Introducing (en)Visionography™, a new concept in fine art photography that I created. I will explain it in this analysis and making of the image Ode to Black | Black Hope I – Self Black
Awards for the series “Ode to Black”:
PX3 2013 – Prize at Prix de la Photographie Paris
– 1st Place – GOLD – Architecture Fine Art Professionals – People’s Choice
– 2nd Place – SILVER – Architecture Advertising Professionals – People’s Choice
– 3rd Place – BRONZE – Architecture Advertising Professionals
– Honorable Mention – Architecture Fine Art Professionals
IPA 2013 – International Photography Awards
– 3 Honorable Mentions – Architecture Professionals Categories: Buildings, Self Promotion & Other
Neutral Density Awards 2015
– 2 Honorable Mentions Categories Architecture and Fine Art
Note 2013: If you are wondering why I use the ™ symbol with (en)Visionography and some other of the concepts I created, it is because I had the unpleasant surprise for a fellow photographer to “borrow” this term and others, by changing them slightly so they are not easily understood by those who don’t know the intention. In this case the concept was used without my permission in “translated” version and the person is still using it despite knowing it is not fair or legal. Therefore I need to clarify what is the original concept and how it was born.
Note 2016: (en)Visionography is now a well-known and recognized concept and photography approach in the world of fine art photography. However, the “borrowed” term is still used without my permission. Probably the next step will be to address this in a legal way.
We are what we create.
I have no doubt about it. We might be searching for a way of expression for long years and try a lot of things till we find it, we may be struggling with prejudice and limitations, with doubt and with being misunderstood, we may have to ignore common sense and go against the flow, we may have to figure out new ways of escaping what we call reason, what we call reality (what is reality anyway?) but in the end, what we will settle for can only be that very thing that expresses what we are completely, that helps us feel accomplished and free, that helps a restless soul find peace and allow us to stop and take a breath. If you look at this image you will see very much of what I am. I won’t explain it, I don’t want to limit your imagination. I will say only one thing:
Whatever this journey towards your vision may take, do it! It is much better to burn out searching than never know.
After stating the most important thing that in my opinion drives us to create art, I will talk about the creation of the image Ode to Black | Black Hope I – Self Black.
It’s been two and a half months since I published my last architectural image, which may seem a lot but it actually isn’t for me, as I’ve done a lot of searching, discovered a lot of things, even worked on a handful of images that are to come soon. I’ve done some thinking, I’ve done some experimenting and the results will show in the months to come.
I’ve even tried to step away from architectural photography to see how it is, but despite the fact that I love all kinds of photography, I think my call is architectural photography. There’s nothing I love more than working with shapes and light, nothing I like more than abstracting a volume till it shows a part that would hardly show to the naked eye.
I finally understood what I’m trying to do in photography and that is exactly what I’m doing in architecture too. I am designing my photographs to suit my vision. I am deconstructing the volumes I see and recomposing them using light and shadow, I am in essence using the existing subject, I’m using reality as a base on which I build my own dreams.
Photography, architectural photography is the tool my imagination needs to stay alive and to express itself. It would be interesting I think to show you the RAW file of this image. I’m sure you wouldn’t recognize much of what you see here in that image. You will probably think that is manipulation. You would be perfectly right. But who said I want to do traditional photography anyway? This may not even be photography, as a matter of fact. This may be something else. This IS, in fact, something else!
As I was calling this concept a couple of months ago while discussing with a friend, this is
The process of using reality as a tool for
translating one’s inner self and representation
of the world into an art object that can make
others react and feel emotion.
In short, it is an alternative name for photography. It is a name I gave to what I do, which is not photography in the classical sense of the word, it is a name that tries to
describe in just one word the whole process I go through when creating. It’s the way I get from nothing to something meaningful, to something that will express me as a person and artist and present my vision about the world.
It is the way I take things from the world and use them as a base for my creations, the way I transform them according to how they make me feel and give them back to the world in a different and unique form, in the form of my vision.
HOW I CREATE (EN)VISIONOGRAPHY
This process usually starts with a thought, an idea, an impression or a feeling and this triggers every step that I will take till transforming that thought/idea/impression/feeling into reality, into an image that (re)presents it. This process is more a need than a conscious decision I make and this need leads me to create the things I create, making art releases my emotional and intellectual tensions and gives an answer to my existentialist quests.
This is why I do it.
My opinion is that art is a “selfish” act.
It is a selfish act in the sense we don’t do it for anyone else than ourselves, we don’t (and shouldn’t) try to please anyone else than ourselves when doing it.
The result of the process of creating (en)Visionography is a fusion of reality and imagination, where the image starts by being a whiteboard where I design and build my photograph by using from reality only those elements that help me convey my vision and the idea I want to present in the final image.
HOW DO I DO THAT?
First, I don’t take anything for granted: color, shape, volumes, light …reality …they are all there to serve me as tools to create something new, they are just a base, just an outline, a sketch on which I will draw my own world. Some say they paint their photographs. I’m better at drawing than at painting so this is what I do, I draw my photographs, I do exactly what I would do on paper with a pencil, but this time I do it on the screen. I use the same principles of light shaping, of rendering a volume, even the passes I do with my brush are very close to the technique I would use if drawing in pencil.
This is why I’m talking about “drawing my photographs”
I draw my photographs instead of processing them. The moment I realized I can do this was a crucial moment in my artistic evolution. It was the moment I finally understood how I could use Photoshop to create and not only to edit.
In two words, making art is simple. If you feel the need, find a tool (photography for instance) then find a technique (processing for instance) to help you handle with ease that tool so you can focus on your vision and bring your inner world to life.
ANALYZING THE IMAGE
As a natural outcome of what I presented above, I will make now an analysis of the image and present it’s evolution from the idea to the final form.
This was one of the images where my vision was very clear from the beginning. I captured this photograph knowing exactly what I want. I was even trying to find the right place to suit what I had in mind.
IMAGE CONCEPT AND COMPOSITION PRINCIPLES
My intention was to capture a symmetrical shape in appearance but that would be denied by a few elements, in this case, the curve on one side and the folded surface on the other side. I intended to introduce surprise in a symmetrical shape, to deny it but to also sustain it. So what I did was to deny the symmetry using the surrounding volumes and the sky and to sustain it using the light rendering. A quite complex concept in appearance but very clear to me all the time when I was working on the image.
HOW I CREATE MY DARK SKIES
To answer not to a question that I’ve been asked a lot lately, if I use multiple exposures to create such a dark sky the answer is no, I never use multiple exposures. It just not suit my idea about photography. It is a big discussion why and I’m no doing this and I’m not saying I will never do it, but this is not how I work to create images like this. To explain a bit why I prefer not doing it, I started photography using film and film has a far larger tonal range, you don’t need to blend exposures to get a decently exposed image. I stick to that somehow subconsciously.
What I do is more or less what Ansel Adams was doing: manipulating light to create the light an shadow balance I need. It is indeed manipulation, since my skies are just as bright as yours when I’m starting, but because I can only imagine them dark in order to suit my vision for these images, and the idea I want to convey with them, I use every light shaping tool I can use in Photoshop, Topaz BW Effects 2 (you can get BW Effects 2 and any other Topaz plugin with 15% discount if you use the code JULIAG and order here ) and Silver Efex Pro 2 to change the light balance and take it to where I need it.
I hope this answers at least partly the question I’m receiving about how my skies are so dark.
A more detailed demonstration you can find in my eBook accompanying my video tutorial Long Exposure, Architecture, Fine Art Photography – Creating (en)Visionography where I describe my entire processing workflow and show how the sky is created.
WHEN DO I SHOOT MY IMAGES
To add another question that I was also asked, if I shoot my photos at night. The answer is again no, I shoot in broad daylight most of the time when I can capture the clouds in the sky using long exposure. The reason I prefer daylight, except for the practical reason of being much easier to shoot at day than at night, is that I need the clouds in the capture to have some contrast with the sky and by night the contrast is not strong enough to get them right.
THE TONAL RANGE OF THE FINAL IMAGE – WHY THE IMAGES IN THE SERIES ODE TO BLACK COVER MOSTLY DARK TONES
85% of this image and even more belongs to the tonal zones 1-4 (according to Ansel Adams’ Zone System) which is not a very orthodox approach according to the rules of a “correct” B&W processing.
All zones are covered, but most of the high key ones only slightly. Zone 0 and 10 together don’t sum up more than 1-2% of the surface of the image. This tonal chart is not random but it has its explanation in my vision for this image and this was to explore darkness and go so far with removing light till photography is almost not possible anymore. This is why most of my image covers the dark and very dark gray tones.
This approach is extreme and like I said it is the result of an idea I wanted to convey. If you are just starting out with black and white photography and black and white processing don’t go this far from the beginning. Start slowly and see where you end up, you may end up here or you may end up with an image covering only zones 7-9, or anywhere in between. It doesn’t matter really, as long as it expresses your own way of seeing the world and covers your own artistic sensibility.
More ideas about how I see the creation of a good black and white photograph in my complete guide to black and white fine art photography.
Exposure and EXIF:
333.0 sec. @ f/9, @ 11mm, ISO 100
Camera: Nikon D7000
Lens: Nikon 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5 ED AF-S DX .
TOPAZ LABS 15% DISCOUNT FOR MY STUDENTS AND FOLLOWERS
Topaz Labs was so kind to not only feature my work so many times and participate in my workshops, but they also gave me a discount code for my students and followers who are reading this blog and want to use the best software available in their post-processing work. You can use my special code JULIAG to get 15% discount for any of the Topaz plugins, separately or the whole collection. You can use the code by ordering at this link. Enjoy!