or subtract from, as needed on location. (Recently I’ve been keeping it in Notes on my iPhone.) I find there are always new things to observe. Are there new things because I noticed more? Why? Are there new things because I’m in a new environment? Why? Are there new things because I decided to try something new? Why? Are there new things because I’m more emotionally receptive? Why? These are important questions that can unlock a new ways of looking, thinking, and working, now and in the future. Keep asking them. Ask a lot of questions!

Watching your process is really a matter of becoming aware of your choices, what you choose to do and what you choose not to do, and the many choices you may have overlooked. With this greater awareness you can choose to do the same things with the same things or make other choices. With more choices available to you, you can make better choices. Better according to who? You!

Be mindful of your creative process. Make this a habit and you’ll transform your life.

Read my Meditation resources here.

Read more in my Creativity Resources.

Learn more in my Creativity Workshops.


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