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Thinking differently


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#1 Paul Kay

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 03:05 AM

To quote Alex (in part) from another post:

"It is very encouraging to read about such enthusiasm to try to be different. My only concern is that the effort to think different doesn't end with the kit. It would seem a pity to go to all the effort to get a different camera - and then just take it to Lembeh and shoot pygmy seahorses like everyone else.

Being a goat should also continue with your photography, and shouldn't just end with equipment choices."

This made me think. Being different - innovation - is of course an important aspect of any type of photography, but I'm always interested in wondering where things are going. Sustainability is a current buzzword and can apply to virtually anything including innovation in underwater photography. But is innovation sustainable?

Digital image creation has opened up vast areas of image creation to explore, but just how much is truly innovative and is any innovation actually sustainable or have most techniques been explored to a substantial degree already? Do other underwater photographers see innovation as a prerequisite of underwater photography or as a peripheral possibility?
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#2 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 03:10 AM

Great topic. Pete Atkinson spoke eloquently on the subject at this year's Visions conference.

Innovation remains important in all areas of photography, but it should not be our total focus. Too much chasing of what is new can leave us wearing the Emperor's new clothes.

IMO, a balanced portfolio of work should contain both innovative images and more traditional styles of photos. Diversity is the key to a strong portfolio.

Alex

p.s. I know a lot of Wetpixel members attended my Fish Photography talk on Sunday at the NELOS Festival, which also addressed this issue and the wider issue of thinking differently and the underwater photographer's mandate. I would be interested to hear your thoughts on the subjects I covered that are relevant to this discussion (when speaking you tend to present a point of view, and don't get the chance to hear the counter arguments).

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#3 manatee19

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 06:00 AM

This is a most interesting subject.

Technology brings new possibilities as well as its own curses. Digital , while still being limited in many respects (resolution, dynamic range, etc.), affords us an immense crative potential.

It was there before as well but digital makes many things much more easier. Also, the fact that it brings the marginal cost of additional images close to $ 0.0...1, encourages people to try things, to think outside of the box.

Another big help lies in the fact that digital makes the basic u/w photography learning curver less steep. This should draw more people into the specialty and, among them, some creative minds too.

To paraphrase Sir Alex (didn't I see him greet Her Majesty... my Queen too since I'm a canuck!), I guess that mastering the basics is still needed and that becomes part of the foundation for creativity, innovative images, experimental work as well.

In a sense, digital is also, I think, bringing a revival in some other aspects like B & W. We now can afford to work in colour AND black and white. We have seen a bit more of B&W lately.

Paul writes: ...have most techniques been explored to a substantial degree already? Do other underwater photographers see innovation as a prerequisite of underwater photography or as a peripheral possibility?


Technical innovation is one thing and we tend to focus way too much on that. Artistic innovation is what we should strive for and it is probably the most difficult part of it.

Cameras and image support are means to communicate. I was working last night on an interview I made with Ernie Brooks II at DEMA. In the end I could summarize it in three words: Make a statement.

Creating something in your mind and then using the tools to materialize it... that's the challenge.

But before we can take those bold steps we have to learn. The technique, of course but more importantly, learn who we are, what we want to say and how we can express ourselves.

This start with imitation (don't we all try to replicate iconic images or techniques from the masters?), then, through a blend of osmosis and personal research, a different style might emerge.

Thinking differently must be encouraged and I don't think that everything has been said/done. There might not be much left in terms of bold steps, but there is always room for another way of looking at the obvious. Harder to do than to say though.

My $,02

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#4 photovan

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 06:22 AM

Keep up the innovation.

Use innovative tools to create innovative images.

Make sure you aren't just using innovative tools to create dirivitive images.

BTW, this was a much longer rant until a minute ago - lucky I read Michel's post first.

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#5 mattdiver

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 07:10 AM

Without meaning to get too philosophical here :wacko: Innovation is a keey factor that drives civilisation. Monkeys remain monkeys because their world essentially stays the same...

Now that his is cleared ;) there is certainly space for innovation in UW digital photography. Just look at Alex' filters. Sure, they are filters, and filters have been used for ages in photography, but they are an innovative product, and there are many more (e.g. the fluorescence filters, by NightSea, etc.). And this is just touching on products, but I believe there is an even broader open filed when we move on to compositions, digital editing, etc.

Edited by mattdiver, 05 December 2006 - 07:11 AM.


#6 DeanB

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 07:23 AM

Although some Monkeys have to be innovative in their own lives because of their ever changing habitats from the innovative or expansional, intrusion of man..

To survive in any surrounding be it, job, life, hobby etc.. you have to be innovative in some circumstances to remain ahead of the game...

Dive safe

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#7 Paul Kay

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 08:05 AM

Are you saying we are all really monkeys Dean?
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#8 Glasseye Snapper

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 08:36 AM

I'm feeling an identity crisis coming on; am I a monkey, goat, or sheep :wacko:


To be innovative you must not only be able to realize that there is another way of doing things, you must also have the guts to go ahead and try it out. After all, there may well be a reason that nobody has done it before (or where too embarrased to tell they tried it). You also need persistence because it may take a while to adapt your shooting style to make your new method work. But the process of trying something new, really thinking deeply about why we normally do things a certain way and what aspects of technology or "style" you can exploit to make your alternative way work well can be very rewarding. Even if the idea turns out to be a complete failure you will probably have at least had a very valuable learning experience. And if it was a failed idea, please report on wetpixel so others don't have to make the same mistakes. We won't hold it against you and call you a donkey ;)

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#9 DeanB

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 08:40 AM

:wacko: ;) :angry:

No Paul...Just that everything has to adapt in order to survive in certain situations including us, lovers of creativity...

Oh, and i was sticking up for our closest cousins..Or Mike Veitch's twin brother.. :)

Dive safe

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#10 yahsemtough

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 09:53 AM

I think in order to be innovative you first must understand the current and norm. Then be able to think, adapt and attempt to apply your own stamp on image making.

IMHO

Now, If I started to think more like a Monkey or Goat...would that create innovative ideas :wacko:

Cheers

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#11 fdog

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 10:06 AM

The saying at the newspaper is: "If you can't be good, be weird".

As in, weird occasionally really ends up being different and good.


All the best, James

#12 randapex

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 10:48 AM

Great topic.
My best moments shooting U/W are when I'm trying something new. It intrigues me no end that the camera can capture something that isn't seen with the naked eye. Extremely shallow DOF, motion blur w/ rear curtain etc. Alex's new filter holds hope for a whole new look to my W/A pics. Off to California this weekend with thoughts of magic kelp shots dancing in my head.

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#13 dhaas

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 03:02 PM

Ditto on Rand's comments.......I live for those few times I try something so off the wall and the results makes me smile.....

This has been discussed before in this forum, as we all subconsciously repeat the "same old, same old" UW photos we've seen. OK, maybe we get it a bit sharper, slightly different lighting, but it is the very unusual I find much more interesting photographically these days.....

I would like to see a weekly contest titled "Anything Goes" and see what people post. Manipulated or not just something different....It might inspire those who are here often to go try new things on their next dives.

This also reminds me of a book I almost bought the other day at Borders. It was about photographic career stagnation. How a commercail photographer's career path usually goes along in plateaus, making a living producing technically good, but soul sucking images. Then how to break out of it and reach the next plateau.

I'll have to go look it up again and maybe even buy it :wacko:

Keep the thread going!

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#14 scorpio_fish

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 03:09 PM

I'm not sure I like the word innovation. Innovation isn't the goal, but a means to a goal. The goal is the creation of a piece of work, art for example. We innovate in order to achieve results that cannot be achieved using known techniques. The better word is creativity or perhaps vision, that which puts in our mind what the final results should be.

Creative minds and visionary people see the magnificance of an underwater crocodile or hippo shot. They then innovate in order to get the vision (e.g. pole cam and remote trigger).

I wish I had the artistic qualities and vision to be creative. It's hard when it's just not in you. I'm completely left brain dominate, or half-brained as some would say. I must leave it to others. I remember a day in Kindergarten when were finger painting. I didn't know what to do. I just copied the finger patterns of the girl next to me. We're talking about paint, fingers and a sheet of paper. So sad.

There was an interesting discussion on a photo board. Someone was looking for a lab in Dallas that would cross process his film. One responder ridiculed the concept. It was cute, different and creative 20 years ago. Now it's just stupid. According to the responder it's a tired cliche' and no longer innovative.

Funny, I've had the do it accidentally. I never thought of it as artsy. I thought it just awful. Man, I just don't have the vision.

I must leave it to rest of you to.
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#15 photovan

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Posted 05 December 2006 - 03:11 PM

You can be creative without being innovative, but I don't think you can be innovative without being creative.

Edited by photovan, 05 December 2006 - 03:12 PM.

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#16 Alex_Mustard

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 12:16 AM

Excellent clarification from those last two posts!

Alex

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#17 timoma

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 06:58 AM

Yes,

I too think there is a difference between creative and innovative. To me a piece of creative work can be a one-off. Something you can do with techniques everyone is familiar with, but you just apply them differently, maybe at a whim. Or maybe you just aim to perfect one method without worrying about it being old-fashioned. I still believe the best lanscape photographers use large format film cameras - not exactly at the height of modern technology, those.

Innovation, then, to me is something you consciously cultivate in order to make repeatable results. Innovation often involves new technology or at least a radical diversion from the way old technology has been used. Much like Alex is doing with the different techniques he is developing for u/w. This, of course, is not to say the two would be mutually exlusive. Quite the contrary as I will discuss below.

There was a discussion much like this on the Finnish nature photographer forum some time ago.

Basically, for a long time the scene had been dominated by "big projects" involving months and months in a hide to produce fantastic images of bear, wolverine, wolf, etc. Something clearly beoynd the reach of ordinary mortals like myself. The value of an image tended to be defined by how difficult it was to make. Either in terms of hours in a hide, danger of freezing to death, lack of light or any combination thereof.

Then, a couple of years ago - quite possibly coinciding with the emergence of digital photography - "ordinary" subjects started to do well in competitions. Starting from moose and deer and then progressing to - god forbid - lanscapes, images everyone had access to started to win. The oldtimers were complaining, of course, but that did not change the situation any.

So, was there a sudden surge of innovation in techniques driving the change? I do not think so. I believe it was merely more people bringing more new ideas to the game. And being - as they often were - amateurs, they could not afford the three month stint in the wilderness for the sake of one competition winning image.

Was it that the "new" images were artistically better, or just that the juries wanted something diffrent for a change, is of course difficult to judge in absolute terms. What we know, though, is that the emergence of a "new style" was not about someone "going to Lembeh with a different camera" but rather someone going to the duckpond in the park with a vision.

In general, the digital revolution has brough too many engineers into photography. Being one - and rather hardcore at that - I know we tend to get a hard-on being able to buy new gadgets and try new techniques. But at least for myself, that has never improved my pictures artistically. Often on the contrary, in fact. Being too preoccupied with the technicalities tends to make me lose the vision of what I actually want to say.

There is a good book by David Ward called "Landscape within" where he discusses these topics from a very non-technical point-of-view. I think there is a lot in his arguments favoring the vision of the photographer over the difficulty of the subject or the fanciness of techniques used to capture an image. Nothing new in that, really, but he has a way of saying it that makes me want to try.

So, to return to the original questions: Since practically all subjects in the conventional scuba diving range have pretty much been done to death by some excellent photographers already, the only ways you can really be different are either to go beyond the conventional depth range or by creating totally new techniques allowing you to show the conventional subjects in a totally new way. Both approaches naturally assume you actually have the artistic vision to pull off whatever it is you are trying to say. Sadly, though, the more technology intensive photography gets, the more the artistic side seems to fall subordinate to the technical showoff.

Just my EUR 0,02,

timo

Edited by timoma, 06 December 2006 - 07:35 AM.

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#18 Paul Kay

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 07:40 AM

Well Timo, that was pretty exhaustive. I went to a talk by 5"x4" landscape photographer Joe Cornish a few days ago. He really brings home that photography is about light and being able to visualise a photographic image when you see it in reality. Technique was merely (and I do mean merely) a means to an end, and whilst an essential component of the final result, it is a component rather than the dominating force in image making.

Talk of TTL, pixels, noise, etc. is important and much can be learned fromthese fora, BUT I sometimes think that underwater photographers forget things like 'quality of light output from a flash unit' in their quest for the ultimate electronic wizardry within the flash, and that the pixels are simply a means of achieving an image rather than defining it. Good post Timo!
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#19 DeanB

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 08:38 AM

I've just really started to appreciate stills shooting and have only dipped my creative toe into the swirling waters of innovative photography.. Today i was going around taking some stills for a propective film location with my friends D70s, 18-70mm lens for wide and a sigma 70-300 for those lovely close ups...

Lovely camera, but I've only used it a few times and all the manual settings are a bit daunting still. I was taking a lovely, wide shot of the ruins of an old Abbey surrounded by leafless trees and beside a swirling river..Very gothic looking with the red sky of an evening sunset filling the rest of the frame. Looking through the viewfinder I got my composition and everything looked great, I bracketed the 3 shots and.. bugger what i was seeing was not what came out, the sky was to bright and the abbey was to shaded I changed the W/B settings and the ISO to different +'s abd -'s but most were either under or over exposed..Now I have to sit through them all and see where I went wrong... :wacko:

I need one of you pro boys to sit with me and tell me where the fook I'm going wrong..or just swap the decent sky in one shot with the better lit abbey in the other..Come on photoshop :)

Just trying to say..I'm seeing all the hard work you boys and girls are putting into those lovely piccies.. :angry: Your all innovative geniuses to me.. ;)

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#20 Paul Kay

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Posted 06 December 2006 - 09:33 AM

Dean

Sounds like you're shooting too high a dynamic range to me! I'm experimenting with HDR at the moment (High Dynamic Range up to 48bit) which would probably do what you want - but its a bracketed tripod job followed by software. You might be able to layer and cut the sky from one shot to another in Photishop but how much time do you want to spend on it?
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