Workflow

This is a series of posts with translation of my interview published in Russian at http://landscapists.info/vitaly-prokopenko. The question from the interview: “Could you describe in a few words how you do post-processing of your photographs? What software do you use, what workflow?”

I use Adobe Photoshop for editing and post-processing of photographs. I start with reviewing photographs in Bridge in slideshow mode. I stop slideshow on photographs that catch my attention, open them in Photoshop, touch up slightly (to bring them all to some common denominator) and save them off to a different folder. After that I continue with the slideshow. At the end I may have 10 images selected out of 500 taken.

Then I start rating selected photographs. Rating 5 is given to photographs that I think is some of my best work (not just on that particular trip but in general). Rating 4 is for good photographs, 3 – good quality but static, boring, does not move me. 2 – not good, 1 – can be deleted. (Jumping a bit ahead – in the end I show to others only photos which I rated 4 or 5 stars.)

Then I do accurate post-processing of the photographs with 4 and 5 star rating (and some with 3 stars). This can take a few days. I try not to rush thru this process.

Next step: leave photographs a side for a while – a month or two – to let immediate feelings about the trip to wear off. I always want to show them immediately but every time I do so I regret about it later.

Here is why I regret showing photographs immediately. After a while i go back and look at photographs with a fresh perspective and many of them look differently to me. Rating of some of them may change. Some need more detailed processing. I realize that some might look better in black-and-while others may look better in color. Some might benefit from a slightly different angle and I go back to originals and see if I took that photograph from that different angle.

Only after going thru this strict editing process I, finally, start showing photographs to friends, observe their reaction and listen to their comments. I rarely re-adjust photographs at this point, I do changes a rating though. For example, if I see that a particular photograph does not evoke any emotion, people just pass thru it, I might lower its rating even if I love it.

The last step I started doing only recently. In a set of photographs I look for a common theme. It might be a place where they are taken, common subject, color palette, or something else. When I have enough photographs around common theme, they become a basis for a folio. The idea is to tell a story with a series of photographs.

I do the final pass of adjustments in photographs selected for a folio, to make sure they have saturation, contrast, etc that make them look better together. I add titles, description. And then publish them on my website.

Equipment

This is a series of posts with translation of my interview published in Russian at http://landscapists.info/vitaly-prokopenko. The question from the interview: “What equipment do you use to take photos? Do you use any unusual equipment while photographing? Maybe something handmade?”

I prefer to avoid gear discussions. Canon or Nikon or something else – does not matter. What matters is the person taking a photograph. My only advice, if you want to try yourself in photography, is not to spend too much money on the first camera and lenses. The first camera is needed to understand if you like doing photography, what kind of photography you like and what you might need to do what you like.

One of unusual pieces of equipment I use is a shower cap (the one you get for free in pretty much all hotels and motels). It comes very useful while shooting in rain or next to a large waterfall – I always have a few in my backpack. It is easy to put on a camera and protects it from rain or mist. It still allows to compose a photograph and adjust polarizer. Then I open up front lenses take a photograph and snap it right back on.

Also I use my hand to cover lenses a bit to avoid glare. On a long exposures with high dynamic range I can block some of the light coming in (kind of burning image in the field. Also I can block the sun when it happens to be in a corner of my frame. That way I avoid white spot in the corner and the sky in that corner will turn red-orange color.

And of cause I always have a flashlight with me. It has three main functions: light my way to where I’m going to photograph sunrise or when I come back from photographing a sunset; helps me focus camera at night and, finally, light up a subject while photographing at night.

Also I always have a compass with me to help me figure out where a sunrise or sunset is going to be.

Photography and Family

This is a series of posts with translation of my interview published in Russian at http://landscapists.info/vitaly-prokopenko. The question from the interview: “What your family thinks about your photography and travel?”

My wife is into photography too – she likes portraiture. She is also my best critic. As authors of our photographs we often see in them what is not there because we still remember the world around the photograph and what we felt when we took the photograph. The photograph might not have captured all that. I often ask my wife to look thru photographs that I’ve selected. She has good taste and she honestly tells me what she thinks. To have such critic close by is a blessing.

My tree year old imitates me. We presented him a real camera (while he is only three he can understand the difference between real things and toys). He takes pictures of everything he sees around. When we go somewhere together and I take photographs, I let him take click a shutter release button. Then with a proud he tells his mother that he has just taken a photo on a dad’s camera.

With the birth of my son of cause I do much less fine art photography. But I don’t regret even for a second. Right now raising my son is the most important thing for me – I want him to rise a good person. Maybe, when he grows up, he’ll share my interest in photography and we’ll be photographing together.

Taking Photographs

This is a series of posts with translation of my interview published in Russian at http://landscapists.info/vitaly-prokopenko. The question from the interview: “How do you prepare for taking a photograph? Do you see you image in your mind’s eye first and then wait for the right light, or take a photograph immediately as you see something?”

This differs from time to time. Sometimes I have an images in my mind’s eye even before I see it and take a photograph. And then I search for a place where I can make that photograph.

Sometimes, after studying a location at home, I imagine a lot of different photographs I’ll be able to take. Then when I arrive to the destination I find it looking completely different from what I have imagined. That is often disappointing. The important thing is not put camera aside. I almost make myself to start photographing in that case and after a couple of days I start seeing photographs around me my own way. Still after the first trip to a location I rarely bring good photographs, more often I use them to study the place at home and be clearer vision next time.

Sometimes I find a beautiful place but the light is not right. I take my compass out take a not of how the sun is moving across the sky, where I’d like it to be to get better light and most importantly when it is going to be there. Sometimes it means that I need to wait for a summer or winter.

Sometimes a place is beautiful, the sun is where I’d like it to be. It is just covered with clouds. I’m watching how clouds sail across the sky, how light and shadow moves across the land. And I wait until a sun breaks thru the clouds and shines on a particular rock, hill or tree. Here a spot of light is getting closer, it looks like in just a moment it will light up your subject. But not – a miss. Next. Again a miss. It seems like the light plays with you, does not let to catch itself. I can spend an hour like that – observing light and shadow. When finally a ray of the sun falls on that rock, hill or tree it is such a joy – here it is what I have been waiting for.

Sometimes everything looks dull, the sky is filled with clouds so thick they form one big cloud. Everything around is grey and flat. It seems like there is no chance there’ll be any sunset. Then suddenly just before sun drops below horizon, the last ray of the sun finds a tunnel in the clouds, breaks thru and lights up the sky in unbelievable hues.

Weather for photography

This is a series of posts with translation of my interview published in Russian at http://landscapists.info/vitaly-prokopenko. The question from the interview: “What’s your favorite weather for landscape photography?”

I like any weather for landscape photography besides clean sunny sky or single-tone grayish overcast sky.

That does not mean that I’ll put my camera aside in unfavorable weather. Rather than taking photos of landscape I’ll spend time doing macro-photography, experimenting or taking photos of people.

My photographic style

This is a series of posts with translation of my interview published in Russian at http://landscapists.info/vitaly-prokopenko. The question from the interview: “Your photographs are unbelievably relaxing, looking at them your feel like you step into a good fairy tale. How do you achieve such effect?”

That’s an interesting observation. Somehow I’ve never thought about this. Now that you noticed it I think [this is part of my photographic style] it is directly related to how I feel when I photograph. For my photography is like meditation. When I’m photographing nature I have a feeling of complete balance inside. Daily routine becomes something very-very distant and unreal.

Beauty around me becomes part of me. Flowers, pines, ocean, mountains, sky, sun has been here and will be here independently of me, independently of people. They just let us enjoy their beauty. It is all quiet and calm around, just birds singing and whisper of wind. There is some inconceivable grandeur in all of it.

Who had the most influence on my photography?

This is a series of posts with translation of my interview published in Russian at http://landscapists.info/vitaly-prokopenko.

I started with reading books by John Shaw. A lot of my photographs at the beginning were attempts to repeat some of his photographs. Repeating is good for studying technique and composition. I was spending a lot of time comparing what I got to his photographs and trying to understand why there was harmony in his, they were capturing attention, they were “singing”, while mine were too static and boring. Decomposing his photos forced me to learn a lot about photography.

While imitating John Shaw’s photographs I did not feel completely satisfied, there was something else I wanted to see in photography. Once browsing books on photography I ran into a book by Freeman Patterson “Photo Impressionism and the Subjective Image” and it immediately captured my attention. It was exactly what I was searching for. After that I bought and read all his books.

His photographic esthetics are the closest to my heart. (That’s probably not surprising, giving that I like impressionism in art and improvisation in music.) I don’t want my photography to be limited to documenting events. Photography should reflect what you see and what you feel, not what your camera happened to capture. After all camera does not know what you’re photographing and for sure does not feel anything.

Also big influence for me has been Jay Maisel. Maybe not as much by specific photographs but his individuality, style and being open-minded to all kinds of photography, seeing photographs in everything that surrounds you. Under his influence I don’t want to limit myself just to landscape photography, only color photography or black-and-white. In photography as well as in any other art there cannot be limits – it is always exploration and excitement of finding something new outside a box in which we currently are.

Moving away from photographers who influenced me, I’m just finishing book by Stephen King “On Writing” and it certainly will influence my photographic process and my photography. Most things that he writes about in this book can be applied to photography as well.