Moscow by Night
Travel Photography is No Holiday
I was nearing the end of an intensive six week trip and would have preferred accommodation that was both better and closer to the major attractions.
My hotel was not terribly well organized so, rather than hiring a car and driver, I either walked or took the subway to most places I wanted to visit.
It was really easy to engage with many young Muscovites whom I found to be friendly and gregarious folk.
Unfortunately I was given the “don’t darken my doorstep” routine by numerous shopkeepers, including a pharmacist from whom I was desperately seeking relief from a nasty skin complaint that had flared up.
It might be simplistic but, in Russia, it seems most folks were educated on one side or the other of Perestroika and Glasnost.
Naturally I prefer Russians that display a warmer, more open approach to folks from the West. I'm fortunate to have met kind, decent and welcoming Russians in Moscow and St. Petersburg. I can’t wait until I return.
While I don’t forget being treated poorly, it’s the positive experiences that remain in my memory the longest.
Those other, less than ideal experiences, are really not much more than an inconvenience that fade away over time.
Photograph, Why I Do What I Do
It’s simply a myth to think that travel photography is a free and easy lifestyle.
The life of a travel photographer can be an extremely hard slog and you rarely have the time or opportunity to experience much of what most folks are able to enjoy on holiday.
Sunbaking on a beach or boozing on at a nightclub just aren’t part of my travel experiences. Needless to say I’m no influencer.
But that’s okay as I’d much rather spend my time in the pursuit of beauty in some of the most exotic and exciting locales throughout our world.
The opportunity to immerse myself in what I love to do is a tremendous gift for which I’m truly thankful.
Travel and photography, married together, allows me to live life at a higher intensity and at a deeper level than I’m otherwise able to do in my normal, everyday life.
I love a good feed and it’s always great fun to eat a special meal, in beautiful surroundings, when travelling.
Nonetheless, chasing the light often means I miss dinner. So be it, I can eat tomorrow.
Likewise, while it’s fun to sample a local brew and visit a bar or two, those activities are icing on the cake.
I travel, primarily, to make photos and that fact is always front and centre in my mind when I’m on the road.
Life is an Adventure | Embrace It
Perhaps it’s the recovering Catholic in me, but I absolutely subscribe to the notion that many of our most positive experiences are often derived through adversity.
To experience the world you need to immerse yourself in it. And to do so, more often than not, involves risk, effort and uncertainty.
Such is life. Embrace that understanding and be confident in your ability to learn and grow through the experiences you encounter along the journey.
Needless to say the more creative and purpose-driven your journey the richer your life’s experience will be.
The Beauty Of HDR Photography
This image at the top of this post is a composite, combining four separate exposures, ranging from one-second up to eight-seconds in duration.
Those four individual exposures are combined into a new composite image in software applications such as the following:
Aurora HDR 2019
Google HDR Efex Pro
Adobe Photoshop, via the HDR Pro feature
It’s a fact that scenes containing significant differences in the brightness between important shadow and highlight areas cannot be recorded onto a single exposure.
Making photos under conditions of high dynamic range has always been one of the greatest limitations of photography.
It’s also one of the more difficult concepts for amateur and enthusiast level photographers to wrap their heads around and accept.
Back in the day it was easier to blame old yellow (i.e., Kodak), even when you were using Fuji or Agfa film.
I know this as I worked at Kodak for 8 years and, for most of that time, I was one of the poor bunnies who had to deal with customer complaints.
Modern digital cameras and software allow us to record an extended dynamic range compared to what was possible, for the enthusiast level photographer, with film and traditional darkroom techniques.
But to achieve great results you, firstly, need to know how to use your camera.
Tone Mapping in Photography
Under such conditions the differences between the shadows and highlights are beyond what the camera’s sensor can record in a single exposure.
The technique where multiply images, each made at varying exposures (e.g., levels of brightness), are combined into a new composite image is referred to as Tone Mapping.
The result is the re-mapping of the high dynamic range (i.e., high contrast) scene into a single, new composite image.
The next step is to process this new, composite image in a way that produces a desirable result.
High Dynamic Range (i.e., HDR) photography is simply the latest way to manage high contrast scenes in a way that allows us to produce results closer to the way they remembered the original scene.
And then there are those folks who use the software to produce results that are, well, somewhat more removed from reality.
But that’s okay as well. After all it’s a photograph of a sunset, it’s not actually a sunset. Truth should not be confused with fact. This is art, not science.
Everyone’s a Critic
Go for it and have fun
Knock yourself out
Call it art, if you like
However, whether it’s good art or not is another thing. Despite modern opinions on the subject, I do not believe that such things are determined by personal preference or subjective opinions.
I think that’s a cop out.
The reality is that, to be a successful image, it needs to be enjoyed and appreciated by more than me and me dear old mum.
Remembering My time At Kodak
I was working at Kodak at the time so I provided her with free film and personally processed and printed the photos for her.
The so called one hour processing took all of my lunch breaks for an entire week.
I reprinted those films, again and again, in an attempt to produce acceptable results. I really did the absolute best job I could. And it was no ordinary lab that I was working in.
It was the Kodak Photo Technology Centre at Kodak’s Australian headquarters in Coburg, a suburb of Melbourne.
I can assure you that the processing machines in that place were highly tuned and the chemicals they contained were maintained in absolutely tip top condition.
Unfortunately the original images, both technically and conceptually, were rubbish and, as they say, you can’t make a silk purse out of a sour’s ear.
Despite my very best efforts I was severely admonished at the results I presented to my formally mild mannered and outwardly reasonable flatmate.
The problem, however, wasn’t just that they were amongst the worst photos I’d ever seen. My dear friend was not prepared to take responsibility for the quality of her own photos.
That made the situation impossible to resolve.
From her point of view she had a pretty good camera and she’d travelled all the way to New Zealand to make those photos.
It was, therefore, obvious that I was, somehow, responsible for such horrible results.
Fortunately our friendship survived this particularly difficult time, though I don’t think she ever fully embraced the responsibility she had for the poor quality of her own photos.
And I think that’s a very common problem in the world of photography.