Are You an Artist? by Larry Saavedra

An artist at work. Image by LarrySaavedra.com.

Occasionally I hear the question…are you an artist? I mean, it’s been said to me, do you consider yourself an artist? Embarassing kind of. I was simply taking a photograph.  I was metering the light falling on the subject. Then I heard the comment. 

Do you consider yourself an artist? How does one answer that? Why would someone ask? Art…the noun. According to Merriam-Webster, the simple definition of the word “is something that is created with imagination and skill and that is beautiful or that expresses important ideas or feelings.”  Well then. I have never considered what I create as art. It’s not. It is and always has been…commercial work. It doesn’t hang in a museum, or get voted on by a jury of my peers. It doesn’t mean that I don’t put my soul and being into my projects as any artist would. 

It simply means that no matter how insightful the work may be…the true definition between art and work… is in the intent. 

    

What Inspires Me by Larry Saavedra

Inspiration isn't something that can be taught, it is learned by experimentation.

While my portfolio is filled with the polished sheetmetal of classic and modern cars and dogs doing their thing, I also get inspired by much simpler elements of life. I don't get stuck or creatively blocked because I open my eyes to the possibilities. To me, even inanimate objects like an old-beaten down bench against a wall of vines inspires an image, and evokes my curiosity of how the light falls on the subject and how the wood's grain runs in contrast to the background.

A still-life of the bench can tell the bigger story of one's surroundings, like that of contemplation. Understanding the technical aspects of your immediate environment leads to making even better images.

 

Unbridled Development by Larry Saavedra

concretecircle.jpg

Suddenly, the desert before me was captured within a man-made hunk of concrete formed perfectly in a circle and it narrowed my perspective on the foreground, middle ground and background. It was almost 3D using 2D optics.

The circle of life told a story of wild development encroaching on our natural open spaces, squeezing more and more of the land away, until there is nothing left but concrete. 

That's the photo I finally took. 

 

 

Open Bulb Photography by Larry Saavedra

Astrophotography is truly an art, and something that challenges me. But shooting the Moon or Milky Way is really just a matter of exposing for light. Yes, it can get complicated, and very expensive if you want all the bells and whistles, or if you want to make a career out of astrophotography and sell your work in big fancy galleries.

But if you are like me, you can get lucky without any special photo equipment.

What I like about photographing the moon and stars is that it's often a matter of good guesswork as to the exposure and shutter speed, or ISO. I like trying new settings, and having to figure out timing, etc. There is no right or wrong way of photographing the night sky, although those specializing in Astrophotography have a unique understanding of equipment and other techniques that amaze us. But you really don't need to know that much, just some simple rules.

Note, the above photograph of the Blood Moon was taken at 8 p.m. Sept 27, 2015, ISO 2400, F5.6, 2 seconds open bulb with a 135mm lense without any software or other calculations. I shot this from my backyard in the city. I did not shoot RAW, I shot JPG because I was simply experimenting before my trip to Joshua Tree, California and wanted to test the optics and functionality of the Canon 70D. I set it on AF, but manually adjusted the focus ring while holding the shutter button down half way until I knew it was relatively sharp. A better image would have been one that showed the foreground in the scene… but I still think it worked for me.

Use a tripod. You must have a steady hand and learn how-to manipulate the manual settings in your camera. Using a shutter release cable helps keep vibration to a minimum, and lock up the mirror if possible. There is some slight star trailing effect in the image above, but that was ok for me. 

The most recent Blood Moon, which won't happen again for 30 years, was a good example of simply locking down the camera on sticks, and randomly guessing the exposure, ISO and shutter speeds until it worked. Pulling focus was the most difficult thing about it. 

I've read countless posts about calculations, etc. and I think it's all a bit silly. Making images is a matter of trial and error, not calculations because every camera is different and every person sees something different. The one thing that I suggest is to have an open mind, and enjoy the process. Tinker with exposure times, F stops and shutter speeds. Mess around with ISO settings too. If you practice enough you will ultimately get it right. 

Enjoy the night sky!